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: Oakland Athletics

Some little bits of news to discuss before I get into the A’s. Lance Lynn signed with the Twins, bolstering their rotation, and the Patriots traded for Browns nose tackle Danny Shelton. With Lynn gone, the only real free agents left of significance are Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb, and Greg Holland. As for Shelton, the former 12th overall pick was a disappointment in Cleveland but I think he fits New England’s system a lot better, as they like to use a true nose tackle a lot more often than Cleveland does, which is what Shelton is at 6’3 345 pounds. And the big news of course is Richard Sherman agreeing to sign with the 49ers on a 3 year $39M deal. So without further ado, let’s get to this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days featuring the Oakland Athletics.

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2017 Results:

Record: 75-87, 26 games behind Houston Astros, 10 games behind Minnesota Twins for 2nd Wild Card Spot

Notable Offseason Additions: RF Stephen Piscotty, C Jonathan Lucroy, DH Brandon Moss, RP Ryan Buchter, RP Yusmeiro Petit

Notable Offseason Subtractions: 1B Ryon Healy, SP Jesse Hahn, DH Chris Carter, RP John Axford

Best Offensive Player: DH Khris Davis

Best Pitcher: Kendall Graveman

Depth Chart:

C-Jonathan Lucroy, Bruce Maxwell, Josh Phegley

1B-Matt Olson, Brandon Moss

2B-Jed Lowrie

3B-Matt Chapman

SS-Marcus Semien

LF-Khris Davis (DH), Matt Joyce

CF-Dustin Fowler, Boog Powell

RF-Stephen Piscotty, Mark Canha

SP-Kendall Graveman, Sean Manaea, Jharel Cotton, Daniel Mendgen, Andrew Triggs, Paul Blackburn

Bullpen-Blake Treinen (CP), Yusmeiro Petit, Chris Hatcher, Santiago Casilla, Liam Hendriks, Ryan Dull, Ryan Buchter, Danny Coloumbe

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Bob Melvin (8th season with Athletics)

Hitting Coach-Darren Bush

Pitching Coach-Scott Emerson

1st Base Coach-Al Pedrique

3rd Base Coach-Matt Williams

Bench Coach-Ryan Christenson

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I feel like the Athletics are just the most obscure team in baseball and the only reason they really get any sort of attention is because of Moneyball, both the movie and the book. Otherwise, I doubt anybody would ever pay them a second thought. They don’t have any superstar players and they won’t compete for the postseason but they also won’t be so bad that they’re a talking point. They’re just kind of there. Here’s a look at their lineup to prove my point.

1. Jed Lowrie-2B

2. Stephen Piscotty-RF

3. Matt Chapman-3B

4. Khris Davis-DH

5. Matt Olson-1B

6. Jonathan Lucroy-C

7. Marcus Semien-SS

8. Matt Joyce-LF

9. Dustin Fowler/Boog Powell-CF

Jonathan Lucroy was considered one of the top catchers in the game for a while, but he had a down year in 2017. Having split time between the Rangers and Rockies, Lucroy hit .265 with 6 home runs and 40 RBI and a 1.2 WAR. He just agreed to a 1-year deal with the A’s a couple days ago and as of this writing, Lucroy has not been officially introduced as an Oakland A. If he can bounce back and return to his 2016 form, the heart of the A’s order could be deadly. Khris Davis has been an absolute monster at the plate since the A’s acquired him from the Brewers prior to the 2016 season as he’s had back-to-back 40 home runs seasons in Oakland. He’s been extremely consistent in his two years there, as he hit .247 in both seasons while hitting 42 home runs in 2016 and 43 in ’17, and was worth 2.4 WAR in ’16 and 2.3 in ’17. So you kind of know what you’re going to get with Davis in an A’s uniform. Where the projection comes into play is from the two Matt’s in this A’s lineup: Chapman and Olson. Chapman made his Major League debut last season and despite a low batting average of .234, he slugged .472, showcasing a pretty good power stroke while also playing excellent defense at third base. His 19 DRS in 84 games would’ve led all AL third basemen had he played enough to qualify and would’ve ranked just behind Nolan Arenado for best in baseball. As for Olson, he played 59 games for the A’s last season and hit 24 home runs, which equates to a 65 home run season over 162 games. He also plays above average defense at first base, being worth 4 DRS in his limited action. Both he and Chapman are two guys the A’s organization is really excited about. Centerfield is the one position in this lineup that is a question mark as to who is going to man it. Dustin Fowler is a highly rated prospect that the A’s acquired from the Yankees in the Sonny Gray deal at last year’s trade deadline while Boog Powell is a guy they acquired from the Mariners in exchange for Yonder Alonso around the same time. Fowler is notable as being the Yankees prospect who injured his knee in his first big league game last season and was shelved for the remainder of the season. He has yet to have his first big league plate appearance. Powell played in 52 games last season and hit a solid .282 while playing a good defensive outfield. I think I’m going to give the slight edge to Powell to be the Opening Day starter but I think it’s going to be Fowler in the long run.

