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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2018 MLB preview: San Francisco Giants

2017: 64-98 (fifth place in NL West)

Last Postseason Appearance: 2016

Last World Series Title: 2014

2017 Recap

The Giants are not the same team that, from 2010-2014, won three World Series title’s in five years. In fact, they are the complete opposite. 2017 was an absolute disaster for San Francisco, as they managed to win just 64 games, their fewest since 1985.

The offense was abysmal. The Giants ranked 26th in walks, 29th in runs and OBP, and dead-last in SLG and home runs. San Francisco hit just 128 home runs, which was significant less than the 29th ranked team, the Pittsburgh Pirates, who hit 151 long balls. Brandon Belt led the team in home runs with just 18. Their pitching ranked ninth in the NL in earned runs, 14th in strikeouts and hits, and dead-last in saves. San Francisco also ranked 28th in defensive efficiency.

While the team may have struggled, Buster Posey had a great 2017. (Bleacher Report)

Their season was doomed in late April when ace Madison Bumgarner injured his ribs and left shoulder in a dirt bike accident. He missed a good chunk of time and ended making just 17 starts and threw a total of 111 innings.

Buster Posey continued to add to his Hall of Fame resume by hitting .320, which was seventh in the league. The 3x World Series champ, 5x All-Star, and 2012 NL MVP posted a .400 OBP, which was the second-best of his nine-year career. Although he has plenty of years left, Posey has cemented himself as one of the best catchers this game has ever seen.

 

 

Seasons, for Catchers, requiring BA>=.285, HR>=12, 2B>=20 and OBP>=.355

BOLD= HOF

PLAYER # OF SEASONS
BUSTER POSEY 7
BILL DICKEY 7
IVAN RODRIGUEZ 6
MIKE PIAZZA 6
CARLTON FISK 5

 

2018: Around the Diamond

Offensively, the Giants made some key moves to create more production in the lineup. In January, they acquired Andrew McCutchen from the Pittsburgh Pirates. Last year, Cutch slashed .279/.363/.486 with 28 home runs, 88 RBIs and 11 steals. He led Pittsburgh hits, runs, doubles, home runs, batting average, walks, SLG and OPS. While the ballpark may not be ideal for McCutchen, he will for sure continue to be an above average player.

In 2017, San Francisco ranked 26th in batting average for their number three hitter. To confront this issue, the Giants traded for third basemen, Evan Longoria. Longoria is coming off his fifth-straight 20HR-70RBI season. While he is now considered a grizzly vet, Longo is a fantastic fielder with a lot of pop in his bat.

After ranking 30th in the MLB in WAR for center fielders, the Giants went out and got Austin Jackson. Jackson, in 85 games, hit .318/.387/.482 for the Cleveland Indians in 2017.  Joining Jackson and McCutchen in the outfield will of course be Hunter Pence, who is obviously not the player he once was, but a terrific clubhouse leader.

With Longoria at third, Brandon Crawford, who led the team in RBIs with 77 at short, Joe Panik at second, Brandon Belt at first, and Posey behind the plate, the Giants should expect a solid season from their infield.

On the Bump

Jeff Samardzija, who finished first in BB/9, third in innings, 10th in WHIP, and had 205 strikeouts, will begin the season on the DL with a strained pec muscle. Wait, it gets worse. Friday, Madison Bumgarner was struck by a line drive off the bat of Kansas City Royals second basemen, Whit Merrifield.

Bumgarner hopes to get back on the mound before the All-Star break (Chicago Tribune)

Bumgarner broke a bone in his left hand and will now be sidelined for 6-8 weeks. This was a guy who, in 2011-216, pitched at least 200 innings in each season, plus another 102.1 playoff innings. Two unlucky injuries in back-to-back years is absolutely devastating for not only Bumgarner, but the entire Giants franchise.

Because of these two injuries, mostly Bumgarner’s, you can almost kiss this season goodbye if you’re a Giants fan. A staff with Johnny Cueto, who was terrible last year, Chris Stratton, Ty Blach, Derek Holland, who shouldn’t have an MLB job after his last few seasons, and Tyler Beede, is not what you would consider a “winning rotation”. Although Beede has serious potential to become a quality starter in this league.

