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.

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: Toronto Blue Jays

Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving needs surgery on his knee and it looks like he’s going to undergo a procedure on it. It’s unknown how long he’ll be shelved for but with the playoffs right around the corner, as a Celtics fan I’m very nervous. Granted the Celtics are capable of winning without him, as they’ve shown in the past couple weeks, but if they’re going to topple the Cavaliers and Raptors, they need Kyrie at his best. So to take my mind off things, let’s get to our final American League edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days featuring the team up north, the Toronto Blue Jays.

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2017 Results:

Record: 76-86, 17 games behind Boston Red Sox, 9 games behind Minnesota Twins for 2nd Wild Card Spot

Notable Offseason Additions: SP Jaime Garcia, OF Randall Grichuk, OF Curtis Granderson, 3B Yangervis Solarte, RP Tyler Clippard, RP Seung Hwan Oh, SS Aledmys Diaz, RP Craig Breslow, RP Al Albuquerque, RP John Axford

Notable Offseason Subtractions: RF Jose Bautista, 2B Darwin Barney, LF Michael Saunders, 2B Ryan Goins, SP Brett Anderson, SP Tom Koehler, C Miguel Montero

Best Offensive Player: 3B Josh Donaldson

Best Pitcher: Marcus Stroman

Depth Chart:

C-Russell Martin, Luke Maile

1B-Justin Smoak, Kendrys Morales (DH)

2B-Devin Travis

3B-Josh Donaldson, Yangervis Solarte

SS-Troy Tulowitzki, Aledmys Diaz

LF-Curtis Granderson, Steve Pearce

CF-Kevin Pillar

RF-Randall Grichuk, Teoscar Hernandez

SP-Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Marco Estrada, JA Happ, Jaime Garcia

Bullpen-Roberto Osuna (CP), Seung Hwan Oh, Tyler Clippard, Aaron Loup, Craig Breslow, Ryan Tepera, John Axford, Al Albuquerque

Coaching Staff:

Manager-John Gibbons (6th season in this stint with Blue Jays, 10th overall)

Hitting Coach-Brook Jacoby

Pitching Coach-Pete Walker

1st Base Coach-Tim Leiper

3rd Base Coach-Luis Rivera

Bench Coach-DeMarlo Hale

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The Blue Jays are in a tough spot right now, especially when you take into consideration the offseasons the Red Sox and Yankees had. There’s virtually no shot at them winning the division despite having a pretty talented roster in the grand scheme of things. Here’s how I expect them to line up in 2018.

1. Kevin Pillar-CF

2. Josh Donaldson-3B

3. Justin Smoak-1B

4. Kendrys Morales-DH

5. Troy Tulowitzki-SS

6. Russell Martin-C

7. Randall Grichuk-RF

8. Curtis Granderson/Steve Pearce-LF

9. Devon Travis-2B

When you take into consideration the hitter-friendly conditions at the Rogers Centre, this has the look of a lineup that could score a lot of runs. But last season they didn’t. They finished 26th in the Majors in runs scored last season and while they have gotten rid of dead weight like Jose Bautista, they didn’t make enough changes to really get excited over their prospects for the 2018 season. The one guy we can count on being really good at the plate is Josh Donaldson. The 2015 AL MVP, Donaldson was great again in 2017 despite battling injuries, hitting .270 with 33 home runs, walking 15% of the time, and being worth 5.0 WAR despite playing only 113 games. He also almost killed me last season. I went to a Blue Jays-Cubs game at Wrigley Field right before I was to head back to Indiana when I sat down with my burger and fries that my mom and I had gotten from the concessions. The Blue Jays were taking BP and Donaldson smoked one down the left field line where our seats were. I heard the people in front of me scream a little bit as the ball just missed my head and hit an empty seat just a few seats down and roll past my feet into another aisle. If I wasn’t awake before, I was after that. Justin Smoak had a breakout year for the Blue Jays, hitting .270 with 38 home runs, 90 RBI, and a 3.4 WAR. After those two, though, the Jays did not hit up to their capabilities. Hell, the fifth best WAR by a position player on the team belonged to career minor leaguer Teoscar Hernandez, who only played 26 games in Toronto and had a 0.7 WAR. Troy Tulowitzki continues to trend downwards as he only played 66 games and hit 7 home runs and hit .249 for a 0.0 WAR. It seems like so long ago that he was unanimously considered to be the best shortstop in the game with the Rockies. Despite playing great defense, Kevin Pillar was lackluster at the plate, only reaching base at a .300 clip. And don’t even get me started on Jose Bautista’s 2017 season, as he had the lowest batting average in the Majors at .203 and was worth -0.5 WAR. Just underachievement everywhere you look with this Blue Jays roster. However this team is also capable of scoring a ton of runs if you aren’t careful with them. Just because they underperformed in 2017 doesn’t mean 2018 is going to be a repeat of those failures. They’re only a couple years removed from back-to-back postseason appearances.

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Pitching was quietly a pretty solid element of the 2017 Blue Jays. They had a team ERA of 4.42, which was 14th best in the Majors, and they’re spearheaded by one of the most promising young right-handers in Marcus Stroman. After winning World Baseball Classic MVP with his masterful performance in the USA’s championship win over Puerto Rico, Stroman was able to carry that success over to the Blue Jays by throwing 201 innings, posting a 3.04 ERA and was worth 3.4 WAR. His K/9 rate of 7.34 was a little low for my tastes but despite playing in a hitter-friendly park in Toronto he did a good job of keeping the ball in the yard, as his 0.94 HR/9 was 4th best in the American League. JA Happ was also solid for Toronto as he had a 3.53 ERA and struck out nearly 9 batters per 9 innings. However after that there were a lot of struggles. After stellar 2016 seasons, both Marco Estrada and Aaron Sanchez underwhelmed in 2017, Estrada being due to overall performance and Sanchez being due to injury. Estrada carried a 4.98 ERA after 4 straight seasons of being under 4 while Sanchez only made 8 starts after posting the American League’s best ERA in 2016. Sanchez is a guy I’d be confident in returning to his old form, as he’s a sinkerballer who can throw it 95 mph and with that kind of movement at that speed, expect a lot of splintered bats. Estrada concerns me a little more because he doesn’t throw hard like Sanchez does and he relies a bit more on his control, which has been failing him as his BB/9 has risen in each of the last 4 years.

