The Red Sox finalized a deal on Monday to bring in perhaps the best hitter on the free agent market, J.D Martinez. Martinez provides a much needed punch to a Boston lineup that finished sixth in total runs scored in 2017. It isn’t like the Red Sox struggled to score in 2017, but it will definitely help keep up with an impressive New York Yankees squad.
The Yankees made the biggest splash this offseason by taking on the vast majority of Giancarlo Stanton’s massive contract, and only really giving up second baseman Starlin Castro. The Judge-Stanton-Sanchez trio will be one of the toughest middle of the order bats to get through in the league.
The question here is, who is chasing who? The Yankees may have made it to the ALCS in 2017, but if you ask them, they have some unfinished business with the Red Sox. Despite making it further than them, Brian Cashman and the Yankees feel they have something to prove to Boston. The Red Sox won the AL East in 2017 and the Yankees just made it though the Wild Card.
What do all these moves mean for 2018 though? Is there a clear favorite between the two?
This is interesting as both teams are being taken over by new managers. Despite the fact that both teams had relative success in 2017, the front offices felt that it was time for a change. It wasn’t a bad idea either as they both have solid teams, but they just weren’t getting to where they wanted to be.
It is way to early to tell who has the edge here. Aaron Boone is coming off of a job at ESPN to coach the Yankees, while Alex Cora was the bench coach for the team that won the World Series in 2017. Despite that fact, there is not to much to go off of here.
Betts is among the best right fielders in baseball (ESPN)
Mookie Betts has turned into one of the better defensive outfielders in baseball. Not only that but one of the best defensive players in all of baseball. He finished with a 2.6 WAR on defense which was fourth best in all of baseball.
Neither team finished great defensively in 2017 though. New York finished eighth in total fielding while Boston was at 12th. New York finished with the edge but Gary Sanchez behind the plate is a real liability for the Yankees. His bat is second to none but his inability to block pitches can really hurt them in tight situations. Giancarlo Stanton is another guy with a cannon for an arm, and Brett Gardner has a solid glove.
As mentioned, Betts has become one of the better defenders in baseball. However, the rest of the team leaves some work to be done. Boston’s defense does not look much different than last year with Martinez likely taking up the designated hitter role, so expect more of the same from them.
Chris Sale had a tremendous 2017 regular season for Boston. (NESN.com)
Boston and New York finished fourth and fifth in team ERA in 2017. Boston is headed up by Chris Sale, who is a favorite to win the Cy Young every year. However, the Yankees have a rising ace of their own in Luis Severino. Severino was not able to keep it together in the Wild Card game, but that should not take away from his breakout year with a 14-6 record and sub 3.00 ERA.
Severino is backed up by Mashiro Tanaka and Sonny Gray who both have had success in New York. Both of them finished with an ERA in the mid threes. The real punch of their pitching comes from the back of their bullpen though, and that is where it can get real challenging for opposing teams. Aroldis Chapman still may have the strongest arm baseball has ever seen, and Dellin Betances could be a closer all on his own.
Top to bottom Boston may have the edge in the rotation though. With two Cy Young winners along with David Price and Drew Pomeranz coming into his own, Boston has an impressive rotation. Outside of Craig Kimbrel though, the bullpen could be better. That is where the Yankees have them beat.
Although the two teams are extremely comparable on the pitching front, Boston has the slightest edge.
Verdict: Red Sox
Expect a lot of big flies in the Bronx (MLB.com)
The addition of J.D Martinez makes the Red Sox a scary one top to bottom. However, it is very difficult to argue against Stanton and Judge taking up the middle of the lineup. They both finished with the most home runs in baseball, and Gary Sanchez has the ability to bash 35 homers on top of that.
Didi Gregorious has also turned into one of the better shortstops in the games at the plate, along with Greg Bird who has a chance to showcase his power for a full season. The Yankees have a couple more holes with Todd Frazier and Starlin Castro out of New York though, but Stanton certainly makes up for that.
Boston is expecting Benintendi and Devers to come into their own as young stars in the majors. Until then though, the Yankees have more certainty on the offensive front and should be able to overpower anything Boston throws their way.
How will the season play out?
The Yankees have the best chance to run away with the AL East title in 2018. The Blue Jays should also not be ignored as guys who can disrupt any sort of run, but the real race is between Boston and New York.
It will be a close one but the Stanton trade makes the Yankees offense too scary. Barring any injuries, the Red Sox will have a tough time defending their AL East title.
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For most fan bases, a 93-win, division-winning season is spectacular. Unfortunately, in the eyes of Boston fans, the 2017 Red Sox failed.
Maybe you can blame the New England Patriots for creating this “championship or bust” culture in Massachusetts. Nonetheless, the Red Sox did not show up when it really mattered, losing the ALDS 3-1 to the eventual World Series champion Houston Astros. Because of the meltdown, and a lot of other things, manager John Farrell was fired and replaced with Alex Cora.
After acquiring Chris Sale in the offseason, Boston became an instant favorite to win the World Series. They started out well, hit a bumpy road in July, but got back on track with a great 18-9 August. Unfortunately, leading up to the playoffs, Boston finished 2-5 to close out the season, and the staff looked worn out in the ALDS, posting a 6.35 team ERA.
Chris Sale had a tremendous 2017 regular season for Boston. (Photo from NESN.com)
Sale was lights out throughout the regular season. The lefty ace finished first in K/9, FIP and strikeouts. He was fourth in WHIP, fifth in wins and seventh in WAR for pitchers.
All this was great, but Sale had never pitched in the postseason before, and also led the league in innings pitched. In one start, and one relief appearance during the ALDS, Sale went 0-2 with an 8.38 ERA. Translation: He was tired, and the Red Sox should have managed him better as the season went on.
Boston was fourth in the AL in hits, doubles and walks. They finished third in steals, fifth in OBP and sixth in runs. Although they won a hefty 93 games, they could have been even better had they played well against the Yankees and Orioles, two division rivals that Boston had losing records against.
Mookie Betts, who finished runner-up to Mike Trout for the 2016 AL MVP, was again Boston’s best player. Betts finished third in doubles, fourth in defensive WAR and ninth in overall WAR for position players.
