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.

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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: Outfielders and Trade Ideas

Welcome to Part 3 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 outfielders, including Bryce Harper, Michael Brantley, and A.J. Pollock, as well as some trade ideas.  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 Seattle’s trades on December 3 and Pedro Alvarez’s deal on December 5.

OF

Top Tier

The Yankees, Phillies, Dodgers and Nationals have been as Harper’s top suitors.  But if you saw MLB.com’s free agent matrix for Harper, you’d see that the Indians have money to spend and desperately need an outfielder.  Harper would be a good investment for them.  Brantley, the former Cleveland Indian, will head to Houston to provide an upgrade over the combo of Derek Fisher, Tony Kemp, Marwin Gonzalez, and co.

Jerry Dipoto is not rebuilding in the same way Miami did.  They will still sign cheaper free agents, and outfield is a major need.  Look for them to add one or two.  Adam Jones is a good fit, and Hunter Pence will also give Seattle a boost, as he has not fully declined yet in his upper 30’s.  The A’s don’t have much money to spend, but if they’re looking to contend, Andrew McCutchen would be a worthwhile investment who fits well in Oakland.  If the Cubs miss out on Harper, A.J. Pollock could be a good fit.  Albert Almora Jr. is not a viable CF option in my book, and they could use some outfield insurance even with Ben Zobrist helping out there.  Kyle Schwarber and Jason Heyward have not met expectations either.

Secondary Options

If the Rays want to make a playoff push, they have to be aggressive this off-season.  Markakis is an affordable, but elite outfield upgrade option for the Rays.  After getting rid of C.J. Cron, they will need to add another bat to the lineup.  Meanwhile, Jon Jay could be a good fit in St. Louis.  He can share time with the young Harrison Bader in center.

The Rockies are unlikely to bring back both Gerardo Parra and Carlos Gonzalez.  The rise of Ryan McMahon may push Ian Desmond into the Rockies outfield.  They will re-sign Parra for OF insurance though.  CarGo could fit as a platoon outfielder in Atlanta.  I could see a pretty even time share in the Braves outfield if they add CarGo.  If the Phillies miss out on Harper, they will also still need an outfielder.  Carlos Gomez would be a good fit.  If Rhys Hoskins still gets time in the outfield, they will not want to commit to a top line outfielder like Harper.

Granderson could be afforded by a smaller market team with a need for an outfielder.  Look for the O’s to add him on a one-year deal while Anthony Santander and Cedric Mullins develop.

DH

Cruz will return to Seattle, who could still use 1B/DH help.  The Tigers could use another bat to replace Victor Martinez, and preferably another veteran to anchor the rebuild.  Gattis is a perfect fit.  The Royals are also in the market for another bat, and Matt Joyce is an affordable option.  I have Holliday returning to the Yankees on a 1-year deal to provide insurance for the outfield.  Alvarez will head to Minnesota to help out Tyler Austin at first base/DH.

Trade Ideas

Cleveland Indians trade SP Trevor Bauer to the Houston Astros in exchange for RP Brad Peacock, OF Kyle Tucker, C prospect Garrett Stubbs

Everyone says that Corey Kluber is going to be traded.  But I think trading SP Trevor Bauer is a safer option.  In return, they get Brad Peacock, who could be utilized as a starter or a reliever as well as some outfield insurance in Kyle Tucker.  C prospect Garrett Stubbs will provide depth at catcher after the Yan Gomes trade.

Los Angeles Dodgers trade SP Rich Hill to the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for RP Corey Knebel

The Dodgers have been in the market for top-line starters including Kluber, but I find this fact ridiculous.  They have an abundance of starters!  Clayton Kershaw is still here, Walker Buehler is a star on the rise, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Rich Hill are solid mid-tier starters who are returning, and that leaves Kenta Maeda, Alex Wood, and Ross Stripling competing for the #5 spot.  After bringing Ryu back, they have the flexibility to trade one of their starters, as I see Wood as a completely capable starter, and Stripling and Maeda should get the chance for a rotation spot.

