MLB Midseason Report: Power Rankings, Home Run Derby Picks

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

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

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

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Biggest Jump: Oakland Athletics (+15)

Biggest Drop: New York Mets (-9)

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

Basketball Bits #1: What do the Celtics need to win it all?

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This year’s NBA off-season will be pivotal for many teams across the league. Going into free agency, I see no clear favorite to win the NBA Finals. Even the Warriors could fall out of contention if Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and DeMarcus Cousins all leave as free agents. A handful of big names will be on the open market, and whoever dominates in free agency should have a good chance to win it all. Even teams who struggled mightily in 2018-19 like the Knicks and Lakers have the chance to jump into title contention with the help of a strong off-season.

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The Celtics are in an interesting situation. Last season, they were expected to be serious title contenders with the return of Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward from injury alongside the rise of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and others. But Kyrie Irving did not mesh well with the team, and he grew to dislike Boston. The expectation going into the season was that Kyrie Irving would return to the Celtics on a long term deal or at least 1 more year on his player option before agreeing to a long term deal. But now, Irving is expected to leave for Brooklyn, LA, or somewhere else.

With Irving expected to leave, what do the Celtics need in order to stay relevant and a potential championship contender? Do they need a star who will be a better leader than Kyrie was? Do they need multiple stars? Will they just roll with the young core of Tatum and Brown? Do they have enough cap space to do what they need to do? I researched every NBA champion in history and looked at how many star players they had, using 20 PPG as criteria for stardom. I also included the number of 25 PPG and 30 PPG scorers, as these players are less common. Check out my research as well as some Basketball Bits.

The Research

Basketball Bits #1_ Stars on Championship Teams – Sheet1

The “Basketball Bits”

  • The NBA has 73 champions all-time
    • Just 14 of 73 (19.2%) lacked a 20 PPG scorer
      • 35 of 73 (47.95%) had 1 20 PPG scorer
      • 22 of 73 (30.1%) had 2 20 PPG scorers
      • Just 2 of 73 (2.7%) had 3 20 PPG scorers:
        • The 2017-18 Golden State Warriors (Stephen Curry, Thompson, Durant)
        • The 2016-17 Golden State Warriors (Curry, Thompson, Durant)
    • 47 of 73 (64.4%) lacked a 25 PPG scorer
      • 20 of 73 (27.4%) had 1 25 PPG scorer
      • 6 of 73 (8.2%) had 2 25 PPG scorers
    • 67 of 73 (91.8%) lacked a 30 PPG scorer – nobody had more than 1
  • The Boston Celtics have won 17 championships:
    • None of them had a 30 PPG scorer
    • Only 2 of 17 (11.8%) had a 25 PPG scorer
    • 5 of 17 (29.4%) lacked a 20 PPG scorer
    • 8 of 17 (47.1%) had 1 20 PPG scorer
    • 4 of 17 (23.5%) had 2 20 PPG scorers 
  • In the last 25 years:
    • Only 3 teams (12%) have won it all without a 20 PPG scorer:
      • The 2013-14 San Antonio Spurs (Most recent)
      • The 2007-08 Boston Celtics
      • The 2003-04 Detroit Pistons
    • Only 10 teams (40%) have won it all without 25 PPG scorer
  • In the NBA’s first 25 years:
    • 6 teams (24%) won it all without a 20 PPG scorer
    • 21 teams (84%) won it all without a 25 PPG scorer
  • Between 1972 and 1994 (everything else):
    • 5 teams (21.7%) won it all without a 20 PPG scorer
    • 16 teams (69.6%) won it all without a 25 PPG scorer
  • There are only 3 franchises who have ever won a championship with a 30 PPG scorer:
    • The Chicago Bulls (4 times, Michael Jordan)
    • The Milwaukee Bucks (1 time, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar)
    • The Golden State Warriors (1 time, Rick Barry)

The Verdict

In this era, the Celtics will need at least one consistent 20-25 PPG scorer to win a title, and a second would be helpful. You never know, maybe Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown can be our guys. But I think pairing Tatum and Brown with a star point guard or star center would be ideal. The Celtics did win with a handful of 15-20 PPG scorers in 2008. That was in the Paul Pierce/Kevin Garnett/Ray Allen era. I doubt they can put something like that together again in today’s NBA with all these stars on the open market.