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Toronto’s bullpen, particularly closer Roberto Osuna, got off to a rough start in 2017. Osuna’s ERA was around 10 for much of April but he was able to drop it significantly by season’s end and finished with the 3rd best WAR amongst relievers, trailing only Craig Kimbrel and Kenley Jansen. Osuna also saved 39 games and struck out nearly a dozen batters per 9 innings. However there was a lot of turnover in this ‘pen in the offseason as after Osuna, Aaron Loup is the only guy of note that’s returning. Guys like John Axford, Al Albuquerque, and Craig Breslow have had success in the past, however their records of late haven’t been very promising and this bullpen could be one of the shakier units in baseball.

Overall, Toronto has one of the more talented rosters on paper but everybody seems to be trending in the wrong direction with the exception of Josh Donaldson, Justin Smoak, and Marcus Stroman. If they struggle in the first half like they did all of last season, then I wouldn’t be surprised to see the phones ringing around the trade deadline. There are a lot of assets on this team that could help contending clubs and I think the Blue Jays would be wise to look to acquire some top prospects in order to build towards the future.

Projected Record: 78-84, 4th in AL East

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me for the final time in this segment as I preview the Washington Nationals, who are in their last chance to try and win their first World Series title as Bryce Harper will likely be leaving after the season. Let me know what you think of the Blue Jays’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: St. Louis Cardinals

Tough news out of Los Angeles as Dodgers manager Dave Roberts announced that stud third baseman Justin Turner broke his wrist when he was plunked by a pitch. You hate to see any injury happen, especially during Spring Training when the games don’t matter and they’re just there for you to get back into the swing of things. Here’s to hoping for a speedy recovery for Turner. On a happier note, it’s time for the latest edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days featuring the St. Louis Cardinals.

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2017 Results:

Record: 83-79, 9 games behind Chicago Cubs, 4 games behind Colorado Rockies for 2nd Wild Card Spot

Notable Offseason Additions: LF Marcell Ozuna, RP Bud Norris, RP Jason Motte, RP Luke Gregerson, RP Miles Mikolas

Notable Offseason Subtractions: SP Lance Lynn, SS Aledmys Diaz, RF Stephen Piscotty, LF Randal Grichuk, RP Seung Hwan Oh, RP Zach Duke, RP Juan Nicasio, RP Trevor Rosenthal

Best Offensive Player: LF Marcell Ozuna

Best Pitcher: Carlos Martinez

Depth Chart:

C-Yadier Molina

1B-Matt Carpenter, Jose Martinez

2B-Kolten Wong, Greg Garcia

3B-Jedd Gyorko

SS-Paul DeJong

LF-Marcell Ozuna

CF-Tommy Pham, Harrison Bader

RF-Dexter Fowler

SP-Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha, Adam Wainwright, Miles Mikolas, Luke Weaver, Alex Reyes

Bullpen-Luke Gregerson (CP?), Bud Norris (CP?), Tyler Lyons, Dominic Leone, Brett Cecil, Matt Bowman, Jason Motte

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Mike Matheny (7th season with Cardinals)

Hitting Coach-John Mabry

Pitching Coach-Mike Maddux

1st Base Coach-Oliver Marmol

3rd Base Coach-Jose Oquendo

Bench Coach-Mike Shildt

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No matter how untalented the Cardinals’ roster may seem to be, they always find a way to remain relevant. No more was that true than in 2017, where they went 83-79 despite their best offensive player being Tommy Pham, who had been their fourth outfielder for quite some time. Granted, Pham had an excellent season, but he hasn’t shown that he can keep that success up for a prolonged period of time. Here’s how the Cardinals are projected to line up in 2018.

1. Dexter Fowler-RF

2. Paul DeJong-SS

3. Tommy Pham-CF

4. Marcell Ozuna-LF

5. Matt Carpenter-1B

6. Yadier Molina-C

7. Jedd Gyorko-3B

8. Kolten Wong-2B

9. Pitcher’s Spot

The Cardinals made a big splash in the offseason when they acquired Marcell Ozuna from the Marlins in exchange for prospects that included Magneuris Sierra. Ozuna had a Hell of a season in 2017 that got overshadowed by Giancarlo Stanton. He hit .312 with 37 home runs and 124 RBI in 159 games for a 4.8 WAR. That’s some MVP caliber hitting right there. In fact, he probably got the least press between the Marlins’ big-3 outfield that he shared with Stanton and Christian Yelich, all of whom now play elsewhere. Now that he’s the biggest star in his own lineup, perhaps Ozuna will finally get the recognition he deserves. I briefly mentioned Tommy Pham above and it’s worth talking about just how good he was in 2017. Pham hit .306 with 23 home runs and 73 RBI while stealing 25 bases and playing an excellent left field. Manager Mike Matheny is going to move him to center this season and push Dexter Fowler into right to try and put forth the best defensive lineup possible. Paul DeJong was also a breakout stud as a rookie. In 108 games, DeJong hit .285 with 25 home runs and 65 RBI. He walked very infrequently, as his 4.7% walk rate would’ve been the 11th worst in the Majors had he had enough at bats to qualify. However this performance was good enough for him to finish 2nd in NL Rookie of the Year voting behind Cody Bellinger of the Dodgers. Jedd Gyorko has been a pleasant surprise since joining the Cardinals prior to the 2016 season. He hit 30 home runs in 2016 and despite hitting 10 fewer in 2017, he was able to bring his average up from .243 to .272. Yadier Molina is the biggest name on this roster and he is quietly continuing to be amongst the game’s very best behind the dish. Last season, Molina was an NL All Star, including hitting a home run in the game, and hit .273 with 18 home runs and a team-leading 82 RBI while continuing to be an absolute stud behind the plate. He is 35, though, and being a catcher at that age isn’t exactly easy work but Yadi hasn’t shown any real signs of slowing down just yet.

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Pitching for the Cardinals is where things might get a little tricky. Carlos Martinez is an absolute stud on the mound but after him there are a lot of question marks. While Martinez carried this staff by going 12-11 with a 3.64 ERA and nearly 10 K/9, the rest of the rotation left something to be desired. Michael Wacha was inconsistent, carrying a 4.13 ERA while Adam Wainwright, their former ace, hasn’t been good since 2014. Wainwright had an ERA of 5.11, however he carried a FIP of 4.29, which isn’t great but suggests that the defense behind him wasn’t doing him any favors. This is the second year in a row that there was a pretty big discrepancy between Wainwright’s ERA and his FIP, as in 2016 his numbers were 4.62 and 3.93, respectively. Luke Weaver is a young pitcher who showed some pretty promising stuff in his first taste of big league action. In 13 appearances and 10 starts, Weaver went 7-2 with a 3.88 ERA, a 3.17 FIP, nearly 11 K/9, and a BB/9 rate of 2.54. If he takes the next step in his development, the Cardinals could have a potentially deadly 1-2 punch of him and Martinez.

