Revisiting the 2017 NFL Draft Class

With Thursday’s 2018 NFL Draft quickly approaching, it got me to thinking back towards last year’s event. During this week of draft coverage that I’ve been doing, I’ve been doing my best to abstain from going into too much depth over the 2017 class because we just don’t know what we have with each player as of yet. In 2016, Jared Goff, who was taken #1 overall by the Rams, was looking like a colossal bust. He didn’t win a single game as a rookie and he looked totally overwhelmed by NFL competition. Enter a new head coach in Sean McVay and Goff became one of the NFL’s most efficient quarterbacks and helped lead the Rams to a division title. There’s also Robert Griffin III in 2012. He set the league on fire as a rookie but a knee injury in the playoffs followed by being rushed back to play before he was ready sapped him of his explosiveness and his weaknesses as a passer were exposed. So quite frankly, we really don’t know what we have in the young stars like Deshaun Watson, Alvin Kamara, and Kareem Hunt or with the unknowns like Mike Williams and John Ross. But let’s take a look at how the first round went last year and see how these guys did and what it means for their futures in the league. The number in parentheses is where they ranked on my Big Board.

1. Cleveland Browns-Myles Garrett-EDGE-Texas A&M (1)

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Garrett struggled with injuries as a rookie but when he was on the field, he was a beast. He played 11 games and recorded 7 sacks, including 2 in his first game. If he can stay healthy, he looks like he’s going to be a beast off the edge for the Browns.

2. Chicago Bears (from San Francisco 49ers)-Mitchell Trubisky-QB-North Carolina (19)

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Trubisky basically just played like a rookie. He had some good moments but he also made his share of mistakes. He ended up going 4-8 as a starter and threw for 2193 yards with 7 TD’s and 7 picks while completing just 59% of his passes. Not great, but there’s something there with him. He’s getting a new head coach in Matt Nagy, who likes to run RPO’s and we saw how well Nick Foles did with those in the playoffs. He’s also actually getting a supporting cast of receivers, as the Bears signed Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel in the offseason.

3. San Francisco 49ers (from Chicago Bears)-Solomon Thomas-DL-Stanford (5)

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Thomas didn’t do a ton as a rookie, but he didn’t really need to. He played 14 games but he started 12 of them and only recorded 3 sacks. He did flash some of the ability that made him the third overall pick, though, and we’ll have to wait and see how he grows in year 2.

4. Jacksonville Jaguars-Leonard Fournette-RB-LSU (3)

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Fournette basically did exactly what I expected him to do, which is to be the Jaguars’ bellcow and he was the focal point of their offense. He rushed for 1040 yards with 9 TD’s and while his YPC wasn’t great (3.9), that can be attributed to the fact that he was the only real weapon on Jacksonville’s offense and teams were stacking the box against him.

5. Tennessee Titans (from Los Angeles Rams)-Corey Davis-WR-Western Michigan (17)

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Davis spent much of the season injured and didn’t record his first NFL touchdown until the playoffs against the Patriots, where he had a very impressive game in the Divisional Round. He caught two TD’s and started looking like the receiver we expected him to be.

6. New York Jets-Jamal Adams-S-LSU (2)

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Adams immediately became a leader in the Jets’ locker room and was an enforcer on the field. He and fellow 2017 rookie Marcus Maye formed a pretty good safety tandem that should have Jets fans very excited.

7. Los Angeles Chargers-Mike Williams-WR-Clemson (14)

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Williams basically did nothing as a rookie. He was limited by injuries, playing 10 games and starting just 1, however he only managed to catch 11 passes for 95 yards and no touchdowns. It’s still early, but this hasn’t been a promising start for the former Clemson star.

8. Carolina Panthers-Christian McCaffrey-RB-Stanford (12)

at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 7, 2018 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

McCaffrey didn’t put up gaudy rushing stats, as he only ran for 435 yards on 117 carries, but he was utilized far more frequently in the passing game, catching 80 passes for 651 yards. With Jonathan Stewart no longer with the organization, expect an uptick in carries for the former Stanford star.

9. Cincinnati Bengals-John Ross-WR-Washington (23)

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Ross, who was famous for posting the fastest 40-yard dash time in Combine history at 4.22, was a nonfactor for the Bengals last season. He played just 3 games due to injury, but even in those games he didn’t amount to anything. He failed to catch a pass and his lone touch was a carry that he fumbled. A pretty poor start to Ross’ career if I do say so myself (and I do).

10. Kansas City Chiefs (from Buffalo Bills)-Pat Mahomes II-QB-Texas Tech (47)

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I was not a fan of taking Mahomes in the first round because I felt he had the steepest learning curve of any quarterback in recent memory, coming from Texas Tech. However he landed in the perfect situation in Kansas City and got a chance to make a start in Week 17, leading the Chiefs to a victory over the Broncos. The Chiefs traded Alex Smith so this is Mahomes’ team now. We’ll have to see how he does with it.

11. New Orleans Saints-Marshon Lattimore-CB-Ohio State (7)

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One could argue that Lattimore was 2017’s best rookie. He won Defensive Rookie of the Year and is already considered to be one of the top corners in the game, which says a lot considering he had to cover the likes of Julio Jones and Mike Evans twice each.

12. Houston Texans (from Cleveland Browns)-Deshaun Watson-QB-Clemson (26)

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People are ripping the Browns for not taking Watson here and trading this pick to the Texans, but to be honest, given how poor they were run last year, I don’t think Watson has the same success in Cleveland that he did in Houston. Before his untimely ACL injury, Watson led the NFL with 19 passing touchdowns and was running away with Offensive Rookie of the Year. He looks like he’s the quarterback of the future for the Texans.

13. Arizona Cardinals-Haason Reddick-EDGE-Temple (9)

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Reddick was one of my favorite players in the 2017 class but he didn’t really do much as a rookie. He played in all 16 games but made just 3 starts, recording 2.5 sacks but he did force a couple fumbles. It’s a big step up in competition going from Temple to the NFL so I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt at this stage.

14. Philadelphia Eagles (from Minnesota Vikings)-Derek Barnett-EDGE-Tennessee (13)

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Derek Barnett’s stats were okay overall, however a lot of that was due to just how deep the Eagles were at defensive end, as he had to compete with the likes of Brandon Graham, Chris Long, and Vinny Curry for snaps. However Barnett and Graham teamed up to make one of the most critical plays for the Eagles’ first ever Super Bowl win, when Graham strip-sacked Tom Brady and Barnett recovered. He flashed a lot of potential and could be a force for this Eagles defensive line.

15. Indianapolis Colts-Malik Hooker-S-Ohio State (6)

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The Colts finally addressed the defense in last year’s draft and Hooker looks like a good pick. I had him as a Top-10 talent but he slipped to pick number 15 and looked like an absolute ballhawk for the Colts. However his season was cut short due to injury but he still managed to rack up 3 picks in just 7 games.

