The 9th Inning Column: MLB Draft Week, Jose Ramirez’ struggles, and RIP Bill Buckner

Welcome back to the 9th Inning. This is the second edition of this in the 2019 MLB season. This is a monthly column on Pro Sports Fandom in which I roundup the month’s biggest happenings in the baseball realm. I’ll discuss what teams are hot and what teams are not. I will also give my personal thoughts on a few notable baseball-related events as well as giving out monthly awards for team of the month, players of the month, and rookies of the month. It’s basically a baseball podcast squeezed into an article that happens near the end of every month. This is the second article of this season and I hope for some immense success with this column. If you’d like, be sure to share with your friends, social media, and family! I’d love my column to reach as big a global outreach as possible.

I’m going to start the 9th Inning Column for May with a few rounded-up thoughts in recap of the biggest stories recently, both on the field and off.

It is almost time for the MLB Draft!

We are less than a week away from the 2019 MLB Draft and there’s a lot of speculation swirling about the first few rounds. Firstly, nearly everybody in the business believes that the Orioles have to take Adley Rutschman with the top pick. Rutschman, a catcher for Oregon State, is a switch-hitter with solid power and great defensive skills behind the plate. Secondly, a lot of people believe that the Royals will take Bobby Witt Jr. with the second pick. Witt Jr. is a five-tool shortstop coming out of Colleyville Heritage High School in Texas, and he’s the son of a former big league starter. Overall, we are looking at a draft class that is somewhat weak on quality arms but more than makes it up for it with high potential position players.

What is wrong with Jose Ramirez?

In the past few seasons, Jose Ramirez gave the Cleveland Indians another budding star to put alongside Francisco Lindor. Yet in 2019, Ramírez looks to be well off his game. He doesn’t look like he’ll achieve a three peat of third place AL MVP finishes. In 55 games, the 26 year old third baseman is batting a mere .211 with only 4 home runs and 17 RBIs. He’s striking out more, walking less, and seems to have lost his touch at the plate. A good thing for Ramirez is that he’s been playing well lately, batting .357 in his last three games. Still though, the Indians are struggling as a team and falling way back in the race for the AL Central, and they’ll need Ramírez to start putting up the numbers that he’s capable of if they want to get back in it.

Former batting champ Bill Buckner passes away

An MLB legend passed away on Monday after a battle with dementia. Bill Buckner played in the big leagues for 22 seasons and totaled 2,715 hits on a career .289 batting average. Buckner was a great teammate and was highly valued as a utility player during his time in the MLB. In 1980, he batted .324 and was the National League Batting Champion. In 1981, he made his only All-Star team. Buckner deserves respect across the league for his great career. Rest In Peace, Bill Buckner.

Who’s Hot and Who’s Not?

The New York Yankees were the best team in baseball throughout the month of May and I’ll discuss them later, because they won one of the column’s awards.

The Minnesota Twins were certainly in the mix for the team of the month award in May, but they were just edged out by the Yanks. They’re pulling away from the Indians in the AL Central, as they currently have a 9.5 game cushion. Newfound ace Jake Odorizzi was phenomenal in May, pitching his way to a 0.94 ERA in five starts. First baseman C.J. Cron led the high powered Twins offensive attack in May as he hit eight home runs, batted .301, and tallied 21 RBIs. The Twins continue to surprise folks and they are seriously one of the top five teams in baseball right now, without any doubt.

The Oakland Athletics have recently gotten themselves firmly back in the hunt for the AL West crown with a 10-game winning streak and an 8-2 stretch over their past ten games. They are alone in second place in their division and sit 7.5 games back of the Houston Astros. The Athletics were led by Frankie Montas strong pitching (2.64 ERA in 30.2 IP) and the offense was helped a lot by Josh Phegley (4 HRs and 20 RBI). With franchise cornerstone Matt Chapman and a solid pitching staff, last year’s second AL Wildcard team could be well on their way to another postseason appearance.

If you haven’t heard about Cody Bellinger’s stellar start of a 2019 campaign, then you’ve been living under a rock. Combine that with a dominating pitching staff and you can see why the Los Angeles Dodgers are continuing to build a sizeable lead in the NL West Standings. They either won or split every series in the month of May, proving that they can compete in every single game. Sitting at a 38-19 record, the Dodgers look to be well on their way to another NL West crown.

The St. Louis Cardinals were very good in the first month or so of 2019, but they’ve fallen off to a below .500 record as we turn the calendar to June. They are 4-6 in their last ten games and now sit 4.5 games back of the first place Cubs in the NL Central. The Cardinals play in perhaps the toughest division in all of Major League Baseball, so they’ll need to stop skidding before they find themselves in too big of a hole.

Remember when the Seattle Mariners were hitting all sorts of bombs every day and were in first place in the AL West? Yeah, I do too, and those days are long gone as the Mariners have the worst record in all of Major League Baseball in the month of May at 6-21. They’ve struggled as a pitching staff and had tough offensive nights, leading to their fall to dead last in the AL West standings. It looks like the Mariners have run out of magic.

In last month’s column, I talked extensively about what the San Francisco Giants should do if they didn’t start winning soon. Well, the Giants haven’t done any better and are still in last place in their division as they’ve been extremely cold as of late. They’re in the midst of a 2-8 stretch in their last ten games and they are on their way to being an early seller on the summer trade market.

The Monthly Awards:

Team of the Month is…

The New York Yankees (19-7)

The New York Yankees have surged to the top of the American League East recently due to a continued stretch of dominance. They’ve gone 12-3 since May 12th and that includes series victory over the Tampa Bay Rays (twice) and the San Diego Padres. Masahiro Tanaka had been dominant in May until his start on Tuesday, having a 2.80 earned run average in 35.1 innings of work. Gleyber Torres (.308 AVG and 9 HRs) and Gary Sanchez (.288 AVG and 9 HRs) have carried the load offensively for the Yanks throughout the month. The bullpen is starting to round into form as well, proving it is as good as advertised with Chapman, Britton, Kahnle, and Ottavino all in peak form right now. With so many injuries, the Yankees performance has simply been impressive.

The Hitter of the Month is…

Pittsburgh Pirates 1B Josh Bell

One of the best hitters in all of the majors through the season thus far, Pirates first baseman Josh Bell has been absolutely smoking baseballs left and right. He is undoubtedly the hitter of the month of May, as he hit at a .389 batting average with a .444 on-base percentage and an .814 slugging percentage. He also has hit 12 homers in the month and has racked up 30 RBIs. He’s shown considerable improvements in the 2019 campaign so far, as he’s close to reaching previously career high numbers already. Bell is the unquestioned leader in Pittsburgh and if he continues hitting like this, he will be in Cleveland as an All-Star this summer.

The Starter of the Month is…

Los Angeles Dodgers LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu

Garnering praise as a “left handed Greg Maddux”, the 32-year old veteran Ryu is off to a Cy Young-esque start in 2019. In May, he was nearly unhittable, going 5-0 and pitching his way to a 0.59 ERA in 45.2 innings on the mound. Opposing hitters had just a .177 batting average against him in his six starts and he continues to provide great outings for the dominating LA Dodgers club. If Ryu continues to control the strike zone and limit walks, I could easily see him being named the Cy Young award winner for the National League in the fall.

