Ranking The Teams 6-1, My Version: The Dominant

Welcome to the 5th and final day of my MLB preseason power rankings.  We have finally made it to the top of the list.  The most dominant teams are here.  However, each of them had one Achilles Heel.  That will be revealed today.  Last time, we looked at some other contenders that had problems that were really holding them back.  This time, the problems aren’t as big, and because of that, these 6 teams will dominate.  Let’s get started with #6.

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

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

 

Now that the series is over, you will be able to view all the articles under the “Ranking The Teams” tag.

6. cleveland-indians Cleveland Indians

Off-season Review

Image result for edwin encarnacion indians

The Indians had a very brief off-season, but the moves they did make made a big impact.  They signed Austin Jackson, Edwin Encarnacion, and Boone Logan.  Each of these players will help the team in a different way.  Jackson is a veteran mentor in the outfield that will rotate with the younger players.  His bat will be helpful for the Indians.  Edwin Encarnacion will play DH or first base, and his big bat will lead the Indians lineup.  Logan will be a late inning reliever and helps this bullpen’s depth.  These moves make the Indians look better than before and give them that last little push that makes them AL Central favorites.

The Case for the Indians

Image result for michael brantley

The Indians are in store for another strong season.  Despite small holes, the Indians’ lineup is looking better than before.  With Michael Brantley healthy, they could kick but.  The rotation’s top three will still kick butt, but there are problems in the 4 and 5 spots.  Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin aren’t the greatest options out there.  The Indians have always had bullpen depth issues as well, but helped resolve them by signing Boone Logan and claiming Tim Cooney off waivers.  The Indians made some big moves this off-season and will hope that leads to a bigger season.

The Achilles Heel

It’s hard to point out one singular Achilles Heel for the Indians.  The problems they have are all pretty small, but all together, they cause bigger problems.  If there was one clear weakness on this team to point out, it would probably be the outfield.  The rotation and bullpen aren’t that bad and have gotten better in recent years.  Most of the lineup is good, but the outfield could be a problem.  Michael Brantley should be good to go, but there aren’t many significant players around him.  This wouldn’t be a problem if Brantley was 100%.  But the Indians don’t have a good outfielder fully healthy.  Austin Jackson is getting older, and the Indians don’t have another significant outfielder to fill the last slot. The last slot will have to be filled by players who aren’t quite ready yet.  The choices are limited.

Best Case Scenario: The rotation thrives and a strong lineup leads the Indians back to the World Series.

Worst Case Scenario: The rotation struggles and the lineup can’t really do that much better as the Indians fail to win the AL Central.

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

 

5. boston-red-sox Boston Red Sox

Off-season Review

Image result for chris sale red sox

 

Much like the Indians, the Red Sox had a very brief off-season but made the most of the moves they made.  With Big Papi retired, the Red Sox added Mitch Moreland to preserve the dominant status of their lineup.  They also traded away Yoan Moncada and three other prospects to the White Sox but got ace Chris Sale in return. Lastly, they traded Travis Shaw away for Tyler Thornburg.  Hopefully, a slimmed-down Pablo Sandoval will fill Shaw’s role.  Now, the lineup, rotation, and bullpen are better.

The Case for the Red Sox

The Red Sox are my team, so it’s hard not to be biased, but this is a very talented team.  The rotation is one of the best in the league now, led by three ace level pitchers who are all Cy Young candidates.  The lineup is still overpowered even without Big Papi, and if the back of the rotation struggles, the bullpen is improved as well.  This is a strong all-around team but could they have a weak spot?

The Achilles Heel

Image result for pablo sandoval red sox

Yes, even teams like this have an Achilles Heel.  Without David Ortiz, there is a strain put on the lineup.  Travis Shaw and Aaron Hill are also gone.  Hanley Ramirez will move to DH. Mitch Moreland will fill in at first.  But who plays third?  Pablo Sandoval has not proved himself worthy since he joined the Red Sox.  Maybe now that he lost some weight, he will have a bounce back year.  But it is pretty risky putting him in the full-time starting job at third.

