MLB Spring Training battles

Baseball is finally back. With Spring Training games beginning in full swing last Friday, we finally have live, MLB baseball in 2018. And with the return of Spring Training comes it’s plethora of starting position battles. Teams across baseball use this time to determine their starting lineups. And this spring will be no different. These five teams will be watching their players extra close this Spring Training.

MLB Spring Training Battles

If Gleyber Torres can impress skipper Aaron Boone, he could be the Yankees Opening Day second baseman. (Corey Sipken/New York Post)

Yankees: Second Base

The Yankees could have double dipped on this list, but addressed third base by acquiring Brandon Drury from the Diamondbacks. This leaves second base as the only real question mark for the Bronx Bombers entering 2018. The Yankees depth chart on MLB.com lists Ronald Torreyes as the starter, but that can’t be taken too seriously this early in camp. Especially with a young prospect breathing down his neck.

Gleyber Torres is the Yankees top prospect, ranking 3rd on among all prospects according to Baseball America. While he has been primarily a shortstop in the Yankees farm system, Torres has been moonlighting at second base. His limited amount of games at the position (18), may cause some concern, but he is more than capable enough to man the position.

While Ronald Torreyes is an established major league player, his career 82 OPS+ proves him to be a below average one. The Yankees may roll with Torreyes to start the season, but it seems the starting second base job is Torres’ to lose. Barring a trade, Torres should be the Yankees starting second baseman in their stretch run.

Opening Day Starter: Ronald Torreyes

MLB Spring Training Battles

Jake Marisnick could make the move from fourth outfielder to starting left fielder in 2018 (Karen Warren/Houston Chronicle).

Astros: Left Field

As the defending World Series champions, it would seem the Astros are set to carry over their 2017 dominance into 2018. But there are still some question marks in the starting lineup. Left field specifically. Last season, the Astros rotated Marwin Gonzalez, Derek Fisher, and Jake Marisnick in left, but that could change this season. Skipper A.J. Hinch could be looking for more stability from the position.

The first option listed on the Astros depth chart is Marwin Gonzalez. But that is only because “Utility” isn’t listed as a position. Gonzalez started at least 20 games at four different positions last season, and the Astros would be wise to not lock him in to just one position. Derek Fisher manned left field for the Astros down the stretch, but struggled to adjust to major league hitting.

That leaves Jake Marisnick. Marisnick has always been a stellar defensive outfielder, evident to his 382 starts in center field, but struggled to hit. That is, until last season. Marisnick finally found his power stroke, mashing 16 home runs to propel his 122 OPS+. But he struggled with injuries last season, playing only 106 games and missing the Astros World Series run. Still, if Marisnick can have a strong Spring Training showing, he could lock down the left field spot.

Opening Day Starter: Jake Marisnick

MLB Spring Training Battles

Jonathan Villar will look to return to his 2016 form this season (Getty Images).

Brewers: Second Base

After acquiring Christian Yelich and signing Lorenzo Cain within hours of each other, the Brewers seemed to have one message for the rest of the league; we’re back. The Brewers are likely to compete for an NL Wild Card spot this season, and are a dark horse candidate to win the NL Central. But for a team with high hopes like the Brewers, second base is still a spot the Brewers have yet to address.

Eric Sogard and Neil Walker both split starting time for the Brewers last season. But with Walker still on the open market, that leaves Sogard to battle it out with Jonathan Villar for the starting second base job. Sogard was solid last season, posting a 103 OPS+. But his career high three home runs last season doesn’t inspire much confidence.

That leaves Jonathan Villar as Sogard’s main competition for the job. After having a career year as the Brewers starting short stop in 2016, Villar fell back down to earth in 2017. He hit .241 and posted a 72 OPS+, well below league average. Even so, he’s still just one season removed from hitting 19 home runs and stealing 63 bases. If Villar can find his swing again, he could be the x factor the Brewers would need to exceed expectations.

Opening Day Starter: Jonathan Villar

MLB Spring Training Battles

Joc Pederson will look to ride a strong Spring Training into the Opening Day lineup (John McCoy/LA Daily News).

Dodgers: Left Field

With the World Series loss still fresh in their minds, the Dodgers arrived in Arizona looking to build on last season’s success. They’re also looking for a starting left fielder out in the desert as well. But the Dodgers are in a unique position. One could say they have too much talent in the outfield, leaving left field in particular a question mark. While manager Dave Roberts has plenty of options to pick from, it’s hard to say who will be his answer choice.

The Dodgers depth chart has an unlikely name at the top of the list; Enrique Hernandez. If you just took a quick glance at his stats from last season, you would question why he would be atop that list. But after you consider his three home run, seven RBI performance against the Cubs in the NLCS last season, it’s not so questionable.

Even so, one strong postseason series isn’t enough to earn Hernandez the starting job. That leaves Matt Kemp and Joc Pederson as the remaining options in left field. While Pederson had a similarly strong postseason to Hernandez, Kemp had the better overall season compared to the three. Even so, Kemp only put up a 103 OPS+, barely better than league average. This one seems like a toss up. Pederson has the higher upside, but Kemp has the track record. And as a World Series level team, that could push Kemp over the edge.

Opening Day Starter: Matt Kemp

Feature image by NBC Los Angeles

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New playoff teams in 2018

Every season is filled with breakout players and teams. The 2018 season will be no different. But what teams have the best chance to make that break through? The following four teams have the best chance to make a return to relevance in 2018.

Oakland Athletics

New Playoff Teams in 2018

Khris Davis has mastered the third base high five during his tenure with Oakland. (Ben Margot, AP).

After finishing in last place in the American League West last season, the Athletics are the trendy pick to make some noise this season. With a young roster littered with some veteran contributors, the A’s could definitely fight for an AL Wild Card spot. One reason for all the optimism is their young corner infield duo.

With both Matt Chapman and Matt Olson both entering the season with starting jobs all but secure, don’t be surprised to see them combine for 50+ home runs and 150+ RBIs. In only 59 games last season, Matt Olson mashed 24 home runs. He also had a .651 slugging percentage and a 164 OPS+. That combined with a strong rookie season from Matt Chapman (110 OPS+) has the A’s feeling confident entering 2018.

While the Athletics should improve in 2018, they play in one of the toughest divisions in baseball. With the World Series Champion Houston Astros, the overhauled Los Angeles Angels, and solid teams in Seattle and Texas, Oakland could struggle. But if their young talent develops, they could be a force to be reckoned with.

Atlanta Braves

While the Braves finished third in the National League East last season, they posted a paltry 72-90 record. That’s not to say it was a lost season in Atlanta though. The Braves seem to be on the tail end of their rebuild, with some of their prospects finally making it to the major leagues. And its that young talent that could push them over the top in 2018.

