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

 

 

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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 24-19: My Version: Teams That Will Struggles

Welcome to Part 2 of my MLB pre-season power rankings.  Last time, I covered the bottom 6 teams.  I talked about what they did in the off-season, what the case for them this season is, and what their bright spot is.  I also discussed best and worst case scenarios for each team and projected their records and division placements. Today I will do the same for the next 6.  Some of these teams at least have a chance to contend, but things do not look great for them.  Read below to find out who these six teams are and where they’re headed.

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Boston Sports Mania MLB Pre-Season Power Rankings

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

24. Tampa_Bay_Rays Tampa Bay Rays

Off-Season Review

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The Rays are headed in a rebuilding direction.  I would be shocked to see them contend anytime in the next three years.  This off-season, they began their rebuild, trading away SP Jake Odorizzi, star 3B Evan Longoria, DH Corey Dickerson, and OF Steven Souza Jr.  They did acquire Denard Span in the Longoria trade to add outfield depth, which will be needed without Dickerson and Souza.  They also added veteran slugger and RF Carlos Gomez.  They brought in C.J. Cron to replace Corey Dickerson, the one dumb move they made during the off-season.

They could’ve just kept Dickerson or let a prospect take over at DH, but they had to bring in a new DH who was worse than Dickerson.  It shouldn’t even be considered rebuilding; Cron is practically the same age as Dickerson.  These moves will give key roles to younger players though.  3B Matt Duffy, SS Christian Arroyo, SS Willy Adames, OF Mallex Smith, and SP Jacob Faria are all in line to have a significant role this season.

The Case for the Rays

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The Rays have some nice pieces that could’ve led them to contend if they had held on to Odorizzi, Dickerson, and Longoria, but now they’ve made it clear that they’re ready to rebuild.  This year, the Rays will need to find younger guys to lead the rotation with Odorizzi gone.  They will start with a 4 man rotation but should hope to add a prospect in the #5 slot eventually.  Brent Honeywell is out of the picture; he is now recovering from Tommy John Surgery.  They will also need to find new leaders in the lineup with Evan Longoria gone.

The Strong Point

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Tampa Bay made some interesting moves last season that we now know were preparing them for a rebuild, and some of the guys they acquired have major league experience but are still young, and they could serve as mentors for even younger players this season.  SS Adeiny Hechavarria, OF Mallex Smith, and 3B Matt Duffy are among these guys.  They will help lead a relatively strong Rays lineup.  OF Carlos Gomez will also be a leader in this lineup.  The rotation still needs plenty of work during this rebuild, but the lineup is in a pretty good position, despite a need for a first baseman/DH alongside C.J. Cron that they failed to fulfill.

Best Case Scenario: The Rays find a pitcher to round out the rotation, and he helps another young Rays rotation dominate the league.  The Rays also do well at the plate, leading them just above .500.

Worst Case Scenario: The Rays cannot find a fifth man for their rotation, Nathan Eovaldi and Jacob Faria struggle from the start, and a Rays 4 man rotation lacking depth falls apart by July.  Meanwhile, they cannot get anything better than decent out of the lineup, as guys like Hechavarria, Smith, and Duffy do not break out, and the Rays finish last in the American League.

Projected Finish: 70-92, 5th in AL East

 

23. Baltimore-Orioles-Logo Baltimore Orioles

Off-Season Review

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I was not so high on Baltimore in the making of my MLB predictions.  But they have since finished off their rotation by signing Alex Cobb, who could serve as their ace.  Cobb was the last big name starter left on the market.  They also resigned Chris Tillman and signed Andrew Cashner in order to at least pursue a respectable rotation after losing many starters to free agency.  They were also in talks with teams about Manny Machado, who’s in a contract year, but decided to hold onto him for now.  Their roster is looking better than it did before the late off-season moves they are known for.  But it’s still nothing more than mediocre.

The Case for the Orioles

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The Orioles have to decide what direction they are going in.  They have a nice roster but need a little more to contend.  That will be decided this season.  They will either sell at the deadline after early season disappointment, or they will add a couple key pieces after a decent start and head in an upward direction.  The O’s have a good lineup, and their new look rotation could surprise us, but it’s nothing extra special, and the team is getting old.  Adam Jones and Chris Davis are past their prime, Manny Machado is in a contract year, and the Orioles lack the young talent to take over.  Could it be time to rebuild?

The Strong Point

The Orioles have relied on their lineup over the years, but this year, I think their pitching is their strong point.  Their bullpen could still be great if they can get healthy, and the rotation looks much better with Cobb, Cashner, and Tillman on board.  Dylan Bundy will also be a factor.  Their lineup is getting older and declining, but despite questioning what direction they should be going in, the Orioles have really made some nice upgrades to their pitching staff.  But will they pay off?

