Cincinnati Reds 2018 MLB Draft

Cincinnati Reds: Potential pitching draft picks

The MLB Draft does not receive the same amount of fanfare as the NBA or NFL. Small market teams like the Reds, however, live or die by how their first-round picks turn out. The last two years have given the Reds a shot at elite talent, drafting Nick Senzel in 2016 and Hunter Greene in 2017. 2018 should be no different, as the talent pool at the top of the draft has a ton of upside. This Reds draft may be the most important, as it could be the final piece to the World Series puzzle.

This year’s draft is anybody’s guess as to how it will unfold. The latest reports have Casey Mize out of Auburn as the consensus first pick, with conflicting reports for every pick after that. Mize’s latest start was not too strong though, so he may be picked second or third behind a couple college bats. College arms will help the major league team sooner, whereas high schoolers fit the high-risk, high-reward mantra.

Today, we will outline the most commonly seen pitchers floating at the top of MLB mock drafts from industry experts. Each expert has their own ranking for the pitching talent, so any of these names could be selected by the Reds at pick No. 5.

High School Pitchers

Cincinnati Reds 2018 MLB Draft

Will the Reds take left-handed ace Matthew Liberatore with the No. 5 pick in the draft? (Photo from azcentral.com)

The high-risk gamble of prep arms has made MLB evaluators weary, with less being drafted in the first-round annually since 2014. Kyle Glaser of Baseball America wrote an article detailing this. It is a good read if you want to make yourself scared of high school pitchers.

In 2017, there were only two high school pitchers taken in the first round. There is a lot of talent in this year’s class, which could push down some of the high school pitchers.

Carter Stewart is the top high school arm in this draft class. He couples a mid-90s fastball with an exceptional curveball. For the advanced analytic folks, Stewart’s curveball’s spin rate is truly amazing. Stewart has a changeup as well that grades to be just an average offering in the future. The Florida native’s two above-average pitches and a velocity increase this spring has Carter sitting firmly in the top 10. Stewart has similar upside as Hunter Greene, but with a slower fastball.

Matthew Liberatore is the best left-handed high school arm in the class. His profile is the polar opposite of somebody like Greene. Liberatore has four pitches, all of them well developed for a high schooler. His fastball sits low 90s, hitting as high as 96 in one start and falling as low as 88 from the stretch.

The downside with Liberatore, however, is that none of these pitches grade elite in the long run. Liberatore is one of the safest high school pitchers to enter the draft in a long time. Is a top 5 pick worth spending on a pitcher who will never be an ace, but potentially a solid mid-rotation arm?

Honorable mention goes to Ryan Weathers (yes, son of former Reds closer David “Stormy” Weathers), Ethan Hankins, Kumar Rocker and Cole Winn, who are just some of the other high schoolers to keep an eye on as the draft looms closer. Each player would have been first-rounders 10 years ago, but could wind up as second-rounders due to the aforementioned prep school weariness.

College Arms

Cincinnati Reds 2018 MLB Draft

Brady Singer has been dominating the SEC for three years now. Could he be doing the same to the NL Central in a couple years? (Photo from gatorsports.com)

College pitchers have been all the rage lately in drafts. Top college players only require two to three years in the minors. Couple that with being cheaper since they do not have leverage and better competition than high schoolers, and it is easy to see why college arms have been more frequently drafted as of late.

This year’s crop is no different, as there are a plethora of names surfacing near the top of draft boards. Casey Mize is the consensus No. 1 pick at this time, but there are still other players the Reds could focus on instead.

Brady Singer was a little inconsistent to start the 2018 college season, but outdueled Mize when they played. He was the ace of the Florida rotation and could be a stellar selection for the Reds at No. 5 this draft.

Singer has had three injury-free seasons of strong production for an elite college program. Singer has three above-average offerings, including a fastball that hovers around the mid-90s. The Florida ace should move quickly in the farm and will look good accompanying Luis Castillo and Tyler Mahle.

Shane McClanahan has the elite fastball Reds scouts drool over (see Hunter Greene and Tony Santillan). The lefty is the ace of the University of South Florida’s staff and has thrived in that role. His fastball has brushed triple digits several times this season and has a changeup with great movement on it. Some scouts have gone so far to compare him to Chris Sale, especially if his slider comes around.

Shane’s K/9 is crazy, reaching double-digit strikeouts in 50 percent of his starts (six out of 12). He has also had five walks in four of his 12 starts, hence his biggest negative. If Reds scouting thinks they can fix the walk issue, McClanahan’s upside is insane. Unfortunately that is easier said than done though.

Conclusion

This should be the last season the Reds have a top-five pick anytime soon. Hitting on these picks is what turns a Wild Card contender into a perennial playoff team. The Reds have plenty of offense already between all levels of the system, but only have a couple pitchers who are expected to make any major league impact.

Grabbing a college pitcher to join the Reds when the theoretical playoff window is open seems like the smart choice. The hardest part is deciding which one.

Make sure to check in next week as the hitters the Reds could take in the first round are outlined.

 

Featured image from mlb.com

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Matt Harvey Traded to the Cincinnati Reds for Devin Mesoraco

After being designated for assignment on Saturday, Matt Harvey will be moving from the Big Apple to the Queen City.

The deal will be Devin Mesoraco and cash going to the Mets for Matt Harvey.

Both players have had injury plagued careers. Also they both received major contracts after a great season. Weirdly enough their careers are very similar in most respects and both teams needed upgrades at these positions.

Mesoraco had a 2014 season where he was an All-Star, batting .273 with 25 homeruns and 80 rbi. The Reds assumed they had their catcher of the future and gave him a major contract. Sadly hip and shoulder injuries derailed his career as he hasn’t played in more than 60 games in a season. He is signed through this season and making a little over $13 million. One can assume he will take over the starting catching duties for the Mets.

As for Harvey he had Tommy-John surgery after an All-Star year in 2013 and came back and had an even better 2015 but then needed shoulder surgery in 2016 and has never really been the same since. Like Mesoraco the Mets assumed that Harvey would be a perennial All-Star and even possibly their ace for a long time to come. He is also signed through 2018 for about $5.6 million.

Unlike Mesoraco, Harvey has had his off the field issues. He became a superstar in one of the biggest cities in the world. The pressure of being famous may have gotten to Harvey as there were issues with partying and other distractions. This culminated with different arguments about his role, his managers, and his team. With the move to Cincinnati one can assume the pressure to perform and constantly be in the spotlight will be alleviated.

This trade could work out very well for all involved. The Reds have struggled developing their young pitchers and if they can get Matt Harvey to even be half of what he was then they will be happy. New York as stated before was looking for catching help and if Mesoraco can stay healthy then he could be a very valuable asset as he joins former teammates Todd Frazier and Jay Bruce.