A bullpen that blew 22 saves and ranked 25th in BAA should fare much better in 2018 with the addition of Tony Watson. Watson has a career 2.68 ERA in his seven years in the show. Sam Dyson and Mark Melancon should both bounce back after struggling with San Francisco in 2017.

The Future

San Francisco has just one member who cracked MLB.com’s Top 100 Prospect’s list. Heliot Ramos (No.63), was the Giants first round pick in the 2017 MLB draft, and looks like a future star. Last year, he ran an incredible 6.42-second 60-yard dash at the Excellence Games, and was signed right out high school. In his 35 games, Ramos led the Rookie-level Arizona League in SLG (.645), and finished runner-up in batting (.348) and OPS (1.049).

For Ramos, the sky is the limit. He has incredible power and speed, and just needs a few years to develop a better approach, which will come in time. Keep in mind, he will not turn 19 until September 7.

2018 Prediction: 75-87

The loss of Mad-Bum really hurts this team. Although they made some nice additions to the offense, the pitching looks like it will struggle to stay afloat throughout the season.

Featured image by MLB.com

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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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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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MLB top 5 catchers

Top 5 catchers heading into 2018

As spring training kicks into full swing, it is as good of a time as ever to consider some of the best catchers in the majors.

The catcher has perhaps an underrated role in today’s baseball world, but nothing they do should be undervalued. Catchers are responsible for working with every pitcher on their staff, calling pitches, keeping base runners in check and hitting on top of all of that.

With that in mind, here are the best catchers in baseball as of right now.

5. Yadier Molina

In terms of running a pitching staff, Molina may be the best of the bunch. The eight-time Gold Glove winner is turning 36 this season, and is in the twilight of his career. In 2017, Molina hit the second most home runs of his career despite missing some time. Molina has not earned a Gold Glove since 2015 either, which was the end of his eight consecutive seasons streak.

Molina still may mean more to his team than many other top players in the league. He may not be the best offensively or defensively, but his work with pitchers is second to none.

The Cardinals have a losing record without Molina behind the plate. He won’t win an MVP, but he is very important to the Cardinals’ success.

4. J.T. Realmuto

MLB top 5 catchers

Realmuto may be the most athletic catcher in baseball. (Photo by Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports)

Realmuto has broken out as one of the best catchers in baseball the last couple of years. He finished last season with a 3.6 WAR and has had an average floating around .300 the last two years.

Realmuto finds himself in a precarious situation after this past offseason. Derek Jeter and the new Marlins ownership just sold most of their best players in order to shed salary and build for the future.

Of course, anybody who was ready to win now is not happy about the recent changes. The Marlins had one of the best outfields in baseball and shipped them off all over the country.

Realmuto is one of the last remaining pieces from the old Marlins team. He now finds himself in a sort of limbo, as he still has three years left in Miami.

Despite the shuffling in Miami, Realmuto should be in store for another great year offensively. Part of the success comes from his speed, as he can run with some of the quickest outfielders as well. He is an all around player who can bring many different things to the table.

3. Willson Contreras

MLB top 5 catchers

Contreras looks to get a full season of solid work under his belt. (Photo from The Chicago Tribune)

Contreras turned into perhaps the best hitter on a stacked Chicago team last summer. He was sidetracked by a hamstring injury while running down the first base line, but the 25-year-old still had a solid year after racking up 21 home runs and a .276 batting average. He should be a vital part of the Cubs offense once again in 2018.

Contreras is also known for his cannon of an arm. What may be the strongest arm behind the plate adds another dimension to his game that can shut down base runners. One of his weaknesses though is he is not considered a good framer. However, his ability to throw the ball makes up for it, and his lightning bat certainly puts him above most other catchers.

2. Gary Sanchez

Sanchez is the best hitting catcher in the game without question. He cranked out 33 home runs and had an average approaching .300 last year. With Giancarlo Stanton coming into the picture in New York, Sanchez ought to have a solid cushion in the lineup and may have an even better year offensively.

Sanchez has a solid throwing arm and is considered an above average pitch framer. His downfall is his pitch blocking, and in that category he is one of the worst in all of baseball. If it wasn’t for that downfall, Sanchez may be No. 1 on this list as his offense puts him in a whole other league when talking about catchers.