16. Baltimore Ravens-Marlon Humphrey-CB-Alabama (25)

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Humphrey got off to a slow start but he really came on by the end of the year. As you can see from the photo above, the Ravens were trusting him to cover the likes of AJ Green with a playoff berth on the line. Humphrey will likely get more opportunities at opponents’ number 1 receivers in due time.

17. Washington Redskins-Jonathan Allen-DL-Alabama (10)

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Like Hooker, Allen was a top-10 talent that fell, though this was due to concerns over his shoulder. The concerns were very real, as that shoulder caused him to miss most of his rookie season. However when he was on the field, Allen was absolutely dominant, particularly against the run. Hopefully an offseason of rehab will help him because the Redskins desperately need a run stuffer.

18. Tennessee Titans-Adoree’ Jackson-CB-USC (N/A)

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I thought this was a massive reach by the Titans because I had Jackson as a late-second/early-third round pick due to his lack of size but, credit to him he held his own out there. He was a starter from day 1 and with the Titans’ addition of Malcolm Butler, Jackson can kick inside to the slot to face the shiftier receivers, which is where he will be best utilized.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers-OJ Howard-TE-Alabama (4)

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Howard had an up-and-down rookie season, though he finished it with 432 yards and 6 touchdowns. Not eye-popping by any means, but tight ends typically have the toughest transition to the NFL given how much they’re asked to do nowadays so I’d say watch out for Howard next season.

20. Denver Broncos-Garrett Bolles-OT-Utah (31)

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Bolles had one of the sweeter draft moments when he brought his infant daughter on stage with him to greet Roger Goodell when his name was called. Bolles was a Day 1 starter for the Broncos and while he did suffer through injury problems, he was decent when he was on the field. Probably not going to be an All Pro, but he’ll be a more-than-competent tackle for Denver.

21. Detroit Lions-Jarrad Davis-LB-Florida (28)

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Eyebrows were raised when the Lions took Davis over Alabama’s Reuben Foster, but given Foster’s legal situation, this looks like the right choice, especially considering how well Davis played as a rookie. He’s a guy Matt Patricia will have a lot of fun with in his first season as a head coach.

22. Miami Dolphins-Charles Harris-EDGE-Missouri (20)

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Harris wasn’t much of a factor for the Dolphins as a rookie, playing in all 16 games but registering just 2 sacks. With Cameron Wake already up there in age, now would be a good time for Harris to start showing he was worth the first round selection.

23. New York Giants-Evan Engram-TE-Ole Miss (24)

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Engram wasn’t much of a blocker for the Giants but he was an excellent receiver, which is kind of what was expected of him coming out of college. Engram led all rookie tight ends in receiving yards at 722 and also caught 6 touchdowns for the Giants. He looks like a good complimentary piece to ODell Beckham Jr.

24. Oakland Raiders-Gareon Conley-CB-Ohio State (N/A)

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This pick was REALLY controversial because Conley had been accused of rape just weeks before the Draft. I had taken him off my board altogether just out of fear of the allegations being true. However the Raiders took Conley anyway and the charges were later dropped. He only played 2 games due to injury but the Raiders must have liked what they saw because he’s currently slated as their #1 corner.

25. Cleveland Browns (from Houston Texans)-Jabrill Peppers-S-Michigan (18)

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Peppers struggled as a rookie but he was also playing at a position that didn’t best utilize his abilities. He was playing a lot of free safety where he has to cover a lot of ground rather than nickel corner where he can chase guys around the field, which is what he’s best at. If the Browns can find a centerfielder-type safety (like Minkah Fitzpatrick), then it would allow Peppers to do what he does best.

26. Atlanta Falcons (from Seattle Seahawks)-Takkarist McKinley-EDGE-UCLA (16)

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Takk McKinley got a bit controversial when he got really hyped and passionate after he was selected 26th overall in the Draft, going so far as to drop an F-bomb into Deion Sanders’ mic on live television (which I saw coming a mile away given how much emotion he was showing). I actually found the moment kind of endearing because it shows just how passionate this guy is. He was a situational pass rusher for the Falcons as a rookie and he looked pretty good, registering 6 sacks and forcing 2 fumbles in a limited role. He’s going to have more opportunities this season so watch out for him.

27. Buffalo Bills (from Kansas City Chiefs)-Tre’Davious White-CB-LSU (27)

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What a trade by the Bills. They move back from 10 to 27, get an extra first rounder in 2018, and use the pick they do get on Tre’Davious White, who was the highest-graded rookie corner by Pro Football Focus (even higher than Lattimore, who won Defensive Rookie of the Year over him). White has already earned the Bills’ #1 corner job and was a big part in Buffalo making the playoffs for the first time in the 21st century.

28. Dallas Cowboys-Taco Charlton-EDGE-Michigan (44)

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Charlton was drafted as an insurance policy in case DeMarcus Lawrence left in free agency after the 2017-18 season. Lawrence got franchise tagged so Charlton will have another year to develop alongside the stud pass rusher. He’ll need it, too, because he was mediocre as a rookie, registering just 3 sacks. He did flash some potential, though, but more work needs to be done.

29. Cleveland Browns (from Green Bay Packers)-David Njoku-TE-Miami (FL) (21)

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The Browns traded up with the Packers to land Njoku and while his overall stat line wasn’t that great (32 catches for 386 yards and 4 TD’s), it seemed like every time the Browns popped up on the screen when I was watching NFL Redzone the play somehow involved Njoku. I think he’s primed for a big Year 2.

30. Pittsburgh Steelers-TJ Watt-EDGE-Wisconsin (29)

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JJ’s little brother had about as good an NFL debut as you could ask for, recording 2 sacks and registering an interception in his first game. He finished the year with 7 sacks and looks like he’s going to be a stud for the Steelers for some time.

31. San Francisco 49ers (from Seattle Seahawks through Atlanta Falcons)-Reuben Foster-LB-Alabama (8)

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This one’s a little tricky. Foster was excellent on the field, however his days with the 49ers may be numbered due to an off-the-field incident. Foster has been accused of domestic violence, where he allegedly punched his girlfriend 8-10 times, which ruptured her ear drum. He was also found in possession of numerous illegal firearms. If convicted, he could face up to 11 years in prison. 49ers GM John Lynch has publicly stated that if Foster is convicted, he will be cut immediately. However they want to wait for the judicial process to conclude because they cut Tramaine Brock before his domestic violence case was over and he was cleared of all charges. But despite great on-field performance, Foster’s NFL career may be in jeopardy if these horrific allegations are true.

32. New Orleans Saints (from New England Patriots)-Ryan Ramczyk-OT-Wisconsin (22)

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This is the pick the Saints acquired from the Patriots for Brandin Cooks and it was one of several home runs the Saints had in this draft class. Ramczyk was seen as a raw talent and people were concerned when he had to enter the starting lineup in week one due to an injury to Zach Strief. However he played excellently at right tackle and is going to start there for the foreseeable future for New Orleans.

