Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Los Angeles Dodgers 2020 Season Preview 2.0

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 into 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. But, the Dodgers might have only traded for about 70-75 games of Betts (including postseason), and Price won't play in 2020. The trade that seemed perfect might have completely backfired, thanks to a certain virus.

       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.

The Dodgers will have Clayton Kershaw starting on Opening Day for the 9th time, barring injury or sickness. He didn't start on Opening Day last year because of the former 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. Kershaw has seen a big drop in fastball velocity over the years, down to an average of 90.3 mph last year. 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. Buehler has a 2456 rpm spin rate on his fastball and a curveball spin rate of 2915. David Price opting out will really hurt the Dodgers, as their depth will need to show. 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. Urias' greatest skill is his ability to limit hard contact. Urias allowed an average exit velocity of just 83.2 mph, and when he did allow hard contact, it was only 24.9% of the time. 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. Wood's change-up, which was decent in 2018 and great in 2017, failed him, with a .600 slugging against. 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. Interestingly, Nelson's slider saw an increase in rpm by 262 from 2017 to 2019. Price opting-out will give top pitching prospect Dustin May a chance at the rotation, fighting with Nelson. In 14 games (four starts), May had a 3.63 ERA in 34.2 innings with a 0.5 HR/9. The 23rd best prospect in all of baseball, May has a curveball with an rpm of over 3000. Another pitching prospect, Tony Gonsolin, who is ranked by MLB Pipeline as the Dodgers' sixth best prospect in the system, will be helped by expanded rosters. He had a 2.93 ERA in 40 innings last year. His fastball has a very good rpm of 2456.

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. Jansen still allowed soft contact (84.6 mph average exit velocity), suggesting that his recent struggles could be a fluke. Pedro Baez has been very consistent for the Dodgers in his six season career. In 2019, He had a 3.10 ERA with 69 Ks in 69.2 innings. He has a career ERA of 3.03. Baez had career best .188 xBA last year. 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. Kelly's sinker averages 98.3 mph. 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. 46 of those strikeouts were with his curveball, a pitch that only allowed 18 hits all year. 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. Treinen's sinker could be to blame, as Treinen saw the slugging against the pitch go up by 197 points. He comes in on a low risk, potentially high reward, one year deal. The last three spots on a 26-man roster are up for grabs with Nelson likely getting one and Gonsolin in on another. The team will likely carry only one of Adam Kolarek and Scott Alexander, but both to start. 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. He is dependent on his sinker, throwing the pitch 88.8% of the time last year. The pitches he threw the other 11.2% did not allow a hit. After coming over at the deadline from Tampa Bay, Kolarek had a 0.77 ERA in 11.2 innings. The contact that Kolarek allows isn't good, as he had a great .329 xwOBACON last year. Both Kolarek and Alexander struck out nine batters with the Dodgers. Dylan Floro pitched in 50 games last year, with a 4.24 ERA. He had a 2.25 ERA in 64 innings in 2018. Caleb Ferguson struck out 54 batters over 44.2 innings with a 4.84 ERA. The lefty has a curveball with a 3023 rpm spin rate.

The Dodgers and their fans got jiggy with rookie catcher Will Smith. He hit 15 home runs in 54 games with a .907 OPS. Smith has good speed for a catcher, with a sprint speed of 27.6 ft/s. 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. With a pop time to second of 2.09 seconds, Barnes isn't great at throwing runners out.

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. However, his .889 OPS was a big drop-off from his .973 mark in 2018. Muncy walks a lot, with a 15.3% walk rate. 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. Seager is an underrated defender, with five outs above average last year. 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). Turner is not the fastest guy, but he can get on base (.372 OBP) and can play good defense (4 outs above average). 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. Beaty hits the ball decently hard, with an average exit velocity of 89.4 mph. Edwin Rios, a corner infielder who debuted in 2019, hit four home runs with a .277 average and a 1.010 OPS in 28 games last year.

While the addition of Betts is exciting, he is not even the Dodgers' best outfielder. Cody Bellinger won his first 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. Bellinger's expected batting average (.323) and slugging (.638) were even better than his actual numbers. For a guy that came into the league mostly as a first baseman, Bellinger is very surprisingly fast (28.8 ft/s sprint speed) and a great fielder (8 outs above average). 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. Betts still had a .311 xBA, better than his career average. 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. Pederson had an average exit velocity of 90.9 mph. The DH rule in the National League will remove Pederson from the outfield, and prevent AJ Pollock from being 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. Pollock had a career best average exit velocity of 90.5 mph. Chris Taylor can also play second base and shortstop. He hit 12 home runs with eight stolen bases and a .794 OPS last year. Contrary to Pollock, Taylor's exit velocity was at an all-time low, at 85.2 mph.

