Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Miami Marlins 2020 Season Preview

From The Athletic


          The NL East was hyped up to be the best division in baseball entering 2019. Every team but one was a serious contender to win the division. That one exception was the Marlins. Miami was still in a rebuilding phase after their firesale prior to 2018 that saw them deal their entire outfield and infielder Dee Gordon. A year later, the Marlins are still the worst team in the division, but they might not be the worst in the National League anymore. They acquired some low cost veterans to hold down the fort while their young talent develops. It won't be the most entertaining season of Marlins baseball, but the trade deadline will see a lot of the new acquisitions go.

           Offseason additions: IF Jonathan Villar, 1B Jesus Aguilar, OF Corey Dickerson, C Francisco Cervelli, OF Matt Joyce, RHP Brandon Kintzler, RHP Yimi Garcia, LHP Stephen Tarpley, RHP Brad Boxberger, SHP Pat Venditte, OF Matt Kemp, UT Sean Rodriguez, IF Gosuke Katoh.
 
           Offseason subtractions: 2B Starlin Castro, OF Curtis Granderson, IF Neil Walker, IF Martin Prado, OF Austin Dean, C Bryan Holaday, OF Rosell Herrera, LHP Jarlin Garcia, RHP Tyler Kinley, LHP Wei-Yin Chen, RHP Austin Brice, LHP Brian Moran, RHP Hector Noesi.

            Rotation
The rotation won't see much changes from its 2019 form, as Nick Neidert and Sixto Sanchez are not ready yet to hold a spot. Sandy Alcantara was the Marlins only all-star in 2019, and was still technically a rookie. He lead the league with 14 losses, but had a 3.88 ERA with 151 strikeouts in 197.1 innings, with two complete game shutouts. He allowed 3.7 walks per nine innings, a lot but an improvement from his previous 14 career games. Caleb Smith had a great first half, but injuries derailed his season and finished with a 4.52 ERA with 168 strikeouts and 33 home runs allowed in 153.1 innings. Jose Urena was considered a closer, but will likely return to the rotation to start the year. In 24 games (13 starts), Urena made three saves in 84.2 innings with a 5.21 ERA. He throws hard but is not a strikeout guy. He only hit two batters after leading the league in that category in 2017 and 2018. Pablo Lopez was limited to 21 starts by a shoulder injury. He struck out 95 batters in 111.1 innings. His 5.09 ERA was awful. Jordan Yamamoto was not bad in his 15 start debut. He struck out 82 batters in 78.2 innings with a 4.46 ERA. He allowed 36 walks, so that is a problem. Elieser Hernandez had a 9.3 K/9 in 21 games (15 starts), but had a 5.03 ERA. At 24, he is still young enough to go to AAA to improve.

               Bullpen
Brandon Kintzler will likely be the one that moved Urena from closer back to starter. He only had one save last year, but had a 2.68 ERA in 57 innings with a 7.6 K/9, his highest since 2015. He has 49 saves in his career, with a career best 29 in 2017. Ryan Stanek, acquired at the deadline from the Rays, can be an opener and a starter. He had a 3.40 ERA in 41 games before the trade, but struggled as a Marlin, with a 5.48 ERA and 28 strikeouts in 21.1 innings. His struggles are due to an abnormally high 8.0 BB/9. Drew Steckenrider was in the mix for a closing role entering 2019. he allowed six home runs in his 15 games before going on the IL with elbow inflammation. He never got Tommy John surgery, but also never returned. He has a career K/9 of 11.2. The Marlins scooped up Yimi Garcia after the Dodgers non-tendered him. He had a 3.61 ERA with 66 Ks and a 0.866 WHIP in 62.1 innings. It will be hard for him to keep up with his very low 5.8 H/9 rate. Adam Conley was solid as a reliever in 2018, but was terrible last year, with a 6.53 ERA in 60.2 innings. He had a 1.731 WHIP and a 65 ERA. Thanks to his struggles, the team will want to carry another lefty in Stephen Tarpley. Acquired from the Yankees, Tarpley struck out 34 batters in 24.2 innings. Nothing else went right, as he had a 6.93 ERA with a 12.4 H/9 and 5.5 BB/9. His slider is a plus pitch. Rule 5 pick Sterling Sharp (not that one) will get a good chance to make the team. He had a 3.53 ERA in 58.2 innings in the Nats system. He had a 1.50 ERA in 24 games in the Arizona Fall League. Former Rays and D-Backs closer Brad Boxberger has a 3.59 ERA and 77 saves in his career. He was awful for the Royals last year, with a 5.40 ERA with 27 Ks in 26.2 innings. He will try to beat out Jeff Brigham, who had a 4.46 ERA in 32 games last year.

