NFL Thanksgiving Day Picks

Thanksgiving is finally here.  The parades, the food, and best of all, an NFL Thursday tripleheader.  Here are my predictions for today’s games.  Last week I went 10-4, putting my overall record at 88-72.  Comment with your thoughts, and have a great Thanksgiving.

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

 

 

Game 1: Minnesota Vikings @ Detroit Lions, 12:30 PM EST, FOX

The Lions will win as their offense continues to roll.  The Lions have won three straight, scoring at least 27 points in all games during that span.  For the Vikings, QB Case Keenum will have another big game as his receivers, especially Adam Thielen, come up big against the weak Lions secondary.

But despite being slowed down by a tough Vikings D, QB Matthew Stafford and WR Kenny Golladay will lead the offense in this game, connecting for 150 yards and a TD.  Stafford’s other receivers will also step it up, and the Lions will win in a close one.

Game 2: Los Angeles Chargers @ Dallas Cowboys, 4:30 PM EST, CBS

The Cowboys run game will continue to struggle without RB Ezekiel Elliott, especially against the tough LA front seven.  But QB Dak Prescott will thrive in this game with the help of the league’s best offensive line.  He will find his receivers and boost the Dallas offense.  However, it won’t be enough as the Chargers offense continues to dominate.  Expect the Chargers to keep the momentum they developed last week, scoring 30+ points again.  Chargers win the Turkey Day battle.

Game 3: TNF: New York Giants @ Washington Redskins, 8:30 PM EST, NBC

The Redskins may be slowed down by a stingy Giants secondary, but not enough to keep them from having a big game offensively.  The Giants will continue to struggle to produce offensively, even though the Redskins defense hasn’t been great.  Redskins win led by big games out of QB Kirk Cousins and TE Vernon Davis.

 

That’s all for my Thanksgiving Picks.  Feel free to comment with your thoughts, and once again, have a great Thanksgiving.

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NFL Week 6 Picks: Contenders and Pretenders

Welcome to my NFL Week 6 Picks.  Last week I went 6-8, placing my overall record at 36-41.  How will I do in this week’s slate of games?  Read below and comment with your thoughts.  This week is when the contenders start to separate themselves from the pretenders.  Who will come out on top?

Teams on Bye: Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals, Dallas Cowboys, Seattle Seahawks

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

The Jets have been on a pretty good run but all will come to an end against the Patriots.  I think the Patriots defense will continue to see improvement in this game.  Their secondary will shut down the depleted Jets receiving corps, even without CBs Stephon Gilmore and Eric Rowe.  Expect the Pats defense to force lots of turnovers as well, giving the potent New England offense more scoring chances.  In addition, I think Pats TE Rob Gronkowski will have a strong return from a leg injury that held him out last week.  He will dominate against the Jets D in this game.  Pats win with ease.

Upset of the Week 

The Lions have had a surprisingly strong start to the season.  I expect that to continue against an aging Saints team.  Lions QB Matthew Stafford will have a huge game as the Saints defense struggles to put pressure on him, giving the strong Lions receivers more time to get open.

Expect the Saints offense to struggle to run the ball effectively against the Lions D, especially after trading away RB Adrian Peterson.  Peterson was not making the biggest impact in New Orleans, but he provided the Saints with options in the run game.  If Saints RB Mark Ingram starts to look off his game, who do they turn to?   Lions pull off the upset.

 

TNF (Posted to Twitter on Thursday before the game)

After last week’s big victory, the Eagles offense is beginning to gain some momentum.  Expect that to continue against the Panthers as they put up 30+ points.  I also think the Eagles receivers will have another huge day against a rebuilding Carolina secondary.  Even though Panthers QB Cam Newton has gotten back in the swing of things, I think Newton will be the next victim of the Eagles defense.  Newton will be hammered in this prime time match-up.

Sunday’s Games

The Falcons are well rested coming off their bye week and their dominant offense should shine in this match-up.  Falcons WR Julio Jones will not be stopped by CB Byron Maxwell and the rest of the Dolphins secondary.  On defense, LB Vic Beasley and the Atlanta pass rush will not allow Jay Cutler to get into a rhythm.  Jay Ajayi could also have another rough day against a tough Atlanta run defense.  Atlanta will win easily at home.

The Ravens will win but it won’t be easy.  After facing two tough defensive fronts in Weeks 4 & 5, Ravens QB Joe Flacco should have an easier time this week against a weak Bears secondary.  I also expect Ravens WR Mike Wallace to lead the Ravens to victory with another 100 yeard game like last week (133-yard).

However, the Bears will also look a little better offensively with rookie QB Mitch Trubisky under center.  In addition, WR Kendall Wright will be targetted more with injured receiver Kevin White out again.   But things won’t be easy against a tough Ravens defense.  It will be close but I have the Ravens holding on in a tight one.

The Texans front seven will be challenged this week after losing defensive stars DE J.J. Watt and LB Whitney Mercilus for the season.  Expect Browns RB Isaiah Crowell to have a strong game.

On offense, the Texans will continue to do well with rising star rookie QB Watson.  They’ve put up a total of 91 points over the last two weeks (45.5 PPG)!  The Browns had the chance to draft Watson and after this game may wish they did.  Texans offense will deliver again at home.

This will be a blowout because other than Niners WR Pierre Garcon, I don’t believe there’s anyone else that could step it up for San Francisco offensively.  Redskins QB Kirk Cousins and his receivers will thrive against the rebuilding Niners secondary.  They will lead the Redskins to an easy win.

Over the last three weeks, the Packers have averaged 32.3 PPG.  Expect their offensive success to continue, even against a tough Vikings defense.  The Vikings secondary will fail to hold back a stacked group of talented Packers receivers.  Packers receivers Nelson, Cobb, and Adams are all at full health this week so expect the Vikes D to have a rough day.  I think the Vikings run game could struggle without starting RB Dalvin Cook.  They’ll also be without WR Stefon Diggs.  Packers win as the Vikings struggle to get into an offensive rhythm.

The Rams have gained some momentum over the last few weeks but it’s never easy to win on the road.  The Jags have been off to a pretty strong start as well and their defense could put a stop to Ram’s run.  They will contain LA’s playmakers, making it tough for QB Jared Goff to play like he has for most of this season.

However, this win won’t be easy for the Jags.  Blake Bortles will be under pressure but I see him having enough success to lead the Jags to a win.  He will have to because I believe the Rams will slow down Jas star running back Leonard Fournette.  In the end, the Rams won’t produce enough offensively and they’ll fall short against the Jags.

