Sunday, March 31, 2019

NHL news: Coyotes extend Schmaltz

Photo from Getty

           Forward Nick Schmaltz has signed a seven year extension with the Arizona Coyotes. The deal has an AAV worth $5.85 million.

           Schmaltz hasn't played in the 2019 calendar year because of a knee injury. He was acquired by the team in November from the Blackhawks for forwards Dylan Strome and Brendan Perlini. He would have been an RFA on July 1st. He was drafted 20th overall in 2014, and is 13th in points among players drafted that year.

            Schmaltz, 23, has scored seven goals with 18 assists for 25 points in 40 games for the Hawks and Coyotes in 2018-19. In his three year career, he has scored 34 goals with 71 assists for 105 points in 179 games.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

MLB trade review: A's acquire Morales

Kendrys Morales. Photo from The Athletic

            The Oakland Athletics have acquired DH/1B Kendrys Morales and cash from the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for infielder Jesus Lopez and international signing bonus pool money.

            For the A's, first baseman Matt Olson needed surgery for a broken hamate bone. Morales, who has played just 30 games at first base over the last two seasons, is the short term replacement. The A's are opted to not go with Chad Pinder at first. Pinder can play left, and Morales and lefty crusher Mark Canha can platoon at first. Morales has hit at least 20 home runs in six of the last seven seasons.

            Morales, 35, had a .249 batting average with 21 home runs and 57 RBIs in 471 Plate Appearances for the Jays in 2018. Fun fact: he stole his first base since 2009, swiping two bags in '18. In his 12 year MLB career for the Jays, Kansas City Royals, Los Angeles Angels, Minnesota Twins and Seattle Mariners, Morales has a batting average of .268 with 211 home runs and 728 RBIs in 5156 Plate Appearances.

             For the Jays, a player who doesn't play the field for them, hit just 21 home runs in 2018 and will turn 36 in June won't help their youth movement. Trading Morales and part of the $12 million he was owed this year, helps. He was the highest paid player on Toronto. This allows Rowdy Tellez to DH. Tellez hit .319 with a .943 OPS in 23 games last September, and hit five home runs with a .908 OPS this spring.

              Lopez, 22, hit .239 with 10 home runs and 41 RBIs in 326 Plate Appearances for Single-A Beloit in 2018. In his minor league career, Lopez has hit .221 with 15 home runs, 111 RBIs and 17 stolen bases in 1266 Plate Appearances.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Washington Nationals 2019 season preview

Anthony Rendon

           The Washington Nationals lost a free agent this offseason that would break the record for biggest contract in MLB history. But, now without Bryce Harper, they are actually a better team. They added to their pitching, improved their catching and now have a very good and young outfield. The Nats could easily win the division.

           Offseason additions: LHP Patrick Corbin, C Yan Gomes, C Kurt Suzuki, 2B Brian Dozier, LHP Tony Sipp, RHP Anibal Sanchez, RHP Kyle Barraclough, RHP Trevor Rosenthal, LHP Vidal Nuno, RHP Henderson Alvarez

            Offseason subtractions: RF Bryce Harper, RHP Tanner Roark, C Matt Wieters, RHP Greg Holland, 1B Mark Reynolds, C Pedro Severino

The Nationals have one of the best rotations in the league, despite trading Tanner Roark to Cincinnati. Max Scherzer is arguably the best pitcher in baseball, with a 2.53 ERA and 300 strikeouts in 220.2 innings, finishing second in NL Cy Young voting. Stephen Strasburg was again hurt, and posted a 3.74 ERA in 20 starts. The team signed Patrick Corbin to a six year deal. Corbin had a 3.15 ERA with 246 strikeouts in 200 innings for Arizona last season. Anibal Sanchez comes from Atlanta after having his best season since 2013, with a 2.83 ERA in 136.2 innings. Jeremy Hellickson was strong in 91 innings for the Nats last season.

Sean Doolittle converted 25 saves, but also had a 1.60 ERA with 60 strikeouts in 45 innings. The Nats are hoping for a healthy Doolittle. Matt Grace had a 2.87 ERA in nearly 60 innings in a breakout 2018. Justin Miller also had a breakout campaign. Kyle Barraclough has a career 11.5 K/9 rate. Trevor Rosenthal, the former Cardinals closer, is returning from Tommy John surgery. Tony Sipp had a 1.86 ERA for Houston last season. Jimmy Cordero and Wander Suero get the final two spots.

The Nats had a measly catching trio of Matt Wieters and a mix of Pedro Severino and Spencer Kieboom. Wieters and Severino are gone, and Kieboom will be the AAA starter. The Nats signed Kurt Suzuki and traded for Yan Gomes to fill the hole. Combined, they hit 28 home runs in 2018.

Entering free agency, Anthony Rendon is looking to improve on his really good 2018. He hit 24 home runs with a .308 batting average and .909 OPS. He is also a good fielder. Trea Turner stole 43 bases and hit 19 home runs. Ryan Zimmerman's home run total dropped by 23 to 13, and his batting average fell back to earth. Brian Dozier had his worst offensive season in 2018, but was signed to play second. He has 30 home run power.

At age 19, Juan Soto was called up. He finished second in NL Rookie of the Year voting, hitting 22 home runs with a .923 OPS. He even hit a major league home run before his MLB debut. Victor Robles, the Nationals' top prospect, is the center fielder. Adam Eaton hit .301 in 95 games last year. He'll move over to right field.

Whoever isn't starting from the Gomes/Suzuki tandem will backup the other. Howie Kendrick can play second base and corner outfield, but he'll start the season injured. Matt Adams can hit 20 home runs as a bench player. Wilmer Difo is a speedy backup infielder. Michael Taylor, last year's center fielder, will move to the 4th outfielder role.

SS Trea Turner
3B Anthony Rendon
LF Juan Soto
1B Ryan Zimmerman
2B Brian Dozier
CF Victor Robles
C Yan Gomes
RF Adam Eaton

Max Scherzer (R)
Stephen Strasburg (R)
Patrick Corbin (L)
Anibal Sanchez (R)
Jeremy Hellickson (R)

Sean Doolittle (L)
Matt Grace (L)
Tony Sipp (L)
Kyle Barraclough (R)
Justin Miller (R)
Trevor Rosenthal (R)
Jimmy Cordero (R)
Wander Suero (R)

C Kurt Suzuki
INF Wilmer Difo
OF Michael Taylor
1B Matt Adams

                        Additional Information
Ballpark: Nationals Park
Manager: Dave Martinez
GM: Mike Rizzo
World Series Championships: 0
2018 record: 82-80

                         Steal of the Decade
As part of a three team deal with the Rays and Padres, the Nats sent outfielder Steven Souza Jr. to the Rays, and the Padres gave Washington Trea Turner. While Souza has had injury issues and was traded to Arizona, Turner has hit .289 with 122 stolen bases since 2016. Turner is a key part of the Nationals' success.

The Nationals are a good team. But, in a strong division, nothing is guaranteed. They'll have to fight for a playoff spot.

Toronto Blue Jays 2019 season preview

Teoscar Hernandez

             The Toronto Blue Jays failed to finish over .500 for a second consecutive season in 2018. Their run to the ALCS in 2015 and 2016 didn't work out, and they never won 90 games in a season. In October 2015, six Blue Jays players and manager John Gibbons were on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Now, all seven are gone. Those players were David Price, Troy Tulowitzki, Rusell Martin, Josh Donaldson, Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista. Now in a youth movement, the Blue Jays are hoping for exciting young talent to sell tickets. It helps having baseball's top prospect.

               Offseason additions: RHP Clay Buchholz, RHP Matt Shoemaker, INF Freddy Galvis, LHP Clayton Richard, RHP Daniel Hudson, RHP Bud Norris, INF Eric Sogard

               Offseason subtractions: C Russell Martin, INF Aledmys Diaz, INF Yangervis Solarte, RHP Marco Estrada, RHP Tyler Clippard

Both Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez, the top two Toronto starters, were hampered by injuries and finished with just over 100 innings pitched and ERAs around or above 5.00. Stroman was lights out in 2017, with a 3.09 ERA in 201 innings, but rebounded with a 5.54 ERA in 102.1 innings. Sanchez, the AL's ERA champion in 2016, has made just 28 starts combined since. Matt Shoemaker and Clayton Richard will start the season in the rotation. Both pitched for California teams in 2018. Ryan Borucki impressed as a 24 year old rookie. An elbow injury will have him miss a start or two, but not enough to keep him off the projected lineup. Also in their projected rotation is Clay Buchholz. Buchholz had a 2.01 ERA in 98 innings for Arizona last season. He won't start the season with the team, as he signed late in Spring Training. But, he will be called up shortly. Borucki being healthy and Buchholz being called up could kick Richard out of the rotation.