But if they sign one star player that can allow Tatum and Brown to thrive while that player still puts up 25 PPG, such as PG Kemba Walker, PG D’Angelo Russell, or C Nikola Vucevic, this team could have the chance to contend. They aren’t going to pull the trigger if it puts their future at risk. I don’t think that will happen. But do they have enough money? Do these stars want to sign in Boston unlike Kyrie Irving? I can’t wait to find out, and I’ll be releasing my predictions soon.

2019 NFL Draft Report Cards: AFC East Edition

Welcome to Part 5 of my NFL Draft Report Cards.  Today, I’ll be kicking off my AFC draft reviews with the AFC East. The New England Patriots (my team) have dominated this division for years. But did they dominate the draft? What other AFC East teams thrived? Keep reading to see my Draft Report Card for each team, including a grade for each pick as well as my final grades.  As I post more articles, I will also include links to the rest of my draft grades.

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NFL Draft Report Cards 2019

NFC East

NFC North

NFC South

NFC West

AFC East

AFC North

AFC South

AFC West

 

Jets-Logo New York Jets

Overall Grade: B+

Draft Report Card:

Analysis:

The Jets may have reached for a couple players and they did struggle to fill all of their needs with six picks. But for the amount of picks they had, this was a pretty solid daft. I would’ve rather the Jets take Josh Allen over Quinnen Williams, as Allen is the better fit even though Williams is the better player.  They did make up for it later though, as they drafted Jachai Polite and Blake Cashman. I also really liked the selection of Chuma Edoga, an underrated player at a position of need for the Jets. The Jets opted to wait on a tight end and a corner, and when they finally drafted them, it was a reach. They also failed to fill needs at center and receiver. But the Jets did the best they could and finished with a strong draft class.

New_England_Patriots New England Patriots

Overall Grade: B

Draft Report Card:

Analysis:

I wrote a more in-depth Patriots draft review in a separate article.  Check it out!

Buffalo_Bills Buffalo Bills

Overall Grade: B

Draft Report Card:

Analysis:

The Bills made some very confusing picks, but they also drafted some quality players in between.  They did fill all their biggest needs early, as they didn’t really have many.  They earned a steal by drafting T Cody Ford in the 2nd.  They also drafted a strong TE, Dawson Knox and an OLB, Vosean Joseph in later rounds to fill their other two needs.  They did draft another TE later, but this pick was an unnecessary reach alongside some others.  I also don’t get why they took DT Ed Oliver at #9 when they didn’t need a DT and good o-linemen were available.  It was good that the Bills took a young RB, but the backfield is way to crowded for it, and Round 3 was early for Singletary.  Otherwise, I didn’t mind this draft too much.

Dolphins-logo Miami Dolphins

Overall Grade: B-

Draft Report Card:

Analysis:

Most of these picks were understandable, but the Dolphins had better options.  It wasn’t easy for Miami in this draft, as they had a lot of needs to fill as they rebuild and they didn’t have many picks to do so.  The rebuilding will need to continue over the next couple years.  Most of these picks filled needs, so that helps Miami’s case.  But a couple of them were reaches, especially the selection of Auburn RB Chandler Cox.  In addition, the Dolphins didn’t really make a point to priorities their biggest of needs.  But overall, I didn’t mind this draft class, but this is only the beginning of a long rebuild for the Fins.

That’s all for this portion of my Draft Grades.  Stay tuned for my reviews of the rest of the AFC.  I’ll be reviewing the AFC North yet, where I feel 1 team highlighted this year’s draft.  Which team is it?  Find out in my next post.

2019 NFL Draft Report Cards: NFC East Edition

It’s a little late, but now that I’ve taken a little bit of time to look deeper into the 2019 NFL draft class, I will be posting about my draft grades for each team, division by division. I’ll be starting today with the NFC East. We all know the Redskins own one of the best draft classes of the year. But what other NFC East teams had strong drafts? Which teams struggled to fill their needs? Keep reading to see my Draft Report Card for each team, including a grade for each pick as well as my final grades.  As I post more articles, I will also include links to the rest of my draft grades.

