2018 MLB Season Preview

Thank you all once again for sticking with me and reading my 30 Clubs in 30 Days series. Now is the part it’s all been leading up to: the 2018 MLB Season Preview. In this preview I’m going to use what I wrote in my 30 Clubs in 30 Days series to paint a picture of how this season is going to go. This will range from player rankings to World Series predictions and everything in between. So without further ado, let’s get to it.

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Season Predictions:

Here’s the compilation of the regular season standings from the projected records I did for each team. An asterisk (*) represents the teams that I predict will win the Wild Card spots.

AL East

1. New York Yankees: 98-64

2. Boston Red Sox*: 95-67

3. Baltimore Orioles: 81-81

4. Toronto Blue Jays: 78-84

5. Tampa Bay Rays: 68-94

AL Central

1. Cleveland Indians: 99-63

2. Minnesota Twins: 84-78

3. Kansas City Royals: 74-88

4. Chicago White Sox: 70-92

5. Detroit Tigers: 64-98

AL West

1. Houston Astros: 101-61

2. Anaheim Angels*: 86-76

3. Seattle Mariners: 85-77

4. Texas Rangers: 82-80

5. Oakland Athletics: 77-85

NL East

1. Washington Nationals: 95-67

2. New York Mets: 84-78

3. Philadelphia Phillies: 75-87

4. Atlanta Braves: 71-91

5. Miami Marlins: 62-100

NL Central

1. Chicago Cubs: 94-68

2. Milwaukee Brewers*: 88-74

3. St. Louis Cardinals: 85-77

4. Pittsburgh Pirates: 76-86

5. Cincinnati Reds: 69-93

NL West

1. Los Angeles Dodgers: 100-62

2. Arizona Diamondbacks*: 91-71

3. San Francisco Giants: 85-77

4. Colorado Rockies: 81-81

5. San Diego Padres: 70-92

So based on this information, we can see which teams are ready for success in 2018. Now let’s take a look at my postseason predictions even though game 1 out of 162 hasn’t been played yet.

Wild Card Games:

Boston Red Sox defeat Anaheim Angels

Arizona Diamondbacks defeat Milwaukee Brewers

LDS:

Houston Astros defeat Boston Red Sox

Cleveland Indians defeat New York Yankees

Los Angeles Dodgers defeat Arizona Diamondbacks

Washington Nationals defeat Chicago Cubs

LCS:

Cleveland Indians defeat Houston Astros

Los Angeles Dodgers defeat Washington Nationals

World Series:

Cleveland Indians defeat Los Angeles Dodgers

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Congratulations to the Cleveland Indians on your 2018 World Series victory. In my predictions, the Tribe exorcise their postseason demons from the last couple seasons and win their first World Series since 1948 and third overall. For the Dodgers, their first title since 1988 continues to elude them as they fall in the World Series for the second year in a row. It is also worth mentioning that this matchup is between the two previous World Series losers, as the Indians lost to the Cubs in 2016 and the Dodgers lost to the Astros in 2017.

Power Rankings:

1. Houston Astros

2. Los Angeles Dodgers

3. Cleveland Indians

4. New York Yankees

5. Boston Red Sox

6. Washington Nationals

7. Chicago Cubs

8. Arizona Diamondbacks

9. Milwaukee Brewers

10. Anaheim Angels

11. St. Louis Cardinals

12. Seattle Mariners

13. San Francisco Giants

14. New York Mets

15. Minnesota Twins

16. Texas Rangers

17. Colorado Rockies

18. Baltimore Orioles

19. Toronto Blue Jays

20. Philadelphia Phillies

21. Oakland Athletics

22. Pittsburgh Pirates

23. Kansas City Royals

24. Atlanta Braves

25. Chicago White Sox

26. San Diego Padres

27. Cincinnati Reds

28. Tampa Bay Rays

29. Detroit Tigers

30. Miami Marlins

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Gotta put the reigning champs atop the initial Power Rankings. Plus, they lost virtually nothing in the offseason while getting even stronger with the addition of Gerrit Cole to a pitching rotation that already features two former Cy Young Award winners in Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel. I also have to put the Marlins as the worst team in baseball simply for how much they gave up in the offseason. I also don’t think they will be any good for at least another 3 or 4 years, maybe even 5 because of the generally weak prospect pool they received for their troubles. I still can’t believe Giancarlo Stanton didn’t warrant a return of everything the Yankees had in their farm system. The guy hit 59 home runs and was NL MVP last season. Now let’s get into the positional rankings for this season.

Positional Rankings:

Catcher

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1. Buster Posey-San Francisco Giants

2. Gary Sanchez-New York Yankees

3. Salvador Perez-Kansas City Royals

4. Willson Contreras-Chicago Cubs

5. Yadier Molina-St. Louis Cardinals

6. Tucker Barnhart-Cincinnati Reds

7. Mike Zunino-Seattle Mariners

8. Yasmani Grandal-Los Angeles Dodgers

9. Martin Maldonado-Anaheim Angels

10. Brian McCann-Houston Astros

1st Base

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1. Joey Votto-Cincinnati Reds

2. Paul Goldschmidt-Arizona Diamondbacks

3. Freddie Freeman-Atlanta Braves

4. Anthony Rizzo-Chicago Cubs

5. Cody Bellinger-Los Angeles Dodgers

6. Eric Hosmer-San Diego Padres

7. Jose Abreu-Chicago White Sox

8. Ryan Zimmerman-Washington Nationals

9. Greg Bird-New York Yankees

10. Matt Carpenter-St. Louis Cardinals

2nd Base

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1. Jose Altuve-Houston Astros

