My 2018 NHL Playoff Bracket

I have finished my predictions for the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Here is my bracket:

The Bruins have a very tough road ahead. They will face a tough Maple Leafs team in the first round, and will likely see the Lightning in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, another tough team. Their defensive struggles will definitely hurt them in the later rounds, especially if they face the Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals, or the dominant Nashville Predators. I do think the Bruins will win in the end though. If they can stay healthy from here, they have a lot of talent that is capable of keeping the offense going. The defense should be alright without Brandon Carlo, especially if Zdeno Chara, Charlie McAvoy, and Torey Krug do well in the playoffs.

Here are some other notes about my bracket:

  • I have picked most of the higher seeds in the East besides the Bruins and Penguins. But in the West, I have picked several upsets. The Golden Knights were the league’s biggest surprise this year, but they are inexperienced in the playoffs, and regressed down the stretch after appearing to be the league’s best team in the early months. I think the Kings will give them a rude awakening and Vegas will struggle under pressure.
  • The Sharks will also go deep. I think they have a better roster than the Ducks and will outmatch them head to head. They will top the Kings, a lower seed after LA shocks the Golden Knights and advance to the Western Conference Finals. The Kings will win in Round 1, but do not expect them to go any further. But the Predators are too good for them. I also picked the Wilds over the Jets for similar reasons.
  • I think the Bruins would’ve been much easier off against the Devils. The Lightning will dominate in New Jersey. I think the Florida Panthers, who just missed the playoffs and a lot of other teams would have given their opponents a bigger challenge than the Devils.
  • In my opinion, although the higher seeds in the East will win in the 1st Round, lower seeds like the Maple Leafs, Flyers and Blue Jackets will give their opponents a good challenge. As I said earlier, I think the Devils will be the easiest first round opponent.

That’s all for my NHL Stanley Cup Playoff Predictions. Stay tuned for more coverage.

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Crazy 8th for Sox 8th Win

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After a 7-1 start to the season for the Red Sox, things were not looking good for them today.  They were down 7-2 heading into the 8th inning, as the Rays had scored at least one run in six straight innings.  Eduardo Rodriguez had been knocked out of the game after 3.2 innings, forcing the Red Sox to use numerous relievers to finish off the game.  The bullpen struggled as Hector Velazquez, Bobby Poyner, and Brian Johnson gave up four runs in 3 1/3 innings But the Red Sox came all the way back to beat the Tampa Bay Rays 8-7 and extend their winning streak to eight games.  Hanley Ramirez and Mookie Betts extended their hitting streaks to 7 games each, as they led the Sox offense.

The Red Sox started off strong with a leadoff double by Mookie Betts, and Betts was driven in by Hanley Ramirez’s groundout.  But the Rays struck back quickly, with DH C.J. Cron hitting a solo homer.  Early on, Eduardo Rodriguez was doing well, striking out five batters, including the side in the 1st inning.  But the Rays were working the count and and E-Rod’s was over 70 after three innings.

While the Rays were not crushing the ball after Cron’s home run, they scored one run every inning from the 2nd all the way to the 7th. In the 3rd inning, E-Rod gave up a walk followed by a infield single that was originally ruled an out. Matt Duffy was clearly safe, so it was a smart challenge by the Rays.  The run scored on a double by Carlos Gomez.

In the 4th inning, Daniel Robertson reached on another infield single for the Rays.  3B Rafael Devers could not make the throw in time.  That was followed by a Brad Miller walk, and Adeiny Hechavarria drove in the run with a bloop single that Andrew Benintendi couldn’t quite get to.  The Rays were trying to continue the rally, as Matt Duffy singled again after E-Rod left the game, but Hector Velazquez came in to get the last out.

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Velazquez gave up a run in the next inning, as Daniel Robertson singled, stole second, and came home on Brad Miller’s base hit.  The Sox chipped away in the bottom of that inning.  They loaded the bases after a walk, a Christian Vazquez single, and another walk.  Rays reliever Ryan Yarbrough had come in to replace Andrew Kittredge after two innings. Today, the Rays reliever combo to start was game was able to hold the Sox to just two runs through six innings, but it was not easy.

