Ranking the Teams #18-13, My Version: Who Else Misses out on Playoff Contention?

Welcome to Article #3 of my 2019 MLB preseason power rankings.  In this article, I will be covering teams in the middle of the pack, and determine whether or not they will contend.  Click the links below for other articles in the series (I will add them as I post them):

 

Image result for mlb opening day 2019

2019 MLB Preseason Power Rankings Series:

Ranking The Teams #30-25, My Version: The Bottom of the Barrel

Ranking The Teams #24-19, My Version: Who will have to Wait till Next Year?

Ranking The Teams #18-13, My Version: Who else Misses out on Playoff Contention?

Ranking The Teams #12-7, My Version: Who has Playoff Chances?

Ranking The Teams #6-1, My Version: Super Six?

I also released my 3rd annual preseason Baseball Bits!

18. cincinnati_reds_logo Cincinnati Reds

The Case for the Reds

The Reds began to gear up for contention this off-season by acquiring OF Yasiel Puig and multiple starting pitchers including Tanner Roark, Alex Wood, and Sonny Gray. This team is still headlined by 1B star Joey Votto as well. The NL Central is a really tough division, so that may hold the Reds back this year unless one of last year’s top three in Milwaukee, Chicago, and St. Louis takes a step back.  When Cincy last made the playoffs in 2013, there were two other teams ahead of them in the NL Central standings, so they may just need a few more pieces and one team to crack in order to contend. However, I can’t see that happening this year.  Expect a sub-.500 season in the meantime.

Contenders or Pretenders?

Pretenders: The Reds are definitely closer to contention after making some big moves this off-season.  But I wasn’t so crazy about some of the moves they made.  The Puig trade was a steal, but they could have done a better job fine-tuning the rotation.  Getting rid of Homer Bailey was not smart, as he is a consistent mid-tier starter when healthy.  Sonny Gray, one of the pitchers who replaced Bailey, is far less consistent.  They made some good moves, but it’s not enough for a playoff run.

Projected Finish: 80-82, 4th in NL Central

 

17. minnesota-twins Minnesota Twins

The Case for the Twins

The Twins didn’t quite live up to expectations in 2018. They were expected to chase the Indians for the AL Central for the 2nd straight year. But they ended up a few games below .500, dragged down by the struggles of Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton.  Those two were expected to lead this team when they first made the majors. This off-season, the Twins did add Nelson Cruz, but at his age, I don’t know how much longer he can produce at an elite level. Michael Pineda’s return will also boost them, but I don’t know how much they can improve with Sano and Buxton both remaining question marks. A Jose Berrios breakout could help, but I still can’t see them being a legitimate 2019 playoff contender.

Contenders or Pretenders?

Pretenders: The Twins made some nice moves to add to a roster that was already intriguing.  They added Cruz, Jonathan Schoop, and others.  But the lingering questions surrounding Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano remain, and the bullpen is also a question mark.

Projected Finish: 80-82, 3rd in AL Central

 

16. chicago-white-sox Chicago White Sox

The Case for the White Sox

The White Sox may have lost out in the Manny Machado sweepstakes despite adding Yonder Alonso and Jon Jay to intrigue Machado. But their off-season is not a full failure. They added some nice pieces in Jay, Alonso, and SP Ervin Santana while still allowing their young core to receive playing time. Yoan Moncada (once he breaks out), Adam Engel, and Eloy Jimenez give me optimism about the future in Chicago. As they start to develop, Chicago will jump into the mix in a weak AL Central. But they may have to add a few more pieces and wait till 2020, or maybe even 2021 for legitimate playoff contention. They could have won the division and done it in 2019 with Machado.

Contenders or Pretenders?

Contenders: I don’t expect the White Sox to win the AL Central this year, but this next wave of talent may begin to make the White Sox appear capable of contending.  Moncada, Engel, Jimenez, Michael Kopech, Dylan Cease, and others should significantly boost the roster and allow this team to show flashes of greatness in a weak division.

Projected Finish: 81-81, 2nd in AL Central

 

15. new-york-mets New York Mets

The Case for the Mets

Brodie Van Wagenen made things very interesting in his first off-season with the Mets. After refusing to trade Jacob deGrom and/or Noah Syndergaard and instead acquiring Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz from Seattle, he made it clear that the Mets were hoping to contend for one more season. He proceeded by continuing to beef up the roster, adding Jed Lowrie, Wilson Ramos, Carlos Gomez, and others. The Mets will at least be competitive this season, but I can’t see them standing out in the league’s best division, the NL East. They will not be able to keep up with the Braves, Phillies, and Nationals. Maybe it’s time to rebuild if this season is indeed another failure.

Contenders or Pretenders?

