General Sports: April 12

944978006

-The rivalry is back. Red Sox and Yankees finally means something again. For awhile, the rivalry felt pretty dead as it’s hard to top one team coming back from a 3-0 deficit to win the pennant like the Red Sox did in 2004. For a while, things were pretty tame between these two teams. That was until last night. It started with a National Anthem staredown where Andrew Benintendi outlasted Sonny Gray, which was nice and harmless. Then Yankees first baseman Tyler Austin took a hard slide into Red Sox shortstop Brock Holt trying to break up a double play. Things got a little chippy at that point, when the two butted heads, resulting in the benches clearing. Things settled down, though. That is until Austin came up to bat against Joe Kelly and we got this.

I always love me a good baseball fight and this is no exception. Love the bat slam by Austin, no particular reason behind it other than it looked kinda cool. Kelly and Austin exchange words and it’s on. Kelly put a swift move on Austin and was able to get the takedown before throwing a punch at the Yankees first baseman’s head. Kelly was, of course, ejected and will likely get a suspension. Austin was tossed as well and will probably face some sort of discipline and Yankees third base coach Phil Nevin was also sent to the showers. Can’t remember the last time I heard about a third base coach getting ejected. But when the Red Sox and Yankees hate each other and both teams are stacked with great talent, that’s when baseball’s at its best. This brought back memories of Jason Varitek punching Alex Rodriguez in the face back in 2004.

-Believe it or not, that wasn’t the first baseball fight of the day. There was one out in Colorado, too, as Luis Perdomo of the Padres and Nolan Arenado of the Rockies got into it. Here’s the play in question.

Perdomo’s glove throw isn’t nearly as bad as Bryce Harper’s monumentally poor helmet throw from last season, but it’s still pretty bad. I’m not sure what the precedent was for Perdomo bringing the heat at Arenado’s back because it kind of came out of nowhere. With Kelly throwing at Austin, it was retaliation for Austin’s hard slide into Holt. There wasn’t really an inciting incident for this one. But I always enjoy a good baseball fight. The second game I ever attended had a baseball fight and I almost missed it. It was at Tropicana Field as I was visiting my grandparents in Florida back in 2005 (I was 9 years old). My grandma was taking me and my brother to the gift shop to get something when I heard a commotion in the stadium. I ran to the nearest entryway and sure enough, the Red Sox and Devil Rays (this was back when they still carried that name) were swarmed together around the mound. What happened was Tampa Bay pitcher Dewon Brazelton had plunked Manny Ramirez then threw at David Ortiz as the very next batter. He missed Ortiz, but Big Papi took exception and he charged the mound. The Red Sox won the game 11-3 on the strength of a grand slam by Jay Payton of all people.

-I got a chance to watch Amazon Prime’s All or Nothing: The Michigan Wolverines over the course of this past week. It’s 8 episodes long and chronicles Michigan’s season from their spring trip to Italy to their Outback Bowl loss to South Carolina. Amazon Prime has been doing All or Nothing in the NFL for the last couple years and it’s been fantastic every time. This year’s NFL team is the Cowboys and it will be released on April 27. But this was the first time they focused on a college football team and I’m not sure they could’ve picked a much better subject to focus on.

at Camp Randall Stadium on November 18, 2017 in Madison, Wisconsin.

Jim Harbaugh basically expressed every emotion imaginable during these 8 episodes. When Michigan won handily, I don’t think there’s a human being alive who is a happier dude. When Michigan lost, particularly the Michigan State loss, Harbaugh seemed terrifying to be around. It was almost like he was going to snap at the first person who talked to him. His wife seemed like she was doing everything she could to tread lightly. We also got a look at his coaching style and I’ll tell you what, he’s a pretty unique dude. His speeches can get a little bizarre but strangely motivating. We find out in the final episode where he gets it from, his father Jack. In the final episode, before the South Carolina game, Jack Harbaugh speaks to the team and gives them a rousing speech about a boxing match he saw once and basically every mannerism and word choice was pretty similar to Jim’s.

Some other things of note: Rashan Gary’s intelligence isn’t highlighted enough by the media. Everyone talks about how he was the nation’s #1 recruit a couple of years ago and that he’s one of the best defensive linemen in the country. But the guy carries a GPA of around 4.0 at one of the toughest universities in the country and he’s really well-spoken. The dinner scene he has with his mom about not wanting his dad to be a part of his life is pretty moving and I thought was the best scene in the whole series and that includes the NFL seasons. His passion is also very apparent in games as he was often mic’d up for the games. You could really feel his intensity.

Defensive coordinator Don Brown didn’t get enough screen time. The guy was electric every time he was on camera and he kind of reminded me of Mike Ditka at times. There was surprisingly very little cussing from anyone on the staff, players or coaches (Hell, Offensive Coordinator Pep Hamilton yelled “FUDGE” after an Ohio State touchdown). I don’t know if that was planned ahead of time or if that’s just how they run things in Ann Arbor. But I’m pretty sure every single ‘f’ bomb uttered came out of Brown’s mouth while he was coaching or hyping players up. He pretty much stole every scene he was in.

Another scene-stealer was defensive end Chase Winovich. Off the field he was kind of bland but when he was on the field he was an absolute riot with his trash talking. My favorite was in the Wisconsin game after he got a sack. He walked up to a Wisconsin offensive lineman and yelled “protect your quarterback!” at him. It was pretty much like this all the time for every game that was shown.

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

 

General Sports: April 6

930632184

-My worst fears have been realized: Celtics guard Kyrie Irving is out for the season. He underwent knee surgery to fix a problem that had been nagging him all year and caused him to sporadically miss time throughout the season. This was something I’ve been worried about since Irving initially started missing time a few months ago. Now the Celtics’ top 2 offseason additions, Irving and Gordon Hayward, are out for the season. I was pretty distraught but a buddy of mine did alleviate my concerns by pointing out to me that this may suck for the 2017-18 Celtics but it’s great for the 2018-19 team. Think about it. The youngsters get a chance to show off their stuff in a more prominent role while Irving and Hayward rest up and get healthy for next season. They probably weren’t ready to unseat the Cavs or defeat the upstart Raptors without Hayward or with a limited Irving, so giving the young guys like Terry Rozier, Jayson Tatum, and Jaylen Brown the reigns for the rest of the year will be a good way to advance their careers.

