General Sports: May 8

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-The Pistons fired head coach Stan Van Gundy after a few mediocre seasons with the team. Granted, the Pistons were a shitshow before SVG got there, but they haven’t been able to get above “contending for the 8 seed” territory, which is about the worst place you can be in today’s NBA (not good enough to contend for a title, not bad enough to get a top Draft pick, which tends to be franchise-altering nowadays). The Pistons made the playoffs once in his 4-year tenure but failed to win a playoff series. It wouldn’t shock me to see SVG land another job sometime in the near future, as his resume speaks for itself (led the Orlando Magic to their only NBA Finals appearance back in 2009) and he certainly won’t be the last NBA head coach to get his walking papers as the offseason moves along in these coming weeks.

-The San Francisco Giants continue to get ravaged by the injury bug as this time it has hit Johnny Cueto. Cueto suffered a sprained elbow and will miss the next 6-8 weeks. This couldn’t come at a worse time for the Giants as they’re one of the hottest teams in baseball at the moment, having won 13 of their last 18 games entering Monday night (this is being written before the conclusion of their tilt with the Phillies). Cueto was bouncing back in a MAJOR way this season. After having an ERA well over 4 last season, Cueto was pacing the Majors in that category at 0.84 and was pitching some of the best baseball of his life, which is saying something considering the run of success he had with the Reds in one of the most hitter-friendly ballparks in the game. It’s a tough blow for the Giants, who are looking to try and make the playoffs and considering how good the Diamondbacks and Rockies have been looking of late, that task seems to be made even tougher without Cueto for up to 2 months.

-The Carolina Panthers are signing former Broncos runningback CJ Anderson to a 1-year deal. After releasing Jonathan Stewart in the offseason, I was surprised the Panthers didn’t get another bigger runningback to shoulder the bulk of the carries in the Draft so that Christian McCaffrey can continue to do scat back stuff. Anderson isn’t a flashy player by any means but he’s consistently solid and was the Broncos’ #1 back when they beat the Panthers in Super Bowl L. He’s also a very similar style of player to the departed Stewart and is 4 years younger so one can argue it’s an improvement on multiple fronts.

-The Saints are releasing tight end Coby Fleener after 2 years of a 5 year deal. Fleener was a pretty big disappointment in New Orleans as he and Drew Brees never really developed the connection you would’ve expected given how much Brees liked to target Jimmy Graham in the past. However Fleener managed just 72 catches for 826 yards and 5 TD’s over his 2 years with the team. The Saints were reportedly interested in bringing back Graham, but he signed with the Packers instead, leading many to speculate the Saints had tight end as a high priority. Then they traded up 13 spots in the Draft, including giving up next year’s first round pick, to select UTSA’s Marcus Davenport and didn’t draft any tight ends, making this release a little more surprising to me. As of right now, the tight end roster in New Orleans features a 37 year-old Ben Watson, Michael Hoomanawanui, and Josh Hill of note. Watson has had success in this offense in the past so perhaps that’s the reason why they weren’t in any hurry to get another tight end and were comfortable in letting Fleener walk.

-I didn’t blog about this when it happened due to my being in my finals-related hiatus, but on April 20, White Sox reliever Danny Farquhar suffered a brain aneurysm and collapsed in the dugout during the game. He had to be rushed to the hospital with this affliction that has taken so many lives. Luckily, Farquhar survived and he was finally able to return home yesterday for the first time. Hopefully Farquhar is able to make a full recovery and can continue to create a positive impact on this world, whether that be on the baseball diamond or in other ventures.

-So Vlad Guerrero Jr continues to be the most talked-about minor leaguer in the game today. Here’s something from a segment he was doing with Carlos Pena for MLB Network.

I don’t think the average person quite understands just how impressive this is. A lot of the power behind hitting a home run comes from how fast the pitch is being thrown. Normally guys don’t hit the ball very far off the tee because it’s just sitting still. Well Guerrero Jr is 19 years old and he’s putting a still baseball into the right field seats. This kid is going to be something special and if he’s just half of what his father was, the Blue Jays will have a guy to build around for the next 10 years.