As the Bucs defense finally starts to make its way back to full health, I think they’ll lead Tampa Bay to bounce back win after a tough Thursday night loss to the Pats at home.  I expect Cards QB Carson Palmer to take a lot of hits like Tom Brady did last week against an aggressive Bucs defensive front.  I don’t think Palmer has much left in the tank as he has struggled this season to help AZ put points on the board.  However, young Bucs QB Jameis Winston will thrive in this game, rebounding from a rough game last week against the Pats.  His receiving corps will create match-up problems against the strong Arizona secondary as Winston will buy his receivers more time with his elusiveness.  The Bucs will win the game with strong performances on both sides of the ball.

The Chiefs are the only remaining undefeated team and the Steelers have been inconsistent losing 2 of their last 3 games to teams they should have beaten, the Bears and the Jags.  Before I pick the Steelers to win again, they need to play more consistently.

Steelers QB Big Ben and RB Le’Veon Bell will struggle against the tough KC front seven that has shut down some top RBs and QBs during their 5-0 start.  The Steelers will also struggle defensively against speedster WR Tyreek Hill and one of the leagues best TE, Travis Kelce.  Big games from both Hill and Kelce will be just enough for KC to win by a Field Goal.

The Raiders offense should be back to full strength this week with star QB Derek Carr, WR Amari Cooper, and WR Michael Crabtree all healthy.  I think they’ll put up 30+ points against a weak Chargers defense.  The Chargers defense has cost LA many of their games as Chargers have averaged 19.8 PPG but are only 1-4.  The Chargers offensive success will bring them close but the Raiders offense will be too much in this shootout.

SNF

The Giants lost their top three receivers to serious injuries last week.  None of them will play in this game and the Giants will likely struggle offensively especially since RB Paul Perkins will also be out with an injury.  The Broncos arguably have the best defense in the league and will pressure Giants QB, Eli Manning all day.  Denver will pull away with the win even with their own offensive struggles.  The Broncos defense will carry them to a victory in a low scoring Sunday Night game at Mile High.    

MNF

This game will be a thrilling high scoring game that will be much more fun to watch than the Sunday Night defensive battle between the Broncos and Giants.  The Titans offense should score with ease against the struggling Colts defense, scoring 5+ TDs.  But this isn’t going to be a blowout.  Jacoby Brissett has led the Colts offense to win two of their last four games as they have scored over 22 points a game in the last 4.  Brissett will hit his star receiver T.Y. Hilton often as he will have a big game against the Titans secondary.  But in the end, the Titans’ offensive dominance will be too much for the Colts on the road and carry them to victory on Monday Night.  

That’s all for this week.  What do you think will happen this Sunday?  Feel free to comment with your thoughts.  This season has been full of surprises so you should expect more.

NFL Week 5 Picks: Several Games Will Come Down to Final Seconds

Welcome to my picks for Week 5 of the NFL season.  Last week I went 8-8, making my overall record 30-33.  This week I’m hoping to get myself above .500.  How do you think I’ll do?  Read below and chime in with your thought.

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

Lock of the Week


Jags QB Blake Bortles was really off his game last week, and it will be hard for him to improve.  Bortles was picked off once and only had 1 TD.  The Steelers defensive front dominated against Ravens QB Joe Flacco.  Expect them to do the same up against Bortles and the Jags.

In addition, the Jaguars offense will still be short on passing options with WR Allen Robinson out for the season and the Steelers D will overwhelm their other receivers.  In addition, Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell, and the Steelers offense will dominate against the young Jags defense.  Pittsburgh should win with ease.

Upset of the Week


This will be a very competitive match-up between 2 teams doing whatever they can to get their first win of the season.  The Giants receivers will create match-up problems for the Chargers secondary as I expect Giants QB Eli Manning to have the time to hit deep threats WRs Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard.

The Chargers tight end duo of Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry will have success against the Giants D which has underperformed this season.  The Giants have a good pass rush and will pressure Bolts QB Philip Rivers but not enough to keep him from having a lot of success through the air because the rest of the Giants defense needs work.  In the end, I have the Chargers pulling off the upset in this offensive shootout.

TNF (Posted to Twitter on Thursday Night before the game)


It could be very tough for the Pats with Gronk out, but the Buccaneers defense is depleted by injuries, and that will make it easier for the Pats offense to get into a groove.   The Bucs front seven will struggle to pressure and hit Pats QB Tom Brady without LBs Kwon Alexander and Lavonte David.

The Pats defense will also continue to struggle, but I think with Hightower back, the Pats will do a decent job keeping young QB Jameis Winston off his game.  The Pats secondary will also turn it around after struggling with communication last week.  This will be an extremely high scoring prime time game with both defenses struggling.  I think the Pats come out on top in a shootout.

Sunday’s Games


Titans QB Marcus Mariota is unlikely to play, but I still see the Titans winning this one.  Their receiving game will be their strong suit.  The Dolphins secondary will fail to keep up with TE Delanie Walker and WR Corey Davis among others.  Both Mariota and backup QB Matt Cassel have the experience with this versatile passing offense.

However, Titans running backs DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry will struggle against a tough Miami run defense.  But whoever’s at QB for Tennessee should stay out of trouble thanks to an o-line that has done a good job protecting Mariota.  In addition, the Dolphins will continue to look off their game offensively without starting QB Ryan Tannehill.  Their offensive struggles will cause them to fall short against Tennessee.

Bengals WR A.J. Green should make a big impact offensively.  I also expect RB Giovani Bernard to be a dangerous weapon in the run game and the receiving game.  But the Bills have put up strong offensive and defensive showings over the last few weeks and arguably are the biggest surprise team of the season so far.  The Bills defense is second in the league in forcing turnovers with 7 over their first four games.  The offense has picked it up as well of late, scoring 20+ points in each of the last two weeks.  Expect the Bills to keep their momentum going this week with a win.  

These may be the two worst teams in football, so don’t expect the most exciting game.  What I would expect is a lot of sloppy football and a rough game on both sides of the ball.  I think it will be tough for the Jets to win for the third week in a row.  

RB Bilal Powell is emerging as a star running back but the Jets need to establish a passing rhythm in order to win more games.  In the end, I think Kizer and the Browns will be able to find a little bit of an offensive rhythm and edge out the win.  