-The Patriots signed wide receiver Jordan Matthews to a 1 year deal, the financials of which are currently unknown. This is a great move. It’s low risk, high reward. Matthews is a wicked talented wideout who has struggled with injuries and drops in his young career. He looked on the brink of a breakout after his second season with the Eagles in 2015 but then the drops started catching up to him and he was dealt to the Bills prior to the 2017 season. Fully healthy, he could have a real impact as a bigger receiver that the Patriots have lacked since Randy Moss.

-Other free agency signings, Marquette King signed with the Broncos after being cut by the Raiders because new head coach Jon Gruden didn’t like his personality (which is that he has a personality. Punters don’t usually have that). He chose division rival Denver for “revenge.” I don’t know exactly how much revenge a punter can exact, but King is a fun punter to watch so I’ll be curious to see how he does with the favorable conditions that Denver poses to kickers and punters. Kony Ealy also signed with the Cowboys to help shore up their pass rush a little bit. He doesn’t solve their problem of a guy opposite Demarcus Lawrence, but he’s a solid rotational option who can provide some value. Just watch Super Bowl L where he came out of nowhere to record 3 sacks, force a fumble, and intercept Peyton Manning.

-The Red Sox stole one from the Rays in their home opener, much like the Rays stole one from the Red Sox in the season opener. David Price was dominant for 7 innings once again, allowing no runs and striking out 5. This his second straight start going 7 innings and allowing no runs to start the season. He hasn’t been dominating but he’s been doing what he needs to win, which is get outs. The concern is the bullpen, as Carson Smith let up a 2-run homer to Matt Duffy in the top of the 8th to give the Rays a 2-0 lead. The bats had also been silenced all game, which has been an issue as aside from Xander Bogaerts, nobody has really been hitting all that consistently. However they seemed to emerge in the bottom of the 9th as they scored 2 runs to tie it up and won in the bottom of the 12th when Hanley Ramirez hit one to the warning track with the bases loaded. The Red Sox starting pitching has been ridiculous to start the season but the bats have been underwhelming. They’re going to need to make some changes because the kind of success the rotation is having right now isn’t sustainable for 162 games and the bats will need to come through more consistently. However, as it is, the Red Sox have won 6 in a row and are sitting at 6-1 with the best record in the American League.

-If James Paxton weren’t Canadian, I’d have to agree with PFT’s sentiment here.

The Eagle got loose and decided to chill on Paxton’s shoulder for a little bit as he was warming up. He did have a pretty strong outing, going 5+ allowing just 2 runs (both came on a 2-run homer by Miguel Sano in the top of the 6th) and struck out 7. It wasn’t enough for the Mariners to beat the Twins, but maybe an eagle landing on Paxton’s shoulder propelled him to the strong outing. You never know with sabermetrics.

That’s really all I got for today, kind of a slow news day in the sports world. Let me know what you think of the topics discussed in the comments section below and on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

2018 MLB Season Preview

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

933721940

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

858479322

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

901402434

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

853830316

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

861778072

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

867989776

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

904279036

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

860347842

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

937748840

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

899469118

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

858795844

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

931100776

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

869173216

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

868810112

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

864121558

National League MVP: Bryce Harper-RF-Washington Nationals

858688970

American League Cy Young: Chris Sale-Boston Red Sox

854391602

National League Cy Young: Noah Syndergaard-New York Mets

856808514

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

929648582

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

935392554

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

924093726

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

929305444

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: The Seattle Mariners

The biggest news I have to report right now is Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue is taking a leave of absence due to medical reasons. The immediate takes are that LeBron has some thing to do with this, however I’m going to genuinely believe Lue really does have a medical condition he needs to deal with at this point. We don’t need to deal with another Gary Kubiak situation where he suffers a mini stroke on the sideline so it’s better that he rest up. But add this on to the soap opera that is any team that Lebron is on. So with that, let’s get into the latest edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days, featuring the Seattle Mariners.

857094728

2017 Results:

Record: 78-84, 23 games behind Houston Astros, 7 games behind Minnesota Twins for 2nd Wild Card Spot

Notable Offseason Additions: CF Dee Gordon, 1B Ryon Healy, RF Ichiro Suzuki, RP Juan Nicasio, RP Mike Morin, UTIL Andrew Romine

Notable Offseason Subtractions: 1B Yonder Alonso, OF Jarrod Dyson, 3B Danny Valencia, RP Shae Simmons, RP Ernesto Frieri, SP Yovani Gallardo, SP Drew Smyly, RP Evan Marshall, C Carlos Ruiz, 2B Gordon Beckham

Best Offensive Player: 2B Robinson Cano

Best Pitcher: James Paxton

Depth Chart:

C-Mike Zunino, Mike Majarma

1B-Dan Vogelbach, Ryon Healy

2B-Robinson Cano

3B-Kyle Seager, Andrew Romine

SS-Jean Segura, Taylor Motter

LF-Ben Gamel, Ichiro Suzuki

CF-Dee Gordon

RF-Mitch Haniger, Nelson Cruz (DH), Guillermo Heredia

SP-James Paxton, Felix Hernandez, Mike Leake, Erasmo Ramirez, Ariel Miranda, Marco Gonzales

Bullpen-Edwin Diaz (CP), Juan Nicasio, Nick Vincent, David Phelps, Mark Rzepczyinski, Dan Altavilla, James Pazos, Mike Morin

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Scott Servais (3rd season with Mariners)

Hitting Coach-Edgar Martinez

Pitching Coach-Mel Stottlemyre

1st Base Coach-Chris Prieto

3rd Base Coach-Scott Brosius

Bench Coach-Manny Acta

852069562

The Mariners always seem to be on the brink of being really good but never quite reach those heights. I couldn’t tell you why that is, perhaps the 2001 team that won 116 games then got bounced in the ALCS cursed them, considering they haven’t made the postseason since that season. But this year I feel that they have the chance to be really good provided they can stay relatively healthy (no team can ever stay perfectly healthy). Here’s a look out how I’m projecting them to line up in 2018.