Ken Giles had an ERA over four, but was perfect in 14 save chances after a trade from Houston. Giles has a lot of potential. The good news is that Joe Biagini pitched in 72 innings. The bad news is that he had a 6.00 ERA. Ryan Tepera and Bud Norris could both be out to start, but will be key bullpen parts when returning. Danny Barnes has pitched in 107 games over the last two seasons. The bullpen's lefty is Tim Mayza, who allowed 13 runs in 35.2 innings. Daniel Hudson, recently signed to a MLB deal, will be a part of the pen. Rule 5 pick Elvis Luciano is winning the final spot over Sam Gaviglio.

Danny Jansen, the Jays' top catching prospect, hit .247 with three home runs after a late big league call up. He is the starting catcher. Backing him up is Luke Maile, who is entering his third season in that role with Toronto.

The top prospect in baseball, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., will be a key part of the 2019 Jays. But, he will not start the season with the team because of service time manipulations. Brandon Drury will play third until then. Drury is a natural third baseman acquired from the Yankees last July for JA Happ. He will move to second when Vlad is called up. Freddy Galvis, who played in 162 games for the Padres at shortstop last year, is the second baseman. Lourdes Gurriel Jr., the shortstop, hit .281 with 11 home runs in 65 games. Justin Smoak is back for what will likely be his final season in Toronto. Smoak had an amazing 2017, but fell back to earth in 2018, when his batting average dropped down to .242, which would have been a career high if not for '17, and his home run total at 25, which also would have been a career high.

Teoscar Hernandez beat out Billy McKinney for the left field job. Hernandez hit 22 home runs at age 25 in 2018. Kevin Pillar can hit 15 home runs and steal 15 bases. But, he doesn't walk much, which led to a .282 OBP despite a .252 batting average. Randal Grichuk hit 25 home runs in his first season north of the border. Like Smoak, he could be gone by July.

Kendrys Morales hit 21 home runs in 2018, his lowest since 2014. At age 35, Morales' power might not return, but I wouldn't bet against it. Billy McKinney lost the left field role, but will take fourth outfielder as the consolation prize. Maile is the backup catcher. Both Rowdy Tellez and Richard Urena make the team after opening eyes at the end of 2018.

LF Teoscar Hernandez
3B Brandon Drury
1B Justin Smoak
RF Randal Grichuk
DH Kendrys Morales
SS Lourdes Gurriel Jr.
C Danny Jansen
2B Freddy Galvis
CF Kevin Pillar

Marcus Stroman (R)
Aaron Sanchez (R)
Clay Buchholz (R)
Ryan Borucki (L)
Matt Shoemaker (R)

Ken Giles (R)
Ryan Tepera (R)
Joe Biagini (R)
Danny Jansen (R)
Tim Mayza (L)
Daniel Hudson (R)
Elvis Luciano (R)

C Luke Maile
OF Billy McKinney
INF Richard Urena
1B Rowdy Tellez

                     Additional Information
Ballpark: Rogers Centre
Manager: Charlie Montoyo
GM: Ross Atkins
World Series Championships: 2
2018 record: 73-89

                     Steal of the Decade
The Blue Jays that went to the ALCS in 2015 and 2016 were built around Josh Donaldson. Well, not really. But, Donaldson was their best player. Acquired before 2015, the Jays sent Franklin Barreto, Brett Lawrie, Kendall Graveman and Sean Nolin to Oakland. Nolin allowed 17 runs in 29 innings for Oakland in 2015, and hasn't returned to the majors since. Graveman will miss 2019 with Tommy John surgery, and is now on the Cubs, but for three seasons was a decent starter for a bad A's team. Lawrie played one season for the A's, hitting 16 home runs, and Barreto is currently a young utility infielder for the team. But Donaldson won AL MVP honors in his first season, and received votes in the next two. He hit 41 home runs with a .297 batting average in 2015.

The Blue Jays will be fun to watch with Guerrero and their second best prospect, Bo Bichette, if Bichette plays in 2019. Stroman and Sanchez could have bounce back seasons, but in a strong division, the Blue Jays are better off selling this season.

Texas Rangers 2019 season preview

Isiah Kiner-Falefa. Photo from Dallas Morning News

          The Texas Rangers had a period from 2015-2016 where they were title hunting. A Jose Bautista bat flip in '15 and an embarrassing ALDS sweep ended the Rangers' run. Now, they are at rock bottom. Former face of the franchise Adrian Beltre retired, and out the door went budding second baseman Jurickson Profar, catcher Robinson Chirinos and reliever Alex Claudio. Former closer Keone Kela left last July. Engaged in a painful rebuild, the Rangers can do nothing but hope to be like the 2017 Twins, who went from terrible team to contender in a season.

           Offseason additions: RHP Lance Lynn, INF Asdrubal Cabrera, RHP Jesse Chavez, C Jeff Mathis, RHP Shawn Kelley, RHP Shelby Miller, LHP Drew Smyly, RHP Edinson Volquez, OF Hunter Pence, RHP Jeanmar Gomez, INF Logan Forsythe, 3B/P Matt Davidson, OF Ben Revere

            Offseason subtractions: 3B Adrian Beltre, 2B Jurickson Profar, C Robinson Chirinos, LHP Alex Claudio, RHP Bartolo Colon, LHP Martin Perez, RHP Yovani Gallardo, RHP Doug Fister, OF Drew Robinson, LHP Matt Moore

The four starters Texas brought in, Lance Lynn, Shelby Miller, Drew Smyly and Edinson Volquez, have all had Tommy John surgery before, with Miller, Smyly and Volquez just returning from it. Lynn is coming off the worst season of his career, but has a 3.57 ERA and a 3.67 FIP in his career, better than Dallas Keuchel, the best remaining free agent starter. Lynn had a 2.17 FIP after a July trade to the Yankees. Smyly hasn't pitched since 2016, his first full season as a starter, but also his worst. Volquez had a 4.19 ERA in 17 starts for the Marlins in 2017, and was a key starter for the 2015 Royals that won the World Series. The best returning starter, Mike Minor, was moved back to the starting role for the first time since 2014. He was a dominant reliever in KC in 2017, but didn't pitch in 2015 or 2016 because of major shoulder surgery. Miller was one of baseball's best young starters from 2012-15, but completely failed and was injured when traded to Arizona. Texas is hoping for the Miller that was on St. Louis and Atlanta.

Jose LeClerc, the closer after Keone Kela was traded to Pittsburgh, absolutely dominated in 2018, with a 1.56 ERA, with 85 strikeouts in 57.2 innings. He will keep the closer duties. Jesse Chavez, traded to the Cubs last July, was re-signed. He had a 2.55 ERA last year, a career best. Chris Martin returned from Japan, but didn't find much success. Lefty Jeffrey Springs was decent in a short amount of MLB time last year. Connor Sadzeck allowed just one run in 9.1 innings last season. Adrian Sampson had a good spring, and should make the team. Veterans Shawn Kelley and Jeanmar Gomez will also make the team. Combined, they have 18 years of MLB experience. Kelley is the better of the two. Mets Rule 5 pick Kyle Dowdy was picked up off waivers, and should make the team over either Sampson or Sadzeck.

 Robinson Chirinos left after hitting 18 home runs. The Rangers signed defensive catcher Jeff Mathis to a two year deal. Mathis will likely back up Isiah Kiner-Falefa, a catcher and infielder, who made his rookie season in 2018.

Replacing Beltre at third will be Asdrubal Cabrera, who hit 23 home runs in '18. Sophomore first baseman Ronald Guzman hit 16 home runs. Injuries limited Roughned Odor to just 129 games, where he hit 18 home runs. But, his OPS improved dramatically from 2017, up to .751. Injuries limited Elvis Andrus to 97 games. He he hit six home runs, 14 less than his career high in 2017, five stolen bases, when his previous career low was 21, and a career low .256 average.

Joey Gallo hit 40 home runs again, but hit in the low .200s and struck out 200 times. Those numbers are what we've come to expect from Gallo. His OPS dropped from .869 in 2017 to .810 in 2018. Delino DeShields Jr. is one of the fastest players in baseball, and it was a disappointment seeing him steal just 20 bases last year. He could work on his offense. He hit .216 with a .591 OPS in 2018. In each of his first three MLB seasons, Nomar Mazara hit exactly 20 home runs. Mazara will turn 24 at the end of April. This could be his breakout year.

Shin-Soo Choo has moved to a DH role. He hit 21 home runs with a .810 OPS last season. Hunter Pence made the team out of Spring Training as the fourth outfielder. Pence completely fell off in 2018, hitting four home runs, with a .226 average and a .590 OPS, all career lows by far. Logan Forsythe is the backup infielder. He had a .356 OBP in 50 games after a midseason trade to Minnesota. Mathis is the backup catcher.

DH Shin-Soo Choo
2B Roughned Odor
SS Elvis Andrus
RF Nomar Mazara
LF Joey Gallo
3B Asdrubal Cabrera
1B Ronald Guzman
C Isiah Kiner-Falefa
CF Delino DeShields Jr.