Mesoraco will join the Mets tonight and the Harvey will join the Reds when they travel to Los Angeles.

Here is why Esports Arenas will be coming to a city near you

The world of esports is growing very quickly. Estimations show that it will be larger than a $1.5 Billion industry in the next couple years. We are seeing more major sponsors for leagues and teams. With this, esports are switching over to a franchising system. This can only mean more money coming into esports.

With franchising comes the need for arenas. For a long time, esports were not taken all that seriously because many worried that either a certain esport wouldn’t last long enough or that esports would be unable to be franchised because they wouldn’t make enough money. Well, Twitch and other streaming services changed that. This grew the audiences to very high levels. What it also did, however, was bring about a new worry.

Would people go to games or would they just prefer to watch it online? After spending time at TD Gardens in Boston, The Fillmore in Miami for NA LCS, talking with other journalists, and following both League and Overwatch League closely, I can tell you that people will absolutely go to these games weekly.

What about all the other events that have come before this?

Counter-Strike Global Offensive in Esports arena

Courtesy of: CS:GO Betting

This is a valid question. The answer is that most events or even leagues can be categorized into two different areas right now.

  1. Most of these events are only happening maybe once a month as tournaments or major events that happen a couple times a year. Examples of this are CS:GO and Dota 2. What these events prove is that if there is a major event, people will come. The problem is that it doesn’t show that there are enough people who would go on a weekly or multiple days a week basis.
  2. The second area is that most leagues as of now are based in Los Angeles or other centrally located cities. Both the OWL and League are based in LA and the NBA2k League is in New York City. This is great for the people who live there or who travel there as they can watch their teams play. Everyone else is sadly out of luck.

The Fans

Fan bases for esports as a whole are growing substantially. According to Statista.com, there will be almost 400 million viewers by the end of 2018. This number will only increase as games like Fortnite, which are sweeping the world right now, are spreading to casual and non-gamers.

With the swath of viewers, there will be many who attach to certain players or teams based on their viewing experiences and what games they like. While this is great, many people often never have an event close enough to them to see their favorite team or player perform in person. Thus, they watch online.

Courtesy of: SportsTechie

With the new franchising leagues, esports are following traditional sports. Many people forget that traditional sports did not start off with teams magically appearing in cities around the world all of a sudden. Instead, a relatively small amount of teams traveled and hosted events at venues where large numbers of people could gather. This mirrors how esports have been the last few years. Now, esports are moving onto the next stage of development with franchising.

With teams representing areas and cities, people will more likely gravitate towards them as their team. Again following the traditional sports model, this will help fan bases grow, allowing people to become more attached to their teams.

As more and more people watch esports, they will be enticed to at least look at their hometown teams which should, in turn, build fans in those areas.

Franchising

As one could probably tell when reading this, franchising is a game changer. Like the NFL, NBA, and MLB, esports like League of Legends, NBA2k, and Overwatch are following in their predecessors’ footsteps. They are paving the way for other esports to jump on franchising as it offers stability and money.

Stability and massive amounts of money have always been what has kept esports from being taken seriously. There were relegations at such an early start for esports like League of Legends. This kept people and groups from feeling comfortable in investing. With franchising eliminating relegations, we saw an instant interest to the tune of up to $20 million in investments for spots in these leagues.

This is a much cheaper price than trying to buy an NBA franchise. Getting in on the ground level of anything this big is always more exciting.

With the money and stability comes the desire to make more money. Building an arena can definitely help in this area. The investment towards the future will pay off as they will be able to grow the fan base even more due to people finally being able to watch their city’s team in person.

“If you build it, they will come.”

This quote from the movie Field of Dreams, while it is about the traditional sport of baseball, applies to esports quite well.

Between other events, the fan bases, and the stability brought about by franchising, the next logical step is to start building esports arenas in cities. While there are some newer ones, like in Las Vegas and Arlington, there are plenty of teams and companies working out ways to create even more.

With the leagues that are franchising, there are even some cities that will already have a need for new arenas to host the multiple teams that are in them. You can check them out here.

All of these leagues will continue to grow and more esports will be franchising. Call of Duty announced their intentions to franchise, but not much more has come out since. With that, more cities will get involved and the need for arenas will increase.

Keep an eye out, esports and their arenas will be coming to a city near you.

 

Featured image courtesy of: Populous.com

 

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Five superstars off to tremendous starts in 2018

(All stats as of 4/24 10AM)

Early on in the 2018 MLB season, we have witnessed some historic performances, from some not so historic figures. Sean Manaea of the Oakland Athletics threw a no-hitter against the hottest offense in baseball, the Boston Red Sox. San Diego’s Christian Villanueva homered three times in an April victory over the Colorado Rockies, and is currently leading the league in SLG and OPS.

Ryan Flaherty, utility man for the Atlanta Braves, is slashing .339/.446/.468. Keep in mind, Flaherty is a lifetime .223 hitter. Nobody in baseball has more hits than Oakland’s Jed Lowrie. In four starts, Astros RHP Charlie Morton is 3-0 with a 0.72 ERA.

Still, a lot of the top superstars in today’s game are on pace for monster years. The sections below are comprised of five megastars who have started the season exactly how we expected, if not better. All five of these players have yet to turn 27, and, by the numbers, are all on pace for historic careers.

Mike Trout

Over the last seven days, Mike Trout is hitting .417 (10-for-24), with three steals, four runs, and five extra-base hits. Three of his five XBH are home runs, as Trout homered in three consecutive games, during the series with the San Francisco Giants. This brought his home run tally up to nine, which means he is on pace for 63 this season.

Currently, Trout leads the league in WAR, and home runs. The 26-year-old ranks fifth in XBH, seventh in SLG, steals, runs, and hits, and ninth in OPS. Obviously, Trout is a once-in-a-generation type of player, but if he retired today, he would have a legitimate case at making the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Just take a look at these facts.

Trout is on pace for 63 HRs. (SportingNews)

During his rookie season, Trout would go on to, statistically, have the highest WAR season by any rookie in the history of baseball. He was the first position player since Barry Bonds in 2004 who had a WAR above 10.0. He joined Albert Pujols, Hal Trosky, and Ted Williams, as the only rookies to hit 30 or more home runs with a batting average better than .325.

The kid from Millville, NJ has five seasons of at least 7.9 WAR. That is tied with Wade Boggs, Joe Morgan, Mickey Mantle, Jimmie Foxx, and Mike Schmidt.  His six seasons of OWAR greater than 7 has him tied with Honus Wagner, and ahead of Frank Thomas, Wade Boggs, and Mel Ott to name a few.