With two outs in the fifth, Hanley Ramirez ripped an infield single that Adeiny Hechavarria snagged to save more runs from scoring.  J.D. Martinez followed, but struck out with the bases loaded. Martinez was the only Sox starter without a hit, but that did not keep the Sox from winning.

The Rays scored again in the 6th after Kevin Kiermaier hit a triple off the Green Monster to drive in Matt Duffy, who had walked.  Kiermaier hit the triple off of Bobby Poyner, but Velazquez was charged with the run as he had walked Duffy before leaving the game.  Brian Johnson came in in the 7th and struggled, giving up two more runs.  Daniel Robertson walked, and came home on a triple by pinch hitter Joey Wendle.  On that play, Xander Bogaerts hurt his ankle as he had to chase the ball into the Rays dugout after throwing to third before Devers was there.  He will be evaluated further on Monday, but his timetable is currently unknown. Bogaerts was helped off the field, and it was really concerning when he couldn’t leave without assistance because he has been Boston’s best hitter so far this season.  Brock Holt came in to replace him.

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Tampa scored their second run of the inning off Johnson after a sac fly drove in Wendle.  The Sox failed to get things going in the bottom of the 7th, but after Carson Smith came into the game, the Rays failed to score another run.  They loaded the bases after a walk, a Carlos Gomez single, and a walk.  But Smith escaped the inning by striking out Daniel Robertson.

This looked like it was going to be a Rays win, as after Hanley Ramirez led things off with a single and advanced to second on a wild pitch, the next two batters struck out and flew out.

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But with two outs, Mitch Moreland, who was a doubles machine last year, hit his first double (and hit) of 2018, driving in Ramirez to make it 7-3 Rays.  Eduardo Nunez singled and Moreland advanced to third.  Rafael Devers then knocked a ball down the third base line that bounced off the left field garage, allowing both Moreland and Nunez to score.

With that, Rays reliever Matt Andriese was done, and Rays closer Alex Colome came in, hoping to secure the 7-5 lead the Rays were still holding on to. The Red Sox had done well against Colome in the home opener. Just in case the rally continued, Cora got star closer Craig Kimbrel warming up in the bullpen next to Joe Kelly.

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Christian Vazquez kept the rally alive with a base hit.  Devers scored, making it 7-6 Red Sox.  Vazquez advanced to second on another wild pitch.  Mookie Betts tied it up with a line single to left as Vazquez came in to score with a nifty slide to avoid the tag.  Andrew Benintendi kept the rally alive by doubling to the left field gap to drive in Betts.  The outfielders were playing shallow as Benny’s double did not reach the Green Monster. It was now 8-7 Red Sox.

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Kimbrel came in and quickly retired the side, as the Red Sox locked up their comeback victory, 8-7.  This was by far their most exciting game of the season.  The Sox faced easy opponents, but the Red Sox are now 8-1 to start the season, their best record ever after nine games. They had not even started 7-1 since 1904, a World Series-winning year.

The Red Sox head into their three-game series against the Yankees on fire.  Will they win their first series against their archrivals?  The Yankees have been depleted by injuries, and are just 5-5 after losing to Baltimore today in a 12 inning game.  With Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, Brandon Drury, Aaron Hicks, Jacoby Ellsbury, C.C. Sabathia, and Billy McKinney all injured, the Sox should certainly have the edge.

Red Sox Report: Sox Off to Dominant Start, But Could Face Tougher Road Ahead

Welcome to my first Red Sox Report article of 2018.  Today, I will be talking about my opinion on the Red Sox this week, and what I expect in the coming days.  I will also be talking about interesting recent Red Sox headlines.

 

Is It Time to Get Concerned About The Red Sox’s Offensive Struggles, Especially J.D. Martinez’s?  

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Up until today, J.D. Martinez had not hit a home run, and the Red Sox had only scored more than 4 runs in a game once this season.  Keep in mind that this is against rebuilding teams, and the Rays only have three regular starters, filling the rest of their rotation with committee days.  Besides Xander Bogaerts, who has shown flashes of power in a potential breakout season, and Hanley Ramirez, who is looking to rebound, the Red Sox have not been that good at the plate.

