MLB monthly progress report

MLB monthly progress report

The month of May is reaching its final acts. We have seen some squads turn things around after slow starts. But we have also seen teams still struggling to catch fire. In this monthly progress report, we will take a look at some of the teams on hot streaks, cold streaks and those heating up after adjustments made from April.

Yes, there is plenty of baseball to go and anything can happen in a full season. But these past few weeks will be instrumental in what to do for over 100 games yet to come. While some teams look to take over their divisions, others are finding ways to stay in the race. Of course, some teams have steeper mountains to climb than others.

monthly progress report: American league

The hot

The race for the AL West has become a tight one, with the Houston Astros winning eight of their last 10 outings and the Seattle Mariners winning seven of their last 10. The Astros hold the lead in the division by only 2.5 games. The standout component to Houston’s success is their starting rotation. The Astros boast the only pitching staff in the big leagues to yield a team ERA less than 3.00.

MLB monthly progress report

Gerrit Cole of the Houston Astros. (Photo from foxsports.com)

The Mariners, however, are not making it easy for Houston to just run away with the West. Seattle has made its strides primarily through the batter’s box. Though their numbers do not scream, “best in the AL,” the Mariners have found a high note, along with new ways to keep hitting it.

The cold

In the AL Central, the Kansas City Royals have won just three of their last 10 games. KC’s pitching staff holds the highest ERA in all of baseball. Not to mention the Royals’ bats have hit only 42 home runs so far this year, the fewest by any AL squad.

The Chicago White Sox are not fairing well either. They are right behind Kansas City with the second worst ERA. On top of that, Chicago’s batting order has driven in the fewest RBIs in the AL. The White Sox and Royals have two of the three worst regular season records in the AL.

The heating up

The Red Sox and Yankees are currently neck-and-neck for the AL East, but the Tampa Bay Rays are starting to turn it up. Only three games below .500, Tampa Bay has won six of its last 10 games. Currently, the Rays boast the second highest team batting average in the AL, along with a rapidly improving defense. But improvements in pitching will be needed if the Rays want to continue catching fire.

monthly progress report: national league

The hot

In the next part of this monthly progress report, the Atlanta Braves are making their presence felt around the league. Along with leading the NL East, Atlanta leads the NL in batting average and RBIs this season. Though the pitching rotation stands strong, a few adjustments could help the young Braves squad pull away from the pack.

MLB monthly progress report

Freddie Freeman of the Atlanta Braves. (Photo by John Bazemore/Associated Press)

In the NL Central, the Milwaukee Brewers remain scorching in recent weeks. Leading the NL Central somewhat comfortably, The Brewers have made their way to the top with their pitching. Milwaukee’s pitching staff boasts the lowest ERA in the NL.

The cold

The Miami Marlins have not found many high notes this season. Offensive production has proved scarce for the Fish. The Marlins rank last in the NL in home runs and RBIs. Their pitching staff is not any brighter, yielding the worst ERA in the NL. On top of that, the attendance at Marlins Park is just as dismal, barely breaking 10,000 attendants per game on average.

To be fair, the Marlins are bulling through a massive rebuilding process, along with new ownership. Things cannot get better before it gets worse first. But some are questioning if there is a method to the rebuilding madness, or if it is just madness like the Jeffrey Loria days.

The heating up

The Washington Nationals are looking to take back the NL East. Though they still have a way to go, they have help. Washington’s pitching staff holds a 3.42 ERA as a unit, among the best in the NL. Plus, its batting lineup has tallied over 60 home runs this season. But with division rivals as imposing as Atlanta and Philadelphia have been, the Nationals will need to pick up the pace.

The Colorado Rockies have taken the lead in the NL West, with the Arizona Diamondbacks hitting a slump. The Rockies’ defense has become one of the best units in baseball this season. But if they are to remain at the top, Colorado needs to improve in both batting average and pitching. If they can do that, the Rockies can increase the gap between themselves and the rest of the division.

in closing

At the end of the day, everyone will have their ups and downs. Hopefully in the next monthly progress report, we can showcase new teams turning things around. The lessons each team learns from May can spell out solutions to pending problems. With June around the corner, the race for the playoffs continues.

 

Featured image from wikipedia.org

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Is Ichiro retiring?

On Thursday afternoon it was announced that Ichiro Suzuki was retiring and moving to a front office role with the Seattle Mariners. A little while later his agent, John Boggs, announced that he was not retiring and was just shifting roles with the club for this year and even hinted at a possible return for next season, which includes a season-opening series in Japan.