Best Case Scenario: The O’s new look rotation takes the league by storm, Chris Davis bounces back to lead Baltimore’s lineup, and the Orioles head in an upward direction and contend for a wild-card slot.

Worst Case Scenario: The bullpen is plagued by injuries, the rotation and lineup are no better than average, and the Orioles are forced to enter rebuild mode.

My Prediction: 73-89, 4th in AL East

 

22. philadelphia.phillies Philadelphia Phillies

Off-Season Review

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The Phillies are another team that has improved since my early March MLB predictions.  They signed Jake Arrieta to serve as the ace to a young, but improving rotation.  They could have added a veteran outfielder to fill in if their younger guys struggle, but the Phillies need to establish their new core post-rebuild.  Relying on veterans is not what they want to be doing too much unless they’re 100% ready to contend and want to add a star player, which is not quite the case yet.  They did sign 1B Carlos Santana though, moving Rhys Hoskins to the outfield and trading Tommy Joseph.

The Case for the Phillies

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The Phillies are getting ready to contend in coming years after a rebuild.  Now that they have filled the roster with young talent, it’s time to find out who will lead them.  That all depends on who breaks out this year.  Rhys Hoskins, Maikel Franco, Odubel Herrera, Cesar Hernandez, and Aaron Nola are potential candidates.  I do think it is good that they have started to add veterans though because they will need to surround their young talent with elite, experienced players in order to reach the playoffs in coming years.

The Strong Point

The Phillies have a pretty consistent lineup that does not have any major holes, and that really helps in an MLB that can be very streaky.  They have a lot of strong players that full out their lineup, but no breakout stars yet, which is what they need.  I personally think that by the end of this season, Odubel Herrera, Cesar Hernandez, or someone else in the Phillies lineup will emerge as a breakout star and carry the team in coming years.

Best Case Scenario: Many of Philly’s young stars breakout, their rotation improves as Jake Arrieta, Jerad Eickhoff, and Aaron Nola make a great trio while Vince Velasquez also makes major contributions, and the Phillies finish 2nd or 3rd in a relatively weak NL East.

Worst Case Scenario: Arrieta and the Phillies rotation bust, the lineup is nothing more than mediocre, and the Phillies don’t get any better, finishing with just below 70 wins.

Projected Finish: 71-91, 4th in NL East

 

21. kansas-city-royals Kansas City Royals

Off-Season Review

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The Royals were planning to rebuild after losing much of their core to free agency.  But they brought back both 3B Mike Moustakas and SS Alcides Escobar in the end.  They also signed CF Jon Jay and 1B Lucas Duda to replace Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain.  They still aren’t the same team they were a couple years back though.  If they were still attempting to contend, they would’ve added another starting pitcher and they would have held on to DH Brandon Moss.

The Case for the Royals

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The Royals were planning to rebuild, but I think their decision to keep their lineup pretty much the same implies that guys like Hunter Dozier and Cheslor Cuthbert might not be MLB ready yet.  The Royals need a couple years before they’ll be able to successfully rebuild. But in the meantime, they’re not making any long-term investments, so you shouldn’t expect more than mediocracy from them.

The Strong Point

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The Royals have no plans to be legitimate contenders, but their lineup is underrated.  I don’t know why people think their lineup is old and washed up.  I could see Alcides Escobar bouncing back for a half decent season.  Mike Moustakas is still elite.  He may be frustrated back in KC, but if he’s not elite, why were other contending teams making such a big push for him?  There were other options.  Yunel Escobar and J.J. Hardy are still free agents.  At this point, they are unlikely to be signed.  Moose was picked over those two, who are decent players.  Lucas Duda and Jon Jay can hit too, although it’s been a while since they were in their prime.

Best Case Scenario: Escobar and Alex Gordon bounce back for strong seasons, Moose, Duda and Jay do well in the lineup as well as young 2B Whit Merrifield, and the Royals finish just above .500 after strong hitting and decent pitching.

Worst Case Scenario: The Royals lineup collapses, Moose, Gordon, and Escobar want out, and the Royals are forced to rush prospects to the majors in order to prevent the Royals from falling due to a bad decision/unwillingness for change.  The prospects then struggle due to needing more time to develop, and the Royals collapse, finishing last in the division, with below 70 wins.

Note: The Royals are one of those teams that will be very hard to predict this season.

Projected Finish: 73-89, 3rd in AL Central

 

20. Toronto_Blue_Jays Toronto Blue Jays

Off-Season Review

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The Blue Jays had a very interesting off-season.  It’s almost like the Jays are rebuilding without overhauling, which is a unique way to do things.  Rather than trading Josh Donaldson or even Troy Tulowitzki, and completely emptying out all the vets on their roster, they just made a few good decisions that will help them get younger.  They let OF Jose Bautista walk, which was good after his 2017 decline, but they brought in OF Randal Grichuk in a trade.  Grichuk is a younger option for them who is also a viable starter, so it works out.

