Making My Mark with the Fidrych Foundation

Today, thanks to The Mark Fidrych Foundation, I was invited to play in their 8th annual charity softball tournament.  They sponsored me and all the friends and family of the Northborough Challenger Baseball League.  Like in past years, it was a great way to put a closing on my Challenger Baseball season. The Fidrych Foundation has sponsored my team for the last 5 years and I am so appreciative to have the opportunity to play organized baseball.

Today’s event, held at Memorial Field and Casey Field in Northborough, was even more exciting than last year’s event.  I played third base on the Challenger/Miracle League team and my dad Ken played with me on the field at first.  He batted after me and you can see us both on the bases below.

I had the opportunity to spend some time with some of my teammates after the game, including NCAA 1989 Final Four basketball star for Illinois, Matthew Schnaderbeck, along with his wife, Catherine, and his two daughters, Jessica and Alexis.  Here’s me with Matthew and his daughters after we had lunch.

I had a lot of fun playing softball and even caught a hot line drive hit right to me at third and also made a few plays throwing to my dad at first.  My teammates and I all got to bat twice, once each inning, so I was happy to get two hits.  After I finished playing, I met up with one of my long time Challenger coaches, Sean Durkin, who has taught me so much over the years and he told me he was proud to see how well I played.

Before leaving, I was very excited to get some photo opportunities with some well-known sports personalities. First, I took a photo with Tessie the Green Monster.  After that, I met up with Women’s Olympic Hockey Gold Medalist Haley Skarupa.  Last but not least, I met up again with sports broadcaster Joe Braverman, who graduated from my high school, Algonquin Regional High School and now I am trying to follow in his footsteps with the same great high school sports coverage that Joe did for four years.  I have already started with “Gonk Knocks” covering the T-Hawks football team and look forward to getting some help from Joe during the year.

I’d like to thank Ann Fidyrich and the entire Fidrych Foundation staff and volunteers for sponsoring me year after year to play baseball and softball in the Spring and Summer.  Today’s event was a lot of fun and I can’t wait to play again in the Spring.

Advertisements

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

Each year since 2014, David Schoenfield has ranked all 30 teams in tiers during the preseason.  For the fourth year straight, I am creating my own version.  Throughout the week, I will be posting my rankings.  However, I started a little late this year due to the MLB’s slow off-season.  Today they start with the bottom 6.

Image result for mlb logo

Boston Sports Mania MLB Pre-Season Power Rankings

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

Friday, March 23: Ranking The Teams 24-19, My Version: Teams That Will Struggle

Saturday, March 24: Ranking The Teams 18-13, My Version: The Middle of the Pack

Saturday, March 24: Ranking The Teams 12-7, My Version: Who Will Contend in 2018?

Sunday, March 25: Ranking The Teams 6-1, My Version: How The Best of the Best Line Up*

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

 

 

30. miami-marlins Miami Marlins

Off-Season Review

Image result for marlins outfield trades

The Marlins underwent a complete overhaul this off-season.  They traded four key pieces from their lineup last year: Christian Yelich, Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, and Dee Gordon.  Those guys were leaders for the Marlins.  They could have gone on to contend with that group, but after no success making the playoffs in recent years, they decided to fully rebuild.  Rather than signing a couple pitchers and going for an NL East title, they decided not to sign too many pitchers and to make the series of trades they made.  In these trades, they added members of their future core, such as Lewis Brinson, Monte Harrison, and Magneuris Sierra.  They also acquired Starlin Castro to play second and signed a veteran or two including Cameron Maybin to be placeholders in the new look outfield.  These trades further advanced teams like the Yankees, Cardinals, and Brewers as well.

The Case for the Marlins

The Marlins have no intention of contending in 2018.  This year, expect to see veteran placeholders make up the lineup alongside their more seasoned prospects like J.T. Riddle and Lewis Brinson.  In the meantime, the Marlins will be getting their next generation of players ready to play at a big league level.  Starlin Castro was only acquired as a veteran mentor, don’t think he’s a sign that the Marlins aren’t ready to rebuild yet.  They are in full rebuild mode.  But did they rebuild too early?  Could they be contending down the stretch rather than sitting in the basement of the NL East, waiting for their prospects to further develop, and carrying around a bunch of older veterans who are past their prime?

The Bright Spot

Image result for justin bour and jt realmuto

The Marlins may have overhauled most of their lineup, but they still have a couple strong pieces in catcher J.T. Realmuto and first baseman Justin Bour.  Their lineup will remain their strong point in 2018, especially the very core of it.  Their rotation needs work.  They may have a couple good pitchers, but they need to find guys within their system who can lead the next generation of pitching in Miami.  They have plenty of hitting/fielding prospects already making their way towards the majors.

Best Case Scenario: The veterans Miami has signed are consistent and show signs that they still have what it takes to be as successful as they were earlier in their career, and Miami’s prospects get called up quickly and thrive in the majors, leading the Marlins just over 70 wins in Year 1 of a rebuild.

Worst Case Scenario: Miami’s top prospects struggle at the major league level, and their veteran leaders fail to find momentum, as the Marlins lose 100+ games.

Projected Finish: 64-98, 5th in NL East

 

29. chicago-white-sox Chicago White Sox

Off-Season Review

Image result for welington castillo white sox

As they plan to let a strong group of prospects lead the team in 2018, the White Sox were relatively quiet this off-season.  They added Wellington Castillo after several young catchers failed them, and they added a few guys to their bullpen.  They also signed Hector Santiago to top off the rotation.  But for the most part, they are happy with their young roster.  Sure, they could’ve added a veteran leader in the outfield or at third, or even added a new ace, but they can manage with the roster they have, especially if their younger players begin to break out.

The Case for the White Sox

Image result for lucas giolito white sox

After a rebuild, the White Sox are ready to take steps back towards contention.  They will start off slow, but they will improve over the next few years, slowly but surely.  Guys like 2B Yoan Moncada, SS Tim Anderson, and CF Adam Engel are hoping to have strong seasons and help lead the team.  Meanwhile, guys like Eloy Jimenez, Michael Kopech, and Lucas Giolito are looking to make an impact at the big league level.  This year will be about finding young leaders to help lead the team in the future alongside veteran 1B Jose Abreu.  I could see Giolito and Engel having strong seasons.

