General Sports: February 12

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-The Indianapolis Colts have hired former Philadelphia Eagles’ offensive coordinator Frank Reich to be their next head coach. Reich had been the Eagles’ OC each of the last two seasons as the team saw a significant uptick in production between year 1 and year 2. While many credit Doug Pederson for calling the “Philly Special” (despite it being an illegal formation…yes I’m still salty), Reich played a huge role in designing and developing that play. As Trey Wingo noted on Twitter, this may actually be an upgrade over the failed Josh McDaniels hire, as the Colts will now be landing the OC that won the Super Bowl, rather than the one that lost. Reich’s offensive scheme relies heavily on run-pass options, or RPO’s, and they were extremely effective in the Eagles’ wins over the Vikings and Patriots. Under his system, Carson Wentz went from an intriguing quarterback with a lot of potential to the MVP frontrunner and after his injury, Nick Foles went from a guy who hadn’t been good since 2013 into Super Bowl MVP. With so much uncertainty surrounding the Colts’ quarterback situation given Andrew Luck’s unknown health, getting a guy like Reich could become an excellent hire.

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-Paul Pierce had his number 34 retired by the Celtics and it was quite the ceremony as Celtics legends were spotted all over the place, from Bill Russell to Kevin Garnett to Rajon Rondo. It didn’t end well for the Celtics as the new-look Cavaliers smoked the boys in green 121-99, but it was a nice moment for the Celtics legend Pierce. Speaking of the Cavs, they looked really sharp as a new unit and it seems like they made all the right trades at the deadline. It’s still early, but early returns are promising.

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-People are just now freaking out over Eagles tackle Lane Johnson’s comments about the Patriots’ culture even though the interview in which that took place on Pardon My Take aired on Friday. I’m what PMT refers to as an “Award-Winning Listener” and when I heard what Johnson had to say, I didn’t really care. He said that the Patriots seem to build their culture around fear and doesn’t get the sense that Patriots players really enjoy their time in Foxboro. He also went on to state that he would rather win 1 Super Bowl and have a blast doing it than win 5 and be miserable. I don’t know why people are making such a fuss over this. One little complaint I’d have with this statement is word choice and it’s literally just one word I disagree with: fear. I don’t think the Patriots build their culture around fear, I think they build it around what’s best for business. It’s no secret that playing for the Patriots requires one to be pretty uptight and about as professional as humanly possible. But professional football is a business, it’s not about having fun at that stage. If you are having fun, great, you’re one of the luckiest people on Earth that you get to not only play football for a living, but have a blast doing it. But that business-like mentality isn’t exclusive to the Patriots. Most teams try and conduct themselves in a similar fashion, the Patriots get more publicity for it because of their run of success. You could tell that the Eagles were a much more laid back group from as early as Week 1, as their endzone celebrations were some of the best in the newly relaxed league. It worked out well for them, just like the Patriots’ business-like approach works well in Foxboro. So really, I think people need to calm down about Johnson’s comments.

-I almost got caught looking very silly during my wrestling broadcast on Sunday.

During this match, I was reading my notes and giving off information about each wrestler when I happened to glance up at the perfect possible moment when Devin Skatzka landed the pin. This would’ve gotten pretty ugly because it was a huge win for Indiana to get themselves back into the meet with Northwestern. Northwestern ended up winning reasonably handily, but this pin made things interesting. It actually happened so fast (28 seconds) that I never even got a chance to introduce the Northwestern wrestler. Had I missed the pin, it could’ve derailed the whole broadcast. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.

-The NCAA released their first bracket preview where they showcased where each team stands right now in the March Madness rankings, only doing the top 4 seeds for each region. The teams are:

1 Seeds: Virginia (#1 Overall), Villanova, Xavier, Purdue

2 Seeds: Cincinnati, Duke, Auburn, Kansas

3 Seeds: Michigan State, Texas Tech, Clemson, North Carolina

4 Seeds: Tennessee, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Arizona

I haven’t been keeping up with college basketball like I wanted to but I promise I’ll at least post my bracket when the time comes. But overall I find these seedings to be very interesting, especially considering where a lot of these teams were at the start of the season. I doubt very many people would’ve guessed that traditional football schools like Auburn, Clemson, and Ohio State would rank very highly as well as Xavier and Purdue being 1 seeds along with Cincinnati and Texas Tech being amongst the 16 best teams. But I’m very excited for March Madness season because I have no effing clue who’s going to win. Usually there’s one team you can confidently point to and say “those guys are going to go far” but I could very easily see all of these teams collapsing at any given time. Is it March yet?