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The Cardinals bullpen looks pretty rough. Luke Gregerson is listed as the closer at the moment but they do have other options, such as Bud Norris and Brett Cecil. However Gregerson never really sniffed the closer’s role in Houston, even in the postseason when guys like Ken Giles were struggling mightily, which should tell you a lot about what Astros manager AJ Hinch thought of him. Bud Norris was okay as a closer for the Angels last season, as he saved 19 games and struck out over 10 batters per 9 but also carried an ERA over 4. Brett Cecil is another guy with closer’s experience in Toronto and he made the most appearances for the Cardinals last season, appearing in 73 games and posting a 3.88 ERA. The Cardinals haven’t seemed to be able to find their closer since the days of Jason Isringhausen, though and last season was real proof of that. They thought Trevor Rosenthal was going to be that guy but aside from a high strikeout rate he could never really find his command as he often walked batters to the point of giving Cardinals fans heart attacks. Seung Hwan Oh was another guy they thought would be the closer they’ve been looking for, in fact his nickname overseas translated to “The Final Boss,” which is about as perfect a nickname for a closer as you’re going to find. However he struggled mightily as the Cardinals’ closer last season, posting an ERA of 4.10. Nobody in the St. Louis bullpen is the answer, but Matheny hopes they can at least tide things over until they do eventually find that guy.

Overall, I think the Cardinals are going to be pretty good. In my opinion, they’re the best-run organization in baseball, that hacking business aside, as the team never seems to be bad. Even when they’re not great, they still find a way to make an impact on the MLB Season. In fact, when they won the World Series in 2006, they finished with a regular season record of just 83-79, the worst record ever by a World Series champion. You may also notice that that was the record they finished with in 2017 yet it landed them in third place in their division. I expect that the Cardinals are going to be solid once again this season but I don’t think the addition of Ozuna is going to be enough to put them over the top and make them a serious threat to the Cubs in the NL Central as their pitching still needs some work.

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

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow when I discuss the Tampa Bay Rays, who pretty much blew up the entire team in the offseason yet will still probably find some way to be pesky little shits. Let me know what you think of the Cardinals’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: Philadelphia Phillies

There’s a video circulating of ODell Beckham Jr in a hotel room with a woman smoking what looks like a blunt and what appears to be cocaine present in the room. The blunt I don’t really care about, it’s pretty well known that a large majority of NFL players smoke weed and even the NFL is like “you can’t smoke weed, wink wink,” but the blow is a different issue. Beckham doesn’t snort the substance in the video so maybe they just emptied the sugar out of a bag of sour patch kids. Can’t really know for sure unless you stick a little bit on your tongue or snort it so let’s give Beckham the benefit of the doubt before condemning him. Also I know Selection Sunday was yesterday, but I’m writing this in the airport before my flight at 11 AM just in case things get out of control tonight, so I won’t be sharing my March Madness bracket until tomorrow. We’ve got a couple days between Selection Sunday and the play-in games so I’m not too worried. With that, let’s get to day 21 of 30 Clubs in 30 Days with the Philadelphia Phillies.

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2017 Results:

Record: 66-96, 31 games behind Washington Nationals, 21 games behind Colorado Rockies for 2nd Wild Card Spot

Notable Offseason Additions: SP Jake Arrieta, 1B Carlos Santana, RP Pat Neshek, RP Fernando Abad, RP Tommy Hunter, IF Adam Rosales

Notable Offseason Subtractions: OF Daniel Nava, OF Hyun Soo Kim, SP Clay Buchholz

Best Offensive Player: 1B Carlos Santana

Best Pitcher: Jake Arrieta

Depth Chart:

C-Jorge Alfaro, Cameron Rupp

1B-Carlos Santana, Tommy Joseph

2B-Cesar Hernandez

3B-Maikel Franco

SS-JP Crawford, Adam Rosales

LF-Rhys Hoskins

CF-Odubel Herrera, Roman Quinn

RF-Nick Williams, Aaron Altherr

SP-Jake Arrieta, Aaron Nola, Jared Eickhoff, Vincent Velasquez, Nick Pivetta, Ben Lively, Zach Eflin

Bullpen-Hector Neris (CP), Pat Neshek, Tommy Hunter, Luis Garcia, Adam Morgan, Edubray Ramos, Fernando Abad

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Gabe Kapler (1st season with Phillies)

Hitting Coach-John Mallee

Pitching Coach-Rick Kranitz

1st Base Coach-Jose Flores

3rd Base Coach-Dusty Wathan

Bench Coach-Rob Thomson

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I was pretty disappointed in the Phillies last season. I thought last year was the year their young guys would start to put it together and show some progress in this rebuild. But they didn’t, really. The team continued to suck and finished with a record of 66-96, second worst in the NL. They continue to pay for not drafting me in the 2014 MLB Draft. They sent a scout to my high school and he witnessed with his own two eyes me line a single down the left field line to start a 9th inning rally. Who cares if I had a weak throwing arm, no speed, little power, and started 2 games all season (and yes, I did check to make sure they didn’t actually draft me)? That one hit should’ve been all the proof they needed. Instead they drafted Aaron Nola, but I’ll get to him later. They hired Gabe Kapler to be their new manager, as I recommended they should, so hopefully the young guys develop the way they should. Here’s a look at what he’s got to work with heading into this season.

1. Odubel Herrera-CF

2. Cesar Hernandez-2B

3. Carlos Santana-1B

4. Rhys Hoskins-LF

5. Maikel Franco-3B

6. Nick Williams/Aaron Altherr-RF

7. JP Crawford-SS

8. Jorge Alfaro-C

9. Pitcher’s Spot

There’s some young talent here. JP Crawford is one of the top prospects in all of baseball and he got a brief taste of the Majors last season. He only hit .214 in 23 games but he walked a TON, as he reached ball 4 on 18.4% of his plate appearances (which would’ve ranked 4th in the Majors behind Joey Votto, Aaron Judge, and Mike Trout), resulting in a .356 OBP despite the low average. Maikel Franco is a guy I’ve been frustrated with because he’s one of the most talented third basemen in the game but he has done nothing so far in the Majors. Reportedly the newly-signed Carlos Santana is taking him under his wing, though, so if he can learn from Santana’s approach, then we could see a significant uptick in production. Santana is notorious for his plate discipline, as he’s traditionally one of the best at drawing walks year-in and year-out while also displaying 30-home run power. But of course, the biggest story for the Phillies offensively last season was Rhys Hoskins. Despite only playing 50 games last season, Hoskins launched 18 home runs, slugged .618, and was worth 2.2 WAR. That’s outstanding for such a short period of time. He’s going to do a lot of damage for the Phillies this season and he’ll likely be doing it with runners frequently on base ahead of him, as Santana draws a lot of walks and Odubel Herrera has never hit below .280 in his 3-year career. So provided this talented group of youngsters grows under Kapler the way I thought they would last season under Pete Mackanin, this could be a sneaky good offense.

