MLB Midseason Report: Power Rankings, Home Run Derby Picks

The All Star Break is here, and we’re about halfway through baseball season.  Today, the All Star festivities begin with the Home Run Derby, where 8 HR hitters go head to head in a single elimination bracket.  Christian Yelich was pulled out due to an injury, but Matt Chapman will be replacing him.  Check out my picks below:

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I have Peter Alonso winning it all.  The rookie has hit 30 HR and has an OPS over 1.000, putting together a strong campaign for the NL Rookie of the Year.  I think he will face promising AL rookie Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in the final, who will upset Matt Chapman and Alex Bregman in the Derby.

I’ve also included my mid-season power rankings.  Check them out:

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Biggest Jump: Oakland Athletics (+15)

Biggest Drop: New York Mets (-9)

Stay tuned for more MLB articles soon, and enjoy the All Star Week.

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

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

 

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2019 MLB Preseason Power Rankings Series:

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

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

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

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

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

I also released my 3rd annual preseason Baseball Bits!

18. cincinnati_reds_logo Cincinnati Reds

The Case for the Reds

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

Contenders or Pretenders?

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

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

 

17. minnesota-twins Minnesota Twins

The Case for the Twins

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

Contenders or Pretenders?

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

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

 

16. chicago-white-sox Chicago White Sox

The Case for the White Sox

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

Contenders or Pretenders?

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

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

 

15. new-york-mets New York Mets

The Case for the Mets

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

Contenders or Pretenders?

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

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

 

14. sanfran-giants San Francisco Giants

The Case for the Giants

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

Contenders or Pretenders?

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

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

 

13. los-angeles-dodgers Los Angeles Dodgers

The Case for the Dodgers

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

Contenders or Pretenders?

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

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

 

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

Baseball Bits #12: Can Sox Repeat like Few Teams have?

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Welcome to my annual preseason Baseball Bits article!

If you were unaware, today marks 5 years since I started my Boston Sports Mania blog!  The Red Sox were just about to begin their regular season when I started, and just like this year, they were coming off a World Series victory.  On my first day, I posted an article titled “MLB 2014 Preview”, which included my predictions for the 2014 MLB season. I still write these prediction articles every year, including this year

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I call March 25th my “blog-a-versary”, and this year is a big milestone.  All of my opportunities are a result of this blog.  Most recently, I delivered a motivational keynote speech about my story so far at the Visions of Community Conference hosted by the Federation for Children with Special Needs at the Boston Seaport World Trade Center (see below):

I started this blog to write about my favorite sports like baseball, which is what today’s post is about.

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Top: After the Red Sox’s 100th win                     Bottom: After the Red Sox’s World Series win

In 2018 the Red Sox became the 16th team in the 162-game era to win over 100 regular season games and then go on to win the World Series.  They were led by new manager Alex Cora and a new star in J.D. Martinez.  But what most Boston sports fans are wondering about now is how the Red Sox will do in 2019 and whether they will repeat.  I did some research on 100+ win World Series winners in the 162-game era and how they did in their next season below.  

The Research

Baseball Bits #12_ 100-Win World Series Winners – Sheet1

The “Baseball Bits”

Note: In the context of this article, a team who repeats for 2 years in a row is counted for 1 repeat, 3 years in a row is counted for 2 repeats, 4 years in a row is counted for 3 repeats, etc

  • Only 23 of 115 (20%) World Series winners have repeated
  • In the 162-game era, only 16 of 57 (28%) 100-win teams have won the World Series, including the 2018 Red Sox
  • In the 162-game era, only 9 of 56 (16%) World Series winners excluding the 2018 Red Sox have repeated, with 4 of the teams repeating after 100-win seasons
  • Of the 15 100 win World Series winners excluding the 2018 Red Sox:9 teams (60%) made the playoffs4 teams (26.67% of the 15) repeated2 of those teams reached 100 wins when they repeated:1976 Cincinnati Reds
    • 1978 New York Yankees
  • 2 of those teams failed to reach 100 wins again when they repeated:1962 New York Yankees
    • 1999 New York Yankees (repeated again in 2000
  • The Red Sox did not win the World Series in an 100 win season in the 162-game era until 2018
  • Another 2 of the 15 (13.33%) lost the World Series:1968 St. Louis Cardinals
    • 1978 Baltimore Orioles
  • 3 of the 15 (20%) lost in the LCS2010 New York Yankees
    • 2017 Chicago Cubs
    • 2018 Houston Astros
  • 6 of the 15 (40%) missed the playoffs entirely1969 Detroit Tigers
    • 1970 New York Mets
    • 1977 Cincinnati Reds
    • 1979 New York Yankees
    • 1985 Detroit Tigers
    • 1987 New York Mets
  • Each of the last 3 100-win World Series winners lost in the LCS the next year

