2017 Season Preview – National League Central

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Chicago Cubs

2016 Record: 103-58 • 1st NL Central

O/U on Wins: 95.5 • Over

Moving In: P Wade Davis • OF Jon Jay • P Koji Uehara • P Brian Duensing

Moving Out: OF Dexter Fowler • P Aroldis Chapman • P Jason Hammel • P Travis Wood • P Joe Smith • OF Jorge Soler • C David Ross • UT Chris Coghlan • P Travis Cahill

Key Player(s) in 2017: P Jake Arrieta. The 2015 Cy Young winner had another remarkable season in 2016. The Cubs ace went 18-8/3.10/1.08/190/4.2 WAR in 197 innings pitched. Despite those numbers, Arrieta did see an increase in his ERA (3.10 from 1.77 in 2015) and in BB/9 (3.5 from 1.9 in 2015); as well as setting a new career high in walks (76) and wild pitches (16). The emergence of Kyle Hendricks in 2016 helped ease the load off of Arrieta and should give the Cubs a dynamic 1-2 punch heading into 2017. With Arrieta’s contract up at seasons end and the possibility of him hitting the open market in 2018, the Cubs should be looking to negotiate an extension before that happens. Despite their loaded lineup and relatively deep farm system, their pitching depth is shockingly sparse and an injury or two in the rotation could be devastating. Personally, I cannot see the deep pockets of the Cubs ownership NOT opening up their wallets to sign Arrieta to an extension. And that’s said knowing that they have to re-sign Anthony Rizzo too.

Potential Breakout: OF Kyle Schwarber. The C/LF made his MLB debut in 2015 and got into 69 games before the season’s end. In those games, Schwarber hit .246/.842/16/43/1.2 WAR in 232 AB. He was expected to be an integral part to the Cubs heading into 2016 but only managed to get into 2 regular season contests before a collision in the OF left him with torn ligaments in his knee. Despite being sidelined for the next 169 games, Schwarber made it back into the Cubs lineup just in time for the World Series which was good news for the Cubs. In the World Series, Schwarber raked at a clip of .412/.972 and added 2 RBI as the Cubs DH and pinch hitter. Even though he was drafted as a catcher and has spent a considerable amount of time behind the dish during his (brief) professional career, Schwarber’s future might be exclusively as a full time LF; and that’s despite his questionable OF defense. Both his knee injury and the Cubs need(s), as well as having two legit starting C on their roster as it is, could keep him permanently entrenched in LF for the foreseeable future.

Top Prospect: OF Eloy Jimenez • Age: 20 • MLB ETA: 2019

First Round Draft Miss: 3B Josh Vitters (3rd) over C Matt Wieters (5th) in 2007.

Fantasy Stud: 3B Kris Bryant • 2016 Stats: .292/.939/39/102/7.7 WAR in 603 AB

Money’s Man Crush: Everything about Kris Bryant. His bat, his glove, his ability to play multiple positions, his smile, the way he looks like he will tell you “not to worry, everything will be alright.” Really stung to learn that the Blue Jays had drafted him out of high school in the 18th round of the 2010 MLB Draft but he refused to sign, choosing to honour his commitment to the University of San Diego.

2017 Prediction: 1st NL Central

 

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Cincinnati Reds

2016 Record:68-94 • 5th NL Central

O/U on Wins: 73.5 • Under

Moving In: OF Desmond Jennings • P Scott Feldman • OF Arismandy Alcantara • 1B/3B Richie Shaffer • OF Gabriel Guerrero • P Tyrell Jenkins

Moving Out: P Alfredo Simon • P Ross Ohlendorff • P John Lamb

Key Player(s) in 2017: OF Billy Hamilton. Blistering speed, superb defense, and as of 2016, finally showing some patience at the plate. Everybody in baseball knows that Hamilton can run like the wind, unfortunately for both him and the Reds, his inability to get on base regularly all but made his speed a moot point. The old adage of “you can’t steal first base” definitely applied to Hamilton going into 2016 but 4th year CF proved us wrong. Hamilton had a solid year for the Reds, hitting for .260/.664/3/17 and 58 SB; his OBP of .321 was also a career high and the first time in his career that he had broken the.300 plateau. Hamilton needs to prove that he can maintain his newly found plate discipline and continue to get on base more regularly in order to remain part of the Reds rebuild. If he falters and goes back to his free swinging ways, he could easily find himself on the trade block.

Potential Breakout: 2B Jose Peraza. Appeared to be roadblocked behind Brandon Phillips and Zack Cosart but the trade of Phillips means that Peraza will open the season as the Reds starting 2B. Peraza played in only 72 games but made it count when he was in the lineup. Hit for .324/.762/3/25 and added 21 SB in 241 AB. Sample size OBP of .352 shows that he can be selective at the plate, but his K/BB ratio of 33/7 shows that he does have some free swinging in him. If he is able to keep that in check, Peraza could be one of the few bright spots in Cincinnati this season.

Top Prospect: 3B Nick Senzel • Age: 21 • MLB ETA: 2018

First Round Draft Miss: P Nick Travieso (14th) over P Lucas Giolito (16th) in 2012

Fantasy Stud: 1B Joey Votto • 2016 Stats: .326/.985/29/97/4.0 WAR in 556 AB

Money’s Man Crush: Joey Votto. The consummate professional and perennial recipient of the Tip O’Neil award (best Canadian ballplayer). Even though Votto is getting up their in age (33 at this season’s end) there have been no signs of seeing a slow down or regression. The only thing not to love is his contract, but I am sure that there would be no shortage of suitors if the Reds were to make him available.

2017 Prediction: 5th NL Central

 

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Milwaukee Brewers

2016 Record: 73-89 • 4th NL Central

O/U on Wins: 72.5 • Over

Moving In: 1B Eric Thames • 1B/3B Travis Shaw • C Jett Bandy • P Tommy Milone • 2B Eric Sogard • IF Ivan de Jesus

Moving Out: P Tyler Thornburg • 1B Chris Carter • C Martin Maldanado • P Blaine Boyer

Key Player(s) in 2017: 1B Eric Thames. The former Blue Jays farmhand and Mariner took his trade to Korea once he stopped receiving interest from MLB teams. Luckily for Thames, a move to the KBO might have been the best thing to have happened to his career. In three seasons in Korea, Thames hit for an average stat line of .348/41/127 and even had a 40/40 season in 2015. Sure, playing in the KBO makes those numbers as inflated as Thames’ muscles (seriously though, dude is JACKED!) but that didn’t stop the Brewers from signing him to a 3yr/$16 mil deal to play 1B. The question will be which Thames do the Brewers get? Will it be the dude who straight uo mashed in the far East? Or will it be the guy who .250/.727/21/62 and was a minus WAR player in 633 MLB AB?

Potential Breakout: OF Keon Broxton. The 26yr old OF got into 75 games in 2016 and posted a respectable stat line of .242/.784/9/19/23 SB/2.1 WAR in 207 AB. Broxton was acquired from the Pirates in the 2015 offseason and is looking to establish himself as an everyday player with the Brew Crew in 2017. The (continuing) emergence of Broxton should give the Brewers a solid OF trio as he’ll team up with Domingo Santana and Ryan Braun, and if Braun does in fact get moved, he will be replaced by another young OF prospect in Lewis Brinson.

Top Prospect: OF Lewis Brinson • Age: 22 • MLB ETA: 2017

First Round Draft Miss: P Dylan Covey (14th) over anyone who would sign a contract in 2010.