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-There have been reports that the Nationals are interested in signing Jake Arrieta, which should be absolutely TERRIFYING for the rest of the National League. A potential rotation of Max Scherzer, Arrieta, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, and Tanner Roark is so wildly unfair that the Nats may go weeks without letting up a run. Roark could be the number 1 pitcher on a weak staff but on this possible Nationals’ staff, he’s the fifth man. Though signing Arrieta would take the Nationals from slim chances to re-signing Bryce Harper to zero chance. We saw that Yu Darvish got a 6-year $126M deal with the Cubs on Saturday and Arrieta has a far more impressive resume so he’s certainly going to command more money. He may want to sign soon, though, because pitchers and catchers report for most teams on Valentine’s Day.

That’s going to do it for this edition of General Sports, let me know what you think of each storyline 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.

Angels sign Shohei Ohtani

Finally, the first domino of the MLB offseason has fallen. After the Marlins traded Dee Gordon to the Mariners for a bunch of prospects, it seemed like only a matter of time before the floodgates opened. Well, they have, as the Anaheim Angels have signed Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani just a day after Gordon was traded. Ohtani is probably the most intriguing player to come out of Japan since Ichiro mainly because of the prospect of his being a 2-way player. Not only can he hit 100 mph with his fastball on the mound, but he is also very capable of hitting a baseball a very long way.

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Ohtani has been a professional baseball player for the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters in the Japan Pacific League since he was 18 years old. When he wasn’t pitching, he was playing the outfield there. His best all-around season was easily his 2016 season, as he hit .322 with 22 home runs and 67 RBI, while on the mound he went 10-4 with a 1.86 ERA and struck out 174 batters over 140 innings. So naturally, when it was made public that he had intentions to play overseas in the United States, Major League Baseball got interested.

It was a very interesting signing process, as Ohtani would tell several high profile teams that he didn’t want to play for them, most notably the Red Sox, Yankees, and Twins, all of whom made the postseason in 2017. He even put the Phillies in a bodybag with this comment.

There was some backlash from fans and some members of the media, many of whom criticized Ohtani for being arrogant and seeming to not care so much about winning. Eventually, he narrowed his list down to 7 teams: the Angels, Mariners, Padres, Dodgers, Cubs, Rangers, and Giants. Last I had heard, it appeared that the Mariners were the frontrunners to acquire the talented star, which didn’t surprise me as the Mariners had always been a preferred destination for Japanese players, as it is the closest team to their home country (Ichiro and Kenji Johjima come to mind as well as a few others whose names I’m spacing on). This was as recently as Friday morning, just hours before it was reported he was signing with Anaheim.

Earlier Friday afternoon, Ohtani had made his decision and will be signing with the Anaheim Angels (I refuse to call them the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim after all these years because that’s stupid. They’re in Anaheim. They’ve been called the Anaheim Angels. What’s the point of putting Los Angeles in front?). Reportedly one of the deal makers for Ohtani was a Facetime call with Angels superstar outfielder Mike Trout, who couldn’t meet in person because his wedding is today. It’s unknown what Trout said, but it must have been really convincing because the Angels were never really considered to be favorites to land Ohtani. The most in international bonus money they can offer is around $2.3 million, which is significantly less than what the Mariners and Rangers could have offered. Ohtani’s booking fee is less than the likes of Daisuke Matsuzaka and Yu Darvish, luckily for the Angels, as it’s only around $20 million, whereas the former two had booking fees of around $50 million each. As of right now, we don’t know what his actual contract is going to be, but I doubt it’s going to be anywhere near what other Japanese superstars have gotten based on the most recent CBA.

