MLB 2018 Predictions: Exciting Season In The Making Despite Slow Off-Season

It is that time of year again.  Although I had to delay this article due to the excruciatingly quiet start to the off-season, my MLB Predictions are here.  Read below to find out my thoughts on who will win the World Series and how they’ll get there.  I will also be predicting who wins the major MLB awards.  Let’s get started with my projected regular season standings.  

Note: These Predictions are based on potential, but do account for the lack of real FA signings

Record Projections

AL East

  1. new-york-yankees New York Yankees 96-66 (#1 seed AL)
  2. boston-red-sox Boston Red Sox 92-70 (#4 seed AL)
  3. Toronto_Blue_Jays Toronto Blue Jays 76-86
  4. Baltimore-Orioles-Logo Baltimore Orioles 73-89
  5. Tampa_Bay_Rays Tampa Bay Rays 70-92

Image result for giancarlo stanton yankees

The Bronx Bombers are back.  With Giancarlo Stanton on board, the Yankees have last year’s top two home run hitters in their lineup.  They could have a historic home run duo going.  Stanton and Judge will be surrounded by other big hitters, young players full of potential, and a respectable rotation.  

Image result for jd martinez red sox

But the Red Sox will challenge them after signing the #3 HR hitter of 2017 in J.D. Martinez.  After a long game of chicken, they finally agreed to terms on a deal on February 19th.  The Sox also brought back super utility Eduardo Nunez, who will start at second until Dustin Pedroia returns in mid-April.  Martinez, Nunez and the Killer B’s will lead the Sox to be elite contenders and compete with the Yankees.  In addition, ace Chris Sale leads a strong Red Sox rotation, one thing Boston has on the Yankees.  Sale, Pomeranz, and Porcello have led Boston’s rotation to outpitch the Yanks.    I will have an extended spring preview for the Sox coming soon, where I will try and answer some of the team’s biggest questions headed into 2018.

The rest of the division is in rebuild mode, and the Red Sox and Yankees will feed on them, while the two of them compete against each other.  The Blue Jays have revamped their roster with lower tier free agents and younger players who will lead the new era of the team.  Meanwhile, the Orioles have rotation turnover issues after they lost multiple starters to free agency.  They signed two starters, but they still have rotation problems, and their lineup is still good, but it’s no longer All-Star material.  Meanwhile, the Rays have completely remodeled their roster after trading away Evan Longoria, Jake Odorizzi, and Corey Dickerson.  They will be led by young talent on their new look roster. Although the other teams in this division look intriguing, Red Sox and Yankees are the only teams that I would consider playoff contenders in the AL East.

AL Central

  1. cleveland-indians Cleveland Indians 92-70 (#3 seed AL)
  2. minnesota-twins Minnesota Twins 87-75
  3. kansas-city-royals Kansas City Royals 73-89
  4. detroit-tigers Detroit Tigers 69-93
  5. chicago-white-sox Chicago White Sox 66-96

The Indians are still the clear favorite.  They may have lost key pieces in Carlos Santana and Jay Bruce, but they made up for it by signing 1B Yonder Alonso, 1B/DH Mike Napoli, OF Melvin Upton Jr. and OF Rajai Davis.  Young outfielder Bradley Zimmer is also in the running for a starting outfield job.

Image result for yonder alonso indians

That doesn’t mean the Twins won’t contend though.  They upgraded a roster that was already strong this off-season, by signing Logan Morrison and relievers Fernando Rodney and Addison Reed as well as acquiring Jake Odorizzi from Tampa Bay.  They also signed Michael Pineda, who may return from Tommy John surgery later this year.  The Twins are setting themselves up to return to the playoffs, but they’ll have competition in the wild card race, with the Red Sox and Angels also contending.

The rest of this division will fail to contend.  The Royals lost their core players in Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, and Lorenzo Cain and that has led them to rebuild.  The Tigers are heading into a rebuild of their own after their older team struggled in early 2017.  However, their roster appears to be falling into place, for the most part.  They could use another infielder in the mix.  After trading away J.D. Martinez last year and trading Ian Kinsler in the off-season, the Tigers are headed in the right direction, focusing on their future.  The White Sox will rely on their young talent after rebuilding in 2017.  They are hoping that their top prospects, Michael Kopech and Eloy Jimenez, can make an impact at the major league level as well as prospects that cracked the majors last year.  The Indians are the clear favorites here, but the Twins could also contend, and do not be surprised if one of the three rebuilding squads in the division begins contending quicker than expected.