Fantasy Stud: SS Jonathan Villar • 2016 Stats: .285/.826/19/63/3.9 WAR in 598 AB

Money’s Man Crush: 1980’s powder blue and yellow jersey’s with the MB glove logo. I’d rank the throwback Brewers logo as the best in the (current) MLB over the now defunct Expos.

2017 Prediction: 4th NL Central

 

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Pittsburgh Pirates

2016 Record: 78-83 • 3rd NL Central

O/U on Wins: 85.5 • Over

Moving In: P Daniel Hudson

Moving Out: UT Sean Rodriguez • OF Matt Joyce • P Jeff Locke • P Nefateli Feliz • P Ryan Vogelsong

Key Player(s) in 2017: OF Andrew McCutchen. From 2011 to 2015 the man known simply as “Cutch” was a 5x All Star, 4x Silver Slugger winner, won an NL MVP, finished 3rd twice, 5th once and added one Gold Glove. His average stat line in those five seasons was: .302/.905/25/90/6.4 WAR in 572 AB. But in 2016 all that changed and for the first time in his career, Cutch was a minus WAR player. Injuries were not to blame as he played in 153 games but only put up a meager .256/.766/24/79 in 598 AB. McCutchen’s performance was so alarming that the Pirates actually fielded trade offers for him throughout the offseason. As if that wasn’t enough of a shock, the Pirates asked the former Gold Glove winner to shift from his usual position in CF to RF because of a poor defensive showing in 2016. Although the Pirates are saying the right things, it would be hard for them to justify re-signing him once his contract is up at the end of this season, especially if he has another down season. That being said he does have a team option for 2018 that could see him in Pittsburgh for a swan song or until he is surpassed by top prospect, Austin Meadows.

Potential Breakout: P Jameson Taillon. The former 2nd overall pick in 2010 finally made his MLB debut in 2016 and didn’t disappoint. Taillon made 18 starts in his rookie season and went 5-4/3.38/1.12/85/2.3 WAR in 104 innings. Throughout his career the only thing that has slowed down the hulking right hander has been issues with his durability. If those issues are behind him, Taillon should easily pair up with Gerrit Cole to give the Bucs a solid 1-2 punch atop their rotation. The Pirates will need all their arms to contribute if they have any hope with competing against the Cardinals, let alone the Cubs, for a potential playoff position.

Top Prospect: P Tyler Glasnow • Age:23  • MLB ETA: 2017

First Round Draft Miss: P Daniel Moskos (4th) over C Matt Wieters (5th) in 2007

Fantasy Stud: Starling Marte • 2016 Stats: .311/.818/9/46/47 SB/4.9 WAR in 489 AB

Money’s Man Crush: PNC Park. Hands down the most beautiful park in MLB; although im sure Giants fans will disagree. The whole experience of a weekend game in Pittsburgh is worth the pilgrimage to Pennsylvania. Best view is anywhere in the upper deck behind home or along the 3rd base line. That way you get an incredible vantage point of the Pittsburgh skyline and the Roberto Clemente Bridge; the game being pretty much takes a backseat to the view. The Pirates vintage 70’s and early 90’s throwbacks are pretty decent too.

2017 Prediction: 2nd NL Central

 

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St. Louis Cardinals

2016 Record: 86-76 • 2nd NL Central

O/U on Wins: 87.5 • Under

Moving In: OF Dexter Fowler •P Brett Cecil

Moving Out: 1B/OF Matt Holliday • P Jaime Garcia • 1B/OF Brandon Moss • P Jordan Walden •P Seth Manness

Key Player(s) in 2017: Pitchers Michael Wacha and Trevor Rosenthal. Both players mentioned here are integral parts to any World Series aspirations that the Cardinals might have. They were both All Stars in 2015 and had complete production drop offs in 2016. If it wasn’t for Seung-hwan Oh’s terrific debut (6-3/1.92/.92/103/19 SV in 79.2 innings) the Cardinals would be looking at a closer by committee. That’s because their usual everyday closer (Rosenthal) looked completely lost in 2015. Rosenthal went 2-4/4.46/1.91/56:29 K:BB/14 SV in 40 innings. The biggest reason for his struggles was his lack of control, as Rosenthal set new career highs in BB/9 (6.5) and H/9 (10.7). He will need to regain both his control and his confidence if he hopes to be a key part of the Cardinals bullpen; let alone try to win his closer’s job back. Wacha on the other hand went from 17-7/3.38/1.21/153/3 WAR in 181.1 innings to 7-7/5.09/1.48/114/-0.4 WAR in 138 innings. One reason for his struggles could be attributed to a nagging shoulder injury that has bothered him throughout his career and flared up during 2016. The Cardinals will need Wacha to stay healthy and pitch like he can as their pitching depth is already set to be tested with young, flamethrower, Alex Reyes, out for the season with Tommy John.

Potential Breakout: P Luke Weaver. Originally this spot was going to center on another Cardinals pitching prospect, Alex Reyes. Unfortunately for both Reyes and the Cardinals, Reyes suffered a torn UCL early in spring training and has undergone Tommy John surgery. This is where Weaver enters the picture. In theory, he could fill the tole that was suppose to be Reyes’ and either compete for a spot in the rotation, be a swing man out of the pen or be the first call up from AAA if needed. It’s not like Weaver has come out of nowhere either. He’s a former first round pick (27th in 2014) and enters the season as the Cardinals number two prospect behind only Alex Reyes. Although he may not make the opening day roster, I’d say there is a solid chance that he’ll be up with rhe Cardinals before the all star break.

Top Prospect: P Alex Reyes • Age: 22 • MLB ETA: 2018

First Round Draft Miss: P Chris Lambert (18th) over P Glen Perkins (22) P Phil Hughes (23) in 2004

Fantasy Stud: P Carlos Martinez • 2016 Stats: 16/3.04/1.22/174/5.9 WAR in 196 IP

Money’s Man Crush: The St. Louis organization. Pound for pound the most well ran farm system and team in the game. Well besides the occasional “rogue”scout.

2017 Prediction: 3rd NL Central

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2016 MLB Regular Season Predictions – National League

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National League East

 

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Atlanta Braves

2015 Record: 67-95 (4th NL East)

O/U Wins in 2016: 66.5 Wins • Under

X-Factor: Freddie Freeman • 1B

Potential Breakout Player: Ender Inciarte • OF

Futures Report: Dansby Swanson • SS

2016 Final Standing: 5th NL East

 

stanton

 

Miami Marlins

2015 Record: 71-91 (3rd NL East)

O/U Wins in 2016: 80 Wins • Over

X-Factor: Jose Fernandez • SP

Potential Breakout Player: Adam Conley.• SP

Futures Report: Tyler Kolek • RHP

2016 Final Standing: 3rd NL East

 

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New York Mets

2015 Record: 90-72 • (1st NL East)

O/U Wins in 2016: Wins 90.5 • Over

X-Factor: David Wright • 3B

Potential Breakout Player: Steven Matz • SP

Futures Report: Steven Matz • LHP

2016 Final Standing: 1st NL East

 

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Philadelphia Phillies

 

Philadelphia Phillies

2015 Record: 63-99 • (5th NL East)

O/U Wins in 2016: 67 Wins • Under

X-Factor: Maikel Franco • 3B

Potential Breakout Player: Vincent Velasquez • SP

Futures Report: JP Crawford • SS

2016 Final Standing: 4th NL East

 

Bryce Harper

Washington Nationals

2015 Record: 83-79 • (2nd NL East)

O/U Wins in 2016: 89.5 Wins • Under

X-Factor: Stephen Strasburg • SP

Potential Breakout Player: Joe Ross • SP

Futures Report: Lucas Giolito • RHP

2016 Final Standing: 2nd NL East

 

