AL East

Who is chasing who in the AL East?

The Red Sox finalized a deal on Monday to bring in perhaps the best hitter on the free agent market, J.D Martinez. Martinez provides a much needed punch to a Boston lineup that finished sixth in total runs scored in 2017. It isn’t like the Red Sox struggled to score in 2017, but it will definitely help keep up with an impressive New York Yankees squad.

The Yankees made the biggest splash this offseason by taking on the vast majority of Giancarlo Stanton’s massive contract, and only really giving up second baseman Starlin Castro. The Judge-Stanton-Sanchez trio will be one of the toughest middle of the order bats to get through in the league.

The question here is, who is chasing who? The Yankees may have made it to the ALCS in 2017, but if you ask them, they have some unfinished business with the Red Sox. Despite making it further than them, Brian Cashman and the Yankees feel they have something to prove to Boston. The Red Sox won the AL East in 2017 and the Yankees just made it though the Wild Card.

What do all these moves mean for 2018 though? Is there a clear favorite between the two?

Coaching

This is interesting as both teams are being taken over by new managers. Despite the fact that both teams had relative success in 2017, the front offices felt that it was time for a change. It wasn’t a bad idea either as they both have solid teams, but they just weren’t getting to where they wanted to be.

It is way to early to tell who has the edge here. Aaron Boone is coming off of a job at ESPN to coach the Yankees, while Alex Cora was the bench coach for the team that won the World Series in 2017. Despite that fact, there is not to much to go off of here.

Verdict: Push

Defense

AL East

Betts is among the best right fielders in baseball (ESPN)

Mookie Betts has turned into one of the better defensive outfielders in baseball. Not only that but one of the best defensive players in all of baseball. He finished with a 2.6 WAR on defense which was fourth best in all of baseball.

Neither team finished great defensively in 2017 though. New York finished eighth in total fielding while Boston was at 12th. New York finished with the edge but Gary Sanchez behind the plate is a real liability for the Yankees. His bat is second to none but his inability to block pitches can really hurt them in tight situations. Giancarlo Stanton is another guy with a cannon for an arm, and Brett Gardner has a solid glove.

As mentioned, Betts has become one of the better defenders in baseball. However, the rest of the team leaves some work to be done. Boston’s defense does not look much different than last year with Martinez likely taking up the designated hitter role, so expect more of the same from them.

Verdict: Yankees

Pitching

AL East

Chris Sale had a tremendous 2017 regular season for Boston. (NESN.com)

Boston and New York finished fourth and fifth in team ERA in 2017. Boston is headed up by Chris Sale, who is a favorite to win the Cy Young every year. However, the Yankees have a rising ace of their own in Luis Severino. Severino was not able to keep it together in the Wild Card game, but that should not take away from his breakout year with a 14-6 record and sub 3.00 ERA.

Severino is backed up by Mashiro Tanaka and Sonny Gray who both have had success in New York. Both of them finished with an ERA in the mid threes. The real punch of their pitching comes from the back of their bullpen though, and that is where it can get real challenging for opposing teams. Aroldis Chapman still may have the strongest arm baseball has ever seen, and Dellin Betances could be a closer all on his own.

Top to bottom Boston may have the edge in the rotation though. With two Cy Young winners along with David Price and Drew Pomeranz coming into his own, Boston has an impressive rotation. Outside of Craig Kimbrel though, the bullpen could be better. That is where the Yankees have them beat.

Although the two teams are extremely comparable on the pitching front, Boston has the slightest edge.

Verdict: Red Sox

Hitting

AL East

Expect a lot of big flies in the Bronx (MLB.com)

The addition of J.D Martinez makes the Red Sox a scary one top to bottom. However, it is very difficult to argue against Stanton and Judge taking up the middle of the lineup. They both finished with the most home runs in baseball, and Gary Sanchez has the ability to bash 35 homers on top of that.

Didi Gregorious has also turned into one of the better shortstops in the games at the plate, along with Greg Bird who has a chance to showcase his power for a full season. The Yankees have a couple more holes with Todd Frazier and Starlin Castro out of New York though, but Stanton certainly makes up for that.

Boston is expecting Benintendi and Devers to come into their own as young stars in the majors. Until then though, the Yankees have more certainty on the offensive front and should be able to overpower anything Boston throws their way.

Verdict: Yankees

How will the season play out?

The Yankees have the best chance to run away with the AL East title in 2018. The Blue Jays should also not be ignored as guys who can disrupt any sort of run, but the real race is between Boston and New York.

It will be a close one but the Stanton trade makes the Yankees offense too scary. Barring any injuries, the Red Sox will have a tough time defending their AL East title.

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MLB pace of play

MLB makes strides to shorten game time

Rob Manfred and Major League Baseball made strides towards bringing down game time this week. Some of the rules put in place include only six mound visits a game, shortening time between innings, timing pitching changes and monitoring instant replays more closely.

Trouble finding common ground

MLB pace of play

Tensions between the the players and MLB are largely thanks to Scott Boras and the free agent market. (Photo from Bleacher Report)

What is interesting about the current process is that Manfred is open to pretty much anything. Since taking the position of commissioner, Manfred has made it known that pace of play will be a big focus during his tenure. The problem for him is that he is getting pushback from the players association.
In 2016, the MLB told players to keep one foot in the batters box at all times. This would limit the time used up by players taking their time in between pitches. At first, the players went along with it and honored the new rule.
However, in 2017, they were more reluctant to playing along with the new rules. We did not see players honor the one foot in the batters box rule nearly as much.
Manfred has expressed interest in reaching common ground on the matter. The goal at the moment is for them to get the average game time down to 2 hours and 55 minutes in 2018. The league hopes that the measures they are taking will get the job done.
The reason why the league is focusing so much on pace of play is because they want to bring in a younger audience. The average teenager or young adult does not want to sit down and watch baseball for over three hours on television. Speeding up play is the best way to re-engage a younger fan base.
Manfred has become open to hearing what the players have to say. Rather than going to extreme lengths and changing the game, he is open to all sorts of ideas. The thought is that the league and players work together in order to solve a problem that faces baseball as a whole. The only problem is that tensions between the two are the highest since the strike in the mid-90s.

Will a pitch clock be implemented?

MLB pace of play

The pitch clock has already been tested at the minor league level (Photo from MiLB.com)

For the time being, no. However, that does not mean that it is still not on the forefront of their minds. A pitch clock seems like the best way to shorten games, but the players are giving this idea a lot of push back.

A solid argument against the pitch clock, mentioned by Jayson Stark of ESPN, is that players are already pitching under the 20 second mark that would be on a pitch clock. Out of 155 starting pitchers that threw over 750 pitches, only three averaged more than 20.9 seconds per pitch with no one on base. Those three were Sonny Gray, Matt Garza and Yu Darvish.

The issue with this is that it does not factor in runners on base or relievers, which would be an interesting stat to look at. The later parts of the games tend to take longer due to the heightened circumstances. Either way, this does not completely discredit the argument for a pitch clock to shorten game time.

What else can be done?

The fact that the MLB is shortening time between innings means that they are very serious about fixing this problem. They are sacrificing a fair share of revenue if they are cutting down the amount of air time sponsors get between innings.

Some other measures that baseball can take are limiting the amount of pitching changes, cutting down mound visits even more or potentially putting on a runner at second to start out every inning in extras.

These solutions are all one that could potentially change the game fundamentally. The problem is that the game may have to change in those sort of ways in order to make this work. It would be ideal if game time was closer to two hours and 45 minutes within the next ten years. Whether or not it is will be up to how the players react to it though.

 

Featured image from CBS Sports

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2018 New York Yankees preview

2018 MLB preview: New York Yankees

2017: 91-71 (second place in AL East, first in Wild Card)

Last postseason appearance: 2017

Last World Series title: 2009

2017 Recap

To say a team that hovers around the top one or two in payroll every year actually exceeded expectations would sound a bit odd. But that is exactly the case with the 2017 New York Yankees. On Opening Day, New York opened as 30-1 odds to win the World Series. When October came around, they were one win shy of a World Series berth.

The Yankees started the season hot and entered the postseason flaming. They went 15-8 in April and 20-9 over the last 29 regular season games. Against the first place Red Sox and third place Rays, New York went a combined 23-15. They also dominated Interleague play, going 15-5.