Not only does he excel at offense, Betts is also one of the best defensive right fielders in the game. In 2017, he finished first in range factor/9 innings and second in total zone runs. Because of his stellar performance in the field, Betts earned his second Gold Glove Award.
His batting average dipped to .264, but he still had an OBP of .344 and hit .355 with runners in scoring position. As a team, Boston finished fifth in batting average with runners in scoring position, led by Betts, Eduardo Nunez (.394, acquired at the deadline) and Andrew Benintendi (.351).
Of course, we were unable to see Boston at full strength because of injuries to David Price. Price, a former Cy Young Award winner, started just 11 games. He was able to get some time out of the bullpen, which finished with the second best ERA in baseball.
2018: Around the Diamond
A major problem for the Boston Red Sox last year was their lack of power. After David Ortiz retired in 2016, Boston, out of the 15 AL teams, finished 14th in slugging percentage and 15th in home runs. J.D. Martinez is still up for grabs, so Boston fans should stay optimistic.
Devers looks to be an offensive star in the making. (Photo from The Boston Globe)
Even if they don’t reel in Martinez, this team is still very talented. Behind the plate, the Sox could roll with Christian Vazquez, who hit .348 at home, Sandy Leon or even Blake Swihart, whose last two seasons have been destroyed by injuries. Mitch Moreland will remain at first base, after hitting 22 home runs and 34 doubles last season.
Dustin Pedroia, who missed a chunk of time last season, had knee surgery in October, and is not expected to be back with the team until May or June, although he hopes to be back for Opening Day. If Pedroia is unable to go, the Sox have Brock Holt, Marco Hernandez, Deven Marrero and Tzu-Wei Lin. They have also remained in touch with free agent Eduardo Nunez.
At shortstop will be Xander Bogaerts, who finished with the second highest position player WAR on the team in 2017. Rafael Devers will hold down third base as he enters his first full season in the bigs. Devers was on pace for a 28 home run, 84 RBI season in 2017, but is significantly better against lefties (.400 BA), than he is against righties (.250). Although he started in July, Devers somehow finished with the fourth most errors by a third baseman, which should concern the Sox.
Left field will again feature Benintendi, who hit 20 home runs, stole 20 bases and had a .352 OBP during his rookie year. Jackie Bradley Jr., who struck out 22.9 percent of the time, will continue to be an elite defender in center field. And, of course, Betts, their only offensive All-Star, will be in right. Hanley Ramirez, who Boston needs more production out of, will remain at DH.
On the Bump
Pedro Martinez, Red Sox legend and member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, spoke to WEEI recently, a Boston radio station, and believes we will see a different David Price in 2018. He will start the year healthy and his track record shows he is gearing up for a monster year.
Expect a monster year from David Price. (Photo from The Boston Globe)
We know what Chris Sale did last year, but what the heck happened to Rick Porcello? Porcello, who won the 2016 AL Cy Young Award, was absolutely terrible in 2017. He gave up more home runs than anyone, allowed the second most hits and finished fifth in earned runs. The major issue was how Porcello would start games. When he faced the order, the first time around, opponents hit .301 against him.
Drew Pomeranz was a nice surprise for Boston, going 17-6 with a 3.32 ERA. He looks to be the third starter with Eduardo Rodriguez, who was banged up last season and had knee surgery in October, and Steven Wright, who missed almost all of 2017 and was also in the news for the wrong reasons.
2016 AL All-Star Craig Kimbrel, one of the best in the game, should continue to dominate in the ninth. Tyler Thornburg and Carson Smith look to be good to go for 2018, after both have dealt with injuries. Joe Kelly, who went 4-1 with a 2.79 ERA, will again be a key member of the pen.
As we know, to acquire Chris Sale, Boston traded Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, who at the time were two of the best prospects in the MLB. They have gone all in to win now, but they still have two members of MLB.com’s “Top 100 Prospects” of 2018. Michael Chavis (No. 79), who can now play first base, along with third, had a monster 2017 season between Class A Advanced and Double A. The 22-year-old smashed 31 home runs with 94 RBIs and had an OPS of .910.
Boston’s first-round pick in 2016, Jay Groome, also cracks the list at No. 85. This offseason, the 19-year-old Groome has been working out with Sale three to four times a week. Groome is a 6-foot-6 lefty who can touch 97 with his fastball. Sounds a little bit like Sale right? Unfortunately, Groome is averaging close to five walks per nine innings as a pro and needs to get his control intact. Only time will tell if the young stud can blossom into something special.
2018 Prediction: 98-64
The Red Sox are still pursuing J.D. Martinez, who would immensely improve this team. However, Price is now healthy and there are pieces in the bullpen.
In his first season as manager, Alex Cora is inheriting quite the roster. Sale and Betts are two of the best players at their positions. Devers and Benintendi appear to be absolute studs. They will need a better season from Porcello, but this team could easily win the World Series if they avoid injuries and get some pop in the lineup.
Featured image by MLB.com
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After a 162-game marathon, it all comes down to 11 wins (or 12 for wild card participants) for those in the 2017 MLB Playoffs. Baseball’s top eight teams compete to be crowned World Series champions, but only one will prevail. Teams tend to rely on the old adage that defense wins championships.
But offense has been on the rise this postseason. Through 12 postseason games, the average combined score of each game has been over 14 runs per game. That has led some to question the traditional use of starters and relievers to try and stymie this outrageous offensive output.
From starters and relievers to just pitchers
Kenley Jansen posted a 1.32 ERA in the regular season, and could be a huge weapon for the Dodgers (espn.com).
There has been a growing movement among baseball to eliminate starters and relievers and their expected roles. Have the best pitcher start the game, and go from there. And in this postseason, that seems like a sound idea. In the first inning alone, 25 runs have been scored.
Starters like Luis Severino, Ervin Santana, Jon Gray, Taijuan Walker and Doug Fister all gave up three-plus runs in the first inning. That type of performance put their teams at a severe disadvantage, as three of those five lost their teams the game.
These struggling starters eventually gave way to their bullpen counterparts. And in the Twins vs Yankees AL Wild Card game, they came in hot and heavy. Yankees skipper Joe Girardi used four different relievers to bridge the gap between the first and the ninth inning.