                 Catchers
Right before the season, the Marlins traded away all-star catcher JT Realmuto to the Phillies. They got back Jorge Alfaro. He hit 18 home runs, with four stolen bases, hit .262 and had a decent .736 OPS for a catcher. Francisco Cervelli comes in as an experienced catcher. He hit 12 home runs with an .809 OPS in 2018. He had a .649 OPS for the Pirates and Braves last year.

                  Infielders
The Marlins claimed Jesus Aguilar off waivers from Tampa Bay after a disappointing 2019. He hit 12 home runs with a .714 OPS coming off a year with 35 home runs, an .890 OPS and an all-star appearance. Isan Diaz, a top-100 prospect in the MLB, hit .305 with 26 home runs and a .973 OPS at AAA. He did not fare well in the big leagues, with a .173 average, five home runs and a .566 OPS in 49 games. The second base job is his to lose. He can start at AAA. If he does, Jonathan Villar will be the second baseman. Acquired from the Orioles, Villar can play all around the field, but will likely be the Opening Day center fielder. He played in all 162 games last year, with a .274 average, .792 OPS, 24 home runs and 40 stolen bases. The Marlins signed shortstop Miguel Rojas to a multi-year extension, something the team rarely does. He hit .284 last year with nine stolen bases and two defensive runs saved. Brian Anderson played a lot of third base and right field last year. Maybe the best player on the team, Anderson hit 20 home runs with a career high .811 OPS last year. He is very underrated.

                   Outfielders
The Marlins signed 2017 all-star Corey Dickerson to a two year deal. Dickerson hit just 12 home runs last year, his lowest since 2015. He played in just 78 games, but had a .304 average, the second best of his career. He played for both Pennsylvania teams last year, the Pirates and Phillies. Right field will be a shared job between Garrett Cooper, Harold Ramirez and Matt Joyce. Joyce will be more of a bench bat while Cooper is also the backup first baseman. Cooper hit .281 with a .791 OPS and 15 home runs in 2019, his first full season. A 24 year old rookie, Harold Ramirez hit 11 home runs with a .276 average and .728 OPS. A former 25 home run hitter, Joyce hit seven last year, with a .295 average and an .858 OPS. Jon Berti can play the infield as well as the outfield. A 29 year old rookie, Berti stole 17 bases in 20 attempts, with six home runs and a .348 OBP. The final spot is between former top prospect Lewis Brinson and Magneuris Sierra. In 15 MLB games, Sierra hit .350 with three stolen bases. Brinson played in 75 MLB games and more at AAA. He was awful, with a -2.2 bWAR. He hit no home runs, and had a .173 average and .457 OPS. The clock is ticking for the almost 26 year old to prove he is more than an AAA player.

                    Projected Opening Day Lineup
CF Jonathan Villar (S)
3B Brian Anderson (R)
LF Corey Dickerson (L)
1B Jesus Aguilar (R)
C Jorge Alfaro (R)
RF Harold Ramirez (R)
2B Lewin Diaz (L)
SS Miguel Rojas (R)
Pitcher

                     Projected Rotation
Sandy Alcantara (R)
Caleb Smith (L)
Jose Urena (R)
Jordan Yamamoto (R)
Pablo Lopez (R)

                     Projected Bullpen
Brandon Kintzler, closer (R)
Yimi Garcia (R)
Drew Steckenrider (R)
Ryne Stanek (R)
Adam Conley (L)
Stephen Tarpley (L)
Brad Boxberger (R)
Sterling Sharp (R)

                      Projected Bench
C Francisco Cervelli (R)
1B/RF Garrett Cooper (R)
OF Matt Joyce (L)
UT Jon Berti (R)
OF Lewis Brinson (R)

                       Prediction
The Marlins are still years away from contention. They have done a decent job this offseason acquiring vets to supplement their young players. They still have a lot of work to do, and are still the worst team in the NL East.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Los Angeles Dodgers 2020 Season Preview


From Getty Images

       All eyes were on the Dodgers to start 2019, as they had come off of back-to-back World Series losses. Then, Cody Bellinger became an MVP winner, and Walker Buehler got better, plus Hyun-Jin Ryu had an ERA under 2.00 for most of the year. But, the Dodgers failed to even make in to the fall classic, falling to the eventual champions, the Nationals, in the NLDS. The offseason started off with the loss of Ryu and no big acquisitions. However, they traded for former MVP winner Mookie Betts and former Cy Young winner David Price days before the start of camp. With Betts and Price in the fold, expectations might be higher than last year.