They also brought in Curtis Granderson to platoon with younger outfielders like Dalton Pompey.  But they’re still holding on to Tulo and Donaldson for another year to give prospects Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. more time.  They also acquired young infielder Yangervis Solarte from San Diego to assist in that job.  They signed a couple good relievers as well, just so they could have a full bullpen.

The Case for the Blue Jays

The Blue Jays have managed to hold on to a decent MLB ready roster while still rebuilding, and I think it’s a very good idea that will keep them close to contention throughout their rebuild.  But it’s nearly impossible to rebuild and contend at the same time, so the Blue Jays won’t be anything more than decent until they are fully rebuilt.  This approach will get them there quickly though.  It will be like nobody even noticed their rebuild due to their fast execution.  The future is bright.

The Strong Point

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The lineup in Toronto is nothing more than decent right now, although they have a nice core between Josh Donaldson, Kendrys Morales, and Justin Smoak.  But the rotation is their real strength.  They don’t really have an ace, but many of their pitchers could emerge as an ace and are pretty good despite inconsistency.  Marcus Stroman, Marco Estrada, Aaron Sanchez and J.A. Happ have all had good stretches.  They just need to remain healthy and consistent, which is the difficult part.

Best Case Scenario: The mix of youth and experience in the Jays lineup thrives, the rotation takes the league by storm, and the Blue Jays finish as a close third to the Red Sox and Yankees despite missing the playoffs.

Worst Case Scenario: The rotation is plagued by inconsistency and injuries and the lineup’s older players struggle, forcing prospects up early.  The Blue Jays find themselves in a pickle with both veterans and prospects struggling and finish right around 70 wins.

Projected Finish: 76-86, 3rd in AL East

 

19. texas-rangers Texas Rangers

Off-Season Review

The Rangers need to make up their mind.  Are they rebuilding, or are they contending?  They went out and signed Doug Fister, Bartolo Colon, Matt Moore, Mike Minor, Jon Niese, and Tim Lincecum to compete for rotation slots but ended up releasing Colon and Niese after they only made the roster older.  The rotation will now look something like this, and I still can’t tell you if this will be accurate:

  1. Cole Hamels LHP
  2. Doug Fister LHP
  3. Martin Perez LHP
  4. Matt Moore LHP
  5. Tim Lincecum RHP

I put Lincecum in there over Minor so they could at least have one RHP in the rotation.  Jesse Chavez could also occupy that role.  But they also declined to sign an outfielder or a 1B/DH, implying that they might consider a rebuild.  They did add 3B Trevor Plouffe and 1B Tommy Joseph though.  This is a very confusing team.  They don’t even know for sure where guys are starting for them.  Jurickson Profar, Joey Gallo, and Adrian Beltre could all play third, first or DH.  The Rangers have gotten younger, but if they want to rebuild, why did they sign five veteran starters, and why did they hold on to their veterans like Adrian Beltre?

The Case for the Rangers

The Rangers are one of the hardest MLB teams to predict this year.  They could dominate or be terrible.  They have the tools to contend but also face the risk of holding on to the wrong veterans and collapsing.  This season is all about choosing a direction.  If they do well early, they’ll get what they need at the deadline and make a run.  If not, they’ll likely sell Beltre, Shin-Soo Choo, and other veterans in a rebuilding effort.  They did not make it easy for themselves to choose a direction.  They could very well end up stuck in the middle if they decline to choose.

The Strong Point

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The Rangers still have a lot of power hitters.  Big hitters Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus will lead this lineup alongside younger sluggers like Nomar Mazara and Joey Gallo.  If Beltre and Andrus stay elite, you can still expect a lot of dingers and big hits in Texas.  Rougned Odor and Shin-Soo Choo are also strong hitters who are very familiar in Texas.

Best Case Scenario: The new look rotation actually does surprisingly well, the lineup continues to thrive as usual, and the Rangers finish above .500, placing 2nd or 3rd in the AL West.

Worst Case Scenario: The Rangers decline, as the older players on the team struggle, and the Rangers are forced to rebuild.

Projected Finish: 74-88, 4th in AL West

 

That’s all for Part 2.  Stay tuned for Part 3 coming soon.  On a side note, I am proud to announce that we have reached the 4 year anniversary of this blog.  I have come a long way, writing 534 posts in 4 years.  In that time, I have received almost 20000 views and almost 300 followers.  I will be posting more about that later today.

 

 

The Day I Learned The True Meaning Of Boston Strong

Recently, I entered the 2018 Will McDonough Writing Contest through the Boston Globe and the Sports Museum at TD Garden.  On Monday, I found out that I received an honorable mention at the 8th grade level for my 500-word essay.  Over 1000 kids participated in this contest.  As a prize, I will be receiving a certificate and four free museum passes.  I have been to the TD Garden for Celtics games, Bruins games, and many other events, but I have never gotten the opportunity to visit this museum, and I am really looking forward to it.