Pretenders: The Mets added some nice pieces, such as Cano, Diaz, Ramos, and Lowrie.  But they did not address their direct positional needs.  Sure, they added a catcher, and an outfielder.  But until they get the infield situation figured out, this team will have trouble finding an identity and jump-starting back into contention.  Lowrie and Cano are nice pieces, but where do they fit, and will 1B Peter Alonso be on the roster come Opening Day?

Projected Finish: 83-79, 4th in NL East

 

14. sanfran-giants San Francisco Giants

The Case for the Giants

In Bruce Bochy’s last season, I expect the Giants to exceed expectations. Though injuries have held them back the last couple of years, they still have a very strong roster on paper. Madison Bumgarner and Jeff Samardzija lead a rotation that now contains more depth. So long as Buster Posey can bounce back at the plate in 2019, the lineup should be set as well. Who knows, maybe Evan Longoria could be a bounce back candidate as well. Behind Posey and Longoria, they have new additions Yangervis Solarte and Gerardo Parra, SS Brandon Crawford, 1B Brandon Belt, and others. The Giants have not done very well in these last two seasons. But assuming they are healthy, 2019 contention isn’t too farfetched.

Contenders or Pretenders?

Contenders: The Giants will at least be closer to the playoffs this season than most people expect.  It’s injuries that has held them back over the last couple of years.  Neither MadBum nor Posey had been healthy in 2017 and 2018.  With those two feeling alright, the rotation beginning to come together after Dereck Rodriguez’s emergence, and the lineup looking okay despite outfield depth issues, the Giants could come close to the playoffs if they don’t make it.

Projected Finish: 84-78, 3rd in NL West

 

13. los-angeles-dodgers Los Angeles Dodgers

The Case for the Dodgers

The Dodgers have now lost two World Series’ in a row. Expect a hangover this time around. The loss of Brian Dozier to free agency hurts their infield depth significantly, and it was a rough off-season. They traded Yasiel Puig, Alex Wood, and Matt Kemp to the Reds for Homer Bailey, who they ended up releasing. It did clear up crowding in the outfield, and they signed A.J. Pollock to maintain depth out there, but it’s still a waste of a trade. The rotation has plenty of depth, but Clayton Kershaw’s health and Walker Buehler’s ability to replace him remain question marks. Bullpen depth could also be problematic. Expect the Dodgers to try to contend, but fail to make the playoffs in a weak NL West.

Contenders or Pretenders?

Pretenders: The Dodgers should finish with a fairly strong win-loss record as usual.  But I think the team will take a step back after a rough off-season, and despite their strong record, they may have a hard time getting into the mix for the Wild Card.  Even in a weak division, the Dodgers will have trouble relying on repeat performances from two older 2018 breakouts, Max Muncy and Chris Taylor.

Projected Finish: 85-77, 2nd in NL West

 

That’s all for this portion of my MLB preseason power rankings.  Stay tuned for my next set later today.

MLB 2018-19 Free Agency Predictions: Outfielders and Trade Ideas

Welcome to Part 3 of my 2nd annual MLB free agency predictions.  Last off-season, things took a long time to get going due to a relatively dull free agent market.  This year, that is not the case.  We might have the best MLB free agent class in the history of my blog, and it’s bound to get going any minute now.  That’s why I’m releasing my predictions in November and December this year rather than January.  I wanted to get these out before the Winter Meetings, where a lot of big moves could occur.

Today, I will be sharing my predictions for free agent outfielders, including Bryce Harper, Michael Brantley, and A.J. Pollock, as well as some trade ideas.  Feel free to comment with your thoughts.

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

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MLB 2018-19 Free Agency Coverage – Tentative Schedule

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

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

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

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

Note: These predictions were made before Seattle’s trades on December 3 and Pedro Alvarez’s deal on December 5.

OF

Top Tier

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

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

Secondary Options

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

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

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

DH

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

Trade Ideas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JBJ, Red Sox Stay Hot, Soar Past Rockies

 

He hits one high into the outfield, it’s over his head.  He’s going for two, for three!  And two runs score!

The Red Sox topped the Rockies 8-3 in the series opener.  David Price pitched 7 innings with 3 earned runs and 6 strikeouts.  As usual, the Red Sox started strong.  Pedroia got it started with an infield single after Trevor Story made an amazing throw to get Mookie Betts.  Xander Bogaerts doubled and Pedroia headed for third.  David Ortiz drove them both in on a base hit, and already it was 2-0 Red Sox.