The Bright Spot

It’s younger players who are looking to become the new faces of the team.  But in the meantime, the White Sox have some strong veteran leaders.  Expect Jose Abreu to build upon a strong season.  I could also see James Shields bouncing back to lead the pitching staff and become a mentor for young pitchers like Kopech and Giolito.  Also, keep an eye out for younger breakout players.  Who do you think will emerge as a star on the White Sox in 2018?

Best Case Scenario: Chicago’s strong group of prospects are successful in the majors very quickly and lead the White Sox to a decent year in the AL Central alongside their veteran influences, who have very strong seasons.  In this scenario, they would come in 3rd over Kansas City and Detroit.

Worst Case Scenario: Jimenez, Kopech, and others fail to succeed at the major league level, and Abreu and Shields begin to decline quickly as the White Sox crumble.

Projected Finish: 66-96, 5th in AL Central

 

28. detroit-tigers Detroit Tigers

Off-Season Review

Image result for jeimer candelario victor martinez miguel cabrera

The Tigers started off 2017 expecting to contend.  But injuries and old age caught up with them, and they ended up trading away their older players and heading into rebuild mode.  They still held onto Miguel Cabrera, Nick Castellanos, Jose Iglesias, and Victor Martinez though.  Those four will mentor the younger players taking over, like Jeimer Candelario and Dixon Machado.  They could’ve used another veteran infielder, but instead, Candelario and Machado will start full time, and the only major free agent signings by Detroit were signing OF Leonys Martin and SP Mike Fiers, both of which they got done much earlier in the off-season than most of the free agent signings occurred.  Meanwhile, veterans Jordan Zimmermann, Francisco Liriano, and Mike Fiers, as well as younger starters Michael Fulmer and Daniel Norris, will headline the new look rotation.

The Case for the Tigers

Image result for jeimer candelario victor martinez miguel cabrera

The Tigers don’t have any blatant holes on their roster, but their roster lacks upside.  They have a lot of average players, but no clear superstar.  Even Miguel Cabrera’s numbers have taken a dip from dominant to average.  The question is, can Miggy rebound and lead this young team in 2018?  The Tigers will need someone to step it up and emerge as a true leader.  They have a good amount of veteran mentors, but nobody who can carry the team.  Who will break out and emerge as a star for them?

The Bright Spot

Like I said, it’s hard to name one leader or bright spot on this mediocre team, and mediocre teams with a lack of a leader and few experienced players are known to struggle.  I see Miggy and Victor Martinez rebounding for strong seasons and emerging as leaders.  Once the Tigers can find themselves a leader, they could be going places, as the younger players follow in their footsteps and help bring the Tigers back to the playoffs a couple years down the road.

Best Case Scenario: Detroit’s young roster gets off to a hot start, the well-balanced rotation thrives and Miguel Cabrera bounces back to lead the team as the Tigers jump right back into third place in Year 2 of a rebuild.

Worst Case Scenario: The rotation cannot find an identity, Detroit’s younger players struggle and disappoint, Miggy continues to struggle, and nobody else steps up to lead as they end up in the American League basement.

Projected Finish: 69-93, 4th in AL Central

 

27. pittsburgh-pirates Pittsburgh Pirates

Off-Season Review

In 2016 and 2017, the Pirates found themselves stuck in the middle.  They had a strong, but declining lineup and a rotation that was beginning to collapse.  This off-season, they made a definitive choice to begin a rebuild, and they started by trading Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole, their best hitter and their best pitcher.  After that, their off-season was very quiet, and Spring Training will be focused on getting their young prospects ready to play every day in the MLB.  They got some of those prospects as a return from the Astros (who acquired Cole) and the Giants (who acquired Cutch).  That group includes RHP Kyle Crick, RHP Joe Musgrove, and 3B Colin Moran.

The Case for the Pirates

Image result for austin meadows

The Pirates have made it clear what direction they’re headed in, and they will not contend in 2018.  They have some nice pieces that will help them alongside their top prospects in the coming years, but right now, the veterans are just there to keep the Pirates playing at a major league level (at the very least).  In the meantime, the Pirates will focus on getting their prospects ready.  Expect to see a lot of Austin Meadows, Colin Moran, Jordan Luplow, Josh Bell, Bryce Brentz and Max Moroff in the Pirates lineup.  All those guys are potential leaders for the next generation in Pittsburgh.

Meanwhile, their biggest need is a successful young pitcher.  They have yet to find one, but as soon as they do, expect to see him up in the majors getting a chance to prove himself.  The Pirates still have a decent lineup, so if they can get a few young hitters ready and fix up their rotation, expect to see them back in the playoffs in a few years.

The Bright Spot

Image result for gregory polanco and starling marte

The Pirates still have a great group of guys in the outfield.  Not only do the Pirates have some good defense out there, but these guys will continue to lead the Pirates lineup.  Despite trading away Cutch, they have brought in Corey Dickerson, another power hitting outfielder to replace him.  They also have plenty of prospects who will see time back there including top prospect Austin Meadows.  Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco will also continue to serve as leaders on this team.  Their rotation may need work, and the infield has yet to find their starting mix, but this Pirates outfield is all set.

Best Case Scenario: Pittsburgh’s prospects crack the majors and make an impact quickly, Polanco and Marte continue to serve as leaders and mentors, and the young rotation looks a little better as the Pirates get right above the 70-win line.

Worst Case Scenario: Injuries and struggles plague the Pirates rotation, Pittsburgh’s veterans decline, and the prospects are forced to lead the team and fail to handle the pressure as Pittsburgh collapses in Year 1 of their rebuild.

Projected Finish: 67-95, 5th in NL Central

 

26. san diego-padres San Diego Padres

Off-Season Review

Related image

Last season I said the Padres were in a horrific rebuild after making a mistake in signing a bunch of veterans past their prime to lead the 2016 team and some of you disagreed, saying that the Padres have talent that will anchor their next generation.  Whoever said that is correct because now that the Padres have gotten their top prospects MLB ready, they are ready to take steps back toward contention mode.  Manuel Margot and Fernando Tatis Jr. are some of the young guns who can help lead this team, and the Padres have added a couple veterans to further boost the roster.