The Reliever of the Month is…

New York Yankees RHP Adam Ottavino

Adam Ottavino has started off his 2019 campaign still right in his dominant 2018 form. The veteran reliever was superb in May, appearing in 13 games and not giving up any runs. Since April 21st, Ottavino has not given up a run. Thus far in 2019, the former Rockie has a 2-1 record with 12 holds and a 1.37 ERA in 26.1 innings pitched. He’s been exactly the guy that the Yankees wanted him to be when they signed him in the offseason. He undoubtedly deserves the reliever of the month award for his performance in May.

Rookie Hitter of the Month:

Boston Red Sox 2B Michael Chavis

The third best prospect in the Boston farm system, Chavis has immediately come up into the big leagues and helped provide a stable bat in the lineup. In May, he batted .255 with seven home runs and he’s showing off his advanced hitting tool. With other rookies struggling, Chavis has climbed his way up near the top of the American League Rookie of the Year award race.

Rookie Pitcher of the Month:

Atlanta Braves RHP Mike Soroka

Mike Soroka has been more than just a valuable contributor for the Braves rotation this season. He’s been dominant and looks to be firmly in the mix for the NL Rookie of the Year award. If the award was won in May, Soroka may have just clinched it. He pitched his way to a 0.79 ERA in 34 innings during the month. He only gave up three earned runs and opponents hit just .145 against him in the month. Soroka has been just as good as his prospect evaluation hyped him up to be, and he’s on his way to becoming the ace of the Braves already.

Thanks for reading the May edition of the 9th Inning column! I hope you enjoyed! Don’t forget to share with your friends, family, and on social media! Feel free to contact me on my Twitter @TBeckmann24 if you have any questions! I’ll be back next month! Peace!

Advertisements

The 9th Inning (April): Vlad Jr’s debut, Mize’s Double-A gem, and what’s wrong with the Red Sox?

Welcome to the 9th Inning. This is the first edition of this in the 2019 MLB season. This is going to be a monthly column on Pro Sports Fandom in which I roundup the month’s biggest happenings in the baseball realm. I’ll discuss what teams are hot and what teams are not. I will also give my personal thoughts on a few notable baseball-related events as well as giving out monthly awards for team of the month, players of the month, and rookies of the month. It’s basically a baseball podcast squeezed into an article that will happen near the end of every month. This is the debut article of this season and I hope for some immense success with this column. If you’d like, be sure to share with your friends, social media, and family! I’d love my column to reach as big a global outreach as possible.

I’m going to start the 9th Inning Column for April with a few rounded-up thoughts in recap of the biggest stories recently, both on the field and off.

Vlad Jr’s debut

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. made his highly anticipated MLB debut this past weekend for the Toronto Blue Jays. MLB Pipeline’s number one prospect may have been the most hyped up debut since Bryce Harper. Guerrero is only batting .250 after his first series is in the books, but part of that is due to him not getting great pitches to hit. MLB.com says that Guerrero had a 37.3% zone rate over his first few games. The Blue Jays are set to take on the Angels in Anaheim in their weekday series, and it’ll be a great series to watch!

2018 top draft pick dominates in first AA Start

Not often will I talk about a player in the Double-A levels of minor league ball in this column, but I feel that this one is well deserved. Casey Mize, the number one overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft, made his AA debut with the Detroit Tigers on Monday. The Auburn product dominated and sent a message to the scouts, throwing a nine inning no-hitter in a win for the Erie Seawolves. It was an impressive performance that caught the eyes of many, as Mize only walked one batter and hit another. If he continues to pitch like this, Detroit may soon have a bonafide ace on their big league roster.

What’s wrong with the Red Sox?

The defending champion Boston Red Sox are off to a sour start in the 2019 season, having a 12-17 record to show for it just one month in. They’ve cleaned it up as of late, but there’s still cause for concern with the Beantown squad. Jackie Bradley Jr. has been horrible with the bat, 2018 World Series MVP Steve Pearce is struggling, and Eduardo Rodriguez/Chris Sale both have ERAs over 6. If the pitching staff doesn’t get going soon, Boston may find itself in a hole too big to overcome, but there’s certainly reason to believe in this team. I mean heck, they are the defending World Series Champs after all!

Where do the Giants go from here?

A lot of talk has circulated about how the San Francisco Giants will attack the summer trade deadline. It’s the final season for manager Bruce Bochy, and it is perhaps the final year for longtime franchise ace Madison Bumgarner in the Bay Area. The Giants have built a team of veterans in hopes of competing in 2019, but it’s gone very badly thus far. They are 12-17 in the NL West, which is last in the division. They are not doing well at the plate, and Jeff Samardzija is their only qualified starting pitcher with an ERA below four. As we near June, the Giants are creeping closer and closer to being the first team to sell off their top veterans to buyers.

Who’s Hot and Who’s Not?

The banged-up New York Yankees are the hottest team in baseball right now, as they’ve gone 11-2 since losing a home series to the Chicago White Sox on April 14th. Luke Voit was dominant for the Bronx Bombers last week on their West Coast road trip, winning AL Player of the Week Honors by going 13 for 30 with four home runs and 10 RBIs. In doing so, Voit has continued a ridiculous 39-game on base streak into the Yankees two game series against the Diamondbacks.

The Minnesota Twins have won 8 of their last 10 games and have taken 2.5 game lead in the AL Central over the Cleveland Indians. Eddie Rosario (11 HRs) and Jorge Polanco (.948 OPS) have lead the scorching hot Twins offensive attack and Jose Berrios continues to grow into an ace, leaving the Twins in great position to make a run at the postseason in 2019.

The St. Louis Cardinals have won 8 of their last 10 games as well, en route to taking a three game lead over the Cubs and Brewers in the NL Central Division. Paul DeJong (.342 AVG, 5 HRs) and Marcell Ozuna (.271 AVG, 10 HRs) are leading a Redbirds offense that is still awaiting an inevitable annual hot stretch from All-Star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt.

After a rough start to the 2019 campaign, the Chicago Cubs have gotten back near the top of the NL Central with a recent hot stretch. They are winners of 7 of their last 10 games, climbing into a tie for second in the division with the Milwaukee Brewers. Javier Baez has been otherworldly thus far, hitting .315 with 9 home runs and 22 RBIs. The Cubs are also getting great contribution from catcher Willson Contreras (1.033 OPS). They can certainly push for the NL Central, and I fully expect them to do so.

The Pittsburgh Pirates were 12-6 after a win over the San Francisco Giants on Saturday, April 20th. Since then? They’ve been one of the worst teams in baseball, losing eight straight and falling to fourth place in the NL Central Division. With competition like the Cubs, Brewers, and Cardinals, the Pirates cannot have losing streaks like this and expect to stay atop the division. If they don’t figure it out soon, Pittsburgh could be in serious hot water.

The Washington Nationals have also caught a case of the cold as we flip the calendar to May. They’ve lost three series in a row to teams that I’m just not quite sure they should be losing to. On paper, the Nats have one of the best complete rosters in all of Major League Baseball, but they haven’t been able to put it together just yet in 2019. Let’s see what this team does in May before we press the panic button!

The Oakland Athletics are in serious danger of not getting back to the postseason already in 2019, and that’s not because I don’t have faith in their ability to turn it around after a rough start. The AL West is more competitive this year, and the A’s have struggled as of late, getting swept by Toronto twice in two weeks and losing 7 of their last 10. Will Khris Davis and the Oakland crew figure it out before it’s too late?