Mike Minor (L)
Lance Lynn (R)
Drew Smyly (L)
Edinson Volquez (R)
Shelby Miller (R)
Jose LeClerc (R)
Jesse Chavez (R)
Chris Martin (R)
Jeffrey Springs (L)
Kyle Dowdy (R)
Shawn Kelley (R)
Jeanmar Gomez (R)
Adrian Sampson (R)

C Jeff Mathis
OF Hunter Pence
INF Logan Forsythe

                    Additional Information
Ballpark: Globe Life Park
Manager: Chris Woodward
GM: Jon Daniels
World Series Championships: 0
2018 record: 67-95

                     Steal of the Decade
The best Rangers trade this decade could end up actually being a bad one in years. Well, first, they acquired lefties Cole Hamels and Jake Diekman from the Phillies for six players. Hamels and Diekman were both key parts of the Rangers' runs in 2015 and 2016. The only two of the six players that can come back to hurt the Rangers are Jorge Alfaro and Nick Williams. But, Alfaro was traded to the Marlins and Williams is now a fourth outfielder because of the Bryce Harper signing.

The Rangers don't impress anyone as a team. Their bullpen, outside of LeClerc, is really bad, their rotation is made up of guys that have missed at least a season, and their lineup isn't great. There shouldn't be postseason baseball in Arlington this year.

MLB trade review: Angels get Stratton

Chris Stratton. Photo from NBC

           The Los Angeles Angels have acquired RHP Chris Stratton from the San Francisco Giants in exchange for LHP Williams Jerez.

            The Angels always deal with rotation injuries. Both Tyler Skaggs and Andrew Heaney are hurt, but could be ready for Opening Day. Stratton can fill in as a starter, and when everyone is healthy, improve a weak bullpen. They trade Jerez, a lefty reliever that made his debut last season.

             Stratton, 27, had a 5.09 ERA with 112 strikeouts and a team leading 10 wins in 145 innings last season. He made 26 starts with two relief appearances. In his three year career in San Fran, Stratton has a 4.63 ERA with 169 strikeouts in 213.2 innings.

             For the Giants, they had seven pitchers vying for a rotation spot. Stratton didn't make it, and he doesn't have options, so they traded him. Also not making it was Andrew Suarez, who was optioned to AAA. They receive Jerez, a younger pitcher and is a lefty.

            Jerez, 26, made his MLB debut in 2018, with a 6.00 ERA and 15 strikeouts in 15 innings. He allowed two runs in 7.1 innings in Spring Training.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Tampa Bay Rays 2019 season preview

Ryan Yarbrough. Photo from SBNation

             In mid-May 2018, the Tampa Bay Rays unleashed a strategy that would change baseball. That strategy was the "opener". Essentially, they would start the game with a reliever pitching an inning or two. Then, they would either continue on with their relievers or have pitchers like Ryan Yarbrough, Ryne Stanek, Diego Castillo or Yonny Chirinos pitch multiple innings. The Rays plan to utilize the strategy again. The offseason was once again filled with interesting decisions, as the Rays try to find the best underrated players out there.

             Offseason additions: RHP Charlie Morton, INF Yandy Diaz, C Mike Zunino, OF Avisail Garcia, OF Guillermo Heredia, RHP Emilio Pagan, OF Jake Smolinski, UT Emilio Bonifacio, LHP Ryan Merrit, LHP Oliver Drake

             Offseason subtractions: RHP Sergio Romo, 1B CJ Cron, OF Mallex Smith, OF Carlos Gomez, 1B/OF Jake Bauers, C Jesus Sucre

Only four pitchers started in every game they played in for the Rays last season. Two of them, Chris Archer and Nathan Eovaldi, were traded at the deadline. Archer landed another one of those four players, Tyler Glasnow. The fourth pitcher was Blake Snell. Snell had a 1.89 ERA, with 221 strikeouts in 180.2 innings, earning AL Cy Young honors at age 25. Glasnow had a 4.20 ERA after the trade. The team signed Charlie Morton to a two year deal. 2018 was the best year of Morton's career, making his first all-star appearance and finished with a 3.13 ERA, plus 201 strikeouts in 167 innings. The final two spots will likely go to openers. Despite only officially starting six games, Ryan Yarbrough was virtually a starter, pitching in 147.1 innings. Same with Yonny Chirinos who in 18 games (seven starts) pitched 89.2 innings. Ryne Stanek and Diego Castillo are opener options. Both Jake Faria and Austin Pruitt are natural starters, but could join the rotation for openers. They'll start 2019 in AAA.

Swiss Army Knife reliever Sergio Romo went south to Miami. Romo made five starts, and converted 25 saves. Closing duties will likely be split between Jose Alvarado and Chaz Roe, who combined for nine saves, and were two of the few Rays relievers to not make a start. Stanek and Castillo, along with Yarbrough and Chirinos, will enter games from the bullpen. Lefty Jalen Beeks, acquired for Eovaldi, can also go multiple innings. Wilmer Font allowed five runs in 27 innings in 2018. The final spot is between lefty Adam Kolarek and righty Emilio Pagan, the latter acquired in a three tean trade this offseason.

The Rays traded speedy center fielder Mallex Smith to the Mariners for catcher Mike Zunino. Zunino hit 20 home runs in 113 games last year, and is one of the best power hitting catchers. But, he has a career batting average of .207 and a .682 OPS. Michael Perez is the only other catcher on the 40-man roster. He hit .284 in limited time last year.

The Rays recently extended utility infielder Brandon Lowe, and they still have another utility infielder Daniel Robertson, but both are blocked. Third baseman Matt Duffy will start the season injured. At first will be a platoon between Ji-Man Choi and Yandy Diaz. Diaz was acquired for first baseman Jake Bauers. They will work out Diaz at first base, but he'll start the season at third, his natural position. Choi had a .877 OPS in 49 games for the Rays last season. Second baseman Joey Wendle stole 16 bases and hit .300. Shortstop Willy Adames is primed for a breakout season after hitting 10 home runs and .278 in 85 games in 2018.

Tommy Pham, acquired in a trade deadline deal, Hit .343 with a .448 OBP that inflated his OPS to 1.071 after the trade. Kevin Kiermaier is a very good defensive center fielder, but again missed time to injuries and could work on his offense. Austin Meadows, also part of the trade with Glasnow, Had a .785 OPS in 59 games last year, his first taste of MLB experience. Only 10 of those games were with the Rays. In 27 games with AAA Durham, the Rays' affiliate, Meadows hit 10 home runs with a .344 average.

The Rays picked up Avisail Garcia, who is the wild card on their team. Garcia hit a career high 19 home runs last year, but his average dropped by nearly 100 points, from .330 to .236. Guillermo Heredia, acquired with Zunino, is the 4th outfielder. Lowe and Robertson are extra infielders, and Perez is the backup catcher.

CF Kevin Kiermaier
SS Willy Adames
LF Tommy Pham
1B Ji-Man Choi
C Mike Zunino
DH Avisail Garcia
2B Joey Wendle
3B Yandy Diaz
RF Austin Meadows

                     Rotation (last two are openers)
Blake Snell (L)
Charlie Morton (R)
Tyler Glasnow (R)
Ryan Yarbrough (L)
Yonny Chirinos (R)

Jose Alvarado (L)
Chaz Roe (R)
Ryne Stanek (R)
Diego Castillo (R)
Jalen Beeks (L)
Wilmer Font (R)
Emilio Pagan (R)

UT Brandon Lowe
UT Daniel Robertson
OF Guillermo Heredia
C Michael Perez

                      Additional Information
Ballpark: Tropicana Field
Manager: Kevin Cash
GM: Erik Neander
World Series Championships: 0
2018 record: 90-72

                      Steal of the Decade
The Rays dealt top starter Matt Garza to the Cubs, along with Zac Rosscup and Fernando Perez to the Cubs in 2011 for Chris Archer, Robinson Chirinos, Sam Fuld and Brandon Guyer. Garza had a 3.65 ERA in three seasons in Chicago, though fell off after a trade to Texas. Rosscup had a 5.32 ERA in three seasons for the Cubs, and is now a part of the Mariners bullpen after bouncing from team to team. Perez never played again after the trade. In return, the Rays got Chirinos, currently the Astros' starting catcher, but played in just 20 games as a Ray. Both Guyer and Fuld were fourth outfielders in Tampa, combing for eight season for the Rays. Archer would emerge as the ace of the Rays, with a 3.69 ERA in seven seasons. He was purely dominant from 2013-2015, though his ERA gradually raised after that. He would be traded at the 2018 non-waiver trade deadline for three players, including Austin Meadows and Tyler Glasnow, who could be key parts of the 2019 team.

The Rays are always a surprise team. With a good pitching staff and an okay offense, they could make the playoffs in a bad American League.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

MLB trade review: Giants acquire Kratz

Kratz (right)

       The San Francisco Giants have acquired catcher Erik Kratz from the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for INF CJ Hinojosa.

