General Sports: May 7

So before I get into General Sports, I just want to say that my blogs will likely be a little more inconsistent. As I mentioned a little while back, my family got a new puppy. I finally got a chance to meet her and while she is an absolute angel, she’s still a baby and is going to need a lot of attention. So I’ll not only be having to take care of her, but also returning to work at the liquor store, which I resume on Thursday. So for a while I might struggle to post everyday. With that said, let’s get to General Sports.

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-Gleyber Torres is off to quite the start to his big league career. The former top prospect in all of baseball, Torres was acquired by the Yankees as a minor leaguer and the centerpiece of the Aroldis Chapman trade with the Cubs in 2016. Torres missed most of 2017 after undergoing Tommy John midseason but was able to return healthy enough to participate in Spring Training. He began the season in the Minor Leagues and was called up on April 22. Since then, he’s hit .327 with 2 home runs and 11 RBI. In fact, that second home run is the one that enticed me to give an update on him since it was a walkoff shot against the Indians. Here it is below.

The kid’s got a good-looking compact swing that looks very well controlled and he’s got pretty good size for a second baseman at 6’1 200 pounds. Second base has been an issue for the Yankees since letting Robinson Cano walk in free agency prior to the 2014 season as they haven’t been able to consistently get a consistent contributor at the position. Starlin Castro was solid but you never got the sense that he was going to be the guy for the next 5 years. Torres has the talent to be a fixture at the top of this dangerous Yankees lineup for the next ten years.

-Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina is going to miss a month for groin surgery after taking a foul tip to the nuts. Now, of course, being a catcher, he was wearing a cup. I just wanted to type that. But apparently he felt something was off and was diagnosed with a “pelvic injury with traumatic hematoma.” I’m not quite sure what that means, so I’m just going to say that Yadi got hit so hard in the balls that he’s out a month. Molina is 35 years old but was putting up a decent line of .274/.292/.456. Not MVP numbers by any stretch but solid for a catcher of his age. The injury has one positive note to it, though. The Cardinals will get a chance to give one of their top prospects, Carson Kelly, a shot to see if he has what it takes to be Molina’s successor. But Molina is going to be a tough guy to replace as it doesn’t get much better behind the plate or with handling a pitching staff. Currently the Cardinals are sitting atop the NL Central Standings and if Kelly struggles too much, they might lose their grip on the division and could fall too far behind the Cubs and Brewers, who can get hot at any moment.

-There may be more trouble in Seattle brewing. The Seahawks lost both of their starting pass rushers in Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril along with their superstar corner Richard Sherman this offseason. Now it looks like Earl Thomas may hold out for a new contract. He hasn’t been attending voluntary workouts and Pete Carroll admitted he has no idea when Thomas is going to report. Thomas’ contract is up at the end of the season so the desire for a new deal appears to be the motivating factor. Now in all fairness, Thomas isn’t breaking any team rules at the moment, as mandatory workouts don’t begin until June. However anytime a player entering a contract year isn’t attending certain team workouts it becomes worrisome for the player’s current employer. So for now I will say for any Seahawks fans out there, I wouldn’t be too concerned yet. However if he’s not showing up to OTA’s, then there may be cause for concern. Just something to keep an eye on during this NFL offseason.

-Clayton Kershaw is hitting the DL with a bicep tendinitis in his pitching arm. It’s only the 10-day DL so perhaps he’ll only have to miss a start or two. However this makes back-to-back seasons where Kershaw has dealt with injuries. Kershaw is pitching below his LOFTY standards this season, but below standards for Kershaw is still an All Star-caliber season, as he’s currently carrying a 2.86 ERA and striking out over 9 batters per 9. But considering his career ERA is 2.37 (which is absurd) and his career K/9 is around 10, could that suggest that Kershaw is heading towards a bit of regression in his age-30 season? Perhaps. We’ll have to see how he recovers from the injury.

That’s going to do it for this edition of General Sports. Let me know what you think of the topics discussed in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

General Sports: May 5

-Albert Pujols got his 3000th hit on a dink into right field off of Mariners right hander Mike Leake. Kind of the opposite of what you would expect from a guy with 3000 hits and over 600 home runs, one of four guys to ever do so (Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Alex Rodriguez are the others). Here’s the historic knock.

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It’s also interesting to note, as ESPN Stats and Info pointed out, this is the fourth consecutive season that saw a player get their 3000th hit. 2015 was A-Rod, 2016 was Ichiro, 2017 was Adrian Beltre, now Pujols in 2018. Baseball is weird. But I couldn’t be happier for Pujols. He was my favorite player when I was a kid and while he fell on hard times with the Angels, that has done nothing to diminish my memory of his greatness in St. Louis. I mean Hell, for each of the first 10 seasons of his career he hit .300 with 30 home runs and 100 RBI. And he just missed out on an 11th in 2011 when he hit .299. A great moment for perhaps the greatest hitter of his generation.

-The Dodgers got a huge positive in a season full of negatives as their pitching staff threw the 12th combined no hitter in Major League history. The combination of Walker Buehler, Tony Cingrani, Yimi Garcia, and Adam Liberatore shut down the Padres lineup for a special series in Monterrey, Mexico for the first combined no hitter since 2014 when the Phillies used 4 pitchers to no hit the Braves. Fun fact, the first ever combined no hitter was started by Babe Ruth in 1917 when he was with the Red Sox. He walked the first batter, chewed out the umpire, got himself ejected, then his replacement Ernie Shore retired the next 27 batters, which included Ruth’s inherited runner getting caught stealing. There wasn’t another combined no hitter until 50 years later in 1967 when the Orioles used 2 pitchers to no hit the Tigers and LOST (starting pitcher Steve Barber went 8.2 innings and walked 10 batters. His reliever, Stu Miller, got just one out). Normally I’m not a fan of guys getting pulled in the middle of a no hitter, but in this case I think it was warranted. Walker Buehler turns 24 in July and he’s had a history of health issues with his arm during his young career. He was at 93 pitches after completing 6 innings of work so it was only inevitable he was going to get pulled. I felt like he could’ve gone another inning, but ultimately it didn’t matter. This isn’t the first time Roberts has done this sort of thing. A couple years ago, Ross Stripling was making his Major League debut and had a no hitter going into the 8th but got pulled by Roberts due to his pitch count being over 100. That time it backfired, as the Giants pummeled the relievers and won the game. But Stripling’s family actually thanked Roberts for pulling Stripling because they knew Roberts was concerned about protecting the kid’s arm. So if they’re cool with it, I’m cool with it. And once again, Roberts pulls a young starter with immense potential (his season ERA is just a little over 1) due to health concerns in the middle of his no-hit bid. This time it worked out. What a treat for the people of Monterrey, Mexico, though. They get Major League Baseball coming to town and the first game is a no hitter.