Boggs said via Ken Rosenthal, “He’s not retiring. He’s taking on a different role for 2018, and 2019 is yet to evolve.”

While the status of Ichiro’s future is up in the air, for the rest of this season he will be an assistant to the GM. The Mariners have stated that they love what he brings to the club, they just won’t be putting him in games any longer.

The Japanese legend returned to the Mariners organization this offseason after not being with the club since the first half of the 2012 season. He was traded to the Yankees and since has also played for the Miami Marlins.

Since rejoining the Mariners this season, the 44-year-old has played in 15 games and hit .205. His struggles at the plate are likely what led management to move him into a front office role.

Ichiro played 18 years in Major League Baseball after coming over from the Japanese League. In his 18 seasons, he hit .311 and had 3,089 hits. He had 1,278 hits in Japan, which added to his hits in America totals 4,367, which is the most ever for a professional baseball player, although the MLB record holder is Pete Rose with 4,256 hits.

In addition to his hitting accolades, Ichiro made 10 All-Star Games and won one MVP, Rookie of the Year, 10 Gold Gloves, two Batting Titles, three Silver Sluggers and one All-Star Game MVP.

Even if this is the end of the list of his accomplishments, it’s not a matter of if he’ll be in the Hall of Fame, but when.

 

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MLB april review

MLB monthly review: April

As the first month of baseball reaches its final act, we have seen fireworks, frustrations and everything in between. For some teams, the momentum created in April becomes a foundation for 2018. For others, the first few weeks have taught valuable lessons and revealed areas of improvements. But for the remaining few franchises, it has been a month they would like to forget.

Each franchise has its own situations to deal with. Whether it is rebuilding the club or fighting to remain at the top, the league has seen a multitude of scenarios unfold and their impacts on the diamond. However, those struggling the hardest cannot give up the fight now, despite how stuck in the mud they are.

Let’s take a look at some of the good, the bad and the not there yet of the MLB.

April Review: American League

The good

The Boston Red Sox have the best record in baseball as of right now. It seems that manager, Alex Cora, has led the squad for years, when in reality this is his first year as skipper. Boston stands among the best in the league in hitting, pitching and fielding.

Over in the AL West, the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Angels are neck-and-neck for the top. Houston stands superior at the mound, but LA is not too far behind in the batter’s box.

April Review

Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Brandon Workman (Photo by Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

The bad

It is safe to say that the Kansas City Royals have seen better days. Falling far behind in the AL Central, the Royals have a lot of work to do to get back to their 2015 days, especially in their pitching. KC holds a 5.23 ERA as a unit, which ranks 27th in the league.

The Chicago White Sox are not fairing much better. The team has the honor of the highest ERA in baseball. Like the Royals, their batting prowess is not too bad, but both teams will have to turn things around quickly to keep up with the rest of the division.

The not there yet

The Toronto Blue Jays are off to a solid start that not everyone saw coming. Despite a 14-9 start and solid batting, Toronto still needs to improve its pitching department. The numbers are not too bad, but adjustments will need to made to keep up with the surging Red Sox.

Similarly, the Seattle Mariners of the AL West have pitching issues to deal with. As a unit, Seattle has recorded a 4.95 ERA. The Mariners can not solely rely on their offense to keep them in the race, especially with the competition in their division.

April Review: National League

The good

The Arizona Diamondbacks remain on top of the National League. The Diamondbacks boast the stingiest pitching staff and the second-most efficient fielding in the NL. If Arizona can clean up its batting chops, wins should remain plentiful this season.

Trailing behind them is the New York Mets. New York is solid in numerous departments and lead the NL East. But Mickey Callaway and company must make adjustments moving forward if they wish to remain at the top and play in October.

MLB april review

(Photo from wikipedia.org)

The bad

The Miami Marlins are receiving stormy weather this season, and a lot of it. Miami has the second-highest ERA in the NL, along with the second-lowest batting average. To be fair, the Marlins are in an astronomical rebuilding process. But already, morale is as scarce as victory for the fish.

Meanwhile, the Cincinnati Reds have the worst record in the MLB. That is mostly due to the fact the Reds have the highest ERA in the NL. The fact that Cincinnati is the only squad in its division with a losing record only makes the pain worse.

The not there yet

The Milwaukee Brewers have won their last eight games and find themselves on top of the NL Central. However, their fielding remains shaky as they hold the second-lowest fielding percentage in the NL, in addition to the most errors recorded. Their pitching staff will need the seven players behind them to execute to allow as few people on base as possible.