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This is probably one of the least sexy pitching rotations in the Majors but it could also be one of the more underrated. Kendall Graveman is likely going to be the ace at the start of the season but he would probably be the #3 or 4 starter on most other teams. He’s not bad, his ERA is consistently in the low-4’s, but he’s not the guy you’re going to breathe a sigh of relief for when you see that it’s his turn in the rotation. The guys the A’s are hoping develop this season are Sean Manaea and Jharel Cotton. Manaea was one of their top prospects and he’s gotten some significant action the last couple years. He had a 3.86 ERA in his 2016 rookie season and 4.37 last year, however that number was inflated due to a rough second half, as he had an ERA over 5 after the All Star break. He’s a talented lefty that the A’s hope can be their future ace. Cotton is another guy with a lot of talent but hasn’t quite figured out how to pitch in the Majors just yet. He debuted in 2016, making 5 starts and he pitched really well in those outings, posting a 2.15 ERA. He got a chance to pitch a full season in 2017 and he didn’t have nearly as much success, pitching to a 5.58 ERA in 24 starts. A lot of that was due to a very high HR/9 rate of 1.95, which would have led the Majors had he pitched enough innings to qualify. The dimensions of Oakland Alameda County Coliseum are pretty neutral towards hitters and pitchers so you can’t really blame the high home run totals on a bad pitcher’s ballpark like you can with Coors or Chase Field so Cotton’s going to have to work on not leaving the ball over the heart of the plate if he’s going to take the next step.

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The A’s bullpen has some decent pieces. Blake Treinen is going to be the closer and he was inconsistent in 2017, as he had an ERA well over 5 prior to being traded to Oakland by the Nationals. However upon joining the A’s, Treinen returned to his 2016 form by posting an ERA of 2.13 in 35 games, recording 13 saves in the process. If Treinen can keep that up, the A’s should feel very comfortable with a close lead in the 9th inning. After him, newly-acquired Yusmeiro Petit is a solid reliever and Santiago Casilla was at one point a stud closer across the bay with the Giants. One guy who could be a wildcard for the A’s is Ryan Dull. Dull had a very strong 2016 season, posting an ERA of 2.42, however he struggled mightily in 2017 despite an increase in his K/9, posting an ERA over 5. He’s a guy who has shown closer potential and can be a real asset to this bullpen if he can get more consistent.

Overall, I think I’m slowly talking myself into this Oakland team. On paper they’re not very impressive, but a lot of this will depend on how their young guys perform, particularly Matt Chapman, Matt Olson, and Dustin Fowler. If those guys can build on the promise they showed last year, Oakland could be a sneaky team in a tough AL West. I don’t think they’ll make the playoffs, but I can see them as a potential sleeper in the American League. If their young talent can continue to improve, I think the A’s could be my darkhorse team much like the Rockies were last season.