You can see the other winners and honorable mentions for the contest and more information about the contest here.

My essay was about the attending the first Red Sox game at Fenway after the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombings.  I have also added pictures below that were taken on the day of the game.

Below is my official essay.

The Day I Learned The True Meaning of Boston Strong

It was the middle of the 8th inning at Fenway Park on April 20, 2013.  As usual, Sweet Caroline was playing.  But this time Neil Diamond surprised everyone by showing up to sing it live.  It was the first Fenway game since the Boston Marathon bombings.  The game was against the Royals and I was there for my cousin’s 10th birthday.

 Although the bombings were on Marathon Monday, I didn’t hear about it until Wednesday because I was only nine and my parents didn’t want me to know about the awful news.  While in line at Dunkin Donuts I saw coverage of the bomber manhunt on TV so they had to tell me what was going on.

As the weekend approached, the Red Sox canceled the Friday night game.  The city was on lockdown until the second bomber was caught.  That night I couldn’t fall asleep until I knew the bomber was captured.  Fortunately, he was and Saturday morning we headed to the first game since the bombing.

When we arrived on Lansdowne Street, the entertainment outside Fenway combined with thousands of people singing “Hallelujah” inside the park helped lift the sadness in the city.  We had to wait on a long security line but nobody seemed to mind.  We were just happy that the game was on and the city was safe.

The energy inside Fenway that day was indescribable.  The pregame ceremonies began honoring the Marathon bombing victims, the police that hunted down the bombers, and the paramedics who helped many wounded victims.  The Red Sox were wearing special Boston Strong jerseys and there was a “B Strong” symbol on the Green Monster.  As part of the ceremony, David Ortiz firmly stated, “This is Our F***ing City!” I had been to several games before but this was different.

The game itself started off slow but the crowd was loud after the inspiring pregame ceremony, chanting “USA” and “Boston Strong” rather than “Let’s go Red Sox.”  The Royals jumped out to a 2-1 lead.  But after Neil Diamond’s surprise appearance, Daniel Nava crushed a go-ahead 3-run homer to give the Red Sox a 4-2 lead.  Although Lorenzo Cain hit a solo homer in the top of the 9th, closer Andrew Bailey finished the job for Boston, who won 4-3.

After the game we were ecstatic, but we had no idea how much the Red Sox would turn things around for the remainder of the season.  Following a dismal last place 2012 season, I believe this game propelled the Red Sox to a 2013 World Series victory.

As we approach the five year anniversary of this historic game, what I remember most is how unified the city, as well as the country, seemed to be after such a violent event struck our city.  I wish our country didn’t feel so divided and helpless right now especially after numerous mass shootings.  We need the feeling of unity and resilience that everyone felt that day at Fenway Park.

References

“Kansas City Royals at Boston Red Sox Box Score, April 20, 2013.” Baseball Reference, 20 Apr. 2013, www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/BOS/BOS201304200.shtml

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My brother and I enjoying the entertainment outside Fenway Park during the long security lines.
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Keeping score at the game.

I hope you enjoyed reading my essay.  If you would like to enter the contest yourself, sign-ups for 2019 will be open next January.  It is open to students between grades 4 and 12.

 

 

 

Ranking The Teams 18-13, My Version: The Mediocre

Welcome to Day 3 of my preseason power rankings.  Yesterday, we had a look at more bad teams.  However, these teams had strong points that lifted them higher in my rankings.  Well, today we made it to the middle of the pack.  Each of these teams have some pros and some cons.  We’ll take a look at that.  Let’s start off with #18.

Missed a previous article?  Check below:

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

Ranking The Teams 24-19, My Version: The Bad

 

18. kansas-city-royals Kansas City Royals

Off-season Review

Image result for jason hammel welcome to royals

The Royals were somewhat active this off-season.  The core of their lineup is still made up of the same six guys.  But they added Brandon Moss, Jorge Soler and some prospects to it.  In the process of a rebuild, younger players on this team will have a bigger impact.  Their rotation has been given a boost.  Despite the death of Yordano Ventura, and the loss of Edinson Volquez, they got Nathan Karns, Jason Hammel, and Travis Wood.  However, between trades and free agency, they lost Wade Davis, Kendrys Morales, and Jarrod Dyson.

The Case for the Royals

The Royals do have a strong core in the lineup, and the rotation is okay, but the bullpen is falling apart, and depth is a major problem.  The veterans added to the bullpen aren’t enough for the depth they need.  The younger players are being forced into holes, and some of them are not quite ready.  If it weren’t for the hole at second, Whit Merrifield would be in the minors.  Before this off-season, the Royals also had a hole in the outfield, and they still have some depth problems there although their starting positions are filled.  I just can’t see the Royals doing much better than this with all these holes and problems, and I can’t see them beating the Indians in the division.

