MLB players to watch out for

MLB players to watch out for in May

As the month of May rolls onward, the MLB has beheld several players on the diamond looking to get their names out there. While some have picked up where they left off in April, others are eager to strike big this time of year. The season is still young, but already, new and familiar faces are catching fire immediately. These are some to watch out for in April.

This time around, we will not be focusing so much on the household names, such as Mike Trout, Bryce Harper and Jose Altuve. We will be highlighting some players not as popular as the previously mentioned that have been firing on all cylinders in recent weeks. These are some players who we might see in the All-Star Game this July, and potentially more in the future.

pitchers to watch out for

The Tampa Bay Rays are trying to find a consistent winning rhythm, though they have won six of their last 10. One pitcher helping the team stay in the race is Jake Faria.

MLB players to watch out for

Jake Faria of the Tampa Bay Rays  (Photo from Wikipedia)

The 24-year-old currently rocks a 3-1 record in 2018. Though his ERA is a little higher than desired, Faria has shown great improvement throughout this season. If he continues this, Faria can be the next elite arm in the AL.

As for the rest of the Rays’ pitching staff, more work must still be done. But Faria and the rest of the staff will need to keep firing to catch up with the surging Yankees and Red Sox.

Speaking of the Red Sox, Rick Porcello has shown no mercy from the pitcher’s mound. He remains undefeated this season, in addition to a 2.14 ERA. The 29-year-old ace also has an AL CY Young Award under his belt, and is a frontrunner to take the coveted hardware again in 2018.

The rest of Boston, on the other hand, is a well-oiled machine in the pitching department. But the Red Sox must keep their foot on the throttle with the Yankees hot on their tail.

Over in the National League, the St. Louis Cardinals have taken the lead in the Central Division. 26-year-old Carlos Martinez has been one of many assets to St. Louis’ success this season. He has chalked up a 3-1 record and 1.40 ERA. The Cardinals boast one of the most dominant rotations in the entire MLB. Martinez is a big reason for that.

batters to watch out for

The Boston Red Sox, as a team, lead the American League in batting average. One of several reasons why is one of the newer Red Sox players this season: J.D. Martinez.

MLB players to watch out for

(Photo from MassLive.com)

This season, Martinez has belted eight home runs and 27 RBIs. He also has a .349 batting average. Although teammate Mookie Betts has garnered more attention, Martinez has become one of the players to watch out for in the batter’s box. Fail to prepare for this left fielder, and he will make you pay dearly.

The next player making splashes at the plate is A.J. Pollock of the Arizona Diamondbacks. In his last seven games, Pollock has put up four home runs and eight RBIs, not to mention a .423 batting average.

His season numbers are 10 home runs and 29 RBIs with a .306 batting average. Pollock and the Diamondbacks will need to keep it up if they want to remain at the top of the National League.

Over in the NL East, the race for the top is very tight. One of the teams fighting for the top spot is the Atlanta Braves, where you will find Nick Markakis. The two-time Gold Glove winner is heating up in the batter’s box, with a .344 batting average. His 25 RBIs and six home runs are nothing to sneeze at either. With the NL East race neck-and-neck, Markakis and company will need to take every opportunity possible to get ahead.

Still to come

New weeks and new games await, and every player is looking for a chance to shine under the lights. As we await the upcoming games, we anticipate more players to watch out for on the radars of fans and analysts alike. Whoever it might be, we will be hopeful to see them in the All-Star Game in Washington D.C.

 

Featured image by AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin

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2018 MLB season

12 days of baseball: What do we see now?

Here in the new season, 12 days of baseball have passed. The 2018 season is still very young, but several teams have shown significant surprises and concerns early on. Like any other season in any other sport, there are those who remain hot throughout the season. There are also those that start slow, but later pick up steam and momentum. Unfortunately, there will be teams that fail to find many winning formulas and find themselves at the bottom of their division.

All 30 teams have only started to make their marks. With what each franchise has accomplished until now, could this foreshadow what awaits in games to come? Not entirely. Though we have seen comebacks and cold streaks in the past, not everyone gets to play in October.

Let’s now take a look at how both the American and National Leagues look in 2018 up to this point.

12 Days of Baseball: American League

The Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros are boasting the two best records in the American League. For Boston, first-year manager Alex Cora has constantly found winning formulas, especially on the road. The Red Sox have taken the lead of the East Division early by two games. The Astros, on the other hand, have kept the engine running hot like last season in the AL West. With a roster full of household names, Houston’s chemistry has proven why many favor them to return to the World Series.

2018 MLB Season

Image Courtesy of NBC Sports

If these two continue their hot streaks, expect Boston and Houston to meet again in the playoffs.

Returning to the AL East, the Tampa Bay Rays are not nearly as fortunate in their 2018 campaign. As a unit, the Rays are fighting cold streaks at the plate and on the mound. Starting the season at 2-8, manager Kevin Cash and company will have significant ground to cover. The Rays have not seen playoff action since 2013.

As for the AL Central, there is not exactly a clear standout yet. The Minnesota Twins lead the pack by only one game and have started the new season at 4-3. So far, their pitching staff is starting off strong. But Minnesota will need to start firing off at the plate if they want to take the division. With the Cleveland Indians in the same division, the fight ahead will only get tougher for the Twins from here on out.

12 Days of Baseball: National League

In the NL East Division, the New York Mets have jumped to the top. Their pitching staff has been relentless, leading the National League in ERA. But with the Atlanta Braves catching fire, the Mets must keep at it.

In the NL West, the Arizona Diamondbacks have also started their 2018 season on a high note. Though their batting is solid, it is their defense and pitching that is keeping the ride going.

2018 MLB Season

Image courtesy of wikipedia.org

The Los Angeles Dodgers, on the other hand, are off to an uncharacteristically slow start. The reigning NL champs have struggled at the plate, ranking 29th in the MLB in team batting average. The Dodgers’ pitching rotation remains ruthless, but they have received very little run support in these first few games. They started with losses to San Francisco twice by a score of 1-0.

Staying in the NL West, the Colorado Rockies are among the teams hanging in there at the .500 mark. The Rockies’ fielding defense is among the best in the MLB. But Colorado will need to make improvements on the mound and at the plate if they want to get back in the playoffs.

Now in the NL Central, The Chicago Cubs stand at 5-4. The Cubs’ pitching rotation is among the best in baseball right now. But their offense needs to step up to take back the Central Division from Pittsburgh.

The Cubs should not panic at all right now. Manager Joe Maddon has consistently found a way to kick it into high gear and take over the NL Central, even from lukewarm starts. Seeing that the Cubs have found themselves in the NLCS in each of the last three seasons, don’t count them out just yet.