The Verdict

Based on the research, I believe the Red Sox have a 20 to 25% chance to repeat.  I believe that there is still a select group of elite teams that could win the World Series this year.  World Series repeats are less common during the 162-game era as just 9 of 56 (16%) World Series winners repeated.  However, 4 of those teams were 100-win teams. World Series winners who did not reach 100 wins in this time frame only repeated 12.1% of the time since 1961.  That’s more like a 1 in 8 chance.  100-win World Series winners have repeated 26.67% of the time during the same time frame.  I think the significance of being a 100-win team helps improve the Sox chances to repeat. 

However, as much as I hate to admit it as a huge Boston fan, I am sticking with my prediction that the Sox will fail to reverse the trend of World Series winners.  I think they will lose in the ALCS to either the New York Yankees or Houston Astros.  The odds are stacked against the Sox reaching 100 wins as well since only 4 of the 15 100-win World Series winners even reached 100 wins again the next year.  I don’t think the Red Sox will reach the century mark but will come close at somewhere between 92 and 96 games. A bullpen with no proven closer to start the season helps support my prediction  A World Series repeat is unlikely to happen, though you shouldn’t rule it out yet.

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Alex Cora did wonders for this team last year, so maybe he’ll be able to recreate the magic of 2018.  If he can, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be 2019 AL Manager of the Year.

That’s all for today’s Baseball Bits.  After all I have accomplished in the last 5 years, I look forward to creating even better content over the next 5 years.  Stay tuned for more soon, including the next portion of my MLB Preseason Power Rankings.

Ranking The Teams 18-13: My Version: The Middle of the Pack

Welcome to Part 3 of my MLB pre-season power rankings.  Last time, I covered the teams that will struggle, but haven’t quite hit rock bottom.  I talked about what they did in the off-season, what the case for them this season is, and what their strong point is.  I also discussed best and worst case scenarios for each team and projected their records and division placements. Today I will do the same for the mediocre teams, but rather than talking about their bright spots, today I will be discussing what direction these teams are headed in.  Some of these teams don’t know which way to go, rebuild mode or contention mode.  Read below to find out who these six teams are and where they’re headed.

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Boston Sports Mania MLB Pre-Season Power Rankings

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

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

Sunday, March 25: Ranking The Teams 18-13, My Version: The Middle of the Pack

Monday, March 26: Ranking The Teams 12-7, My Version: Who Will Contend in 2018?

Tuesday, March 27: Ranking The Teams 6-1, My Version: How The Best of the Best Line Up*

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

 

18. atlanta-braves Atlanta Braves

Off-Season Review

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After a rebuild, the Braves are getting ready for contention, but their off-season was relatively quiet.  They did just add OF Peter Bourjos to help fill in until Ronald Acuna is MLB ready.  Acuna looks like he is pretty darn close after a strong Spring Training.  They could’ve also added someone at third, but decided not to due to the lack of options.  They weren’t able to get their hands on Moose, so they were not in the market for a 3B after that.  They could be an interesting destination at the deadline for Josh Donaldson, Manny Machado, or even Adrian Beltre.  They already have made one trade this off-season, acquiring Brandon McCarthy, Scott Kazmir, and Adrian Gonzalez from the Dodgers for Matt Kemp.  Only McCarthy is still in Atlanta, and he will help lead a young rotation alongside Julio Teheran.

The Case for the Braves

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The future is bright for Atlanta baseball.  But the Braves will take another year or two to become an elite playoff contender.  Ronald Acuna, Dansby Swanson, and Ozzie Albies will need more time to develop among others.  This young team is led by star 1B Freddie Freeman, who I am expecting another strong season out of.  They already do have some other veterans who will help make this team better, but younger players on the verge of a breakout make up most of their core.  That will help them in coming years, but they won’t be absolutely amazing in 2018.

Where They’re Headed

The Braves won’t be contending in 2018, but expect a playoff run in the next three years for Atlanta.  As soon as their young talent breaks through, they will add the finishing touches they need and run for the playoffs.  Personally, I see Ronald Acuna as a potential All-Star, so as soon as he comes up, you can expect big things from the Braves.

Best Case Scenario: Acuna, Swanson, and Albies all break out to help lead the team, the rotation filled with a mix of young talent and experience thrives, and the Braves contend for the playoffs right away.