The Pros and Cons

Like I said, the Royals’ strengths are the core of the lineup, which consists of six long-time Royals teammates, and the rebuilt rotation.  However, depth is a major problem, and the Royals have holes in several places.  Second base is a big problem.  The bullpen is a pretty big problem, too.  The Royals haven’t found a legitimate designated hitter since Kendrys Morales left either, which they would have if they had enough good hitters to fill out the lineup.

Best Case Scenario: The lineup is killer again, the rotation gets better, and the Royals win the AL Central.

Worst Case Scenario: The rotation is a bust, depth problems really bite back hard, and the Royals get knocked out of the postseason race.

Projected Finish: 81-81, 3rd in AL Central

 

17. pittsburgh-pirates Pittsburgh Pirates

Off-season Review

The Pirates were very quiet this off-season, probably too quiet. They only signed one major free agent, and it was resigning Ivan Nova.  The Pirates are pretty situated where they are.  They have a good lineup and a decent bullpen.  The rotation is a bit of a problem, but they’re trying to resolve that.  However, in the position they’re in, they’re not going to win the Wolrd Series.  Is it time to rebuild?  Could it be time for a blockbuster trade?  After being very active in the trade market in the 2015-16 off-season, they haven’t done much about that this off-season.

The Case For Pirates

If you’re looking for the most mediocre team in the league, it’s the Pirates right now.  They are stuck in the middle.  What exactly does that mean?  Like I said, they are not in World Series contender mode.  But they’re not exactly rebuilding either.  Maybe rebuilding is the answer.  I wouldn’t make that decision right now, but don’t be surprised if Andrew McCutchen is traded away, or the Pirates sell somebody else.  There is no team that is as stuck in this endless loophole as the Pirates are.

The Pros and Cons

The Pirates may have one of the best lineups in the league, but face it, the rotation is not living up to the expectations, not for the Pirates or for a contender.  Until the rotation improves, the lineup will not lead this team to another postseason run.  The question remains: is it time to rebuild or try and go for it?  Is the rotation going to be as easy a fix as it seems?

Best Case Scenario: The rotation gets better, allowing a powerful lineup to lead Pittsburgh back to the playoffs.

Worst Case Scenario: The rotation completely flops and the Pirates are forced to sell and rebuild, in hopes of winning in the future.

Projected Finish: 85-77, 3rd in NL Central

 

16. colorado-rockies Colorado Rockies

Off-season Review

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The Rockies had big plans this off-season.  Signing utility player Ian Desmond was a smart move, as he can fill the hole at first base.  The Rockies also signed Alexi Amarista for depth and signed Mike Dunn and Greg Holland to fill the spot that Boone Logan left.  The rotation is also looking better and younger after some changes this off-season.  Could the Rockies finally be a contender?

The Case for the Rockies

The Rockies are back in business.  Their lineup is looking better than ever in a hitter friendly ballpark, and although the rotation has not been the focus, this young rotation at least looks good enough to contend.  The bullpen is also loaded in case the rotation doesn’t do its job.  Adam Ottavino and Greg Holland should compete for an important closer job.  The Rockies are starting to look a lot better, and I think they finally have a chance.

The Pros and Cons

The lineup and the bullpen are both overpowered and are really lifting up this team.  Although the rotation is holding this team back a little bit, they are at least good enough that the Rockies won’t completely suck.  There’s not much holding this team back.  They just have a tough environment to compete in.

Best Case Scenario: The rotation improves, and the loaded lineup leads the Rockies through the playoffs.

Worst Case Scenario: The rotation flops and the Rockies fail to do well in the NL West.

Projected Finish: 85-77, 3rd in NL West

 

15. seattle-mariners-logo Seattle Mariners

Off-season Review

Image result for jean segura welcome to mariners

As always, Jerry Dipoto was active in the trade market.  So active that he traded for and traded away Mallex Smith within 77 minutes.  They traded for three pitchers, Drew Smyly, Yovani Gallardo and Chris Heston.  They also traded Ketel Marte and Taijuan Walker for Jean Segura and acquired Jarrod Dyson.  That’s just the beginning!  The Mariners were active as always, but will these moves pay off, or not?

The Case for the Mariners

Okay, I understand that last section is very overwhelming.  But to sum it all up, the rotation now has a lot of depth and will be very good.  The rotation is top notch, with a powerful ace, and a lot of options after that.  The lineup is good but has some holes.  The Mariners don’t have many options in the outfield, and they’re left with a gaping hole at first base.  Hopefully, new utility Danny Valencia can fill one of those spots.  That brings us to our next section.

The Pros and Cons

First things first, I want to make it clear that this rotation is spotless.  So spotless that the bullpen depth problems won’t be a major factor.  The Mariners do have a strong core of the lineup but have some problems at the bottom of the lineup.  Those problems also show up in the field.  You can’t take give a team with two legitimate outfielders and a gaping hole at first base and put them in your playoff predictions.