Looking Ahead

With plenty of baseball in store, momentum built now can translate to success for each team in the weeks ahead. Whatever the future may hold, these first 12 days of baseball have taught valuable lessons to each of the 30 franchises; “Do not panic.” “Weather the storm.” “Keep the motor running hot.”

As the 2018 season thunders onward, all of the right moves will need to be made to taste the October glory.

 

Featured image from USA Today Sports

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Boston Red Sox: Aces are dealing

The Boston Red Sox are coming off a rather disappointing ending of their season last year. Although they won the division in 2017, they finished last in the American League in home runs hit. Even though the offense put themselves in good scoring situations it seemed as though they could never get the big hit. Fast forward to the 2018 offseason and the Red Sox add J.D. Martinez to center a very balanced lineup, seemingly solving some of their power struggles.

Now the season is underway, and like the 2017 season, the Red Sox are off to a solid start. At the same time, it looks eerily similar to the Red Sox we saw last season.

The Ace’s:

The Boston Red Sox have had four starting pitchers throw so far this season: Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello and Hector Velazquez (arguably not an ace).

Those four have combined to throw 24 innings, walking just five, giving up just two runs and striking out 23. The total ends up being a 0.75 earned run average. They also combined for a 3-0 record to start and just five total walks and barring an Opening Day meltdown the starters would be 4-0. Although it is against the Tampa Bay Rays, it is the first time in the team’s history that the starting pitchers in the first four games have allowed a run or less in each outing.

The starters have done exactly what the did a vast majority of last season only they have done it more effectively so far. They are giving the offense a chance to hit without putting them in a hole and then having the bullpen close the door.

The Heart Attack Bullpen:

The Boston Red Sox

Joe Kelly, (Fox Sports).

It’s never easy when the ball is handed to the Red Sox bullpen. Although effective, they normally make it much more stressful than it needs to be. Opening Night was a perfect example.

Joe Kelly, coming off a career season, kicked off a nightmare of an eighth by getting just one out and giving up four earned runs. Carson Smith assisted that Eighth by getting two outs and giving up two runs himself, which would end up being the difference in the game in the end.

On Easter Sunday, Joe Kelly had a different outcome but still made Red Sox fans oh so nervous. He came into the ninth up 2-1 in the game and looking for his first save of the season. After getting two quick outs, he gave up back to back singles before finally striking out Dennard Span to end the game.

Waiting on some struggling pieces:

Two of the Red Sox “Killer B’s” have combined for just one hit in 21 plate appearances. Both Andrew Benintendi and Jackie Bradley Jr. are important pieces in a very strong offense.

The two hit .271 and .245 respectively last season and Benintendi came in second in A.L. Rookie of the Year voting. Although Bradley is known more for his tremendous glove, he is still a streaky hitter and can more than hold his own at the plate. If it’s anything like Mookie Betts’ struggles, they will be just fine. Mookie went 0-17 to start spring training. Despite a struggling bat then, he is hitting .286 now and has been hitting the ball hard in his outs.

Another piece that is somewhat struggling is the newest addition. J.D. Martinez is hitting just .200 to start the year. He five strikeouts compared to just three hits in 15 plate appearances to start the season. He was held hitless until the third game of the season and didn’t look comfortable yet in his new location.

Improvements:

I think that the pressure on J.D. is that he is supposed to be the homerun guy on the Red Sox. It’s not that he’s playing badly, it’s that fans expect him to have the power numbers they thought they paid for this winter.

The Red Sox have two home runs this season so far. One was an inside the park home run on a defensive mistake and the other was by a guy who finished last season with 10 total home runs. The Red Sox offense will need to pick up the pace as the season moves forward because there will be days in the near future where the aces have off nights.

 

Featured image from The Boston Herald.

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2018 MLB prospects

2018 MLB prospects spotlight

Spring training 2018 is officially here. Teams have hit the practice fields and are getting their cleats in the dirt once again. With the exhibition games coming this Friday, some teams are making some last-minute moves before play begins.

Notably, pitcher Yu Darvish is starting his Chicago Cubs tenure after signing a six-year, $126 million contract. Also, the Boston Red Sox picked up outfielder J.D. Martinez on a five-year deal worth $110 million. Signing noteworthy veterans can really add some needed experience and help with some lacking elements on a roster. But equally as important is seeing which young prospects can step up and help bring victory to the team.

They surely will come in handy with any roster subtractions, and what they bring to the table can be exactly what a team needs to play in October. For these prospects, spring training will provide plenty of chances to get their names out there.

Prospects on the mound

Pitchers help set the tone for the defense. Whether a starter, reliever or closer, they are counted on to bail the team out a sticky situation. Arguably the biggest prospect is Shohei Ohtani from the Los Angeles Angels.

2018 MLB prospects

Photo from the New York Times

The 23-year-old out of Oshu, Japan, has been taking names on the mound in his five seasons playing in the Japan Pacific League. On the mound, he racked up a pitching record of 42-15 with an overall ERA of 2.52 in 543 innings pitched.

But his talents don’t stop at the mound. At the plate, he belted 48 home runs, 166 RBIs and recorded an overall batting average of .286. In the outfield, he has posted a .976 overall fielding percentage.

Ohtani signed with the Angels on Dec. 8, 2017. MLB Pipeline ranks him as the No. 1 RHP prospect, as well as the No. 4 outfield prospect.

Another pitcher eyeing a spot in the rotation is Brent Honeywell of the Tampa Bay Rays. In the minor leagues, he went 31-19 with an ERA of 2.88. Although the Rays’ pitching staff had a rock-solid outing last season, Honeywell can be another formidable name in the near future.

MLB Pipeline lists Honeywell as the No. 12 overall prospect and the No. 4 RHP prospect.

Prospects on the field

As much as the pitcher gets idolized, as well as scrutinized, the other eight starters on the field have as much to do with a team’s success. By bat and glove, these prospects are looking to make an impact right out of the gates. One such prospect is 20-year-old outfielder, Ronald Acuna.

2018 MLB prospects

Photo by Karl L. Moore

Acuna signed with the Atlanta Braves back in July of 2014. His three seasons in the minor leagues have proven to the Braves that he deserves a shot at the starting lineup. During his tenure, he has racked up a .310 batting average, 29 home runs and 119 RBIs. In addition, his feet and defense speak well for themselves. His scout grade, according to MLB Pipeline, has shown his running, throwing arm and fielding to be above average.

MLB Pipeline lists Acuna as the top outfielder prospect coming into 2018.