Led by superstar (yes, superstar) Freddie Freeman, the Braves could challenge for an NL Wild Card spot next season. Freeman has developed into an offensive force for the Braves. He hit the second most home runs of his career in 2018 (28 home runs) despite playing the fewest number of games since his rookie season (117 games). He is also likely to be joined by Baseball America’s number one prospect, Ronald Acuna, sometime this season.

With Dansby Swanson and Ozzie Albies already in the majors, their development and the addition of Acuna has the Braves looking dangerous in 2018. When you add stud pitchers Sean Newcomb and Luis Gohara, the Braves could have the makings of another dominant dynasty.

San Francisco Giants

New Playoff Teams in 2018

Buster Posey is the backbone of the San Francisco Giants (Courtesy of MLBtraderumors.com)

After years of postseason success, it feels odd to see a team like the Giants on this list. But a season after posting the fewest wins in the National League (64), nothing is a sure thing with the Giants. Even so, their off-season moves have made them a trendy favorite to return to the playoffs this season.

When you add star caliber players like Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria, that’ll happen. But it’s not like the Giants were a team without talent. They have arguably the best catcher in the game in Buster Posey, and a dominant ace in Madison Bumgarner. Add in solid veterans Hunter Pence, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford, and you have a playoff caliber team. It was this core that drove the Giants to their playoff success, and McCutchen and Longoria will look to help them do it again.

This team is different than the previous two teams on this list. While the Braves and Athletics look to contend with youth, the Giants are counting on a veteran core to lead them back to the World Series. While it is a long shot for them to get past the Dodgers, Diamondbacks, and Rockies (who all made the playoffs last season), it is an even year.

Milwaukee Brewers

If the Athletics and Braves are going young and the Giants are counting on experience, the Brewers are trying to have the best of both worlds. After a surprisingly strong 2018 season, the Brewers made some even more surprising moves this off-season. With the additions of Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain, the Brewers are definitely one of the better teams in the National League.

But it’s not just Yelich and Cain that have made the Brewers contenders. Korean import Eric Thames and former Astro Domingo Santana both found their power stroke in 2017, belting 30+ home runs each. The Brewers also had a breakout season from Corey Knebel, as he provided solidity for the bullpen. Factor in the production that veterans Travis Shaw and Ryan Braun provide, and the Brewers have one of the better offenses in the National League.

The one weak spot for the Brewers is their starting rotation. Having players like Jhoulys Chacin and Yovani Gallardo in the starting rotation is something to worry about. But if the Brewers can sign Jake Arrieta or even one or two of the other free agent pitchers on the market, it could push the Brewers over the top.

Feature image by Sports Illustrated. 

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Top MLB players

Top MLB players age 35 or older

Every year it seems that baseball is getting younger and younger. Prospects all over baseball are proving to be more than ready for the show.

But what about the guys that have put in their time and then some? Veterans seem to have never been more undervalued (e.g. the free agent market), but they are getting their due here. We will take a close look at the best players over 35 years old.

Nelson Cruz

The Spanish Conquistadors searched years for the the fountain of youth in Latin America. It seems it was in Seattle the whole time.

Nelson Cruz has mashed ever since arriving in the Pacific Northwest. In three seasons, he has hit 126 home runs, averaging 42 home runs per season. He has also driven in 317 RBIs with the Mariners, proving to be an elite run producer in his late 30s.

Cruz will be 38 years old in July and shows no signs of slowing down. With a deep Mariners roster around him, Cruz should continue to produce. He is still one of the elite power hitters in the game, proving that he can still be productive in the twilight of his career.

Robinson Cano

Top MLB players

Robinson Cano will continue to produce for Seattle in 2018 and beyond. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images North America)

It seems that the Mariners are onto something. Even though Robinson Cano struggled in his first two seasons in Seattle (by his standards), his mid 30s have been plenty productive.

He has averaged 24 home runs and 90 RBIs in his four seasons in Seattle and boasts a .295 batting average. Cano has also earned three All-Star appearances in four seasons in Seattle, proving to be a force in the Mariners lineup.

Now at age 35, Cano is well on his way to cementing himself as one of the better second basemen in baseball history. He continues to hit for solid power and average, and has played a good second base since signing with the Mariners.

If he continues to drink from Seattle’s fountain of youth, there is no telling how much longer he can be productive.

Edwin Encarnacion

Many were weary of signing an aged slugger like Edwin Encarnacion last offseason. However, all the 35-year-old did last season was mash.

Top MLB Players

Edwin Encarnacion will prove to be a great signing for the Indians. (Photo from WKYC.com)

In his first season with the Indians, Encarnacion hit 38 home runs and drove in 107 RBIs. While he did only hit .258 (his lowest since 2010), he still proved to be an elite power hitter for the Tribe. But with Encarnacion’s track record, his power should remain well into his late 30s.

 

Encarnacion has been an elite power hitter since arriving in Toronto, but his 30s have been impressive. He has averaged 38 home runs and 109 RBIs since turning 30 in 2013.

Age certainly hasn’t been a factor for Encarnacion. He was a late bloomer, not finding consistency at the plate until his age-29 season. But with his elite power and proven track record, his age shouldn’t catch up to him anytime soon.

Albert Pujols

While Albert Pujols may have fallen a long way from being the best player in baseball, he is still a productive hitter. At 38 years old, that is almost as impressive as his younger achievements.

Last season, Pujols hit .241 while mashing 23 home runs and driving in 101 RBIs. Those are solid numbers for a player of Pujols’ age. He will look to improve on those numbers in 2018, although he will have Father Time to contend with, and Shohei Ohtani.

The 2017 season was the first in Pujols’ 17-year career that he was a below average hitter. His 81 OPS+ was well below average, as his lower half began to fail him last season.

Even so, Pujols still has a chance to be a productive player for the Angels. With a career .305 batting average and 614 home runs to his credit, “The Machine” could very well flip the switch in 2018.

Fernando Rodney

As the oldest player on our list, 40-year-old Fernando Rodney proved to be a solid reliever last season for the Minnesota Twins. He went 5-4 with a 4.23 ERA for a surprisingly good Twins team, helping them to a Wild Card berth. While his surface numbers may not be that impressive, a deeper look reveals much more.

While pitching 55.1 innings last season, Rodney struck out 65 total batters. That was his second highest total since the 2014 season. He also limited batters to a 1.19 WHIP last season, his best mark since 2012.

As Rodney has aged, he has seemed to get better and better. And his numbers prove that to be true. While his ERA may have increased this past season, his WHIP and total strikeouts still bear him as one of the better relievers in the game.

And with baseball moving ever closer to the super bullpen, Rodney could stick around for a while. Don’t be surprised to see Rodney still making the trot from the pen to the mound for the next several years.