       The Giants were in need of a backup catcher for Buster Posey with Nick Hundley leaving this offseason. They opted not to go with Aramis Garcia, who made his MLB debut in 2018, appearing in 19 games. Both Stephen Vogt and Rene Rivera were in camp on minor league deals, but Kratz is a better option. Kratz impressed last postseason with the Brewers. The Giants will be Kratz's eighth team, all since he left the Phillies after 2013.

        Kratz, 38, hit .236 with six home runs and 23 RBIs in 219 Plate Appearances for the Brewers last season. He hit .292 in the Brewers' playoff run. In his MLB career for the Brewers, New York Yankees, Kansas City Royals, Philadelphia Phillies, Toronto Blue Jays, *exhales* Houston Astros and Pittsburgh Pirates, Kratz has hit .211 with 30 home runs and 98 RBIs in 868 Plate Appearances.

        The Brewers upgraded their catching this offseason, signing Yasmani Grandal to a one year deal. With Grandal and the starter last year, Manny Pina returning, their wasn't room for Kratz. Getting a prospect in Hinojosa was better than designating Kratz for assignment, looking other teams might have done in the same situation.

        Hinojosa, 24, hit .265 with three home runs, six stolen bases and 28 RBIs in 311 Plate Appearances for AA Richmond and High-A San Jose last season. In his minor league career, Hinojosa has a batting average of .273 with 21 home runs, 135 RBIs and 15 stolen bases in 1484 Plate Appearances.

St. Louis Cardinals 2019 season preview

Harrison Bader. Photo from ESPN

                The St. Louis Cardinals were one of the best teams in the early 2010s. Now three years removed from their last playoff appearance, the Cardinals are trying to get back to the postseason. They traded for all-star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, then extended him. The Cardinals rotation still could use improvements, as could their bullpen. But they are in the best position they've been in in years. Now, their isn't an excuse to miss the playoffs.

                 Offseason additions: 1B Paul Goldschmidt, LHP Andrew Miller, C Matt Wieters, LHP Tommy Layne, RHP Ryan Meisenger

                 Offseason subtractions: RHP Bud Norris, RHP Luke Weaver, INF Greg Garcia, C Carson Kelly, RHP Tyson Ross, RHP Matt Bowman

Former ace Carlos Martinez moved to the bullpen last season, and could be the closer when he returns from a shoulder injury. That leaves Miles Mikolas as the new ace. Mikolas pitched for the Padres and Rangers from 2012-2014, then went to Japan. In his return in 2018, Mikolas posted a 2.83 ERA, a league leading 18 wins, but also allowed a league leading 186 hits. He finished 6th in NL Cy Young voting. Rookie Jack Flaherty had a 3.34 ERA in 28 starts. Michael Wacha was back on form last year but was shut down after just 15 starts. Veteran Adam Wainwright was brought back, and will start the season in the rotation. Wainwright has fallen off after finishing third in Cy Young voting in 2014. Dakota Hudson didn't make a start last year, but made the rotation this spring.

Flamethrower Jordan Hicks is the likely closer after Bud Norris departed. Both Norris and Hicks had a 3.59 ERA last season. Hicks made six saves. The Cardinals signed Andrew Miller coming off his worst season since 2011. Miller, when healthy, is one of baseball's best relievers. John Brebbia had a 3.20 ERA in 50.2 innings last year. John Gant didn't make the rotation, but he was good in 26 games (19 starts) last year. Both Brett Cecil and Luke Gregerson will start the season injured. Top prospect Alex Reyes will start the season in the bullpen. Righties Dominic Leone and Mike Mayers are coming off tough years. Lefty Tyler Webb was strong in 15.1 innings last year.

Yadier Molina plays nearly every day, unless injured like he was in 2018. He still hit 20 home runs. The Cardinals signed four time all-star Matt Wieters to be the backup. He failed in two seasons with Washington.

The Cardinals getting Goldschmidt might have been the offseason's biggest move. Goldschmidt has been an all-star every season since 2013. He is also a three time Gold Glove winner, which improves the Cardinals' defensive issues at first. Matt Carpenter, the Cardinals' first baseman last year, will move to third base. Carpenter hit 36 home runs last year. Shortstop Paul De Jong hit 19 home runs in 115 games, and might be one of the best power hitting shortstops in the National League. Second baseman Kolten Wong had a career high WAR, but his offensive numbers aren't good.

Marcel Ozuna had an insane 2017, but his first season with the Red Birds saw his numbers go back into the decent 2016 form. Dexter Fowler played in just 90 games, and disappointed, with eight home runs, with a .180 batting average and a .576 OPS. Harrison Bader has a great glove, and moved Fowler to right field, taking over in center. He stole 15 bases as well.

First baseman and outfielder Jose Martinez has hit 31 home runs, with a .309 average and .850 OPS in his 270 game career. But, it looks like he could be traded. Tyler O'Neil, a top prospect, has had a good spring but because he has options he might not make the team. Jedd Gyorko, last year's third baseman, is now a utility infielder. But, he will start the season injured. Yairo Munoz, another utility infielder, and Drew Robinson, acquired this offseason from Texas, will start the season on the team.

3B Matt Carpenter
1B Paul Goldschmidt
LF Marcel Ozuna
SS Paul De Jong
C Yadier Molina
CF Harrison Bader
2B Kolten Wong
RF Dexter Fowler

Miles Mikolas (R)
Jack Flaherty (R)
Michael Wacha (R)
Dakota Hudson (R)
Adam Wainwright (R)

Jordan Hicks (R)
Andrew Miller (L)
John Brebbia (R)
John Gant (R)
Alex Reyes (R)
Dominic Leone (R)
Mike Mayers (R)

C Matt Wieters
OF Tyler O'Neil
1B/OF Jose Martinez
INF Yairo Munoz
UT Drew Robinson

                     Additional Information
Ballpark: Busch Stadium
Manager: Mike Shildt
GM: Mike Girsch
World Series Championships: 11
2018 record: 88-74

                      Steal of the Decade
The Cardinals want to make the playoffs this year. Their roster got a big boost this offseason with the acquisition of Paul Goldschmidt. They sent Luke Weaver, Carson Kelly and Andy Young, plus a draft pick to Arizona. Goldschmidt is a six time all-star, three time Gold Glover and four time Silver Slugger recipient. In his career, Goldschmidt has hit 209 home runs, stole 124 bases, has a batting average of .297, and an OPS of .930. The Cardinals recently extended Goldschmidt by five years.

Without Goldschmidt and Miller, the Cardinals don't make the playoffs this year. With both of them, the Cardinals will have a chance to make the wild card, or win the NL Central.

Seattle Mariners 2019 season preview

           The Seattle Mariners won 89 games last season, but once again, missed the playoffs. Those three words: missed the playoffs, have been common for the Mariners, as they have not made the playoffs since 2001, the longest drought in the MLB, NHL, NFL and NBA. That drought will likely stand in 2019, as the Mariners and GM Jerry "Trader Jerry" Dipoto traded many of their best players, trying to contend in a few years.

           Offseason additions: LHP Yusei Kikuchi, DH Edwin Encarnacion, OF Mallex Smith, OF Jay Bruce, OF Domingo Santana, C Omar Narvaez, RHP Hunter Strickland, RHP Anthony Swarzak, SS JT Crawford, RHP Cory Gearrin, LHP Zac Rosscup, 2B Shed Long, RHP Tyler Danish

           Offseason subtractions: RHP Edwin Diaz, LHP James Paxton, 2B Robinson Cano, DH Nelson Cruz, C Mike Zunino, SS Jean Segura, LHP James Pazos, OF Denard Span, RHP Alex Colome, RHP Nick Vincent, OF Guillermo Heredia, RHP Juan Nicasio, RHP Adam Warren, RHP Erasmo Ramirez, OF Ben Gamel, UT Andrew Romine, C Chris Herrmann, OF Cameron Maybin

The Mariners traded top starter James Paxton to the Yankees, leaving Marco Gonzales as the Opening Day starter. Gonzales had a 4.00 ERA in 166.2 innings. They signed lefty Yusei Kikuchi from the Japanese league, where he had a 2.81 ERA over eight seasons. Former ace Felix Hernandez fell even more, to a 5.55 ERA. Entering his age 33 season, Hernandez has already fallen. Mike Leake led the team with 31 starts last year, and had a 4.36 ERA. Wade LeBlanc pitched 162 innings with a 3.72 ERA. Justus Sheffield, the Mariners top prospect who was acquired in the Paxton trade, should see time.

The Mariners lost what seems like their entire bullpen, including Edwin Diaz, Nick Vincent, Alex Colome, James Pazos, Juan Nicasio and Adam Warren. Hunter Strickland is the closer, after making 14 saves last year for the Giants. Chasen Bradford is the best returning reliever, after a 3.69 ERA in 46 games last year. Lefty Roenis Elias had a 2.65 ERA in 51 innings. Anthony Swarzak, acquired in the Diaz trade, is injured to start the season. Lefty Zac Rosscup made the team out of Spring Training. Cory Gearrin comes in after a decent 2018 with three teams. He had a 1.99 ERA in 68 games in 2017. Nick Rumbelow, Matt Festa and Brandon Brennan get the last three spots.