Another player eager to make waves in 2018 is third baseman Nick Senzel.

The Cincinnati Reds picked up the former Tennessee Volunteer as the second overall pick in the 2016 MLB Draft. Much like Acuna, Senzel has plenty to offer on offense and defense. His two seasons in the minor leagues have yielded a .315 batting average, 21 home runs, 105 RBIs and a .956 overall fielding percentage.

MLB Pipeline lists the 22-year-old as the #7 overall prospect and the No. 2 prospect at third base.

Let the games begin

As the countdown ticks away for the exhibition games, many more prospects are eager for a chance to become a starter. Like in any other professional sport, baseball is no stranger to overlooked names becoming big-name stars.

But as the old saying goes, “Rome was not build in one day.” Maturity and a willingness to learn are as vital to a player’s success as a pitcher’s arsenal or a infielder’s position versatility.

For some, these characteristics can be what puts them in the starting lineup over others.

Both seasoned veterans and new faces will take to the field this to showcase their talents against other teams. For fans, it will be a welcoming sight and a preview of what exciting things may come for their favorite teams.

 

Featured image from MLB.com

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2018 MLB preview: Tampa Bay Rays

2017: 80-82 (3rd Place in AL East)

Last Postseason Appearance: 2013

Last World Series Title: NEVER WON A WORLD SERIES (Began play in the 1998 season) 

2017 Recap

For a team ranked 29th in Opening Day payroll to begin the season, 80 wins for the Rays is pretty impressive. They hovered around .500 all season and pitched well. As a team, Tampa Bay finished 7th in BAA, and 8th in ERA. They also had a top-10 bullpen. Unfortunately, they struggled mightily when playing the top two teams in their division. Against Boston and New York, the Rays went 15-23.

Archer finished fourth in strikeouts in 2017. (BIGPLAY.com)

Chris Archer, Tampa’s ace, led the MLB in starts with 34. He also finished fourth in strikeouts and had the fifth highest K/9. Although Archer had an ERA of 4.07, he ranked 10th overall in WAR for pitchers. Alex Cobb also had a solid season, going 12-10 while walking less than 6 percent of his batters. Closer Alex Colome led the MLB in saves with 47.

The key reason as to why the Rays fell short of the postseason was the offense, or lack of. Tampa Bay finished 25th in batting average, on base percentage, runs per game, and hits per game. They hit 228 home runs, which was good for 6th in the AL, but, unfortunately, most of them were solo shots. The Rays hit 149 solo home runs, which was tied with Baltimore for most in the league.

The power surge was led by Logan Morrison, who finished tied for 8th in home runs with 38. Steven Souza added 30 to the total, but also finished 8th in strikeouts. After a down year in 2016, Corey Dickerson returned to being the player he was in Colorado. The outfielder hit .282 with 27 home runs and earned the right to start at DH in the All Star Game for the American League. Kevin Kiermaier, who had the 5th highest defensive WAR in baseball, hit 15 home runs and stole 16 bags. Evan Longoria, now a member of the San Francisco Giants, hit 20 home runs, but had an OBP of just .313.

2018: Around the Diamond

Not only does the offense need to get on base more, but the defense needs to improve. Last year, Tampa Bay finished ninth in errors. Wilson Ramos, who missed significant time because of an ACL tear, will be ready to start behind the plate for Opening Day. In 2016, before getting injured, Ramos hit .307 with 22 home runs, and was named an All Star for the National League.

Logan Morrison’s career season, an OPS of .868, means his time is probably done on the low payroll Rays. This means an opening at first base, as well as 30+ home runs off the books. Brad Miller, who missed around 1/3 of the season because of time on the DL, looks to be in line to start at first, at least until Tampa makes a move. Keep in mind, Miller hit 30 home runs in 2016.

Evan Longoria not suiting up for the Rays already feels weird, but life goes on. Matt Duffy, who missed all of 2017 after two Achilles surgeries, looks to be in place to take over the hot corner. Up the middle, we have Adeiny Hechavarria or possibly Christian Arroyo at SS, and plenty of options, not great ones, at second. At any point, Tampa Bay could use Daniel Robertson, Joey Wendle, Michal Johnson, and Ryan Schimpf.

As part of the Longoria trade, longtime outfielder Denard Span will have a shot to compete for a spot in an outfield that consists of Kiermaier, Souza Jr., and Mallex Smith. Corey Dickerson will also get sometime in LF, but will mostly remain as the starting DH. In all honestly, Dickerson has great range, finishing 2nd in range factor/9 innings for leftfielders.

On the Bump

Chris Archer will be followed by Jake Odorizzi, Blake Snell, Nathan Eovaldi, and either Matt Andriese or Jake Faria. Snell is only 25 years old and was a first round pick in the 2011 MLB Draft. Eovaldi missed 2017 because of Tommy John Surgery, and Jake Odorizzi has proven to be pretty average, although only entering his age 28 season.

Colome will remain at the back end of the bullpen, with Dan Jennings setting him up. The majority of the ‘pen is young, but remember, Tampa has the same names as last year, and the pitching was fine.

The Future

According to MLB.com’s “Top 100 Prospects” for 2018, the Tampa Bay Rays have six players making this list, which is tied for the third most in baseball. Notably, RHP Brent Honeywell is ranked as the 12th best prospect, and fourth highest RHP. Last year, between AAA and AA, Honeywell went 13-9 with a 3.49 ERA and 1.24 WHIP. He also had 172 strikeouts in just 136.2 innings. His fastball hovers around the mid-90s, and his command is impeccable. Besides his fastball, Honeywell throws a screwball, which has become his trademark, a changeup, slider, and curveball.

Known for his screwball, Brent Honeywell is the future for Tampa. (Drays Bay)

Even though Longoria is now gone, the future of the infield looks promising. In return for Longoria, the Rays received Christian Arroyo, who can play SS/3B and ranks 81st on the top 100 list. Ahead of him is SS/2B prospect Willy Adames (#22 on top100). Adames, just 22 years old, could reach the MLB in 2018 and take over for Hechavarria. Acquired in the David Price trade back in 2014, scouts believe Adames will blossom into an All-Star caliber shortstop. He is great defensively and has proven he has some pop, hitting at least 30 doubles and 10 home runs in back-to-back minor league seasons.

Another big name is first basemen/LHP Brendan McKay (#25 on top100). Also 22 years of age, McKay is a pure ball player. Drafted fourth overall in the 2017 MLB Draft, McKay is widely considered the best two-way prospect since Dave Winfield. The Rays are open to trying anything with McKay, who hit .232 with 4 home runs and 22 RBIs at Class A Short-Season Hudson Valley. In 20 innings pitched, the lefty had an ERA of 1.80, a WHIP of .750, and 21 strikeouts. Talent evaluators see this kid being a .300, 20 home run type player.

