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

Welcome to Part 2 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 catchers and infielders on the market.

If you haven’t seen Part 1, click the link below:

MLB Free Agent/Trade Predictions Part 1: Pitchers

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)

C

Image result for alex avilaAlex Avila

My Prediction: Baltimore Orioles, 2 years, $18 million

After the loss of Wellington Castillo to free agency, I could see another veteran catcher like Alex Avila sign here. They haven’t found the young catcher that will replace Matt Wieters yet, so for now, the O’s should try to replace him with experienced veterans like Avila.

Image result for jonathan lucroyJonathan Lucroy

My Prediction: Los Angeles Angels, 5 years, $57 million

Lucroy did well in his first and only year in Colorado, batting .265. Although Martin Maldonado was good in year one as a starter, it would be nice for the Angels to have a veteran catcher in their lineup, and Lucroy can hit although his average was a little low for him last year. I expect he’ll bounce back offensively and continue to do well defensively if he signs here.

Image result for miguel montero Miguel Montero

My Prediction: Miami Marlins, 3 years, $16.5 million

The Marlins could also use a veteran catcher, but Montero will be the back-up for starting catcher J.T. Realmuto if the Marlins don’t trade Realmuto away. Montero hasn’t done as well in recent years, but he will thrive as the Marlins backup catcher.

Image result for carlos ruizCarlos Ruiz

My Prediction: Arizona Diamondbacks, 3 years, $24 million

The D-Backs are another team that needs a veteran catcher to start in front of either Jeff Mathis or John Ryan Murphy, whoever makes the roster. They could manage with those two, but if they want to contend, Ruiz will help them offensively and defensively.

Image result for geovany soto Geovany Soto

My Prediction: Chicago Cubs, 2 years, $9 million

Young catcher Willson Contreras will start this year.  But I think a veteran behind him in case he struggles in his 2nd full season as a starter would be helpful.  Soto will do just that and will be a cheaper signing than guys like Carlos Ruiz, or even Alex Avila.

1B

Image result for lucas duda Lucas Duda

My Prediction: Oakland Athletics, 2 years, $15 million

The A’s could use a veteran to rotate with young 1B Matt Olson, and Duda seems like a good fit in Oakland.  The former Met will also help bring some much-needed power to the lineup.  Duda slashed 30 dingers in 2017 despite a lowly .217 batting average.

Image result for adrian gonzalez Adrian Gonzalez

My Prediction: Colorado Rockies, 3 years, $33 million

Gonzalez is not in his prime anymore, and he’s not necessarily an everyday starter anymore either.  But injuries held him back in 2017 and I do not think he’s done yet.  He’ll spend his final few years with the Rockies, who could use another bat in a hitter-favorable ballpark.  If he gets hurt or is slumping, they can just move OF Ian Desmond back to first and start young OF David Dahl.

Image result for eric hosmerEric Hosmer

My Prediction: San Diego Padres, 5 years, $68 million

I was originally thinking Hosmer would go to Boston, but instead of chasing after him, the Red Sox resigned Mitch Moreland and are going after J.D. Martinez.  Although Martinez’s bat would help Boston, I don’t know exactly where he would fit into their scheme, especially with Moreland coming back.  Otherwise, they could have either brought Hosmer in or put Martinez at DH and moved Hanley Ramirez to first full time.  The Padres are a decent fit for Hosmer, even though his best fit was in Boston, in my opinion.  Wil Myers can move back to the outfield, filling a hole they have out there, and Hosmer can play first.  They could also use him to replace power hitter and 2B Yangervis Solarte in the lineup, who will likely be replaced in the field by either Cory Spangenberg or a prospect.

 Image result for logan morrisonLogan Morrison

My Prediction: New York Mets, 2 years, $12 million

I do not feel that Dominic Smith is quite ready to start at first.  For now, I have the Mets bringing in veteran first baseman Logan Morrison.  Morrison, who slashed 38 dingers last year, will be a help in the lineup and in the field.  Morrison will help the Mets try to return to their 2016 form.  With the combination of a couple more veterans to finish off the lineup and the healthy return of the dominant Mets rotation, there’s a chance that they can make it happen.

Image result for mike napoli Mike Napoli

My Prediction: Seattle Mariners, 2 years, $18 million

The Mariners could also use a veteran to share time with 1B Ryon Healy.  Napoli is a little old to start every day so Healy will take over once he develops a little more.  Maybe spending some time pinch-hitting or playing DH (Nelson Cruz would play RF) will help him eventually take over Napoli’s short-term role.

