Hot Stove, Hot Takes – Part Two

 

free agents

 

Having already hypothesized where the top tier position players would sign, we now turn our attention to making half-assed guesses… I mean, educated assertions to where the top Starters available will wind up.

 

corbin

Patrick Corbin

Position: LHP Age: 29

2018 Stats: 33 GS • 200.0 IP • 3.15. ERA • 2.61 xFIP • 1.05 WHIP • 11.07 K/9 • 2.16 BB/9 • 6.3 WAR

Who Should Sign Him: Philadelphia Phillies. It’s no secret that the Phillies plan on throwing some serious cash around. It’s also no secret that they plan on upgrading their starting rotation. They have already been linked to the big names (Paxton, Kluber, and Carrasco) available on the trade market, but by signing one of the premier free agent arms instead, they could choose to trade their top prospects to fill other areas of need. With the likes of 2018 Cy Young nominee, Aaron Nola, and 2015 Cy Young winner, Jake Arrieta, already in the fold, the Phillies wouldn’t need Corbin to be their figurative ace; a role he is better suited for. The trio of Nola, Corbin, and Arrieta immediately give the Phillies one of, if not the best, front end of the rotations in all of the MLB. Something that will come in handy when the calendar turns to October.

Who Will Sign Him: New York Yankees. Entering the offseason, the Yankees had one clear goal in mind: upgrading their starting rotation. Despite having already traded for LHP James Paxton, it should come as no surprise that the Yankees, Corbin’s childhood favourite team, have already been rumoured to be the front-runners to garner his services as well. Similar to the Phillies situation mentioned above, the Yankees don’t need Corbin to be their proverbial “ace.” However, seeing as how the starting point for a contract with him should be along the lines of the contract that Yu Darvish signed prior to last season – 6yrs/$126mil – the Yankees will be paying an ace price for a guy who is really more of a solid number two. With that being said, the Yankees, who seem to want to move on from the Sonny Gray experience, are still going to be in need of adding an arm to fill out their rotation. Why settle for starting the season with an unproven arm like Chance Adams or Jonathan Loaisiga as your number five, when you could sign Corbin, and enter the season with 38yr old, CC Sabathia, to anchor your rotation instead?

Term: 6yrs/$131mil

 

 

eovaldi

Nathan Eovaldi

Position: RHP Age: 28

2018 Stats: 21 GS • 111.0 IP • 3.81 ERA • 3.67 xFIP • 1.13 WHIP • 8.19 K/9 • 1.62 BB/9 • 2.2 WAR

Who Should Sign Him: Houston Astros. The Astros were already looking at having to possibly replace two starting pitchers as both, LHP Dallas Keuchel and RHP Charlie Morton, were slated to hit free agency. Then they got the news that another one of their starters, RHP Lance McCullers Jr., was going to miss the entire 2019 season with Tommy John surgery. Even though the Astros do have a few arms – RHP Brad Peacock, RHP Colin McHugh, RHP Josh James, and RHP Forrest Whitley – that could step into the rotation to begin the season, adding an impact veteran arm like Eovaldi would allow them to bring along their younger arms (James and Whitley) at a more suitable pace; as well as having a contingency plan if either of the veteran arms of Peacock or McHugh don’t pan out.

Who Will Sign Him: Boston Red Sox. Acquired from the Rays at the trade deadline, Eovaldi’s solid regular season performance was overshadowed by his now legendary one in October. Eovaldi pitched 22.1 innings over six games in the Playoffs including two starts, and a relief appearance for the ages. You could argue that he was the odds on favourite to be the World Series MVP until Steve Pearce did his best Reggie Jackson impression. Post season success aside, what makes a reunion with Eovaldi truly appealing to the Red Sox is that he gives them another right handed option – along with Rick Porcello – to offset their lefty heavy rotation. With few holes to fill this offseason, I expect the Red Sox to be more than willing to spend in order to upgrade both their rotation and bullpen.

Term: 5yrs/$75mil

 

Keuchel

Dallas Keuchel

Position: LHP Age: 30

2018 Stats: 34 GS • 204.2 IP • 3.74 ERA • 3.84 xFIP • 1.31 WHIP • 6.73 K/9 • 2.55 BB/9 • 3.6 WAR

Who Should Sign Him: Cincinnati Reds. Despite being perennial cellar dwellers for the past number of seasons, the Reds have been one of the more talked about teams as far as trading for or signing a top tier starting pitcher. Rumoured to have inquired about the Blue Jays young righty, Marcus Stroman, it appears that the Reds are targeting pitchers capable of inducing a high rate of ground balls; which isn’t surprising when you consider that they play in a hitter friendly ballpark (Great American Ballpark). By targeting a free agent like Keuchel, it allows the Reds to refrain from having to part with some of their highly touted prospects; which in turn lets Cincinnati use them as trade bait for other needs. Speculation and rumours aside, one thought to keep in mind is that the Reds have historically shied away from offering lucrative contracts to high profile free agents.

Who Will Sign Him: Philadelphia Phillies. Similar to the position the Yankees are in, the Phillies would like to add another arm but don’t need them to be their ace. Enter Keuchel. Despite his lack of velocity and low strikeout numbers, his pinpoint control, and ability to keep the ball in the yard due to a high ground ball%, make him a logical fit for a team that plays their home games in a sin bin like Citizens Bank. That being said, with Keuchel on the wish list of numerous other teams, the Phillies might not want to get in a bidding war for the services of Keuchel, and instead could look to acquire a top tier pitcher via trade.

Term: 4yrs/$80mil

 

happ

J.A Happ

Position: LHP Age: 36

2018 Stats: 31 GS • 177.2 IP • 3.65 ERA • 3.88 xFIP • 1.13 WHIP • 9.78 K/9 • 2.58 BB/9 • 3.2 WAR

Who Should Sign Him: Toronto Blue Jays. This one is fairly straight forward; the Blue Jays need to add a veteran arm or two to help ease the workload on their young, and oft-injured starters. Having already had two stints North of the border in his career, Happ is no stranger to the organization, and that’s with taking into account the new coaching regime that is in place; although long time Pitching Coach, Pete Walker, does remain. Although a reunion between the two would make sense, at least on paper, for both parties, Happ’s potential price tag, and desire to win now, could be the reason that this doesn’t pan out.