Projected Record: 77-85, Last in AL West

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. I’m on Spring Break now and I’ll be partying it up in Fort Lauderdale but that doesn’t mean I won’t be keeping up with the blog. I’ll make sure I have each post scheduled before I go out so never fret. Join me tomorrow where I preview the Philadelphia Phillies, who have a lot of young talent just waiting to get an opportunity. Let me know what you think of the A’s chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

The Hot Stove is Heating Up

To kick off, yes, I did say that I’m going to post the college football bowl picks. I’m a little over halfway done with them at the moment and I guarantee that they will be up by Friday. I originally planned to go a day without a blog posted to work more on the picks blog but too many moves in Major League Baseball happened on Wednesday night-Thursday morning that I can’t ignore. So I’m cranking this one out at 1:30 in the morning. I spoil you guys.

Marlins Trade Marcell Ozuna to the Cardinals

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This is obviously the big one here. The Cardinals had a deal in place for Giancarlo Stanton before he exercised his no-trade clause and nixed the deal. However, they were able to land another star outfielder in Ozuna. It’s unclear whether or not the package headed to Miami was the one pitched for Stanton, but regardless I thought the Marlins got a decent haul, certainly a better one than the one they got for Stanton. In the trade, the Marlins received prospects Magneuris Sierra, Sandy Alcantara, Zac Gallen, and Daniel Castano. Sierra and Alcantara are the main focus of this package for the Marlins, as they ranked highly in the Cardinals’ system. So how does this trade affect the Cardinals? Let’s take a look at their potential lineup:

1. Dexter Fowler-CF

2. Paul DeJong-SS

3. Tommy Pham-LF

4. Marcell Ozuna-RF

5. Matt Carpenter-1B

6. Yadier Molina-C

7. Jedd Gyorko-3B

8. Kolten Wong-2B

9. Pitcher’s Spot

There was a bit of a logjam in the outfield for the Cardinals, as Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk are both viable options for them, however shortly after announcing the Ozuna trade, the Cardinals traded Piscotty to the Athletics for an unknown package that may include some relief help. There’s kind of a nice element to this, as Piscotty’s trade to Oakland allows him to be closer to his mother, who is currently battling ALS. Piscotty had a really strong 2016 season but struggled in 2017 after signing a 6-year extension. If he can return to form, Piscotty can be a huge asset for Oakland. As for Ozuna, he was fantastic in 2017, earning his second straight All Star nod as he hit .312 with 37 home runs and 124 RBI while playing Gold Glove defense in left field. He is currently owed about $20 million over the next couple of years before he’s eligible for free agency, which is pretty team-friendly considering the numbers he’s put up the last couple of years. If Ozuna can repeat this performance, he will likely become the face of the St. Louis Cardinals and put them right back in the thick of the playoff race.

Tigers trade Ian Kinsler to the Angels

<> at Comerica Park on September 23, 2017 in Detroit, Michigan.

Kinsler had perhaps his worst year as a pro in 2017, as he only hit a career-low .236, though that could be due to shit luck, as he only hit .244 on balls in play. However he still is a valuable player and can really benefit this suddenly dangerous Angels lineup. As you may remember from my article on Shohei Ohtani, second base was the weakest link for the Angels heading into this season. Well they’ve sure shored that up nicely. Here’s how the potential lineup looks now.

1. Ian Kinsler-2B

2. Mike Trout-CF

3. Andrelton Simmons-SS

4. Shohei Ohtani-DH/P

5. Justin Upton-LF

6. Albert Pujols-1B

7. Kole Calhoun-RF

8. Luis Valbuena-3B

9. Martin Maldonado-C

Suddenly this lineup becomes not only deadly at the plate, but also very competent defensively and I’m pretty excited to see what a double play combo of Simmons and Kinsler might look like. The Tigers received prospects Wilkel Hernandez and Troy Montgomery, who weren’t ranked very highly in the Angels’ system, suggesting that this was more of a salary dump (the Angels will take on all of the $11 million still owed to Kinsler). The Tigers are in full rebuild mode so this trade doesn’t really come as a surprise.