1. Dee Gordon-CF

2. Jean Segura-SS

3. Robinson Cano-2B

4. Nelson Cruz-DH

5. Kyle Seager-3B

6. Mitch Haniger-RF

7. Ben Gamel-LF

8. Mike Zunino-C

9. Dan Vogelbach/Ryon Healy-1B

That’s a strong lineup right there, especially the top half. Dee Gordon is arguably the fastest player in baseball and he’ll be moving from his usual second base to the outfield. I’m not sure how well that’s going to work out, considering he’s been a middle infielder his whole career, but from the small sample size I’ve seen he looks decent. Robinson Cano continues to make me look dumb for suggesting to a baseball panel that included ESPN’s Buster Olney, some Red Sox scouts, and Brewers reliever Oliver Drake that Cano’s tenure in Seattle would be a disaster. For context, my high school hosts a Hot Stove forum every year where noted alumni such as Olney and Drake come to talk baseball. I attended all four years I was at the school and after Cano signed his huge deal with the Mariners, I asked them if they thought that the signing would have a similar effect on Cano that it had on Adrian Beltre several years prior, where a great player’s career was nearly crushed by the Safeco Field confines. They felt that he would be fine, though a power decline could be in order since he’d be leaving Yankee Stadium, whose dimensions are “a joke,” as one scout put it. Last season Cano hit .280 with 23 home runs and 97 RBI and was All Star Game MVP after hitting a go-ahead solo home run in the top of the 10th inning to win the game for the AL. The switch to Safeco seems to not be affecting Cano the way I expected. Surrounding Cano in that lineup is Nelson Cruz and Corey’s Brother, Kyle Seager. Cruz continues to mash, as he hit .288 last season with 39 home runs and 119 RBI. Seager had a down year in terms of average, as he only hit .249, however he did hit 27 home runs and drove in 88 RBI while playing a decent third base and being worth 3.5 WAR. But the big breakout hitter for the Mariners was catcher Mike Zunino last season. Zunino was a former top 5 pick in the MLB Draft who was absolutely abysmal as a hitter to start his career, as he consistently struggled to get over the Mendoza Line. He was always a quality defender, but his bat was holding him back. That changed last season, as he hit .251 with 25 home runs and 64 RBI while being the second most valuable hitter on the team after Cruz with a 3.6 WAR. If Zunino can continue that trajectory, the Mariners will have an absolutely DEADLY lineup.

831802168

Pitching is kind of weird for the Mariners right now. For so long, Felix Hernandez was the be-all-end-all for that staff, however he’s been trending in the wrong direction for a few years now. Battling injuries in 2017, Hernandez went just 6-5 in 16 starts with a 4.36 ERA and let up 1.77 HR/9. In fact, since finishing as runner-up for AL Cy Young in 2014 with a 2.14 ERA, his ERA has gone up in every season. It’s hard to believe he’s only 31 years old because it feels like he’s been in the Majors forever (he debuted as a 20 year-old) and now it appears that he’s in the twilight of his career. Luckily for the Mariners, though, King Felix’s decline isn’t a sign of doomsday for the rotation. James Paxton appears ready to take over the mantle as team ace, as he had a very strong 2017 (when healthy). In 24 starts, Paxton went 12-5 with a 2.98 ERA and struck out over 10 batters per 9 innings while keeping a microscopic HR/9 rate of 0.60, which would’ve been the best number in baseball had he pitched enough innings to qualify. Hernandez’s streak of 9 straight Opening Day starts could be in danger with the rise of Paxton. After those two guys, Mike Leake is an accomplished sinkerballer who had a decent 2017 between the Cardinals and Mariners, posting a 3.92 ERA overall but a 2.53 ERA in 5 starts with the Mariners. Safeco Field plays well to his strengths so I wonder if the 30 year-old could be in for a big season.

854264930

The Mariners bullpen features one of the most electrifying relievers in the game in Edwin Diaz. Diaz’s fastball can touch 98 MPH and his breaking ball practically falls off the table. I think he’s the most talented reliever I’ve seen since Carlos Marmol (who I believe is the most talented pitcher of this past generation). However, like Marmol, Diaz has had control issues. Marmol threw gas with the Cubs and had a wicked breaking ball that was pretty much impossible to hit. As a result, he got a ton of strikeouts but also walked a ton of batters because it appeared he had no idea where any of his pitches were headed. Diaz is kind of in the same boat. He had a 3.27 ERA last season and struck out over 12 batters per 9 but also walked over 4 per 9. If he can somehow find a way to master his pitches, we could be looking at another Craig Kimbrel rather than Carlos Marmol, who flamed out with the Cubs. After Diaz, there really isn’t much of note in the Mariners’ ‘pen. Nick Vincent has a nice slider while Juan Nicasio was pretty reliable for the Pirates for a while. The success of this ‘pen is going to come down to Diaz, though. If he can realize his potential, the 9th inning will be on lockdown for this club.

Overall, I think the Mariners have a talented squad. I really do believe they can challenge for a Wild Card spot. There’s no shot at the division crown for them because, let’s face it, nobody in that division is unseating the Astros. It’ll be a really tight race between them and the Anaheim Angels, however if you’ve been keeping track of my projected records and finishes for each team, you’ll notice that I have the Angels winning that race. I’ve got the Mariners narrowly missing a postseason berth once again.

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

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow where I preview the St. Louis Cardinals, who made a rare big splash in the offseason when they acquired Marcell Ozuna from the Marlins. Let me know what you think of the Mariners’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: Cleveland Indians

Some NFL news to talk about before I get into the Tribe. The Lions are going to place the franchise tag on defensive end Ziggy Ansah, which is a smart move as there aren’t a ton of pass rushers for Detroit to pursue and they’re already thin at the position as it is. It was also announced that the Vikings would not tag Case Keenum, which would suggest that they may be holding out hope that they can land Kirk Cousins. Jarvis Landry and DeMarcus Lawrence will be getting tagged if they aren’t signed by the Dolphins and Cowboys, respectively, so that’s two more names off the market. At some point after the deadline to franchise tag, I’ll post a Top 10 NFL free agents blog in addition to that day’s 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Also, in baseball news, Tim Lincecum will be signing with the Texas Rangers. It’ll be interesting to see if he even has anything left in the tank at this stage in his career. Let’s get into the Cleveland Indians.