Outfielder Jesus Sanchez, who was signed for 400k out of the Dominican Republic, is off to a tremendous start during his pro career. Last season, in A-ball as a 19-year-old, Sanchez, in 117 games, hit .305 with 15 home runs and 82 RBIs. He projects as an above average defender with good speed. Because of his offensive skills, Sanchez could be playing in Tropicana sooner than later.

The last of the six is outfielder/first basemen Jake Bauers. Bauers, a left handed hitter, has the ability to spray the ball all around the field. He also has a great eye, as he led the International League in walks with 78. During the 2017 Spring Training, Bauers hit .371 with three doubles, four home runs, 10 runs scored, and 13 RBIs. No more Logan Morrison means Bauers has a serious shot at 1B against Brad Miller.

 

2018 Prediction: 79-83

Again, hovering around .500 is completely acceptable for a low-payroll team like the Rays. Who knows if they will keep Archer, and the lack of notable names in the lineup will again be an issue. However, the Rays have a plethora of young studs who look like they could bring this team back to the playoffs in a few years. If he is not traded before the break, Chris Archer will be the only All-Star on this team, and Tampa Bay will come in 4th in the AL East.

Featured image by MLB.com

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MLB Game 162 2011

Remembering baseball’s best night ever: Game 162

It is times like this when the average fan will look back and remember some great moments in baseball history. The hot stove is rather cold, and we are still six weeks away from pitchers and catchers reporting in the spring.

One of the greatest moments of the 21st century, if not ever, was the 162nd game of the 2011 regular season. I am not talking about one game in particular. I am talking about four different games that all led to one of the greatest finishes to a regular season ever.

Before we can focus on game 162, we need to know the context of the season.

September 2011

On Sept. 1, 2011, the Boston Red Sox were in first place of the AL East and were nine games ahead of the third place Tampa Bay Rays. In the National League, the St. Louis Cardinals were 7.5 games back of the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central and 8.5 games behind the Atlanta Braves in the Wild Card. Remember, this was the year before there were two Wild Card teams accepted from each league.

At the beginning of the month, everything was perfectly laid out for teams that looked playoff bound. Boston was a favorite to go to the World Series at the beginning of the year, and they looked poised to make another trip. However, they went 7-18 going into the last game of the season, and the Rays went 16-9 going into game 162. They were tied for the Wild Card with one game left, and everyone knew it would be exciting night just on that front.

The Cardinals were long shots for the postseason at the beginning of September. They were further back in the Wild Card than they were in the division. Luckily for them, the Braves went 8-17 going into game 162, while the Cardinals went a solid 16-10. This also left Atlanta and St. Louis tied for the NL Wild Card, just like the American League.

The hype for these games was there, and luckily for us, they did not disappoint one iota.

What was the situation for game 162?

Where even to start? The Cardinals were playing the Astros in Houston in what would be the last time Minute Maid Park would ever be a part of the National League. The Astros were also the worst team in the league with a lowly 56-105 record.

The Braves, on the other hand, were playing at home. The only problem is that they were playing the best team in the majors, and their bitter rival, the Philadelphia Phillies. Even though the Phillies had clinched the division and home field advantage through the entire postseason long before this game, they still had every intention of keeping their division rival out of the playoffs.

Much like the Cardinals, the Red Sox were on the road and they were playing one of the worst teams in the league in the Baltimore Orioles. Baltimore had lost the previous game, but were treating this last one like it was their World Series. Under no circumstances were they going to let Boston have a free ticket into the playoffs.

Down in Tampa, the Rays were playing the New York Yankees, who already clinched the AL East as well as home-field advantage through American League playoffs. The Rays had won five games in a row and had Boston sweating up in Baltimore. A Boston loss and a win against New York would give the Rays their third playoff birth in franchise history.

The National League

MLB Game 162 2011

The Braves collapse will go down as one of the “greatest” ever (Photo from NY Daily News)

The first domino to fall on the historic day was St. Louis beating Houston 8-0. It was a straight forward game that left the Cardinals confident they would have a ticket to the postseason. The problem was that the Phillies were down to the Braves 3-2 going into the ninth inning. It looked like the Braves would hold on amidst their September collapse.

Not so fast. Chase Utley flew out to left field to allow Pete Orr to score and tie the game. They were on the way to extra innings.

The Braves were not able to muster much of anything in extras. The closest they got was in the 12th where they had runners on first and second with two outs. Martin Prado proceeded to ground out, and they went to the 13th.

Hunter Pence came to bat in the 13th and was able to drive in the go-ahead run on an opposite field single. That gave the Phillies a 4-3 lead going into the bottom of the inning where the Braves would fight to stay alive.

Due up in the bottom of the inning were three of the Braves best hitters in Chipper Jones, Dan Uggla and Freddie Freeman. Jones began the inning by striking out, followed by Uggla being walked. It was a runner at first with one out with the young Freeman at the plate. He then grounded to first base, where John Mayberry and Jimmy Rollins were able to turn the double play, and Freeman slammed his helmet on the ground in disgust, finishing off what was an epic collapse to miss the postseason.

The American League

The results of the day are not the only thing that makes these games incredible, but it was in the manner in which it happened. Fangraphs did an excellent piece on the timing and odds that went into the regular season finale in the American League.

To sum up the games, New York had taken a 7-0 lead over Tampa, while Boston had a 3-2 lead over Baltimore. It looked like Tampa had no chance of coming back and that Boston would hold on. The stadium had emptied out as all hopes of the postseason alluded the Tampa faithful. About half the stadium looked emptied out at this point. All those fans forgot the wise words of Lenny Kravitz.

It ain’t over til it’s over.

The Rays burst out for a six-run bottom of the eighth, largely thanks to a three-run home run by Evan Longoria. The only problem was that they were still down 7-6 going into the ninth inning. They were down, but not out.

MLB Game 162 2011

The Rays react to a stunning home run from Dan Johnson (Photo from mlb.com)

The Rays found themselves down to one out in the bottom of the ninth. Joe Maddon used Dan Johnson as a pinch hitter to try and save their season against Cory Wade. Johnson fell behind and eventually reached a 2-2 count. The season was all but lost. Then, something magical happened.

Johnson roped a ball around the right field post for his second home run all season long.