Image result for nfl draft 2019 logo

NFL Draft Report Cards 2019

NFC East

NFC North

NFC South

NFC West

AFC East

AFC North

AFC South

AFC West

 

washingtonredskins2 Washington Redskins

Overall Grade: B+

Draft Report Card:

Analysis:

Overall, this is one of the strongest draft classes of 2019.  The Redskins started off their draft by reuniting the duo of QB Dwayne Haskins and his Ohio State WR, Terry McLaurin.  Both should expect regular roles at some point in 2019.  The team reached a bit for McLaurin, but they added another WR for additional depth later: Kelvin Harmon.  Harmon had fallen to the 6th round after projecting as a Day 1 or Day 2 pick.  This drop to the 6th round was for a reason, but he was still a steal for Washington who can also play a big role, possibly bigger than McLaurin.

The rest of the draft was spent boosting the pass rush and the o-line.  Montez Sweat is a risky pick due to his heart condition, but I think the risk was worth it.  There’s a chance that Sweat could be one of the best players from this draft and lead Washington’s pass rush.  But if Sweat turns out a bust, the Redskins also added two more LBs on Day 3.  I also really liked the Pierschbacher selection.  In Round 5, center was their biggest remaining need, and they took the best center remaining after failing to sign a big name center in free agency.

As a whole, I like this draft class because the Redskins filled almost every one of their positional needs.  But they reached for certain players they could’ve gotten a bargain on in later rounds.

new-york-giants-logo New York Giants

Overall Grade: B-

Draft Report Card:

Analysis:

The Daniel Jones pick was confusing.  I like the fact that they took a QB, but if they were going to take one at #6, there were better options.  Plus, they could’ve gotten Jones at #17 and taken an elite d-lineman.

Everyone is giving New York a terrible grade solely based on this pick.  But after taking Jones, the Giants really turned it around, upgrading a weak d-line with Dexter Lawrence and Oshane Ximines.  They also added depth to the secondary with DeAndre Baker and Julian Love.  They didn’t really need Love once they grabbed Baker, and they could’ve done better.  But Love was a steal in Round 4, so the pick is understandable.

I liked this draft as a whole.  They filled a good portion of their positional needs.  But Dave Gettleman took some players way too early.  They could’ve gotten more value at #6 and with some of their later picks.

dalcowboyslogonew Dallas Cowboys

Overall Grade: C+

Draft Report Card:

Analysis:

Some of the Cowboys individual picks were confusing.  It was smart to take a DT with their first pick, but why Trysten Hill, a player they could’ve gotten in Round 4 or 5?  The Connor McGovern pick also made no sense after the selection of T/G Connor Williams in 2018.

But as a whole, this is a strong draft class.  The Cowboys filled all three of their biggest needs (DT, RB, S) and received a good number of quality players despite the lack of early round picks.  Thanks to this, I gave them a C+ rather than a C or C- overall.

philadelphia-eagles-logo Philadelphia Eagles

Overall Grade: C

Draft Report Card:

It’s hard to have a good draft with just 5 selections.  But the Eagles still could’ve done better.  The Andre Dillard pick made no sense at all.  Lane Johnson is a solid starter at tackle, Jason Peters still has a year or two left, and the Eagles have Halapoulivaati Vaitai on the depth chart at tackle.  Vaitai will been ready to take over when Peters retires, so the Eagles wasted a valuable pick on someone they didn’t even need.

The selections of Miles Sanders and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside were at least understandable.  The team could have definitely used a bit more RB and WR depth.  But I don’t know how much playing time they’ll get after the acquisitions of RB Jordan Howard and WR DeSean Jackson.  The Thorson pick was understandable as well.  Thorson should provide Nate Sudfeld some good competition for the backup QB job.  This doesn’t mean much on most teams, but Carson Wentz could go down with an injury at any time.  The Eagles need to have a capable backup ready, a difficult task now that Nick Foles is gone.

The Shareef Miller pick was a blatant reach and the team has plenty of d-line depth.  There is no need for any more crowding.  The Eagles didn’t have that many positional needs in the first place.  They just needed one more linebacker and another safety.  But they had 5 opportunities to fill these needs, and they declined to.  Positional needs aren’t always priority #1, but they do matter.  A draft that doesn’t fill any of them cannot be considered a strong draft.

 

That’s all for my first set of NFL Draft Grades.  Stay tuned for Part 2, where I’ll be grading the NFC North teams.

