30 Clubs in 30 Days: Colorado Rockies

Lots of NFL moves to talk about. Matt Forte retired, the Jets released Muhammad Wilkerson, the Bears released Mike Glennon, and the Panthers released Jonathan Stewart. Forte’s retirement isn’t a huge shock to me, he’s looked pretty much done since joining the Jets after a successful Bears career. We at Wyman’s Sports (which consists of just me) wish Forte well in his future endeavors. Wilkerson’s release is a little surprising to me as he had recently signed a long term deal with the Jets after years of speculation about his eventual departure. Teams will be sure to try and scoop him up because he’s still got plenty left in the tank. Glennon getting released is a little surprising to me just one year after signing with the Bears but with Mitchell Trubisky getting the vote of confidence to be the starter, Glennon’s contract just doesn’t seem feasible to have around. The Panthers releasing the franchise’s all-time leading rusher in Stewart also wasn’t too surprising especially after the team drafted Christian McCaffrey with the 8th overall pick last year. The writing was on the wall for that one. So with that quick update, let’s get to the Colorado Rockies.

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2017 Results:

Record: 87-75, 17 games behind Los Angeles Dodgers, 6 games behind Arizona Diamondbacks for top Wild Card Spot, won 2nd Wild Card Spot, lost to Diamondbacks in NL Wild Card Game

Notable Offseason Additions: CP Wade Davis, RP Bryan Shaw, C Chris Iannetta

Notable Offseason Subtractions: RF Carlos Gonzalez, C Jonathan Lucroy, SP Tyler Chatwood, RP Pat Neshek, CP Greg Holland, 1B Mark Reynolds

Best Offensive Player: CF Charlie Blackmon

Best Pitcher: Jon Gray

Depth Chart:

C-Chris Iannetta, Tyler Wolters

1B-Ryan McMahon

2B-DJ LeMahieu

3B-Nolan Arenado

SS-Trevor Story, Pat Valaika

LF-Ian Desmond, Raimel Tapia

CF-Charlie Blackmon

RF-Gerardo Parra

SP-Jon Gray, Tyler Anderson, German Marquez, Chad Bettis, Anthony Senzatela, Jeff Hoffman, Kyle Freeland

Bullpen-Wade Davis (CP), Mike Dunn, Adam Ottavino, Bryan Shaw, Jake McGee, Chris Rusin, Scott Oberg

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Bud Black (2nd season with Rockies)

Hitting Coach-Duane Espy

Pitching Coach-Steve Foster

1st Base Coach-Tony Diaz

3rd Base Coach-Stu Cole

Bench Coach-Mike Redmond

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The Rockies have been and always will be a great hitting team no matter who’s on the roster and that’s in large part due to the Coors Field effect. For those who live under a rock or minimally follow baseball, Coors Field is located in Denver, Colorado in the Rocky Mountains. The altitude is very high and the air is very thin so the ball is going to travel further. It was an issue that Major League Baseball had for a while when talks of putting a team in Denver were occurring in the late 1980’s-early 1990’s before the Rockies debuted in 1993. Since then, though, they’ve had a plethora of great offensive seasons and 2017 was no different. There were two hitters in their lineup who could have won NL MVP and nobody would’ve bitched about it in Charlie Blackmon and Nolan Arenado. Last season, Blackmon (who was my NL MVP pick) hit .331, slugged .601 with 37 home runs, drove in 104 runs, scored 137 runs, and had a WAR of 6.5. Arenado hit .309, slugged .586, hit 37 home runs, drove in 130 runs, played outstanding defense at third base, and was worth 5.6 WAR. Those guys are the spearheads of an excellent lineup that is expected to look like this.