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-Matt Harvey was DFA’d by the Mets after refusing an outright assignment to AAA. This has been a pretty steep fall from grace for the guy who was looking like the next big ace for the Mets. Hell he was nicknamed “The Dark Knight” as a 24 year-old. He debuted in 2012 and started the All Star Game for the National League in 2013 when the game was at Citi Field. He struggled with injuries for much of his career but when healthy, he was one of the best right handers in the game, carrying a sub-3 ERA each of the first 3 years of his career. Then Game 5 of the 2015 World Series happened. Harvey was spinning an absolute GEM. The Royals failed to score all game against Harvey and the Mets were entering the 9th inning up 2-0 and Terry Collins was about to pull Harvey for closer Jeurys Familia. Harvey convinced Colins to leave him in the game and Collins listened. Then Harvey walked Lorenzo Cain and served up an RBI double to Eric Hosmer to make it 2-1 before Collins finally pulled Harvey. Hosmer was able to score to tie the game up then the Royals scored 5 runs in the 12th and won the World Series. Ever since that game Harvey has been a shell of his former self, as he not only pitched poorly, but emotional problems began to take hold. In 2016 he had a 4.86 ERA and in 2017 it was 6.70. In 2018 Harvey was carrying an ERA of 7.00 before being DFA’d after being sent to the bullpen. Harvey’s issues were also off the field, as he missed a game last season after a night of drinking resulting from seeing his ex-girlfriend, super model Adriana Lima, with Patriots receiver Julian Edelman. This was one of many personal issues that Harvey allowed to affect his performance and now he’s being DFA’d by the Mets. If Harvey goes unclaimed by another team, he can accept a minor league assignment or be outright released. A part of me feels bad for the guy because he’s as talented as they come but he can’t get out of his own head. Hopefully a change of scenery is exactly what he needs to get his career back on track.

-I wanted to blog this yesterday but some school-related issues forced me to put this off until today. But Ichiro Suzuki’s career is basically over. Yes, his agent said he isn’t retiring, just moving to a front office position with the Mariners, but come on. Have you seen Ichiro lately? He’s not the hitter he once was by a LONG SHOT. He’s not the man who opened his Major League career with a record 10 consecutive 200 hit seasons nor the guy with the most hits ever as a professional hitter (Japan and Major Leagues combined). Hell he didn’t join the Major Leagues until he was 27 and he still managed to join the 3000 hit club. Now? He’s 44 years old, going to be 45 in October, and he was slashing .205/.255/.205 prior to the announcement. There were talks amongst Mariners Twitter whether or not the team should demote him because it was becoming apparent that his presence on the roster was becoming a liability. I doubt a Major League team’s going to pick him up given how apparent the deterioration of his skills has been. If he does want to continue playing baseball, I think his best bet is going to be a return to Japan where I guarantee he will get a hero’s welcome. The guy is as classy as they come and one of the greatest pure hitters of all time and I wish him all the best in his future endeavors.

-The Milwaukee Bucks are going to interview Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon for their vacant head coaching position. Hammon made airwaves by being a female assistant coach in the NBA but from what I understand she’s very well-respected and must be a damn good coach because she’s held the position for 4 years, which is a long time for an assistant coach to be with a franchise. She takes over head coaching duties for the Spurs during the Summer League so it’s not like this is uncharted waters for her. Oh and there’s the whole nugget that she’d be the NBA’s first ever female head coach if she does land the job with the Bucks, who fired Jason Kidd midseason and had been running with Joe Prunty through their playoff exit against the Celtics. Hammon won’t be the only member of the Spurs organization the Bucks will be interviewing, though, as assistant coaches James Borrego, Ettore Messina, and front office member Monty Williams are all expected to be interviewed as well. Probably trying to recreate the magic that is Greg Popovich. It’ll be interesting to see how her interview goes because she will be under a LOT of scrutiny if she does land the position. But if you can work under Pop, you can work in any situation so I’m confident she’d be able to handle it.

-Ben Roethlisberger was seemingly not a fan of the Steelers taking Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph in last week’s NFL Draft, saying he doesn’t think that a backup or third stringer in the third round was such a good pick to help the team win now. He also said (perhaps jokingly) that he wasn’t going to mentor Rudolph and if he had any questions, Roethlisberger would just “point to the playbook.” Whether he’s joking or not, I actually love this move. I think too often we just assume a quarterback is going to just go quietly. But not Ben. He wants to let everyone know this is still his team and he’s going to give it up when he’s good and ready. And to be fair, he’s earned that right. He’s a 2-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback and his numbers are actually getting better with age (having a receiver like Antonio Brown probably helps). I think it’s also good for Rudolph that he isn’t given anything. I think too often we just assume that when a guy might be a franchise quarterback that they’re going to be given everything they need to succeed. Well Big Ben wants you to earn what you get and I fully respect it. But now that you’ve made claims like these, you’ve got to go back it up with your play. You have to prove that this is in fact still your team and the fact you’re 36 years old isn’t an issue.

That’s going to do it for this edition of General Sports. Let me know what you think of the topics discussed in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

General Sports: May 1

-Here’s a video that’s making its rounds on the web.

As the caption notes, that’s Deion Sanders’ son that just bodied that poor kid who is probably on JV. If I’m the kid, though, there is one positive thing to take away from this. So this is clearly a 1-on-1 drill and from that standpoint there’s nothing to hang your hat on. But let’s say this was during an actual play. He’d have done a good job of getting the corner out of the play. It’s hard to make a tackle when you’re ten feet into the bench. Hell, if the quarterback were to pitch to the runningback in his direction, that’d be a pretty successful block if I do say so myself.