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Pitching was pretty inconsistent for the Phillies last season, as they posted a 4.60 team ERA. There’s a lot of untapped potential in this staff. Aaron Nola looks like a budding star at the top of their rotation. Last year he went 12-11 with a 3.54 ERA and struck out nearly 10 batters per 9 innings. He’s already been named the Opening Day starter against the Atlanta Braves, a huge honor for the 24 year-old. After him there’s some talented guys but with mixed results. Jared Eickhoff showed flashes of brilliance at times for the Phillies but his final numbers were pretty underwhelming, posting a 4.71 ERA and striking out a little over 8 batters per 9. Vince Velasquez is another guy who has flashed a ton of ability, particularly in a 2016 start against the Padres when he threw a shutout while striking out 16 batters on just 3 hits. However he also hasn’t built on that amazing outing, as he finished with an ERA over 5 in 2017. Kapler has a reputation for developing players in the Dodgers’ organization so hopefully for these guys’ sakes he’s able to work his magic with them, too. This is also a late edit, but I had already had this blog set up so forgive me if it reads weird, but Jake Arrieta just agreed to a 3-year $75M deal with the Phillies. It likely doesn’t change Nola’s status as team ace, but it is certainly a MAJOR upgrade on the mound. The 2015 NL Cy Young Award winner didn’t have his best year in 2017, but he’s still a stud on the mound. It’ll be interesting to see how soon he’s able to suit up for the Phillies.

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There’s a lot to be desired in the Phillies bullpen. Hector Neris is set to be their closer and he was pretty good last season, saving 26 games with a 3.01 ERA and 10.37 K/9. He’s got some electric stuff and I think he could be a potential breakout candidate. The star for the Phillies’ pen was 36 year-old Pat Neshek. Before being traded at the Deadline to the Rockies, Neshek was the Phillies’ lone All Star last season, posting a 1.12 ERA while striking out over 10 batters per 9, a very high number for a submarine pitcher at his age. Neshek returned to the Phillies in free agency in the offseason and he will likely be the 8th inning guy and possibly the closer when Neris can’t go. After those guys there’s a lot of uncertainty. New additions Fernando Abad and Tommy Hunter have had success in the past but have also had plenty of rough patches and might not be the most reliable guys for the Phillies. This bullpen may struggle in 2018.

Overall, I think there’s talent on the Phillies and like the A’s in yesterday’s blog, it’s all going to come down to how their young guys develop. If Kapler can awaken the talent in these guys like he did for guys like Chris Taylor and Justin Turner with the Dodgers, then the Phillies’ rebuild could be ending very soon. I think the Phillies are going to be my pick for most-improved team in 2018.

Projected Record: 75-85, 3rd in NL East

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow when I discuss the Pittsburgh Pirates, who are on the brink of a rebuild after trading stars Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole. Let me know what you think of the Phillies’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: New York Yankees

Lots of football news to talk about. The Seahawks released Richard Sherman as they continue to blow up the Legion of Boom, the Eagles traded Torrey Smith to the Panthers for Daryl Worley, and the Browns got BUSY, acquiring Jarvis Landry, Tyrod Taylor, and Damarious Randall while also sending Deshone Kizer to Green Bay. And not one of them cost a first or second round draft pick. What kind of world is this where the Browns look like the most competent organization in football? Absolutely stunning haul. Now the Browns have Tyrod Taylor throwing to Josh Gordon and Jarvis Landry with potentially Saquon Barkley in the backfield. The Browns may actually win a game this season. But enough football, let’s get to 30 Clubs in 30 Days with the New York Yankees.

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2017 Results:

Record: 91-71, 2 games behind Boston Red Sox, hosted AL Wild Card Game, defeated Minnesota Twins, defeated Cleveland Indians in ALDS, lost to Houston Astros in ALCS

Notable Offseason Additions: RF Giancarlo Stanton, 3B Brandon Drury, 1B Adam Lind, OF Shane Robinson

Notable Offseason Subtractions: 3B Todd Frazier, 3B Chase Headley, SP Jaime Garcia, SP Michael Pineda, 2B Starlin Castro, DH Matt Holliday

Best Offensive Player: RF Aaron Judge

Best Pitcher: Luis Severino

Depth Chart:

C-Gary Sanchez, Austin Romine

1B-Greg Bird

2B-Ronald Torreyes, Gleyber Torres, Tyler Wade

3B-Brandon Drury

SS-Didi Gregorius

LF-Brett Gardner, Clint Frazier

CF-Aaron Hicks, Jacoby Ellsbury

RF-Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton (DH)

SP-Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, Sonny Gray, CC Sabathia, Jordan Montgomery

Bullpen-Aroldis Chapman (CP), Dellin Betances, Tommy Kahnle, Daniel Robertson, Adam Warren, Chad Green, Chasen Shreve

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Aaron Boone (1st season with Yankees)

Hitting Coach-Marcus Thames

Pitching Coach-Larry Rothschild

1st Base Coach-Reggie Willits

3rd Base Coach-Phil Nevin

Bench Coach-Josh Bard

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I can’t remember ever seeing a coaching staff where  every member (except Larry Rothschild, whom I feel like has been Yankees pitching coach forever) played in the Major Leagues during my childhood. But that’s beside the point because holy shit do the Yankees look dangerous this season. It’s not a guarantee that they’ll be successful, we still have to actually play the games, but just look at this lineup.

1. Brett Gardner-LF

2. Aaron Judge-RF

3. Giancarlo Stanton-DH

4. Gary Sanchez-C

5. Greg Bird-1B

6. Didi Gregorius-SS

7. Brandon Drury-3B

8. Ronald Torreyes/Gleyber Torres-2B

9. Aaron Hicks/Jacoby Ellsbury-CF

The Major League record for team home runs is 264 by the 1997 Seattle Mariners. Last season Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton combined for 112 between the two of them. If the Yankees don’t set the new single season team home run record, it’ll be considered a down year. After acquiring Stanton from the Marlins in the offseason for a bag of peanuts, the Yankees now boast both home run champs from the AL and NL from last season. Aaron Judge set a rookie record with 52 home runs last season en route to winning AL Rookie of the Year and runner-up for AL MVP while Stanton belted 59 bombs and won NL MVP. Now he moves to an even more hitter friendly ballpark in Yankee Stadium where the fences are about 30 feet closer than at Marlins Park. Give me a break. Even if you decided to intentionally walk both Judge and Stanton for some reason, you’ve got Gary Sanchez waiting in the wings, who led all Major League catchers with 33 home runs in 2017. Didi Gregorius has also become a power threat at shortstop, as he hit a career high 25 home runs last season. There isn’t an easy out in this lineup and opposing pitchers are going to have nightmares trying to prepare for them.

