Every Team’s Biggest Draft Steal of the 21st Century

Yesterday I listed each team’s biggest miss in the Draft. Today we’re going to be a little more positive. We’re going to take a look at the biggest steal for each team since 2000. Some ground rules for this. First off, the steal cannot come in the first two rounds, so Brett Favre and Drew Brees going in the second round will not qualify. The 2017 draft class will once again be excluded because even though guys like Kareem Hunt and Alvin Kamara shined as rookies despite being later picks, we don’t know if they were just flashes in the pan yet. Later rounders will also carry more weight when I consider this, so a steal in the 7th will be worth much more than a steal in the 3rd. Also, their candidacy as a steal applies only for the team that drafted them. So even if Favre were eligible as a steal, he was drafted by the Falcons and traded after his rookie year. I will also be including some players who were taken before the steal in question that were much less successful in their careers to hype up the steal.

Cleveland Browns-Ahtyba Rubin-DL-Iowa State (190th Overall in 2008)

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Not a flashy name by any means, but Rubin has quietly been one of the best interior defensive linemen for some time. He’s a space eater and made life for Browns linebackers much easier.

Players picked ahead of him: Glenn Dorsey-LSU, Sedrick Ellis-USC, Kentwan Balmer-North Carolina, Trevor Laws-Notre Dame, Andre Fluellen-Florida State, Marcus Harrison-Arkansas, Dre Moore-Maryland, DeMario Presley-North Carolina State, Jason Shirley-Fresno State, Carlton Powell-Virginia Tech

New York Giants-Justin Tuck-EDGE-Notre Dame (74th Overall in 2005)

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I still get nightmares over Justin Tuck’s performance in Super Bowl XLII. He absolutely battered the Patriots offensive line in that game and, quite frankly, I think Eli Manning won Super Bowl MVP for that game due to quarterback bias. Tuck was the biggest reason the Giants pulled off the biggest upset in recent memory and he parlayed that success into an excellent NFL career.

Players picked ahead of him: Erasmus James-Wisconsin, Matt Roth-Iowa, Dan Cody-Oklahoma

New York Jets-Demario Davis-LB-Arkansas State (77th Overall in 2012)

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During training camp of his rookie year, Davis was compared to Ray Lewis by his own head coach, Rex Ryan. Pretty high praise for a rookie third rounder out of tiny Arkansas State. Davis hasn’t quite been Ray Lewis, but he’s been one of the best linebackers in the game since he entered it in 2012.

Players picked ahead of him: Nobody ahead of him really sucked, 2012 was a REALLY good year for linebackers.

Houston Texans-Eric Winston-OT-Miami (FL) (66th Overall in 2006)

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This was almost Glover Quin, but I had to go with Winston for two reasons. Number 1, he’s been one of the best right tackles in the game seemingly from the get-go. Number 2, he’s so well-respected around the league that he’s the player’s representative in the Players Association. He’s one of the main guys that negotiates new deals with the NFL. Hard to argue with that.

Players picked ahead of him: Winston Justice-USC, Daryn Colledge-Boise State, Marcus McNeill-Auburn

Denver Broncos-Malik Jackson-DL-Tennessee (137th Overall in 2012)

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There were a lot of options for this spot, such as Brandon Marshall (the wide receiver) and Elvis Dumervil, but I’m going with Jackson just because he went much later than the other two. Jackson has been a dominant force on the interior defensive line for both the Broncos and the Jaguars.

Players picked ahead of him: Kendall Reyes-UConn, Jerel Worthy-Michigan State, Devon Still-Penn State, Mike Martin-Michigan, John Hughes-Cincinnati, Alameda Ta’amu-Washington

Indianapolis Colts-TY Hilton-WR-FIU (92nd Overall in 2012)

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This could’ve been Pierre Garcon or Antoine Bethea, but Hilton hit the ground running as a rookie and he’s been the Colts’ best offensive player and one of the top receivers in the league. In fact, I would argue that he’s the Colts’ best player, period.

Players picked ahead of him: Justin Blackmon-Oklahoma State, Jonathan Baldwin-Pittsburgh, AJ Jenkins-Illinois, Stephen Hill-Georgia Tech, Ryan Broyles-Oklahoma, DeVier Posey-Ohio State

Tampa Bay Buccaneers-Kwon Alexander-LB-LSU (124th Overall in 2015)

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Alexander is one of the most underrated linebackers in the game and he’s formed a deadly 1-2 punch with Lavonte David in Tampa’s linebacking group.

Players picked ahead of him: Stephone Anthony-Clemson, Paul Dawson-TCU, Ramik Wilson-Georgia

Chicago Bears-Jordan Howard-RB-Indiana (150th Overall in 2016)

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This might be a little bit of a bias because we’re both IU guys, but Howard IS the Chicago Bears right now. The entire offense has revolved around him since he took over the starting job as a rookie, when he finished 2nd in the NFL in rushing yards.

Players picked ahead of him: Tyler Ervin-San Jose State, Kenneth Dixon-Louisiana Tech, Paul Perkins-UCLA

San Francisco 49ers-Frank Gore-RB-Miami (FL) (65th Overall in 2005)

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I really wanted to pick NaVorro Bowman or Delanie Walker, mainly because Gore is the earliest pick in this steals list (he was the first pick of the 3rd round). But Gore is the all-time leading rusher for one of the most storied franchises in NFL history. That’s going to win out. Plus, most of Walker’s success came with the Titans.

Players picked ahead of him: Ronnie Brown-Auburn, Cedric Benson-Texas, Cadillac Williams-Auburn, JJ Arrington-California, Eric Shelton-Louisville

Oakland Raiders-Jared Veldheer-OT-Hillsdale (69th Overall in 2010)

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Veldheer went to Hillsdale, a college I’ve never heard of, yet was still a third round pick. Not only that, but he’s been one of the best tackles in the game. There weren’t a ton of options for the Raiders, whose draft track record this millennium has been pretty poor. But Veldheer was definitely a steal.

Players picked ahead of him: Vlad Ducasse-UMass, Charles Brown-USC

Miami Dolphins-Lamar Miller-RB-Miami (FL) (97th Overall in 2012)

of the game at Sun Life Stadium on January 3, 2016 in Miami Gardens, Florida.

This was almost Jay Ajayi, however Ajayi got traded midway through last season to the Eagles after ineffectiveness and attitude, so Miller’s going to get the nod. He was able to turn his success with the Dolphins into a big contract with the Texans. This also could’ve been Olivier Vernon, but I thought Vernon’s best year came with the Giants this past season and he was kind of irrelevant for most of his Dolphins career.

Players picked ahead of him: Trent Richardson-Alabama, David Wilson-Virginia Tech, Isaiah Pead-Cincinnati, LaMichael James-Oregon

Buffalo Bills-Kyle Williams-DL-LSU (134th Overall in 2006)

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Williams has been one of the best defensive tackles and personalities in the game and it says a lot about a guy when he was a 5th round pick in 2006 and he’s still with the team that drafted him. Williams finally made it to the postseason for the first time in his career last season and watching it unfold was a joy.

Players picked ahead of him: Brodrick Bunkley-Florida State, John McCargo-North Carolina State, Claude Wroten-LSU, Dusty Dvoracek-Oklahoma, Gabe Watson-Michigan, Orien Harris-Miami (FL)

Washington Redskins-Kirk Cousins-QB-Michigan State (102nd Overall in 2012)

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Cousins never got the respect he deserved from the Redskins organization. He wasn’t even the first quarterback Washington took in that year’s draft (he went 100 picks after RG3) and they refused to give him the extension he wanted despite his being the best quarterback they’d had in some time. Cousins just got a huge deal with the Vikings, though so we’ll have to see how that goes.

Players picked ahead of him: Brandon Weeden-Oklahoma State, Brock Osweiler-Arizona State

Green Bay Packers-Mike Daniels-DL-Iowa (132nd Overall in 2012)

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Daniels has been the enforcer on the Packers defense and has wreaked havoc on opposing offensive lines for years.