However, if you’re running a route and you get bodied like this, you should retire. For any aspiring receivers out there, I have a few tips for you on how to avoid getting absolutely destroyed when the corner is obviously that much better than you.

1. Don’t face Deion Sanders’ kid. Deion may be the greatest corner of all time so you know he’s taught his son a thing or two about playing the position. Just admit defeat and walk away from that matchup because even if you do shake the press, you’re going to be put on an island.

2. If you ignored tip #1 like an idiot, there are some tactics to breaking the press. My favorite, which I typically found successful, was to slap the wrists. You know the snap count, he doesn’t, so there’s no reason you shouldn’t have the first move. The moment you move he’s going to try and get his hands on you to try and jam you at the line, which he can do within five yards of the line of scrimmage. If you slap his wrists out of the way before he can slam your chest, you can get him off balance and then get the edge on him and make him look silly and get yourself a scholarship.

3. If you’re still ignoring tip #1, then I guess your next best bet will be to pray he’s not in press coverage. Because if you’re that white kid, the only way you’re getting the ball is if he’s inexplicably giving you a big cushion, which is something I did when I was a corner because that was the only way I avoided getting beat deep due to my lack of speed. If he’s 5-7 yards off like what is a normal depth, then you’re probably not going to get the ball but at least you’ll still have your dignity.

4. For the love of Christ just follow tip #1.

I hope this was helpful and informative. Let this poor bastard serve as a cautionary tale.

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-Los Angeles Dodgers superstar shortstop Corey Seager needs Tommy John surgery. It’s rare for a position player to need the surgery, but it’s not unheard of. Seager will most certainly be done for the season after only one month, a huge blow for a Dodgers team that’s not off to a great start in their bid to return to the World Series. Seager wasn’t hitting up to his usual MVP-caliber abilities heading into the surgery, but perhaps this was something that’s been bugging him, hence the average numbers. He was batting .257 with 2 home runs and 12 RBI at the time of injury. The Dodgers will need to find some way to get some guys to try and replicate some portion of Seager’s productivity if they hope to win the division, let alone win the World Series, as the Diamondbacks are off to one of the best starts by any team ever, having won all 9 series to start the season. Right now the replacement at shortstop appears to be Chris Taylor, who will move in from center field to play his natural shortstop position while Kike Hernandez takes over in center. I also saw one column that suggested perhaps this makes the Dodgers a potential suitor for Manny Machado as his contract is set to expire. If the Dodgers are able to get back in the race for the NL West, I fully expect them to be favorites to land the superstar infielder as they have the ammunition to get him.

-More tough news for the Dodgers. Manager Dave Roberts benched 2017 NL Rookie of the Year Cody Bellinger for not hustling on a double, which Roberts felt cost them a potential triple. Bellinger was caught off guard by this, as he feels that he always hustles. Here’s the hit in question.

I don’t know, man. MAYBE he could’ve reached third. But Bellinger isn’t what we call fast, that’s part of the reason he plays first base. Bellinger has been one of the bright spots for the Dodgers this season, as he has continued to hit well, posting a .291 clip with 3 home runs and 12 RBI. He’s been one of the Dodgers’ lone bright spots on offense, which has SORELY missed Justin Turner, who has been out with a broken wrist. I think Roberts is overreacting here. Bellinger doesn’t strike me as the type of guy who needs to be flexed on to get the message, just talked to. We’re not even sure if this is a recurring thing or if it’s just one play. If this is something that happens a lot, then yeah, you probably should have him sit a game or two to get it in his head how important hustle is. But if this is the first occurrence, then I think Roberts needs to chill out.

-Players do a variety of things when they’re suspended. Ezekiel Elliott trained in Cabo, for one. Red Sox reliever Joe Kelly was suspended for plunking Tyler Austin that sparked a benches clearing brawl, which included punches thrown by Kelly himself. How did Kelly spend his suspension? He went to the ballgame and hung out with the fans.

This had to be a cool moment for the fans sitting in his section and I think that it’s a cool gesture by Kelly. He’s become a fan favorite in Boston since throwing at Austin and this will just further his popularity. I’m not sure if this is allowed by Major League Baseball, being at the stadium during his suspension, so I’m not sure if he’ll get in trouble for this. But I’ve got to imagine that as long as he payed for a ticket and didn’t interact with the team then it will probably be okay. If it’s Roger Goodell, though, then he’s probably getting an additional 6 games tacked on. But this is Rob Manfred, who is trying to revive fan interest in baseball and a gesture like this by Kelly works really well in achieving that goal so I’m sure he’ll let it go even if it’s not allowed.

That’s going to do it for this edition of General Sports. Let me know what you thought of the day’s events in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

2018 MLB Season Preview

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

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Season Predictions:

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

AL East

1. New York Yankees: 98-64

2. Boston Red Sox*: 95-67

3. Baltimore Orioles: 81-81

4. Toronto Blue Jays: 78-84

5. Tampa Bay Rays: 68-94

AL Central

1. Cleveland Indians: 99-63

2. Minnesota Twins: 84-78

3. Kansas City Royals: 74-88

4. Chicago White Sox: 70-92

5. Detroit Tigers: 64-98

AL West

1. Houston Astros: 101-61

2. Anaheim Angels*: 86-76

3. Seattle Mariners: 85-77

4. Texas Rangers: 82-80

5. Oakland Athletics: 77-85

NL East

1. Washington Nationals: 95-67

2. New York Mets: 84-78

3. Philadelphia Phillies: 75-87

4. Atlanta Braves: 71-91

5. Miami Marlins: 62-100

NL Central

1. Chicago Cubs: 94-68

2. Milwaukee Brewers*: 88-74

3. St. Louis Cardinals: 85-77

4. Pittsburgh Pirates: 76-86

5. Cincinnati Reds: 69-93

NL West

1. Los Angeles Dodgers: 100-62

2. Arizona Diamondbacks*: 91-71

3. San Francisco Giants: 85-77

4. Colorado Rockies: 81-81

5. San Diego Padres: 70-92

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

Wild Card Games:

Boston Red Sox defeat Anaheim Angels

Arizona Diamondbacks defeat Milwaukee Brewers

LDS:

