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.

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Red Sox @ Yankees May 8-10 2018: Series Preview

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The Red Sox have had it easy in terms of their schedule over the last week and a half.  They played the Rays, Rangers, and Royals, taking 7 of 10 during that stretch.  But now they face the Yankees, who have won 15 of 16 against some of the AL’s best.  They swept the Twins, Indians, and Angels, and nearly swept Houston.  They have been boosted by the emergence of Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres, and are doing fine without 1B Greg Bird.  How will they fare against Boston, the only AL team that still has a better record than the Yankees?  They will fight for not just the AL East crown, but the American League crown in this series.  They are arguably the two best teams in baseball right now, which makes this intense rivalry even better.

Previous 2018 Results

The Red Sox have already played the Yankees once this season at Fenway Park.  The Yankees had even more injury problems and did not have Gleyber in the majors back in mid-April when this series occurred.  Despite losing Xander Bogaerts to the DL shortly before the series, the Red Sox, who had started 8-1 due to spotless pitching and an easy schedule, took advantage.  They took 2 of 3 in the series.  The Red Sox lineup had dominated in Game 1 to bring the Sox a 14-1 win.  David Price had a rough Game 2 and left early with an injury.  But the Red Sox attempted to come back, and after Tyler Austin spiked the infielder sliding into 2nd, Joe Kelly got revenge when he hit Austin.  It ended in a bench-clearing brawl that got Kelly and Austin suspended.  Porcello continued a strong start in the 3rd game as the Red Sox won, 6-3.  I did a recap of that game when the Sox and Bruins won important games on the same night.

Big Night For Boston: Sox, Bruins Win On Big Stage

 

How They Line-Up Now

Both teams have powerful, home-run hitting lineups.  But both of these lineups have a weak spot.  The Yankees have seen several hitters who are usually pretty good slump.  Brett Gardner, Giancarlo Stanton, and Gary Sanchez all have a batting average under .230.  Sanchez is batting .198.  It is balanced out by strong seasons from Didi Gregorius and Aaron Judge, as well as early success out of Andujar and Torres.  I was never too high on Gregorius, but he has really proven himself this year.   The Red Sox do not have reliable hitters at the end of the lineup.  Both regular catchers and JBJ are batting under .200, and Eduardo Nunez has also struggled.  But J.D. Martinez, Mookie Betts, Hanley Ramirez, and Xander Bogaerts have all thrived and led this team.

The Red Sox have the starting pitching advantage, but not all of the pitching match-ups in this series are favorable for the Red Sox.  The Red Sox don’t have too much of a bullpen to rely on, either.  Craig Kimbrel has been flawless, but the rest of the bullpen has not always stepped it up when the starter struggles.  The Red Sox have to rely on either an offensive explosion or a spotless, long-lasting starter to win quality games.

Pitching Match-Ups

Game 1 (5/8): BOS: Image result for drew pomeranzDrew Pomeranz (1-1, 6.14 ERA)

vs. NYY: Image result for luis severinoLuis Severino (5-1, 2.11)

By no means is Severino going to be easy to face but I could see Pomeranz stepping it up on the big stage here.  Once Severino leaves, it will be the offense’s turn to make an impact.

Note: Price has been scratched from his Wednesday start due to hand numbness.  I’m beginning to agree with that 98.5 caller who talked about the stress disorder with David Price.  Can he handle the pressure of a Red Sox-Yankees game?

Game 2 (5/9): BOS: Image result for rick porcello Rick Porcello (5-0, 2.14 ERA)

NYY: Image result for MASAHIRO TANAKAMasahiro Tanaka (4-2, 4.39 ERA)

Tanaka has been pretty good this year, but Porcello has been flawless this year.  Moving him a day up brings this pitching match-up into our favor.

Game 3 (5/10): BOS: Image result for Eduardo Rodriguez Eduardo Rodriguez (3-0, 5.29 ERA)

NYY: Image result for C.C. Sabathia C.C. Sabathia (2-0, 1.39 ERA)

I like Eduardo Rodriguez.  He has very high potential, but C.C. Sabathia has been great when healthy, and I’m wondering how E-Rod will perform under the pressure of Yankee Stadium.

My Prediction: Red Sox Take 2 of 3

 

 

Red Sox Report: Sox Slowing Down, But It’s Understandable

When the Red Sox began the season 17-2, I knew they would not be able to finish the season going at that pace.  So it is understandable that the Red Sox have gone 8-7 in their last 15 games.  It does not mean the Red Sox are a fluke.  They have still shown signs in the last 14 games that they are capable contenders.  But they cannot win every game, and 8 to 10-game winning streaks interrupted by just a loss or two is not realistic for any team to maintain.

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But Mookie Betts is still on fire, and Hanley Ramirez has still put up much better numbers to start 2018.  J.D. Martinez has also begun to heat up.  Betts has gotten to the point in his hot streak where he’s breaking HR records.  We will look at Betts’ records, the cooling off of the Red Sox, and much more in this edition of the Red Sox Report.