The Rockies struck back next inning.  With a man on first, Gerardo Parra hit a triple into left.  Ryan Raburn came home and was originally ruled out, but the Rockies challenged and the call was overturned.  JBJ added to his tremendous hitting streak with a double in the bottom of the 2nd.  He is now halfway to Joe DiMaggio’s 56 game streak that shattered records.  Christian Vazquez hit a triple to center field to score him.  He scored on a Mookie Betts sac fly.  In the top of the 3rd, Charlie Blackmon nailed a homer to right field.  At the end of the 3rd, it was 4-2 Red Sox.

In the bottom of the 4th, the Red Sox rallied in three more runs.  David Ortiz got is 2nd and 3rd RBI on a double, knocking in Bogaerts and Pedroia, who walked back to back.  Hanley Ramirez hurt his foot after being hit, but he stayed in the game until the end of the inning.  With men on 1st and 2nd, Chris Young hit an RBI single to score Big Papi.

After Jorge De La Rosa left the game, David Price and the Rockies bullpen both settled down.  There was no more scoring until the 7th inning, when Carlos Gonzalez tripled and Gerardo Parra knocked him in on a sacrifice bunt.  Koji Uehara made sure that was the end to the Rockies scoring.  7-3 Red Sox.  In the bottom of the 8th, Mookie Betts got his first hit of the night, an infield single to Trevor Story, who had thrown him out earlier.  He was determined not to let that happen again.  On Dustin Pedroia’s single, Betts went to third and scored on a throwing error.

Matt Barnes continued what Koji started, and the Red Sox went on to win 8-3.  JBJ and Xander Bogaerts now have the two longest hitting streaks in the league, at 28 and 17.  They ahve a chance to keep that up in Game 2 at 7 tonight.

Ranking The Teams 30-25: My Version: The Dreaded Bottom

Another solid start by Matt Garza is wasted

 

Every year around mid-February ESPN’s David Schoenfield has done his ultimate preseason power rankings.  Last year I followed.  Now over the entire February Break, starting today, I’m doing it again.  So welcome to my 2nd annual preseason power rankings. We start with the easiest teams to rank, the bottom ones.  Alright, now for #30.

30. colorado-rockies Colorado Rockies

Welcome to the bottom Rockies.  So, this team has focused their off season mainly on pitching, trying to fix a horrible rotation.  The rotation still sucks real bad.  The bullpen is what has improved.  Signing guys like Jason Motte and Chad Qualls and trading for Jake McGee isn’t going to help the rotation much.  They do however have some young guys in the rotation, which is a sign of an upcoming rebuild, which could be a good thing for the future.

But with some of the signings they made, they weren’t supporting that.  Guys like Gerardo Parra and Mark Reynolds aren’t going to last as long as say, Jon Gray.  Those were the biggest signings this off season, and a lot of the bullpen guys are a little washed up, too.  This is still a very old team, and they are in serious need of a rebuild.

Even if they did snag a couple of good hitters, the guys in the Rockies lineup that are still young don’t know how to hit.  Well, some of them pay off in the field, like DJ LeMahieu and Nolan Arenado, even hard hitting Carlos Gonzalez is a stellar fielder.  But in the end this team is still a washed up mess who’s starters are only going to last a few innings and even in a batter-favored ballpark, still lacks hitting in some parts of the lineup.

Projected Record: 67-95

 

29. cleveland-indians  Cleveland Indians

The Indians were a mediocre team in 2015.  What happened?  Three major things happened to this team.  First, some guys like Carlos Santana and Jason Kipnis are getting old and washed up.  Signing Mike Napoli didn’t help much either, Santana’s only older by a few years.  Also, they lost a few players to free agency and didn’t sign enough players to make up for it.  Ryan Raburn, Jayson Aquino, Chris Johnson, Mike Aviles and Gavin Floyd were lost this off season. Their only signings, Mike Napoli and Rajai Davis.  Third, injuries are really affecting the team.  Michael Brantley and Jason Kipnis are still recovering from their injuries.  Trading away Michael Bourn, David Murphy and Nick Swisher last July also hurt.

But there are places I could be wrong.  I am like the only person ranking the Indians this low, and I have good reasoning, but there’s a whole other side to it that I just don’t believe.  Here’s some of it:

The Indians had a really good farm system going into last season, and they have some of those guys in their lineup, like Francisco Lindor, Abraham Almonte and Giovany Urshela.  Losing Ryan Raburn hurt though, and they don’t have any more major prospects coming up soon to replace him.

Even though they didn’t sign many people, they traded for their fair share.  They acquired both Kirby Yates and Joey Butler via trade, and they only had to give up cash considerations.  That cash did however help the Rays sign Steve Pearce to replace Butler.

Even though those players are recovering from injuries, they’re the stars of this team, maybe they’ll pick up the pace and shine late in the season. But don’t be too too hopeful for the Indians, they need to get really lucky if they want a chance at anything.

