Ranking The Teams 6-1: My Version: How The Best of the Best Line Up

Welcome to the 5th and final part of my MLB pre-season power rankings.  Although the season has started, I am still finishing this series.  I will also have my first Red Sox Report article of 2018 coming soon, as well as coverage on NFL free agency and the upcoming Red Sox, Celtics, and Bruins games.

Last time, I covered the teams that are true contenders but are not quite on the level of the MLB’s best.  That consisted of 5 wild card competitors and the Indians, the lowest ranked of what is known as the MLB Super Seven.  They just missed the Top 6, at #7.  I looked at how they did this off-season, how they’ll do this season, and what’s holding them back.  I also discussed best and worst case scenarios for each team and projected their records and division placements.  Today I will do the same for the for the Top 6 teams in the league.  What are their chances of winning it all, and what are their Achilles Heels?  Read below to find out how the best of the best line up.  Every team on this part of the list is part of the Super Seven I have been mentioning.

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Boston Sports Mania MLB Pre-Season Power Rankings

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

Sunday, March 25: Ranking The Teams 24-19, My Version: Teams That Will Struggle

Monday, March 26: Ranking The Teams 18-13, My Version: The Middle of the Pack

Monday, April 2: Ranking The Teams 12-7, My Version: Who Will Contend in 2018?

Thursday, April 5: Ranking The Teams 6-1, My Version: How The Best of the Best Line Up*

*My pre-season Baseball Bits are also up.

6. boston-red-sox Boston Red Sox

Off-Season Review

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The Red Sox were pretty quiet for much of the off-season despite the rumors that they were the front-runners to sign OF J.D. Martinez, and that it was near inevitable that the Red Sox signed him.  They did bring back 1B Mitch Moreland and 2B Eduardo Nunez.  With that, they had a pretty good roster.  But they had no home run hitter, which was crucial after the Yankees added Giancarlo Stanton and formed what has the potential to be a historic HR duo between Stanton and Aaron Judge.  Eventually, they did sign Martinez despite a lack of a position for him to play.  If there was an open position called “designated home run hitter (DHH)”, it might be fitting, but now he has to split his time between left field and DH, with Moreland, Hanley Ramirez, and Jackie Bradley Jr. losing at-bats to him.

The Case for the Red Sox

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If the Red Sox are meeting their expectations, they will make the playoffs, and they will make it to at least the ALDS.  Red Sox reporter Tony Massarotti thinks we are a good team but can do a lot better, and I agree.  Sure, the Yankees had a great off-season and are now favorites to beat us out in the AL East.  But the Sox are capable of winning the division, and if they cannot win the division, they are definitely capable of making the playoffs.  Hopefully, Chris Sale and David Price will be able to lead the rotation together after Sale’s strong 2017 and Price’s strong Spring Training, and I’m hoping J.D. Martinez and Mookie Betts can lead the lineup (with the help of Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers, who are off to a great start).

But if they cannot, we need someone else to step up their game.  In fact, no matter what, we need someone else to step it up.  Whether Bogey keeps going and breaks out, or Devers builds on his late 2017 success, or Andrew Benintendi has the season he was supposed to have one year ago, I will be satisfied.  They just need one more player to build on the consistency they have had and turn it into dominance.

The Achilles Heel

Like I said, the Red Sox have an ace, and they have a pretty strong lineup. But they just need some of their good players to achieve greatness. It would be nice if they could have the beastly rotation people were expecting of them, and so far, it’s looked pretty good. It would also be nice if the Red Sox had a couple more players who broke through and joined Betts and Martinez as the All-Stars of the lineup. World Series contenders aren’t led by a couple superstars and a bunch of other good, but not great players. They are led by a group of star players that work well and fit well together.

Best Case Scenario: The rotation dominates, several players in the lineup breakout and the Red Sox go on to win the World Series, which you will notice is the Best Case Scenario for all 6 of the top teams.

Worst Case Scenario: The rotation continues to be inconsistent, the lineup is no more than good, and the Red Sox lose out to other teams like the Twins and Angels in the Wild Card race.

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

 

5. Chicago_Cubs Chicago Cubs

Off-Season Review

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The Cubs lost star pitcher Jake Arrieta, but they made up for it by signing SP Yu Darvish and SP Tyler Chatwood.  They also added Brandon Morrow to a strong bullpen.  The Cubs appear to be pretty confident in their lineup, but does their lineup need an upgrade if the Cubs want to win another World Series ring?

The Case for the Cubs

About a year ago, the Cubs were viewed as the best team in the MLB.  But the competition has caught up with them, and the Cubs experienced a World Series hangover early in 2017.  The Dodgers, Yankees, and Astros have all caught up, and the Indians, Nationals, and Red Sox are close.  They have a nice young roster with a dominant rotation, and their lineup is great but could use a bit of a boost in the power department.