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

2018 NFL Draft Positional Rankings

With the 2018 NFL Draft just a couple weeks away, I thought I’d do things a little different. The week of the Draft (more specifically, April 26) I will have my final Mock Draft published. The week before, I’ll have my final Big Board. This week, as you can see because you’re reading it, we’ve got my positional rankings. These rankings are based on my personal feelings about each prospect. I haven’t gotten to watch film on all of them so there are a bunch that will be there based on reports I’ve read and other rankings I’ve seen. These rankings also won’t be reflective about where I think they’ll go in the Draft, as team fits and needs will play a factor in that. However, they will somewhat reflect my Big Board. So without further ado, let’s get to the positional rankings.

Quarterback

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1. Josh Rosen-UCLA

2. Sam Darnold-USC

3. Baker Mayfield-Oklahoma

4. Josh Allen-Wyoming

5. Mason Rudolph-Oklahoma State

6. Lamar Jackson-Louisville

7. Luke Falk-Washington State

8. Mike White-Western Kentucky

9. Kyle Lauletta-Richmond

10. Logan Woodside-Toledo

Runningback

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1. Saquon Barkley-Penn State

2. Derrius Guice-LSU

3. Ronald Jones II-USC

4. Sony Michel-Georgia

5. Nick Chubb-Georgia

6. Rashaad Penny-San Diego State

7. Nyheim Hines-North Carolina State

8. Bo Scarbrough-Alabama

9. Royce Freeman-Oregon

10. Kerryon Johnson-Auburn

Wide Receiver

at Bryant-Denny Stadium on September 16, 2017 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

1. Calvin Ridley-Alabama

2. Christian Kirk-Texas A&M

3. DJ Moore-Maryland

4. Courtland Sutton-SMU

5. DJ Chark-LSU

6. Anthony Miller-Memphis

7. James Washington-Oklahoma State

8. Tre’Quan Smith-Central Florida

9. Jaleel Scott-New Mexico State

10. Dante Pettis-Washington

Tight End

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1. Dallas Goedert-South Dakota State

2. Mike Gesicki-Penn State

3. Hayden Hurst-South Carolina

4. Ian Thomas-Indiana

5. Mark Andrews-Oklahoma

6. Troy Fumagalli-Wisconsin

7. Durham Smythe-Notre Dame

8. Dalton Schultz-Stanford

9. Jaylen Samuels-North Carolina State

10. Tyler Conklin-Central Michigan

Offensive Tackle

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1. Connor Williams-Texas

2. Mike McGlinchey-Notre Dame

3. Kolton Miller-UCLA

4. Brian O’Neill-Pittsburgh

5. Tyrell Crosby-Oregon

6. Jamarco Jones-Ohio State

7. Geron Christian-Louisville

8. Martinas Rankin-Mississippi State

9. Orlando Brown-Oklahoma

10. Chukwuma Okorafor-Western Michigan

Offensive Guard

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1. Quenton Nelson-Notre Dame

2. Isaiah Wynn-Georgia

3. Will Hernandez-UTEP

4. Braden Smith-Auburn

5. Wyatt Teller-Virginia Tech

6. Tyrone Crowder-Clemson

7. Sean Welsh-Iowa

8. Taylor Hearn-Clemson

9. Colby Gossett-Appalachian State

10. Sam Jones-Arizona State

Center

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1. James Daniels-Iowa

2. Billy Price-Ohio State

3. Frank Ragnow-Arkansas

4. Bradley Bozeman-Alabama

5. Mason Cole-Michigan

6. Will Clapp-LSU

7. Austin Corbett-Nevada

8. Brian Allen-Michigan State

9. Scott Quessenberry-UCLA

10. Coleman Shelton-Washington

Edge Rusher

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1. Bradley Chubb-North Carolina State