2018 New York Yankees preview

All Rise. (Photo from The New York Times)

So how did New York surpass expectations? Two names stand out heavily: Aaron Judge and Luis Severino. Judge, a physical freak at 6-foot-7, 282 pounds, struggled during his first stint at the big league level in 2016. In 27 games, Judge struck out 42 times, hit just four home runs and batted .179 with an OBP of .263. A year later and Mr. Judge was the runner-up to Jose Altuve for AL MVP and was named AL Rookie of the Year.

Judge led the AL in runs (128), home runs (52) and walks (127). Overall, he finished second in WAR, OPS and at-bats per home run, third in OBP, slugging percentage, runs created and time on base, sixth in total bases and RBIs and seventh in extra-base hits. When an at-bat started out with a ball, Judge hit .357.

Luis Severino, who in 2016, spent time in the minors and made a handful of appearances out of the bullpen for New York, was one of the 10 best pitchers in baseball in 2017. Severino finished sixth in strikeouts, WHIP and K/9, seventh in ERA+ and FIP and 10th in WAR among pitchers. He was absolutely outstanding on the road, ending the season with a 2.24 road ERA.

As a team, New York finished with the second best run differential in the MLB. Among the 15 AL teams, they ranked first in home runs and walks, second in runs, total bases and OBP and third in hits and slugging percentage. The pitching was also impeccable, finishing with the fewest amount of hits allowed and the third best ERA.

The Yankees had a tremendous season, yet not everyone in New York was happy with the team’s performance. After 10 years as manager, New York decided to relieve Joe Girardi of his duties with the team and hire Aaron Boone to run the team.

2018: Around the Diamond

The biggest splash of the offseason was of course, the Yankees trading for the 2017 NL MVP, Giancarlo Stanton. A team that ranked first in home runs now has Stanton, who hit more home runs than anyone in 2017. He also finished first in RBIs and slugging percentage, second in total bases, third in runs and WAR and fourth in OPS. Quite frankly, there wasn’t much any team could do to stop this man. Against lefties, he hit .323, and against righties, Stanton clubbed 44 home runs.

Stanton looks to be the DH while Judge will hold down right field, but these players could flip-flop at any moment. Joining them in the outfield will be Brett Gardner, who is coming off his first 20-20 season of his 10-year career, and Aaron Hicks, who hit 15 home runs in just 88 games. Keep in mind, the Yankees will probably also be forced to play Jacoby Ellsbury, who has three years left on his deal and is owed $64 million.

Starlin Castro, an All-Star for New York in 2017, was sent to Miami in the Stanton trade, and Chase Headley returned to the San Diego Padres in free agency after three and a half seasons with New York. This means the Yankees have some holes to fill in the infield. Unless they make a move, Miguel Andujar, a 22-year-old from the Dominican Republic, will start at third, and Ronald Torreyes will man second.

2018 New York Yankees preview

Expect a lot of big flies in the Bronx. (Photo from Twitter)

It still feels weird to not see Derek Jeter at shortstop, but Didi Gregorius has been terrific in the Bronx. Gregorius is coming off back-to-back 20-home-run seasons and hit .321 on the road in 2017. With the addition of Stanton, as well as Greg Bird being healthy, Gregorius will slide down the order, which is actually where he thrives. Last year, when batting seventh, Didi hit .333, and in the eighth-spot, he hit .563.

Bird, whose 2017 was spoiled because of a foot injury, could bounce back and have a really solid season. He will most likely be hitting behind Judge and Stanton and in front of Gary Sanchez, which means pitchers will be forced to go after him. Although he hasn’t had the success at the big league level that he is hoped for, 2018 could be a nice breakout year.

Speaking of Sanchez, the Yankees catcher is one of the best offensive players at his position. In 2017, he led all catchers in home runs (33), RBIs (90) and runs scored (79). All that is terrific, but he also finished first in errors for catchers and first in past balls. He needs to clean it up behind the plate, but this man is a problem with a bat in his hand.

On The Bump

New York will continue to be led by Severino, and it will be interesting to see what Sonny Gray can do in a full season with the Yankees. Although he settled down the second half, Masahiro Tanaka needs to be better if this teams wants to win a title.

Last season, Tanaka allowed the fourth most home runs and finished eighth in walks per nine innings. He had a 5.47 ERA in the first half, and, when it comes to road ERA, the 29-year-old is still probably in disgust. Tanaka finished 2017 with a 6.48 ERA when away from Yankee Stadium.

CC Sabathia is back for another year, which is great for the clubhouse and pretty solid for the product on the field. Rounding out the rotation will be Jordan Montgomery, who had a solid rookie season in 2017, winning nine games with a 3.88 ERA.

The bullpen, which finished third in the MLB in ERA, should without a doubt sustain its previous success. A bullpen that consists of Aroldis Chapman, David Robertson and Dellin Betances is flat-out scary. However, a crazy stat from last year is Betances finishing seventh in hit batters despite being a reliever. He literally tied with Max Scherzer, who threw 140 more innings than him.

The Future

Yankees infielder, Gleyber Torres, is regarded as one of the five best prospects in the MLB. Torres, who was acquired from the Cubs in 2016 when the Yankees let them borrow Aroldis Chapman, became the youngest player to win MVP of the Arizona Fall League in 2016. He was off to a great 2017 before getting injured during a play at the plate, which required Tommy John surgery. Still, in 55 games between Double and Triple A, Torres hit .287 and had a .383 OBP. The 21-year-old should see some big league action in 2018.

2018 New York Yankees preview

Gleyber Torres will be playing in the MLB at some point in 2018 (Barstool Sports)

The other infielder on MLB.com’s Top 100 Prospects list is Miguel Andujar, who, like mentioned earlier, could be starting at third base for the MLB club come Opening Day. Andujar hit .315 with 16 home runs between Double and Triple A in 2017, while also going 4-7 in the bigs.

Joining Torres and Andujar on the top prospects list are four other Yankees. This is without counting Clint Frazier, who played in 39 games for the Yanks, but could possibly be traded since their outfield is so stacked.

Speaking of outfielders, Estevan Florial, ranks 44th on the prospects list. In 110 games between A and A+, Florial hit .298, stole 23 bases, had seven triples, and had an OBP of .372. He has potential to become a 30-30 player, but needs to kick back on the strikeouts.

The Yankees top pitching prospect, Justus Sheffield, who was acquired with Frazier in the Andrew Miller trade in 2014, had a solid 2017 in Double A. In 17 starts, the lefty had a 3.18 ERA and struck out 82 batters. The Yankees also have two more pitching prospects in the top 100, as Albert Abreu (No. 74) and Chance Adams (No. 75) could both blossom into something special.

 

2018 Prediction: 90-72

This offense will be good, but there are questions in terms of production from the corner infield positions. Also, on paper, Boston’s starting pitching is better than New York’s. Severino had a fantastic 2017, but we will see if he can replicate that. Sonny Gray did not look great with New York, and Tanaka clearly cannot be trusted away from New York. However, the roster is too talented, and the Yankees will again, win the Wild Card and make a run at a World Series title.

 

Featured image by MLB.com

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Darvish

Dodgers, Cubs, others make big moves at trade deadline

One hour before the 4 P.M. MLB trade deadline, nothing was happening. There were rumors and whispers here and there. Some decent names had been moved but nothing that we have been looking for over the past few weeks. All of a sudden news broke that the Yankees would be acquiring Sonny Gray from the Athletics. Would this be the first domino to fall?

As the hour went on nothing else seemed to be happen. Everyone was expecting the Dodgers to make the big move they needed but nothing was coming. Is Los Angeles really going to stay put with the roster they have? Every World Series champion in recent memory had made moves at the deadline to bolster their team. Are the Dodgers really that good that they don’t have to go out and get anyone?

When 4 P.M. hit it seemed like that was the case. After about 20 minutes the news started to break however. The Dodgers acquired Yu Darvish from the Rangers in the blockbuster trade we were expecting. This trade also punctuated a trading season that emphasized pitching and had very little movement with hitters.

This was a very interesting deadline to track. There were some surprises as well as moves that we expected. Here are some of the notable teams that were making moves at the deadline.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Acquisitions: Yu Darvish, Tony Cingrani, Tony Watson

Los Angeles bolstered its bullpen with two solid left-handed relievers in Watson and Cingrani. These guys are a great compliment to Kenley Jansen and it takes a lot of pressure off of the starting rotation, especially seeing that Kershaw will be out for the coming weeks.