AL West

  1. houston-astros Houston Astros 95-67 (#2 seed AL)
  2. la-angels-of-anaheim Los Angeles Angels 88-74 (#5 seed AL)
  3. seattle-mariners-logo Seattle Mariners 83-79
  4. texas-rangers Texas Rangers 74-88
  5. oakland-a's Oakland Athletics 68-94

The Astros are still the clear favorites here.  They’ve only gotten better since last year’s World Series win, so if they have any hangover, it will only affect them early on, and won’t hit them that hard, similar to what happened to the Cubs last season.  A full season of Justin Verlander and the acquisition of Gerrit Cole will make their rotation unstoppable, and their lineup is still just as good, as prospects will fill in for what they lost in Carlos Beltran, who retired.

Image result for justin verlander astros

The Angels will also compete though.  They arguably have one of the best lineups in the league after adding Ian Kinsler and Zack Cozart as well as resigning Justin Upton.  Although the rotation is not dominant, the new two-way Japanese star in Shohei Ohtani will help them improve, and hopefully, the injury bug will not hit them as hard this year.  The Mariners will also have a decent year, but they are relying on Dee Gordon to make a smooth transition to the outfield, and the rest of their outfield doesn’t look great.

In addition, it will be hard to contend with inexperienced players occupying several starting jobs.  The Rangers aren’t going to be terrible either, but some of their best players like Adrian Beltre are getting old, and not all of their younger players will be able to succeed at the major league level this year.  I like their intriguing off-season, but unless they break out with what they have, it might be time for the Rangers to consider a rebuild.  The Athletics are hoping that they can start moving in an upward direction after their own rebuild, but I think their young players need another season or two to develop before the A’s get ready for contention again.  This year will focus on the development of their young guns like Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Sean Manaea, Jharel Cotton, and Andrew Triggs among others.  In the end, look for the Astros to repeat here and the Angels to make a run at a wild-card spot.

NL East

  1. washington-nats Washington Nationals 97-65 (#1 seed NL)
  2. new-york-mets New York Mets 86-76
  3. atlanta-braves Atlanta Braves 78-84
  4. philadelphia.phillies Philadelphia Phillies 71-91
  5. miami-marlins Miami Marlins 64-98

After the Nationals cruised into the NLDS in a weak NL East in 2017, I do expect Washington to repeat.  But other teams in the division will start to make strides toward contention.  At one point, I thought this might be the year that the Marlins pounce to the top of the division, but instead, they decided to rebuild early, dealing away all three of their starting outfielders (Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, and Marcell Ozuna) plus 2B Dee Gordon.  Now they might very well be the MLB’s worst team on paper.

But the Mets, Braves, and Phillies are moving in an upward direction.  If they can stay healthy, the Mets added several key pieces that could lead them back to contention.  I think they are close to playoff material, but not quite there yet.  The Braves look ready to break out at any moment, but I don’t know if their breakthrough will come in 2018.  But I definitely think they will improve this season.  The Phillies may not be ready for contention yet, but this young team is setting themselves up for success.  If they continue to boost their young roster with veterans over the next couple years, we may see them return to the playoffs.

Image result for bryce harper

Despite the rest of the division’s effort to contend, the Nats are still the #1 team here, and they are a World Series contender.  In his contract year, Bryce Harper will lead a powerful Nationals lineup, and their rotation might just need one more strong starter such as Jake Arrieta to lead the Nats deeper into the playoffs.  With many of their stars hitting the open market soon, it will be World Series or bust in 2018 for Washington.

NL Central

  1. Chicago_Cubs Chicago Cubs 92-70 (#3 seed NL)
  2. St_Louis_Cardinals St. Louis Cardinals 90-72 (#4 seed NL)
  3. milwaukee-brewers Milwaukee Brewers 87-75
  4. Image result for cincinnati reds Cincinnati Reds 79-83
  5. pittsburgh-pirates Pittsburgh Pirates 67-95

If I had to name one division that improved the most this off-season, I would say the NL Central without hesitation.  Despite losing SP John Lackey to free agency, the Cubs continued to improve this off-season with the signing of pitchers Yu Darvish, Tyler Chatwood, and Drew Smyly (may return late in 2018).  They are a significant World Series contender.  But the division will not be easy to win as the Cardinals and Brewers have also improved.

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St. Louis signed Miles Mikolas in his return to the MLB but may need to add another starter for rotational depth.  They may even try and snag closer Greg Holland or 3B Mike Moustakas before Opening Day.  They also acquired OF Marcell Ozuna from Miami.  They will contend this year, and so will the Brewers, who despite the desperate need for a #1 starter, will be significantly better in 2018 after signing Lorenzo Cain and acquiring Christian Yelich to improve their outfield and make it dominant.  They may want to resign Neil Walker before Opening Day if they really care about winning now.  Unless they sign a pitcher or a middle infielder, I don’t see them as a lock for the playoffs, but they will contend.