Sure, they had a 10-run game today.  So they are capable of hitting. But will the lineup show up when they need to?  J.D. Martinez is the most concerning to me. He was here to be a clutch home run hitter, and so far he has hit just 1 home run, which came when the Red Sox had already practically locked in a victory.  Despite a 6-game hitting streak, I am getting worried.

Red Sox Rotation Looking Dominant, Sign of Good Things to Come?

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The Red Sox rotation has looked great so far, and they were without Drew Pomeranz, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Steven Wright to this point.  David Price has looked like his old self in two starts against his former team, the Rays. But will he be able to keep this up against tougher opponents?  I’m sure Chris Sale will be able to keep doing what he’s doing, especially if he pitches to contact more like new manager Alex Cora was hoping for. Rick Porcello also looks like he could rebound, and he has just had two strong starts against the Rays, who caused him serious problems in 2017.

Even Brian Johnson and Hector Velazquez, who are not going to be starting regularly much longer are doing well.  But like I said, the Sox are playing rebuilding teams, so we better hope that the offense wakes up and the rotation keeps up the good work when we start playing tougher opponents.  Things also depend on how E-Rod and Pomeranz do in their return, but if they struggle, we do have Johnson, Steven Wright (who is also hurt at the moment), and Velazquez.

Will Alex Cora’s Unique Decisions Help the Red Sox Significantly?

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Cora has been a big part of this team’s success so far.  He has made good moves by giving guys the rest they need, helping Chris Sale and David Price get more innings by pitching to contact, and saving their best stuff for later in the year by giving them rest, and only challenging plays when absolutely necessary.  I like his conservative style, and he will help the Red Sox, but if he goes too far, he could cost us early on by resting guys when they could be helping the team win. He wants to save guys for October, but early success is key because the playoffs are no guarantee for any team.

Injury Update: E-Rod To Return Sunday, How Will The Injuries Affect Us Down the Road?

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It appears that we have done fine without Drew Pomeranz, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Dustin Pedroia so far, but as we face tougher opponents, it may hold us back.  However, there is good news. E-Rod will come off the disabled list to make a start against the Rays tomorrow. If he can get off to a good start and is not held back by his knee injury, he will help the Red Sox significantly.  We may be able to get away with a 4-man rotation until Pomeranz comes back, especially in weeks with more days off.

But I’m sure Johnson will get starts, and Velazquez may even stick around.  Cora’s philosophy has been giving guys more rest, not less. So keeping more starters in the rotation despite injuries may be a good idea.  They could even consider sticking with a 6-man rotation to save their best stuff for October, especially when Wright and Pomeranz return. As for Dustin Pedroia, I think we should be fine with Nunez at second until he returns, but when he does, we will be able to give more infielders rest, including a recovering Pedey.

We will need strong pitching from the rotation, as our bullpen has been inconsistent and unreliable.  Craig Kimbrel has done well, but the Sox have nobody to set him up.

Will Hanley and Bogaerts Build On Their Early Success?

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Xander Bogaerts has been straight up dominant so far.  He has hinted at a breakout season by hitting two homers, including a grand slam in the team’s first eight games.  He has batted .371/.405/.743 with 9 RBI. I think he can emerge as a 5-tool player, adding power hitting to his resume.  

I could also see Hanley Ramirez bouncing back.  He led this team during the 2-game series against the Marlins, where Hanley started his career.  But he also thrived at Fenway, as he was the hero of the home opener in an extra-innings walk-off win.  He has also hit a home run, and now that he is healthy and motivated (he is in a contract year), he will be a strong asset for the Sox.  I just hope Hanley and Bogey can keep it up against tougher opponents, especially in their upcoming series against the Yankees.

How Will Michael Chavis’ 80-game PED suspension affect the Red Sox?