The Monthly Awards:

Team of the Month is…

The Tampa Bay Rays (19-9)

The Rays definitely were not a lot of experts picks to lead the AL East through one month, but here we are. Tampa Bay holds a 1.5 game lead on the Yankees as we speak, and they’ve had a terrific first month of baseball. A big reason for their success is the pitching staff, as Tyler Glasgow (5 wins, 1.75 ERA), 2018 AL Cy Young award winner Blake Snell (2 wins, 2.54 ERA), and free agent acquisition Charlie Morton (3 wins, 2.76 ERA) lead the MLB’s top pitching staff thus far. Jose Alvarado has been one of baseball’s best relievers (we’ll discuss him later) and the Rays are much deeper than this, but there’s too many people to name. Austin Meadows was absolutely raking before he got injured (.351, 6 HRs, 19 RBIs), and he should be back rather soon. Yandy Diaz (.298, 7 HRs, 18 RBIs) is having a breakout season at the hot corner for Tampa Bay and veteran outfielder Tommy Pham continues to put up productive numbers (.294, 4 HRs, 12 RBIs). They should be taken seriously as one of the premier World Series contenders.

The Hitter of the Month is …

Los Angeles Dodgers OF/1B Cody Bellinger

Cody Bellinger has played at both right field and first base this year, so I’m not sure what to call him with such a small sample size. But I can call him something, and that is an absolutely on-fire baseball player. The third-year superstar has been nothing short of spectacular in 2019, batting .434 with 14 homers and 37 RBIs. His on-base percentage is over .500 and his slugging percentage sits firmly at .906. What’s even more impressive is that Bellinger has increased his base on balls percentage from 10.9% to 14.1%, while also cutting down his strikeout percentage from 23.9% in 2018 to 11.7% through one month of 2019. If he continues to play like this, he will shatter records, and with this hot start, he’s certainly the favorite to win NL MVP!

Starter of the Month is …

Cincinnati Reds RHP Luis Castillo

When called up to the bigs in 2017, Luis Castillo was the tenth best prospect in the Reds farm system. With a lot of patience by Cincinnati’s staff, Castillo looks to be turning the corner into one of the best pitchers in the National League. His first month of 2019 certainly proved such, as the 26 year old rising phenom has made six starts, going 3-1 with a 1.23 ERA in 36.1 innings of work. He’s striking out more batters than he has at any point in his young career, and has reduced his home runs per nine innings rate from a sour 1.49 in 2018 to an impressive 0.25 thus far in 2019. His HR/FB rate sits at a solid 4.5%, showing that Castillo has been stingy in terms of preventing the longball. At this point, batters just haven’t been able to hit his stuff, as hitters are hitting just .165 against him. If he continues to pitch like this, he may just deliver the NL Cy Young Award to Great American Ball Park.

The Reliever of the Month is …

Tampa Bay Rays LHP Jose Alvarado

Dating back to 2018, the 23 year old Alvarado has been one of the best relievers in all of Major League Baseball, and that trend has continued to pick up steam as we turn the calendar to May. Thrust into a big late-inning role in 2019, the lefty has been nothing short of excellent thus far. He’s made four saves in 14 appearances, pitching his way to a 1.38 ERA and a 1.82 FIP, proving his performance is no fluke. Alvarado has not surrendered a home run yet this season, and he’s striking out 13.1 batters per nine innings. The only negative in 2019 is that Alvarado’s walks per nine innings rate has increased a bit from 4.08 to 4.85, but it’s not too severe of a jump.

The Rookie Hitter of the Month is …

New York Mets 1B Peter Alonso

A second round selection by the Mets in the 2016 MLB Draft, Peter Alonso has made a quick transition to the pros. He is a phenomenal hitter and subpar defender at first base, and he showed that in the minor leagues all the way up until earning the Mets starting first baseman job in 2019. Since he earned the job, Alonso has proven why he was one of the Mets untradeable chips as they rebuilt last year. He’s an early frontrunner for the NL Rookie of the Year award, as he’s batting .304 with nine home runs and 25 RBIs in 2019. He will have to continue to work on balancing his approach and limiting strikeouts, but right now, Alonso is hot and off to the races, and he’s showing no signs of slowing down.

The Rookie Pitcher of the Month is …

San Diego Padres RHP Chris Paddack

Paddack is the 31st best prospect in all of Major League Baseball according to MLB Pipeline, but after one month of him in the bigs, I think he may deserve a huge boost before he loses his eligibility on such lists. He’s 23 years old and has been firing on all cylinders to start his MLB career. He’s made five starts, going 1-1 and pitching 27 innings with a 1.67 ERA, ranking third amongst all National League pitchers with 25 or more innings pitched. He’s just been purely unhittable, as opposing hitters have a .111 batting average against him. He’s striking out 10 batters per nine innings, only walking about 2.6 per nine, and only surrenders 0.6 home runs per nine. If he continues to pitch like this, he’ll be right in the thick of the battle for NL Rookie of the Year with his teammate Fernando Tatis Jr. and Mets slugger Pete Alonso (mentioned above).

Thanks for reading the season debut of the 9th Inning column! I hope you enjoyed! Don’t forget to share with your friends, family, and on social media! Feel free to contact me on my Twitter @TBeckmann24 if you have any questions! I’ll be back next month! Peace!

The Obstructed AL Central Preview

The AL Central from the mid-90’s through the early part of the 2000’s was dubbed the Comedy Central for having some bad teams in that time period. Cleveland dominated while the rest could never seem to get it together. Yes, you had years where teams would go up and down in the standings, but nothing in the way of being a major legit.

So we fast forward to the last couple of seasons. The Indians once again dominate and the other teams are just a mess. Minnesota has shown hope and promise but last year the Twins disappointed as some had them to be a threat for the Wild Card. The Tigers are deep in their rebuild. The Royals are as well. The White Sox however, are trying to show their rebuild is near an end.

So will the Indians thrive? Will the Twins off-season moves give Cleveland a fight within the division? Will Chicago contend? Will the rebuilding process of Detroit and Kansas City continue to progress into maybe something quicker?

Kluber was subject to trade rumors this off-season but the Indians did the right thing

(1) CLEVELAND INDIANS

Last year: 91-71 (Lost to Houston in ALDS)

KEY ADDITIONS: OF-Jake Bauers (Trade-Tampa Bay), 1B-Carlos Santana (Trade), DH-Hanley Ramirez (FA-Boston), 2B-Brad Miller (FA-Los Angeles Dodgers), C-Kevin Plawecki (Trade-New York Mets), IF-Max Moroff (Trade-Pittsburgh), OF-Jordan Luplow (Trade Pittsburgh), OF-Carlos Gonzalez (FA-Colorado)

KEY LOSSES: DH-Edwin Encarnacion (Trade-Seattle), IF-Yandy Diaz (Trade-Tampa Bay), C-Yan Gomes (Trade-Washington), IF-Erik Gonzalez (Trade-Pittsburgh), 3B-Josh Donaldson (FA-Atlanta), IF-Adam Rosales (FA-Minnesota), OF-Michael Brantley (FA-Houston), OF-Melky Cabrera (FA-Pittsburgh), OF-Lonnie Chisenhall (FA-Pittsburgh), OF-Rajai Davis (FA-New York Mets), P-Josh Tomlin (FA-Atlanta), P-Cody Allen (FA-Los Angeles Angels), 1B-Yonder Alonso (Trade-Chicago White Sox), P-Andrew Miller (FA-St. Louis)