         Offseason additions: OF Mookie Betts, LHP David Price, LHP Alex Wood, RHP Blake Treinen, RHP Jimmy Nelson, RHP Brusdar Graterol, OF Terrance Gore, RHP Edubray Ramos, RHP Zach McAllister.

         Offseason subtractions: LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu, OF Alex Verdugo, RHP Kenta Maeda, RHP Yimi Garcia, LHP Rich Hill, C Russell Martin, RHP JT Chargois, 3B David Freese, IF Jedd Gyorko.

         Rotation
The Dodgers will have Clayton Kershaw starting on Opening Day for the 9th time, barring injury. He didn't start on Opening Day last year for that reason. He made his 8th all-star team, but his 3.03 ERA was the worst of his career since he was a 20 year old rookie in 2008. He struck out 189 batters in 178.1 innings, so it is good to see his strikeout rate go back up after it was below 9.0 for the first time in awhile in 2018. His 1.043 WHIP was his highest since 2010. He allowed a career high 1.4 homers per nine. The Dodgers have another emerging ace in 25 year old Walker Buehler. Buehler was an all-star for the first time and received Cy Young votes after striking out 215 batters in 182.1 innings with a 3.26 ERA. He had a 1.0 HR/9, very low for 2019 standards. David Price comes in as a five-time all-star, although he hasn't made the team since 2015. He made just 22 starts for the Red Sox last year, with a 4.28 ERA. It was his worst ERA since 2009. He struck out 128 batters in 107.1 innings for a career high 10.7 K/9. Julio Urias is still only 23, but missed almost all of 2017 and 2018 after debuting in 2016 as a 19 year old. In 37 games (eight starts), Urias had a 2.49 ERA with 85 strikeouts in 79.2 innings, with a 0.8 HR/9. Alex Wood returns to the Dodgers after allowing 23 earned runs in 35.2 games over seven starts with the Reds. He was successful in four seasons with the Dodgers, capping in 2017 with a 2.72 ERA and 16 wins. Jimmy Nelson missed all of 2018 and most of 2019 with injuries. He had a 3.49 ERA in 29 starts in 2017 with the Brewers. Top pitching prospect Dustin May will likely make it as a reliever. In 14 games (four starts), May had a 3.63 ERA in 34.2 innings with a 0.5 HR/9. Another pitching prospect, Tony Gonsolin, may need to start in AAA. He had a 2.93 ERA in 40 innings last year.

              Bullpen
The bullpen is a big question after closer Kenley Jansen had his worst season in 2019. It could be filled with lots of starters as well. Jansen had a career worst 3.71 ERA with 33 saves in 63 innings, striking out 80. Still, his 11.4 K/9 was the second worst of his career, only beating his 2018 mark. Pedro Baez has been very consistent for the Dodgers in his six season career. He has a 3.10 ERA with 69 Ks in 69.2 innings. He has a career ERA of 3.03. Joe Kelly was very inconsistent in his first season in L.A. He had a career high 10.9 K/9, but also had a 4.56 ERA in 51.1 innings. Swingman Ross Stripling was rumored to be in a deal that would send him and Joc Pederson to the Angels, but Halos owner Arte Moreno called it off after being annoyed with the length of the time taken for the Betts trade to be completed. In 32 games (15 starts), Stripling had a 3.47 ERA with 93 Ks in 90.2 innings. He has a 3.51 ERA in his four year career. Former A's closer Blake Treinen had a 0.78 ERA with 38 saves over 80.1 innings in 2018. Nothing went right for him last year, as he had a career high 4.91 ERA with 59 Ks in 58.1 innings. He comes in on a low risk, one year deal. The last three spots are up for grabs with May likely getting one and Gonsolin in on another. The team will likely carry only one of Adam Kolarek and Scott Alexander. Both are lefties that will be hurt by the three batter minimum rule. In 28 games last year Alexander had a 3.63 ERA in 17.1 innings. After coming over at the deadline from Tampa Bay, Kolarek had a 0.77 ERA in 11.2 innings. They both struck out nine batters. Dylan Floro pitched in 50 games last year, with a 4.24 ERA. He had a 2.25 ERA in 64 innings in 2018.