So that’s how the first round played out last year. Injuries played a factor for a lot of these guys but you cannot deny they showed a lot of ability. Not a lot of guys who are already looking like busts (Mike Williams and John Ross are the only guys that I can really consider to be in danger of falling into that category). Of course, two of the biggest talents in this class, Alvin Kamara and Kareem Hunt, went in the third round. It’ll be interesting to see what happens with the 2018 class. Of course, you can get your next-day coverage here at Wyman’s Sports. Let me know what you think of the 2017 Draft Class in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

2018 MLB Season Preview

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

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Season Predictions:

Here’s the compilation of the regular season standings from the projected records I did for each team. An asterisk (*) represents the teams that I predict will win the Wild Card spots.

AL East

1. New York Yankees: 98-64

2. Boston Red Sox*: 95-67

3. Baltimore Orioles: 81-81

4. Toronto Blue Jays: 78-84

5. Tampa Bay Rays: 68-94

AL Central

1. Cleveland Indians: 99-63

2. Minnesota Twins: 84-78

3. Kansas City Royals: 74-88

4. Chicago White Sox: 70-92

5. Detroit Tigers: 64-98

AL West

1. Houston Astros: 101-61

2. Anaheim Angels*: 86-76

3. Seattle Mariners: 85-77

4. Texas Rangers: 82-80

5. Oakland Athletics: 77-85

NL East

1. Washington Nationals: 95-67

2. New York Mets: 84-78

3. Philadelphia Phillies: 75-87

4. Atlanta Braves: 71-91

5. Miami Marlins: 62-100

NL Central

1. Chicago Cubs: 94-68

2. Milwaukee Brewers*: 88-74

3. St. Louis Cardinals: 85-77

4. Pittsburgh Pirates: 76-86

5. Cincinnati Reds: 69-93

NL West

1. Los Angeles Dodgers: 100-62

2. Arizona Diamondbacks*: 91-71

3. San Francisco Giants: 85-77

4. Colorado Rockies: 81-81

5. San Diego Padres: 70-92

So based on this information, we can see which teams are ready for success in 2018. Now let’s take a look at my postseason predictions even though game 1 out of 162 hasn’t been played yet.

Wild Card Games:

Boston Red Sox defeat Anaheim Angels

Arizona Diamondbacks defeat Milwaukee Brewers

LDS:

Houston Astros defeat Boston Red Sox

Cleveland Indians defeat New York Yankees

Los Angeles Dodgers defeat Arizona Diamondbacks

Washington Nationals defeat Chicago Cubs

LCS:

Cleveland Indians defeat Houston Astros

Los Angeles Dodgers defeat Washington Nationals

World Series:

Cleveland Indians defeat Los Angeles Dodgers

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Congratulations to the Cleveland Indians on your 2018 World Series victory. In my predictions, the Tribe exorcise their postseason demons from the last couple seasons and win their first World Series since 1948 and third overall. For the Dodgers, their first title since 1988 continues to elude them as they fall in the World Series for the second year in a row. It is also worth mentioning that this matchup is between the two previous World Series losers, as the Indians lost to the Cubs in 2016 and the Dodgers lost to the Astros in 2017.

Power Rankings:

1. Houston Astros

2. Los Angeles Dodgers

3. Cleveland Indians

4. New York Yankees

5. Boston Red Sox

6. Washington Nationals

7. Chicago Cubs

8. Arizona Diamondbacks

9. Milwaukee Brewers

10. Anaheim Angels

11. St. Louis Cardinals

12. Seattle Mariners

13. San Francisco Giants

14. New York Mets

15. Minnesota Twins

16. Texas Rangers

17. Colorado Rockies

18. Baltimore Orioles

19. Toronto Blue Jays

20. Philadelphia Phillies

21. Oakland Athletics

22. Pittsburgh Pirates

23. Kansas City Royals

24. Atlanta Braves

25. Chicago White Sox

26. San Diego Padres

27. Cincinnati Reds

28. Tampa Bay Rays

29. Detroit Tigers

30. Miami Marlins

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Gotta put the reigning champs atop the initial Power Rankings. Plus, they lost virtually nothing in the offseason while getting even stronger with the addition of Gerrit Cole to a pitching rotation that already features two former Cy Young Award winners in Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel. I also have to put the Marlins as the worst team in baseball simply for how much they gave up in the offseason. I also don’t think they will be any good for at least another 3 or 4 years, maybe even 5 because of the generally weak prospect pool they received for their troubles. I still can’t believe Giancarlo Stanton didn’t warrant a return of everything the Yankees had in their farm system. The guy hit 59 home runs and was NL MVP last season. Now let’s get into the positional rankings for this season.

Positional Rankings:

Catcher

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1. Buster Posey-San Francisco Giants

2. Gary Sanchez-New York Yankees

3. Salvador Perez-Kansas City Royals

4. Willson Contreras-Chicago Cubs

5. Yadier Molina-St. Louis Cardinals

6. Tucker Barnhart-Cincinnati Reds

7. Mike Zunino-Seattle Mariners

8. Yasmani Grandal-Los Angeles Dodgers

9. Martin Maldonado-Anaheim Angels

10. Brian McCann-Houston Astros

1st Base

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1. Joey Votto-Cincinnati Reds

2. Paul Goldschmidt-Arizona Diamondbacks

3. Freddie Freeman-Atlanta Braves

4. Anthony Rizzo-Chicago Cubs

5. Cody Bellinger-Los Angeles Dodgers

6. Eric Hosmer-San Diego Padres

7. Jose Abreu-Chicago White Sox

8. Ryan Zimmerman-Washington Nationals

9. Greg Bird-New York Yankees

10. Matt Carpenter-St. Louis Cardinals

2nd Base

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1. Jose Altuve-Houston Astros

2. Robinson Cano-Seattle Mariners

3. Daniel Murphy-Washington Nationals

4. Jonathan Schoop-Baltimore Orioles

5. Dustin Pedroia-Boston Red Sox

6. DJ LeMahieu-Colorado Rockies

7. Javy Baez-Chicago Cubs

8. Brian Dozier-Minnesota Twins

9. Jason Kipnis-Cleveland Indians

10. Starlin Castro-Miami Marlins

3rd Base

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1. Kris Bryant-Chicago Cubs

2. Josh Donaldson-Toronto Blue Jays

3. Nolan Arenado-Colorado Rockies

4. Jose Ramirez-Cleveland Indians

5. Anthony Rendon-Washington Nationals

6. Justin Turner-Los Angeles Dodgers

7. Mike Moustakas-Kansas City Royals

8. Alex Bregman-Houston Astros

9. Evan Longoria-San Francisco Giants

10. Adrian Beltre-Texas Rangers

Shortstop

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1. Francisco Lindor-Cleveland Indians

2. Carlos Correa-Houston Astros

3. Corey Seager-Los Angeles Dodgers

4. Manny Machado-Baltimore Orioles

5. Andrelton Simmons-Anaheim Angels

6. Xander Bogaerts-Boston Red Sox

7. Didi Gregorius-New York Yankees

8. Elvis Andrus-Texas Rangers

9. Trea Turner-Washington Nationals

10. Jean Segura-Seattle Mariners

Left Field

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1. Marcell Ozuna-St. Louis Cardinals

