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: Washington Nationals

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

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2017 Results:

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

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

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

Best Offensive Player: RF Bryce Harper

Best Pitcher: Max Scherzer

Depth Chart:

C-Matt Wieters, Pedro Severino

1B-Ryan Zimmerman, Matt Adams

2B-Daniel Murphy, Howie Kendrick

3B-Anthony Rendon

SS-Trea Turner, Wilmer Difo

LF-Adam Eaton

CF-Michael A. Taylor, Brian Goodwin

RF-Bryce Harper

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

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

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Dave Martinez (1st season with Nationals)

Hitting Coach-Kevin Long

Pitching Coach-Derek Lilliquist

1st Base Coach-Tim Bogar

3rd Base Coach-Bob Henley

Bench Coach-Chip Hale

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

1. Trea Turner-SS

2. Adam Eaton-LF

3. Bryce Harper-RF

4. Daniel Murphy-2B

5. Anthony Rendon-3B

6. Ryan Zimmerman-1B

7. Matt Wieters-C

8. Michael A. Taylor-CF

9. Pitcher’s Spot

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

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

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

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

Projected Record: 95-67, win NL East

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

General Sports: February 12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2 Seeds: Cincinnati, Duke, Auburn, Kansas

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

4 Seeds: Tennessee, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Arizona

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

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

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

Cubs Sign Yu Darvish

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

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

1. Jon Lester

2. Yu Darvish

3. Kyle Hendricks

4. Jose Quintana

5. Tyler Chatwood/Drew Smyly

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

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

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

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

MLB Top 10 Players by Position for 2017

This is the next segment in my MLB postseason series. Here, I will be ranking the top players by position for this baseball season. 2017 performance won’t be the sole deciding factor, however it will be the biggest. Guys that missed significant time due to injury will not be considered, so guys like Noah Syndergaard, Michael Brantley, and Yoenis Cespedes will not be considered for these rankings even though they would rank highly when healthy. Also, if a player played at multiple positions throughout the year, I may have taken a little liberties by either putting them where I thought they were at their best or where they played the most. I also considered defense more heavily for some positions (shortstop, catcher) than others (first base).

Starting Pitcher

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Despite injury, Clayton Kershaw was still as dominant as ever (photo credit: Scout.com)

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.Zack Greinke-Arizona Diamondbacks

7.Luis Severino-New York Yankees

8.Robbie Ray-Arizona Diamondbacks

9.Marcus Stroman-Toronto Blue Jays

10.Jimmy Nelson-Milwaukee Brewers

While he did miss a good chunk of time due to injury, Clayton Kershaw nevertheless dominated when he was on the mound and he pitched enough (175 innings) for me to keep him in the rankings. His 2.31 ERA was second in the majors and tops in the NL. Robbie Ray was a guy I had high hopes for going into the season. He did have an ERA of 4.90 in 2016, but his FIP was more than a full run lower (3.76) which suggested he was in for an uptick in production. He did not disappoint, posting an ERA of 2.89 in 2017. Jimmy Nelson was a guy who was under the radar for the entire season. Despite his performance, he was overshadowed by Milwaukee’s prolific offense. Nevertheless, Nelson finished with the 5th best FIP (3.05) in the Majors, even better than Kershaw’s (3.07).

Non-Closing Relief Pitchers

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Andrew Miller continues to thrive in a unique role with the Indians (photo credit: USA Today)

1.Andrew Miller-Cleveland Indians

2.Archie Bradley-Arizona Diamondbacks

3.Pat Neshek-Colorado Rockies

4.Chad Green-New York Yankees

5.Tommy Kahnle-New York Yankees

6.Anthony Swarzak-Milwaukee Brewers

7.Alex Claudio-Texas Rangers

8.Matt Albers-Washington Nationals

9.Ryan Madson-Washington Nationals

10.Dellin Betances-New York Yankees

This is a position that’s always in flux, as you never know what you’re going to get out of your relievers in any given year. For example, Matt Albers makes this list despite the fact that he had an ERA of 6.31 in 2016, his age-33 season. Dellin Betances surely would’ve topped this list at the start of the season had this blog been around at that time. His stuff was as good as ever but he seemed to have lost a bit of his command. But the Yankees don’t need him this season like they have in years’ past, as they have a plethora of reliable bullpen options, such as Chad Green and midseason acquisition Tommy Kahnle and the return of David Robertson.