Yu Darvish has been expected to go to Los Angeles for the last month. Most were surprised that no news had broke when the 4 P.M. deadline approached. I was ready to criticize the Dodgers for their lack of improvement. When the news was announced, it immediately became World Series or bust for this team.

Darvish provides the same sort of punch to the rotation that Zach Greinke provided when he was in LA with Kershaw. These pitching acquisitions may make the Dodgers the most complete team in the majors now. They filled their pitching needs and left their offense alone which has been fantastic. What might be the one of the biggest upsides from this trade season is that the Dodgers did not give up any of their top three prospects for Yu Darvish.

The Dodgers know that they will be making the postseason. These trades were specifically for October because they know that it is now or never if they want to break their 30-year championship drought.

Houston Astros

Acquisitions: Francisco Liriano

The Astros currently have the best record in the American League. Going into the deadline, it was obvious that Houston needed to bolster its pitching staff. Dallas Keuchel has been dealing with injury issues and may not be the same pitcher he was when he won the Cy Young. Lance McCullers has also not been consistent. On top of that, the Astros are in much need of bullpen help.

Houston acquired Liriano from Toronto, but this was not the attractive pitcher that many were looking for them to go out and get. They needed a pitcher to fill into a rotation that looks a bit shaky. However, Liriano will not be in the starting rotation and will be filling in the bullpen.

This had to be disappointing for Houston fans because they did not make the improvements that other contenders made. Even though they are sitting comfortably in first place in the West and are a sure thing for the playoffs, they may be sweating a bit.

Carlos Correa, Lance McCullers and George Springer are all on the DL right now. The Astros must be comfortable with the injuries since they didn’t make any moves. However, the gap seems to be closing between them and the Yankees and Indians.

New York Yankees

Acquisitions: Sonny Gray, Todd Frazier, Jaime Garcia, David Robertson

The Yankees made a big move a couple weeks ago acquiring Todd Frazier and David Robertson from the Chicago White Sox. Robertson really helps out a bullpen that needed some help and Frazier is a bat the Yankees needed to fill a hole in the lineup.

Deadline

The Yankees got one of the most valuable pitchers at the deadline in Gray (Getty Images)

The big news from Monday was the Yankees acquiring Sonny Gray from Oakland. This was a trade that made a lot of sense for the Yankees because it helps answer questions in their rotation for 2018 and 2019 as well.

The Yankees may lose the majority of their rotation after this year so getting this deal done is a big deal for New York. For this year though, Gray provides a big punch in the rotation for October seeing that the young pitcher already has postseason experience.

Starting pitching was one of the biggest question marks for the Yankees. Boston made a solid move in getting Addison Reed, but the excellent job at the deadline by Brian Cashman may make the Yankees the better team.

Look for the Yankees to separate themselves from Boston and give Houston some trouble in the postseason potentially.

Chicago Cubs

Acquisitions: Jose Quintana, Justin Wilson, Alex Avila

The Chicago Cubs did exactly what they needed to do in order to finally separate themselves from the rest of the NL Central. They addressed a rotation issue, a bullpen issue and a catching issue.

Deadline

Quintana is the highlight of the deadline for the Cubs (Sporting News)

Quintana was a get for the Cubs that was way ahead of the rest of the field at the deadline. Chicago knew what they needed and got a pitcher in the prime of his career that will be under team control for the future.

The rotation has been underperforming for the most part and Quintana provides a spark that has gotten the rest of the team going. With the potential this team has, they may be one of the best teams built for the postseason after the acquisition of Quintana.

Alex Avila adds experience at the catching position that the Cubs really needed. Miguel Montero was sent to Toronto after he ragged on the pitching staff for the Cubs’ shortcomings. He was the veteran presence that the pitchers need behind the plate.

Wilson Contreras has been very productive with a bat in his hands but he does not have the skills needed to call a good game in the playoffs. He is a converted infielder that is still learning the craft, so Avila provides the presence that the Cubs needed.

Theo Epstein went out and addressed the exact problems that needed addressing. Cubs fans should be happy with how he approached the deadline. The only downside is that the Cubs now have no prospects in the MLB Top 100. Much of their talent is at the big league level so that is a big reason for that. However, their talent has been underperforming this year.

The Cubs are hoping that their players play to their potential. If they do, then they are as good as anybody in the league.

Washington Nationals

Acquisitions: Brandon Kintzler, Ryan Madson, Sean Doolittle

The Nationals’ bullpen has pretty much been a joke this year. It is by far their biggest weakness, so much so that a fan ripped on the bullpen in his obituary.

Deadline

Scherzer got the bullpen help the rotation desperately needed (Getty Images)

Washington has one of the best hitting trios in baseball with Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman and Daniel Murphy. They also may have the best starting pitcher in the game in Max Scherzer.

However, they were not taken as seriously to compete with the Dodgers in the postseason because of how important relief pitching is these days.

Sean Doolittle has been struggling this year, but he is still a step in the right direction for Washington. However, Ryan Madson has been a very reliable reliever and Brandon Kintzler was an All-Star this year. Kintzler has converted 28 of 32 saves this season and also provides reliability at the back end of the bullpen.

Relievers were a hot commodity at the deadline this year. The Nationals knew that relievers are what they needed in order to win their first playoff series in franchise history. Mike Rizzo did a good job of getting these guys in order to be a threat in October.

Chicago White Sox

Deadline

Jimenez is the 7th ranked prospect in the majors (Baseball America)

Acquisitions: Eloy Jimenez, Michael Kopech, Blake Rutherford, AJ Puckett, Andre Davis, Tito Polo, Ian Clarkin, Dylan Cease, Matt Rose, Byrant Flete, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez

As you can tell, the White Sox had a busy trade season. They traded away many major leagues such as Jose Quintana, Todd Frazier and Melky Cabrera. Even though it is pretty apparent that you could say the White Sox are tanking, fans have to be happy with general manager Rick Hahn’s job this past month.

The White Sox now have two of the top 10 prospects in MLB, and eight in the top 70 according to MLB.com. Chicago is the only team on this list that are not contenders this season but they may have had one of the best months in the league.

The benefits from the past month will not show this season or next season. In a few years though the success of the front office will be apparent.

This may be a slight overreaction, but there is a possibility that we could see a Cubs-White Sox World Series down the road. That may be a bit dramatic but wouldn’t it be exciting to see a Chicago championship series? The only thing I would be concerned about is whether or not the city would still be standing in the aftermath.

Final thoughts on the deadline

The most glaring detail of this trade deadline was the emphasis of pitching. Outside of J.D Martinez, there were no major position players that were moved this year. Yes, Todd Frazier and Melky Cabrera were moved as well. However, all of the big trades were centered around pitching.

It seems that many teams are content with the hitting they have. It may not be a coincidence that major league players are hitting home runs at one of the highest rates in history. Bullpen and rotation help is the attractive thing these days. Especially considering how difficult it is to close out a game in today’s game.

By no means is the 2017 season decided already. There is still a long way to go in the season and anything can happen in October. Championship teams do look back to the trade deadline though to see what they did right at that time. Monday was a pivotal point in the season, but baseball is a crazy game so it will be fun to see how these moves pan out.

 

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MLB trade deadline: NL contenders moves to stay in first

The trade deadline is only five days away. After diving into what AL contenders must do to stay in first place, let’s jump into what NL contenders need to do.

Washington Nationals

This team could do exactly what it has been doing and it would stay in first place. The Nationals have a 11.5-game lead going into Tuesday night’s games and Hotlanta would need a miracle to catch up.

The problem in our nation’s capital has not been getting to the playoffs, but getting to the World Series. With that in mind they still desperately need bullpen help.

The Nationals made a deal to get Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson from the A’s about a week ago. This has obviously been a great upgrade for them but they still could use at least one more rock solid piece to give them the best chance in October.

In steps, no not Brad Hand (Padres want way too much for him), A.J. Ramos. The Marlins have not been able to put it together for the last two years and their team is up for sale in two different ways (let us pray that the baseball gods will rid the MLB of Jeffery Loria).

MLB Trade Deadline: nl contenders

Courtesy of: Faketeams.com

A.J. Ramos is a hot target, but from it sounds like he is not as expensive as other relievers like Hand and the Reds’ Raisel Iglesias are. He is also having a down year compared to his normal for his career, so he may end up costing even less than he would have last year.