Hill is a good trade nugget, and the Brewers could use some better pitching, so they’d be willing to give up one of their many late-inning relievers for Hill.  Knebel will help set up for Kenley Jansen alongside Tony Cingrani and provide depth in a weaker bullpen.

Toronto Blue Jays trade C Luke Maile to the Minnesota Twins in exchange for LHP prospect Lewis Thorpe, RHP prospect Jhoan Duran

This is a smaller trade, but worth it for both sides.  Jays C Danny Jansen is MLB ready and can split time with C Russell Martin.  That puts C Luke Maile in an awkward position.  If they trade him to Minnesota, who needs a backup catcher, they could get some valuable pitching prospects to boost a weak rotation down the road.

That’s all for my MLB free agency predictions.  But my Baseball Bits on overly expensive free agents is up next.  Stay tuned.

Crazy 8th for Sox 8th Win

Image result for eduardo rodriguez

After a 7-1 start to the season for the Red Sox, things were not looking good for them today.  They were down 7-2 heading into the 8th inning, as the Rays had scored at least one run in six straight innings.  Eduardo Rodriguez had been knocked out of the game after 3.2 innings, forcing the Red Sox to use numerous relievers to finish off the game.  The bullpen struggled as Hector Velazquez, Bobby Poyner, and Brian Johnson gave up four runs in 3 1/3 innings But the Red Sox came all the way back to beat the Tampa Bay Rays 8-7 and extend their winning streak to eight games.  Hanley Ramirez and Mookie Betts extended their hitting streaks to 7 games each, as they led the Sox offense.

The Red Sox started off strong with a leadoff double by Mookie Betts, and Betts was driven in by Hanley Ramirez’s groundout.  But the Rays struck back quickly, with DH C.J. Cron hitting a solo homer.  Early on, Eduardo Rodriguez was doing well, striking out five batters, including the side in the 1st inning.  But the Rays were working the count and and E-Rod’s was over 70 after three innings.

While the Rays were not crushing the ball after Cron’s home run, they scored one run every inning from the 2nd all the way to the 7th. In the 3rd inning, E-Rod gave up a walk followed by a infield single that was originally ruled an out. Matt Duffy was clearly safe, so it was a smart challenge by the Rays.  The run scored on a double by Carlos Gomez.

In the 4th inning, Daniel Robertson reached on another infield single for the Rays.  3B Rafael Devers could not make the throw in time.  That was followed by a Brad Miller walk, and Adeiny Hechavarria drove in the run with a bloop single that Andrew Benintendi couldn’t quite get to.  The Rays were trying to continue the rally, as Matt Duffy singled again after E-Rod left the game, but Hector Velazquez came in to get the last out.

Image result for daniel robertson rays

Velazquez gave up a run in the next inning, as Daniel Robertson singled, stole second, and came home on Brad Miller’s base hit.  The Sox chipped away in the bottom of that inning.  They loaded the bases after a walk, a Christian Vazquez single, and another walk.  Rays reliever Ryan Yarbrough had come in to replace Andrew Kittredge after two innings. Today, the Rays reliever combo to start was game was able to hold the Sox to just two runs through six innings, but it was not easy.

With two outs in the fifth, Hanley Ramirez ripped an infield single that Adeiny Hechavarria snagged to save more runs from scoring.  J.D. Martinez followed, but struck out with the bases loaded. Martinez was the only Sox starter without a hit, but that did not keep the Sox from winning.