The Achilles Heel

The Cubs have a lot of good, consistent, hitters.  But they were hoping that they could get some power out of guys like Jason Heyward, Kris Bryant, and Anthony Rizzo that they have signed/kept around.  Bryant and Rizzo have done well at the plate, but are good hitters for average, not good hitters for power.  Heyward was signed to add some power to the lineup, and it would have been nice to see some power out of Ben Zobrist.  Who will emerge as a home run hitter for the Cubs?  If they cannot find one, then that means the league’s elite teams are one step ahead of them.

Best Case Scenario: The Cubs go on to win a World Series after Anthony Rizzo and Jason Heyward have dominant years at the plate and get help from Chicago’s younger players.  The rotation also continues to dominate.

Worst Case Scenario: The rotation underperforms, the lineup cannot find their power hitter, and the Cubs just barely snag a Wild Card after losing their division to the Cardinals or Brewers.

Projected Finish: 92-70, 1st in NL Central\

 

4. los-angeles-dodgers Los Angeles Dodgers

Off-Season Review

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The Dodgers kept their roster at World Series level.  They did lose some of their starting pitchers, but they had at least eight viable starters on their World Series roster.  They added Tom Koehler to the bullpen, and he could even start in the case of an injury to another starter.  They also brought back Chase Utley and acquired Matt Kemp from the Braves in exchange for Adrian Gonzalez and a couple extra starters they had.  Gonzalez was no longer needed with Cody Bellinger ready to start at first base full time.

The Case for the Dodgers

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The Dodgers could still be a World Series contender, but other teams may beat them out.  The Astros are looking even better this year, the Nats have extra motivation to do well with many star players in contract years, and the Yankees have more power in their lineup than any other team in the league.  Their lineup and rotation still look great.  Clayton Kershaw has continued to dominate the league, and the lineup has done well despite the lack of a true leader.

The Achilles Heel

The Dodgers do not have any major holes.  But they need two smaller things.  The first thing is some bullpen help.  They need to find a reliable set up man for Kenley Jansen, and even Jansen has struggled so far.  They also need a leader for the lineup.  They have a lot of great hitters, but who is their true star?  Kershaw is the rotation leader.  Who will be the Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers lineup?

Best Case Scenario: Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager, and Justin Turner will lead the Dodgers lineup to dominance, the rotation continues to thrive, and Kenley Jansen gets back on track as the Dodgers win the World Series.

Worst Case Scenario: Kershaw, along with the rest of the rotation regresses, the lack of depth hurts them, and the lineup cannot quite dominate without a leader.  Jansen and the bullpen continue to struggle too, and the Dodgers are left to compete for a Wild Card.

Projected Finish: 95-67, 1st in NL West

 

3. new-york-yankees New York Yankees

Off-Season Review

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The Yankees already had a strong lineup, and they made a splash this off-season by adding to that.  They acquired Giancarlo Stanton from the Marlins, and with that, they had the top two home run hitters in the league in Stanton and Aaron Judge.  They also added 2B Neil Walker late in the off-season to help out while Gleyber Torres recovers from his injury and continues to develop.  They acquired Brandon Drury to help out Miguel Andujar at third too.

The Case for the Yankees

The Yanks have a lineup that is stacked with home run hitters, but they are lacking depth, especially in the infield.  Judge and Stanton will balance things out though, making the lineup look dominant.  The rotation also looks good but is the one portion of their roster that does not quite match up with the Red Sox, who can rely on the combo of Chris Sale and David Price.  The good thing is, the rotation will be backed up by a strong bullpen, much stronger than the Red Sox bullpen.

The Achilles Heel

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The Yankees do have a bit of an infield depth problem, but their real depth problem is in the rotation.  Jordan Montgomery has been forced into the #5 starter role, while the Sox will have E-Rod and Steven Wright once everyone is healthy.  The Yankees have a nice group of starters, but they lack depth, and they lack a true ace.  Sonny Gray, Masahiro Tanaka, and Luis Severino are great but are not quite ace material.  The Red Sox have Chris Sale to lead their rotation, so they are ahead of the Yankees in that department.

Best Case Scenario: The rotation dominates the league with multiple #1 level starters, the bullpen backs them up, and the lineup hits the most home runs in the MLB by a long shot as the Yanks win the World Series.

Worst Case Scenario: Depth problems come back to bite the Yankees, the Yanks must depend on their bullpen after rotation struggles, and the lineup cannot find much talent around Gary Sanchez, Stanton and Judge.  The Yankees are left with a Wild Card spot and do not make the ALDS.