2. Robinson Cano-Seattle Mariners

3. Daniel Murphy-Washington Nationals

4. Jonathan Schoop-Baltimore Orioles

5. Dustin Pedroia-Boston Red Sox

6. DJ LeMahieu-Colorado Rockies

7. Javy Baez-Chicago Cubs

8. Brian Dozier-Minnesota Twins

9. Jason Kipnis-Cleveland Indians

10. Starlin Castro-Miami Marlins

3rd Base

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1. Kris Bryant-Chicago Cubs

2. Josh Donaldson-Toronto Blue Jays

3. Nolan Arenado-Colorado Rockies

4. Jose Ramirez-Cleveland Indians

5. Anthony Rendon-Washington Nationals

6. Justin Turner-Los Angeles Dodgers

7. Mike Moustakas-Kansas City Royals

8. Alex Bregman-Houston Astros

9. Evan Longoria-San Francisco Giants

10. Adrian Beltre-Texas Rangers

Shortstop

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1. Francisco Lindor-Cleveland Indians

2. Carlos Correa-Houston Astros

3. Corey Seager-Los Angeles Dodgers

4. Manny Machado-Baltimore Orioles

5. Andrelton Simmons-Anaheim Angels

6. Xander Bogaerts-Boston Red Sox

7. Didi Gregorius-New York Yankees

8. Elvis Andrus-Texas Rangers

9. Trea Turner-Washington Nationals

10. Jean Segura-Seattle Mariners

Left Field

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1. Marcell Ozuna-St. Louis Cardinals

2. Christian Yelich-Milwaukee Brewers

3. Yoenis Cespedes-New York Mets

4. Andrew Benintendi-Boston Red Sox

5. Justin Upton-Anaheim Angels

6. Tommy Pham-St. Louis Cardinals

7. Brett Gardner-New York Yankees

8. Corey Dickerson-Pittsburgh Pirates

9. Trey Mancini-Baltimore Orioles

10. Marwin Gonzalez-Houston Astros

Center Field

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1. Mike Trout-Anaheim Angels

2. Charlie Blackmon-Colorado Rockies

3. George Springer-Houston Astros

4. Lorenzo Cain-Milwaukee Brewers

5. Jackie Bradley Jr-Boston Red Sox

6. Byron Buxton-Minnesota Twins

7. Chris Taylor-Los Angeles Dodgers

8. Odubel Herrera-Philadelphia Phillies

9. Ender Inciarte-Atlanta Braves

10. Michael Conforto-New York Mets

Right Field

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1. Bryce Harper-Washington Nationals

2. Aaron Judge-New York Yankees

3. Mookie Betts-Boston Red Sox

4. Andrew McCutchen-San Francisco Giants

5. Yasiel Puig-Los Angeles Dodgers

6. Steven Souza Jr-Arizona Diamondbacks

7. Josh Reddick-Houston Astros

8. Jay Bruce-New York Mets

9. Avisail Garcia-Chicago White Sox

10. Domingo Santana-Milwaukee Brewers

Designated Hitter

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1. Giancarlo Stanton-New York Yankees

2. JD Martinez-Boston Red Sox

3. Edwin Encarnacion-Cleveland Indians

4. Nelson Cruz-Seattle Mariners

5. Khris Davis-Oakland Athletics

Starting Pitcher

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1. Clayton Kershaw-Los Angeles Dodgers

2. Max Scherzer-Washington Nationals

3. Corey Kluber-Cleveland Indians

4. Chris Sale-Boston Red Sox

5. Stephen Strasburg-Washington Nationals

6. Noah Syndergaard-New York Mets

7. Madison Bumgarner-San Francisco Giants

8. Luis Severino-New York Yankees

9. Zack Greinke-Arizona Diamondbacks

10. Robbie Ray-Arizona Diamondbacks

Relief Pitcher

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1. Kenley Jansen-Los Angeles Dodgers

2. Craig Kimbrel-Boston Red Sox

3. Corey Knebel-Milwaukee Brewers

4. Roberto Osuna-Toronto Blue Jays

5. Aroldis Chapman-New York Yankees

6. Andrew Miller-Cleveland Indians

7. Archie Bradley-Arizona Diamondbacks

8. Zach Britton-Baltimore Orioles

9. Wade Davis-Colorado Rockies

10. Pat Neshek-Philadelphia Phillies

And now onto the preseason awards where I award people for things they haven’t done yet and may not even do at all.

American League MVP: Aaron Judge-RF-New York Yankees

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National League MVP: Bryce Harper-RF-Washington Nationals

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American League Cy Young: Chris Sale-Boston Red Sox

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National League Cy Young: Noah Syndergaard-New York Mets

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American League Rookie of the Year: Willy Adames-SS-Tampa Bay Rays

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National League Rookie of the Year: Ronald Acuna-OF-Atlanta Braves

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American League Manager of the Year: Mike Scioscia-Anaheim Angels

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National League Manager of the Year: Craig Counsell-Milwaukee Brewers

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And finally, on to my bold predictions for the 2018 MLB season. Some will be as harmless as saying “I don’t think the Yankees are going to hit as many home runs as everybody says they will,” and others could get me fired if I had a real job. So let’s get to some predictions.

Prediction: Clayton Kershaw will show slight signs of slowing down now that he’s 30 years old, will post an ERA over 2.50, something he hasn’t done since 2012. People will freak out and panic accordingly.