Players picked ahead of him: See Malik Jackson (Daniels was the DL taken right before Jackson)

Arizona Cardinals-Tyrann Mathieu-S-LSU (69th Overall in 2013)

XXX at University of Phoenix Stadium on November 26, 2017 in Glendale, Arizona.

This was ALMOST David Johnson, who might be my favorite runningback in the NFL. However Mathieu gets the nod because Johnson had one season of dominance before getting hurt last season while Mathieu had been doing it for 5 years. He just signed with the Texans, though. The Cardinals are going to miss him.

Players picked ahead of him: Matt Elam-Florida

Baltimore Ravens-Marshall Yanda-OG-Iowa (86th Overall in 2007)

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Yanda was drafted as a tackle but upon moving to guard, he flourished. Yanda is arguably the best guard in the NFL and has been for quite some time.

Players picked ahead of him: Arron Sears-Tennessee, Justin Blalock-Texas

Los Angeles Chargers-Keenan Allen-WR-California (76th Overall in 2013)

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This very easily could’ve been Darren Sproles, but I think Sproles’ best years came with the Saints. As for Allen, he’s been terrific when healthy for the Chargers. Last season he got to prove it and one could argue he’s the Chargers’ best player.

Players picked ahead of him: Cordarrelle Patterson-Tennessee, Justin Hunter-Tennessee, Aaron Dobson-Marshall

Seattle Seahawks-Richard Sherman-CB-Stanford (154th Overall in 2011)

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There are a LOT of candidates for this spot, such as Russell Wilson and Kam Chancellor, but Sherman’s getting the nod here. Sherman has been arguably the game’s best corner and he’s become the prototype for big-bodied corners in today’s game.

Players picked ahead of him: Ras-I Dowling-Virginia, Brandon Harris-Miami (FL), DeMarcus Van Dyke-Miami (FL), Johnny Patrick-Louisville, Curtis Marsh-Utah State, Chimdi Chekwa-Ohio State, Jalil Brown-Colorado, Roc Carmichael-Virginia Tech, Robert Sands-West Virginia, Brandon Burton-Southern Utah, Rod Issac-Middle Tennessee State

Dallas Cowboys-Jason Witten-TE-Tennessee (69th Overall in 2003)

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Another guy that went 69th overall. I swear I’m not doing this on purpose. But Witten is the Cowboys’ all-time leading receiver despite being a tight end and he’s still going strong 15 years later. A first ballot Hall of Famer if ever there was one.

Players picked ahead of him: Bennie Joppru-Michigan, LJ Smith-Rutgers, Teyo Johnson-Stanford

Detroit Lions-Cliff Avril-EDGE-Purdue (92nd Overall in 2008)

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This one might be a bit of a stretch because Avril’s best years are probably as a Seahawk, but he was playing very well with the Lions even before getting picked up by Seattle. This easily could’ve been DeAndre Levy as well but Avril was more consistent than Levy was.

Players picked ahead of him: Vernon Gholston-Ohio State, Derrick Harvey-Florida, Lawrence Jackson-USC, Phillip Merling-Clemson, Quentin Groves-Auburn, Chris Ellis-Virginia Tech

Kansas City Chiefs-Jamaal Charles-RB-Texas (73rd Overall in 2008)

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Tyreek Hill was also considered here, but Charles wins out. Owner of the best career yards-per-carry of all time, Charles has been the most electrifying runningback in the game despite having been a third round pick.

Players picked ahead of him: Felix Jones-Arkansas, Kevin Smith-Central Florida

Cincinnati Bengals-Geno Atkins-DL-Georgia (120th Overall in 2010)

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Atkins has been one of the most dominant interior defenders since he came into the league despite being considered undersized coming out of college. Despite the fact he just turned 30, he’s shown no signs of slowing down.

Players picked ahead of him: Brian Price-UCLA, Torell Troup-Central Florida, Terrence Cody-Alabama, D’Anthony Smith-Louisiana Tech

Los Angeles Rams-Richie Incognito-OG-Oregon (81st Overall in 2005)

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Despite some apparent attitude concerns, Incognito has been one of the best guards in the league. He just retired a couple weeks ago. Incognito was a driving force on the offensive lines of the Rams, Dolphins, and Bills. This might’ve been a stretch because Incognito’s best years were probably in Buffalo, but there weren’t a ton of options to choose from for the Rams.

Players picked ahead of him: Marcus Johnson-Ole Miss

Carolina Panthers-Steve Smith-WR-Utah (74th Overall in 2001)

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Josh Norman and Charles Johnson were considered here, but Steve Smith was the face of the Panthers when he was there. Smith was able to show that his diminutive stature didn’t matter, as his leaping ability more than made up for it. He was also one of the game’s best trash talkers and he will surely be inducted into the Hall of Fame when he’s eligible.

Players picked ahead of him: David Terrell-Michigan, Koren Robinson-North Carolina State, Freddie Mitchell-UCLA, Quincy Morgan-Kansas State, Robert Ferguson-Texas A&M

Tennessee Titans-Jurrell Casey-DL-USC (77th Overall in 2011)

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People are just now starting to appreciate just how good Casey is and has been for the Titans. He’s one of the best interior defensive linemen in the game and he wreaks tons of havoc in opposing backfields.

Players picked ahead of him: Phil Taylor-Baylor, Jarvis Jenkins-Clemson, Marvin Austin-North Carolina, Terrell McClain-South Florida

Atlanta Falcons-Devonta Freeman-RB-Florida State (103rd Overall in 2014)

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Freeman broke out in his second season with the Falcons and is one of the quickest backs in the game. He and fellow draft steal Tevin Coleman form arguably the deadliest runningback 1-2 punch in the NFL. Freeman’s getting the nod over Coleman because Freeman went a round later and typically gets more touches.

Players picked ahead of him: Bishop Sankey-Washington, Tre Mason-Auburn

New Orleans Saints-Marques Colston-WR-Hofstra (252nd Overall in 2006)

at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on November 1, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The Saints’ all-time leading receiver was drafted 4th-to-last out of a school that doesn’t even have football anymore. Had Colston played one more season, he likely would’ve joined the exclusive 10,000 yards club (he’s 241 yards away).

Players picked ahead of him: Too many to list. 28 receivers were picked before him, only about 3 or 4 of them ended up being really good.

Pittsburgh Steelers-Antonio Brown-WR-Central Michigan (195th Overall in 2010)

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What more can you say about Antonio Brown? Not a lot of people realize that the best wide receiver in the game today was drafted around the same spot as Tom Brady, just ten years later. 194 players went before a guy who makes extraordinary catches like it’s nothing.

Players picked ahead of him: Arrelious Benn-Illinois, Damian Williams-USC, Jordan Shipley-Texas, Armanti Edwards-Appalachian State, Taylor Price-Ohio, Mardy Gilyard-Cincinnati, Marcus Easley-UConn, Jacoby Ford-Clemson, David Reed-Utah, Kerry Meier-Kansas, Carlton Mitchell-South Florida, Dezmon Briscoe-Kansas

Jacksonville Jaguars-Telvin Smith-LB-Florida State (144th Overall in 2014)

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Smith has been one of the league’s very best for a while now even though he didn’t start getting the recognition he deserved until the Jaguars broke out in 2017. Smith is a sideline-to-sideline tackler and is amongst the most athletic linebackers in the game.

Players picked ahead of him: Carl Bradford-Arizona State, Khairi Fortt-California, Prince Shembo-Notre Dame

Minnesota Vikings-Everson Griffen-EDGE-USC (100th Overall in 2010)

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It took Griffen a couple of years to really get going, but now that he has he’s become the best pass rusher on arguably the league’s best defense. Stefon Diggs was also considered but I feel that Griffen is more valuable to the Vikings right now than Diggs is.

Players picked ahead of him: Alex Carrington-Arkansas State, Daniel Te’o-Nesheim-Washington

New England Patriots-Tom Brady-QB-Michigan (199th Overall in 2000)

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Biggest draft steal of all time. I’m not going to insult your intelligence by trying to defend this pick any further than that.