National League Central

 

Kris Bryant

 

Chicago Cubs

2015 Record: 97-65 • (3rd NL Central)

O/U Wins in 2016: 93.5 Wins • Over

X-Factor: Kyle Schwarber • C/OF

Potential Breakout Player: Addison Russell • SS

Futures Report: Greyber Torres • SS

2016 Final Standing: 1st NL Central

 

reds

 

Cincinnati Reds

2015 Record: 64-98 • (5th NL Central)

O/U Wins in 2016: 68.5 Wins • Under

X-Factor: Devin Mesoroco • C

Potential Breakout Player: Raisel Iglesias • SP

Futures Report: Jesse Winkler • OF

2016 Final Standing: 4th NL Central

 

MLB: JUL 26 Brewers at Diamondbacks

 

Milwaukee Brewers

2015 Record: 68-94 • (4th NL Central)

O/U Wins in 2016: 69.5 Wins • Under

X-Factor: Ryan Braun • OF

Potential Breakout Player: Domingo Santana • OF

Futures Report: Orlando Arcia • SS

2016 Final Standing: 5th NL Central

 

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Pittsburgh Pirates

2015 Record: 98-64 • (2nd NL Central)

O/U Wins in 2016: 85.5 Wins • Over

X-Factor: Andrew McCutchen • OF

Potential Breakout Player: Gregory Polanco • OF

Futures Report: Tyler Glasnow • RHP

2016 Final Standing: 2nd NL Central

 

MLB: MAY 02 Pirates at Cardinals

 

St. Louis Cardinals

2015 Record: 100-62 • (1st NL Central)

O/U Wins in 2016: 86 Wins • Under

X-Factor: Michael Wacha • SP

Potential Breakout Player: Stephen Piscotty • OF

Futures Report: Alex Reyes • RHP

2016 Final Standing: 3rd NL Central

 

National League West

 

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Arizona Diamondbacks

2015 Record: 79-83 • (3rd NL West)

O/U Wins in 2016: 82.5 Wins • Over

X-Factor: Paul Goldschmidt • 1B

Potential Breakout Player: Socrates Brito • OF

Futures Report: Braeden Shipley • RHP

2016 Final Standing: 2nd NL West

 

Colorado-Rockies

 

Colorado Rockies

2015 Record: 74-88 • (5th NL West)

O/U Wins in 2016: 70.5 Wins • Under

X-Factor: Carlos Gonzalez • OF

Potential Breakout Player: Trevor Story • SS

Futures Report: Brendan Rogers • SS

2016 Final Standing: 5th NL West

 

Los Angeles Dodgers v San Diego Padres

 

Los Angeles Dodgers

2015 Record: 92-70 • (1st NL West)

O/U Wins in 2016: 90 Wins • Over

X-Factor: Yasiel Puig • OF

Potential Breakout Player: Corey Seager • SS

Futures Report: Julio Urias • SP

2016 Final Standing: 1st NL West

 

San Francisco Giants v San Diego Padres

 

San Diego Padres

2015 Record: 74-88 • (4th NL West)

O/U Wins in 2016: 72 Wins • Over

X-Factor: Andrew Cashner • SP

Potential Breakout Player: Drew Pomeranz • SP

Futures Report: Manny Margot • OF

2016 Final Standing: 4th NL West

 

MLB: World Series-Kansas City Royals at San Francisco Giants

 

San Francisco Giants

2015 Record: 84-78 • (2nd NL West)

O/U Wins in 2016: 88.5 Wins • Under

X-Factor: Buster Posey • C

Potential Breakout Player: Joe Panik • 2B

Futures Report: Christian Arroyo • SS

2016 Final Standing: 3rd NL West

 

Awards

National League MVP

  1. Andrew McCutchen • OF • Pittsburgh Pirates
  2. Paul Goldschmidt • 1B • Arizona Diamondbacks
  3. Nolan Arenado • 3B • Colorado Rockies

National League Cy Young

  1. Jose Fernandez • RHP • Miami Marlins
  2. Clayton Kershaw • LHP • Los Angeles Dodgers
  3. Gerrit Cole • RHP • Pittsburgh Pirates

National League Rookie of the Year

  1. Corey Seager • SS • Los Angeles Dodgers
  2. Steven Matz • LHP • New York Mets
  3. Trea Turner • SS • Washington Nationals

 

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Spare Change – Pretenders and Contenders – All Star Game Reflections

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Distinguishing the Pretenders from the Contenders:

Heading into today, the Yankees, Royals and Angels all sit atop their respective decisions. Meanwhile, the two AL Wild Card spots are being held by the Houston Astros and the Minnesota Twins. The two (surprise) teams have a 3 game lead over their closest threat (Toronto Blue Jays) and both are in dire need of reinforcements.

In the National League (to no one’s real surprise), the Nationals, Cardinals and Dodgers lead their respective divisions, with the Pirates and Cubs holding the two Wild Card positions. As it stands right now, the Pirates have a 3.5 game cushion on the Cubs, with the Giants (1 GB) and the Mets (2 GB) being the only real threat to the Cubs.

Despite all of, if not most of these teams currently sitting in, or near a playoff position, many of them still have glaring holes to fill and needs to address before it can be determined which teams are legit contenders, and which teams are just pretending.

Pretenders with NO CHANCE:

miggy

Detroit Tigers

Current Record: 46-47 (4 GB in Wild Card and 10.5 GB in the AL Central)

Biggest Need(s): Starting pitching and bullpen help.

Reason(s) They’re a Pretender:
• Justin Verlander looks completely lost on the mound.
• Outside of David Price, the entire starting pitching staff has been woeful and far from consistent.
• The Tigers pitching staff currently ranks in or near the bottom 5 in most major pitching statistics.
• Seem to be more in a position to sell off assets than to add them.
• Soon to be free agent players like David Price and Yoenis Cespedes could fetch a sizeable reward and help the Tigers in the near future.
• Depleted farm system might not be deep enough to make any trades of importance.

Bartolo Witness

New York Mets

Current Record: 49-46 (2 GB in Wild Card and 3 GB in the NL East)

Biggest Need(s): Offense.

Reason(s) They’re a Pretender:
• Sure they have a solid pitching rotation, but the Mets have one of the more inconsistent offenses in all of MLB. They currently rank in the bottom 10 in almost all of the major offensive categories.
• Injuries and durability concerns to key contributors like David Wright, Michael Cuddyer, David Murphy and Travis d`Arnaud.
• Despite being loaded with young pitching talent, the Mets management seems to be unwilling to move key pieces of the future for offensive help today.
• Could be more tempted to spend money on offense in the offseason than to move prospects at the trade deadline.

maddy bumgarner

San Francisco Giants

Current Record: 50-44 (1 GB in Wild Card and 2.5 GB in the NL West)

Biggest Need(s): Outfield offense and pitching help.

Reason(s) They’re a Pretender:

• Matt Cain hasn’t been Matt Cain for a while
• Tim Lincecum has become even more of a shell of himself and was recently diagnosed with a degenerative hip disorder
• The veteran trio of Jake Peavy, Tim Hudson and Ryan Vogelsong, have performed more like washed up vets than crafty one.
• In the outfield, Nori Aoki and Angel Pagan have been pedestrian at best and have struggled to contribute consistent run production.
• It’s not an even numbered year…
• Not possessing the deepest of farm systems, the Giants may be hesitant to further deplete a system that is in the middle of a rebuild.
• More likely to attempt to add a big named starter in the offseason. Recent rumours have them linked to pursue Zack Greinke if and when he hits the open market.

Honourable Mention: Tampa Bay Rays.