They may have made the biggest signing of the off-season when they added 1B Eric Hosmer.  They also acquired SS Freddy Galvis and 3B Chase Headley (who was here to start his MLB career) after giving up infielder Yangervis Solarte.  Wil Myers will also continue to be a veteran mentor as he returns to the outfield.  He will allow San Diego’s younger outfielders to platoon, and they will not be pressured to perform like everyday starters.

The Case for the Padres

After a brief rebuild, the Padres are headed back in an upward direction.  But legitimate playoff contention will take a year or two.  This year, their young roster will continue to develop as their veterans lead the team in an upward direction.  Once guys like Carlos Asuaje and 19-year old prospect Fernando Tatis Jr. are ready to contend alongside Hosmer, Myers, and co., the Padres will be going places.

The Bright Spot

In my opinion, Hosmer will emerge as a leader, star, and mentor on his new team.  With the Royals, Hosmer was never a sole leader or the face of the team, but he was on the brink of stardom as he continued to thrive in Kansas City.  In San Diego, he will emerge as one of the league’s premium position players as he leads the team and emerges as a superstar.  He is already an All-Star Game regular, but he hasn’t received the love and respect he deserves.  Now that he’s arguably the best player on his new team, he will completely breakout, and the league will recognize that.

Best Case Scenario: With an upgraded, well-balanced roster, the Padres will get off to a fast start and compete in the NL West.  However, in what’s arguably the toughest division in the league, they will not see the playoffs quite yet.

Worst Case Scenario: San Diego’s prospects disappoint in their first years, and the Padres fail to find leaders and mentors in their veterans, which will further affect the young guns as the Padres end up in dead last after they cannot handle the pressure of their division.

Projected Finish: 69-93, 5th in NL West

 

25. oakland-a's Oakland Athletics

Off-Season Review

Image result for sean manaea

Oakland did not do much this off-season, as many of their younger players are finally ready to become everyday players.  But they did make a few moves to enhance the roster.  They added young OF Stephen Piscotty to take some pressure off rookie CF Dustin Fowler.  Now Boog Powell and Jake Smolinski will be able to back Fowler up.  They also signed SP Trevor Cahill when Jharel Cotton lost his 2018 season to Tommy John Surgery.  Now the rotation will look something like this:

  1. Kendall Graveman RHP
  2. Sean Manaea LHP
  3. Andrew Triggs RHP
  4. Trevor Cahill RHP
  5. Paul Blackburn/Daniel Mendgen*

* A.J. Puk could eventually snag this rotation slot

Other than that, Oakland was pretty quiet this off-season, and it will not hurt them.  They didn’t need to do much to keep the roster in good shape.  But they will not contend yet.  That all depends on when guys like Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, and A.J. Puk breakout.

The Case for the Athletics

Image result for matt chapman

Like I said, the A’s are on the brink of contention, but they need a breakout star or two first.  They have a lot of great young pieces, and they are headed in an upward direction now.  They have a home run hitter too.  But they need a couple younger players to lead the A’s if they want to get back to the playoffs.  I don’t care who.  It could be Matt Olson, Sean Manaea, Matt Chapman, Andrew Triggs, anyone.  I could personally see Manaea or Triggs breaking through, and I also like Olson and Chapman.  A.J. Puk is also a breakout candidate.  Although I do not have the Athletics contending this year, they could be in a great position by Opening Day 2019.

The Bright Spot

Image result for khris davis

The A’s may not be contending yet, but if they can combine rotation and lineup consistency with the power hitting core they already have, they can make a run at the playoffs.  Khris Davis was one of the Top 5 HR hitters of 2017 (the top three are now all part of the AL East).  Yes, only Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, and J.D. Martinez hit more.  I see Davis repeating this over the next couple years, and combining that with Oakland’s flurry of young talent on the brink of a breakout could make for great things.  The future is very bright in Oakland.

Best Case Scenario: Davis continues to keep up with the best in the power-hitting department, many of Oakland’s younger players break through, and the A’s jump right back into contention with a record around .500, putting them in great shape for 2019.

Worst Case Scenario: Davis drops off, the rotation is plagued by injuries, and nobody emerges as a leader/star as the A’s disappoint and bore many in 2018.

Projected Finish: 68-94, 5th in AL West*

Note: Although I see a lot of potential here, they need to prove themselves before I can rank them too much higher.

 

That’s all for this article.  Stay tuned for Part 2 coming soon.  I will also have my preseason Baseball Bits up before the regular season begins next week.  On a side note, I was unable to finish my March Madness previews, but my bracket is busted anyway, and you can click here for my second chance picks.  Also, stay tuned for my update on NFL free agency.

Red Sox Rally Their Way to Victory over Detroit 

3-3 ballgame.  It was the bottom of the 8th, and ex-Red Sox pitcher Alex Wilson was on the mound.  It was high in the air.  I knew it was gone the minute I saw it.  JBJ had just nailed a go-ahead home run to give the Red Sox the 5-3 lead.  

The Red Sox went on to top the Tigers 5-3.  Each team got 11 hits in this big hitting game.  Mitch Moreland went 3-4 with 2 RBI, JBJ went 2-4 with another 3 RBI.  Lots of good plays by JBJ and Mookie Betts made the game interesting and I was at the game and witnessed the great comeback victory.  

It started out ugly for the Sox though.  Brian Johnson gave up a dinger with 1 out in the 1st inning to Nicholas Castellanos.  But the Tigers weren’t done.  Both Victor and J.D. Martinez got on base, and it was 1st and 2nd with 2 down.  Then Justin Upton knocked Victor Martinez in with his single up the middle.  It was 2-0 Tigers after 1 inning and Brian Johnson had thrown almost 30 pitches.  Johnson tried to settle down after that, but in the next two innings he reached 70 pitches.  He had given up 5 hits and a walk in 3 innings.  

Then to begin the 4th, Mikie Mahtook nailed a dinger into the bleachers.  3-0 Detroit.  

However, the Red Sox began to rally in the 4th inning.  Mitch Moreland answered with a leadoff home run to center.  Then after a Benintendi single and Ramirez walk, it was 1st and 2nd. Then Bradley Jr. hit a line drive single to knock in a 2nd run.  3-2 Tigers.  