Players picked ahead of him: Giovanni Carmazzi-Hofstra, Chris Redman-Louisville, Tee Martin-Tennessee, Spurgon Wynn-Texas State

Philadelphia Eagles-Trent Cole-EDGE-Cincinnati (146th Overall in 2005)

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Cole was the premiere pass rusher for the Eagles for nearly a decade and for a while was the most dangerous player they had. Brian Westbrook was also considered here, but Cole’s lengthy run near the top of the pass-rushing charts gets him over the top.

Players picked ahead of him: everyone ahead of Justin Tuck as well as Vincent Burns-Kentucky, Chauncey Davis-Florida State, David McMillan-Kansas

I hope this blog was your friendly reminder that just because a guy was picked late doesn’t mean he doesn’t matter. Often times these are the guys that change franchises. So don’t sleep on Day 3 of the NFL Draft. You never know when your team picks a Tom Brady. Let me know what you think of these draft steals in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

2018 NFL Draft Positional Rankings

With the 2018 NFL Draft just a couple weeks away, I thought I’d do things a little different. The week of the Draft (more specifically, April 26) I will have my final Mock Draft published. The week before, I’ll have my final Big Board. This week, as you can see because you’re reading it, we’ve got my positional rankings. These rankings are based on my personal feelings about each prospect. I haven’t gotten to watch film on all of them so there are a bunch that will be there based on reports I’ve read and other rankings I’ve seen. These rankings also won’t be reflective about where I think they’ll go in the Draft, as team fits and needs will play a factor in that. However, they will somewhat reflect my Big Board. So without further ado, let’s get to the positional rankings.

Quarterback

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1. Josh Rosen-UCLA

2. Sam Darnold-USC

3. Baker Mayfield-Oklahoma

4. Josh Allen-Wyoming

5. Mason Rudolph-Oklahoma State

6. Lamar Jackson-Louisville

7. Luke Falk-Washington State

8. Mike White-Western Kentucky

9. Kyle Lauletta-Richmond

10. Logan Woodside-Toledo

Runningback

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1. Saquon Barkley-Penn State

2. Derrius Guice-LSU

3. Ronald Jones II-USC

4. Sony Michel-Georgia

5. Nick Chubb-Georgia

6. Rashaad Penny-San Diego State

7. Nyheim Hines-North Carolina State

8. Bo Scarbrough-Alabama

9. Royce Freeman-Oregon

10. Kerryon Johnson-Auburn

Wide Receiver

at Bryant-Denny Stadium on September 16, 2017 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

1. Calvin Ridley-Alabama

2. Christian Kirk-Texas A&M

3. DJ Moore-Maryland

4. Courtland Sutton-SMU

5. DJ Chark-LSU

6. Anthony Miller-Memphis

7. James Washington-Oklahoma State

8. Tre’Quan Smith-Central Florida

9. Jaleel Scott-New Mexico State

10. Dante Pettis-Washington

Tight End

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1. Dallas Goedert-South Dakota State

2. Mike Gesicki-Penn State

3. Hayden Hurst-South Carolina

4. Ian Thomas-Indiana

5. Mark Andrews-Oklahoma

6. Troy Fumagalli-Wisconsin

7. Durham Smythe-Notre Dame

8. Dalton Schultz-Stanford

9. Jaylen Samuels-North Carolina State

10. Tyler Conklin-Central Michigan

Offensive Tackle

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1. Connor Williams-Texas

2. Mike McGlinchey-Notre Dame

3. Kolton Miller-UCLA

4. Brian O’Neill-Pittsburgh

5. Tyrell Crosby-Oregon

6. Jamarco Jones-Ohio State

7. Geron Christian-Louisville

8. Martinas Rankin-Mississippi State

9. Orlando Brown-Oklahoma

10. Chukwuma Okorafor-Western Michigan

Offensive Guard

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1. Quenton Nelson-Notre Dame

2. Isaiah Wynn-Georgia

3. Will Hernandez-UTEP

4. Braden Smith-Auburn

5. Wyatt Teller-Virginia Tech

6. Tyrone Crowder-Clemson

7. Sean Welsh-Iowa

8. Taylor Hearn-Clemson

9. Colby Gossett-Appalachian State

10. Sam Jones-Arizona State

Center

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1. James Daniels-Iowa

2. Billy Price-Ohio State

3. Frank Ragnow-Arkansas

4. Bradley Bozeman-Alabama

5. Mason Cole-Michigan

6. Will Clapp-LSU

7. Austin Corbett-Nevada

8. Brian Allen-Michigan State

9. Scott Quessenberry-UCLA

10. Coleman Shelton-Washington

Edge Rusher

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1. Bradley Chubb-North Carolina State

2. Marcus Davenport-UTSA

3. Harold Landry-Boston College

4. Sam Hubbard-Ohio State

5. Uchenna Nwosu-USC

6. Lorenzo Carter-Georgia

7. Josh Sweat-Florida State

8. Arden Key-LSU

9. Dorance Armstrong Jr-Kansas

10. Ogbonnia Okoronkwo-Oklahoma

Defensive Line

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1. Da’Ron Payne-Alabama

2. Vita Vea-Washington

3. Maurice Hurst-Michigan

4. Taven Bryan-Florida

5. Harrison Phillips-Stanford

6. Rasheem Green-USC

7. BJ Hill-North Carolina State

8. Tim Settle-Virginia Tech

9. Derrick Nnadi-Florida State

10. Will Geary-Kansas State

Linebacker

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1. Tremaine Edmunds-Virginia Tech

2. Roquan Smith-Georgia

3. Rashaan Evans-Alabama

4. Leighton Vander Esch-Boise State

5. Malik Jefferson-Texas

6. Shaquem Griffin-Central Florida

7. Josey Jewell-Iowa

8. Jerome Baker-Ohio State

9. Tegray Scales-Indiana

10. Micah Kiser-Virginia

Cornerback

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1. Denzel Ward-Ohio State

2. Josh Jackson-Iowa

3. Isaiah Oliver-Colorado

4. Jaire Alexander-Louisville

5. Mike Hughes-Central Florida

6. Carlton Davis-Auburn

7. Donte Jackson-LSU

8. Duke Dawson-Florida

9. MJ Stewart-North Carolina

10. Anthony Averett-Alabama

Safety

Alabama at Vanderbilt

1. Minkah Fitzpatrick-Alabama

2. Derwin James-Florida State

3. Justin Reid-Stanford

4. Ronnie Harrison-Alabama

5. Deshon Elliott-Texas

6. Jessie Bates III-Wake Forest

7. Jordan Whitehead-Pittsburgh

8. Quin Blanding-Virginia

9. Terrell Edmunds-Virginia Tech

10. Marcus Allen-Penn State

Those are my positional rankings for the 2018 NFL Draft class. Let me know what you think of them in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: Washington Nationals

More terror out of Boston sports as Chris Sale was drilled in the leg by a line drive in the first inning of his final spring training start. It’s apparently resulted in just a bruise and Sale claims that it looked a lot worse than it actually was so I’m breathing a sigh of relief, unlike with the Kyrie Irving news, whom I’ve just learned is expected to return in 3-6 weeks. Also, the Giants continue to get shit news as both Madison Bumgarner and Jeff Samardzija were injured, Bumgarner fracturing the pinky on his throwing hand and Samardzija suffered a pec injury. Both will open the season on the DL. But now we finally conclude this month-long series of 30 Clubs in 30 Days with the Washington Nationals.