Houston Astros defeat Boston Red Sox

Cleveland Indians defeat New York Yankees

Los Angeles Dodgers defeat Arizona Diamondbacks

Washington Nationals defeat Chicago Cubs

LCS:

Cleveland Indians defeat Houston Astros

Los Angeles Dodgers defeat Washington Nationals

World Series:

Cleveland Indians defeat Los Angeles Dodgers

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

Power Rankings:

1. Houston Astros

2. Los Angeles Dodgers

3. Cleveland Indians

4. New York Yankees

5. Boston Red Sox

6. Washington Nationals

7. Chicago Cubs

8. Arizona Diamondbacks

9. Milwaukee Brewers

10. Anaheim Angels

11. St. Louis Cardinals

12. Seattle Mariners

13. San Francisco Giants

14. New York Mets

15. Minnesota Twins

16. Texas Rangers

17. Colorado Rockies

18. Baltimore Orioles

19. Toronto Blue Jays

20. Philadelphia Phillies

21. Oakland Athletics

22. Pittsburgh Pirates

23. Kansas City Royals

24. Atlanta Braves

25. Chicago White Sox

26. San Diego Padres

27. Cincinnati Reds

28. Tampa Bay Rays

29. Detroit Tigers

30. Miami Marlins

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

Positional Rankings:

Catcher

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1. Buster Posey-San Francisco Giants

2. Gary Sanchez-New York Yankees

3. Salvador Perez-Kansas City Royals

4. Willson Contreras-Chicago Cubs

5. Yadier Molina-St. Louis Cardinals

6. Tucker Barnhart-Cincinnati Reds

7. Mike Zunino-Seattle Mariners

8. Yasmani Grandal-Los Angeles Dodgers

9. Martin Maldonado-Anaheim Angels

10. Brian McCann-Houston Astros

1st Base

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1. Joey Votto-Cincinnati Reds

2. Paul Goldschmidt-Arizona Diamondbacks

3. Freddie Freeman-Atlanta Braves

4. Anthony Rizzo-Chicago Cubs

5. Cody Bellinger-Los Angeles Dodgers

6. Eric Hosmer-San Diego Padres

7. Jose Abreu-Chicago White Sox

8. Ryan Zimmerman-Washington Nationals

9. Greg Bird-New York Yankees

10. Matt Carpenter-St. Louis Cardinals

2nd Base

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1. Jose Altuve-Houston Astros

2. Robinson Cano-Seattle Mariners

3. Daniel Murphy-Washington Nationals

4. Jonathan Schoop-Baltimore Orioles

5. Dustin Pedroia-Boston Red Sox

6. DJ LeMahieu-Colorado Rockies

7. Javy Baez-Chicago Cubs

8. Brian Dozier-Minnesota Twins

9. Jason Kipnis-Cleveland Indians

10. Starlin Castro-Miami Marlins

3rd Base

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1. Kris Bryant-Chicago Cubs

2. Josh Donaldson-Toronto Blue Jays

3. Nolan Arenado-Colorado Rockies

4. Jose Ramirez-Cleveland Indians

5. Anthony Rendon-Washington Nationals

6. Justin Turner-Los Angeles Dodgers

7. Mike Moustakas-Kansas City Royals

8. Alex Bregman-Houston Astros

9. Evan Longoria-San Francisco Giants

10. Adrian Beltre-Texas Rangers

Shortstop

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1. Francisco Lindor-Cleveland Indians

2. Carlos Correa-Houston Astros

3. Corey Seager-Los Angeles Dodgers

4. Manny Machado-Baltimore Orioles

5. Andrelton Simmons-Anaheim Angels

6. Xander Bogaerts-Boston Red Sox

7. Didi Gregorius-New York Yankees

8. Elvis Andrus-Texas Rangers

9. Trea Turner-Washington Nationals

10. Jean Segura-Seattle Mariners

Left Field

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1. Marcell Ozuna-St. Louis Cardinals

2. Christian Yelich-Milwaukee Brewers

3. Yoenis Cespedes-New York Mets

4. Andrew Benintendi-Boston Red Sox

5. Justin Upton-Anaheim Angels

6. Tommy Pham-St. Louis Cardinals

7. Brett Gardner-New York Yankees

8. Corey Dickerson-Pittsburgh Pirates

9. Trey Mancini-Baltimore Orioles

10. Marwin Gonzalez-Houston Astros

Center Field

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1. Mike Trout-Anaheim Angels

2. Charlie Blackmon-Colorado Rockies

3. George Springer-Houston Astros

4. Lorenzo Cain-Milwaukee Brewers

5. Jackie Bradley Jr-Boston Red Sox

6. Byron Buxton-Minnesota Twins

7. Chris Taylor-Los Angeles Dodgers

8. Odubel Herrera-Philadelphia Phillies

9. Ender Inciarte-Atlanta Braves

10. Michael Conforto-New York Mets

Right Field

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1. Bryce Harper-Washington Nationals

2. Aaron Judge-New York Yankees

3. Mookie Betts-Boston Red Sox

4. Andrew McCutchen-San Francisco Giants

5. Yasiel Puig-Los Angeles Dodgers

6. Steven Souza Jr-Arizona Diamondbacks

7. Josh Reddick-Houston Astros

8. Jay Bruce-New York Mets

9. Avisail Garcia-Chicago White Sox

10. Domingo Santana-Milwaukee Brewers

Designated Hitter

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1. Giancarlo Stanton-New York Yankees

2. JD Martinez-Boston Red Sox

3. Edwin Encarnacion-Cleveland Indians

4. Nelson Cruz-Seattle Mariners

5. Khris Davis-Oakland Athletics

Starting Pitcher

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1. Clayton Kershaw-Los Angeles Dodgers

2. Max Scherzer-Washington Nationals

3. Corey Kluber-Cleveland Indians

4. Chris Sale-Boston Red Sox

5. Stephen Strasburg-Washington Nationals

6. Noah Syndergaard-New York Mets

7. Madison Bumgarner-San Francisco Giants

8. Luis Severino-New York Yankees

9. Zack Greinke-Arizona Diamondbacks

10. Robbie Ray-Arizona Diamondbacks

Relief Pitcher

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1. Kenley Jansen-Los Angeles Dodgers