Chavis was Boston’s top prospect, and while we have Devers at third, it’s always good to have a strong farm system, and this is a major setback for Chavis, and down with Chavis will go the Red Sox farm system.  The Red Sox traded away many of their strongest prospects in a once stacked farm system when working their way back towards contention in 2016 and 2017. It hurts to lose Chavis, one of their top prospects remaining, to a suspension.  Using PEDs could give him problems staying out of trouble throughout his career, as players who use steroids have a history of frequent suspensions after being caught. We will also have to see if Chavis is really the same without relying on PEDs.

Led by Rotation, Bogaerts, Devers, and Hanley, Red Sox Start Season 7-1, Hope to Continue Success vs. Yankees and Beyond

I expected a strong start for the Red Sox due to their schedule, but I have been overall impressed with how they have done, and if they stay hot, they could continue to dominate.  They have a 7 game winning streak going, led by a strong rotation. The lineup has struggled a bit, but Bogaerts, Devers, and Hanley have made up for the struggles of the rest of the lineup.  I hope J.D. Martinez can begin to help the lineup more too.

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The Red Sox will face their true test this week when they host their archrivals, the New York Yankees.  The Yankees are facing the injury bug right now, and have had depth problems with so many players injured.  They have had to force players into starting jobs who aren’t quite reliable starters yet. But they are still a tough opponent, and the Red Sox will have to be at their best to win this series.

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

 

 

NFL Week 12 Picks: Which Contenders will Lock Up A Playoff Spot?

Welcome to my NFL Week 12 Picks.  I went 10-4 last week, placing my overall record at 88-72.  How will I do in this week’s slate of games?  Read below and comment with your thoughts.  This week could start factoring into the playoff chances of all 32 teams.  Who will lock up a spot?  Who will be eliminated from contention?

 

To see my picks for the Thanksgiving Day games this week, click here.

 

Note: In the images, the team on the top is the road team, and the team on the bottom is the home team.

 

Lock of the Week

 

Emerging as a top QB in the league, Carson Wentz has led the Eagles offense to become one of the best offenses in the league.  The Bears will be their next victim as the Eagles blow them out.  The Eagles offense is as good as it gets.  They have 3-4 strong running backs, who will dominate against a weak Bears defensive front.  They have a trio of great receivers and a top 5 tight end in Zach Ertz, who will just be too much for the young Bears secondary.
The Bears will struggle to strike back as young QB Mitch Trubisky is under too much pressure, and the Bears’ own RB duo is shut down by Philly’s strong run defense.  The Eagles will end up winning by one of the largest deficits seen this season.
Upset of the Week
RB Devonta Freeman is out for the second straight week, and that will cause the Falcons offense to struggle this time around.  They were able to survive without him last week, but this week Atlanta will start to miss him.  The Bucs defense will take advantage of that fact and will shut down the weakened Falcons offense.  For the Bucs, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick will continue to do well in the place of QB Jameis Winston, leading the Bucs to victory with the help of his receivers as well as RB Doug Martin.

Sunday’s Games

 

 

QB Tom Brady and the Pats offense will thrive against their divisional rivals, even without key receivers Chris Hogan and Martellus Bennett.  The Dolphins secondary will struggle to cover their powerful receivers like Brandin Cooks and Rob Gronkowski.  The Dolphins will also struggle offensively, as their run game looks hopeless without Jay Ajayi.  QB Matt Moore will also struggle to find his receivers and be picked off frequently by a stingy Pats secondary.  Pats win easily.

 

 

The Chiefs will struggle to bring life to their offense, but they will dominate defensively in this game.  The Chiefs will overpressure whoever is at QB for the Bills.  The QB problems will cost them as the Chiefs defense dominates against Buffalo’s troubled offense.

 

 

The Panthers young guns will help lead Carolina to victory, even without WR Kelvin Benjamin and TE Greg Olsen.  The Jets will keep it close with a strong offensive game, as the Panthers secondary struggles to cover the Jets receivers.  But the Panthers defensive front will shut down the Jets run game.  The Panthers will win after the younger players step it up, including RB Christian McCaffrey and WR Curtis Samuel.