Best Case Scenario: The rotation dominates and the lineup holes don’t affect the Mariners, as Seattle grabs a wild card.

Worst Case Scenario: The holes and depth problems cause the Mariners to finish 4th in the AL West.

Projected Finish: 86-76, 3rd in AL West

 

14. miami-marlins Miami Marlins

Off-season Review

Image result for edinson volquez welcome to marlins

The Marlins have a pretty situated lineup but really bolstered their pitching this off-season.  They signed Brad Ziegler among others to upgrade the bullpen, and Edinson Volquez and Jeff Locke along with Kyle Lobstein to upgrade the rotation.  This should really pay off, but did they pick the right guys to fill out the rotation?  Without Jose Fernandez, it’s pretty hard to fill the rotation right, and pretty hard to find a new ace.

The Case for the Marlins

Image result for justin bour and adeiny hechavarria

 

The Marlins already had a pretty good, young lineup.  The holes they had in the infield in previous years are now filled by young guns like Justin Bour and Adeiny Hechavarria.  Led by Dee Gordon and Giancarlo Stanton, this lineup will be able to kick butt.  The rotation is also looking better for 2017 but doesn’t match up to rotations around the league.  They don’t have an ace anymore, and that will hurt.  The bullpen is better but they don’t have the depth they need to back up the rotation. Rest in peace Jose Fernandez, you’ll really be missed in 2017.

The Pros and Cons

There’s good news and bad news for the Marlins.  The good news is, the lineup is all set, and the pitching looks a whole lot better after this off-season’s acquisitions and moves.  The bad news is, the rotation may not be good enough, especially without a clear cut ace.   They don’t have many pitchers that will be good enough to pitch more than 6 or 7 innings on average.  The bullpen is looking better but doesn’t have the depth that they need be able to backup tired starters without getting tired after multiple days straight of relief innings themselves.  They have a lot of options in the bullpen, but besides a few good late inning guys, there aren’t many strong relievers, which they need when they are missing top of the rotation guys.

Best Case Scenario: The off-season rotation boosters pay off, the lineup does better than ever, and the Marlins make the playoffs easily.

Worst Case Scenario: The absence of Jose Fernandez truly hurts, the lineup doesn’t do much better than in previous years, and the Marlins finish below .500.

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

 

13. new-york-yankees New York Yankees

Off-season Review

Image result for matt holliday yankees

The Yankees had a pretty quiet off-season.  However, they did boost a young rotation by signing Jon Niese, and they got star closer Aroldis Chapman back.  The Yankees were also able to snag Matt Holliday on a one-year deal.  After many of their older guys retired or looked for careers elsewhere, the Yankees really began to season some of their younger players.  Now, those players are good enough that it’s worth signing power hitters to help contend.  Holliday will help out in the outfield and play DH.

The Case for the Yankees

The Yankees are seasoning their deep farm system in the majors, and the prospects are good enough to help the veterans on the team contend.  There aren’t many small market teams who can do that, and the Yankees have the biggest market in the league.  Could that have something to do with why the Yankees never have a terrible season?  Those damn Yankees are always in the picture, you can never count them out.  This season, they must hope that their young rotation succeeds, and the strong bullpen can back them up.  They also must hope that their young guns have the same kind of success at the plate.

The Pros and Cons

The Yankees are another one of those good news/bad news teams.  Well, the good news is, the lineup succeeded without A-Rod and Teixeira last season, and the bullpen is powerful enough to provide good relief for young starters.  The bad news is, you can’t always trust young guns to help you contend, especially consistently.  That’s why these young teams are so unpredictable.  Inexperienced players can be very inconsistent.

Best Case Scenario: All the prospects live up to their expectations, and they lead the Yankees to their first playoff berth in 5 years.

Worst Case Scenario: The young talent is inconsistent and the Yankees completely flop, finishing below .500.

Projected Finish: 87-75, 3rd in AL East

 

That’s all for Day 3 of my preseason ranks.  Part 4 will look at teams 12-7 and is coming between today and tomorrow.

 

 

Scouting Report: Boston Red Sox

 

After a 2013 World Series win, the Red Sox have been washed up earning themselves last place two years straight.  Hopefully, this off season’s moves finally did the trick.  The Red Sox have tried to make their team better but it’s been Murphy’s Law; all the players they sign have had horrible seasons in their first year on the team.  If things work out their second years will be better.  Also, hopefully guys they got this off season like David Price and Craig Kimbrel are a different story.

 

Off-Season Review

The Red Sox have had a pretty strong off season.  They filled their holes at starting ace and in the bullpen, but the lineup is a concern.  They didn’t focus on the lower rotation either.

