Tagged: st louis cardinals

Spare Change – Pretenders and Contenders – All Star Game Reflections

att

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 Three · 2015 MLB Season

What We Loved:

Hamilton

  • An Arlington reunion. With the relationship between the Angels and Josh Hamilton in disrepair, it looks like the much maligned OF will be returning to the place where he experienced his biggest successes, Texas. With the Rangers, Hamilton already has an organization that is familiar with his struggles and has a solid support system already in place. This could turn out to be a move with mutual benefit to both Hamilton and the Rangers. If Hamilton can come back healthy and sober, he could be a big upgrade for a team that is struggling offensively.
  • A meaningful subway series. The Yankees and Mets clashed in the Bronx over the weekend in a weekend series that saw the Yankees take two of three and end the Mets 11 game win streak. Depending on how season plays out for both teams, their next meeting, in September, could be very interesting and very entertaining.
  • Mitch Harris’ debut. The 29 yr old Cardinals pitcher became the 1st Navy grad in 94 years to make his MLB debut. He wound up striking out the first batter he faced (Adam Lind) on four pitches, before going on to hold the Brewers scoreless through 1 1/3.
  • Adrian Beltre and Garrett Richards. We all knew that the dude didn’t like his head being touched for whatever reason. Now we know not to mess with his bats either. The Rangers 3B sent the Angels starter an invoice for three broken bats following their most recent matchup that saw Richards break three of Beltre’s bats, in three at bats. No word if the invoice was paid.
  • Slugfest between Brewers and Reds. Reds beat the Brewers 16-10 in a game that saw the teams combine to hit 7 homers, including 3 grand slams.
  • Early season overreactions. The Astros… ASTROS… are currently sitting atop the AL West with a 2.5 game lead over the 2nd place Angels. I know it’s early, but it’s hard not to like seeing the Astros sitting in any position that isn’t dead last.
  • Everything that is Bartolo Colon

Bartolo Witness

What We Hated:

yordano-ventura

  • The chip on Yordano Ventura’s shoulder. Ventura is listed as being and even “six foot,” yet that chip developing on his shoulder, is at least twice that size. I love this kid. I love his arsenal, his confidence and his swagger. What I cannot stand though is this “take on all comers” attitude that he has displayed thus far. I don’t hate him for throwing at batters in retaliation for his own players getting hit. What I hate is him running his mouth at Adam Eaton after fielding a routine comebacker. There is no one else to blame for sparking that melee than Ventura; he was the catalyst. This comes one week after Ventura was one of the prominent figures in the A’s/Royals brawl(s). Ventura is only 23 years old, and he is already becoming one of MLB’s most hated players.
  • Pitchers getting injured while batting. After jamming his thumb during an at bat, it was announced that Nationals pitcher, Max Scherzer, would not make his next start, but he would also miss a trip to the DL. The Nationals should consider themselves blessed to have received that injury update, it was abundantly better than the news that the Cardinals received in regards to Adam Wainwright. The Cardinals ace will miss the next 8-12 months after suffering a torn achillies tendon. The injury occurred as Wainwright ran up the 1st base line following an at bat. Luckily for the Cardinals, if there is one team that should have no problem in handling a key loss like this, it is the Cardinals.
  • Pitchers batting. After the Giants catcher, Buster Posey, suffered a broken leg following a collision at home plate, MLB wasted no time in altering the rules of how a catcher could block the plate. This was done to protect catchers from experiencing an injury like the one that Posey had suffered. Perhaps it is time MLB follows suit regarding pitchers batting in the National League. This isn’t my idea though, even players are advocating for it. Following his injury while batting, Max Scherzer was quoted as saying that he believes that it’s time that the NL follows the AL and adopts the DH rule. Scherzer wasn’t advocating for it because of his recent injury, but rather on the basis of improving offense and entertainment. This is what he said to Jon Heyman of CBS:

“If you look at it from the macro side, who’d people rather see hit — Big Papi [Red Sox first baseman/DH David Ortiz] or me? Who would people rather see, a real hitter hitting home runs or a pitcher swinging a wet newspaper? Both leagues need to be on the same set of rules … Those kids, they want to see V-Mart hit,” Scherzer said, pointing out a group of children on the field at Marlins Park. “Those kids don’t want to see me hit. No one wants to see a pitcher hit. No one pays money for that … We keep searching for offense,” Scherzer added. “This would be the easiest way to add offense.”

Should be interesting to see how this plays out in the future; especially given new Commissioner Rob Manfred’s penchant for change.

  • The Angels front office. For the third week in a row, the Angels front office has publicly struggled with what to do in regards to Josh Hamilton. We now know that the Angels were more willing to ship Hamilton back to Texas, eat (almost) all of his remaining contract, and receive NOTHING in return, over dealing with Hamilton’s relapse. Must be nice to have the money to make mistakes like this go away…

miguel cairo

Irrelevant Major Leaguer of the Week:

2B Miguel Cairo · 17 yrs · 1490 G · 3956 AB · 41 HR · 394 RBI · .264 AVG · .675 OPS

Blue Jays Love/Hate

What We Loved:

bautista

  • Bautista vs. the O’s bullpen. Another series against Baltimore and another O’s reliever throws behind Joey Bats. Of course, Bautista smashes the next pitch into the LF bleachers. Only thing that made it better was Bautista’s reaction following the homer.

http://m.mlb.com/video/topic/8877962/v83003983/baltor-bautista-thrown-behind-then-homers

  • Sweeping the O’s at the ‘dome.
  • Anticipating every upcoming O’s/Jays series.
  • The raw power of Edwin and Donaldson.
  • Devin Travis looking more and more like a steal!

 What We Hated:

Blue Jays Rays Baseball

  • Being swept by the Rays. 1-6 on the season vs. Tampa.
  • Knowing we still have 12 more games against the Rays.
  • Guys throwing behind Bautista… no matter what he does after.

http://m.mlb.com/video/?content_id=82997483&topic_id=8877962

  • Dalton Pompey’s defence of late.
  • Jose Reyes’ rib. Put money on this injury plaguing him ALL SEASON long.
  • Showalter pissing and moaning about the turf.
  • Inability to close out games. Castro/Hendriks combine to give up 4 earned in last game vs. O’s. Bullpen blows 2-1 lead in 8th against Rays.
  • The bullpen is who we thought it was…. it’s who we thought it was!

aquilino_lopez

Irrelevant Blue Jay of the Week:

RP Aquilino Lopez (2003-04) · 90 G · 94.2 IP · 2-4 W/L · 3.99 ERA · 1.33 WHIP

– $

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

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