 

Feature image by Jae C. Hong/ Associated Press 

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Spring Training Spotlight

Top power hitting infielders

As we begin to edge ever closer to spring training, players and fans alike await its return. But what type of return will it be? We saw a record number of home runs hit last season, and that trend seems like it will continue. Given all those homers, who are the best of the best in the infield?

1B Jose Abreu

Jose Abreu has been an absolute force for the Chicago White Sox. After signing to play the 2014 season, Abreu hit 36 home runs in his rookie season. In his four seasons with the White Sox, Abreu has slugged 124 home runs, as well as 144 doubles. That is where Abreu made the difference in these rankings.

Even though Abreu finished seventh for the most home runs among first baseman last season, he finished first in doubles hit with 43. The ability to hit for power consistently, and not be so reliant on the home run, gives Abreu the edge. He has also slugged .524 in his career, proving him to be one of the more consistent power threats in the game. Abreu possesses legitimate power, and he has shown it off time and time again while in Chicago. Don’t be surprised if you see him challenge for a home run title in the near future.

Best Power hitting infielders

Rougned Odor has immense power (Photo by MLB Trade Rumors).

2B Rougned Odor

While Rougned Odor did have a rough season last year, he is still one of the best power hitting second basemen in the game. He launched 30 homers for the Texas Rangers last year, all while his batting average hovered around the mendoza line. Even though he did post a negative WAR last season (-0.2), his power is definitely his strongest tool.

In his four seasons with the Rangers, Odor has hit 88 home runs. For a second baseman to produce that kind of power is exceptional. He has also slugged a respectable .444 for his career, difficult to do at a normally power depleted position. Odor is one of the most powerful second basemen in the game. His ability to drive the ball out of the yard is one of the best among second baseman.  If he can learn to hit consistently, his 30 homers per season could climb even higher.

3B Joey Gallo

As one of the most powerful prospects baseball has seen, Joey Gallo had high expectations. He definitely lived up to them in 2017. As the primary third baseman for the Texas Rangers, Gallo blasted 41 home runs last season. While he also hit around .200 (.209 batting average) like his Rangers teammate, Gallo was much more productive in the power department.

His immense home runs from last season would have put Gallo in the conversation for this spot. But when you consider he only had 94 hits last season and 41 of them were home runs, it easily wins him this spot. And even though he hit only .209, he slugged an amazing .537 on the season. Joey Gallo may have the most raw power in all of baseball. Granted players like Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton hit more home runs than Gallo did, Gallo did it while having an extremely low batting average. If he can be more consistent with making contact, Gallo could challenge Judge and Stanton for the home run title very soon.

Best power hitting infielders

Carlos Correa has one of the most powerful swings in baseball (Courtesy of Sporting News).

SS Carlos Correa

Before bringing Houston it’s first ever World Series title, Carlos Correa put on an absolute show in the regular season. Correa finished 2017 with 24 home runs last season, tying Trevor Story for fourth most among short stops. But what makes it even more impressive is how long it took him to reach 24 home runs. He only played 109 games last season after hurting his thumb during the season. With that much production in so many fewer games, it’s easy to pick Correa for this spot.

Correa also posted an insane .550 slugging percentage. For that much power to come from a defensive first position like short stop is truly impressive. And while Correa is a true five tool player, his power may be the best tool in his arsenal. He also hit 25 doubles in his limited at-bats last season, adding another dimension to his power. Correa has a chance to not only lead short stops in home runs year in and year out, but could challenge for the league lead as well.

Feature image by Getty Images.

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Top 10 MLB franchises of all time

Best baseball franchises of all time

Normally, this is the time of year when big-time moves are made. Free agents are signed, general managers are wheelin’ and dealin’ and there is a constant buzz around baseball.

This year? Not so much. The free agent market has been relatively stagnant, and trades are few and far between. So I’ve decided to actually put my history degree to use and list the top 10 baseball franchises of all time. Clubs will be ranked by World Series titles, Hall of Fame players and overall success. We will start at No. 10.

10. Detroit Tigers

Statistics: Five World Series titles, 9,235-8,979 record, nine Hall of Fame inductees

Top 10 MLB franchises of all timeAs one of the oldest teams in baseball, the Tigers have to find a way onto the list. They were a charter member of the American League and have been in Detroit since 1901.

But they don’t earn a spot on these rankings from their age alone. They have the 13th most Hall of Fame players in baseball, accumulating nine spots in Cooperstown. They also have four World Series titles to their credit, good for ninth most in baseball. But it’s the stories, myths and legends that help give this team an edge over the others.

As one of the greatest baseball players of all time, Ty Cobb was a menace in Detroit for 22 years. Stories of his aggressive demeanor are only overshadowed by his prowess on the field. He lead the American League in hitting nine years in a row and batted over .400 twice within that span. He also holds the all-time highest career batting average at .366. If that wasn’t enough, he was also an inaugural inductee into the Hall of Fame in 1936.

The Tigers never won a World Series with Cobb, but broke through in 1935 to give the city its first championship. They did it again in 1945, 1968 and 1984. Their 2012 trip to the World Series has been their most recent appearance.

The Tigers also have some greats to rely on in the 21st century, with Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera leading the way. Even in the midst of a rebuild, the Tigers can still lay claim to baseball royalty.

9. Chicago Cubs

Statistics: Three World Series titles, 10,803-10,258 record, 14 Hall of Fame inductees

Top 10 MLB franchises of all timeIf the Tigers are considered an aged franchise, the Cubs are ancient. You can trace their playing history all the way back to 1876, only 11 years after the end of the Civil War. They are a charter member of the National League, and assumed the Cubs name back in 1903.

As one of the best in baseball history, it’s not surprising to find that they hold multiple records. One of those is the modern-era single-season winning percentage of .763 in 1906 when they went 116-36. But the franchise’s history goes much deeper than the team level.

Perhaps one of the more overlooked Hall of Fame players for the Cubs is third baseman Ron Santo. Playing in the 1960s through mid-70s, he teamed with Ernie Banks to return hope to the Cubbie faithful. Even though the duo wasn’t able to bring a title home to Chicago, Santo still played at a high level. He was a nine-time All-Star and five-time Gold Glove winner for the Cubs, providing stability at the hot corner.

One thing Santo couldn’t provide was a regular World Series contender, as the Cubs would have to wait until 2016 to earn their third title. With players like Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Ian Happ, Jose Quintana, Jon Lester and a multitude of others, another World Series title in the near future is not out of the question.

8. Oakland Athletics

Statistics: Nine World Series titles, 8,834-9,322 record, five Hall of Fame inductees

Top 10 MLB franchises of all timeThe Athletics are another one of the old-guard franchises, joining the Tigers as an inaugural member of the American League in 1901. Unlike the Tigers, the Athletics have had multiple homes. After starting out in Philadelphia, the team moved to Kansas City in 1955 and then to Oakland in 1968.