The team traded 20 home run hitter Mike Zunino to the Rays. In a separate deal that saw Alex Colome go to the White Sox, the team acquired Omar Narvaez. Narvaez had a .794 OPS last season, much better than Zunino. David Freitas is the backup.

Both middle infielders, Robinson Cano and Jean Segura, were dealt. Dee Gordon played outfield in his first Seattle season, but will move back to second now. Gordon stole 30 bases last year. JP Crawford, a former top prospect acquired for Segura, didn't make the team. Tim Beckham, who had a career year in 2017, went back to his previous form in 2018, hitting .230. He is the shortstop, for now. Kyle Seager survived all the trading, probably due to his contract. He will start the season injured. Ryon Healy can play first and third. He'll play first when Seager returns, but third without him. He hit 24 home runs last year. Jay Bruce had never hit below 18 home runs before 2018, when he hit nine. He is an outfielder, but will play first base for now.

The Mariners' best player now is Mitch Haniger, who hit 26 home runs with a .859 OPS in 2018. He plays right field. Mallex Smith, acquired for Zunino, hit .296 with 40 stolen bases last year. Domingo Santana didn't play much for Milwaukee last year because of their strong outfield, but hit 30 home runs in 2017.

The Mariners acquired DH Edwin Encarnacion, who has hit at least 32 home runs since 2012, hitting over 40 twice. Freitas is the backup catcher. Infielder Dylan Moore broke camp with the team, as did first baseman Dan Vogelbach, who hit four home runs last year.

CF Mallex Smith
RF Mitch Haniger
3B Ryon Healy
DH Edwin Encarnacion
1B Jay Bruce
LF Domingo Santana
C Omar Narvaez
SS Tim Beckham
2B Dee Gordon

Marco Gonzales (L)
Yusei Kikuchi (L)
Felix Hernandez (R)
Mike Leake (R)
Wade LeBlanc (L)

Hunter Strickland (R)
Chasen Bradford (R)
Zac Rosscup (L)
Roenis Elias (L)
Cory Gearrin (R)
Nick Rumbelow (R)
Matt Festa (R)
Brandon Brennan (R)

C David Freitas
INF Dylan Moore
1B Dan Vogelbach

                     Additional Information
Ballpark: T-Mobile Park
Manager: Scott Servais
GM: Jerry Dipoto
World Series Championships: 0
2018 record: 89-73

                       Steal of the Decade
The Mariners brought in shortstop Jean Segura before 2017 to bolster their offense. Segura had hiy 20 home runs and stole 33 bases in 2016 for Arizona. The Mariners acquired Segura, pitcher Zac Curtis and outfielder Mitch Haniger for pitcher Taijuan Walker and shortstop Ketel Marte. Segura hit .302 with 21 home runs and stole 42 bases over two seasons for the Mariners before a trade to Philly. Curtis didn't allow a run in 4.2 innings, then was traded to the Phillies in a separate deal. But Haniger was the real steal. Entering 2019, Haniger is the best player on the Mariners after hitting 26 home runs with a .285 average and .859 OPS, making his first all-star team. In return, the Mariners traded Walker, who will miss most of 2019 and missed all but three starts last year, but has a 3.49 ERA since the trade. Marte has grown into a decent shortstop, and is like Segura lite.

The Mariners had a good team. But their pitching wasn't good, so they decided to unload. Now, the Mariners don't look like a good team. They aren't the worst team in their division, but by no means the best.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

San Francisco Giants 2019 season preview

Dereck Rodriguez

            The San Francisco Giants are in a hole right now. They are the only team in the NL West that are not looking at contending this year, and they have many issues to figure out. These issues consist of their outfield, getting their rotation together, Buster Posey's health, getting Mark Melancon and Evan Longoria back to where they were before coming to the Giants, and having a 20 home run hitter for the first time since Brandon Crawford in 2015. All these problems are for new GM Farhan Zaidi to solve, and it looks like it will take multiple years to get the Giants back to their glory days of the early 2010s. It is an odd year, which is fitting since the Giants have been much better in even years this decade.

                Offseason additions: LHP Drew Pomeranz, INF Yangervis Solarte, OF Gerardo Parra, RHP Trevor Gott, RHP Nick Vincent, C Stephen Vogt, C Rene Rivera, OF Matt Joyce

                 Offseason subtractions: RHP Hunter Strickland, OF Hunter Pence, OF Gorkys Hernandez, C Nick Hundley, INF Kelby Tomlinson, RHP Pierce Johnson

After six straight seasons of over 200 innings pitched from 2011-2016, Giants ace and postseason hero Madison Bumgarner has had two consecutive injury riddles seasons, making 38 starts combined, just four more than his 2016 total. Bumgarner still had a 3.26 ERA in 21 starts last year. Dereck Rodriguez, son of hall-of-fame catcher Ivan, had a very good rookie season, with a 2.81 ERA in 118.1 innings. Lefty Andrew Suarez and righty Chris Stratton were both very bad in 55 combined starts. Jeff Samardzija struggled in 10 starts, with an alarmingly low strikeout rate. Drew Pomeranz, who had two straight seasons with a 3.32 ERA, had an ERA over 6.00 last season. He is a comeback candidate this year.

Mark Melancon was signed before 2017 to be the closer, after four consecutive seasons of over 70 innings pitched, an his highest ERA was by far in 2015, at 2.23. In two seasons with San Fran, Melancon has pitched in just 69 innings, with a 3.78 ERA, and has lost the closer job. That has gone to Will Smith, who came back from Tommy John surgery with 14 saves and a 2.55 ERA. Tony Watson, Melancon's set up man from their Pittsburgh days, had a 2.59 ERA in his first season as a Giant. Sam Dyson returned to his 2016 form, with a 2.69 ERA in 70.1 innings. Rookie Reyes Moronta impressed, with a 2.49 ERA and 79 strikeouts in 65 innings. Lefty Ty Blach, the Opening Day starter last year because of multiple injuries, moved to the bullpen. Nick Vincent, signed to a minor league deal, has a 3.17 ERA in his seven year career. Rule 5 pick Travis Bergen is in play for the last spot, or it could go to whoever doesn't make the rotation.

In 2016, catcher Buster Posey hit a career low 14 home runs. Then that number dropped to 12 in 2017. Playing in just 105 games, Posey hit five home runs. He had 448 Plate Appearances, nearly 400 more than rookie catcher Arasmis Garcia, who hit four home runs. Posey had a .359 OBP, worst since his rookie 2010 season. He is still their guy, but at age 32, he isn't going to get much better. Garcia is the only other catcher on the 40-man roster after Nick Hundley left in free agency, but more qualified options in Stephen Vogt and Rene Rivera are in camp on minor league deals.

First baseman Brandon Belt had a .756 OPS, the worst in a full season for him. Belt has 15 home run power, and in his eight year career, he has never hit more than 18. Second baseman Joe Panik hit a home run in the first two games of the season, both 1-0 wins over the Dodgers, but in 100 more games in 2018, he hit just two more home runs. Brandon Crawford's 21 home runs in 2015 has shown to be a fluke, as he has hit 14 in each of the last two seasons and 12 in 2016. Evan Longoria came to the Giants before 2018 as a four time 30 home run hitter, and had only hit under 20 home runs in 2012, when he hit 17 in 74 games. Longoria played in 125 games, with career lows in home runs (16), batting average (.244, tied with 2011), OBP (.281) and OPS (.694). He might be the only Giant with a shot at 20 home runs.

The only two outfielders left on the active roster are Steven Duggar and Mac Williamson. They combined for 69 games last year. Duggar is a center fielder, and Williamson primarily plays left. Veteran outfielder Gerardo Parra has had a good Spring Training. So has Mike Gerber, who was claimed off waivers from Detroit.

Unless Williamson falls, it will likely be either Gerber or Parra as the 4th outfielder, with the other playing right field. Garcia could be Posey's backup, but Stephen Vogt and Rene Rivera are options. Pablo Sandoval's first full season back with the Giants was about as good as he had with the Red Sox. Alen Hanson has played all three outfield positions and the left side of the infield plus second base since 2017 with the Pirates, White Sox and Giants. He hit a career high eight home runs and a .252 average last year.