# OF SEASONS REQUIRING BA>= .305, HR>= 25, SB>= 22, OPS+>= 168

PLAYER # OF SEASONS
MIKE TROUT 4
BARRY BONDS 4
WILLIE MAYS 2
AROD + NINE OTHERS 1

Mookie Betts

Mookie Betts is the ringleader behind Boston’s incredible 17-4 start. Betts, who finished second behind Trout in the 2016 AL MVP voting, is making a strong case early on as the best player in the AL. The highlight of his season so far came against Trout’s Angels, as the 25-year-old Betts went 3-for-3 with three home runs, three runs scored, and a pair of walks. He already has eight multi-hit games, and has three leading-off the inning home runs.

Betts leads the league in batting average (.366), runs scored (23), doubles (8), and OPS (1.191). He also ranks fourth in SLG, fifth in OBP, and eighth in total bases. While his career is not as decorated as Trout’s, the Boston outfielder has a chance to go down as one of the greats.

# OF SEASONS WITH 18HR, 20SB, 402B, 160H (BEFORE TURNING 25)

PLAYER # OF SEASONS
MOOKIE BETTS 3
DAVID WRIGHT 2
HANLEY RAMIREZ 1
GRADY SIZEMORE 1
ALEX RODRIGUEZ 1
NOMAR GARCIAPARRA 1
ROBIN YOUNT 1
VADA PINSON 1

 

Bryce Harper

Baseball’s “Chosen One”, Bryce Harper has lived up to the expectations that were set for him as a teenager. Harper, who will be a free agent following the 2018 season, is in line to get the biggest contract in MLB history, if he stays healthy and has a big year. So far, Harper has an NL-leading 8 home runs, with 19 RBIs, 20 runs scored, and a .462 OBP. When the game is tied, Harper is hitting .412 (7-for-17), including four home runs.

PLAYERS, BEFORE TURNING 25, WHO HAVE HIT 150 HR, 500 RUNS, 1400 TOTAL BASES, 780 HITS

(In no particular order)

ALEX RODRIGUEZ
MEL OTT
JIMMIE FOXX
MICKEY MANTLE
KEN GRIFFEY JR
MIKE TROUT
FRANK ROBINSON
ALBERT PUJOLS
BRYCE HARPER

 

While his career has been affected by injuries, Harper is still on a Hall of Fame pace. Before he turned 25, he already had five seasons with 20HR, 20 doubles, and a .340 OBP. The only other players with five seasons mirroring that stat line, before turning 25-years-old, were Trout, Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr., Orlando Cepeda, Frank Robinson, and Mel Ott.

Harper leads the NL with 8 home runs. (New York Post)

In 2015, at age 22, he became the youngest player in MLB history to post a season with 40 HR, .330 BA, .450 OBP, and .640 SLG. Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, and Jimmie Foxx, who held this record before, all accomplished this at the age of 24.

 

 

 

 

Manny Machado

Like Harper, Machado is 25-years-old and is also an impending free agent after this season. Over the past week, Machado hit .500 (12-for-24) with five home runs, seven runs scored, and eight RBIs. He, along with Manaea, were named AL Co-Players of the Week.

Overall, Machado is slashing .360/.447/.708 with eight home runs and 17 RBIs. He leads the league in OPS+ (218), and total bases. Now a full-time shortstop, Machado is very similar to a young Alex Rodriguez, without the steroids.  He and ARod are the only two players in MLB history who posted a season with at least 50 doubles before turning 21. In 2015, he joined Rodriguez as the youngest players in MLB history (both 22 at the time) to post a season with 35 home runs, 30 doubles, 20 steals, and a batting average north of .285.

Heading into the 2018 season, Machado had three seasons, before turning 25, with 30 home runs, 30 doubles, and 160 hits, which is tied with Miguel Cabrera, Alex Rodriguez, Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, and Hal Trosky for second all-time. Albert Pujols had four such seasons before he turned 25.

PLAYERS, BEFORE TURNING 25, WITH H>=860, HR>=130, 2B>=170 AND TB>=1470
ALEX RODIGUEZ
MANNY MACHADO
MEL OTT
KEN GRIFFEY JR
MIKE TROUT

 

Aaron Judge

After hitting .179 during his first taste of the bigs in 2016, Judge went on to have, historically, one of the best rookie seasons of all-time. He set the rookie record in home runs with 52, passing Mark McGwire’s previous record of 49. His 8.1 WAR was the fourth best all-time for a rookie, behind Trout, Shoeless Joe Jackson, and Dick Allen.

He became one of five players, joining Barry Bonds, McGwire, Babe Ruth, and Mickey Mantle, to post a season with 50 home runs, 120 runs scored, 120 walks, and 340 total bases. This year, Judge has picked up right where he left off, batting .325 with 20 runs scored and six home runs. He currently leads the league in walks (20) and OBP (.469). While it is too early on in his MLB career to compare him to some of the greats, Judge could very well go down as one of the top power hitters in the history of the sport.

Featured image by Newsday

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Shohei Ohtani and five other players with surprising starts

Although he entered the season as the number one prospect in baseball, Los Angeles Angels DH/RHP, Shohei Ohtani, had a very disappointing Spring. The two-way Japanese star not only hit just .125 (4-for-32), but he also struggled on the bump, surrendering eight earned runs, including three home runs, in just 2.2 innings of work.

Fast forward a few weeks, and Ohtani has taken the world by storm. In his first career start on the mound, Ohtani earned his first win, after allowing three runs and striking out six over six innings of work. On Sunday, while most were glued to the TV to watch the ending of the Masters, Ohtani was flirting with a no-hitter into the seventh inning against Oakland. His final line, in seven innings of work, one hit allowed, one walk, zero runs, and a total of 12 strikeouts. He got a ridiculous 25 swings and misses, which is the most by a pitcher at this point in the season.

Shohei Ruth? (Business Insider)

Oh, and, by the way, Ohtani has three home runs and is slashing .389/.421/.889. His three home runs aren’t just brazing over the fence either. They are going an average of 415 feet. Ohtani currently ranks second in the MLB in regards to highest average exit velocity (97.3 MPH), and fourth in highest average four-seam fastball velocity (97.1 MPH). He’s got more home runs this season than Aaron Judge, and more strikeouts than Max Scherzer.

Thought we were done with Ohtani facts? He is also the third player to ever homer in three consecutive games, while also recording a double-digit strikeout game in the same year. The other two were Ken Brett (1973) and some guy named Babe Ruth (1916). The last time a player earned two wins and hit three home runs in his team’s first 10 games, Woodrow Wilson was President of the United States, and the national average price of gasoline was 25 cents per gallon. That’s right, the last person to accomplish this feat was Jim Shaw in 1919.