Pretenders with SOME chance:

donno

Toronto Blue Jays

Current Record: 48-47 (3 GB in AL Wild Card and 4.5 GB in the AL East)

Biggest Need(s): Pitching, pitching, pitching and even MORE pitching.

Reason(s) They Still Have a Chance:

• Their ridiculous offense. The big bad bats of the Blue Jays currently sit atop or in the top 5 in nearly every MLB offensive category.
• No seriously… the offense, nothing else.

Reason They Will Remain A Pretender:

• Despite having one of the deeper farm systems in the majors, one that could (easily) be dipped into it in order to make a move or two, and an apparent $10 million in payroll flexibility, the Blue Jays front office seems unwilling to mortgage the future for a chance today.
• Even though he hasn’t been shy to make a move in the past, GM Alex Anthopolous seems to be a bit hesitant when it comes to moving top prospects, especially after being burned in the Dickey trade.
• If they don’t make a trade to help their poor pitching staff, the Blue Jays will definitely be adding another year to their playoff drought; 22 and counting.

bux

Minnesota Twins

Current Record: 50-43 (Leader in AL Wild Card and 6.5 GB in the AL Central)

Biggest Need(s): Offensive and pitching depth.

Reason(s) They Still Have a Chance:

• Received fairly consistent production from a somewhat unheralded or “no name” offense.
• Pitching staff has been above average to good and the return of Ervin Santana from suspension gives the Twins some pitching depth without having to make a big move.
• Similar to the Royals in 2014, the inexperience of the Twins helps them to shrug off stressful situations. It has been a big factor in their “never give up” attitude.

Reason They Will Remain A Pretender:

• They don’t have the payroll flexibility of big market teams to take on additional payroll.
• May be unwilling to dip into their deep farm system in order to make a run at it this season.
• Inexperience could work against them as the season progresses.

kris bryant

Chicago Cubs

Current Record: 51-43 (Leader in NL Wild Card and 9 GB in the NL Central)

Biggest Need(s): Starting pitching and bullpen help.

Reason(s) They Still Have a Chance:

• Joe Maddon’s supply of fairy dust that he brought with him from his tenure in Tampa Bay.
• Currently possess one of the best statistical pitching staffs in MLB.
• Depth of farm system and a management team that is hungry to win and willing to spend to do so, could see the Cubs be one of the more active teams at the trade deadline; and not as a seller for once.
• Similar to the Royals in 2014, the inexperience of the Cubs could be a blessing in disguise for the Cubs and could help them shrug off stressful situations down the stretch.

Reason They Will Remain A Pretender:

• Asking price on trade targets could be more than Theo Epstein and crew are willing to spend. Sure the Cubs are looking good this season, but don’t think that they will mortgage their very bright future for a chance this season.
• Could be more willing to take on payroll and spend money in the offseason, especially with a deep pool of free agent pitching help.
• Youthful Cubs could succumb to the grind of a 162 game season and start to break down as the season goes on.

Honurable Mention: Baltimore Orioles

Contenders with BIG Needs:

arod pouty

New York Yankees

Record: 51-41 (1st AL East) • 4.5 game lead.

Biggest Need(s):

• Regression of C.C Sabathia and the durability concerns of Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and Ivan Nova, could see the Bronx Bombers pursue a starting pitcher or two.
• Could also look to add infield and outfield depth to take load off of aging roster.

Most Likely Outcome:

• GM Brian Cashman was quoted as saying that he predicts that the Yankees were “more likely not doing anything than something significant.” He then followed that up by saying that they were “still making their calls” though.
• My take away from this is that the Yankees aren’t necessarily looking for the big name addition, but could look to add depth to the back end of their rotation like they did last season when they added Brandon McCarthy.
• Even with their respectable division lead, the Yankees will need to make a move in order to firmly solidify their grasp on the AL East.

Division Series - Kansas City Royals v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim - Game Two

Kansas City Royals

Record: 56-36 (1st AL Central) • 6.5 game lead.

Biggest Need(s):

• The season long struggles of Yordano Ventura and the recent news that Jason Vargas needs Tommy John surgery will have the Royals tied to every big name pitcher available leading up to the trade deadline.
• With the injury to Alex Gordon and the durability concerns that are Alex Rios and Kendrys Morales, don’t be surprised to see the Royals also look to add some outfield depth or some bench help.

Most Likely Outcome:

• I would honestly be shocked to see the Royals not make a move of significance to bolster their starting rotation. They have enough top prospects and a deep enough farm system to add one, if not two, starting pitchers.

Correaa

Houston Astros

Record: 52-43 (AL Wild Card leader and 2nd AL West)

Biggest Need(s):

• With rookie phenom, Lance McCullers Jr., facing an innings limit and the back end of the rotation being suspect at best, the Astros could and will be in the market to add an impactful starter.
• George Springer’s injury could mean that the Astros will also be on the hunt for some outfield help or depth. This isn’t a top priority, but it could be something that is addressed nonetheless.
• It wouldn’t be surprising for them to look for some 1B help, especially with Chris Carter currently hitting under .200.

Most Likely Outcome:

• Rumours have already started to swirl in regards to the Astros being tied to the big names available on the trade market. This week alone they have been linked to the trio of Johnny Cueto, Cole Hamels and David Price.
• No guarantees that the Astros land one of the big name pitchers available, but they may look to add an arm or two of lesser status.

Joc Pederson

Los Angeles Dodgers

Record: 54-42 (1st NL West) • 2.5 game lead.

Biggest Need(s):

• The injury to Brett Anderson earlier in the week was just the latest blow to an already paper thin Dodgers rotation. Outside of the dynamic duo of Kershaw and Greinke, the Dodgers had also been leaning heavily on Anderson and Mike Bolsinger to fill the void left by Hyun Jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy, who both suffered season ending injuries.

Most Likely Outcome:

• The severity of Anderson’s injury will really dictate just how active the Dodgers are leading up to the deadline. That being said, even if the injury isn’t severe, you can bet that the Dodgers will be looking to add some starting pitching depth. This week alone the have been linked to actively pursuing Cole Hamels.

Honourable Mention: Pittsburgh Pirates

Contenders with Minimal Needs:

• Los Angeles Angels
• Washington Nationals
• St. Louis Cardinals

all-star-game-baseball-ca8da7757f9d04a5

Reflections on the Dinger Derby and Mid Summer Classic:

• Introduction of the new format helped revitalize the Home Run Derby, not only from a timing standpoint, but also helped add some much needed life into something that had become stagnant in the past couple seasons.
• A combination of seasoned veterans (Pujols and Fielder), up and coming stars (Rizzo and Donaldson), the 23 and under stud club (Pederson, Bryant and Machado) and the home town favourite (Todd Frazier), easily made fans forget about the “big” names (Trout, Harper and Stanton) not in attendance.
• Even if you’re not a Reds fan, hearing the Cincinnati crowd basically will Frazier to the finals and the Derby title, was one of the best moments in recent All Star game memory.
• This interaction between Albert Pujols and Joc Pederson’s brother, Champ. Moments like this are really what the game is all about.