As the season continues…

With April winding down, many baseball fans are eager to see how their teams adjust for the weeks to come. Some hope their teams stay hot throughout the season, while others wish for a change in fortune. With five months of regular season baseball left to be played, there is still time. But teams will need to make adjustments as soon as possible to find success in future games.

 

Featured image from MLB.com

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highlights of the week: Lindor

This week’s MLB highlights

As kids growing up as sports fans, we have at one point dreamed of playing in the big leagues. We have also imagined ourselves creating big performances that would attract the attention of the masses. We watched highlights of our favorite teams on TV or online. Our eyes remained glued as players came in clutch to lead their teams to victory. Baseball is no stranger to this scenario.

In the words of Billy Beane (portrayed by Brad Pitt) from the 2011 film MoneyBall, “How can you not be romantic about baseball?” Every week of baseball yields opportunity for players to step up and create waves throughout the league. No matter the team, no matter the player, no matter the circumstancesm anyone can create highlights by doing their part.

American League highlights

Arguably, the American League highlight of the week comes to us from the Cleveland Indians.

MLB highlights

(Photo by Getty Images)

On April 17, The Indians kicked off a two-game series with AL Central rivals, the Minnesota Twins, in the island of Puerto Rico. For Cleveland shortstop, Francisco Lindor, it was a homecoming game to remember. Born in the city of Caguas, it was there the two-time All-Star began his baseball journey. Lindor also played for the Puerto Rican National Team in last year’s World Baseball Classic.

Returning to his home turf, Lindor lit up the ballpark with a two-run homer. These were also the first two runs scored in the game. Other Indians pitched in, giving the Tribe a 6-1 victory. Cleveland now sits on top of the division.

Elsewhere, Mookie Betts of the Boston Red Sox is creating highlights of his own. The 25-year-old right fielder has been incredible in the month of April. Facing the Los Angeles Angels, Betts belted three home runs in Boston’s 10-1 victory over Los Angeles. According to NESN, Betts’ performance has put him in the record books. Betts has tied Red Sox legend, Ted Williams, for the most three-homer games in franchise history. Not to mention, the two-time All-Star is only 25 years old.

Currently, the Red Sox have a three-game lead over the rest of the AL East.

National League Highlights

The Miami Marlins are bulling through their rebuilding process, and have had it rough in 2018. Sitting at the bottom of the NL East, Miami visited the Bronx for a two-game series with the Yankees. In addition, this was the first time the Marlins would have to play against Giancarlo Stanton. The Pinstripes blazed the Marlins 12-1 in the first game.

MLB highlights

Photo from fishstripes.com

But the Marlins fought back in the final game of the series. Starting on the mound for the fish was left-hander Jarlin Garcia. Through five innings, Garcia blanked the Pinstripes. In addition, run support did more than well for Gracia, with help from Derek Dietrich, Starlin Castro and company. In his 2018 season debut, J.T. Realmuto also joined in with a three-run homer.

Through it all, Garcia cashed his first win of the 2018 campaign. The highlights here are the efforts of the Marlins pitching staff. They finished what Garcia started and suppressed an intimidating batting order. Furthermore, the Marlins split the series with New York after winning 9-1.

The Marlins will once again take on a former Marlin as they travel to Milwaukee to take on Christian Yelich and the Brewers.

Over the NL West, the Arizona Diamondbacks are continuing their strides. On April 17, left-handed pitcher, Patrick Corbin, remained undaunted, as well as undefeated against the San Francisco Giants. the 28-year-old ace pitched a complete game and cashed his third win for 2018 via a shutout. The Diamondbacks only dished out one run in the game, but it proved to be enough. Furthermore, Arizona remains comfortably at the top of the division. They will also have to keep momentum building as they continue the three-game series with the Giants.

Looking ahead

As the season continues, the league will be watching as more players look for chances at stardom. The season is still young, and there will be enough chances for other stars to make highlights. Each team has its own mountain to climb, but a breakthrough performance can help build morale and set the tone for games to come.

 

Featured image from Cleveland.com

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Fantasy baseball waiver wire

Five names to watch for in fantasy baseball

We are heading into the second full week of the Major League Baseball season, and new names are starting to emerge. Every year there seems to be players that nobody saw coming, but tore it up on the diamond. That being said, now is as good of a time as ever to look at some names that could make a big impact in fantasy baseball in 2018.