2B

Image result for eduardo nunez Eduardo Nunez

My Prediction: New York Mets, 2 years, $19 million

Nunez showed promise last year with the Giants and Red Sox, but can he be trusted as the everyday starter for the Mets if they sign him?  The Mets do have 2B Wilmer Flores if he’s not ready to be part of their everyday scheme.  Flores may be needed at third if they cannot find another back up for the injured David Wright, but if they can find a backup there, Nunez could be an intriguing signing.

Image result for jace peterson Jace Peterson

My Prediction: New York Yankees, 3 years, $16.5 million

Peterson batted just .215 last year with just 2 dingers.  He did lose at-bats last year due to struggles and the signing of 2B Brandon Phillips, our next free agent in this article.  Whoever signs him will be hoping he develops into a better hitter next year.  As a utility, he is good in the field, but the Yankees will be looking for a guy who can hit to play second.  If Peterson fails, they could consider a trade in the off-season or regular season.  I think 2B Robinson Cano might even be someone good to try and retain from Seattle.

Image result for brandon phillips Brandon Phillips

My Prediction: Detroit Tigers, 2 years, $14 million

Phillips still has something left in the tank as he showed with 13 dingers, 60 RBI and a .285 average in almost 600 at-bats.  The Tigers could use a couple more veteran leaders in the midst of a rebuild, and Phillips is a good fit here and should be one of them.

Image result for chase utley Chase Utley

My Prediction: Cincinnati Reds, 2 years, $13 million

Utley is not necessarily a starter here, just a veteran influence who will share time with fellow middle infielders Jose Peraza and Scooter Gennett.  I do think the Reds could use another veteran in addition to Utley, but they could probably find one in the trade market.

Image result for neil walker Neil Walker

My Prediction: Milwaukee Brewers, 4 years, $46 million

Walker looked good in Milwaukee, and I think this is a great fit.  Walker should be signed to a long-term deal in Milwaukee as they begin a run for the playoffs.  They could use the veteran leader in the middle infield in addition to 2B Jonathan Villar and young SS Orlando Arcia.

SS

Image result for mike aviles Mike Aviles

My Prediction: Baltimore Orioles, 2 years, $14 million

Aviles is another veteran shortstop who has declined, but the Orioles need a shortstop starter fast.  I don’t expect them to chase after a top dog SS like Alcides Escobar, or even trade for SS Xander Bogaerts.  But a short-term signing like Aviles might be reasonable, and they might even want to re-sign Ryan Flaherty to platoon with him.

Image result for erick aybar Erick Aybar

My Prediction: Miami Marlins, 1 year, $5.5 million

Aybar is not an elite shortstop anymore, but he could be a good addition to Miami as a backup to SS J.T. Riddle, or potentially a short-term starter if Riddle is not ready yet.  He will have a similar role to what he did in San Diego, but with even less time as the #1 guy at shortstop.  Aybar’s career went downhill since he was traded to Atlanta prior to 2016, and don’t expect him to return to his 2015 form all the sudden.

Image result for stephen drew Stephen Drew

My Prediction: Washington Nationals, 2 years, $13 million

Drew did well as a backup for Trea Turner last year in Washington, but didn’t get that many appearances.  I see him returning to the Nats in a similar role, but this time he will back up at multiple positions in the infield as he takes on more of a utility role.  The Nationals could use backup in other infield spots as well, and Drew will help take care of that.

Image result for alcides escobar Alcides Escobar

My Prediction: Kansas City Royals, 3 years, $46.5 million

I doubt the Royals will resign all the guys they lost in free agency this year, like 1B Eric Hosmer, OF Lorenzo Cain and 3B Mike Moustakas.  But Escobar would be a good veteran influence going into the new era in Kansas City.  I know Raul Mondesi may be ambitious to start, but he can probably platoon somewhere in the infield and eventually take over for Escobar before this contract expires.  Hosmer could also do this job if he’s left around, but they’ll only sign one.  Besides, for the most part, it’s time for a rebuild.  Maybe they’ll sign a couple more infield veterans just to back up for the rookies too.

Image result for jj hardy J.J. Hardy

My Prediction: Detroit Tigers, 3 years, $36 million

Hardy’s time in Baltimore might finally be over.  I see him heading to Detroit as another veteran influence to play alongside Brandon Phillips.  Don’t be fooled and think they could go for a playoff run after signing Phillips and Hardy.  Phillips and Hardy will not start all the time, and they need to develop their prospects eventually.  According to Al Avila, it’s time, as he already traded away guys like OF J.D. Martinez, who is now a free agent.