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2017 Results:

Record: 97-65, won NL East, lost to Chicago Cubs in NLDS

Notable Offseason Additions: RP Joaquin Benoit, SP Jeremy Hellickson, SP Tommy Milone, 1B Matt Adams, C Miguel Montero

Notable Offseason Subtractions: LF Jayson Werth, C Jose Lobaton, SS Stephen Drew, RP Matt Albers, RP Oliver Perez, 1B Adam Lind, RP Joe Blanton, OF Alejandro de Aza

Best Offensive Player: RF Bryce Harper

Best Pitcher: Max Scherzer

Depth Chart:

C-Matt Wieters, Pedro Severino

1B-Ryan Zimmerman, Matt Adams

2B-Daniel Murphy, Howie Kendrick

3B-Anthony Rendon

SS-Trea Turner, Wilmer Difo

LF-Adam Eaton

CF-Michael A. Taylor, Brian Goodwin

RF-Bryce Harper

SP-Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Tanner Roark, AJ Cole, Jeremy Hellickson

Bullpen-Sean Doolittle (CP), Brandon Kintzler, Joaquin Benoit, Ryan Madson, Koda Glover, Shawn Kelley, Enny Romero, Sammy Solis

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Dave Martinez (1st season with Nationals)

Hitting Coach-Kevin Long

Pitching Coach-Derek Lilliquist

1st Base Coach-Tim Bogar

3rd Base Coach-Bob Henley

Bench Coach-Chip Hale

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The Washington Nationals were dominant in 2017, winning 97 games and finishing with the 2nd best record in the National League behind the Dodgers, however they continued to struggle in the postseason as they got bounced by the Cubs in 5 games in the NLDS. Since becoming the Nationals in 2005, this franchise has yet to win a playoff series. Their time is running out, though, as Bryce Harper is an impending free agent that they have very little chance of re-signing since they have a lot of money committed to other key players and people speculate that Harper may land the first ever $400M contract. Here’s how the Nationals are expected to line up in 2018.

1. Trea Turner-SS

2. Adam Eaton-LF

3. Bryce Harper-RF

4. Daniel Murphy-2B

5. Anthony Rendon-3B

6. Ryan Zimmerman-1B

7. Matt Wieters-C

8. Michael A. Taylor-CF

9. Pitcher’s Spot

That’s arguably one of the most imposing lineups in baseball especially when you take into account the improvements a lot of these guys made. Bryce Harper is the obvious star here as the 2015 NL MVP likely would have won his second such award before his 25th birthday had he not stepped on a wet base the wrong way and missed the last month of the regular season. Harper finished 2017 hitting .319 with 29 home runs and 87 RBI and being worth 4.8 WAR in just 111 games, which was a huge step up from his disappointing 2016 season where a series of always getting walked put him in a funk at the plate. Anthony Rendon was probably the most underappreciated star in baseball, as he quietly topped the NL in WAR at 6.9 by slashing .301/.403/.533 and hitting 25 home runs, driving in 100 RBI and playing excellent defense at third base. Rendon also had the best single-game performance of the season when he went 6-for-6 with 3 home runs and 10 RBI in an April matchup against the Mets (which was also notable for being the game where Noah Syndergaard injured his lat and basically missed the remainder of the season). Trea Turner is also a dangerous player at shortstop as he hit .284 with 11 home runs and stole 46 bases. Daniel Murphy is another guy who will be tough to retire, though he’s going to miss Opening Day due to offseason knee surgery. Last season, Murphy hit .322 with 23 home runs and 93 RBI. The two best seasons of the 32 year-old’s career have come as a member of the Nationals, as he was particularly dominant in 2016 when he hit .347 with 25 home runs and 104 RBI. Top to bottom, this is a very dangerous lineup.

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The pitching rotation is just as dangerous as the batting lineup. The Nationals are spearheaded by ace and 3-time Cy Young Award winner (including each of the last 2 seasons) Max Scherzer. Last season, Scherzer dominated, going 16-6 with a 2.51 ERA and striking out over a dozen batters per 9 innings, which was the best number amongst righties in all of baseball. It doesn’t get much easier behind Scherzer as Stephen Strasburg was also a monster in 2017, particularly in the second half. Overall, Strasburg went 15-4 with a 2.52 ERA and struck out over 10 batters per 9 while having the best HR/9 in all of baseball at 0.67. After the All Star break, though, Strasburg was pitching out of his goddamn mind, as he had an ERA of 0.86 in 62.2 innings. With both guys pitching the way they did, you can pretty much pencil in the Nationals for 2 automatic wins in their 5-man rotation. Gio Gonzalez was strong on the surface last season as he had a 2.96 ERA, however his FIP was almost an entire run higher at 3.93, suggesting that his defense gave him a lot of help and that he may be due for some regression in 2018.

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The bullpen for the Nationals has always been what’s held them back in year’s past, though this season it looks more solid than usual. Sean Doolittle was strong after joining the Nationals from the Athletics in a midseason trade, pitching 30 games in DC and carrying a 2.40 ERA and recording 21 saves. Brandon Kintzler was also solid out of the bullpen for them, posting a 3.46 ERA for the Nationals after being acquired by the Twins. After them, though, there are a lot of question marks. Koda Glover has shown flashes of dominance at times but there have also been moments where he gets hit harder than a Colts quarterback. Ryan Madson has had stretches of dominance, like last season, but he’s 37 years old and at one point missed 3 consecutive Major League seasons due to injury. Considering all the talent the rest of the roster has, though, if the Nats can maintain just a top-15 bullpen, they’ll consider it a success based on the struggles they’ve had in the past.

Overall, I expect the Nationals to run away with the NL East. It’s a weak division and the Nationals are far and away the most loaded team. The issue for them is going to be whether or not they can advance in the postseason. They pretty much have to be all-or-nothing this season, as they won’t be able to retain Bryce Harper in free agency so I expect them to be heavy buyers at the Trade Deadline in an attempt to gear up for that elusive title run. After all, when you take into account their Montreal Expos days, the Nationals and Seattle Mariners are the only two franchises that have yet to even reach a World Series. Perhaps this is the year? After all, Sports Illustrated picked them to win it all for the third time in six years.

Projected Record: 95-67, win NL East

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tom…wait, that’s it. That’s all 30 clubs. I actually succeeded in finishing this series. To be quite frank, this series didn’t do as well as I had hoped, as I think people got a bit tired of me posting about a new team every day. I had a ton of fun doing this, though, which is why I kept at it and didn’t ditch it like I have with my NFL Draft scouting reports. For the future, though, I’ll probably bring it down to just a division-by-division preview and make it a week-long thing rather than month-long. So thank you for keeping with me for all this time and let me know what you think of the Nationals’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: Pittsburgh Pirates

Since I know you’re all clamoring for it, here’s my bracket. Congratulations to Villanova on their second national championship in 3 years, third overall. I did make it safely into Fort Lauderdale, encountered a lot of problems, but everything is good. The wifi in my hotel is AWFUL, so there may be a chance that I have to miss a day on the blog. Fingers crossed I don’t have to. But anyway, let’s get to today’s edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days, featuring the Pittsburgh Pirates.

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2017 Results:

Record: 75-87, 17 games behind Chicago Cubs, 12 games behind Colorado Rockies for 2nd Wild Card Spot

Notable Offseason Additions: LF Corey Dickerson, OF Daniel Nava, SP Joe Musgrove, 3B Colin Moran, LF Michael Saunders, RP Kyle Crick

Notable Offseason Subtractions: OF Andrew McCutchen, SP Gerrit Cole, 1B John Jaso, RP Daniel Hudson, RP Joaquin Benoit, RP Dan Runzler, C Chris Stewart

Best Offensive Player: CF Starling Marte

Best Pitcher: Ivan Nova

Depth Chart:

C-Francisco Cervelli, Elias Diaz

1B-Josh Bell

2B-Josh Harrison, Sean Rodriguez

3B-David Freese, Colin Moran

SS-Jordy Mercer

LF-Corey Dickerson, Adam Frazier

CF-Starling Marte

RF-Gregory Polanco, Bryce Brentz

SP-Ivan Nova, Jameson Taillon, Joe Musgrove, Chad Kuhl, Trevor Williams, Tyler Glasnow

Bullpen-Felipe Rivero (CP), George Kontos, Kyle Crick, Michael Feliz, AJ Schugel, Dovydas Neverauskas, Edgar Santana

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Clint Hurdle (8th season with Pirates)

Hitting Coach-Jeff Branson

Pitching Coach-Ray Searage

1st Base Coach-Kimera Bartee

3rd Base Coach-Joey Cora

Bench Coach-Tom Prince

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The Pirates are all in on their rebuild. They traded their two most prolific players in Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole to try and build for the future. They didn’t take the next step after their breakthrough starting in 2013 and now they’re trending back towards mediocrity. It’s a smart move to get out in front of these rebuilds, especially if they didn’t have any real chance at competing in the first place. Here’s a look at the potential lineup for the Pirates.