Image result for lorenzo cain brewers

The Reds could also contend soon, but it will take another year or so for the lineup to become playoff material and the young rotation to improve.  Meanwhile, the Pirates have begun rebuilding after trading away OF Andrew McCutchen and SP Gerrit Cole.  They will not contend this year due to their rebuilding intentions as well as a serious depth problem and lack of a leader in their starting rotation.  Although Cincy and Pittsburgh won’t be in the playoff race, this strong division will be competitive as its top three teams battle for playoff berths.

NL West

  1. los-angeles-dodgers Los Angeles Dodgers 95-67 (#2 seed NL)
  2. colorado-rockies Colorado Rockies 88-74 (#5 seed NL)
  3. arizona-dbacks Arizona Diamondbacks 87-75
  4. sanfran-giants San Francisco Giants 85-77
  5. san diego-padres San Diego Padres 69-93

Although the NL Central improved the most this off-season, the NL West is still the MLB’s strongest division.  This year, I think that four teams in this division will finish with a winning record, and two will make the playoffs.  The Dodgers will stay on top here.  They have managed to keep most of the players that helped them succeed in 2017, although their rotation doesn’t have the same kind of depth that it used to.  They didn’t need 7-8 viable starters on the roster though.  No team in this division has gained significantly on the Dodgers, but other teams in the division have improved.

This could be the year for the Rockies.  Their lineup will dominate, and their young rotation should continue to improve.  The rotation is also aided by a strong bullpen that will be led by new closer Wade Davis.  The D-Backs have added outfield depth after J.D. Martinez’s departure for Boston, and they will continue to contend in 2018, although I don’t think they will quite make it this time around, as the Cardinals and Brewers have gotten better and could grab a wild card.

Image result for andrew mccutchen evan longoria giants

The Giants have also improved after acquiring Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen, but after a 64-98 season, I find it hard to believe that even year luck alone will lead them back to the playoffs.  They still have rotation depth problems behind their top three starters and aside from Cutch, Longo, Buster Posey, and Hunter Pence, this lineup isn’t overly intriguing.  Even the Padres will improve.  Some of their top prospects have cracked the majors, and they have brought back Chase Headley and Tyson Ross in addition to acquiring Freddy Galvis.  Their biggest move of the off-season was signing 1B Eric Hosmer.  He will be a veteran mentor for this young team and allows Wil Myers to assist the young outfield.  The Dodgers are the clear favorites here, but this division is hard to predict beyond that.

Image result for eric hosmer padres

Now for my playoff predictions.

Playoff Predictions

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As you all know, I am an avid Boston sports fan.  But as an unbiased reporter, I don’t think the Red Sox have the edge on the Yankees this year.  The Bronx Bombers just have too powerful of a lineup, and despite the fact that Boston has one of the best rotations in the MLB and signed a home run hitter of their own in J.D. Martinez, it’s just not enough to compete with the “Evil Empire” in New York.  The Sox will win over the Angels in the Wild Card round though.  The Angels may have a powerful lineup, but they are nothing like the Yankees, and rotation problems will hold them back.  I have the Yankees advancing to the World Series, but only to be defeated by the motivated Washington Nationals.  Like I said, it’s World Series or bust in Washington, and I think this year’s Nats are legitimate contenders.

In the AL, the Astros will come close to a World Series return, but even their dominant rotation will struggle against the Yankees lineup.  The Astros will top a well rounded Indians team.  The Indians look good this year but will have a hard time competing with this strong Astros team.  Jose Altuve (who I could see having another MVP caliber year), George Springer, and Justin Verlander among others will lead Houston to the ALCS.

In the NL, the Dodgers will also come close to a World Series return after beating the Cubs somewhat easily in the NLDS.  But they will struggle against a strong Nats rotation, and even Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw could have a hard time against Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy, and the improved Nats lineup.  The Cardinals will also fall to the Nats.  Their younger rotation will struggle on the big stage, and their lineup isn’t fierce enough this year to stop the strong Nats rotation, despite the powerful pieces they have in Dexter Fowler, Marcell Ozuna, and Matt Carpenter among others.

The Cards do have the edge in the Wild Card round though, as their lineup will overwhelm young Rockies ace Jon Gray.  In the end, the Nats will dominate this side of the bracket and go on to win the World Series.  The window is closing for the Nats to win a title with Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg, and company.  But 2018 is their final shot at a World Series win in this era, and they will be driven by this fact.

To much to take in?  My video summary of this post will be on YouTube soon.  I will post the link on my blog when it is up.