Who Will Sign Him: Los Angeles Angels. As stated in the previous article, the Angels should be doing everything in their power to surround Mike Trout with as much talent as possible. Seeing as how their biggest need, which there are numerous, is the starting rotation, targeting one or two of the top arms available should be priority number one for this offseason. Although there are “better” arms and “bigger” names available, the 36 yr old Happ might offer the best bang for the buck on the market. Since his resurgence with the Pirates in 2015, Happ has quietly been one of the more consistent starters during that time. The market for Happ should begin to heat up once the bigger names have signed, as the teams that missed out on their top targets begin to look at their Plan B’s. The Angels would be smart to not play the waiting game or they may risk getting in a bidding war and having to overpay.

Term: 2yrs/$32mil

 

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Houston Astros

Charlie Morton

Position: RHP Age: 35

2018 Stats: 30 GS •167.0 IP • 3.13 ERA • 3.42 xFIP • 1.16 WHIP • 10.83 K/9 • 3.45 BB/9 • 3.1 WAR

Who Should Sign Him: Oakland A’s.

Who Will Sign Him: Washington Nationals. Despite looking like they were about to jump start a rebuild at last season’s Trade Deadline, not to mention potentially losing Bryce Harper any day now, the Nationals enter the offseason rumoured to be looking to add pieces. It’s hard to argue against the Nationals still believing that they have a window to contend as they still have a pretty stacked rotation and roster, but it is hard to see them shelling out big bucks for long term deals because a rebuild could take place at a moments notice. Morton, despite being 35, has been one of the top starters for the past few seasons in regards to strikeout numbers (364 K’s in 313.2 innings over the past two seasons) and average fastball velocity (95.4mph). Signing Morton would give the Nationals a solid mid rotation starter to pitch behind Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, while not having to commit to a lucrative multi-year deal. It also allows the Nationals, if they plan on contending, to spend money elsewhere on other needs, as well as give them a potential trade piece if they are forced to sell off.

Term: 2yrs/$28mil

 

Best of the Rest:

Lance Lynn • Age: 32 • 2018 WAR: 2.9 • Tampa Bay Rays

Anibal Sanchez • Age: 35 • 2018 WAR: 2.4 • San Diego Padres

Gio Gonzalez • Age: 33 • 2018 WAR: 2.0 • Oakland A’s

Trevor Cahill • Age: 31 • 2018 WAR: 2.0 • Toronto Blue Jays

Derek Holland • Age: 32 • 2018 WAR: 2.0 • Texas Rangers

Clay Buchholz • Age: 34 • 2018 WAR: 1.9 • Arizona Diamondbacks

Wade Miley • Age: 32 • WAR: 1.5 • Milwaukee Brewers

Matt Harvey • Age 30 • 2018 WAR: 1.4 • Cincinnati Reds

Jeremy Hellickson • Age: 32 • 2018 WAR: 1.2 • Chicago White Sox

Garrett Richards • Age: 32 • 2018 WAR: 1.0 • Baltimore Orioles

Tyson Ross • Age: 32 • 2018 WAR: 1.0 • Cincinnati Reds

 

Will Remain Unsigned Until Spring Training:

 

Brett Anderson • Age 31 • 2018 WAR: 0.9

James Shields • Age: 37 • 2018 WAR: 0.8

Jason Hammel • Age: 36 • 2018 WAR 0.8

Edwin Jackson • Age: 35 • 2018 WAR: 0.7

Marco Estrada • Age: 35 • 2018 WAR: 0.5

Francisco Liriano • Age: 35 • 2018 WAR: 0.3

Doug Fister • Age: 35 • 2018 WAR: 0.3

Bartolo Colon • Age: 46 • 2018 WAR: 0.2

Yovani Gallardo • Age: 33 • 2018 WAR: 0.1

Jaime Garcia • Age: 32 • 2018 WAR:0.0

Martin Perez • Age: 28 • 2018 WAR: -0.2

Drew Pomeranz • Age: 30 • 2018 WAR: -0.3

Miguel Gonzalez • Age: 35 • 2018 WAR: -0.3

Chris Tillman • Age: 31 • 2018 WAR: -0.4

Ervin Santana • Age: 36 • 2018 WAR: -0.5

Nate Karns • Age: 31 • 2018 WAR: N/A

 

Part Three – Top Free Agent Relief Pitchers Available – Coming Soon

– $

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Hot Stove, Hot Takes – Part One

free agents

With America set to sit down around the table, and give thanks for all they hold near and dear, the rest of the world eagerly anticipates a trifecta of NFL games and taking advantage of Black Friday deals. For me though, what I look forward to is not the obligatory airing of “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles,” although, I am a sucker for a John Candy film or the 75% off of a 70″ flat screen, but rather the ramping up of the MLB offseason. Known to those who speak baseball as the “hot stove,” the MLB offseason is a whirlwind ride of rumours, rumblings and constant refreshing of the Twittersphere, that leaves fans of every club eager to find out who their team is “in on.”

Even though the MLB’s GM Winter Meetings, the “unofficial” start of Hot Stove season, aren’t set to take place for another few weeks in Las Vegas, the Stove is already beginning to show signs of warming up. So far, outside of various signings to fill minor league rosters, we have seen a few free agents ink new deals, most notably being World Series MVP, Steve Pearce re-signing in Boston, and veteran backstop, Kurt Suzuki, finding a new home in Atlanta for the next two years. The trade market has also begun to heat up with the Yankees taking advantage of a sell off in Seattle and landing one of the bigger names available on the market, LHP James Paxton, although the price to pay was a steep one with Seattle receiving a package of prospects headlined by New York’s number one, LHP Justus Sheffield. This wasn’t the first, nor will it be the last trade of note to come out of the Pacific Northwest, as Mariners GM Jerry DiPoto, a favourite of the Hot Stove Hounds, has also recently swapped starting catcher, Mike Zunino and OF Guillermo Heredia with the Rays, for former Mariner great and notorious base thief, Mallex Smith. But enough about what HAS happened, let’s now look ahead to what COULD happen.