The Rays scored again in the 6th after Kevin Kiermaier hit a triple off the Green Monster to drive in Matt Duffy, who had walked.  Kiermaier hit the triple off of Bobby Poyner, but Velazquez was charged with the run as he had walked Duffy before leaving the game.  Brian Johnson came in in the 7th and struggled, giving up two more runs.  Daniel Robertson walked, and came home on a triple by pinch hitter Joey Wendle.  On that play, Xander Bogaerts hurt his ankle as he had to chase the ball into the Rays dugout after throwing to third before Devers was there.  He will be evaluated further on Monday, but his timetable is currently unknown. Bogaerts was helped off the field, and it was really concerning when he couldn’t leave without assistance because he has been Boston’s best hitter so far this season.  Brock Holt came in to replace him.

Image result for xander bogaerts dugout injury

Tampa scored their second run of the inning off Johnson after a sac fly drove in Wendle.  The Sox failed to get things going in the bottom of the 7th, but after Carson Smith came into the game, the Rays failed to score another run.  They loaded the bases after a walk, a Carlos Gomez single, and a walk.  But Smith escaped the inning by striking out Daniel Robertson.

This looked like it was going to be a Rays win, as after Hanley Ramirez led things off with a single and advanced to second on a wild pitch, the next two batters struck out and flew out.

Image result for mitch moreland double

But with two outs, Mitch Moreland, who was a doubles machine last year, hit his first double (and hit) of 2018, driving in Ramirez to make it 7-3 Rays.  Eduardo Nunez singled and Moreland advanced to third.  Rafael Devers then knocked a ball down the third base line that bounced off the left field garage, allowing both Moreland and Nunez to score.

With that, Rays reliever Matt Andriese was done, and Rays closer Alex Colome came in, hoping to secure the 7-5 lead the Rays were still holding on to. The Red Sox had done well against Colome in the home opener. Just in case the rally continued, Cora got star closer Craig Kimbrel warming up in the bullpen next to Joe Kelly.

Image result for christian vazquez red sox

Christian Vazquez kept the rally alive with a base hit.  Devers scored, making it 7-6 Red Sox.  Vazquez advanced to second on another wild pitch.  Mookie Betts tied it up with a line single to left as Vazquez came in to score with a nifty slide to avoid the tag.  Andrew Benintendi kept the rally alive by doubling to the left field gap to drive in Betts.  The outfielders were playing shallow as Benny’s double did not reach the Green Monster. It was now 8-7 Red Sox.

Image result for craig kimbrel

Kimbrel came in and quickly retired the side, as the Red Sox locked up their comeback victory, 8-7.  This was by far their most exciting game of the season.  The Sox faced easy opponents, but the Red Sox are now 8-1 to start the season, their best record ever after nine games. They had not even started 7-1 since 1904, a World Series-winning year.

The Red Sox head into their three-game series against the Yankees on fire.  Will they win their first series against their archrivals?  The Yankees have been depleted by injuries, and are just 5-5 after losing to Baltimore today in a 12 inning game.  With Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, Brandon Drury, Aaron Hicks, Jacoby Ellsbury, C.C. Sabathia, and Billy McKinney all injured, the Sox should certainly have the edge.

MLB Free Agent/Trade Predictions Part 3: Outfielders and Trade Ideas

Welcome to the third and final part of my 2018 MLB Free Agent and Trade Predictions. Free agency has been off to a slow start, but it’s far from over.  Players like 1B Eric Hosmer, SP Jake Arrieta, SP Yu Darvish, and 3B Todd Frazier will eventually be signed. But where will they go?  That’s the biggest question, and I’m about to try to answer it.  Today I will be predicting landing spots for the MLB’s best outfielders on the market, and trade ideas.

Free agency is finally kicking into gear, and my predictions have been shaken up after the Giants traded for OF Andrew McCutchen and signed CF Austin Jackson.  I had originally predicted Lorenzo Cain to sign here, but after these two moves, I was reconsidering and began a prediction for Cain to sign in Milwaukee.

Then soon after, it happened, and the market shook up again when the Marlins dealt their last sign of hope to the Brewers in Christian Yelich.  Just hours later, the Brew Crew signed Cain and suddenly had a good problem.  They had five “starting outfielders” on their roster or five outfielders that could use a starting job.  Now, the question is, will they trade Domingo Santana or Keon Broxton?  Will Ryan Braun play first base as he said he is open to?  Find out my thoughts on that and much more below.