Award Predictions

Below I have listed my Top 3 picks for each major MLB award.  

AL MVP

  1. Jose Altuve, 2B, HOU – After winning this award last year, I could see Altuve repeating his 2017 dominance.  He is one of my favorite non-Red Sox players and he has emerged as a star and leader on the Astros.
  2. Giancarlo Stanton, OF, NYY – On his new team, not only will Stanton pair up with Aaron Judge to create one of the best HR duos of all time, but also put up a strong average and hit not only for power but also for consistency
  3. Mike Trout, OF, LAA – Trout is always a candidate for this award, and although injuries held him back a bit in 2017, he will remain an elite contender for this award in 2018

Honorable Mention: Justin Upton, OF, LAA

NL MVP

  1. Bryce Harper, OF, WSH – Another one of my non-Red Sox favorites.  In a contract year, Harper will go from elite player to future Hall Of Famer in an all-around dominant season
  2. Nolan Arenado, 3B, COL – With the Rockies back in playoff contention, Arenado will play at MVP level in 2018, leading the strong Rockies lineup to continued success
  3. Joey Votto, 1B, CIN – I think Votto will also emerge as an MVP caliber player this year as he continues to put up great numbers despite the fact that he is older than many other all-star level players.

Honorable Mention: Eric Hosmer, 1B, SD

AL Cy Young

  1. Chris Sale, BOS – I think Sale will repeat the success he had early in 2017 with the Red Sox, and he is my pick to win the Cy Young.
  2. Justin Verlander, HOU – Verlander will emerge as a leader in the strong Astros rotation in another deep playoff run for the Astros.  He will be Sale’s #1 competitor for the Cy Young in 2018.
  3. Carlos Carrasco, CLE – I could see Carrasco returning to his dominant 2015 form this year and creating a dynamic duo in the rotation alongside Corey Kluber.

Honorable Mention: Corey Kluber, CLE

NL Cy Young

  1. Stephen Strasburg, WSH – Strasburg already returned to the ace level last year with an ERA around 2.50, and I think he could keep it up in 2018 and make a significant run at a Cy Young award.
  2. Yu Darvish, CHC – Chicago is a great fit for Darvish, and I could see him thriving in Chicago and running at a Cy Young.
  3. Clayton Kershaw, LAD – Kershaw is always a candidate for this award much like Trout is for the MVP.  He will continue to succeed in 2018.

Honorable Mention: Max Scherzer, WSH*

* For those of you who read my latest free agency article, you would know I think Alex Cobb is going to the Brewers.  If he signs in Milwaukee, he could be a significant candidate to battle for a Cy Young award.

AL Rookie of the Year

  1. Shohei Ohtani, SP/DH, LAA – Who else would I put at the top of this list?  This two-way phenom is practically a lock to make the Angels roster despite the fact that he is a rookie non-roster invitee.
  2. Kyle Tucker, OF, HOU – I think Tucker could have a significant role at the major league level in 2018. He will compete for a starting outfield job when he comes up.  He is the brother of former Astros outfielder Preston Tucker.
  3. Hunter Dozier, 3B, KC – I think Dozier can make an impact at the major league level, even with Lucas Duda in line to start at first.  I see Dozier as Kansas City’s starting third baseman as long as he is successful early in the season, and I see potential in him.

Honorable Mention: Christian Arroyo, 3B, TB

NL Rookie of the Year

  1. Jesse Winker, OF, CIN – I think Winker will breakout this year as he establishes himself as a starter at the major league level.  He will compete for the Rookie of the Year award.
  2. Ronald Acuna, OF, ATL – Once Acuna cracks the majors, he has the chance to become a starter in left field, and once that happens, I see the potential for him to be great.
  3. Ryan McMahon, 1B, COL – With Ian Desmond headed back to the outfield and Mark Reynolds in the open market, there’s an open spot for McMahon at first base.  If they resign Reynolds, they could work out some sort of platoon, but either way, I think McMahon has the potential for success in the majors this year.

Honorable Mentions: Alex Reyes, SP, STL and Victor Robles, OF, WSH

 

That’s all for my MLB 2018 Predictions.  Stay tuned for more baseball articles including my spring power rankings, my Red Sox 2018 season preview, and my 2nd annual preseason Baseball Bits article.

 

 

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

Welcome to Part 2 of my 2018 MLB Free Agent and Trade Predictions. Free agency has been off to a slow start, but it’s far from over. Players like 1B Eric Hosmer, SP Jake Arrieta, SP Yu Darvish, and 3B Todd Frazier will eventually be signed. But where will they go?  That’s the biggest question, and I’m about to try to answer it.  Today I will be predicting landing spots for the MLB’s best catchers and infielders on the market.