                Catchers
The Dodgers and their fans got jiggy with rookie catcher Will Smith. He hit 15 home runs in 54 games with a .907 OPS. Even with Smith in the fold, the Dodgers will not trade top catching prospect Keibert Ruiz, who could debut in 2020. Austin Barnes was great in 2017, but has been awful at the plate since. In 75 games last year, Barnes hit .203 with a .633 OPS and five home runs.

                  Infielders
Max Muncy almost copied his surprise 2018 season, hitting exactly 35 home runs again. He finished exactly 15th in MVP voting once again, this time with an all-star appearance. His .889 OPS was a big drop-off from his .973 mark in 2018. Gavin Lux will be the biggest prospect to play in 2020, with Wander Franco years away. MLB Pipeline's 2nd best prospect in the league, Lux hit two home runs, stole two bases and had a .705 OPS in 20 MLB games late last year. He had a .347 average and 1.028 OPS in AA and AAA last year. Corey Seager is still the Dodgers shortstop, although I personally would shop him for a superstar like Francisco Lindor. He hit 19 home runs with 44 doubles last year, the latter tied for the league high. He had an .817 OPS which is good but a little underwhelming after his last full season of 2017. Justin Turner has only made one all-star team, but he is the heart and soul of the team. He hit 27 home runs with a .290 average and an .881 OPS in 135 games last year. He was even willing to change positions if the team could sign Anthony Rendon in free agency (they couldn't). Utility infielder Enrique "Kike" Hernandez can also play center field. He hit 17 home runs in 130 games, but he had a very low .715 OPS. In his rookie season Matt Beaty hit nine home runs with five stolen bases and a .775 OPS. He can play first base and left field.

                     Outfielders
While the addition of Betts is exciting, he is not even the Dodgers' best outfielder. Cody Bellinger won MVP, as well as a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger, while hitting 47 home runs with 15 stolen bases, a .305 average and a 1.035 OPS, making him a bona fide superstar. Betts, the 2018 AL MVP, had a down year for his standards, with 29 home runs, 16 stolen bases (almost half of his 2018 total), a .295 average and .915 OPS. He won his fourth consecutive Gold Glove and third Silver Slugger in those four years. The Dodgers will move either Betts or Bellinger, both right fielders, to center. Joc Pederson was insane at the Home Run Derby, and hit a career high 36 home runs while in Bellinger's shadow. His .249 average and .876 OPS were also career highs. AJ Pollock is set to be the best and most expensive fourth outfielder in the league. Signed prior to 2019 to a four year, $55 million deal with an option, Pollock hit 15 home runs with five stolen bases and a .795 OPS last year. He has an .804 OPS in his career. Chris Taylor can also play second base and shortstop. He hit 12 home runs with eight stolen bases and a .794 OPS last year.

                        Projected Opening Day Lineup
RF Mookie Betts (R)
CF Cody Bellinger (L)
1B Max Muncy (L)
3B Justin Turner (R)
LF Joc Pederson (L)
C Will Smith (R)
SS Corey Seager (L)
2B Gavin Lux (L)
Pitcher

                        Projected Rotation
Clayton Kershaw (L)
Walker Buehler (R)
David Price (L)
Julio Urias (L)
Alex Wood (L)

                         Projected Bullpen
Kenley Jansen (R)
Pedro Baez (R)
Joe Kelly (R)
Ross Stripling (R)
Joe Kelly (R)
Adam Kolarek (L)
Dustin May (R)
Tony Gonsolin (R)

                          Projected Bench
C Austin Barnes (R)
UT Kike Hernandez (R)
UT Chris Taylor (R)
1B/LF Matt Beaty L)
OF AJ Pollock (R)

                           Prediction
The Dodgers will undoubtedly be one of baseball's top teams in 2020. They have a great lineup, great rotation and a good bullpen, with great depth and a great farm system. They will take the NL West title again, and lose to the Yankees in the World Series.