2. Craig Kimbrel-Boston Red Sox

3. Corey Knebel-Milwaukee Brewers

4. Roberto Osuna-Toronto Blue Jays

5. Aroldis Chapman-New York Yankees

6. Andrew Miller-Cleveland Indians

7. Archie Bradley-Arizona Diamondbacks

8. Zach Britton-Baltimore Orioles

9. Wade Davis-Colorado Rockies

10. Pat Neshek-Philadelphia Phillies

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

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

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National League MVP: Bryce Harper-RF-Washington Nationals

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American League Cy Young: Chris Sale-Boston Red Sox

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National League Cy Young: Noah Syndergaard-New York Mets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

30 Clubs in 30 Days: San Francisco Giants

I’m going to skip the intro to this one mainly because I’m writing this before I spend the entire day on the plane so if any big news happens in the sporting world, whether it be March Madness or NFL free agency or something else, I implore you to look elsewhere because I will be unable to provide you with any of those services. However I can preview baseball teams, which is what I’ll be doing today with this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days featuring the San Francisco Giants.

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2017 Results:

Record: 64-98, 40 games behind Los Angeles Dodgers, 23 games behind Colorado Rockies for 2nd Wild Card spot

Notable Offseason Additions: 3B Evan Longoria, RF Andrew McCutchen, RP Tony Watson, 2B Josh Rutledge, CF Austin Jackson, SP Derek Holland

Notable Offseason Subtractions: SP Matt Cain (retired), LF Michael Morse, CF Denard Span, 3B Christian Arroyo, SP Matt Moore, RP Kyle Crick

Best Offensive Player: C Buster Posey

Best Pitcher: Madison Bumgarner

Depth Chart:

C-Buster Posey, Nick Hundley

1B-Brandon Belt

2B-Joe Panik, Kelby Tomlinson

3B-Evan Longoria, Pablo Sandoval

SS-Brandon Crawford

LF-Hunter Pence, Jarrett Parker

CF-Austin Jackson, Gorkys Hernandez

RF-Andrew McCutchen, Mac Williamson

SP-Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, Ty Blach, Chris Stratton

Bullpen-Mark Melancon (CP), Sam Dyson, Hunter Strickland, Will Smith, Tony Watson, Cory Gearrin, Josh Osich

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Bruce Bochy (12th season with Giants)

Hitting Coach-Alonzo Powell

Pitching Coach-Curt Young

1st Base Coach-Jose Alguacil

3rd Base Coach-Ron Wotus

Bench Coach-Hensley Meulens

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I don’t know what the Hell happened to the Giants last season but they are way too good a team to go 64-98 and tie for the worst record in all of baseball (the Tigers will hold the #1 overall pick in the draft thanks to a tie breaker after Pablo Sandoval hit a walkoff home run on the season’s final day). Injuries did play a factor but there was also a ton of ineffectiveness from Bruce Bochy’s squad. However they made several moves that should have Giants fans excited for the coming season. Here’s how they’re projected to line up in 2018.

1. Andrew McCutchen-RF

2. Joe Panik-2B

3. Buster Posey-C

4. Brandon Belt-1B

5. Evan Longoria-3B

6. Brandon Crawford-SS

7. Hunter Pence-LF

8. Austin Jackson-CF

9. Pitcher’s Spot

That’s a pretty solid lineup. Buster Posey is the highlight, of course. The 2010 NL Rookie of the Year and 2012 NL MVP was the lone bright spot for the Giants last season. In 140 games, Posey hit .320 with 12 home runs and 67 RBI while playing above average defense behind the plate and being worth 4.3 WAR. However his efforts were wasted because other guys had down years. Brandon Belt’s 2017 was particularly poor as he only hit .241 with 18 homers and 51 RBI and was second on the team with a 2.3 WAR. I expect a bounceback year from him, though, as he dealt with injuries that limited him to 104 games last season. The Giants scored the second fewest runs in the Majors in 2017 and their shortstop Brandon Crawford was the team leader in RBIs at 77, which is not what you want to see, especially considering Crawford is better known for his defensive prowess than as a hitter. In fact, despite his typically stellar defense, Crawford was a league-average player with 2.0 WAR in 2017, as he only slashed .253/.305/.403 with 14 home runs in 144 games played. AT&T Park is up there with Kauffman Stadium as one of the most pitcher-friendly parks in the game so it’s going to hurt the overall numbers, but still, this lineup is too talented to repeat their 2017 performance, especially after the additions of Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen, both of whom quietly had very strong seasons. Last season Longoria hit .261 with 20 home runs and 86 RBI while winning the AL Gold Glove for third basemen. McCutchen was also very good despite the fact that he’s far removed from the player who won the 2013 NL MVP. In 2017, McCutchen hit .279 with 28 homers and 88 RBI while being worth 3.7 WAR in what was probably his best season since he cut his dreadlocks. He was coming off an abysmal 2016 and a poor performance in the World Baseball Classic so to see him come together was encouraging. Where he actually slots in the lineup will be interesting to see because the Giants lack a true leadoff hitter and I think McCutchen or Joe Panik could be capable of taking over that role.

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Giants pitching fell on some hard times in 2017. Madison Bumgarner missed half the season due to injury while Jeff Samardzija had some of the worst luck on the mound and Johnny Cueto had an unusually below-average season. Matt Moore had the worst ERA in baseball and was shipped to Texas while Ty Blach had the worst K/9 rate in the Majors at 4.01. A healthy Bumgarner is a Cy Young candidate and can be downright untouchable, as we see every time the Giants are in the postseason, particularly the 2014 World Series. In 2016, his last healthy season, Bumgarner went 15-9 with a 2.74 ERA and nearly struck out 10 batters per 9 innings. Cueto started the All Star Game for the NL in 2016 but was strangely ineffective in 2017 as he had an ERA of 4.52 that wasn’t affected by his defense, as he had a 4.49 FIP. Samardzija had a below average ERA of 4.42 however he had a very respectable FIP of 3.61, which could suggest that he’s in for an uptick in production in 2018. On paper this is a very talented pitching rotation that really didn’t perform up to its capabilities in 2017 but I anticipate them being very solid in 2018.