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

MLB Free Agent/Trade Predictions Part 1: Pitchers

Photo Credit: ESPN (ESPN updates the player photos when players sign with new teams, so once the off-season is over, you will be able to check back and see how I did.  It currently shows the player’s most recent team)

C

Image result for alex avilaAlex Avila

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

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

Image result for jonathan lucroyJonathan Lucroy

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

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

Image result for miguel montero Miguel Montero

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

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

Image result for carlos ruizCarlos Ruiz

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

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

Image result for geovany soto Geovany Soto

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

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

1B

Image result for lucas duda Lucas Duda

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

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

Image result for adrian gonzalez Adrian Gonzalez

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

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

Image result for eric hosmerEric Hosmer

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

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

 Image result for logan morrisonLogan Morrison

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

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

Image result for mike napoli Mike Napoli

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

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

2B

Image result for eduardo nunez Eduardo Nunez

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

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

Image result for jace peterson Jace Peterson

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

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

Image result for brandon phillips Brandon Phillips

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

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

Image result for chase utley Chase Utley

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

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

Image result for neil walker Neil Walker

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

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

SS

Image result for mike aviles Mike Aviles

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

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

Image result for erick aybar Erick Aybar

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

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

Image result for stephen drew Stephen Drew

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

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

Image result for alcides escobar Alcides Escobar

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

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

Image result for jj hardy J.J. Hardy

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

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

3B

Image result for yunel escobar Yunel Escobar

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

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

Image result for todd frazierTodd Frazier

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

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

Image result for mike moustakasMike Moustakas

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

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

Image result for trevor plouffe Trevor Plouffe

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

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

Image result for jose reyesJose Reyes

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

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

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

Ranking The Teams 6-1, My Version: The Dominant

Welcome to the 5th and final day of my MLB preseason power rankings.  We have finally made it to the top of the list.  The most dominant teams are here.  However, each of them had one Achilles Heel.  That will be revealed today.  Last time, we looked at some other contenders that had problems that were really holding them back.  This time, the problems aren’t as big, and because of that, these 6 teams will dominate.  Let’s get started with #6.

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

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

 

Now that the series is over, you will be able to view all the articles under the “Ranking The Teams” tag.

6. cleveland-indians Cleveland Indians

Off-season Review

Image result for edwin encarnacion indians

The Indians had a very brief off-season, but the moves they did make made a big impact.  They signed Austin Jackson, Edwin Encarnacion, and Boone Logan.  Each of these players will help the team in a different way.  Jackson is a veteran mentor in the outfield that will rotate with the younger players.  His bat will be helpful for the Indians.  Edwin Encarnacion will play DH or first base, and his big bat will lead the Indians lineup.  Logan will be a late inning reliever and helps this bullpen’s depth.  These moves make the Indians look better than before and give them that last little push that makes them AL Central favorites.

The Case for the Indians

Image result for michael brantley

The Indians are in store for another strong season.  Despite small holes, the Indians’ lineup is looking better than before.  With Michael Brantley healthy, they could kick but.  The rotation’s top three will still kick butt, but there are problems in the 4 and 5 spots.  Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin aren’t the greatest options out there.  The Indians have always had bullpen depth issues as well, but helped resolve them by signing Boone Logan and claiming Tim Cooney off waivers.  The Indians made some big moves this off-season and will hope that leads to a bigger season.

The Achilles Heel

It’s hard to point out one singular Achilles Heel for the Indians.  The problems they have are all pretty small, but all together, they cause bigger problems.  If there was one clear weakness on this team to point out, it would probably be the outfield.  The rotation and bullpen aren’t that bad and have gotten better in recent years.  Most of the lineup is good, but the outfield could be a problem.  Michael Brantley should be good to go, but there aren’t many significant players around him.  This wouldn’t be a problem if Brantley was 100%.  But the Indians don’t have a good outfielder fully healthy.  Austin Jackson is getting older, and the Indians don’t have another significant outfielder to fill the last slot. The last slot will have to be filled by players who aren’t quite ready yet.  The choices are limited.

Best Case Scenario: The rotation thrives and a strong lineup leads the Indians back to the World Series.

Worst Case Scenario: The rotation struggles and the lineup can’t really do that much better as the Indians fail to win the AL Central.