860333938

2017 Results:

Record: 102-60, Won AL Central by 17 games over Minnesota Twins, lost to New York Yankees in ALDS

Notable Offseason Additions: 1B Yonder Alonso, OF Rajai Davis, 1B Mike Napoli, RP Matt Belisle, RP Adam Wilk, RP Evan Marshall

Notable Offseason Subtractions: 1B Carlos Santana, OF Jay Bruce, RP Bryan Shaw, RP Joe Smith, RP Craig Breslow, OF Austin Jackson, RP Boone Logan

Best Offensive Player: SS Francisco Lindor

Best Pitcher: Corey Kluber

Depth Chart:

C-Roberto Perez, Yan Gomes

1B-Yonder Alonso, Edwin Encarnacion (DH), Mike Napoli

2B-Jason Kipnis, Michael Martinez

3B-Jose Ramirez, Giovanny Urshela

SS-Francisco Lindor

LF-Michael Brantley, Rajai Davis

CF-Bradley Zimmer, Tyler Naquin, Abraham Almonte

RF-Lonnie Chisenhall, Brandon Guyer

SP-Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, Trevor Bauer, Josh Tomlin, Mike Clevinger

Bullpen-Cody Allen (CP), Andrew Miller, Matt Belisle, Adam Wilk, Zach McAllister, Dan Otero, Evan Marshall

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Terry Francona (6th season with Indians)

Hitting Coach-Ty Van Burkleo

Pitching Coach-Carl Willis

1st Base Coach-Sandy Alomar Jr

3rd Base Coach-Mike Sarbaugh

Bench Coach-Brad Mills

857152880

I really thought for sure that last season was the Indians’ year. They won 102 games, including an American League (and debatably Major League) record 22 in a row. I say debatably for Major League record because the actual record of 26 held by the 1916 New York Giants included a tie due to darkness, since this was before any stadiums had any lights installed. But the Indians entered the postseason as arguably the hottest team in baseball and they even got out to a 2-0 lead in a best-of-5 ALDS against the Yankees. However, they blew that lead much like they blew their 3-1 World Series lead against the Cubs in 2016 and had to watch the Astros win their first ever World Series from their couches. But the Indians are in prime position to make another run this year as a loaded roster combined with a weak division (I believe the 3 worst teams in the American League all hail from the AL Central) should point to an easy path to another division crown. Let’s take a look at how the Indians could stack up.

1. Jason Kipnis-2B

2. Jose Ramirez-3B

3. Francisco Lindor-SS

4. Edwin Encarnacion-DH

5. Michael Brantley-LF

6. Yonder Alonso-1B

7. Lonnie Chisenhall-RF

8. Roberto Perez/Yan Gomes-C

9. Bradley Zimmer-CF

That’s a pretty dangerous lineup. While Kipnis had a down year in 2017, I fully expect him to return to form because when he’s on, he’s one of the best second basemen in the game. And I expect he’s going to get more opportunities to do so because following him in the lineup is some pretty dangerous company. Jose Ramirez was a beast last season as he hit .318 with 29 home runs, 83 RBI, slugged .583, and was worth 6.6 WAR en route to finishing third in AL MVP voting. After him is Francisco Lindor, whom many would argue is the best shortstop in all of baseball. Last season Lindor hit .273, clubbed 33 home runs, drove in 89 RBI and was worth 5.9 WAR while playing exceptional defense at shortstop. Then there’s Edwin Encarnacion, who may be the biggest right-handed power threat in the game outside of New York. Encarnacion has slugged at least .500 in every season since his breakout 2012 campaign and there’s no reason to think he won’t keep up that trend. And if Michael Brantley can finally get healthy and return to form, look out. The only position that’s not really set here is centerfield but they’ve been testing out their young talent. Bradley Zimmer has the most potential between him and Tyler Naquin and it helps that he has blazing speed to go along with some pretty good pop. If he ends up breaking out this year, the Indians could be challenging the 2001 Mariners’ 116 wins.

855154978

One could argue that the Indians’ pitching is just as good, if not better, than their hitting. They ranked #1 in all of Major League Baseball in team ERA and were the only pitching staff to collectively strike out 10 batters per 9 innings all season. They’re spearheaded by reigning Cy Young winner Corey Kluber, who was once again dominant in 2017 as he pitched to a record of 18-4 with a 2.25 ERA and struck out 11.71 batters per 9 innings. His sinker and breaking ball are two of the filthiest pitches in the Majors and will likely make him one of the favorites to win the Cy Young once again. Behind him is Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar and while Salazar is injured and likely to miss the start of the season, there’s still Carrasco, a guy who would likely be the ace of most staffs. Last season, Carrasco went 18-6 with a 3.29 ERA and struck out over 10 batters per 9 innings. Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin are two other guys who could be big contributors to this rotation. Bauer went 17-9 with a 4.19 ERA and struck out 10 batters per 9 innings but his skill is so much greater than that when he’s not slicing his finger open on drones. If he can realize his potential, there’s a 4-headed monster in Cleveland’s rotation.

614905924

The Indians also have one of the best bullpens in baseball. Cody Allen has been one of the better closers in in the game for the last three years, as he has had at least 30 saves, struck out 11 batters per 9 innings, and a sub-3 ERA in all three seasons. However despite being the closer, he’s not even the best reliever in their ‘pen. That distinction belongs to the left-handed Andrew Miller. Manager Terry Francona and his staff have carved out a unique role for Miller in today’s game. Miller will often set up Allen for at least 2 innings at a time and is probably the only reliever in the game who typically pitches more than one inning in any given outing. It hasn’t hurt his numbers either. Last season he had a 1.44 ERA while striking out over 13 batters per 9 innings. Absolute dominance. They did lose a quality reliever in Bryan Shaw to the Colorado Rockies in the offseason, but there is still plenty of depth in the Indians bullpen that ought to make Francona comfortable with a lead late in games.