1. Buster Posey

Coming in at the No. 1 spot is Buster Posey, which should be a surprise to no one. Posey has had continued success throughout his career. With Sanchez coming into the picture, he might not be the best hitting catcher in baseball anymore, but he should still be considered one of the best of all time.

The All-Star catcher has hit over .300 in five separate seasons, winning the batting title once and bringing in the MVP in 2012. The only other catcher to win MVP in the National League is Johnny Bench, so that should say a lot about the league Posey is in.

He has a straight shot into Cooperstown and has not shown any decline in production. Expect Posey to have continued success for the coming years.

 

Featured image from SI.com

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New playoff teams in 2018

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

Oakland Athletics

New Playoff Teams in 2018

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

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

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

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

Atlanta Braves

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

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

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

San Francisco Giants

New Playoff Teams in 2018

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

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

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

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

Milwaukee Brewers

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

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

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

Feature image by Sports Illustrated. 

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Barry Bonds number retired

Does the Giants retiring Bonds’ number change anything?

The San Francisco Giants announced this week that they will be retiring the No. 25 this summer in honor of Barry Bonds. Bonds, who has one of the most complicated careers in baseball history, is still being kept out of Cooperstown by his peers.

Bonds finished eighth in the Hall of Fame voting this year, bringing in a 56.4 percent, just three percent higher than 2017. With that small of a change, it does not look like he will be getting in any time soon. His stats and accolades are there, but the hall still eludes him.

Does the Giants’ acceptance help his case?

Barry Bonds number retired

The steroids didn’t fully account for the time Bonds stole 40 bases in a season. (Photo from SI.com)

The announcement that the Giants stand with Bonds comes over a decade after he ended his career. With the accomplishments Bonds had, you would think that San Francisco would not hesitate to honor him. However, the amount of time it took to reach this point symbolizes just how iffy they were on the whole thing.

The fact that the Giants will spend a day this summer honoring Bonds’ career does mean something. It means that there are parts of the baseball community that accept the situation and still feel that he deserves to be honored, and they are right. Barry Bonds absolutely deserves his day because even before he became a juiced up version of himself, he was still playing at Hall of Fame standards.

The question at hand though is whether or not the Giants changed anything by planning to retire his No. 25. The answer is yes.

San Francisco has accepted Bonds for who he is and all the luggage and flak that comes along with supporting the all-time home run king. Yes, there are reasons to keep him away from the hall. However, they are not good enough to warrant some of the other players getting in over him.

Should the steroids matter anymore?

Many players have been thrown in with lots of guys that were users during the steroid era. Even Edgar Martinez may be feeling some of the repercussions of the steroid era as he has falling just short of reaching the hall, despite never being accused of taking performance enhancing drugs.

Many baseball fans are quick to call steroid users cheaters and disgraces to the game. Yes, many performance enhancing drugs are banned by baseball. Many of these give guys more energy, drive and an extra kick to go even harder in the gym.

All the lifting and working out is absolutely going to make it easier for players to get stronger and hit the ball a lot further away. It may not be fair to players who do not have the same access to these drugs or do not want to break the rules. However, do these drugs really warrant keeping some of the best players ever out of the hall?

Many people who are already in the Hall of Fame have had sketchy pasts. There are all sorts of cheating, immoral racists in the hall as it is today. Cap Anson is largely responsible for segregating baseball, as he would not step on the same field as an African-American player.

Of course everybody lived in different times and by different standards. But why should the writers ignore that, but focus on the performance enhancing drugs?

Steroids rejuvenated baseball

Barry Bonds number retired

The 1998 home run chase did wonders for baseball. (Photo from SI)

This is going to be an unpopular statement, but steroids helped bring baseball back.

After the 1994 strike, baseball was suffering some of its worst support in history. Before the strike, there was no doubt baseball was still towards the top in popularity in the United States. However, the strike did not help their cause as many players were deemed greedy for wanting to boost their already enormous paychecks.

Steroids, while they may have been unethical, brought a new sort of excitement to the game. Guys were hitting balls out of the park like never before, and it filled the stadiums back up again. The home run chase between Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire, along with Bonds’ chase to catch Hank Aaron, brought in all sorts of viewership.