Red Sox Beginning to Cool Off, But It’s Not a Major Concern

As I said above, although the Sox have cooled off, the Red Sox have still shown qualities of an elite playoff contender.  I still think they have the potential to make a deep run this year.  What concerns me a little bit is who they have been losing to.  They lost a series to the Rays to start their most recent homestand.  Tampa barely has a starting rotation.  But even a blind squirrel eventually finds an acorn.  They also struggled and got no-hit against the Athletics.  The A’s are not terrible, they have a powerful young lineup and an improving rotation.  But after a 17-2 start, I did not expect A’s SP Sean Manaea to no-hit the Red Sox.  It shows that our lineup is very streaky, feast or famine.

Struggles against the mediocre teams is a problem, but the Red Sox have been pretty good against tough opponents like the Angels and Blue Jays.  What the Red Sox need right now is to be competitive against playoff contenders.  If they continue to prove that they are capable of that, I will be much more confident in their World Series chances.  But if they cannot show up against subpar teams, how will they be able to continue to thrive against contenders?

Sox Lineup Has Been Streaky But Has High Ceiling

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The Red Sox lineup has really struggled at times. They have scored 3 or fewer runs in 4 of their 9 losses so far. But when the lineup is on a good streak, it can carry the team. At its best, this lineup could probably carry the Red Sox all the way to the World Series.  But several guys have failed to come through in recent weeks. Christian Vazquez, Sandy Leon, and Jackie Bradley Jr. are all batting under .200, and Eduardo Nunez hasn’t looked like the same guy that boosted the Red Sox lineup on the brink of contention.  Everyone in this lineup has struggled at some point this season.

But when on a hot streak, this lineup can take the league by storm.  There were several hot hitters that led us to our amazing start, and a few of our hitters are still on fire.  J.D. Martinez is 21 for his last 47 (.447) and has hit 3 dingers in that span.  Mookie Betts has been on fire all season.  Read more about Betts’ hot streak in the next section.

Mookie Betts Still On Fire, Now He’s Making History

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Betts is batting .352 (5th in the league) with 13 home runs (leading the league) and a 1.257 OPS (leading the league) on the season.  In addition, he’s 12 for his last 23 (.522).   He has hit 11 of the homers in his last 15 games and has had two 3 HR games this season (one soon after Marathon Monday in Anaheim, and another at Fenway this week against the Royals).  It’s only the start of May, and he had these 3 HR games within two weeks of each other.  He also had a pair of 3 HR games back in 2016.  He and Johnny Mize are the only players to ever have a pair of 3 HR games two times in their career.

Betts also passed Ted Williams for the most 3-HR games in team history.  Betts is only 25.  He has plenty of time in his career for more multi-HR games.  Could he become the first person to have two 3-HR games in three different seasons?  Could he eventually break the MLB 3 HR game record?  It is currently held by Mize and Sammy Sosa (6).  Betts is in the Top 10 with 4.  Betts is tied for 2nd with Manny Machado for multi-HR games since 2016 (11).  Betts and Machado are behind just Giancarlo Stanton (14).  Betts is more than just our leadoff hitter.  He is one of baseball’s biggest stars.  But there is an argument for why he should remain our leadoff hitter, and I look at that in my next Baseball Bits.

Injury Report: Thornburg Begins Rehab, Several Activated Over Last Two Weeks

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The Red Sox have continued to be hit by the injury bug.  Brock Holt went on the DL in late April with a hamstring strain.  Mookie Betts was also hurt for a few days in late April with hamstring issues but has since returned and continued to dominate.  He also left today’s game with a wrist injury.  But several of our previously injured players have returned over the last couple of weeks.  Xander Bogaerts was activated last weekend, and he lost his hot streak on the DL, but he went 3-4 in his first game back and has continued to hit well, batting .303 since his return.  Bobby Poyner has also returned from his injury but did not return to the big league roster until May 4th after a stint with the Paw Sox.

Steven Wright has returned from the DL too, but he is currently serving a 15-game domestic violence suspension.  Joe Kelly recently returned from his 6-game suspension after the Sox-Yankees brawl in April.  Eduardo Rodriguez was also out for a few days on a family medical leave but was activated on the 5th to start against the Rangers.  He did not miss a start during his absence.  Tyler Thornburg, Austin Maddox, Marco Hernandez, Brock Holt, and Dustin Pedroia are the players that remain on the DL.  Thornburg has begun his rehab assignment, and Pedroia has been rehabbing at extended spring training.  Pedey is targeting a May 25 big league return.  Brock Holt is expected to return next week.

Sox Have Caught a Break vs. Royals, Rangers, But Round 2 With Flaming Hot Yankees Ahead

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After a tough road trip, the Red Sox have enjoyed a relatively easy schedule over the last week and a half.  They have played the Rays, Royals, and Rangers.  Despite having a tough time against the Rays (who have won 11 of their last 14 on a hot streak), the Red Sox have caught a break against the Royals and Rangers, who they won 5 of 7 against.  But after that, the Red Sox could have another difficult stretch ahead, starting with a 3 game series at Yankee Stadium.  The Yankees have won 14 of their last 15, and this was against playoff contenders.