Monday, March 9, 2020

Los Angeles Angels 2020 Season Preview

From Getty Images


        Every season is the same when it comes to the Angels. They have Mike Trout, the best player on the planet. They have Albert Pujols, one of the most overpaid players on the planet. They have multiple pitchers who are recovering from Tommy John surgery, and they don't have any decent starters. The Tommy John train has already started, as Griffin Canning isn't officially having the surgery yet, but has an elbow injury, which could eventually lead to TJ. The Angels have a plethora of young pitchers, but they need to figure out who is good and who is not.

         Offseason additions: 3B Anthony Rendon, RHP Dylan Bundy, RHP Julio Teheran, C Jason Castro, RHP Matt Andriese, LHP Jose Quijada, RHP Mike Mayers, RHP Parker Markel, LHP Ryan Buchter, RHP Neil Ramirez.

         Offseason subtractions: OF Kole Calhoun, C Kevan Smith, 1B Justin Bour, IF Zack Cozart, RHP Luis Garcia, RHP Nick Tropeano.

         Rotation
The Angels traded away four prospects for Dylan Bundy. The 4th overall pick in 2011 struck out 162 batters in 161.2 innings, but he allowed 86 earned runs for a 4.79 ERA for the lowly Orioles. He allowed 29 home runs and 58 walks. Andrew Heaney struck out 118 batters in 95.1 innings for a 11.1 K/9. He had a 4.91 ERA, his worst in a full season (it was only his third "full" year). Former Braves ace Julio Teheran was signed to a one year deal. He struck out 162 batters in 174.2 innings with a 3.81 ERA. He allowed just 7.6 hits per nine. Griffin Canning's elbow will be in question as he is shut down. In 18 games he had a 4.58 ERA with 96 Ks in 90.1 innings. Shohei Ohtani will be a starter when he gains eligibility to be a two-way player. He only DH'd last year due to Tommy John surgery. He had a 3.31 ERA with 63 strikeouts in 51.2 innings in 2018. He hit 18 home runs with 12 stolen bases and an .848 OPS last year at the plate. The Angels have young pitchers in Patrick Sandoval, Jaime Barria, Dillon Peters and Jose Suarez attempting to be a swingman. Due to his seniority, Felix Pena could be the one to make the team. Pena probably had the best year out of all of them last year, with a 4.58 ERA plus 101 strikeouts in 96.1 innings over 22 games (seven starts). He would also follow openers in games.

          Bullpen
The Angels found their closer in Hansel Robles. In his first full season with the club Robles posted a career best 2.48 ERA in 71 games. He saved 23 games with 75 strikeouts in 72.2 innings. His walks per nine were down to a career low 2.0, as was his 0.7 HR/9. Ty Buttrey entered 2019 looking for the closer role. He had to settle as a set-up man. He struck out 84 batters in 72.1 innings with a 3.98 ERA. Keynan Middleton, who was the closer early in 2018 before undergoing Tommy John surgery, returned late to post a 1.17 ERA in 11 games. He has 85 strikeouts in 83.2 career innings. Noe Ramirez had a 3.99 ERA, and struck out 79 in 67.2 innings, with a career low 2.7 BB/9. Cam Bedrosian had a 3.23 ERA, the second best mark of his career. He struck out 64 batters in 61.1 innings, while allowing only seven hits per nine innings. Justin Anderson has been a workhorse for the Angels the past two years, playing in 111 games. He has a career ERA of 4.75 with 127 strikeouts in 102.1 innings. The Angels traded a top-30 prospect in Jeremy Beasley to the D-Backs for Matt Andriese. Andriese averaged about 1.1 innings per outing over 54 games last year, with 79 Ks and a 4.71 ERA.

            Catchers
The Angels signed former Astros and Twins catcher Jason Castro to a one year, $6.85 million deal. Castro had his best offensive season in a long time last year, hitting 13 home runs in 79 games with a .435 slugging percentage and .767 OPS. It was his best slugging and OPS since he was an all-star in 2013. The backup is Castro's old Houston teammate in Max Stassi. A seven year veteran with only 183 MLB games, Stassi hit eight home runs in 88 games in 2018. He was terrible last year, with a .136 average and .378 OPS in 51 of those games. 20 of them were with the Angels, where he had a .071 average and .235 OPS, and did not record an extra base hit.