Joe Panik

(Second baseman, San Francisco Giants)

Fantasy baseball waiver wire

Joe Panik may have his best season in 2018. (Photo from McCovey Chronicles)

Joe Panik has already established himself as an everyday second baseman in San Francisco. The 27-year-old has played in over 100 games in three straight seasons, but may have his most complete campaign in 2018.

Panik has already racked up four multi-hit games this season, and has knocked three balls out of the park. He has never been known for his power, but with this new generation we are in, he could possibly hit over 20 home runs this season.

The draw with Panik though is he looks like he could hit over .300 this year, which is a huge plus for roto leagues. Panik is also still only owned in 64 percent of ESPN leagues, so it is best to take advantage of the slight availability he his left.

Brian Anderson

(Third baseman, Miami Marlins)

Fantasy baseball waiver wire

Anderson is ready to prove himself in Miami. (Photo from Zimbio)

Anderson is owned in just 29 percent of ESPN fantasy leagues at the moment, but almost all of those teams have picked him up in the last couple of days. Much of this is probably due to Jake Lamb’s absence in Arizona, as Anderson has been a great replacement while Lamb has been out.

Martin Prado is due back for the Marlins within the next couple of weeks, so that could possibly put Anderson’s playing time in jeopardy. However, like Panik, Anderson has the ability to rack up the hits. With the offensive struggles the Marlins are expected to have this year, there would not be much of a reason for Don Mattingly to keep Anderson out of the lineup.

Part of the attraction surrounding Anderson is his hit streak through the first seven games of the season. That streak is over now, but Anderson is a good eye to keep out for in case there is room in the third base or 1B/3B spot.

Preston Tucker

(Outfielder, Atlanta Braves)

Preston Tucker’s ownership in ESPN fantasy leagues has gone from one percent to 45 in the last week. He is currently the hottest player that may still be on the free agent market, so now is the time to go and get him.

Atlanta has Tucker in a pretty good spot in the middle of the lineup, making him a good candidate to rack up the RBIs. Atlanta is currently hot at the moment too. Although they will not be able to keep it up, don’t discount the Braves and the firepower they may be able to produce.

Tucker is in a solid lineup and is in a good situation to succeed. Now may be a good opportunity to snag him while he is still readily available.

Sean Manaea

(Starting pitcher, Oakland Athletics)

Fantasy baseball waiver wire

Manaea is the best free agent pickup available right now. (Photo from Beyond the Box Score)

Sean Manaea is one of the hot young names coming up through the starting pitcher ranks. In two starts this season, the 26-year-old has gone into the eighth inning both times and has given up seven hits and just two runs.

Strikeouts are obviously extremely valuable in head-to-head point leagues, but for head-to-head by category or roto, he could prove to be a very valuable piece on any fantasy roster.

The only concern for the young starter is the teams he will be facing. Being in the American League West, the Athletics will be facing some very high-powered offenses. Manaea has made both of his starts against AL West teams, but it will be vital for him to keep up that performance against more of the high-powered teams once they come around.

Either way, Manaea should be a pitcher that is readily available and could be used throughout any fantasy rotation.

Christian Villanueva

(Third baseman, San Diego Padres)

Villanueva is another smaller name that broke out for three home runs, much like Matt Davidson. Villanueva may not have the consistent power all year long, but it is at least worthy to watch if any room is available at the third base position.

Villanueva is only 26 years old and is starting to see consistent MLB time for the first time in his career. He is certainly someone who can make an impact on the Padres’ roster, so he may be able to do the same for a fantasy team as well.

What the young third baseman has been able to do in the minors is rack up the RBIs, so that is certainly something he showed in his three home run performance.

Although he still has much to prove in the big leagues, he could certainly come up clutch in the fantasy world.

 

Featured image from MyAJC.com

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MLB Opening Day game

MLB Opening Day preview: Miami Marlins vs. Chicago Cubs

In only two days, the first Opening Day game will arrive. Spring is in the air, and another MLB season will soon begin. For the fans, this will be a site for longing eyes. But for the players and managers, the real fight is only getting started. The coming 162 games will determine the most improved, the most in need of improvement and the future All-Stars of baseball.

As spring training reaches its last few days, the world will watch as the best hit the diamond once again. For some teams, the mountain is steeper to climb. For others, last season’s success should set the goals for the regular season. Regardless, the pressure to succeed is always high. When the lights are on and the training wheels are off, all 30 teams will need to firmly plant their cleats in the dirt as they fight for those 10 coveted spots in October.

The first Opening Day game on March 29 will showcase the very beginning of things to come.