The steroid era in baseball may be looked back on as controversial, but it did provide a necessary boost for the game.

This all comes back to whether or not the Giants have done something to help Bonds this week. Well, of course it is nice that he will be getting a day to be remembered. It will also serve as a signal that some of baseball is willing to let bygones be bygones though.

 

Featured image from CBS News

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San Francisco Giants offseason

Have the Giants done enough to reach the postseason?

The San Francisco Giants finished 2017 with an abysmal 64-98 record, which tied with the Detroit Tigers for the worst record in all of baseball. Funny enough, the Giants and Tigers met in the World Series in 2012, so it goes to show how quickly things can turn around. San Francisco thinks they can turn its losing ways around even quicker in 2018 though.

2018 is an even year, so you don’t know what might happen.

What went wrong in 2017?

San Francisco Giants offseason

Madison Bumgarner’s shoulder injury in April was a sign for things to come in the Bay. (Photo from MLB.com)

Not many people saw this epic collapse of a successful franchise coming. The Giants have been one of the best teams in recent memory, and nobody could have seen them finishing as one of the worst teams in all of baseball in 2017. The Giants themselves didn’t expect it as they had made the playoffs just the year before.

San Francisco had a slew of injuries in 2017. There is no doubt that the health of the team significantly impacted its performance. Madison Bumgarner hurt himself in a dirt bike accident and missed most of the season. Other players such as Brandon Belt and Michael Morse missed a lot of time due to head injuries, which are not things you want to mess around with.

The rotation underperformed as a whole with the loss of Bumgarner. Johnny Cueto did not play up to his contract, and Jeff Samardzija was nothing to write home about.

The pitching was not the main issue though. They finished middle in the road in pitching at eighth in the National League. The problem was the offense, which finished second to last in runs scored in all of baseball.

What have they done this offseason?

San Francisco Giants offseason

Andrew McCutchen is a sign that the Giants expect big things in 2018. (Photo from Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports).

Bobby Evans and the Giants have not been shy about addressing the offensive issues they faced in 2017. San Francisco has been at the forefront of all trade rumors and have been wildly aggressive on all fronts. They have garnered results by being aggressive, as they have nabbed two cornerstone players from teams on the East coast.

Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen are now a part of the Giants organization. Both of them fill up needs on the Giants offense and create a much more threatening lineup. Although both of these players are on the wrong side of 30 and have played their prime, they can still do some serious damage.

The two combined for a 6.1 WAR last year, along with 48 home runs and 174 RBIs, so there is no doubt they add some punch to the lineup. If you look at the team as a whole now, they look like a team that can compete. They reassured the outfield this week as well by adding the veteran services of Austin Jackson. Now the outfield consists of Jackson, McCutchen and Hunter Pence.

Top to bottom, the Giants look solid, which bolsters an NL West division that is going to look to brawl. The question is, can the Giants really make a run for it in the loaded West?

The NL West: Best division in baseball?

If the Giants just happened to be in any other division in baseball, they may have a better shot of returning to the postseason. However, the NL West sent three teams to the postseason last year, and none were from the Bay area, which is unusual. With the Dodgers being the best team in the National League, it is hard to imagine them making a run for the division. Do they have a shot at the Wild Card though?

With the Nationals and Cubs likely holding onto its division title spots in 2018, the main competition for the Wild Card will likely be coming from Arizona, Milwaukee, Colorado and St. Louis. The real question here is whether or not the Giants are better than three of the teams mentioned on this list.

Arizona and Colorado are both in the West, so the Giants will have a chance to prove that they can go toe to toe with postseason teams from last year. It will be an interesting race out West as San Francisco has done enough to show that they can compete. The question is whether or not it is enough to make it to October.

Only time will tell if this wild offseason for the Giants is enough for them to return to its past success. Then again, it is an even year, so is there anything to really worry about?