The Indians still have a load of talent on their roster that is really unmatched in the AL Central. There is no better left side of an infield than Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez in all of baseball. The rotation headed by Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, and Trevor Bauer is stout and when you throw in Mike Clevinger, yikes. Cleveland also brings back former Tribe star Carlos Santana who had a bit of a disappointing year in Philadelphia. However, it feels like the window to win a World Series is starting to close a bit. Andrew Miller and Cody Allen are gone. Cleveland also said goodbye to Michael Brantley and Edwin Encarnacion as well. There had been talk that Cleveland would ship out ace Kluber in the off-season but it didn’t happen. They brought in Carlos Gonzalez and Hanley Ramirez. Had this been 2009, these would be great pickups. With that said, the Tribe knows how to get the best of veterans on the downswing. But Cleveland from an October standpoint are somewhat lagging behind the AL’s big boys in depth. Should the Indians win the AL Central? Yes. But it doesn’t feel like the same team we’ve seen in 2016-2018. MY PREDICTION: 88-74

IF Berrios is a little more consistent he can be the Twins ace without question.

(2) MINNESOTA TWINS

Last year: 78-84

KEY ADDITIONS: DH-Nelson Cruz (FA-Seattle), 1B-CJ Cron (Waivers-Tampa Bay), 2B-Jonathan Schoop (FA-Milwaukee), 3B-Marwin Gonzalez (FA-Houston), P-Blake Parker (FA-Los Angeles Angels), P-Ryne Harper (FA-Seattle), P-Martin Perez (FA-Texas)

KEY LOSSES: C-Chris Gimenez (Retired), 1B-Joe Mauer (Retired), 1B-Logan Morrison (FA), 2B-Logan Forsythe (FA-Texas), P-Robbie Grossman (FA-Oakland), P-Ervin Santana (FA-Chicago White Sox), P-Matt Belisle (FA)

The Twins a few years ago hoped that another run that was similar to the Mauer/Morneau/Cuddyer/Santana days would have happened by now with the likes of Miguel Sano/Byron Buxton/Eddie Rosario/Jose Berrios. It hasn’t happened. After a run in 2015 and one in 2017, the Twins have failed to garner that run as Sano has been all-or-nothing after his torrid start and Byron Buxton hasn’t found his groove yet. And Berrios has shown flashes, but nothing consistent as of yet. It is probably why Minnesota invested heavy into veterans such as slugger Nelson Cruz, Jonathan Schoop, and making a cople of good under-the-radar moves in CJ Cron (how’d the Rays let this guy go?) and Marwin Gonzalez. Of course, what may decide how well they do is their starting pitching. Berrios showed great signs of taking that next step and Kyle Gibson was reliable, but Jake Odorizzi and Michael Pineda will have to make those next steps to really put Minnesota in the mix of a Wild Card, perhaps a division title spot. They have the talent all around but can they put it all together and make that needed run? MY PREDICTION: 83-79

Eloy Jimenez is one of two young stars that will be must-see TV for MLB

(3) CHICAGO WHITE SOX

Last year: 62-100

KEY ADDITIONS: OF-Jon Jay (FA-Arizona), 1B-Yonder Alonso (Trade-Cleveland), C-James McCann (FA-Detroit), P-Ivan Nova (Trade-Pittsburgh), P-Alex Colome (Trade-Seattle), P-Kelvin Herrera (FA-Washington), P-Manny Banuelos (Trade-Los Angeles Dodgers)

KEY LOSSES: C-Omar Navarez (Trade-Seattle), IF-Matt Davidson (FA-Texas), OF-Avisail Garcia (FA-Tampa Bay), P-Jeanmar Gomez (FA-Texas), P-Hector Santiago (FA-New York Mets), P-James Shields (FA), P-Miguel Gonzalez (FA)

It’s hard to think what the White Sox had was a disappointment in the off-season after striking out on the big-name free agents of Manny Machado and Bryce Harper. But the good news is that the White Sox rebuild seems to be winding down and the South Side will get back into the swing of things in 2019. Of course, there will be some hiccups, but many hope to see the farm system really shoot up, notably with Eloy Jimenez who I am very high on. Add him with Jose Abreu and you have a nice punch there. If Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada can figure things out, keep an eye on this team at the All-Star Break. They may make a move to improve their rotation which is pretty anemic (surprised they didn’t go after Dallas Keuchel more), but it is also what may keep the White Sox from getting over that hump form being a threat for an October spot. But they will make strides this year and 2020, watch out! MY PREDICTION: 74-88

Merrifield was a nice surprise for the Royals in 2018

(4) KANSAS CITY ROYALS

Last year: 58-104

KEY ADDITIONS: DH-Lucas Duda (FA), C-Martin Maldonado (FA-Houston), OF-Billy Hamilton (FA-Cincinnati), OF-Chris Owings (FA-Arizona), OF-Terrance Gore (FA-Chicago Cubs), P-Homer Bailey (FA), P-Brad Boxberger (FA-Arizona), P-Jake Diekman (FA-Arizona), P-Chris Ellis (Rule 5-Texas),

KEY LOSSES: P-Jason Hammel (FA-Texas), IF-Alcides Escobar (FA)

IF you want to know the payment charge of winning a world championship, look at what has gone on in Kansas City. The Royals are 4 years removed from being the true kings of baseball, and with the moves of trading prospects for Johnny Cueto and others, while unable to compete to keep their key contributors (Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer, and Mike Moustakas), dark ages reign supreme in Kansas City. This year, Salvador Perez is injured and likely out for the season as he was the last of the championship players. The Royals are in the early stages of the rebuild but if things go well, and make a good draft, keep an eye out for this group down the road. But again, for this year, not as much. The hopes of Lucas Duda, Chris Owings, and Billy Hamilton of getting the Royals into contention will not scare anybody. And Homer Bailey leading the way? Well, at least he is out of the Great American Smallpark. Just don’t expect a Cy Young run out of him. MY PREDICTION: 63-99

It will be a long year for Cabrera and the Tigers in the Motor City

(5) DETROIT TIGERS

Last year: 64-98

KEY ADDITIONS: IF-Josh Harrison (FA-Pittsburgh), SS-Jordy Mercer (FA-Pittsburgh), IF-Gordon Beckham (FA-Seattle), P-Tyson Ross (FA-St. Louis), P-Matt Moore (FA-Texas), P-Reed Garrett (Rule 5-Texas)

KEY LOSSES: C-James McCann (FA-Chicago White Sox), DH-Victor Martinez (Retired), SS-Jose Iglesias (FA-Cincinnati), P-Francisco Liriano (FA-Pittsburgh)