But it wasn’t by choice, as starter Luis Severino gave up three runs before handing over the ball in the first inning. Even so, those four relievers (Green, Robertson, Khanle, Chapman) only allowed one run. They also struck out 13 Twins on their way to victory. Even though it wasn’t by design, the Yankees showed how effective bullpenning could be.
Blurring the line between starters and relievers
David Price has found the fountain of youth in the bullpen (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images).
The difficulty accompanying bullpenning is the use of pitchers not accustomed to pitching a high number of innings. Many of these guys pitch 60-70 innings a year, while starters can easily top 200 innings if they stay healthy.
But the playoffs are a whole different animal. Gone are the dog days of summer and the long home stands. With only a handful of games separating teams from immortality and oblivion, managers should utilize their best weapons in the ideal situations. And as previously proven, that would be at the beginning of the game.
But the idea of bullpenning isn’t limited to utilizing those 60-70 innings pitched guys like Chapman and Kimbrel. A new breed of reliever has started to take form: the super reliever. Pitchers like Chris Devenski and David Price have made the move from starting to the bullpen and have had plenty of success.
And with their experience of starting games, they give their respective managers a valuable weapon. They are capable of pitching multiple innings out of the pen. But what if they just skipped straight into starting the game?
How bullpenning could work
Chris Devenski has been a vital option for the Astros, both starting and relieving (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images).
Bullpenning is a new concept for a lot of traditional baseball fans. Many of us grew up watching dominant starters blow the opposing team away, and those types of performances can still be found. But the argument for bullpenning is not one against starters.
It’s main premise is to utilize the best pitchers at the beginning of the game to maximize their potential. This strategy would not work with a 162-game schedule, but in a condensed postseason (around 20 games or so), it could be a huge equalizer for teams lacking starting pitching.
The ideal situation for bullpenning would be to have the team’s best reliever start the game. That way the offense has the opportunity to score early while having the best chance to limit opposing runs. Said reliever would pitch an inning or two to maximize his potential, followed by another reliever and maybe a starter or long reliever.
By using this strategy, teams can essentially shorten the game and put the pressure on the opposing offense. And with the plethora of relievers able to hit 99+ mph and include effective breaking pitches, offenses could see their run totals plummet.
Relievers often enter the game when the score has already gotten out of hand or is precipitously close to doing so. Their ability to prevent runs is what their teams value the most. But what if, instead of trying to stop the bleeding, it never begins in the first place?
Feature image by Frank Franklin II/AP Photo
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The Boston Red Sox have a deep pitching staff this season. They have added players through trades and through offseason signings but one of their bullpen arms has been primed through the farm system.
Brandon Workman was once just a right handed specialist for the Boston Red Sox who was promoted and demoted constantly. He has now turned himself into a seventh inning specialist and has a career low ERA out of the bullpen.
Brandon Workman in 2013, Photo Courtesy of pressherald.com.
Workman has been a lock down pitcher for a while now. He is now finally sinking into his role with the Red Sox.
In his high school career he had a 10-2 record and had a 0.81 ERA and 171 strikeouts in 76 innings. Out of 228 possible outs, Workman struck out 171 which means he struck out three out of every 4 batters he faced.
After being drafted by the Boston Red Sox, he was named Minor League pitcher of the year for the Portland Sea Dogs in 2012.
In Workman’s last complete season that he pitched in the MLB he went 1-10 and had a 5.17 ERA in just 19 games.
Workman has a career 4.50 ERA but is turning in his best season in 2017 with a 2.41. ERA.
Post Tommy John surgery Brandon Workman has been incredible. In 37 innings pitched he has given up 10 earned runs and has a positive WAR (+.8). He has now done that for the first season of his short MLB career.
He’s also getting hit much less: per nine innings he is giving up just eight hits. Workman averages just over an inning pitched per appearance so minimizing hits against is a major factor.
Brandon Workman has changed his career and he’s done it all post Tommy John surgery. Workman has found a way to be a consistently used arm out of the pen. When he first came into the league he was bounced around from triple A and Major League.
Post Tommy John:
When a major injury happens, it normally takes time for a player to bounce back. Some players end up never being the same.
Workman has found a way to harness his ability and go back to his minor league days.
Early on in his MLB career, Workman struggled, and just watching him post Tommy John surgery you can see that his confidence has changed. Workman has been throwing breaking balls for strikes when he needs to and has the ability to throw any pitch he chooses.
Brandon Workman has a different attitude post Tommy John surgery and it’s improving his pitching.
Workman may have few innings pitched under his belt. Workman has pitched in seven postseason games and pitched a total of 8.2 innings in those seven games.
He’s faced 35 batters struck out four and has given up no earned runs. Brandon Workman is an extremely important piece for the Boston Red Sox come playoff time.
If he can continue to be as effective as he has been post Tommy John, the Boston Red Sox will have enough firepower in the bullpen. With Addison Reed, Brandon Workman and Craig Kimbrel slamming the door the Red Sox bullpen looks strong enough to make a deep run.
Featured Image Courtesy of Chowderandchampions.com.
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Heading into the season, the Red Sox had high hopes and expectations.
After adding Chris Sale, their pitching staff was set to be one of the best in baseball. Many different things, both positive and negative have been surprising for the Boston Red Sox this season. Here are a few of them.
Brandon Workman, Photo Courtesy of Outsidepitch.com.
Let’s start off positive. Brandon Workman had Tommy John surgery just a season ago and has been one of the more reliable arms out of the bullpen.
He is sitting at a 2.41 ERA and very few expected him to be both this consistent and this effective.
Workman will be a late inning pitcher heading into the postseason and can really contribute to this team.
Imagine at the beginning of this season if you said that Drew Pomeranz would be the probable game 2 starter in a Red Sox playoff series. He would be ahead of David Price and Rick Porcello? Yeah, most people probably didn’t say that.
Pomeranz has been fantastic this season. With Price’s injuries and Porcello’s shaky start to the season, it has been much needed for the Boston Red Sox.
Pomeranz is 16-5 with a 3.15 ERA and has given up 13 runs in his last eight starts. He is putting up career numbers and is helping catapult this Red Sox team into the postseason.
Chris Sale and Craig Kimbrel
Chris Sale, Photo Courtesy of NESN.
I felt like I needed to put these two together. Everyone knew these two would be good, but no one thought this good.