Closing Pitchers

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Kenley Jansen has locked down the 9th inning for the Dodgers all season (photo credit: DodgerBlue.com)

1.Kenley Jansen-Los Angeles Dodgers

2.Craig Kimbrel-Boston Red Sox

3.Roberto Osuna-Toronto Blue Jays

4.Wade Davis-Chicago Cubs

5.Corey Knebel-Milwaukee Brewers

6.Ken Giles-Houston Astros

7.Raisel Iglesias-Cincinnati Reds

8.Alex Colome-Tampa Bay Rays

9.Brad Hand-San Diego Padres

10.Felipe Rivero-Pittsburgh Pirates

Closer is hard to predict as well as relievers, but I find that typically the top few spots tend to remain roughly the same. I said this before in yesterday’s blog, but the difference between Kenley Jansen and Craig Kimbrel this season is razor-thin, however I give a slight edge to Jansen mainly for the far lower walk rate.  Roberto Osuna ranks at #3 despite an ERA of 3.38 (relatively high for a good closer) in large part due to the fact that the majority of that damage was done in April and he didn’t get a lot of help from his defense (his FIP was 1.74)

Catchers

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Despite the Giants’ struggles, Buster Posey continued to put up big numbers (photo credit: Sportsnaut.com)

1.Buster Posey-San Francisco Giants

2.Gary Sanchez-New York Yankees

3.Salvador Perez-Kansas City Royals

4.Willson Contreras-Chicago Cubs

5.JT Realmuto-Miami Marlins

6.Yadier Molina-St. Louis Cardinals

7.Yasmani Grandal-Los Angeles Dodgers

8.Mike Zunino-Seattle Mariners

9.Tucker Barnhart-Cincinnati Reds

10.Christian Vazquez-Boston Red Sox

Catcher is a hard position to rank right now because it’s so top-heavy. There are only 3 catchers I consider to be elite at the position while the rest have a lot of flaws (in Yadi’s case, it’s just simply aging). I tend to value defense more at this position, which is why you see guys like Tucker Barnhart and Christian Vazquez on this list. If you go by Defensive Runs Saved, which I do, Barnhart was #1 by a large margin at 21. The next closest catcher was Martin Maldonado of the Angels at 10.

First Basemen

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Joey Votto may be the most under-appreciated player in the history of the game (photo credit: Sports Illustrated)

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.Jose Abreu-Chicago White Sox

7.Eric Hosmer-Kansas City Royals

8.Ryan Zimmerman-Washington Nationals

9.Edwin Encarnacion-Cleveland Indians

10.Justin Smoak-Toronto Blue Jays

To be honest, you could probably rearrange the top 3 or 4 guys on this list in any order and I probably wouldn’t fight you too much over it. But I have to give the nod to Joey Votto this season just because of how absurd some of the numbers he puts up are. For example, his infield fly percentage, or basically how frequently he hits a lazy popup, was 0.5%, second only to Freddie Freeman, who didn’t hit a single one. But Votto’s been doing things like this for a long time now and that’s without getting into how patient he is at the plate. But I’ll delve more into Votto tomorrow for the top 100 overall players list. Spoiler alert, he’s on it.

Second Basemen

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Jose Altuve may be the smallest MVP since Bobby Shantz at 5’6 (photo credit: Sports Illustrated)

1.Jose Altuve-Houston Astros

2.Daniel Murphy-Washington Nationals

3.Robinson Cano-Seattle Mariners

4.Dustin Pedroia-Boston Red Sox

5.Jonathan Schoop-Baltimore Orioles

6.Javy Baez-Chicago Cubs

7.Brian Dozier-Minnesota Twins

8.DJ LeMahieu-Colorado Rockies

9.Jason Kipnis-Cleveland Indians

10.Starlin Castro-New York Yankees

I had a hard time with this one, mainly because second base was a lot deeper than I thought going in. I ended up having to leave guys like Ian Kinsler and Brandon Phillips off this list just because I simply couldn’t find a place for them. It was obvious to put Jose Altuve at the top of this one, given the year he’s had that I’ve talked about ad nauseam during this postseason MLB series of blogs about. In fact, I’d probably say the top 7 or 8 guys was pretty easy. It was rounding out this list that was difficult. In the end, I went with Kipnis and Castro over the other guys based simply on the idea of who I’d rather have at the plate with the game on the line this year, or in the field in the bottom of the 9th inning in Game 7 of the world Series.

Third Basemen

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Kris Bryant has been one of the faces of the new Chicago Cubs dynasty (photo credit: Sports Illustrated)

1.Kris Bryant-Chicago Cubs

2.Nolan Arenado-Colorado Rockies

3.Josh Donaldson-Toronto Blue Jays

4.Jose Ramirez-Cleveland Indians

5.Anthony Rendon-Washington Nationals

6.Justin Turner-Los Angeles Dodgers

7.Manny Machado-Baltimore Orioles

8.Travis Shaw-Milwaukee Brewers

9.Kyle Seager-Seattle Mariners

10.Alex Bregman-Houston Astros

Third base is absolutely loaded, especially when a guy like Manny Machado finds himself at number 7. Machado would normally be higher, but he had a down year, hitting only .259 and being worth 2.8 WAR. He was heating up by the end of the season, though, as he was hitting .334 in July and August. The Milwaukee Brewers committed highway robbery of the Red Sox by acquiring Travis Shaw in exchange for Tyler Thornburg. Shaw hit cleanup in a dangerous lineup, batting .273 with 31 homers and 101 RBI while Thornburg did not appear in a game this season due to injury and the Red Sox struggled mightily at third base until calling up Rafael Devers and trading for Eduardo Nunez in July.