Worst Case Scenario: Acuna turns out to be a bust, as well as some of their other young players.  McCarthy, Teheran, and Freeman also begin to decline, and the Braves finish with just over 70 wins.

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

17. Image result for reds logo red Cincinnati Reds

Off-Season Review

The Reds stayed put for the most part this off-season, as they have a pretty good roster as is.  They have a strong lineup that is better than you might think, and their young rotation is bound to improve in coming years.  The Reds didn’t even need to resign SS Zack Cozart.  Jose Peraza, Eugenio Suarez, and top prospect Nick Senzel will keep the left side of the infield covered.  Scooter Gennett can be trusted as a full-time second baseman after his strong 2017 season, and Joey Votto should have another top-notch season.  The Reds are all set.  Sure, they could’ve added a veteran starter, but they don’t want to rush contention when their younger players aren’t at that level yet.

The Case for the Reds

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After a rough patch over the last few seasons, the Reds will begin heading uphill again.  After their rebuild, their future is bright, and they will begin to improve in 2018.  Their young rotation should begin to improve.  It will be led by Homer Bailey, Brandon Finnegan, and Anthony DeSclafani while Tyler Mahle, Luis Castillo, and Robert Stephenson will also contribute.  They can improve further when Hunter Greene is ready.  The lineup is all set, and if Jesse Winker, Nick Senzel, and Jose Peraza live up to their expectations and Votto, Adam Duvall, and Billy Hamilton keep up the good work, the Reds could have one of the strongest lineups in the league soon enough.

Where They’re Headed

The Reds are going nowhere but up.  They hit rock bottom over the last couple years, and they are looking good post-rebuild, so now there’s no other direction they could go in.  Expect big things in the coming years, but in the meantime, they will be about as good as the Braves are right now.

Best Case Scenario: Votto dominates in 2018, leading a surprisingly strong lineup, the rotation improves fast (and Raisel Iglesias becomes an elite closer) as the Reds finish above .500 and get ready for contention.

Worst Case Scenario: The rotation is plagued by injuries and their young talent is rushed to the majors and struggles.  The lineup also cannot quite live up to its expectations as Cincinnati lingers just above 70 wins.

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

 

16. seattle-mariners-logo Seattle Mariners

Off-Season Review

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As they have been since Jerry Dipoto took over as GM, the Mariners were very active again this off-season.  They acquired Marlins 2B Dee Gordon, who will move to center field so Robinson Cano and Gordon can both start.  The Mariners needed a veteran influence in the outfield, and brought back Ichiro to do the same.  They also signed SP Mike Leake to add to a strong rotation that includes Felix Hernandez and James Paxton.  They aren’t clear contenders yet though; they still need to give their younger outfielders more time to develop as well as their pitching staff and a couple other younger players on the team.

The Case for the Mariners

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The Mariners aren’t quite playoff material yet, but they have a shot.  In the meantime, they will have a decent season as their younger players develop.  They need the younger players to step up their game and help carry the load.  Mitch Haniger, Guillermo Heredia, and Ryon Healy are good, but they haven’t reached their full potential.  The Mariners need to keep their team young if they want to avoid a full rebuild, but if they also want to contend in that process, they’ll need reliable young players.

Where They’re Headed

The hope is that the Mariners can contend, but it all depends on the performance of Seattle’s prospects and the general performance of the Mariners.  If Seattle struggles, or their younger players cannot emerge as stars, the Mariners may need to take the rebuild route.

Best Case Scenario: The Mariners’ younger players break out and help lead the team to the playoffs along with the veteran leaders.

Worst Case Scenario: The Mariners struggle, as their older players decline (including King Felix) and their younger players cannot emerge as leaders.  Seattle is forced to rebuild.

Projected Finish: 83-79, 3rd in AL West

 

15. sanfran-giants San Francisco Giants

Off-Season Review

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The Giants had a terrible season in 2017, but they made up for it with a strong off-season.  They acquired outfielder Andrew McCutchen and 3B Evan Longoria to boost the lineup.  They signed Austin Jackson to upgrade the outfield too.  However, they failed to add too many good starters, which will hold them back despite a great lineup.  They did add Derek Holland on a minor league deal though, so he could crack the rotation, especially with Madison Bumgarner injured again.

The Case for the Giants

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The Giants will improve in 2018, but in a difficult NL West, it will be tough to be much more than decent.  They are lacking rotation depth after the retirement of Matt Cain and the departure of Matt Moore so they will have to find younger pitching talent.  That means it will take time for contention.  Their lineup is looking better, but they do not have the same talent of some contenders.  They have a nice core four in Buster Posey, Hunter Pence, Evan Longoria, and Andrew McCutchen, but beyond that, they are no more than decent.