Free Agent Predictions

This offseason is shaping up to be one of if not the biggest and most exciting in MLB history with two of the games biggest stars (OF Bryce Harper and SS/3B Manny Machado) both hitting the open market, not to mention a former MVP (3B Josh Donaldson), a former Cy Young recipient (LHP Dallas Kuechel) and a closer with over 300 saves (RHP Craig Kimbrel) also available to the highest bidder. Why don’t we begin with some predictions on where the above, as well as some of the other “big names,” will wind up….

Top Position Players Available

machado

Manny Machado

Position: SS/3B • Age: 26

2018 Stats: 709 PA • .297 BA • .367 OBP • .905 OPS • 37 HR • 107 RBI • 5.7 WAR • 141 wRC+

Who Should Sign Him: Los Angeles Angels. My thinking here is that the Angels front office should want to bring in some much needed help and support for current front-runner to the claim of GOAT, Mike Trout. The main deterrent here will not be a financial one, but a logistical one. Mr. Machado, though a borderline elite defender at the hot corner, now fancies himself a SS, the position he was drafted as and played at last season. The problem here is not only is Manny a surprisingly sub-par defender at short, but his position of choice is currently filled by the best in the game, Mr. Andrelton Simmons. Imagine though, for a second, if Machado decided to go back to 3B. Just imagine how filthy defensively that left side of the infield would be.

Who Will Sign Him: Philadelphia Phillies. As much gossip and chatter as the rumour mill churns out during Hot Stove season, what still tends to happen is along the lines of the age old cliche: “where there is smoke, there is fire.” Meaning that, if you hear that so and so is linked to a team, and you read that they’re linked to a team, it most likely means that they’ll wind up with said team. Last week, Phillies owner John Middleton told USA TODAY Sports “We’re going into this expecting to spend money, and maybe even be a little bit stupid about it.” It’s hard not to read between the lines on that statement. The Phillies will be linked to, and most likely wind up signing two or three of the marquee free agents available. With the lack of development from former first round pick, SS JP Crawford, and the inconsistency of 3B Maikel Franco, you can bet that Machado will be the top name on the Phillies wish list. Although, you have to wonder how much the blue collared fans in Philadelphia will appreciate the hustle and antics of Machado.

Term: 10yrs/$350 million

Harper

Bryce Harper

Position: OF Age: 26

2018 Stats: 695 PA • .249 BA • .393 OBP • .889 OPS • 34 HR • 100 RBI • 3.5 WAR • 135 wRC+

Who Should Sign Him: New York Mets. Realistically, any team in need of or desiring an impact, middle of the order type bat, and can afford to shell out the biggest free agent contract to date, should be interested. But, given their inability to consistently produce offensively and their willingness to pursue top tier talent, it would be hard not to see the Mets make sense as a suitor for Harper. Not only would Harper immediately become the face of the franchise that just lost their heart and soul with the retirement of David Wright, but he would also get to play in the biggest baseball market there is; even if that means his home games are in Queens and not the Bronx.

Who Will Sign Him: Philadelphia Phillies. As mentioned above in regards to Manny Machado, the Phillies ownership has already outright said that they are going to spend “stupid” amounts of money this offseason. Which most likely means that Harper will be near, if not at, the top of their “wish list.” As ridiculous as it seems that a team could spend nearly a BILLION dollars on TWO players, it wouldn’t be a surprise at all if the Phillies wind up with both Harper and Machado. One thing to keep in the back of your mind though is that New Jersey native and avid Philadelphia sports fan, Mike Trout, could potentially hit the open market in the next two years. Could the Philles hold off on signing Harper, and play the wait and see game with Trout?

Term: 15yrs/$450 million

Pollock-e1517933211574

A.J Pollock

Position: CF Age: 31

2018 Stats: 460 PA • .257 BA • .316 OBP • .800 OPS • 21 HR • 65 RBI • 2.5 WAR • 110 wRC+

Who Should Sign Him: San Francisco Giants. The Giants will be an interesting team to keep an eye on during the course of Hot Stove season. Despite four lackluster seasons since their last World Series appearance and title, and strapped with an aging core of players, nobody really knows what to expect when it comes to San Fran. Newly hired, Farhan Zaidi, left the rival Dodgers to become the President of Baseball Operations for the Giants. What that means is that all decisions regarding trades and signings will go directly through him. What Zaidi decides to do as far as retooling the roster or rebuilding it from the ground up, will ultimately impact if the Giants are a viable option for Pollock. If they go the retool route then it’s hard to find a better and more realistic option than Pollock as he fits pretty much every need that the Giants have in the OF. However, if Zaidi decides to sell off his veterans and begin an overhaul of his roster, than a veteran OF (Michael Brantley, Adam Jones) that can be flipped at the deadline for a piece or two will be a more realistic signing.

Who Will Sign Him: Atlanta Braves. Though being one of the few “attractive” outfield options available on the free agent market, Pollock’s age and durability concerns – he hasn’t played more than 113 games since 2015 – will see him take a considerable backseat to the likes of Harper as far as term and value go. That being said, Pollock’s abilities with both his glove and bat make him the second best OF option available. With the Braves set to move on from RF Nick Markakis, and Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ender Inciarte already in place, the allure of adding a solid defensive fielder, as well as a top of the order bat, might make this a perfect fit for both club and player.