Prediction: The Yankees’ season will be filled with peaks and valleys en route to 98 wins. Considering Judge and Stanton strike out as often as anyone in baseball, this could lead to some rough slumps at times for the two and their team as a result. However, when they’re on, nobody will be able to beat the Yankees.

Prediction: The Baltimore Orioles will trade Manny Machado to a contender at the trade deadline. The Orioles won’t be super competitive in 2018 and Machado’s contract is up at the end of the year. The smart thing to do would be to trade him to a contender and load up on top prospects. Predicted landing spot? Uhhhh…how about the Brewers? I would say the Yankees but the Orioles’ brass has made it clear they’d prefer not to trade Machado within the division.

Prediction: The Yankees will not break the team home run record. This is mainly because I think teams are going to try and pitch the Yankees a little more carefully this season. Knowing the type of power this team possesses, I doubt they’re going to get great pitches to hit. This may lead to higher walk rates for the team, though.

Prediction: The Marlins won’t be nearly as bad as people think. But let’s be honest, the opinions of the Marlins’ talent can’t be much lower at the moment. However every season there’s a team that everyone thinks is going to be the worst and yet somehow they find ways to be just bad, not historically bad.

Prediction: The American League’s home run king will be an Oakland Athletics player. I can envision this happening, considering the power Khris Davis and Matt Olson showed last season. Matt Chapman could also be a sneaky home run threat as well.

Prediction: Mike Trout will finish outside the top 2 in AL MVP voting for the second consecutive season. This isn’t to say that I think Trout will struggle this season. Far from it. Last season was the first time in Trout’s Major League career (since 2012) that he didn’t finish in the top 2 in AL MVP voting and I think it’s going to happen again. As you saw in my awards predictions, I have Aaron Judge taking home top honors and Trout will have to compete with the likes of Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Jose Ramirez, Francisco Lindor, Mookie Betts, Josh Donaldson, Giancarlo Stanton, and many, many more.

Prediction: Don Mattingly will be out as Marlins manager before June. This won’t be Mattingly’s fault, nobody can succeed with this roster. However new ownership has pretty much let go of everyone else and Mattingly just logically seems to be the next domino to fall, especially when the Marlins inevitably struggle.

Prediction: Pace of Play will continue to be a topic of discussion and the new mound visit rule will be hated by catchers even though we could probably count the number of issues this rule causes on one hand. The new mound visit rule limits non-pitching-change mound visits to 6 per 9 inning games. There have already been players such as Willson Contreras who are outspoken against this, however if you think about it, catchers don’t really visit the mound all that much, especially if their guy is pitching really well. I don’t think this will cause nearly as many problems as some guys think it might.

Prediction: The newly-signed pitchers (Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta) will struggle. Darvish has had injury problems throughout his Major League career and Arrieta has been trending downward since winning the 2015 NL Cy Young Award. Im predicting both guys finish with ERA’s in the low-4’s.

So that’s going to do it for my MLB 2018 season preview. Words can’t express how excited I am for Thursday’s Opening Day to roll around, when all 30 teams will be opening on the same day for the first time in over 50 years. Let me know how you think this season’s going to go in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: New York Mets

So a couple stories I want to bring to light here. First off, former LSU runningback and potential first round pick Derrius Guice was asked by an unknown NFL team during his Combine interview a couple of very inappropriate questions, which Guice claims was to provoke him and get a feel for his response. The anonymous team asked Guice if he was gay and if his mom was a hooker. I can understand the reasoning behind asking these questions, as you’re trying to gauge how this guy’s going to deal with the media, but you have to use better judgment here. Asking if someone is gay is totally inappropriate and asking someone if their mother is a hooker is downright disrespectful. They should’ve learned when the Dolphins did that to Dez Bryant in his Combine interview. I remember I was in Canton, Ohio to see the Pro Football Hall of Fame with my mom and she went for a walk outside of our hotel. When she got back, she told me that some guy had driven up to her and asked if she was “working.” I’m not a confrontational person, but I was ready to throw haymakers at this dude that I’d never met so kudos to Guice for keeping his cool. Also, the Kansas City Royals held an anti-porn seminar for the players and coaches, most likely to protect the wrists on their throwing hands when they’re away from their wives because athletes definitely stay faithful to their wives on road trips. That’s really all I have to say on that because otherwise I can’t see any reason to be against something that brings people so much joy. Also, the Rams acquired another corner in a trade, this time landing Aqib Talib from the Broncos. So basically with Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib the Rams may have the shit talking-est cornerback duo in NFL history. Anyways, on to the Mets for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days.

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2017 Results:

Record: 70-92, 27 games behind Washington Nationals, 17 games behind Colorado Rockies for 2nd Wild Card spot

Notable Offseason Additions: RF Jay Bruce, 3B Todd Frazier, 1B Adrian Gonzalez, RP Anthony Swarzak, OF Matthew den Dekker

Notable Offseason Subtractions: RP Erik Goeddel, SP Tommy Milone, RP Josh Edgin

Best Offensive Player: LF Yoenis Cespedes

Best Pitcher: Noah Syndergaard

Depth Chart:

C-Travis d’Arnaud, Kevin Plawecki

1B-Adrian Gonzalez, Dominic Smith

2B-Asdrubal Cabrera

3B-Todd Frazier, Wilmer Flores, David Wright

SS-Amed Rosario, Jose Reyes

LF-Yoenis Cespedes

CF-Michael Conforto, Juan Lagares

RF-Jay Bruce

SP-Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, Jason Vargas, Robert Gsellman, Zach Wheeler, Seth Lugo