Projected Record: 68-94

 

28. milwaukee-brewers  Milwaukee Brewers

This is another team that needs a lot of good luck if they want to do well.  Even though in my projected standings, the Brewers are in dead last, worst in the MLB, they just have more of an opportunity to improve in the future, unlike the two teams below them in the ranks, that completely screwed themselves for the next few years likely.  This is the point in the ranks where you’ll start to see some rebuilding teams that have room for improvement down the road.  They’re the worst team this year.  In the future, that could change.

They do have a decent, somewhat young lineup.  Jonathan Lucroy and Ryan Braun are very intriguing.  Orlando Arcia could be a future star.  But especially after trading Khris Davis, they have some serious holes.  The outfield will have to work with Domingo Santana, Ramon Flores and Kirk Nieuwenhuis to fill the spots not taken up by Braun.  Chris Carter and Scooter Gennett aren’t the most intriguing, and either Aaron Hill or Will Middlebrooks will have to step it up at third base.  Don’t even get me started on the pitching.

Matt Garza and Wily Peralta will compete for the team ace, even though neither of them has any ace qualities.  Then you have lately acquired Chase Anderson, followed by Taylor Jungmann, and then Jimmy Nelson.  Alright, I’ll give them credit for the lower rotation.  But the bullpen really sucks.  After trading both K-Rod and Jonathan Broxton, they are left with Will Smith, Michael Blazek and Tyler Thornburg as closer options.  Zach Davies or Tyler Cravy will be the long reliever, but the rest of the bullpen is out of place.  So maybe this year will be a long year, but the Brewers actually could improve in the future.  They have more prospects like Brett Phillips on the way after Arcia, and this team looks to be in full rebuild.

Projected Record: 65-97

 

27. atlanta-braves  Atlanta Braves

If the Braves want to succeed, they need some serious luck.  Actually, even though they have future potential, that just won’t happen this year, it’s nearly impossible.  Especially with the rotation they have.  After trading Shelby Miller, the Braves are left with Julio Teheran as an ace, Bud Norris as an SP2, and they have to depend on Mike Foltynewicz, Matt Wisler, Williams Perez, Kyle Kendrick and David Holmberg to fill the other spots.  The bullpen’s even more of a mess.

The lineup isn’t great either.  Freddie Freeman is really the only major bat, even though Nick Markakis, Ender Inciarte and Erick Aybar have some power.  Gordon Beckham and Emilio Bonifacio need a breakout year if they have any hopes of doing anything, and platooning outfielders Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn need a wake up call. they were once everyday starters.

Despite being owners to the #1 farm system in the MLB, signing all washed up veterans his making less room for these prospects who could one day make the Braves great again.  The Braves need to stop stockpiling on older players and let the young minor league stars take over the lineup.

Projected Record: 66-96

 

26. philadelphia.phillies Philadelphia Phillies

Alright, this team may be ready for a better year, but they kind of sabotaged their future.  They were in a good rebuild exiting 2015 and might be a little better this year, but signing veterans to short-term contracts is not helping this team for when they could be good enough to win a pennant if the prospects live up to their name.  For a couple of years, despite my much better predicted record for this team then the teams just above it in the rankings, they’ll be stuck in this position.

What they did this off season is fix their rotation by signing Jeremy Hellickson and Charlie Morton, and trading their young closer Ken Giles for Brett Oberholtzer and Vincent Velasquez.  Okay, Velasquez could be a long-term solution, but not the other guys.  They also snagged Peter Bourjos, Edward Mujica, Andrew Bailey and Ernesto Frieri, all somewhat close to retirement.

What should they have done this off season?  Traded away all their older players for more prospects to support their farm system. Ryan Howard still is around.  At least the rotation looks a lot better, but unless they get some more prospects, that won’t last very long.  The only good thing that comes out of is a couple years where the Phillies get like 10 more wins.

Projected Record: 75-87

 

25. la-angels-of-anaheim Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

The Halos have some big holes, and need a lot of luck if they want to even be in the playoff race at all.  Their rotation is not very promising.  Jered Weaver is going nowhere but down, I have a feeling Garrett Richards‘ performance in 2015 might have been a one time thing, I don’t know how well Tyler Skaggs and C.J. Wilson will come back, Andrew Heaney isn’t quite ready, and Hector Santiago and Matt Shoemaker are all washed up.  They also have holes in left field and second base, unless Daniel Nava and Craig Gentry create an efficient platoon.  Besides Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Yunel Escobar, they don’t have much of a lineup.  They are just a washed up team that needs to rebuild.

 Projected Record: 71-91

 

So that’s all for today with my preseason power rankings.  Be on the lookout tomorrow for Part Two, 24-19.  I also will be releasing my NBA Midseason Report soon.  So who will be in the next wave?