Kimbrel has been unbelievably automatic when slamming the door. In his 66 innings pitched, he has a 1.36 ERA and a 5-0 record.
His 5-0 record means that not only is he pitching in save situations, but he’s coming in when the games tied and giving the Red Sox late chances to win games.
In the 198 outs he’s recorded, 121 of them have been strikeouts. Seriously, read that again. That means 61 percent of his outs are strikeouts.
Now we will talk about Mr. 300. Chris Sale has a 2.75 ERA, 17-7 record and 6.2 WAR. He has been everything the Red Sox have been looking for and more. He also has struck out 1.44 batters per inning, which is high for a starting pitcher.
I did not think that Price would be bullpen bound come playoffs. In reality it probably fits him best.
The pressure of his postseason woes is now lifted. He also provides a long relief arm in a pen that doesn’t necessarily have one.
In Price’s defense, he has been hurt for a good portion of the year and has a 3.57 ERA. The bullpen decision is solely because the rotation is clicking right now, and Price could come back rusty.
Rafael Devers, Photo Courtesy of the Boston Herald.
Well this is the biggest surprise. The third base position and nine hole in the lineup looked like it was going to stay vacant the whole season. Rafael Devers took full control of that spot and has found a hot bat in the process.
Most teams wait a season or two to call up a prospect, but Devers hit the ground running with the Red Sox and has torched pitchers.
The Boston Red Sox are looking to win the American League East in two weeks, and all of these players mentioned are key pieces in that race.
Despite the Red Sox not having a legitimate power threat in their lineup, they have benefited from strong pitching and timely hitting.
With the postseason being all about consistent pitching, the Red Sox look to make some noise when the calendar flips and October starts.
Featured Image Courtesy of Nesn.com.
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Coming into this season, The Red Sox’ pitching was ranked at the top, if not the best. The Red Sox acquired Chris Sale from the White Sox. Rick Porcello was coming off a Cy Young-caliber year. David Price was back, and hopefully healthy. Craig Kimbrel was coming off a 31-save year.
Although Boston sits in first place in the American League East, the pitching has taken a rocky path so far. Lets take a look.
Success: Chris sale
The American League All Star Game starting pitcher is on pace to winning his first Cy Young Award. The 28-year-old was traded in an offseason deal with the Chicago White Sox, involving four minor league prospects including Yoan Moncada.
Photo Courtesy of (chicagotribune.com)
Sale is cruising with a 13-4 record and the most wins in the American League. He has tallied a whopping total of 211 strikeouts, the most strikeouts in all Major League Baseball.
Sale is on track to tally 300-plus strikeouts. He reached 200 strikeouts in his start this past Friday against the Angels, making him the fastest pitcher in American League history to obtain 200 strikeouts in a season. Sale did this in 141 1/3 innings.
He joins Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson and Nolan Ryan in reaching 200 strikeouts in less than 20 starts. Keep in mind, Pedro did this in close to 150 innings, also known as one of the best pitchers to wear the Boston uniform.
The Red Sox are coming off a 2-4 road stretch. Sale recorded both wins. In a 6-2 win against the Angels, Sale went 6 innings on four hits with nine strikeouts. On Wednesday, he recorded a 4-0 win against the Mariners, going seven innings with three hits with 11 strikeouts.
Sale is dealing for this team. Even in his four losses, he’s been completely dominant. He’s tallied a total of 45 strikeouts in his four losses. Truly, the Sox did not produce runs for him.
Sale is the best pitcher in the American League, if not Major League Baseball. He will continue to dominate.
Success: Drew Pomeranz
For a guy who went 3-5 last season with a 4.59 ERA, Drew Pomeranz has made a complete turnaround for the first place Boston Red Sox.
Pomeranz has turned his record to an impressive 10-4 year. Yes, three wins shy of Chris Sale’s record, the American League Cy Young contender. Pomeranz has tallied 115 strikeouts on a 3.59 ERA.
Photo Courtesy of (overthemonster.com)
Quite frankly, whatever Pomeranz did for change, its working. He’s defeated second-place rival New York Yankees twice this season, recording 14 strikeouts against them. He tossed 6 1/3 innings and only allowed four hits in the win against the best team in Major League Baseball, Houston Astros.
The Red Sox expected this from the lefty pitcher when they acquired him through a San Diego transaction. Pomeranz was an All-Star at the time of the transaction, and David Ortiz was one foot out the door to retirement, urging the Red Sox to add another All-Star to the team. They needed to add a starter to join forces with Rick Porcello and David Price.
Pomeranz has taken responsibility for his mistakes on the mound last year, and has transformed himself to a top pitcher on the team.
This is exactly what Boston needs, especially when the playoffs come around. The Sox will need their rotation to belly up and give it their all. Look at the 2013 World Series team. Clay Buchholz went 12-1, Jon Lester went 15-8 and John Lackey recorded 10 wins. You need depth to go deep in the playoffs. The facts show it.
success: Craig Kimbrel
Photo Courtesy of (masslive.com)
The Red Sox closer has been the reliable factor for manager John Farrell. Kimbrel has tallied 25 saves with nearly 80 strikeouts.
Kimbrel reminds the Boston fans of Jonathan Pabelbon and his dominance he had coming out in the bullpen in late save opportunities.
Kimbrel currently sits in fourth in the American League in saves, however many believe he is the best closer in the American League. He holds a 1.27 ERA, as well as a 2-0 record.
Boston looks to have Kimbrel keep his dominant self throughout the last two months of baseball.
failure: rick porcello
Red Sox Nation had big expectations for right-handed pitcher Rick Porcello this season. He was coming off a 22-4 year last season, capturing the American League Cy Young award.
Porcello was the Red Sox go-to guy, last season and this season. Yeah, they brought in Chris Sale, a guy who finished in the top five for the Cy Young race last season, but they were still depending on Porcello to be their number one guy this season.
Photo Courtesy of (bostonglobe.com)
Last year, he finished with a 3.15 ERA in 223 innings pitched, finishing an impressive 22-4 year. He tallied nearly 200 strikeouts and was completely dominant the whole way through.
This year, he has a 4-13 record with a sub-5 ERA through 133 innings pitched. He’s currently tied in six place for the most home runs allowed (23). Porcello has let up a total of nearly 80 runs, the most on the team, with the second most having 48.