1. Corey Dickerson-LF

2. Josh Harrison-2B

3. Starling Marte-CF

4. Josh Bell-1B

5. Gregory Polanco-RF

6. Francisco Cervelli-C

7. David Freese/Colin Moran-3B

8. Jordy Mercer-SS

9. Pitcher’s Spot

There’s a lot of underperforming talent in this lineup. It starts with Starling Marte, who is a freak athlete but got busted for PED’s last season and missed 80 games. In his limited time last season, he hit .275 with 7 home runs and 31 RBI with 21 stolen bags and a 1.2 WAR. He’s one of the fastest players in the game and a talented hitter but he’s one of those guys that I think could be so much better but for whatever reason just hasn’t taken that next step. Josh Harrison is a guy I enjoy watching play. There’s just something about him that gets me excited to watch him go. Last season he hit .272 with 16 home runs and 66 RBI while being able to play pretty much every position imaginable. Josh Bell was a breakout stud for them last season, hitting .255 with 26 home runs and 90 RBI, providing a big power bat in the middle of their lineup. But after those guys there isn’t a whole lot. Gregory Polanco was a guy I heard several people compare to Barry Bonds when he debuted and he has been far from being that dangerous threat. He had a pretty solid 2016 but his 2017 left a lot to be desired. He hit .251 with 11 home runs and 35 RBI while playing a pretty good right field but also being one of the worst baserunners in baseball. There is some talent in their minor league system such as Austin Meadows, who could be seeing some playing time before this season gets out. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Pirates selling some of their talented assets at the Trade Deadline for a team trying to make a late push for the postseason.

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After trading Gerrit Cole, there isn’t much to go off of in this Pirates rotation in 2018. Slated to start opening day for the Bucs is Ivan Nova, who has been just okay since joining Pittsburgh after a disappointing tenure with the Yankees. Last year he went 11-14 with a 4.14 ERA while posting a measly 6 K/9. He isn’t a bad pitcher but being a team’s ace is nowhere near where his talent merits. Jameson Taillon is a talented guy and he showed a lot of ability last season before being diagnosed with testicular cancer. He was able to return after successful surgery and was able to make 25 starts, going 8-7 with a 4.44 ERA but a 3.48 FIP, suggesting the Pirates’ defense wasn’t a big help for him. Taillon is a guy who could be the team ace by next season and I think he’s someone they can build this rotation around. Tyler Glasnow is another talented pitcher in the rotation but he’s been a nightmare at the Major League level. He carries a career 6.75 ERA in 22 appearances and 17 starts. I don’t expect this rotation to really do a whole lot, they did finish 13th in the Majors in team ERA last season but they lost their best pitcher in Gerrit Cole and didn’t acquire anybody that will ease that loss.

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There isn’t much talent in the Pirates bullpen with the exception of their closer Felipe Rivero. Rivero really burst onto the scene in 2017. He posted a 1.67 ERA while striking out over 10 batters per 9 innings and recorded 21 saves. His fastball can touch 100 miles per hour and he’s got the breaking ball to throw off hitters’ timing like you wouldn’t believe. After him, though, there’s a pretty steep drop. George Kontos is a decent reliever with a pretty solid cutter but the rest of that ‘pen is filled with guys I’ve never heard of. Though looking at their numbers, AJ Schugel is a guy I should start paying attention to, as he posted an ERA of 1.97 in 32 appearances. But otherwise there isn’t a whole lot to really be paying attention to at the moment.

Overall, I don’t expect much out of the Pirates. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if this whole team gets blown up at the trade deadline. After a few good players there’s a pretty steep drop in productivity that will really limit this team’s ceiling. Clint Hurdle, who is an excellent manager, will likely be on the way out as they get into a full rebuild process once they start to drop in the standings.

Projected Record: 76-86, 4th in NL Central

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow when I discuss the San Diego Padres, whom I got to briefly work for at the Home Run Derby in 2016 and really got me invested in their culture (pretty much just worshiping Tony Gwynn). Let me know what you think of the Pirates’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: Houston Astros

The NFL Combine began yesterday and there are a couple of things I want to bring to light. Penn State runningback Saquon Barkley was a freaking monster, as he ran the second-fastest 40-yard dash among runningbacks at an unofficial 4.41 and tied for the most bench press reps at 29. You can’t really say Barkley helped himself at the Combine because his draft stock couldn’t have been much higher already. On the other end, Oklahoma tackle Orlando Brown was abysmal. He ran a 5.86 40-yard dash (nobody who has ever run worse than 5.7 has ever made the NFL) then only did 14 bench press reps. Brown is 6’8 340 pounds and he did 14 reps at 225 pounds. I’ve got a buddy I work out with who I’m confident can do that and he’s a college freshman. Brown also got chewed out by a coach for dogging his drills. Bad day for Brown. I had him as my #3 tackle and a late first round prospect at that but those numbers are alarming. I’ll do a Combine recap after the event is done so we can get my full thoughts on who helped their stock and who hurt it. But for now, it’s day 12 of 30 Clubs in 30 Days and today we have the defending champion Houston Astros.

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2017 Results:

Record: 101-61, won AL West by 21 games over Anaheim Angels. Defeated Boston Red Sox in ALDS. Defeated New York Yankees in ALCS. Defeated Los Angeles Dodgers in World Series.

Notable Offseason Additions: SP Gerrit Cole, RP Joe Smith, RP Hector Rondon

Notable Offseason Subtractions: DH Carlos Beltran (retired), SP Francisco Liriano, SP Joe Musgrove, 3B Colin Moran, RP Luke Gregerson, OF Cameron Maybin

Best Offensive Player: 2B Jose Altuve

Best Pitcher: Justin Verlander

Depth Chart:

C-Brian McCann, Evan Gattis (DH), Juan Centeno, Max Stassi

1B-Yuli Gurriel, Tyler White

2B-Jose Altuve, Tony Kemp

3B-Alex Bregman

SS-Carlos Correa

LF-Marwin Gonzalez, Derek Fisher

CF-George Springer, Jake Marisnick

RF-Josh Reddick

SP-Justin Verlander, Dallas Keuchel, Gerrit Cole, Lance McCullers, Colin McHugh, Charlie Morton, Brad Peacock

Bullpen-Ken Giles (CP), Will Harris, Chris Devenski, Joe Smith, Tony Sipp, Hector Rondon, Buddy Boshers

Coaching Staff:

Manager-AJ Hinch (4th season with Astros)

Hitting Coach-Dave Hudgens

Pitching Coach-Brent Strom

1st Base Coach-Alex Cintron

3rd Base Coach-Gary Pettis

Bench Coach-Joe Espada

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The Houston Astros won their first World Series in franchise history just months after Hurricane Harvey ravaged the Houston area. This victory meant a lot for the city of Houston as it was a moment of happiness for everyone in a time of grief. This is VERY similar to the 2013 Red Sox, who won the World Series just months after the Boston Marathon bombings. But the Astros are also about as loaded a team as you’re going to find in Major League Baseball. Here’s how they’re projected to line up in 2018.