Overall I would say that the Indians are the favorites to win the American League, maybe even the World Series. It will likely be a dogfight in the American League this season as the Yankees, Red Sox, and Astros all look like dangerous threats to the Tribe’s title hopes. The Yankees added the biggest slugger in baseball in Giancarlo Stanton, the Red Sox added a guy who rivals Stanton’s power in JD Martinez, and the Astros lost nothing from a team that won the 2017 World Series. In fact, they added another ace to their already stellar rotation in Gerrit Cole. It’s going to be a tough road to the top for the Indians but they are more than well-equipped to try and win their first World Series since 1948.

Projected Record: 99-63, Win AL Central

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow where I discuss the Colorado Rockies, who look to build on their breakthrough 2017 season, which was a surprise to everyone except me (as you may have known, I had the Rockies as my darkhorse team last season in a paper I wrote for a column-writing class). Let me know what you think of the Indians’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: Boston Red Sox

Some huge news in the college basketball world as some initial reports have been released regarding current and former players and improper benefits from either schools or agents. The biggest names listed are Michigan State’s Miles Bridges (as if Michigan State needed any more scandals), Alabama’s Colin Sexton, Duke’s Wendell Carter, Markelle Fultz of the 76ers (attended Washington), Kyle Kuzma of the Lakers (attended Utah), and Dennis Smith Jr of the Mavericks (attended NC State). The investigation is still ongoing so I’ll provide more details when more information is released. Also, a big trade was agreed upon between the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Rams, as the Chiefs are sending star cornerback Marcus Peters to LA for a package of draft picks. This just made an already good Rams defense absolutely terrifying. But today is 30 Clubs in 30 Days and I’m featuring the Boston Red Sox. As I’m sure readers of my blog are well aware, I’m a Red Sox fan, so I apologize if I go a little more in depth with them than other teams. I’m only human. So let’s get a look at the Red Sox’ chances in 2018.

859428512

2017 Results:

Record: 93-69, Won AL East over New York Yankees by 2 games, lost to Houston Astros in ALDS

Notable Offseason Additions: OF JD Martinez

Notable Offseason Subtractions: RP Addison Reed, OF Chris Young, RP Fernando Abad, RP Blaine Boyer, 2B Josh Rutledge, CF Rajai Davis, SP Henry Owens, SP Doug Fister

Best Offensive Player: RF Mookie Betts

Best Pitcher: Chris Sale

Depth Chart:

C-Christian Vazquez, Sandy Leon

1B-Hanley Ramirez, Mitch Moreland

2B-Dustin Pedroia, Eduardo Nunez

3B-Rafael Devers, Deven Marrero

SS-Xander Bogaerts

LF-Andrew Benintendi, Brock Holt

CF-Jackie Bradley Jr

RF-Mookie Betts, JD Martinez (DH)

SP-Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello, Drew Pomeranz, Eduardo Rodriguez, Steven Wright

Bullpen-Craig Kimbrel (CP), Joe Kelly, Matt Barnes, Heath Hembree, Carson Smith, Tyler Thornburg, Austin Maddox, Brandon Workman, Robby Scott

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Alex Cora (1st season with Red Sox)

Hitting Coach-Tim Hyers

Pitching Coach-Dana LeVangie

1st Base Coach-Tom Goodwin

3rd Base Coach-Carlos Febles

Bench Coach-Ron Roenicke

859402878

The Red Sox regressed in a big way offensively in 2017. After scoring the most runs in the American League in 2016, they dropped off significantly and finished dead last in the American League in home runs. For a while, it didn’t look like they were going to do a whole lot to change things other than bring back guys from last year’s team (Mitch Moreland and Eduardo Nunez). That was until they signed JD Martinez to a 5-year $110M deal. I won’t expand too much about his potential role in Boston, as I did so in the blog I just linked. Now they look to get back on track under rookie manager Alex Cora. Here’s a look at how the Red Sox are projected to line up in 2018.

1. Eduardo Nunez/Dustin Pedroia-2B

2. Andrew Benintendi-LF

3. Mookie Betts-RF

4. JD Martinez-DH

5. Xander Bogaerts-SS

6. Hanley Ramirez/Mitch Moreland-1B

7. Rafael Devers-3B

8. Christian Vazquez/Sandy Leon-C

9. Jackie Bradley Jr-CF

854377082

Now on paper that’s a pretty imposing lineup as long as they can return to their 2016 forms because only Christian Vazquez took a step forward at the dish in 2017. It’s an entirely new coaching staff with a different philosophy so it’ll be interesting to see how they do things. Alex Cora stated recently that he doesn’t really get the whole “lefty/lefty righty/righty” conundrum, stating something along the lines of “you’ve been hitting lefties all your life and now all of a sudden you can’t hit lefties when you reach the Majors? Doesn’t make sense to me.” He hasn’t even managed a meaningful game yet and I already love his style. But there is a ton of ability in this lineup if Cora and company can get the most out of it. The young stars have been nicknamed the Killer B’s, consisting of Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr, and Andrew Benintendi, all of whom can take over games when teams aren’t careful. Betts is the most dangerous of the bunch, as he was AL MVP runner-up in 2016 and despite taking a step back in 2017, was still their best hitter, batting .264 with 24 home runs, 102 RBI, 26 stolen bases, 32 DRS, and was worth 5.1 WAR. Bogaerts is another talented hitter but he’s also extremely streaky. When he’s hot, he’s impossible to get out. You’ll see 3-4 game after 3-4 game and his batting average will skyrocket up into the .350’s. But when he’s cold, you have to work your ass off to let up a hit to him. In fact, there was a long stretch in the middle of the season where Bogaerts was the worst statistical hitter in baseball. Jackie Bradley is another guy who can be streaky, like Bogaerts, but unlike Bogaerts, Bradley is an excellent defender at a premium position so when he’s not hitting well, he can still make excellent contributions in the field. I listed Bradley as the 9th hitter mainly because he’s had so much success in that position. In fact, it’s been a while since I updated this stat, but last I checked, Bradley was a career .346 hitter when batting 9th. Benintendi was the runner-up for AL Rookie of the Year last season and probably would have won it, too if Aaron Judge didn’t set the rookie record with 52 home runs and finished runner-up for AL MVP. Benintendi hit .271 with 20 home runs, 90 RBI, and 20 stolen bases while playing a solid left field. Another guy the Red Sox have to be excited about is third baseman Rafael Devers. Devers is a bad defender at the hot corner and I think that he’s going to have to eventually switch to either first base or start DH’ing before long. But he shows bat discipline well beyond his years (he turns 22 in October). Watching Devers’ at bats as a youngster, I noticed that he doesn’t try and do his own thing at the plate. He takes what the pitcher gives him and goes with the pitch. For example, he’s not going to try and pull everything. If he’s thrown a curveball low and away, he’ll wait patiently for it to get to him and will send it the other way. He’s a guy I’m really excited for in his first full season in a Red Sox uniform.