1. Charlie Blackmon-CF

2. DJ LeMahieu-2B

3. Nolan Arenado-3B

4. Trevor Story-SS

5. Ian Desmond-LF

6. Gerardo Parra-RF

7. Chris Iannetta-C

8. Ryan McMahon-1B

9. Pitcher’s Spot

The one real weak spot in the lineup is first base, as I’ve never heard of Ryan McMahon and he’s only had 19 career at bats but the Rockies can play around with this lineup as there are several guys who are capable of playing multiple positions if need be. Ian Desmond is capable of moving out of left field to play first base and be replaced by Raimel Tapia or, if healthy, David Dahl. Pat Valaika is a guy who can play numerous positions as well. But even if they can’t figure out first base, there’s so much talent in this lineup that those deficiencies can be masked really well. DJ LeMahieu has hit at least .300 in each of the last 3 seasons, including winning the NL Batting Title in 2016 when he hit .348. There’s also shortstop Trevor Story, who was (forgive me) the STORY of the first half of his rookie 2016 season when he hit 27 home runs in just 97 games before an injury prematurely ended his season. Story was fully healthy last season and he hit 24 home runs despite hitting just .239. A lot of that is due in large part to a very high strikeout rate of 34.4%. But when he does get around on one, he can send it a very long way. It also helps that he’s a good defender at a premiere position, as he was worth 11 DRS, which was best amongst NL shortstops, second overall (and WAY behind #1 Andrelton Simmons’ 32 DRS). Arenado was the best defensive third baseman in the Majors with 20 DRS and LeMahieu was worth 8 DRS. So some excellent defense being played by the Rockies infield.

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Pitching in Colorado is always a challenge and that’s especially true for Rockies pitchers, who have to pitch in that stadium 81 games a year. If you manage to have an ERA under 4, it’s basically just as good as being sub-3. Jon Gray is easily the most talented pitcher on the staff and he got the nod to start the NL Wild Card game. He had an injury-plagued year, but in 20 starts he went 10-4 with a 3.67 ERA, a 3.18 FIP, and struck out 9.14 batters per 9 innings. He’s probably the only guy that you can really bank on in this rotation. Last season, the only pitcher to pitch enough innings to qualify for the ERA title was German Marquez and he pitched the bare minimum required of 162.0 innings. He pitched to a 4.39 ERA and his FIP was basically the same at 4.40. The feel-good story out of this Rockies’ rotation, though, was Chad Bettis. After being diagnosed with testicular cancer and undergoing chemotherapy in March 2017, Bettis returned to the mound just 5 months later and pitched 7 scoreless innings in his first start back against the Braves while giving up just 6 hits.

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There’s a lot of talent in the Rockies’ bullpen. They signed star closer Wade Davis to a 3 year $52M deal, the average annual value of $17.33M being the largest ever for a reliever, to be their closer while also adding former Indians reliever Bryan Shaw. They already had other quality relievers such as Mike Dunn, Adam Ottavino, and Jake McGee as well. The Coors Field effect still matters to these guys, but there’s no denying that there is some ability there. Davis was absolutely dominant as a closer in Kansas City and he was an All Star in his one season with the Cubs. Shaw was a setup man for the Indians while Ottavino and McGee have closer’s experience. This is definitely one of the more talented bullpens in the National League and under normal circumstances, any late-inning lead the Rockies can get will seem to be pretty safe with this bunch, but again the Coors Field effect brings things into question.

Overall, I’m expecting a bit of a decline for the Rockies. I think they played above their capabilities last season, particularly on the mound. Their pitching staff was 8th in the Majors in WAR and I don’t think that’s going to be sustainable for them especially considering their ballpark and the actual talent they have. They’re going to score a ton of runs, but preventing runs may be an issue. I don’t envision a return trip to the postseason but a winning record is certainly not out of the question. Bud Black is a good manager and I’m sure he will find some way to get the most out of his guys.