Best Case Scenario: The lineup continues to do well, the rotation kicks butt, and the Red Sox win their fourth World Series since breaking the curse.

Worst Case Scenario: The lineup struggles without Big Papi, the rotation can’t find a rhythm, and the Red Sox struggle to make the playoffs.

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

 

4. St_Louis_Cardinals St. Louis Cardinals

Off-season Review

Image result for dexter fowler cardinals

Like many good teams, the Cardinals didn’t go all out this off-season but made a couple bold moves to improve.  They got the Cubs back and picked up Dexter Fowler, who will be a leader in a young outfield.  Now there’s competition in a tight NL Central.  They also signed Brett Cecil to add to a strong bullpen.  The Cardinals are in good shape.

The Case for the Cardinals

The Cardinals couldn’t compete with the Cubs in 2016, but they have gained on the Cubs.  The addition of Dexter Fowler has helped.  The bullpen is also better.  The rotation should improve most of all.  Lance Lynn is coming back, and I could see Mike Leake bouncing back.  That fills a strong rotation that will help lead the Cardinals.  The lineup is also better and after this off-season’s changes, the Cardinals will compete with the Cubs.

The Achilles Heel

The one problem with this team is that there’s too much pressure on the young guys to do well.  Consistency is tough for young players, and parts of their lineup include younger players like Stephen Piscotty, Randal Grichuk. and Aldemys Diaz.  You never know with these younger players.  Until players reach their prime, it’s hard to foresee how they will do.  That’s where the Cardinals are at, and they’ve been facing that problem since they decided to let their younger players take over.

Best Case Scenario: The rotation dominates, the lineup looks better and the Cardinals win the NL Central with ease.

Worst Case Scenario: The young team is inconsistent and struggles, leading them to miss the playoffs for a second straight year.

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

 

3. washington-nats Washington Nationals

Off-season Review

Image result for adam eaton nationals

Unlike most good teams, the Nationals were super busy this off-season.  They got two new catchers, Derek Norris and Matt Wieters.  They also signed Adam Lind and traded Lucas Giolito to Chicago for Adam Eaton.  They also upgraded their bullpen, signing several guys including Joe Nathan.  Will these moves be enough to finally win the Nats a World Series?

The Case for the Nationals

The Nationals are in good shape for 2017.  The rotation still looks pretty good and is led by the best duo of starters in the league.  The bullpen did have depth issues, but after this off-season, that shouldn’t be a problem.  The lineup is also looking a little bit better after an active off-season.  There could be a hole at shortstop if Trea Turner can’t play there, but Turner is the likely starter.  The Nats are looking better in 2017 and could run for a championship.

The Achilles Heel

The one problem with this team is the infield.  When Danny Espinosa left for LA, he left a hole.  Now, there are questions remaining.  Can Trea Turner adjust smoothly?  How will the lineup and infield fare without Espinosa?  Those questions must be answered, and if the Nats can say “yes” and “good” to those questions, they will do very well.

Best Case Scenario: The lineup looks better, the pitching dominates the league, and the Nationals go on to win the World Series.

Worst Case Scenario: The off-season’s lineup changes don’t work out, the rotation fails to stay healthy and the Nats fail to win the NL East.

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

 

2. texas-rangers Texas Rangers

Off-season Review

The Rangers are looking good after their off-season moves.  I know a lot of people think they’ll flop, but this team can be dominant, I can’t see them missing the playoffs.  They improved their rotation.  They signed former Padres pitchers Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross to add to a strong top of the rotation.  The bullpen isn’t as good after losing Shawn Tolleson.  The Rangers also signed James Loney and Mike Napoli to fill the gaps that Prince Fielder and Mitch Moreland left.  They also resigned most of their key free agents, which preserved most of what they had last year.

The Case for the Rangers

This team is better than it looks.  You may think this lineup is getting older, but young stars are actually taking up a good part of it.  The lineup will dominate.  Meanwhile, the rotation has continued to improve.  After boosting the top of the rotation the last two years, they signed two more starters to fill out the rest of the rotation with Derek Holland gone.  The bullpen is looking better, but does it still need work.