Where They’re Headed

The Giants are headed in an upward direction.  Expect vast improvement from their 64-98 season in 2017, worst in the National League.  Then they can work towards contention once they find the young pitching talent they need behind their core three of their rotation.  They have a nice lineup now that they added Cutch and Longo, but their rotation still has holes, and the lineup could still use work.

Best Case Scenario: The young guns in the rotation are successful early, the lineup returns to dominance after their recent upgrades, and the Giants surprise many by making the playoffs in another successful even year.

Worst Case Scenario: The rotation implodes after lacking depth, the lineup also struggles to perform any better than decent, and the Giants cannot get above .500.

Projected Finish: 85-77, 4th in NL West

 

14. new-york-mets New York Mets

Off-Season Review

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The Mets restored their strong, playoff level roster from a couple years back after a rough 2017.  They brought OF Jay Bruce back, signed 3B Todd Frazier to take over third in case David Wright cannot rebound from his injury.  1B Adrian Gonzalez was also added to improve the lineup.  Lastly, they boosted the rotation depth by adding Jason Vargas to aid an injury prone rotation.  Vargas was with the Mets for a year about 10 years ago.  The Mets are in much better shape after a strong off-season.

The Case for the Mets

The Mets face tough competition and may not be able to make the playoffs this year.  But they are back in contention with Bruce back and Frazier on board.  They have set themselves up for long-term success, as David Wright is unlikely to rebound, and it will be tough to depend on Michael Conforto with his health in question.  Maybe they can contend for the NL East if the Nationals fail to add back Bryce Harper for 2019.  But this year, they will have to compete for a wild-card spot.

Where They’re Headed

The Mets should be able to make the playoffs in the coming years if they cannot make the playoffs in 2018.  They have a nice roster full of young talent and veterans who are still elite and can lead this team down the stretch.  Will they be able to make the playoffs this year, or will the competition be too much for them?

Best Case Scenario: Frazier, Bruce, and Yoenis Cespedes help lead the Mets back to the playoffs along with a strong rotation that stays healthy.

Worst Case Scenario: The rotation is plagued by injuries, the lineup is no better than average, and the Mets fail to get above .500.

Projected Finish: 86-76, 2nd in NL East

 

13. arizona-dbacks Arizona Diamondbacks

Off-Season Review

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The Diamondbacks needed a new closer with Fernando Rodney gone.  They did add Brad Boxberger, but is he capable of the closing job?  They also added Japanese reliever, Yoshihisa Hirano.  They also upgraded their outfield by acquiring Steven Souza Jr. in a 3-way trade and signing Jarrod Dyson.  Other than that, their roster is in good shape for contention in 2018.  But in a tough division, will they make it?

The Case for the Diamondbacks

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The Diamondbacks finally cracked the playoffs in 2017, but can they repeat in a very tough division?  They have a strong lineup led by Paul Goldschmidt, A.J. Pollock, and David Peralta.  I also think Jake Lamb could break out.  They also have maintained a strong pitching staff, led by starting pitchers Zack Greinke and Robbie Ray.  With an underrated roster, they should at least be able to keep up with their division.

Where They’re Headed

The D-Backs are right on the verge of contention.  They have a good future full of playoff runs ahead of them.  However, I do not think they will make it this year.  The Brewers, Rockies, and Cardinals will beat them out in the wild-card race.

Best Case Scenario: Arizona’s young roster thrives, leading the Diamondbacks back to the playoffs with a 2nd place finish in the NL West.

Worst Case Scenario: The lineup struggles to live up to its expectations after off-season upgrades, the rotation begins to decline due to lack of young talent, and the Diamondbacks end up finishing around .500.

Projected Finish: 87-75, 3rd in NL West

 

That’s all for this article.  Stay tuned for Part 4 along with my latest Baseball Bits coming soon.

 

 

 

 

 

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

kmaeda

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!

 