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Don’t sleep on the Yankees pitchers. Luis Severino was a breakout star in the Bronx last season, going 14-6 with a 2.98 ERA and striking out over 10 batters per 9 innings while being worth 5.7 WAR. Masahiro Tanaka had a down year in 2017, as his ERA of 4.74 was far and away the worst of his career. However Tanaka’s previous worst ERA in his 4 seasons in the Majors was 3.51, which is a quality number. Despite posting the worst ERA of his career in 2017, Tanaka actually posted his career-best strikeout rate of 9.79. He did get tagged by the long ball quite a bit, as his 1.77 HR/9 was third worst in the Majors and worst amongst pitchers who spent the entire season in the American League (Jeremy Hellickson’s 1.92 was worst but he went from the NL Phillies to the AL Orioles). Tanaka had previously been very good at keeping the ball in the yard, as he had a sub-1 HR/9 in 2 of his previous 3 seasons. Then there’s 2017 trade deadline acquisition Sonny Gray, who was inconsistent upon joining the Yankees but overall had a very solid season, which was very encouraging given his poor 2016 in Oakland. Gray went 4-7 with a 3.72 ERA in pinstripes while striking out nearly 9 batters per 9 innings. And let’s not forget CC Sabathia, who had his best season since 2012 by going 14-5 with a 3.69 ERA while also pitching some inspired ball in the postseason. This unit is going to get overshadowed by the powerful lineup, but they are more than capable of shutting teams down for 9 innings.

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The bullpen for the Yankees last season was fantastic overall but there were some inconsistencies, particularly with their two best relievers, closer Aroldis Chapman and Dellin Betances. Chapman had a 3.22 ERA and only 22 saves last season but still struck out over 12 batters per 9, but that’s to be expected when you’re the author of the fastest pitch ever thrown in the history of the game at 105.4 mph. However Chapman was disastrous in May and August, as he had an ERA over 10 in May and 9 in August. Betances had his inconsistencies as well. While his overall numbers were pretty good (he had an ERA of 2.87 and struck out over 15 batters per 9), he struggled mightily with his control, walking over 6 batters per 9 innings. Betances has some of the most electric stuff in the game, as his fastball consistently hits 98 mph while his slider is like something out of the Matrix. He just needs to maintain better control. After those guys, though, there’s a lot of underrated talent in the Yankees bullpen. David Robertson returned to the Yankees after 2 and a half years with the White Sox and was fantastic in 2017, posting a 1.84 ERA and struck out nearly 13 batters per 9 innings. Tommy Kahnle was also tremendous with a 2.59 ERA and struck out nearly 14 batters per 9 as he too was an addition from the White Sox. This is an extremely talented bullpen but command is an issue. If they can limit the walks, this team will be even more dangerous.

Overall, the Yankees have one of the deadliest rosters on paper in all of baseball. The one knock against them that I could find is that they’re probably going to strike out a lot, as Judge and Stanton in particular whiff more than pretty much anybody in the league. But when this team does make contact, crooked numbers will follow. This Yankees team is a very legitimate threat to win their first World Series since 2009 and they’re going to be in a fight to the death with the Red Sox for the AL East title. Hopefully the acquisitions of Stanton to the Yankees and JD Martinez to the Red Sox are exactly what this rivalry needs to rejuvenate itself. It hasn’t felt the same since the 2004 ALCS because I mean, come on, how can you top that?

Projected Record: 98-64, win AL East

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow when I discuss the Oakland Athletics, who always seem to teeter between “darkhorse” and “dumpster fire.” Let me know what you think of the Yankees’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10. Also, I will once again be on the call for college baseball on the Big Ten Network, so check out Indiana vs Pacific at 2.

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: Chicago White Sox

There isn’t really a whole lot of news to talk about today so I’m going to spare you with the rambling intro I usually do at the start of these things. Today we’re going to take a look at the Chicago White Sox, whom I don’t expect much out of considering they’re all in on their rebuild. So without further ado, we’re in Day 7 of 30 Clubs in 30 Days with the Chicago White Sox.

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2017 Results:

Record: 67-95, 35 games behind Cleveland Indians, 18 games behind Minnesota Twins for second Wild Card spot

Notable Offseason Additions: SP Hector Santiago, RP Bruce Rondon, RP Joakim Soria, SP Miguel Gonzalez, C Welington Castillo, RP Luis Avilan

Notable Offseason Subtractions: SP Derek Holland, RP Jake Petricka, 2B Alen Hanson, RP Al Albuquerque, LF Cody Asche, SP Mike Pelfrey, RP Zach Putnam, C Geovany Soto

Best Offensive Player: 1B Jose Abreu

Best Pitcher: James Shields

Depth Chart:

C-Welington Castillo, Kevan Smith

1B-Jose Abreu

2B-Yoan Moncada

3B-Matt Davidson, Tyler Saladino (DH)

SS-Tim Anderson, Yolmer Sanchez

LF-Nicky Delmonico

CF-Adam Engel, Leury Garcia

RF-Avisail Garcia

SP-James Shields, Lucas Giolito, Carlos Rodon, Miguel Gonzalez, Carson Fulmer, Reynaldo Lopez, Hector Santiago

Bullpen-Joakim Soria (CP), Nate Jones, Juan Minaya, Danny Farquhar, Luis Avilan,  Gregory Infante, Aaron Bummer, Bruce Rondon

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Rick Renteria (2nd Season with White Sox)

Hitting Coach-Todd Steverson

Pitching Coach-Don Cooper

1st Base Coach-Daryl Boston

3rd Base Coach-Nick Capra

Bench Coach-Joe McEwing

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The White Sox may have arguably the thinnest Major League roster in the American League at the moment. Aside from Jose Abreu and Avisail Garcia, there isn’t really anybody on the team that will keep opposing managers up at night and even in Garcia’s case, we’re not sure if his big 2017 season was a fluke or not. Here’s how the White Sox are projected to look in 2018.