The Yanks have swept the Twins, Indians, and Angels, and took 3 of 4 in Houston.  If the Yankees continue to thrive against Boston, they will be proven as serious contenders.  But Boston had an impressive 17-2 stretch of their own.  Although it may not have been against as difficult opponents, the Sox did take 2 out of 3 when they hosted the Yankees.  However, the Yankees were without C.C. Sabathia and Aaron Hicks in that series.  They have also called up Gleyber Torres, who has done very well since that series.  They have lost Jordan Montgomery and a couple relievers to the DL since the series though.

That’s all for this edition of the Red Sox Report.  Stay tuned for more Red Sox posts coming soon.

Ranking The Teams 12-7: My Version: Who Will Contend in 2018

Welcome to Part 4 of my MLB pre-season power rankings.  Although the season has started, I am still finishing this series.  I will also have my first Red Sox Report article of 2018 coming soon, as well as coverage on NFL free agency and the upcoming Red Sox, Celtics, and Bruins games.

Last time, I covered the teams that are in the middle of the pack, and haven’t really decided what direction they want to head in.  I looked at how they did this off-season, how they’ll do this season, and where they are headed.  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 contending teams, but rather than talking about where they are headed (which is somewhat obvious to me), today I will be discussing what is holding them back from dominance.  Read below to find out who these six teams are and what to expect for them this year.

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Boston Sports Mania MLB Pre-Season Power Rankings

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 4: Ranking The Teams 6-1, My Version: How The Best of the Best Line Up*

*My pre-season Baseball Bits are also up.

12. minnesota-twins Minnesota Twins

Off-Season Review

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The Twins quietly put together a strong off-season after acquiring Jake Odorizzi and signing Logan Morrison at the last minute.  They also signed Lance Lynn to add to a rotation that will be without Ervin Santana and new signing Michael Pineda to start the season.  With Odorizzi and Lynn on board, it will be a respectable rotation throughout the season and could take the League by storm when Pineda and Santana return.  Morrison is here to upgrade at the DH position over Kennys Vargas, who only got his job back because Byung-Ho Park was a bust in 2016. They also added Fernando Rodney and Addison Reed in the bullpen to replace Glen Perkins, who retired.

The Case for the Twins

Image result for miguel sano
The Twins will be able to contend.  Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano are primed for breakouts, Brian Dozier has emerged as a veteran leader, and Logan Morrison, Jake Odorizzi, and Lance Lynn are nice additions that put this roster in position to continue to contend after surprisingly cracking the playoff field in 2017.  But the competition for the AL Wild Card will be tougher this year after the moves that have been made by the Angels and Red Sox to make their own Wild Card cases.  The Red Sox could even challenge the Yankees in the AL East, but the Yankees are likely to make the playoffs either way.

What’s Holding Them Back

A month ago I would have said rotation depth problems, but now I think they have a bigger problem at shortstop.  With Jorge Polanco suspended for 80 games, they will have to start Eduardo Escobar, who has struggled in recent years and is not 100% proven as a starter.  I honestly don’t think they were ever doing great at shortstop.  I thought the combination of Polanco and Escobar was okay, but I’m not even so high on Polanco anyways.  They also have problems in the bullpen.  Signing Fernando Rodney and Addison Reed help, but they lack depth, and will Rodney and Reed succeed with their new team?
Best Case Scenario: Buxton and Sano breakthrough, Minnesota’s late off-season moves pay off, and the Twins quietly sneak to the top of the AL Central.
Worst Case Scenario: The injury-riddled rotation lacks depth and gets tired, the new bullpen additions do not help all that much, and the lineup fails to have much more than another decent year as the Twins finish in a distant second to the Indians, just above .500.

Projected Finish: 87-75, 2nd in AL Central

11. milwaukee-brewers Milwaukee Brewers

Off-Season Review

Image result for lorenzo cain brewers

After coming inches away from a playoff berth in 2017, the Brewers made some upgrades in hopes of a playoff run.  They did not add the ace they desperately needed, but they did sign Yovani Gallardo, Wade Miley, and Jhoulys Chacin (Gallardo has since been released).  Chase Anderson and Zach Davies could also step it up in the rotation until the injured Jimmy Nelson returns.  They could re-assess at the trade deadline if needed.  They did add to the bullpen by signing Boone Logan and Matt Albers though.  They could still use a closer.  They also added to their outfield by signing Lorenzo Cain and trading for Christian Yelich.  As a result, Ryan Braun will be able to help out at first in addition to playing outfield.  Eric Thames is no longer an everyday starter, but Braun is, and he will see a lot of starts at first and in the outfield.  They could’ve also added Neil Walker back, but should be fine at second between Jonathan Villar and Eric Sogard as Walker joins the Yankees.

The Case for the Brewers

Milwaukee could make a serious run in 2018, or they could bust.  It’s hard to predict, but I have them somewhere in the middle.  Cain and Yelich will prove to be nice additions among others.  But if the Brewers were really hoping to contend, they would’ve considered adding an ace, a closer, and a second baseman.  They have various holes in the roster that will hold them back.  This is a good team with a nice roster that includes a lot of great pieces.  But they could still use some fine-tuning before they make a run.