1. George Springer-CF

2. Alex Bregman-3B

3. Jose Altuve-2B

4. Carlos Correa-SS

5. Yuli Gurriel-1B

6. Josh Reddick-RF

7. Marwin Gonzalez-LF

8. Evan Gattis-DH

9. Brian McCann-C

There are superstars all over this lineup, most notably of course being reigning AL MVP Jose Altuve. Last season Altuve won MVP over the likes of Aaron Judge and Jose Ramirez by hitting .346 with 24 home runs, 81 RBI, 32 stolen bases, 112 runs scored, and was worth 7.5 WAR. Not bad for a guy who’s the same height as my mom. Protecting him in the lineup is Carlos Correa, arguably the best shortstop in the game and a guy that has drawn comparisons to Alex Rodriguez. Correa hit .315 with 24 home runs, 84 RBI, slugged .550, and was worth 5.2 WAR in an injury-plagued season. And we cannot forget World Series MVP George Springer at the top of the lineup. Last season Springer hit .283 with 34 home runs, 85 RBI, 112 runs scored, and was worth 4.5 WAR. In the World Series, Springer was a monster after a poor Game 1 where he struck out in all 4 at bats (he was the first World Series MVP ever to have such a game in the same Series). He hit .379 with 5 home runs and 7 RBI in the Fall Classic, and this is including that Game 1 performance. If you don’t include that, Springer hit .440. There are so many other guys in this lineup that can kill you too. Alex Bregman was clutch in the postseason. Josh Reddick hit .314 and was worth 3.5 WAR. Marwin Gonzalez, their usual super utility guy, hit .303 and was worth 4.1 WAR. This lineup is absolutely loaded with young talent and the Astros expect to be bullies in the American League for quite some time.

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The Astros’ starting rotation is arguably just as loaded as their lineup. They have two Cy Young Award winners in Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel at the top of their rotation with another Cy Young candidate in Gerrit Cole, whom they acquired from the Pirates in the offseason, right behind them. After being acquired by the Astros from the Tigers at the last minute, Verlander went 5-0 with a 1.06 ERA in 34 innings, striking out 43 batters in the process. Keuchel returned to his 2015 Cy Young-winning form after a down 2016 season by going 14-5 with a 2.90 ERA in 23 starts. Gerrit Cole comes from the Pirates after a down season, however he is capable of fantastic numbers, such as his 2015 season where he went 19-8 with a 2.60 ERA. The big question mark is going to be who the #5 starter is. The candidates for that job are Colin McHugh, Charlie Morton, and Brad Peacock. The losers will likely wind up in the bullpen because they’re all too talented to keep in AAA, which is a good problem for the Astros to have. Plus if anybody in the rotation gets injured, they’ll have each of these guys on retainer. My pick to win the 5 spot is Charlie Morton, who is suddenly getting his fastball up in the high-90’s and earned manager AJ Hinch’s trust to close out Game 7 of the World Series.

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The Astros’ bullpen struggled in the postseason, particularly in the World Series, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t a talented bunch. Closer Ken Giles pitched to a 2.30 ERA and struck out almost 12 batters per 9 innings while saving 34 games. It looks pretty apparent that the Astros won that trade with the Phillies after they traded former #1 overall pick Mark Appel to get Giles as Appel is stepping away from the game without having reached the Major Leagues. Will Harris was an All Star in 2016 and in 2017 he had an ERA of 2.98 and struck out 10 batters per 9. Chris Devenski pitched to a 2.68 ERA and struck out 11.16 batters per 9. They also added submarine pitcher Joe Smith to the bullpen as well as former Cubs closer Hector Rondon. I expect this group to return to their regular season form and make people forget about how brutal they were in the World Series.

Overall, I expect the Astros to be favorites to repeat as World Series champions. AJ Hinch’s club didn’t lose anybody of major significance and only got better, as they added the likes of Gerrit Cole to an already deep pitching rotation. Their core is also very young, as each of Springer, Altuve, Correa, and Bregman are all under the age of 28. Not only is this team going to score a ton of runs, but they’re going to prevent a ton of runs as well with their stacked pitching staff. Unlike last season, they will face a bit stiffer competition in their division as the Angels have added a lot of pieces to their roster that could make them challengers to the Astros’ throne while the Mariners could be a sneaky team in that division.

Projected Record: 101-61, Win AL West

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow where I discuss the Kansas City Royals, who will be in the first stages of life after their core that led them to their 2015 World Series title. Let me know what you think of the Astros’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

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.

Andrew McCutchen Traded to the Giants

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It’s been a while since I posted a blog that wasn’t about football (18 blogs in a row not counting that one where I ramble about everything). But that’s because of the inactivity around Major League Baseball this offseason. And while yes, the free agent market has been slower than it’s ever been in recent memory, there have been some solid trades. In fact, Gerrit Cole was traded to the Astros, something that I briefly touched upon after the initial trade fell through. Well now the Astros have an absolute MONSTER of a pitching rotation as they look even stronger than the team that just won the World Series. But that’s not what my blog is about. It’s about how the Giants are quickly trying to erase the memory of their disastrous 2017 campaign. Remember when I blogged about their acquisition of Evan Longoria and I mentioned how they had a pretty stellar infield but one of the worst outfields I’ve ever seen? Well they seem to have shored that up a bit as they acquired Andrew McCutchen from the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for prospects Bryan Reynolds (OF) and Kyle Crick (P). Reynolds was the #4 prospect in the Giants’ organization and Crick was 16th, according to MLB.com. McCutchen is set to become a free agent at the end of the 2018 season and will make about $14.5 million ($2.5M of which will be paid by Pittsburgh), so not much of a commitment there for the Giants.

San Francisco looks like they have no intention to rebuild after losing 98 games in 2017 and quite frankly I don’t blame them. There’s a lot of talent on this team, especially after their two most recent acquisitions and arguably the best manager in all of baseball in Bruce Bochy. Let’s take a look at what this lineup looks like now that McCutchen is in that outfield.

1. Andrew McCutchen-CF

2. Joe Panik-2B

3. Buster Posey-C

4. Evan Longoria-3B

5. Brandon Belt-1B

6. Brandon Crawford-SS

7. Hunter Pence-RF

8. Jarrett Parker-LF

9. Pitcher’s Spot

That’s suddenly a pretty potent lineup. Now yes, McCutchen has been on a downward trend the last few years, however he quietly had a pretty good 2017 season after a downright awful 2016. McCutchen hit .279 with 28 home runs, 88 RBI, a .363 OBP with a .486 SLG and was able to steal 11 bases and was worth a 3.7 WAR. Despite being 31, McCutchen can still play. Except centerfield, he is not a good centerfielder defensively. He has only had a DRS above 0 (league average) once in his entire career (he was worth 5 DRS in 2013). He got as bad as -28 DRS in 2016. In layman’s terms, that means opponents scored 28 more runs because McCutchen was in centerfield vs your average centerfielder. That was the worst in the Majors at any position. In 2017, he was -17. Maybe they’ll move him to left field and put someone like Gorkys Hernandez in center but as it stands right now, the Giants have a stellar defensive infield but an atrocious defensive outfield. So basically if you’re the Dodgers or Diamondbacks or any other team that’s going to contend with the Giants for a playoff spot, just hit the ball into the outfield and you’re good.

As for the Pirates, if they weren’t in full rebuild mode after they traded Gerrit Cole, they are now. It seemed like for a while they were flirting with the idea of rebuilding because McCutchen has been on the trading block for what seems like forever. Well the Pirates have finally gotten him out of town after he’s been the face of the franchise since he arrived in the league in 2009. Here’s what the Pirates look like without Cutch.

1. Adam Frazier-LF

2. Josh Harrison-2B

3. Starling Marte-CF

4. Josh Bell-1B

5. Gregory Polanco-RF

6. Francisco Cervelli-C

7. David Freese-3B

8. Jordy Mercer-SS

9. Pitcher’s Spot

Adam Frazier is essentially the guy that will replace McCutchen in the Pirates lineup. He was their DH on Opening Day when they took on the Red Sox in an American League park so it’s not like this is some kind of culture shock for the Pirates. He hit .276 in 121 games played last year, however it was a LOT of singles, as his SLG was only .399 and he only walked about 7.9% of the time. But the guy is a competent option for the Pirates at the top of their lineup. He could serve as a segue for Austin Meadows, their top prospect who happens to play the outfield. Pittsburgh likes him a lot and there have been times where they’ve made it known that Meadows is off limits in any proposed trade. He’s only 22 and currently at AAA, where he struggled some in 2017 so it might be another year before he’s ready for the Majors. However if he flips a switch and starts torching minor league pitching, we may see him in the Pirates lineup by the end of 2018. It could also be a segue for the newly-acquired Bryan Reynolds in the long run, who played extremely well in High-A ball.