Term: 4yrs/$60mil

donno

Josh Donaldson

Position: 3B Age: 33

2018 Stats: 219 PA • .246 BA • . OBP • .889 OPS • 8 HR • 30 RBI • 1.3 WAR • 117 wRC+

Who Should Sign Him: Anaheim Angels. Maybe I am biased by my man crushes on both Donaldson AND Mike Trout, but my thinking here is once again influenced by the Angels need to surround Trout with some form of offensive help, or risk having him decide to take his talents elsewhere once his contract expires. Sure, the Angels may be weary about signing a former MVP who is over 30 (see: Pujols, Albert), but the glaring need they have for BOTH an everyday 3B, as well as an “impact bat” may be one that causes them to overlook their past misfortunes with former MVP’s over 30 (see: Hamilton, Josh). Couple that with Donaldson being linked to rumours of a one year deal in the $20 million range, and this may be too much of a bargain for the Angels to pass up.

Who Will Sign Him: St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals have been linked to the former AL MVP pretty much since the Blue Jays were eliminated by the Indians in the 2016 ALCS. Despite offering up the likes of RHP Jack Flaherty in exchange for Donaldson following the 2017 campaign, the Cardinals were rebuffed by the Blue Jays; a move that the latter would come to regret as Donaldson was sold for .10 on the dollar after missing the majority of the season in Toronto. Blue Jay bitterness aside, the Cardinals are now poised to finally wind up with their man, and it’ll come at no cost besides cash. Signing Donaldson would allow Matt Carpenter to slide back to 1B, where he is a better fit, and also allow the Cardinals to deal Jose Martinez, who’s all bat/no glove approach is better suited for an AL DH spot, for some help at other roster needs.

Term: 1yr/$20mil

moose

Mike Moustakas

Position: 3B Age: 30

2018 Stats: 635 PA • .251 BA • .315 OBP • .774 OPS • 28 HR • 95 RBI • 2.4 WAR • 105 wRC+

Who Should Sign Him: Kansas City Royals. After an October run to the NLCS with the Brewers, the man known as “Moose,” hits the market for the second time in as many years. Unlike last year, where rumours of a 5yr/$85mil deal were floated around before an eventual “freeze” in the Free Agent market saw numerous “big names” not sign until February, there seems to be a better understanding of how the market for Moose might shape up. Despite prodigal power at the plate, his low on-base numbers make him a less than attractive option for GM’s who value modern stats over the more traditional ones. Still, there will be a market for a player who can play an above average 3B, while offering 30/90 potential. I anticipate a team that is in the midst of a rebuild, and can look to flip him at the deadline, will be the one most likely to come to terms with the big 3B. Seeing as how one of the teams that fits this bill is the team that drafted him in the first place – the Royals – a reunion between the two might be the most natural of fits.

Who Will Sign Him: Pittsburgh Pirates. Even though they have already come to terms with SS/3B Jung-Ho Kang, the Pirates may look to roll with someone who hasn’t sat out the majority of the past two seasons. One of the other things that makes the Moose a fit in the Steel City is that he gives them a middle of the order bat that can make them challenge for the NL Central right away, or they can move him at the deadline to a contender if and when the Pirates are out of contention.

Term: 3yrs/$24mil.

Gonzalez

Marwin Gonzalez

Position: Utility Age: 29

2018 Stats: 552 PA • .247 BA • .324 OBP • .733 OPS • 16 HR • 68 RBI • 1.6 WAR • 104wRC+

Who Should Sign Him: Colorado Rockies. It goes without saying that any team that realistically views themselves as more “Contender” than “Pretender” could benefit from the addition of a versatile player like the man known as “Swiss G.” Capable of playing all four infield positions as well as LF, Gonzalez could give the Rockies immediate value as a potential everyday replacement for LF Carlos Gonzalez or 2B D.J LeMehieu; not to mention as an option to give 3B Nolan Arenado and SS Trevor Story some needed days off.

Who Will Sign Him: New York Yankees. As mentioned above, Gonzalez will be most attractive for a team with aspirations of contending from day one. Who fits that mold better than the Bronx Bombers? The Yankees are already entering the season needing to replace SS Didi Gregorious, whom will miss the entire season with Tommy John surgery, and the most logical fit for that role is 2B/SS Gleybar Torres, who was their everyday 2B last season. If Torres does indeed move over to SS, Gonzalez could slot in immediately as their Opening Day 2B. However, by adding someone with the versatility of Gonzalez, it could also see the Yankees play him occasionally at 1B or LF, and go and add one of the veteran 2B options available; such as: Daniel Murphy, Jed Lowrie, D.J LeMehieu, Brian Dozier or Jed Lowrie.

Term: 3yrs/$36mil

yasmani-grandal

Yasmani Grandal

Position: C Age: 30

2018 Stats: 518 PA • .241 BA • .349 OBP • .815 OPS • 24 HR • 68 RBI • 3.6 WAR • 125 wRC+

Who Should Sign Him: Houston Astros. The Astros have already decided to part ways with veteran, Brian McCann, and are set to head into the season with a tandem of Max Stassi and Chris Herremann. Though they have been one of the teams most linked with acquiring the Marlins, J.T Realmuto, in order to do so, the Astros would have to part with one or more of their top prospects. Even though they are an early favourite to head to the World Series, and a trade for Realmuto would easily put them over the top, the cost to do so might be one that is too high for GM Jeff Luhnow’s liking. Enter, Yasmani Grandal. Sure, his postseason play especially on the defensive side left A LOT to be desired, but there is no denying that his offensive prowess more than makes up for his defensive deficiencies. The switch-hitting, Grandal, would be an immediate upgrade over their current options, and would also allow them to keep their top prospects which they could use on their roster or to fill any other holes that may need filling.

Who Will Sign Him: New York Mets. There is no denying that Travis d’Arnaud is not an everyday MLB catcher. It is not because of his bat and offense, although that has dropped off significantly since 2015, but it is more to do with his inability to stay healthy. The soon to be 30 year old, has never played in more than 112 games at the MLB level, and at this point in his career, may be better suited as a back-up option. Outside of d’Arnaud, the Mets have Kevin Plawecki, but he too is starting to look more and more like a back-up. On the farm, the Mets have 24 year old, Tomas Nido, but his glove first approach and lack of bat might also make him a better back-up candidate at the MLB level. The Mets do have the pieces to pursue a catching option on the trade market like the Indians, Yan Gomes, or even possibly, J.T Realmuto, but the latter would cost them more than they are likely willing to part with. Signing one of the better free agents available -either Grandal or Wilson Ramos – could be the Mets best route to filling both a hole in their lineup, as well as adding a much needed offensive threat.