I’m going to quote the musician Mary Hopkin and say “Those were the days my friend, we thought they’d never end.” Double meaning for me. First off, any run the Tigers had from 2006-2014 was a nice run (2008 excluded) and those were some good teams that *could* have netted a world championship at some point, but never did. And the other meaning of the Detroit Tigers from 1995-2003 where they were just downright awful and you never thought Detroit would ever revert back to contention. Well, the latter has arrived in full swing since 2017. Now, there is slight hope as the once-depleted farm system has some arms to keep an eye on for the next few years (Alex Faedo, Matt Manning, Beau Burrows, Casey Mize), but as for 2019, uh, yikes. The Tigers are relying on Jordan Zimmermann, the injured and inconsistent Jordan Zimmermann. Supporting staff will include Tyson Ross, Matt Moore, and Matt Boyd (who did pitch pretty well at times), but this isn’t the rotation of Verlander, Scherzer, Anibal, Porcello, and Fister we are talking about…..or 1/5th of that. The bullpen has a good setup punch of Joe Jimenez for Shane Greene assuming the Tigers will have a lead in 2019. The offense, if they are to win will have to send Miguel Cabrera to the Fountain of Youth while making him become the Bionic Man as they look very thin outside of him and Nicholas Castellanos (who could be trade bait in July). Now if Jeimer Candelario makes strides after his first season in Detroit where he started fine but fell apart down the stretch, the Tigers will be somewhat formidable especially if their big off-season move of Josh Harrison has a good year and he has something to prove honestly so that part may help the Tigers out a bit and be somewhat competitive under Ron Gardenhire. But that rotation currently isn’t one to get hopes up for a Cinderella season. MY PREDICTION: 60-102

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

Twitter

Facebook

Chasing Misery: 4 MLB Teams Who Can Lose 100+ Games in 2018

Last night I was listening to the Braves broadcast and heard Jeff Francoeur (who is now calling Braves games) say that there are four teams that are on pace to lose 100 games or are very close to losing 100 games.  After thinking about what he said, I had to look at the four teams and see if it would actually be a record to possibly see four teams losing 100 games in the same season.  Believe it or not, it has happened.  In 2002, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals, and the Milwaukee Brewers all hit the century mark in losses.  It also would end the run of years MLB hasn’t seen a team hit 100 losses since 2013 when the Houston Astros and the Miami Marlins both did it.

So today we will look at the 4 teams who could match the Devil Rays, Tigers, Royals, and Brewers in 2002 in great futility and see how they ended up being in baseball’s basement, and what the prognosis looks like for this season and down the road.

Marlins

MIAMI MARLINS: Of the four teams, the Marlins are not technically on pace to lose 100 and have the best shot at avoiding it.  However, we haven’t hit the trade deadline and key pieces like JT Realmuto, Starlin Castro, and maybe Justin Bour could have change of address when August rolls around. However, fans in Miami and really the Majors were up in arms when the Marlins shifted over half of their offense in 2017 (Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, Christian Yelich, and Dee Gordon) elsewhere for prospects when Derek Jeter took over.  Of course, Jeter was heavily scrutinized (and rightfully so) for making moves that once again looked like the typical Marlins fire sale we’ve come to known since 1998.  However, attendance is worse than when before the Marlins moved to Marlins Park because of it.  Now arguments have been “well, their run ended when Jose Fernandez tragically passed near the end of the 2016 season.”  Maybe so, but they were still competitive and had exciting players to watch like Stanton and Ozuna and I feel like this rebuild was more self-inflicted than anything.  Instead of getting starters who could contribute, they opted to clean the slate which I think is dumb especially in a town that gives up on the sniff of a rebuild.  Jeter, under fire and probably irked at being accused of tanking early came out and said they were trying to win.  But let’s face it: no team really wins when you lose a massive chunk of your offensive output from the year before.  It doesn’t work like that.  However, Miami has been okay since June 1st, being 19-19, which is 4.5 games better than their NL East rival Nationals in that stretch (13-22) and better than the Cardinals & Angels while holding the same record with another rival in the Braves. And it always feels like they are playing their divisional foes tough (though the results don’t show it).  But Miami has been playing better.  However, with the trade deadline coming, you can expect some of the veterans to be on the move.  Worse, the Marlins, assuming they do end up making trades, don’t have a nice schedule in the 2nd half of seeing a heavy dose of the Braves, Phillies, and Nationals while they have two games each against the Yankees and Red Sox not to mention starting the 2nd half against the red hot Rays.

CHANCES OF LOSING 100 GAMES: SKETCHY.  Hard to say with the Marlins and who will be on the team after the deadline.  But you do have to applaud Don Mattingly for getting his players to compete on a daily basis.

Baltimore

BALTIMORE ORIOLES: Currently, the Orioles are 26-67.  They are currently slated to be about 48-114 in 2018.  Ouch.  While the Marlins may have jumped the trigger on the fire sale, Baltimore did something incredibly dumb last year: they bought while they probably should have sold.  Instead of moving out pieces that could have netted them prospects if they’d traded Adam Jones and others, they opted to trade for Tim Beckham and Jeremy Hellickson.  I mean, why?  Baltimore’s issue is that the front office hates the word “rebuild.”  And that’s always been the case in the Peter Angelos regime when he bought the team.  It has been why the Orioles went through a massive winning drought from 1998-2011 and quite possibly another drought is headed on the way.  At least in the Marlins case, there are a lot of young players, but in Baltimore’s case, they have veterans pretty much all around such as Jones, Beckham, Chris Davis (who is having the worst year in modern history), Mark Trumbo, Danny Valencia, Andrew Cashner, Alex Cobb, Chris Tillman,  Brad Brach etc (though to be fair, a few of them haven’t been bad like Trumbo or Jones, but the rest haven’t lived up to what they are supposed to do).  And the young players not named Machado have not panned out such as Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy, Jonathan Schoop, Trey Mancini, etc.  The Orioles front office may scream “it’s a perfect storm this year and it won’t happen again,” thus not wiping the slate clean.  But this team isn’t very good with the veterans they have and the youngsters they have.  And it doesn’t figure to get better once Machado gets traded.  But a massive change needs to happen as Baltimore feels it HAS to be a contender on a yearly basis with the Yankees and Red Sox.  Baltimore adding veterans on a yearly basis doesn’t make them a contender if the veterans are the likes of Alex Cobb and Andrew Cashner.  Fans in Baltimore also know that this team isn’t very good and they haven’t shown up at the gates this year.  Only the Rays, White Sox, and Athletics have drawn less than the Orioles in the AL.  That has to account for something that Angelos has to figure out.  This team if not careful, can challenge the 2003 Tigers record of 119 losses really easy and the 2nd half is also pretty unforgiving.  In addition to seeing the Red Sox & Yankees 18 more times, they see the Rays 10 more times, and have road trips to Cleveland and Seattle while ending the season with 4 at home to Houston (which caps off a 10 game stretch of seeing the Red Sox and Yankees-both series of being on the road).

CHANCES OF LOSING 100 GAMES: NEAR-CERTAIN.  Baltimore is in that mix of chasing the 62 Mets and the 03 Tigers for having one of the worst records ever.  