However, Pablo Sandoval ended the rally on a double play.  Panda struggled all game, striking out twice and grounding into this double play.  He also made 2 plays that could’ve been called errors. 

The Tigers tried to strike back.  Victor Martinez got a base hit, and then J.D. Martinez doubled to center and Victor was on third, but it wasn’t enough.  After Brian Johnson and Heath Hembree were done, Joe Kelly was an absolute machine against Detroit in the 7th.  

Mookie Betts tried to start another rally when he doubled, but it failed.  However, the Red Sox came back in the 8th.  Alex Wilson, the former Red Sox player, was pitching.  Fans were booing and taunting him.  Bogaerts got on base, and then he reached second when Wilson wildly tried to pick him off at first.  Then Moreland drove in another run with an RBI single.  It was a tie ballgame, 3-3.  Benintendi lined out, and Ramirez was out on a lazy fly ball. 


Then, JBJ hit a huge dinger to right.  Everyone was cheering.  They had come back!  The Red Sox were up 5-3 going into the top of the 9th, and Craig Kimbrel came right into the game.  After a strikeout, a foul pop up and another strikeout, the Red Sox won 5-3.  Kimbrel got the 3 out, 10 pitch save.  


Here’s the final strike.  My good luck may have factored in again.  I even got a picture of the win dance, where JBJ was honored.  They did their ski jump and I got it on camera.  


Can they get into a good stretch after a big win tonight?  Chris Sale starts tomorrow and it should be a rude awakening for Detroit tomorrow night.  

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

Welcome to Day 4 of my MLB preseason power rankings.  Last time, I broke down the middle of the pack and the pros and cons of each team there.  Now we’ve made it to the playoff contenders.  Each of these teams has something that’s holding them back from dominance, though.  Today, I will break down what that is for each team.  Now, let’s get started with #12.

Missed a previous article?  Check below:

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

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

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

 

12. sanfran-giants San Francisco Giants

Off-season Review

The Giants definitely could’ve had a bigger off-season.  It’s an odd year, and the rotation is still good, and they did upgrade the bullpen with Mark Melancon among others, but the Giants could’ve done more to boost a mediocre lineup that lacks depth.  Sure, they did improve the depth of their lineup, by signing Gordon Beckham, Jimmy Rollins, Michael Morse and Nick Hundley, but if there wasn’t a gaping hole in the outfield, Jarrett Parker and Mac Williamson would not be fighting for the left field job.  The Giants have other holes and weaknesses as well.

The Case for the Giants

The Giants have some of the best pitchers in the entire MLB.  The lineup is decent but lacks stars.  Their only superstar players in the lineup are Buster Posey and Hunter Pence.  Those guys are good, but there are other problems.  There’s a hole in the outfield, and I don’t know if Eduardo Nunez will repeat what he did last year, and before last year, Eduardo Nunez was a backup infielder that was moving from team to team frequently.

What’s Holding Them Back

It’s pretty clear that depth problems and holes in the lineup are holding this team back.  They need a left fielder and some other options in the infield and outfield.  The bullpen still lacks depth as well, despite adding several quality relievers, including star closer Mark Melancon.  The Giants could contend, but these problems will really hold them back, and the fact that the bottom end of the lineup is not great.

Best Case Scenario: The better pitching helps the Giants contend, and the lineup is better than expected, helping the Giants win the NL West.

Worst Case Scenario: Depth problems hold the Giants back, and they cannot contend.

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

 

11. Toronto_Blue_Jays Toronto Blue Jays

Off-season Review

Image result for jose bautista

The Blue Jays didn’t do much this off-season, which might hurt them.  However, they were pretty situated where they were, so won’t be impacted that much, and the moves they did make really made up for it.  The Jays lost Josh Thole and Edwin Encarnacion but signed Kendrys Morales and Jarrod Saltalamacchia in their place.  They also resigned Jose Bautista, which was a big move for them that prevented them from having a big hole in the outfield.

The Case for the Blue Jays

The Blue Jays have a strong all-around team.  But they’re playing in a tough division, and have a lot of competition.  One thing they do lack is superstars.  I cannot name a single legitimate MVP or Cy Young candidate on the Blue Jays.  That wouldn’t be a problem if they didn’t have a lot of other teams with stars to compete with.  The Blue Jays would be a lot better if every team better than them didn’t have superstars.  But that’s the truth.

What’s Holding Them Back

Two things are holding this team back.  First of all, there’s too much competition in the wild card race and in the AL East.  Second, the best the Blue Jays have for a star player is Josh Donaldson.  They clearly lack a true star.

Best Case Scenario: The Blue Jays dominate the tough competition in the AL East, cruise through the playoffs, and win the World Series.

Worst Case Scenario: The Blue Jays decline this season due to tough competition, and the Blue Jays finish around .500.

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

 

10. detroit-tigers Detroit Tigers

Off-season Review

The Tigers didn’t do much this off-season.  They did sign Omar Infante to a minor league deal and got Alex Avila back, but they didn’t add any quality players.  Their lineup has some holes and weaknesses yet to be fixed, which they should’ve fixed in free agency.  Despite a better rotation, this team will face depth problems and lineup problems in 2017.

The Case for the Tigers

Image result for miguel cabrera

The Tigers have a young rotation that will look better in 2017.  Their bullpen is also loaded.  The lineup, led by Miguel Cabrera, is also pretty good but lacks one thing, depth.  After losing Cameron Maybin in a trade, the Tigers only have two good outfielders, and the best they’ve got as a reserve infielder is Omar Infante.  Some of this lineup is also very inconsistent, so the Tigers could completely flop, or they could have a great season.

What’s Holding Them Back

Depth problems and inconsistency in the lineup have held this team back.  The Tigers could be great, but inconsistency may get in the way.  They don’t have a consistently good lineup, and their rotation still needs work despite improvement.  The Tigers will be better, but because of this fact, they won’t quite dominate yet.

Best Case Scenario: The rotation gets better, the lineup has a strong year, and the Tigers dominate.

Worst Case Scenario: The rotation continues to struggle, the lineup is inconsistent, and the Tigers finish under .500.