Johnson trotted around the bases taking in what would be one of the greatest moments of the year. Everyone in Tropicana field went nuts, except for the skipper, Joe Maddon, who was stunned beyond belief.

It wasn’t over yet though. Boston and Baltimore had been in a rain delay, and they were just beginning to resume their game with Boston leading 3-2. They went to the bottom of the ninth, and Jonathan Papelbon had retired the first two hitters, and Baltimore was down to their final out.

Chris Davis was at the plate and was able to rope a ball down the right field line and get to second base for a two-out double. Nolan Reimold proceeded to drive a ball into the right-center gap for a ground-rule double to tie the game. Papelbon was just trying to get out of the inning at this point with Robert Andino at the plate. Andino was batting just .262 and was not a big threat at the plate. No problem for Papelbon, right?

MLB Game 162 2011

Mike Aviles walked off the field watching Baltimore celebrate their improbable victory (Photo from New York Times)

Wrong. Andino hit a line drive to the left fielder, Carl Crawford. Crawford bobbled the ball on the hop as he tried to make a play to catch the ball. That brief moment where he could not gather the ball led Reimold to round third base. Reimold steamrolled into home and just beat the throw. You might have thought that Baltimore had just won the World Series after that play.

Even after the blown save by Papelbon, the Red Sox still had hope. Hope that relied on the dreaded New York Yankees taking an extra-inning lead against the Rays. A moment where the Red Sox and their fan base would pray all they could for the Yankees to win, a true once in a lifetime moment. That moment was short lived.

It was not but three minutes later that those hopes would go down the drain.

Evan Longoria, the cornerstone player of Tampa Bay, perfectly fit a baseball just over the 315-foot marker on the short left field wall. The Rays came back from the grave in the Wild Card race in game 162 to stun the Boston Red Sox, who had just lost a heartbreaker 1,000 miles away.

The Aftermath

Terry Francona left as the Red Sox manager shortly after they blew their postseason chances. The Tampa Bay Rays lost in four games to the Texas Rangers, who eventually went on to the World Series.

The Philadelphia Phillies played the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLDS, the very team they allowed to enter the postseason after they stunned Atlanta. They lost the series to the Cardinals after a stunning performance by Chris Carpenter, outdueling the great Roy Halladay.

St. Louis went on to beat the Texas Rangers in seven games in the World Series in stunning fashion. That story is for another day though.

 

Featured image from the Tampa Bay Times

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Manny Ramirez Hall of Fame

Manny Ramirez by the numbers

The year is 2004, a year Boston Red Sox fans will never forget.

In July, at the MLB All-Star Game, Boston Red Sox star Manny Ramirez hit a two-run home run off of Roger Clemens in the top of the first inning. By the end of the regular season, Ramirez was first in the AL in home runs, slugging percentage and OPS. He finished third in RBIs, fourth in doubles and total bases, sixth in on-base percentage, eighth in walks and tenth in runs. Manny wound up finishing third in AL MVP voting.

Manny Ramirez Hall of Fame

2004 World Series MVP (Photo from MassLive.com)

A year after the infamous Aaron Boone walk-off home run sent Boston home for good, the Red Sox were back in the postseason. Eager to end the Curse of the Bambino, Boston came out with a bang in the ALDS. They swept the Anaheim Angels, and Ramirez hit .385 with seven RBIs in the three games. This win set up a rematch with the New York Yankees in the ALCS. We all know how that one went.

In the most unforgettable ALCS in baseball history, Ramirez hit .300 and had an OBP of .400. Boston was just four games away from breaking the 86-year-old curse and had to go up against the St. Louis Cardinals, who won 105 games in the regular season. Manny and the Red Sox were not fazed by St. Louis’ success and swept the Red Birds in four games. In the 2004 World Series, Ramirez hit .412 with four RBIs and an OBP of .500. He was named World Series MVP.

Ramirez finished his MLB career with 2,574 hits, 555 home runs, and a batting average of .312. He was a 12-time All-Star, two-time World Series Champion, nine-time Silver Slugger and even won the AL Batting Title in 2002. He is one of five retired players to be a member of the .300/500HR/5002B club, an elite list of players that includes Ted Williams, Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron and Willie Mays.

PLAYERS WHO HIT AT LEAST: .310, 550 HOME RUNS, 2,500 HITS, .410 OBP
BABE RUTH
MANNY RAMIREZ

Controversy

His career WAR of 69.2 ranks 106th all-time, ahead of Ivan Rodriguez, Tony Gwynn, Al Simmons, Tim Raines, Carlton Fisk, Eddie Murray and Ernie Banks to name a few. Arguably the best right-handed hitter the game has ever seen, Ramirez, because of multiple failed steroid tests, will most likely not be voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

If you can’t talk about the history of stars in baseball without mentioning Manny Ramirez, then he belongs in the Hall of Fame. With guys like Mike Piazza, Ivan Rodriguez and Jeff Bagwell, three stars who already have been elected into the Hall of Fame despite possible steroid use, how could Ramirez not be a member? It would make sense if nobody from the steroid era was voted in, but they have already crossed the line. Ramirez put up numbers that we have only seen from Babe Ruth, and he belongs in the Hall of Fame if Piazza, Rodriguez and Bagwell are in.

Here is an excerpt from Jeff Pearlman’s book about Roger Clemens, The Rocket that Fell to Earth:

“There was nothing more obvious than Mike on steroids,” says another major league veteran who played against Piazza for years. “Everyone talked about it, everyone knew it. Guys on my team, guys on the Mets. A lot of us came up playing against Mike, so we knew what he looked like back in the day. Frankly, he sucked on the field. Just sucked. After his body changed, he was entirely different. ‘Power from nowhere,’ we called it.”  When asked, on a scale of 1 to 10, to grade the odds that Piazza had used performance enhancers, the player doesn’t pause.  “A 12,” he says. “Maybe a 13.”

In an interview with 60 Minutes, Jose “The Godfather of Steroids” Canseco, talks about his own experience with anabolic steroids and human growth hormones, as well as other players in the MLB:

“Rafael Palmeiro, Juan Gonzalez, Ivan Rodriguez,” says Canseco. “I injected them. Absolutely.”

Whether or not the BBWAA figures out how to properly vote or not, numbers never lie.

Manny being Manny

Manny Ramirez was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, but moved to New York City at 13 years old. He went on to attend George Washington High School and was a star on their baseball team. In the 1991 MLB Draft, Ramirez was selected 13th overall by the Cleveland Indians. He went on to play for the Indians, Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, Tampa Bay Rays and Chicago White Sox.