Projected Finish: 92-70, 1st in AL Central

 

5. boston-red-sox Boston Red Sox

Off-season Review

Image result for chris sale red sox

 

Much like the Indians, the Red Sox had a very brief off-season but made the most of the moves they made.  With Big Papi retired, the Red Sox added Mitch Moreland to preserve the dominant status of their lineup.  They also traded away Yoan Moncada and three other prospects to the White Sox but got ace Chris Sale in return. Lastly, they traded Travis Shaw away for Tyler Thornburg.  Hopefully, a slimmed-down Pablo Sandoval will fill Shaw’s role.  Now, the lineup, rotation, and bullpen are better.

The Case for the Red Sox

The Red Sox are my team, so it’s hard not to be biased, but this is a very talented team.  The rotation is one of the best in the league now, led by three ace level pitchers who are all Cy Young candidates.  The lineup is still overpowered even without Big Papi, and if the back of the rotation struggles, the bullpen is improved as well.  This is a strong all-around team but could they have a weak spot?

The Achilles Heel

Image result for pablo sandoval red sox

Yes, even teams like this have an Achilles Heel.  Without David Ortiz, there is a strain put on the lineup.  Travis Shaw and Aaron Hill are also gone.  Hanley Ramirez will move to DH. Mitch Moreland will fill in at first.  But who plays third?  Pablo Sandoval has not proved himself worthy since he joined the Red Sox.  Maybe now that he lost some weight, he will have a bounce back year.  But it is pretty risky putting him in the full-time starting job at third.

Best Case Scenario: The lineup continues to do well, the rotation kicks butt, and the Red Sox win their fourth World Series since breaking the curse.

Worst Case Scenario: The lineup struggles without Big Papi, the rotation can’t find a rhythm, and the Red Sox struggle to make the playoffs.

Projected Finish: 92-70, 1st in AL East

 

4. St_Louis_Cardinals St. Louis Cardinals

Off-season Review

Image result for dexter fowler cardinals

Like many good teams, the Cardinals didn’t go all out this off-season but made a couple bold moves to improve.  They got the Cubs back and picked up Dexter Fowler, who will be a leader in a young outfield.  Now there’s competition in a tight NL Central.  They also signed Brett Cecil to add to a strong bullpen.  The Cardinals are in good shape.

The Case for the Cardinals

The Cardinals couldn’t compete with the Cubs in 2016, but they have gained on the Cubs.  The addition of Dexter Fowler has helped.  The bullpen is also better.  The rotation should improve most of all.  Lance Lynn is coming back, and I could see Mike Leake bouncing back.  That fills a strong rotation that will help lead the Cardinals.  The lineup is also better and after this off-season’s changes, the Cardinals will compete with the Cubs.

The Achilles Heel

The one problem with this team is that there’s too much pressure on the young guys to do well.  Consistency is tough for young players, and parts of their lineup include younger players like Stephen Piscotty, Randal Grichuk. and Aldemys Diaz.  You never know with these younger players.  Until players reach their prime, it’s hard to foresee how they will do.  That’s where the Cardinals are at, and they’ve been facing that problem since they decided to let their younger players take over.

Best Case Scenario: The rotation dominates, the lineup looks better and the Cardinals win the NL Central with ease.

Worst Case Scenario: The young team is inconsistent and struggles, leading them to miss the playoffs for a second straight year.

Projected Finish: 93-69, 2nd in NL Central

 

3. washington-nats Washington Nationals

Off-season Review

Image result for adam eaton nationals

Unlike most good teams, the Nationals were super busy this off-season.  They got two new catchers, Derek Norris and Matt Wieters.  They also signed Adam Lind and traded Lucas Giolito to Chicago for Adam Eaton.  They also upgraded their bullpen, signing several guys including Joe Nathan.  Will these moves be enough to finally win the Nats a World Series?

The Case for the Nationals

The Nationals are in good shape for 2017.  The rotation still looks pretty good and is led by the best duo of starters in the league.  The bullpen did have depth issues, but after this off-season, that shouldn’t be a problem.  The lineup is also looking a little bit better after an active off-season.  There could be a hole at shortstop if Trea Turner can’t play there, but Turner is the likely starter.  The Nats are looking better in 2017 and could run for a championship.

The Achilles Heel

The one problem with this team is the infield.  When Danny Espinosa left for LA, he left a hole.  Now, there are questions remaining.  Can Trea Turner adjust smoothly?  How will the lineup and infield fare without Espinosa?  Those questions must be answered, and if the Nats can say “yes” and “good” to those questions, they will do very well.

Best Case Scenario: The lineup looks better, the pitching dominates the league, and the Nationals go on to win the World Series.

Worst Case Scenario: The off-season’s lineup changes don’t work out, the rotation fails to stay healthy and the Nats fail to win the NL East.