Obviously, its only April 10, but are you not entertained by this kid’s start? Guys like Freddie Freeman and Bryce Harper are also off to hot starts, but that’s expected. Below, we will take a look at some surprising starts, and predict if these guys will stay hot throughout the season.

Didi Gregorius

Being the guy to replace Derek Jeter at shortstop is no easy task, but Gregorius has excelled since stepping foot in New York. He is coming off back-to-back 20HR-202B seasons and set career-highs in batting average, home runs, RBIs, runs, SLG, OPS, and total bases. This season, Gregorius is leading the league in runs (10), RBIs (10), walks (9), OBP, SLG, and OPS. He has also launched three home runs.

Gregorius’ scorching start may have a little to do with the players around him. He is in a lineup surrounded by Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Gary Sanchez to name a few. In the home opener, the “infield captain”, a nicknamed given to Gregorius by manager Aaron Boone, became the first Yankees shortstop to drive in eight runs in one game.

While he most likely won’t finish atop the leaderboards in the statistics above, Gregorius should continue to have a very solid season, possibly his best as a pro. He may not be mentioned with guys like Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, and Francisco Lindor, but Gregorius might have a legitimate argument to be amongst the best after 2018.

Gregory Polanco

In 2016, Polanco had a breakout year. He played in 144 games and hit 22 home runs, 34 doubles, and swiped 17 bases. A year later, Polanco battled injuries last season and missed a good chunk of time. In his 108 games, The Pittsburgh outfielder slashed just .251/.305/.391.

Now healthy, although he was scratched on Saturday because of right foot discomfort, Polanco is hitting .310, with three home runs, eight runs, and an MLB-leading, 13 RBIs. With no McCutchen, Polanco is thriving in the heart of the Pirates order. While the average may dip, as he is a career .253 hitter, Polanco has a chance to hit 20+ bombs, with 100+ RBIs.

Jameson Taillon

Polanco’s teammate, Jameson Taillon, is poised for a big 2018. After fanning nine in his 2018 regular season debut, Taillon, on Sunday against the Reds, threw a complete game shutout with seven strikeouts and just one hit surrendered. He is 2-0 with a 1.26 ERA, and 0.49 WHIP.

Taillon’s story is tremendous. He underwent Tommy John Surgery in 2014, and last season, was forced to have surgery for testicular cancer in May. The second overall pick in the 2010 MLB Draft, Taillon is the real deal. He stands tall at 6-5, and has a fastball which hovers around 95. At 26, Taillon looks to be the ace of the Pirates for the next five years.

Matt Chapman

A first-round pick in the 2014 MLB Draft, Chapman had a tough start to his MLB career. In 2017, in 84 games, Oakland’s third basemen hit just .234 with an OBP of .313. However, he finished seventh in defensive WAR, and hit 14 home runs.

Chapman finished seventh in defensive WAR in 2017(ESPN)

Chapman is currently slashing .375/.444/.675 with three home runs, nine runs scored, and eight RBIs. He has always had power, slugging 36 home runs in 135 games between AA/AAA in 2016, and now Chapman looks real comfortable at the plate. This guy has 35+ HR potential in the bigs, and could turn into one of the best third basemen in the AL. Chapman was a first round pick for a reason, and is thriving in the latter half of the order for Oakland.

Charlie Morton

Let’s be honest, Charlie Morton was a bit of a scrub before joining the Astros. Although he had a few decent seasons in Pittsburgh, Morton was converted to a reliever for the Phillies in 2016. Unfortunately, in April 2016, Morton tore his hamstring and missed the rest of the season. Last season, the Astros brought on Morton, at age-33, as a member of the starting rotation.  Morton went on to have his best regular season, posting a 3.62 ERA, and finishing with a record of 14-7.

Over his last five starts, including Game 7 of the ALCS, and two World Series starts, Morton has thrown 28.1 innings, allowing just two runs, seven walks, and striking out 29. In his first two 2018 starts, Morton is 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA. This is a guy, as a 26-year-old, went 2-12 with a 7.57 ERA in 17 starts. Now, a savvy veteran, Morton has found some magic in Houston. Expect the 34-year-old to have another solid season with the Astros.

Featured image by AOL

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Ichiro Albert Pujols milestones

Milestones that Ichiro and Albert Pujols could reach in 2018

The winners of the 2001 AL and NL Rookie of the Year Awards, Ichiro Suzuki and Albert Pujols, have had tremendous careers. Both are worthy of first-ballot nominations to the National Baseball Hall of Fame whenever they decide to hang up the cleats.

Ichiro, the 2001 AL MVP, 10-time All-Star, three-time Silver Slugger, 10-time Gold Glove Award winner and two-time batting champ is back in Seattle and is only 42 runs away from becoming the Mariners all-time leader in runs scored, passing Edgar Martinez. Pujols, a three-time MVP, 10-time All-Star, six-time Silver Slugger, two-time Gold Glove Award winner and former batting champ sits just 25 hits away from 3,000.

Below, we will examine some other possible milestones these two could reach in 2018, as well as what this means for their legacy, as all-time greats.

Ichiro

In 2016, Ichiro hit a triple off Colorado Rockies pitcher Chris Rusin, which marked his 3,000th career hit in the MLB. Currently, he sits just 27 hits away from 3,110, which would tie him for 21st all time with Dave Winfield. If Ichiro can string together 71 more hits, he would tie George Brett at 16th all time.

Ichiro Albert Pujols milestones

In 2004, Ichiro hit .372 with 262 hits and 36 steals, one of the best seasons we have ever seen. (Photo from SBNation)

If he was an everyday player, this would be like brushing his teeth. Unfortunately, Ichiro has not had more than 100 hits in a season since 2014. Because of injuries to Seattle’s outfield, Ichiro has gotten 16 at-bats in the team’s first five games. In all honesty, even with the lack of playing time, Ichiro’s chances at jumping Brett on the hits leaderboard look good.

3,987 is the amount of bases Ichiro has crossed during his 18-year career. If he crosses 12 more, and he will become the 90th man in MLB history to reach 4,000. He will accomplish that in the near future.

Although he had just one steal last season, Ichiro needs to swipe five more bags to tie Barry Bonds for 33rd all time. In 2016, he managed to steal 10 bases, so don’t sleep on the 44-year-old’s legs. He is also just four triples away from 100 on his career.

Barring a season-ending injury, Ichiro will most certainly reach 3,100 hits and 4,000 total bases. When Ichiro reaches these marks, he will join Honus Wagner, Ty Cobb, Eddie Collins and Paul Molitor as the only players in baseball history with 3,100 hits, 4,000 total bases, 500 or more steals and a career batting average above .305.