• The “Franchise Four” announcements prior to the All Star game fun to hear, especially with teams like the Rays naming 4 players who are not only still playing, but also 2 that are no longer with the team.
• On the whole, there weren’t too many snubs or surprises in the balloting, although Marlins fans selecting Gio over Josh Beckett and DBacks fans naming Goldy over Steve Finley could be considered a bit of a shock. I’m also a tad surprised that Mets fans went with Piazza over the Kid, Gary Carter.
• No matter what your thoughts or opinions are about him, you have to admit that it was hard not to get goose bumps when Pete Rose was announced to the Cincinnati crowd.
• The naming of the four “Greatest Living Players” (Sandy Koufax, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Johnny Bench) was an emotional moment that is up there with Ted Williams being carted out for the 1999 All Star Game at Fenway.
• Sandy Koufax showing us, and 50 cent, how to properly throw out a first pitch:

• Mike Trout doing Mike Trout things. With the leadoff home run, Trout became the first batter since the legendary Bo Jackson to lead the game off with a ding dong. Not to mention that it helped to complete his career All Star Game cycle. Keep in mind that this was only his 4th All Star appearance.
• Very fitting that Trout would become the first player since Bo to leadoff the game with a home run, especially with his AL All Star teammate, Adam Jones, referring to him as the “white” Bo Jackson.
• It would be amusing to see what Trout could do on the gridiron seeing as he could play either offense (fullback) or defense (safety).
• Jacob deGrom needed just 10 pitches and his 98 mph fastball to strike out the AL side in the 6th inning. In doing so, deGrom joined 19yr old Doc Gooden as the only Mets pitcher to strike out the side in the All Star game.

Over Looked Season of Yesteryear:

1996: Ellis Burks • Colorado Rockies • 3rd NL MVP

156 G • 613 AB • 142 R • 211 H • 40 HR • 128 RBI • 32 SB • .344 BA • 1.047 OPS

-$

Love it or Hate it · Week Two · 2015 MLB Season

What We Loved:

Lawrie and Escobar

  • A’s vs. Royals. If you’re a fan of the old time, hardnosed style of baseball, then this has become a must watch series. Takeout slides, bean balls, emptying benches and ejections were in ample supply in this 2014 AL Wild Card rematch. Lost in all the hate and animosity was the fact that the Royals were able to stay hot as they took 2 of 3 from the A’s. Make sure you have your PVR’s set on June 26th-28th for the next time these two square off, this time the A’s will have home field advantage.
  • Beginning of Brighter Days in the Windy City. Both the Cubs and the White Sox have promoted their teams top prospects, 3B Kris Bryant and LHP Carlos Rodon. Although he struggled in his debut, Bryant has looked rather impressive in the 3 games he has played thus far; he even added a “house league homer” to his short highlight reel. Rodon, on the other hand, is set to join the White Sox early this week and will pitch out of the bullpen to begin his MLB career. The stream of prospects heading to the Windy City will only continue to flow as the Cubs are set to promote (another) top prospect, SS Addison Russell, at some point this week.
  • Nelson Cruz is who we thought he was. The Mariners big offseason acquisition is currently hitting .358/8/16 with an ungodly 1.234 OPS for the short season. That includes having a stat line of .500/6/10 this week alone.
  • The Braves (current) Big Three. The trio of starters, Julio Teheran (2-0/3.71 ERA), Alex Wood (1-0/3.93 ERA) and Shelby Miller (2-0/1.69 ERA), are easily the Braves biggest strength and have shown that even with a somewhat suspect lineup, the Braves could potentially contend based on their arms alone.
  • The return of Garrett Richards. Sure it wasn’t the prettiest of starts (5IP/5 H/4 ER) but at least Garrett Richards is back on a big league mound after undergoing surgery for a torn patellar tendon.
  • Adam Jones. The Orioles CF is making an early and strong case for being the best CF in MLB. Jones is currently hitting .438/5/16 with a 1.294 OPS.
  • The promotion of OF Yasmany Tomas by the Diamondbacks.

What We Hated:

Lawrie

  • Kelvin Herrera headhunting. I am a big fan of that old style of baseball mentioned above. I also believe in the “you hit one of ours, we’ll hit one of yours,” approach in baseball. What I don’t agree with is throwing at a guy’s head. Not only is it a blatant intent to injure, but it could also kill someone, especially when you’re hitting 100mph on the radar gun like Herrera does. If you really want to get “revenge” for an aggressive takeout slide or one of your guys getting plunked, by all means hit one of their batters, but just aim for the ribs or thigh.
  • Another DL trip for Derek Holland. The pitching starved Rangers were banking on the veteran left hander to be one of the brighter spots in a bleak rotation, but instead, Holland will spend upwards of the next two months on the DL with (another) shoulder injury. That now makes 9 Rangers currently sitting on the Disabled List.
  • Are the Marlins this bad? Off to a 3-10 start and with rumours starting to circulate about the security of Manager Mike Redmond’s job, the Marlins seem far from the team that a lot of people were expecting to make some noise in the National League this season.
  • Travis d’Arnaud’s durability. The Mets catcher is headed to the DL again. It’s a shame to see a combo of bad luck and proneness for injury keeping a player of d’Arnaud’s talent out of the lineup on a consistent basis.
  • Mets injury woes. David Wright (hamstring), Travis d’Arnaud (Broken Hand) and Jerry Blevins (Fractured Forearm) are all the latest members of the Mets to wind up on the DL. At least this means that we will see one of the Mets top prospects, Kevin Plawecki, make his MLB debut.
  • Kris Bryant’s debut. Not that we actually “hate” it, but the highly touted Bryant went 0 for 4 with 3 strikeouts in his MLB debut. Don’t worry… I’m sure it won’t be a trend.
  • The Diamondbacks using Yasmany Tomas as a glorified pinch hitter.

Paul Wilson

Irrelevant Major Leaguer of the Week:

SP Paul Wilson · 7 yrs · 170 G · 153 GS · 941.2 IP · 40/58 W/L · 619 K · 4.86 ERA · 1.450 WHIP ·

Blue Jays Edition

What We Loved:

Kevin Pillar

  • Kevin F*****g Pillar! Dude is playing on a different level. Followed up his highlight reel performance in Baltimore by making what could very well be the catch of the year…
  • Devin Travis. Sure Tony the Chain is looking alright in Detroit, but Travis could prove to be a downright steal. All Travis has done since he made the team has played exceptional 2B D and not given away one single at bat. Seriously. Travis works each and every count like he is an 8 year pro. Oh… and he can also hit lead off.
  • Josh Donaldson’s bat waking up. The Jays three bagger went 11 for 29 with 3 HR and 7 RBI this past week.
  • The Old Breed. Veteran starting pitchers, Buehrle (2-0/3.75 ERA) and Dickey (0-1/3.26 ERA) have proven to be their usual reliable selves, as well as the lone bright spots, in a Blue Jays rotation that currently has a collective ERA of 5.14.
  • Liam Hendriks. Never thought I’d heap praise in any kind towards one of the Jay’s “jobbers,” but the Aussie right hander has looked pretty decent in a mop up role out of the pen. Hendricks has seen his fastball velocity rise and has used it to strike out 9 in 5.1 shutout innings thus far.

What We Hated:

Devon Travis

  • Not being able to have anything nice. First it’s discovered that the oft-injured Jose Reyes could spend some time on the DL with a fractured rib. Then, early bright spot, Devin Travis, wears a fastball in the ribs and is forced to leave the game after sliding back to 1B to avoid a pickoff. Sure it turned out to be just a bone bruise… but still… anytime you have to employ a double play combo of Goins and Tolleson is a lose/lose.
  • Blue Jay Killers. The Jays had the privilege of facing not one, but two players, whom flat out OWN the Jays for their careers. First, Desmond Jennings and the Rays came to town and took 3 of 4, including the Home Opener. Dezzy joins the likes of Longo and Carl Crawford as current and former Rays players, who just RAKE against the Jays. With Jennings and the Rays leaving town, the Braves were next to roll into the Dome. With them came the former O and long time Blue Jay killer, Nick Markakais. Sure enough, Markakis and the Braves were able to take 2 of 3 over the weekend. And we’re not even mentioning how the Jays have already faced known Blue Jay murderers, Brett Gardener and Adam Jones, to open the season.
  • Dalton Pompey. The young CF has had more struggles than highlights in the young season. Given Kevin Pillar’s ridiculous play to start the season, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Pompey be the one optioned to AAA Buffalo to make room for Saunders once he comes off the DL.
  • The Young Guns. The three starting pitchers NOT NAMED Buehrle or Dickey all currently have an ERA sitting North of 6.00.
  • Gibby doing his best Dusty Baker. Don’t you just get the feeling that Gibby is just going to grind the young arms of Osuna and Castro right into the Rogers Centre turf? And speaking of that turf…
  • The amount of times per broadcast that you have to hear about the new turf. The over/under is set at 10.5 mentions per game; always take the over.