Projected Finish: 93-69, 1st in NL East

 

2. texas-rangers Texas Rangers

Off-season Review

The Rangers are looking good after their off-season moves.  I know a lot of people think they’ll flop, but this team can be dominant, I can’t see them missing the playoffs.  They improved their rotation.  They signed former Padres pitchers Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross to add to a strong top of the rotation.  The bullpen isn’t as good after losing Shawn Tolleson.  The Rangers also signed James Loney and Mike Napoli to fill the gaps that Prince Fielder and Mitch Moreland left.  They also resigned most of their key free agents, which preserved most of what they had last year.

The Case for the Rangers

This team is better than it looks.  You may think this lineup is getting older, but young stars are actually taking up a good part of it.  The lineup will dominate.  Meanwhile, the rotation has continued to improve.  After boosting the top of the rotation the last two years, they signed two more starters to fill out the rest of the rotation with Derek Holland gone.  The bullpen is looking better, but does it still need work.

The Achilles Heel

If you think that the lineup is the problem, you’re wrong.  The rotation isn’t perfect.  It can’t do everything.  The weak bullpen will be a problem.  It’s lacking depth, which can’t happen when the rotation is not completely solid.  This isn’t the best rotation in the MLB.  They can’t do the whole pitching job, and until they find some bullpen help in Texas, the pitching staff’s depth problems will be the Rangers Achilles Heel.

Best Case Scenario: The rotation is solid, the lineup is dominant, and the Rangers find themselves in the World Series.

Worst Case Scenario: The pitching staff holds the Rangers back, the lineup declines, and the Rangers are led to finish 3rd in the AL West.

Projected Finish: 94-68, 1st in AL West

 

1. Chicago_Cubs Chicago Cubs

Off-season Review

The Cubs did lose Jason Hammel, but they improved their depth in the rotation and bullpen.  They signed Brett Anderson and claimed Eddie Butler of waivers to help their rotation.  In order to upgrade the bullpen, they also signed Koji Uehara and traded away Jorge Soler for closer Wade Davis.  In addition, with Dexter Fowler leaving they signed Jon Jay. The Cubs are looking like World Series contenders for the third year in a row, can they make what they have into a dynasty for years to come?

The Case for the Cubs

The lineup here is looking as good as last year.  The fifth spot in the rotation could be a problem, but this team has so many bullpen options, and a few of them could compete for that 5th starting job.  This team looks ready to dominate again in 2017.  Their depth everywhere else isn’t as good as last year, but the lineup is solid, the rotation could be great, and the bullpen will help fill in the pitching’s holes.

The Achilles Heel

For such a perfect team, it’s hard to find an Achilles Heel without nitpicking.  There is one problem, though.  The lineup should be fine, but despite good options in the bullpen, if the Cubs don’t have a solid 5th starter, then the bullpen will start to get overtired, and this will cause widespread pitching staff issues.  These problems will only occur if the rest of the rotation can’t pitch a lot of innings and the 5th spot isn’t filled well., which may or may not happen.  This team is spotless for the most part.

Best Case Scenario: The lineup is at its best, the rotation dominates, and the Cubs are a lasting championship winning dynasty in years to come.

Worst Case Scenario: The rotation is problematic, depth of the lineup becomes a problem, and the Cubs lose in the ALDS.

Projected Finish: 96-66, 1st in NL Central

 

That’s it for my preseason power rankings.  Hope you enjoyed it.  Comment with your feedback and predictions.  Now, the first Baseball Bits of 2017 is coming soon, and be on the lookout for a Red Sox spring training article.

 

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

Another solid start by Matt Garza is wasted

 

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

30. colorado-rockies Colorado Rockies

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

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

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

Projected Record: 67-95

 

29. cleveland-indians  Cleveland Indians

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

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

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

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

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

Projected Record: 68-94

 

28. milwaukee-brewers  Milwaukee Brewers

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

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

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

Projected Record: 65-97

 

27. atlanta-braves  Atlanta Braves

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

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

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

Projected Record: 66-96

 

26. philadelphia.phillies Philadelphia Phillies

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

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

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

Projected Record: 75-87

 

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

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

 Projected Record: 71-91

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

Wright Follows Through, Red Sox Top Yankees

The Red Sox defeated the Yankees in a 2-1 pitcher’s duel.  Steven Wright lasted 8 innings, giving up only 3 hits, 1 earned run, walking 2 and striking out 9.  The Sox scored first in the second inning.  Mike Napoli reached on a 2 base throwing error by third baseman Chase Headley.  And Alejandro De Aza nearly knocked the ball out of Yankee Stadium with an RBI double.