My Godfather Mark Goldfinger is a Six Star Finisher

Today, I watched my godfather Mark Goldfinger run the 2019 Boston Marathon, his sixth of the six Abbott World Major Marathons.  Mark, along with 5000+ others is a “Six Star Finisher”.  According to their website, “The Abbott World Marathon Majors is a series consisting of six of the largest and most renowned marathons in the world. The races take place in Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago, and New York City.” 

Mark and his mom stayed a night with us Friday night, and I got the chance to ask him a few questions about his marathon running career.

Mark’s dad Norman passed away last year in San Diego after a battle with prostate cancer.  Until then, both his parents went to cheer him on at every marathon he ran, and his mom Dorene has continued to do so.  She even followed him around in Tokyo where it was below freezing and hailing on race day.  In honor of his dad, Mark has run all six marathons for cancer charities.

“I think what’s motivated me is being able to do something that not everyone can, but people want to do.  There’s a lot of people I run my marathons for; I’ve run all six of them for a cancer charity, the last three have been in honor of my father, and I like running and raising awareness for people who can’t necessarily run or raise awareness for themselves,” Goldfinger said.

Mark ran in his hometown marathon, New York in 2013.

“So far, the New York City marathon in 2013 has been my favorite.  It was my first marathon; the crowds were nonstop the entire 26.2 miles; my dad, my mom, my friends, and my family were all there, and it was really the marathon that gave me the inspiration to continue running,” Goldfinger said.

Boston was his 5th of the Abbott World Major Marathons in 2 years.  After New York, he continued his running career, running the London Marathon and the Berlin Marathon, which were just 5 months apart in 2017.  In London, ESPN featured him in a documentary.  He set his personal best in Berlin.

Mark running the London Marathon (top) and the Berlin Marathon (bottom) in 2017

After his dad’s passing in 2018, he ran in Chicago, Tokyo, and lastly Boston to complete his six stars.

“I was born and raised in New York, so I always knew that had to be my first race,” Goldfinger said.  “About 2-3 months after running New York City, I learned that Abbott World Majors had six major marathons.  Knowing that I had already completed one of them, and that I wanted to do Boston, I thought it would be really cool if I could figure out how to do the next four as well and then finish in Boston.”  “I knew I couldn’t end on any other race except for Boston.”

Mark told me later on that the reason he wanted to finish in Boston was because of its history as one of the world’s most prestigious marathons.

On Saturday, we went with Mark and Dorene to the Boston Marathon Expo where runners could pick up their bibs prior to the race.  Mark told me that things start to feel real for him when he picks up his number for the race.

But before he was able to receive his bib, we had to pass through an airport-like security checkpoint with a metal detector.  This reminded me of the reason this security was added: the Boston Marathon Bombings of 2013.  Last year, I wrote an experiential essay about how I learned the true meaning of Boston Strong.

I had never been to this expo before, so this was a unique experience for me.  I was able to see where runners picked up their numbers and explore the various marathon-related booths and displays.

I learned a little more about the Abbott World Marathon Majors, bought a Dunkin Donuts Boston Marathon t-shirt, and took pictures with Mark and the rest of the family at a press photo station.

As per Mark’s request, we cheered him on from the midway point in Wellesley.  Mark is the first Six Star Finisher that I know, and he is very important to me.  Not only is he my godfather, but his dad Norman was my mom’s godfather.

This is the sign we made for Mark and held up when he ran by us in Wellesley.

We were able to track Mark on the official Boston Marathon app.  We had plans to give him high fives when he passed by, so we tried to figure out exactly when he would arrive.  We held up our sign when the tracker said he was close so he could find us.

Mark was running with his friend Danny Elphinston, who has run all six of the Abbott World Marathon Majors with Mark and received his Six Star medal with Mark.

Though Mark and Danny passed by quickly and we barely had time to say hello, it was pretty cool to watch my godfather run the Boston Marathon live.  We watched him right in between Miles 14 and 15.  Soon after seeing us, he would go on to face Heartbreak Hill, the hardest part of the Boston Marathon. For most of the marathon, Mark was running 8-minute miles.  On Heartbreak Hill, Mark was forced to slow down to about a 10-minute mile.