They are also one of the few teams on this list with a losing record, posting a .487 win percentage. However, with so many World Series titles (third most in baseball history), they easily find themselves among the top ten teams all time.

One reason for their World Series dominance is Mr. October, Reggie Jackson. Before Jackson was shining under the bright lights in New York, he was blasting away at the bay. Jackson played 10 seasons for the Athletics, leading them to back-to-back-to-back titles in 1972, 1973 and 1974. He was also a more balanced player in Oakland, hitting 269 home runs and stealing 145 bases.

Just like many of Oakland’s stars, the Athletics weren’t able to retain him. This developed into a common theme for the A’s.

That is one reason why their win percentage is so low. The Athletics experienced multiple runs of success, winning five World Series titles from 1910-30, three in the 1970s and one in 1989. With the introduction of free agency, the small-market Athletics weren’t able to compete in the bidding wars their stars warranted.

Even so, the A’s have been one of the best franchises of all time, and could be on the verge of another dominant run with a loaded farm system and young major league club.

7. Pittsburgh Pirates

Statistics: Five World Series titles, 10,394-10,233 record, 13 Hall of Fame inductees

Top 10 MLB franchises of all timeAfter joining the National League in 1887, the Pirates took baseball by storm, representing the National League in the inaugural World Series in 1903. It wasn’t until 1909 that the steel city could boast its first World Series title though.

Led by players like Honus Wagner, the Pirates of the early 20th century dominated baseball. With pennants in 1901, 1902, 1903 and 1909, the Pirates established themselves as one of the dynasties of baseball.

They continued that legacy well into the 20th century, relying on one of the greatest Pirates of all time to guide the franchise. Roberto Clemente started for the Pirates at the ripe age of 20, but didn’t establish himself until he turned 25. In the following eight seasons, Clemente earned eight All-Star appearances, seven Gold Gloves and one AL MVP award. He also led the Pirates to two World Series titles, cementing himself as a legend in Pittsburgh.

His legend ended spreading far beyond Pittsburgh or baseball, as he was an avid humanitarian. That, coupled with his skills on the diamond, makes him one of the most beloved Hall of Fame players the Pirates have had. As such, a new generation looks to carry on the legend he left behind. Players like Gregory Polanco, Starlin Marte and a cast of young Pirates will look to right the ship and return to the franchises’ former glory days.

6. Cincinnati Reds

Statistics: Five World Series titles, 10,457-10,211 record, 10 Hall of Fame inductees

Top 10 MLB franchises of all timeAs one of the charter members of the American Association in 1881, the Reds have played ball in Cincinnati for 136 seasons. In that time, some of the greatest players and teams have called the queen city home.

Unlike the other ancients of baseball, the Reds did not have much early success. They boast one World Series title in the early 20th century, winning the fall classic in 1919. Even so, their dominance in the 1970s is the stuff of legends, as only one of the greatest teams of all time can be worthy of such a title as “the Red Machine.”

At the heart of the red machine was none other than Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench. He helped propel one of the most dominant teams of the modern era, and caught one of the better pitching staffs baseball has seen. He played his full 17-year career in Cincinnati. In that time, the Reds won back-to-back World Series titles in 1975 and 1976. With a rare blend of power and defensive skills, Bench became the standard bearer for elite catching. But a machine isn’t made up of just one member.

Pete Rose, Joe Morgan and Dave Conception were all vital cogs in the big red machine and were integral parts to their two World Series titles in the 1970s. Now a new machine is being constructed in Cincinnati led by All-Star Joey Votto. With a young core and stacked farm system, the Reds will try to emulate the success of the 1970s.

5. San Francisco Giants

Statistics: Eight World Series titles, 11,015-9,513 record, five Hall of Fame inductees

Top 10 MLB franchises of all timeOne of the first things that catches your eye with the San Francisco Giants is their gaudy record. Since their inception in 1883, they have posted a .537 win percentage. That includes stints as the New York Gothams, New York Giants and San Francisco Giants. While fans may have more fond memories of New York than San Francisco (five World Series titles in New York, three in San Francisco), San Francisco does have much more recent memories to draw upon.

One of the most dominant and bizarre runs baseball has seen belongs to the San Francisco Giants. In 2010, 2012 and 2014 the Giants were able to bring San Francisco a World Series title. Led by one of the best pitcher-catcher combos in the game, Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey were vital to the Giants prolonged success.

In his rookie season, Bumgarner pitched eight shutout innings against the Texas Rangers in the World Series. Posey was also solid as a rookie in the World Series, batting an even .300. Now both grizzled veterans, they look to bring San Francisco back to its former glory.

With a strong supporting cast, they may make another run yet. Joining Bumgarner and Posey at the core of the Giants roster is Brandon Crawford, Hunter Pence, Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen. All in the prime of their respective careers, the Giants should definitely be feared. But it remains to be seen if they can make a return to their former glory atop the throne of baseball’s elite.

4. Los Angeles Dodgers

Statistics: Six World Series titles, 10,776-9,691 record, six Hall of Fame inductees

Top 10 MLB franchises of all timeAnother former New York team claims a spot on our rankings, as the Los Angeles Dodgers find themselves in baseball’s elite. After undergoing nine different name changes since their founding in 1884, the Dodgers moniker finally stuck in 1932. The team went on to win all six of its World Series titles as the Dodgers, bringing one home for Brooklyn in 1955, two years before their cross-country exodus. Even with five titles won in Los Angeles, Brooklyn will always be able to boast one of the greatest players of all time, Jackie Robinson.

Robinson broke onto the major league scene in 1947. As a 28-year-old rookie, Robinson won Rookie of the Year. He also added an MVP to his trophy case, bringing home the award in 1949.

Even as a six-time All-Star, MVP and World Series champion, Robinson’s biggest impact has come after his playing days. As one of the first African-Americans to play Major League Baseball, Robinson opened the door for thousands of African-Americans to follow in his footsteps. That distinction, coupled with his stellar career, made Robinson a slam dunk first-ballot Hall of Famer in 1962.

While the Dodgers haven’t won a World Series since 1988, they are not far off from earning another one. With a core of Corey Seager, Justin Turner, Yasiel Puig and others, the Dodgers are believed to be perennial World Series contenders. And with future Hall of Fame lefty Clayton Kershaw as the ace, the sky is the limit for these Los Angeles Dodgers. Look for their number of World Series titles and Hall of Fame players to increase in the coming seasons.

3. Boston Red Sox

Statistics: Eight World Series titles, 9,410-8,776 record, 12 Hall of Fame inductees

Top 10 MLB franchises of all timeNow we enter some rarefied air. The Boston Red Sox are one of the younger franchises on this list, debuting in 1901. Even so, they have made good use of their time. With a glut of World Series titles and Hall of Fame inductees, the Red Sox have put together a .517 win percentage. While part of that is due to their large market status that lets them spend freely in free agency, it’s also owed to some savvy drafting and player development.