 

 The Bengals offense will continue to come up big against the struggling Browns defense.  TE Tyler Kroft will continue to make a big impact for them in the role of the injured TE Tyler Eifert.  The Bengals D will also thrive in this game, shutting down the strong Browns run game.  They will pressure QB DeShone Kizer, causing him to struggle regressively.  The Bengals will win after dominating in all three aspects of the game.
The Titans will win as their balanced attack dominates against a struggling Colts defense.  QB Marcus Mariota will throw for 300+ yards and toss 2 TDs to his group of versatile receivers.  In addition, the Titans RB duo of DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry will rush for 150+ combined yards and one TD each.  Colts QB Jacoby Brissett will also lead his offense to a big game, but it won’t be enough as the Titans outscore them in an offensive shootout.
QB C.J. Beathard will lead the 49ers offense to another strong game, but this time, their injuries, as well as the Seahawks relentless defense, will have a big impact on slowing them down.  For the Seahawks, the offense will continue to thrive, even without new RB Mike Davis playing against his former team.  The 49ers troubled defense will fail to slow them down significantly, and the Seahawks will win.
The Jaguars will win after their defense dominates, shutting down Cardinals RB Adrian Peterson as well as Cardinals new starting QB Blaine Gabbert.  Gabbert will struggle to find his receivers under so much pressure, especially with WR John Brown out.  The Cardinals defense will also hold up QB Blake Bortles and the Jags offense, but the Jags will still win after their amazing defensive performance.
The Broncos beat the Raiders in Denver, but that was without QB Derek Carr.  This time, Carr will lead the Raiders offense to thrive against the tough Broncos defense  His versatile receivers will be too much for the No Fly Zone, scoring 3 TD on them.  Broncos QB Brock Osweiler will try to lead the Denver offense to rebound, but it won’t be enough to outplay the strong Raiders offense.
The Rams will beat the flaming New Orleans Saints, led by RB Todd Gurley’s huge game.  QB Jared Goff will also rebound from a rough against another strong team, the Vikings, last week.  Despite the fact that one of their best receivers, Robert Woods, is out, the big games out of Goff and Gurley will help lead the Rams to victory.  The Saints RB duo will struggle against the tough Rams run defense, and that will cost the Saints.
SNF
The banged-up Steelers offense may come in unprepared, but they will still do well against the Packers defense, especially with Clay Matthews hurt.  For the Packers, QB Brett Hundley will struggle to find his receivers, as the Packers offense fails against the Steelers without their top two RBs.  The Steelers will win as the Packers continue to fall apart without QB Aaron Rodgers.
MNF
The Ravens will win as the Texans continued to struggle without QB Deshaun Watson.  With WR Will Fuller out, QB Tom Savage and the Texans will struggle to produce offense against the tough Ravens D, despite the fact that three of their best defensive players are banged-up.  For the Ravens offense, QB Joe Flacco will thrive against a Texans D that’s also depleted by injuries.  Baltimore will win despite several injuries of their own.
That’s all for my Week 12 Picks.  Feel free to comment with your thoughts.

 

NFL Week 1 Picks: America’s Game Will Return with a Bang

It’s that time of year again.  Opening Night is just a few days away.  Soon enough, Tom Brady will be throwing the season’s first TD.   It’s time to figure out who’s going to win the first slate of games.  Who will start the season strong?  Keep reading to find out what I think.

Lock Of The Week 

Note:  The top team listed is the road team for all games listed in my score predictions


The Browns should be a bit better this year but this Pittsburgh offense is just going to be too much for Cleveland.  When the Steelers offense is at full strength they’re nearly unstoppable.  The Ben-Bell-Brown combo is one of the best offensive trios in the league. Martavis Bryant and Vance McDonald also add a nice touch to this potent offense. Although the Steelers offense will go full out, I don’t see this as a shutout.

The Browns offense has gotten better.  Crowell will have a good year and Corey Coleman and David Njoku will help out rookie QB DeShone Kizer.  The secondary is Pittsburgh’s Achilles Heel and the Browns will take advantage of that.  But they won’t come close to topping the Steelers.