What’s Holding Them Back

Milwaukee has a nice rotation, but the rotation lacks a #1 starter.  Signing someone like Alex Cobb would have worked out, but instead, they stayed put.  The Brewers would be in a much better position right now if they were able to sign an ace.  The Cubs added Yu Darvish.  How did the Brewers respond?  By sitting tight and calling Chase Anderson their #1 starter.  Anderson may be a good #2, but that will not work out well.  Even Jimmy Nelson is not quite a viable #1 starter, and he’s out until at least May.
Best Case Scenario: The rotation is able to survive on its own, the lineup dominates, and the bullpen surprises the league after using their new additions to their advantage.  The Brewers make a nice playoff run after clinching a Wild Card spot.
Worst Case Scenario: The rotation is nothing more than mediocre without a known ace, the lineup thrives, but struggle to figure out what to do as Eric Thames struggles and Ryan Braun cannot adjust to the infield, and the Brewers disappoint, winning less than 85 games.

Projected Finish: 88-74, 3rd in NL Central

10. colorado-rockies Colorado Rockies

Off-Season Review

The Rockies seemed pretty confident with what they have this off-season, as they did not add a first baseman or a starting pitcher.  They could have used a veteran mentor at either position.  They did bring back Carlos Gonzalez for depth though.  This off-season, CarGo’s market has been limited due to regressive struggles in 2017, but the Rockies brought him back anyway, hoping he would rebound.  In the meantime, Ian Desmond and prospect Ryan McMahon will both get time at first and the young rotation will have to survive without a veteran influence.

The Case for the Rockies

Image result for charlie blackmon

The Rockies are coming off a strong 2017 season, where they finally cracked the playoff field.  But they haven’t secured themselves as regular contenders yet.  To contend again in 2018, the young rotation will have to at least have a decent year, and they need Charlie Blackmon and Nolan Arenado to pick up from where they left off last season.  DJ LeMahieu, CarGo, and Trevor Story have also helped provide their lineup with the power they need to contend. Will the Rockies make the playoffs?  Tell me what you think in the comments.

What’s Holding Them Back

The Rockies play in a severely hitter-friendly ballpark, so it’s understandable if the Rockies lineup is significantly better than the rotation.  But the Rockies will have to perform well on the road to become a true playoff contender, and in most ballparks, that requires a better rotation than what Colorado has.  I think this team can make the playoffs, but they could be eliminated early once again if the pitching struggles, especially in the 1 game wild-card round.
Best Case Scenario: The young Rockies rotation exceeds their expectations, the powerful lineup dominates, and the Rockies win the NL West and get ready to make a run in the playoffs.
Worst Case Scenario: Charlie Blackmon cannot repeat his success, CarGo, and other hitters begin to decline, and the Rockies struggle, finishing 4th in the NL West just below .500.

Projected Finish: 88-74, 2nd in NL West

9. St_Louis_Cardinals St. Louis Cardinals

Off-Season Review

Image result for marcell ozuna cardinals

Much like the Blue Jays are doing now, the Cardinals have quietly rebuilt without regressing majorly.  They are already hoping to contend after beginning to rebuild in the 2015-16 off-season.  This off-season, they acquired Marcell Ozuna from the Marlins, and were hoping to land Mike Moustakas, but lost out on him. Ozuna is an upgrade over Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk, both of whom the Cardinals traded away this off-season.  However, they have been fine in their first few games as Jose Martinez continues to dominate.  Matt Carpenter can now help at third base with Martinez playing first on some days.  They also upgraded their pitching staff, signing Miles Mikolas in his return to the MLB.  They also added Luke Gregerson and Greg Holland in a remodeling of the bullpen.

The Case for the Cardinals

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The Cardinals are ready to work towards a return to the playoffs.  With a roster that is flooded with young talent as well as veterans, who they will need to win now.  They were lucky with how fast their rebuild went.  Tommy Pham, Jose Martinez, and other top prospects broke through quickly.  The Cardinals went into rebuild mode because they had such a strong farm system, and those players will help lead this team along with veterans like Dexter Fowler, Marcell Ozuna, Matt Carpenter, and Michael Wacha who St. Louis either held on to from 2015 or has acquired since then.

What’s Holding Them Back

I like the Cardinals young rotation, but I feel that Jack Flaherty and Luke Weaver could have used more time to develop, and Alex Reyes will need it after his elbow injury.  Reyes has even considered switching to become a late-inning reliever.  If they had signed a veteran mentor like John Lackey, Ubaldo Jimenez, or Scott Kazmir, who are all still available, to a 1-year deal, then they might be in better shape.  Signing Moose also would have helped.

Best Case Scenario: The young Cardinals leaders dominate, including the rotation, and help lead the Cardinals to an NL Central win and a playoff run.

Worst Case Scenario: The young rotation cannot handle the pressure, Tommy Pham cannot repeat his 2017 success as well as some of their other recent breakout players, and the Cardinals finish around .500, third or fourth in the division.