Term: 5yrs/$75mil

Part Two – Top Pitching Free Agents available – coming soon.

– $

2017 MLB Season Preview – American League West

jose-altuve-mlb-houston-astros-kansas-city-royals-2-850x560.jpg

 

Houston Astros

2016 Record:84-78  • 3rd AL West

O/U on Wins: 87.5 • Over

Moving In: DH Carlos Beltran • C Brian McCann • RF Josh Reddick • P Charlie Morton • OF Nori Aoki

Moving Out: C Jason Castro • 3B Luis Valbuena • OF Colby Rasmus • P Doug Fister • P Pat Neshek

Key Player(s) in 2017: P Dallas Keuchel. Saying that the 2015 AL Cy Young winner had a down year would be an understatement. Keuchel went from 20-8/2.48/1.01/216 in 232 innings to 9-12/4.55/1.29/144 in 168 innings in 2016. Yes, Keuchel did struggle with injuries throughout the season but when he was healthy, he struggled with his command and ended up surrendering more hits, walks and HR than his previous season. While the ‘stros did bolster their lineup in the offseason, they did not address a rotation that is one or two injuries away from a big problem. In order to become the clear cut favourite in the AL West, the Astros will need Keuchel to return to his 2015 form.

Potential Breakout: P Joe Musgrove. A supplemental first round pick (46) by the Blue Jays in 2011, Musgrove was acquired by the Astros in the J.A Happ trade. Since then, Musgrove has shot through the Astros minor leagues and made his MLB debut in 2016. In 10 starts last season, Musgrove went (4-4/4.06/1.21/55 in 62 innings. Musgrove will open the season in competition with Mike Fiers for the 5th spot in the rotation. If he does not claim it, look for him to either go to the bullpen or be the first call up from AAA if an injury occurs.

Top Prospect: P Frances Martes • Age: 21  • MLB ETA: 2017

First Round Draft Miss: Jiovanni Mier (21st) over Mike Trout (25th) in 2009.

Fantasy Stud: Jose Altuve • 2016 Stats: .338/.928/24/96/7.7 WAR in 640 AB

Money’s Man Crush: In all honesty, what is not to love about the Astros? They play in one of the sexier ballparks in MLB. They have some of, if not the best throwback jerseys in the majors. And they’re loaded with an absolute embarrassing amount of young, talented players. It’s hard to pick whom to swoon over more when you have the likes of SS Carlos Correa, 2B Jose Altuve, RF George Springer, 3B Alex Bregman, P Lance McCullers, and that is just a sample smattering of the studs that the ‘stros possess.

2017 Prediction: 1st AL West.

 

mike-trout

 

Los Angeles Angels

2016 Record: 74-88 • 4th AL West

O/U on Wins: 76.5 • Under

Moving In: 2B Danny Espinosa • OF Cameron Maybin • OF Ben Revere • P Jesse Chavez • P Andrew Bailey • 3B Luis Valbuena

Moving Out: P Jered Weaver • P CJ Wilson •P Jhoulys Chacin • P Tim Lincecum • C Jett Bandy • SS Gregario Petit

Key Player(s) in 2017: P Garrett Richards. After a breakout season in 2014 was cut short by a torn knee ligament, Richards once again had a season interrupted because of a torn ligament. In 2016, he made 6 starts before being diagnosed with a torn UCL. Although he required Tommy John surgery, Richards opted against the surgery, instead going with rehab and biometric injections similar to Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP). Although it will take a miracle short of Joseph Gordon Levitt seeing actual angels for the LA Angels to make the playoffs or even compete for them for that matter, Richards’ return and progress from injury could be a bright spot for the Angels that is not named Mike Trout.

Potential Breakout: P Tyler Skaggs. Skaggs is currently in his second stint with the Angels. He was originally drafted by them in the first round of 2009 and then traded to the Diamondbacks in a package for Dan Haren in 2010, before being reacquired in a three team trade in 2013. However his 2nd debut for the Angels was cut short by Tommy John surgery which also kept him out for all of 2015. In 2016, Skaggs made 10 starts for the Angels, he went (3-4/4.17/1.49/50 in 49.2 innings. Skaggs did average a K/9 over 9 but also had a BB/9 of 4.2 in his limited action. With the Angels lacking depth on the mound and barring any setbacks or further injuries, you can expect Skaggs to set a new career high in starts since he made 18 in 2014.

Top Prospect: OF Jahmi Jones • Age: 19 • MLB ETA: 2019

First Round Draft Miss: 3B Kaleb Cowart (18th) over OF Christian Yelich (24th), Aaron Sanchez (34th) and Noah Syndergaard (38th) in 2010.

Fantasy Stud: OF Mike Trout • 2016 Stats: .315/.991/29/100/10.6 WAR in 549 AB

Money’s Man Crush: Nothing else needs to be said besides the name, Mike Trout.

2017 Prediction: 5th AL West

 

sonny-gray

 

Oakland A’s

2016 Record: 69-93 • 5th AL West

O/U on Wins: 66.5 • Over

Moving In: OF Rajai Davis • UT Trevor Plouffe • OF Matt Joyce • 1B/OF Chris Parmalee• OF Jaff Decker

Moving Out: UT Danny Valencia • P Ross Detwiler • OF Sam Fuld

Key Player(s) in 2017: P Sonny Gray. The A’s righty went from being an All Star and finishing 3rd in AL Cy Young voting in 2015 to a minus WAR pitcher in 2016. Although Gray was limited to just 117 innings last season because of injury, his 11 losses, 5.69 ERA and 1.50 WHIP are all new career highs (or lows). Gray was also more susceptible to the long ball, with a HR/9 of 1.4 over a paltry .7 the year before. Batters were also making more frequent and better contact off Gray, as he set a new career high in H/9 with 10.4. The A’s will need Gray to have a big bounce back season if they have any aspirations of competing to even break .500. A rebound season would also be beneficial to Gray’s trade value if and when the A’s start taking calls. You know Billy Beane won’t hesitate to make a deal for Gray if the right one comes along.