 

Featured image from SF Chronicle

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Top 10 MLB franchises of all time

Best baseball franchises of all time

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

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

10. Detroit Tigers

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

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

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

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

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

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

9. Chicago Cubs

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

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

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

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

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

8. Oakland Athletics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7. Pittsburgh Pirates

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

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

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

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

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

6. Cincinnati Reds

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

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

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

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

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

5. San Francisco Giants

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

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

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

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

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

4. Los Angeles Dodgers

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

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

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

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

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

3. Boston Red Sox

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

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

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

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

2. St. Louis Cardinals

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. New York Yankees

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Feature image from Cool Old Photos.

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Ohtani

Where will Shohei Ohtani land?

Shohei Ohtani is the king of the offseason at the moment. The MLB has not seen anything like him since Babe Ruth was smacking home runs nearly a century ago. Ohtani has the potential to be a two-way star, so when he was posted, every team in the majors wanted a piece of him. Right away though, Ohtani has slashed the field down to seven teams already. Out of those seven teams, where might he sign?

The only two teams that are deeper into the mainland of the United States who still remain are the Chicago Cubs and Texas Rangers. The other five teams are the San Francisco Giants, Seattle Mariners, San Diego Padres, Los Angeles Angels and Los Angeles Dodgers.

Ohtani prefers the west coast

The west coast has a much more prevalent Japanese population compared to elsewhere in the country. On top of that, it would be closest to his homeland. Ohtani has already informed 23 teams that he would not sign with them, and they almost all are outside of the west coast.

You can’t blame Ohtani for picking the California teams as well as Seattle, as he still wants to remain close to his roots and there is nothing wrong with that. The 23-year-old has the freedom to choose whatever team he wants as he is the hottest commodity this offseason. Many people thought that his preference would have to do with money or a DH, but it always came down to geography for him.

Which teams fit?

Shohei Ohtani

Dipoto and the Mariners have been working on their pitch for Ohtani all year long (Photo Courtesy of NW Sports Beat)

The DH position may be more in Ohtani’s scope now that he has narrowed down the west coast. Money is not a huge factor at this point though. Due to rules on rookie contracts, there is only so much money he can make at first. That is, he will make the maximum salary for a rookie the first three years before he is available for arbitration.

It has also been reported by the New York Times that Ohtani prefers a smaller market. Considering Los Angeles does not fit that bill, it will be unlikely he goes to the Angels or Dodgers even though he is expected to meet with both teams.

Although it has not been reported how big of a factor the DH is, it would not be wild to assume that an American League team would make much more sense for the Japanese star. That would knock out the Padres, Cubs and Giants from the Ohtani sweepstakes. The Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers would the remaining candidates.

The Mariners have a history of Japanese ballplayers playing for them. Most notably, one of the all-time baseball greats, Ichiro Suzuki. Ichiro built up a real reputation for players across the pond, as if you were to combine his NPB and MLB hits, he would have the most in baseball history. Along with that, the Mariners fit the bill for being on the West Coast, more so than the Texas Rangers.

That is why the Mariners are the most likely destination for Ohtani. Seattle is not far off from being a contending team, so a spark from Ohtani could boost them into the playoffs.

How will Ohtani translate to the MLB?

Shohei Ohtani

MLB teams will try to figure a way to get Ohtani’s bat into the lineup (Photo courtesy of Kazuhiro Nogi–Getty Images)

There doesn’t seem to be much of a question that Ohtani’s pitching will translate to the United States. He has an impressive strikeout to walk ratio and has a career 2.52 ERA in his five seasons in the NPB.

Some wonder if his hitting will be at the same level in the major leagues. He has been able to hit over .300 the past two seasons, and has shown signs of power as well. It would be hard to believe him not getting steady opportunities throughout 2018 to prove his ability at the plate.

The one thing that Ohtani is not custom to is the grueling process of a 162-game season. Also, the month of spring training along with a month long playoff can be very physically demanding. Former NFL and MLB athlete, Brian Jordan, stated that playing a 162-game baseball season is one of the toughest things to do in sports.

Ohtani has not come too close to that mark, however he may not when he is playing in the majors anyway. In order to ensure he is an effective pitcher and hitter, it will be imperative that the coaching staff is able to manage his fatigue well in order to get maximum effectiveness from the star.

Overall, Ohtani could prove to be one of the best players that has come from Japan. Only time will tell if he will be able to make the jump to the majors, but signing with Seattle could give him the opportunity to showcase everything he has in a place he would be happy to be.

 

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