2. Christian Yelich-Milwaukee Brewers

3. Yoenis Cespedes-New York Mets

4. Andrew Benintendi-Boston Red Sox

5. Justin Upton-Anaheim Angels

6. Tommy Pham-St. Louis Cardinals

7. Brett Gardner-New York Yankees

8. Corey Dickerson-Pittsburgh Pirates

9. Trey Mancini-Baltimore Orioles

10. Marwin Gonzalez-Houston Astros

Center Field

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1. Mike Trout-Anaheim Angels

2. Charlie Blackmon-Colorado Rockies

3. George Springer-Houston Astros

4. Lorenzo Cain-Milwaukee Brewers

5. Jackie Bradley Jr-Boston Red Sox

6. Byron Buxton-Minnesota Twins

7. Chris Taylor-Los Angeles Dodgers

8. Odubel Herrera-Philadelphia Phillies

9. Ender Inciarte-Atlanta Braves

10. Michael Conforto-New York Mets

Right Field

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1. Bryce Harper-Washington Nationals

2. Aaron Judge-New York Yankees

3. Mookie Betts-Boston Red Sox

4. Andrew McCutchen-San Francisco Giants

5. Yasiel Puig-Los Angeles Dodgers

6. Steven Souza Jr-Arizona Diamondbacks

7. Josh Reddick-Houston Astros

8. Jay Bruce-New York Mets

9. Avisail Garcia-Chicago White Sox

10. Domingo Santana-Milwaukee Brewers

Designated Hitter

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1. Giancarlo Stanton-New York Yankees

2. JD Martinez-Boston Red Sox

3. Edwin Encarnacion-Cleveland Indians

4. Nelson Cruz-Seattle Mariners

5. Khris Davis-Oakland Athletics

Starting Pitcher

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1. Clayton Kershaw-Los Angeles Dodgers

2. Max Scherzer-Washington Nationals

3. Corey Kluber-Cleveland Indians

4. Chris Sale-Boston Red Sox

5. Stephen Strasburg-Washington Nationals

6. Noah Syndergaard-New York Mets

7. Madison Bumgarner-San Francisco Giants

8. Luis Severino-New York Yankees

9. Zack Greinke-Arizona Diamondbacks

10. Robbie Ray-Arizona Diamondbacks

Relief Pitcher

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1. Kenley Jansen-Los Angeles Dodgers

2. Craig Kimbrel-Boston Red Sox

3. Corey Knebel-Milwaukee Brewers

4. Roberto Osuna-Toronto Blue Jays

5. Aroldis Chapman-New York Yankees

6. Andrew Miller-Cleveland Indians

7. Archie Bradley-Arizona Diamondbacks

8. Zach Britton-Baltimore Orioles

9. Wade Davis-Colorado Rockies

10. Pat Neshek-Philadelphia Phillies

And now onto the preseason awards where I award people for things they haven’t done yet and may not even do at all.

American League MVP: Aaron Judge-RF-New York Yankees

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National League MVP: Bryce Harper-RF-Washington Nationals

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American League Cy Young: Chris Sale-Boston Red Sox

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National League Cy Young: Noah Syndergaard-New York Mets

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

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

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

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

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And finally, on to my bold predictions for the 2018 MLB season. Some will be as harmless as saying “I don’t think the Yankees are going to hit as many home runs as everybody says they will,” and others could get me fired if I had a real job. So let’s get to some predictions.

Prediction: Clayton Kershaw will show slight signs of slowing down now that he’s 30 years old, will post an ERA over 2.50, something he hasn’t done since 2012. People will freak out and panic accordingly.

Prediction: The Yankees’ season will be filled with peaks and valleys en route to 98 wins. Considering Judge and Stanton strike out as often as anyone in baseball, this could lead to some rough slumps at times for the two and their team as a result. However, when they’re on, nobody will be able to beat the Yankees.

Prediction: The Baltimore Orioles will trade Manny Machado to a contender at the trade deadline. The Orioles won’t be super competitive in 2018 and Machado’s contract is up at the end of the year. The smart thing to do would be to trade him to a contender and load up on top prospects. Predicted landing spot? Uhhhh…how about the Brewers? I would say the Yankees but the Orioles’ brass has made it clear they’d prefer not to trade Machado within the division.

Prediction: The Yankees will not break the team home run record. This is mainly because I think teams are going to try and pitch the Yankees a little more carefully this season. Knowing the type of power this team possesses, I doubt they’re going to get great pitches to hit. This may lead to higher walk rates for the team, though.

Prediction: The Marlins won’t be nearly as bad as people think. But let’s be honest, the opinions of the Marlins’ talent can’t be much lower at the moment. However every season there’s a team that everyone thinks is going to be the worst and yet somehow they find ways to be just bad, not historically bad.

Prediction: The American League’s home run king will be an Oakland Athletics player. I can envision this happening, considering the power Khris Davis and Matt Olson showed last season. Matt Chapman could also be a sneaky home run threat as well.

Prediction: Mike Trout will finish outside the top 2 in AL MVP voting for the second consecutive season. This isn’t to say that I think Trout will struggle this season. Far from it. Last season was the first time in Trout’s Major League career (since 2012) that he didn’t finish in the top 2 in AL MVP voting and I think it’s going to happen again. As you saw in my awards predictions, I have Aaron Judge taking home top honors and Trout will have to compete with the likes of Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Jose Ramirez, Francisco Lindor, Mookie Betts, Josh Donaldson, Giancarlo Stanton, and many, many more.

Prediction: Don Mattingly will be out as Marlins manager before June. This won’t be Mattingly’s fault, nobody can succeed with this roster. However new ownership has pretty much let go of everyone else and Mattingly just logically seems to be the next domino to fall, especially when the Marlins inevitably struggle.

Prediction: Pace of Play will continue to be a topic of discussion and the new mound visit rule will be hated by catchers even though we could probably count the number of issues this rule causes on one hand. The new mound visit rule limits non-pitching-change mound visits to 6 per 9 inning games. There have already been players such as Willson Contreras who are outspoken against this, however if you think about it, catchers don’t really visit the mound all that much, especially if their guy is pitching really well. I don’t think this will cause nearly as many problems as some guys think it might.

Prediction: The newly-signed pitchers (Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta) will struggle. Darvish has had injury problems throughout his Major League career and Arrieta has been trending downward since winning the 2015 NL Cy Young Award. Im predicting both guys finish with ERA’s in the low-4’s.