Alberto Castillo

Irrelevant Blue Jay of the Week:

C Alberto Castillo · 132 G · 316 AB · 2 HR · 20 RBI · .206 AVG · .534 OPS

– $

2015 MLB Season Preview · NL Central

Wrigley Field

Chicago Cubs

Home Field: Wrigley Field

2014: 73 – 89 · 5th NL Central

O/U in 2015: 81.5 Wins · Under

What We Love:

  • Youth Movement. Years of poor finishes and savvy trades have left the Cubs with the best farm system in MLB. Cubs’ fans have already been introduced to the likes of Javier Baez, Arismandy Alcantara and Jorge Soler. Amazingly, the best is still to come. We’ll have to wait a few weeks, due to controllability reasons, but it will definitely be worth it, when one of the most highly touted prospects in all of baseball, Kris Bryant, makes their highly anticipated debut. Following him will be the likes of SS Addison Russell, RHP C.J Edwards and C/OF Kyle Schwarber.
  • Jon Lester. Not only does the signing of the left handed Lester give the Cubs a legit workhorse and ace in their rotation, but it also signifies that the Cubs are willing to be buyers opposed to sellers. Next step: contention.
  • Theo Epstein and Joe Maddon. The former Rays manager signed a 5 year deal to become the Cubs new bench boss in the offseason. Maddon is considered one of the best baseball minds in the game and it should be very interesting to see what happens when he teams up with another great baseball mind in Epstein. What Maddon and former Rays GM Andrew Friedman did in Tampa Bay was absolutely remarkable. It should be very fun to see what Maddon and Epstein are able to do with this roster and (deep) farm system.
  • Anthony Rizzo. After a breakout year in 2014, the Cubs first baseman could be showing the first signs of potential super stardom.

What We Hate:

  • Kris Bryant toiling in the minors. I understand that it’s more about the business end of the game (service time, controllability, etc…) than of a question of whether he has the talent to belong; he answered that during Spring Training. Either way, it sucks.
  • Renovations at Wrigley. It just isn’t the same without the fans in the outfield bleachers. It also seems really odd to see a Jumbotron sitting above the ivy covered outfield. I’m sure this is what it must have felt like when they (finally) installed lights back in 1988.
  • That ridiculous attempt at a mascot.
  • Knowing that Mark Prior is only 34 and hasn’t thrown a pitch in the majors since 2006.
  • Chet Steadman’s pitching face and corresponding grunt.

Impact Player: 1B Anthony Rizzo

Potential Breakout Candidate: OF Jorge Soler

Potential Bust Candidate: SS Starlin Castro

Top Prospect: Kris Bryant · 3B · MLB ETA: 2015

MLB.com Top 30 Prospects: http://m.mlb.com/prospects/2015?list=chc

Sergio Mitre

Irrelevant Throwback Player: RHP Sergio Mitre (2003-05)

Six Degrees of (Octavio) Dotel: Newly acquired CF Dexter Fowler was teammates with the reliever back in 2010, while they were both in Colorado. The Rockies were one of three teams that Dotel played for in 2010.

Final Prediction: 4th NL Central

Great American Ballpark

Cincinnati Reds

Home Field: Great American Ballpark

2014: 76 – 86 · 4th NL Central

O/U in 2015: 79.5 · Under

What We Love:

  • Johnny Cueto. The Reds right hander made 34 starts a year ago went 20-9 with a 2.25 ERA, struck out 242 hitters over 243.2 innings and finished 2nd in NL Cy Young voting. It was his best season since he went 19-9 back in 2012. Cueto is signed through 2015 and becomes a free agent at season’s end, if the Reds are far enough out of it in this season, don’t be surprised to see Cueto become available.
  • The new Todd-Father. After posting back to back above average seasons in 2012 and 2013, Frazier enjoyed a big breakout year in 2014. Last season, Frazier played in 157 games, hit for a .273 average and added 29 HR and 80 RBI; he also made his first career All Star appearance.
  • The Cuban Missile. What’s not to like about watching Aroldis Chapman sling 100mph+ fastballs, with a wipeout slider, from the left-hand side?
  • Billy Hamilton’s wheels. Hamilton would have fit right in during the stolen base heyday of the 1980’s. The Reds CF has elite speed and stole 56 bases in his rookie season a year ago. Hamilton’s speed gives him the ability to change the outcome of each and every game on the bases alone.
  • The 2015 Mid-Summer Classic. The Queen City will be the host of this year’s All Star game and festivities. It should also make for an interesting Home Run Derby, given Great American Ballpark’s home run friendly reputation.
  • Mr. Red, the Red’s mustachioed mascot.

What We Hate:

  • The rotation behind Cueto. Homer Bailey will open the season on the DL and Mike Leake has been a pretty reliable starter since he came in to the majors back in 2010, but after those two, things get a little questionable. The Reds traded RHP Mat Latos to the Marlins in the offseason and one of the players they got back, RHP Anthony DeScalafani, will open the season in the Reds rotation. DeScalafani has 6 career starts to his professional resume. Veteran right-hander and 2015 “I can’t believe he is still eating in MLB” candidate, Jason Marquis, and Cuban rookie, Raisel Iglesias, will round out the rotation. LHP Tony Cingrani is also available to start, but he will open the season in the bullpen.
  • Durability concerns. The Reds ability to contend in the Central could come down to how many man games they lose to the Disabled List. Players like Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, Jay Bruce, Devin Mesoraco and Aroldis Chapman have all spent time on the DL at one point or another. SP Homer Bailey will open the season on the DL but should come off of it within the first couple weeks.
  • 27 and counting. With Marlon Byrd slated to open the season as the starting LF, he will become the 27th different player to patrol LF for the Reds since the Big Donkey (Adam Dunn) left in August 2008.

Impact Player: SP Johnny Cueto

Potential Breakout Candidate: CF Billy Hamilton

Potential Bust Candidate: 1B Joey Votto

Top Prospect: Robert Stephenson · RHP · MLB ETA: 2016

MLB.com Top 30 Prospects: http://m.mlb.com/prospects/2015?list=cin

D'Angelo Jiminez

Irrelevant Throwback Player: SS D’Angelo Jiminez (2003-05)

Six Degrees of (Octavio) Dotel: Dotel was teammates with OF Skip Schumaker back in St. Louis in 2011.