3B

Image result for yunel escobar Yunel Escobar

My Prediction: Chicago White Sox, 3 years, $39 million

After a strong 2017 season, I think Escobar still has something left in the tank, even at age 35.  He is not an expensive purchase anymore though as he gets closer to retirement age.  I see Escobar signing in Chicago, where they could use a veteran at third as they cope with a rebuild and need some veteran influences.  Escobar will be one of them, and even with Escobar starting at third, at least this year, Yolmer Sanchez, Yoan Moncada, Tyler Saladino and Tim Anderson will still all get significant time on the field.

Image result for todd frazierTodd Frazier

My Prediction: New York Yankees, 4 years, $56 million

I thought Frazier was a great fit in a Yankees uniform, and he thrived with the Yankees after getting off to a rough start to the season in Chicago.  After being dealt to New York, he improved.  Now that the Yanks traded 3B Chase Headley back to where they got him in San Diego, they need a full-time third baseman, and if Frazier can keep up what he had in New York last year, he could be the man for the job.

Image result for mike moustakasMike Moustakas

My Prediction: St. Louis Cardinals, 3 years, $54 million

St. Louis would be a great fit for both 1B Eric Hosmer and 3B Mike Moustakas, but they will only sign one as they have Matt Carpenter to play whatever infield position they cannot fill.  The middle infield is all set between Jedd Gyorko, Paul DeJong, and Kolten Wong.  But they could use a veteran 1B or 3B after the recent departures of both Aldemys Diaz and Matt Adams.  I believe Moose can thrive here, but the Cardinals will have to be willing to give him a good-sized contract.  Matt Carpenter will stay at first will Moose starts at third like he did in Kansas City.

Image result for trevor plouffe Trevor Plouffe

My Prediction: Kansas City Royals, 2 years, $16 million

Plouffe is not necessarily a starter here, but it will be nice to have a backup if 3B Hunter Dozier or INF Cheslor Cuthbert turns out to flop.  Plouffe will also serve the role of another veteran influence alongside SS Alcides Escobar, OF Alex Gordon, and most of the Royals strong rotation.  This is not a long term signing though as I am sure someone will secure the starting job within the next one or two years.

Image result for jose reyesJose Reyes

My Prediction: New York Mets, 2 years, $18 million

Reyes will fill in while 3B David Wright recovers from back surgery.  I’m thinking some sort of platoon could start when Wright returns, especially if Wright is not quite himself after surgery.

That’s all for Part 2 of my free agent predictions.  Stay tuned for Part 3, where I discuss outfielders in the market, and potential trade ideas for teams across the league.

Ranking The Teams 12-7, My Version: The Contending

Welcome to Day 4 of my MLB preseason power rankings.  Last time, I broke down the middle of the pack and the pros and cons of each team there.  Now we’ve made it to the playoff contenders.  Each of these teams has something that’s holding them back from dominance, though.  Today, I will break down what that is for each team.  Now, let’s get started with #12.

Missed a previous article?  Check below:

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

Ranking The Teams 24-19, My Version: The Bad

Ranking The Teams 18-13, My Version: The Mediocre

 

12. sanfran-giants San Francisco Giants

Off-season Review

The Giants definitely could’ve had a bigger off-season.  It’s an odd year, and the rotation is still good, and they did upgrade the bullpen with Mark Melancon among others, but the Giants could’ve done more to boost a mediocre lineup that lacks depth.  Sure, they did improve the depth of their lineup, by signing Gordon Beckham, Jimmy Rollins, Michael Morse and Nick Hundley, but if there wasn’t a gaping hole in the outfield, Jarrett Parker and Mac Williamson would not be fighting for the left field job.  The Giants have other holes and weaknesses as well.

The Case for the Giants

The Giants have some of the best pitchers in the entire MLB.  The lineup is decent but lacks stars.  Their only superstar players in the lineup are Buster Posey and Hunter Pence.  Those guys are good, but there are other problems.  There’s a hole in the outfield, and I don’t know if Eduardo Nunez will repeat what he did last year, and before last year, Eduardo Nunez was a backup infielder that was moving from team to team frequently.