Upset of the Week


I wouldn’t consider this much of an upset after the Dolphins lost Ryan Tannehill for the season.  But I want to make sure that A) Everyone knows Jay Cutler will be horrible in Miami and B) Everyone who didn’t read my NFL 2017 Predictions knows that the Bucs are my #1 dark horse team this season.  I believe that the Buccaneers have the potential to shock us all.  They have a solid young defense and the receiver duo of Jackson and Evans alone makes the offense have a good one-two punch.

In addition to that Jameis Winston is primed for a complete break through. Doug Martin is back in football shape and while he’s suspended, Charles Sims is a reliable option.  I also believe that tight end O.J. Howard will have a huge rookie season.  Don’t expect every Bucs game to be a blowout though.  The Dolphins defense could be a challenge for Tampa Bay.  In the end, though, the Miami D is no better than Tampa’s defense and the Dolphins offense just isn’t the same without Tannehill.  I think this calls for a Bucs win.

The Other Games

TNF

The football season will open with this intriguing match-up.  Both of these teams lost key players for the season but I don’t think either team will fall significantly from it.  So this is still going to be close.  But I have to go with the defending champs here.  The Chiefs defense is still solid but their offense is wearing down.  They need breakout performances from Tyreek Hill and Kareem Hunt to be any more than a one and done wild card team.  The Chiefs are a playoff team right now but they just don’t match up to Brady’s Bunch.

The Pats have improved upon last year’s championship team.  They made some nice moves to keep the defense good and despite the losses of Martellus Bennett and LeGarrette Blount (free agency) as well as Julian Edelman (ACL injury), this offense is still the best in the league.  I see James White as the new starting back after his stellar Super Bowl showcase.  Dwayne Allen and Brandin Cooks will be top receiving targets for Brady and watch out for Chris Hogan.  He was great in Super Bowl LI and is ready to take his game to the next level.  I almost forgot to mention that Gronk was hurt when they won the Super Bowl.  They’ll be even better with Gronk at full speed.  There is no way the Chiefs will upset them on Opening Night.

Sunday’s Games

Meredith’s injury and Cruz’s release just makes these Bears even worse.  Although the Falcons won’t be as good as they were last year, this game will be a clinic.  The Falcons offense knows what they’re doing.  Matty Ice, Devonta Freeman, and Julio Jones are still one of the league’s best offensive trios.  The Bears have nothing on defense to stop them and although the Atlanta D isn’t great either, the Bears don’t have much left for an offense.

Unless Mitch Trubisky comes in and shocks the world, the Bears have no QB, barely any receiving weapons, and are left with just one quality offensive player, running back Jordan Howard.  I’m even a little worried about Howard’s potential to suffer a sophomore slump.  The Bears could be in some deep trouble going into this season and it will all start in this Week 1 game.

The Jets may be one of the worst NFL teams in history.  They have no reliable receivers, no QB, and Bilal Powell is the offense’s only bright spot.  Their other running back Matt Forte is on the trade block.  What are the Jets doing?  This isn’t a rebuild so I think this might be tanking for the #1 draft pick as they hope for a reliable QB to emerge.  The defense is this team’s only hope which is nothing more than mediocre after trading Sheldon Richardson.

The Bills aren’t much better, but at least they have a star running back in LeSean McCoy, a half decent QB, and a few good receivers.  The defense isn’t that bad either.  Expect a shutout that will completely embarrass the Jets to start the season.


This will be a close one for sure.  Neither of these teams is going to have a great season. But these teams are pretty much evenly matched talent-wise.  The Ravens have a good defense but don’t have anything going on offense.  The Bengals are very similar, except their offense isn’t quite as horrid.  The Bengals may have good depth but none of their players are eye-popping and the defense’s dirty plays will get old very quickly.

They are going to wear each other down so much that by the 4th quarter, the 12th man will be the difference.  This will be a long game and it could even go into overtime.  But in the end, I see Cincy winning with the fans giving them the extra push to squeeze out a win.


The Redskins won’t be as good as they’ve been in previous years and the Eagles have gotten better.  But in Washington, I can’t see Philly winning.  The Eagles have a decent all-around team, but the Redskins have a really strong receiving game and parts of their defense will neutralize Philly’s game plan.  Although the Eagles are the better team, the home field advantage will make things easier for Washington.  It will be close but I’ve got to go with Washington in this one.