The Red Sox started the off season relatively quiet.  In Mid-November, they boosted their bullpen by receiving Craig Kimbrel from the Padres for Manuel Margot, Javier Guerra, Logan Allen and one other prospect.  Kimbrel is one of the premier closers in the league. Aroldis Chapman, the only better closer in the MLB, in my opinion and was traded to their rivals the Yankees.  However, he will miss 30 games due to taking PEDs.  Andrew Miller will continue to close until that is over.

They also exercised Clay Buchholz’s club option to save him his spot in the rotation.  However he looked crummy yesterday, which is fearful because of his even year struggles recently.  The rest of November was quiet, but rumors surrounding pitchers David Price, Zack Greinke, Johnny Cueto and Darren O’ Day were in the air.  They were favorites to sign Price.  They finally reached a seven year, 217 million dollar deal in early December, just a couple days after the two-year signing of Chris Young, the ex-Yankees outfielder, not the Royals pitcher.

As the winter meetings came around they were trying to trade a lower rotation starter to save a rotation spot for either Joe Kelly or Henry Owens.  Despite bad starts to the year, they had a great run late in the season.  On December 7th, just a few days after the Price signing, the Sox traded Wade Miley and Jonathan Aro to the Mariners for more bullpen depth in Carson Smith and Roenis Elias.  They filled their main needs, but they still had some minor ones afloat.

Besides minor league deals, the rest of the off season was relatively quiet, and they will have to figure out the rest in spring training.  Anthony Varvaro, Roman Mendez, Carlos Marmol, Sandy Leon, Ali Solis, Chris Dominguez, David Murphy, Ryan LaMarre and Brennan Boesch highlighted the minor league non-roster invitees.

Off Season Grade: B+

 

Spring Training Questions

 

Will Christian Vazquez be ready to go?

Don’t expect Vazquez to start the season in the majors.  He may need some more seasoning just to make sure he’s good to go, although in a Red Sox sim game, he said he was okay.  Vazquez underwent Tommy John surgery in March 2015. He is almost one year removed, but catcher Matt Wieters returned too early, and that’s never a good thing.  However, what other options do they have?

Unless Ryan Hanigan can stay at the majors level for an extended time again, Vazquez may be wanted as a backup catcher to Blake Swihart.  It’s a tough decision.

 

Will the back end of the rotation perform?

Guys like Eduardo Rodriguez and Rick Porcello have potential for a bounce back season, but Clay Buchholz and Joe Kelly may be questionable.  I was very worried when E-Rod got hurt — all that potential gone but when he’s ready to pitch, he can emerge into an SP2 role.  Porcello had one bad year.  He’s still in his prime and he was once a mediocre SP3-SP4 in the league.  Buchholz also worried me on Sunday when he pitched badly.  But the back end of the Red Sox rotation can bounce back if they have enough good pitching to beat out the bad.

 

How will the young guys do?

I’m a little worried about JBJ and Rusney Castillo’s abilities to hit, but Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts and Eduardo Rodriguez are a young trio of breakout candidates across the team.  Yoan Moncada and Andrew Benintendi could crash the majors in 2016.  Deven Marrero and Travis Shaw looked like they could stay in the majors.  Henry Owens could start in a relief role, and eventually become a spot starter.

There is a lot of strong prospects high and low in the Red Sox system.  Between their non-roster invitees, younger starters, and minor league prospects on the 40-man roster, the Red Sox’s farm system is piled with strong players.

 

Will Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez adjust?

This is a tough one to answer.  These are two former all star sluggers that were good for a long period of time on just a couple of teams who signed with the Red Sox last off season.  In the end, Murphy’s Law; as soon as they joined the Sox, they suddenly sucked and Ramirez didn’t even have a place in the organization after a failed attempt to move to left field.

Hanley Ramirez reportedly looked good in fielding drills with Brian Butterfield at first.  He struggled in the first few exhibition games, but has bounced back recently.  Sandoval however, came in to camp in very bad shape, and is attempting to adjust back to switch hitting.  He made some decemy catches and plate appearances in some of the games, but has had a high number of errors in the games.

Right now it’s Hanley on an uptrend, Panda not so much, but that could change.  Panda did look good at the plate despite fielding and health issues.  Ramirez needs work at the plate, too.  Changing to first still could be a little rough though.  He may have hope if he can hit like he did early in 2015.  So, it could go either way with these two mysteries.

 

Red Sox Projected Roster

 

 

Rotation

 

David Price

Eduardo Rodriguez

Clay Buchholz

Joe Kelly

Rick Porcello

 

Bullpen

 

Craig Kimbrel (CL)

Koji Uehara

Junichi Tazawa

Carson Smith

Roenis Elias

Robbie Ross Jr.