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

        Projected Rotation
Clayton Kershaw (L)
Walker Buehler (R)
Julio Urias (L)
Alex Wood (L)
Dustin May (R)

       Projected Bullpen
Kenley Jansen, closer (R)
Pedro Baez (R)
Joe Kelly (R)
Blake Treinen (R)
Ross Stripling (R)
Adam Kolarek (L)
Tony Gonsolin (R)
Scott Alexander (L)
Jimmy Nelson (R)
Dylan Floro (R)
Caleb Ferguson (L)

       Projected Bench
C Austin Barnes (R)
UT Kike Hernandez (R)
UT Chris Taylor (R)
1B/LF Matt Beaty (L)
1B/3B Edwin Rios (L)

Baseball-Reference OOTP Simulator Stats
70-23 record, 1st in NL West
Most home runs: Cody Bellinger (29)
Highest batting average: Cody Bellinger (.301)
Highest OPS: Cody Bellinger (1.050)
Best ERA, starters: Walker Buehler (2.16)
Best ERA, relievers: Kenley Jansen (1.73)
Most innings pitched: Clayton Kershaw (128.2)
Most strikeouts: Walker Buehler (160)
Best K/9: Caleb Ferguson (14.0)

Record through 60 games, last five seasons:
2019: 41-19
2018: 30-30
2017: 35-25
2016: 32-28
2015: 35-25

The Dodgers look even more stacked than before. While Price won't play, Betts is a very big addition to an already great lineup. The Dodgers still have a great farm system too, with guys like Smith, Lux, May and Gonsolin debuting in 2019 and looking for a bigger role in 2020. For the 8th year in a row, the Dodgers will win the NL West in 2020.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Los Angeles Angels 2020 Season Preview 2.0

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 almost already started, as Griffin Canning got a scare in Spring Training, but should be good to go. The Angels have a plethora of young pitchers, but they need to figure out who is good and who is not. Returning from Tommy John is Shohei Ohtani, the pitcher, who will certainly be at the top of the rotation. The Angels went hard for former Astros ace Gerrit Cole in free agency, but got a pretty good consolation prize instead.

       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.

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 with the lowly Orioles. He allowed 29 home runs and 58 walks. Bundy has been consistent in that his innings pitched over the last three years are all within 10 innings, qualifying in all but 2019, when he missed the mark by just one out. 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). Heaney's sinker has a spin rate of 2524 rpm, just 21 rpm less than his curveball. 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. Over the last five seasons, Teheran's fastball velocity has dropped, from 92.1 mph in 2015 to 89.7 mph last year. Griffin Canning had a decent debut. In 18 games (17 starts) he had a 4.58 ERA with 96 Ks in 90.1 innings. Canning's slider can hit the low 90s and had an xBA against of .209 last year. 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. Ohtani's fastball averaged 96.7 mph in 2018, and his average exit velocity at the plate was 92.8 mph. Ohtani is surprisingly fast, with a home plate to 1st base speed of 4.05 seconds. 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). Pena's slider had a 46.2% whiff rate. He would also follow openers in games. Barria's slider had a .255 slugging against in 2018, but that rose up to .511 in 2019. Because Ohtani will only pitch once a week, the Angels will have a six-man rotation. Sandoval, the team's sixth best prospect, per MLB Pipeline, has a weak fastball, with a .302 average against, but his off-speed and breaking balls were all successful. Sandoval struck out 42 batters in 39.1 innings last year. He was acquired in 2018 from Houston for Martin Maldonado.