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

 

2. houston-astros Houston Astros

Off-Season Review

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After winning the World Series (as I predicted) in 2017, the Astros only got better.  They acquired Gerrit Cole from the Pirates, and now they will have Justin Verlander for a full season.  They arguably have seven viable starters, and their first three starters were all #1 starters on different teams before this season.  They also added Joe Smith to a strong bullpen.

The Case for the Astros

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The Astros are coming off a World Series title, and I do not expect much of a hangover.  They have a dominant rotation, and a strong lineup led by Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman, George Springer, and AL MVP Jose Altuve.  I don’t see much of a chance for them to regress.  But will they be beaten out by a motivated contender who was not won in recent years?

The Achilles Heel

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The Astros do not have any major weaknesses, but with DH Carlos Beltran gone, and 1B Yulieski Gurriel suspended, they will have some depth problems in the lineup.  They will have to rely on Marwin Gonzalez, Jake Marisnick, Derek Fisher, and J.D. Davis more this season.  Other than that, they do not have any other problems, at least major problems.  That will likely resolve itself as the season progresses.

Best Case Scenario: The stacked lineup dominates, the rotation is led by three aces, and the Astros dominate the league for the second consecutive year, winning the World Series.

Worst Case Scenario: The rotation underperforms and struggles, depth and World Series hangover problems affect the lineup, and the Astros fail to make the ALCS after losing the division to the Angels surprisingly.

Projected Finish: 95-67, 1st in AL West

 

1. washington-nats Washington Nationals

Off-Season Review

The Nats did not make any big moves this off-season besides resigning Howie Kendrick, and I think their roster looks good as it is, although it could have used one more starting pitcher.  They should sign somebody who’s still available if A.J. Cole struggles in the rotation.  But the Nats have many star players, including Bryce Harper in contract years, so the Nationals are in win now mode, and for that reason, they are my favorite to win the World Series.

The Case for the Nationals

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Like I said, the Nats are in win-now mode.  The window is closing for this team to win a World Series with this era of players, but I think this could be the year.  With a great roster flooded with young talent and led by superstars in Bryce Harper, Max Scherzer, and Stephen Strasburg, the Nationals are in good position to take advantage of the fact that they have one more year to win it all before they lose Bryce Harper and other strong players on the roster to free agency.  But will they be motivated enough to lead themselves past other dominant teams like the Dodgers, Cubs, Astros, and Yankees?

The Achilles Heel

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The Nationals have a nice lineup that is still doing well early on, even with Daniel Murphy starting on the DL.  Later in the season, Murphy will help lead them.  But the rotation has a depth problem.  If A.J. Cole struggles, the Nationals have nobody to replace him with Joe Ross injured. There is no guarantee that any free agent pitcher will willingly sign here, but if Cole struggles, they will need to try, or it may hold them back from winning now like they are hoping to.

Best Case Scenario: Motivated to win it all before losing Harper, the Nats lineup dominates, carried by an MVP season by Bryce Harper where he nearly wins the Triple Crown.  The rotation also dominates as A.J. Cole does well and Strasburg and Scherzer dominate all year.  The Nationals win the World Series triumphantly.

Worst Case Scenario: Depth problems cause rotation struggles and injury problems add to it, Bryce Harper cannot carry the lineup alone in a contract year, and the Nats just edge out a division win and struggle in the NLDS.

Projected Finish: 97-65, 1st in NL East

 

That’s all for my MLB pre-season power rankings.  My next power rankings update will come at the end of April as I begin my Monthly Power Ranking series.  I will also have Red Sox recaps, more Baseball Bits, and my first Red Sox Report of 2018 coming soon (The Red Sox Report article will be up tomorrow and I will try to post them every Friday from here on out.)

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

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

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Boston Sports Mania MLB Pre-Season Power Rankings

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

30. miami-marlins Miami Marlins

Off-Season Review

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

The Case for the Marlins

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

The Bright Spot

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

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

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

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

 

29. chicago-white-sox Chicago White Sox

Off-Season Review

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

The Case for the White Sox

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

The Bright Spot

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

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

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

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

 

28. detroit-tigers Detroit Tigers

Off-Season Review

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

The Case for the Tigers

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

The Bright Spot

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

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

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

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

 

27. pittsburgh-pirates Pittsburgh Pirates

Off-Season Review

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

The Case for the Pirates

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

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

The Bright Spot

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

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

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

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

 

26. san diego-padres San Diego Padres

Off-Season Review

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

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

The Case for the Padres

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

The Bright Spot

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

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

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

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

 

25. oakland-a's Oakland Athletics

Off-Season Review

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

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

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

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

The Case for the Athletics

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

The Bright Spot

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

NFL Week 12 Picks: Which Contenders will Lock Up A Playoff Spot?

Welcome to my NFL Week 12 Picks.  I went 10-4 last week, placing my overall record at 88-72.  How will I do in this week’s slate of games?  Read below and comment with your thoughts.  This week could start factoring into the playoff chances of all 32 teams.  Who will lock up a spot?  Who will be eliminated from contention?