White Sox Cardinals Baseball

CHICAGO WHITE SOX:  Chicago was cleaning the slate when the 2017 season started by trading Chris Sale away and got a decent package headed by Yoan Moncada.  The other trades of Adam Eaton, Jose Quintana, Todd Frazier, etc. also netted Chicago with top prospects to the point of having one of the best farm systems around.  Some of the prospects have already come up such as Moncada, Lucas Giolito, and Carson Fulmer, but so far, they have not panned out early on in their MLB careers and Moncada is on pace to have 230 strikeouts in this season.  Giolito has been a disaster while Carson Fulmer has been a hot mess.  The lone bright spots to the young Sox have been Carlos Rodon and Reynaldo Lopez.   I honestly thought given how the White Sox rebuild was going decent and seeing some of the young talent up and how the Tigers and Royals were in rebuilds, Chicago would have been slightly better.  However, the guys they have up aren’t the prospects Chicago were banking on as the future and have fallen flat.  So really it was to be expected, though I don’t think it was going to be this rough with their prospects that have already gotten up.  We may have to wait & see how the likes of Eloy Jimenez and Michael Kopech fare to see if the White Sox rebuild is going well.  But they could get other prospects if Chicago trades other pieces like Jose Abreu, Avisail Garcia, and Joakim Soria as Rick Hahn has done a good job of making the trades.  The good news for Chicago is that they are in the AL Central and see a good chunk of their division like the Tigers, Twins, and Royals the rest of the way.  However, Chicago is only 1-8 vs. Detroit this year and 5-7 against Minnesota.  They have thumped Kansas City a good bit.  But the White Sox have yet to see the Yankees and still have trips to Seattle and Tampa Bay while seeing Boston for four in Chicago.  So avoiding 100 losses won’t be easy as right now and look like they are on pace for a 56-106 season.

CHANCES OF LOSING 100 GAMES: DECENT.  It will be hard for Chicago to fare well with the schedule coming up and if they continue losing to the likes of the Indians and Tigers (combined 3-16 against those teams this year), they have a chance of putting up 110 losses on top of it.

Alex

KANSAS CITY ROYALS:  If you want to know the payment of winning a World Series and being a small-market team, you are seeing it in Kansas City.  3 years removed of their 2nd world championship, the Royals were unable to afford the pieces that netted them that ring (Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer) while trading the last few strong prospects for Johnny Cueto and having an unfortunate tragic incident of Yordano Ventura, you get a franchise snowballing.  When the Royals stars were no longer considered prospects, Kansas City’s farm system dried up fast.  And the system has been dried up for a while.  The trades hurt them and the prospects Kansas City had hoped to replace those guys (Raul Mondesi, Bubba Starling) haven’t worked at all.  So the rebuilding process is a slow one.  However, Kansas City has pieces and Jorge Soler was a start.  But they have a good piece for a trade chip in Mike Moustakas, that if teams don’t win the Manny Machado sweepstakes, they will be knocking on the door of the Royals.   Obviously, getting the top prospect for Moustakas won’t happen, but they can get some pieces that will contribute for the Royals down the road.  Unfortunately, that is it as Kansas City’s pitching is a complete disaster with even the veterans of Danny Duffy and Jason Hammel.  So don’t expect anything, whether a trade or performance to change for the Royals in that aspect and Kansas City already traded Kelvin Herrera to Washington for a package of decent prospects (though many believed Dayton Moore could have waited and gotten a better deal elsewhere) so it doesn’t look like Kansas City will far much better as the season continues.  Since the start of June, Kansas City has gone 6-29 and with the trades being made and injuries mounting, the Royals don’t seem like they will turn the ship anytime soon and could also be in contention for the 62 Mets and 03 Tigers for having one of the worst records in baseball history.

CHANCES OF LOSING 100 GAMES: NEAR-CERTAIN:  Right now you can see the Royals losing 115 with ease, maybe moreso than Baltimore because of the lack of a veteran presence in this group.  

One concern that people are starting to get is that tanking in pro sports is starting to become the “in-thing.”  We see it in the NBA as we saw the Suns, Kings, Hawks, and Mavericks all do that last year.  And hearing the local sports station in Atlanta (who happen to be the same station covering the Hawks), they seemed depressed whenever the Hawks WON which meant the chances of Atlanta getting the top pick slimmed.  I think that has been one gripe of the NBA among the basketball purists and also adds to the argument that there will never be any parity in the league.

MLB fans are starting to wonder if we are seeing the same thing and that teams are following the suit of the Astros, who were just godawful from 2011-2013 as they pretty much set the franchise ablaze and started over and even the Cubs in a similar stretch.  It looked like the Braves were doing that after the 2014 season though the heads of the Braves were saying it wasn’t a massive rebuild and said the next few years of Braves baseball will be fun and exciting (not sure if seeing the likes of Adonis Garcia, Jace Peterson, and Gordon Beckham constitutes as exciting).  But to be fair, the Braves kept Freddie Freeman around and also signed Nick Markakis to at least show it wasn’t a complete slashing a la Houston.   I think the White Sox are following the Astros and Cubs lead of trying to clean the slate and “tanking” as have the Marlins, contrary to whatever Jeter says.

But I think in the Royals case, they knew they would suffer a price for making moves that guaranteed them a World Series title and they are suffering it now.  It isn’t necessarily tanking on that end.  So you may have to ask a Royals fan if the next few years of great futility was worth that championship in 2015 and honestly, I think they’d be okay with that.

As for the Orioles, they weren’t planning on tanking.  In fact, you do have to applaud Baltimore’s office for wanting to compete, though you have to believe their heart may be in the right place, but their minds weren’t as now they have inherited a gigantic mess on the field.

With that said, I don’t think MLB will ever fall into the NBA category of teams deliberately tanking and seeing multiple teams with constant 105+ losses.  First off, the teams would suffer at the gates (I’m waiting for the attendance of the Marlins home series against the Reds in the final week of the season to see if they eclipse 1,000) and kill revenue in a big way.  Secondly, I think while many want to point to Houston as the way to go in terms of tanking in order to be a championship contender for a lengthy run, pretty much not having any veteran or franchise player in that “tanking time” does not help matters as they could have been on the rebuild faster as we are somewhat seeing with Atlanta now when they chose to keep Freeman (though there were some rumors of the Braves trading him during that rebuild).  And I don’t see teams tanking like you see in the NBA because of the baseball fans in those towns would give so much backlash to the ownership, verbally or monetarily (i.e. showing up at the games) that those teams would be pressed to make certain moves to keep the fans off their back-and remember, it is a business first and foremost.  If the team isn’t winning or not being competitive, nobody will show up to the games.  You’re seeing it Miami.  You’re seeing it in Baltimore.  You’re seeing it on the Southside.

This year I think seeing a 100-loss team was due.  I didn’t think seeing 4 teams with a shot of 100 losses would happen, but it is just how the teams are run.  Yes, I believe the Marlins were put in position to tank, but that has been it.  The rest were either going to pay the price for their great run in previous years or had a misdirected belief they would win.  And let’s face it: not every team will be expected to win it all on a yearly basis, even if they aren’t a horrible team or if they are a good team (Pirates, Rays, Padres).  It’s the nature of the beast.  So I think after seeing what goes on in the NBA there is a widespread panic that MLB will follow suit but I don’t see it happening.  It is just we have some very bad teams right now and four who are chasing misery.

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

Twitter

Facebook

Tuesday Trade Market: Looking at the Kelvin Herrera Trade

Yesterday we saw the first major trade of the baseball season in 2018 go down (sorry, I’m not counting Matt Harvey to Cincinnati as a major trade at this point).  The Nationals and Royals made an agreement as Kansas City closer Kelvin Herrera was traded to Washington for three prospects.  More of that information can be found here.

Today I will look at the impact at the trade from all angles such as the Nationals, Royals, the National League, and the teams who now may be in a bind of getting a closer to help down the stretch.