Projected Finish: 90-72, 2nd in NL Central

8. la-angels-of-anaheim Los Angeles Angels

Off-Season Review

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The Angels were one of the most active teams in the league this off-season, especially early on, when very few moves were made across the league.  They brought back Justin Upton and acquired another player from the Tigers in 2B Ian Kinsler (Upton was acquired from Detroit in a trade last season).  They added Zack Cozart too.  The combination of those three will really boost their lineup.  They had enough depth and power in the lineup for 2018 that they were able to trade away mediocre 1B C.J. Cron.  Their biggest move came early on when they signed Japanese two-way player Shohei Ohtani, who has already done great at the big league level as a hitter and a pitcher.

The Case for the Angels

The Angels are ready to return to contention after struggling over the last two years.  Their struggles were caused by the injury-riddled rotation and the lack of a strong lineup.  But now, all has changed after the Halos added some rotation depth and boosted their lineup.  The Angels will fight for a Wild Card spot, but they may be a division contender if they did not play in the same division as the defending World Series champions, the Houston Astros.

What’s Holding Them Back

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The Angels do not have much on their own roster that can hold them back.  But there are two problems: a) they do not have the same kind of talent that the dominant teams of the league have and b) they compete in a tough division that is led by the defending World Series champion, who has only gotten better this off-season.  They have Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani, but what other All Star players do they have?  They will face a tough schedule and that will hold them back as they struggle to compete with the best.

Best Case Scenario: Shohei Ohtani and the Angels rotation avoid injuries and dominate, the lineup returns to dominance after adding Upton, Kinsler, and Cozart, and the Angels compete for the AL West title and make a playoff run.

Worst Case Scenario: The rotation’s injury problems continue, Ohtani cannot handle the pressure of MLB level pitching, and the lineup ends up underperforming, leading the Angels to another mediocre season.

Projected Finish: 88-74, 2nd in AL West

7. cleveland-indians Cleveland Indians

Off-Season Review

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The Indians were able to replace 1B Carlos Santana (lost in free agency) by upgrading with a signing of Yonder Alonso, who had a very strong season with the A’s and Mariners in 2017.  They also brought back familiar faces in Mike Napoli and Rajai Davis.  The Indians have been able to maintain a strong roster without spending too much money, as they did not lose too many people to free agency.  All they needed was one more outfielder, a little bullpen help, and a replacement for Santana.

The Case for the Indians

Cleveland is one of what is known as the MLB’s Super Seven, a group of teams that are bound for long term success after dominance in 2017.  However, I see Cleveland as the bottom team of these seven, as although they have maintained a strong roster, they have not made many upgrades after losing to the Yankees in the 2017 ALDS and losing to the Cubs in the 2016 World Series.  They will still be significant contenders and clear division favorites (despite a weak division), but do not expect a run beyond the ALDS this year.  I see an AL pennant as their ceiling.

What’s Holding Them Back

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Like I said, they could use a couple more upgrades over what they have.  Michael Brantley is getting older and is very injury prone, Jason Kipnis is declining, and the bullpen could use a little more depth to aid a strong rotation.  There are other teams that I see as much more likely World Series winners than them.

Best Case Scenario: The lineup keeps up the good work, the rotation looks dominant as it is led by two star pitchers in Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco, and the Indians make a deep playoff run.

Worst Case Scenario: Injuries and old age hold back the Indians as they lose the division to the Minnesota Twins and just barely snag a Wild Card.

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

That’s all for this article.  Stay tuned for more Red Sox and other baseball articles coming soon.

Ranking The Teams 30-25, My Version: The Ugly

Each year since 2014, David Schoenfield has ranked all 30 teams in tiers during the preseason.  For the third year straight, I am creating my own version.  I am out of school this week, so throughout the week, I will be posting my rankings.  Today they start with the bottom 6.  

30. minnesota-twins Minnesota Twins

Off-season Review

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In the process of a rebuild, the Twins let older players Kurt Suzuki and Trevor Plouffe sign elsewhere in free agency.  However, they also lost young pitcher Tommy Milone.  They signed veterans Jason Castro, J.B. Shuck and Ryan Vogelsong.  These guys are nice veteran boosters and mentors, but are unnecessary signings.  The young Minnesota Twins just need a little time to develop before coming back to contention.  

The Case for the Twins

The Twins will not contend in any way this year.  They are in the midst of a rebuild, and actually have a bright future ahead.  The Tigers and Royals will get old and decline which will leave room open for the Twins in coming years.  For now, they need to focus on establishing their young players, and wins and losses will not matter for them this year.  But in coming years, look for the Twins to finally get better.   

The Bright Spot

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Joe Mauer and Brian Dozier are getting older, and I’m liking the young talent on the Twins.  The younger players they have will do well this year, and eventually bring the team up with them. Third year player Miguel Sano is one guy who could make an impact.  He will take a full time job at third base in 2017, and will be a bigger contributor to the lineup.  He could be a team leader in the future.  Byron Buxton is another player to keep an eye on.  Despite a disappointing 2016 for both of them, 2017 should be a good year for Buxton and Sano.  

Best Case Scenario: The Twins surprise many, as their young guns bounce back and lead the Twins to a second place finish in the AL Central.