So where does Ohtani fit in with the Angels? It’s hard to say, really. They’d be fools not to give him a chance to be a two-way player so it will certainly be intriguing to see how manager Mike Scioscia decides to use him. He’s battled injuries throughout his career in Japan so he’s a guy they may want to keep a close eye on health-wise. I have a feeling that being a two-way player may have something to do with his injury history and it could impact him greatly in the Major Leagues. I think after enough DL stints, Scioscia will decide enough is enough and have him stick to one or the other. But for the beginning of the year, at least, he will more than likely do both. It’s likely that he will be in the starting rotation for much of the year and in games he doesn’t pitch in, we could see him DH for the Halos, allowing him to go through a normal regimen for a starting pitcher while also getting a few hacks in. I doubt he’ll see much time in the field, as the Angels already have one of the better outfields in baseball, with Mike Trout in centerfield, Justin Upton in left, and Kole Calhoun in right. Albert Pujols is currently the DH but the only reason he’s still on the roster right now is because of that monstrous contract. If Scioscia really wants to keep him in the lineup, that will likely bump the incumbent CJ Cron from his duties at first base. It seems that Cron is the odd man out in this situation and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him traded sometime in the near future. Cron is only 27 years old and is making the Major League minimum right now, so you can bet there will be teams calling GM Billy Eppler about him. Here’s what the Angels lineup would look like with Otani:

1. Andrelton Simmons-SS

2. Mike Trout-CF

3. Shohei Ohtani-DH/P

4. Albert Pujols-1B

5. Justin Upton-LF

6. Kole Calhoun-RF

7. Luis Valbuena-3B

8. Martin Maldonado-C

9. Jefry Marte-2B

That has the potential to be a very formidable lineup. It’s also worth mentioning that on days that Ohtani is pitching, the Angels could decline their option to use a DH and have him bat for himself. People often forget the DH in the AL isn’t mandatory, it’s an option that’s given to each team, but naturally they use it because most pitchers aren’t exactly Shohei Ohtani with a bat in hand. As for the starting rotation, it would look something like this:

1. Garrett Richards

2. Shohei Ohtani

3. Matt Shoemaker

4. Tyler Skaggs

5. Andrew Heaney

Not as formidable-looking, but it has the potential to be very good if these guys can stay healthy (which has been a MAJOR issue for this bunch the last couple years). Personally, I think Ohtani is better as a pitcher, as his fastball can hit as high as 102 mph with a splitter/sinker that just falls off the table at the end. He was also most consistently good as a pitcher in Japan, as his highest batting average outside of his 2016 season is .274, while his ERA has consistently been under 3 since his rookie year. The main issue for this kid has been health, as he missed a large chunk of his 2017 season due to injury. But when healthy, this is what he can do (just a heads up, it’s long as shit, about 22 minutes).

So that ends one of the more interesting free agent sagas of recent memory. Once the details of his contract are finalized, we can get back into focusing on what other high profile players will do, which I’m chomping at the bit for because the highest-profile free agent to sign with a new team so far is Doug Fister with the Rangers. Not exactly what I’d call earth-shaking.

Also, what is the deal with the spelling of his last name? Every site I go to that talks about this guy, they either spell his last name “Otani” without the ‘h’ or “Ohtani” with the ‘h.’ For this blog, I went with the ‘h’ because that was how it was spelled on the back of his jersey in the video I embedded. But seriously, try googling both spellings. Google doesn’t correct you for the wrong one. If anybody knows why that is, PLEASE tell me, because it is so confusing to me.

So this is what a Saturday is like without college football picks. I know, I did promise I would do a whole Army-Navy segment before, but when I got to writing it, I came to the realization that I don’t know nearly enough about them to do the kind of blog I wanted to do. Then Ohtani signed and I felt that would take precedent. Fear not, I will still pick that game.

Projected Score: Navy 20 Army 17

Sorry West Point, but the Midshipmen regain bragging rights after losing last year for the first time since 2001. But it’s going to be a quick game as neither team commits many penalties and there is a LOT of running the football and very few reasons to stop the clock.

That’s my semi-double-blog for this week. What do you think of the Ohtani signing? How about your thoughts on the Army-Navy game? Let me know in the comments section below and on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

MLB Free Agent Power Rankings

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

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

#10. Zack Cozart-Shortstop

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photo credit: FirstAndMonday

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

Projected Team: Signs with New York Mets

#9. Carlos Santana-First Baseman/DH

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photo credit: Waiting for Next Year

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

Projected Team: Returns to the Cleveland Indians

#8. Jay Bruce-Outfielder

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photo credit: Sporting News

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

Projected Team: Signs with the Toronto Blue Jays

#7. Mike Moustakas-Third Baseman

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Kansas City Royals

photo credit: MLB Trade Rumors

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

Projected Team: Signs with San Francisco Giants

#6. Wade Davis-Closing Pitcher

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photo credit: Bleed Cubbie Blue