859439296

The Red Sox pitching was fantastic in 2017, as they finished 4th in the Majors with a 3.73 team ERA. That was thanks in large part to their trade acquisition of Chris Sale from the Chicago White Sox in the 2017 offseason. Sale was an absolute monster in his first season in a Red Sox uniform, going 17-8 with a 2.90 ERA and 308 strikeouts. He was 5 strikeouts away from tying Pedro Martinez’s franchise record, a record he likely would’ve broken had he been allowed to pitch his last start. However that start came at a time that would’ve affected his ability to start Game 1 of the ALDS so I think then-manager John Farrell made the right move there. David Price was battling injuries throughout the year but he was pretty solid when he was on the mound and even better when he was placed in the bullpen. He finished the year at 6-3 with a 3.38 ERA, which included an ERA of 0.00 in 5 relief appearances. A fully healthy season for Price would be huge for the Red Sox. Rick Porcello had a rough follow-up to his Cy Young-winning 2016 season, as he went 11-17 (most losses in baseball) with a 4.65 ERA. However he is still one of the more talented pitchers on the Red Sox roster and if he can return to form in 2018, that’s three aces at the top of the Red Sox rotation. And that’s without even mentioning Drew Pomeranz, who after a brutal first 2 months of the season, was absolutely terrific for the Sox. In the second half of the season, his ERA was 3.01, bringing his overall line to 17-6 with a 3.32 ERA. Not bad for your fourth starter.

859480852

The Red Sox bullpen is also expected to be very strong, spearheaded by the American League’s Reliever of the Year in Craig Kimbrel. Kimbrel was dynamite in 2017, as he finished with 35 saves, a 1.43 ERA, and a Strikeout per 9 rate of 16.43, which is absolutely ridiculous. Provided Kimbrel can stay healthy, the 9th inning will be a sure thing for the Red Sox. It’s the rest of the bullpen that has some question marks. Joe Kelly had a breakthrough season as a reliever, including throwing the fastest pitch ever by a righty at 103.5 mph and finished with a 2.79 ERA but that was after being in the low 1’s for much of the year. Tyler Thornburg and Carson Smith hope to be big parts of the Red Sox bullpen but both guys are recovering from injuries. Smith was able to appear at the end of the 2017 season and he did pitch pretty well, pitching to a 1.35 ERA in 8 appearances. Thornburg, however, has yet to pitch an inning for the Red Sox after being acquired from the Brewers in the Travis Shaw trade. He was Milwaukee’s closer prior to the trade so he’s another guy the Sox have to be excited for. The Red Sox could potentially have one of the top bullpens in baseball if they can stay healthy.

Overall, I think the Red Sox have a legitimate shot at a World Series. Basically every facet of their team could rank amongst the top 5 in baseball. The problem is going to be getting by the Yankees, who made the biggest move of the offseason when they acquired Giancarlo Stanton in a trade with the Marlins. It’s going to be a fight to the death between those two teams. The return to form of the hitters in this Red Sox lineup will go a long way towards the success of Alex Cora’s first year as manager. If all goes well, this team could win 100 games.

Projected Finish: 95-67, Host AL Wild Card Game against Anaheim Angels

That’s going to do it for Day 5 of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow when I discuss the Chicago Cubs, who are looking to win the NL Central for the third straight season and will try and win their second World Series in 3 years. Let me know what you think of the Red Sox’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: Atlanta Braves

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

846215968

2017 Results:

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

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

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

Best Position Player: 1B Freddie Freeman

Best Pitcher: Julio Teheran

Depth Chart

C-Tyler Flowers, Kurt Suzuki, Chris Stewart

1B-Freddie Freeman

2B-Ozzie Albies

3B-Johan Camargo, Rio Ruiz

SS-Dansby Swanson, Charlie Culberson

LF-Lane Adams, Preston Tucker

CF-Ender Inciarte

RF-Nick Markakis

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

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

Coaching Staff

Manager-Brian Snitker (2nd Season with Braves)