CF Steven Duggar
SS Brandon Crawford
C Buster Posey
3B Evan Longoria
1B Brandon Belt
2B Joe Panik
RF Gerardo Parra
LF Mac Williamson

Madison Bumgarner (L)
Dereck Rodriguez (R)
Andrew Suarez (L)
Chris Stratton (R)
Jeff Samardzija (R)/Drew Pomeranz (L)

Will Smith (L)
Tony Watson (L)
Sam Dyson (R)
Mark Melancon (R)
Reyes Moronta (R)
Ty Blach (L)
Nick Vincent (R)
Travis Bergen (R)

C Stephen Vogt
UT Alen Hansen
OF Mike Gerber
3B Pablo Sandoval

                            Additional Information
Ballpark AT&T Park
Manager: Bruce Bochy
GM: Farhan Zaidi
World Series Championships: 5
2018 record: 73-89

                           Steal of the Decade
At the 2012 trade deadline, the Giants acquired outfielder Hunter Pence from the Phillies for Tommy Joseph, Nate Schierholtz and Seth Rosin. Joseph hit 21 and 22 home runs in 2016 and 2017, but didn't play in the majors in 2018. Schierholtz had been on the Giants for 6 years, but played just 37 games for the Phillies. Rosin wouldn't play for the Phillies in his first stint, pitched four innings for the Rangers in 2014, then returned to the Phillies to allow five runs in two innings in 2015. Pence was a key part of the 2012 and 2014 Giants that won the World Series, hitting 93 home runs in 772 games. Pence left this past offseason.

The Giants have problems everywhere. Their offense and pitching is shaky, with a decent bullpen being their main strength. The could easily finish last in the NL West.

Friday, March 22, 2019

San Diego Padres 2019 season preview

Kirby Yates

             The San Diego Padres entered 2019 with the league's best farm system. Then, they arguably added a top 10 player in baseball, Manny Machado, giving him a $300 million contract. The Padres enter 2019 brighter than ever. They have a set infield, a crowded outfield, and two good catchers. If they can figure out their pitching, they can be a very good team in the years to come.

              Offseason additions: SS/3B Manny Machado, INF Ian Kinsler, RHP Adam Warren, LHP Aaron Loup, INF Greg Garcia, OF Boog Powell, LHP Sammy Solis, RHP Garrett Richards

              Offseason subtractions: SS Freddy Galvis, 3B Christian Villanueva, LHP Clayton Richard, UT Cory Spangenberg, INF Carlos Asuaje, C AJ Ellis, RHP Walker Lockett

The Padres don't have one certain starting pitcher. Their innings leader last year, Clayton Richard, who didn't even qualify for the ERA title (158.2 innings), was dealt to Toronto. That leaves Joey Lucchesi as the top pitcher. Lucchesi had a 4.08 ERA with 145 strikeouts in 130 innings last year, at age 25. The Padres had 13 pitchers make a start last year, though four won't return, and two more will miss time with injury. The Padres thought they were adding a starter when they signed Garrett Richards, only to have him undergo Tommy John surgery before the season. Robbie Erlin, who made 39 appearances, including 12 starts, could be in place for a spot. So could Eric Lauer, a 24 year old who made 23 starts last year. Chris Paddack, who is 23 years of age, has done nothing but dominate in the minors and in Spring Training, his performance in the latter being why he'll make the rotation. Matt Strahm, who was very good last year in the bullpen and made five starts, seems to have won a rotation spot over Bryan Mitchell. That would leave the Padres with four left handed starters. Mitchell could still make some starts this season.

The Padres surprisingly had a very good bullpen last year, even after trading top two relievers Brad Hand and Adam Cimber at the deadline. After that trade, Kirby Yates moved to the closer role, making 12 saves and finished with a 2.14 ERA. He also had a 12.9 K/9 rate. Craig Stammen, who is getting up there in age, had a sub-3.00 ERA in 79 innings last year. The Padres signed Adam Warren, who has been good in his career, excluding a 2016 Cubs stint. Phil Maton returns, but he struggled with a 4.37 ERA last year. Robert Stock was successful in a short period of time last season. Lefty Jose Castillo and righty Brett Kennedy are both injured, opening up spots. One could go to Trey Wingenter, who came to the team and was decent in '18. Or, Aaron Loup could get that spot. Loup is a lefty that has played with Toronto and Philadelphia in his career. Bryan Mitchell will be in the bullpen if not starting. Luis Perdomo will be in the bullpen after a failed 2018.

In the Hand and Cimber trade, the Padres received Francisco Mejia. Mejia, the top catching prospect in baseball, could either open the season in AAA or be the backup catcher. That is because the team trusts Austin Hedges, who hit 14 home runs last year.

The Padres made a splash last offseason, signing first baseman Eric Hosmer. So far, Hosmer has been a failure, hitting just .253 with 18 home runs and a weak .720 OPS. The team signed veteran second baseman Ian Kinsler, who has played in the last 13 years and won the World Series last year. Shortstop prospect Luis Urias will start the season with the team. Machado is a natural shortstop who switched to third base until last season, where he went back to short. He'll play third in San Diego. He has hit at least 33 home runs in each of the last four seasons, including 37 last year.

The Padres have a very crowded outfield. But, it will be easier to make decisions now because of an injury to Travis Jankowski. Wil Myers was moved from first to left when Hosmer was signed, and was supposed to play third base this year, but Machado prevents that. He had a very bad 2018, rattled by injuries. Manuel Margot isn't good offensively, and hasn't gotten past 20 stolen bases yet. Hunter Renfroe hit a team leading 26 home runs last year. Right fielder Franmil Reyes slugged 16 home runs in 87 games last campaign, but won't be a starter to start.
The Padres don't have a serviceable backup catcher, so it will likely be Mejia, unless they think Chris Stewart can still backup. Greg Garcia is the backup infielder, with Reyes and Franchy Cordero as reserve outfielders.

2B Ian Kinsler
3B Manny Machado
1B Eric Hosmer
LF Wil Myers
RF Hunter Renfroe
C Austin Hedges
CF Manuel Margot
SS Luis Urias

Joey Lucchesi (L)
Eric Lauer (L)
Matt Strahm (L)
Chris Paddack (R)
Robbie Erlin (L)

Kirby Yates (R)
Craig Stammen (R)
Adam Warren (R)
Phil Maton (R)
Robert Stock (R)
Bryan Mitchell (R)
Aaron Loup (L)
Luis Perdomo (R)

C Francisco Mejia
INF Greg Garcia
OF Franchy Cordero
OF Franmil Reyes

                      Additional Information
Ballpark: Petco Park
Manager: Andy Green
GM: AJ Preller
World Series Championships: 0
2018 record: 66-96

                     Steal of the Decade
In 2016, the Padres had James Shields on their team. Shields had a 4.28 ERA so far that season, and with a big contract that would end after 2018. The Padres unloaded some of the cash to the White Sox for Erik Johnson and a prospect named Fernando Tatis Jr. Johnson let up 20 runs in 19.1 innings for the Padres after the trade, and never would play again in the MLB. Tatis Jr. has developed into one of the best prospects in baseball, currently ranked by as the second best. We could see Tatis Jr. in 2019, and he heads a strong San Diego farm system. Meanwhile, Shields had a 5.31 ERA in parts of three seasons for Chicago.

The Padres are a young team. They added a star in Machado, but they still have a weak rotation and their bullpen is a work in progress. The Padres are likely to finish near the bottom of the NL West in 2019.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Pittsburgh Pirates 2019 season preview

Joe Musgrove. Photo from the Post-Gazette

               This offseason couldn't have been bad for Pirates fans. Well, not as bad as it was last year. The Pirates made two necessary but tough trades, dealing face of the franchise Andrew McCutchen and ace Gerrit Cole. But, on a positive note, the team had a winning record. The Pirates can keep themselves in games, but they don't have the team that others in their division have.

                Offseason additions: RHP Jordan Lyles, OF Lonnie Chisenhall, INF Erik Gonzalez, RHP Brandon Maurer, LHP Fransisco Liriano, OF Melky Cabrera, OF JB Scuck, LHP Tyler Lyons, INF Nick Franklin

                Offseason subtractions: RHP Ivan Nova, INF Josh Harrison, SS Jordy Mercer, UT Sean Rodriguez, Max Moroff, Jordan Luplow

The Pirates had two 14 win pitchers last year, a rare feat for them. It hadn't happened for them since 1978. Those two pitchers were Jameson Taillon and Trevor Williams, the former establishing himself as the Pirates' ace. Taillon and Williams had a 3.20 and 3.11 ERA, respectively, though both struck out far less than their innings pitched. The Pirates acquired Chris Archer at last year's deadline for two of their best prospects, Tyler Glasnow and Austin Meadows, who were both MLB ready, and 2017 first rounder Shane Baz. The trade doesn't seem to work out for them yet, as Archer struggled struggled in 10 starts after the trade. Archer has't had a truly dominant season since 2015, but was an all-star in 2017. Joe Musgrove, acquired in the Cole trade, made just 19 starts last year, but wasn't bad in them. Jordan Lyles, signed after opening eyes in the bullpen with Milwaukee late last season, is the favorite for the 5th spot. Nick Kingham, who made 15 starts last year as a rookie, also has a chance.