             Infielders
Albert Pujols will be forced to play a lot of first base due to Ohtani. A first ballot Hall-of-Famer, Pujols will see his career average dip below .300 this year, a sad thing considering he did not hit under .300 in a season until he hit .299 in his 11th year. He hit 23 home runs with a .244 average and .734 OPS. A three time MVP, six time Silver Slugger, two time Gold Glover and 10 time all-star, Pujols has made one all-star team with no other awards since he joined the Angels in 2012. Tommy La Stella was a surprise all-star, though an injury cost him his chance to play in the game, and it limited him to 80 games. He hit 16 home runs with a .295 average and .832 OPS. He can play third and first base, as well as second. David Fletcher was the starting third baseman, but he won't play much there due to a big free agent signing. He will be a super utility player. In 154 games last season, Fletcher hit .290 with six home runs and eight stolen bases. Andrelton Simmons is still probably the best defender in the game, though Matt Chapman has a case. Simmons played in 103 games last year, hurting his case to win the Gold Glove. He has won four in his career. He saved 12 defensive runs. At the plate, he had one of his worst seasons, with a .264 average and .673 OPS. He hit seven home runs and swiped 10 bags. Anthony Rendon is the aforementioned big free agent signing. After finishing third in MVP voting, winning his second Silver Slugger and the World Series, the Angels gave Rendon $245 million over seven years. He had a career year at the plate in 2019, with 34 home runs, a league leading 126 RBIs and 44 doubles, plus a .319 average, .412 OBP and .598 slugging percentage for a 1.010 OPS. Luis Regnifo was almost traded in the offseason. He played in 108 games last year with a .685 OPS. Matt Thaiss is in a battle with Regnifo for the final spot. The corner infielder hit eight home runs in 53 games last year, with a .714 OPS.

              Outfielders
What can you not say about Mike Trout. The best player in baseball signed a monster contract before the start of the season, and had another great year, winning his third MVP and 7th Silver Slugger. He hit a career high 45 home runs, with 11 stolen bases and a .291 average. He led the league in OBP (.438), Slugging Percentage (.645) and obviously OPS (1.083) in 134 games. He edged out Houston's Alex Bregman for the trophy. He also had a 185 OPS+, leading the league for the fifth consecutive time. His career OPS rounds up to exactly 1.000. He will soon receive another outfield buddy, with top prospect Jo Adell primed to debut this year, but probably not for Opening Day. Justin Upton, the first overall pick in 2005, had a terrible injury filled year. He played in just 63 games, hitting 12 homers. However, he had a .215 average and .724 OPS, and he is not a good fielder in left. With Kole Calhoun off to Arizona, Brian Goodwin will hold the starting right field job until Adell comes from AAA. Goodwin hit 17 home runs with seven stolen bases, a .262 average and .796 OPS in 136 games. Goodwin will then take the job of Michael Hermosillo. In 18 MLB games Hermosillo hit no home runs with a .527 OPS. He had an .802 OPS in AAA.

                Projected Lineup
SS Andrelton Simmons (R)
CF Mike Trout (R)
3B Anthony Rendon (R)
DH Shohei Ohtani* (L)
LF Justin Upton (R)
2B Tommy La Stella (L)
1B Albert Pujols (R)
RF Brian Goodwin (L)
C Jason Castro (L)
*On non starting days only

                 Projected Rotation
Andrew Heaney (L)
Julio Teheran (R)
Shohei Ohtani (R)
Dylan Bundy (R)
Griffin Canning (R)

                 Projected Bullpen
Hansel Robles, closer (R)
Ty Buttrey (R)
Cam Bedrosian (R)
Justin Anderson (R)
Felix Pena (R)
Keynan Middleton (R)
Matt Andriese (R)
Noe Ramirez (R)

                 Projected Bench
C Max Stassi (R)
1B/3B Matt Thaiss (L)
IF David Fletcher (R)
OF Michael Hermosillo (R)

                 Prediction
The Angels have a very scary lineup. No team will want to face Trout and Rendon back-to-back. Their bullpen may lack a lefty, but all of their pitchers are very good and underrated when healthy. Their rotation is lacking, but they have the depth and bullpen to cover for it. I predict the Angels will finish 2nd in the AL West, and grab the first Wild Card spot in the American League.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Kansas City Royals 2020 Season Preview



       It was another progressive year for the Royals in 2019. The 2015 World Series champions have hit rock bottom. The picked second overall in June, going with high school infielder Bobby Witt Jr. The Royals have a fast team, with 43 base stealer Adalberto Mondesi Jr. Outfielder Jorge Soler also set the franchise record in home runs. The team has some decent players, but they need to build around their core better.