Projected Finish: 89-73, 2nd in AL Central (2nd Wild Card)

 

9. los-angeles-dodgers Los Angeles Dodgers

Off-season Review

Image result for logan forsythe welcome to dodgers

The Dodgers re-signed their key free agents and upgraded what was a weak bullpen to add to it.  They also traded Jose De Leon for Logan Forsythe.  The rotation is one of the league’s best, and the lineup is pretty good as well but is held back by a lack of veterans.  Andre Ethier’s a little too washed up, same with Chase Utley.  That leaves just Adrian Gonzalez for experience in the lineup.  However, the Dodgers are looking better for 2017.

The Case for the Dodgers

The Dodgers are looking good on paper, but have some hidden problems.  The pitching staff is looking a lot better, but with how many injury prone guys they have, it will be hard to keep that rotation the way it is.  The lineup is also good but isn’t as good as last year.  Guys are getting older, Howie Kendrick is gone, and the lineup just doesn’t look as good as it used to in LA.

What’s Holding Them Back

The Dodgers are being held back by several things.  Depth problems, aging players, and a whole bunch of stuff that’s not clear on paper.  The Dodgers may be the best team on paper, but realistically, they have a lot more issues than you’d think.  I mean, look at the Buffalo Bills from the last two years.  They looked like playoff teams on paper.  The result?  Two mediocre seasons and one fired head coach.  The Dodgers won’t be that bad, but they won’t necessarily make it very far in the playoffs.

Best Case Scenario: A strong, balanced Dodgers team stays healthy and at it’s best, and the Dodgers make it far in the playoffs.

Worst Case Scenario: Injuries leave an impact, and the whole team declines and regresses, finishing third in the NL West.

Projected Finish: 90-72, 1st in NL West

 

8. new-york-mets New York Mets

Off-season Review

The Mets did resign a lot of their key free agents, but couldn’t grab on to any from other teams.  They also lost some of the depth of their lineup and rotation.  However, it’s hard not to like this team.  They arguably have the best rotation in the league and their lineup is looking a lot better than it used to.  The Mets are in a good position to win, but could depth bite back and be a problem?

The Case for the Mets

The Mets have a good lineup and a good rotation, but they lack two things.  One thing they lack is bullpen options.  They have a good closer and set up man, but beyond that, the Mets’ bullpen needs some work.  The second thing they lack is depth.  Depth is a team-wide problem for the Mets.  The depth of the lineup isn’t great.  The depth of the rotation is a problem.  The bullpen is suffering from lack of depth, which is depriving the Mets of a good bullpen.

What’s Holding Them Back

Didn’t I make it clear about what’s holding this team back?  Things weren’t like this last year.  This is the one cost of their quiet off-season.  This team lost Alejandro De Aza, Jon Niese, Bartolo Colon, Logan Verrett, Justin Ruggiano and James Loney to free agency.  That was half the bench, and both of the Mets’ spot starters and fill-in starters, gone.  However, the Mets didn’t contend last season because the lineup was still a work in progress.

Best Case Scenario: The lineup thrives, the rotation kicks butt, and the Mets win the NL East by a longshot.

Worst Case Scenario: The lineup continues to struggle, the young rotation doesn’t do as well, and the Mets struggle to stay over .500.

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

 

7. houston-astros Houston Astros

Off-season ReviewImage result for carlos beltran astros

The Astros had a very active off-season.  They still have some holes in the lineup and the rotation is just mediocre, but they really upgraded their lineup.  They signed Josh Reddick, Carlos Beltran, and Norichika Aoki.  They also traded for Brian McCann.  This lineup does lack depth and has holes in some spots, but its core just got a whole lot stronger.

The Case for the Astros

Image result for altuve and correa

The Astros have the upside to win a World Series.  Their lineup looks a whole lot better but has a hole at first base that’s been there since Jon Singleton’s decline.  The infield, led by Jose Altuve is young and intriguing but also still in development.  The outfield is full of experienced veterans who will help lead this team.  The rotation isn’t amazing, but is still good and has some good depth.  If the young players can continue to perform well consistently, the Astros could be in for a great season.

What’s Holding Them Back

It’s not one singular thing that’s holding the Astros back.  It’s multiple things.  Depth problems and holes in the infield are just two minor issues that will make a slightly bigger impact.  The bullpen could be better too, and the Astros are still developing a little bit.  If by the end of the season, the younger players are seasoned enough, the Astros could easily win the World Series.

Best Case Scenario: The young guns dominate and the Astros win the World Series.

Worst Case Scenario: Depth and holes bite back, the young guns fail to perform well, and the rotation struggles as the Astros finish around .500, between many AL West contenders.

Projected Finish: 91-71, 2nd in AL West

 

So, that’s all for Day 4 of these rankings.  The final part is coming tomorrow, so stay tuned!

 

Red Sox Stay Hot, Crush Tigers

The Red Sox got a big win over the Detroit Tigers last night, blowing them out 10-2.  Rick Porcello went 7 strong innings while Hanley and Pedey stayed hot and David Ortiz and JBJ jacked homers.

The Red Sox started off the game with a 4 run, 2 dinger 1st inning.  Xander Bogaerts showed signs of overcoming his slump as he started off the game with a base hit after Pedroia grounded out to second.  Then David Ortiz crushed the ball high into right field.  It was long gone, a no-doubter.  Then after Betts flew out to right, Hanley Ramirez stayed hot since returning to the club  with another base hit.  JBJ then blasted one in the same direction as Ortiz’s for the 2nd HR of the inning.   Red Sox took a 4-0 lead to start the game, very assuring after collapsing in the first game of the series.

But the Tigers struck back in the 2nd and took advantage of Porcello’s weakness from 2015, giving up home runs.  It would’ve been a solo shot but Porcello could not hang on to the throw to 1st and J.D. Martinez had himself a 2-run dinger.  Later in the game J.D. Martinez lined a hit through Xander Bogaerts’ broken glove.  J. D. would go 2 for 3 on the day but he would account for half the hits Porcello gave up in 7 stellar innings.

This was Porcello’s first start in Detroit since being traded for Yoenis Cespedes and he showed he was comfortable at Comerica after all those years with the Tigers, who also have a lot of former Red Sox on their roster.  The Tigers threatened only one more time and had 1st and 2nd in the 4th but former Sox’ catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia failed to extend a potential 2-out rally.