 

Ichiro’s Legacy

Even if he were to never play another game, Ichiro has already solidified himself as one of the best lead-off hitters this game has ever seen. He is one of four players to have won 10 Gold Glove Awards while compiling at least 3,000 hits. Joining him on this list is Roberto Clemente, Willie Mays and Al Kaline. In 2004, he became the only player in MLB history who posted a season with a batting average of at least .370 with 260 or more hits.

During his rookie season, in which he won the AL MVP, Ichiro joined Ty Cobb and George Sisler as the only three players with a season of at least 50 steals, .350 batting average and 240 hits. Below is a table to illustrate Ichiro’s greatness.

 NO. OF SEASONS WITH AT LEAST 200 HITS, .300 BATTING AVERAGE and 30 STOLEN BASES

PLAYER NO. OF SEASONS
ICHIRO SUZUKI 9
TY COBB 7
WILLIE KEELER 6
TONY GWYNN 4

 

Albert Pujols

As stated earlier, Pujols needs 25 more hits to reach the 3,000 milestone. Although he batted just .241 last year, “The Machine” compiled 143 hits. With that said, it is possible that he could reach the 3,115 mark, which would tie him for 20th all time with Alex Rodriguez. Pujols also needs just 15 home runs to tie Ken Griffey Jr. for sixth all time.

Ichiro Albert Pujols milestones

Three-time NL MVP, Albert Pujols (Photo from SBNation)

In three of the last four seasons, Pujols has driven in over 100 runs. Currently, he is just 79 RBIs shy from 2,000 for his career. The only players who have 2,000 RBIs under their belt are Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Alex Rodriguez and Cap Anson. That is quite the list.

The three-time MLB Player of the Year needs 23 more doubles to tie Honus Wagner for ninth all time. He is 57 runs shy of tying Paul Molitor for 20th on the all-time runs list. All of these milestones are easily reachable in 2018. Pujols could join Hank Aaron and Alex Rodriguez as the only players in baseball history with 3,000 career hits, 2,000 RBIs and 600 home runs.

 

Pujols’ Legacy

Statistically, this is one of the best MLB players we have ever seen. In each of the first 10 years of his career, Pujols hit at least .300 with 30 home runs and 100 RBIs. Hank Aaron is the only other player to hit at least 600 home runs with a career batting average of at least .300. Pujols, along with Lou Gehrig and Larry Walker, are the only players to post a season with at least 45 doubles, 45 home runs, .440 OBP, 1.100 OPS and 370 total bases.

Below are two tables which exemplify Pujols’ legacy and present a strong case for him as the best first baseman of all time.

 

NO. OF SEASONS WITH AT LEAST .300 BATTING AVERAGE, 30 HOME RUNS, 100 RBIS and 95 RUNS

PLAYER NO. OF SEASONS
BABE RUTH 12
ALBERT PUJOLS 10
LOU GEHRIG 10
BARRY BONDS 9
JIMMIE FOXX 9

 

PLAYERS WITH AT LEAST 2,900 hits, 1,700 RUNS, 5,400 TOTAL BASES, 600 HOME RUNS, .370 OBP (IN ORDER OF HIGHEST OBP)
BARRY BONDS
ALBERT PUJOLS
WILLIE MAYS
ALEX RODRIGUEZ
HANK AARON

 

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MLB greatest seasons

A look back at some historic seasons in the MLB

Baseball has been around since the late 1800s, yet only a handful of players have put up numbers to qualify for the following lists. As we take a look at some of the top seasons in MLB history, we will also attempt to predict if any of the active players have a shot at making one of these lists in 2018.

.300 batting average, 50 Home runs, 50 doubles

MLB greatest seasons

Albert Belle is the only player to hit 50 home runs with 50 doubles in a season. (Photo from BestSportsPhotos)

Although this may come as a surprise to some, Albert Belle is the only player in MLB history to bat at least .300 with 50 home runs and 50 doubles. In 1995, despite playing just 143 games because of the previous year’s strike, Belle hit .317 with 50 home runs and 52 doubles, while also leading the American League in runs, home runs, RBIs, slugging percentage and total bases. Despite all that, he finished runner-up to Mo Vaughn for the AL MVP Award. It is assumed he lost this race because of his reputation, and most notably the 1994 bat burglary, in which Belle was caught using a corked bat.

Was anyone close? In 2001, Todd Helton was a home run shy of joining Belle on this exclusive list. In Lou Gehrig’s 1927 AL MVP season, he hit .373 with 47 home runs and 52 doubles. Both Derrek Lee (2005) and Albert Pujols (2004) were four home runs away.

Nolan Arenado has the best shot out of all active players to join this list. Like Helton, Arenado is at an advantage by playing 81 games at Coors Field. Over the last three seasons, Arenado is averaging 40 doubles and 40 home runs. He hit a career-best .309 last year, and is only 26 years old.

30 Home runs, 20 triples

Only three players in MLB history posted a season with at least 30 home runs and 20 triples. The first player to do this was 1928 NL MVP, Jim Bottomley with 31 home runs and 20 triples. 29 years later in 1957, Willie Mays hit 35 home runs and 20 triples. 50 years later in 2007, Jimmy Rollins joined these two, and like Bottomley, was named NL MVP.

Less than 120 players have ever hit 20 triples in a season, so you can see why only three players made this list. In 2007, Curtis Granderson hit 23 triples, but clubbed only 23 long balls. If I was a betting man, I would guess that no active players will ever reach this milestone. It is not because these players are not talented, but because the triple is vanishing. In 1921, with only 16 MLB teams, 1,364 triples were hit. By 1950, that number was down to 793, and just 795 were hit in 2017.

Teams are not utilizing speed like they used to, and more players are swinging for the fences than ever before. In 2017, the Toronto Blue Jays hit just five triples, the fewest by a team in MLB history. Will we ever see a fourth member on this list?

200 hits, 30 Home runs, 30 Stolen bases

This is a far more common list. In the history of the sport, we have seen eight players post a season with at least 200 hits, 30 home runs and 30 steals. Below is the eight players sorted by year.

Hank Aaron, 1963

Ellis Burks, 1996

Larry Walker, 1997

Alex Rodriguez, 1998

Alfonso Soriano, 2002

Vladimir Guerrero, 2002

Jimmy Rollins, 2007

Jacoby Ellsbury, 2011

The best season among these eight men had to be Larry Walker’s in 1997. The NL MVP that year, Walker smacked 49 home runs and batted .366 with his 33 steals. Historically, this was one of the greatest offensive seasons we have ever seen. The only other player to hit at least .365 with 49 home runs, an OBP greater than .450, and a SLG of at least .710 was Babe Ruth. However, Alex Rodriguez, in 1998, became one of four players to ever post a season with 40 home runs and 40 stolen bases, so you could make an argument.