Bullpen-Jeurys Familia (CP), Jeremy Blevins, AJ Ramos, Anthony Swarzak, Hansel Robles, Paul Sewald, Rafael Montero

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Mickey Callaway (1st season with Mets

Hitting Coach-Pat Roessler

Pitching Coach-Dave Eiland

1st Base Coach-Ruben Amaro Jr

3rd Base Coach-Glenn Sherlock

Bench Coach-Gary DiSarcina

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It feels like so long ago that the Mets were good even though they just had one bad season. They won the NL pennant in 2015, losing the World Series in 5 games to the Royals, and they lost the NL Wild Card game against the Giants in 2016. But in 2017 the wheels seemed to fall off, causing the Mets machine to fall off the wheels, crash and burn, and kill everybody inside as injuries ravaged the team. But when healthy, this has the potential to be a scary team. Here’s how I’m projecting their lineup to look in 2018.

1. Asdrubal Cabrera-2B

2. Michael Conforto-CF

3. Yoenis Cespedes-LF

4. Jay Bruce-RF

5. Todd Frazier-3B

6. Adrian Gonzalez-1B

7. Travis d’Arnaud-C

8. Amed Rosario-SS

9. Pitcher’s Spot

There’s a lot of talent in this lineup, particularly in the middle of the order. Michael Conforto broke out in 2017, earning an All Star nod by hitting .279 with 27 home runs and was worth 4.4 WAR. He will likely miss the start of the season due to injury (shocker) and it will probably be defensive wizard Juan Lagares in centerfield. Yoenis Cespedes is a guy I really liked but he didn’t seem to hit his stride until he was traded to the Mets, as his bat was what really propelled them to the 2015 NL pennant. Come to think of it, good things tend to happen to teams involved in a Cespedes trade. The A’s landed Jon Lester from the Red Sox, the Red Sox landed Rick Porcello from the Tigers, and the Tigers landed Michael Fulmer from the Mets. Go figure. But despite missing half the 2017 season due to injury, Cespedes was on pace for an MVP-caliber season. He was hitting .292 with 17 home runs and 42 RBI, which in a full 162-game season would be 34 home runs and 84 RBI. Jay Bruce is returning to the Mets after they traded him to the Indians at last year’s trade deadline. Bruce was terrific for the Mets, hitting 29 home runs and driving in 75 RBI in just 103 games with the club. Frazier and Gonzalez both struggled last season but they both have powerful bats and can cause some serious damage to a pitching staff if taken lightly.

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The Mets may have the single most injury-prone pitching rotation I’ve ever seen. It seems like within the last two seasons every member of their 4-headed monster of Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, and Steven Matz all have missed significant time due to injury, the latter two’s effectiveness having been harmed the most. While Syndergaard looks like he’s fully recovered from the lat injury that sidelined him for nearly all of 2017 (his fastball was touching 101 mph in his first Spring Training outing), the rest of the rotation isn’t so sure. DeGrom was solid last season, going 15-10 with a 3.53 ERA and striking out over 10 batters per 9 innings, but Harvey and Matz left a lot to be desired. Matz had an ERA over 6 in 13 starts while Harvey was better known for having not shown up to a game due to being hung over after drinking his sorrows away after seeing his ex girlfriend, supermodel Adriana Lima, hanging around with Julian Edelman. So the only guys I’m not concerned with are Syndergaard and deGrom but Matz and Harvey make me nervous. Again, assuming everybody’s healthy.

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The Mets bullpen has some guys with really electric stuff. In fact, the only regular member of last year’s bullpen with a K/9 rate below 8 was Josh Edgin and he’s now a member of the Baltimore Orioles. The closer for the Mets is Jeurys Familia, however he’s also coming off an injury-plagued season, as he only managed to pitch 24.2 innings in 2017. However when healthy, he’s amongst the best closers in the game. Should he struggle to return to health, though, the Mets have AJ Ramos, whom they acquired from the Marlins last trade deadline. Ramos was an All Star as the Marlins’ closer in 2016, though he struggled with his command upon joining the Mets. He struck out over 11 batters per 9 innings but also walked over 5 batters per 9. He’s going to need to drop that second number significantly if he hopes to earn new manager and pitching guru Mickey Callaway’s trust. Newly-acquired reliever Anthony Swarzak was a revelation last season with the White Sox and Brewers last season, pitching to an ERA of 2.33 with over 10.5 K/9 in his age-31 season. Whether he repeats that success remains to be seen but if last season was any indicator, the Mets have themselves a reliable 8th-inning option.

Overall, I don’t think the Mets are nearly as bad as last season’s record might indicate but they NEED to limit the injuries if they’re going to have any hope of competing for the playoffs. When fully healthy, I think this team is good enough to compete with the Nationals for the NL East crown. However that seems to be asking a lot out of them as of late and I’m not so sure they’re going to be able to overcome these shortcomings this season. However the NL East is pretty weak right now so I don’t think it’ll be too hard for the Mets to come in second place in the division, in fact I do think they’ll be healthy enough to compete for a Wild Card spot, though I think they will fall short.