The Achilles Heel

If you think that the lineup is the problem, you’re wrong.  The rotation isn’t perfect.  It can’t do everything.  The weak bullpen will be a problem.  It’s lacking depth, which can’t happen when the rotation is not completely solid.  This isn’t the best rotation in the MLB.  They can’t do the whole pitching job, and until they find some bullpen help in Texas, the pitching staff’s depth problems will be the Rangers Achilles Heel.

Best Case Scenario: The rotation is solid, the lineup is dominant, and the Rangers find themselves in the World Series.

Worst Case Scenario: The pitching staff holds the Rangers back, the lineup declines, and the Rangers are led to finish 3rd in the AL West.

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

 

1. Chicago_Cubs Chicago Cubs

Off-season Review

The Cubs did lose Jason Hammel, but they improved their depth in the rotation and bullpen.  They signed Brett Anderson and claimed Eddie Butler of waivers to help their rotation.  In order to upgrade the bullpen, they also signed Koji Uehara and traded away Jorge Soler for closer Wade Davis.  In addition, with Dexter Fowler leaving they signed Jon Jay. The Cubs are looking like World Series contenders for the third year in a row, can they make what they have into a dynasty for years to come?

The Case for the Cubs

The lineup here is looking as good as last year.  The fifth spot in the rotation could be a problem, but this team has so many bullpen options, and a few of them could compete for that 5th starting job.  This team looks ready to dominate again in 2017.  Their depth everywhere else isn’t as good as last year, but the lineup is solid, the rotation could be great, and the bullpen will help fill in the pitching’s holes.

The Achilles Heel

For such a perfect team, it’s hard to find an Achilles Heel without nitpicking.  There is one problem, though.  The lineup should be fine, but despite good options in the bullpen, if the Cubs don’t have a solid 5th starter, then the bullpen will start to get overtired, and this will cause widespread pitching staff issues.  These problems will only occur if the rest of the rotation can’t pitch a lot of innings and the 5th spot isn’t filled well., which may or may not happen.  This team is spotless for the most part.

Best Case Scenario: The lineup is at its best, the rotation dominates, and the Cubs are a lasting championship winning dynasty in years to come.

Worst Case Scenario: The rotation is problematic, depth of the lineup becomes a problem, and the Cubs lose in the ALDS.

Projected Finish: 96-66, 1st in NL Central

 

That’s it for my preseason power rankings.  Hope you enjoyed it.  Comment with your feedback and predictions.  Now, the first Baseball Bits of 2017 is coming soon, and be on the lookout for a Red Sox spring training article.

 

Explosive Lineup Leads Red Sox to Rout Twins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stat Wrap

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

Ortiz Dominates, Red Sox Win In Extras Thriller

Bogaerts on second.  Two outs in the bottom of the 11th.  Big Papi at the plate.  He hits it high to center field, it’s over the fielder’s head!  Bogaerts scores, and Big Papi and the Red Sox had themselves the first walk-off win of the season!!!  The image above pretty much summarizes the entire big celebration.  Well, how’d they get to extras?

Things started off on the negative side.  Clay Buchholz gave up a moonshot over the monster in the 1st inning that nearly left the ballpark altogether.  Carlos Correa’s dinger gave the Astros a 1-0 lead.  The Red Sox struck back pretty quickly.  Mookie Betts and JBJ hit back-to-back singles, and Xander Bogaerts made that 2nd and 3rd with a 1-1 tie on a ground rule double.  David Ortiz loaded the bases on a walk, and Hanley Ramirez grounded into a force out.  The bases were still loaded, but JBJ had gotten out at the plate.  Travis Shaw walked, driving in a 2nd run.

But the Astros secured a lead the next inning.  After a single and two walks, George Springer nailed a grand slam to center field, and the Astros had the 3-run lead.  Clay Buchholz started to calm down after that, and David Ortiz hit a moonshot of his own to center to make it 5-3.  The next inning, Josh Rutledge continued a hot start to his season with a double to left.  Christian Vazquez made it 1st and 3rd with a base hit and Mookie Betts grounded into a force out.  Vazquez got called out but Rutledge scored and Betts was safe.  5-4 Astros.  The Red Sox were catching up.