       Offseason additions: 3B Maikel Franco, RHP Chance Adams, RHP Greg Holland, RHP Trevor Rosenthal.

       Offseason subtractions: UT Cheslor Cuthbert, 1B Lucas Duda, RHP Brad Boxberger, RHP Wily Peralta, LHP Brian Flynn.

       Rotation
Former Rule-5 pick Brad Keller was great in his rookie season of 2018, with a 3.08 ERA. He regressed last year, but still had a respectable 4.19 ERA with 122 strikeouts in 165.1 innings. His 0.8 HR/9 and 8.4 H/9 were very solid compared to the average pitcher. However, his 3.8 BB/9 was high. Danny Duffy has a career ERA of 3.98, but 2017 was his last season with an ERA under 4. He had a 4.34 ERA with 115 strikeouts in 130.2 innings. His 23 starts were his least since he made five in 2013. Jakob Junis had a career high 8.4 K/9, but he also had career worsts in ERA (5.24), BB/9 (3.0), H/9 (9.9) and WHIP (1.426). The Royals brought back their 2008 first round pick in Mike Montgomery, who had never played with the club prior to 2019. A World Series winning swingman, Montgomery made 13 starts with Kansas City, posting a 4.64 ERA with 51 Ks in 64 innings. The final spot is an open battle with an opener as a possibility. Glenn Sparkman made 23 starts last year, but posted a horrid 6.02 ERA. Oft-injured righty Jesse Hahn is back. He allowed seven runs in 4.2 innings late last year. The most starts he made in a season is 16, coming in his 3.35 ERA year of 2015.

         Bullpen
Former starter Ian Kennedy emerged as an unlikely closer. Prior to 2019 he had made just two relief appearances, both coming with the Yankees from 2008-2009. He converted 30 saves last year, with a 3.41 ERA that was his best since 2011. His 10.4 K/9 was a career high. His 2.4 BB/9 rate was his best in a long time. Scott Barlow struck out 92 batters over 70.1 innings, allowing just six home runs with a 4.22 ERA. Lefty Tim Hill had a solid 3.63 ERA with 39 strikeouts over 39.2 innings. Lefties hit just .186 against him with a .465 OPS. Jorge Lopez had a rough year as a swingman. In 39 games (18 starts), Lopez had a 6.33 ERA with 109 strikeouts in 123.2 innings. He was hurt by the long ball, allowing 27 home runs. Greg Holland, a three time all-star and Kansas City's closer when they won the World Series, is back as a non-roster invitee. Holland saved 17 games for Arizona last year, with a 4.54 ERA and 41 strikeouts in 35.2 innings. His 6.3 H/9 might have been his most impressive stat last year. Jake Newberry had an encouraging season. He played in 27 games, posting a 3.77 ERA with 29 strikeouts in 31 innings, but allowed seven home runs. Kevin McCarthy had a 4.48 ERA in 56 games last season, but was great in 2018, pitching in 65 games with a 3.25 ERA. He is not a strikeout guy, with a 5.7 career K/9. The Royals can go a lot of different ways for the final spot. Josh Staumont was a 25 year old rookie with a 3.72 ERA in 16 games last year. Randy Rosario is a lefty who posted a 4.40 ERA in 19 games for the Royals and Cubs last year. He did not allow a run in 3.2 innings in the KC portion. Trevor Rosenthal has not allowed a run with eight Ks in four Spring Training innings so far. His 2019 was terrible. He allowed 23 earned runs in 15.1 innings (13.50 ERA) over 22 games for the Nats and Tigers. While he struck out 17 batters, he walked 26 batters and hit four of them. His 15.3 BB/9 has to be some sort of bad record. If he can get his control together, and judging by his no walks issued in Spring so far, he can, he can be a dangerous relief option.

            Catchers
Salvador Perez missed all of 2019 with an injury sustained in Spring Training. A five time Gold Glover and two time Silver Slugger, Perez hit 27 home runs with 80 RBIs in both 2017 and 2018. He had a weak .235 average and .713 OPS in 2018, but he still won the Silver Slugger at catcher. Before the injury, he was one of baseball's best catchers. Cam Gallagher and Meibrys Viloria are in a battle for the backup spot. Gallagher played in 45 games last year, three more than Viloria. Both have options, so that is not a factor. Gallagher is four years older with 28 more games of MLB experience. Gallagher had a .677 OPS compared to Viloria's .544.