Worst Case Scenario: Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano continue to regress and the Twins finish with the worst record in baseball.

Projected Finish: 63-99, 5th in AL Central

29. san diego-padres San Diego Padres

Off-season Review

The Padres didn’t do much in the off-season.  After losing veterans they shouldn’t have spent their money on, the Padres are at a desperate state.  They will not compete this season, so it’s time for a rebuild.  They did sign veteran Erick Aybar to a minor league deal, but he’s no more than a veteran mentor, and will not lead the Padres to contend.  The Padres will focus on building upon their young roster, and if they did that a couple of years back, they might of had a legitimate chance this year.

The Case for the Padres

The Padres may be at their worst ever.  While building a young roster, they will not compete this season.  None of their starting pitchers are very established yet, and the lineup has some bright spots, but needs work.  This rebuild could take a long time, but it’s worth it.  If the Padres tried to go for it this season, the end result would be the biggest MLB failure in a long time.

The Bright Spot

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One investment from a couple of years ago that was worth it was the signing of Wil Myers.  Myers has done well for the Padres, and him, Yangervis Solarte and Erick Aybar make up a nice infield of veterans to teach the younger players.  Myers will actually put up some impressive stats in 2017.  In 2016, he was a Home Run Derby participant and All Star.  Myers will continue to put up good numbers in 2017, and he will make the Padres look just a tiny bit better.

Best Case Scenario: Wil Myers boosts the lineup, and the young rotation breaks through as the Padres finish just under .500.

Worst Case Scenario: The Padres have their worst season in history, the young players struggle at the major league level, and the Padres barely endure a dismal season.

Projected Finish: 63-99, 5th in NL West

28. oakland-a's Oakland Athletics

Off-season Review

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The Athletics weren’t quite as active as they usually are this off-season, but they did fine-tune their team.  They aren’t anywhere near contending, but adding some depth with experienced players will at least prevent disaster in 2017.  Rajai Davis recently came back to Oakland.  Alejandro De Aza, Ross Detwiler and Jaff Decker were invited to spring training among other veterans.  They also signed young third baseman Trevor Plouffe.  They filled most of their major off-season needs, and that will help them despite other problems.

The Case for the Athletics

The A’s have a nice mix of veterans and younger players.  Once their prospects develop, this will benefit them and they will thrive.  But that might not happen for a while, and right now, they’re just going to be considered an old team that won’t contend.  If they rebuild a little, maybe they’ll season their young players more and see more success soon.  But whether they rebuild or stay put, the Athletics aren’t going to have a winning season.

The Bright Spot

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Khris Davis was acquired from Milwaukee in the 2015-16 off-season, and since joining the Athletics, he has been their best hitter, and has been a bright spot on the Athletics by putting up impressive stats.  Davis was a home run hitter in 2016, with 42 dingers.  He drove in 102 runs and got a career best 137 hits.  The 42 dingers, also his career best, were enough to tie Edwin Encarnacion and Brian Dozier for 3rd in the MLB.  Encarnacion and Dozier are team leading stars, and Davis may be developing to be just that.  Davis had more home runs than the Rockies’ star third baseman Nolan Arenado!  I also think starting pitcher Sonny Gray could look good in a bounce back year, but Davis is the safest bet.

Best Case Scenario: The rotation bounces back, the lineup finally finds a way to do strongly and the A’s attempt to return to the playoffs.

Worst Case Scenario: The injury bug hits Oakland at its hardest, and the Athletics finish terribly, with one of the worst records.

Projected Finish: 65-97, 5th in AL West

27. philadelphia.phillies Philadelphia Phillies

Off-season in Review

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The Phillies have finally established a young roster, but it will take a couple years to return to stardom.  The rotation still needs work but they added some veteran mentors/big hitters to help their case.  They acquired starting pitcher Clay Buchholz, and added Howie Kendrick and Michael Saunders to the lineup.  Now, with veteran mentors to help a young, talented roster, the Phillies could be back to contention a couple of years from now.

The Case for the Phillies

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The era of washed up, old Phillies is over.  Ryan Howard, Carlos Ruiz, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Ben Revere, John Mayberry Jr. and Domonic Brown are all gone. Now, it’s time for the young guns to take over this team.  This puts this year’s team pretty low in the rankings.  However, don’t be surprised if the Phillies are the next surprise wild card in 2018.  These young players are very talented, and once they’re developed, which will happen over the next year or two, the Phillies will be good once again.

The Bright Spot

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Putting the older guys aside, there are a few talented young guns that have already broke out.  Odubel Herrera, Freddy Galvis and Maikel Franco are already doing strongly.  Franco is the Phillies’ bright spot.  He is keeping this lineup alive.  In a couple of years, Franco could be a superstar.  The new environment in Philly leaves him with an important role in the lineup, and I think he will come through in that role.

Best Case Scenario: The Phillies return to contention with an impressive season by a lot of young players.

Worst Case Scenario: The Phillies fail again, and the young guns go full bust.