So that’s going to do it for my MLB 2018 season preview. Words can’t express how excited I am for Thursday’s Opening Day to roll around, when all 30 teams will be opening on the same day for the first time in over 50 years. Let me know how you think this season’s going to go in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: Houston Astros

The NFL Combine began yesterday and there are a couple of things I want to bring to light. Penn State runningback Saquon Barkley was a freaking monster, as he ran the second-fastest 40-yard dash among runningbacks at an unofficial 4.41 and tied for the most bench press reps at 29. You can’t really say Barkley helped himself at the Combine because his draft stock couldn’t have been much higher already. On the other end, Oklahoma tackle Orlando Brown was abysmal. He ran a 5.86 40-yard dash (nobody who has ever run worse than 5.7 has ever made the NFL) then only did 14 bench press reps. Brown is 6’8 340 pounds and he did 14 reps at 225 pounds. I’ve got a buddy I work out with who I’m confident can do that and he’s a college freshman. Brown also got chewed out by a coach for dogging his drills. Bad day for Brown. I had him as my #3 tackle and a late first round prospect at that but those numbers are alarming. I’ll do a Combine recap after the event is done so we can get my full thoughts on who helped their stock and who hurt it. But for now, it’s day 12 of 30 Clubs in 30 Days and today we have the defending champion Houston Astros.

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2017 Results:

Record: 101-61, won AL West by 21 games over Anaheim Angels. Defeated Boston Red Sox in ALDS. Defeated New York Yankees in ALCS. Defeated Los Angeles Dodgers in World Series.

Notable Offseason Additions: SP Gerrit Cole, RP Joe Smith, RP Hector Rondon

Notable Offseason Subtractions: DH Carlos Beltran (retired), SP Francisco Liriano, SP Joe Musgrove, 3B Colin Moran, RP Luke Gregerson, OF Cameron Maybin

Best Offensive Player: 2B Jose Altuve

Best Pitcher: Justin Verlander

Depth Chart:

C-Brian McCann, Evan Gattis (DH), Juan Centeno, Max Stassi

1B-Yuli Gurriel, Tyler White

2B-Jose Altuve, Tony Kemp

3B-Alex Bregman

SS-Carlos Correa

LF-Marwin Gonzalez, Derek Fisher

CF-George Springer, Jake Marisnick

RF-Josh Reddick

SP-Justin Verlander, Dallas Keuchel, Gerrit Cole, Lance McCullers, Colin McHugh, Charlie Morton, Brad Peacock

Bullpen-Ken Giles (CP), Will Harris, Chris Devenski, Joe Smith, Tony Sipp, Hector Rondon, Buddy Boshers

Coaching Staff:

Manager-AJ Hinch (4th season with Astros)

Hitting Coach-Dave Hudgens

Pitching Coach-Brent Strom

1st Base Coach-Alex Cintron

3rd Base Coach-Gary Pettis

Bench Coach-Joe Espada

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The Houston Astros won their first World Series in franchise history just months after Hurricane Harvey ravaged the Houston area. This victory meant a lot for the city of Houston as it was a moment of happiness for everyone in a time of grief. This is VERY similar to the 2013 Red Sox, who won the World Series just months after the Boston Marathon bombings. But the Astros are also about as loaded a team as you’re going to find in Major League Baseball. Here’s how they’re projected to line up in 2018.

1. George Springer-CF

2. Alex Bregman-3B

3. Jose Altuve-2B

4. Carlos Correa-SS

5. Yuli Gurriel-1B

6. Josh Reddick-RF

7. Marwin Gonzalez-LF

8. Evan Gattis-DH

9. Brian McCann-C

There are superstars all over this lineup, most notably of course being reigning AL MVP Jose Altuve. Last season Altuve won MVP over the likes of Aaron Judge and Jose Ramirez by hitting .346 with 24 home runs, 81 RBI, 32 stolen bases, 112 runs scored, and was worth 7.5 WAR. Not bad for a guy who’s the same height as my mom. Protecting him in the lineup is Carlos Correa, arguably the best shortstop in the game and a guy that has drawn comparisons to Alex Rodriguez. Correa hit .315 with 24 home runs, 84 RBI, slugged .550, and was worth 5.2 WAR in an injury-plagued season. And we cannot forget World Series MVP George Springer at the top of the lineup. Last season Springer hit .283 with 34 home runs, 85 RBI, 112 runs scored, and was worth 4.5 WAR. In the World Series, Springer was a monster after a poor Game 1 where he struck out in all 4 at bats (he was the first World Series MVP ever to have such a game in the same Series). He hit .379 with 5 home runs and 7 RBI in the Fall Classic, and this is including that Game 1 performance. If you don’t include that, Springer hit .440. There are so many other guys in this lineup that can kill you too. Alex Bregman was clutch in the postseason. Josh Reddick hit .314 and was worth 3.5 WAR. Marwin Gonzalez, their usual super utility guy, hit .303 and was worth 4.1 WAR. This lineup is absolutely loaded with young talent and the Astros expect to be bullies in the American League for quite some time.

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The Astros’ starting rotation is arguably just as loaded as their lineup. They have two Cy Young Award winners in Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel at the top of their rotation with another Cy Young candidate in Gerrit Cole, whom they acquired from the Pirates in the offseason, right behind them. After being acquired by the Astros from the Tigers at the last minute, Verlander went 5-0 with a 1.06 ERA in 34 innings, striking out 43 batters in the process. Keuchel returned to his 2015 Cy Young-winning form after a down 2016 season by going 14-5 with a 2.90 ERA in 23 starts. Gerrit Cole comes from the Pirates after a down season, however he is capable of fantastic numbers, such as his 2015 season where he went 19-8 with a 2.60 ERA. The big question mark is going to be who the #5 starter is. The candidates for that job are Colin McHugh, Charlie Morton, and Brad Peacock. The losers will likely wind up in the bullpen because they’re all too talented to keep in AAA, which is a good problem for the Astros to have. Plus if anybody in the rotation gets injured, they’ll have each of these guys on retainer. My pick to win the 5 spot is Charlie Morton, who is suddenly getting his fastball up in the high-90’s and earned manager AJ Hinch’s trust to close out Game 7 of the World Series.

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The Astros’ bullpen struggled in the postseason, particularly in the World Series, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t a talented bunch. Closer Ken Giles pitched to a 2.30 ERA and struck out almost 12 batters per 9 innings while saving 34 games. It looks pretty apparent that the Astros won that trade with the Phillies after they traded former #1 overall pick Mark Appel to get Giles as Appel is stepping away from the game without having reached the Major Leagues. Will Harris was an All Star in 2016 and in 2017 he had an ERA of 2.98 and struck out 10 batters per 9. Chris Devenski pitched to a 2.68 ERA and struck out 11.16 batters per 9. They also added submarine pitcher Joe Smith to the bullpen as well as former Cubs closer Hector Rondon. I expect this group to return to their regular season form and make people forget about how brutal they were in the World Series.

Overall, I expect the Astros to be favorites to repeat as World Series champions. AJ Hinch’s club didn’t lose anybody of major significance and only got better, as they added the likes of Gerrit Cole to an already deep pitching rotation. Their core is also very young, as each of Springer, Altuve, Correa, and Bregman are all under the age of 28. Not only is this team going to score a ton of runs, but they’re going to prevent a ton of runs as well with their stacked pitching staff. Unlike last season, they will face a bit stiffer competition in their division as the Angels have added a lot of pieces to their roster that could make them challengers to the Astros’ throne while the Mariners could be a sneaky team in that division.