Potential Breakout: P Sean Manaea. The key piece that the A’s received from the Royals in exchange for Ben Zobrist in 2015, Manaea made his MLB debut in 2016 and looked very impressive. Manaea posted a stat line of 7-9/3.86/1.19/124 in 144 innings and had a WAR of 2.7. The continuing emergence of Manaea could make the thought of trading Sonny Gray that more enticing, especially if the A’s stumble out of the gate. On the flip, if the A’s do have a surprising season, you can bank on Manaea to be a vital contributor to the cause.

Top Prospect: SS/2B Franklin Barreto • Age: 21 • MLB ETA: 2017

First Round Draft Miss: P James Simmons (21) over Rick Porcello (27) in 2007.

Fantasy Stud: Khris Davis  2016 Stats: .247/.831/42/102/2.8 WAR in 555 AB

Money’s Man Crush: I will tell you what it isn’t, it’s sure as hell not that archaic cesspool of a ballpark that the A’s play in. Luckily for the fans, the A’s have some of the sweetest throwback jerseys in MLB which gives them something to take their mind off the fact that the sewage system could backup at anytime. As far as which throwback is best, you can’t go wrong with any version from 1967-1976 or the late 80’s-early 90’s.

2017 Prediction: 4th AL West

 

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Seattle Mariners

2016 Record: 86-76 •2nd AL West

O/U on Wins: 85.5 • Over

Moving In: SS Jean Segura • UT Danny Valencia • P Drew Smyly • C Carlos Ruiz • P Mark Rzepcynski • P Casey Fien • P Chris Heston • P Shae Simmons

Moving Out: P Taijuan Walker • SS Ketel Marte • 1B Adam Lind • P Nate Karns • OF Nori Aoki • P Vidal Nuno • P Zack Lee

Key Player(s) in 2017: C Mike Zunino. Despite bringing in veteran backstop, Carlos Ruiz, in the offseason, the starting catching position is really Zunino’s to lose. With the dreaded word “bust” starting to float around more and more, this could be a make or break year for the former 3rd overall pick in 2012. Entering his 5th season, Zunino will need to improve his offensive production if he has any hopes of being the starting C for the entire season. Through four seasons, Zunino has produced a career stat line of .196/.632/50/133/1.8 WAR in 350 G. With the Mariners having division title and playoff ambitions, they will need production out of their C position. They will not have time to sit around and wait on Zunino.

Potential Breakout: P James Paxton. Every season it seems that Paxton is poised for a big breakout. He will rattle off a series of great starts before getting bit by the injury bug and hitting the shelves for an extended period of time. When he is healthy, Paxton shows signs of being one of the better young southpaws in the game. Unfortunately for him and the Mariners, his inability to remain on the field has prevented him from reaching his full potential. With Taijuan Walker’s departure, Paxton will be leaned on a little more this season, especially with the Mariners hopes for October baseball.

Top Prospect: OF Kyle Lewis • Age: 21 • MLB ETA: 2018

First Round Draft Miss: P Danny Hultzen (2nd) over everyone else (Rendon, Lindor, Baez, Springer, J. Fernandez and S. Gray) in 2011.

Fantasy Stud: 2B Robinson Cano • 2016 Stats: .298/.882/39/103/7.3 WAR in 655 AB

Money’s Man Crush: P Felix Hernandez. Even in the twilight of his career, every start by the King has a chance to be something special. It’s also hard not to love the fan section known as “the Kings Court.”

2017 Prediction: 2nd AL West

 

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Texas Rangers

2016 Record: 95-67 • 1st AL West

O/U on Wins: 86.5 • Under

Moving In: 1B Mike Napoli • P Tyson Ross • P Andrew Cashner • P Allen Webster

Moving Out: UT Ian Desmond • DH Carlos Beltran • 1B Mitch Moreland • P Derek Holland • P Colby Lewis

Key Player(s) in 2017: P Yu Darvish. In 2016, Darvish made 17 starts in his return from Tommy John surgery. He went 7-5/3.41/1.12/132 in 100.1 innings, clearly showing very little signs of rust. With both the Astros and the Mariners fortifying their rosters in the offseason, while the Rangers lost key pieces to their 2016 success, a return to dominance for Darvish will be vital for the Rangers to defend their AL West title. 2017 will also be the final one in regards to Darvish’s contract. His performance this season will dictate which kind of deal he will land and perhaps where it will be too. Personally, I doubt that the Rangers will let Darvish get away but I would not be surprised at all to see him test the free agent market and compare offers.

Potential Breakout: 3B Joey Gallo. Signing of Mike Napoli hurts his chances of landing the everyday 1B job. Has worked at making himself more versatile and can also play 3B and LF, as well as DH. Gallo has light tower power but his all or nothing approach at the plate (76 strikeouts in 133 AB for his career) has hindered his offensive progression. At 23 years of age, Gallo is still young enough for the Rangers to be patient with his free swinging ways but for his own production, Gallo will need to drastically cut down on his K’s if he has ambitions of being an everyday DH while he waits for a position to open.

Top Prospect: OF Leody Taveras • Age: OF • MLB ETA: 2020

First Round Draft Miss: OF Jake Skole (15th) over Christian Yelich (23rd) in 2010.

Fantasy Stud: P Cole Hamels • 2016 Stats: 15 W/3.32/1.30/200/4.9 WAR in 200.7 IP

Money’s Man Crush: 3B Adrian Beltre. If you’re a baseball fan and you don’t love Adrian Beltre then we can never be friends.