One might also have to wonder if this could be Clint Hurdle’s final year at the helm of the Pirates. Since losing the Wild Card game to the Cubs in 2015 after a 98-win season, the Pirates have gone 153-171 and continue to trend in the wrong direction. What’s also common with rebuilds is the organization typically cleans house and Hurdle may be next on the chopping block, though I doubt he’ll have trouble finding another managerial job because he’s amongst the best in the game. He led the Colorado Rockies of all teams to a World Series appearance in 2007 in one of the most exciting runs in recent memory and was a catalyst in bringing the Pirates out of the depths of Hell. People tend to forget due to their recent success that the Pirates had 20 losing seasons in a row from 1992-2012. Hurdle was the guy who got them out of that mess with the help of guys like McCutchen. However no playoff success has come their way as they never won their division, playing in the Wild Card game 3 straight years, going 1-2 and never having gotten out of the NLDS. Some team that is struggling will likely look to get him should the Pirates let him go because he’s brought two organizations out of mediocrity already. Perhaps the Padres or Rays, should either team struggle in 2018 (which I expect to happen). But this smells like the end of the line for Hurdle in Pittsburgh.

So we’ve finally got some moves in baseball worth blogging about. Still waiting on that free agent class to get their shit together, though. Let me know what you think of the McCutchen trade and the Giants’ chances this year in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

What the Hell Do I Write About?

Hey everyone, sorry about there not being a blog post yesterday, but there is literally NOTHING happening right now in the world of sports. Hell, I’ve been so bored, I even started working out! Me! A blogger! Whoever heard of such a thing? I’m particularly fuming at Major League Baseball. Not at the league itself, but rather the inactivity from its clubs this offseason. How is it that we’ve already completed the first week of January and 7 members of my Top 10 Free Agents are still available? *Update* 6 out of 10 left. Jay Bruce just re-signed with the Mets. *End of Update* We almost had something interesting happen, as there were multiple tweets from very reputable sources that said that the Astros had struck a deal with the Pirates involving Gerrit Cole. However that proved to be fake news, leaving me in a pit of despair. Though it’s probably a good thing because could you imagine Cole being a part of the Astros? He’s an ace-level pitcher and he’d probably be the third man in that rotation after Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander.

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But yeah, I’m scraping for topics to talk about right now. I COULD talk about the whole Ball family stuff, but I’d rather not contribute to that mess. The only reason LaVar Ball is making all of these claims is because the media is lending him its ear. Like I seriously think he’s going to get Lonzo hurt, especially now that he’s verbally come after Lakers head coach Luke Walton. If the media just ignored him, then maybe he’ll stop being a jackass. But we all know that’s not going to happen. We’re in too deep at this point. But I like to keep up my morals and not give him the time of day if I can help it.

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I will admit I haven’t kept up on the world of basketball like I’ve hoped to, both college and professional. I admittedly don’t know as much about basketball as I do baseball and football and the lockout played a major role in that. I was on top of the world in following the NBA but once that happened I was really turned off and it stopped receiving my attention. Plus with college basketball, I’m finding it harder and harder each year to be invested due to the whole one-and-done thing. Basically every year I have to completely erase my brain on what I know and start fresh with each basketball season because there is so much turnover with the rosters. Plus my team, Indiana, is kind of garbage this season so that’s really hurt my interest level. They have shown some promise under new head coach Archie Miller, though. But it’s going to take some time before we’re ready to seriously compete for Big Ten championships again.

I thought about doing another personal blog for this one, but I really couldn’t think of any stories from my athletic career that would be particularly interesting. I’ve told all my favorites already and there really isn’t much left in my concussion-filled brain. If one pops up, I’ll definitely be sure to talk about it.

I’ve been getting into professional wrestling as of late. I used to watch WWE as a kid and play the video games, then took some time off because I was getting bored of it but now my interest has been reinvigorated. I’m debating whether or not I should do wrestling-themed blogs but I’m not 100% sure that would be best since it is staged and all. Which is fine by me, I look at it as watching an action/drama/comedy TV show, which is really what it is. It’s basically reality TV where people kick the crap out of each other. Let me put it this way: if you watch shows like Keeping up with the Kardashians or The Bachelor/ette, then you have no right to rip on WWE for being “fake.” Plus, try watching WWE with a buzz on. It’s freaking awesome. I actually took my brother and godson to the Clash of Champions Pay-Per-View in Boston last month and that was a Hell of a good time. Plus I was able to get an RKO from Randy Orton on film. So I guess I’ll leave it up to my readers as to whether or not I do WWE blogs. Definitely let me know if you’d like to read that. If I get no responses, I won’t do it, though.

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What else, what else. I mean I’ve also considered delving into the pop culture scene from time to time. For example, I’ve always wanted to talk Game of Thrones and Star Wars on this thing but I’ve held back because it’s a sports blog. When I’m not watching sports, I’m usually keeping up on those. I considered doing a Game of Thrones blog where I talk about the differences between the book and show and how well I think each change is done (or poorly), which would take FOREVER. I did get started on it where I would go storyline by storyline and talk about what’s different and what’s the same. I got through Ned Stark’s, Tyrion Lannister’s, and Jon Snow’s storylines before I kind of gave up on it. I was well over 10,000 words and I doubt anybody outside of my parents would want to take the time to read all of what I had to say.

I also really wanted to talk about what I thought of Star Wars Episode 8: The Last Jedi just because of how polarizing it’s been amongst the fanbase. But again, I held back because this is a sports blog. I guess I’ll say this in short: I thought it was very good, but I understand why people have problems with it. I think most of the risks they took were good ones, though there were a couple elements I didn’t care for. For example, SPOILER ALERT, I would’ve liked to have known a little more about Snoke before he was killed off. Now granted, I read the defense that when the Emperor was killed in Episode 6, we didn’t know shit about him except that he ruled the galaxy and he was extremely powerful with the force and had manipulated our lightsaber-wielding villain. That’s basically all we knew about Snoke as well. However the difference between Snoke and Palpatine is that we know about the time period leading between episodes 6 and 7 and Snoke was a character that just kind of popped up within that time frame. Where was he before Episode 7? Why hadn’t we seen him? Was he Darth Plagueis, Palpatine’s master whom he had supposedly killed? We really don’t know. But I think you could do some cool stuff with him now that he’s dead. I think a dark side force ghost could be in the cards here. Perhaps Snoke comes back to torment Kylo Ren and then maybe we can learn a little more about him. Or maybe he projected himself like Luke did when Kylo Ren split him in half. I’m not going to get totally pissed about it until I see Episode 9. My only other major beef was Rose saving Finn. That whole storyline felt like it belonged on the Clone Wars TV series, not in the main films, but I did see how it tied into the main story. I do liked that they tried to do something different with this storyline. It didn’t work for me this time around but I hope they keep trying to show us different sides of the galaxy. I really hope the negative responses to this part of the movie don’t deter them from doing different things. But I hated that Rose saved Finn from going kamikaze on that cannon. I think it would’ve been the perfect way to tie up his character arc: an ex-stormtrooper who has a history of running away from his problems saves the Resistance by not running from a giant cannon that’s going to blast open some doors. But then Rose saved him and gave a dumb little speech about “not killing the ones we hate, but saving the ones we love.” Yeah, okay, that’s great, but the minute you said that, that cannon blasted open the doors shielding the Resistance and the Resistance would’ve been totally screwed had Luke Skywalker not projected himself to fight Kylo Ren (which I thought was freaking awesome). I guess my one other beef was Leia flying through space. That was dumb but it wasn’t dumb enough that it hindered my viewing experience. For me, it was kinda like “oh she’s flying through space like Mary Poppins? That’s dumb. Next scene.” I think Star Wars fans can be real brats about their movies and it’s a real shame because I thought Rian Johnson made a very good film but because it’s got the Star Wars name attached to it, it gets criticism that’s often unfair. But I guess if I had to rank the Star Wars Movies, I would rank them: 5-4-7-8-Rogue One-6-3-1-2. And I’m only ranking Phantom Menace above Attack of the Clones because Phantom Menace had one redeeming quality: the Darth Maul fight. That was awesome. Attack of the Clones had no redeeming qualities.