One example of the Red Sox keen eye for talent is one of the best baseball players of all time, Ted Williams. Williams made his Red Sox debut at 20 years old, and led the American League in RBIs with 145. He hit .406 in 1941, while leading the league in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging. Even with a three-year hiatus in the midst of his career to fight in World War II, Williams is easily a Hall of Famer. That was proven by his first-ballot induction in 1966.

With all of Ted Williams’ heroics, he could not bring Boston a World Series title. It took 86 years for Boston to be title town again in 2004. What has followed has been a successful run. With two more World Series titles in 2007 and 2013, it seems the curse had finally been lifted. It will be up to Mookie Betts, Rafael Devers and Chris Sale to continue to prove the curse broken.

2. St. Louis Cardinals

Statistics: 11 World Series titles, 10,739-9,918 record, 17 Hall of Fame inductees

Top 10 MLB franchises of all timeVery few teams have been as good as long as the St. Louis Cardinals have. Founded in 1882 and joining the National League in 1892, the Cardinals have been one of the most dominant teams in baseball.

In a span of 20 seasons (1926-46), the Cardinals amassed six World Series titles. Their 11 total World Series titles gives them the second most in baseball history. It hasn’t just been World Series titles that has made them great though, as the Cardinals have a slew of Hall of Famers.

Perhaps the greatest was Stan “The Man” Musial. Musial entered the league in 1941, and by 1943 was a perennial MVP candidate. He won the award three times in his illustrious career and brought St. Louis three World Series titles.

Perhaps his most amazing accomplishment was his 24 All-Star selections, garnered over a 22-year career. That career includes 475 home runs and a .331 batting average, making Musial one of the best of all time.

Cardinals greats aren’t limited to just Musial though. Players like Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright have helped carry on the Cardinal’s legacy. And with players like Matt Carpenter, Marcel Ozuna and Dexter Fowler joining them, the Cardinals are set to continue their run among baseball’s best.

1. New York Yankees

Statistics: 27 World Series titles, 10,175-7,719 record, 24 Hall of Fame inductees

Top 10 MLB franchises of all timeWas their ever any doubt who No. 1 would be? The New York Yankees aren’t just one of the best franchises in all of baseball. They are perhaps the best professional sports franchise in history. With 27 World Series titles, 53 playoff appearances and 40 pennants, it’s hard to argue against it. With such a dominant history, one would believe it would be difficult to sift through all of the greats to don the pinstripes. However, one stands out among the rest.

George Herman “Babe” Ruth was the man that built the New York Yankees dynasty. Ruth wouldn’t become a full-time hitter until his move from the Red Sox to the Yankees in 1925. Prior to the move, Ruth amassed 94 wins and a 2.24 ERA as a starting pitcher with the Red Sox.

But it was at the plate that Ruth made the biggest impact. He earned seven World Series titles with the Yankees, hitting 714 home runs and batting .341 in his career. When the Yankees moved to Yankee Stadium in 1923, it was nicknamed “The House that Ruth Built.” No other man has had such an impact on baseball history. A fitting distinction for a legendary franchise.

That’s not to say that others haven’t tried. In fact, the Yankees boast two of the best power hitters currently in baseball in Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. Both have 50-homer power, and will be the driving force behind another great Yankees team.

The major league club also has a loaded farm system, something past Yankees teams haven’t had. With so much talent throughout the organization, the Yankees are primed for another dynastic run.

 

Feature image from Cool Old Photos.

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MLB free agency 2018

Turning up the heat on the hot stove

As is tradition in baseball, the long winter months are kept warm by the hot stove. But that stove has been running cold this winter. So we’re gonna turn up the heat and predict where some of the top MLB free agents will play in 2018.

Jake Arrieta

MLB free agency 2018

Jake Arrieta will look to join another World Series contender. (Photo from sportingnews.com)

The former Baltimore Oriole and World Series Champion Cub is a free agent this offseason and is testing the waters. Att 31 years old, not many fish are biting.

That can’t be blamed on Arrieta though. The burly right-hander went 14-10 with a 3.53 ERA last season. Any team would take that kind of production out of a starter. That is, any team that already had him.

While the Astros, Rangers, Twins, Blue Jays, Rockies, Brewers and Cardinals have all been linked to Arrieta, no deals have been offered. Arrieta is an ace-caliber pitcher and will have significant contract demands. Deals of 4-6 years and upwards of $180 million have been rumored to be what Arrieta is searching for. But in the prime of his career, it will be interesting to see what Arrieta values more: financial security or World Series aspirations. Look for Arrieta to have his cake and eat it too.

Prediction: Twins

Yu Darvish

After making 31 starts last season, Yu Darvish is out to prove he’s worth an ace’s salary and workload. He pitched to a 4.01 ERA with the Rangers in 2017, but pitched well for the Dodgers after being moved at the trade deadline.

But all of that work in the regular season won’t be able to change what Darvish did in the postseason. After two solid starts against the Diamondbacks and the Cubs, Darvish imploded on the biggest stage in baseball; the World Series.

In two starts against the Astros, Darvish posted a 21.60 ERA in only 3.1 innings pitched. Even in those limited innings, it’s the last impression the baseball world has of Darvish. He has been rumored to make a return to Los Angeles, but with the reacquisition of Matt Kemp, those rumors may be put to rest.

The Astros, Yankees, Cubs and Twins seem to be his remaining suitors. After bludgeoning him in the World Series, the Astros don’t seem like a good fit. The Cubs could really use a replacement for Arrieta though.

Prediction: Cubs

J.D. Martinez

MLB free agency 2018

J.D. Martinez is still looking for a long-term deal. (Photo from Arizona Sports)

The failed Astro and successful Tiger and Diamondback is looking to cash in coming off one of the best seasons of his career. After being sent from Detroit to Arizona, Martinez proceeded to tear the cover off of the ball for the remainder of the season. In 62 games with the Diamondbacks, Martinez blasted 29 bombs and slugged .741. Those are eye-popping numbers and are good enough to earn him a big pay day. At least, they seem to be.

Martinez has also been slow on receiving long term offers, with the Boston Red Sox five-year deal being the only one reported. Granted, there are other teams interested, like the Diamondbacks, Blue Jays and Giants, but they have yet to make a concerted effort to acquire Martinez.

The Giants seem like the best fit, with them in win-now mode after trading for Evan Longoria. But something special is brewing in the desert, and the Diamondbacks don’t want to change that recipe.

Prediction: Diamondbacks

Eric Hosmer

For Eric Hosmer and the Kansas City Royals, the World Series parade of 2015 seems long ago. Hosmer is now a free agent, and the Royals face one of the toughest rebuilds in the majors.