Some of his best seasons came as a member of the Indians. In 1999, he became one of five players (first since 1938), to hit at least 44 home runs, 160 RBIs, .330 batting average and a .440 OBP. Joining Ramirez on this list is Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Hack Wilson and Jimmie Foxx.

Manny Ramirez Hall of Fame

In 2008, Ramirez hit .396 in 53 games with the Dodgers (Photo from Zimbio.com)

In 2000, Ramirez became one of 10 players to have a season of at least a .350 batting average, 38 home runs, OPS of 1.150 and 85 walks. The nine others who accomplished this were Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds, Frank Thomas, Hack Wilson, Jimmie Foxx, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams and Todd Helton.

In 2008, at 36 years-old, Ramirez was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in a three-team deal. The Red Sox acquired Jason Bay and Josh Wilson, and the Pittsburgh Pirates received Andy LaRoche, Bryan Morris, Craig Hansen and Brandon Moss. In his 53 games as a Dodger in the 2008 season, Ramirez hit .396 with 17 home runs. His totals from that year were .332, 37 HR, 183 hits and a .430 OBP.

Ramirez joined Babe Ruth as the only players to bat at least .330 with 35 home runs, an OBP of .430, and 180 hits at age 36 or older. During the 2008 postseason, the Dodgers made it all the way to the NLCS before losing to the Philadelphia Phillies. Ramirez, in the eight playoff games, hit .520, with four home runs and 10 RBIs. His .667 OBP in the 2008 postseason ranks fifth all-time, while his 1.080 SLG is 10th all-time.

For his career, Ramirez ranks fifth in postseason games played, and is arguably one of the best October players we have ever seen. He ranks first in home runs with 29, first in walks, second in RBIs and total bases, third in runs and hits and fifth in doubles.

Here are three more tables that show just how great this man was at hitting a baseball.

PLAYERS WHO HIT AT LEAST: .410 OBP, .580 SLG, 500 DOUBLES
BARRY BONDS
BABE RUTH
MANNY RAMIREZ
TED WILLIAMS
LOU GEHRIG

 

SEASONS WITH AT LEAST: .290 BATTING AVERAGE, 30 HR, .950 OPS

PLAYER NUMBER OF SEASONS
BARRY BONDS 13
BABE RUTH 13
MANNY RAMIREZ 12
JIMMIE FOXX 10
ALBERT PUJOLS 10
LOU GEHRIG 10
HANK AARON 9
WILLIE MAYS 9

 

SEASONS WITH AT LEAST: .320 BATTING AVERAGE, 30 HR, .425 OBP

PLAYER NUMBER OF SEASONS
BABE RUTH 11
JIMMIE FOXX 9
LOU GEHRIG 8
TED WILLIAMS 7
MANNY RAMIREZ 6
ALBERT PUJOLS 6
BARRY BONDS 5
STAN MUSIAL 5

Featured image by The Boston Globe

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Washington Nationals 2018

Washington Nationals team profile

After a successful regular season, the Nationals came up short in the postseason once again. The franchise still has not won a postseason series. This year looked to be their year, as their roster had few holes in it especially after bolstering their bullpen. However, Game 5 in the NLDS slipped through their fingers, and now Washington is in a state of perplexity. What can they possibly do at this point that they have not already done?

The managerial carousal

The Washington Nationals fired another manager at the end of 2017. This time, Dusty Baker was the victim despite winning 192 games in two seasons and winning the NL East both years. He is also the third manager to be fired in five years in Washington.

Washington Nationals 2018

Dusty Baker is the latest example of how Washington is insecure at the manager role (Photo from AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

What makes the situation interesting is that they have still won their division four times in seven years. Not only that, but two of the three managers (Davey Johnson and Matt Williams) have won the NL manager of the year during their tenure in Washington.

Is the management really the problem? It is understandable why the front office points to the skipper role as the issue with their teams. This is apparent in the fact that there are no glaring issues in the roster. The bullpen was by far the weakest aspect of the team at the beginning of the season, but were able to make it an asset through trades.

Replacing the manager will not fix the Nationals’ issues. Dave Martinez has accumulated a lot of experience under the wing of Joe Maddon in Tampa Bay and Chicago. However, he still has a lot to learn as a manager seeing as this is his first gig. What it is really going to come down to is the Nationals being able to execute in the postseason.

Washington found themselves down 2-1 in the NLDS against the Cubs. They were able to win Game 4 in order to force a fifth and final game, and the offense really showed up when it needed to. The only problem was that Matt Wieters fell apart when it mattered most, and his mistakes cost the Nationals three runs in what ended up being a one run game.

The players need to be held more accountable, rather than thinking that the manager is the problem.

Bryce Harper and free agency

2018 marks the final year on superstar Bryce Harper’s contract, and oh boy will teams be coming out for him this time next year. No matter where he signs, expect for him to surpass Giancarlo Stanton for the largest contract in the sports world.

What has Nationals fans worried is that Harper has been rather aloof when it comes to his status in Washington. Harper asked Washington for a $400 million extension, which the team of course was not able to meet.

This is purely speculative, but it seems Harper made a rather high asking price just to see if the Nationals would meet it. It is hard to think that he expected Washington to pay up that kind of dough. It is very tempting for Harper to test free agency, so why not see if you can get that much?

Harper had to be ecstatic when he heard of Stanton’s record contract. That is because most teams would value Harper over Stanton at this point in time, despite the 59 home runs Stanton hit this year. The precedent of Stanton’s contract may just boost Harper’s value through the roof.

One ridiculous move that will never happen is Washington possibly trading Harper this offseason. Harper has never said out loud that he would like to stay in Washington, so his future there looks murky. With the high possibility of him chasing the money in 2018, why not see what you can get for him this offseason? One season of Harper’s services for a contender could be worth some very valuable prospects in the long run, and Washington should have an eye past 2018. This is especially the case since their current formula can’t seem to get them past the NLDS.

What is in store in 2018 for the Nationals?

Don’t expect a whole lot different in 2018. The NL East is going to be controlled by Washington once again. Brandon Kintzler, Matt Albers and Jayson Werth are some notable names leaving, but the core is still in tact. On top of that, Adam Eaton will be returning from his devastating injury he sustained early in the season.

Washington Nationals 2018

Eaton’s return to Washington will have a large impact. (Photo from MLB.com)

The Nationals ought to target an arm or two in order to bolster their bullpen. Other than that and maybe adding an arm like Jaime Garcia to the rotation, they shouldn’t be too active at the winter meetings barring any big news.

Derek Jeter and the Marlins will be taking a step back next season as the front office has expressed a desire to tear things down and build back up. Miami finished second place in the East despite being 20 games back of the Nationals. The Mets may be making moves this offseason in order to get back into their World Series form from a few years ago, but they are still far behind the Nationals.