This could be another sloppy game, especially without Colts QB Andrew Luck.  Colts RB Frank Gore won’t be as sharp either.  The 49ers are very familiar with his running style since he played in San Francisco for 10 years.  But the 49ers have really struggled offensively; they haven’t scored a TD in 3 of their 4 games this season.  For the Colts, backup QB Jacoby Brissett hasn’t been all that bad.  He led the Colts to victory against Cleveland at home.  I think he’ll be successful again on home turf. 

Even with RB Wendell Smallwood banged up, I think the Eagles will have success on the ground against the underperforming Arizona defense.  On the other side of the ball, the Philly secondary will be challenged to stop WR Larry Fitzgerald from having a big game.  However, even without star pass rusher Fletcher Cox look for the strong Eagles defensive front to pressure the Cardinals QB Carson Palmer just enough to help the Eagles to their 4th win. 


Carolina may have upset the Pats last week but this week they face a Lions team that could be 4-0 if not for a last-second TD that was reversed by instant replay.  Even with WR Kenny Golladay hurt, the Lions receivers will thrive against a Carolina secondary that’s in a rebuilding year.  The dominant Carolina pass rush will not be enough to stop Lions QB Matthew Stafford.

The Panthers offense will struggle against the Lions defensive stars, DE Ziggy Ansah, CB Darius Slay and S Glover Quin.  With Lions offensive star Golladay out, the Lions defense will step up and hold the explosive Panthers offense to under 20 points and carry the Lions to the win.

Even with Oakland QB Derek Carr out, the Raiders will still win this game.  After two rough weeks, it will be hard for Ravens QB Joe Flacco and his offense to get back into the swing of things against DE Khalil Mack who leads the tough Raiders pass rush.  The Baltimore offense has averaged just 8 points per game over the last two weeks and just 15 PPG this season.

It will be tough for 2nd-string QB E.J. Manuel to lead the Oakland offense and develop a connection with them, but the return of versatile receiver Michael Crabtree will help him.  Crabtree and WR Amari Cooper should dominate against the Ravens secondary if Manuel connects with them.  Raiders win a close game at home, holding off a late-game comeback through the air by Baltimore.

These teams have had some pretty exciting games throughout the years.  This time around the Rams are favored at home.  They have looked like a whole new team this season, jumping out to a 3-1 start.  The Seahawks offense that has struggled at times will not be effective against the Rams defensive front.  DT Aaron Donald and the Rams front seven will keep Seattle QB Russell Wilson under pressure.  The Rams will win despite facing a tough Seahawks defense.

The Packers offense will continue its momentum from last week and overwhelm a so-so Cowboys defense.  QB Dak Prescott and the Cowboys offense will be motivated after a high scoring affair last week.  But RB Ezekiel Elliott will be slowed down by the Packers defensive front.  I predict that the Cowboys key receiving weapon TE Jason Witten will struggle.  But the rest of the receiving threats will thrive, especially star WR Dez Bryant.  In the end, I think the Packers will come out on top in a shootout.

SNF

The Texans dominated on home turf last week, scoring 57 points.  They go into this week’s primetime home game with momentum and motivation facing the NFL’s only remaining undefeated team.  DE J.J. Watt and the Texans defense will really hold up the Chiefs’ offensive stars RB Kareem Hunt and WR Tyreek Hill.  The Chiefs will fall to a fired up Texans offense led by successful rookie QB Deshaun Watson.

Even with rookie RB Dalvin Cook out for the season, I think the Vikings will win this one.  RB Latavius Murray should be able to fill in for Cook as he was a starting RB just one year ago.  QB Sam Bradford and Murray will have a huge day as the Bears front seven struggle with LB Danny Trevathan serving a suspension.  On the other side of the ball, the Vikings defensive front will be able to slow down a strong Chicago run game.  Vikings win easily.

 

That’s all for my picks this week.  What do you think?  Please comment below.

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!

 

NFL Week 13 Picks

 

The fantasy regular season is almost over, but now, it’s time to focus on the real games. Who will grab a playoff spot? Who will be knocked out. Who will win and who will lose? Well, my weekly picks are back with playoff scenarios for many of the games. I had a great week last week, putting me at 12-4 for last week and 107-68-2 overall in straight up picks. Now, let’s get started.

Lock Of The Week

Patriots 30, Rams, 16

I’m sorry, but there’s no way on Earth that Jared Goff and his banged up Rams offense that lacks big name players. Even without Gronk. The Pats will have some problems without him, in tight end depth and lack of receivers, but Martellus Bennett should be able to fill in at tight end, for now. They at least need a good blocker though. The thing is, even if the Rams D pressures Brady, Brady knows how to quickly get rid of the ball. He should take advantage of the weak Rams secondary and have some passing success, scoring enough to beat LA’s weak offense. The Pats pass rush has been a problem, but the Rams o-line has problems too, and the Pats secondary should take care of a group of below mediocre Rams receivers easily.

Upset Of The Week

Giants, 30, Steelers, 26

Image result for eli manning and obj vs big ben and ab

I had many upsets, but I think this one stands out the most. The Steelers are fighting for an AFC North division win. The Giants are a top wild card contender that needs some more wins to lock up their spot. The Steelers offense really isn’t overly good. They have depth problems that have really hurt them this season, and the defense has not lived up to it’s expectations. The Giants on the other hand, have a strong offense led by star receiver OBJ and his QB, Eli Manning, and assisted by rookies Sterling Shepard and Paul Perkins. Rashad Jennings, Victor Cruz, Will Tye and Larry Donnell have also done their part to help the Giants succeed. The defensive moves this offseason turned out to be a big success. I think even on the road, this team has the capacity to beat a team like the Steelers. This win will really help them, and with a predicted win by me this week, maybe the Ravens can grab a playoff spot as well.

The Other Games

Chiefs, 16, Falcons, 13

49ers, 28, Bears, 20

Bengals, 37, Eagles, 36

Packers, 30, Texans, 27

Ravens, 30, Dolphins, 17

Jaguars, 29, Broncos, 19

Lions, 41, Saints, 26

Raiders, 33, Bills, 23

Cardinals, 34, Redskins, 30

Buccaneers, 17, Chargers, 16

Seahawks, 27, Panthers, 26

Colts, 26, Jets, 22

Thursday Night’s Game
Cowboys, 33, Vikings, 19

Want more analysis on games that have a meaning in how the season ends?  My match-up preview is back this week for you to take a look at.  Disagree with my picks?  Comment your picks below.  I will also be answering Start/Sit questions on my Twitter, @AndrewRoberts1.  