In the meantime, the elite runners finished the race.  Kenyan Lawrence Cherono led the males, just 1 second ahead of 2nd place in the closest finish since 1988.  Ethiopian Worknesh Degefa led the females.  Though we did not see Mark cross the finish line live, we did catch him on a livestream and I got the chance to talk to him after he finished.

“Today was a tough day,” Goldfinger said about his Marathon Monday.  “I was hoping for a much better time, but the legs just didn’t want to turn.  That being said, I’m excited to be part of the World Major Marathon Club and needless to say, I’ll be back to make up for my time today.”

Check out Mark and Danny’s six star medals:

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

I understand, this a little late, as Opening Day was Thursday, and the Red Sox didn’t look so great Thursday even though they are a part of this Top 6.  But I figured I’d finish this series since there’s only one article left.

Welcome to the final article of my 2019 MLB preseason power rankings.  This season, you could argue the Super Seven that was discussed a few years back still exists, except with different teams.  The Red Sox, Cubs, Astros, and Yankees have remained elite, and despite declines by the Nationals, Indians, and Dodgers (probably) , new powerhouses in this league have arised.  The Braves should be regular contenders now, the Cardinals could make a run with 1B Paul Goldschmidt here for the long run, and the Phillies should be competitive with Bryce Harper.  But Philadelphia isn’t quite on the level of these other teams.  So unless the Dodgers do stay elite after all, I think the Super Seven will become a Super Six.  I will be discussing those six today and pointing out the Achilles Heel of each team. 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!

 

6. St_Louis_Cardinals St. Louis Cardinals

The Case for the Cardinals

The Cardinals haven’t made the playoffs in a few years, sure. But the veterans they kept around from their last playoff run, like Matt Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, and Yadier Molina, are still reliable contributors. They have also boosted the team with younger talent, including SP Jack Flaherty, OFs Harrison Bader and UT Jose Martinez, and SS Paul DeJong. After adding star in Goldy, the Cardinals have the tools they need for contention. But how far can they go in such a tough division? They will have to get past their division rivals that are also contending, the Cubs and Brewers.

The Achilles Heel

The Cards’ rotation looks alright and its young core will keep the rotation elite for a long time.  But right now they lack an ace.  I don’t believe they can be a World Series contender without one.  Whether they need a trade to find an ace or someone steps up as time passes, this could hold them back from serious contention and should be priority #1 for GM Steve Keim.  Maybe Martinez could be a good trade piece now that 1B Paul Goldschmidt is on board.

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

5. boston-red-sox Boston Red Sox

The Case for the Red Sox

The defending World Series champions had a relatively quiet off-season. They did retain most of the team from 2018 that won 108 games. But the bullpen has been their biggest issue, even with Craig Kimbrel. Without Craig Kimbrel, there is even more pressure on the rotation to succeed. This is especially true regarding Chris Sale and David Price. After Sale’s extension, both will be expected to to shine every start in order to be worth the money. Each start costs about $1 million dollars. Regardless of this pressure, the Red Sox should at least secure a Wild Card spot if they can’t beat out the Yankees in the AL East. They are still one of several powerhouses in the league.

The Achilles Heel

With Craig Kimbrel on the way out, the closer role is up for grabs.  But if you look at the active pitchers on the roster, it’s hard to imagine any of them as a consistent closer.  If the Red Sox wanted to repeat, they would’ve invested more in this bullpen rather than focusing so much on the rotation.  They need to add a closer unless Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier, or someone else steps up soon.

Projected Finish: 93-69, 2nd in AL East

 

4. atlanta-braves Atlanta Braves

The Case for the Braves

The Braves’ rebuild began to pay off last season as their younger players broke through. This off-season seemed quiet, but they filled a gaping hole at third by adding Josh Donaldson. They also brought back OF Nick Markakis, and they have reportedly been targeting a reunion with CL Craig Kimbrel. This small series of moves could make a big difference in Atlanta. These moves, alongside development of OF Ronald Acuna Jr. and 2B Ozzie Albies among other should transform the Braves from solely a division contender into a World Series contender. The Braves are my World Series winner this year. I expect 1B Freddie Freeman, Albies, Donaldson, and others to combine to make for one of the best lineups in the league.