Truly nothing what Boston had wished for.
However, this can all be forgotten if change starts here. We are only two months shy of October. Boston is on track to winning the American League East, and the Red Sox will need Porcello to do his job to get far.
Failure: David Price
Here come the true opinions. As we all know, David Price has been a dominant pitcher in this league for as long as we can remember.
He signed with Boston in late 2015, agreeing to a record-setting contract of seven years, $2.17 million. That said, Boston is writing a check for $31 million a year for Price.
Photo Courtesy of (usatoday.com)
Price recorded a 17-9 record last season for the Red Sox, making his Fenway career record a whopping 15-4. Pretty good, right?
Until, this season happened.
Price started off the 2017 season after missing two whole months with elbow pain. Not to mention at the time, Porcello was already starting his current cold streak that he has not broken out of.
Since he has formally recovered, he is 5-3 with a sub-4 ERA. Yeah, he’s pitched 11 games, but throughout those 11 starts, they have not been pretty. He has let up 62 hits with 28 earned runs, allowing eight homers and 22 total walks.
However, we know Price can tend to find himself with off-the-field situations as well. The Price/Eckersley altercation has stirred up in the media, finding yourself to have a new look on left-handed pitcher. For those who aren’t aware, Eckerlsey made a comment regarding Eduardo Rodriguez, which led to Price calling Eckersley out completely on the plane back home from Toronto.
Price, like Porcello, needs to find his old self back. We know what he’s capable of doing. If we didn’t, he wouldn’t be the big talk this season.
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Rookies are an anomaly in fantasy baseball, as it is difficult to predict their value due to a lack of minor and major league experience. In order to qualify as a rookie, a player must not have conceded 130 at bats or fifty innings pitched in the majors, and also must have fewer than 45 days on the active roster. Rookies tend to be undervalued in redraft leagues and over valued in keeper and dynasty formats, although in either format, they can make or break your fantasy season.
One rookie, Michael Conforto, who looked to contribute as a starting outfielder for the New York Mets in 2016, and after battling through injuries and demotions, finished the year as the 121st outfielder in fantasy. Conforto’s average draft position of 211, was much too high compared to his performance, as you could have waited and selected top 50 outfielders Odubel Herrera, Nick Markakis or Carlos Beltran.
There is always risk involved when drafting rookies, but the rewards can be plentiful.
In 2016, rookie short stops Corey Seager, Trevor Story and Aledmys Diaz exploded onto the scene, all finishing as top 10 short stops, while commonly being drafted 60th or later, occasionally going undrafted, depending on the date and number of teams in the draft.
AL Rookie of the year Michael Fulmer was another undrafted contributor, as he finished as a top 28th starting pitcher in 2016, after winning 11 games in 26 starts.
After being called up in June, Trea Turner of the Washington Nationals played in only 73 games, but managed to finish as the 10th second basemen, after batting .342 with 13 home runs and 33 stolen bases.
Many owners believe rookies are too risky to take chances on, especially in re-draft leagues, Even though the 2016 rookie class shined, many owners will continue to shy away from drafting rookies over established talent. In order to persuade owners to take a few more chances on rookies in 2017, they must understand what rookies are truly capable of.
Below are the greatest fantasy baseball seasons by a rookie at each position since the year 2000.
Notable rookies to keep your eye out for in 2017 include: Andrew Benintendi (BOS), Yoan Moncada (CWS), Dansby Swanson (ATL), Hunter Renfroe (SD), Tyler Glasnow (PIT), Aaron Judge (NYY), Yulieski Gurriel (HOU), Willson Contreras (CHC), Lucas Giolito (CWS), Bradley Zimmer (CLE), and Ozzie Albies (ATL).
Catcher: Geovany Soto, Chicago Cubs, 2008
2008 National League ROY, Geovany Soto, looks to break camp with the Los Angeles Angels in 2017. (Courtesy of Getty Images)
Honorable mentions include: Bengie Molina 2000 (ANA), Buster Posey 2010 (SFG), Wilson Ramos 2011 (WAS), Wilin Rosario 2012 (COL), and Gary Sanchez 2016 (NYY).
Geovany Soto, was selected by the Chicago Cubs in the 11th round of the 2001 MLB draft. After totaling 25 home runs in six years of minor league baseball, Soto broke out, batting .353 with 26 home runs and 109 RBI’s for the Iowa Cubs of the Pacific Coast League in 2007.
The Chicago Cubs finished first in the National League Central in 2007, unfortunately getting swept by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NL Division Series. The Cubs backstop remained a question mark heading into 2008, as veterans Michael Barrett and Jason Kendall departed. This was Soto’s chance.
His transition from the minors to the majors went smoothly, as he batted .285 with 23 home runs, 66 runs, and 86 RBI’s. Soto was named the NL’s starting catcher in the All-Star game, and was also awarded the 2008 NL Rookie of the Year while finishing 13th in NL MVP voting.
Unfortunately for Soto, injuries derailed his career. He has failed to surpass his career high of 141 games, which occurred in 2008.
The 12-year veteran has gone on to bounce around the American League, having brief stints with the Texas Rangers, Oakland Athletics, Chicago White Sox, and currently the Los Angeles Angels.
We could see a rookie season similar to Soto’s soon, as young catchers Gary Sanchez and Willson Contreras begin to emerge.
First Base: Jose Abreu, Chicago White Sox, 2014
Jose Abreu continues to torment pitchers in the AL Central. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Honorable mentions include: Mark Teixeira 2003 (TEX), Ryan Howard 2005 (PHI), Prince Fielder 2006 (MIL), Joey Votto 2008 (CIN), Gaby Sanchez 2010 (FLA), Eric Hosmer 2011 (KC), and Freddie Freeman 2011 (ATL).
The Cuban first basemen signed a six-year deal with the Chicago White Sox worth $68 million, in 2013, which was the largest deal in club history.
In a Cuban professional league, Abreu batted .316 with 19 home runs and 60 RBI’s over an 83-game span. The White Sox took a risk, believing that his numbers in Cuba would translate to production in the American League.
The 27-year-old took over at first base for Chicago legend Paul Konerko in 2014, becoming a new corner stone of the White Sox lineup. Abreu didn’t disappoint, batting .317 with 36 home runs and 107 RBI’s. The 2014 All-Star managed to also win the AL Rookie of the Year and Silver Slugger awards, while finishing fourth in the AL MVP voting.