Projected Record: 101-61, Win AL West

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow where I discuss the Kansas City Royals, who will be in the first stages of life after their core that led them to their 2015 World Series title. Let me know what you think of the Astros’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

World Series Game 7 Recap

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The Houston Astros defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-1 to win the first World Series in franchise history. Charlie Morton was the winning pitcher and got the final 12 outs. Yu Darvish got the loss. Some takeaways:

-This had a similar feel to the Boston Red Sox winning the 2013 World Series months after the Boston Marathon bombings. Or the 2001 Yankees who were an inning away from winning it all a month and a half after the 9/11 attacks. The city of Houston was devastated by Hurricane Harvey in late August, leaving much of the city submerged under water. Since Harvey decimated Houston, the Astros lost a grand total of 3 home games the rest of the way. The city of Houston needed something to boost their spirits as they recover from all the damage and this Astros team delivered. Here’s some evidence:

-This is REALLY creepy. A Sports Illustrated cover from 2014:

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They even got the World Series MVP on the cover in George Springer, who was absolutely incredible since Game 1. Springer was a disaster in the opening game, striking out all 4 times he came up to bat. He is the first ever World Series MVP to have such a game. But after that he was impossible for the Dodgers to get out. Including Game 1, Springer slashed .379/.412/.1000 and tied a World Series record with 5 home runs (Reggie Jackson in 1977, Chase Utley in 2009) and set World Series records with 29 total bases and 8 extra base hits. He also had a pretty great MVP acceptance speech. “I love each and every one of you. From the coaching staff to the players. Even Marwin Gonzalez!”

-We also got this from Carlos Correa:

-Every single player on the Astros is winning their first World Series ring, and that includes some hardened veterans: Carlos Beltran, Justin Verlander, and Brian McCann have all put together stellar careers and finally have a World Series ring to show for their efforts.

-And here we have the final out:

I was amazed in the confidence AJ Hinch had in Charlie Morton in this game, but Morton delivered. He went the final 4 innings, allowing the lone run in the 6th, which I thought would spell a short outing for him because it had that feeling that the Dodgers were ready to break out. But he quickly silenced that by striking out the next batter in Chris Taylor and all of a sudden the Astros felt like they were back in control. Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander both got up in the bullpen, but Hinch stuck with Morton, who had been touching 98 miles per hour on his fastball. With all the struggles the Astros bullpen had in this World Series, they really came through in Game 7, especially considering starting pitcher Lance McCullers was pulled in the third.

-The main killer for the Dodgers was they were unable to do anything with runners on base. They had no problem getting on for the first few innings, but only an Andre Ethier single could drive in a run. The Dodgers stranded a boatload of runners in this game and it just felt like a rally was brewing but never materialized.

-I have to say, considering how insane some of the other games in this Series were, this game felt like kind of a letdown. This was basically the Godfather of World Series’: the final installment was a disappointment but the rest was so good that this Series will be remembered fondly. As well it should. It set a record with 25 home runs between the two teams and don’t even get me started on Games 2 and 5. It was also the first best-of-7 World Series where only two starting pitchers earned winning decisions (Clayton Kershaw in Game 1 and Lance McCullers in Game 3).

-The entirety of the Astros offense came in the first two innings, capped off by this BOMB by MVP Springer:

It traveled an estimated 438 feet and knocked Yu Darvish out of the game.

-Darvish was not himself in this Series. He failed to get out of the second inning in both of his starts (first time that’s happened since 1960) and all 5 runs the Astros scored were on his watch. I think one reason for Darvish’s struggles in this Series is the familiarity the Astros have with them. Darvish had been a member of the Texas Rangers for a few years prior to being added by the Dodgers at the 2017 Trade Deadline. The Rangers and Astros have been division rivals since the Astros joined the American League starting in 2013. They’ve seen Darvish far more than any other Dodgers pitcher and I’m sure that had something to do with his struggles. That, and his pitches were super flat all game. The one bright spot was that Darvish essentially got an on-field apology from Yuli Gurriel for the racist gesture before his first at bat, as Gurriel tipped his helmet to Darvish.

-Brandon Morrow pitched to one batter in this game in relief of Darvish and became the second pitcher to ever appear in all seven World Series games. Morrow’s World Series ERA was a tick under 9 but a vast majority of that damage came in Game 5, when he really shouldn’t have been in there. Otherwise, he looked very sharp this Series.

-Lance McCullers got the start for the Astros and was pulled in the third inning despite not allowing a single run. The main reasoning for this was a lack of control that McCullers was displaying. But how can that be? McCullers didn’t issue a single walk! So no walks, no runs, what gives? McCullers plunked a World Series record FOUR batters in his 2.1 innings of work, including Justin Turner twice.

-Cody Bellinger reverted back to his early-series struggles, adding three more strikeouts and breaking Aaron Judge’s postseason record with his 29th of the postseason (17th in the World Series, also a record). I think Bellinger will bounce back but his confidence has to be at an all time low. Again, it was the curveball low-and-in that was the bane of Bellinger’s existence. It also bit Corey Seager a few times, but not nearly to the extent of Bellinger. He also committed the error that allowed the first run of the game to score for the Astros.

-The Astros had to persevere through three 100-loss seasons to get to where they are today. A lot of credit goes to owner Jim Crane and GM Jeff Luhnow for building a stacked roster that will compete for a title for the next few years. Even more credit has to go to the Astros fans for their patience through this process. Their faith was rewarded with a title, as they packed Minute Maid Park to watch both Games 6 and 7.

-Kudos also go out to the Dodgers, who played their hearts out all season but just ran out of gas for the last game of the season. It’s a young team with a TON of payroll and great coaching, no matter how critical I may be of it. They’ll be back.

Looking Ahead:

No more baseball in 2017, I’m afraid. As far as baseball-related blogs go, I will try and keep you up to date on any offseason acquisitions and potential trade speculations. If there is a slow day in sports, I may even do a blog or two where I try and find good fits for trade candidates.

Prediction:

It’s going to be another depressing few months of no baseball. At least there’s football and basketball.

World Series Game 6 Recap

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photo credit: Youtube User Baseball Breakdowns

The Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the Houston Astros 3-1 in Game 6 of the 2017 World Series to even the Series at 3 games apiece to force a winner-take-all Game 7 set for Wednesday night. Tony Watson was the winning pitcher, Justin Verlander got the loss, and Kenley Jansen was credited with the save. Some takeaways:

-Kenley Jansen looked like Kenley Jansen for the first time in this World Series. Dave Roberts brought him in to get the 6-out save, which did not go well in Game 2, however he was dominant this time out. Astros hitters looked completely lost up there as he retired all 6 batters he faced, including strikeouts of Josh Reddick and Carlos Beltran to end it

-With Francisco Liriano’s appearance in the 8th inning, only Houston third-string catcher Juan Centeno has yet to appear in a game in this World Series. I don’t have any stat on if there has ever been a World Series where everybody played because Baseball Reference won’t return my Tweets. Sad.