Projected Finish: 84-78, 2nd in NL East

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. I feel like I wrote this blog twice (that’s because I did. I was halfway through my first edition when my computer freaked out on me and I lost my entire draft. Though to be honest, I feel like this version is way better than the one that got deleted). Join me tomorrow when I preview the New York Yankees, who on paper have the most dangerous 3-4 combo since Ruth-Gehrig. Let me know what you think of the Mets’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10. Also, if you’re looking for something to do at 3 PM as you get ready for Spring Break (or continue partying during Spring Break), I’ll be on the call for a college baseball game between Indiana and Pacific on BTN Plus.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: Cleveland Indians

Some NFL news to talk about before I get into the Tribe. The Lions are going to place the franchise tag on defensive end Ziggy Ansah, which is a smart move as there aren’t a ton of pass rushers for Detroit to pursue and they’re already thin at the position as it is. It was also announced that the Vikings would not tag Case Keenum, which would suggest that they may be holding out hope that they can land Kirk Cousins. Jarvis Landry and DeMarcus Lawrence will be getting tagged if they aren’t signed by the Dolphins and Cowboys, respectively, so that’s two more names off the market. At some point after the deadline to franchise tag, I’ll post a Top 10 NFL free agents blog in addition to that day’s 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Also, in baseball news, Tim Lincecum will be signing with the Texas Rangers. It’ll be interesting to see if he even has anything left in the tank at this stage in his career. Let’s get into the Cleveland Indians.

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2017 Results:

Record: 102-60, Won AL Central by 17 games over Minnesota Twins, lost to New York Yankees in ALDS

Notable Offseason Additions: 1B Yonder Alonso, OF Rajai Davis, 1B Mike Napoli, RP Matt Belisle, RP Adam Wilk, RP Evan Marshall

Notable Offseason Subtractions: 1B Carlos Santana, OF Jay Bruce, RP Bryan Shaw, RP Joe Smith, RP Craig Breslow, OF Austin Jackson, RP Boone Logan

Best Offensive Player: SS Francisco Lindor

Best Pitcher: Corey Kluber

Depth Chart:

C-Roberto Perez, Yan Gomes

1B-Yonder Alonso, Edwin Encarnacion (DH), Mike Napoli

2B-Jason Kipnis, Michael Martinez

3B-Jose Ramirez, Giovanny Urshela

SS-Francisco Lindor

LF-Michael Brantley, Rajai Davis

CF-Bradley Zimmer, Tyler Naquin, Abraham Almonte

RF-Lonnie Chisenhall, Brandon Guyer

SP-Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, Trevor Bauer, Josh Tomlin, Mike Clevinger

Bullpen-Cody Allen (CP), Andrew Miller, Matt Belisle, Adam Wilk, Zach McAllister, Dan Otero, Evan Marshall

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Terry Francona (6th season with Indians)

Hitting Coach-Ty Van Burkleo

Pitching Coach-Carl Willis

1st Base Coach-Sandy Alomar Jr

3rd Base Coach-Mike Sarbaugh

Bench Coach-Brad Mills

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I really thought for sure that last season was the Indians’ year. They won 102 games, including an American League (and debatably Major League) record 22 in a row. I say debatably for Major League record because the actual record of 26 held by the 1916 New York Giants included a tie due to darkness, since this was before any stadiums had any lights installed. But the Indians entered the postseason as arguably the hottest team in baseball and they even got out to a 2-0 lead in a best-of-5 ALDS against the Yankees. However, they blew that lead much like they blew their 3-1 World Series lead against the Cubs in 2016 and had to watch the Astros win their first ever World Series from their couches. But the Indians are in prime position to make another run this year as a loaded roster combined with a weak division (I believe the 3 worst teams in the American League all hail from the AL Central) should point to an easy path to another division crown. Let’s take a look at how the Indians could stack up.

1. Jason Kipnis-2B

2. Jose Ramirez-3B

3. Francisco Lindor-SS

4. Edwin Encarnacion-DH

5. Michael Brantley-LF

6. Yonder Alonso-1B

7. Lonnie Chisenhall-RF

8. Roberto Perez/Yan Gomes-C

9. Bradley Zimmer-CF

That’s a pretty dangerous lineup. While Kipnis had a down year in 2017, I fully expect him to return to form because when he’s on, he’s one of the best second basemen in the game. And I expect he’s going to get more opportunities to do so because following him in the lineup is some pretty dangerous company. Jose Ramirez was a beast last season as he hit .318 with 29 home runs, 83 RBI, slugged .583, and was worth 6.6 WAR en route to finishing third in AL MVP voting. After him is Francisco Lindor, whom many would argue is the best shortstop in all of baseball. Last season Lindor hit .273, clubbed 33 home runs, drove in 89 RBI and was worth 5.9 WAR while playing exceptional defense at shortstop. Then there’s Edwin Encarnacion, who may be the biggest right-handed power threat in the game outside of New York. Encarnacion has slugged at least .500 in every season since his breakout 2012 campaign and there’s no reason to think he won’t keep up that trend. And if Michael Brantley can finally get healthy and return to form, look out. The only position that’s not really set here is centerfield but they’ve been testing out their young talent. Bradley Zimmer has the most potential between him and Tyler Naquin and it helps that he has blazing speed to go along with some pretty good pop. If he ends up breaking out this year, the Indians could be challenging the 2001 Mariners’ 116 wins.

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One could argue that the Indians’ pitching is just as good, if not better, than their hitting. They ranked #1 in all of Major League Baseball in team ERA and were the only pitching staff to collectively strike out 10 batters per 9 innings all season. They’re spearheaded by reigning Cy Young winner Corey Kluber, who was once again dominant in 2017 as he pitched to a record of 18-4 with a 2.25 ERA and struck out 11.71 batters per 9 innings. His sinker and breaking ball are two of the filthiest pitches in the Majors and will likely make him one of the favorites to win the Cy Young once again. Behind him is Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar and while Salazar is injured and likely to miss the start of the season, there’s still Carrasco, a guy who would likely be the ace of most staffs. Last season, Carrasco went 18-6 with a 3.29 ERA and struck out over 10 batters per 9 innings. Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin are two other guys who could be big contributors to this rotation. Bauer went 17-9 with a 4.19 ERA and struck out 10 batters per 9 innings but his skill is so much greater than that when he’s not slicing his finger open on drones. If he can realize his potential, there’s a 4-headed monster in Cleveland’s rotation.