Abreu has remained an elite first basemen throughout his three-year career, having a 162-game average of .299, 32 home runs, and 109 RBI’s. His rookie season remains nearly unrepeatable.
Second Base: Dan Uggla, Florida Marlins, 2006
Dan Uggla looks to make an MLB comeback in 2017. (Courtesy of Onlineathens.com)
Honorable mentions include: Robinson Cano 2005 (NYY), Dustin Pedroia 2007 (BOS), Danny Espinosa 2011 (WAS), and Trea Turner 2016 (WAS).
Dan Uggla remains one my favorite players to this day. He mashed 21 home runs in 2005 at the AA level for the Arizona Diamondbacks affiliate, the Tennessee Smokies. Fortunately for Uggla, he failed to make the Diamondbacks 40-man roster in 2005, and was drafted by the Florida Marlins in the rule-5 draft, forcing the Marlins to keep him on the 40-man roster.
The 5-foot-11, 210-pound second basemen took this opportunity and ran with it, hitting 27 home runs with 90 RBI’s while batting a very respectable .287. The 26-year-old made his first of three All-Star appearances in 2006, while finishing third in NL Rookie of the Year.
Uggla’s career remained explosive, as he managed to hit 30 or more home runs in his following five seasons, finishing 17th in NL MVP voting in 2010.
After two and half inconsistent seasons with the Atlanta Braves from 2011-2013, he has bounced around the minor leagues. The 35-year old is coming off of stints with the San Francisco Giants and Washington Nationals, as he continues to try to make an impact for a big-league club in 2017.
Third Base: Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers, 2007
Ryan Braun’s rookie season remains unmatched. (Courtesy of Youtube.com)
Honorable mentions include: Eric Hinske 2002 (TOR), Garrett Atkins 2005 (COL), Ryan Zimmerman 2006 (WAS), Evan Longoria 2008 (TB), Kris Bryant 2015 (CHC), and Matt Duffy 2015 (SFG).
Ryan Braun was the 5th overall pick by the Milwaukee Brewers in 2005. From 2005-2007, he batted .313, while hitting 32 home runs in 165 minor league games. The highly touted prospect had matching expectations when he was called up to take over for veteran Jeff Cirillo in May of 2007.
The 23-yaer-old impressed, batted an astounding .324, with 34 home runs, and 97 RBI’s. Braun went on to win NL Rookie of the Year, while finishing top 25 in NL MVP voting. The fact that Braun only played in 113 games goes completely overlooked, as he was on pace to hit 41 home runs and 118 RBI’s over a 600-plate appearance season. Although there have been some stellar rookie seasons by third basemen in the last two decades, Braun’s stands alone.
Short Stop: Hanley Ramirez, Florida Marlins, 2006
Hanley Ramirez may be back in Boston, but no one forgets his MVP caliber days in Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
Honorable mentions include: Jimmy Rollins 2001 (PHI), Angel Berroa 2003 (KAN), Troy Tulowitzki 2007 (COL), Alexie Ramirez 2008 (CWS), Carlos Correa 2015 (HOU), Francisco Lindor 2015 (CLE), Corey Seager 2016 (LAD), Trevor Story 2016 (COL), and Aledmys Diaz 2016 (STL).
The former and current Boston Red Sox, Hanley Ramirez, signed with the team in 2000 as an amateur free agent. He began to soar up the ranks, making his way from low-A minor league ball to the majors in only three years. Ramirez was traded to the Florida Marlins in November of 2005, in a deal involving World Series champs Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell.
As a 22-year old, Ramirez won the 2006 NL Rookie of the Year, batting .292 with 17 home runs, 119 runs, 59 RBI’s, and 51 stolen bases. Hanley’s production goes unmatched, as the only other rookie to score over 115 runs in the modern era is Ichiro Suzuki.
Hanley’s career has been an interesting ride so far, as he has battled through some serious injuries that has caused him to lose his MVP form. He has transformed from a perennial .300 hitter with 20 plus steals to a .270 hitter with single-digit steals, which, along with his improved power stroke, is still a very productive player.
Left Field: Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals, 2001
Albert Pujols is the greatest player of his generation. (Courtesy of Lehighvalleylive.com)
Honorable mentions include: Hideki Matsui 2003 (NYY), Jason Bay 2004 (PIT), Chris Coghlan 2009 (FLA), Yoenis Cespedes 2012 (OAK).
Arguably the greatest player of his generation, Albert Pujols was drafted in the 13th round of the 1999 MLB draft by the St. Louis Cardinals. He accelerated up the minor-league ladder, batting .314 with 19 home runs and 96 RBI’s in 133 games at three different levels in 2000.
The Machine exploded onto the scene in 2001, batting .329 with 37 home runs, 112 runs, and 130 RBI’s. Pujols went on to become an All-Star, win Rookie of the Year and Silver Slugger awards, and finish top five in NL MVP voting. Prince Albert’s 2001 campaign sparked a hall of fame career which included three MVP’s and two World Series rings.
Center Field: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels, 2012
Mike Trout or Micky Mantle? (Courtesy of the Huffington Post)
Honorable mentions include: Terrance Long 2000 (OAK), Rocco Baldelli 2003 (TB), Scott Podsednik 2003 (MIL), Willy Tavares 2005 (HOU), Jacoby Ellsbury 2008 (BOS), Austin Jackson 2010 (DET), and Billy Hamilton 2014 (CIN).
This generations Mikey Mantle began as a first-round selection by the Los Angles Angels in 2009. In three minor league season Trout batted well over .300, but lacked the power that we are all used to seeing today, as he hit only 23 home runs in 291 games.
Trout started his rookie season after being called up in April of 2012. He went on to play 139 games, batting .326, while mashing 30 home runs, scoring 129 runs, driving in 83 RBI’s, and stealing 49 bases in 56 attempts.
The two-time MVP had the highest WAR ever by a rookie, with 10.0. It may be a long time until we see another 30/40 season by a rookie.