Bogaerts got another hit in the 5th and after an Ortiz walk, the Red Sox had a scoring opportunity of their own.  But Mookie Betts grounded into a force out.  I don’t think Betts was at fault though.  Miguel Cabrera robbed what could have been a nice hit for Andrew Benintendi, who has already been electric in Boston.  It was 4-2 Red Sox.  Would they hold on?  Oh yeah they did!  They dropped 6 more runs on the board!  Three innings in a row they scored a pair of runs.

In the 6th, the middle of the Sox lineup was shut down.  But with two outs in the inning and the bases empty, Sandy Leon came up to bat.  With four dingers in the 10 games prior to this, Leon was in good shape for a clutch hit.  He cracked an infield single on a low pitch.  Then up came Brock Holt.  Holt hit another one up the middle.  The Sox had first and second with Andrew Benintendi up, looking for revenge after Miguel Cabrera robbed his first potential hit.  He came through with a bloop single up the middle to score the inning’s 1st run.  Then Pedey came up with 1st and 3rd.  Ian Kinsler was covering second as Benintendi ran with the pitch, opening a whole for Pedroia to knock one between first and second right where Kinsler had been positioned.  That allowed another Sox run and knocked Michael Fulmer out of the game!  He was fresh off a complete game against the AL leading Rangers but today he gave up 6 runs in 5.2 innings against the feisty Sox lineup!

The Sox kept it up in the 7th.  David Ortiz got on for the third time as he punched a big single to right.  Mookie Betts got his first hit, a line drive single into left just above Erick Aybar.  1st and 2nd for Hanley Ramirez.  Ramirez knocked a double high up into right.  The opposite-field hit was in the gap allowing both Ortiz and Betts  to score and it was 8-2 Red Sox.

The Red Sox struck again in the 8th!  Andrew Benintendi drove a change-up into right for a stand-up double to start the inning.  Pedroia followed with an infield single, his second hit of the day.  He stayed hot riding a 10-game hitting streak.  He may not like hitting lead off but he sure is good at it.  1st and 2nd for Bogaerts, who was heading in the opposite direction until a multi-hit game tonight.  The center fielder caught his fly ball but Benintendi advanced to third.  Up came Travis Shaw who was hitting for David Ortiz and he walked.  Later Hanley Ramirez did it again, ripping a 2-run double to left.

The Red Sox were on a roll.  They were up 10-2 as the lineup was explosive, Porcello was dominant, and they even had a nice double play ball to end the 7th.  It was Fireworks Night at Comerica but they might as well have canceled it  because the Red Sox bats took care of that.  The bullpen was even good.  Fernando Abad pitched a 15 pitch inning in 9th inning garbage time.  They shut the Tigers down and 10-2 was the final score.

The Red Sox have two more crucial games against the Tigers.  They will face Daniel Norris and Justin Verlander with Drew Pomeranz and Eduardo Rodriguez pitching for Boston.  Will they win their way into playoff contention, or flop in the 2nd half of the trip?  They are now only a half game out from Toronto.  The Jays lost to Cleveland by late back to back homers, one outside the park and one for the first walk-off inside the park winning HR ever in MLB!

The Red Sox are in good shape and I think they might surprise a lot of fans after 2 last place seasons.  Stay tuned!

 

 

Opening Day: Modified Standings and Bold Predictions

opening-day-16

 

It’s just a couple of hours until the first full day of regular season games starts, and I’m here to get you ready.  Sure, you may have have seen my MLB Preview, but this is a condensed, more accurate version.  I even have some bold predictions for the season.  Let’s get started.

 

AL East

  1. Boston Red Sox 91-71
  2. Toronto Blue Jays 86-76
  3. Tampa Bay Rays 82-80
  4. New York Yankees 76-86
  5. Baltimore Orioles 72-90

The Red Sox made a good move starting Travis Shaw over Pablo Sandoval, and Hanley Ramirez has adjusted well to first.  This lineup is new and improved, and ready to take over a weak but tight division.  Even if the rotation behind David Price is a concern, their bullpen makes up for it.

I just don’t believe the Blue Jays can function without better pitching.  When they lost David Price and LaTroy Hawkins, it was back to square one.  The Rays made some good off season improvements but their lineup still lacks power, and the Yankees are just getting too old to be good anymore.  Starlin Castro was a good first step.  Lastly, the O’s don’t have anything to convince me.  Their outfield is seconds away from shattering, and after Miguel Gonzalez’s release, their rotation is still short a pitcher.   So it looks like easy pickings for the Red Sox, even if they’re a shaky team.

yankees-2b-castro

AL Central

  1. Kansas City Royals 93-69
  2. Detroit Tigers 89-73 (WC)
  3. Chicago White Sox 87-75
  4. Minnesota Twins 78-84
  5. Cleveland Indians 74-88

The Royals cannot be beaten in this division, it just won’t happen.  With a strong lineup and balanced rotation, they’re not going down.  They will be closely challenged however as the Tigers and White Sox improve.  They still have weak areas more than the Royals, but they will compete for wild card spots.  They made key signings like Justin Upton and Austin Jackson that take their teams to the next level.

The Indians aren’t horrible like I said but can’t compete in a tough division after such a quiet off season.

The Twins have a reborn lineup but the pitching can’t support young sensations Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano yet.  This division is up for grabs beyond Kansas City, but the Royals have first place locked up.

 

AL West

  1. Texas Rangers 95-67
  2. Houston Astros 88-74 (WC)
  3. Seattle Mariners 81-81
  4. Oakland Athletics 76-86
  5. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 68-94

 

Alright, at least I have the Astros in the playoffs.  I just believe that the Rangers have more than Houston.  The Astros don’t even have a starting first baseman, and their young rotation is inconsistent.  The Rangers probably have the best trio of batters in the AL with Prince Fielder, Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus.  They have some good lineup improvements to support their lineup this off season and their rotation is completely revamped and healthy.

The Mariners went on a full shopping spree this off season, but they didn’t necessarily fill their main holes, so they’ll only be mediocre.  The Athletics are only slightly improved, and the Angels clearly aren’t going anywhere with such an inconsistent rotation and lineup.  So this division will be a tight dogfight between the Rangers and Astros with the Mariners in the wild card bidding.