So that’s going to do it for my rambling blog. Let me know if you want me to occasionally write about things outside the world of sports, especially if we’re in a dead period because I’d like to be able to post every day if I can help it. Give me your thoughts in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

Hot Stove Roundup

Two players from my Top 10 Free Agent Rankings came off the market among several other moves that were made on Friday. Seems that the signing of Shohei Ohtani by the Angels really did open up the floodgates. So let’s take a look at who’s headed where.

Carlos Santana signs with the Phillies

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This was the big surprise move for me, though I can’t say I’m too shocked to see the Phillies actively searching for some talent now that all those albatross contracts are finally off the books. Though I am surprised that Santana chose the Phillies in this situation. Santana signed a 3-year $60 million deal with a $17.5 million club option for a fourth year with the Phillies, who are coming off a last place finish in the NL East and had the second worst record in the National League. Santana was a part of a winning organization in the Indians prior to this, where he was a big part of their lineup that had the best record in 2017 and nearly won a World Series in 2016. Santana has been one of those guys that, along with some good power, has had a keen eye for the plate. He is coming off a season that featured a 13.2% walk rate, which was the lowest of his career but still ranked 18th in all of baseball. He’s got good power if he does get his pitch as well, as he’s hit 57 home runs over the last two seasons while being a well-above average defender at first base, which is where he will likely slot in with the Phillies. Santana will likely supplant the incumbent Tommy Joseph at first, who underwhelmed in the starting role, as he only hit .240 with a .289 OBP though he showed some good pop with 22 home runs. In addition to the signing of Santana, the Phillies are trading shortstop Freddy Galvis to the Padres for a minor league prospect, opening the door for top prospect JP Crawford to take over as the full-time shortstop. Here’s what a potential Phillies lineup would look like with Santana.

1. Odubel Herrera-CF

2. JP Crawford-SS

3. Rhys Hoskins-LF

4. Carlos Santana-1B

5. Aaron Altherr-RF

6. Maikel Franco-3B

7. Jorge Alfaro/Cameron Rupp-C

8. Cesar Hernandez-2B

9. Pitcher’s Spot

Still not an imposing lineup by any stretch, but one that definitely looks a lot better than last year with the addition of Santana and the emergence of Hoskins. Santana’s ability to draw walks gives new manager Gabe Kapler a lot of different lineup combinations to play with, as he often batted leadoff for Terry Francona in Cleveland because of his great eye. With how bad most of the NL East is outside of Washington, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Phillies quietly emerge as the second best team in the division. Though it is equally likely that they could finish last again. Such is the NL East. As for the Tribe, there’s a bit of a hole at first base, though I think part of last year’s Edwin Encarnacion signing was in preparation for this. If they want to have Encarnacion return to first base, that gives Francona a bunch of options at DH, such as Lonnie Chisenhall, Brandon Guyer, or Hell, even Jason Kipnis if you want to go with Jose Ramirez at 2B and Giovanny Urshela at 3B (which is the better defensive rotation). Lots of options for Tito to work with despite losing a big bat.

Zack Cozart signs with the Angels

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Anaheim strikes again. This time, they sign Zack Cozart away from the Cincinnati Reds and will move him from shortstop to third base because of obvious Andrelton Simmons-related reasons. Cozart was a guy I highlighted in my Free Agent rankings and I mentioned that he’s had some really good seasons at the plate the last couple of years that have each been cut short due to injury. But when healthy, Cozart is a pretty underrated hitter who was finally getting some recognition, as he was voted to the All Star Game in 2017. In 122 games, Cozart hit .297 with 24 home runs and 63 RBI and was worth 5 WAR. Had a bigger-name player put up those numbers, they’d be receiving a $100 million contract but because it’s Cozart and he’s not nearly as big a household name, his deal is for 3 years and $38 million. However age might be a concern in the near future, as he is finally truly breaking out at the age of 32, which may explain the lighter contract a little better.I feel like I do this Angels lineup a lot, but here is what the Angels look like with Cozart in the mix.

1. Ian Kinsler-2B

2. Mike Trout-CF

3. Andrelton Simmons-SS

4. Shohei Ohtani-DH/P

5. Justin Upton-LF

6. Zack Cozart-3B

7. Kole Calhoun-RF

8. Albert Pujols-1B

9. Martin Maldonado-C

If you were to tell me back in 2011 that Albert Pujols would be the weakest link in his starting lineup headed into 2018, I’d say that’s about as likely as the Houston Astros winning a World Series. Well well we live in a VERY different world today than we did in 2011 as we can plainly see and this Angels team on paper should compete with anybody in baseball. That being said, the pitching staff NEEDS to stay healthy, that’s the real key here. The Halos will score runs, I have no doubt about that. But preventing runs is going to be a struggle if something isn’t done about their pitching, in the starting staff and the bullpen.

Matt Moore traded to the Rangers

XXX at Chase Field on September 26, 2017 in Phoenix, Arizona.

The San Francisco Giants traded Matt Moore to the Texas Rangers for some prospects in what was likely a salary dump. Moore is set to make $19 million over the next two years and that’s a lot of money to pay the guy who had the worst ERA amongst qualifiers, which is a shame too because this is a guy who showed a lot of promise in Tampa. He was supposed to become their ace, as he started a playoff game so early in his career that he seemed destined for great things. But then injuries became a factor, as Moore underwent Tommy John surgery not long after making that playoff start after only 9 career innings in the Major Leagues. Upon returning, he had a solid season in 2013, going 17-4 with a 3.29 ERA in 27 starts. But injuries struck again as he was only able to make 2 starts in 2014 due to injury. Things just never took off. Eventually, he was traded to the Giants for Matt Duffy. Moore struggled in a Giants uniform, though he managed to stay healthy in his year and a half by the bay. Hopefully this newfound health can help him discover a rhythm and he can find some consistency. If he can, then the Rangers will have a steal on their hands because this guy is as talented as they come.

Yankees are discussing a Gerrit Cole Trade with the Pirates

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Hey, Yankees. Could you fuck off? As if it wasn’t bad enough that the Yankees already acquired Giancarlo Stanton for a bag of peanuts, they’re being linked to the likes of Manny Machado and now Gerrit Cole. Cole has some of the best stuff I’ve seen out of a righty in the Majors. His fastball consistently hits around 96 while his breaking pitches are absolutely ferocious. Cole had a down year in 2017, as he pitched to a 4.26 ERA but that was due in large part to the fact he let up a lot of home runs, as his 1.37 home runs per 9 innings was 15th in the Majors. PNC Park is relatively hitter-friendly in general but if you were to put him in Yankee Stadium, that could spell disaster for the righty. However, in order to hit a home run, you still gotta hit the baseball. Cole is more than capable of 200 strikeout seasons, which he achieved in his excellent 2015 season and nearly achieved in 2017 (196). He missed a large portion of 2016 due to injury. The package being rumored to be involved in a potential Cole trade includes Clint Frazier, who is one of the brighter youngsters the Yankees have in their system. He’s kind of in a logjam in the outfield at the moment, as Judge, Gardner, Ellsbury, Hicks, and Stanton are all likely going to have priority over him. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh’s outfield has underachieved and the Pirates appear to be shopping basically everybody, so there could be an opening for Frazier. Cole was initially drafted out of high school by the Yankees with the 28th pick in the first round of the 2008 draft but he elected to go to college at UCLA and was the number 1 pick of the 2011 draft by the Pirates, so the Yankees do have some familiarity with the righty. I would just hate to have to face him several times a year.

Also Fernando Rodney has a job again, as the Twins signed him to a 1-year deal for $4.5 million with incentives that could push it to $6 million with an option for 2019. This seems to happen every year, as Rodney will have an awful year, hit free agency, get picked up immediately, then have an otherworldly year, then sign with a new team and repeat the process. I’m not even going to try and guess how many times this guy has changed uniforms in the last 5 years. That wraps up another edition of the Hot Stove. Let me know who you think might be next to get off the market in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.