2. Marcus Davenport-UTSA

3. Harold Landry-Boston College

4. Sam Hubbard-Ohio State

5. Uchenna Nwosu-USC

6. Lorenzo Carter-Georgia

7. Josh Sweat-Florida State

8. Arden Key-LSU

9. Dorance Armstrong Jr-Kansas

10. Ogbonnia Okoronkwo-Oklahoma

Defensive Line

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1. Da’Ron Payne-Alabama

2. Vita Vea-Washington

3. Maurice Hurst-Michigan

4. Taven Bryan-Florida

5. Harrison Phillips-Stanford

6. Rasheem Green-USC

7. BJ Hill-North Carolina State

8. Tim Settle-Virginia Tech

9. Derrick Nnadi-Florida State

10. Will Geary-Kansas State

Linebacker

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1. Tremaine Edmunds-Virginia Tech

2. Roquan Smith-Georgia

3. Rashaan Evans-Alabama

4. Leighton Vander Esch-Boise State

5. Malik Jefferson-Texas

6. Shaquem Griffin-Central Florida

7. Josey Jewell-Iowa

8. Jerome Baker-Ohio State

9. Tegray Scales-Indiana

10. Micah Kiser-Virginia

Cornerback

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1. Denzel Ward-Ohio State

2. Josh Jackson-Iowa

3. Isaiah Oliver-Colorado

4. Jaire Alexander-Louisville

5. Mike Hughes-Central Florida

6. Carlton Davis-Auburn

7. Donte Jackson-LSU

8. Duke Dawson-Florida

9. MJ Stewart-North Carolina

10. Anthony Averett-Alabama

Safety

Alabama at Vanderbilt

1. Minkah Fitzpatrick-Alabama

2. Derwin James-Florida State

3. Justin Reid-Stanford

4. Ronnie Harrison-Alabama

5. Deshon Elliott-Texas

6. Jessie Bates III-Wake Forest

7. Jordan Whitehead-Pittsburgh

8. Quin Blanding-Virginia

9. Terrell Edmunds-Virginia Tech

10. Marcus Allen-Penn State

Those are my positional rankings for the 2018 NFL Draft class. Let me know what you think of them in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: Pittsburgh Pirates

Since I know you’re all clamoring for it, here’s my bracket. Congratulations to Villanova on their second national championship in 3 years, third overall. I did make it safely into Fort Lauderdale, encountered a lot of problems, but everything is good. The wifi in my hotel is AWFUL, so there may be a chance that I have to miss a day on the blog. Fingers crossed I don’t have to. But anyway, let’s get to today’s edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days, featuring the Pittsburgh Pirates.

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2017 Results:

Record: 75-87, 17 games behind Chicago Cubs, 12 games behind Colorado Rockies for 2nd Wild Card Spot

Notable Offseason Additions: LF Corey Dickerson, OF Daniel Nava, SP Joe Musgrove, 3B Colin Moran, LF Michael Saunders, RP Kyle Crick

Notable Offseason Subtractions: OF Andrew McCutchen, SP Gerrit Cole, 1B John Jaso, RP Daniel Hudson, RP Joaquin Benoit, RP Dan Runzler, C Chris Stewart

Best Offensive Player: CF Starling Marte

Best Pitcher: Ivan Nova

Depth Chart:

C-Francisco Cervelli, Elias Diaz

1B-Josh Bell

2B-Josh Harrison, Sean Rodriguez

3B-David Freese, Colin Moran

SS-Jordy Mercer

LF-Corey Dickerson, Adam Frazier

CF-Starling Marte

RF-Gregory Polanco, Bryce Brentz

SP-Ivan Nova, Jameson Taillon, Joe Musgrove, Chad Kuhl, Trevor Williams, Tyler Glasnow

Bullpen-Felipe Rivero (CP), George Kontos, Kyle Crick, Michael Feliz, AJ Schugel, Dovydas Neverauskas, Edgar Santana

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Clint Hurdle (8th season with Pirates)

Hitting Coach-Jeff Branson

Pitching Coach-Ray Searage

1st Base Coach-Kimera Bartee

3rd Base Coach-Joey Cora

Bench Coach-Tom Prince

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The Pirates are all in on their rebuild. They traded their two most prolific players in Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole to try and build for the future. They didn’t take the next step after their breakthrough starting in 2013 and now they’re trending back towards mediocrity. It’s a smart move to get out in front of these rebuilds, especially if they didn’t have any real chance at competing in the first place. Here’s a look at the potential lineup for the Pirates.