As far as his contract goes, he is still owed some of his $6.5 million and is arbitration eligible next year. So, he has some team control but would could cost a bit more next year.

Taking this all into consideration, the Nationals need to try to make this deal. Their farm system is weaker due to the deals they have already done in the last year. But most people are hearing that they will not give up top prospect Victor Robles.

Right now most of the top Marlins top prospects are pitchers and outfielders so it is likely that they would like some infielders to go along with them or just more pitching.

I can see the trade being A.J. Ramos to the Nationals for Carter Kieboom (SS), Drew Ward (3B) and a hard throwing pitching prospect outside of the Nationals top 30 prospects. While this may seem like a lot, let’s look back at what Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman cost last year. Relievers are valued very highly (overpriced in my opinion) but at least three prospects seems to be the standard for closers and other top tier bullpen pieces.

Milwaukee Brewers

MLB Trade Deadline: nl contenders

Courtesy of: Nolanwritin.com

Raise your hand if you picked the Brewers to be in first place in July. No one? Yeah, me neither. This team has played well and some of their pieces are melding together very well. Some players may be a bit of a fluke, but overall their young players are really looking solid. The problem is that they are in the same division as the Cubs.

The Brewers should actually sell. It sounds crazy, but they are doing well and have an amazing farm system to boot. They won’t go far in the playoffs this year so it doesn’t make sense to trade away strong assets for rentals.

That said, this is a piece about staying in first place and if they want any chance at holding off the Cubs, then they will have to make a move.

Their biggest weakness is their starting pitching. While some of them have good records such as Zach Davies at 11-4, only Chase Andreson has an ERA below 3.45. There are some good options out there, and if the Brewers can get someone for the right price, then they will make the trade. This means staying out of what will probably be a bidding war for Sonny Gray.

While his ERA might not be exactly what they are looking for, he does provide experience and a lively arm. Andrew Cashner would be a relatively cheap rental and a player that most have forgotten was a big trading chip for the last few years. It also helps that everyone else will be focused on Yu Darvish and Sonny Gray.

Marcos Diplan (RHP) and a player to be named later would get this deal done. The Brewers would take on the rest of his salary which is not cheap, but they would not be giving up much in terms of prospects. Cashner would appease those who want the Brewers to make a move and would slot in well as another solid veteran along side Matt Garza.

Chicago Cubs

The Cubs may not be in first place, but they are just a half game out.

MLB Trade Deadline: nl contenders

Photo: Athelticsnation.com

The Cubs are the defending World Series champs and until recently they have not been playing like it. Luckily they are in a very weak central division (sorry Brewers fans). They also already made a big trade getting Jose Quintana and at this point their farm system is depleted.

Considering all of that it, seems like the Cubs will do whatever they have to do to make it back to the Series. Their bats are coming back to life and Jose Quintana was the shot in the arm the rotation needed.

But if they had to make a move, it might be worth going back to the rotation. John Lackey has been a great pitcher for a long time, but age is catching up to him. His ERA is the second highest it has ever been and his strikeouts are down. While he has said he would not move to the bullpen, it may end up being that or getting let go.

The Cubs have one prospect in the top 100, Jeimer Candelario (3B/1B). Would they be willing to give him up? From the looks of things, they could. He plays two positions that are taken up by the two biggest stars in Bryant and Rizzo. With that in mind, Sonny Gray will be the guy they go for.

The A’s are selling everyone, again. Thus, they will take the best prospects they can get and see who pans out. The trade will be Sonny Gray to the Cubs for Candelario, Oscar De La Cruz (RHP), Justin Steele (LHP) and a prospect outside of the Cubs’ top 30.

Los Angeles Dodgers

MLB Trade Deadline: nl contenders

Courtesy of: Outsidepitchmlb.com

This team has been on an unreal tear. They look primed for October and we still have around 62 games left. They are up by 12.5 games and even with the injury to Clayton Kershaw, they will still keep that big lead.

One thing that has hurt the Dodgers has been injuries. Scott Kazmir, Branden McCarthy and Clayton Kershaw are all missing from the rotation. They need someone to fill this hole now. The great thing for Dodgers fans is unlike the Cubs, they still have plenty of prospects to trade. That is why they will get Yu Darvish.

If you are a team in a five-game series and you have to go up against Clayton Kershaw, Yu Darvish and Alex Wood, then you are most likely sitting in a corner crying.

Even going to a seven-game series like the World Series you might think, phew we got through those three, now we get a break– nope. Rich Hill, a healthy (hopefully) Scott Kazmir or Kenta Maeda could all come in for at least one game.

Yu Darvish to the Dodgers for Walker Buehler (RHP), Willie Calhoun (2B/OF), Mitchell White (RHP) and DJ Peters (OF) could be a trade the Dodgers make. While the Dodgers are giving up a ton, they are also giving themselves a great chance at a World Series run.

Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed my take on the trade deadline. The trade deadline is a very interesting time for baseball. Hopefully this year will produce the craziness we have seen in the past.

 

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MLB trade deadline: What AL contenders must do to stay in first

Baseball is back and the second half push to the playoffs begins. The MLB trade deadline comes in the second half as well and is Christmas in July for baseball fans. Strategy, money and moves galore (hopefully).

This period is a chance for teams to either sell off parts in order to rebuild or make the trades necessary to help their squad make it to the playoffs and an eventual push for the World Series. These are the moves the teams currently in first place for their respective divisions need to make to remain in first by July 31.

Boston Red Sox

If you follow baseball or this team at all, then you know their weakest position currently is at third base. Pablo Sandoval has been anything but useful or even available and has been designated for assignment. Also they traded away Travis Shaw who is having an excellent season for another first place team.

While everyone believes Todd Frazier is the best and only option available for trade, I would like to look at another in Nick Castellanos.

MLB trade deadline

Courtesy of: Bleacherreport.com

The Detroit Tigers are having a very disappointing season and will most likely be sellers during the trade deadline for the first time in a long time. They also have arguably one of the worst farm systems in baseball. Most of their top players are in Double-A ball and below which means they have a long time to wait to see if they develop.

To speed up the process of their inevitable rebuild, they could and should be looking to trade away as many players as possible.

Castellanos is only 25 and is under team control until 2020 which means Detroit could ask a decent return. So why would the Red Sox make this trade?

To start, they would get a solid everyday third baseman that could grow with the young players they are building around now like Andrew Benintendi, Mookie Betts and more. Rafael Devers is still at least one or two years away and wont be able to help them win now. It is unlikely they would have to part with him to get Castellanos as well.

Castellanos has been in the league for four full years now. You know what you are going to get out of him, whereas you never truly know with a prospect. He has experience, making playoff runs with the Tigers and still has room to grow.

The Red Sox would most likely only have to give up two of their top 25 prospects, most likely ones in the teens and below. They may also throw in a PTBNL or just an extra pitcher to sweeten the deal.

Nick Castellanos would solidify the Red Sox third base problem not only for now but also for the future. Todd Frazier on the other hand may cost only one top 25 prospect but he would also be a free agent at the end of this year and has seemed to have trouble batting for average ever since he was traded to the White Sox.

Cleveland Indians

It took the Indians awhile to catch up to the Twins, but they have taken hold of first and wont let it go for the rest of the season. This team can hit and is being led by its young superstars Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor while getting help from players like Edwin Encarnacion who struggled mightily to start the season but has figured it out.

MLB trade deadline

Photo: Sportsblog.com

Another strength of the World Series runner-ups is their bullpen. Their weakness? Outside of Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and surprisingly Mike Clevinger, this team’s starters have struggled. Trevor Bauer, Danny Salazar, and Josh Tomlin all have ERAs over 5.

There are many attractive options on the market for the Indians. The question will be how much are they willing to give up in order to get the starting pitching help they need?

Last year, they traded away Clint Frazier and a multitude of other prospects in order to get their stalwart setup man, Andrew Miller. That being said the Indians still have some pieces that they could trade. I highly doubt they will trade Bradley Zimmer as he is with the club now and making a solid contribution.

There are a multitude of options for the Indians to help make their second World Series run in as many years. I like Sonny Gray, but I think his asking price will be too high considering how he has pitched in the last two seasons. This leaves two options: Gerrit Cole and Johnny Cueto.