MLB greatest seasons

Will one of these men join this coveted list? (Photo from USA Today)

This list is a good mix of players with speed, power and durability. You cannot miss too many games if you expect to get 200 hits in a season while hitting at least 30 bombs. All of these studs played in at least 153 games.

Last year, Charlie Blackmon had 213 hits, including 37 home runs, but stole just 14 bags. The 2017 AL MVP, Jose Altuve, had 204 hits and stole 32 bags, but needed six more home runs to join this club. With that said, Altuve has a very good shot in 2018.

Mike Trout, arguably the game’s best player, is averaging 33 home runs and 27 steals over his last six seasons. His highest hit total was 190, which came in 2013.

At some point in the near future, Trout or Altuve will be added to this list. A dark horse to put up these numbers is Ronald Acuna. One of the top prospects in the game, Acuna had 181 hits with 21 home runs and 44 steals in 139 games in the minors.

250 Strikeouts, 250 ERA+

Pitching seasons are tough since the game has changed so much, but we had to throw in at least one. In the history of the sport, only two pitchers have posted a season with at least 250 strikeouts and a 250 ERA+. Those two men are Hall of Famers Bob Gibson (1968) and Pedro Martinez (2000).

Walter Johnson was very close in joining this list, and would have been the first to do so. In 1913, Johnson had an ERA+ of 259, but had 243 strikeouts.

In 1999, Pedro Martinez struck out 313 batters, but his ERA+ was 243. Since 2009, only three pitchers, Zack Greinke, Jake Arrieta and Corey Kluber have posted a season with at least 200 strikeouts and a 200 ERA+. Kluber has the best shot to join Gibson and Martinez, but like the 30 home run, 20 triple club, we may never see this again.

 

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MLB early takeaways

Early takeaways from the first weekend of baseball

Although all 30 MLB teams have played no more than five games, now is a perfect time to overreact to the results of the first weekend in the 2018 season. Below, we have seven early takeaways that may, or may not, matter.

1. Houston does not appear to have any World Series hangover

The Astros kept the momentum going into 2018, as they took three out of four from the Texas Rangers to kick off their season. George Springer led off the season with a home run, and Houston’s offense forced the Rangers starters to average 18.1 pitches per inning. In the four games, Houston scored 22 runs.

Carlos Correa is off to a tremendous start, hitting .438 with four runs, a home run and five RBIs. Correa showed his ability to hit both lefties and righties on Saturday, when he roped a double off Matt Moore and later homered off Jesse Chavez.

Correa’s double-play partner and 2017 AL MVP, Jose Altuve, is off to a sizzling start as well. After going hitless on Opening Day, Altuve collected two hits in Game 2, four on Saturday and three more on Easter. The second baseman is batting .563 with five runs scored.

In his Astros Debut, Gerrit Cole did not disappoint. On Sunday, he pitched seven strong innings and allowed just one run on two hits while striking out 11 batters. The 11 punch-outs is the most for Cole since 2014.

2. Washington probably has the best roster in the NL

Albeit against the Cincinnati Reds, the Nationals showed how dominate their arms are, as well as how potent their offense can be. Washington started the season with a 2-0 win, and proceeded to score 19 runs over their next two games, en route to sweeping the Reds. The Nats leads the NL with nine home runs.

MLB early takeaways

Bryce Harper slugged two home runs on Sunday. (Photo from The Washington Post)

Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez had a combined 0.98 ERA with 24 strikeouts in 18.1 innings of work. Keep in mind, these were three of the top four pitchers in terms of WAR in 2017.

A healthy Adam Eaton may be the difference maker in Washington’s lineup. Eaton is batting .615 with seven runs scored, two home runs and five RBIs. On Saturday, Eaton went 5-for-5, and became the fourth player since 2010 to have five hits, two doubles, one home run, four runs, and at least three RBIs.

Last season, in the 23 games with Eaton and Trea Turner hitting ahead of him, Bryce Harper batted .405 with 25 RBIs. On Sunday, Harper clubbed a pair of home runs and ended the series batting .400 with three runs scored and four RBIs. If this Nats team can stay healthy, there is no reason for them not to win around 100 games.

3. Are the Braves ready for a playoff run in 2018?

Most people expected Atlanta to continue to improve in 2018, but I don’t think anyone imagined them scoring 27 runs in three games, including a 15-2 romping of the Phillies on Saturday.

Atlanta’s offense was led by Freddie Freeman, who has already drawn seven walks in three games, which is good for most in the league. Freeman has scored at least one run in each of the first three games. Ryan Flaherty, a career .219 hitter, batted .538 with three doubles and five runs scored, while Nick Markakis drove in five runs and walked four times.

Obviously Flaherty will cool off, but if Atlanta can get some production out of their staff, as well as some magic from Ronald Acuna when he is called up, don’t sleep on a Wild Card berth for the Braves.

4. 2018 could be the year in which Boston’s big three all perform

In 2016, Rick Porcello won the AL Cy Young Award, going 22-4 with a 3.15 ERA. The following season, Porcello lost 17 games and gave up more home runs than anyone, allowed the second most hits and finished fifth in earned runs. After a shaky 2016, David Price was injured almost all of 2017, making just 11 starts. Chris Sale, who was acquired before the start of the 2017 season, was tremendous last season, but had no help.

The lines for Boston’s three starters against Tampa Bay:

Sale – 6 innings, 1 H, 0 ER, 9 SO

Price – 7.0 innings, 4 H, 0 ER, 0 BBs, 5 SO

Porcello – 5.1 innings, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 SO

5. Cain and Yelich look good in Milwaukee

The Brewers, who swept the Padres to start the season, have to be happy about the performance of their two new outfielders, Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich. Cain collected multiple hits in each of the first three games, including two three-hit performances. He is batting .571 with three steals. On Saturday, Yelich went a perfect 5-for-5 and scored four runs with three RBIs in the series.

With Jimmy Nelson out, the Brewers will rely heavily on Chase Anderson to carry the load. He opened the year with a wonderful start, throwing six shutout innings with six strikeouts. The Brewers bullpen, in 15.2 innings of work, posted a 1.72 ERA with a 10.91 K/9.

6. Will Ohtani and the Angels reach the postseason?

Aside from the one bad pitch to Matt Chapman, which resulted in a three-run home run, Shohei Ohtani’s highly anticipated MLB pitching debut was a success. He earned the win and struck out six batters while walking just one in six innings.

MLB early takeaways

Ohtani earned the win in his pitching debut against Oakland. (Photo from The Mercury News)

The Angels, who won three out four in Oakland, have to be ecstatic about their new infielder Zack Cozart. Cozart, through the first four games, hit .368 with four extra-base hits, three runs scored and three RBIs. Despite going 0-for-6 on Opening Day, Mike Trout finished the series batting .300 with five runs scored, one home run, one steal and four RBIs.