             Infielders
Ryan O'Hearn and Ryan McBroom are in a battle for first base. Both can make the team, but that would rule out a backup infielder, which the Royals don't necessarily need as Nicky Lopez, Hunter Dozier, Adalberto Mondesi and Whit Merrifield can all play multiple positions. O'Hearn hit 14 home runs last year, but he also had a .195 average and a .650 OPS. He had a .950 OPS in 44 games in 2018. McBroom debuted late last year, with six RBIs and a .293 average in 23 games (83 PAs). For AAA Scranton (Yankees system), McBroom hit .315 with a .976 OPS and 26 home runs. Nicky Lopez hit .353 with a .957 OPS in 31 AAA games, earning himself the second base job in the majors. He played in 103 MLB games, with a .240 average and .601 OPS with two home runs. He had three defensive runs saved at second base. Adalberto Mondesi stole 43 bases, with a .263 average and a league leading 10 triples, tied with teammates Whit Merrifield and Hunter Dozier. He had a .715 OPS, 89 points lower than his 2018 mark. The Royals gave inconsistent power hitter Maikel Franco $3 million to play third base. He hit 17 home runs last year. It was his first season without at least 20 home runs since his 80 game 2015 season. He had a .234 average and .705 OPS for the Phillies last season, both below his career average.

              Outfielders
The Royals' starting outfield will compose of two former starting infielders. Whit Merrifield led the league in hits and stolen bases in 2018, as well as stolen bases in 2017. He stole just 20 bases in 2019, getting caught a league leading 10 times. He led the league in hits again, with 206. Also, his 681 at-bats were the most in the league. He had a .302 average and a career high .811 OPS, making his first all-star team while making a transition from second base to right field to accommodate Lopez's arrive. He will move again, to center field. Hunter Dozier, a natural third baseman who can play first base and right field, broke out in 2019. He hit 26 home runs with 84 RBIs, a .279 average and an .870 OPS in 139 games. He made improvement defensively as well, going from -13 DRS in 2018 to -4 in 2019. Alex Gordon returns for his 14th season as a Royal. A seven time Gold Glover (winning them in the last eight years), Gordon hit 13 home runs with a .266 average and .741 OPS. While he isn't the offensive player he once was, Gordon's average and OPS were his highest since 2015, when he was an all-star for the third time. The team will likely carry both Bubba Starling and Brett Phillips, both of whom are out of options. The 5th overall pick in 2011, Starling finally debuted in 2019, hitting four home runs with a .215 average and .572 OPS. Brett Phillips is a classic AAAA player. He has good AAA numbers, with 18 home runs, 22 stolen bases and an .883 OPS last year. He is not a good MLB player, with a career .203 average and .620 OPS. Jorge Soler finally had his big season, hitting a franchise record 48 home runs, which also led the league. He led the league in strikeouts too, with 178. He hit .265 with a career best .922 OPS. He is a terrible fielder, and with the Royals' plethora of outfielders, I'd be surprised if he saw much fielding time in 2020.

               Projected Opening Day Lineup
CF Whit Merrifield (R)
SS Adalberto Mondesi (S)
DH Jorge Soler (R)
RF Hunter Dozier (R)
C Salvador Perez (R)
LF Alex Gordon (L)
3B Maikel Franco (R)
1B Ryan O'Hearn (L)
2B Nicky Lopez (L)

                 Projected Rotation
Brad Keller (R)
Danny Duffy (L)
Jakob Junis (R)
Mike Montgomery (L)
Jesse Hahn (R)

                  Projected Bullpen
Ian Kennedy, closer (R)
Scott Barlow (R)
Tim Hill (L)
Jorge Lopez (R)
Greg Holland (R)
Trevor Rosenthal (R)
Jake Newberry (R)
Kevin McCarthy (R)

                  Projected Bench
C Cam Gallagher (R)
OF Brett Phillips (L)
OF Bubba Starling (R)
1B Ryan McBroom (R)

                   Prediction
Now is a time for the Royals to figure out who is a part of their future, and who is not. They have a solid lineup, but their pitching staff needs a big upgrade. While they are not the worst team in the AL Central, they are certainly not the best. The Royals will see another 4th place finish in 2020, and another playoff miss.