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

Projected Team: Returns to Chicago Cubs

#5. Lorenzo Cain-Outfielder

MLB: San Francisco Giants at Kansas City Royals

photo credit: Baseball Prospectus

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

Projected Team: Signs with New York Yankees

#4. Eric Hosmer-First Baseman

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photo credit; The Inquisitr

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

Projected Team: Signs with Boston Red Sox

#3. Jake Arrieta-Starting Pitcher

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photo credit: Fan Rag Sports

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

Projected Team: Signs with Texas Rangers

#2. Yu Darvish-Starting Pitcher

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photo credit: Sports Illustrated

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

Projected Team: Resigns with Los Angeles Dodgers

#1. JD Martinez-Outfielder

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photo credit: Sports from the Basement

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

Projected Team: Resigns with Arizona Diamondbacks

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

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

MLB Postseason Preview

So the MLB Regular Season has come and gone. The landscape of baseball has changed dramatically in these last several months. Who would’ve guessed that Mark McGwire’s rookie home run record, which had stood for 30 years, would get obliterated by some Judge kid that strikes out about as frequently as a guy wearing crocs at the bar? Who would’ve thought the winning streak that inspired a bestselling novel and critically acclaimed movie would evaporate and become an afterthought? And who would’ve believed it if I told you at the beginning of the season that Noah Syndergaard would throw more spears at Dothraki than he would baseballs to catchers? Yep, all this happened already in this baseball season and the playoffs haven’t even started yet. Last year, the Chicago Cubs ended their fans’ suffering by winning their first World Series in 108 years. This year another drought, while smaller in quantity but by no means less significant, will be in danger as the Cleveland Indians look to end their 69-years (nice) of suffering, a streak they were one inning away from ending just last year. Before we get into the projections, let’s take a look at how the baseball landscape shaped up this season.

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Mets ace Noah Syndergaard serves the Lannister army as Drogon and the Dothraki deal serious damage to the Lannister cause. Syndergaard missed almost all of 2017 due to injury.

AL East

Boston Red Sox: 93-69

New York Yankees: 91-71

Tampa Bay Rays: 80-82

Toronto Blue Jays: 76-86

Baltimore Orioles: 75-87

AL Central

Cleveland Indians: 102-60

Minnesota Twins: 85-77

Kansas City Royals: 80-82

Chicago White Sox: 67-95

Detroit Tigers: 64-98

AL West

Houston Astros: 101-61

Anaheim Angels: 80-82

Seattle Mariners: 78-84

Texas Rangers: 78-84

Oakland Athletics: 75-87

NL East

Washington Nationals: 97-65

Miami Marlins: 77-85

Atlanta Braves: 72-90

New York Mets: 70-92

Philadelphia Phillies: 66-96

NL Central

Chicago Cubs: 92-70

Milwaukee Brewers: 86-76

St. Louis Cardinals: 83-79

Pittsburgh Pirates: 75-87

Cincinnati Reds: 68-94

NL West

Los Angeles Dodgers: 104-58

Arizona Diamondbacks: 93-69

Colorado Rockies: 87-75

San Diego Padres: 71-91

San Francisco Giants: 64-98

So that’s where each team stands following the conclusion of the 2017 MLB regular season. One thing that really stood out to me was three 100-win teams (Indians, Astros, Dodgers). This is the sixth time ever that three teams finished with 100 wins and the first time it’s happened since 2003. There’s a lot of firepower in the majors this season, so let’s get a look at each playoff team.

Minnesota Twins (85-77)

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Brian Dozier and the Twins have been one of the biggest surprises in the Majors this season (photo credit: Twins Daily)

Projected Lineup:

C-Jason Castro

1B-Joe Mauer

2B-Brian Dozier

3B-Miguel Sano

SS-Jorge Polanco

LF-Eddie Rosario

CF-Byron Buxton

RF-Max Kepler

DH-Kennys Vargas

The Minnesota Twins were probably the last team I would’ve guessed at the start of the season would be in this position. They were abysmal last season and did not look like they had made any noticeable improvements between 2016 and 2017. Yet here they are, playing for their lives in the AL Wild Card game just a year after losing 103 games. A lot of credit goes to Manager Paul Molitor for this turnaround. Guys like Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton, and Eddie Rosario have been huge for the Twins and their development has to have Twins fans very optimistic about their future.