Both the Pirates and Giants respectively have been under-performing and it looks like they will have to be sellers. While Gerrit Cole is better, he and Sonny Gray have a similar problem. They are going to cost more than the Indians are willing to give.

That is why they could trade for Cueto. He has won a World Series and has been in Cy Young contention, but the Indians could get him for a bargain. He has not pitched extremely well this season and the Giants are desperate (or should be) for prospects as they have one of the worst farm systems in baseball.

The Indians could give up one top 25 prospect not named Zimmer or Mejia and two others right outside their top 25 for Cueto. He would be a great pickup and if he could find his form again, he could be a top of the rotation guy to help the Indians try to make it back to the World Series.

Houston Astros

The Astros were my World Series pick back in January and I am glad that they have yet to let me down. Their lineup can hit from 1 to 8 and Keuchel and McCullers make up an amazing top of the rotation.

MLB trade deadline

Photo: SFgiantsrumors.co

Brad Peacock is finally living up to his potential, whether he is in the bullpen or the rotation. While most are looking at the rotation, and they could improve there, Peacock may actually be a legitimate option that will help them keep their first-place standing. Also, Colin McHugh should be coming off the DL soon and can help to solidify the rotation.

The Astros are missing another reliable bullpen arm. We saw how important they were in last year’s playoffs and right now the Astros have a pretty good bullpen. But if they are going to want to make a real run, they need a great bullpen.

They won’t give up what teams gave up to get pitchers like Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman last season. Instead, they will go for options that are a small step down.

In steps another Giants player and someone who has been a crucial piece in their bullpen for a long time, George Kontos.

Kontos has a career ERA under 3 and he has been in many high-pressure situations, including helping the Giants win multiple World Series. While he is not a flashy pickup, he is a reliable one, and should be relatively cheap, as he’s still under team control until 2020.

The Astros would not have to part with any of their major prospects. They could easily throw the Giants one of their lower top 25 prospects and some cash or another lower level prospect with high potential.

Kontos would solidify the bullpen as the Astros head into October. His experience would help the younger Astros team and again he would cost a lot less than someone like Sonny Gray or David Robertson.

Conclusion

The trade deadline is an unpredictable time and has a major affect on the way the rest of the season and future seasons will play out. Look out for what first place NL teams needs to do in order to stay in first place.

 

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MLB trade deadline predictions: Bour, Cueto, others could be shipped

With the trade deadline only one month away, it is time to ponder some of the rumblings going on in baseball. It is difficult to figure out some of the conversations between general managers of the league. However, it is fun to consider where some big names might be moved to. Here are a few intriguing trade possibilities we could see come July 31st.

The Houston Astros will trade for Sonny Gray

MLB trade deadline predictions

(Photo Courtesy of ESPN)

Sonny Gray hasn’t been great this year. So far he has racked up an ERA of 4.45 but does have 65 strikeouts. This might be an opportunity to get Gray at a reasonable price.

The Athletics are currently 17.5 games back of the Astros so this is a chance to get a return from Houston. The Astros still have some good prospects in their farm that the Athletics might have some interest in. Oakland is not looking great for the near future so it is important for them to move some pieces and plan for the future.

Gray is under team control through 2019 so he is more than just a rental. He also has the potential to be a top of the rotation starter despite his recent struggles. There are only a couple of blemishes on his record so far this season, so if you take those out the equation he becomes much more attractive.  

The Astros are very close to becoming a juggernaut in the American League. Adding Sonny Gray could clear a path for them come October as well as the future of the AL West.

The Giants will move Johnny Cueto to the Friendly Confines

MLB trade deadline predictions

(Photo Courtesy of Sports Illustrated)

One of the glaring issues with this possibility is swallowing Cueto’s contract. He is currently in the second year of a six-year, $130 million contract. He also is not having his best year much like some of the pitchers that are already in Chicago.

Cueto’s contract appeared to be a good investment last year as he finished at 18-5 with a 2.79 ERA, so I wouldn’t rule him out from being the ace he has been in the past. The Cubs still have some valuable prospects that they would have to sell in order to land Cueto. This year is supposed to be the year the Cubs flourish, so it’s hard to imagine them staying idle at the deadline.

Chicago doesn’t want to give away their future for Cueto. However, Cueto could make the Chicago rotation mighty threatening as well as give them their push for the division. The Cubs have been in a bit of turmoil of late and may still be suffering from the World Series hangover. They need to make some big moves in order to boost morale and take advantage of this talented roster they have been working so long for.  

The Dodgers make a deal for J.D. Martinez

Despite the fact that the Dodgers have been the most dominant team in the majors, they still only find themselves 1.5 games ahead of the Diamondbacks. The NL West is easily the best division in baseball this year, so despite their success, the Dodgers will have to make some more moves to improve their ball club.

J.D. Martinez would only be a rental if he does get moved. However, Los Angeles might be an intriguing spot for him to end up signing. It is doubtful that if Martinez stays put that he will resign with the Tigers. Detroit already has several large contracts, so it is hard to see them breaking bank for Martinez.

It might seem a bit unnecessary for the Dodgers to go after a big bat. Los Angeles needs to do everything they can to win the division though. If the Diamondbacks end up winning the division, then the Dodgers would have to play in that unpredictable wild card game. Kershaw is still one of the best pitchers in the majors but he has not been spectacular in the postseason in his career, so they wouldn’t just be able to rely on their ace due to his 4.55 postseason ERA.

The Dodgers know that this is their year to end their championship drought, so making a move for a big name like Martinez might just win them their first title since 1988.

The Marlins trade Justin Bour to the New York Yankees

The New York Yankees looked promising out of the gate this year. However, they have recently come into a rough patch as they have only won four games since June 13. On top of that, they recently put two of their best hitters on the DL in Matt Holliday and Starlin Castro.

MLB trade deadline predictions

(Photo Courtesy of The Miami Herald)

According to USA Today Sports, the Marlins are currently shopping some of their infielders. The Yankees have inquired about first baseman Justin Bour, who is having a career year. This may be the best value the Marlins could get for Bour, so the Yankees and Marlins may be able to make a match here.

Bour also has an attractive contract of only $552,500 for this year. His bat would provide some more pop in the Yankees lineup and would be a great compliment to Aaron Judge. As mentioned earlier, this also might help cope with some of their injuries.

 

 

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Fantasy Baseball 2017

Fantasy Baseball 2017: Injury Update

As we head deeper into the first month of the baseball season, it is time to identify and analyze some key injuries across the league. This injury update will provide insight to a player’s current health status and their outlook moving forward. The following players are listed on the disabled list as of April 13th, 2017.

 

David Price, starting pitcher, Boston Red Sox, (10-day DL elbow)

Fantasy Baseball 2017

David Price is eager to make his 2017 debut. (Courtesy of Keith Allison)

  • Expected return: mid-to-late May
  • Re-injury potential: medium

 

Price was placed on the 10-day DL after feeling elbow stiffness during a spring training start. The ace-caliber arm tossed a 35-pitch bullpen session on April 12th, which ended with positive results. He felt no additional soreness, which is encouraging, as he plans to increase his pitch totals to 45 come his next bullpen. According to manager John Farrell, Price could begin to see “hitters possibly early next week”, as he will pitch in a handful of simulated games before beginning his rehab starts. Price’s next step is to continue working on his breaking pitches, as an elbow injury can severally flatten out a breaking ball.

Fantasy-wise, Price has been a proven ace, as he sports a career 3.21 ERA, while striking out 200 batters five times in his nine-year career. Although Price managed to win 17 games in 2016, it was by far his worst season in the majors since his rookie year, in 2009. The upside with Price is immense, as he is a proven ace on a championship caliber team, although the injury risk is real for the 31-year-old workhorse, as he has thrown an average of 218 innings over his last seven seasons.

 

JD Martinez, right fielder, Detroit Tigers, (10-day DL foot)

Fantasy Baseball 2017

J.D. Martinez is well ahead of schedule. (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

  • Expected return: late April
  • Re-injury potential: low

 

The Tigers’ slugger sprained his foot making a catch in right field this spring, landing himself on the 10-day. Martinez is expected to make his first rehab start “within the next few days”, according to MLB Network Radio reports. This is a great sign, as it shows that Martinez is ahead of schedule, and should return before the end of April.