Herrera

FOR THE NATIONALS:  Compared to years’ past, the Washington bullpen hasn’t been a complete disaster.  Sammy Solis has been serviceable as has Justin Miller.  And Sean Doolittle is having a great year closing games out (18 saves and a 1.47 ERA with a 0.55 WHIP).  But Ryan Madson is about to have his arm fall off and is having a horrid year while Brandon Kintzler hasn’t amounted to much.  So this was a trade the Nationals need to make.  The funny part is though, Washington’s offense is a problem.  Many are still going “oh well, when Daniel Murphy gets back to the swing of things and Ryan Zimmerman gets healthy and it will wake up Bryce Harper and the Nats will roll.”  Hasn’t been the case.  Zimmerman when healthy hasn’t done much.  Harper has been on a massive downhill run as he’s gone 1 for his last 24 with only 3 walks and 9 K’s in that span (and until last game had a 2-K streak of four games).  He’s also only hit 1 homer in June.  So the Nationals may need to think of adding a bat whether it is at CF in getting somebody like Starling Marte.  As honestly, the weak spot of Washington really hasn’t been the pitching but the hitting.  But their hope is relying on two guys who have been injury-prone lately and one wonders if Bryce Harper’s mind is elsewhere right now.  As for what they gave up, they gave up 3 prospects on the fringe of being in the top 10 of their farm, which is a decent farm, but not world-beating.

Gutierrez

FOR THE ROYALS:  Well, shocker here, they’re selling.  Everybody knew it since the Royals are 22-50 and only a game ahead of Baltimore of being the worst team in baseball.  But stunning this early, as many figured that the Royals could have gotten more in return than what they actually had.  It means that Mike Moustakas is definitely next on the trade market (my guess is Cardinals or Yankees) and that one is definitely one they can get value in.  I’m not sure if anybody wants the likes of Alcides Escobar, Alex Gordon, or Danny Duffy at this point since all are working on train-wreck seasons.  At this point the Royals would be lucky to net anything for any of them.  But the trade itself helps their farm system which is very much barren.  So Kelvin Gutierrez, who plays 3B probably wouldn’t have cracked the Nationals lineup with Anthony Rendon there has a good shot now with the Royals, though his numbers in the Minors are so/so (.285 average but only a .732 OPS and doesn’t have a whole lot of power).  Perkins hasn’t really panned out since being a 2nd rounder for the Nationals in 2015 (.655 OPS in the Minors), but had a good start this season with Harrisburg before being sent back down to High-A with Potomac.  Again, probably a new start with a team that will have a lot of open spots down the road will help out.  And Yohanse Morel is only 17 as there isn’t much to talk about though his ceiling may be very high right now.

FOR THE REST OF THE NL:  The only team that the Nationals may have really stung was their NL East rivals of the Phillies, who also need a closer and have the resources to get one.  The Braves, Cubs, Brewers, and Dodgers are all set at the closer spot and most of them have quality set-up guys.  Does it tip the scale in Washington’s favor on the Braves right now?  No.  The Braves have needs (a veteran pitcher & another reliever would help and an upgrade at third) but I don’t think it does much in the way of scaring Atlanta to this point.

Hand.jpg

THE MARKET FOR CLOSER NOW:  Herrera was the best available closer on the market.  The question will be who is out there now that could be labeled as the best available?  Hard to tell.  Zach Britton just came back and if he pitches well, could help a contender (Phillies?).  Shane Greene’s name has been talked about a couple of times (though Detroit is only sitting 3 back of Cleveland surprisingly and may hold off on selling).  If Minnesota is more out than in, Fernando Rodney would be available as he’s had a “decent” season with the Twins while Joakim Soria is with the White Sox, also having a decent season.  But maybe the best available is Brad Hand, if the Padres were willing to move him.  He may be the best one as the others may be “buyer beware” notably with Rodney and Soria. They both have been closers for years but they’ve also been closers that have imploded on more than a few occasions throughout their career (hence why they’re journeymen closers).

WINNER: Nationals.  They added another arm in the pen and if the Nats get their act together can really make it into 7 inning games with the likes of Scherzer and Gio Gonzalez.  But right now it means nothing if the offense can’t get their act together.

LOSER:  Royals and Phillies.  The only reason why I put the Royals here is because they may have gone knee-jerk on this trade as they could have gotten more and perhaps drove the price up between teams like Washington, Philadelphia, and maybe Cleveland.  But maybe Dayton Moore has a lot of faith in his scouts they are doing the right thing.  So who am I to say?  As for the Phillies, I had thought Philadelphia would make a big push for Herrera.  The Nationals keep them from getting the closer that they need to make the jump ahead and get closer to the Braves.  They may shift their attention to Brad Hand, who may cost a little bit more, assuming they go that route.  But time will tell as with every trade made.

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

Twitter

Facebook

The Obstructed Preview of the AL Central-2018

The American League Central on paper seems to go back to a vintage time when the Cleveland Indians ran the show.  The Tribe has fielded a far more balanced team than the ones in the 90’s that were dominated by Lofton, Belle, Manny, and Thome, but they are just as deadly thanks to a top-notch rotation.  Which means the rest of the division is well, fighting over who will come in second.

Or will it?

The Twins made some moves of going more in with key pickups and may surprise as a Wild Card contender and perhaps an outside shot at upending Cleveland for the division.  It’s not overly probable, but it is possible.

As for the rest of the division, it is in practical rebuild modes.  The White Sox seem to have all the pieces in play in the farm system to really make some noise maybe in the 2nd half of this season but really 2019 may be the year for Chicago.  The Royals and Tigers are really fighting it out to see which one can avoid last place as both are in early rebuilds.  So it is definitely not going to be an interesting division from top to bottom, nor the most competitive one for sure (perhaps the worst in baseball right now?), but there could be some surprises especially if Minnesota and Chicago can make some noise.

Previews are in order of where I project them to be.

1ST PLACE: CLEVELAND INDIANS:

Cleveland

2017: 102-60, 1st place (lost to New York Yankees in ALDS)

OFF-SEASON: ADDS: 1B-Yonder Alonso (FA-Seattle), OF-Rajai Davis (FA-Boston), P-Matt Belisle (FA-Minnesota), 1B-Mike Napoli (FA-Texas); SUBTRACTS: 1B-Carlos Santana (FA-Philadelphia), OF-Jay Bruce (FA-New York Mets), OF-Austin Jackson (FA-San Francisco), P-Craig Breslow (FA-Toronto), P-Boone Logan (FA-Milwaukee), P-Bryan Shaw (FA-Colorado), P-Joe Smith (FA-Houston)

Outlook:  The Indians possess a stellar lineup and one of the top rotations in all of baseball.  Corey Kluber is a true ace and when healthy, the likes of Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar are also great front-end guys.  The lineup with Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, and Edwin Encarnacion is very potent, while the Tribe added Yonder Alonso to replace Carlos Santana.  IF there is a question, it will have to be the outfield again with the group of the oft-injured Michael Brantley, Rajai Lonnie Chisenhall, Bradley Zimmer, and Rajai Davis.  The good news is, the Indians are in a division where they can get to the deadline near the top or at the top and make a key trade to get another hitter like they did with Jay Bruce last year.  That is if the Indians are struggling for a power bat in the outfield.  But everything else is clicking, especially in the bullpen.  But again, while the roster is definitely good enough to win the AL Central, will there be enough offense in the outfield to get past the Yankees, Red Sox, and Astros?