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. Robles' fastball averaged 97.2 mph, and his previous career high was 96.4 mph back in 2015. 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. Buttrey throws hard, with an average fastball velocity just under Robles' at 97.1 mph, but that could lead to hard contact, as batters averaged a 90 mph exit velocity versus the right-hander. 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. Unfortunately, Middleton's fastball dropped two miles an hour when he returned, down to an average of 94. Noe Ramirez had a 3.99 ERA, and struck out 79 in 67.2 innings, with a career low 2.7 BB/9. Ramirez gets a lot of vertical movement on his change-up, 7.7 inches more than average to be exact. 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. Bedrosian throws his slider half of the time, and the pitch had an average against of just .194 last year. 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. Walks are Anderson's issue, as he has a career BB% of 15.7%. 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. A former starter for the Rays, Andriese had a career best 3.75 xERA. Trusty lefty Ryan Buchter throws a curveball with an unusually low spin (2087 rpm), but the pitch works, allowing just three hits all season, and no extra-base hits. In his career, Buchter has never had a season with an ERA over 3.00, and he has 235 strikeouts in 214 innings for four different teams. The three batter minimum rule will likely hurt him. Luke Bard has an insane spin rate on his fastball, a league leading 2746 rpm. Taylor Cole, who can pitch multiple innings, can limit great contact, with a 3.2% barrel percentage.

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. Castro hit the ball hard, with a 91.5 mph average exit velocity. 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. Per Statcast, Stassi is in the 96th percentile in pitch framing among catchers.

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. Pujols still doesn't strike out often, with a 12.5% K rate. 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. La Stella had a career high .482 xSLG. 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. Fletcher does not strike out, with a whiff rate in the top 1% of the league. He also had a .302 xBA. 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. Simmons saved 12 defensive runs with 16 outs above average. At the plate, he had one of his worst seasons, with a .264 average and .673 OPS. Like Fletcher, Simmons does not strike out often, with an 8.5% career K rate. 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. Rendon also had a .413 wOBA. Luis Rengifo was almost traded in the offseason. He played in 108 games last year with a .685 OPS. Rengifo is fast enough to be a pinch runner in extra-innings, with a 28 ft/s sprint speed. Matt Thaiss is in a battle with Regnifo for the final spots. The corner infielder hit eight home runs in 53 games last year, with a .714 OPS.

What can you not say about Mike Trout that is positive. 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. Trout had an insanely high .669 xSLG and a 18.6 barrel percentage. 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. Adell, the 6th best prospect in baseball, hit .289 with an .834 OPS and 10 home runs with seven stolen bases in 76 games across High-A, AA and AAA. He would be best suited for AAA, but with no minor league season, he might as well start in the big leagues. 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 -5 outs above average. Upton was awful against off-speed pitches, with a .048 average against them. With Kole Calhoun off to Arizona, Brian Goodwin will hold the starting right field job unless Adell can beat him. Goodwin hit 17 home runs with seven stolen bases, a .262 average and .796 OPS in 136 games. He also had 5 outs above average. Goodwin will then take the job of Michael Hermosillo as the 4th outfielder. In 18 MLB games, Hermosillo hit no home runs with a .527 OPS. He had an .802 OPS in AAA.

       Projected Opening Day Lineup
SS Andrelton Simmons (R)
CF Mike Trout (R)
3B Anthony Rendon (R)
DH Shohei Ohtani* (L)
LF Justin Upton (R)
RF Jo Adell (R)
2B Tommy La Stella (L)
1B Albert Pujols (R)
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)
Felix Pena (R)

       Projected Bullpen
Hansel Robles, closer (R)
Ty Buttrey (R)
Cam Bedrosian (R)
Justin Anderson (R)
Keynan Middleton (R)
Noe Ramirez (R)
Matt Andriese (R)
Ryan Buchter (L)
Patrick Sandoval (L)
Luke Bard (R)
Taylor Cole (R)

       Projected Bench
C Max Stassi (R)
IF David Fletcher (R)
OF Brian Goodwin (L)
IF Matt Thaiss (L)
IF Luis Rengifo (S)

Baseball-Reference OOTP Simulator Stats:
52-40 record, 3rd in AL West
Most home runs: Mike Trout (27)
Highest batting average: Mike Trout (.285)
Highest OPS: Mike Trout (1.024)
Best ERA, starters: Andrew Heaney (3.33)
Best ERA, relievers: Ty Buttrey (2.30)
Most innings pitched: Andrew Heaney (127.0)
Most strikeouts: Shohei Ohtani (146)
Best K/9: Hansel Robles (11.8)

Record through 60 games, last five seasons:
2019: 29-31
2018: 32-28
2017: 29-31
2016: 26-34
2015: 30-30

The Angels have one of the best lineups in the league. Obviously Trout will make a difference, but now he has a lineup behind him. When the Angels traded for Justin Upton in 2017, a big factor was that he could back-up Trout in the lineup. While he hasn't been great at that, he is still there, with a superstar in Rendon in front of him, plus great hitters with big potential in Ohtani and Adell sprinkled in the mix. Throw in all-star Tommy La Stella and guys like Andrelton Simmons and David Fletcher who won't strike out and will play great defense, and you have a stellar lineup. The rotation isn't great, but the bullpen has the potential to be very, very good. With Joe Maddon at the helm, the Angels can finally get Mike Trout to the playoffs. I predict that the Angels will finish 2nd in the AL West, and finally get over the hump, and into the 2nd Wild Card spot.