MLB Monthly Power Rankings: May

MLB Monthly Power Rankings: May

 

Welcome to my first MLB monthly ranks of the year.  I didn’t do these in April because it was too early in the season, but it’s better to start late than never.  My power rankings combine trends, records and predictions to rank all 30 teams.  Hope you enjoy!

 

Note: These power rankings are up to date as of May 31, 2016.

 

  1. Chicago Cubs (35-14)

 

I knew the off season would pay off.  This team has been on fire all season long!  The additions of Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist have made a big impact on an already strong team.  This team broke out last year and just keeps getting better.  Their lineup has become very powerful.  Young driving forces like Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler and Addison Russell are joined by powerful veterans like Anthony Rizzo.  But it’s not just the lineup.  The Cubbies pitching staff leads the league in ERA, wins, WHIP and average allowed.  I don’t see any reason why this team shouldn’t be #1.  They have the best record, they have the stats, they’re just having an amazing season.

 

  1. Boston Red Sox (31-20)

 

I’m very impressed by my Red Sox this month.  JBJ and Xander Bogaerts now have the two longest hitting streaks all season.  During those hitting streaks, the Red Sox offense took the league lead in batting average, runs, hits, slugging percentage and OPS.  Xander Bogaerts is batting a whopping .354, Big Papi is hitting .337 with 14 dingers and Jackie Bradley Jr. now has a .331 average.  JBJ barely hit over .200 last year!  In total, nearly half the Red Sox lineup is batting over .300.  Big Papi leads the league in RBI and is tied for 5th in home runs.  This lineup really took off in May, the Sox just need to make sure their rotation can save them when TE lineup has a rough day.  

 

  1. New York Mets (29-21)

 

This is another red hot team of May.  The young rotation have the Mets at a combined 3.19 ERA and 1.20 WHIP.  the lineup has been impressive as well.  Yoenis Cespedes has led the Mets to being tied for the league lead in homers.  Even with Lucas Duda and Daniel Murphy (permanently) gone from the lineup, it has still thrived.  The Mets are in a tight race in the division with the Nationals, but no matter what, they look to be headed for the playoffs as this young team is consistently competitive.  

 

  1. Washington Nationals (31-21)

 

The Nats have finally lived up to their expectations this year.  An early tart definitely helps.  The rotation is doing very well.  They lead the league in strikeouts and are in the top 3 for WHIP, BAA and ERA.  Three Nats starters have an under 3.00 ERA.  Daniel Murphy also picked up right where he left off last October and now leads the league in batting average.  Bryce Harper also is in the competition for league leader in home runs, with 13 dingers so far.  They will have competition in the division with the Mets chasing them down every corner, but so far they have proven that they can keep up.  

 

  1. San Francisco Giants (32-21)

 

This is another hot team of late!  This team is led by a trio of amazing starters.  The Giants revamped the rotation in the off season, and it worked all right!  At 6-2, Madison Bumgarner is still leading the rotation well, but they now have extra depth with quality starters Johnny Cueto (8-1) and Jeff Samardzija (7-3).  All three of them have ERAs between 2.10 and 2.90, two of them under 2.50.  The lineup has also thrived, and not just Buster Posey.  Hunter Pence has had a strong year so far, batting .304, and Brandon Belt has also had some good stretches.  If this team can keep things up, they could have their fourth even year World Series in a row.  

 

  1. Seattle Mariners (30-21)

 

After all these years in the shadows, the Mariners have finally proven to be a playoff competitor.  King Felix and a young, revamped rotation with intriguing guys like Taijuan Walker have finally taken the leap.  The Mariners have a combined 3.36 ERA and 1.19 WHIP with a .232 BAA.  Robinson Cano has also been a deciding factor, and leads the league in homers (tied with 3 others) at 15.  He is behind only David Ortiz in RBI.  Cano is even batting .293/.345/.585, and average is not his specialty.  Nelson Cruz has also stayed strong and relevant.  The Mariners are finally in the competition this year as I predicted.  They have a young, balanced roster that can do great things.

 

  1. Baltimore Orioles (28-21)

 

This team had such a strong start, and even though they have tapered off a bit in May, you still can’t count them out.  In the Orioles unexpected strong start, Mark Trumbo and Manny Machado got started on amazing seasons, and they have thrived in May as well.  Surprise playmaker Joey Rickard has built off an amazing spring training.  Even with Trumbo and Rickard hot, Machado still leads the team in hitting, batting .311/.387/.611.  Machado has 13 dingers and Trumbo has 15, tied for the league lead.  Their rotation has been the issue in May.  Key starter Yovani Gallardo, added this off-season is hurt, making the rotation once again unstable.  Chris Tillman has bounced back well, but they have struggled otherwise.  However, in the end they have stayed competitive throughout the season and I believe they will continue to do that.  

 

  1. Texas Rangers (30-21)

 

Injuries and all, this team has still been able to keep things up.  Shin-Soo Choo and Josh Hamilton are still out, but young outfielders Nomar Mazara and Joey Gallo have taken their places, and Mazara is hitting .309!  Yu Darvish just returned, and he looks good as ever.  Wins have been tough in Texas but as a team, they have been able to stay strong, keep up with the AL West and thrive. Usually, the Rangers have either a cold start or collapse late.  Right now, it looks like neither will happen as long as they continue getting healthier.  

 

  1. Chicago White Sox (28-25)

 

The White Sox have definitely been on a downtrend, but after such a good start, you can’t underestimate them.  The rotation is still strong, young Jose Quintana is in her prime and Chris Sale is still pitching at Cy Young level.  Todd Frazier is tied for league lead in homers at 15.  However, the rest of the lineup has began to slump this month.  They had a really good run in April, but now, their strength is starting to taper off.  Sure, Adam Eaton has kept a decent average, but nobody has hit well in this month particularly.  Still, you can’t count strong April teams out, even teams like the White Sox and Reds.  

 

  1. Cleveland Indians (26-24)

 

The Indians started slow, but have really kept up with the division this month.  Young hitters Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez have heated up.  Veterans like Jason Kipnis, Carlos Santana and even Mike Napoli have had strong months. Each of them have a low average, but a good amount of dingers and RBIs, resulting in a decent slugging percentage.  Their rotation has also had a good month, even without Carlos Carrasco.  Danny Salazar has been pitching well consistently and Corey Kluber and Josh Tomlin have also contributed.  In the end, the Indians could be playoff-worthy if they keep up this level of play.  