Meanwhile, Steven Wright was tossing a no-hitter to a powerful Yankees lineup.  The Sox struck again in the 4th with a Big Papi 424 foot solo shot into right field.  2-0 Sox.  Yankees debuting youngster Luis Severino lasted 5 innings, giving up two runs and only 2 hits.  Steven Wright’s no-hitter was broken up in the 5th, by 2 singles to make it 1st and 2nd.  In the 7th, Pablo Sandoval lined a ball to right field for an easy double.  Mike Napoli was hit by the pitch, and neither De Aza or Swihart could knock in an insurance run.

Carlos Beltran led off with a dinger in the bottom of the 7th to right center, making it 2-1 Sox.  But Wright hung in there and got the rest of the side out in order.  In the top of the 8th, John Ryan Murphy robbed Xander Bogaerts’ foul ball to end the inning.  Wright nearly got himself in a jam after that.  Murphy led off with a single.  Then the speedy former Sox player Jacoby Ellsbury, hit a ball off Wright’s leg, and Bogaerts turned it into a double play.  Even Ellsbury wasn’t up to pace with Bogaerts.

Wright pitched 106 pitches through 8 innings, leading it to the top of the 9th.  Yankees shining end of the bullpen set up man Chasen Shreve came in for lefties Ortiz and Sandoval.  Sandoval hit a ground rule double that looked gone when he hit it.  He intentionally walks Napoli, then Rusney Castillo pinch hit for De Aza.  He walked the bases loaded.  But Swihart failed to knock in an insurance run with bases loaded, two outs, and was called out on strikes.  On the second out, it looked like it bounced before going into diving Castillo’s glove.  Teixeira was credited for a base hit after Joe Girardi’s challenge.  Headley walked, but JBJ ran to make the final out on pinch hitter Brian McCann and lead the Sox to a 2-1 win.  The Sox rode youngsters JBJ and Wright and future hall of famer Big Papi, plus utility waiver pick-up Alejandro De Aza to a 2-1 win, Wright pitching a gem, and his best game of possibly his entire MLB career.  The Sox and Yanks play the rubber match tonight at 7.

Napoli, Red Sox Edge Rays

The Red Sox edged over the Rays in a 7-5 win last night.  Mike Napoli’s 7th inning home gave the lead back to the Red Sox after losing it.

The Rays scored first, walking and then singling into first and third.  Then a walk by Logan Forsythe loaded the bases. Joey Butler grounded into a force out and lead runner Brandon Guyer scored.  Evan Longoria made it safely to third, but Forsythe was out at second.

In the bottom of the 1st, Xander Bogaerts reached on a fielding error, by Logan Forsythe.  Bogaerts went to second on Erasmo Ramirez’s wild pitch.  Tim Beckham made another fielding error that made it first and third.  Mike Napoli walked the bases loaded, and De Aza kept it that way with an RBI single.  1-1.  Rusney Castillo then grounds into a force out, getting Ortiz at the plate.  Blake Swihart knocked 2 runs in on a single the next at bat.  3-1 Sox.

The game stays action packed as recently called up Mikie Mahtook doubles.  With two down, Brandon Guyer struck out, but on a wild pitch sending him to first and Mahtook to third.  Steven Souza Jr. singles a run in.  Then Evan longoria walks the bases loaded, but it doesn’t do it to tie things up.  That inning, the Sox blow it with Brock Holt on second.

In the 3rd, Asdrubal Cabrera singles, and Mikie Mahtook singles him in.  1 run, 1 RBI for 2015 debuting Mikie Mahtook.  the Red Sox struck again in the 5th.  Holt singled, and Bogaerts advanced him to second.  Then Napoli walked, and De Aza singled Holt in.  In the 7th, the Rays struck.  With 1st and second, John Jaso pinch hit doubled Mikie Mahtook in for his second run of the night.  Joey Butler also scored from first, and Jaso went to third on a Blake Swihart error, and just like that it was 5-4 Rays.  In the bottom of the inning, big Papi hit a ball just foul that could ave gone for a double.  He ended up walking.  Napoli hit his dinger to give the Sox a 6-5 lead.

For the most part, it was a quiet game after that.  Blake Swihart douled, and scored on a wild pitch off Brandon Gomes followed by a Josh Rutledge single to extend the lead to 7-5, but that was it.  Uehara got the save.  The Red Sox beat the Rays 7-5, Junichi Tazawa the winning pitcher, Jake McGee the losing pitcher.  Tampa Bay had 3 errors and the Red Sox had 2.  A win today and it a winning streak. A 6-0 lead and Travis Shaw’s first career dinger after 4 innings looks good.

Red Sox Cream Sale, White Sox

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

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

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

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

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

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

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