As both pitchers kept control, it was a quiet game for the next few innings.  Tommy Layne got in a bit of a jam in the 8th inning. Marwin Gonzalez doubled and ended up on third after an intentional walk.  But he got out at the plate, and Junichi Tazawa came in to secure the last out, making sure pinch runner Carlos Gomez couldn’t come home from third.

The Red Sox changed that in the bottom of the 9th.  JBJ walked, and Xander Bogaerts grounded into a force out.  But when David Ortiz came back up, he hit it into center field and Jake Marisnick lost the ball and he couldn’t find it!  David Ortiz ended up with an RBI triple in the process, tying the game 5-5.  It was going to extra innings.

The 10th inning was quiet, and Koji got to first and second in the 11th, but he was alright.  Then, with two outs in the bottom of the inning, Xander Bogaerts got a base hit.  Then he went to second on a wild pitch, and Big Papi was up.  Ortiz did his thing, doubling over Jake Marisnick’s head to knock in the walk-off run.   The Red Sox shocked the Astros in extras, 6-5.

David Ortiz was a single shy of the cycle, hit his 600th career double (he is now one of just three players with 500 homers and 600 doubles, joining Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds), and his first triple since 2013.  That’s amazing for his final season.  He can still add on to that by becoming a 2016 All-Star or winning the World Series, maybe both.  The Red Sox are looking pretty good right now, all they need to do is find a way to get past the Orioles.  It may seem like a fluke, but the Orioles are good again.

Betts Cycle Chase, Wright’s Strong Outing Lead Red Sox Past ‘Stros

Top of the 9th, 5-1 Sox.  Lead off Mookie Betts up to bat, who was a homer shy of hitting for the cycle.  He lines it into right, it gets past Springer, he’s going for two, he’s going for three!  Could it be an inside-the-park home run to hit for the cycle?!!!!  Mookie Betts had just hit a stand-up triple, almost an inside the park homer.

With a strong outing by Steven Wright and a powerful lineup, especially the 1-3 hitters, the Red Sox topped the Astros 6-2 to start a 5 game road trip.  They have two more games in Houston before heading to Atlanta.  Mookie Betts was 4-5 with a double and two triples, one almost an inside the park home run that would give him the cycle.  David Ortiz was also honored and received a cowboy hat as a gift from Minute Maid Park and the Houston Astros.

The Sox took right off in the 1st when Mookie Betts managed to turn a base hit into a triple.  He was quickly driven in on Dustin Pedroia’s single.  Xander Bogaerts kept it going on a base hit, and Bogaerts was driven in by Hanley Ramirez on a sac fly after a Big Papi walk that loaded the bases.  It was just a few feet away from being a grand slam, but Colby Rasmus got it and the Sox were held to just 2 runs after all that.  Collin McHugh got back in a jam when the top of the lineup struck again.  9th hitter Jackie Bradley Jr. got a double and Mookie Betts drove him in with a second double.  3-0 Red Sox.

While Steven Wright had only given up two hits and let one runner past first base, the Red Sox continued to rally on.  Hanley Ramirez got a line drive single up the middle and Travis Shaw got a base hit to sent him to third.  A wild pitch by struggling McHugh sent Shaw to second.  Brock Holt got the sharp RBI single to drive Hanley in, but Ryan Hanigan grounded into a double play to end the inning with a man on 3rd.   What a rally!

The next inning Mookie Betts got on base again, and Xander Bogaerts knocked an RBI double all the way down the third base line.  After the inning, McHugh was taken out of the game.  Reliever Chris Devenski gave up three hits over 2 innings, but no runs.  The Red Sox had a lead secure however, winning 5-0.  Tony Sipp got a 1-2-3 in the 7th, and Steven Wright gave up the first run on two walks and two passed balls by Ryan Hanigan.