Scouting Report: Baltimore Orioles

Sarasota, Fl - Yovani Gallardo takes part in Orioles Spring training.
The Orioles may not have made the biggest splash this off season but they made some quality moves.  Unfortunately for O’s fans, I don’t necessarily think that the Orioles have gotten better since last season.  They may have made some moves to maintain their status from last season but some things have not worked out and they aren’t quite as good as they were last season.
Off Season Review
The Orioles had an effective off season in some ways and an ineffective one in another way.  They started with bringing back Matt Wieters on a qualifying offer.  They really needed their star catcher back as their backup options are limited.  They made some trades later in November, bringing in L.J. Hoes for cash and inviting him to spring training.  In early December they got Mark Trumbo and C.J. Riefenhauser for Steve Clevenger.  I thought the Orioles won the trade but still, nobody great was given out to either team in that trade and it didn’t fit their needs.  Riefenhauser later got claimed off waivers by the Cubs.  That was very recently though.
At the non-tender deadline, they had to get rid of starting right fielder David Lough.  They now had not one, but two open outfield spots unless Mark Trumbo or Nolan Reimold stepped up to start.  They later signed Japanese outfielder Hyun-Soo Kim to at least take his place.  They also lost prospects Junior Lake and Edgar Olmos to waivers. Lake was another outfield option!!!  They were really thin now!!  There went another reliever too!!  However, they resigned star reliever Darren O’ Day for four years.
As January came, They traded for Odrisamer Despaigne and resigned Chris Davis long-term (seven years) in what was known as “A serious game of chicken” by MLB.com.  In late free agency, a lot of rumors were flying around Baltimore, and they still are.  Some of the names included Yovani Gallardo, Dexter Fowler, Tim Lincecum, Austin Jackson even Justin Upton and Yoenis Cespedes at one point.  They signed Gallardo for two years, but Fowler went to the Cubs despite almost signing in Baltimore, Jackson went to the White Sox, Upton went to Detroit and Cespedes resigned in New York.
Lincecum is still being rumored, and the Jackson to the Sox isn’t official yet.  In fact, I think Lincecum will sign with the Orioles enough that I put him on their predicted roster. The Orioles made some impact moves, but they still have some unfilled holes.  They did not fulfill the opportunity they had this off season  to improve.  All those rumors and big name signings for a mediocre to bad team.  Not ideal.
Off Season Grade: D+
Spring Training Storylines
Will the big name signings and re-signings make an impact?
Depends on if these guys have up or down seasons, hopefully for Bostonians like me, a down one.  Chris Davis I still don’t think is satisfied in Baltimore.  Hey, at least Yovani Gallardo and maybe Hyun-Soo Kim are good fits.  They still have Adam Jones better than ever, even without his precious pie celebrations.  They have some pretty good sleepers in the lineup to cover.  But still no matter what this team will have holes.  This might not matter.
How will the O’s fill the holes in the outfield and rotation?
Well, prospects play a big role.  Miguel Gonzalez needs more attention as a strong vet that will fight for a slot in the rotation.  Mike Wright, Dylan Bundy and Odrisamer Despaigne could get some spot starts.  In the outfield, sure, they lost Junior Lake who was developing well but they have Dariel Alvarez, they have Nolan Reimold, Jimmy Paredes may transition to right field and then Hyun-Soo Kim will move to left.
But even with prospects, a late signing would really help, even if its only like Alex Rios, Tim Lincecum or Cliff Lee.  I don’t think prospects plus what they have in the majors is going to be quite enough to fill the holes.
Who are some prospects who will be known this year?
Some of the prospects I mentioned above could be good but further down in the system, I’m liking sleep pitching prospect Andrew Triggs, who has looked alright this spring, veteran outfield spring training invitee L.J. Hoes, who returned to Baltimore this off season, and infielder Christian Walker.
Walker got some good time last year and looked ready to take over for Chris Davis, at least if Davis was still playing like he did in 2014 and Hoes got some good backup time in Houston but between their younger outfield prospects and the everyday starters, there was no room for him to shine last year.  There’s a lot of potential in the O’s system.  Despite a bad current team, they have future hope.

 Baltimore Orioles Projected Roster

Rotation               Bullpen
Chris Tillman        Zach Britton (CL)
Yovani Gallardo    Darren O’ Day
Tim Lincecum**    Brad Brach
Kevin Gausman    Miguel Gonzalez
Ubaldo Jimenez    Brian Matusz
                              Chaz Roe
                          Odrisamer Despaigne
Lineup                       Bench
C: Matt Wieters         Caleb Joseph
1B: Chris Davis          Christian Walker
2B: Jonathan Schoop  Nolan Reimold
SS: J.J. Hardy            Ryan Flaherty
3B: Manny Machado
LF: Hyun-Soo Kim
CF: Adam Jones
RF: Mark Trumbo
DH: Jimmy Paredes
**If Tim Lincecum does not come to the Orioles I have Miguel Gonzalez replacing him in the rotation.
Potential candidates to fill Gonzalez’s relief role would be:
           Dylan Bundy
           Mychal Givens
           Mike Wright
           T.J. McFarland
           Vance Worley
           Tyler Wilson
Projected Record: 74-88
That’s all for today.  Check out my Boston Red Sox report tomorrow!