What’s Holding Them Back

It’s pretty clear that depth problems and holes in the lineup are holding this team back.  They need a left fielder and some other options in the infield and outfield.  The bullpen still lacks depth as well, despite adding several quality relievers, including star closer Mark Melancon.  The Giants could contend, but these problems will really hold them back, and the fact that the bottom end of the lineup is not great.

Best Case Scenario: The better pitching helps the Giants contend, and the lineup is better than expected, helping the Giants win the NL West.

Worst Case Scenario: Depth problems hold the Giants back, and they cannot contend.

Projected Finish: 88-74, 2nd in NL West

 

11. Toronto_Blue_Jays Toronto Blue Jays

Off-season Review

Image result for jose bautista

The Blue Jays didn’t do much this off-season, which might hurt them.  However, they were pretty situated where they were, so won’t be impacted that much, and the moves they did make really made up for it.  The Jays lost Josh Thole and Edwin Encarnacion but signed Kendrys Morales and Jarrod Saltalamacchia in their place.  They also resigned Jose Bautista, which was a big move for them that prevented them from having a big hole in the outfield.

The Case for the Blue Jays

The Blue Jays have a strong all-around team.  But they’re playing in a tough division, and have a lot of competition.  One thing they do lack is superstars.  I cannot name a single legitimate MVP or Cy Young candidate on the Blue Jays.  That wouldn’t be a problem if they didn’t have a lot of other teams with stars to compete with.  The Blue Jays would be a lot better if every team better than them didn’t have superstars.  But that’s the truth.

What’s Holding Them Back

Two things are holding this team back.  First of all, there’s too much competition in the wild card race and in the AL East.  Second, the best the Blue Jays have for a star player is Josh Donaldson.  They clearly lack a true star.

Best Case Scenario: The Blue Jays dominate the tough competition in the AL East, cruise through the playoffs, and win the World Series.

Worst Case Scenario: The Blue Jays decline this season due to tough competition, and the Blue Jays finish around .500.

Projected Finish: 88-74, 2nd in AL East

 

10. detroit-tigers Detroit Tigers

Off-season Review

The Tigers didn’t do much this off-season.  They did sign Omar Infante to a minor league deal and got Alex Avila back, but they didn’t add any quality players.  Their lineup has some holes and weaknesses yet to be fixed, which they should’ve fixed in free agency.  Despite a better rotation, this team will face depth problems and lineup problems in 2017.

The Case for the Tigers

Image result for miguel cabrera

The Tigers have a young rotation that will look better in 2017.  Their bullpen is also loaded.  The lineup, led by Miguel Cabrera, is also pretty good but lacks one thing, depth.  After losing Cameron Maybin in a trade, the Tigers only have two good outfielders, and the best they’ve got as a reserve infielder is Omar Infante.  Some of this lineup is also very inconsistent, so the Tigers could completely flop, or they could have a great season.

What’s Holding Them Back

Depth problems and inconsistency in the lineup have held this team back.  The Tigers could be great, but inconsistency may get in the way.  They don’t have a consistently good lineup, and their rotation still needs work despite improvement.  The Tigers will be better, but because of this fact, they won’t quite dominate yet.

Best Case Scenario: The rotation gets better, the lineup has a strong year, and the Tigers dominate.

Worst Case Scenario: The rotation continues to struggle, the lineup is inconsistent, and the Tigers finish under .500.

Projected Finish: 89-73, 2nd in AL Central (2nd Wild Card)

 

9. los-angeles-dodgers Los Angeles Dodgers

Off-season Review

Image result for logan forsythe welcome to dodgers

The Dodgers re-signed their key free agents and upgraded what was a weak bullpen to add to it.  They also traded Jose De Leon for Logan Forsythe.  The rotation is one of the league’s best, and the lineup is pretty good as well but is held back by a lack of veterans.  Andre Ethier’s a little too washed up, same with Chase Utley.  That leaves just Adrian Gonzalez for experience in the lineup.  However, the Dodgers are looking better for 2017.

The Case for the Dodgers

The Dodgers are looking good on paper, but have some hidden problems.  The pitching staff is looking a lot better, but with how many injury prone guys they have, it will be hard to keep that rotation the way it is.  The lineup is also good but isn’t as good as last year.  Guys are getting older, Howie Kendrick is gone, and the lineup just doesn’t look as good as it used to in LA.