Projected Record: 81-81, 4th in NL West

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow where I discuss the Detroit Tigers, who have officially begun their rebuild after pretty much gutting the entire team around the Trade Deadline last year. Let me know what you think of the Rockies’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: Chicago Cubs

Arizona head coach Sean Miller being wiretapped by the FBI revealing that Arizona was offering $100K to recruit center DeAndre Ayton is easily the biggest news happening right now but the news I’m most concerned with is that Indiana might be involved with these same agents. Miller’s brother, Archie, is the head coach at IU and it was revealed that Indiana may have been a part of a bidding war for current South Carolina stud Brian Bowen. It doesn’t appear that Indiana has too much against it, but considering that they’re just 10 years removed from the Kelvin Sampson debacle, another discovery of violations could be really damaging. But on to more positive news, we’re talking baseball again as Day 6 of 30 Clubs in 30 Days features the Chicago Cubs. Let’s take a look at Joe Maddon’s club’s outlook for the season.

at Dodger Stadium on October 14, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.

2017 Results:

Record: 92-70, Won NL Central by 6 games over Milwaukee Brewers, defeated Washington Nationals in NLDS, lost to Los Angeles Dodgers in NLCS

Notable Offseason Additions: SP Yu Darvish, RP Brandon Morrow, OF Peter Bourjos, RP Steve Cishek, SP Tyler Chatwood, SP Drew Smyly, C Chris Gimenez

Notable Offseason Subtractions: SP Jake Arrieta, SP John Lackey, C Alex Avila, CP Wade Davis, RP Hector Rondon, C Rene Rivera, OF Leonys Martin, RP Koji Uehara, OF Jon Jay

Best Offensive Player: 3B Kris Bryant

Best Pitcher: Kyle Hendricks

Depth Chart:

C-Willson Contreras, Victor Caratini

1B-Anthony Rizzo

2B-Javy Baez, Ben Zobrist

3B-Kris Bryant, Tommy La Stella

SS-Addison Russell

LF-Kyle Schwarber

CF-Ian Happ, Albert Almora Jr

RF-Jason Heyward, Peter Bourjos

SP-Jon Lester, Yu Darvish, Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana, Tyler Chatwood

Bullpen-Brandon Morrow (CP), Pedro Strop, Carl Edwards Jr, Steve Cishek, Brian Duensing, Justin Grimm, Justin Wilson, Mike Montgomery

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Joe Maddon (4th season with Cubs)

Hitting Coach-Chili Davis

Pitching Coach-Jim Hickey

1st Base Coach-Will Venable

3rd Base Coach-Brian Butterfield

Bench Coach-Brandon Hyde

at Dodger Stadium on October 15, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.

The Chicago Cubs are shooting for another World Series title this season and one can’t argue against their chances in 2018. Offensively they boast arguably the brightest young core in all of baseball, as each of Contreras, Rizzo, Baez, Russell, Bryant, Schwarber, Happ, and Almora are all under the age of 30. In fact, when they won the 2016 World Series, their entire infield of Rizzo-Baez-Russell-Bryant was under the age of 26. So expect the Cubs to be very good for a long time. Here’s how the Cubs expect to line up in 2018.