New York Yankees (91-71)

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Aaron Judge has been the talk of Major League Baseball this season (photo credit: Sporting News)

Projected Lineup:

C-Gary Sanchez

1B-Chase Headley

2B-Starlin Castro

3B-Todd Frazier

SS-Didi Gregorius

LF-Brett Gardner

CF-Jacoby Ellsbury/Aaron Hicks

RF-Aaron Judge

DH-Matt Holliday

Aaron Judge is obviously the big story here. He’s going to run away with the rookie of the year and may even take home AL MVP after hitting .284 with 52 home runs and 114 RBI while also playing a solid right field. But the Baby Bombers, as they’re being dubbed, are more than just their 6’8 280-pound slugger. Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorius have both been outstanding at the plate this year as well as in the field and their bullpen has been incredible, even if the 9th inning may get a little exciting. There was a lot of talk about this year being a rebuilding year for the Yankees but if this is what they call rebuilding, I’m terrified at what they consider to be competing for a championship.

Boston Red Sox (93-69)

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Chris Sale’s 308 strikeouts have helped Boston to a second straight division title (photo credit: Boston Herald)

Projected Lineup:

C-Christian Vazquez/Sandy Leon

1B-Mitch Moreland

2B-Dustin Pedroia

3B-Rafael Devers

SS-Xander Bogaerts

LF-Andrew Benintendi

CF-Jackie Bradley Jr

RF-Mookie Betts

DH-Hanley Ramirez/Eduardo Nunez

It’s amazing to me that the Red Sox lose David Ortiz to retirement, have underwhelming seasons by the Killer B’s, and still finish with an identical record to last season. That is in large part due to the pitching staff, particularly Chris Sale. Sale has been downright nasty for the Red Sox, as I talk about in this article. But it hasn’t been just him that’s given this pitching staff a lift. Craig Kimbrel didn’t allow a hit to right-handed batters until JUNE!!! Drew Pomeranz may not have done anything spectacular, but from June-on, it seemed that every time he was pulled from a game in the middle of the sixth inning, the opponent only had one run against him. The Red Sox will have to clean up their inconsistencies if they’re going to have any hopes of unseating the Astros and Indians, though.

Houston Astros (101-61)

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The 5’6 Jose Altuve has been one of the biggest all-around threats in all of baseball (photo credit: Hub Pages)

Projected Lineup:

C-Brian McCann/Evan Gattis

1B-Yulieski Gurriel

2B-Jose Altuve

3B-Alex Bregman

SS-Carlos Correa

LF-Marwin Gonzalez/Jake Marisnick

CF-George Springer

RF-Josh Reddick

DH-Carlos Beltran

The Astros are a perfect example of how to properly build a team from the ground up. They were able to persevere through the 100-loss seasons and build a team that has as good a chance as any to win a World Series. They are perhaps the most dangerous team in the Majors offensively, as any player 1-through-9 can hurt you. But they’ve been doing that the last few years already. The big change that propelled them this high was the growth of their pitching staff. Dallas Keuchel returned to his 2015 Cy Young form and Lance McCullers and Collin McHugh looked like perfect complimentary pieces. On top of that, Justin Verlander has been terrific for them since he was acquired in August, posting a 1.06 ERA in his 5 starts with the team after a trade from the Tigers.

Cleveland Indians (102-60)

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Jose Ramirez was a major catalyst during the Indians’ 22-game win streak (photo credit: VICE Sports)

Projected Lineup:

C-Yan Gomes

1B-Carlos Santana

2B-Jose Ramirez

SS-Francisco Lindor

3B-Giovanny Urshela

LF-Michael Brantley/Austin Jackson

CF-Jason Kipnis/Tyler Naquin/Bradley Zimmer

RF-Jay Bruce/Lonnie Chisenhall/Brandon Guyer

DH-Edwin Encarnacion

See all those extra names I have in the Indians’ projected outfield? That’s how deep this team is. Any one of those guys could start and would have a big impact on this club. The jury is still out on Michael Brantley’s health, which has been a major concern for the Tribe the last couple of years. But top-to-bottom I don’t know if there is a more complete team in baseball. And I haven’t even gotten to the fact that this team won 22 effing games in a row! This team came an inning away from winning their first World Series in 68 years last season that was without a healthy pitching rotation. Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar are completely healthy now and ready to aid Cy Young candidate Corey Kluber on a championship run.