 

To see my picks for the Thanksgiving Day games this week, click here.

 

Note: In the images, the team on the top is the road team, and the team on the bottom is the home team.

 

Lock of the Week

 

Emerging as a top QB in the league, Carson Wentz has led the Eagles offense to become one of the best offenses in the league.  The Bears will be their next victim as the Eagles blow them out.  The Eagles offense is as good as it gets.  They have 3-4 strong running backs, who will dominate against a weak Bears defensive front.  They have a trio of great receivers and a top 5 tight end in Zach Ertz, who will just be too much for the young Bears secondary.
The Bears will struggle to strike back as young QB Mitch Trubisky is under too much pressure, and the Bears’ own RB duo is shut down by Philly’s strong run defense.  The Eagles will end up winning by one of the largest deficits seen this season.
Upset of the Week
RB Devonta Freeman is out for the second straight week, and that will cause the Falcons offense to struggle this time around.  They were able to survive without him last week, but this week Atlanta will start to miss him.  The Bucs defense will take advantage of that fact and will shut down the weakened Falcons offense.  For the Bucs, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick will continue to do well in the place of QB Jameis Winston, leading the Bucs to victory with the help of his receivers as well as RB Doug Martin.

Sunday’s Games

 

 

QB Tom Brady and the Pats offense will thrive against their divisional rivals, even without key receivers Chris Hogan and Martellus Bennett.  The Dolphins secondary will struggle to cover their powerful receivers like Brandin Cooks and Rob Gronkowski.  The Dolphins will also struggle offensively, as their run game looks hopeless without Jay Ajayi.  QB Matt Moore will also struggle to find his receivers and be picked off frequently by a stingy Pats secondary.  Pats win easily.

 

 

The Chiefs will struggle to bring life to their offense, but they will dominate defensively in this game.  The Chiefs will overpressure whoever is at QB for the Bills.  The QB problems will cost them as the Chiefs defense dominates against Buffalo’s troubled offense.

 

 

The Panthers young guns will help lead Carolina to victory, even without WR Kelvin Benjamin and TE Greg Olsen.  The Jets will keep it close with a strong offensive game, as the Panthers secondary struggles to cover the Jets receivers.  But the Panthers defensive front will shut down the Jets run game.  The Panthers will win after the younger players step it up, including RB Christian McCaffrey and WR Curtis Samuel.

 

 The Bengals offense will continue to come up big against the struggling Browns defense.  TE Tyler Kroft will continue to make a big impact for them in the role of the injured TE Tyler Eifert.  The Bengals D will also thrive in this game, shutting down the strong Browns run game.  They will pressure QB DeShone Kizer, causing him to struggle regressively.  The Bengals will win after dominating in all three aspects of the game.
The Titans will win as their balanced attack dominates against a struggling Colts defense.  QB Marcus Mariota will throw for 300+ yards and toss 2 TDs to his group of versatile receivers.  In addition, the Titans RB duo of DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry will rush for 150+ combined yards and one TD each.  Colts QB Jacoby Brissett will also lead his offense to a big game, but it won’t be enough as the Titans outscore them in an offensive shootout.
QB C.J. Beathard will lead the 49ers offense to another strong game, but this time, their injuries, as well as the Seahawks relentless defense, will have a big impact on slowing them down.  For the Seahawks, the offense will continue to thrive, even without new RB Mike Davis playing against his former team.  The 49ers troubled defense will fail to slow them down significantly, and the Seahawks will win.
The Jaguars will win after their defense dominates, shutting down Cardinals RB Adrian Peterson as well as Cardinals new starting QB Blaine Gabbert.  Gabbert will struggle to find his receivers under so much pressure, especially with WR John Brown out.  The Cardinals defense will also hold up QB Blake Bortles and the Jags offense, but the Jags will still win after their amazing defensive performance.
The Broncos beat the Raiders in Denver, but that was without QB Derek Carr.  This time, Carr will lead the Raiders offense to thrive against the tough Broncos defense  His versatile receivers will be too much for the No Fly Zone, scoring 3 TD on them.  Broncos QB Brock Osweiler will try to lead the Denver offense to rebound, but it won’t be enough to outplay the strong Raiders offense.
The Rams will beat the flaming New Orleans Saints, led by RB Todd Gurley’s huge game.  QB Jared Goff will also rebound from a rough against another strong team, the Vikings, last week.  Despite the fact that one of their best receivers, Robert Woods, is out, the big games out of Goff and Gurley will help lead the Rams to victory.  The Saints RB duo will struggle against the tough Rams run defense, and that will cost the Saints.
SNF
The banged-up Steelers offense may come in unprepared, but they will still do well against the Packers defense, especially with Clay Matthews hurt.  For the Packers, QB Brett Hundley will struggle to find his receivers, as the Packers offense fails against the Steelers without their top two RBs.  The Steelers will win as the Packers continue to fall apart without QB Aaron Rodgers.
MNF
The Ravens will win as the Texans continued to struggle without QB Deshaun Watson.  With WR Will Fuller out, QB Tom Savage and the Texans will struggle to produce offense against the tough Ravens D, despite the fact that three of their best defensive players are banged-up.  For the Ravens offense, QB Joe Flacco will thrive against a Texans D that’s also depleted by injuries.  Baltimore will win despite several injuries of their own.
That’s all for my Week 12 Picks.  Feel free to comment with your thoughts.