Opening Day game: Miami Marlins

The National League has the honor of the very first regular season game of 2018. The rebuilding Miami Marlins will host the Chicago Cubs at 12:30 p.m. this Thursday. Jose Urena will start on the mound for Miami, as will Jon Lester for Chicago.

MLB Opening Day game

Urena was the one bright spot on the Marlins pitching staff (Photo from MLB.com)

Urena had a solid season last year, finishing with a 14-7 record and a 3.82 ERA. Those are not quite All-Star numbers, but his improvements over the years have been substantial for someone entering his fourth year in the big leagues. Not to mention his .238 opposing batting average was his career best and among the lowest in the entire league.

The Marlins no doubt still have a ton of areas in need of improvement, one being their pitching rotation. The rotation as a whole recorded a 4.82 ERA (26th out of 30 teams) and only 34 saves out of 61 opportunities.

To be fair, this past offseason was anything but sunny for Miami. It was like a full season of “The Apprentice” with everyone being told, “You’re fired.” This time, even the winner got the boot.

Names ranged from each of their All-Stars, to the guy who played Billy the Marlin. No one was safe from the never-ending cycle of staff changes. Bruce Sherman and Derek Jeter will have a lot to answer for, seemingly perpetuating Jeffrey Loria’s ownership tactics. But with Don Mattingly managing a lineup of kids hungry for a shot at the big leagues, the eagerness and youth of the team can stand as a bright spot for the new season.

Opening Day game: Chicago Cubs

The Chicago Cubs, on the other hand, will look to continue their reign over the NL Central. Chicago ended last season with a 92-70 record and an NLCS appearance. The Cub contending against Urena for the first win, as previously mentioned, is 34-year old Jon Lester.

MLB Opening Day game

(Photo from dailyherald.com)

Lester did not have the most electrifying season in 2017. He posted a 13-8 record with 4.33 ERA. However, the four-time All Star has proven he could quiet the critics and batting lineups over the course of his career. He has been a part of three World Series titles, the last one being with the 2016 Cubs.

After all, he is 34 years old, so no need to throw so much dirt on him.

Last season, Chicago’s batting lineup recorded a .255 average, while the pitching crew tallied a 3.95 ERA. Although these numbers are solid, there is always room for improvement.

If manager Joe Maddon has proved anything in his short tenure with the Cubs, it is his ability to utilize what he has and adjust. More often than not, this brought victory to Chicago, including a World Series trophy in 2016. His managerial record with the Cubs stands at 292-193 in three seasons.

The Cubs have appeared in each of the last three NLCS matchups. With a lineup full of familiar weapons, it is not hard to say they will be back in that ring in 2018. But if they are to exceed that feat, they will need new faces to rise up and further expand the firepower of the lineup.

In Closing

The tale of the tape between these two teams boasts opposites of each other. Miami is rebuilding its franchise, while Chicago continues to build on its solid foundation. The Marlins have not felt October fun since 2003, while Chicago cannot get enough of it.

Understandably, the rebuilding process is not supposed to be easy. It must get worse before it gets better. Mattingly and Jeter seem ready for the up-hill battle ahead.

Now, let’s see if the new faces can carry the Marlins for a long-awaited return to the playoffs.

 

Featured image from Paul Howe Illustration

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national league teams regress

Teams likely to regress in the National League

It is always fun speculating about what teams will step up in the upcoming year. After an offseason full of speculation and player movement, we are approaching the promised land that is Opening Day.

Teams like the Brewers and Yankees have reloaded their rosters and will expect great things in 2018. Who will be the ones to take a step back though?

Los Angeles Dodgers

national league teams regress

The Dodgers lost a key starter in Yu Darvish. (Photo from SI.com)

The Dodgers finished 2017 with 104 wins, which almost turned out to be a disappointment as some people thought they would have a shot at the coveted 116 mark. They hit a snag late in the summer though with just one win over a 17-game stretch from late August into September.

Nonetheless, Los Angles picked themselves up by the bootstraps and dominated in October. They only lost five games in the entire postseason, but that was not good enough as they fell one short by falling to the Astros.

Winning the World Series is about as much improvement as this team can make after losing in seven games last year. There isn’t anywhere else to go if they are to improve. That is why they are a prime candidate to regress in 2018.

The only notable move the Dodgers made was a salary dump in which they also acquired former Dodger, Matt Kemp. Some thought that Kemp would immediately be released, but it looks like they are holding onto him and they may even start him. However, the addition of Kemp is not enough for this team.