1. Corey Dickerson-LF

2. Josh Harrison-2B

3. Starling Marte-CF

4. Josh Bell-1B

5. Gregory Polanco-RF

6. Francisco Cervelli-C

7. David Freese/Colin Moran-3B

8. Jordy Mercer-SS

9. Pitcher’s Spot

There’s a lot of underperforming talent in this lineup. It starts with Starling Marte, who is a freak athlete but got busted for PED’s last season and missed 80 games. In his limited time last season, he hit .275 with 7 home runs and 31 RBI with 21 stolen bags and a 1.2 WAR. He’s one of the fastest players in the game and a talented hitter but he’s one of those guys that I think could be so much better but for whatever reason just hasn’t taken that next step. Josh Harrison is a guy I enjoy watching play. There’s just something about him that gets me excited to watch him go. Last season he hit .272 with 16 home runs and 66 RBI while being able to play pretty much every position imaginable. Josh Bell was a breakout stud for them last season, hitting .255 with 26 home runs and 90 RBI, providing a big power bat in the middle of their lineup. But after those guys there isn’t a whole lot. Gregory Polanco was a guy I heard several people compare to Barry Bonds when he debuted and he has been far from being that dangerous threat. He had a pretty solid 2016 but his 2017 left a lot to be desired. He hit .251 with 11 home runs and 35 RBI while playing a pretty good right field but also being one of the worst baserunners in baseball. There is some talent in their minor league system such as Austin Meadows, who could be seeing some playing time before this season gets out. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Pirates selling some of their talented assets at the Trade Deadline for a team trying to make a late push for the postseason.

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After trading Gerrit Cole, there isn’t much to go off of in this Pirates rotation in 2018. Slated to start opening day for the Bucs is Ivan Nova, who has been just okay since joining Pittsburgh after a disappointing tenure with the Yankees. Last year he went 11-14 with a 4.14 ERA while posting a measly 6 K/9. He isn’t a bad pitcher but being a team’s ace is nowhere near where his talent merits. Jameson Taillon is a talented guy and he showed a lot of ability last season before being diagnosed with testicular cancer. He was able to return after successful surgery and was able to make 25 starts, going 8-7 with a 4.44 ERA but a 3.48 FIP, suggesting the Pirates’ defense wasn’t a big help for him. Taillon is a guy who could be the team ace by next season and I think he’s someone they can build this rotation around. Tyler Glasnow is another talented pitcher in the rotation but he’s been a nightmare at the Major League level. He carries a career 6.75 ERA in 22 appearances and 17 starts. I don’t expect this rotation to really do a whole lot, they did finish 13th in the Majors in team ERA last season but they lost their best pitcher in Gerrit Cole and didn’t acquire anybody that will ease that loss.

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There isn’t much talent in the Pirates bullpen with the exception of their closer Felipe Rivero. Rivero really burst onto the scene in 2017. He posted a 1.67 ERA while striking out over 10 batters per 9 innings and recorded 21 saves. His fastball can touch 100 miles per hour and he’s got the breaking ball to throw off hitters’ timing like you wouldn’t believe. After him, though, there’s a pretty steep drop. George Kontos is a decent reliever with a pretty solid cutter but the rest of that ‘pen is filled with guys I’ve never heard of. Though looking at their numbers, AJ Schugel is a guy I should start paying attention to, as he posted an ERA of 1.97 in 32 appearances. But otherwise there isn’t a whole lot to really be paying attention to at the moment.

Overall, I don’t expect much out of the Pirates. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if this whole team gets blown up at the trade deadline. After a few good players there’s a pretty steep drop in productivity that will really limit this team’s ceiling. Clint Hurdle, who is an excellent manager, will likely be on the way out as they get into a full rebuild process once they start to drop in the standings.

Projected Record: 76-86, 4th in NL Central

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow when I discuss the San Diego Padres, whom I got to briefly work for at the Home Run Derby in 2016 and really got me invested in their culture (pretty much just worshiping Tony Gwynn). Let me know what you think of the Pirates’ 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.

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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

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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.