Even so, it is because of Hosmer. The 2017 season was arguably the best in Hosmer’s career, as he posted career highs in batting average (.318) and OPS+ (132). Coming off a career year like that, Hosmer will look to get paid this offseason.

But even coming off the best year of his career isn’t enough to move the market on Hosmer. Just like every other major free agent, Hosmer still sits unsigned as Spring Training inches ever closer. He does have one advantage over his contemporaries though; multiple long term offers.

Both the Padres and Royals are rumored to have offered the first baseman seven-year deals of more than $140 million. While the Royals offer seems to be chasing what they already had, the Padres offer seems like a chase of what could be.

With the Padres on the rise (one of the best farms systems in baseball) and the Royals on the decline (one of the worst farm systems in baseball), Hosmer will have to decide on where his loyalties lie.

Prediction: Royals

 

Feature image by Julie Jacobson/AP Photo. 

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Boston Red Sox

2017 Boston Red Sox profile

After two first place AL East finishes in a row and two straight ALDS appearances, John Farrell was fired. That is just an example of how much the fans and ownership expect of this team. Even with a World Series title to his credit, Farrell wasn’t safe from the offseason axe. But it was more than just Farrell’s performance that got him the boot in Boston. His players’ performance, or lack thereof, played a part as well.

2017 Season

Boston Red Sox profile

Chris Sale pitched well in the regular season, but struggled in his first playoff appearance of his career (Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports).

After being swept by the Indians in the 2016 ALDS, many thought it was just the beginning of a Red Sox resurgence. The team had won 93 games, won the AL East and had a young nucleus.

But instead of improving, the team became stagnant. They posted the exact same regular season result as 2016, winning 93 games and the AL East in 2017. While that is a good season for most teams, it was the lackluster playoff performance that did Farrell in.

The addition of Chris Sale was supposed to put a rotation that featured two Cy Young winners in Porcello and Sale over the top. Instead, it faltered in the ALDS.

Sale would post an 8.38 ERA in the series, giving up 13 hits in 9.1 IP. Ironically enough, David Price, who had been moved to the bullpen after struggling as a starter, logged the second most IP for the Red Sox with 6.1, all out of the pen. His 0.00 ERA was a bright spot on an otherwise gloomy playoff performance.

But even with the poor pitching in the series, it’s the offense that will need some help this offseason.

Team Needs

Even after a playoff collapse, the Red Sox pitching staff was excellent in the regular season. Their collective team ERA of 3.70 was good enough for fourth in all of baseball. It was the offense that struggled throughout the season, posting the 26th highest team slugging at .407. They also finished 27th in home runs, hitting 168 as a team. The loss of David Ortiz was certainly felt this season, and young players like Andrew Benintendi and Mookie Betts weren’t able to make up for it. Power will be in high demand in Boston this offseason.

Another, more specific area of need is first base. The departure of Mitch Moreland won’t cause too much unrest in Boston, but it will leave a gaping hole at first base. Hanley Ramirez is a DH first type player, and there are no true first basemen on the Red Sox roster. If Boston wants to keep a hold of the AL East crown, they will have to find an answer for their first base question. But if the Red Sox are able to, they could kill two birds with one stone.

Potential Offseason Acquisitions

Boston Red Sox profile

Giancarlo Stanton was a force in Miami, and is the prize of Dave Dombrowski’s eye (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images).

Eric Hosmer has been linked to Boston even before the season ended. It seems like a perfect fit for both sides. A great player in the prime of his career, and a big market team willing to pay the price. But it isn’t that easy. If the Red Sox swing and miss with Hosmer, they will have to look at other options to fill in at first base.

Carlos Santana has also been listed as an option for the Red Sox. While Santana is a step below Hosmer in terms of overall play, he would be a noticeable improvement over the departed Mitch Moreland.

Another option the Red Sox could consider is one much more flashy than either Hosmer or Santana. Giancarlo Stanton is the top name on the Red Sox wish list this holiday season. And after his 2017 NL MVP season, it’s easy to see why.

Stanton would be the ultimate luxury on a team that is set in the outfield with Betts, Bradley and Benintendi. But Stanton’s prodigious power could be too much for Dave Dombrowski to dismiss. The Red Sox could play Stanton at DH and move Hanley Ramirez to first base full time, but his diminished defensive skills could make the move a hard sell to Boston fans.

With a strong nucleus and a large market, the Boston Red Sox should be in contention for years to come. But their run as AL East champions may be coming to an end. With the New York Yankees “rebuild” all but over, the Yankees and Red Sox could again be locked into an arms race rivaling that of the Cold War.

 

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Baltimore Orioles

Baltimore Orioles team profile

The Baltimore Orioles enter the 2017 offseason with way more questions than answers. A 75-87 season with a last place finish in the AL East will do that to a team. Even so, the Orioles are just one season removed from an 89-73 season and a second place finish in the AL East. How did the Orioles fall off so quickly and where do they go in 2018?

2017 Season

After a second place finish in 2016, the Orioles were primed to make another run at the AL East crown. Through the month of April, it looked like they would do just that. They boasted a 15-8 record and were one of the hottest teams in baseball.

Baltimore Orioles

Manny Machado struggled mightily at the plate in 2017. (Photo by Karen Hill/Houston Chronicle).

However, an absolute collapse of the pitching staff grounded the Orioles’ playoff aspirations. As a staff, Orioles pitching gave up 841 runs on the season, averaging out to a little over five runs per game. That was much too difficult for the eighth ranked offense in the American League to overcome.

It wasn’t just the pitching staff that suffered from inconsistency though. Star third baseman Manny Machado got off to a poor start in 2017, batting .224 in March and April and slumping to a .191 batting average for the month of May. Throughout the whole season, he only slugged over .500 in one full month, slugging .690 in August. Even with Machado’s struggles, the Orioles were able to score 743 runs, only one less than their total last year.

One reason for that was the emergence of Jonathan Schoop. Schoop definitely tapped into his power this year, launching 32 home runs. He also drove in a team high 105 RBIs.

Another factor was the under the radar addition of shortstop Tim Beckham. Beckham is the new poster child for the change of scenery narrative. After posting a paltry 97 OPS+ in Tampa Bay, Beckham hit to the tune of a 131 OPS+ in Baltimore. Both Beckham and Schoop will be relied on next season season.

Team Needs

The Baltimore Orioles are set in the infield, with catching duties likely being split between Caleb Joseph and prospect Chance Sisco. Beckham will take over for the 35-year-old J.J. Hardy, solidifying a strong infield.