Michael Pineda signs with the Twins

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Pineda has to be one of the most frustrating pitchers to come up in recent memory. Looking like the next big thing when he came up with Seattle, Pineda was traded to the Yankees for Jesus Montero in a swap of top prospects, neither of which really panning out for either side. Pineda was simply never healthy. After a strong rookie performance in 2011, Pineda didn’t make a start for the Yankees until 2014 due to injuries and multiple Tommy John surgeries. His 13 starts in pinstripes that year were excellent, as he pitched to a 1.89 ERA. However after that his ERA never dipped below 4.30. He pitched one full season in 2016, but his ERA was pushing nearly 5. Then there was that whole pine tar incident, where he was caught with the stuff on his neck and using it to doctor the baseballs, which cost him a start due to suspension. A change of scenery is really what this guy needs and if he is able to bounce back, then the Twins will finally have that lockdown ace they’ve been looking for since Johan Santana. Pineda is coming off another Tommy John surgery, which he had in July, so he will most certainly miss the first half of the season at least. It’s low risk, high reward, though, as Pineda signed a 2-year deal worth only $10 million. If he can show improvement on that early promise, the Twins could wind up with the steal of the offseason.

There are talks that the Diamondbacks are looking to trade ace pitcher Zack Greinke in order to free up some money to re-sign JD Martinez

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This was one of the more surprising things I read today, as Greinke bounced back in a big way for the DBacks this year and returned to the form that earned him the $200 million contract he signed to prior to the 2016 season. I know that the Phillies and Yankees have called asking about Greinke and there will likely be many more. I don’t envision him being traded to the Phillies because they simply don’t have the ammunition. However the Yankees are a very real possibility. They still have all their top prospects after they were able to keep them following the Stanton trade (collusion!) so they are definitely a team the DBacks should have open ears to. Of course if they do take on Greinke’s contract, that will be a LOT of money on the payroll, even for the Yankees. Sure they dumped Chase Headley’s contract on the Padres, who are looking to try and flip him, but there are still a lot of massive contracts on the payroll. Another team that could be a candidate to land him is his old team, the Dodgers, especially if they don’t end up re-signing Yu Darvish. Greinke had some of his best seasons in Dodger Blue and the Dodgers have the prospects to offer. Whether the DBacks elect to trade within the division is another story entirely.

Orioles are reportedly shopping Manny Machado

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Well this is one I didn’t expect to see. While Machado is due to hit free agency after the 2018 season, where he will command a MASSIVE contract, I still find it a bit surprising he’s being shopped. He did have a down year for the O’s in 2017, but he was heating up by the end of it. The O’s went where he did and struggled as well in 2017, but there are still plenty of pieces in the lineup to compete in 2018. However, based on moves other teams have made, namely the Yankees in the division and the Angels as potential Wild Card foes, perhaps the Orioles don’t like their chances in 2018 and are hitting the rebuild button sooner rather than later. Which makes sense and could be a very wise move. It’s rumored that the White Sox are the most aggressive suitors, which makes sense given their plethora of prospects. But it’s also rumored the White Sox could flip him, potentially to the Yankees, who have also called about Machado. Don’t even get me started there. I don’t want to think about that. Because I guarantee you the last thing the Orioles would want to do is trade Machado within the division. If the White Sox acquire Machado then flip him to the Yankees, they not only give the middle finger to the Orioles, but to the rest of Major League Baseball. I mean, look at this potential lineup were the Yankees to acquire Machado:

1. Brett Gardner-LF

2. Manny Machado-3B

3. Aaron Judge-RF

4. Giancarlo Stanton-DH

5. Gary Sanchez-C

6. Didi Gregorius-SS

7. Greg Bird-1B

8. Jacoby Ellsbury/Aaron Hicks-CF

9. Ronald Torreyes-2B

Please don’t do this to me.

So that wraps up a busy day with the MLB Hot Stove. On my honor as a Tully, on my honor as a Stark, my college football picks blog will be up tomorrow. What do you think of these moves? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.