The Red Sox answered in the top of 9th when Mookie Betts hit his second triple, and he scored on a wild pitch.  Xander Bogaerts was next hit by the pitch on the forearm and had to be pulled from the game.  He is still on the active roster but not in today’s starting lineup.  Chris Young pinch ran for Bogaerts.  In the bottom of the 9th, Robbie Ross Jr. was in trouble.  He gave up a single to Carlos Gomez and a walk to pinch hitter Jake Marisnick.  George Springer knocked in a run on an RBI single to left and Ross came out of the game.

Closer Craig Kimbrel secured the final out and got the save as the Red Sox came out victorious, taking down the ‘Stros by 4.  The Red Sox play Game 2 in Houston today.  Can they keep it going against the struggling Astros?

Porcello Keeps Control, Red Sox Top Blue Jays

Rick Porcello had a horrible 2015.  Despite giving up two minor homers to Edwin Encarnacion, Porcello kept control otherwise today, giving up no other hits besides those two and striking out 8.  The Red Sox went on to win 5-3 last night.  Porcello and the bullpen that backed him up had most of the control over the game for once, even though the entire lineup thrived.

In the 1st inning, the Red Sox already began to stockpile runs.  With two outs, Xander Bogaerts got a clean single up the middle.  David Ortiz drove him in with a bomb off the monster.  Man on 2nd, 1-0 Red Sox. It looked as if Papi was swinging for a home run, but it didn’t go high enough.  Hanley Ramirez then struck out, but reached first on a Josh Thole passed ball.  Travis Shaw then drove Big Papi and Ramirez in on an RBI double of his own. Shaw got out attempting to run to 3rd.

On the first at bat of the 2nd inning, Edwin Encarnacion hit his first of two homers, this one his solo bomb over the monster.  Porcello then hit Troy Tulowitzki, but he didn’t end up going anywhere.  In the bottom of the inning, after a challenge, the call stood for a Christian Vazquez double off the monster. It was right after an amazing throw to first, as my dad said, good defense sparks good offense.  Mookie Betts singled Vazquez in after advancing to third on JBJ’s ground out.

Pitching took control the next couple of innings.  Rick Porcello even had a period when he had 11 straight batters retired.  With a JBJ single and throwing error that made it first and third in the 4th though, R.A. Dickey was starting to get a bit tired out.  Pedey ended the inning on a double play.

Pat Venditte, the switch pitcher, came in.  Christian Vazquez and JBJ both singled, 1st and 2nd.  Then Mookie Betts grounded into a double play, but Vazquez was on third with two down.  Dustin Pedroia drove him in on an RBI single.  That’s an 8-game hitting streak 45 game 0n base streak against division rivals.  Porcello got pulled after 6.1 innings and giving up a two-run bomb to Edwin Encarnacion.  Jose Bautista was walked to get on base for him.

Pitching was back in control in the 7th and 8th inning after the homer, there were some walks, but no hits.  Craig Kimbrel got to first and second in the ninth on Edwin Encarnacion’s bloop single followed by a walk, but finished the game without another run. The Red Sox took down the Blue Jays, 5-3.  Sure, Rick Porcello has homer issues, but besides that, he pretty much had a perfect track record.

The Red Sox played again this afternoon.  That article should be out tomorrow morning.

Holt Grand Slam, Impressive Bullpen Leads Sox to Comeback Win

Bases loaded, 1 out.  Toronto led 7-2.  Then suddenly, Holt cracked it into right, and it was gone!!!!

The Red Sox came back to haunt the Blue Jays after trailing by five at the end of the fourth.  Their bullpen held the Jays to no scoring from innings 5-9, and their lineup produced 6 runs in the span of two innings.  Brock Holt had a monstrous game, going 2-3 with 5 RBI, 1 run, a double and a grand slam.  Xander Bogaerts added a 3 hit, 3 run game.

The Sox started off sloppy in the first inning with a 1-2-3 and a run given up by Joe Kelly.  Kevin Pillar hit a lead off triple and with first and third, Edwin Encarnacion hit the sac fly that scored the run.  By the end of the inning, despite two strikeouts, Kelly had given up a triple, two walks and a run off a sac fly.  The Red Sox turned things around in the next couple innings.  Hanley Ramirez got a single but was caught running to second.  Travis Shaw and Brock Holt made up for it with back to back doubles that scored a run for the Sox.  Starting Brock Holt and Travis Shaw rather than Panda and Castillo was worth it.  It didn’t end for them there.  Holt and Shaw had become a crucial part of the lineup.  A Xander Bogaerts single along with an impressive RBI double by Big Papi scored the 2nd run for the Sox in the 3rd.