Projected Finish: 65-97, 5th in NL East

26. atlanta-braves Atlanta Braves

Off-season Review

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The Braves are in the midst of a rebuild.  The starting rotation is getting old after they added Bartolo Colon and R.A. Dickey, but the older players are still good.  The lineup also includes veteran mentor Matt Kemp.  The rest of it consists of young stars and players ready to breakout.  Dansby Swanson is the favorite for the NL Rookie of The Year, Freddie Freeman continues to shine, Nick Markakis has done alright in Atlanta, and new acquisitions Brandon Phillips and Kurt Suzuki will help this team improve.

The Case for the Braves

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The Braves won’t compete this season, but they’ve put together a nice mix of old and young that could do well in the future.  The pitching staff still needs to develop and be fine-tuned, but the lineup is looking better, and could be a lot more powerful this year and in future years.  The Braves currently lack depth, but once more prospects break the majors, the Braves could have some of the best hitting in the MLB, with a strong lineup led by Freddie Freeman.

The Bright Spot

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Some of the older players provide power to the lineup, but younger players Freddie Freeman and Dansby Swanson make the Braves a little more fun to watch.  Freeman really broke out last year, with a stellar performance especially in the 2nd half.  Freeman had already established himself as a franchise player, but he really went all out in 2o16.  Swanson has a potentially great rookie season ahead of him.  The Braves have opened up a spot at shortstop for him, and Swanson will take advantage of that.

Best Case Scenario: The rotation finally gathers itself, the lineup is dominant, and the Braves compete for a wild card in the NL East.

Worst Case Scenario: The rotation is a bust, the lineup doesn’t perform like it should, and the Braves finish last in the NL East.

Projected Finish: 67-95, 4th in NL East

 

25. Tampa_Bay_Rays Tampa Bay Rays

Off-season Review

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The Rays didn’t have a huge off-season.  They lost some crucial guys, and they traded away Logan Forsythe and Drew Smyly.  However, they added to their pitching depth in that trade by acquiring Jose De Leon.  Despite losing Desmond Jennings, they resigned Logan Morrison and signed Colby Rasmus to help fill out the starting lineup.  Wilson Ramos and Nathan Eovaldi were also signed but are recovering from injuries.  They made a lot of small moves, but nothing major enough to impact the Rays.

The Case for the Rays

The Rays play in the toughest division in the MLB.  They have a talented team, but just don’t stack up to the rest of the AL East.  They would be a mediocre team in a weaker division.  But this is just how it is.  The Rays don’t stack up with everybody else.  A rebuild is not needed, now is just a big wait.  A big wait for the Rays to able to do well again.  They have a good roster, but some of these guys are getting old, or just aren’t as good as the other stars of the league.

The Bright Spot

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The lineup is just mediocre.  The true bright spots in Tampa are Chris Archer and Alex Cobb.  Archer struggled in 2016, but is still the ace of the Rays.  Cobb has been injured the last two years, but will perform well when healthy.  Both of these guys should make a big impact for the Rays in 2017.

Best Case Scenario: The strong rotation leads the Rays to compete towards the top of the AL East, in hopes of a playoff spot.

Worst Case Scenario: Injuries hit hard again, and the Rays look worse than ever, finishing not just last in the AL East, but the whole American League.

Projected Finish: 69-93, 5th in AL East

 

Baseball season is almost here.  This is just the start of my rankings series.  Comment your thoughts and predictions, and check back tomorrow for my 24-19 rankings.  Who will be next on the list?  Check tomorrow to find out!

Explosive Lineup Leads Red Sox to Rout Twins

Yes, the lineup helped, but in a way, the Twins beat themselves up.  Throughout the game, especially in the late innings, the Red Sox scored some cheap runs because the Twins were doing what they do best, absolutely blowing the game for themselves.  The Red Sox started the game by scoring 4 first inning runs.  Mookie Betts reached on an infield single, and was driven all the way home by a Xander Bogaerts double.  That was the first of four hits Bogaerts had on the game.  Hanley Ramirez walked, and JBJ knocked both Bogaerts and Hanley in by smashing a home run to right.  The Killer B’s struck again!

E-Rod started the game smoothly, but things got ugly starting in the 3rd inning.  With Byron Buxton on first, Eduardo Nunez hit a single off the right field wall.  Nunez started for second, but Betts made an amazing throw to Bogaerts to get him out!  Basically, the Killer B’s did it once again, and this time they saved Eduardo Rodriguez from an inning he would regret.  However, the next inning E-Rod lost control again.  He gave up a walk followed by a single, and after that he really screwed up.

Kurt Suzuki hit a three run bomb off of him!  It looked like a batting practice pitch!  It was right down the middle and easy to smash.  The next inning, E-Rod gave up another run!  Two singles made it first and third, and Trevor Plouffe drove in the run on a sac fly.  He gave up yet another single after that!  That was the end of it for him!

The Red Sox struck back in the 6th though, and in a strange way.  It was the Twins fault.  Xander Bogaerts got a base hit, and with Big Papi up, the Twins were on heavy shift.  Ortiz hit a ground ball to second, and they tried for a double play, but couldn’t get Bogaerts.  Bogaerts kept running to third, and there was nobody there to cover!  They had no way to get Bogaerts out!  He scored on a fly ball by Hanley Ramirez.  That knocked out the Twins starter, too!  It was shaping up to be a tight slug fest, but things changed.