 

  1. Pittsburgh Pirates (29-22)

 

This team has been surging forward lately after a rough start.  The lineup has been on fire.  Josh Harrison, Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco are all hitting .310 or higher.  Polanco has 36 RBI, Andrew McCutchen has 9 dingers and Marte has a whopping 17 stolen bases!  Despite rotation struggles, this team has functioned due to a powerful lineup consisting of Josh Harrison and a great outfield in Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco.  

 

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers (28-25)

 

The Dodgers aren’t as sharp as usual, but they’re still doing alright.  The rotation is successful as ever.  Clayton Kershaw, tied with Jake Arrieta, leads the league in ERA.  He also leads in strikeouts, WHIP and innings pitched alone.  He is in a 4-way tie for most complete games.  Kenta Maeda as also been serviceable.  Between many ups and downs, Maeda has exactly a 3.00 ERA.  However, the bullpen has struggled, and besides Adrian Gonzalez and Corey Seager (neither has a .300 BA or 10 homers), they aren’t hitting.  

 

  1. Kansas City Royals (28-22)

 

The Royals aren’t in great shape.  Mike Moustakas is out for the season, Alex Gordon is hurt (again!) and the lineup has had a lot of general road blocks.  However, young risers Cheslor Cuthbert, Whit Merrifield, Paulo Orlando and Jarrod Dyson have stepped up, and the Royals still have Eric Hosmer, Alcides Escobar, Salvador Perez and Lorenzo Cain.  In fact, Hosmer has a .328 AVG, chasing the league best.  He also has 10 dingers and 35 RBIs.  Lorenzo Cain has stayed hot from the postseason as well, similarly to Daniel Murphy of the Washington Nationals. However, pitching has once again been a major problem.  The Royals have again struggled to find an ace with Johnny Cueto gone.  Yes, Yordano Ventura and Edinson Volquez have still shown the qualities, but are too inconsistent.  Right now, them along with Ian Kennedy and the rest of the rotation have seriously slumped, and we haven’t seen anything from Volquez or Ventura.  Ventura even has a whopping 5.17 ERA!  The Royals are lucky the bullpen has stayed strong and found a new dependable closer.  

 

  1. Houston Astros (23-29)

 

Sure, the Astros have been pretty sloppy this season, but they are a good team.  I’m sure they can come back, and they’ve already shown signs of surging forward.  Jose Altuve has been on fire, batting .329 and stealing 15 bases while scoring 42 runs.  George Springer also has 13 dingers, 34 RBI and a .290 average. Even Colby Rasmus has had some hot stretches, with 8 homers and 31 RBI. The lineup is still in shape, but the rotation has been a mess!  The lowest ERA in the rotation belongs to Doug Fister at 3.86, and nobody has more than 5 wins.  Despite 64 strikeouts, Dallas Keuchel has been terrible following a Cy Young award, the second straight Cy Young surprise to do so.  If this rotation doesn’t step it up, this team won’t be able to surge any further.  But if they pull it together, the ‘Stros could make a comeback.  

 

  1. Toronto Blue Jays (27-26)

 

At the start of the season, it was looking to be like last year.  Minimal pitching, strong hitting.  But analysts were wrong.  The rotation has been solid, while the lineup has been good, but inconsistent.  The best guys like Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson and Edwin Encarnacion are still playing decent baseball, and Michael Saunders is warming up, but nobody is at their normal level of play.  The rotation on the other hand, has been surprisingly strong.  Marco Estrada (2.43 ERA) and Aaron Sanchez (2.99 ERA) have been spot-on, with ERAs under 3.00, and even with top guys Marcus Stroman and R.A. Dickey struggling, once borderline starter J.A. Happ has put up a whopping 3.06 ERA.  The Blue Jays could start to catch up with the top of the AL East, but they need their best lineup weapons back on track.  

 

  1. Detroit Tigers (24-26)

 

This team may be struggling, but they do have some impactful players.  Victor Martinez is on fire, batting .347/.390/.551.  Nick Castellanos, Ian Kinsler and Miguel Cabrera also have above .300 batting averages and J.D. Martinez and Miggy have 12 dingers apiece.  Plus, Jordan Zimmermann still has a 2.58 ERA after starting the year with an impressive stretch where he had a 0.00 ERA.  However, the rest of the rotation has also been in decline, for them more serious than J-Zimm.  Justin Verlander may have 77 strikeouts, but besides him and Zimmermann, the rotation has really fallen asleep this month.  Even the lineup saw more of its production in April.  Are this team’s best players only going to get less productive as the months go by?

 

  1. St. Louis Cardinals (27-25)

 

For so many seasons, the Cardinals were in playoff contention.  What happened this year?  Well, for starters, the rotation is a man down with Lance Lynn out for the season while recovering from off season Tommy John surgery.  Jaime Garcia wasn’t even expected to be at regular starter level.  But really, even though Garcia has a 3.48 ERA, the rest of the rotation was worse!  The rotation is worsening significantly!  The lineup is also led by surprising players.  Only Aledmys Diaz and Stephen Piscotty have averages over .300!  The reason that the Cards are struggling is that the only players are still performing are the unexpectedly good players, and they’ve only been slightly above replacement level!  They’re missing production from their best stars, and that’s making a huge impact, causing St. Louis to go from playoff contender to .500 team.  

 

  1. Miami Marlins (26-25)

 

The Marlins may have improved overall, but now they’re stuck in mediocrity.  Who has impacted the improvement?  For one thing, Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna have hit as well as if not better than fellow outfielder Giancarlo Stanton.  Stanton still has 12 home runs, but Yelich is batting .328 with 5 dingers and Ozuna is batting .314 with 11 dingers.  Stanton has an average of just .202!  Even if the rest of the rotation has struggled, Jose Fernandez is right on his game!  Fernandez is 9-2 with a 2.29 ERA, 110 K, 74.2 IP and a 1.06 WHIP.  Those are some under the radar numbers.  However, nobody else in the rotation has an ERA below 3.50 or even 5 wins!  The rest of the rotation is doing even poorly than last year.  That never helps in a resurgence.  