 

Bummer!  Red Sox Walk-Off in Extras After Pitchers Duel

If you’re a White Sox fan, last night must’ve been a Bummer for you as Aaron Bummer gave up the Red Sox’s walk off solo shot.  

It was tied 2-2, with Bummer pitching in the bottom of the 11th.  He needed one more out to send the game into the 12th.  But then Mitch Moreland came up to bat.  He hit it high into left center and it was gone.  What a Bummer for the White Sox as the Red Sox walked it off.  

Early in the game, it was a pitchers duel.  Through the first 3 innings, Carlos Rodon had struck out 3, and had given up 1 hit.  Eduardo Rodriguez had also held the White Sox to 1 hit.  


But in the top of the 4th, the White Sox struck first.  Jose Abreu hit a double to begin the inning.  Kevan Smith almost got on base again after reaching on an error in the 2nd, but Mookie Betts wouldn’t let him. 


However, Leury Garcia walked, and Yoan Moncada advanced the runners with a groundout.  Now it was 2nd and 3rd for Nicky Delmonico, who has been a pest for the Red Sox so far this series.  He hit a 2 run double to give Chicago the lead.  

After Rodon struck out 2 in the bottom of that inning, the Red Sox offense woke up in the 5th inning.  It was still a 2-0 lead for the White Sox.  Rafael Devers led off with a single.  Then Bogaerts got Devers to third on another base hit.  Chris Young made it back-to-back-to-back singles and knocked on Devers the next at bat.  The Red Sox were on the board.  The Red Sox continued to try and rally. 

Vazquez struck out next, but with 1 down JBJ got crazy infield single to load the bases.  The White Sox could’ve had a double play, but good baserunning got in the way.   Betts failed to produce, even with the bases loaded and grounded into a force out that got Bogaerts out at the plate.  Benintendi was up with bases loaded and 2 down.  However, he struck out as the Red Sox blew it with bases loaded, twice in one inning!  They could’ve won the game right there, but instead, the game dragged on.  

However, in the bottom of the 6th, Eduardo Nunez led off with a moonshot that nearly went over everything.  It was his 7th homer of the season (his 5th with the Red Sox) and the game was tied 2-2.


 Although the Red Sox were not able to score in the 7th or 8th, good relief outings by Addison Reed and Matt Barnes kept the game tied.  Reed even picked off Tim Anderson at 2nd base to end the 7th. 

Kimbrel came in to pitch the 9th with the game tied.  He got in a jam though that made it first and second for Adam Engel.  Engel bunted, but the Sox went for the out at third.  It was originally called a bunt single with no out, but the Red Sox challenged it.  They clearly won the challenge and the play was overturned.  Then Kimbrel struck out the next two batters!  That’s how you get out of a jam!


But the White Sox shutdown the Red Sox again, and the game went into extras.  The 10th was quiet due to good relief pitching.  Heath Hembree got out of First and second after another bunt into a forceout, followed by a pickoff at second and a groundout!  It looked like White Sox pitcher Aaron Bummer was going to have a strong inning too.  With 2 outs and nobody on with Moreland up, it looked like this would just be another 1-2-3 inning.  But no.  Moreland hit it out of the park!  What a Bummer for the White Sox!  


Aaron Bummer blew the game for Chicago as the Sox walked off 3-2.  What a game.  Can the Red Sox clinch the series with a win tonight as Pomeranz takes the mound?  Find out tonight at 7PM.  

Scouting Report: Chicago White Sox

The White Sox had the best off season in ages and after me predicting them to do badly the last two seasons, they have finally earned my respect.  The White Sox have had a great off season.  They upgraded their lineup to an extreme, acquiring/signing a couple of powerfully slugging stars.  In this article I’ve reviewed the White Sox’s off season and and talked about some questions going into Opening Day.

 

Off-Season Review

The White Sox made some off season moves that could lead them to a playoff berth.  However, they do have serious weaknesses as well that they just didn’t end up filling.  Will the White Sox go big or go home?