Yu Darvish is now a Chicago Cub, and even though the Dodgers are still a prime contender, it is still conceivable to see the Nationals, or even the Brewers, outplay them in October.

Miami Marlins

This one is a no-brainer. Ever since Derek Jeter and his ownership group gained control of the Miami Marlins, things have gotten ugly. Miami managed to win 77 games in 2017, which is nothing to write home about, but they didn’t have that bad of a team.

With Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich being one of the best outfield trios in baseball, things looked good in Miami. Jeter and company did not see it that way though. They elected to blow the whole thing up by trading all those guys away along, with Dee Gordon. Now, Miami is one of the least desirable places to play baseball.

Jeter has acknowledged that this process will take time, but the pushback has not been easy. Dan Le Batard lit up Rob Manfred for letting this sale happen, which led to the destruction of the current Marlins. If you were to ask ownership though, the current cast was not going anywhere.

We will look back in six or seven years and have a better grasp on whether or not this was the right call for a floundering organization. For the time being though, it does not look good.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Another team from the NL West will be taking a step back in 2018. The Arizona Diamondbacks put in a solid 2017 season, coming in second place in the West behind Los Angeles. After beating Colorado in the Wild Card, Los Angeles let them know why they were a second place team by sweeping them out of October.

Arizona has not had any key losses by any means, but they could possibly fall victim to the powerful division that is the National League West. Both San Francisco and San Diego saw how their divisional counterparts were doing and decided to make some moves to get more competitive. The Giants especially have shown that they take their even years seriously by acquiring Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria.

The Diamondbacks still have some solid rotational pitching along with great bats like Paul Goldschmidt and A.J. Pollock. They won’t have the same teams to beat up on in the bottom of the division anymore. On top of that, they still have to deal with the Dodgers, who may regress, but are still a dominant team in the National League.

Pittsburgh Pirates

national league teams regress

The Pirates sent Gerrit Cole off to Houston this offseason. (Photo from USA Today)

The Pirates fall into the same category as the Miami Marlins. Although they did not have the same sort of future potential as the Marlins, they pretty much jumped ship on their current roster.

The two faces of the franchise were Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole. Neal Huntington did not hesitate to keep them though as he shipped both of them out West. The Pittsburgh faithful were not happy with this decision, as they are pretty much abandoning the coming seasons.

They may have realized that nothing was coming from the current core, or they could have recognized the other teams in the division and seeing what they were looking like.

The entire league looks tough right now, and that is why the Pirates may be looking to invest in their future now. After all, it is not ridiculous to try to pull off the same sort of success achieved by Theo Epstein in Chicago and Jeff Luhnow in Houston.

 

Featured image from ABC15Arizona

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mlb spring training reports

Spring training progress reports

With less than two weeks of spring training to go, all 30 teams are starting to lock up their 40-man rosters. Managers will be looking closely at the progress their players have made now more than ever. Both veterans of the game and new prospects alike will be fighting even harder for those few vacancies remaining. Opening Day will arrive before any of us know it.

Several questions will need answers soon. Who starts out on the diamond? Where in the batting order does a certain player produce more? Which players will make up the starting rotation?

Progress will illustrate more than just the skill set of players and managers. It will also show the maturity and chemistry of the entire team. It will show the players ready to become leaders and the players ready to become the next stars of America’s pastime.

Here are some players who have evolved the most in spring training.

Progress Report: veteran players and Managers

Let’s begin with a team in need of veteran mentorship: the Miami Marlins. Despite a turbulent and dramatic offseason, the Marlins are riding surprisingly high in the Grapefruit League. But one veteran has settled rather nicely and is now ready to become a mentor for the younger guns.

mlb spring training reports

Photo from MLB.com

Meet second baseman, Starlin Castro.

Castro is working in his first few rounds as a Miami Marlin. Aware of the rebuilding process in Miami, the former Yankee initially wanted out and wanted to be on a playoff team. But now it seems he’s ready to be leader. With experience at both second base and shortstop, Castro will provide much needed advice for the new starters in the infield. Of course, the .304 batting average in this spring doesn’t hurt either.

As the man calling the shots in the dugout, managers need to make all the right moves to bring a team victories. But one manager not too many people give credit to is Milwaukee Brewers skipper, Craig Counsell. Do not let the under .500 manager record fool you. Counsell has steadily improved since taking over, finishing 86-76 last season. So far, the Brewers lead the Cactus League at 16-7. It’s only a matter of time before you see Miller Park as a stage for October.