Hitting Coach-Kevin Seitzer

Pitching Coach-Chuck Hernandez

1st Base Coach-Eric Young

3rd Base Coach-Ron Washington

Bench Coach-Walt Weiss

841006356

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

1. Ender Inciarte-CF

2. Ozzie Albies-2B

3. Freddie Freeman-1B

4. Nick Markakis-RF

5. Tyler Flowers-C

6. Dansby Swanson-SS

7. Lane Adams-LF

8. Johan Camargo-3B

9. Pitcher’s Spot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

30 Clubs in 30 Days: Anaheim Angels

With the baseball season quickly approaching, I thought I’d give this type of segment a try. Depending on how it goes, I may decide to do football as well when August rolls around. 30 MLB clubs in 30 days. My rules for when teams get to go are simple, it’s alphabetically in order of location. And yes, we’re starting with Anaheim because the Angels play for Anaheim, not Los Angeles of Anaheim. That’s stupid. Plus if you translate from Spanish, their name is The Angels Angels of Anaheim. Yes that was stupid to do but so is calling your team a city of a city. So enough bitching, before I get to the Angels, I want to bring to light the changes to pace of play that Major League Baseball has announced a few changes, the one major one being the limiting of number of mound visits per game. There used to not be a limit except that the pitcher had to be pulled if they were visited by a coach twice in one inning, but now they’re only allowed to be visited by coaches and players 6 times per 9 innings with an extra time being granted for extra innings. There are a couple of exceptions, for example if it is clear to the umpire that the pitcher and catcher were not on page with the last pitch, the catcher can ask for a mound visit that the umpire can grant without it counting against them so that he and the pitcher can get their signs straight. This change is long overdue because too many visits can cause a game to absolutely DRAG. Still no pitch clock but I’m still not sure how you’d be able to enforce that so I’m not bitching. Now, on to the Angels.

899475784

2017 Results:

Record: 80-82, 2nd in AL West, 21 games behind the Houston Astros, 5 games behind the Minnesota Twins for the 2nd Wild Card spot

Notable Offseason Additions: P/OF Shohei Ohtani, 2B Ian Kinsler, 3B Zack Cozart, OF Chris Young, 1B Chris Carter

Notable Offseason Subtractions: 1B CJ Cron, RP Fernando Salas, OF Ben Revere, 2B Brandon Phillips, RP Yusmeiro Petit, 3B Yunel Escobar, CP Bud Norris

Best Position Player: CF Mike Trout

Best Pitcher: Garrett Richards

Depth Chart:

C-Martin Maldonado, Carlos Perez, Rene Rivera

1B-Albert Pujols, Chris Carter

2B-Ian Kinsler, Jefry Marte

3B-Zack Cozart, Luis Valbuena

SS-Andrelton Simmons

LF-Justin Upton, Chris Young

CF-Mike Trout

RF-Kole Calhoun

SP-Garrett Richards, Matt Shoemaker, Tyler Skaggs, Andrew Heaney, Nick Tropeano, JC Ramirez

Bullpen-Blake Parker (CP?), Jim Johnson (CP?), Cam Bedrosian, Alex Meyer, Blake Wood, Noe Ramirez, Jose Alvarez, Kenyan Middleton

Wildcard-Shohei Ohtani

Coaching Staff:

Manager: Mike Scioscia (18 seasons with Angels)

Hitting Coach: Eric Hinske

Pitching Coach: Charles Nagy

1st Base Coach: Alfredo Griffin

3rd Base Coach: Dino Ebel

Bench Coach: Josh Paul

918500756

I included an additional position of “Wildcard” for Ohtani mainly because we’ve never really had a player quite like him. A guy who can hit 100 mph as a pitcher and hit over .300 as a hitter, the biggest story following the Angels this year will likely be him. And that’s saying something, especially considering the best baseball player on the planet plays centerfield in Anaheim in Mike Trout. Ohtani’s usage in Anaheim will be one of the more interesting tasks that manager Mike Scioscia has had in his tenure as Angels manager, his 18-year term is the longest among active managers. Ohtani has also battled injuries during his time in Japan so I wonder if being a two-way player has anything to do with that. I think that if things start compounding on him and he struggles, then Scioscia will can the experiment and relegate him to whichever he is performing best at, or wherever the Angels need him most.

The Angels seem to be gearing up for a run at a World Series based on the series of moves they made in the offseason. It started with the signing of Ohtani, then they acquired Ian Kinsler in a trade with the Tigers and signed Zack Cozart away from the Reds. On paper, their lineup is as imposing as they come, even with Albert Pujols’ albatross of a contract. Here’s a look at what the Angels could be rolling out there when opening day against the Indians comes.

1. Ian Kinsler-2B

2. Mike Trout-CF

3. Shohei Ohtani-DH

4. Justin Upton-LF

5. Kole Calhoun-RF

6. Zack Cozart-3B

7. Andrelton Simmons-SS

8. Albert Pujols-1B

9. Martin Maldonado-C

Whether the lineup actually ends up looking like this is a different story because if I’m Scioscia, I honestly have no effing idea what to do with some of these spots. We really don’t know what Ohtani is capable of at the dish against Major League pitching and batting him third out of the gate like where I’ve got him slated may be a little premature. Also trying to place 5-8 was extremely difficult, Pujols being the most frustrating considering he will be making $27M this season as a 38 year-old who is WELL past his prime but kind of has to be in the lineup because he’s making so much. He’s still dangerous but he’s a far cry from the player he was in St. Louis. I put him 8th trying to ignore his name value, even though that will likely slot him higher in the order. It wouldn’t shock me in the slightest to see him batting cleanup just because he’s Albert Pujols. It’s also difficult to place guys like Kole Calhoun, Zack Cozart, and Andrelton Simmons because I think all three guys are capable of hitting at the top of the lineup. It’s just a matter of getting the most out of them. Calhoun has been a nice complement to Trout in the past whereas Cozart has struggled to remain healthy and one has to wonder if Simmons’ offensive breakout in 2017 was a fluke.

851069344

One thing is for certain, though, this team will play defense. They’ve got two guys, Maldonado and Simmons, who rated #1 in the Majors at their position in DRS, with Simmons being #1 overall at any position, former gold glove winners in Kinsler, Pujols, and Calhoun, and Trout may have yet to put a gold glove on his mantle, but he’s one of the best home run thieves in the game. Last season the Angels were 2nd best in the Majors in Fangraphs’ defensive rating as a team, trailing only the Red Sox, and it appears that they have only improved defensively. Which they may need based on the issues they’ve had with their pitching.

851812542

The Angels weren’t awful in pitching last season, as their team ERA of 4.20 was 12th in the Majors, but their performance outplayed their talent. Their best pitcher, Garrett Richards, made all of 6 starts last season due to injury (he pitched to a 2.28 ERA in those 6 starts) and he hasn’t pitched a full season since 2015. After him there really isn’t anything on the roster worth getting excited over. Ohtani will be interesting to watch, as I think he’s a better pitcher than hitter, but after him the Angels were sending out Matt Shoemaker, Tyler Skaggs, Parker Bridwell, and JC Ramirez primarily. Of that group, only Bridwell had an ERA under 4 (3.64) and that was probably a bit fluky because his strikeouts per 9 was abysmal (5.43). It leads one to believe that his lack of missing bats may come back to haunt him.