1. Tim Anderson-SS

2. Yoan Moncada-2B

3. Jose Abreu-1B

4. Avisail Garcia-RF

5. Welington Castillo-C

6. Matt Davidson-3B

7. Nicky Delmonico-LF

8. Tyler Saladino-DH

9. Adam Engel-CF

The only guy in that lineup who really instills fear into the hearts of opposing pitchers is Abreu. Last season he was particularly dangerous as he hit .304 with 33 home runs, 102 RBI, 95 runs scored, slugged .552, and was worth 4.1 WAR. He’s driven in at least 100 runs in all 4 of his Major League seasons and is an imposing threat in the batter’s box at 6’3 255 pounds. Avisail Garcia had a breakout season in 2017, as he hit .330 with 18 home runs, 80 RBI, slugged .506, and was worth 4.2 WAR. However those numbers could be a bit fluky. Garcia hit .392 on balls in play which suggests that he got lucky at times because a number that high is unsustainable. Plus he had a very low walk rate of 5.9% suggesting that he may not see the plate as well as others or simply lacks the patience. Plus it was his first season where he was worth more than 1 WAR, as he had actually had a negative WAR in each of his first 3 seasons. Perhaps he has turned a corner, but I suspect Garcia may be in for a hefty decline in 2018. But the main story surrounding this White Sox team, like the Braves, is their extremely loaded prospect pool. Arguably the best member of that pool, Yoan Moncada, whom the White Sox acquired from the Red Sox in the Chris Sale trade, is expected to open as the everyday second baseman and Chicago is expecting big things out of him. He’s been compared to Robinson Cano and that’s quite a tall order for a guy who is a career .229 hitter in 62 games at the Major League level. There isn’t a whole lot of Major League experience with Moncada, however what we have seen is a second baseman with a good amount of pop, good speed, and a good stick when he manages to put the ball in play. Moncada had a .325 average on balls in play last season however he only hit .231 and a big reason for that is he struck out 32% of the time he came up to bat, which would have ranked 4th in the Majors had he had enough at bats to qualify. He struck out at an even higher rate than Aaron Judge and Mark Reynolds, who have gained reputations for being big power bats that strike out a lot. He NEEDS to bring that number way down if he hopes to maximize on his potential. A guy he might want to take a look at is Javy Baez of the Cubs, who came up in a similar fashion. He boasted tremendous power for a middle infielder but he struck out at an alarming rate. In his first taste of the Majors in 2014, Baez struck out 41% of the time. However since then, he has brought that number down every season until 2017 and his production has been better for it. He got his strikeout rate as low as 24% (which still isn’t great but it’s at least respectable) in 2016 and in that season, he hit .273 with 14 homers and 59 RBI en route to helping the Cubs win their first World Series in 108 years. So if Moncada can follow the improvements made by the other Chicago second baseman, he would become a huge asset for the White Sox.

<> at Comerica Park on September 14, 2017 in Detroit, Michigan.

White Sox pitching is currently an absolute shit show right now. Their ace, James Shields, hasn’t been a quality pitcher since 2014 and hasn’t had an ERA under 5 since 2015. In 21 starts last season, Shields went 5-7 with a 5.23 ERA, a 5.83 FIP, 103 strikeouts, and was worth -0.2 WAR. That’s not even #5 starter numbers and this guy is the favorite to be the Opening Day starter. There was a time when Shields was an ace, his time with the Rays was very good, but those days are long gone and Shields is basically a batting practice pitcher at this point. In fact, had he pitched enough innings to qualify, Shields’ 2.08 Home Runs per 9 innings allowed would’ve topped all of baseball. Lucas Giolito is a guy the White Sox hope can reach his potential as well. Like Moncada, Giolito was at one point the #1 prospect in baseball on another team whom the White Sox acquired in a trade for one of their best players (OF Adam Eaton). He struggled mightily with the Nationals but his first stint with the White Sox showed a lot of promise. He only made 7 starts but in those starts he went 3-3 with a 2.38 ERA (though his FIP was 4.94, the largest differential I’ve ever seen). He didn’t strike out a ton of batters, as his Strikeouts per 9 was just 6.75, but he was helped by the fact that opponents only hit .189 on balls in play against him. If he can continue to show the promise he showed in his brief stint with the White Sox, they may have their future ace on their hands. Carson Fulmer’s another guy they hope will take the next step into ace status. As of right now, I am a bit ashamed to admit, but in the 2015 MLB Draft, I was upset the Red Sox took Andrew Benintendi with the 7th overall pick when Fulmer was still on the board, whom the White Sox snatched up with the very next pick. While Benintendi is a future stud for the Red Sox, Fulmer has yet to leave his mark with the White Sox. In his first stint in 2016, he made 8 relief appearances and pitched to an 8.49 ERA. His second stint in 2017 was much better (can’t do much worse) where he pitched to a 3.86 ERA in 7 appearances and 5 starts. His control has been a big problem in both stints, as he walks over 5 batters per 9 innings. There are a lot of issues currently in the White Sox pitching staff but if their young guys can step up, then things will go a lot more smoothly.

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The White Sox bullpen is one of the weaker units in the American League. Joakim Soria is slated to be their closer and along with Nate Jones, he’s probably the only one who is even remotely capable of holding the job. Last year in Kansas City, Soria pitched to a 3.70 ERA (though he had a FIP of 2.23) and struck out over 10 batters per 9 innings so he still has something left in the tank despite being 33 years old. Nate Jones is also a capable reliever, as he pitched to a 2.31 ERA last season and struck out over 11 batters per 9 innings. Should Soria struggle in the closer’s role, manager Rick Renteria ought to be more than confident in his next best option in Jones. After those two guys there really isn’t much to write home about.

Overall, I don’t expect the White Sox to sniff .500 at any point this season. Aside from Jose Abreu there aren’t any established Major League studs. The excitement for them, though, is in their prospect pool, which is arguably the best in baseball. To go along with young Major Leaguers Moncada, Giolito, and Fulmer, the White Sox have waiting in the wings guys like OF Eloy Jimenez (acquired in the Jose Quintana trade), OF Blake Rutherford (acquired in the Todd Frazier trade), P Michael Kopech (acquired in the Chris Sale trade), OF Luis Robert, P Alec Hansen, P Dylan Cease, and P Dane Dunning, all of whom rank amongst MLB.com’s Top 100 prospects. So the future is bright in the south side of Chicago, but the present leaves much to be desired.