What’s Holding Them Back

The Dodgers are being held back by several things.  Depth problems, aging players, and a whole bunch of stuff that’s not clear on paper.  The Dodgers may be the best team on paper, but realistically, they have a lot more issues than you’d think.  I mean, look at the Buffalo Bills from the last two years.  They looked like playoff teams on paper.  The result?  Two mediocre seasons and one fired head coach.  The Dodgers won’t be that bad, but they won’t necessarily make it very far in the playoffs.

Best Case Scenario: A strong, balanced Dodgers team stays healthy and at it’s best, and the Dodgers make it far in the playoffs.

Worst Case Scenario: Injuries leave an impact, and the whole team declines and regresses, finishing third in the NL West.

Projected Finish: 90-72, 1st in NL West

 

8. new-york-mets New York Mets

Off-season Review

The Mets did resign a lot of their key free agents, but couldn’t grab on to any from other teams.  They also lost some of the depth of their lineup and rotation.  However, it’s hard not to like this team.  They arguably have the best rotation in the league and their lineup is looking a lot better than it used to.  The Mets are in a good position to win, but could depth bite back and be a problem?

The Case for the Mets

The Mets have a good lineup and a good rotation, but they lack two things.  One thing they lack is bullpen options.  They have a good closer and set up man, but beyond that, the Mets’ bullpen needs some work.  The second thing they lack is depth.  Depth is a team-wide problem for the Mets.  The depth of the lineup isn’t great.  The depth of the rotation is a problem.  The bullpen is suffering from lack of depth, which is depriving the Mets of a good bullpen.

What’s Holding Them Back

Didn’t I make it clear about what’s holding this team back?  Things weren’t like this last year.  This is the one cost of their quiet off-season.  This team lost Alejandro De Aza, Jon Niese, Bartolo Colon, Logan Verrett, Justin Ruggiano and James Loney to free agency.  That was half the bench, and both of the Mets’ spot starters and fill-in starters, gone.  However, the Mets didn’t contend last season because the lineup was still a work in progress.

Best Case Scenario: The lineup thrives, the rotation kicks butt, and the Mets win the NL East by a longshot.

Worst Case Scenario: The lineup continues to struggle, the young rotation doesn’t do as well, and the Mets struggle to stay over .500.

Projected Finish: 90-72, 2nd in NL East

 

7. houston-astros Houston Astros

Off-season ReviewImage result for carlos beltran astros

The Astros had a very active off-season.  They still have some holes in the lineup and the rotation is just mediocre, but they really upgraded their lineup.  They signed Josh Reddick, Carlos Beltran, and Norichika Aoki.  They also traded for Brian McCann.  This lineup does lack depth and has holes in some spots, but its core just got a whole lot stronger.

The Case for the Astros

Image result for altuve and correa

The Astros have the upside to win a World Series.  Their lineup looks a whole lot better but has a hole at first base that’s been there since Jon Singleton’s decline.  The infield, led by Jose Altuve is young and intriguing but also still in development.  The outfield is full of experienced veterans who will help lead this team.  The rotation isn’t amazing, but is still good and has some good depth.  If the young players can continue to perform well consistently, the Astros could be in for a great season.

What’s Holding Them Back

It’s not one singular thing that’s holding the Astros back.  It’s multiple things.  Depth problems and holes in the infield are just two minor issues that will make a slightly bigger impact.  The bullpen could be better too, and the Astros are still developing a little bit.  If by the end of the season, the younger players are seasoned enough, the Astros could easily win the World Series.

Best Case Scenario: The young guns dominate and the Astros win the World Series.

Worst Case Scenario: Depth and holes bite back, the young guns fail to perform well, and the rotation struggles as the Astros finish around .500, between many AL West contenders.

Projected Finish: 91-71, 2nd in AL West

 

So, that’s all for Day 4 of these rankings.  The final part is coming tomorrow, so stay tuned!

 

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

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

30. minnesota-twins Minnesota Twins

Off-season Review

Image result for jason castro twins

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

The Case for the Twins

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

The Bright Spot

Image result for miguel sano byron buxton

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

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

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

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

29. san diego-padres San Diego Padres

Off-season Review

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

The Case for the Padres

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

The Bright Spot

Image result for wil myers padres

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

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

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

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

28. oakland-a's Oakland Athletics

Off-season Review

Image result for rajai davis a's

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

The Case for the Athletics

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

The Bright Spot

Image result for khris davis a's

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

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

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

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

27. philadelphia.phillies Philadelphia Phillies

Off-season in Review

Image result for howie kendrick welcome to phillies

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

The Case for the Phillies

Image result for jimmy rollins phillies

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

The Bright Spot

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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 Shutout Phillies In Season Opener

Today was the Red Sox opening day, as they faced the Phillies in Philadelphia.  There were a couple record breakers for the season opener.  Dustin Pedroia and Hanley Ramirez are two of seven Red Sox players to hit multiple home runs on opening day.