Progress Report: New Prospects and Managers

For a player’s rookie year in the majors, it can no doubt be nerve-wracking. First-year managers have substantial amounts of pressure put on them as well, whether to continue a club’s success or turn around its luck. However, despite the fact it is still just spring training, these players have proven they are ready to accept the waiting challenges.

mlb spring training reports

Photo by by Karl L. Moore

With that in mind, what can be said about Ronald Acuna that hasn’t been said already?

He brings so much that the Atlanta Braves can work with. He is hitting .432 this spring with four home runs and 11 RBIs. His fielding IQ adds to the strong case for why he deserves a spot on the 40-man roster. After a 72-90 outing last season, Acuna might prove to be a valuable asset for Atlanta’s run for the playoffs.

With experience at all three outfield positions under his belt and zero errors in his spring runs, he can at least win a Gold Glove award in 2018.

The Boston Red Sox, on the other hand, are looking to exceed their own success from 2017. This time, Alex Cora will be their skipper in 2018. A former Red Sox player himself, Cora was on the Boston squad that won the World Series in 2007. He was also on the bench for the Houston Astros when they grabbed their first World Series title last season.

This spring training, Cora has led the Red Sox to a 15-8 record, good for second in the Grapefruit League. Cora’s familiarity with the Red Sox may play a vital role in Boston’s return to October.

As Opening Day Approaches

March 29 will start a new chapter in America’s pastime. As spring training winds down, veterans and new guys from all 30 teams will have those open 40-man roster spots in their sights. Some teams have a steeper mountain to climb in 2018, which is why bringing the right guy in the right position is absolutely essential.

However, history has proven time and time again that the biggest surprise is the one nobody sees coming. Come March 29, the stage is set for those who seize the opportunity for greatness without a second thought. On that day, fans of baseball will finally hear those famous two words: Play ball!

 

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2018 MLB postseason predictions

Early 2018 MLB postseason predictions

It is only a matter of time before Opening Day arrives. All 30 franchises will take what they learned from spring training to the big stage. 40-man rosters will showcase what each player brings to the table as they brave through another 162-game season.

Although the regular season hasn’t started yet, some experts and fans have already picked their favorites for the 2018 postseason. Who will take control of their divisions? Will upsets abound? Which two teams will duke it out for the World Series?

Here are some very early predictions for the 2018 MLB season.

National League Early Predictions

Many predict the Los Angeles Dodgers will reign supreme in 2018. ESPN rates them as the best odds to win the World Series this year.

However, the road will not be so easy. As unforgiving as their pitching crew has been to other teams, Los Angeles’ offense needs to catch up. Last season, the Dodgers recorded a .249 batting average, which ranked 22nd out of 30 teams.

2018 MLB postseason predictions

Photo Courtesy of CBS Sports

Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager, Chris Taylor, Yasiel Puig and Justin Turner had solid outings at the plate last year. But more work must still be done.

As for the rest of the NL playoff picture, my early predictions include the Colorado Rockies and Milwaukee Brewers in the two Wild Card spots.

Last season, Colorado posted the second-highest team batting average. Although their pitching rotation needs improvement, solutions are sure to be found.

As for Milwaukee, similar to the Dodgers, the Brewers landed in the top 10 last season in ERA. But offensive production couldn’t quite catch up.

Perhaps the additions of one or two more big names will help them get to October.

In addition, I will pick the Chicago Cubs to win the NL Central Division and the Washington Nationals to win the East once again. The Nationals are working in their new skipper, Dave Martinez. Martinez was previously the bench coach under manager Joe Maddon both with the Tampa Bay Rays and the previously mentioned Chicago Cubs.

My boldest prediction for the National League is the Miami Marlins going over .500 in 2018. Yes, I said it. They have young players hungry to make a name for themselves, and manager Don Mattingly will find a way to turn the team around despite the offseason drama of the rebuilding process.

American League Early Predictions

In the American League, the Houston Astros reign as not only kings of the AL, but also all of Major League Baseball. One of many questions is can they win back-to-back rings? According to ESPN, the Astros and the Cleveland Indians both have the second best odds to win the title. Given how well Houston has been doing in spring training, it’s easy to see why their opening odds are 6-1.

2018 MLB postseason predictions

Photo from MLB.com

There is no doubt the Astros will have stubborn obstacles on the road to repeat as champions. The first among which are the New York Yankees. With the addition of Giancarlo Stanton, the Pinstripes are a pitcher’s nightmare. However, their success this coming season will depend on how well new skipper, Aaron Boone, can manage this team.