Right Field: Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle Mariners, 2001
Ichiro refuses to quit as he enters his 17th Major League season. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
The 27-year old rookie was purchased from the Orix BlueWave for $13 million in 2000. In nine seasons in Japan, Ichiro batted .313, with 658 runs, 118 home runs, and 508 stolen bases. After winning seven batting titles and three MVP awards in Japan, Ichiro decided to make the transition to the MLB.
In 2001, he set the record for the most hits ever by a rookie with 242. The Rookie of the Year finished the season batting .350, while scoring 127 runs, driving in 69 RBI’s, and stealing 56 bases. He was subsequently rewarded the AL MVP.
Suzuki’s career is well known as he has surpassed the 3000-hit plateau and has a career average of .313. Ichiro will remain with the Miami Marlins in 2017, where he will continue to add to his historical career.
Starting Pitcher: Jose Fernandez, Miami Marlins, 2013
Jose Fernandez, what could have been?(Findagrave.com)
Honorable mentions include: Rick Ankiel 2000 (STL), Roy Oswalt 2001 (HOU), Dontrelle Willis 2003 (FLA), Francisco Liriano 2006 (MIN), Daisuke Matsuzaka 2007 (BOS), Edinson Volquez 2008 (CIN), J.A. Happ 2009 (PHI), Jaime Garcia 2010 (STL), Jeremy Hellickson 2011 (TB), Yu Darvish 2012 (TEX), Wade Miley 2012 (ARI), Shelby Miller 2013 (ATL), Hyun-Jin Ryo 2013 (LAD), Julio Teheran 2013 (ATL), Matt Shoemaker 2014 (LAA), Jacob deGrom 2014 (NYM), Noah Syndergaard 2015 (NYM), Michael Fulmer 2016 (DET), Kenta Maeda 2016 (LAD), and Jon Gray 2016 (COL).
In 2013, the late, great, Jose Fernandez, managed to out-perform all other rookie starters since the year 2000. After being selected as the 14th pick of the 2011 MLB draft, Fernandez pitched one full season in the minors, going 14-1 with a 1.75 ERA, while striking out 158 batters in 134 innings pitched.
The young hurler started 28 games in his rookie season, going 12-6 with a 2.19, while striking out 187 batters in 172.2 innings. The 20-year old lead the league in hits per nine in 2013, which helped him earn the NL Rookie of the Year award, his first All-Star appearance, and a 3rd place finish in NL Cy Young.
In 2016, Fernandez lead the league in K/9, with 12.5, as he had 253 strikeouts in only 182.1 innings. Unfortunately, Fernandez’ life was cut short in boating accident, so we can only speculate to what could have been. Rest in peace.
Releif Pitcher: Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves, 2011
Craig Kimbrel may be in a new uniform, but his antics remain as they did in Atlanta. (Courtesy of Jeffschultz.blog.myajc.com)
Honorable mentions include: Kazuhiro Sasaki 2000 (SEA), Huston Street 2005 (OAK), Jonathan Papelbon 2006 (BOS), Andrew Bailey 2009 (OAK), and Neftali Feliz 2010 (TEX), Jordan Walden 2010 (LAA), Dellin Betances 2014 (NYY), Roberto Osuna 2015 (TOR), Edwin Diaz 2016 (SEA), and Seung-hwan Oh 2016 (STL).
After being drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the 33rd round of the 2007 MLB draft, Craig Kimbrel decided to forgo the MLB, and attend Wallace State Community College in Hanceville, Alabama. He finished the 2007-2008 collegiate season with a 2.89 ERA, while striking out 123 batters in 81 innings.
Kimbrel went on the be re-drafted by the Braves in the third round of the 2008 MLB draft. He had some slight struggles in the minors, sporting a 3.97 ERA in 70.1 innings pitched at four different levels in 2009, but recovered in 2010, where he had a 1.62 ERA at the AAA level.
Kimbrel received the official call up in 2010, where he recorded 46 saves, struck out 127 batters, and lead the league in games finished with 64. The 23-year old went on to win NL Rookie of the Year, make his first All-Star appearance, all while receiving votes for the Cy Young and MVP.
The flamethrower has managed to improve on his rookie season, as he has had an illustrious seven-year career with a career ERA of 1.86 and over 250 career saves.
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The Game Haus presents our fantasy baseball rankings: top 5 setup men for 2017.
Setup men have become a premier aspect of baseball in the last decade as teams have begun to acquire multiple high-level relief pitchers in order to lock down the final innings of the game.
Standard fantasy baseball leagues generally do not include holds in their scoring formats, although I believe holds are integral to the game of baseball and thus belong as a stat in the fantasy version as well.
For anyone unfamiliar with a hold, it is a statistic that measures the effectiveness of relievers. A pitcher is rewarded with a hold when he enters the game with his team in the lead in a save situation, which is a lead of no more than three runs, and hands over that lead to another reliever without giving up the lead.
Below are the top five setup men heading into the 2017 season.
Exceptions include: Addison Reed, who will close games while Juerys Familia serves his looming suspension, and Cam Bedrosian, who could take Huston Street’s closer job.
Honorable mentions include: Will Harris, Luke Gregerson, Tyler Clippard, Darren O’Day, Kyle Barraclough, Hunter Strickland, Will Smith, and Derek Law.
5. Nate Jones, Chicago White Sox
What do David Robertson trade rumors mean for Nate Jones? (Courtesy of zimbio.com)
Nate Jones commonly goes overlooked as he is on the rebuilding Chicago White Sox, although he offers great value as a setup man in 2017.
He finished 2016 with a 2.29 ERA, 10.19 K/9, and 28 holds. This was his second consecutive season of over 10 K/9 and a sub-one WHIP.
Jones had an excellent 2.93 FIP, or Fielding Independent Pitching, which measures what a pitcher’s ERA would look like if they were to receive average fielding results on balls in play.
With David Robertson trade rumors lurking, Jones may be moved to the closer role, but for the time being he is the fifth best option for holds in 2017.
4. Tyler Thornburg, Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox acquired the Milwaukee Brewers reliever in December of 2016 in exchange for Travis Shaw, two minor league prospects, and cash considerations.
Thornburg flourished as Milwaukee’s top setup man in 2016, finishing the season with a 2.1 ERA, 20 holds and 13 saves. His mid-90’s fastball and devastating curve helped him strikeout over 12 batters per nine innings. He also had an excellent FIP of 2.83, which suggest that he will find continued success no matter who is fielding behind him.
