30 Clubs in 30 Days: Washington Nationals

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

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2017 Results:

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

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

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

Best Offensive Player: RF Bryce Harper

Best Pitcher: Max Scherzer

Depth Chart:

C-Matt Wieters, Pedro Severino

1B-Ryan Zimmerman, Matt Adams

2B-Daniel Murphy, Howie Kendrick

3B-Anthony Rendon

SS-Trea Turner, Wilmer Difo

LF-Adam Eaton

CF-Michael A. Taylor, Brian Goodwin

RF-Bryce Harper

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

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

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Dave Martinez (1st season with Nationals)

Hitting Coach-Kevin Long

Pitching Coach-Derek Lilliquist

1st Base Coach-Tim Bogar

3rd Base Coach-Bob Henley

Bench Coach-Chip Hale

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

1. Trea Turner-SS

2. Adam Eaton-LF

3. Bryce Harper-RF

4. Daniel Murphy-2B

5. Anthony Rendon-3B

6. Ryan Zimmerman-1B

7. Matt Wieters-C

8. Michael A. Taylor-CF

9. Pitcher’s Spot

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

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

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

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

Projected Record: 95-67, win NL East

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

30 Clubs in 30 Days: 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: New York Mets

So a couple stories I want to bring to light here. First off, former LSU runningback and potential first round pick Derrius Guice was asked by an unknown NFL team during his Combine interview a couple of very inappropriate questions, which Guice claims was to provoke him and get a feel for his response. The anonymous team asked Guice if he was gay and if his mom was a hooker. I can understand the reasoning behind asking these questions, as you’re trying to gauge how this guy’s going to deal with the media, but you have to use better judgment here. Asking if someone is gay is totally inappropriate and asking someone if their mother is a hooker is downright disrespectful. They should’ve learned when the Dolphins did that to Dez Bryant in his Combine interview. I remember I was in Canton, Ohio to see the Pro Football Hall of Fame with my mom and she went for a walk outside of our hotel. When she got back, she told me that some guy had driven up to her and asked if she was “working.” I’m not a confrontational person, but I was ready to throw haymakers at this dude that I’d never met so kudos to Guice for keeping his cool. Also, the Kansas City Royals held an anti-porn seminar for the players and coaches, most likely to protect the wrists on their throwing hands when they’re away from their wives because athletes definitely stay faithful to their wives on road trips. That’s really all I have to say on that because otherwise I can’t see any reason to be against something that brings people so much joy. Also, the Rams acquired another corner in a trade, this time landing Aqib Talib from the Broncos. So basically with Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib the Rams may have the shit talking-est cornerback duo in NFL history. Anyways, on to the Mets for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days.

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2017 Results:

Record: 70-92, 27 games behind Washington Nationals, 17 games behind Colorado Rockies for 2nd Wild Card spot

Notable Offseason Additions: RF Jay Bruce, 3B Todd Frazier, 1B Adrian Gonzalez, RP Anthony Swarzak, OF Matthew den Dekker

Notable Offseason Subtractions: RP Erik Goeddel, SP Tommy Milone, RP Josh Edgin

Best Offensive Player: LF Yoenis Cespedes

Best Pitcher: Noah Syndergaard

Depth Chart:

C-Travis d’Arnaud, Kevin Plawecki

1B-Adrian Gonzalez, Dominic Smith

2B-Asdrubal Cabrera

3B-Todd Frazier, Wilmer Flores, David Wright

SS-Amed Rosario, Jose Reyes

LF-Yoenis Cespedes

CF-Michael Conforto, Juan Lagares

RF-Jay Bruce

SP-Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, Jason Vargas, Robert Gsellman, Zach Wheeler, Seth Lugo

Bullpen-Jeurys Familia (CP), Jeremy Blevins, AJ Ramos, Anthony Swarzak, Hansel Robles, Paul Sewald, Rafael Montero

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Mickey Callaway (1st season with Mets

Hitting Coach-Pat Roessler

Pitching Coach-Dave Eiland

1st Base Coach-Ruben Amaro Jr

3rd Base Coach-Glenn Sherlock

Bench Coach-Gary DiSarcina

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It feels like so long ago that the Mets were good even though they just had one bad season. They won the NL pennant in 2015, losing the World Series in 5 games to the Royals, and they lost the NL Wild Card game against the Giants in 2016. But in 2017 the wheels seemed to fall off, causing the Mets machine to fall off the wheels, crash and burn, and kill everybody inside as injuries ravaged the team. But when healthy, this has the potential to be a scary team. Here’s how I’m projecting their lineup to look in 2018.