The main questions is, who will face Washington in the NLDS? Also, will Dave Martinez make the difference that the front office hopes he can make? Either way, all of the 2018 season is already riding on whether or not they will make it past the NLDS.

The ultimate goal is the World Series obviously. However, they first need to win their first playoff series in franchise history.

 

Featured image from Sports Illustrated

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Knizner

Five early predictions for the National League offseason

The 2017 World Series has come to a close, and the Houston Astros are champions for the first time in franchise history. That means it is time to look forward to next season as we will be without baseball until the spring. This ought to be an exciting offseason due to a star studded free agent class, especially in the outfield.

Not only are there a lot of good free agents, but this ought to be an interesting winter on the trade market. There are some big names floating around that could shake up the whole league. With that being said, here are five early predictions for the 2017 offseason.

The Los Angeles Dodgers sign Jake Arrieta

The Dodgers are coming off a tough World Series loss against the Astros. The front office knew that 2017 was a prime year to break their 30-year drought since the start. Now that it didn’t happen and a large part of their roster still in tact, they will look to push even harder next year.

National League offseason

The Dodgers may look elsewhere for help after Darvish’s collapse in the World Series. (Photo from Newsweek)

Yu Darvish is a free agent now (which may be a relief for the Dodgers after his World Series performance), and Los Angeles is looking to bolster their rotation. Jake Arrieta may be the best starting option on the market after his proven track record in the postseason and reliable arm in the regular season.

 

He won’t come cheap though. The Dodgers already have the highest payroll in the league, but Magic Johnson and company are surely not going to remain complacent after falling short this year. The Dodgers’ starting rotation and bullpen are what separated them from the rest of the league this season, but it may have been what costed them a championship.

A Kershaw-Arrieta duo would look to accomplish what a Kershaw-Darvish pair couldn’t. Darvish was successful in the NLDS and NLCS. However, he could not manage to put much together in the World Series. Arrieta has proven himself in those situations, so it would make sense for him to give the Dodgers that final push.

The St. Louis Cardinals get a reliable bat

The Cardinals had a glaring issue all season long, and that was their lack of an impact bat in the middle of their lineup. The problem is that St. Louis already has a crowded outfield full of players that they seem dedicated to, due to their high-value in their homegrown players. However, it is time for them to make a move for a big bat.

National League offseason

Christian Yelich would be tough for the Cardinals to get as Miami highly values him. (Photo from CBS Sports)

Derek Jeter and the Miami Marlins are looking to cut payroll big time under new ownership. The one name that sticks out immediately is Giancarlo Stanton. St. Louis is not known for taking on such large contracts, even though Stanton is exactly what the Cardinals need.

If the Cardinals do end up trading with the Marlins, it would most likely be for Christian Yelich. Yelich is much more affordable and is under team control until 2022, which is very appealing. He also would provide a solid 3.0-4.0 WAR every year out.

What the Cardinals most likely will accomplish though is getting a corner infielder. Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas are both hitting the free agent market, and both would fit nicely into the lineup. What is important to keep in mind though is the Cardinals have an eye on the 2018 free agent market as well, and Manny Machado and Josh Donaldson will be available then. Expect the Cardinals to especially push for Machado next year, or even look to trade for him this offseason.

The Diamondbacks will retain J.D. Martinez

National League offseason

J.D. Martinez was one of the hottest hitters in the league after being traded. (Photo from Detroit Free Press)

J.D. Martinez was traded to the Diamondbacks from the Tigers during the summer. He thrived in Arizona, hitting a monstrous 29 home runs and hitting .302. The Los Angeles Angels have already announced that Justin Upton, another Detroit Tigers outfielder traded at the deadline, will be signed through the 2022 season. Now some are wondering if Martinez will do the same and stay in Arizona, or seek greener pastures elsewhere.

Martinez announced on Wednesday that he is switching to contract negotiator extraordinaire Scott Boras. At first glance, this seems like it is a move to negotiate with other teams, but he can still be very helpful in discussions with Arizona’s front office.

In a conversation with azcentralsports.com, Martinez expressed his desire in staying with Arizona long term. Being next to names like Paul Goldschmidt and AJ Pollock makes him a good fit. Martinez may also feel it is the right place to stay after such a successful two months in the desert.

The Diamondbacks will have to give Martinez a large chunk of change in order for him to stay, but it may be what they have to do in order to compete with the reigning NL Champs in the West.

The Cubs will sign RHP Alex Cobb

With Jake Arrieta most likely leaving Chicago due to his high price tag, Alex Cobb could potentially come in and provide a solid third starter role behind Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks. Cobb has spent six years in the league and has had at least 20 starts in four of those years. Other than his 2016 campaign where he was sidelined most of the year for an elbow injury, he has been an extremely reliable pitcher for Tampa Bay.

Cobb is no Arrieta, but Cobb may be one of the better affordable pitchers on the market this offseason. Lance Lynn is a similar pitcher that could fit in Chicago. However, Cobb’s relationship with Joe Maddon and new Cubs pitching coach Jim Hickey could have a big impact on decisions for both sides.

Out of all the potential offseason moves that could happen, this one makes the most sense.

The Los Angeles Dodgers will trade for Giancarlo Stanton

As mentioned earlier, Derek Jeter and the Marlins are trying to cut payroll as much as possible in order to fully engage in a rebuild. Stanton has come out and said that he does not want to go through that process again. He is ready to win now.

National League offseason

Stanton may be on the Dodgers’ radar, as trading for him would make sense for all parties involved. (Photo from CBS Sports)

The Dodgers, despite having the highest payroll, have some money they can spend. Stanton has the most expensive sports contract in the world, so this would be a whole lot to take on. Even with the high payroll, the Dodgers don’t break the bank on one player too often. They are an organization that likes to spread their payroll out between many good players. However, this player is worth it.

Stanton also has the right to veto any trade he doesn’t like. The perfect fit may be in Los Angeles though. He is a California boy who grew up in the Los Angeles area. He also wants to win, as he has not done that much in his MLB career with the Marlins. It would be unlikely if a deal were to be put in front of him that he could deny such a tempting offer.

The Dodgers have a couple of solid prospects in their system with RHP Walker Buehler and Alex Verdugo, who rank 10th and 23rd in the MLB’s best prospects rankings. Those two players, along with the Dodgers taking on the daunting contract, should be plenty to acquire the 2017 home run king. The question is if the Dodgers are willing to put that high of an investment into Stanton, who only put in his third full season of work this year.