AL Playoffs

Wild Card: Tigers over Astros

ALDS: Red Sox over Royals

Rangers over Tigers

ALCS: Rangers over Red Sox

 

NL East

  1. Washington Nationals 93-69
  2. New York Mets 90-72 (WC)
  3. Miami Marlins 83-79
  4. Philadelphia Phillies 67-95
  5. Atlanta Braves 64-98

 

Yes, in my modified predictions, the Mets make the playoffs.  I have always underrated them so maybe if I predict a wild card, they’ll win the division.  Even though I usually overrate the Nationals above them, the Nats have a case this year with an improved lineup, and strong rotation.  Who needs Jordan Zimmermann when you have Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez?

The Marlins have the next best chance but are still working on a weak bullpen, and the Phillies and Braves have absolutely no chance and have practically abandoned their teams for the year.  So that leaves the Mets and Nats to have the best battle yet.  I say they both make the playoffs and lose in the NLDS.  What do you think?

 

NL Central

  1. Chicago Cubs 97-65
  2. St. Louis Cardinals 91-71 (WC)
  3. Pittsburgh Pirates 88-74
  4. Cincinnati Reds 73-89
  5. Milwaukee Brewes 69-93

With the exception of maybe last year, this Cubs team is by far the best Cubs team of the century.  They are favorites to win the World Series, and will not be stopped in this division.  The Pirates and Cards still had good off seasons, but have tapered off from last season’s teams.  They have lost many of their best like Neil Walker, Lance Lynn (temporarily) and Jason Heyward.  They will only compete for the playoff spots behind Chicago.

The Brewers and Reds are both in rebuilding stages after making a splash in 2013 and 2014.  They are two of the worst teams in the league and will not compete for this division in any way, shape or form.

 

NL West

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers 92-70
  2. Arizona Diamondbacks 87-75
  3. San Diego Padres 86-76
  4. San Francisco Giants 86-76
  5. Colorado Rockies 63-99

The Dodgers still rule this division even after a weak off season.  The Giants are overrated and young, the D-Backs just aren’t ready yet, and the Padres are a big sleeper but have the potential to be a bust as well.  LA has a strong rotation with great depth and despite numerous injuries, the Dodgers’ spot starters are happy to help, and they do.  The Rockies have done a minimal amount of improvements, and I don’t see them going anywhere.  Their rotation is a mess, and they have such big holes at positions like first base that they’ll have to call up players off of the 40-man roster.

NL Playoffs

 

Wild Card: Mets over Cardinals

NLDS: Dodgers over Nationals

Cubs over Mets

NLCS: Cubs over Dodgers

 

World Series: Rangers over Cubs

 

10 Bold Predictions for the 2016 Season

  1. Former Mariners Smoak and Saunders both bat above .270

Justin_Smoak

Justin Smoak and Michael Saunders’ contributions in Seattle have not yet showed up on the Blue Jays.  I say they both have comeback years and Smoak earns his job back from Chris Colabello easily.  After a .273 avergage in 2014, Saunders batted just .194 in ’15 in just 9 games played.  Saunders missed most of the year.  Smoak has never put up that good of stats, but he has a chance to rebound from the last two years, as he sucked in 2014.

  1. Starlin Castro finally breaks through, as the Yankees star player

You can’t spell Starlin without Star.  Year after year the Cubs have gotten their hopes up about the young shortstop.  However, this young guy has showed his skills and I think he’s ready to fully breakthrough.  I have this guy hitting between .310 and .320 with a personal best in average and dingers.  Hopefully, he can adjust to the Yankees system and be strengthened by the Yanks.

  1. White Sox and Tigers will each get at least 85 wins

Both teams sucked last season, what happened?  They both made very bold moves in the off season, as I had said.  The Tigers have a much better rotation in 2016, while the White Sox have revamped their lineup.  They may not beat the Royals in the division race, but between the two of them, they could put on a big fight.

  1. Eric Hosmer and Jason Heyward win MVPs

eric-hosmer-jason-heyward

The Royals have had Hosmer his entire career and he’s just been a subpar star the whole time.  When will he fully breakout and have a rampage season?  2016 of course.  Hosmer’s stats have increased recently as he takes a lead role on the Royals.  He is a well known veteran in Kansas City and it’s time that his name is known league-wide.  Heyward meanwhile has developed really well and after a strong year with the Cardinals, he looks like a serious MVP candidate.  He put up a career best .293 average last season.  The Cubs have put him in a crucial role and Heyward’s ready to nail it.

  1. Yu Darvish wins AL Comeback Player and AL CY Young

yu-darvish

I have Yu Darvish winning both the AL Cy Young and AL Comeback Player of the Year.  The guy looked outstanding in his rookie season and when he’s healthy, I think he could still do great things.

  1. Mets infield hits 3 times more homers than Yoenis Cespedes

Between Asdrubal Cabrera and Neil Walker, the Mets have made a splash in the infield.  Add on David Wright and Lucas Duda, and you’ve got yourself the infield of a super-team.  Between all those guys, I think they will hit 3 times the homers of Yoenis Cespedes.  I think Cespedes will hit about 40 homers.  However, I think each of the Mets infielders will hit 20-35 dingers this year.  They have a lot of potential.  That’s what potential can do.

  1. Harrison and Freese combine for 70 dingers and Pirates only win 88 games

Yes, even with the Pirates winning just 88 games and missing the playoffs, I see the hitting doing surprisingly well this year.  I have two mediocre guys combining for 70 taters, and one of them isn’t even a full time starter.  That doesn’t even include Andrew McCutchen, Gregory Polanco and Starling Marte.  The Pirates lineup is overpowered to an extreme level.

  1. At least one Reds player comes in the Top 5 in the NL for AVG, HRs or ERA

There are many candidates on the team that could do this.  Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, even Raisel Iglesias or Homer Bailey.  But I think despite the Reds not being that good as a team, they have veteran players that can do big things when given the chance.  The Reds had a somewhat healthy year last year, and I’m feeling it will happen again.

  1. Giants run out of even-year luck, miss playoffs

Yes, the Giants don’t win the World Series in 2016, or even make the playoffs.  The NL just has too many teams that are better this year.  The Mets aren’t going to miss the playoffs even if the Nats beat them out in the NL East!  That leaves the Cards, D-Backs, Pirates and Giants to fight over Wild Card #2. Compared to those three teams, the Giants look like garbage.  Well what if they win the division?  No way, not happening.  The Dodgers are just too hard to beat even after such an empty off season, and if they don’t win, the D-Backs have a pretty good chance too.