The Sox started the off season pretty quietly.  Their moves were minimal, but could pay off big.  Most of their moves also came late, they didn’t look like playoff team until late in the off season.  They didn’t start making any moves until late November, and they were small.

They acquired Tommy Kahnle from the Rockies to start, and they signed both Alex Avila and Dioner Navarro at catcher, replacing the trio of Geovany Soto, Tyler Flowers and Rob Brantly.  At the Winter Meetings however, they took part in a blockbuster 3-team trade.  They gave Frankie Montas, Trayce Thompson and Micah Johnson to the Dodgers, who gave the Cincinnati Reds Jose Peraza and Scott Schebler, and the Reds gave Chicago Todd Frazier, their star third baseman.  This was a good move for the rebuilding Reds and the Sox, the Reds needed to go young, and the White Sox needed a starting third baseman.  They also acquired Brett Lawrie from the A’s.  He’s also a 3B, so he’s projected to start at second base instead.

After the meetings, the White Sox were extremely quiet.  It wasn’t until February until they signed any free agent not on the 2015 White Sox, as they re-signed reliever Matt Albers in January.  Then they really went on a shopping spree.  They got starter Mat Latos, shortstop Jimmy Rollins, outfielder Austin Jackson and Travis Ishikawa.  Rollins will fill the hole at shortstop, even after rumors of Ian Desmond coming to the White Sox.  Latos will fill a hole at the bottom of the rotation, and Jackson will bring power to the lineup, but wasn’t necessarily a fit until the whole Adam LaRoche thing.  Now either Avisail Garcia or Melky Cabrera will make room by becoming the new DH.

No matter how many moves they made, the White Sox wouldn’t be any better than 2nd place in a wild card, but I think they can do just that with the bold moves they made, and no more.

 

Opening Day Questions

The rotation looks young and awesome on paper.  Is it for real?

Who knows?  This rotation may be one of the biggest analysis mysteries of the league.  Young pitchers Carlos Rodon and Jose Quintana backed up ace Chris Sale last year, but I think Rodon is being rushed to a crucial position at such a young age, and that concerns me.

Quintana is another story, he’s been in the majors quite a while now and the 26 year old has potential for a monster season.  But sleepers who are projected to breakout aren’t always the kind of guys I like, even though that’s my weakness in predictions, breakouts.

I get it, I don’t like young guys, I don’t like breakout candidates, who do I like?  Yes, the experienced veterans.  Although this league may be getting younger, in my opinion, older veterans can still leave a big mark on the league.  A perfect example is Mat Latos, another White Sox pitcher.  The guy used to be a middle to high rotation guy who was a star, but he’s really tapered off recently, enough to get released by the Dodgers one week before the season ended.  I think he still has his Padres days in him, pitching like that will do the Sox a big favor.

With Quintana on an uptrend, the White Sox have a power three in the rotation with Sale, Quintana and Latos or Rodon, whoever emerges into the White Sox rotation better.  It could be a foursome even.  John Danks has never been the best, but he can pitch, and for now, he’s earned himself the final rotation spot.  So yes, I like this rotation, and think that they will succeed, but there is a chance they won’t perform.

 

Will the off season moves significantly improve the lineup?

Todd Frazier is a big upgrade from a combo of Conor Gillaspie, Tyler Orr and Tyler Saladino in 2015, and I like Austin Jackson as a boost of speed and power in the lineup, and Avisail Garcia can still play in Adam LaRoche’s place.  Jimmy Rollins could do well, but I’m a little worried that he’s lost it at the age he’s at.  Brett Lawrie lost his stuff he had in Toronto too.  It’s funny, Lawrie now sucks, and he was traded to Oakland for defending AL MVP Josh Donaldson who suddenly emerged into a star.  I’m a little worried about the Sox’s lineup, but hey, second and third are an improvement from last year, and that will boost the lineup along with the presence of Austin Jackson.

Is new shortstop Jimmy Rollins going to make an impact this season?

I don’t know.  I liked what he had to prove in Dodger Town but he’s just getting older by the year, it’s life everybody.  He still looked decent in his last years with Philadelphia too.  Rollins got just a minor league deal in Chicago, and after my prediction of Ian Desmond signing here, I was a little disappointed, but Rollins did still enter the off season looking like a top FA shortstop, just nobody wanted to sign him because they wanted someone who would last.  Still, Desmond’s deal was small anyways.  This could be his last year before retirement, but hey, I think he’s had a good career, and he can be a placeholder at short and in the lineup, and have one last acceptable year.