Final Prediction: 5th NL Central

Miller Park

Milwaukee Brewers

Home Field: Miller Park

2014: 82 – 80 · 3rd NL Central

O/U in 2015: 80.5 Wins · Over

What We Love:

  • Brewers batting order. Even with Ryan Braun sitting out the first couple games of the season because of a strained side, this is a batting order that could be among the most potent in the National League. Until Braun returns, the Brewers batting order should look something like this: CF Carlos Gomez, C Jonathan Lucroy, 1B Adam Lind, 3B Aramis Ramirez, LF Khris Davis, RF Gerardo Parra, SS Jean Segura and 2B Scooter Gennett.
  • Jonathan Lucroy. Took a big next step in becoming an elite catcher with his 2014 season. Lucroy hit .301/13/69 in 153 games; his 53 doubles also paced MLB.
  • Aramis Ramirez’s career. Seems like an eternity since he made his MLB debut as a 20yr old in Pittsburgh back in 1998. Now in the twilight of his career, Ramirez will most likely not end up in Cooperstown, but he had one hell of a career nonetheless: 18 seasons · 2060 G · 2189 H · .285 AVG · .840 OPS · 369 HR · 1342 RBI · 3x All Star · 1x Silver Slugger.
  • The Robin Yount era throwbacks. Nothing more 80’s than that blue and yellow colour scheme. The MB Glove logo is also pound for pound tops in MLB.
  • Any ballplayer named Scooter.

What We Hate:

  • Starting rotation. The Brewers moved RHP Yovanni Gallardo to the Rangers in the offseason and in doing so; they have depleted a rotation that was already pretty thin to begin. Right-handers, Matt Garza and Kyle Lohse, will anchor the rotation but both have been susceptible to injury in their career. RHP Wily Peralta enjoyed a big 17 win breakout season in 2014 but it was only his second full season in the majors so who knows what happens this season. After those three, the rotation should be rounded out by Mike Fiers and Jimmy Nelson. Former 1st rounders, Johnny Hellweg, Taylor Jungman and Jed Bradley are all in the minors but have not shown much promise, if any, at the ML level.
  • Poor farm system. Years of poor scouting and player development has left the Brewers with one of the thinner farm systems in MLB. The Brewers farm system lacks both impact pitching prospects, as well as impact positional prospects. Not only does this lack of depth hamper the Brewers if injuries occur, but it also leaves the cupboards bare if Brewers management looks to add via the trade market.

Impact Player: CF Carlos Gomez

Potential Breakout Candidate: SP Wily Peralta

Potential Bust Candidate: 1B Adam Lind

Top Prospect: Orlando Arcia · SS · MLB: 2016

MLB.com Top 30 Prospects: http://m.mlb.com/prospects/2015?list=mil

Doug Davis

Irrelevant Throwback Player: SP Doug Davis (2003-2006, 2010)

Six Degrees of (Octavio) Dotel: Recently acquired, Adam Lind, and Dotel were members of the Blue Jays back in 2011.

Final Prediction: 3rd NL Central

PNC Park

Pittsburgh Pirates

Home Field: PNC Park

2014: 88 – 74 · 2nd NL Central

O/U in 2015: 85.5 Wins · Over

What We Love:

  • Andrew McCutchen’s everything. The 2013 NL MVP winner actually had a statistically better season in 2014 than in his MVP year the season before. Cutch hit .314/25/83 in 146 games last season and led MLB with a .410 OBP. In seven seasons in the bigs, Cutch is a 4x All Star and has finished in the top three in MVP voting in the last three straight seasons.
  • Josh Harrison’s versatility. Due to injuries and lack of production, The Jay Hey Kid saw time at 2B, 3B, SS, LF and RF in 2014. But it wasn’t just in the field where Harrison had an impact on the Pirates. Harrison’s .315/13/52 in 143 games were all new career highs and helped propel the Pirates back into the postseason. The Pirates rewarded Harrison by signing him to a 4yr/$27.3mil contract before the start of the season.
  • Gerrit Cole’s fastball.
  • Pedro Alvarez’s power and move across the diamond to 1B
  • Any throwback jersey from the 1970’s.

What We Hate:

  • Loss of Russell Martin. In Martin, the Pirates lost a leader both on the field and in the clubhouse, an elite defender and receiver and some valuable run production in the lineup. The loss of Martin could have been softened by going out and acquiring another legitimate starting catcher, but instead opted to sign former Yankees backup, Francisco Cervelli. That of course leads me to the next point…
  • Attempting to replace Russell Martin with Francisco Cervelli. Cervelli, who has spent his career as a backup in New York, has never played in more than 93 games in a season and is now poised to become a starting catcher for the first time in his career. Cervelli, who has spent considerable time on the DL, will also need to prove that he has the durability to catch upwards of 130 games.
  • Back of rotation. The duo of LHP Jeff Locke and RHP Vance Worley are nothing special but will need to keep the seats warm until top pitching prospects, Tyler Glasnow and Jameson Taillon, are ready for the show.

Impact Player: CF Andrew McCutcheon

Potential Breakout Candidate: OF Gregory Polanco

Potential Bust Candidate: 3B Josh Harrison

Top Prospect: Tyler Glasnow · RHP · MLB: 2016

MLB.com Top 30 Prospects: http://m.mlb.com/prospects/2015?list=pit

Damaso Marte

Irrelevant Throwback Player: RP Damaso Marte (2001, 2006-08)

Six Degrees of (Octavio) Dotel: The Pirates are one of the thirteen franchises that Dotel has suited up for. Dotel pitched in 41 games back in 2010.

Final Prediction: 2nd Central

Busch Stadium

St. Louis Cardinals

Home Field: Busch Stadium

2014: 90 – 72 · 1st NL Central

O/U in 2015: 87.5 Wins · Over

What We Love:

  • The acquisition of Jason Heyward. Faced with suddenly having to replace Oscar Taveras, the Cards sent former 1st rounder, Shelby Milller, to the Braves for the talented Heyward. Heyward’s blend of speed, power and defense, should play well in this Cardinals lineup. What is also worth noting is the fact that the Cardinals should hardly miss having Miller in their rotation, as highly touted, former prospect, Carlos Martinez, is poised to fill that void.
  • Yadier Molina. Still among the games top catchers and an elite defender at the position.
  • Kolten Wong’s combo of power and speed.
  • The management team of Mike Matheny and GM John Mozeliak.
  • Carlos Martinez wearing #18 in honour of Oscar Taveras.

What We Hate:

  • Durability of starting rotation. Lance Lynn and Carlos Martinez are the only members of the Cardinals rotation who haven’t spent time on the Disabled List during their career. The others, Michael Wacha, Adam Wainwright, John Lackey and Jaime Garcia, have all spent considerable amounts of time on the DL during their career.
  • The tragic death of Oscar Taveras. Just an unbelievable loss of talent and life. RIP.
  • Lack of power in the lineup. Outside of 1B Matt Adams, this is a team that is void of a true HR threat.
  • Giving the Cardinals free 1st round picks as a “competitive balance.” Small market or not, how does a team that has won World Series titles in 2006 and 2011, as well as losing titles in 2004 and 2013, get given free first round draft selections?

Impact Player: RF Jason Heyward

Potential Breakout Candidate: SP Carlos Martinez

Potential Bust Candidate: C Yadier Molina

Top Prospect: Stephen Piscotty · OF · MLB ETA: 2015

MLB.com Top 30 Prospects: http://m.mlb.com/prospects/2015?list=stl

Eli Marrero

Irrelevant Throwback Player: 1B/OF Eli Marrero (1997-2003)

Six Degrees of Octavio Dotel: Dotel was part of the Cardinals World Series championship team back in 2011. Dotel was acquired by the Cardinals, as part of the package received from the Blue Jays, in exchange for CF Colby Rasmus.

Final Prediction: 1st NL Central

– $

Hot Stove Season Wrap Up – Vol. 1

opening day1

With the countdown to pitchers and catchers reporting now being under a month (February 18th) and one of the biggest free agents finally landing his record breaking deal (Max Scherzer), I would say that now is better than ever to take a look back at the always fun and exciting Hot Stove Season.