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The Indians also have one of the best bullpens in baseball. Cody Allen has been one of the better closers in in the game for the last three years, as he has had at least 30 saves, struck out 11 batters per 9 innings, and a sub-3 ERA in all three seasons. However despite being the closer, he’s not even the best reliever in their ‘pen. That distinction belongs to the left-handed Andrew Miller. Manager Terry Francona and his staff have carved out a unique role for Miller in today’s game. Miller will often set up Allen for at least 2 innings at a time and is probably the only reliever in the game who typically pitches more than one inning in any given outing. It hasn’t hurt his numbers either. Last season he had a 1.44 ERA while striking out over 13 batters per 9 innings. Absolute dominance. They did lose a quality reliever in Bryan Shaw to the Colorado Rockies in the offseason, but there is still plenty of depth in the Indians bullpen that ought to make Francona comfortable with a lead late in games.

Overall I would say that the Indians are the favorites to win the American League, maybe even the World Series. It will likely be a dogfight in the American League this season as the Yankees, Red Sox, and Astros all look like dangerous threats to the Tribe’s title hopes. The Yankees added the biggest slugger in baseball in Giancarlo Stanton, the Red Sox added a guy who rivals Stanton’s power in JD Martinez, and the Astros lost nothing from a team that won the 2017 World Series. In fact, they added another ace to their already stellar rotation in Gerrit Cole. It’s going to be a tough road to the top for the Indians but they are more than well-equipped to try and win their first World Series since 1948.

Projected Record: 99-63, Win AL Central

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow where I discuss the Colorado Rockies, who look to build on their breakthrough 2017 season, which was a surprise to everyone except me (as you may have known, I had the Rockies as my darkhorse team last season in a paper I wrote for a column-writing class). Let me know what you think of the Indians’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

My 2018 Pro Football Hall of Fame Ballot

The Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2018 will be announced during the NFL Honors Show on Saturday night, so I thought it’d be the perfect time to talk about who I would vote for if I had one, which I don’t. A quick thing to note about the rules of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, there’s a minimum of 4 inductees and a max of 7 per year so I’m going to follow those rules.

Ray Lewis-LB-Baltimore Ravens

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Resume: 13x Pro Bowler, 7x All Pro, 2x Defensive Player of the Year, 2x Super Bowl champion, Super Bowl XXXV MVP

Ignoring the murder investigation for which he was never found guilty of, Ray Lewis was one of the greatest middle linebackers of all time. He was knocked for his height and lack of speed coming out of college at Miami (FL) and he made evaluators pay for it by smacking every offensive player he could find in the mouth. He was the stalwart in the middle of the Ravens defense for 17 seasons and was not only the face of the Ravens, but he may have been the face of defense in the NFL. For those too young to remember peak Ray Lewis, he basically was to defense in the early 2000’s what JJ Watt is to defense now. He was that good and he was good well into his late 30’s. He was the definition of what it means to be a bad dude in the NFL.

Terrell Owens-WR-San Francisco 49ers, Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys, Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals

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Resume: 6x Pro Bowler, 5x All Pro, 1078 catches, 15934 yards, 153 TD’s

How T.O. didn’t get in on either of his first two tries is beyond me. In my opinion, after Jerry Rice, he’s the greatest wide receiver of all time. Sure he was also the biggest diva who ever played the position and basically gave wide receivers the diva reputation all by himself (he got some help from Chad Johnson/Ochocinco), but his talent was undeniable. He was bigger, faster, and stronger than every DB he went against and he put up the numbers to show for it. He’s second all-time in receiving yards (though Larry Fitzgerald is right on his tail), he’s eighth in catches, and third in receiving touchdowns. Owens may have been a locker room cancer, but as far as ability and performance goes, there was nobody better.

Randy Moss-WR-Minnesota Vikings, Oakland Raiders, New England Patriots, Tennessee Titans, San Francisco 49ers

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Resume: 6x Pro Bowler, 4x All Pro, 1998 Offensive Rookie of the Year, 982 catches, 15292 receiving yards, 156 TD’s, NFL record 23 receiving TD’s in 2007

After T.O., I think I would put Randy Moss as the third greatest receiver to ever play the game. He set the NFL on fire in 1998 as he formed arguably the greatest receiving duo of all time with Hall of Famer Cris Carter as the two of them helped revive Randall Cunningham’s career and nearly led the Vikings to Super Bowl XXXIII if not for a missed Gary Anderson field goal. He continued to torment opposing secondaries until his trade to the Raiders, where abysmal quarterback play nearly derailed his career. However, a trade to the Patriots and an alliance with Tom Brady resurrected Moss’ career as he set an NFL record with 23 touchdown catches and helped the Patriots to an undefeated regular season in 2007. Moss was a diva, not quite on par with T.O., but he was also one of the most dominant receivers the game has ever seen.

Brian Dawkins-S-Philadelphia Eagles, Denver Broncos

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Resume: 9x Pro Bowler, 4x All Pro, 37 interceptions, 26 sacks

Look up “enforcer” in the dictionary and you’ll get a picture of Brian Dawkins. He’s the gold standard for safeties that will not only get his team absolutely fired up before a game, but then back up that fire by blasting his opponents in the mouth. Dawkins was about as well-rounded a safety as there ever was as not only was he the last guy runningbacks wanted to see coming their way, but he was also a nightmare for quarterbacks as he had excellent coverage skills to boot. If an aspiring safety is smart, he will model his game after Brian Dawkins.