Now for a game recap.  In the top of the 1st, things immediately got exciting.  Dustin Pedroia hit a solo home run that became play of the game.  It was a short inning, but jammed between three outs was a solo home run, that gave the Red Sox the 1-0 lead early.  When the Phillies came up to bat, Clay Buchhloz was off to a good start, despite a helpless error that let Chase Utley take first base.  Besides that, Buchholz pitched well, getting three outs easy.  The second inning went by quickly, and it tired out Cole Hamels.  The Red Sox walked two times, again between outs, but all throughout the inning, they worked the count well.  Buchholz got through a quick 1-2-3 inning to end the 2nd.

The third inning was another quick one, but it started off on the first pitch of it with a solo home run by Mookie Betts.  He was clearly looking for a first pitch fastball.  Betts won the center field job over rookie Rusney Castillo who will be in the minors for now.  They again walked once, and worked the count well for the three outs.  The 3rd was another 1-2-3 inning that went by fast.  Clay Buchholz still had a lot of energy in him.

The fourth consisted of a base hit by Ryan Hanigan, his first as a Red Sox player.  However, nobody else at the bottom of the lineup could get a hit, so the inning ended after four at bats.  The Phillies were a similar story.  Ryan Howard hit a double, but other than a walk an three outs, the Phillies didn’t have much action and Buchholz kept up a 1 hitter.

In the fifth Pedroia hit his second home run of the game between two strikeouts.  But after the strikeout following Pedroia’s home run came another home run.  Hanley Ramirez hit his first one as a Red Sox player.  He would later hit the grand slam that would surely secure the Red Sox’s win.  His homer followed a quick strikeout by a struggling Pablo Sandoval.  He ended up going 0-5 with three strikeouts.  Buchholz pitched a 1-2-3 bottom of the fifth, which ended with an amazing catch by Shane Victorino.  That shows that it’s worth starting Victorino in right field.  In minutes the Sox were up to start the 6th.  After a walk, relief pitcher Luis Garcia pitched three consecutive strikeouts.  Another 1-2-3 by Buchholz ended the 6th.

The seventh inning started out on a good note, with two base hits, one by Mookie Betts, one by Dustin Pedroia.  But, then Ortiz struck out and Hanley Ramirez grounded into a double play to end the inning.  The Phillies also had a 7th inning full of hits, and it finally tired out Clay Buchholz.  After a groundout by Ryan Howard, both Carlos Ruiz and Grady Sizemore hit base hits back to back.  Then, Cody Asche grounded into fielder’s choice, causing Sizemore to be out at second base.  After that, they struck out and ended the inning with a man on first and third.

By the top of the 8th, Mike Napoli was in for Big Papi, and the score remained 4-0 Red Sox.  It was quiet, consisting of three consecutive ground outs after a walk.  Junichi Tazawa was in for Buchholz in the 8th, and also threw a 1-2-3 inning.  In the ninth, it started off with Allen Craig hitting a base hit as a pinch hitter for Buchholz.  Then, it was followed by two walks and a strikeout.  By then, the bases were loaded.  Hanley Ramirez was up to bat.  He swung and crushed and 0-2 breaking ball out of the park, hitting the foul pole, then gone!!!!!!!!!!  Hanley Ramirez hit a grand slam!!!!!!!!!!!   The Red Sox took an 8-0 lead!!!  After two quick outs, Tommy Layne came in to finish the game for the Sox.  A ground out, a line out, and after a quick walk, the final out.  The Red Sox crushed the Phillies shutting them out 8-0.  Below I have listed some amazing or interesting stats about the game.

Fun Facts:

1. Dustin Pedroia an Hanley Ramirez are two of seven Red Sox players ever to hit multiple home runs in the season opener

2. Buchholz struck out 9 batters, and only gave up three hits

3. Pedroia only hit 7 home runs last year, and he hit two today

4. Ryan Hanigan got his first hit as a Red Sox player

5. The Red Sox only had one game where they hit 4 home runs last year.  They hit FIVE today.

With 161 games to go, something tells me we’re going to see a lot more multi-HR games.