 

  1. Colorado Rockies (23-27)

 

How is this team performing?  The rotation clearly isn’t doing anything to help.  Most likely, it’s a boost from the lineup.  After an unbelievable April, Trevor Story and Nolan Arenado are still on their game.  Carlos Gonzalez and Charlie Blackmon have upped their averages as additional help.  Even DJ LeMahieu and Mark Reynolds have boosted their power.  All of that plus 18 dingers from Arenado and 15 from Story.  What will even happen to Jose Reyes when he returns?  Story pretty much locked up the job for the season.  Arenado is tied for the best in the league in homers.  Arenado has 47 RBI and 42 runs to add to it.  Tyler Chatwood even has an under 3.00 ERA right now, even with the rest of the pitching staff doing foolishly bad.  

 

  1. Tampa Bay Rays (22-27)

 

They may be nearing the Yankees and Jays, but recovery from their slump will be tougher for them than the Blue Jays and Yankees.  With 14 homers and a .281 average, Evan Longoria is the only major power source in this lineup.  Like the rest of the division, even the once all-powerful league leading rotation is struggling!  Nobody has an ERA lower than 3.33, and only Drew Smyly has 70+ Ks.  So, between injuries, slumping players, an underperforming rotation and holes in the lineup, the Rays are stuck in a pretty ugly position.  

 

  1. Philadelphia Phillies (26-25)

 

I don’t know how the Phillies have kept up with the MLB this well, but what matters is they have.  This team is above .500 for the first time in 3-4 years!  Aaron Nola is suddenly a rotation leader.  He has a 2.65 ERA, 85 strikeouts and an 0.99 WHIP!  Some other pitchers have been on top of things as well.  Vincent Velasquez has been a quality starter even though he just transferred to the starter position, and Jeanmar Gomez has 18 saves as the new closer.  Even some hitters have performed, at least serviceably.  Odubel Herrera is hitting .317/.426/.436, and Maikel Franco has 10 dingers and 31 RBI.  

 

  1. Milwaukee Brewers (23-28)

 

The Brewers definitely look better this season.  For one thing, unexpected lineup sources have made the leap this season.  Jonathan Villar is hitting .307 with a league leading 21 stolen bases and 31 runs.  Chris Carter has bounced back with 14 dingers and 34 RBI.  Some lineup vets have also stayed on track.  Ryan Braun is hitting .337/.406/.552 with 9 homers and a .959 OPS.  Jonathan Lucroy is hitting just above .300.  However, the rotation is business as usual.  Only Jimmy Nelson has an ERA even below 4.00!  Nobody has 70 strikeouts, a 1.10 WHIP or more than 5 wins either.  This lineup may be turning it around, but the rotation’s bad reputation is holding this team back.  

 

  1. San Diego Padres (20-30)

 

Better roster, not going to cut it.  Better stats, not going to cut it.  What will at this point?  Some better overall team effort.  Matt Kemp may have his 14 homers and 41 RBI, Jon Jay and Wil Myers may be able to hit for average, but as a team, the Padres aren’t functioning.  Although the best Padres players are thriving, the rest of the team has failed to produce.  Piling  up on prospects after trading James Shields and James Loney may help for the future, but for now, the Padres need to find a different solution.  Everyone on the roster needs to find a way to contribute.  

 

  1. Arizona Diamondbacks (23-30)

 

It seems as if the Diamondbacks have bounced back.  Their stats are up, their young players are contributing as expected, and things look to be going as planned for the most part.  Then I saw their record and had no idea how they let that happen.  You might be wondering too after all that.  Well, I have answers.  Jean Segura may have been hot in May, but right now, it seems to be a quick moving fad, as he has seriously declined late in the month.  Robbie Ray may have 72 K and Zack Greinke may be 7-3 with 71 K, but otherwise, the rotation has severely struggled.  Again, it seems as if they’re fine, but really, they’re not producing consistently enough.  Also, A.J. Pollock is hurt, and besides well known veteran Paul Goldschmidt and Jake Lamb, the lineup has only been mediocre.  In fact, everyone on the team has an average between .200 and .300.  Now that really shows that when it comes to mediocrity, this  lineup is at rock bottom.  

 

  1. New York Yankees (25-26)

 

This team’s record is decent, but they aren’t in the best shape.  Carlos Beltran may have 14 home runs and 36 RBI, but nobody has a .300+ average and nobody else has more than 8 homers or 24 RBI.  This team hasn’t hit for power or average.  The rotation?  They’ve been alright, but inconsistent.  Some pitchers are by far more dependable than others.  Masahiro Tanaka and Nathan Eovaldi have stayed strong, but TE remainder of the rotation has not been good news.  This team has been decent has a team, but needs some players to make the leap or return to the star form they once held, or this team is going to fall apart.  

 

  1. Cincinnati Reds (17-34)

 

Not bad considering the Reds finished last year with most of their stars on the DL and as the 2nd worst team by record.  However, almost none of their new and improved performance took place in May.  One reason for that is injuries striking back.  The Reds lost Homer Bailey long term, and Raisel Iglesias got hurt.  The rotation is desperate for depth, there’s not many people left to replace who’s injured.  Nobody has an ERA under 3.00.  Nobody even had 60 strikeouts or 5 wins!  The lineup is gaining form at least.  Jay Bruce has 40 RBI and 35 runs and is hitting .279 with 13 dingers, Zack Cozart is hitting .301 with 8 dingers and Eugenio Suarez (13) and Joey Votto (11) each have piled up a good number of home runs.  Adam Duvall is chasing the top of the league in homers with 17 of them and 38 RBI. Joey Votto also has 34 RBI and Eugenio Suarez has 33.   Billy Hamilton even has 15 stolen bases.  So the lineup may be taking shape, but in order for this team to get back on track, the rotation needs to get healthy and get in shape!

 

  1. Atlanta Braves (15-35)

 

This team may have an ugly record, but  they aren’t as cold as some other teams, giving them a higher rank.  However, besides some good run totals, it seems as if the Braves lineup  has fallen asleep.  The highest average is Freddie Freeman’s measly .248.  In the rotation, nobody even has 3 wins and only Julio Teheran (2.92) has an under 3.00 ERA.  This team is still one of, if not the worst team in the league normally.  But believe it or not, there are teams that were cooler, have a worse record or put even less effort in this month.