MY PROJECTION: 100-62.  Indians will be just fine and should get a lot of W’s within the division, but they still need to get an outfield bat at some point.

 

2ND PLACE: MINNESOTA TWINS

Buxton.jpg

2017: 85-77, 2nd place (lost to New York Yankees in Wild Card Game)

OFF-SEASON: ADDS: 1B/DH-Logan Morrison (FA-Tampa Bay), OF-Ryan LaMarre (FA-Oakland), P-Lance Lynn (FA-St. Louis), P-Jake Odorizzi (Trade-Tampa Bay), P-Fernando Rodney (FA-Arizona) P-Addison Reed (FA-Boston), FA-Zach Duke (FA-St. Louis), P-Tyler Kinley (Rule 5-Miami); SUBTRACTS: P-Bartolo Colon (FA-Texas), P-Hector Santiago (FA-Chicago White Sox), P-Matt Belisle (FA-Cleveland), P-Dillon Gee (FA-overseas), P-Glen Perkins (Retired)

Outlook: After a rebound year from the disastrous 2016 season, the Twins sneaked into the Wild Card game.  With a good farm system and a youth push in Minnesota, the time to win is now for the Twins.  And they made key moves that you probably have to consider as bargains around with getting home run leader Logan Morrison from Tampa Bay and then Cardinals front-end starter Lance Lynn while trading for the Rays front-end guy in Jake Odorizzi.  The Twins starting lineup is pretty potent from top to bottom with the likes of Morrison, Brian Dozier, Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton, etc.  The rotation needed the key upgrades and they got them.  Lynn and Odorizzi will help a rotation that will see Ervin Santana miss the first month of the season, but if Jose Berrios continues his upward trend as does Kyle Gibson, Minnesota will be barking on the Indians door.  The only question will be despite the moves in the bullpen is can the Twins win with Fernando Rodney as their closer?  He keeps getting jobs and the saves are up anywhere he goes, but he is very ugly in doing so.  But the adds of Addison Reed (in case Rodney fails would be the closer) and Zach Duke really helps out the Twins for the season.

MY PROJECTION:  92-70.  Minnesota could be a team nobody in the AL wants to see, especially in October.

 

3RD PLACE: CHICAGO WHITE SOX

Chicago.jpg

2017:  67-95, 4th place

OFF-SEASON: ADDS: C-Wellington Castillo (FA-Baltimore), P-Miguel Gonzalez (FA-Texas), P-Joakim Soria (Trade-Kansas City), P-Luis Avilan (P-Los Angeles Dodgers), P-Hector Santiago (FA-Minnesota); SUBTRACTS:  C-Geovany Soto (FA), P-Mike Pelfrey (Retired)

Outlook: Right now in Chicago it is more of the waiting game for the prospects the White Sox gained over the trades they made for the likes of Todd Frazier, Jose Quintana, Chris Sale, and Adam Eaton.  The White Sox will be primed more for the next season than this as the prospects get that experience.  But if they have to they can add more prospects as rumors abound that Avisail Garcia may be a trading chip as may be the White Sox acquisition of Wellington Castillo by the deadline if they are out of it.  But they will be a fun team, especially after the deadline and the roster expansion to see some of these top prospects get their feet wet in Chicago.  But right now, it is really about patience if you’re a fan of the Pale Hose.

MY PROJECTION: 73-89.  ChiSox will be a team to spoil somebody’s season in the last months with their young group.

 

4TH PLACE: DETROIT TIGERS

Detroit

2017: 64-98, 5th place

OFF-SEASON: ADDS: OF-Leonys Martin (FA-Chicago Cubs), OF-Niko Goodrum (FA-Minnesota), OF-Victor Reyes (Rule 5-Arizona), P-Francisco Liriano (FA-Houston), P-Mike Fiers (FA-Houston), P-Johnny Barbato (Waivers-Pittsburgh), SUBTRACTS: 2B-Ian Kinsler (Trade-Los Angeles Angels), P-Anibal Sanchez (FA-Atlanta), P-Bruce Rondon (non-tendered)

Outlook: Oiy.  Despite the moves last year of freeing up payroll of the heavy contracts of Justin Verlander and Justin Upton (and then this off-season with Ian Kinsler) and also improving the farm system, the Tigers still remain a gigantic mess.  I still believe GM Al Avila squandered the JD Martinez trade which he practically netted 3 light-hitting third basemen who only one has a legit shot at having any impact on an MLB roster and many other Tiger fans believe he squandered the moves of Verlander (Houston) and Justin Wilson (Cubs).  But there is talk of moving the ace of the Tigers, Michael Fulmer, to get MORE high ranked prospects and such.  But I guess it really doesn’t matter where I put Detroit and Kansas City as it can be interchanged at this point.  I guess my bias thinks that the likes of Miguel Cabrera won’t be as bad as 2017 where he hit only .245 and Ron Gardenhire will be better than Brad Ausmus as manager.  So there is some talent still on Detroit that can keep them from completely sinking (Castellanos, who also can be a huge trade chip), but still.  The rebuild is still in its early stages, and I don’t think Avila is the man to right the ship in Detroit.

MY PROJECTION: 67-95.  Detroit could logically move Castellanos (though it may be a bad year to do so given if the Jays and Orioles are out of it, Donaldson and Machado may be also on the block) and perhaps James McCann with perhaps Shane Greene.

 

5th PLACE: KANSAS CITY ROYALS

Duffy

2017: 80-82, 3rd place

OFF-SEASON: ADDS: OF-Jon Jay (FA-Chicago Cubs), 1B-Lucas Duda (FA-Tampa Bay), C-Ryan Goins (FA-Toronto), P-Wily Peralta (FA-Milwaukee), P-Justin Grimm (FA-Chicago Cubs), P-Blaine Boyer (FA-Boston), P-Burch Smith (Trade-New York Mets), P-Brad Keller (Trade Cincinnati), P-Jesse Hahn (Trade-Oakland); SUBTRACTS: 1B-Eric Hosmer (FA-San Diego), OF-Lorenzo Cain (FA-Milwaukee), P-Trevor Cahill (FA-Oakland), P-Jason Vargas (FA-New York Mets), P-Mike Minor (FA-Texas), P-Peter Moylan (P-Atlanta)

Outlook:  It could have been worse for the Royals this off-season had Mike Moustakas and Alicedes Escobar had also left Kansas City, but the damage was plenty done, seeing World Series heroes of Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain move on.  And then Kansas City’s best pitcher in 2017, Jason Vargas, is gone.  So you have a quality starter in Danny Duffy, but after him, there are questions abound, especially on that back end.  Worse, the bullpen of the Royals who looked to be as one of the best in their October runs, may be one of the worst in the Majors now outside Kelvim Herrera.  So, much like the Tigers, Kansas City will have to start replenish their farm as the moves they made in their October runs in 2014 and 2015 took a hit.  The question will be can they get a lot in return for a guy like Duffy, if the Royals were to offer him, as well as Herrera.  So there are plenty of questions if the Royals can do it through trades, especially if 3B is going to be a high-supply and low demand for teams come July.

MY PROJECTION: 66-96.  The Royals will have a run similar to Detroit in struggling for the next few years.  The farm system has to be improved.

One more week and one more division to cover!

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

Twitter

Facebook