Where the questions begin is in the outfield. Nine different players earned time in right field for the Orioles, with 35-year-old Seth Smith playing the most games with 80. Joey Rickard, Craig Gentry and Mark Trumbo all played at least 31 games in right, but none are thought to be long-term options. Rickard, who will turn 27 next season, has a career 77 OPS+. Gentry will be 34 with an 84 OPS+ for his career, and Trumbo was mostly a designated hitter. Either way, right field will be the least of the Orioles’ problems if they can’t find some starting pitching.

When your “staff ace” posts a 4.24 ERA, you know there are bound to be some problems. The Orioles had two starters with ERAs well over 5.00. Wade Miley made 32 starts and posted a 5.61 ERA. Not to be outdone, Ubaldo Jimenez went one step further. The former Rockies ace started 25 games and posted an atrocious 6.81 ERA.

Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman were the only starters to post sub 5.00 ERAs on the season. The Orioles will definitely have to dip into the free agent market to address one of the worst starting staffs in the majors.

Potential Free Agent Signings

One player that the Orioles could target is pitcher Trevor Cahill. While adding a pitcher with a 4.93 ERA this past season may not sound like a good idea, a closer look at the numbers says otherwise.

As a starter with San Diego, Cahill made 11 starts, going 4-3 with a 3.69 ERA. It was when Cahill was shipped to Kansas City that his numbers started to balloon. A change of scenery and a change to the bullpen spelled disaster for the former second-round pick. Cahill will only be 30 years old next year, and should come at a reasonable price.

Baltimore Orioles

Tyler Chatwood has a chance to be an impact arm (Photo from AP Photo/David Zalubowski).

Another option for the Orioles is pitcher Tyler Chatwood. With Chatwood, you have to look even deeper than with Cahill. The former Rockies starter has a chance to be a diamond in the rough. Chatwood is a perfect example of how pitching in Colorado can damage a pitcher’s career.

He has posted a 5.25 ERA in 68 games at Coors Field. But outside of Colorado, Chatwood has posted a 3.31 ERA in 62 games. He has also given up 25 homers on the road compared to 42 at home, and limited batters to a .241 batting average on the road. There is only a 17-inning difference between his 332.1 IP at home compared to his 315.1 IP on the road. While Cahill could be a solid signing, Chatwood has the chance to be an impact arm for the Orioles. And at almost 28 years old, he’s one of the youngest available starters on the market.

The Baltimore Orioles have a chance to turn their organization around in 2018. However, with the Yankees and Red Sox back to powerhouses once again, the best the Orioles can hope for in 2018 is a Wild Card spot.

 

Feature image by cbssports.com 

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New York Yankees

New York Yankees team profile

The New York Yankees are without a doubt the most storied franchise in baseball history. That is why many fans were not too happy about them “rebuilding” in 2017. Like most events in Yankees’ history, they were able to have their cake and eat it too. They were ahead of schedule in 2017, besting the pundits predictions. But how did they get there?

2017 season

After going 84-78 and finishing fourth in the AL East in 2016, many believed it was time for the Yankees to finally begin the dreaded rebuild. Only three everyday position players on that team were younger than 30 years old (Starlin Castro, Didi Gregorius and Aaron Hicks, all 26 years old), and the major league team seemed ready to be laid bare to cultivate the fruits of the farm. But as the Yankees are known to do, they ended up competing yet again for a World Series berth in 2017.

New York Yankees

C.C. Sabathia has been a key contributor in the Yankees rotation. (Photo by Kathy Willens/Associated Press).

Breakout seasons from Gary Sanchez, Gregorious and Hicks all contributed to the Yankees 91 wins. However, the real story of the season was the behemoth in right field, Aaron Judge. His 52 home runs are the most ever by a rookie, topping Mark McGwire’s record 49 in 1987. Judge also easily paced the team with a 171 OPS+. With the AL ROY already a lock, all that’s left is the coveted MVP.

The often forgotten piece of the Yankees surprise resurgence was their pitching staff. Luis Severino assumed the role of staff ace and proved to be an excellent frontline starter. His 14 wins tied the team lead, and his 2.98 ERA lead the starting staff.

Grizzled veteran C.C. Sabathia was also able to turn in a solid campaign, winning 14 games and posting a 3.69 ERA. The deadline addition of Sonny Gray helped balance out the starting staff. A strong bullpen comprised of Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances and the breakout of Chad Green (1.83 ERA in 40 games) was able to lock down opponents in the late innings as well.

All of these factors combined to bring the Yankees within one game of the World Series. To achieve that status, some glaring holes will need to be addressed.

Team needs

The biggest of those holes is the one Joe Girardi left. The longtime Yankees skipper was let go after guiding the Yankees to within one game of the World Series. After 10 years at the helm, general manager Brian Cashman believed that Girardi had lost his personal touch with the players. With Girardi out of the clubhouse, Cashman seems to be looking high and low for the next manager of the Yankees.

Names from former Cubs catcher David Ross to current ESPN analyst Aaron Boone have been rumored to be in the running. One thing is for certain though, they are looking for someone with a more personal touch. Many of the players had expressed the same sentiment Cashman had. A manager with playing experience seems to be the focus.

Another area the team needs to focus on is the corner infield positions. First base was an odyssey all season long. Greg Bird was finally able to get healthy and performed well in the playoffs. Third base was solidified by mid-season acquisition Todd Frazier. With Frazier becoming a free agent this offseason, Chase Headley is the lone option. The Yankees may just go through the 2018 season with Headley as the starter. With Manny Machado coming up for free agency, don’t be surprised to see the Yankees make a run at him.

Potential free-agent signings

With a glaring hole at third base and the Yankees unease with Headley as the starter, Mike Moustakas will be in Brian Cashman’s sights. The career Royal slugged 38 homers in 2017, setting the Royals single-season record. He also batted .272, which would be an upgrade over Frazier.

New York Yankees

Shohei Otani has drawn comparisons to Babe Ruth, Josh Beckett and Anthony Rizzo (Photo by Getty Images).

While the Royals will make a run at keeping Moustakas, the upcoming rebuild in Kansas City will be a huge factor. The Yankees will at least make a call to the burly Royals third baseman and also may look to the far east for free agents.

The one name that everyone in New York will be asking about has no MLB experience. In his time in Japan, he has garnered comparisons to none other than Babe Ruth.

Shohei Otani will be the most coveted player on the market this offseason. All Otani has done since his debut at age 18 is dominate the Japanese league. In five seasons, Otani has slugged 48 homers and won 42 games. He has hit .286 and posted a 2.52 ERA, proving to be dominant on both the mound and at the plate.

With the Yankees’ history of Japanese players, Otani may favor the bright lights of New York.

Impact minor leaguers

Two prospects stand out for the Yankees that could make the jump to the majors next year. One of those is infielder Gleyber Torres. Torres was on the fast track to the majors this past season, seeing time at third base at Triple-A. However, a season ending injury left Torres waiting for next season, and now might be his chance. He hit .309 in 23 games at AAA, and should start the season there. But if he can impress in camp, Torres may start the season on the big league club.