There is a lot of upside with this player though. He turns 28 next week, which means he is at the beginning of the hitter’s prime (27-32). Acquiring Stanton, along with signing Jake Arrieta, would make the Dodgers an even bigger juggernaut to fear. One thing for sure though is L.A. is hungry for a World Series after watching the Astros win it on their home turf.

 

Featured image by Getty Images  

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National League West

Predicting the Top Ten teams of 2023: 10-6

With the World Series in full swing, the Houston Astros have become the poster child for successful rebuilds. But going from 100+ losses to 100+ wins is no easy task. It takes skill in both the front office and the scouting department. It also takes the determination to see the rebuild through, no matter how ugly it gets.

These five teams have shown to have that skill through the stockpiling of young, elite talent. They also have the determination to lay their major league roster bare so as to lay the seeds of a successful rebuild. In these seeds are young talent and veteran leadership. Burt which teams have the best chance to emulate the Astros success?

Top Ten of 2023

Sheldon Neuse showed off a polished bat at Oklahoma (Chuck Cox/RoadTripSports).

10. Oakland Athletics

The Athletics did again this season what they seem to do every season; trade away major league talent for minor league promise. Relievers Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson were both shipped to the Nationals, and in return they received pitchers Blake Treinen, Jesus Lozardo and third baseman Sheldon Neuse. While Treinen is an established veteran and Lozardo is a mid-level prospect, Neuse is the main prize. He was the sixth ranked prospect in the Nationals system prior to the trade, and is now the fourth best in Oakland’s system.

He is also joined by former Yankees prospects Dustin Fowler, Jorge Mateo and James Kaprelian. All three were acquired in the Sonny Gray trade. Mateo ranks sixth and Kaprelian seventh in Oakland’s farm system, and Fowler was a Top 100 prospect at the time of the trade. But Oakland has their own home grown prospects to rely on as well. Top prospect Franklin Barreto will have a strangle hold on the shortstop position for years to come. With an even mix of pitching and position players, the Athletics have a shot to compete in the near future. But until ownership shows the determination to bring in veteran talent to supplement their young players, the best they can hope for is to compete on the fringes of baseball’s elite teams.

9. Tampa Bay Rays

Top Ten 2023

The Rays won the Wander Franco sweepstakes with a $3.9 million deal (Sports Gaming Rosters).

As a small market team, the Rays have had to rely on their farm system to keep them relevant throughout their existence. But you won’t find anyone in Tampa complaining, as it has reaped some nice dividends for the Rays. And they seem to be on that same path again, as they have a loaded farm system that ranks sixth in baseball. But the Rays haven’t acquired this talent through big time trades. They’ve done it the good old fashioned way; through savvy drafting and international signings.

Three of the team’s top ten prospects are already knocking on the door to the majors. With that much talent so close to graduating, the Rays are on the edge of rebuild and close to all in contention. But it will take those top three players living up to their potential to vault the Rays into contention. Their depth is not just limited to AAA, as top international free agent Wander Franco also helps bolster the farm system. Along with multiple other players in A ball, the stream of talent should be steady for Tampa long into the 2023 season.

Top Ten 2023

Mackenzie Gore was one of the most impressive starters in rookie ball this season (East Village Times).

8. San Diego Padres

The Padres find themselves in a similar situation with the Rays. A small market team which has to rely on it’s farm system to compete. But San Diego is different from Tampa in one regard. It has already graduated two of it’s top prospects to the majors. And they still have the fourth best farm system in all of baseball. Outfielders Manuel Margo and Hunter Renfroe both had solid rookie seasons for San Diego. While they weren’t Bryce Harper or Kris Bryant esque type seasons, they still showed improved growth. They will need them to continue to grow to support the next wave of young talent.

And by 2023, that talent will have already arrived. While none of the Padres top ten prospects are higher than AA, most of them will have had a taste of the majors by the 2023 season. Their top ten is highlighted by one of their youngest players, left hander Mackenzie Gore. After being chosen as the third overall pick in the 2017 MLB Draft, Gore blew away the competition in Rookie ball to a tune of 1.27 ERA. Needless to say, Gore is well on his way to being the ace of the Padres rotation. While their farm system is pitcher heavy (seven of the top ten are pitchers), those prospects can always be flipped for position players. But with Margo and Renfroe already a strong core, and impressive young pitching on the way, the Padres will certainly make some noise in the 2023 season.

Top Ten 2023

Carson Kelly will soon take over behind the dish for St. Louis (MLB.com).

7. St. Louis Cardinals

As one of the most historic franchises in baseball, the Cardinals have always relied on their farm system to keep them in contention. An innate ability to blend young talent and established veterans has been key for their success. And with the 11th best farm system in baseball, the Cardinals are primed to make that leap from good to great.

That is in no small part due to their stacked farm system. But the Cardinals have a vastly different system than the previous teams on this list. With five of their top ten prospects already in the majors, the farms system will soon be greatly reduced. But that is just the farm having a bountiful harvest. Pitchers Alex Reyes, Jack Flaherty and Sandy Alcantara will all be vying for a spot in the rotation in the 2018 season. They will be joined in the majors by backstop Carson Kelly and outfielder Harrison Bader. They will form the core of the next championship run for St. Louis. The farm system of St. Louis is very top-heavy, with nine of the top ten in AAA or the majors already. This will give them ample time to adjust to the major league game, and fully mature.

Top Ten 2023

Alex Verdugo has shown off a sweet swing in his time in the minors (baseballamerica.com).

6. Los Angeles Dodgers

You would think that the Dodgers would be out of contention five years from now. Sure they’re in the World Series, but it is very difficult to keep such a dynamic core together for that long. Include the fact that Clayton Kershaw will be 34 and Justin Turner will be 37 five years from now, and it would be easy to dismiss them from contention. But that would not be us giving them their due. The Dodgers have the willingness to spend like no one else, and a stacked farm system. Those two factors are the main ingredients for success, and the Dodgers are excellent chefs.

The Dodgers have excellent depth in their minor league system, with pitcher Walker Buehler and outfielder Alex Verdugo claiming the top two spots. They have also reached the major league level, and could be top level contributors in 2023. But they are far from the only pieces Los Angeles can lay claim to. The remaining prospects are all below AAA, but that should bode well for the future years. Given time to grow and develop, players like pitcher Yadier Alvarez and catcher Keibert Ruiz have a chance to be impact players in the next couple of years. Couple that with the Dodgers’ expansive checkbook, and you have a contender for years to come.

Feature image by Jake Roth/USA TODAY Sports

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