Tyler Skaggs looked great in his 2018 debut, tossing 6.1 shutout innings without issuing a walk. Skaggs has never thrown more than 113 innings in a season, but if he can stay healthy and perform, this team could make some noise in October.

7. The Dodgers started off 2-2 with just two runs allowed

Staying in Los Angeles, the Dodgers pitching was tremendous against the Giants. In their 36 innings, LA’s pitching staff posted a 0.50 ERA with a .192 opposing batting average. Unfortunately, it took them until the third game of the season to cross home plate. Cody Bellinger and Corey Seager went a combined 3-for-24.

 

Featured image by The Courier

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2018 MLB preview: Arizona Diamondbacks

2017: 93-69 (second place in NL West)

Last Postseason Appearance: 2017

Last World Series Title: 2001

2017 Recap

After three straight seasons of below .500 baseball, the Arizona Diamondbacks welcomed in Torey Luvullo, who, after coaching Arizona to a 93-win season, went on to win 2017 Manager of the Year. Besides for a tough July, in which the club went 10-14, Arizona had a winning record in every other month.

They also played well against their division rivals. When matched up against the NL Champion Los Angeles Dodgers, Arizona went 11-8. Against the Rockies/Padres/Giants, the Diamondbacks went a combined 34-23.

Paul Goldschmidt finished third in NL MVP voting (The Denver Post)

The big reason for their regular season success was their pitching. In 2016, among the 15 NL teams, Arizona ranked 13th in home runs issued, 14th in walks, and dead-last in ERA, and hits allowed. A year later, with some new arms in the mix, the Diamondbacks ranked second in the NL in ERA and strikeouts, fourth in hits, and allowed the fewest home runs in the league.

Guys like Zack Greinke (17-7 3.20 ERA) and Robbie Ray (15-5 2.89 ERA) stepped up big, but the experiment to use Archie Bradley as a full-time reliever seemed to work out just fine. In his age-24 season, Bradley appeared in 63 games and posted a 1.73 ERA with 79 punch-outs in 73 innings of work. As many remember, in the NL Wild Card Game, Bradley smacked a 2-run RBI triple off of Pat Neshek. He became the first relief pitcher in MLB history to triple in a postseason game.

Offensively, the Diamondbacks were led by, to no surprise, Paul Goldschmidt. Goldschmidt finished third in NL MVP voting after slashing .297/.404/.563 with 36 home runs and 120 RBIs. 2017 was Goldy’s third-straight season with at least 155 games played.

PLAYERS, SINCE 2007, WHO HIT AT LEAST 35 HR, .295 BA, .400 OBP, AND STOLE 15 OR MORE BASES

PLAYER YEAR
ALEX RODRIGUEZ 2007
ALBERT PUJOLS 2009
JOEY VOTTO 2010
PAUL GOLDSCHMIDT 2013
PAUL GOLDSCHMIDT 2017

 

JD Martinez, who came over from Detroit in a July trade, hit .302 with 29 home runs and 65 RBIs in his 62 games with Arizona. In a September game against the Dodgers, Martinez hit four home runs and became the first player in the modern era to hit a home run in the seventh, eighth, and ninth innings of the same game. Not too shabby.

2018: Around the Diamond

JD Martinez is now with Boston, but, to replace his power, Arizona traded for Steven Souza. Souza hit 30 home runs last year for Tampa Bay but will begin the season on the 10-day DL with a right pectoral strain. He is expected to come back in the middle of May. In the Souza trade, Arizona lost Brandon Drury, who led the team with 37 doubles in 2017.

With Souza down for the start of the season, Arizona has a vacancy in left field. David Peralta will start in right, while AJ Pollock will remain in center. Because of injuries, Pollock played in just 112 games last season, but was one of three players to hit at least 10 home runs, 30 doubles, .330 OBP, .470 SLG, and steal 20 bases (Jose Altuve, Elvis Andrus).

If Pollock can stay on the field, he is one of the best CF’s in the game (Sporting News)

Left field will be a battle between Yasmany Tomas, who has a .370 OBP this Spring, speedster Jarrod Dyson, and utility man Chris Owings. The most likely scenario is Dyson playing against righties, and either Tomas or Owings getting the start when Arizona faces a left-handed pitcher.

In January, Arizona signed Alex Avila, the former All-Star and Silver Slugger Award winner, who will split time with Jeff Mathis behind the dish. No more Drury means Ketel Marte will get the chance to be a full-time starter at second. Marte is hitting .436 in 39 Spring at-bats.

Him moving over to second means Massachusetts native, Nick Ahmed, will start the season out as the everyday shortstop. Ahmed isn’t great offensively, a lifetime .226 hitter, but he’s a terrific defender. Look for Owings and Daniel Descalso to earn some playing time as well.

The corner infield spots will, again, be manned by Goldschmidt and Jake Lamb. Goldy and Lamb were two of the 12 players last year who posted a .350 OBP, or better, with 30 doubles and 30 home runs (Votto, Blackmon, Rizzo, Stanton, Ozuna, Arenado, Upton, Dozier, Zimmerman, Abreu). We all know Goldschmidt is great, but get familiar with Jake Lamb. Lamb walks a ton and drives in plenty of runs for the D-Backs.

On the Bump

Zack Greinke, the clubs ace, will not start Opening Day after feeling tightness in his right groin during a March 14 start. On Monday night, Greinke allowed just one hit over six innings of work, which was a great sign for the Diamondbacks. He is expected to make his regular-season debut on Saturday.

Patrick Corbin, who went 14-13 with a 4.03 ERA last season, will start Thursday against the Rockies. Robbie Ray, who finished second in K/9, third in H/9, and fifth in ERA, will throw Game 2. The last two spots in the rotation will belong to Taijuan Walker and Zack Godley. In 28 starts last season, Walker posted a 3.49 ERA and could break out in 2018 as a top of the rotation starter. Godley made 25 starts last year and posted a superb 3.37 ERA in his 155 innings of work. Godley has flourished in the minors and will be a terrific number five starter in his age-28 season.

Greinke aims to make his regular-season debut on Saturday (Sporting News)

To replace Fernando Rodney, Arizona traded for Brad Boxberger. In 2015, Boxberger led the AL in saves with the Rays. Bradley will continue to pitch at any point needed, while Japanese RHP Yoshihisa Hirano could be a seventh or eighth inning guy. Hirano, as a member of the Orix Buffaloes, posted a 1.92 ERA in 2016, and a 2.67 ERA a year later. Arizona also has Jorge De La Rosa and Fernando Salas to call on.