Most Surprising Free Agent Signing:

Chicago Cubs Introduce Jon Lester

It’s hard to imagine in an offseason that saw the Red Sox land not one but two marquee free agents (Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez) that we would be discussing a more surprising signing, but here we are. Although not made by the Red Sox per se, the biggest free agent splash did involve two of their former employees. The signing of Jon Lester by the Chicago Cubs has to be the most surprising move because of what it signifies for the game; the Cubs are ready to contend again.

Since Theo Epstein took over as President of the Cubs back in October 2011, he has done a great job of trading away everyday players for prospects, all while filling the Cubs minor leagues with high draft picks and international free agents. And now it looks like those moves are poised to pay off perhaps as soon as 2015. With top prospects Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Addison Russell and Jorge Soler looking to crack the everyday lineup and join offensive threats like Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro, the Cubs could be a team on the rise this season.

The Lester signing shows that the Cubs know that they are close and are now willing to be spenders opposed to sellers. More so, the Cubs are not afraid to gamble and spend on the big name free agents, opposed to picking up place holders and temporary solutions to long term problems. Realistically, the Cubs are probably still at least one season away from truly challenging for a Wild Card berth, let alone the NL Central. But the Lester signing now offers the Cubs a legitimate ace to anchor their rotation and allow them to be competitive while they wait for the fruits of their farm system to pay off.

Let’s be honest here, baseball is ALWAYS more fun and interesting when the Cubbies are good.

Most Surprising Trade:

wil myers1

As fun as it is to see the big name free agents changing teams and landing their proverbial paydays, the real joy of the Hot Stove season are the trades. There are few things that amuse this guy more than imagining a bunch of MLB GM’s tossing around hypothetical trades at the Winter Meetings like it’s a rotisserie league. And that’s exactly what happened this offseason.

Since Maddy Bumgarner led the Giants to (another) World Series title, we have seen the likes of Shelby Miller, Jeff Samardzjia, Mat Latos, Rick Porcello, Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, Yoenis Cespedes, Evan Gattis, Howie Kendrick, Dee Gordon, Jimmy Rollins, Brandon Moss, Matt Kemp and Josh Donaldson all get moved to new cities. And yet none of those moves were as shocking as the three team deal that saw the Padres land Wil Myers from the Rays. The actual deal looked like this:

Padres: OF Wil Myers (Rays), C Ryan Hanigan (Rays), P Jose Castillo (Rays) and P Gerardo Reyes (Rays)

Rays: OF Steven Souza (Nationals), P Burch Smith (Padres), 1B Jake Bauers (Padres), P Travis Ott (Nationals) and C Rene Rivera (Padres)

Nationals: SS Trea Turner (Pardes) and P Joe Ross (Padres)

This trade is shocking for a few reasons. The biggest reason is the fact that the Rays were willing to move Wil Myers in the first place.

Sure the kid had a down year in 2014 (.222/6/35 in 325 AB compared to .293/13/53 in 335 AB in 2013) but for the Rays to give up on someone who wont be 25 until the end of the 2015 season just for one bad season is completely absurd. I would argue that 2014 was probably the first time in his entire playing career (amateur or pro) that Myers struggled as badly as he did, and rather than see how he would rebound in 2015, the Rays were more willing to give up on him.

What also makes this shocking is the fact that the Rays didn’t even get a good haul in return for Myers. When the Rays landed Myers and prospects from the Royals for James Shields and Wade Davis, the consensus from the MLB world was that the Rays had stolen Myers from the Royals. This year the Royals made it to the Game 7 of the World Series thanks to James Shields and Wade Davis, meanwhile the Rays flipped Wil Myers for essentially Steven Souza, Burch Smith and Rene Rivera. Nothing against those guys, but none of them have the ceiling that Wil Myers has.

wil myers

Even more astounding is the fact that the Nationals got a better return for losing Souza (Turner and Ross) than the Rays got for Myers. I have to assume that if Andrew Friedman was still in charge in Tampa, this is a move that does not get made.

Biggest Winner (Thus Far):

aj prolly

It’s hard not to like the moves made by Ben Cherington and the Red Sox. This offseason alone he has brought in free agents Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez and traded to bring in pitchers Wade Miley and Rick Porcello. The Marlins made a handful of additions (Mat Latos, Dee Gordon, Martin Prado and Mike Morse) in the hopes of capitalizing in a weak NL East. Even the lowly Astros made some nice moves in the hopes of just securing a winnind season (Luke Gregerson, Pat Neshek, Jed Lowrie, Evan Gattis and Dan Straily).

With that being said, the clear cut winner of the offseason has been the San Diego Padres and their new GM, AJ Preller. The Padres have not only been cellar dwellers for the better part of the past decade but they have also been unable to parlay any of their high draft picks into serviceable everyday players, let alone all stars. Because of this, the Padres have fielded one of the worst offensive lineups in recent history. This offseason, Preller looked to change all of that overnight.

Since the middle of December, the Padres have added the likes of Wil Myers, Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, Derek Norris and Will Middlebrooks, while only losing one everyday player (Yasmani Grandal), two high ceiling prospects (Trea Turner and Max Fried) and a handful of fringe prospects and depth players.

kemp_myers_upton_700

What is truly amazing is the fact that the Padres were able to make the above additions without having to part with any of their big three starting pitchers (Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross and Ian Kennedy) or their top prospect, C Austin Hedges. In addition to the above “big” moves, the Padres also added some nice pitching depth with the signings of Brandon Morrow and Josh Johnson, and the addition of Brandon Maurer from Seattle for Seth Smith.

There are no guarantees that the above moves will ensure an NL West crown or even a playoff berth, but it definitely gives the Padres a better chance at making a run for the post season. At worse, they will sure be entertaining to watch.

Biggest Loser (Thus Far):

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For a minute their it looked like Billy Beane and the A’s were going to be the ones to go home with this title. In the span of a few weeks, the A’s had traded away Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss, Derek Norris and Jeff Samardzijia and only brought in Billy “Country Breakfast” Butler as a replacement; it seemed that the A’s were going into a rebuild. But then Billy Beane did Billy Beane things and flipped prospects and catching depth to the Rays for Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar, then subsequently flipped Escobar to the Nationals for Tyler Clippard. All of a sudden this rebuild went to a retooling and Beane and the A’s no longer were in running for loser of the offseason.

Instead that title has now been handed off to the Baltimore Orioles. It’s funny that in an offseason that saw the Rays lose their coach, GM and one of it’s best players, the Orioles still come out as a bigger loser. To date, the Orioles have lost 2/3 of their everyday outfield (Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis), their everyday catcher (Matt Wieters) is coming off of Tommy John surgery, their promising 3B (Manny Machado) still looks to be suffering from the effects of the knee he tore up in 2013 and Crush Davis is coming off of a dismal season that was marred by an ugly 25 game suspension for PED’s.

What makes things worse is that the Orioles have done nothing to replace their departed outfielders, nor have they addressed issues with their bullpen, rotation and bench. Right now the best available free agent outfielder is Colby Rasmus and after that the list drops off considerably. The Orioles stalling has caused them to miss out on Melky Cabrera, Nori Aoki and Mike Morse; even Torii Hunter would be looking pretty good right about now.

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Another interesting Orioles storyline to follow in the coming weeks will be the future of GM Dan Duquette who has been rumoured to be attached to the Blue Jays Presidency. Duquette is under contract through 2018 and the Jays would have to give the Orioles compensation for hiring Duquette away. The big question though will be whether Orioles owner, Peter Angelos, allows Duquette to leave.

Stay tuned for more Hot Stove season rumblings and rants….

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