2017 Prediction: 3rd AL West

– $

2016 MLB Regular Season Predictions • American League

2016-opening-day

Happy Opening Day to all of the baseball fans out there! I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t still emotionally hungover from last years Blue Jays playoff run. Every baseball moment from the “Bat Flip Heard Around the World” has been a complete blur, as was the subsequent offseason. Yet all of that is past us. Every team has a clean slate, and anything can happen.

 

American League East

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Baltimore Orioles

Baltimore Orioles

2015 Record: 81-81 (3rd AL East)

O/U Wins in 2016: 78 Wins • Push

X-Factor: Chris Tillman • SP

Potential Breakout Player: Dylan Bundy • RHP

Futures Report: Hunter Harvey • RHP

2016 Final Standing: 4th AL East

 

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Boston Red Sox

2015 Record: 78-84 (5th AL East)

O/U Wins in 2016: 87 Wins • Over

X-Factor: Clay Buchholz • SP

Potential Breakout Player: Jackie Bradley Jr. • OF

Futures Report: Yoan Moancada • 2B

2016 Final Standing: 2nd AL East

 

AP Blue Jays Yankees Baseball

 

New York Yankees

2015 Record: 87-75 • (2nd AL East)

O/U Wins in 2016: 85 Wins • Under

X-Factor: Nathan Eovaldi • SP

Potential Breakout Player: Luis Severino • SP

Futures Report: Jorge Mateo • SS

2016 Final Standing: 3rd AL East

 

archer

 

Tampa Bay Rays

2015 Record: 80-82 • (4th AL East)

O/U Wins in 2016: 82 Wins • Under

X-Factor: Corey Dickerson • OF

Potential Breakout Player: Jake Odorizzi • SP

Futures Report: Blake Snell • LHP

2016 Final Standing: 4th AL East

 

joey

 

Toronto Blue Jays

2015 Record: 93-69 • (1st AL East)

O/U Wins in 2016: 87 Wins • Over

X-Factor: Troy Tulowitzki • SS

Potential Breakout Player: Aaron Sanchez • SP

Futures Report: Anthony Alford • OF

2016 Final Standing: 1st AL East

 

 

American League Central

 

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Chicago White Sox

2015 Record: 76-86 • (4th AL Central)

O/U Wins in 2016: 82 Wins • Under

X-Factor: Todd Frazier • 3B

Potential Breakout Player: Carlos Rodon • SP

Futures Report: Carson Fullmer • RHP

2016 Final Standing: 4th AL Central

 

indians

 

Cleveland Indians

2015 Record: 81-80 • (3rd AL Central)

O/U Wins in 2016: 87 Wins • Under

X-Factor: Michael Brantley • OF

Potential Breakout Player: Tyler Naquin • OF

Futures Report: Bradley Zimmer • OF

2016 Final Standing: 2nd AL Central

 

Detroit Tigers batter Miguel Cabrera watches the ball as he hits a two-run, two-strike, two-out, home run to tie the game in New York

 

Detroit Tigers

2015 Record: 74-87 • (5th AL Central)

O/U Wins in 2016: 82.5 Wins • Under

X-Factor: Justin Verlander • SP

Potential Breakout Player: Daniel Norris • SP

Futures Report: Michael Fulmer • RHP

2016 Final Standing: 5th AL Central

 

royals

 

Kansas City Royals

2015 Record: 95-67 • (1st AL Central)

O/U Wins in 2016: 84.5 Wins • Over

X-Factor: Lorenzo Cain • OF

Potential Breakout Player: Danny Duffy • SP

Futures Report: Raul Adalberto Mondesi • 2B/SS

2016 Final Standing: 1st AL Central

 

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Chicago White Sox

 

Minnesota Twins

2015 Record: 83-79 • (3rd AL Central)

O/U Wins in 2016: 80 Wins • Over

X-Factor: Miguel Sano • 3B

Potential Breakout Player: Byron Buxton • OF

Futures Report: Jose Berrios • RHP

2016 Final Standing: 3rd AL Central

 

 

American League West

 

correa altuve

 

Houston Astros

2015 Record: 86-76 • (2nd AL West)

O/U Wins in 2016: 87.5 Wins • Over

X-Factor: Carlos Correa • SS

Potential Breakout Player: Ken Giles • RP

Futures Report: Alex Bergman • SS

2016 Final Standing: 1st AL West

 

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Los Angeles Angels

2015 Record: 85-77 • (3rd AL West)

O/U Wins in 2016: 79.5 Wins • Under

X-Factor: Albert Pujols • 1B/DH

Potential Breakout Player: Andrew Heaney • SP

Futures Report: Taylor Ward • C

2016 Final Standing: 4th AL West

 

Oakland Athletics v Houston Astros

 

Oakland A’s

2015 Record: 68-94 • (5th AL West)

O/U Wins in 2016: 76 Wins • Under

X-Factor: Sonny Gray • SP

Potential Breakout Player: Kendall Graveman • SP

Futures Report: Franklin Barreto • SS

2016 Final Standing: 5th AL West

 

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Seattle Mariners

 

Seattle Mariners

2015 Record: 76-86 • (4th AL West)

O/U Wins in 2016: 82.5 Wins • Under

X-Factor: Kyle Seager • 3B

Potential Breakout Player: Taijuan Walker • SP

Futures Report: Alex Jackson • OF

2016 Final Standing: 3rd AL West

 

rangers

 

Texas Rangers

2015 Record: 88-74 • (1st AL West)

O/U Wins in 2016: 82.5 Wins • Over

X-Factor: Yu Darvish • SP

Potential Breakout Player: Roughned Odor • 2B

Futures Report: Joey Gallo • 3B

2016 Final Standing: 2nd AL West

 

Awards

American League MVP

  1. Troy Tulowitzki • SS • Toronto Blue Jays
  2. Carlos Correa • SS • Houston Astros
  3. Mookie Betts • OF • Boston Red Sox

 

American League Cy Young

  1. Chris Sale • LHP • Chicago White Sox
  2. Cole Hamels • LHP • Texas Rangers
  3. Chris Archer • RHP • Tampa Bay Rays

 