Felipe Vazquez made his first all star team, but his ERA rose just over a full run to a 2.70. He made 37 saves with 89 strikeouts in 70 innings. Along with acquiring Archer last deadline, the Pirates also brought in Keone Kela. Kela, Texas' closer at the time, was good in 16 games after the trade. In his rookie season at age 28, Richard Rodriguez's strikeout and innings pitched were the same as Vazquez's, and he had a lower ERA. The fourth of a quartet of promising relievers for the Pirates is Kyle Crick, a product of the McCutchen trade. Crick had a 2.39 ERA in 64 games last year. Both Chad Kuhl and Edgar Santana, who could have put significant bullpen innings in this year, will miss the season with Tommy John surgery. lefty Steven Brault and righty Nick Kingham can start and come in relief, but they will be in the bullpen to start the season. Another part of the Cole trade, Michael Feliz, won't make the 2019 team after a disappointing 2018. The only two other pitchers on the 40 man left are Nick Burdi and Dovydas Neveraukas, but I'd rather pencil in former Pirates ace Fransisco Liriano and former Padres closer Brandon Maurer in.

2018 will likely be Fransisco Cervelli final season with the Pirates. He could be traded later this season, because he will be a free agent after the season. Cervelli had career highs in homers (12) and OPS (.809) last year. As the backup catcher, Elias Diaz hit 10 home runs with a .286 average. He'll likely be the catcher when/if Cervelli leaves. He will start the season hurt, though, so Jacob Stallings, the only other catcher on the 40-man, will be the backup until then.

First baseman Josh Bell had so much potential last year, coming off of a 26 home run season. But, his power checked out, as he hit just 12 home runs, and hit .261. With second baseman Josh Harrison and shortstop Jordy Mercer both signing in Detroit, two spots have been opened. Adam Frazier, who had a .798 OPS last year, will play at second. Light-hitting shortstop prospect Kevin Newman got a taste of MLB action last year, but struggled. In a four player minor league player trade, the Pirates acquired Erik Gonzalez, Fransisco Lindor's backup in Cleveland. Gonzalez will likely play short. Colin Moran, the main part of the Cole trade, was decent in his first Pirates season. But, he is rivaled at third by Jung Ho Kang. Kang has played in just three games over the last two seasons due to legal issues, visa issues, and injury issues. But a strong Spring Training could have him as Opening Day's third baseman.

Gregory Polanco led the team last year with a mere 23 home runs, but he will miss at least the first month. Until then, Lonnie Chisenhall will take up right field duties. Chisenhall, a former Pirates draft pick that never signed with the team, hit .321 in 29 games for Cleveland last year. He has a .747 career OPS over eight seasons. Starling Marte hit 20 home runs and stole 33 bases, and enters 2019 as the best hitter on the team. In his first season in Pittsburgh, Corey Dickerson went from defensive liability to Gold Glove winner. He hit just 13 home runs last year, but hit .300 with a .804 OPS.

Due to Diaz's injury, Stallings will start the season as the backup catcher. Assuming Kang is the third baseman, Moran will be on the bench. Newman will as well. He hit .209 in 31 games last year. Jose Osuna has played both corner infield and outfield spots over his two year career.

2B Adam Frazier
CF Starling Marte
LF Corey Dickerson
1B Josh Bell
C Fransisco Cervelli
3B Jung Ho Kang
RF Lonnie Chisenhall
SS Erik Gonzalez

Jameson Taillon (R)
Trevor Williams (R)
Chris Archer (R)
Joe Musgrove (R)
Jordan Lyles (R)

Felipe Vazquez (L)
Keone Kela (R)
Richard Rodriguez (R)
Kyle Crick (R)
Steven Brault (L)
Nick Kingham (R)
Fransisco Liriano (L)
Brandon Maurer (R)

C Jacob Stallings
UT Jose Osuna
3B Colin Moran
SS Kevin Newman

                                Additional Information
Ballpark: PNC Park
Manager: Clint Hurdle
GM: Neal Huntington
World Series Championships: 5
2018 record: 82-79

                                Steal of the Decade
The Pirates' closer, Mark Melancon, was a free agent at the end of 2016. They traded him to the Nationals for Felipe Vazquez (then Felipe Rivero) and Taylor Hearn. In parts of three season with Pittsburgh, Vazquez has a 2.35 ERA, with with 58 saves and a 11.3 K/9. While Melancon was what Washington needed and Hearn hasn't played in the majors yet, this trade gifted the Pirates their best reliever, and he was just 24.

The Pirates have a decent team. But, in a very strong NL Central that could see every team finish over .500, the Pirates don't have a great playoff chance.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Philadelphia Phillies 2019 season preview

Seranthony Dominguez

            The Philadelphia Phillies entered August 1st in the NL East, and on August 7th had a 64-49 record. Over the next two months, the Phillies completely collapsed, and didn't even finish over .500. With the NL East getting stronger, the Phillies adapted, and brought in stars in the infield, outfield, and in the bullpen. The Phillies' lineup is stacked, and if a young rotation and bullpen can adapt to the big leagues, then the Phillies will succeed.

             Offseason additions: OF Bryce Harper, C JT Realmuto, SS Jean Segura, RHP David Robertson, OF Andrew McCutchen, RHP Juan Nicasio, LHP James Pazos, LHP Jose Alvarez, UT Sean Rodriguez, C Drew Butera, OF Lane Adams, OF Shane Robinson, UT Andrew Romine, INF Gift Ngoepe, INF Phil Gosselin, C Rob Brantly

            Offseason subtractions: 1B Carlos Santana, C Jorge Alfaro, SS JT Crawford, C Wilson Ramos, INF Asdrubal Cabrera, RHP Luis Garcia

Aaron Nola transformed from ace to superstar in one year, with a 2.37 ERA, 224 strikeouts and a 3.01 FIP in 212.1 innings. That had him finish third in NL Cy Young voting. Jake Arrieta disappointed in his first Philly season, with a career low 7.2 K/9 rate and a 3.96 ERA in 31 starts. Nola and Arrieta have both proven themselves as pitchers, unlike the remainder of the rotation. Vince Velasquez was so promising in 2016. His strikeouts were still there in 2018, but his ERA rose to 4.85, which was actually better than the 5.13 he had in 2017. Zach Eflin showed promising numbers in his first full season, though he pitched in just 24 games (all starts). Nick Pivetta had a very high 4.77 ERA, especially for a qualifier, but his 10.3 K/9 rate still has people excited for the pitcher entering his age 26 season. Jerad Eickhoff started just one game last year because of a mix of injuries, but is still an available spot starter if healthy.

What the Phillies were lacking last year was a true closer. Hector Neris was the closer in 2017, and started 2018 in that role, but was so inconsistent that he was sent to the minors. Seranthony Dominguez was the primary closer while Neris was gone, and had a very good rookie season, striking out 74 in 58 innings. I say primary closer because manager Gabe Kapler scrambled his relievers, with nine different pitchers recording saves, with seven of them returning. David Robertson was signed, and could put more of an order into the bullpen. Robertson has a 2.88 ERA and 137 saves over his 11 year career. After those three, it is an eight way race for five spots. Both Victor Arano and Edubray Ramos excelled last year in an extended period of time. Lefty Alex Morgan had a career season, as did fellow lefties James Pazos and Jose Alvarez, acquired in trades. Veteran righties Tommy Hunter and Pat Neshek return. Acquired in the Pazos trade was Juan Nicasio, who struggled last year but has a decent history. All of struggled in a very short amount of spring time, except Hunter, who hasn't played to due to an injury. That could put him out of the conversation, and though he was really good last year, allowing 17 runs in three innings can't help Arano.

The Phillies ended last year with two good catchers in Wilson Ramos and rookie Jorge Alfaro. Both are now gone. Ramos left in free agency, and Alfaro was traded. But, he was traded for JT Realmuto, the league's best catcher. Realmuto hit .277 with 21 home runs last year. Andrew Knapp is the backup.

One of the Phillies top prospects entering 2018 was Scott Kingery, a utility infielder who failed to due much. Another utility infielder, Cesar Hernandez, was much better, with 15 home runs and 19 stolen bases, solidifying the second base job. The Phillies traded first baseman Carlos Santana for shortstop Jean Segura. That was so Rhys Hoskins can move back to first, his natural position. Hoskins hit 34 home runs last year. Segura hit .304 with 10 homers and 20 steals last year. Kingery can play second and third, and can see time at third base. The third baseman is Maikel Franco, who is inconsistent at times, but still finished 2018 with 22 home runs.

The Phillies were reportedly interested in slugger Bryce Harper all offseason, and eventually signed him. It was a 13 year, $330 million deal, which was the highest of all time but won't be for even a month, as Mike Trout reportedly got $100 million more than that. Harper is a former MVP winner, and hit 34 home runs last year. The team also signed Andrew McCutchen, another former MVP. But, McCutchen is declining and hit just 20 home runs last year. Center field is Odubel Herrera's. Herrera hit 22 home runs last year. Harper takes the spot of Nick Williams, who hit 17 home runs last year. Aaron Altherr had a breakout 2017 but was terrible in 2018 and wasn't getting much playing time. Speedy outfielder Roman Quinn also will get some time.