1. Ian Happ/Albert Almora Jr-CF

2. Kris Bryant-3B

3. Anthony Rizzo-1B

4. Willson Contreras-C

5. Kyle Schwarber-LF

6. Javy Baez-2B

7. Jason Heyward-RF

8. Addison Russell-SS

9. Pitcher’s Spot

My one issue with this lineup is that it lacks a true leadoff hitter. I more put Happ and Almora in that spot because I think they have the potential to take over that role rather than whether they truly deserve it or not. But Joe Maddon is known to tinker with his lineup to a degree that would make Ruxin from The League proud. Hell there was a time where he experimented with Rizzo in the leadoff spot, which actually worked to relative success, I might add. But no matter where you put a guy like Kris Bryant in the lineup, he’s going to do some damage. Last season, Bryant hit .295 with 29 home runs, 73 RBI, 111 runs scored, and was worth 6.7 WAR, which was 2nd best among all third basemen (Anthony Rendon’s 6.9 was tops). The 2015 NL Rookie of the Year and 2016 NL MVP will look to add to his mantle in 2018. His partner in crime, Rizzo, was also excellent in 2017. He hit .273 with 32 home runs, 109 RBI, 99 runs scored, and was worth 4.0 WAR. Rizzo’s been a model of consistency ever since 2014 and nowhere is that more apparent than in his home run totals. Since 2014, his home run totals have been 32-31-32-32. If that’s not consistent I don’t know what is but you can pretty much pencil in Rizzo for 32 home runs in 2018. Kyle Schwarber’s a guy they hope can really come into his own in 2018 as he’s got a ton of pop but hasn’t quite put it all together. However if you look at him in Spring Training right now, it is VERY clear that he’s in incredible shape so I expect a big year out of him. But the biggest factor for the Cubs offense in my opinion was the breakout of young catcher Willson Contreras. In his first full season as the Cubs’ everyday catcher, Contreras hit .276 with 21 home runs, 74 RBI, and was worth 3.2 WAR. His emergence was a big reason the Cubs continued to be the class of the NL Central despite the slow start out of Bryant and the others. Expect the Cubs to have one of the best offenses in baseball in 2018.

at Dodger Stadium on October 15, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.

The Cubs struggled on the mound last season. Jon Lester’s ERA rose nearly 2 whole runs from 2016-17, Jake Arrieta’s ERA rose to the mid-3’s, John Lackey’s ERA skyrocketed to 4.59, and their most consistent starter, Kyle Hendricks, missed much of the season due to injury. Arrieta and Lackey will not be returning in 2018 as both remain unsigned as of this writing and the Cubs have filled out their rotation with the signing of Yu Darvish, which I covered a few weeks ago.┬áIf Lester can return to half the form he was in 2016 when he was a finalist for NL Cy Young and if Hendricks can stay healthy, the Cubs could have another dominant rotation. Jose Quintana, whom the Cubs acquired at the Trade Deadline from the White Sox last season, was pretty inconsistent in 2017 but after his trade to the Cubs, he seemed to settle down a bit and had a 3.74 ERA in the second half. So if all their guys can pitch to their ability, the Cubs will have four aces on their staff.

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The Cubs’ bullpen saw a bit of an overhaul in the 2017-18 offseason. Gone are former closers Wade Davis and Hector Rondon but they added Brandon Morrow and Steve Cishek to replace them. The closer role is unclear but according to MLB.com’s depth chart for the Cubs, Morrow is slated to be the closer for the Cubs, a role he’s never really held before. The most saves he’s had in a season was 10 in 2008 with the Mariners but that was also a season where Seattle was trying to figure out what to do with him, as he also made 5 starts that year. However Morrow was excellent as the 8th inning guy for the Dodgers in 2017, as he had an ERA of 2.06 and struck out over 10 batters per 9 innings. In fact, manager Dave Roberts liked him so much that he became the second pitcher ever to appear in all 7 World Series games. New acquisition Steve Cishek has been a closer for the Marlins in the past so he is certainly an option to close out games if Morrow can’t go. Breakout youngster Carl Edwards Jr could also be an option. Edwards had a career year in 2017 as he pitched to a 2.98 ERA and struck out 12.75 batters per 9 innings. Plus he was the guy who was going to close out Game 7 of the 2016 World Series, getting the first two outs before letting up a run and being relieved for Mike Montgomery. If Edwards can continue his ascent, he could also find himself closing games by the end of the year.

Overall, the Cubs are looking really good for 2018. They boast a powerful young lineup with a plethora of talented pitching options. The key for them is going to be avoiding the slow start that plagued them for much of 2017. For much of the season, they found themselves playing catchup to Milwaukee in the NL Central before pulling away late in the second half. Milwaukee reloaded in the offseason, adding outfielders Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich so they mean business in the division. If the Cubs are going to stave them off, they’re going to need to be sharp for all 162 games, which they’re more than capable of. Joe Maddon is arguably the best manager in baseball and when you give him talent like he has in Chicago, it’s pretty easy to see why the Cubs have reached the NLCS in all 3 years of his tenure there.