American League Rookie of the Year

  1. Byron Buxton • OF • Minnesota Twins
  2. Joey Gallo • 3B • Texas Rangers
  3. Blake Snell • SP • Tampa Bay Rays

 

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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

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2015 MLB Season Preview · AL West · Houston Astros

Minute Maid Park

Houston Astros

Home Ballpark: Minute Maid Park

2014 Finish: 70 – 92 · 4th AL Central

Over/Under Wins in 2015: 73.5 · Over

What We Love:

  • Thunder in the Lineup: If there is one thing that the Astros will not be short on in 2015, it is power. Although they might not have the “sexiest” of lineups offensively in MLB, what they do have is a lineup that will CRUSH pitches. Chris Carter alone hit 37 bombs in 2015; he also set the franchise record for most multi HR games (7). Top prospect, George Springer, showed off his impressive power stroke by hitting 20 in his rookie campaign, including hitting 7 over a 7 game span in May, before being shut down for the last two and a half months by a quad injury. Not satisfied by their lineups power, the Astros brought in Evan Gattis in a trade with the Braves and signed free agent, Colby Rasmus, to a 1yr/$8mil deal. In Gattis, the Astros get a player who has hit 43 career home runs in only 213 games; while Rasmus offers a left-handed bat capable of 25+ HR. If everyone stays healthy and performs up to their ability, there is no reason not to think that the trio of Springer, Gattis and Rasmus could hit 25-30 HR a piece. Carter on the other hand, could slug 40 or more in 2015.

Chris-Carter

  • Seeing the first signs of a bright future ahead: Top prospect, George Springer, made his highly anticipated debut in 2014 and did not disappoint. Astros fans can expect to see more top prospects moving up to Minute Maid Park in next year or so. There is a good chance that, given a strong performance in the minors, we could see SP Mark Appel in Houston sometime in 2015. Meanwhile, the Astros (current) top positional prospect, SS Carlos Correa, will most likely have to wait until 2016 for his call to the show.

Springer Correa

Honourable Mentions:

  • No more 100 loss seasons. Even though they still lost 92 games in 2014, the Astros were able to avoid making it four consecutive seasons with 100 losses or more. Given their current roster and bright future, there shouldn’t be anymore 100 loss seasons in the foreseeable future.
  • Jose Altuve’s bat: Winner of the 2014 AL Batting crown with a .341 average; also set a franchise record with 225 hit
  • Reinforced bullpen: The Astros signed a pair of top free agent relievers in the offseason (Pat Neshek and Luke Gregerson) and brought in Joe Thatcher on a one year, reclamation deal.
  • Anytime an OF has to navigate Tal’s Hill in CF.
  • The Nolan Ryan era throwback jerseys.

 

astros jersey

 

 What We Hate:

  • Great Power, Greater Strikeout Rate: In the past two seasons, the Houston Astros have finished 1st and 2nd for most strikeouts as a team. In fact, the 2013 version of the Astros set a MLB record by striking out 1535 times. Last season, the Astros had seven players in their lineup strike out 100 or more times. Even with trading one of those players (Dexter Fowler) and having two others open the season in the minors (Jon Singleton and Matt Dominguez), this is a lineup that could very well break their own record for most strikeouts in a season. The main reason for the potential whiff increase is the offseason additions of Colby Rasmus and Evan Gattis. Sure both players should be a lock to boost the Astros power numbers, but they should also be locks to raise their team strikeout rate too. Gattis has struck out 178 times over 213 games played, while Rasmus strikeouts an average of 157 times over a 162 game season. There is also no reason not to think that 1B Jon Singleton (134 strikeouts in 310 AB in 2014!) and 3B Matt Dominguez (125 strikeouts in 564 AB) will not be back in the Astros lineup at some point during the season.

astros strikeout

 

  • The whole Brady Aiken situation: The Astros drafted Aiken 1st overall in 2014 and then reneged on their original contract offer ($6.5 million) once a physical found an issue with Aiken’s UCL. The Astros attempted to sign Aiken to a lesser deal ($5 million) but Aiken refused, said he would only sign if it was a sign and trade deal, and then opted not to sign with the Astros at all. In doing so, the Astros also lost the ability to sign another high draft pick (Jacob Nix). Hindsight time… turns out Aiken does need Tommy John after all and the Astros have two picks in the top 5 of this year’s draft. So… did they make the right decision after all? Even if they did, this is still a black eye for an organization that doesn’t need any more bad publicity. Aiken, meanwhile, will undergo Tommy John surgery and will still be eligible for this year’s draft; as will the other unsigned prospect, Jacob Nix.

Brady aiken

 

 

Honourable Mention:

  • Drafting SP Mark Appel over 3B Kris Bryant in 2013. Hindsight sure, but don’t you think the Astros would like a redo on this one? Carlos Correa over Byron Buxton is a little more defensible…
  • Jose Altuve’s glove.
  • Releasing J.D Martinez. Martinez was an absolute stud for the Tigers last season (.315/26/76) and would look awfully nice playing LF at Minute Maid.
  • The whole hacking/leaking of ten months of confidential, internal trade discussions to deadspin.com in 2014 – http://deadspin.com/leaked-10-months-of-the-houston-astros-internal-trade-1597951970

 

 

Player to Watch: OF George Springer. Springer was enjoying a pretty decent rookie season in 2014, before an injury to his quadriceps forced him to miss the last two and half months. In 295 AB, Springer hit for a .231 average, added 20 HR and drove in 51 RBI; he also struck out 114 times. If he can remain healthy and cut down on the strikeouts, there is no reason not to believe that Springer cannot build upon his rookie numbers. He has the pop in his bat to hit 30 home runs and he may just accomplish that in 2015.

george springer

Top Pitching Prospect: Mark Appel · RHP · MLB ETA: 2015

Appel

Top Positional Prospect: Carlos Correa · SS · MLB ETA: 2016

correa

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

Final Prediction: 4th AL West

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