The Achilles Heel

Health is definitely a concern, especially considering the fact that Atlanta will start the 2019 season with two starting pitchers on the IL.  Donaldson is also injury prone, and if he goes down, Johan Camargo is the next best option at third base.  I don’t trust Camargo as a starter.  If the team stays healthy in the long run, they could be serious contenders.  Otherwise, they could be in a bit of trouble.

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

 

3. Chicago_Cubs Chicago Cubs

The Case for the Cubs

The Cubs may have been quiet this off-season, but a healthy Yu Darvish will boost the rotation, the bullpen has plenty of depth despite questions at closer, and the lineup is looking pretty solid. Their decision to move Javier Baez to shortstop full time and put Ben Zobrist at second is very smart, as SS Addison Russell was inconsistent and had some character issues. The Cubs have dominated in the National League ever since their World Series winning year in 2016, but with a health a concern and the division getting tougher, will the Cubs be able to keep up the good work?

The Achilles Heel

The Cubs were unable to do much this off-season, and they could have used another outfielder.  LF Kyle Schwarber and RF Jason Heyward are viable starters, but they are very streaky and inconsistent.  Albert Almora Jr. is the best option in center field.  Chicago should have added another center fielder to start over Almora some days and fill in for Heyward and Schwarber during slumps.

Projected Finish: 94-68, 1st in NL Central

 

2. new-york-yankees New York Yankees

The Case for the Yankees

After pairing new slugger Aaron Judge with Giancarlo Stanton, the Yankees underperformed in 2018. Yes, they made the playoffs and won 100 games. But they were overshadowed and eliminated by their bitter rival, the Boston Red Sox. This year, the Red Sox will be without their star closer, while the Yankees fixed up a problematic rotation and built one of the most stacked bullpens in history. This will allow the Yankees to propel past the Red Sox and win the AL East. But in Boston and New York, it’s all about championships, and the Yankees aren’t will have to work for a World Series victory, even with the stacked roster.

The Achilles Heel

The Yanks have some nice pieces in their infield.  But if Troy Tulowitzki and Greg Bird fail to stay healthy, they are left with D.J. LeMahieu as their best infielder.  Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar have not reached their prime yet, and Luke Voit must still prove that 2018 was not a fluke.  So I’m a bit concerned in terms of infield depth for the Yankees.

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

 

1. houston-astros Houston Astros

The Case for the Astros

The Astros are two years removed from their World Series victory, a result of a 5-year rebuild that made the Astros one of the MLB’s worst for a good 2-3 year span. Now, the Astros are still one of the league’s elite teams, but they lost some of their starting rotation depth this off-season, forcing two starter-turned-relievers back into the rotation. They did bring in OF Michael Brantley and UT Aledmys Diaz, filling the hole UT Marwin Gonzalez left. Though Houston took a slight step back this off-season, I still have them as my AL West winners and the team with the best regular season record. Considering the young core they have put together in the last several years, they should be elite for a long, long, time now.

The Achilles Heel

Evan Gattis is no longer on the team, which means Tyler White must be trusted as Houston’s regular DH.  This could be a prove-it situation for White, but if White struggles, what then?  They could bring Gattis back, or they could just put Diaz back there.  They could even call up Kyle Tucker to play DH.  This one’s an easy fix, just something to keep an eye on.

Projected Finish: 96-66, 1st in AL West

That’s all for this year’s preseason MLB power rankings.  Come back at the end of April  for my first 2019 set of monthly power rankings.

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

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

 

Image result for mlb opening day 2019

2019 MLB Preseason Power Rankings Series:

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

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

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

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

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

I also released my 3rd annual preseason Baseball Bits!

18. cincinnati_reds_logo Cincinnati Reds

The Case for the Reds

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

Contenders or Pretenders?

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

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

 

17. minnesota-twins Minnesota Twins

The Case for the Twins

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

Contenders or Pretenders?

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

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

 

16. chicago-white-sox Chicago White Sox

The Case for the White Sox

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

Contenders or Pretenders?

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

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

 

15. new-york-mets New York Mets

The Case for the Mets

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

Contenders or Pretenders?

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

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

 

14. sanfran-giants San Francisco Giants

The Case for the Giants

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

Contenders or Pretenders?

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

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

 

13. los-angeles-dodgers Los Angeles Dodgers

The Case for the Dodgers

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

Contenders or Pretenders?

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

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

 

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