If you haven’t seen the first two parts, click the links below:

MLB Free Agent/Trade Predictions Part 1: Pitchers

MLB Free Agent/Trade Predictions Part 2: Catchers and Infielders

Photo Credit: ESPN (ESPN updates the player photos when players sign with new teams, so once the off-season is over, you will be able to check back and see how I did.  It currently shows the player’s most recent team)

OF

Image result for jose bautistaJose Bautista

My Prediction: Texas Rangers, 1 year, $9 million

Bautista doesn’t have many more years left in him.  He looked like he was on the decline last year, and as the Blue Jays are ready to let younger players take over in the outfield, he will not be signing another 1-year deal with them.  However, the Rangers could use one more veteran outfielder to add depth to the outfield and to be a role model for guys like Nomar Mazara and Delino DeShields.  He will not sign a long-term deal though as I do not think he has more than one or two good years left.

Image result for melky cabrera Melky Cabrera

My Prediction: Atlanta Braves, 3 years, $42 million

The Braves are another team that lacks outfield depth.  Bringing back a power hitting veteran like Cabrera is a smart choice because this young lineup needs some power, and the outfield needs another option in left field beside Preston Tucker or Lane Adams.  After playing here in 2010, this would be Cabrera’s second stint in Atlanta, so he at least vaguely knows the organization.

 

Image result for rajai davis Rajai Davis

My Prediction: Chicago White Sox, 2 years, $17 million

The White Sox lack a definitive group of major league ready outfielders as they enter a rebuild, so signing one more veteran at that position would be helpful.  It doesn’t have to be a big move, just someone who can start for them like Rajai Davis.  They don’t need anyone for more than a couple years either due to the fact that they’ll have more outfielders ready to start in a couple years.

For now, while Davis plays left, Adam Engel and Charlie Tilson can work out some sort of platoon in center.  Then as time passes, guys like top prospect Eloy Jimenez or RF Willy Garcia could take over for Davis, and Engel and Tilson could get more time as starters.

Image result for jarrod dyson Jarrod Dyson

My Prediction: Miami Marlins, 3 years, $24 million

After trading away outfielders Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna, the Marlins are in rebuild mode and will have a new look outfield this year.  But they need a couple more ready to start players in case new outfielders Lewis Brinson, Braxton Lee or Magneuris Sierra cannot handle full-time jobs yet.  Dyson is one of the younger outfielders on the market and would be a good fit in Miami to play this role.

Image result for andre ethier Andre Ethier

My Prediction: Miami Marlins, 1 year, $7 million

Although Ethier is injury prone and his bat may not be as powerful as it used to be, he would be a good veteran influence in Miami if he stays healthy.  If he gets hurt, the Marlins will likely have Braxton Lee or Magneuris Sierra ready to be in a full-time job.  After missing most of 2017 with injuries, the Marlins will have to hope that he’s still a reliable starter and that he doesn’t get hurt, so there are some risks to this signing.

However, I think it will happen as the Marlins need a veteran influence for these young outfielders.  Part of me does not understand why the Marlins are rebuilding so early, but it might be because they want to deal their stars away before they lose value and the Marlins become an old, mediocre team with nowhere to go.

An early rebuild gives them the opportunity to acquire a lot of young talent in exchange for some of their current starters, but they still need some veteran influences to start until the young guys are ready.  Don’t expect the Marlins to be anything more than a 70-win team though, with or without veterans.  The Marlins missed the window to contend with their last era of players, can they contend with this new squad?

Right now, if they sign Ethier and Jarrod Dyson, I could see Lewis Brinson and Dyson in full-time jobs, while Ethier and Magneuris Sierra platoon.