If spring training is showing us anything, Boone is capable of doing well. But I do not see a round two between Houston and the Pinstripes. I predict that Houston will defend their AL title, but against the Cleveland Indians.

Here is why. Manager Terry Francona no doubt has seen this situation before. Francona will find a way to adapt against the more imposing foes in the AL. Last season, statically, the Indians were among the best in the MLB in hitting, pitching and fielding. I say how Cleveland’s defense backs up the pitcher will be the big factor for their success.

For the rest of the AL playoff picture, I see the Minnesota Twins and the Boston Red Sox in the Wild Card spots. The Red Sox will be taking the field with a new manager, former Astros bench coach, Alex Cora. In addition, slugger J.D. Martinez will call Fenway Park his home in 2018

Looking Ahead

As predictions are made, many do not stand understandably. If professional sports has taught us anything, it’s that anyone can beat anyone at any time. However, baseball is among the most stats-driven of all North American sports. It could very well be that Wild Card teams surprise us all and end up winning the league pennants.

Come March 29, each team will begin new chapters in it’s own story. Come Opening Day, the race for October begins.

 

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Philadelphia Phillies playoffs

The Phillies will not make the playoffs

Philadelphia made the splash many were waiting for on Sunday by signing Jake Arrieta to a three-year, $75 million deal. While it still is a whole lot of money per year, it isn’t the same sort of commitment that Arrieta and his agents were looking for earlier this offseason.

The Cubs originally offered Arrieta the same money they gave Yu Darvish. Arrieta thought he would be able to do better than that, but seeing how this offseason went, teams don’t want to get into any long-term commitments with older free agents anymore.

On the Phillies’ end of the deal, this is a great move. Seeing as they only locked down the ace for three years, they don’t think they are very far off. With the Marlins and Braves hanging out in the cellar of the NL East, things are looking bright for Philly.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though. This team won’t be making the postseason this year.

Spring training hype

Philadelphia Phillies playoffs

Can Jake Arrieta rebound in 2018 after a disappointing 2017? (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

As baseball fans, it is hard not to get excited about your team come March. We have been without baseball since October, and now with all the new moves that have been made, there is all sorts of hype around many teams. The issue with this time of year is that many begin to live in a fantasy world with how things may play out.

Going into Opening Day with a positive mindset is always great, but a lot of that positivity centers around the idea that every player under 32 will progress since they have another year under their built. Many players will improve, but some will regress and maybe not have as good of a year as they did in 2017.

The Phillies are certainly a team that looks like it has a whole lot of possibilities right now. Rhys Hoskins proved his worth last year, and now the Phillies have brought in Carlos Santana and Arrieta on very large deals on a per-year basis. The fact of the matter though is that these two guys are not enough to make that leap the Phillies need.

Arrieta is an ace of course, and Aaron Nola is going to be an excellent second starter to back him up. However, lets not forget that the Phillies finished dead last in the NL East with just 66 wins. With a lot of the excitement built around Hoskins, Arrieta and Santana, it is easy to think they add that much value. Are they worth 25 wins between the three of them? Absolutely not.

Yes, many of the young Phillies’ up-and-coming prospects will arrive and improve things, but remember who their most direct competition is.

The Nats

Philadelphia Phillies playoffs

Harper and the Nats won’t allow the Phils to sneak up on them (Photo from Sports Illustrated)

The fact that the Phillies are in the same division as the Nationals basically eliminates them from having any chance at winning the division this year. The Nationals are still the Nationals. Despite the fact that they have still basically done nothing in the postseason, they still have been one of the very best regular season teams in baseball the past few years.

They still have Bryce Harper, Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Ryan Zimmerman and Daniel Murphy just to name a few guys. It would be safe to say the Phillies still aren’t even close to being in the same league as these Nats. This means that the Phillies competition is mainly going to come from other Wild Card contenders.

To name a few contenders for the NL Wild Card, there would be the Cubs, Brewers, Cardinals, Giants, Diamondbacks and Rockies. Heck, the Mets might even be in the thick of it. Do the additions of Arrieta and Santana really cut down the race that much compared to these teams? No, not at all.

It is worth seeing what the Phillies might accomplish in the next couple of years while some of their young prospects still come up. However, if most of the excitement of the team comes from a 32-year-old pitcher with a 3.53 ERA and 1.9 WAR, there shouldn’t be much to be excited about. Not to mention, Santana just hit a notch below .260 with 23 home runs in 2017.

The Phillies didn’t make enough moves to compete for a playoff spot. They did enough to get them out of last place in the East.

 

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