J.D. Martinez is a very underrated fantasy asset, as many forget about his outstanding 2015 campaign that resulted in 38 home runs, 102 RBI, and a .282 batting average. Injuries have remained a staple of his career, although a healthy Martinez can be as valuable of a fantasy asset as any outfielder, excluding Trout, Harper, or Betts.

 

Jason Kipnis, second baseman, Cleveland Indians, (10-day DL shoulder)

(Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Jason Kipnis faces yet another setback after being hit in the hand during rehab start. (Courtesy of MLB.com)

  • Expected return: mid-to-late April
  • Re-injury potential: low

 

Kipnis found himself on the disabled list after he had inflammation in his shoulder, which is fairly common among infielders, especially those who participate in deep playoffs runs the season before. He was scheduled to return within the next week, although he was hit by a pitch in the hand during a rehab start. This incident will push Kipnis’ return back about a week, as he will miss one or two rehab starts.

The Indians’ franchise second baseman has been a proven producer who will most likely see at bats in the two spot of the lineup, but also may see time batting behind newcomer, Edwin Encarnacion, as the Cleveland lineup is loaded with top tier talent. Kipnis hit 20 home runs for the first time in his career last season, showing that he has power to combine with his speed and batting average. The 30-year-old is a top 10 second baseman when healthy, and should be confidently placed in your lineup once he returns.

 

Wilson Ramos, catcher, Tampa Bay Rays, (60-day DL knee)

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Wilson Ramos is ready for an early June return. (Courtesy of Getty Images)

  • Expected return: mid-to-late June
  • Re-injury potential: low

 

The newly acquired catcher has yet to suit up for the Rays this season due to undergoing knee surgery which ended his 2016 season. He will be eligible to return as early as June 1st, although it is anticipated that he will require until mid-to-late June until he is fully recovered and game ready. The Rays also acquired catcher Derek Norris, who should remain the every-day catcher even after Ramos’ return, as it is anticipated for the Rays to ease Ramos back into his everyday role by placing him at designated hitter.

The 2016 Silver Slugger will become an essential part of the Rays lineup, and will presumably bat in the five or six position, giving him ample opportunities to produce RBI. If Ramos is not owned in your league, the time to add him may be soon approaching. Stay aware of his status come June, as you may find yourself a top three catcher for the second half of your season.

 

Sonny Gray, starting pitcher, Oakland Athletics, (10-day DL back)

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Athletics’ Ace Sonny Gray aims for March 1st return. (Courtesy of SF Gate)

  • Expected return: early April
  • Re-injury potential: high

 

Gray was placed on the 10-day DL after suffering a strain in his back, which has been causing him severe discomfort when pitching. He has begun a throwing program, which included three separate 15 pitch bullpen sessions, which all went smoothly. Coach Bob Melvin stated that his timetable is “the first of May”, which gives him about three weeks to hone his stuff before he makes his season debut.

The 27-year-old had major success in his first two full major league seasons, having a 3.08 and 2.73 ERA respectively. He also finished third in American League Cy Young voting in 2015 after winning 14 games and recording 169 strikeouts. If Gray is healthy, there is no reason he cannot return to Cy Young caliber.

 

Jean Segura, short stop/second basemen, (10-day DL hamstring)

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Jean Segura will bring his newfound power to the Pacific Northwest in 2017. (AP Photo, Ross D. Franklin)

  • Expected return: late April
  • Re-injury potential: medium

 

Segura strained his hamstring diving back into first base, causing himself to be placed on the 10-day DL. Although it is a mild strain, the Mariners are taking every precaution with their starting short stop, as a lingering hamstring injury could seriously derail Segura’s season.

The 2016 top 15 NL MVP candidate has been off to a very hot start in 2017. He is currently batting .313, with six runs scored, three RBI, and three stolen bases. The Mariners leadoff man is sure to be a top fantasy producer this season once he can get back on the field. If you want to make a move for the 27-year-old, the time is now.

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World Baseball Classic Preview: Pool C

After examining eight of the 16 teams in the World Baseball Classic, we move on to the most talented pool in the tournament: Pool C. The teams included in this pool are full of major league talent, and are some of the deepest in the WBC. If you missed Pool A or Pool B, you can find them below.

World Baseball Classic Preview: Pool A

World Baseball Classic Preview: Pool B

World Baseball Classic

Ryan Dempster will provide leadership as well as pitching for team Canada (Elise Amendola/AP).

Canada

For the boys north of the border, they will rely on some big name players who have made their hay in the USA. Longtime team Canada manager Erin Whitt has a bevy of major league talent to draw upon.

On the mound team Canada will be lead by 16 year major league veteran Ryan Dempster. While Dempster hasn’t played in the majors since 2013, the 39 year old should still be a top contributor for skipper Erin Whitt. He will also be joined on the mound by current major leaguers John Axford and Jim Henderson. Axford and Henderson are quality relievers, and will be great weapons for team Canada.

While there is plenty of pitching to rely on, the true stars are found off the mound. At first base NL All-Star Freddie Freeman will provide the thump for team Canada. The 27 year old Brave hit 34 bombs in 2016, and put up an impressive 157 OPS+. Former AL MVP and current free agent Justin Morneau will also suit up, giving Whitt plenty of options at first base. Many will also recognize current Blue Jay Dalton Pompey, who will patrol the outfield.

In any other pool, Canada would be one of the top teams, if not the favorite. But playing in Pool C does not bode well for them, as it will be a struggle to get to the second round of tournament play.

Colombia

World Baseball Classic

Jose Quintana will bring a strong presence to team Colombia (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images North America).

Making their World Baseball Classic debut, Colombia has a good level of talent to rely on. Colombia advanced from the Qualifier 3 round in 2016 to become eligible for the WBC. Pitching will be their strong suit, as they have multiple major league players to toe the rubber.

Chicago White Sox pitcher Jose Quintana became the staff ace after the trade of Chris Sale, but to many he was already a top pitcher in the game. His career 3.41 ERA has been supported by his 7.4 SO/9 innings. The lefty will be the ace for Colombia, and will be joined by NL All-Star Julio Teheran. Teheran has bee the ace of the Atlanta Braves for years, and will be a nice compliment to Quintana.

Catching for team Colombia will be Phillies prospect Jorge Alfaro. After being traded from Texas to Philly, Alfaro made his major league debut in 2016. While his numbers weren’t impressive in limited at-bats, he is seen as the catcher of the future in Philadelphia. He will be joined in the infield by former top prospect Dilson Herrera. In parts of two major league seasons in Flushing, Herrera was less than impressive. But he still has plenty of tools to be a difference maker for Colombia.

Colombia has a good mix of pitching and position player talent. They will need to utilize it to the fullest if they hope to cause an upset and make it out of Pool C.

World Baseball Classic

Robinson Cano led the Dominican Republic to the championship in 2013 (Al Bello/Getty Images).

Dominican Republic

After going undefeated on their way to winning the 2013 WBC, the Dominican Republic is one of the favorites to take home the championship again in 2017. And its easy to see why. The Dominican Republic has one of the most stacked rosters in this years tournament.

With a roster that would rival even the World Series Champion Chicago Cubs in talent, manager Moises Alou will have plenty of players to rely on. On the mound, established veteran starters like Johnny Cueto, Bartolo Colon and Edinson Volquez will be joined by young studs Carlos Martinez and Luis Severino. The bullpen will be anchored by all-stars Dellin Betances, Jeurys Familia and Fernando Rodney.

With all of that talent on the mound, you might over look the position players for the Dominican Republic. Just kidding. With players like Adrian Beltre, Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, Jose Bautista, Manny Machado, Starlin Marte and many others, that is almost impossible. With an ample supply of power, speed and defense, skipper Moises Alou has a manager’s dream on his hands: too much talent.

The Dominican Republic boasts one of the most stacked squads in WBC history. With stars all over the field, the Dominican Republic is set to make another deep run in the WBC.

United States

World Baseball Classic

Andrew Miller is set to continue his post season dominance in the WBC (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images).

One of the few teams in all of the WBC that can rival the DR in talent is team USA. But in the WBC’s history, the US has yet to win the championship. Will that change in 2017? Manager Jim Leyland sure hopes so.