Edgerrin James-RB-Indianapolis Colts, Arizona Cardinals, Seattle Seahawks

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Resume: 4x Pro Bowler, 1x All Pro, 1999 Offensive Rookie of the Year, 3028 carries, 12246 yards, 80 TD’s

When the Colts drafted Edgerrin James 4th overall in 1999 instead of Ricky Williams, people went ballistic. A lot of them had never even heard of James and blasted Bill Polian for taking him over the Heisman-winning Williams, whom Mike Ditka traded his entire draft class to acquire for the Saints. James shut the naysayers up REALLY quick, as he rushed for over 1500 yards as a rookie and over 1700 for an encore performance. While Williams went on to have a solid career, albeit a controversial one, it appears that the Colts had made the right selection, as having James to lean on was critical towards Peyton Manning developing into the second greatest quarterback of all time.

Isaac Bruce-WR-St. Louis Rams, San Francisco 49ers

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Resume: 4x Pro Bowler, Super Bowl XXXIV Champion, 1024 catches, 15208 yards, 91 TD’s

Isaac Bruce may be the most under-appreciated receiver in NFL history. Here’s a guy who finished his career second all time in receiving yards and is a member of the 1000 catch club. Bruce was arguably the best receiver on the Greatest Show on Turf Rams teams from 1999-2001 and I think one of the main reasons he didn’t get the respect he deserved was because of the emergence of the younger Torry Holt. Bruce also was never in the media too often which may be why guys like Terrell Owens and Randy Moss got a lot more publicity than him even though their numbers were comparable. Bruce has already been left out a couple of times already and it’s high time he got the recognition he deserved and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

John Lynch-S-Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Denver Broncos

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Resume: 9x Pro Bowler, 2x All Pro, Super Bowl XXXVII champion

My final Hall of Famer, John Lynch is currently the GM of the 49ers but before that he was one of the greatest safeties to ever play the game. He anchored the great Buccaneers defenses of the late 1990’s and early 2000’s and was a crucial part of their run to a Super Bowl championship in 2002. Like Dawkins, Lynch was a complete safety, who could not only lay the lumber, but was a guy whose zone was often avoided by quarterbacks. And he even became a decent broadcaster in his own right. Lynch really did it all as a safety in the NFL.

I’d be doing an injustice if I didn’t mention that there was one more player that I wanted to include on my unofficial ballot, but I had hit my 7-man maximum so he just missed the cut. Brian Urlacher is also very deserving of enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Often rivaling Ray Lewis as to who was the best linebacker of the 2000’s, Urlacher was not only a great physical presence, but he was smart, too, as he was in charge of the playcalling with the defense as far as audibles were concerned. That’s going to do it for my Pro Football Hall of Fame ballot, let me know who you’d choose for enshrinement in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

MLB Free Agent Power Rankings

Before I get into the power rankings, I want to just say Rest in Peace to Roy Halladay, who died in a plane crash on Tuesday. He was 40 years old. Halladay was a husband and father of two and was widely considered to be one of the best human beings in baseball, as he was very involved in the community, from charity work to coaching little league. He was also a phenomenal pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies, winning the Cy Young Award in 2003 and 2010, an 8-time All Star, and the embodiment of a workhorse. Since 1998, when Halladay made his Major League debut, no pitcher has thrown more complete games than Halladay’s 67. He retired in 2013 and that number since 1998 still hasn’t been caught. For a while, it was pretty safe to say that Halladay was the best pitcher in baseball, as his stretch between 2008-2011 was some of the most dominant years of pitching I’ve ever seen. His 2010 season was particularly special, as it included a perfect game against the Marlins and a no hitter in his postseason debut (second in postseason history) against the Cincinnati Reds in the NLDS. Rest in Peace, Roy Halladay (1977-2017), you will be missed by all.

On a happier note, free agency has officially kicked off in Major League Baseball and speculation as to who’s headed where and who is due for a big contract will be the talk of the next four months or so. This year’s class is essentially the warmup to the Bryce Harper/Manny Machado class of 2018 that will be sure to shake the foundation of baseball to its core, but it is still loaded with plenty of star power. So without further ado, let’s get into the rankings.

#10. Zack Cozart-Shortstop

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photo credit: FirstAndMonday

Zack Cozart has been the shortstop for the Cincinnati Reds for a few years now but has battled injuries and hasn’t played a full season since 2014. However when he has been healthy, he’s been very effective, especially in the last two seasons, 2017 being his best. He hit .297 this season in 122 games with 24 home runs and 63 RBI while also playing some solid defense, which accumulated to a WAR of 5.0. He also earned his first All Star nod, and in turn, won a donkey from Joey Votto. You read that correctly. Here’s the story. Cozart may not be a household name, but he’s been playing the best baseball of his career and whichever team signs him will have themselves a heck of a player, provided he can stay healthy.

Projected Team: Signs with New York Mets

#9. Carlos Santana-First Baseman/DH

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photo credit: Waiting for Next Year

Carlos Santana is an oddity mainly because he often batted leadoff for the Cleveland Indians despite being a first baseman that lacks speed. It’s mainly because he draws a LOT of walks thanks to having one of the best eyes for the plate in baseball. He’s been really consistent these last two seasons, as he batted .259 in both 2016 AND 2017, and his on base percentage was .366 in 2016 and .363 in 2017. His power numbers were down from 2016, he hit a career-high 34 in 2016 and 23 in 2017, but he is still a threat to go yard if a pitcher hangs one on him.