This part will be very short, since the Phillies bench has already been mentioned. Knapp is the backup catcher, with Kingery as the backup infielder, and Altherr and Williams in the outfield.

2B Cesar Hernandez
SS Jean Segura
RF Bryce Harper
1B Rhys Hoskins
C JT Realmuto
3B Maikel Franco
LF Andrew McCutchen
CF Odubel Herrera

Aaron Nola (R)
Jake Arrieta (R)
Nick Pivetta (R)
Zach Eflin (R)
Vince Velasquez (R)

David Robertson (R)
Hector Neris (R)
Seranthony Dominguez (R)
Pat Neshek (R)
James Pazos (L)
Edubray Ramos (R)
Adam Morgan (L)
Victor Arano (R)

C Andrew Knapp
INF Scott Kingery
OF Aaron Altherr
OF Nick Williams

              Additional Information
Ballpark: Citizens Bank Park
Manager: Gabe Kapler
GM: Matt Klentak
World Series Championships: 2
2018 record: 80-82

               Steal of the Decade
The Phillies acquired both Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee recently, but were both just out of the 2010s. They don't have a real steal right now, but there is two players that could turn into steals. Both are part of their current rotation. In the first one, the Phillies parted with longtime shortstop Jimmy Rollins, sending him to LA for Zach Eflin. In the second trade, closer Jonathan Papelbon went to Washington for Nick Pivetta. Eflin pitched in 128 innings in 2018, and had a 4.36 ERA, both career highs. Pivetta did have a 4.77 ERA, but qualified for the ERA title with 164 innings pitched, and struck out 188 batters. Meanwhile, Papelbon faltered with the Nats, with a 3.84 ERA in parts of two seasons, and his 4.37 ERA in 2016, which ended up as his final MLB season, was by far the worst of his career. Trading Rollins was tough. He won the MVP for them in 2007 and was a key part of the World Series winning 2008 team. In 15 years, he never stole less than 17 bases, and that season, 2010, he played in just 88 games. But in his one season in LA, he stole 12, hit .224 and hit 13 home runs, though the latter wasn't bad considering Rollins' numbers in his final Philly season. Both Eflin and Pivetta will be key rotation arms for the 2019 Phillies.

The Phillies were good last year. At least before August. Adding players like Harper, Realmuto, McCutchen, Segura and Robertson helps their team. As of now, the Phillies are the favorites in the East. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Oakland Athletics 2019 season preview

Yusmeiro Petit

                 Every die-hard baseball fan knows about moneyball, the book and movie based on the Oakland Athletics of the early 2000s. Well, A's fans almost got a moneyball sequel this season, when the A's surprised everybody by making it to the playoffs. They were built off of a strong bullpen and two star corner infielders. The A's enter 2019 as playoff contenders, but they are far back of some of the teams in the league.

                 Offseason additions: INF Jurickson Profar, RHP Marco Estrada, RHP Joakim Soria, OF Robbie Grossman, C Nick Hundley, LHP Jerry Blevins

                 Offseason subtractions: INF Jed Lowrie, C Jonathan Lucroy, RHP Jeurys Familia, RHP Trevor Cahill, OF Matthew Joyce, RHP Edwin Jackson, RHP Emilio Pagan, RHP Kendall Graveman, RHP Santiago Castilla, LHP Danny Coulombe, RHP Chris Hatcher

The biggest question mark going into the wild card game last year and now into 2019 was the Oakland rotation. Sean Manaea was the ace of the rotation, with a 3.59 ERA in 27 starts, but missed most of the second half due to shoulder surgery, which will also limit him this year until after the all-star break. 2018 trade deadline acquisition Mike Fiers was brought back, after allowing 22 runs in 53 innings (3.74 ERA) with the team. Marco Estrada has had two horrid seasons in a row with Toronto, and signed with Oakland this offseason. But, his first two seasons in Canada, 2015 and 2016, were very good. They are the only definites. Rotation candidates Paul Blackburn, Daniel Mengden, Andrew Triggs and Daniel Gossett won't make the team (Gossett is hurt, the other three were optioned). Veteran lefty Brett Anderson struggled in 17 starts last year, and on average, didn't make it to the fifth inning. Chris Bassitt is the favorite for the fourth spot. He had a 3.02 ERA in 11 games (seven starts) last year. The fifth spot will likely go to the bullpen, as the A's have jumped on the opener bandwagon. They used Liam Hendriks to start games, and did that in the wild card game. Frankie Montas (who could also make real starts), Hendriks, and maybe even Lou Trivino, who started one game, could get opener duties. We could also see 21 year old top prospect Jesus Luzardo sometime this year.

The A's got to the playoffs mainly because of their bullpen. While Jeurys Familia went back to the Mets, the A's brought in Joakim Soria as the set-up man. Soria has closed for many teams, including Chicago for the first half of 2018 before a trade to Milwaukee. Another man who has closed for multiple teams, Fernando Rodney, re-signed after a 3.92 ERA for the A's last year. Rodney enters this season at age 42, and has played for seven different teams since the start of 2015. Closer Blake Treinen didn't just save 38 games. He struck out 100 batters in 80.1 innings, with a 0.78 ERA. That 0.78 ERA was the best in history for a pitcher with at least 80 innings pitched. But, it rivals his teammate, Rodney, who in 2012 had a 0.60 ERA in 74.2 innings, and finished 5th in Cy Young voting as a reliever. Treinen finished sixth. Yusmeiro Petit was a workhorse, with a 3.00 ERA in 74 games, and 93 innings. Lou Trivino had a very impressive rookie season, with a 2.92 ERA and 82 strikeouts in 74 innings. Lefty Ryan Buchter stranded 93.33% of inherited runners in 2018, which was highest in the league for pitchers that inherited at least 30 runners. But Buchter, who pitched in just 39.1 innings in 54 games last year, will be hurt by the 3 batters rule in 2020. The final spots go to Montas and Hendriks, who are openers and relievers. Ryan Dull has been on the team since 2015, and JB Wendelken had a 0.54 ERA in 13 games last year.

The A's have just one catcher on their 40-man currently. It is Josh Phegley, Oakland's backup catcher with a .255 OBP in each of his last two seasons. Nick Hundley is in camp on a minor league deal. He has hit 39 home runs over the last four seasons as a backup catcher, which is good. He's an upgrade compared to Phegley.

The A's were powered by their young corner infielders, Matt Chapman and Matt Olsen. They both won Gold Gloves, had an OPS over .800, and hit well over 20 home runs. Second baseman Jed Lowrie is gone, but in comes Jurickson Profar, who hit 20 home runs in a breakout 2018. Shortstop Marcus Semien went from defensive liability to Gold Glove finalist, and hit 15 home runs with 14 SBs. Franklin Barreto is the backup.

Stephen Piscotty hit 27 home runs in his first season in Oakland. Center field goes to Ramon Laureano, whose defensive play last year caught many's eyes. The wild card's starting left fielder was Nick Martini, who will miss the first month. Power hitting outfielder Mark Canha will play left in the present.

No surprises, Khris Davis once again hit .247. But Oakland fans will be more focused on his 48 home runs, a career high. He is one of the few guarantees for 40 home runs in the majors. Chad Pinder can play seven positions, and hit 13 home runs last year. Also on the bench is Barreto, Phegley and Robbie Grossman, an outfielder with a .751 OPS for Minny last year.

SS Marcus Semien
RF Stephen Piscotty
1B Matt Olsen
DH Khris Davis
3B Matt Chapman
2B Jurickson Profar
LF Mark Canha
CF Ramon Laureano
C Nick Hundley

Mike Fiers (R)
Marco Estrada (R)
Brett Anderson (L)
Chris Bassitt (R)
Frankie Montas (R)

Blake Treinen (R)
Joakim Soria (R)
Fernando Rodney (R)
Yusmeiro Petit (R)
Lou Trivino (R)
Ryan Buchter (L)
Liam Hendriks (R)

C Josh Phegley
UT Chad Pinder
OF Robbie Grossman
INF Franklin Barreto

                       Additional Information
Ballpark: Oakland Coliseum
Manager: Bob Melvin
GM: David Forst
World Series Championships: 9
2018 record: 97-65

                      Steal of the Decade
Looking for bullpen help, the Washington Nationals acquired Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle from the A's for Blake Treinen, Jesus Luzardo and Sheldon Neuse. While Madson was ok with Washington and Doolittle is still their current closer, the return is what matters. Treinen had one of the best seasons ever for a reliever, with a 0.78 ERA and 100 strikeouts in 80.1 innings. While Luzardo and Neuse haven't made the MLB yet, Luzardo is Oakland's top prospect, and the MLB's top left handed pitching prospect. He can make an impact this year.

The A's have a decent team. But, not a great team. They aren't a favorite in the American League, and are apart of a race for the wild card spot.