Image result for carlos gomez Carlos Gomez

My Prediction: Baltimore Orioles, 2 years, $23 million

Baltimore would be a good fit for Gomez, who will bring some power to the lineup of whatever team he signs with.  The O’s have a powerful lineup, but after losing Matt Wieters and J.J. Hardy’s bats over the last two off-seasons, they could use one more power hitter to top the lineup off.  They never really found a powerful replacement in the lineup for Wieters, and this will also fill their hole in the outfield.

Image result for carlos gonzalez Carlos Gonzalez

My Prediction: Seattle Mariners, 3 years, $34.5 million

Even after acquiring Dee Gordon to play outfield, I don’t trust the Mariners outfield to come through right now.  Maybe they could consider trading away 2B Robinson Cano to open up second for Gordon before spring training.  But they will only do that if they can get a starting outfielder in return.  Either way, signing Gonzalez is a good move for them.  He will be a veteran influence on the young guns as he is a strong player in the field and at the plate.  Although he has declined, I could see a bounce-back year in the works.  If he doesn’t bounce back, they have platoon mates ready for him such as Ben Gamel, Guillermo Heredia or Mitch Haniger.

Image result for jon jay Jon Jay

My Prediction: Oakland Athletics, 2 years, $22 million

In an effort to finally break through this season, the A’s could use another veteran in their outfield.  Even with Dustin Fowler and Boog Powell among others ready to start, there are no locks for Oakland’s third starting outfielder.  Jay is a good fit for them, as although he is not necessarily an everyday starter, the A’s can let the younger guys rotate with Jay and fellow starter Stephen Piscotty, while star left fielder Khris Davis starts daily.

Give him a two or three-year deal to come to Oakland, and when his contract expires, the younger players will be ready for a full-time role.  For now, they can have Jay start some games in center, where they desperately need another option.

 

Image result for jd martinez J.D. Martinez

My Prediction: Boston Red Sox, 5 years, $75 million

There have been so many rumors that this deal will happen, that I’d almost consider it inevitable.  The Red Sox are probably just waiting because there hasn’t been much buzz surrounding Martinez or much of a rush to sign him.  Martinez will probably play a mix of DH and outfield during his time in Boston, but either way, he will bring the some of the power the Red Sox need to make up for the loss of David Ortiz’s presence in the lineup.  But none of the home run hitters on the market can make up for what the Sox lost when Big Papi retired.

Image result for jayson werth Jayson Werth

My Prediction: San Francisco Giants, 2 years, $19 million

I know that the Giants have already spent a lot on their outfield this off-season between Cutch and Austin Jackson.  But I think Jackson could use a veteran platoon-mate.  Werth still should have a couple good years left in him, and he may not be an everyday starter anymore, but I see him as a great fit in San Francisco.  They could have younger players like Jarrett Parker or Gorkys Hernandez rotate with A-Jax, but I think the Giants had three major priorities this off-season: fix the outfield, get a new third baseman to replace the washed-up Pablo Sandoval, and add a couple more starters.

They have already acquired Evan Longoria to play third and A-Jax and Cutch in the outfield.  So if they sign one more outfielder and add a little depth to the starting five, they could be legitimate contenders, even in one of the tightest divisions in the MLB.

 

Other Predictions:

Peter Bourjos (PHI, 2 years, $16 million)

Alejandro De Aza (CIN, 1 year, $4.5 million)

Matt Holliday (HOU, 1 year, $6 million)

Cameron Maybin (LAD, 2 years, $17 million)

Colby Rasmus (PHI, 2 years, $14 million)

Ben Revere (DET, 1 year, $3.5 million)

Michael Saunders (CLE, 2 years, $12 million)

 

Trade Ideas: These trades would work on both sides, but it’s doubtful that most of them actually go through

Boston Red Sox trade DH Hanley Ramirez & SP prospect Williams Jerez to the Minnesota Twins in exchange for SP Kyle Gibson (In this case, the Sox would sign 1B Eric Hosmer or OF/DH J.D. Martinez)

If they can find a destination for Hanley Ramirez, it would give the Red Sox some flexibility in the free agent market.  They’ll be able to sign a free agent DH or first baseman and get him into a full-time role.  It would’ve given them even more flexibility to just forget about resigning Mitch Moreland because then Hanley could play whatever position they cannot fill in free agency, either DH or first base.  But it’s too late for that.