Colorado Rockies (87-75)

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Charlie Blackmon’s 213 hits have him as a leading candidate in the NL MVP race (photo credit: MLB.com)

Projected Lineup:

C-Jonathan Lucroy

1B-Mark Reynolds

2B-DJ LeMahieu

3B-Nolan Arenado

SS-Trevor Story/Alexi Amarista

LF-Ian Desmond/Gerardo Parra

CF-Charlie Blackmon

RF-Carlos Gonzalez

This team has two guys who could legitimately win NL MVP this season (Arenado and Blackmon). This has also been one of the best pitching staffs the Rockies have ever had, which admittedly isn’t saying much. Jon Gray, when healthy, is one of the most electrifying pitchers in the National League. The bullpen has been a huge bonus for this team this season as Greg Holland, Jake McGee, and Pat Neshek all had really nice seasons. This was a team that I had written in one of my classes was a dark horse team at the beginning of the season (granted, only my professor ever read that prediction so I guess it doesn’t really count) and they have proven me right every step of the way.

Arizona Diamondbacks (93-69)

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Paul Goldschmidt has the DBacks in prime position for a deep playoff run (photo credit: Stack.com)

Projected Lineup:

C-Chris Iannetta

1B-Paul Goldschmidt

2B-Brandon Drury

3B-Jake Lamb

SS-Ketel Marte

LF-David Peralta

CF-AJ Pollock

RF-JD Martinez

What a difference a good manager makes. Torey Lovullo had success as the Red Sox interim manager at the end of the 2015 season when John Farrell was diagnosed with Leukemia. When Mike Hazen became the GM for the DBacks, he brought Lovullo with him to the desert. The result has been a resurgent year where they find themselves in a Wild Card spot, but only because they share a division with the Dodgers. JD Martinez has been absolutely unconscious this season after being acquired from the Tigers at the trade deadline and Paul Goldschmidt continues to compete for MVPs and rank among the best first basemen in the game.

Chicago Cubs (92-70)

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Javy Baez’s antics have made the Cubs one of the funnest teams to watch this season (photo credit: WGN)

Projected Lineup:

C-Willson Contreras

1B-Anthony Rizzo

2B-Ben Zobrist

3B-Kris Bryant

SS-Javy Baez/Addison Russell

LF-Kyle Schwarber

CF-Ian Happ/Jon Jay

RF-Jason Heyward

Despite winning 11 fewer games than last season, the Cubs still find themselves kings of the NL Central. The pitching hasn’t been what it was in years past but still carries a lot of ability. Kris Bryant has been as dominant as ever and Javy Baez’s energy fueled a late season run that saw them return to their 2016 form after a very mediocre first half of the season. Wade Davis was a steal of a trade for the Cubs and has returned to his 2015 form that was so dominant at the backend of a championship bullpen. This team isn’t as scary as they were last season when they won it all, but if you take them lightly you will find yourselves swept and watching the rest of the playoffs on your couch.

Washington Nationals (97-65)

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Max Scherzer seems to be set up for back-to-back NL Cy Young awards (photo credit: Sports Illustrated)

Projected Lineup:

C-Matt Wieters

1B-Ryan Zimmerman

2B-Daniel Murphy

3B-Anthony Rendon

SS-Trea Turner

LF-Jayson Werth

CF-Michael Taylor

RF-Bryce Harper

The Nationals have arguably the best pitching rotation in the majors. Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Gio Gonzalez all carry sub-3 ERA’s and look to form a formidable postseason rotation. The problem has been their bullpen, but late season acquisitions Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson have shored things up nicely. Despite losing superstar Bryce Harper for an extended period of time, the Nationals hardly missed a step thanks to a breakout season out of Anthony Rendon. This is a team built for a deep playoff run after running away with the NL East seemingly from the moment the season kicked off.