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The Giants bullpen was decent in 2017, however closer Mark Melancon had a year he’d like to forget. He had an ERA of 4.50 while saving 11 out of 16 opportunities. He dealt with injury in 2017 and he will look to return to the form that made him an All Star with the Pirates. Sam Dyson had an ABYSMAL start to the 2017 season with the Rangers as he carried an ERA over 10 for much of the season before being shipped to the Giants. He still struggled by the bay but at least this performance was respectable, as he carried a 4.03 ERA in 38 appearances with the Giants. He’s been a successful closer in the past and the Giants are going to need him to return to some semblance of that form if they hope to have a solid option for the 8th inning. Hunter Strickland throws really hard but he holds grudges, as you may have seen when he pegged Bryce Harper for an incident that happened 3 years prior. However he was arguably the Giants’ best reliever last season as he posted an ERA of 2.64. Cory Gearrin had a strong season as well, posting a 1.99 ERA however that was helped immensely by the defense behind him as his FIP was near 4, so there may be some regression. There’s talent in this Giants ‘pen but they’ve got some work to do.

Overall, I think the Giants’ 2017 season was a fluke and I think their trend of bad odd-numbered years and good even-numbered years will continue this season. I’m not sure if it will be enough for them to make the postseason, as the NL West looks to be very challenging in 2018, but they will certainly be in the hunt for the Wild Card if not the division title at the very least.

Projected Record: 85-77, 3rd in NL West

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow when I preview the Seattle Mariners, who always seem to be threatening to be really good but never quite reach that potential. Let me know what you think of the Giants’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: San Diego Padres

I’m baaaaaaaaaaaaack. Well, as of writing this, I’m not back from Spring Break just yet, however I’m in a hotel with competent wifi now so I can make another go at 30 Clubs in 30 Days. I won’t be back at school until Sunday night. But in my absence, a LOT in sports has happened. Here are some things that I missed that I REALLY wanted to blog about but didn’t have the opportunity to because of conditions out of my control:

-#16 seeded UMBC upset #1 Virginia in the first ever instance of a 16 beating a 1 in the history of March Madness (1 seeds had been 135-0)

-Kirk Cousins signed with the Vikings, Sam Bradford signed with the Cardinals, Case Keenum signed with the Broncos, and Teddy Bridgewater signed with the Jets

-Bills traded the 21st pick and tackle Cordy Glenn to the Bengals for the 12th pick

-Jets acquire the 3rd pick from the Colts in exchange for the 6th pick and 3 2nd rounders, including 2 in 2018 (OUTSTANDING trade by the Colts, considering that, given the teams picking ahead of them, the move won’t cost them NC State edge rusher Bradley Chubb)

-Allen Robinson signs with the Bears, Sammy Watkins signs with the Chiefs, Jordy Nelson signs with the Raiders, and Michael Crabtree signs with the Ravens

-Richard Sherman signs with the 49ers, Sheldon Richardson signs with the Vikings, Muhammad Wilkerson and Jimmy Graham sign with the Packers

I could go on but the Padres have been patiently waiting for me to tell them how good or bad they’ll be this season for much too long so without further ado, let’s get into this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days featuring the San Diego Padres.

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2017 Results:

Record: 71-91, 33 games behind Los Angeles Dodgers, 16 games behind Colorado Rockies for 2nd Wild Card Spot

Notable Offseason Additions: 1B Eric Hosmer, SS Freddy Galvis, 3B Chase Headley, C AJ Ellis, SP Tyson Ross, SP Chris Young, SP Bryan Mitchell

Notable Offseason Subtractions: SS Erick Aybar, RP Kevin Quackenbush, RP Travis Wood, C/RP Christian Bethancourt, 3B Yangervis Solarte, SP Jhoulys Chacin

Best Offensive Player: 1B Eric Hosmer

Best Pitcher: CP Brad Hand

Depth Chart:

C-Austin Hedges, AJ Ellis

1B-Eric Hosmer

2B-Carlos Asuaje, Cory Spangenberg

3B-Chase Headley

SS-Freddy Galvis, Allen Cordoba

LF-Jose Pirela, Hunter Renfroe

CF-Manuel Margot

RF-Wil Myers, Matt Szczur

SP-Clayton Richard, Bryan Mitchell, Dinelson Lamet, Luis Perdomo, Colin Rea, Robbie Erlin, Tyson Ross, Chris Young

Bullpen-Brad Hand (CP), Carter Capps, Kirby Yates, Craig Stammen, Jordan Lyles, Kazuhisa Makita, Phil Maton

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Andy Green (3rd season with Padres)

Hitting Coach-Matt Stairs

Pitching Coach-Darren Balsley

1st Base Coach-Skip Schumaker

3rd Base Coach-Glenn Hoffman

Bench Coach-Mark McGwire

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The Padres had arguably baseball’s thinnest roster in 2017 yet still managed to avoid the basement in the NL West. They had 3 guys on their 25-man roster that were Rule 5 picks, which essentially means they weren’t good enough to be on their previous team’s 40-man roster. But they made some moves in the offseason to try and shore things up. Here’s how they’re projected to line up in 2018.

1. Manuel Margot-CF

2. Freddy Galvis-SS

3. Eric Hosmer-1B

4. Wil Myers-RF

5. Chase Headley-3B

6. Carlos Asuaje/Cory Spangenberg-2B

7. Jose Pirela/Hunter Renfroe-LF

8. Austin Hedges-C

9. Pitcher’s Spot

Eric Hosmer, of course, is the big signing here. The hero of the 2015 World Series, he signed an 8-year $144M deal. I did say that Hosmer was the luckiest hitter in baseball last season, however that doesn’t mean he can’t hit. Far from it. Last season Hosmer hit .318 with 25 home runs and 94 RBI while being worth 4.1 WAR. He’s also just now entering the prime of his career at 28 years old and will be switching to a more hitter-friendly ballpark. Petco Park still tends to favor pitchers even after they moved the fences in a few years ago, but Hosmer’s old stadium, Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, is about as pitcher-friendly as stadiums get so one can expect an uptick in Hosmer’s offensive production in 2018. Wil Myers is the only holdover from last year’s team of note, though. He started at DH for the National League in the 2016 All Star Game but had a down year in terms of his rate stats in 2017. Last year he slashed .243/.328/.464, which is underwhelming, however he did manage to hit a career high 30 home runs while also stealing 20 bags. He’ll be moving from first base back to the outfield with the arrival of Hosmer and will likely be the thumper in this lineup. After those two, though, there isn’t much to go off of. Chase Headley isn’t nearly the player he was the last time he wore a Padres uniform after a disappointing tenure with the Yankees and Manuel Margot is more or less just a speed threat at this stage of his career. Austin Hedges, whom the Padres were very excited about when he was coming up, so far has only shown that he’s an excellent defender behind the plate and hasn’t given any reason to be excited about his bat. This lineup is definitely better than last year’s, though that’s not saying much considering the Padres scored the fewest runs in baseball in 2017.