Projected Team: Returns to the Cleveland Indians

#8. Jay Bruce-Outfielder

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photo credit: Sporting News

Jay Bruce has spent the majority of his career with the Cincinnati Reds but since being traded to the Mets in 2016, he’s had some of his best success at the plate. He hit 33 home runs between the Reds and Mets in 2016, then hit 36 bombs and drove in 101 runs between the Mets and Indians in 2017. He has only hit fewer than 20 home runs in a season once (2014) and that was by far the worst year of his career. He also has one of the strongest outfield arms in the game and many teams are hesitant to run against him.

Projected Team: Signs with the Toronto Blue Jays

#7. Mike Moustakas-Third Baseman

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Kansas City Royals

photo credit: MLB Trade Rumors

Moustakas had a MONSTROUS offensive breakout this season, hitting 38 home runs (his previous best was 22) and 85 RBI while hitting a solid .272. Moustakas was a key cog in the Royals’ 2015 championship run, and his defense has typically been a major positive at the hot corner (however it has been steadily trending downward since 2012). Moustakas is one of four players on this list from the 2015 champion Royals team (three of which were still with KC at the end of the 2017 season) and he will be a big factor for whomever signs him.

Projected Team: Signs with San Francisco Giants

#6. Wade Davis-Closing Pitcher

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photo credit: Bleed Cubbie Blue

Wade Davis is one of a plethora of pitchers with promise who flamed out as starters, but once they moved to the bullpen, they rescue their careers. Davis is probably the best example of this and has been absolutely dominant since he was named the closer of the Royals in 2015 and he was a big boost for the Cubs’ bullpen in 2017. Davis was Chicago’s only All Star in 2017 and had a 2.30 ERA, which was actually his WORST since he became a reliever in 2014. Just let that sink in.

Projected Team: Returns to Chicago Cubs

#5. Lorenzo Cain-Outfielder

MLB: San Francisco Giants at Kansas City Royals

photo credit: Baseball Prospectus

Lorenzo Cain has been pretty consistent since 2014, his average typically hovering around the .300 mark with moderate power while playing some solid defense in centerfield. I wouldn’t say Cain is an elite player, but he’s a good one who will be an impact on any lineup, best part being you pretty much know what you’re going to get out of him. Health was an issue for him in 2016 but he was totally healthy in 2017, playing in 155 games.

Projected Team: Signs with New York Yankees

#4. Eric Hosmer-First Baseman

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photo credit; The Inquisitr

Eric Hosmer is the last of 4-straight members of the 2015 Royals on this list. While I did note in my luck blog that he was probably the luckiest hitter in baseball in 2017, he is still one of the better first basemen in the game. He’s coming off his best season as a pro, slashing .318/.385/.498, all career highs, and tied his career high of 25 home runs while playing in all 162 games. He’s a below-average defender at first base, but that’s probably the one position where I don’t care too much about defense, unless they are absolutely abysmal.

Projected Team: Signs with Boston Red Sox

#3. Jake Arrieta-Starting Pitcher

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photo credit: Fan Rag Sports

Jake Arrieta’s second half of 2015 was perhaps the most dominant stretch of pitching I have ever seen. It’s kind of been downhill since, though it is almost impossible to do much better. He’s still one of the game’s better pitchers, as he had an ERA of 3.53, his worst since joining the Cubs, but still better than what you get out of most pitchers. He was hurt, however, by the fact that opponents had a .279 BABIP against him, a career-worst, which may suggest that he just got unlucky last season.

Projected Team: Signs with Texas Rangers

#2. Yu Darvish-Starting Pitcher

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photo credit: Sports Illustrated

Yu Darvish had a terrible showing in the Dodgers’ World Series loss to the Astros but that shouldn’t put a damper on peoples’ opinions on his abilities as a pitcher. When healthy, Darvish is one of the most electrifying righties in baseball. He had a 3.86 ERA on the year, 3.38 since his trade to the Dodgers from the Rangers at the Trade Deadline, as he played his first full season since missing much of 2014, all of 2015, and much of 2016 due to Tommy John surgery. He’s never struck out fewer than 10 batters per 9 innings in his career and his control has gotten better each season, as he has cut down on his walks per 9 every year (technically it did go up by 0.02 from 2016-17, but that’s so minuscule that I think it’s fair to overlook).

Projected Team: Resigns with Los Angeles Dodgers

#1. JD Martinez-Outfielder

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photo credit: Sports from the Basement

Holy shit did JD Martinez have a big year. Between the Tigers and Diamondbacks (where he was traded at the Trade Deadline), Martinez hit .303 with 45 home runs and 104 RBI, numbers that would easily have him in the MVP discussion had he not switched leagues. 29 of those 45 bombs came in his 2 months in Arizona, as he helped catapult the Diamondbacks to a playoff run. Martinez missed the first month of the season due to injury but upon his return he was unstoppable, and I think it’s fair to expect that he continue to thrive, as he only just turned 30 in August.

Projected Team: Resigns with Arizona Diamondbacks

Others that just missed the list: Todd Frazier-Third Baseman, Eduardo Nunez-Utility, Alex Cobb-Starting Pitcher, Carlos Gonzalez-Outfielder, Jonathan Lucroy-Catcher

Those are my free agency rankings for this season. Agree with my list? Disagree? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.