This is going to be fun to watch.  Two quarterbacks coming off major injuries ready to come back strong and lead their teams deep into the playoffs.  Both of these teams have superstar offenses this year.  Mariota’s offense has continued to improve.  They now have multiple reliable receivers and a strong RB duo.  The Raiders are coming in with the same offense that may have led them to the AFC Championship last year if Carr wasn’t hurt.  The only differences are that Latavius Murray and Mychal Rivera have been replaced by Marshawn Lynch and Jared Cook.  Those moves just made the offense better.

This game could come down to how good the defenses are.  Home field advantage could also be a factor.  I think this game will be an offensive shootout, with both offenses going all out.  These teams are pretty equal, so I’m going to go with the home team here.  Titans win by a field goal.


Although the Jags looked good this preseason, I’m not going to buy into their interesting off-season moves again.  I made that mistake in 2016.  The Texans should win this game. Their defense will just be too much for the Jacksonville offense especially since J.J. Watt is back to full speed and motivated to uplift a city torn by Hurricane Harvey.  The Jags defense may not be anything special but neither is the Texans offense, so the Jags defense should be alright.  However, as long as the Texans are smart and start Deshaun Watson over Tom Savage in Week 1, I think they’ll have just enough to pull away with the win at home.

The last time these two faced off, the Lions got clobbered.  But that was 2 years ago and a lot has changed since.  The Lions offense has improved significantly and the Cardinals are not the same team that made the NFC Championship in 2015.  Their offense is lacking weapons and the defense just doesn’t have the same powerful core.  The 2015 Cardinals were a strong all-around team but now Arizona has some serious holes.

I like this Lions offense as Ameer Abdullah is very intriguing at RB.  Kenny Golladay could be yet another Lions breakout star at WR, and the Lions have plenty of other key playmakers on offense.  With the highest paid NFL QB, home field advantage, a much better offense, a slightly better defense, and a weaker Cardinals team, the Lions should win this game.

I know that some of you might think I’d pick the Rams in an upset here.  Since my 2017 NFL Predictions, my thoughts about the Rams have changed.  The Sammy Watkins trade was great for them while the Phillip Dorsett trade was not good for the Colts.  If Watkins stays healthy, the Rams have the upside to win as many as 9 games.  But even if Luck is out early on, I can see the Colts doing better than previous years.  They don’t have an established Week 1 QB, but as long as Scott Tolzien can do a decent job filling Luck’s role, the Colts can take advantage of the Rams’ weak secondary.  If Donte Moncrief has the huge season I think he will, the Colts should be able to pull away with the win here, even if it’s an ugly win.

This is starting to become a serious rivalry.  When these two teams play, it’s always a close game.  This game won’t be any different.  The Packers offense has improved since last season.  They added Top 10 tight end Martellus Bennett and drafted running backs Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones.  Jamaal Williams is a first-year breakout pick for me and I think he will greatly improve the Packers run game.  Both these defenses are good, but Seattle’s spotless defense has just gotten better while Green Bay’s stays strong.

I just don’t think the Seahawks have such a good offense this year.  They have a controversy at running back, are very thin at wide receiver, and have offensive line problems as well.  This offense is no match for the Green Bay Packers and although the Seahawks D will make it hard for the Packers, Green Bay will get the win in the end.  Not an easy win but a well-earned win at home.

I know Kyle Shanahan was a good offensive coordinator and he will be a better coach than Chip Kelly for the Niners.  But the 49ers need some more talent before Kyle Shanahan has the chance to succeed as a coach.  Brian Hoyer is a well seasoned veteran QB but he lacks good weapons.  Who else do the Niners have on offense worth noting other than Carlos Hyde and Pierre Garçon?  Nobody.  That’s why Carolina will win this game.  Their defense will have it easy and their offense should be good enough to overcome a decent San Francisco defense.