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The pitching staff leaves a lot to be desired. Clayton Richard is currently their ace and that’s a very bad sign considering he had an ERA of 4.79 last season. He’s a #4 starter at best and he has never cracked 7 K/9 in his Major League career. Dinelson Lamet is a guy that has shown a ton of talent but hasn’t quite put it all together yet. Lamet had an excellent 10.94 K/9 in 21 starts last season, which would’ve ranked 6th in the Majors had he pitched enough innings to qualify (he would’ve trailed only Chris Sale, Robbie Ray, Max Scherzer, Corey Kluber, and Chris Archer). He’s got the stuff to make guys miss, however he’s had trouble with his command and when guys do make contact, the ball tends to go a long way. He had a 4.57 ERA last season while walking over 4 batters per 9 and giving up 1.4 HR/9. There is some talent with this kid, it’s just a matter of whether he can learn to pitch rather than just throw. After that, though, there really isn’t much of note in the Padres’ rotation.

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San Diego’s bullpen has a couple of interesting arms. Brad Hand was mainly just a quality middle reliever for much of his career until he burst onto the scene in 2017. He was the Padres’ lone representative in that year’s All Star game and finished the year with a 2.16 ERA and saved 21 games while striking out almost a dozen batters per 9 innings. He’ll open the season as the team’s closer. Carter Capps is a guy that really intrigues me. He used to have the funkiest windup in the world, where he would basically crow hop from the mound towards the plate and it really helped him dominate in 2015 with the Marlins, where he posted a 1.16 ERA and struck out almost 17 batters per 9. However, he missed all of 2016 due to injury and by that time his funky delivery had been banned by Major League Baseball. His return from injury and a normal windup really hurt him upon his return in 2017. He only pitched 12.1 innings and posted an ERA well over 6 and a K/9 rate of 5.11, nearly a third of what he had posted the last time he pitched. If he can somehow recreate that magic he had in 2015, the back end of the Padres’ bullpen could quietly become one of the most lethal in all of baseball.

Overall, I don’t like the Padres’ chances in 2018. It’s already hard enough that they have to try and follow up a season where they went 71-91 despite having just Wil Myers, but they’re also in a division with 3 playoff teams from last year and a fourth team (the Giants) who had a fluky 2017. It’ll be damn near impossible for the Padres to not find themselves in the cellar in 2018 given their overall lack of Major League talent and the tough division they’ll be playing in. They can look forward to their prospects arriving, though, as they feature the likes of Mackenzie Gore, Luis Urias, Cal Quantrill, Michel Baez, Adrian Morejon, and in a couple years Anderson Espinoza. So the future is bright for the Padres, they just have to suffer through the present.

Projected Record: 70-92, Last in NL West

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Thanks for the wait on this one, it sucked not being able to write these for a few days, though I survived (the alcohol helped). Join me tomorrow when I discuss the San Francisco Giants, who look to bounce back and continue their trend of success in even-numbered years. Let me know what you think of the Padres’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: Los Angeles Dodgers

Holy shit, Shaquem Griffin. Known primarily as UCF’s one-handed linebacker because he literally does not have a left hand, Griffin put on a show at the Combine. He did 20 bench press reps (he had to use a prosthetic left hand) and ran a 4.38(!) 40-yard dash, which is currently the 3rd fastest time of any player at the Combine, regardless of position. It’s also the fastest 40-yard dash time ever publicly recorded by a linebacker. I watched his Auburn game film and I knew he was fast but Jesus Christ! It’ll be interesting to see where teams value him in April. Now that I’ve got my Combine raving done, let’s get to the Dodgers for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days.

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2017 Results:

Record: 104-58, Won NL West by 11 games over Arizona Diamondbacks, defeated Diamondbacks in NLDS, defeated Chicago Cubs in NLCS, lost to Houston Astros in World Series

Notable Offseason Additions: SP Tom Koehler, OF Matt Kemp

Notable Offseason Subtractions: RP Tony Watson, SP Yu Darvish, OF Curtis Granderson, RP Brandon Morrow, RP Luis Avilan, OF Andre Ethier, SS Charlie Culberson, 1B Adrian Gonzalez, SP Scott Kazmir, RP Brandon McCarthy

Best Offensive Player: SS Corey Seager

Best Pitcher: Clayton Kershaw

Depth Chart:

C-Austin Barnes, Yasmani Grandal

1B-Cody Bellinger

2B-Logan Forsythe, Chase Utley

3B-Justin Turner

SS-Corey Seager

LF-Joc Pederson, Kike Hernandez

CF-Chris Taylor

RF-Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp

SP-Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill, Alex Wood, Kenta Maeda, Hyun-Jin Ryu

Bullpen-Kenley Jansen (CP), Ross Stripling, Josh Fields, Tony Cingrani, Adam Liberatore, Yimi Garcia, Pedro Baez, Tom Koehler

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Dave Roberts (3rd season with Dodgers)

Hitting Coach-Turner Ward

Pitching Coach-Rick Honeycutt

1st Base Coach-George Lombard

3rd Base Coach-Chris Woodward

Bench Coach-Bob Geren

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So close. The Dodgers were one win away from winning their first World Series since 1988 but their bats finally failed them in Game 7 against the Houston Astros. However they will be heavily favored to return to the Fall Classic and perhaps even to win the whole thing as they have about as deep a roster as any in Major League Baseball. They didn’t add very much in the offseason but they didn’t need to as it’s hard to improve on a 104-win season. Here’s how the Dodgers will look to line up in 2018.