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When everyone gets to play in the World Series except you (photo credit: Houston Chronicle)

-Cody Bellinger became a part of baseball immortality in this game for all the wrong reasons. He went 0-4 with 4 K’s for the second time in this World Series, which has never happened before, and has struck out 14 times in this series, which is a record.

-Again, I had a problem with Dave Roberts’ handling of Rich Hill. This video right here was the entire offense for the Astros:

Hill got pulled with 2 outs in the 5th inning. To start that inning, he let up a single to Brian McCann, which was a great play by Yasiel Puig in right to hold him to a single because that ball easily could have gone for extra bases. Then Marwin Gonzalez hit a double under the dive of Justin Turner at 3rd base to put runners on 2nd and 3rd with nobody out (McCann would have scored had Puig not held him to just a single). Hill then strikes out Josh Reddick after falling behind 3-0 then strikes out Justin Verlander. Dave Roberts leaves him in long enough to intentionally walk George Springer then pulls him for Brandon Morrow. The crowd met this decision with a chorus of boos, then a standing ovation for Hill, who was seen slapping at some cups in the dugout. Last time Roberts pulled him early in Game 2, he slammed his glove. I really feel for Rich Hill because he has pitched his heart out this World Series without the confidence of his manager.

-Speaking of Brandon Morrow, he has pitched in all 6 games of this World Series. The only man to pitch all 7 games was Darold Knowles in the 1973 World Series for the Oakland A’s. One thing to note, his team won. Morrow was significantly better in Game 6 than Game 5, where I broke down his outing pitch-by-pitch. In Game 5, Morrow’s fastball was about 95 mph. It’s supposed to be about 98, which it was in Game 6. Rest helps.

-Play of the game has to be this double from Chris Taylor:

He fights off the pitch for a double off Verlander, who had been DOMINANT up until that point. This was the moment where the Dodgers revived their hopes for this series, as next at bat was this Corey Seager sac fly that probably would’ve left the yard if this was Games 1-5

I can only imagine how loud the crowd would’ve been had it gone a couple more feet. It was wet and damp for the middle innings of this game and that likely was the main reason this was only a 1-run play and not 3. But it was plenty considering how well the Dodgers pitched.

-Joc Pederson is probably the most fun dude to watch round bases

He’s got 3 home runs this postseason and continues to make me look like an idiot for thinking Curtis Granderson should’ve gotten the roster spot over him. For as much shit as I have given Dave Roberts in these blogs, he has shown time and again that he knows more about baseball than me.

-Justin Verlander just couldn’t catch a break this series. In Game 2, he pitched 4.2 no-hit innings before serving up a home run to Pederson, then a 2-run homer to Seager in the 6th. In this one, he serves up an excuse-me double and a sac fly for the only runs he allowed and he gets hit with the loss. He had allowed only 1 hit through the first 5 innings and that was on a blooper by Yasiel Puig that Springer MIGHT have been able to catch had he dove, though he may have been having second thoughts after what happened in Game 5, the last time he dove (he missed and Bellinger ended up with a triple).

-The home plate umpire was Dan Iassogna tonight. Bill Miller was relegated to right field duties. I’m not sure if Iassogna’s strike zone was good or not, but if I’m not thinking about your calls more than the actual game, that’s a good sign.

Looking Ahead:

The two best words in sports: Game Seven. The pitching matchup is going to be Lance McCullers vs Yu Darvish, a rematch of Game 3. McCullers was seen playing catch after Game 6 was done. Interesting call by him, that might be something worth talking about during his start in Game 7. But he pitched decently last time out in Game 3, better than his stat line might have suggested, while Darvish is coming off a disastrous performance. He’ll get a chance to redeem himself and face Yuli Gurriel for the first time since the little incident with Gurriel making squinty eyes after homering off Darvish. Though based on the way Darvish responded to the incident (about as professionally as humanly possible), I doubt that’s going to be too heavy on his mind. All hands will be on deck for this one because it will be do or die for this winner-take-all Game 7. Both starting pitchers will be pulled at the first sign of trouble and everyone except Hill and Verlander will be available for this game (Hell, Clayton Kershaw tried to convince Roberts to let him go in this game. He was the starting pitcher in Game 5).

Prediction:

Yeah, I’m not going to try and predict how this one’s going to go. The way these two teams have played, anything is possible. This has been an all-timer of a World Series and it’s only fitting that it goes 7 games. But I guess if you really want a prediction, I’ll flip a coin again. Heads Dodgers win first title since 1988, Tails Astros win first title in franchise history. *Flips coin*. Congrats Dodgers.

2017 World Series Preview: Astros vs Dodgers

So it’s all come down to this. 2 teams remain from the 30 that came into Spring Training with such high hopes. Only one will end the season having accomplished the goal they set back in late February. The Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers were my picks to go to the World Series back around the All Star break, but I changed my mind after how hot the Indians got in the AL and how cold the Dodgers went. You can check out how wrong my playoff picks were here. Nonetheless, both teams won 100 games this season (Dodgers won 104, Astros won 101), which hasn’t happened in the World Series since 1970, when the 108-win Baltimore Orioles beat the 102-win Cincinnati Reds. I picked the DBacks to represent the National League on a hunch and while they did win the NL Wild Card game, they got promptly disposed of by the Dodgers, whose number the DBacks seemed to have had in the regular season. The Astros were consistently good all season but were surpassed in the overall record department by the Indians, thanks in large part to a 22-game win streak. The Indians then choked away a 2-0 lead against the Yankees in the ALDS while the Astros convincingly dispatched the Red Sox. The Dodgers then proceeded to spank the Cubs in the NLCS in 5 games while it took 7 games for the Astros to defeat the Yankees. For this prediction segment, I’m going to go position by position to determine which team has the advantage at each. The rosters for the World Series aren’t set in stone, which may be a big factor at one of the positions later in this blog, but I will do my best to try and get an accurate projection of what each team will put forth in the best-of-7 series. So let’s get to it.

Starting Pitchers:

Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill, Yu Darvish, Alex Wood

Astros: Dallas Keuchel, Justin Verlander, Lance McCullers, Charlie Morton

Advantage: Dodgers

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photo credit: Bleacher Report

My reasoning behind this is simple: the fourth starter. It’s pretty neck-and-neck for the first three guys but I’m not sure if I can trust Charlie Morton. He was terrific in his start in game 7 of the ALCS against the Yankees, going 5 innings, only letting up 2 hits and striking out 5. But prior to that he had an ERA over 10 in the playoffs. Alex Wood has had his issues in the postseason for the Dodgers, but he had been lights out all season prior to that and I’m more confident in him than I am in Morton. We may also see Brad Peacock for the Astros instead of Morton, or maybe even instead of McCullers. Since his relief effort in game 7 went so well, it wouldn’t shock me if Manager AJ Hinch decides to use McCullers in an Andrew Miller-type role, going multiple innings to set up the closer. But Keuchel and Verlander have already been announced for Games 1 and 2, respectively. Keuchel was back to his Cy Young form this season but dealt with some injuries. He appears to be healthy now, though. Justin Verlander has been absolutely ridiculous in the postseason, as he had an ERA of 0.56 in the ALCS, garnering him series MVP. Kershaw is still the best pitcher on the planet and his playoff performance is finally catching up to that reputation. While his ERA is only 3.63, those numbers were inflated by letting up 4 runs in the NLDS against the DBacks. Since then his ERA is 2.45, which is right around his career regular season average.