  1. Entire Dodgers rotation ends up with ERAs under 3.50

kmaeda

The Dodgers rotation is stacked.  Despite injuries, it’ll start the season looking like this:

  1. Clayton Kershaw
  2. Kenta Maeda
  3. Scott Kazmir
  4. Hyun-Jin Ryu
  5. Alex Wood

Even without Brett Anderson and Brandon McCarthy, that rotation is pretty overpowered.  Kenta Maeda was a star in Japan and I think he can adjust, and if Scott Kazmir pitches like he did in Houston, then the Dodgers top 3 is ready to shut down the league.  Hyun-Jin Ryu is efficient and powerful when he’s healthy, and Alex Wood can really pitch if they need him.

 

Enjoy your Opening Day!  Go Red Sox!

 

Scouting Report: Baltimore Orioles

Sarasota, Fl - Yovani Gallardo takes part in Orioles Spring training.
The Orioles may not have made the biggest splash this off season but they made some quality moves.  Unfortunately for O’s fans, I don’t necessarily think that the Orioles have gotten better since last season.  They may have made some moves to maintain their status from last season but some things have not worked out and they aren’t quite as good as they were last season.
Off Season Review
The Orioles had an effective off season in some ways and an ineffective one in another way.  They started with bringing back Matt Wieters on a qualifying offer.  They really needed their star catcher back as their backup options are limited.  They made some trades later in November, bringing in L.J. Hoes for cash and inviting him to spring training.  In early December they got Mark Trumbo and C.J. Riefenhauser for Steve Clevenger.  I thought the Orioles won the trade but still, nobody great was given out to either team in that trade and it didn’t fit their needs.  Riefenhauser later got claimed off waivers by the Cubs.  That was very recently though.
At the non-tender deadline, they had to get rid of starting right fielder David Lough.  They now had not one, but two open outfield spots unless Mark Trumbo or Nolan Reimold stepped up to start.  They later signed Japanese outfielder Hyun-Soo Kim to at least take his place.  They also lost prospects Junior Lake and Edgar Olmos to waivers. Lake was another outfield option!!!  They were really thin now!!  There went another reliever too!!  However, they resigned star reliever Darren O’ Day for four years.
As January came, They traded for Odrisamer Despaigne and resigned Chris Davis long-term (seven years) in what was known as “A serious game of chicken” by MLB.com.  In late free agency, a lot of rumors were flying around Baltimore, and they still are.  Some of the names included Yovani Gallardo, Dexter Fowler, Tim Lincecum, Austin Jackson even Justin Upton and Yoenis Cespedes at one point.  They signed Gallardo for two years, but Fowler went to the Cubs despite almost signing in Baltimore, Jackson went to the White Sox, Upton went to Detroit and Cespedes resigned in New York.
Lincecum is still being rumored, and the Jackson to the Sox isn’t official yet.  In fact, I think Lincecum will sign with the Orioles enough that I put him on their predicted roster. The Orioles made some impact moves, but they still have some unfilled holes.  They did not fulfill the opportunity they had this off season  to improve.  All those rumors and big name signings for a mediocre to bad team.  Not ideal.
Off Season Grade: D+
Spring Training Storylines
Will the big name signings and re-signings make an impact?
Depends on if these guys have up or down seasons, hopefully for Bostonians like me, a down one.  Chris Davis I still don’t think is satisfied in Baltimore.  Hey, at least Yovani Gallardo and maybe Hyun-Soo Kim are good fits.  They still have Adam Jones better than ever, even without his precious pie celebrations.  They have some pretty good sleepers in the lineup to cover.  But still no matter what this team will have holes.  This might not matter.
How will the O’s fill the holes in the outfield and rotation?
Well, prospects play a big role.  Miguel Gonzalez needs more attention as a strong vet that will fight for a slot in the rotation.  Mike Wright, Dylan Bundy and Odrisamer Despaigne could get some spot starts.  In the outfield, sure, they lost Junior Lake who was developing well but they have Dariel Alvarez, they have Nolan Reimold, Jimmy Paredes may transition to right field and then Hyun-Soo Kim will move to left.
But even with prospects, a late signing would really help, even if its only like Alex Rios, Tim Lincecum or Cliff Lee.  I don’t think prospects plus what they have in the majors is going to be quite enough to fill the holes.
Who are some prospects who will be known this year?
Some of the prospects I mentioned above could be good but further down in the system, I’m liking sleep pitching prospect Andrew Triggs, who has looked alright this spring, veteran outfield spring training invitee L.J. Hoes, who returned to Baltimore this off season, and infielder Christian Walker.
Walker got some good time last year and looked ready to take over for Chris Davis, at least if Davis was still playing like he did in 2014 and Hoes got some good backup time in Houston but between their younger outfield prospects and the everyday starters, there was no room for him to shine last year.  There’s a lot of potential in the O’s system.  Despite a bad current team, they have future hope.

 Baltimore Orioles Projected Roster

Rotation               Bullpen
Chris Tillman        Zach Britton (CL)
Yovani Gallardo    Darren O’ Day
Tim Lincecum**    Brad Brach
Kevin Gausman    Miguel Gonzalez
Ubaldo Jimenez    Brian Matusz
                              Chaz Roe
                          Odrisamer Despaigne
Lineup                       Bench
C: Matt Wieters         Caleb Joseph
1B: Chris Davis          Christian Walker
2B: Jonathan Schoop  Nolan Reimold
SS: J.J. Hardy            Ryan Flaherty
3B: Manny Machado
LF: Hyun-Soo Kim
CF: Adam Jones
RF: Mark Trumbo
DH: Jimmy Paredes
**If Tim Lincecum does not come to the Orioles I have Miguel Gonzalez replacing him in the rotation.
Potential candidates to fill Gonzalez’s relief role would be:
           Dylan Bundy
           Mychal Givens
           Mike Wright
           T.J. McFarland
           Vance Worley
           Tyler Wilson
Projected Record: 74-88
That’s all for today.  Check out my Boston Red Sox report tomorrow!