It will be tough for them to dish away Hanley’s contract though.  Who would want to take that on?  The only team that I think might be up for it is the Twins, who could be looking for an upgrade at DH over Kennys Vargas.  However, it would be nice, especially if we can get a decent starter in return like Gibson.  It would be nice just to have another option in the rotation in case Price or E-Rod struggles.  In the meantime, we could sign either Eric Hosmer or J.D. Martinez to fill our need for a power hitter, and they would have a full-time role for whichever one they sign.

In this case, signing Hosmer would mean Hosmer plays first and Moreland plays DH, and signing Martinez would mean that Moreland stays at first and Martinez replaces Hanley at DH.

New York Yankees trade OF Brett Gardner, INF prospect Gleyber Torres, and OF prospect Jake Cave to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for 2B Robinson Cano 

I was suggesting that the Mariners consider trading Cano to open up second base for the newcomer Dee Gordon, but it would be crazy if this happened.  This would just give the Yankees another home run hitter when they already got Giancarlo Stanton this off-season.  I even have them re-signing 3B Todd Frazier.

But it would be a good trade on both sides as the Yankees fill the hole that Starlin Castro left, and the Yankees already have enough outfielders with Hicks, Judge, Ellsbury, and Stanton out there.  Cano knows the offensive scheme in New York too, and that always helps.  They do need a DH, but they have guys like Tyler Austin and Miguel Andujar that could become a full-time DH.  This is also good on Seattle’s end, as they open up second base for Gordon and get a much needed full-time outfielder in return.  It’s a nice thought, but it would be absurd if this actually went through.

Tampa Bay Rays trade OF Kevin Kiermaier to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for 2B Devon Travis

I don’t think the Jays are done dealing.  Even with Curtis Granderson and Randal Grichuk on the roster, I think the Jays could use one more outfielder.  Kiermaier is a great fielder who can fill that need.  The Jays don’t really need Travis anymore since they traded for 2B Yangervis Solarte.  On Tampa’s side of things, they already have a surplus of starters in the outfield, and first base is their biggest offensive hole.  Acquiring a second baseman like Travis will allow Brad Miller to spend some time playing first while Travis shares time with Micah Johnson and/or Joey Wendle at second.

Texas Rangers trade 3B Adrian Beltre to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for SP Julio Teheran and RP Mauricio Cabrera

This might be the craziest trade I’ve predicted yet.  I highly doubt this will happen, but if it did, it would work for both teams.  The Braves will be able to give their younger pitchers more time in the starting five, and they will fill their gaping hole at third that was left by Adonis Garcia when he left to play in Korea.

Meanwhile, in Texas, they would acquire a flame-throwing reliever looking to bounce-back from an injury-riddled season (Cabrera) and a top-tier starter to grab the second spot in the rotation behind Cole Hamels (Teheran).  With Beltre out of Texas, 3B Joey Gallo will finally have a full-time job as well.  I doubt this will happen, but it is an intriguing trade that would shake up the rosters of both of these teams.