Monday, July 6, 2020

Kansas City Royals 2020 Season Preview 2.0

       It was another progressive year for the Royals in 2019. The 2015 World Series champions have hit rock bottom. The picked second overall last 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.

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. Keller's slider had an average against of .194, but the pitch was hit hard, with an average of 90.2 mph off the bat. 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. Duffy's 88.9 mph average exit velocity was his worst in the last five years. 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). Junis' slider had a slugging against of .232. 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. Montgomery's xBA (.316) and xERA (6.91) were both in the bottom one percent of the league. 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. Sparkman had an average exit velocity against of 90.6 miles per hour. 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. Out of his 107 pitches in 2019, none of them were his curveball, which in his last season of 2017, had a 3005 rpm spin rate. Chance Adams, once one of the top prospects in the Yankees system, was traded to the Royals after having a horrid 8.53 ERA in 25.1 innings. His slider has a great spin rate of 2986 rpm.

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. Kennedy also saw a 2.5 miles per hour raise on his fastball from 2018 to 2019. Scott Barlow struck out 92 batters over 70.1 innings, allowing just six home runs with a 4.22 ERA. Barlow also walked 11.9 percent of batters. 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. Hill had a super-high 32.6% whiff rate on his fastball. 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. Lopez has three separate pitches (fastball, change-up, sinker) with an rpm under 2000. 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 and .199 xBA might have been his most impressive stats 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. Newberry's slider had an average against of just .098. 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. McCarthy allowed barrels just 4.3% of the time. The Royals can go a lot of different ways for the final spots. Josh Staumont was a 25 year old rookie with a 3.72 ERA in 16 games last year. The team's 29th best prospect per MLB Pipeline, Staumont's fastball averaged 95.9 miles per hour. 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. Rosario backed away from his fastball after it had a .513 slugging against in 2018. Trevor Rosenthal did not allow a run with nine Ks in five Spring Training innings. 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 Training, he can, Rosenthal can be a dangerous relief option. Rosenthal's fastball averages 98 miles an hour, and only has an average exit velocity of 85.6 mph.

Salvador Perez missed all of 2019 with an injury sustained in Spring Training that lead to Tommy John surgery. 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. Currently infected with COVID, Perez should recover. 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.

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. O'Hearn hits the ball hard, with a career average exit velocity of 90.8 mph. 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. Lopez fits the Royals mold, as a free-swinging hitter who doesn't strike out, or hit the ball hard, with good speed and defense. 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. His 29.9 ft/s average sprint speed tied his 2018 number. 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. Unlike other inconsistent power hitters, Franco doesn't strike out often, with a 14.3% K rate in 2019. He is a bad defender, with -7 outs above average at third base.

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. Merrifield was always fast but never as fast as teammates and ex-teammates like Billy Hamilton, Adalberto Mondesi and Terrance Gore. 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 arrival. 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. Dozier hit the ball harder than ever before, averaging 91.1 mph, and is surprisingly fast, with a 28.3 ft/s sprint speed. He made improvements 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 all in the last eight years), Gordon hit 13 home runs with a .266 average and .741 OPS. Gordon won the Gold Glove award despite having -5 outs above average. 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. Starling whiffed on 61.3% of breaking balls. 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. At age 26, 2020 might be Phillips' last chance to stay on an MLB roster. 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 any fielding time in 2020. Soler had an average exit velocity of 92.6 mph, and an xSLG of .593.

       Projected Opening Day Lineup
CF Whit Merrfield (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)
Jake Newberry (R)
Trevor Rosenthal (R)
Kevin McCarthy (R)
Randy Rosario (L)
Glenn Sparkman (R)
Chance Adams (R)
Josh Staumont (R)

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

Baseball-Reference OOTP Simulator Stats:
34-57 Record, 4th in AL Central
Most home runs: Ryan O'Hearn (13)
Highest batting average: Whit Merrifield (.316)
Highest OPS: Whit Merrifield (.815)
Best ERA, starters: Danny Duffy (5.24)
Best ERA, relievers: Richard Lovelady (2.04)
Most innings pitched: Danny Duffy (103.0)
Most strikeouts: Jakob Junis (72)
Best K/9: Trevor Rosenthal (14.9)