1. Chris Taylor-CF

2. Corey Seager-SS

3. Justin Turner-3B

4. Cody Bellinger-1B

5. Yasiel Puig-RF

6. Joc Pederson/Kike Hernandez-LF

7. Logan Forsythe/Chase Utley-2B

8. Austin Barnes/Yasmani Grandal-C

9. Pitcher’s Spot

Pretty damn solid if I do say so myself. Chris Taylor was a breakout star for the Dodgers last season. He hit .288 with 21 home runs, 72 RBI, and was worth 4.7 WAR after having had just one career home run prior to 2017. He appears to be slated to be their leadoff hitter this season. Corey Seager was tremendous as usual, as he hit .295 with 22 home runs, 77 RBI, and was worth 5.7 WAR as a follow-up to his amazing 2016 NL Rookie of the Year campaign. Justin Turner was also his usual terrific self in 2017, as he hit .322 with 21 home runs, 71 RBI, had the lowest soft-hit ball percentage in the Majors at just 9.8%, and was worth 5.5 WAR. The 33-year old just continues to get better with age. Cody Bellinger continued the long line of Dodger rookies of the year, as he took home the award in 2017 by hitting .269, an NL rookie record 39 home runs, drove in 97 RBI, and was worth 4.0 WAR. He struggled mightily in the World Series, as he struck out a whopping 17 times in 28 at bats, but that shouldn’t deter peoples’ opinions of just how good he was in 2017. There isn’t a single easy out in this lineup.

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If you try and convince me there’s a better pitcher on the planet than Clayton Kershaw right now, I’ll spit in your face. I mean for God’s sake, the man hasn’t had an ERA over 3 since his rookie year in 2008 and he didn’t even pitch enough innings for his ERA to qualify. Since then, his worst single-season ERA is 2.91 in 2010. Chris Sale’s best ERA was 2.90 last season. Kershaw doesn’t throw the hardest, his fastball is usually somewhere around 94 mph, but it’s the break on his slider and curveball as well as his pinpoint accuracy and the way he sets up hitters that make him the greatest pitcher on the planet. Plus he doesn’t turn 30 for another couple weeks. He recorded 2130 strikeouts before the age of 30. That’s just absolute insanity to me and he did it all while keeping his career ERA at an astoundingly low 2.36. To put that into perspective, I had a Road to the Show pitcher character who had all of his abilities maxed out. His career ERA was 2.41. They just don’t make them better than Kershaw. After Kershaw is a pretty solid rotation. Rich Hill is finally finding his groove as a pitcher in his late 30’s, as his curveball is one of the game’s very best. I thought he was used pretty poorly in the World Series, as despite pitching very well in both of his starts he never got out of the fifth inning. I thought Dave Roberts overmanaged in the World Series but that’s counterproductive to talk about at this point. Alex Wood also had a career year in 2017, as he went 16-3 with a 2.72 ERA and struck out nearly 9 batters per 9 innings. I hate his jerky windup, but it clearly works for him and I can see how it can throw off hitters. I mean look at this thing.

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That windup is absolutely hideous but it clearly works.

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The Dodgers have one of the top bullpens in the game in addition to a stacked rotation. Kenley Jansen is arguably the best closer in the game and his 2017 season was a continuation of his dominance. He had a 1.32 ERA, recorded 41 saves, and struck out over 14 batters per 9 innings. Jansen is practically untouchable in the 9th inning although the Astros didn’t seem to have a problem with him, as he had a 3.12 ERA in the Fall Classic, though a lot of that can be attributed to Dave Roberts having him typically go longer than he normally does in games, as a lot of the damage done by the Astros came after Jansen had already pitched one inning. The Dodgers did lose quite a few pieces in their bullpen, such as Brandon Morrow, Luis Avilan, and Brandon McCarthy, but there are still several quality relievers left to set up Jansen. Ross Stripling struck out nearly 9 batters per 9 innings, Tony Cingrani had a K/9 of nearly 11, and Josh Fields had an ERA of 2.84. Pretty much all of these guys should have Roberts pretty comfortable with a lead late in the game, which should be something they’ll be used to given how potent their lineup is.

Overall, I expect the Dodgers to be the favorites to repeat as National League champions. They didn’t lose anybody of significant importance (unless you count Trade Deadline acquisition Yu Darvish, however he was only with the team for a couple months) from a team that won 104 games and was a win away from the World Series. They didn’t add much, either, however like I said at the outset, it’s hard to improve on a 104-win season. This year might be a little more difficult for the Dodgers because the Diamondbacks look to be gaining on them in the division, the Rockies will be trying to repeat their breakout success, and the Giants totally reloaded in the offseason by acquiring Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen. However I think the Dodgers are simply too deep to really be phased by this and I expect them to come out as NL West champs once again.

Projected Record: 100-62, Win NL West

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow when I discuss the Miami Marlins, who don’t seem to have changed a whole lot with new ownership, as they once again gutted their team the moment they showed promise. Let me know what you think of the Dodgers’ 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.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: Chicago Cubs

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

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

2017 Results:

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

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

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

Best Offensive Player: 3B Kris Bryant

Best Pitcher: Kyle Hendricks

Depth Chart:

C-Willson Contreras, Victor Caratini

1B-Anthony Rizzo

2B-Javy Baez, Ben Zobrist

3B-Kris Bryant, Tommy La Stella

SS-Addison Russell

LF-Kyle Schwarber

CF-Ian Happ, Albert Almora Jr

RF-Jason Heyward, Peter Bourjos

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

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

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Joe Maddon (4th season with Cubs)

Hitting Coach-Chili Davis

Pitching Coach-Jim Hickey

1st Base Coach-Will Venable

3rd Base Coach-Brian Butterfield

Bench Coach-Brandon Hyde

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

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

1. Ian Happ/Albert Almora Jr-CF

2. Kris Bryant-3B

3. Anthony Rizzo-1B

4. Willson Contreras-C

5. Kyle Schwarber-LF

6. Javy Baez-2B

7. Jason Heyward-RF

8. Addison Russell-SS

9. Pitcher’s Spot

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

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

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

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

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

Projected Record: 94-68, Win NL Central

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