Leyland will have a treasure trove of talent to utilize, both on the mound and in the field. He will be handing the ball to starting pitchers like Chris Archer, Sonny Gray and Michael Fulmer. The bullpen will be bolstered by some of the game’s best. Cleveland Indians’ playoff hero Andrew Miller will be joined by Sam Dyson and Luke Gregerson to form a shut-down pen. But the cup runneth over in terms of talent, from the mound to the field.

The outfield will be manned by sluggers Giancarlo Stanton, Adam Jones and Andrew McCutchen. The will also be joined by Stanton’s teammate Christian Yelich to form a star studded outfield. The infield will be led by Jonathan Lucroy and Buster Posey behind the dish, as well as all-around talent Paul Goldschmidt. Spectacular veterans Ian Kinsler, Brandon Crawford and Daniel Murphy will be joined by the young stud Alex Bregman.

Even with not every team USA player listed, this roster is one of the best in the WBC. With depth at every position, manager Jim Leyland will be able to put multiple solid lineups out on the field.

Verdict

One of the deepest pools in all of the WBC, each team has multiple major league players on their respective rosters. In any other pool, Colombia and Canada would be competitive if not the favorites to advance. But in Pool C, there is really only two teams with a chance to move on to the second round.

The Dominican Republic and the USA are some of the most stacked rosters in the WBC’s history. Both are composed of all-star level talent, making choosing a favorite difficult. But after reviewing both team’s entire rosters, team USA has a slight advantage. With a deeper roster than the Dominican Republic, team USA should be able to get out of Pool C victorious.

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2016 American League West Preview

Courtesy of, brokenbatsingleblog.wordpress.com

Courtesy of: brokenbatsingleblog.wordpress.com

The Texas Rangers were the best team in the AL West last year. The Rangers had a solid offense with good enough pitching to back it up. They had some vets like Prince Fielder and Adrian Beltre who really helped them push their way to a division title. However, they were not the team everyone talked about. That team, was the Houston Astros. They came out of nowhere and almost won the division and were good enough to make it to the Wild Card round.

The Astros finished second last year but, were a major surprise to baseball as they had been picked by many to not contend at all. Their young players stepped up and shinned. Carlos Correa has the talent and the ability to be a perennial All-Star and MVP candidate.

The Angels finished third last year and played well throughout the season, just barely missing the playoffs. They had the offense coming from their superstar Mike Trout and future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols. Their problem was, and still is, pitching.

The Seattle Mariners finished fourth last year in a disappointing 2015 campaign. They struggled in hitting as they finished in the bottom three for both runs scored, strikeouts, and batting average. Their pitching was also nothing to write home about as they finished the year with a 4.16 ERA.

Last were the Athletics who were expected to have a down year. They traded away many of the pieces they had brought in for the 2014 playoff run. Billy Beane decided it was time to rebuild. They brought in some interesting players through trades and Sonny Gray was spectacular.

That was last year though, lets move on to what should be an exciting 2016 for the AL West. I will start by giving which place I believe the team will finish in, then I will go through almost every position and tell you all what I see and lastly I will name my player or players to watch.

1st Place: Houston Astros

Courtesy of: www.sports-logos-screensavers.com

Courtesy of: www.sports-logos-screensavers.com

Last year the American League West had a surprise team, the Astros. While they did not win the division they had everyone talking. This was because they were well ahead of schedule. The Astros were a young team that many thought wouldn’t be contending this soon after they had blown everything up years before. Everything is finally coming together for a team that was the worst in the majors for almost 3 years. Their loyal fanbase will have to opportunity to watch a team that has unbelievable talent.

The outfield rotation of Rasmus, Gomez, Marisnick, Tucker and especially Springer are all solid. They can play defense well and carry some impressive bats. Springer and Gomez should have excellent seasons this year. Gomez will finally be able to play a full season with a winning team. Springer will look to continue to improve on what was a spectacular 2015 season. As long as the injury bug does not get to him he should have a monster year.

The infield, particularly the middle of it, will be amazing as well. Jose Altuve was one of the only good players on the team during their rebuilding process. His patience has paid off. With him and Carlos Correa manning the middle of the field the Astros may have the best middle infield in baseball. Correa has shown that he can be a major force. He can hit for average, power, bat with runners in scoring position, steal bases and play defense. The kid was a number one overall pick for the Astros and he has not disappointed. Look for him to have an amazing year and look for his name on the MVP ballot at the end of the year.

The starting rotation added Doug Fister to the mix which is a solid pickup. Keuchel, the reigning Cy Young Winner, McHugh, Fiers, and Feldman make up the rest of what should be a solid rotation. They have their ace and a great number 2 in McHugh. Those two should make the top of this rotation deadly. The back of their rotation is also made up of solid overall pitchers. Many of them are innings eaters who will keep you in a ballgame and give you a good chance of winning once you get to the bullpen.

The bullpen has the potential to be great. Ken Giles who was the Phillies closer was traded to Houston this offseason. He did not win the closing job, it was announced that Luke Gregerson would have that job, but, I can see Giles eventually winning it back. Pat Nesheck and Tony Sipps will also round out what will be an older but, effective bullpen.

The Astros should win this division barring any terrible injuries. Look for them to make some trade deadline deals to improve their corner infield positions and maybe add one more starter if they have the money to. They are one of my picks to make it to the World Series this year.

Player to Watch: Carlos Correa

2nd Place: Texas Rangers

Courtesy of: www.sportslogos.net

Courtesy of: www.sportslogos.net

This Rangers team came out and won the division last year, yet they were not the talk of the division. Many people outside of Texas had forgotten that they were the Division Champions, not the Astros. They will be looking to improve on their performance last year as they will have Yu Darvish back this year and an interesting piece in Ian Desmond patrolling left field. Ultimately they will finish 2nd behind an up and coming Astros team because their age will start to show and I do not think they will end the season with a healthy enough team to win the division.

The outfield will have Ian Desmond who to an extent is an experiment out in left field. He has been an infielder for his entire career but, he looked serviceable during Spring Training. They brought him in for his bat and they got him cheap. They are hoping this move will pay off. The rest of their outfield is much less exciting. Delino Deshields Jr. will be playing center field and while he is solid on defense he has a lackluster bat. Shin-Soo Choo will be playing right field and is a solid, but not all that exciting, player. He had a great season last year but, has been known to be injury prone throughout his career. Lastly is Josh Hamilton who should be back sometime in May. He has always had the potential to be a star but, his past and his age are starting to catch up to him. Sadly I do not see him playing all that well this year.

The Rangers infield will be solid. Adrian Beltre will playing solid defense and swing a mean bat. People are wondering if he is a Hall of Famer, I think he is and I think he will continue to prove that this season. Elvis Andrus will continue to bat for a decent average, steal bases, and playing great defense. Rougned Odor won the starting job at Second for now. Jurickson Profar will be called up if Odor starts to struggle at all. Mitch Moreland will be manning first base and will continue to hit. The big man has finally come into his own and deserves to be their starter. Prince Fielder will also play some first but, will mostly be their big bopper at DH. He will continue to do what he always has done, hit.

The most exciting part about this team is their starting rotation. Lets get the 3, 4, and 5 pitchers out of the way to start. Martin Perez is young and has good stuff but, he will need to prove that he deserves to stay in this rotation. Colby Lewis has been the Opening Day starter in the past and he has also dealt with health issues. If he can stay healthy he will be a solid back of the rotation guy. Derek Holland is in the exact same situation as Lewis. Now we get to the fun part, Yu Darvish who will be back in May and Cole Hamels. These two are both Aces and have been top 3 in Cy Young Voting. They are one of the best 1-2 punches in the game. Their only problem is staying healthy. If either of these two are down for too long a time the entire rotation gets significantly worse. If they are healthy for the entire year they will be fun to watch.

Here is most likely the biggest weakness for the Rangers, their bullpen. Look at these names and tell me what average fan will know them? Not one. Shawn Tolleson will be their closer and he has been solid the last two years with ERA’s of 2.76 and 2.99 respectively. He is not flashy but, he should get the job done. After him is a mix of many no name players. This will be an area they will need to improve drastically if they want a chance at winning the division.

Overall this Rangers team will be solid if they improve the bullpen and if they stay healthy. That is two too many ifs for me. I doubt they will stay healthy and I don’t think they will be able to improve the bullpen enough. I do think they will have a good year and have a chance at the wild card.