Their bullpen had some success last year, but they lost their best reliever, Yusmeiro Petit, to the division rival Athletics. Their closer role isn’t set after they lost Bud Norris to the Cardinals, but they do have some options. Newly-signed Jim Johnson appears to be the favorite, as amongst his competition he’s the only one with significant closing experience and success. He was excellent for a few years with the Orioles before falling off the face of the Earth for a couple years. The other legitimate option is Blake Parker. Parker had a very good 2017, where he pitched to a 2.54 ERA while striking out over 11 batters per 9 innings. If Johnson does win the closer’s job, which I anticipate he does, I expect Parker to be the 8th inning man and he’s a solid option for that.

Overall, I think Mike Scioscia is coaching for his job this year. It’s been 16 years since he led them to their only World Series title in franchise history and as of late they’ve been very inconsistent, as they’ve only made the playoffs once since 2010 (2014, where they got swept by the Royals in the ALDS). If the Angels fail to make the playoffs, I’ve got to imagine that ownership will be weighing their options. Scioscia’s a good manager, don’t get me wrong, but the production hasn’t been there of late. I don’t think they’ll win the division. The Astros are just too good to unseat at the moment. But I do think they’ll be right in the thick of the Wild Card race. Their pitching is going to be critical. They didn’t really do anything in the offseason to bolster their rotation so improving what they have and keeping them healthy is going to be the most important thing in Anaheim. If they can do that, I think they will at least make the Astros sweat because they’re going to hit and they’re going to play the field. But I think they’ll be one of the AL Wild Card teams.

Projected Finish: 86-76, Second AL Wild Card Team

That’s going to do it for the Angels on the first edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow when I preview the Arizona Diamondbacks, who look to improve on their huge breakout season that saw them win the Wild Card game but fall to the eventual NL champion Dodgers in the NLDS. Let me know what you think of the Angels’ chances this season in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

JD Martinez Signs with the Red Sox

860253858

First, my reaction to the news as a general baseball fan:

tenor

Also, my reaction as a Red Sox fan:

giphy

The saga is finally over, JD Martinez has finally signed with the Red Sox. It seems like this has gone on a lot longer than it really should have as Martinez and Red Sox GM (he’s technically not the GM but we’re just going to call him that because he basically acts as the GM) Dave Dombrowski were in a staring contest for the ages and it appears that Martinez blinked first. The deal he’s receiving is for 5 years $110M, which is a drop from the 5 years $125M we initially heard the Red Sox were offering and a significant drop from the 7-year $210M deal Martinez was allegedly looking for. I’m not totally surprised that Martinez decided to settle, considering that the first Spring Training game is Thursday (god that feels good to say) and it was pretty apparent that the Red Sox, the only team that still seemed interested in signing him, weren’t going to budge. It is worth noting, though, that the contract has an opt-out clause after 2 years, during which he will be making $50M of the $110M of the contract. That pretty much guarantees he’s going to elect to use that opt-out clause to try and get a better deal in a couple years. But for the time being, Martinez is just the impact bat the Red Sox needed.

Despite boasting a lot of excellent young talent, the Red Sox finished last in the American League in home runs in 2017, finishing behind weak power-hitting teams such as the White Sox and Athletics of all teams. After David Ortiz’s retirement, the Red Sox have been desperately searching for that huge power threat. They were hoping that it would be Hanley Ramirez, as he had hit 30 home runs in 2016. But Ramirez regressed significantly in 2017 and the need for a big bat was further emphasized. Here’s how the Red Sox are expected to look come Opening Day in Tampa.

1. Eduardo Nunez-2B

2. Andrew Benintnedi-LF

3. Mookie Betts-RF

4. JD Martinez-DH

5. Xander Bogaerts-SS

6. Rafael Devers-3B

7. Hanley Ramirez/Mitch Moreland-1B

8. Christian Vazquez-C

9. Jackie Bradley Jr-CF

It’s worth mentioning that I have Nunez slated as the Red Sox second baseman because Dustin Pedroia is expected to miss the first month or so of the season recovering from offseason surgery. But immediately Martinez makes this lineup significantly more deadly. Last season between the Tigers and Diamondbacks, Martinez hit .303 with 45 home runs and 104 RBI. The leading home run hitter for the Red Sox last year was Mookie Betts with 24. The only other members of the team to hit 20 home runs were Mitch Moreland (22) and Andrew Benintendi (20). Martinez was a poor defender last season, being worth -5 DRS last season in right field, but the Red Sox don’t need him to play any defense this season, as they already have three quality defensive outfielders in Benintendi, Bradley, and the #1 outfielder in DRS, Betts. All Martinez will need to do is worry about his at bats.

Martinez will likely serve as the team’s cleanup hitter and it will be interesting to see how he does in Fenway Park. Being a right-handed hitter, the Green Monster is going to come into play for him. A lot of balls that might have been home runs in places like Arizona (probably the second most hitter-friendly park in the Majors after Colorado) will be turned into doubles because of it. But take a look at Martinez’s spray chart, courtesy of Fangraphs.

chart

That looks like a pretty balanced spray chart to me particularly on balls that he puts in the air. When he hits a ground ball he REALLY favors the third base line, but his home runs seem to be relatively evenly-distributed and it seems that regular fly balls tend to go the opposite way a little more frequently. Considering the Pesky Pole in right is only about 300 feet from home plate, Martinez could steal a couple home runs by keeping that trend up. I think he’ll be fine at Fenway based on what that spray chart tells us.

So finally, the wait is over, JD Martinez has signed with the Red Sox. I wish I could say it was fun while it lasted, but that’s just not true. It was pretty goddamn infuriating. Let me know what you think of the Martinez signing in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.