The Future

Arizona has two members in the latter half of MLB.com’s Top 100 Prospect’s list. Jon Duplantier (No. 73), Arizona’s top pitching prospect, was absolutely terrific in 2017. Between A/A+, Duplantier went 12-3 with a 1.39 ERA, and 165 K’s in just 136 innings. He has an excellent fastball and good enough off-speed stuff that he can throw for strikes and get outs. We will see how he fares as he moves up the levels, but all is good at the moment.

Arizona’s first-round pick in the 2017 MLB Draft, Pavin Smith (No. 91), is already one of the top first base prospects in the game. During his junior year at Virginia, Smith walked three times more than he struck out. In the Northwest League, Smith walked 27 times compared to just 24 strikeouts. He also slashed .318/.401/.415 with 17 XBH in 15 games. He could be the future at first base if Goldschmidt, who has a team option in 2019 and will be a free agent the following year, parts ways with Arizona.

2018 Prediction: 85-77

The starting rotation is very good, and I like the additions to the back-end of the bullpen. If everyone can stay healthy, and Souza can bring some pop when he returns from his injury, Arizona should earn a playoff spot for the second year in a row.

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2018 Colorado Rockies preview

2018 MLB preview: Colorado Rockies

2017: 87-75 (third place in the NL West)

Last postseason appearance: 2017

Last World Series title: NEVER WON A WORLD SERIES TITLE

2017 Recap

In Bud Black’s first season as manager of the Colorado Rockies, the 2010 Manager of the Year coached his team to 87 wins and earned a spot in the NL Wild Card Game. Although they lost the game to the Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado had a very successful season.

The Rockies offense absolutely took advantage of playing 82 games at Coors Field, which, at 5,200 feet above sea level, is the highest park in the majors. The high elevation, mixed with the low air density, led to Colorado finishing first in the NL in hits, runs, batting average and on-base percentage and second in OPS.

2018 Colorado Rockies preview

Arenado and Blackmon finished fourth and fifth in NL MVP voting. (Photo from 104.3 The Fan)

Colorado was fortunate to have both Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon, two of the best players in the league. Arenado, who finished fourth in NL MVP, had his third-straight season with at least a .285 batting average, 35 home runs, 130 RBIs and 350 total bases. To put that into perspective, Hank Aaron did this twice in his career, while Barry Bonds did this just once (2001).

Arenado ranked second in RBIs, third in total bases and extra-base hits, sixth in defensive WAR and SLG, seventh in overall WAR, doubles and triples, eighth in OPS and 10th in hits. He also won his fifth-straight Gold Glove Award, solidifying himself as one of the top defenders in this game. The 26-year-old is on pace to be one of the best third basemen this game has ever seen.

Blackmon now has the MLB Record for the most RBIs by a leadoff hitter, knocking in 103 of his 104 from the top spot. He also became the first player in MLB history to lead the league in hits, runs, triples and total bases in the same season. He also finished second in batting average and times on base, fourth in SLG, fifth in offensive WAR and OPS and eighth in singles. He finished one spot (fifth) behind Arenado in NL MVP voting.

Blackmon became the seventh player in the last 80 years to have a season with at least 210 hits, 130 runs, .330 batting average and 35 home runs (Joe DiMaggio, Stan Musial, Alex Rodriguez, Ellis Burks, Todd Helton and Albert Pujols).

2018: Around the Diamond

After 2018, Blackmon will be a free agent, and a year later, Arenado will be open to the market. With that said, the window of opportunity is shrinking.

Colorado will showcase almost the exact same lineup as they did in 2017. However, they did sign catcher Chris Iannetta, who played his first six years in Colorado. Iannetta will start behind the plate, with Tony Wolters and Tom Murphy also earning some playing time.

The Rockies do not appear to be interested in bringing back Mark Reynolds, which leaves a starting spot open at first base. Ryan McMahon, who struggled in his first stint at the MLB level in 2017, has shortened his swing and will be the everyday first baseman in 2018.

McMahon had tremendous success in Double and Triple-A during his 2017 campaign. In 119 games, McMahon hit .355 with 20 home runs and 11 steals. While he does not appear to have huge power, McMahon will hit for a high average and even swipe a few bases.

Joining McMahon around the infield will be DJ LeMahieu, who finished tied for eighth in hits, Trevor Story and Arenado. Left to right, the Rockies will have Ian Desmond, Charlie Blackmon, and Carlos Gonzalez, who they re-signed on March 12.

On the Bump

As expected because of ballpark conditions, the Rockies pitching was not great. Among the 15 NL teams, Colorado finished eighth in home runs allowed, ninth in ERA, 10th in hits and 11th in strikeouts. However, they do have some nice talent in their rotation.

2018 Colorado Rockies preview

Jon Gray is ready to be the ace of the Rockies. (Photo from The Denver Post)

Jon Gray, who spent time on the DL with a stress fracture in his left foot, will head into 2018 as the clear ace of the staff. The 26-year-old went 10-4 with a 3.67 ERA in 20 starts last year. He posted a 3.13 ERA at home, which clearly shows he is ready to be a No. 1 starter. His 3.18 FIP was the second-best in franchise history.

Gray will be followed by Tyler Anderson, German Marquez, Chad Bettis and Kyle Freeland. Anderson, who was banged up last season, was tremendous in September. In the last month of the season, Anderson, in 22 2/3 innings, posted a 1.19 ERA and a 0.71 WHIP. Marquez, who is just 23 years old, finished fifth in NL ROY voting. Look for Jeff Hoffman and Antonio Senzatela to also fight for some starts.

To replace Greg Holland, whose 41 saves were second-most in the MLB, Colorado brought in Wade Davis. Davis has made three straight All-Star appearances and is one of the best relievers in the game. Davis leads a solid bullpen, which includes Jake McGee, Adam Ottavino, Mike Dunn and former Indians pitcher, Bryan Shaw.

The Future

Excluding Ryan McMahon (No. 41), the Rockies have two other prospects on MLB.com’s Top 100 Prospects list. Their highest ranked prospect, Brendan Rodgers (No. 14), is one of the best young middle infielders in the minors. The third overall pick in 2015, Rogers, in 89 games between A+ and Double-A, hit .336 with 18 home runs and 64 RBIs. He is a tremendous hitter with great defensive skills. Rodgers has also hit three home runs this spring.

Riley Pint (No. 100), is Colorado’s best pitching prospect. Pint, the fourth overall pick in 2016, struggled last season in Single-A, but is just 20 years of age. His fastball can reach triple-digits, and his off-speed stuff gives him a legitimate shot to eventually be a starter at the top of the rotation.

2018 Prediction: 84-78

The Rockies will be right in the mix for a spot in the playoffs. If the pitching can develop as hoped, look for them to be playing in the NL Wild Card Game once again.

 

Featured image by MLB.com

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