 

White Sox Projected Roster

 

Rotation

 

Chris Sale

Jose Quintana

Mat Latos

Carlos Rodon

John Danks

 

Bullpen

 

David Robertson (CL)

Zach Duke

Dan Jennings

Zach Putnam

Jake Petricka

Matt Albers

Tommy Kahnle

 

Lineup

  1. Adam Eaton CF
  2. Melky Cabrera DH
  3. Jose Abreu 1B
  4. Todd Frazier 3B
  5. Brett Lawrie 2B
  6. Austin Jackson RF
  7. Avisail Garcia LF
  8. Alex Avila C
  9. Jimmy Rollins SS

Bench

 

Carlos Sanchez

J.B. Shuck

Dioner Navarro

Travis Ishikawa

 

That’s all for my analysis on the White Sox.  I will continue this series through the first month of baseball, starting with the Reds coming up next.

 

 

 

 

Scouting Report: Chicago Cubs

 

 

 

2016-cubs-kyle-schwarber.jpg

The Cubs have been one of the most effective teams this off season.  They snagged Ben Zobrist, Jason Heyward, Dexter Fowler and other top free agents.  They already went to the NLCS in 2015, who knows how powerful they’ll be in 2016.  This article looks at all the moves this team made to fill the cracks from the 2016 NLCS and look at some question marks at camp.  Can this team win their first ring in ages?

 

Off-Season Review

 

The Cubs had a pretty effective off season.  They got stars, prospects and everything else they need to win a pennant.   The Cubs came in to the off season with clear needs: rotation and bullpen help, an outfielder and maybe a middle infielder.

You could’ve never seen what was coming based on how slow the Cubs were to begin the off season.  They got Spencer Patton in a trade with Texas, who will compete for a roster spot now that Rex Brothers is gone.  Oh, by the way, they got him in November via free agency and released him at camp.  All the sudden, on the first day of the Winter Meetings, they got super busy!  They traded Starlin Castro to the Yankees for Adam Warren and Brendan Ryan and signed Ben Zobrist in his place, moving Addison Russell to short.  They later released Ryan and he signed with the Nats, but they held on to Warren.  Still not much in return for their star shortstop who might be a second baseman in New York.  Throughout the winter meetings they got some minor deals in.

They signed relievers Brandon Gomes and Jean Machi and resigned Trevor Cahill.  But their biggest splash was at he end of the meetings.  There was a tight race for Jason Heyward.  Many teams, including the Cardinals, Nationals and Cubs were interested, until the Cubbies struck an eight year deal with the prime-age outfielder.  After the Meetings it was quiet in Chicago.  They did however get Edgar Olmos off waivers while waiving quality reliever Yoervis Medina.  Medina must’ve not fit in the Cubbies’ system.

The same took place in January, they did however get Kristopher Negron, Munenori Kawasaki among others signed to minor league contracts.  It wasn’t until late February when the Cubs got active again.  They made a minor trade to get Chris Coghlan out of the way and receive spot starter Aaron Brooks in return.  They signed Manny Parra and Shane Victorino, key players to minors deals, but the biggest and most surprising signing was a resigning of Dexter Fowler.  they had J-Hey locked up in center, now he would move to right, kicking Jorge Soler out of his starting role.  Now that was an iffy signing unless the Cubs can find Kyle Schwarber an infield or catching position opening.

Soler was worthy of the starting position, but Schwarber is too good to bench for him.  The Cubs signed good players, but the bad thing about this team is that the players signed may not fit correctly in Chicago.  There are so many players on this team that will be benched and deserve opportunities.  I gave them a pretty good grade because if they just have players they should have starting sitting on their bench, and yet they additionally have powerful starters, it makes for a good team, but a) If the team is too crammed, it could hurt them and b) The team, especially its youth isn’t reaching its full potential.

Off Season Grade: A-

 

Spring Training Questions

 

Is the bullpen all set?

I’ve been a little worried about the depth of this bullpen.  The late inning relief in Chicago is satisfying, but the long relief sector of the bullpen could be short on players.  Sure, they got a lot of good, older minor league relievers but the only reliever that isn’t some washed up older guy besides the set up and closing pitchers is Travis Wood, who could also be needed as a spot starter!  Sure, they have Aaron Brooks now, but some of their rotation is injury prone, and they need a better bullpen to back them up.

Who will come out of the tight position battles?

The one issue with the Cubs is that the powerful youth of this team isn’t getting its shot, staying in the shadows of the big name players.  Here I will go over a couple clustered areas in the Cubs lineup, most showcasing a young guy competing with a veteran.  Note: Some of these are only significant enough for the young guy to get some playing time, not necessarily the starting job.

2B/SS: Ben Zobrist, Tommy La Stella, Addison Russell, Javier Baez + 2 others

It’s clear who gets the starts here.  Time from the bench, that’s debatable.  I think Javier Baez, Jonathan Herrera and maybe even Munenori Kawasaki and Tommy La Stella should get playing time.  Baez was nearly as strong a prospect as Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber, just didn’t power forward as quickly.  Baez deserves some serious consideration, possibly even to platoon with Addison Russell at short, but the other guys need to prove themselves legitimately before getting any significant time.  Sure, La Stella may get a couple games and injury fill-in time, but no more than that.  The other guys are lucky to get a 40-man roster spot, let alone major league appearances.