Los Angeles Dodgers (104-58)

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Cody Bellinger is just the latest in a long line of standout Dodgers rookies (photo credit: Sports Illustrated)

Projected Lineup:

C-Yasmani Grandal

1B-Cody Bellinger

2B-Chase Utley

3B-Justin Turner

SS-Corey Seager

LF-Chris Taylor/Curtis Granderson

CF-Joc Pederson/Kike Hernandez

RF-Yasiel Puig

This is the hardest team to project. Sure, they won 104 games, but ever since Sports Illustrated published a cover that asked if this Dodgers team was the greatest team of all time on August 22, the boys in blue have gone 15-23 with an 11-game losing streak mixed in. They seem to be recovering, though, finishing the year as winners in 8 of their last 10 games. Like the Indians, this is a very complete team with a deep pitching rotation that starts with a perennial Cy Young candidate with loads of support around him. Clayton Kershaw will look to shake his playoff struggles in order to lead the Dodgers to their first title since 1988.

Playoff Predictions

American League

Wild Card Round: Minnesota Twins at New York Yankees

The Twins will be sending Ervin Santana to the hill to square off against Luis Severino of the Yankees. Both pitchers have been fantastic this season and this looks to be a low-scoring affair. However, the Yankees have too much firepower on offense and too deep a bullpen for the Twins to have much of a chance in this one.

Projected Score: Yankees 6 Twins 1

ALDS: New York Yankees (projected) vs Cleveland Indians

Last year the Indians swept the Red Sox in the ALDS very convincingly en route to a World Series appearance. Their playoff experience has them less wide-eyed than this inexperienced Yankees squad and they will likely make quick work of the Baby Bombers.

Projected Series: Indians 3 Yankees 1

ALDS: Boston Red Sox vs Houston Astros

These two teams just got done playing a 4-game series in which the Astros took 3 out of 4. The Red Sox are limping into the playoffs, having only won 2 out of their final 7 games. The Astros will once again take 3 out of 4 in this series.

Projected Series: Astros 3 Red Sox 1

ALCS: Houston Astros vs Cleveland Indians

Two 100-win teams face off for the right to go to the World Series. Both teams have top-tier talent to go along with terrific managers. I give the Indians the edge, but they will be taken to the limit against this Houston team.

Projected Series: Indians 4 Astros 3

National League

Wild Card Round: Colorado Rockies at Arizona Diamondbacks

These two division rivals will square off for the 20th time this season, the DBacks having taken 11 of those games. Colorado sends Jon Gray to face off against Zack Greinke in the desert. I’m going to give the edge to Arizona and I think Greinke is the difference in this one, as he has bounced back spectacularly after a disastrous 2016 season.

Projected Score: Diamondbacks 5 Rockies 3

NLDS: Arizona Diamondbacks (projected) vs Los Angeles Dodgers

The DBacks are the absolute last team the Dodgers want to see in the NLDS. Arizona has won 11 of their 19 games this season but has won each of the last 6 meetings. The DBacks seem to be LA’s kryptonite and I think they pull off the shocking upset.

Projected Series: Diamondbacks 3 Dodgers 2

NLDS: Chicago Cubs vs Washington Nationals

The Cubs and Nationals are two of the hottest teams in the National League and both have put it all together at the perfect time. This will be a hotly contested series but I think the Nationals’ superior pitching will be the difference in this series, though the Cubs will have something to say about that in Game 5.

Projected Series: Nationals 3 Cubs 2

NLCS: Arizona Diamondbacks vs Washington Nationals

Two teams that are anything but traditional blue bloods throughout the history of Major League Baseball, Washington will be looking for the franchise’s first ever trip to the World Series, which includes their time as the Montreal Expos. However, momentum becomes a deciding factor when the playoffs come around as the 2016 Cubs, 2015 Mets, and 2014 Royals proved. I think the DBacks take this thing in 6 as their bats make the Nationals extraordinary pitching staff look ordinary.

Projected Series: Diamondbacks 4 Nationals 2

World Series: Arizona Diamondbacks vs Cleveland Indians

I have the Arizona Diamondbacks going from Wild Card darling to National League champions as they ride a big wave of momentum and appear in their first World Series since shocking the world in 2001. However, I think the Indians remind them who has been here before and the DBacks run out of steam and get stomped for what will ultimately be an uninteresting World Series, as the Cleveland Indians win the franchise’s third championship and first since 1948 in convincing fashion.

Projected Series: Indians 4 Diamondbacks 0

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Cleveland Indians celebrate during their long winning streak (photo credit: The Ringer)

So congratulations to the Cleveland Indians on being my projected World Series champions. Get the champagne ready! Don’t agree with my picks? Let me know in the comments section or hit me up on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and give me your angry feedback.