Tommy Layne

 

Lineup

  1. Mookie Betts (RF)
  2. Dustin Pedroia (2B)
  3. Xander Bogaerts (SS)
  4. David Ortiz (DH)
  5. Hanley Ramirez (1B)
  6. Pablo Sandoval (3B)
  7. Rusney Castillo (LF)
  8. Blake Swihart (C)
  9. Jackie Bradley Jr. (CF)

 

 

Bench

 

Chris Young

Christian Vazquez**

Brock Holt

Travis Shaw/David Muprhy

 

**If Vazquez isn’t ready to go by Opening Day, it will be Ryan Hanigan in his place.

 

That’s all for today.  Check out my Cubs article coming soon.

 

Scouting Report: Arizona Diamondbacks

 

chris-owings

 

Welcome to my new scouting report series. Before spring training ends, I hope to cover every team. We start with one of the most active teams of the off season, the Arizona Diamondbacks. They went in to free agency as a mediocre team that lacked a rotation and veterans in the lineup. But the D-Backs have some of the best sleepers in the league, an some young stars to happen. What are the D-Backs looking like?
Off-Season Review

The Diamondbacks started the off season very quiet. It looked like their only targets were veteran infielders like Howie Kendrick, and some insurance in the rotation. Besides trading away Jeremy Hellickson to the Phillies for prospects, their November was very quiet.

But as December began, teams really started to negotiate for the top players in free agency, starting with some major aces. The Red Sox made the first major move, they signed David Price to a seven year, 217 million dollar deal. But surprisingly, not the Dodgers, Giants, Cardinals or Nats but the D-Backs were first to follow, signing Dodgers ace Zack Greinke to a six year, 206 million dollar contract. Greinke had a breakout in 2015 after eleven subpar seasons between Kansas City, Milwaukee and Los Angeles. He lost in the Cy Young race, but hopes to continue his dominance in 2016.

They shortly after traded Dansby Swanson, Aaron Blair and Ender Inciarte for Shelby Miller and Gabe Speier.

Their rotation was now among the best to match their sleep lineup that boosted them in 2015.

Until February, they were very quiet. More Kendrick rumors were in the air, but they ended up trading Aaron Hill, Chase Anderson, Isan Diaz and cash for shortstop Jean Segura and Tyler Wagner.
So that problem was solved, but A.J. Schugel was claimed off waivers by the Pirates, so they signed closer Tyler Clippard, so current closer Brad Ziegler could take his place in a set up role.

The D-Backs close the off season looking better than ever on paper, but their lineup has development questions. Spring training will show a lot about this team’s faith.

Hot Stove/Free Agency Grade: B+
Spring Training Questions

Will the lineup live up to its name?

This is a tough one to answer. Besides Goldy, Yasmany Tomas and A.J. Pollock. David Peralta also is alright, and Chris Owings, Jean Segura and Jake Lamb are still developing. Owings needs to be a better general hitter, Segura didn’t develop very well when he had the chance, and Lamb is good in the field, but needs to improve his bat. It could go either way.

Who are some key non-roster players?

There are a ton of pitchers that could crash the roster like former Reds reliever Sam LeCure, Wesley Wright, Braden Shipley, Matt Stites, Will Locante and Adam Loewen. Former Giants infielder Joaquin Arias and outfielder Jason Bourgeois could make some bench spots.

Is the rotation fulfilled enough?

I think the rotation is just fine. Greinke and Shelby Miller had amazing 2015 seasons and hope to continue, Patrick Corbin has looked fine in his TJ recovery, and the rest of the rotation is filled with young stars Rubby De La Rosa and Robbie Ray. Archie Bradley or Josh Collmenter, maybe even Zack Godley and Daniel Hudson could be spot starters. So it looks like the D-Backs are looking good and their moves paid off, even with the loss of Jeremy Hellickson and Chase Anderson.
Who is the biggest sleeper in the lineup?

I don’t think that the biggest D-Backs sleeper is any of the young infielders. Outfielder David Peralta is among the best, and the veteran hasn’t gotten much attention in the MLB. On the D-Backs staff, he is well known in the lineup, but only Diamondbacks diehards or MLB analysts would call him an MVP contender in the NL. Although this is only his third year, he has really gotten his name out recently.

D-Backs Projected Roster

Rotation               Bullpen
Zack Greinke.      Archie Bradley
Shelby Miller.     Enrique Burgos
Patrick Corbin.      Josh Collmenter
Rubby De La Rosa   Tyler Clippard
Robbie Ray                Evan Marshall
Zack Godley
Brad Ziegler

Lineup                            Bench
C: Welington Castillo     Phil Gosselin
1B: Paul Goldschmidt   Nick Ahmed
2B: Chris Owings        Oscar Hernandez
SS: Jean Segura           Tuffy Gosewisch
3B: Jake Lamb              Joaquin Arias
LF: Yasmany Tomas
CF: A.J. Pollock.
RF: David Peralta

Projected Record: 88-74
That’s all for today everyone. See the Braves new look in the next post in this series.