The other option is third baseman Miguel Andujar. He has shown a cannon of an arm in the minor leagues, and his defense has continued to improve. His bat is no slouch either, as he hit .317 at Triple-A and launched nine homers. While he may not profile as a future silver slugger, his bat and glove combine to make him a potential starter for the big league club.

This team is definitely on the rise. With a stacked farm system and a strong major league club, the Yankees will be a threat in the AL East for years to come. Look for them to make some impact free-agent signings and maybe even some big trades with their deep farm system.

 

Feature image by Getty Images

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National League West

Predicting the Top Ten teams of 2023: 10-6

With the World Series in full swing, the Houston Astros have become the poster child for successful rebuilds. But going from 100+ losses to 100+ wins is no easy task. It takes skill in both the front office and the scouting department. It also takes the determination to see the rebuild through, no matter how ugly it gets.

These five teams have shown to have that skill through the stockpiling of young, elite talent. They also have the determination to lay their major league roster bare so as to lay the seeds of a successful rebuild. In these seeds are young talent and veteran leadership. Burt which teams have the best chance to emulate the Astros success?

Top Ten of 2023

Sheldon Neuse showed off a polished bat at Oklahoma (Chuck Cox/RoadTripSports).

10. Oakland Athletics

The Athletics did again this season what they seem to do every season; trade away major league talent for minor league promise. Relievers Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson were both shipped to the Nationals, and in return they received pitchers Blake Treinen, Jesus Lozardo and third baseman Sheldon Neuse. While Treinen is an established veteran and Lozardo is a mid-level prospect, Neuse is the main prize. He was the sixth ranked prospect in the Nationals system prior to the trade, and is now the fourth best in Oakland’s system.

He is also joined by former Yankees prospects Dustin Fowler, Jorge Mateo and James Kaprelian. All three were acquired in the Sonny Gray trade. Mateo ranks sixth and Kaprelian seventh in Oakland’s farm system, and Fowler was a Top 100 prospect at the time of the trade. But Oakland has their own home grown prospects to rely on as well. Top prospect Franklin Barreto will have a strangle hold on the shortstop position for years to come. With an even mix of pitching and position players, the Athletics have a shot to compete in the near future. But until ownership shows the determination to bring in veteran talent to supplement their young players, the best they can hope for is to compete on the fringes of baseball’s elite teams.

9. Tampa Bay Rays

Top Ten 2023

The Rays won the Wander Franco sweepstakes with a $3.9 million deal (Sports Gaming Rosters).

As a small market team, the Rays have had to rely on their farm system to keep them relevant throughout their existence. But you won’t find anyone in Tampa complaining, as it has reaped some nice dividends for the Rays. And they seem to be on that same path again, as they have a loaded farm system that ranks sixth in baseball. But the Rays haven’t acquired this talent through big time trades. They’ve done it the good old fashioned way; through savvy drafting and international signings.

Three of the team’s top ten prospects are already knocking on the door to the majors. With that much talent so close to graduating, the Rays are on the edge of rebuild and close to all in contention. But it will take those top three players living up to their potential to vault the Rays into contention. Their depth is not just limited to AAA, as top international free agent Wander Franco also helps bolster the farm system. Along with multiple other players in A ball, the stream of talent should be steady for Tampa long into the 2023 season.

Top Ten 2023

Mackenzie Gore was one of the most impressive starters in rookie ball this season (East Village Times).

8. San Diego Padres

The Padres find themselves in a similar situation with the Rays. A small market team which has to rely on it’s farm system to compete. But San Diego is different from Tampa in one regard. It has already graduated two of it’s top prospects to the majors. And they still have the fourth best farm system in all of baseball. Outfielders Manuel Margo and Hunter Renfroe both had solid rookie seasons for San Diego. While they weren’t Bryce Harper or Kris Bryant esque type seasons, they still showed improved growth. They will need them to continue to grow to support the next wave of young talent.

And by 2023, that talent will have already arrived. While none of the Padres top ten prospects are higher than AA, most of them will have had a taste of the majors by the 2023 season. Their top ten is highlighted by one of their youngest players, left hander Mackenzie Gore. After being chosen as the third overall pick in the 2017 MLB Draft, Gore blew away the competition in Rookie ball to a tune of 1.27 ERA. Needless to say, Gore is well on his way to being the ace of the Padres rotation. While their farm system is pitcher heavy (seven of the top ten are pitchers), those prospects can always be flipped for position players. But with Margo and Renfroe already a strong core, and impressive young pitching on the way, the Padres will certainly make some noise in the 2023 season.

Top Ten 2023

Carson Kelly will soon take over behind the dish for St. Louis (MLB.com).

7. St. Louis Cardinals

As one of the most historic franchises in baseball, the Cardinals have always relied on their farm system to keep them in contention. An innate ability to blend young talent and established veterans has been key for their success. And with the 11th best farm system in baseball, the Cardinals are primed to make that leap from good to great.

That is in no small part due to their stacked farm system. But the Cardinals have a vastly different system than the previous teams on this list. With five of their top ten prospects already in the majors, the farms system will soon be greatly reduced. But that is just the farm having a bountiful harvest. Pitchers Alex Reyes, Jack Flaherty and Sandy Alcantara will all be vying for a spot in the rotation in the 2018 season. They will be joined in the majors by backstop Carson Kelly and outfielder Harrison Bader. They will form the core of the next championship run for St. Louis. The farm system of St. Louis is very top-heavy, with nine of the top ten in AAA or the majors already. This will give them ample time to adjust to the major league game, and fully mature.

Top Ten 2023

Alex Verdugo has shown off a sweet swing in his time in the minors (baseballamerica.com).

6. Los Angeles Dodgers

You would think that the Dodgers would be out of contention five years from now. Sure they’re in the World Series, but it is very difficult to keep such a dynamic core together for that long. Include the fact that Clayton Kershaw will be 34 and Justin Turner will be 37 five years from now, and it would be easy to dismiss them from contention. But that would not be us giving them their due. The Dodgers have the willingness to spend like no one else, and a stacked farm system. Those two factors are the main ingredients for success, and the Dodgers are excellent chefs.

The Dodgers have excellent depth in their minor league system, with pitcher Walker Buehler and outfielder Alex Verdugo claiming the top two spots. They have also reached the major league level, and could be top level contributors in 2023. But they are far from the only pieces Los Angeles can lay claim to. The remaining prospects are all below AAA, but that should bode well for the future years. Given time to grow and develop, players like pitcher Yadier Alvarez and catcher Keibert Ruiz have a chance to be impact players in the next couple of years. Couple that with the Dodgers’ expansive checkbook, and you have a contender for years to come.

Feature image by Jake Roth/USA TODAY Sports

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