Milwaukee Brewers trade OF Domingo Santana and SP prospect Freddy Peralta to the Cleveland Indians in exchange for SP Danny Salazar

This would balance out the rosters of both the Indians and Brewers.  Of all the trades I’m predicting, this is the most likely to happen.  It is practically a perfect fit on both sides.  The Indians have already been open to trading Salazar, as, since the end of 2017, they have had six valid starters.  Without Salazar, they will still have a solid rotation as seen below:

  1. Corey Kluber
  2. Carlos Carrasco
  3. Trevor Bauer
  4. Josh Tomlin
  5. Mike Clevinger

Meanwhile, with the addition of Salazar, the Brewers rotation will begin to look more intriguing, and they will look more like a playoff team as seen below:

  1. Danny Salazar
  2. Yovani Gallardo
  3. Zach Davies
  4. Chase Anderson
  5. Jhoulys Chacin (He will start until Jimmy Nelson returns)

Despite a defined ace, they will have multiple pitchers with ace potential.  Meanwhile, the Brewers will be able to cut down their outfield to three everyday starters in Cain, Yelich, and Braun.  Keon Broxton and Brett Phillips can back them up.  The Indians outfield will finally have the right-handed everyday starter they need in Santana.

He will start alongside Michael Brantley, and either Bradley Zimmer, Lonnie Chisenhall, Brandon Guyer, or someone else.  The Indians have Melvin Upton Jr. signed to a minor league deal as well, and I could see him returning to the majors.  The point is, the Indians will at least have two defined starters after this trade, and both teams will fill a crucial need and give up a player at a position they have plenty of depth at.

 

That’s all for my 2017-18 MLB Free Agency Predictions.  Feel free to comment on any of these articles with your thoughts.  In addition, if you haven’t seen my APEX go-kart experience article yet, click the link below:

Race to the APEX For Non-Stop Entertainment

While I was there, my dad and I faced off in NFL Blitz, and we simulated the Super Bowl LII match-up.  Playing as the Pats, my dad beat me (as the Eagles), 31-3.  I was unhappy that I lost, but also happy that the Pats won our simulation.  As for the real Super Bowl, I will have an in-depth look at it throughout this week, so stay tuned.

Ortiz Dominates, Red Sox Win In Extras Thriller

Bogaerts on second.  Two outs in the bottom of the 11th.  Big Papi at the plate.  He hits it high to center field, it’s over the fielder’s head!  Bogaerts scores, and Big Papi and the Red Sox had themselves the first walk-off win of the season!!!  The image above pretty much summarizes the entire big celebration.  Well, how’d they get to extras?

Things started off on the negative side.  Clay Buchholz gave up a moonshot over the monster in the 1st inning that nearly left the ballpark altogether.  Carlos Correa’s dinger gave the Astros a 1-0 lead.  The Red Sox struck back pretty quickly.  Mookie Betts and JBJ hit back-to-back singles, and Xander Bogaerts made that 2nd and 3rd with a 1-1 tie on a ground rule double.  David Ortiz loaded the bases on a walk, and Hanley Ramirez grounded into a force out.  The bases were still loaded, but JBJ had gotten out at the plate.  Travis Shaw walked, driving in a 2nd run.

But the Astros secured a lead the next inning.  After a single and two walks, George Springer nailed a grand slam to center field, and the Astros had the 3-run lead.  Clay Buchholz started to calm down after that, and David Ortiz hit a moonshot of his own to center to make it 5-3.  The next inning, Josh Rutledge continued a hot start to his season with a double to left.  Christian Vazquez made it 1st and 3rd with a base hit and Mookie Betts grounded into a force out.  Vazquez got called out but Rutledge scored and Betts was safe.  5-4 Astros.  The Red Sox were catching up.

As both pitchers kept control, it was a quiet game for the next few innings.  Tommy Layne got in a bit of a jam in the 8th inning. Marwin Gonzalez doubled and ended up on third after an intentional walk.  But he got out at the plate, and Junichi Tazawa came in to secure the last out, making sure pinch runner Carlos Gomez couldn’t come home from third.

The Red Sox changed that in the bottom of the 9th.  JBJ walked, and Xander Bogaerts grounded into a force out.  But when David Ortiz came back up, he hit it into center field and Jake Marisnick lost the ball and he couldn’t find it!  David Ortiz ended up with an RBI triple in the process, tying the game 5-5.  It was going to extra innings.