The 6th inning was a little rough, but the Sox bullpen kept control the next couple innings.  The Red Sox kept their 5-4 lead!  Then came the 8th inning.  With Dustin Pedroia on second due to an outfield error, Xander Bogaerts hit in a two run homer.  That was just the start of it.  Some of their runs came because of good hitting, others by bad fielding.  The Red Sox got 1st and 2nd, Big Papi got a base hit and Chris Young walked.  Then came another costly error.  Travis Shaw grounded it to Buddy Boshers, the pitcher.  He made a terrible throw to Max Kepler, who’s typically an outfielder.  It went into foul territory, and a run was in.  Two more runners were in scoring position, and they were knocked in by Sandy Leon’s single.   The Red Sox ended the inning with a 6 run lead.

That wasn’t even the end.  The rally continued an inning later.  After Dustin Pedroia missed another chance to extend his hitting streak, the new pitcher gave up two straight base hits.  Hanley Ramirez advanced the runners on his ground ball, and Jackie Bradley Jr. was hit by the pitch to load up the bases.  Another mistake by the Twins!  Chris Young drove in 2 runs on a single, and it was still 1st and 2nd!  The bases were loaded once again on Travis Shaw’s walk, and the Twins made a 4th mistake!  A wild pitch advanced all runners one base, scoring the 13th run!

Then the craziest thing yet happened!  The Twins bullpen was so worn out, that Twins young closer Brandon Kintzler came in, and he gave up another 2 run single!    They left the inning with a 15-4 lead!  What a blowout!   Clay Buchholz came in for the bottom of the inning.  He gave up two walks, but who cares?  The Red Sox had an 11 run lead!  In the end, Buchholz didn’t even give up a run!

The Red Sox have really messed with the worst team in the league this weekend, and it’s worked!  Pedroia may have lost his hitting streak, but the Sox lead the series 2-0!  Can they do it again?  Watch the series finale of Red Sox @ Twins today at 2:00.

Stat Wrap

  • Sandy Leon had his first four hit game with the Red Sox
  • Xander Bogaerts now has two straight 4-hit games, can he start a four hit game streak?
  • Dustin Pedroia may have gone 0-6, but he reached on an error and scored a run
  • The Red Sox have four players in the league’s top 15 for RBIs.  Mookie Betts is just shy of Top 5 and David Ortiz leads the league still
  • Until today, the Red Sox have had a player that led the league in hitting streaks since the start of May

Ranking The Teams 24-19: My Version: Let’s Get Real

Alright, we are getting to the point where it’s a little tougher to rank.  But come on, let’s get real.  There are still some pretty bad teams out there that I haven’t mentioned.

Alright, let’s go.

 

24.  image Baltimore Orioles 74-88

The Orioles didn’t really help their team with the trades made this off season.  After Chris Davis (resigned), Wei-Yin Chen and David Lough hit free agency, the Orioles weren’t looking great.  They still have holes in their rotation, they are short two pitchers.  They also have issues in the outfield.

They got Mark Trumbo and Hyun-Soo Kim, but Trumbo is also a DH candidate, and there is one more spot not filled by Kim or Adam Jones.  Right now Jimmy Paredes or Nolan Reimold would be in RF, but they need a better person there.  Some of their infielders aren’t hitting, and the rotation is just down to so few pitchers.  The O’s already weren’t the greatest in ’15, and they’ve gotten even worse in 2016.

Record Projection: 74-88

 

23. minnesota-twins.png Minnesota Twins

The Twins may have one of the best farm systems in the MLB, between Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton, Max Kepler and Oswaldo Arcia but besides signing Korean DH/1B Byung-Ho Park, they didn’t do much to improve their big league relevance.  Sure, Buxton and crew could put on some good rookie seasons, but this team needs some veterans too.  The Twins were mediocre last year, they weren’t in full rebuild, and they had Torii Hunter but they had a good farm system.

They don’t have many veterans to mentor the young guys anymore.  Sure, they still have Joe Mauer, Brian Dozier, Kurt Suzuki and Trevor Plouffe but nobody who’s really all star material anymore.  Eduardo Escobar is still developing.  So are Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton, Max Kepler and Miguel Sano.  That’s a large portion of the roster.

Their rotation on the other hand, is old and washed up.  Ervin Santana and Phil Hughes don’t have much left in their careers, I would give the spotlight to Kyle Gibson, Tommy Milone and other young pitchers, but they have not done that.  The bullpen has also left no room for prospects to develop.  Between Kevin Jepsen, Ryan O’ Rourke and Glen Perkins, this is a good bullpen, but just doesn’t have that younger flash to it.  Let’s just say this team still needs work.

Projected Record: 73-89

 

22. oakland-a's.png Oakland Athletics

This team is in need of a big move.  All they’ve done the past few off-seasons is give out contracts to a bunch of minor contributors.  This team is still lacking superstars.  A team full of mediocre, older players who just aren’t the same anymore isn’t going to bring this team anywhere.  Despite the slight splash