The Panthers have young talent on offense in Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel and established veterans in Greg Olsen, Jonathan Stewart, and Kelvin Benjamin.  Their offense will be strong this year or at least better than last year.  Enough to win them a game against the struggling 49ers.

SNF

This classic rivalry is set for Week 1 once again.  These teams are the two frontrunners for the NFC East and this game will be close.  The Giants are beginning to become an all around team.  They have a good running back in Paul Perkins and arguably have the best receiving trio in the league with OBJ, Marshall, and Shepard.  They lack a tight end and need some O-line help, but those are their only noticeable holes.  They are solid on defense as they have a great D-line and secondary.

The Cowboys will be a challenge for them though.  They may be missing Ezekiel Elliott but with the offensive line that Dallas has, any running back can be set up for success. Remember what Darren McFadden did with them in 2015?  It can happen again until Zeke comes back.  Their offense is as sharp as it was in 2016 except they’re without Zeke for 6 games.

The defense may be a problem though.  The secondary suffered some serious losses.   But the front seven is looking good going into the season, and they will be able to try and stop the New York run game.  It will be tough for the Cowboys secondary to stop these receivers.  However, despite the Giants making 4 TD catches, I think the Cowboys will be able to find the Giants’ weaknesses and pull away with the win with home field on their side.

MNF

The Vikings may not have the offense that the Saints have but the Vikings defense may be able to slow the Saints down.  The Saints offense isn’t as good as it was last year now that Brandin Cooks is in New England.  They will probably have trouble with this tough defense especially with Willie Snead suspended for the first 3 games.

The Vikings may not have the best offense especially without Peterson but I believe they can have success against a weak Saints defense.  Dalvin Cook and Kyle Rudolph will give the Saints tough match-ups.  Stefon Diggs should have a better year too.  So, if all goes well for Minnesota, they should be able to win this game.

The Broncos just aren’t the same anymore.  But although I think the Chargers will be better, they’re a mediocre team.  They’re not quite good enough yet to beat the Broncos in the thin air of Denver.  The Denver defense is going to slow down the Chargers revamped offense significantly.  The Chargers offense will only be good if they stay healthy.   Even at full health, they are not good enough to put up 30 points on the Broncos D.

The Broncos should do well offensively in this game because the Chargers defense doesn’t have too much to stop them.  The Chargers have a good front seven but Denver’s run game is not their strength and Denver will attack in the air against a weak Chargers secondary.

I see this one going to Denver in the end.  It will not be easy for the Broncos though, as they are far from the Super Bowl team led by Manning.  At least they’ll have Osweiler again if Siemian struggles, and Osweiler has already proved he can play in Denver.

This week will be full of surprises with close games, non-stop action, and a few blowouts. I expect to give the CBS reporters good competition like I did last year.  How do you think Week 1 will unfold?  Share your thoughts in the comments and stay tuned for more NFL and MLB articles soon.

 

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

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

30. minnesota-twins Minnesota Twins

Off-season Review

Image result for jason castro twins

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

The Case for the Twins

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

The Bright Spot

Image result for miguel sano byron buxton

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

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

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

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

29. san diego-padres San Diego Padres

Off-season Review

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

The Case for the Padres

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

The Bright Spot

Image result for wil myers padres

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

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

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

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

28. oakland-a's Oakland Athletics

Off-season Review

Image result for rajai davis a's

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

The Case for the Athletics

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

The Bright Spot

Image result for khris davis a's

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

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

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

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

27. philadelphia.phillies Philadelphia Phillies

Off-season in Review

Image result for howie kendrick welcome to phillies

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

The Case for the Phillies

Image result for jimmy rollins phillies

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

The Bright Spot

Image result for maikel franco

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

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

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

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

26. atlanta-braves Atlanta Braves

Off-season Review

Image result for bartolo colon braves

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

The Case for the Braves

Image result for freddie freeman

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

The Bright Spot

Image result for dansby swanson

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

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

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

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

 

25. Tampa_Bay_Rays Tampa Bay Rays

Off-season Review

rasmus-rays.jpg

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

The Case for the Rays

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

The Bright Spot

Image result for chris archer

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

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

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

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

 

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