 

  1. Oakland Athletics (23-29)

 

Okay, Khris Davis may have 14 dingers, but this team has sucked in May.  They started off alright in April, but have seriously flopped since.  Injuries are one problem.  Eric Sogard, Liam Hendriks, Sonny Gray, Jed Lowrie, Josh Reddick and Josh Phegley were hurt for a large portion of the month.  Chris Bassitt is out for the season in an already weak rotation and Rich Hill is the only pitcher with more than 3 wins and has a 2.25 ERA.  Currently, the A’s are down to just a 4 man rotation that looks like this:

 

  1. Sonny Gray
  2. Kendall Graveman
  3. Sean Manaea
  4. Jesse Hahn

 

Even with Sonny Gray back, Rich Hill now could be hurt.  Down goes the most valuable A’s pitcher too!  The A’s are down to the last straw.  If things don’t change fast, they’re done for.  

 

  1. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (23-28)

 

Yes, I was expecting the Angels to go far downhill, but this is getting absolutely pathetic.  Mike Trout is still doing pretty well, hitting .309 with 13 homers and 43 RBI.  Yunel Escobar and Kole Calhoun have contributed too.  But I can’t bare watching the rotation!  Jered Weaver is a complete bust, and so is Hector Santiago.  With C.J. Wilson, Garrett Richards (out for Tommy John surgery) and Andrew Heaney hurt, the Angels are left with just Matt Shoemaker, Nick Tropeano (even he’s hurt now!) and Jhoulys Chacin behind them.  When they were at rock bottom, David Huff tried to step in.  That hasn’t worked either.  So the lineup is still in mediocrity but the rotation doesn’t have anything left to work with as of right now.  

 

  1. Minnesota Twins (15-35)

 

Alright, this team’s pitching staff still has most of its members healthy, but it’s still pathetic.  Nobody has even an ERA under 4.50 or 3 wins!  With Kyle Gibson only coming back in time to start June.  In May they were left with Ervin Santana, Tyler Duffey and Ricky Nolasco to create a 4-man rotation with one prospect.  The Twins had to rush their prospects up to MLB level to maintain a sustainable rotation.  The lineup is the only sign of slim hope for the Twins.  Eduardo Nunez is batting .332 with 30 RBI, and if Eduardo Escobar were healthy, he wouldn’t even be a starter most likely!  Miguel Sano and Byung-Ho Park may have low averages, however, they have 11 dingers apiece, and Sano has 27 RBI. Joe Mauer is hitting .281 with 7 dingers as well.  Those are respectable numbers, but compared to the rest of the MLB, come on!  Compared to MLB leaders, the Twins lineup is also a big disappointment.  If the lineup doesn’t take it up a notch or the rotation doesn’t recover, the Twins aren’t going anywhere.  They’ll be 30th best for the rest of the season, no higher, no lower.  

 

That wraps up May’s rankings.  Be on the lookout for June rankings later this month.  

Opening Day: Modified Standings and Bold Predictions

opening-day-16

 

It’s just a couple of hours until the first full day of regular season games starts, and I’m here to get you ready.  Sure, you may have have seen my MLB Preview, but this is a condensed, more accurate version.  I even have some bold predictions for the season.  Let’s get started.

 

AL East

  1. Boston Red Sox 91-71
  2. Toronto Blue Jays 86-76
  3. Tampa Bay Rays 82-80
  4. New York Yankees 76-86
  5. Baltimore Orioles 72-90

The Red Sox made a good move starting Travis Shaw over Pablo Sandoval, and Hanley Ramirez has adjusted well to first.  This lineup is new and improved, and ready to take over a weak but tight division.  Even if the rotation behind David Price is a concern, their bullpen makes up for it.

I just don’t believe the Blue Jays can function without better pitching.  When they lost David Price and LaTroy Hawkins, it was back to square one.  The Rays made some good off season improvements but their lineup still lacks power, and the Yankees are just getting too old to be good anymore.  Starlin Castro was a good first step.  Lastly, the O’s don’t have anything to convince me.  Their outfield is seconds away from shattering, and after Miguel Gonzalez’s release, their rotation is still short a pitcher.   So it looks like easy pickings for the Red Sox, even if they’re a shaky team.

yankees-2b-castro

AL Central

  1. Kansas City Royals 93-69
  2. Detroit Tigers 89-73 (WC)
  3. Chicago White Sox 87-75
  4. Minnesota Twins 78-84
  5. Cleveland Indians 74-88

The Royals cannot be beaten in this division, it just won’t happen.  With a strong lineup and balanced rotation, they’re not going down.  They will be closely challenged however as the Tigers and White Sox improve.  They still have weak areas more than the Royals, but they will compete for wild card spots.  They made key signings like Justin Upton and Austin Jackson that take their teams to the next level.

The Indians aren’t horrible like I said but can’t compete in a tough division after such a quiet off season.

The Twins have a reborn lineup but the pitching can’t support young sensations Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano yet.  This division is up for grabs beyond Kansas City, but the Royals have first place locked up.

 

AL West

  1. Texas Rangers 95-67
  2. Houston Astros 88-74 (WC)
  3. Seattle Mariners 81-81
  4. Oakland Athletics 76-86
  5. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 68-94

 

Alright, at least I have the Astros in the playoffs.  I just believe that the Rangers have more than Houston.  The Astros don’t even have a starting first baseman, and their young rotation is inconsistent.  The Rangers probably have the best trio of batters in the AL with Prince Fielder, Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus.  They have some good lineup improvements to support their lineup this off season and their rotation is completely revamped and healthy.

The Mariners went on a full shopping spree this off season, but they didn’t necessarily fill their main holes, so they’ll only be mediocre.  The Athletics are only slightly improved, and the Angels clearly aren’t going anywhere with such an inconsistent rotation and lineup.  So this division will be a tight dogfight between the Rangers and Astros with the Mariners in the wild card bidding.

AL Playoffs

Wild Card: Tigers over Astros

ALDS: Red Sox over Royals

Rangers over Tigers

ALCS: Rangers over Red Sox

 

NL East

  1. Washington Nationals 93-69
  2. New York Mets 90-72 (WC)
  3. Miami Marlins 83-79
  4. Philadelphia Phillies 67-95
  5. Atlanta Braves 64-98

 

Yes, in my modified predictions, the Mets make the playoffs.  I have always underrated them so maybe if I predict a wild card, they’ll win the division.  Even though I usually overrate the Nationals above them, the Nats have a case this year with an improved lineup, and strong rotation.  Who needs Jordan Zimmermann when you have Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez?

The Marlins have the next best chance but are still working on a weak bullpen, and the Phillies and Braves have absolutely no chance and have practically abandoned their teams for the year.  So that leaves the Mets and Nats to have the best battle yet.  I say they both make the playoffs and lose in the NLDS.  What do you think?