Projected Record: 94-68, Win NL Central

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days, join me tomorrow where I go cross-town to the Chicago White Sox, whose bright young prospects are lurking around, waiting to pounce on the rest of the Major Leagues. Let me know what you think of the Cubs’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

Cubs Sign Yu Darvish

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NOW we get into the juicy stuff. After a long while, Yu Darvish has signed a 6-year $126M contract with the Chicago Cubs after 5 and a half years with the Rangers and half a season with the Dodgers, where he helped them on a World Series run (even if his actual World Series performance left a lot to be desired). Darvish is one of the most talented pitchers in the game but hasn’t been able to realize a lot of his potential due in large part to injury, namely Tommy John surgery which cost him much of 2014, all of 2015, and much of 2016. Darvish was finally healthy in 2017 and he had a solid year, going 10-12 with a 3.86 ERA and 209 strikeouts between the Rangers and Dodgers. He looks for a fresh new start with a talented Cubs rotation that underperformed in 2017 but looks to get back on track to try and return to their championship glory from 2016.

Here’s how the Cubs’ rotation is expected to look with Darvish in the mix and the now expected departure of former Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta, whom I will get to in a moment:

1. Jon Lester

2. Yu Darvish

3. Kyle Hendricks

4. Jose Quintana

5. Tyler Chatwood/Drew Smyly

That’s a pretty formidable rotation provided everybody pitches to their ability. Couple that with an extremely potent lineup and the Cubs have all the makings of a World Series favorite. Though pitching to their ability is the big concern here. Lester is coming off his worst season since 2012, as he went 13-8 with a 4.33 ERA and 180 strikeouts. He turned 34 last month so one has to wonder if his skills may be on the decline. Quintana was very inconsistent last season. His month-by-month ERA was a big indicator to that. Starting in April, Quintana’s monthly ERA’s were 5.22, 5.91, 1.78, 3.45, 5.73, 2.51. So of those 6 months, 3 were really bad and 3 were either solid or excellent. It all averaged out to an ERA of 4.15, which is a far cry from what we know he’s capable of. Hendricks was probably Chicago’s most consistent starter in 2017 as he went 7-5 with a 3.03 ERA and 123 strikeouts during an injury-plagued season. When healthy, Hendricks is capable of being the ace of this loaded staff but if Chicago is going to make another run at the World Series, they’re going to need him on the mound every five days.

Which brings me to Jake Arrieta. The 2015 NL Cy Young winner seems to not be returning to Wrigley with the signing of Darvish, however I expect now that Darvish has signed, Arrieta will soon follow. I think the main reason it’s taken this long for either guy to sign was because they were waiting each other out, trying to see what the other would get so that they could use it as a comparison in their negotiations. Now that Arrieta has seen that Darvish is valued by the Cubs at $21M per year, he can use that to his advantage to make even more. All he has to say to teams that want to pay him comparable money to Darvish is “Yu is valued at $21M, he’s injured all the time, he doesn’t even have a Cy Young award and he sucked in the World Series. I have a Cy Young Award and a 2.38 ERA in the 2016 World Series.” Immediately that’s going to land him at least $25M. So Arrieta ought to send Darvish a thank you card for signing first, though this for sure means that Arrieta won’t be returning to the Cubs.

However this presents an interesting conundrum for the Cubs and it has everything to do with next offseason. Bryce Harper has made it known, whether intentional or not, that his first choice to sign in the 2018 offseason would be with the Chicago Cubs. He’s childhood friends with Cubs superstar third baseman Kris Bryant and he named his dog “Wrigley.” The writing is on the wall for that one. However, Harper will be just 26 years old when he hits free agency and many have speculated he may command Major League Baseball’s first ever $400M contract. Will the Cubs be able to afford that with the current payroll they have? Not likely. So there will need to be some work done on the salary front and many potentially key players needing to be moved in order to afford that deal. It can be done, though, and I do expect we’ll be seeing Harper in Cubby blue starting in 2019.

That’s going to do it for this piece on the Yu Darvish signing. Let me know what you think this does for the Cubs’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.