Bullpen:

Dodgers: Kenley Jansen, Kenta Maeda, Tony Watson, Tony Cingrani, Brandon Morrow, Ross Stripling, Josh Fields

Astros: Ken Giles, Will Harris, Collin McHugh, Brad Peacock, Francisco Liriano, Chris Devenski, Luke Gregerson, Joe Musgrove

Advantage: Dodgers

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photo credit: Fan Rag Sports

Kenley Jansen was probably the best reliever in baseball this season and he’s carried that success into the playoffs. He’s pitched 8 innings so far and has yet to allow a run while striking out 12. This Dodgers bullpen is also loaded with former starters, such as Maeda, Cingrani, Morrow, and Stripling, who are all capable of going multiple innings if need be. The Astros have a similar situation with McHugh, Peacock, and Liriano, but I trust the Dodgers’ guys a little more. This one was really tight but Jansen was the difference for me.

Catcher:

Dodgers: Yasmani Grandal, Austin Barnes

Astros: Brian McCann, Evan Gattis (DH)

Advantage: Astros

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photo credit: Houston Chronicle

Defensively I give the edge to the Dodgers but I think there is too much potency amongst the Astros backstops. McCann and Gattis were arguably the two most important bats in the Astros Game 7 victory, as they drove in 3 of the 4 runs, including a BOMB by Gattis to get the scoring started in the fourth. Both Grandal and McCann are good at handling a pitching staff and Barnes is solid relief, but I still have to give the edge to Houston.

First Base:

Dodgers: Cody Bellinger

Astros: Yuli Gurriel

Advantage: Dodgers

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photo credit: Yahoo Sports

Bellinger will more than likely win NL Rookie of the Year this season, as he set an NL rookie record with 39 home runs this season. Gurriel, also a rookie (a 33 year-old at that), has finally provided some stability at first base for the Astros, something they’ve lacked for a few years. Gurriel had a big hit that set up McCann’s 2-run double in Game 7 but Bellinger has been one of the offensive powerhouses for this Dodgers team this season. Got to give the advantage to LA.

Second Base:

Dodgers: Chase Utley, Logan Forsythe

Astros: Jose Altuve

Advantage: Astros

Jose-Altuve

photo credit: Baseline Times

No shit. Jose Altuve is one of the five best players in baseball and is my pick for AL MVP this season and he’s been dynamite in the postseason. After lighting up the Red Sox in the ALDS, the 5’6 phenom continued to give the Yankees problems, including a big home run in Game 7. Utley and Forsythe are two guys whose best years are behind them and I don’t envision them being major factors in this World Series.

Third Base:

Astros: Alex Bregman

Dodgers: Justin Turner

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at Los Angeles Dodgers

photo credit: Dodgers Nation

Advantage: Dodgers

Justin Turner was Co-NLCS MVP with Chris Taylor against the Cubs, which included a walk-off home run to win Game 2. Bregman has been good in the postseason, hitting a couple of clutch home runs against the Red Sox in the ALDS and making a great play at third in which he made a beautiful throw at home to nab Greg Bird in Game 7. Bregman’s got a bright future in this league but Justin Turner has been too good for the Dodgers all year for there to be any other choice.

Shortstop:

Dodgers: Corey Seager*, Charlie Culberson

Astros: Carlos Correa

Advantage: Depends on Seager’s availability, but probably Astros

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photo credit: Houston Chronicle

This is tricky because Seager was left completely off the NLCS roster due to a back injury. He’s one of the brightest young stars in the game and if he’s healthy enough to go, I think I would give a slight edge to him over Correa, who is a fantastic shortstop in his own right. But I think I’m going to give a bit of an edge to Houston because I would take a healthy Correa over an unhealthy Seager 10 times out of 10. I’m also not super confident Seager will even be able to go. Culberson is a nice player for the Dodgers but he’s not anywhere near Correa’s level, who reminds me of a young Alex Rodriguez.

Outfield:

Dodgers: Curtis Granderson, Kike Hernandez, Chris Taylor, Yasiel Puig, Andre Ethier

Astros: Marwin Gonzalez, George Springer, Josh Reddick, Cameron Maybin, Carlos Beltran (DH)

Advantage: Astros

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photo credit: Fan Rag Sports

Marwin Gonzalez was a guy the Astros had used as a super utility guy for most of his career until he really started to hit this season and they decided they needed to find a way to get this guy’s bat in the lineup on a regular basis. He will slot into left field in what is an outstanding outfield. George Springer is one of the brightest young stars in baseball as a guy who can do it all from the leadoff spot. Josh Reddick struggled mightily in the ALCS (he started out 0-22 before getting his first hit in Game 7, which tied a record for longest hitless drought in a single playoff series) but he hit well all season so I expect him to pick it up a bit in the World Series. Chris Taylor is a super utility guy, much like Gonzalez, who may even see time at shortstop if Seager can’t go. He did play a couple games at short in the NLCS but one way or another, Dave Roberts will pencil him in to the starting lineup. Yasiel Puig’s antics have been a lot of fun in the postseason and his bat has backed it up on the brightest stage. The Astros get the advantage mainly because they are a bigger part of this offense than the Dodgers guys are, however the Dodgers outfielders, particularly Kike Hernandez, showed up big in Game 5 against the Cubs, as Hernandez hit 3 home runs including a grand slam in the clinching game.

Score: 4-4 Dodgers-Astros

Tie Breaker: Manager

Dodgers: Dave Roberts

Astros: AJ Hinch

Advantage: Dodgers

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photo credit: MLB.com

Dave Roberts is arguably the best manager in the game today. He has had to deal with a lot of injuries in his 2-year stint at the helm of the Dodgers yet he still wins the NL West by a wide margin in both seasons and led the Dodgers to baseball’s best record at 104-58. AJ Hinch has led the Astros’ huge franchise turnaround from a team that would consistently lose 100 games into a team that went 101-61. I have to give the advantage to Roberts, though, as he has had to deal with more adversity.

My World Series Pick: Dodgers in 7

This is going to be a really good series. Both teams match up really well and it may come down to whose bullpen can lock it down. I have total faith in Kenley Jansen to get the job done for the Dodgers and I think they win their first World Series since 1988.

That’s my World Series preview. Agree with my picks? Disagree? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.