The 10th inning was quiet, and Koji got to first and second in the 11th, but he was alright.  Then, with two outs in the bottom of the inning, Xander Bogaerts got a base hit.  Then he went to second on a wild pitch, and Big Papi was up.  Ortiz did his thing, doubling over Jake Marisnick’s head to knock in the walk-off run.   The Red Sox shocked the Astros in extras, 6-5.

David Ortiz was a single shy of the cycle, hit his 600th career double (he is now one of just three players with 500 homers and 600 doubles, joining Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds), and his first triple since 2013.  That’s amazing for his final season.  He can still add on to that by becoming a 2016 All-Star or winning the World Series, maybe both.  The Red Sox are looking pretty good right now, all they need to do is find a way to get past the Orioles.  It may seem like a fluke, but the Orioles are good again.

Betts Cycle Chase, Wright’s Strong Outing Lead Red Sox Past ‘Stros

Top of the 9th, 5-1 Sox.  Lead off Mookie Betts up to bat, who was a homer shy of hitting for the cycle.  He lines it into right, it gets past Springer, he’s going for two, he’s going for three!  Could it be an inside-the-park home run to hit for the cycle?!!!!  Mookie Betts had just hit a stand-up triple, almost an inside the park homer.

With a strong outing by Steven Wright and a powerful lineup, especially the 1-3 hitters, the Red Sox topped the Astros 6-2 to start a 5 game road trip.  They have two more games in Houston before heading to Atlanta.  Mookie Betts was 4-5 with a double and two triples, one almost an inside the park home run that would give him the cycle.  David Ortiz was also honored and received a cowboy hat as a gift from Minute Maid Park and the Houston Astros.

The Sox took right off in the 1st when Mookie Betts managed to turn a base hit into a triple.  He was quickly driven in on Dustin Pedroia’s single.  Xander Bogaerts kept it going on a base hit, and Bogaerts was driven in by Hanley Ramirez on a sac fly after a Big Papi walk that loaded the bases.  It was just a few feet away from being a grand slam, but Colby Rasmus got it and the Sox were held to just 2 runs after all that.  Collin McHugh got back in a jam when the top of the lineup struck again.  9th hitter Jackie Bradley Jr. got a double and Mookie Betts drove him in with a second double.  3-0 Red Sox.

While Steven Wright had only given up two hits and let one runner past first base, the Red Sox continued to rally on.  Hanley Ramirez got a line drive single up the middle and Travis Shaw got a base hit to sent him to third.  A wild pitch by struggling McHugh sent Shaw to second.  Brock Holt got the sharp RBI single to drive Hanley in, but Ryan Hanigan grounded into a double play to end the inning with a man on 3rd.   What a rally!

The next inning Mookie Betts got on base again, and Xander Bogaerts knocked an RBI double all the way down the third base line.  After the inning, McHugh was taken out of the game.  Reliever Chris Devenski gave up three hits over 2 innings, but no runs.  The Red Sox had a lead secure however, winning 5-0.  Tony Sipp got a 1-2-3 in the 7th, and Steven Wright gave up the first run on two walks and two passed balls by Ryan Hanigan.

The Red Sox answered in the top of 9th when Mookie Betts hit his second triple, and he scored on a wild pitch.  Xander Bogaerts was next hit by the pitch on the forearm and had to be pulled from the game.  He is still on the active roster but not in today’s starting lineup.  Chris Young pinch ran for Bogaerts.  In the bottom of the 9th, Robbie Ross Jr. was in trouble.  He gave up a single to Carlos Gomez and a walk to pinch hitter Jake Marisnick.  George Springer knocked in a run on an RBI single to left and Ross came out of the game.

Closer Craig Kimbrel secured the final out and got the save as the Red Sox came out victorious, taking down the ‘Stros by 4.  The Red Sox play Game 2 in Houston today.  Can they keep it going against the struggling Astros?