The 28-year-old will act as the bridge to Craig Kimbrel in 2017, giving him plenty of hold opportunities. Also, if Kimbrel were to go down, Thornburg would be the next man up.
3. Brad Brach, Baltimore Orioles
Brad Brach looks to build on his 2016 All-star campaign heading to 2017. (Courtesy of The Baltimore Sun)
Brach expanded on his 2015 breakout by exploding in 2016. The first-time All-star finished the year with a 2.05 ERA, 10.48 K/9, and 24 holds.
He improved his career averages across the board, most notably cutting his walks per nine innings down by 1.46, to a very manageable 2.85 BB/9.
I do not see any signs of regression for Brach in 2017, as his BABIP (batting average on balls batted in play), ground ball percentage, and homerun to fly ball rates have remained steady over his last three seasons.
Brach is cemented in as the Orioles’ eighth inning guy, with Darren O’Day working the seventh, and closer Zach Britton shutting it down in the ninth.
2. Dellin Betances, New York Yankees
The New York Yankees fireman finished 2016 with 28 holds, 12 saves, and an ERA of 3.08. His ERA was his highest in three seasons, although his FIP was an astounding 1.78, suggesting that his fielding contributed largely to his struggles.
The 6 foot 8, 260-pound hurler has increased his K/9 in every consecutive season, and sports a career average of 14.28. He exhibited a career high 15.53 K/9, which lead the league among qualifying relief pitchers in 2016.
He will return to a setup role as the Yankees reacquired closer Aroldis Chapman in free agency.
Betances will continue to dominate batters with his demoralizing cutter, similar to the likes of Kenley Jansen and Mariano Rivera.
The all-world reliever will be an asset for any fantasy team in 2017, whether the league awards points for holds or not.
1. Andrew Miller, Cleveland Indians
Andrew Miller is set to continue his regular season dominance in 2017. (Courtesy of Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Arguably the most dominant pitcher in the game, it is no surprise to see Andrew Miller at the top of this list. His 2016 campaign resulted in an astounding 1.45 ERA, 14.89 K/9, 25 holds and 12 saves.
Miller will remain as a late inning work horse for the Indians, offering availability in the 7th, 8th and 9th innings. The 31-year-old will remain as Cody Allen’s setup man in 2017 and will be a key contributor in the tribe’s hunt for October.
The lethal lefty offers great value to all leagues, as he will contribute elite ratios and inevitably a few rogue saves.
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It’s time to continue my preview of the National League East with the Atlanta Braves. The Braves raised some eyebrows before the season even began by trading away highly touted closer Craig Kimbrel to the Padres for a multitude of players, headlined by Cameron Maybin and Carlos Quentin. Despite the trade, the Braves went just 67-95 in 2015.
Unfortunately, I don’t see the Braves improving much, if at all, in their final season at Turner Field. The Braves have acquired a surplus of young pitching talent over the past few years, trading away many staple players (such as Kimbrel) in order to get it. But young pitching talent takes time to develop, as well as an offense that can provide them with run support so they can throw with confidence.
Freddie Freeman looks to come off his wrist injury and provide a huge season in Atlanta. Photo: USA Today Sports
Luckily, the Braves top two hitters, Nick Markakis and Freddie Freeman, remained in Atlanta through the offseason.
Freeman, despite missing 44 games due to a wrist injury last year, led the team with 18 home runs and 66 RBI. While it is good to see that Freeman can still produce solid stats while missing over a quarter of the Braves’ games last season, it’s worrisome that his 66 RBI (which was tied for 39th total in the National League) led the team.
The Braves management is playing it smart with Freeman, easing him back into the lineup; they have made it very clear that their main priority is to have him 100% by Opening Day, and won’t be doing anything to risk re-injury prior to then.
Acquiring Nick Markakis was definitely the most productive offseason move the Braves made last year, leading the team with a .296 batting average and 181 hits. The ex-Oriole did a great job at the top of the order, primarily leading off and moving to the 3 spot when Freeman wasn’t playing. Markakis should continue to be an offensive leader on this Braves team, which offers a solid mix of youth and experience in their position players.
The Braves offense as a whole looks like a decent small ball team on paper, with veteran A.J. Pierzynski currently the starter behind the dish, and offseason addition Erick Aybar being added at shortstop.
One dark horse for this team could be Ender Inciarte, currently slated in center field. Inciarte is entering his third season in the MLB, his first with the Braves; his previous two season with the Diamondbacks are nothing to scoff at, hitting .303 in 524 at-bats with Arizona last season and swiping 21 bases in 2015. Combine him with Michael Bourn and the Braves have a duo of speedsters that have to be respected when they make it on base.
The biggest concern with the Braves coming into the season has to be their pitching. While they have acquired several young hurlers over the years, a lot of them are still in Minor League ball or are coming into the Majors with very little experience.
The rotation is currently headed by Julio Teheran, who led the Braves with 11 wins in 2015. While some are hesitant towards Teheran, I think he has the highest ceiling of any of the five men on the rotation, highlighted by his 2.89 ERA in 221 innings in 2014. While I don’t think his numbers will be quite that strong, I certainly think Teheran deserves to be given the #1 slot in the rotation and can keep the Braves in games.
The rest of the Braves rotation is the biggest question mark coming into 2016. Bud Norris, the only one with a full MLB season under his belt, struggled tremendously last season with the Orioles and Padres, going just 3-11 with a 6.72 ERA, being moved to the bullpen by the end of the year. It will be interesting to see if Norris is able to pitch with the confidence he began to show by the end of his time with Houston, or if he will continue to slump.
The remaining three starters, Matt Wisler, Manny Banuelos, and Williams Perez, have just 44 starts between them. In a division hosting dangerous batters like Giancarlo Stanton and Bryce Harper, the young pitchers could find themselves outmatched.
Although anything can happen in baseball, the Braves do not appear to be set up to move out of Turner Field in a blaze of glory. This season will probably be a lot of Atlanta starters struggling to keep the score low and give their offense a chance to squeak some runs across. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some young arms currently not in the rotation get a chance to start a couple of games to get some experience.
The Braves, much like the Phillies, look like they will be strong in a few years, but this year I see them around 60 to 70 wins.