Projected Record: 70-92, 4th in AL Central

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow when I preview the Cincinnati Reds, who will try and escape the cellar of the NL Central for the first time since 2014. Let me know what you think of the White Sox’ chances this season in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: Atlanta Braves

The big story outside of baseball for me today is the fact that Dallas Mavericks owner and Indiana alumnus Mark Cuban got fined $600K by the NBA for openly admitting that it was in the Mavericks’ best interest to tank this season. I mean, he’s right and bad teams tanking is not some unknown phenomena going around, it’s pretty well established at this point. But you can’t openly say that’s what your team is doing, especially considering the league sees tanking as a big issue and is trying to take steps to prevent it. That being said, the $600K fine is ENORMOUS overkill. Let’s take it easy, here, Adam Silver. I know Cuban wipes his ass with $600K, but you’re setting a pretty rough precedent here. Tanking really isn’t THAT bad for the league, I actually think it’s good for eventual parity, as it ensures the top college prospects aren’t going to the teams that are already absolutely loaded already. Speaking of tanking, we are in Day 3 of my 30 Clubs in 30 Days series and today we’re focusing on the Atlanta Braves. Let’s take a look at how the Braves are projected to do in 2018.

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2017 Results:

Record: 72-90, 3rd in NL East, 25 games behind Washington Nationals, 15 games behind Colorado Rockies for 2nd Wild Card Spot

Notable Offseason Additions: RP Peter Moylan, C Chris Stewart, RP Chase Whitley

Notable Offseason Subtractions: RP Jason Motte, RP Ian Krol, 1B Matt Adams, SP RA Dickey, 2B Jace Peterson, 3B Adonis Garcia, CP Jim Johnson

Best Position Player: 1B Freddie Freeman

Best Pitcher: Julio Teheran

Depth Chart

C-Tyler Flowers, Kurt Suzuki, Chris Stewart

1B-Freddie Freeman

2B-Ozzie Albies

3B-Johan Camargo, Rio Ruiz

SS-Dansby Swanson, Charlie Culberson

LF-Lane Adams, Preston Tucker

CF-Ender Inciarte

RF-Nick Markakis

SP-Julio Teheran, Mike Foltynewicz, Brandon McCarthy, Scott Kazmir, Sean Newcomb

Bullpen-Arodys Vizcaino (CP), Peter Moylan, Rex Brothers, Chase Whitley, Jose Ramirez, Sam Freeman, Dan Winkler

Coaching Staff

Manager-Brian Snitker (2nd Season with Braves)

Hitting Coach-Kevin Seitzer

Pitching Coach-Chuck Hernandez

1st Base Coach-Eric Young

3rd Base Coach-Ron Washington

Bench Coach-Walt Weiss

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I’m not going to sugarcoat things, it’s going to be a long season for the Braves. The thing I would look forward to the most if I’m a Braves fan is the later part of the season, August-Septemberish, when they start making their September call-ups because their farm system is absolutely loaded and it’d be exciting to see what kind of young talent the team has for the future. Dansby Swanson and Ozzie Albies were the first in this talented group to really get their first taste of action but the Braves also feature Ronald Acuna (MLB.com’s #2 prospect), Kyle Wright, Mike Soroka, Luiz Gohara, Kolby Allard, and Max Fried, all of whom could get their shot with the big club this season. Something worth noting, all those guys I just mentioned with the exception of Acuna are pitchers so perhaps the Braves may be in for a Mets-like rotation within the next couple of years. But offensively, Atlanta is going to struggle. Here’s how they’re projected to look to start the season.

1. Ender Inciarte-CF

2. Ozzie Albies-2B

3. Freddie Freeman-1B

4. Nick Markakis-RF

5. Tyler Flowers-C

6. Dansby Swanson-SS

7. Lane Adams-LF

8. Johan Camargo-3B

9. Pitcher’s Spot

Not good. Not good at all. One thing I pride myself in is knowing who everybody in baseball is. I’m sorry to report that going into this blog I had no idea who Lane Adams and Johan Camargo were. It’s bad that you have one guy I’ve never heard in your starting lineup but these guys have two. Plus they’ll be featuring Nick Markakis near the top of their order, who hasn’t been worth more than 2 WAR since 2014. The only positives are Ender Inciarte and Freddie Freeman. Granted, they are HUGE positives for this lineup, but not enough to get them out of the bottom third of the league in runs scored like they were last season. But these two guys really are the only offensive threats the Braves have right now. Inciarte is one of the most underrated centerfielders in baseball both defensively and offensively. Last season, Inciarte hit .304 with 11 home runs, 57 RBI, 22 stolen bags, a DRS of 5 in centerfield, and a WAR of 3.0. Meanwhile Freeman continued to put himself in the discussion for best first basemen in the game as he hit .307 with 28 home runs, 71 RBI, slugged .586, and was worth 4.5 WAR despite battling injuries all season. But if the Braves are going to head in the direction they need, Dansby Swanson has to take the next step forward. The former #1 overall pick that the Braves traded Shelby Miller to the DBacks to acquire (a trade that would an all-timer of a steal if he can develop) struggled in his first full season of action, hitting just .232 with 6 home runs and 51 RBI with -7 DRS and only had a WAR of 0.1 in 144 games played. Not good at all. He is a very talented player but another season like that could be really damaging for the Braves’ rebuilding process.

during a game  at Marlins Park on September 28, 2017 in Miami, Florida.

Pitching is not a strong suit for the Braves either. Julio Teheran is easily the most talented pitcher on the roster but he’s also the most inconsistent. His seasons seem to always be good-bad-good-bad. Last year he had a career-worst ERA of 4.49 a year after making the NL All Star team in 2016 and finishing with an ERA of 3.21. Teheran also had an ERA of 2.89 in 2014 but followed that up with an ERA of 4.04 in 2015. Based on that trend, it appears that 2018 will be a strong season for Teheran but the rest of the Braves staff leaves much to be desired. Mike Foltynewicz (pronounced FOLT-in-EV-ich) is very talented but he hasn’t been able to put that talent together for a full season. You’ve also got over-the-hill starters like Brandon McCarthy and Scott Kazmir who were basically the excess from the Dodgers’ pitching staff that they were trying to get rid of. Once upon a time both guys were quality starters (in Kazmir’s case, an ace), but nowadays they’re just drifting off towards the sunset.

There are some decent pieces in the Braves’ bullpen that I think could be assets for playoff-caliber teams. Arodys Vizcaino has some really dominant stuff and pitched well last season with a 2.83 ERA and struck out over 10 batters per 9 innings. Newly-signed Peter Moylan is an underrated middle relief guy who, despite being 39 years old, can still pitch well, as he had an ERA of 3.49 last year with the Royals. He’s one of those submarine pitchers, which I have noticed tends to add a couple of years to a pitcher’s career as long as they can remain productive. He could be a guy that can help the Braves out late in games. There’s also some young talent in that bullpen such as Jose Ramirez, Sam Freeman, and Dan Winkler who could quietly have strong seasons for the Braves’ ‘pen.