1. Asdrubal Cabrera-2B

2. Michael Conforto-CF

3. Yoenis Cespedes-LF

4. Jay Bruce-RF

5. Todd Frazier-3B

6. Adrian Gonzalez-1B

7. Travis d’Arnaud-C

8. Amed Rosario-SS

9. Pitcher’s Spot

There’s a lot of talent in this lineup, particularly in the middle of the order. Michael Conforto broke out in 2017, earning an All Star nod by hitting .279 with 27 home runs and was worth 4.4 WAR. He will likely miss the start of the season due to injury (shocker) and it will probably be defensive wizard Juan Lagares in centerfield. Yoenis Cespedes is a guy I really liked but he didn’t seem to hit his stride until he was traded to the Mets, as his bat was what really propelled them to the 2015 NL pennant. Come to think of it, good things tend to happen to teams involved in a Cespedes trade. The A’s landed Jon Lester from the Red Sox, the Red Sox landed Rick Porcello from the Tigers, and the Tigers landed Michael Fulmer from the Mets. Go figure. But despite missing half the 2017 season due to injury, Cespedes was on pace for an MVP-caliber season. He was hitting .292 with 17 home runs and 42 RBI, which in a full 162-game season would be 34 home runs and 84 RBI. Jay Bruce is returning to the Mets after they traded him to the Indians at last year’s trade deadline. Bruce was terrific for the Mets, hitting 29 home runs and driving in 75 RBI in just 103 games with the club. Frazier and Gonzalez both struggled last season but they both have powerful bats and can cause some serious damage to a pitching staff if taken lightly.

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The Mets may have the single most injury-prone pitching rotation I’ve ever seen. It seems like within the last two seasons every member of their 4-headed monster of Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, and Steven Matz all have missed significant time due to injury, the latter two’s effectiveness having been harmed the most. While Syndergaard looks like he’s fully recovered from the lat injury that sidelined him for nearly all of 2017 (his fastball was touching 101 mph in his first Spring Training outing), the rest of the rotation isn’t so sure. DeGrom was solid last season, going 15-10 with a 3.53 ERA and striking out over 10 batters per 9 innings, but Harvey and Matz left a lot to be desired. Matz had an ERA over 6 in 13 starts while Harvey was better known for having not shown up to a game due to being hung over after drinking his sorrows away after seeing his ex girlfriend, supermodel Adriana Lima, hanging around with Julian Edelman. So the only guys I’m not concerned with are Syndergaard and deGrom but Matz and Harvey make me nervous. Again, assuming everybody’s healthy.

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The Mets bullpen has some guys with really electric stuff. In fact, the only regular member of last year’s bullpen with a K/9 rate below 8 was Josh Edgin and he’s now a member of the Baltimore Orioles. The closer for the Mets is Jeurys Familia, however he’s also coming off an injury-plagued season, as he only managed to pitch 24.2 innings in 2017. However when healthy, he’s amongst the best closers in the game. Should he struggle to return to health, though, the Mets have AJ Ramos, whom they acquired from the Marlins last trade deadline. Ramos was an All Star as the Marlins’ closer in 2016, though he struggled with his command upon joining the Mets. He struck out over 11 batters per 9 innings but also walked over 5 batters per 9. He’s going to need to drop that second number significantly if he hopes to earn new manager and pitching guru Mickey Callaway’s trust. Newly-acquired reliever Anthony Swarzak was a revelation last season with the White Sox and Brewers last season, pitching to an ERA of 2.33 with over 10.5 K/9 in his age-31 season. Whether he repeats that success remains to be seen but if last season was any indicator, the Mets have themselves a reliable 8th-inning option.

Overall, I don’t think the Mets are nearly as bad as last season’s record might indicate but they NEED to limit the injuries if they’re going to have any hope of competing for the playoffs. When fully healthy, I think this team is good enough to compete with the Nationals for the NL East crown. However that seems to be asking a lot out of them as of late and I’m not so sure they’re going to be able to overcome these shortcomings this season. However the NL East is pretty weak right now so I don’t think it’ll be too hard for the Mets to come in second place in the division, in fact I do think they’ll be healthy enough to compete for a Wild Card spot, though I think they will fall short.

Projected Finish: 84-78, 2nd in NL East

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. I feel like I wrote this blog twice (that’s because I did. I was halfway through my first edition when my computer freaked out on me and I lost my entire draft. Though to be honest, I feel like this version is way better than the one that got deleted). Join me tomorrow when I preview the New York Yankees, who on paper have the most dangerous 3-4 combo since Ruth-Gehrig. Let me know what you think of the Mets’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10. Also, if you’re looking for something to do at 3 PM as you get ready for Spring Break (or continue partying during Spring Break), I’ll be on the call for a college baseball game between Indiana and Pacific on BTN Plus.