Joe Kelly also had more control in the 2nd and 3rd, he had two straight innings with only 1 hit or walk, but no 1-2-3 innings.  In the 4th, Kelly just lost it.  With Kevin Pillar up, he had given up four straight singles and a 2nd run.  That’s when things just got worse.  He hit Pillar in the head, scoring another run!  Then Josh Donaldson, reigning AL MVP, came up to the plate.  He crushed one into right and there went a grand slam.  It was now 7-2 Blue Jays, Kelly had barely made it three innings, (he got pulled after the grand slam) and worst of all, it looked like the Red Sox could not win without David Price. Noe Ramirez even gave up two more hits before a third out in that same inning.

But in the 6th, the Red Sox began to prove everyone wrong.  Xander Bogaerts drove a double to left, and Big Papi walked.  When Hanley Ramirez grounded out, they both advanced a base.  Travis Shaw then walked to load the bases.  Guess who was back up?  Brock Holt.  Holt just barely got the grand slam to right.  It looked like he would have to settle for a double but just reached the bullpen.  The Sox had suddenly cut Toronto’s lead to just 1 run.

Meanwhile, the bullpen was impressing everyone.  The Blue Jays lineup was held to just 1 hit since the dreaded 4th inning.

In the 7th, the Red Sox went on a two run, four hit rally.  David Ortiz drove in run #1 of the inning on a base hit that drove in Pedroia.  Hanley Ramirez drove in the 2nd run with Big Papi on first and Bogaerts on third.  With that Bogaerts scored his third run of the game.  It was now 8-7, the Red Sox leading.  Junichi Tazawa additionally got the Boston bullpen their first 1-2-3 on the Jays.  They were trying their hardest to stay in control until Craig Kimbrel was ready to close the game.  After a quiet two innings for the Sox lineup, Kimbrel went out to finish the game on a 1-2-3.

After a game full of grand slams, rallying and big surprises, the Red Sox had come back to take down the Blue Jays 8-7.  If they keep playing like this, they could actually fight for a playoff spot.  Even if their rotation is iffy beyond Price, just as I said in my Opening Day Preview,  the powerful lineup and bullpen just need to stay consistent for a good season.  To go beyond getting a wild card, the Sox will need to be capable of outplaying the Jays head to head.  That could be their key to their first pennant in three years.  Catch game 2 of Red Sox @ Blue Jays on NESN.  The Bruins also play their final regular season game as they fight for a playoff slot. Things are looking up for Boston Sports this weekend.

 

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: Boston Red Sox

 

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

 

Off-Season Review

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

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

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

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

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

Off Season Grade: B+

 

Spring Training Questions

 

Will Christian Vazquez be ready to go?

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

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

 

Will the back end of the rotation perform?

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

 

How will the young guys do?

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

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

 

Will Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez adjust?

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

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

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

 

Red Sox Projected Roster

 

 

Rotation

 

David Price

Eduardo Rodriguez

Clay Buchholz

Joe Kelly

Rick Porcello

 

Bullpen

 

Craig Kimbrel (CL)

Koji Uehara

Junichi Tazawa

Carson Smith

Roenis Elias

Robbie Ross Jr.

Tommy Layne

 

Lineup

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

 

 

Bench

 

Chris Young

Christian Vazquez**

Brock Holt

Travis Shaw/David Muprhy

 

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

 

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

 

Napoli, Red Sox Edge Rays

The Red Sox edged over the Rays in a 7-5 win last night.  Mike Napoli’s 7th inning home gave the lead back to the Red Sox after losing it.

The Rays scored first, walking and then singling into first and third.  Then a walk by Logan Forsythe loaded the bases. Joey Butler grounded into a force out and lead runner Brandon Guyer scored.  Evan Longoria made it safely to third, but Forsythe was out at second.