Player(s) to Watch: Yu Darvish and Cole Hamels

3rd Place: Seattle Mariners

Courtesy of: www.sportslogos.net

Courtesy of: www.sportslogos.net

This team has consistently under-performed.  Robinson Cano, King Felix, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager are their best players. These four are great but, they have never been enough to push them over the top. There are just too many holes. They will play some good baseball but, they will not be anything spectacular this year. This team outside of a few players is boring.

The outfield will consist of Nori Aoki, Leonys Martin, Seth Smith, and Franklin Gutierrez. All of these players are good, but none are great. Aoki will hit for a good average, Martin has not hit well, Smith was once a solid player but, age has caught up to him, and Gutierrez is the definition of OK. This outfield will be boring, not much more to say than that.

The infield is similar. Kyle Seager is fun but, will most likely be forgotten as his brother Corey takes over in Los Angeles. Ketel Marte is 22 and could be a fine major league player. The only problem is that he wont be a star. He, like most of this team will be good but, not great. Robinson Cano has been solid but not the Superstar Seattle wanted. His power numbers have dropped off a cliff seemingly and age is not on his side. He will be good like every year but, unless he regains that power stroke he will not be the Superstar Seattle desperately needs. Adding Adam Lind to play first adds  power and stability to the position. He is again like the rest of this team, solid, but nothing amazing. He will play well and hit 20+ homeruns this year. Nelson Cruz was a great addition to the team. He was the only really exciting hitter last year for this squad. For a time it seemed like he alone could carry this team on his back along with his 44 homeruns. Sadly that was not the case. Cruz is 35 this year and he should start slowing down, right? Chris Iannetta will be the catcher this year. He is a good defender with no bat. They are all solid but, will any of them bring the necessary boost that the Mariners need? I do not believe so.

The starting rotation is a little more interesting. Wade Miley, Taijuan Walker and Nate Karns are like the rest of this team, solid but nothing great. King Felix is well the King of Seattle. He is always in the talk for Cy Young and has been the backbone for this lackluster pitching staff. I am sure he will be in talks for the Cy Young again this year. Iwakuma won 15 games last year and proved he could be the number 2 behind the King. This was something Seattle has needed for a long time. The only problem is that he is heading into his age 35 season and will most likely not be able to put up the numbers as he has been for much longer.

The bullpen has some intriguing players but again none of them are great. Steve Cishek will be trying to get back into form as he once was in Miami. Joaquin Benoit has always been a good option in the pen and will most likely continue to be just that. Lastly the addition of Nick Vincent from the Padres is a move that will go under the radar but, should prove to be a great one for the Mariners.

The Mariners are a good team, do not get me wrong. The problem is they are boring. They do not have what it takes to push for the division or a playoff spot. Some people are picking them as a dark horse team but, until there is a spark from one of their players I do not foresee them being anything more than a .500 team.

Player to Watch: King Felix

4th Place: Oakland Athletics

Courtesy of: en.wikipedia.org

Courtesy of: en.wikipedia.org

Billy Beane has been doing Billy Beane things. He has brought together a cheap but, intriguing roster. I do have them finishing 4th just to be safe but, I think this team could make a charge at the wild card if certain things can go their way.

Their outfield consists of Khris Davis, Billy Burns, Josh Reddick, Coco Crisp, and Chris Coghlan. These 5 could be a great rotation. Davis and Reddick bring power. They could each hit 25+ homeruns this year. Burns and Crisp bring the speed and Coghlan is just solid all around. They could do great things as a group. If Davis can reach his full potential watch out, he could be a monster hitter. Billy Burns is probably the most exciting player you have never heard about. He is the typical Billy Beane player.

The infield should be interesting as well. Marcus Semien could be very good if he can bring down the strikeout numbers. The A’s received him in a trade with the White Sox last year and he has been pegged as their Shortstop of the Future. Jed Lowrie is always a solid veteran to have on your team. He is manning second because age is starting to catch up with him but, his bat should still provide solid at-bats. Yonder Alonso, Mark Cahna, and Billy Butler will all be splitting time at DH and first base. Alonso was picked up from the Padres last year and has been a solid everyday player. He can hit for contact and has gap power. If he can hit with runner is scoring position and add some more power, Alonso could finally reach the potential many thought he had. Steven Vogt was a suprise player last year. He hit 18 homeruns and drove in 71. He is a solid bat and even better behind the plate.

The rotation will be where this team will need to improve. They have a lot of injuries to deal with and not much talent to speak of. They will be the reason this team does not make the playoffs and they are why I have them fourth. Of course their is one Superstar, Sonny Gray. Everything I said before only talks about the rest of the rotation. I think Gray could win the Cy Young away this year. He has amazing stuff and is very collected for how young he is. People need to start paying attention to him. The only problem is that knowing Billy Beane he could get traded if the season completely implodes.

The bullpen will be a major strength for this team. They have the potential to be one of the best ones in the game. Sean Doolittle will be closing this year and doing his normal thing of getting outs as long as he is healthy. They brought in Ryan Madson and John Axford who were both previously All-Star type closers. If they can get back into form, watch out. These three could be what they Pirates had a few years ago with Grilli, Melancon, and Watson. Liam Hendricks and Mark Rzepczynski also have a track record of getting the job done. This bullpen could be amazing and if the starters can keep the game close and give it over to the pen the A’s could win many more games than people are predicting, including myself.

This team has potential if the moves they have made pay off. They could make the playoffs as a wild card. Sadly it is more likely that they will finish right around .500 because not every move can always pay off.

Player(s) to Watch: Sonny Gray and Billy Burns

5th Place: Los Angeles Angels

Courtesy of: en.wikipedia.org

Courtesy of: en.wikipedia.org

I know many of you have been wondering where this team would be. I can tell you right now that this team is vastly overrated because of two players, Mike Trout (he is not overrated, just the team) and Albert Pujols (he is overrated). They will have a bad year for many reasons, one being money and two being the lack of any prospects. This is normally any team’s nightmare. When you have all your money sunk into just a few players and no prospects that means rough years are heading your way and I think that starts this year.

The outfield of Daniel Nava, Craig Gentry, Mike Trout and Kole Calhoun is just not good. Left Field will be platooned by Nava and Gentry and neither of them are all that great. Trout is obviously one of the best players in baseball so no matter what else I say, much of it does not apply to him. Calhoun is solid but, it seems as though he has already reached his best. I think that last year will be the best year he ever has which again is not bad but, left much to be desired.

The infield is a train wreck outside of Andrelton Simmons. Yunel Escobar is decent but, nothing great. Johnny Giavotella is serviceable at best. CJ Cron is a similar player to Calhoun except he plays first base. Albert Pujols is one of the best players ever and he hit 40 bombs last year but, he is still a huge chunk of their payroll and he can’t carry teams like he used to. Simmons is a wizard on the field and is improving at the plate. The problem is that the Angels gave up so much to get him and for what reason? They will not be good this year. These kinds of moves are made by GM’s and Front Offices who are afraid to lose their jobs. Lastly Carlos Perez and Giovanni Soto are behind the plate and are decent at best. Perez is young and has some potential but, I would not count on him for much.

The rotation is not terrible but, there are many questions left unanswered. CJ Wilson is having shoulder problems which means it is just swollen and he isn’t out for very long or, it means surgery and he is out for quite awhile. Garret Richards has the potential to be solid but, I just do not know if he has what it takes to be the Ace for a team. 2014 was a great year for him but, 2015 was average. Alex Heaney was a top prospect for the Marlins and has been traded around a bit. If, and I really do mean if, he can pull it all together he could be a nice young player. I just have not seen enough of him to be convinced that he will be able to. Santiago and Shoemaker are not bad but, they are not playoff caliber players and Jared Weaver is in the twilight of his career.

The bullpen has even more questions than the rotation. How much longer can Street be this good? He and Joe Smith are the only good players in a very average bullpen. Will anyone step up? Does their depleted farm system have a diamond in the rough? They do not have the money to go out and get anyone and their farm system is atrocious.

The Angels are heading into what could be a long string of bad years. They will need to try and dump contracts near the trade deadline to try and revamp this team. They have no money and a bad farm system. All of this spells impending doom for a once great franchise. They may be in the hunt near the beginning of the year but, eventually I think it will all fall apart. The worst part about this is that they cannot blame it on injuries. As of now Wilson is their only injury problem. This could be the year the Angels start to fall apart.

Player to Watch: Mike Trout (Who else?)