Shortstop

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Francisco Lindor has been one of the most exciting players in the game since debuting in 2015 (photo credit: USA Today)

1.Francisco Lindor-Cleveland Indians

2.Carlos Correa-Houston Astros

3.Corey Seager-Los Angeles Dodgers

4.Andrelton Simmons-Anaheim Angels

5.Didi Gregorius-New York Yankees

6.Xander Bogaerts-Boston Red Sox

7.Elvis Andrus-Texas Rangers

8.Zack Cozart-Cincinnati Reds

9.Trea Turner-Washington Nationals

10.Jean Segura-Seattle Mariners

Like first base, you could rearrange the top 3 in any order you want and I wouldn’t argue with your decision. Lindor, Correa, and Seager are superstars in this league and will be for at least the next decade. Xander Bogaerts was a tricky one to place. When he’s hot, you can’t get him out. When he’s not, he couldn’t get on base if you threw at him. His below average defense didn’t help either, which was a big factor for shortstop, which I consider to be the most important defensive position. But he seemed to be picking it up after a move to the leadoff spot, batting .284 in the month of September. Zack Cozart has struggled with injuries the last few years but when he’s been healthy he’s quietly been one of the better offensive shortstops in the game.

Left Fielders

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Marcell Ozuna has been one of the more under-the-radar stars thanks to teammates he shares an outfield with (photo credit: Sun Sentinel)

1.Marcell Ozuna-Miami Marlins

2.Justin Upton-Anaheim Angels

3.Michael Conforto-New York Mets

4.Tommy Pham-St. Louis Cardinals

5.Andrew Benintendi-Boston Red Sox

6.Chris Taylor-Los Angeles Dodgers

7.Brett Gardner-New York Yankees

8.Eddie Rosario-Minnesota Twins

9.Marwin Gonzalez-Houston Astros

10.David Peralta-Arizona Diamondbacks

This is probably the thinnest position in baseball right now. While I am a big fan of Ozuna’s, he’s probably the third best outfielder on his own team and would be in the middle of these other outfield top 10s. But getting back on track, there were a lot of breakout players at left field so we could see this position grow more prominent in the next couple of years. Michael Conforto, Tommy Pham, Andrew Benintendi, and Chris Taylor all had big breakout years after either underwhelming in the last couple seasons (Conforto), being primarily a utility guy (Pham and Taylor) or just simply being a prospect (Benintendi).

Center Fielders

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No surprise here, Mike Trout has been among the all-time greats since 2012 (photo credit: Sports Illustrated)

1.Mike Trout-Anaheim Angels

2.Charlie Blackmon-Colorado Rockies

3.George Springer-Houston Astros

4.Christian Yelich-Miami Marlins

5.Lorenzo Cain-Kansas City Royals

6.Byron Buxton-Minnesota Twins

7.Andrew McCutchen-Pittsburgh Pirates

8.Ender Inciarte-Atlanta Braves

9.Jackie Bradley Jr-Boston Red Sox

10.Odubel Herrera-Philadelphia Phillies

Mike Trout is the Khal until he can no longer sit his horse and he’s been sitting the crap out of that horse. Despite missing a month and a half due to injury, Trout still belted 33 home runs , stole 22 bases, and hit .306 while exhibiting his usual great defense in center field. Byron Buxton FINALLY exhibited his potential late this season as his bat finally caught up to his stellar defense and base running. He hit .387 in July and .324 in August and if this kid can put it all together for an entire season, Mike Trout’s going to have to start looking over his shoulder.

Right Fielders

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Since debuting at age 19, Bryce Harper has been well worth the hype for the Nationals (photo credit: Sporting News)

1.Bryce Harper-Washington Nationals

2.Giancarlo Stanton-Miami Marlins

3.Aaron Judge-New York Yankees

4.Mookie Betts-Boston Red Sox

5.JD Martinez-Arizona Diamondbacks

6.Josh Reddick-Houston Astros

7.Avisail Garcia-Chicago White Sox

8.Yasiel Puig-Los Angeles Dodgers

9.Domingo Santana-Milwaukee Brewers

10.Jay Bruce-Cleveland Indians

This was REALLY hard. As much as I wanted to put Judge or Stanton at the top of this list, I just have to give it to Harper, who likely would have coasted to NL MVP had he not stepped on a wet base wrong and missed the last month of the year. But Harper was back to his usual phenom self this season after a rough 2016, batting .319 with 29 home runs and 87 RBI with an OPS of 1.008. While I do think Judge is lurking, that July-August stretch he went through where he couldn’t even hit air is still too fresh in my mind. And 59 home runs is nice, but Stanton’s defense is nowhere near Harper’s. Yasiel Puig finds himself back into relevance after a quietly solid year after disappointing the last couple seasons. He hit .263 with 28 homers, 74 RBI, 15 stolen bases, and ranking first among NL right fielders in DRS.

Those are my top 10s. Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments section below or hit me up on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.