In the bottom of the 1st, Xander Bogaerts reached on a fielding error, by Logan Forsythe.  Bogaerts went to second on Erasmo Ramirez’s wild pitch.  Tim Beckham made another fielding error that made it first and third.  Mike Napoli walked the bases loaded, and De Aza kept it that way with an RBI single.  1-1.  Rusney Castillo then grounds into a force out, getting Ortiz at the plate.  Blake Swihart knocked 2 runs in on a single the next at bat.  3-1 Sox.

The game stays action packed as recently called up Mikie Mahtook doubles.  With two down, Brandon Guyer struck out, but on a wild pitch sending him to first and Mahtook to third.  Steven Souza Jr. singles a run in.  Then Evan longoria walks the bases loaded, but it doesn’t do it to tie things up.  That inning, the Sox blow it with Brock Holt on second.

In the 3rd, Asdrubal Cabrera singles, and Mikie Mahtook singles him in.  1 run, 1 RBI for 2015 debuting Mikie Mahtook.  the Red Sox struck again in the 5th.  Holt singled, and Bogaerts advanced him to second.  Then Napoli walked, and De Aza singled Holt in.  In the 7th, the Rays struck.  With 1st and second, John Jaso pinch hit doubled Mikie Mahtook in for his second run of the night.  Joey Butler also scored from first, and Jaso went to third on a Blake Swihart error, and just like that it was 5-4 Rays.  In the bottom of the inning, big Papi hit a ball just foul that could ave gone for a double.  He ended up walking.  Napoli hit his dinger to give the Sox a 6-5 lead.

For the most part, it was a quiet game after that.  Blake Swihart douled, and scored on a wild pitch off Brandon Gomes followed by a Josh Rutledge single to extend the lead to 7-5, but that was it.  Uehara got the save.  The Red Sox beat the Rays 7-5, Junichi Tazawa the winning pitcher, Jake McGee the losing pitcher.  Tampa Bay had 3 errors and the Red Sox had 2.  A win today and it a winning streak. A 6-0 lead and Travis Shaw’s first career dinger after 4 innings looks good.

Buchholz, Red Sox Blowout Orioles

The Red Sox put together a 5-1 win with just one strong inning.  Through the first five innings, both pitchers had great games, and Bud Norris had a perfect game through the 3rd.  They gave up their hits and walks, but nobody scored. In the 6th, the Orioles struck and scored their only run of the game.  Ramirez went down to an injury, and Holt took over left field, while Napoli took first base for the remainder of the game. Chris Parmeelee doubled and Chris Davis singled him in.  1-0 Orioles.  The Red Sox were losing again.  But not for long.  They had a huge 5-run rally in the bottom of the inning.

De Aza reached on an error by Chris Davis.  De Aza went to second on a passed ball by Caleb Joseph.  Then Sandy Leon sacrificed, De Aza went to third, and Leon reached on another error by Bud Norris.  Betts sinngled to tie the game 1-1 and make it 1st and 2nd with no outs.  Then Dustin Pedroia gota base hit to score both Leon and Betts, but he hurt is right foot by putting too much pressure on it when running the step before touching the bag.  So Travis Shaw stepped in to run for Pedroia.  Then David Ortiz hit a 2 run home run and it was 5-1 Red Sox.  That’s when Norris left the game.  But sadly, Brian Matusz held the Red Sox off to end the inning.

Holt moved to second, and Shaw, like he’s the new Brock Holt, went to LEFT FIELD!!!!  Could SHAW be the next all position utility?  Buchholz came out after 7 well worth innings, having a great 1 earned run game.  It was a pitcher’s duel again to end the game, and Koji closed and got the save in a 1-2-3 ninth, and the Red Sox had won.  Be on the lookout for my post on today’s 1:30 game later today.  Eddie Rodriguez will start for the Sox, and Miguel Gonzalez for the O’s.  I’m sure the Red Sox have their edge secured here, as Gonzalez would stink if you compare him to E-Rod.  Make sure to watch the game today, as it’s sure to be a fun one for the Sox.