LF: Kyle Schwarber, Jorge Soler, Shane Victorino

This is the toughest position battle in the NL.  Schwarber or Soler?  Wait, why is Victorino even here?  He’s more of a backup then fighting for a position.  But if rumors of Kyle Schwarber moving positions are true, Victorino will be considered.  That’s a whole other story, I won’t even get in to that one.  Victorino is better in center and right anyways.  So, back to Soler and Schwarber.  Schwarber quickly found his way to the majors and into a good position on the roster, looking like a multi-year veteran.  He was only a rookie who snuck on to the roster.  He goes up against a rookie who started the year in a full time position and kept it since J-Hey wasn’t here.  Soler wasn’t as broad of a prospect, but was clearly majors ready going into last season.

 

 

Will their off season moves be worth it?

Yes and no.  Yes they will, because they have an improved lineup with more veterans, not just a bunch of strong rookies, but still have good balance.  Personally I thought Dexter Fowler wasn’t a great fit in Chicago, and he was better in Houston, and it would have been a great fit if he signed with the Cardinals.  With that the Cards would have revenge on their rivals.  That gets in to the no part.  Some of the guys they signed don’t fit right, and it would’ve been better just to leave the young sensations in those positions.  Jorge Soler losing his job to an outfield trio of Dexter Fowler, Jason Heyward and young Kyle Schwarber is a perfect example.

Projected Roster

 

Rotation

 

Jake Arrieta

Jon Lester

John Lackey

Jason Hammel

Kyle Hendricks

 

Bullpen

Hector Rondon (CL)

Justin Grimm

Pedro Strop

Travis Wood

Trevor Cahill

Dallas Beeler

Adam Warren

 

Lineup

  1. Dexter Fowler (CF)
  2. Kyle Schwarber (LF)
  3. Anthony Rizzo (1B)
  4. Jason Heyward (RF)
  5. Kris Bryant (3B)
  6. Ben Zobrist (2B)
  7. Miguel Montero (C)
  8. Pitcher
  9. Addison Russell (SS)

 

Bench

David Ross

Javier Baez

Tommy La Stella

Jorge Soler

Shane Victorino

 

That’s all for today.  See my next scouting report tomorrow on the other Chicago team, the White Sox.

 

Red Sox Cream Sale, White Sox

The Red Sox came back to cream the White Sox in an 8-2 blowout.  The rare thing is, the White Sox were the first to score on a Jose Abreu dinger bringing Adam Eaton home.  2-0 Chicago.  But that was only the top of the 1st.

In the bottom of that very inning, Xander Bogaerts singled on a sharp line drive deflecting off Chris Sale, hurting him, and passing shortstop Alexei Ramirez.    He stole second and went ot third on a wild alpitch.  Ortiz doubled down the right field line to drive him in.

In the bottom of the 4th, it was still 2-1.  Ortiz singled, and Napoli walked him to second.  Castillo grounded into a force out, Napoli getting out and Castillo being safe at first with Big Papi on third.  Then Panda got hit, but swung, so it was strike three called.  Sandoval had to leave the game due to a her and injury (Handoval?) and Josh Rutledge again took over at third.  Can Panda last you 9 inning games?

The Red Sox finally followed through in the 5th inning.  JBJ was hit by the pitch, and Holt grounded into a force out, Bradley out at second, Holt safe.  Then Bogaerts singled as he dashed to third.  Hanley Ramirez singled Holt in, and it was still 1st and 3rd, and even though he looked hurt, he was fine and stayed in.  Then Big Papi singled Bogaerts in, and the Red Sox had themselves a 3-2 lead.

They rallied again in the 6th.  They loaded the bases, with a Castillo single, Rutledge HBP, and Swihart single.  JBJ singled again and the bases remained loaded, but it was 4-2.  Holt hits a 2 run single.  1st and 3rd, 6-2 Red Sox.  Matt Albers comes in on relief.  Bogaerts sac fly.  7-2.  After two outs and a Big Papi IBB, as the inning ends.  Albers was stupid to walk his former teammate.  In the 7th,

Castillo gets his 2nd dinger this season, a solo shot in to dead center.  The game ended with pitchers luck, and Leury Garcia, a member of my Tap Baseball team, pinch hitting for catcher Tyler Flowers and a strike out victim of Junichi Tazawa, who closed the game.

The Red Sox split the series with Chicago, but are stillclear sellers at today’s deadline.  Watch for July Rankings and a deadline recap, for Boston and all blockbuster trades, including Scott Kazmir’s trade to Houston, known to me as this year’s kickoff trade.