Overall, I don’t expect much out of the Braves this season, but I’m sure they’re well aware of that. But their plethora of prospects is so loaded that I don’t think they’re going to suck for a whole lot longer provided their coaches can properly develop them (Swanson’s 2018 season will be a big barometer for whether or not these guys are up to the challenge). The only thing that’s really going to keep them out of the cellar of the NL East this season is a healthy Freddie Freeman because he’s such a good hitter that he can take over games if you’re not careful. Unfortunately, there is absolutely zero protection around him right now so if he’s on a hot stretch, opposing pitchers have literally no incentive to pitch to him. This season is basically an opportunity for the organization to see what the younger guys can do and plan for the future.

Projected Finish: 71-91, 4th in the NL East

That’s going to do it for Day 3 of the 30 Clubs in 30 Days series. Join me tomorrow on my 22nd birthday where I will be previewing the Baltimore Orioles, who are kind of in no-man’s land at the moment, as the front office will have some HUGE decisions to make when July rolls around. Let me know what you think of the Braves’ chances this season in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

General Sports: February 16

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-Eduardo Nunez is returning to the Red Sox on a 1-year deal with an option for a second year, pending a physical. At the time of this writing, it’s unknown how much money he’ll be making. As a Red Sox fan, I’m very pleased that the team is bringing Nunez back aboard. After acquiring him at the trade deadline from the Giants, Nunez went on an absolute tear for the Sox, hitting .321 with 8 home runs and 27 RBI in just 38 games while playing DH, 3B, 2B, and SS. Probably the main reason he went this long without being picked up by anyone was because he’s 31 years old and he struggled with injuries at the end of the season, including a scary knee injury during his first at bat of the 2017 ALDS against the Astros when he was trying to beat out an infield single. As of right now, I expect that Nunez is going to play second base for the Sox to start the season, as Dustin Pedroia is still recovering from offseason surgery and may not be ready to go until May. This also presents an interesting conundrum as it pertains to JD Martinez. The Red Sox were one of the last teams really in on him and they refused to budge on their 5-year $125M offer and now that they’re bringing back a guy who was really productive for them, it seems that there isn’t really a place in the lineup for Martinez. The only other team I can think of that is still pursuing him is his most recent team, the Arizona Diamondbacks, who are reportedly trying to get creative with their payroll to try and make room to bring him back.

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-AJ McCarron won his grievance against the Cincinnati Bengals and will become a free agent this offseason and possibly one of the more sought-after ones at that. After winning two National Championships as Alabama’s starting quarterback, McCarron was graded as a second-round pick (by me) but fell all the way to the fifth when he was taken by the Bengals in the 2014 NFL Draft. McCarron is most notable for when commentator Brent Musberger was drooling over his then-girlfriend-now-wife Katherine Webb on national television. However McCarron got his chance to shine late in 2015 and he performed reasonably well. He started three games, winning two of them while completing almost two-thirds of his passes and throwing 6 TDs against only 2 picks and a QB rating of 97.1. Not bad for a guy getting his first taste of NFL action. However he hasn’t made a start in the last 2 seasons as Andy Dalton has enjoyed perfect health with the Bengals despite their abysmal offensive line. However, things got very interesting as the Bengals had an agreement in place with the Browns to send McCarron to Cleveland in exchange for draft picks. However that trade fell through as the Browns failed to notify the league of the deal before the deadline and McCarron was to remain in Cincinnati in a classic Browns move. McCarron apparently filed the grievance pertaining to the 2014 season, when the Bengals placed him on the Non-Football-Injury list despite passing all his physicals. So now McCarron joins a free agent class of quarterbacks that includes Drew Brees (let’s be serious though, he’s not leaving New Orleans), Kirk Cousins, Case Keenum, Sam Bradford, Teddy Bridgewater, Josh McCown, etc. So there are going to be some options here. But I have to imagine the Browns are going to go after him hard, which would be huge for them if they’re able to land him. As I mentioned before with the botched trade, the Browns would still acquire McCarron without having to surrender any draft picks thanks to this move. So perhaps the Browns making a fool of themselves was a blessing in disguise?

-It’s the Chinese New Year and this year is the Year of the Dog, so here are some pictures of my dogs. The black lab is named Izzy, the mutt is Fred.

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-Left-handed pitcher Jaime Garcia inked a 1-year deal with the Toronto Blue Jays worth $10M with a club option for a second year. Garcia had a very interesting 2017 season. He started the year with the Atlanta Braves, pitched kind of ‘meh,’ got traded to the Twins, made one start, then got traded to the Yankees a week later. He played for three teams, was traded twice, and now has a 1-year deal with the Blue Jays. Garcia isn’t a bad pitcher, he’s had some success in the past, most notably with the Cardinals. But he’s a guy who showed a lot of promise early in his career but just never really got better. He’ll probably be at the back of the Blue Jays’ rotation but we’ve seen Toronto take underachievers in the past and make something out of them (see: Marco Estrada, JA Happ).

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-Indians pitcher Danny Salazar will likely miss the start of the regular season due to shoulder inflammation during his offseason workout program. Normally I would say this is a huge blow given how talented Salazar is, but the Indians have a ton of depth behind him that has gotten plenty of experience, especially considering he’s been banged up each of the last couple seasons. The Indians already have 2-time Cy Young winner Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, and Trevor Bauer as well as Josh Tomlin and Mike Clevinger to round out the rotation. The weak link is Clevinger, who will likely either be moved to the bullpen or demoted to the minors upon Salazar’s return, but he’s a guy who could probably safely be a member of most other pitching rotations. The Indians can afford to let Salazar take his time in his recovery.

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-Larry Fitzgerald announced that he will return for his 15th NFL season, which is awesome because he is so close to climbing into the ranks of football immortality. He’s 390 yards away from passing Terrell Owens for second most all time (and about 7000 yards behind the leader, Jerry Rice) and is 92 catches away from passing Tony Gonzalez for second most of all time (about 200 behind Rice, which is actually kind of doable if Fitzgerald can hang on for a couple more years). Fitz has been one of my favorite receivers in the league since 2008 when he went on that amazing postseason run that nearly propelled the Arizona Cardinals to their first ever Super Bowl victory and he’s such a good dude off the field that you really root for him to achieve these milestones. He’ll get the 390 yards pretty easily, maybe within the first two weeks of the season. The catches mark might be a little tougher but he did catch 109 passes as a 34-year old last season so it’s not out of the question.

That’s going to do it for this edition of general sports, let me know how cute you think my dogs are in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.