 

NL Central

  1. Chicago Cubs 97-65
  2. St. Louis Cardinals 91-71 (WC)
  3. Pittsburgh Pirates 88-74
  4. Cincinnati Reds 73-89
  5. Milwaukee Brewes 69-93

With the exception of maybe last year, this Cubs team is by far the best Cubs team of the century.  They are favorites to win the World Series, and will not be stopped in this division.  The Pirates and Cards still had good off seasons, but have tapered off from last season’s teams.  They have lost many of their best like Neil Walker, Lance Lynn (temporarily) and Jason Heyward.  They will only compete for the playoff spots behind Chicago.

The Brewers and Reds are both in rebuilding stages after making a splash in 2013 and 2014.  They are two of the worst teams in the league and will not compete for this division in any way, shape or form.

 

NL West

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers 92-70
  2. Arizona Diamondbacks 87-75
  3. San Diego Padres 86-76
  4. San Francisco Giants 86-76
  5. Colorado Rockies 63-99

The Dodgers still rule this division even after a weak off season.  The Giants are overrated and young, the D-Backs just aren’t ready yet, and the Padres are a big sleeper but have the potential to be a bust as well.  LA has a strong rotation with great depth and despite numerous injuries, the Dodgers’ spot starters are happy to help, and they do.  The Rockies have done a minimal amount of improvements, and I don’t see them going anywhere.  Their rotation is a mess, and they have such big holes at positions like first base that they’ll have to call up players off of the 40-man roster.

NL Playoffs

 

Wild Card: Mets over Cardinals

NLDS: Dodgers over Nationals

Cubs over Mets

NLCS: Cubs over Dodgers

 

World Series: Rangers over Cubs

 

10 Bold Predictions for the 2016 Season

  1. Former Mariners Smoak and Saunders both bat above .270

Justin_Smoak

Justin Smoak and Michael Saunders’ contributions in Seattle have not yet showed up on the Blue Jays.  I say they both have comeback years and Smoak earns his job back from Chris Colabello easily.  After a .273 avergage in 2014, Saunders batted just .194 in ’15 in just 9 games played.  Saunders missed most of the year.  Smoak has never put up that good of stats, but he has a chance to rebound from the last two years, as he sucked in 2014.

  1. Starlin Castro finally breaks through, as the Yankees star player

You can’t spell Starlin without Star.  Year after year the Cubs have gotten their hopes up about the young shortstop.  However, this young guy has showed his skills and I think he’s ready to fully breakthrough.  I have this guy hitting between .310 and .320 with a personal best in average and dingers.  Hopefully, he can adjust to the Yankees system and be strengthened by the Yanks.

  1. White Sox and Tigers will each get at least 85 wins

Both teams sucked last season, what happened?  They both made very bold moves in the off season, as I had said.  The Tigers have a much better rotation in 2016, while the White Sox have revamped their lineup.  They may not beat the Royals in the division race, but between the two of them, they could put on a big fight.

  1. Eric Hosmer and Jason Heyward win MVPs

eric-hosmer-jason-heyward

The Royals have had Hosmer his entire career and he’s just been a subpar star the whole time.  When will he fully breakout and have a rampage season?  2016 of course.  Hosmer’s stats have increased recently as he takes a lead role on the Royals.  He is a well known veteran in Kansas City and it’s time that his name is known league-wide.  Heyward meanwhile has developed really well and after a strong year with the Cardinals, he looks like a serious MVP candidate.  He put up a career best .293 average last season.  The Cubs have put him in a crucial role and Heyward’s ready to nail it.

  1. Yu Darvish wins AL Comeback Player and AL CY Young

yu-darvish

I have Yu Darvish winning both the AL Cy Young and AL Comeback Player of the Year.  The guy looked outstanding in his rookie season and when he’s healthy, I think he could still do great things.

  1. Mets infield hits 3 times more homers than Yoenis Cespedes

Between Asdrubal Cabrera and Neil Walker, the Mets have made a splash in the infield.  Add on David Wright and Lucas Duda, and you’ve got yourself the infield of a super-team.  Between all those guys, I think they will hit 3 times the homers of Yoenis Cespedes.  I think Cespedes will hit about 40 homers.  However, I think each of the Mets infielders will hit 20-35 dingers this year.  They have a lot of potential.  That’s what potential can do.

  1. Harrison and Freese combine for 70 dingers and Pirates only win 88 games

Yes, even with the Pirates winning just 88 games and missing the playoffs, I see the hitting doing surprisingly well this year.  I have two mediocre guys combining for 70 taters, and one of them isn’t even a full time starter.  That doesn’t even include Andrew McCutchen, Gregory Polanco and Starling Marte.  The Pirates lineup is overpowered to an extreme level.

  1. At least one Reds player comes in the Top 5 in the NL for AVG, HRs or ERA

There are many candidates on the team that could do this.  Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, even Raisel Iglesias or Homer Bailey.  But I think despite the Reds not being that good as a team, they have veteran players that can do big things when given the chance.  The Reds had a somewhat healthy year last year, and I’m feeling it will happen again.

  1. Giants run out of even-year luck, miss playoffs

Yes, the Giants don’t win the World Series in 2016, or even make the playoffs.  The NL just has too many teams that are better this year.  The Mets aren’t going to miss the playoffs even if the Nats beat them out in the NL East!  That leaves the Cards, D-Backs, Pirates and Giants to fight over Wild Card #2. Compared to those three teams, the Giants look like garbage.  Well what if they win the division?  No way, not happening.  The Dodgers are just too hard to beat even after such an empty off season, and if they don’t win, the D-Backs have a pretty good chance too.

  1. Entire Dodgers rotation ends up with ERAs under 3.50

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The Dodgers rotation is stacked.  Despite injuries, it’ll start the season looking like this:

  1. Clayton Kershaw
  2. Kenta Maeda
  3. Scott Kazmir
  4. Hyun-Jin Ryu
  5. Alex Wood

Even without Brett Anderson and Brandon McCarthy, that rotation is pretty overpowered.  Kenta Maeda was a star in Japan and I think he can adjust, and if Scott Kazmir pitches like he did in Houston, then the Dodgers top 3 is ready to shut down the league.  Hyun-Jin Ryu is efficient and powerful when he’s healthy, and Alex Wood can really pitch if they need him.

 

Enjoy your Opening Day!  Go Red Sox!