Record through 60 games, last five seasons:
2019: 19-41
2018: 21-39
2017: 26-34
2016: 30-30
2015: 35-25

The Royals are not a good team. While their lineup is much better than the lineup of the Orioles, Tigers and Marlins (the other three teams to lose at least 100 games last year), the pitching staff is terrible. They don't have a starter that would even be on a team like the Yankees, Astros, Dodgers or Nationals if healthy, and only Ian Kennedy could make those teams, but in a middle-relief role. That just shows how bad their rotation and bullpen is, and that will help them finish 4th in the AL Central once again, in 2020.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Houston Astros 2020 Season Preview 2.0

      It was not a fun offseason for the Astros. It started with their World Series loss, and the reality  that ace Gerrit Cole was leaving. It got even worse when it was revealed by former pitcher Mike Fiers that the Astros stole signs in their championship season of 2017. In a well documented scandal, fans and opposing players ripped the Astros players and staff. The Astros ended up parting ways with manager AJ Hinch and Jeff Luhnow over the cheating. With Dusty Baker now at the helm, the Astros will look to prove everyone wrong.

       Offseason additions: RHP Austin Pruitt, C Dustin Garneau.

       Offseason subtractions: RHP Gerrit Cole, RHP Will Harris, OF Jake Marisnick, C Robinson Chirinos, LHP Wade Miley, RHP Collin McHugh, RHP Aaron Sanchez.

With Cole gone, the Astros will rely more on Justin Verlander, who was their second best starter last year, but still won his second Cy Young award. Verlander struck out 300 batters over a league leading 223 innings, with a 2.58 ERA. He lead the league with a low 5.5 hits allowed per nine and a .803 WHIP. Like many pitchers around the league, the long ball haunted Verlander. He allowed 36 home runs, and only allowed 66 runs in total. Even at age 37, Verlander's fastball is still in the mid-90s, with a great spin rate of 2577 rpm. The Astros traded for Zack Greinke at the deadline to almost be Cole's replacement. Greinke had a 3.02 ERA in 10 games for the Astros after the trade. Combined for Houston and the Diamondbacks, Greinke had a 2.93 ERA with 187 strikeouts in 208.2 innings. He won his sixth consecutive Gold Glove and his second consecutive Silver Slugger. Greinke's niche is that he throws the ball really slow. His fastball averages under 90 miles per hour, and of the eight pitches he threw in 2019, two of them stand out. The first is his slow curveball, which averages 70.6 miles an hour. Greinke also throws an Eephus pitch, and throws it more than anybody. Greinke threw the Eephus 28 times last year, and struck out three batters and didn't allow a hit with it. Lance McCullers Jr. is back after missing 2019 with Tommy John surgery. When we last saw him in 2018, McCullers had a 3.86 ERA with 142 strikeouts in 128.1 innings. McCullers threw his curveball 46.6% of the time in 2018, something that you don't see often for starters. That could suggest that McCullers could be better off in a relief role in the distant future. Mexican 24 year old Jose Urquidy debuted last year, with a 3.95 ERA in nine games (seven starts). He struck out 12 batters with a 0.90 ERA in 10 innings in the playoffs. Urquidy is Houston's second best prospect, per MLB Pipeline. Swingman Brad Peacock will likely move to the bullpen, opening up the competition for the 5th rotation spot. Josh James was primarily a reliever last year, striking out 100 in 61.1 innings over 49 games. However, he had a 5.1 BB/9 and a 4.70 ERA. James' xBA against of .171 put him in the top one percent of the league in that category. In 14 games (two starts) for the Rays last year, Austin Pruitt struck out 39 in 47 innings. His curveball was very, very close to the exclusive 3000 rpm club, averaging out at 2999.

Roberto Osuna remains with the team, even after the controversial postseason situation that ended up getting Assistant GM Brandon Taubman rightfully fired, while in this instance Osuna did nothing wrong. On the field, Osuna had another great season, with 38 saves, leading the league. He also had a 2.63 ERA and a .877 WHIP with 73 strikeouts in 65 innings. Even as a hard thrower, Osuna does not have trouble limiting hard contact, with a great 86 mph average exit velocity against. Ryan Pressly started off really strong, not allowing his first earned run until his 20th appearance. His ERA was as low as 0.81 in late June. Injuries derailed his season, but he still had great final numbers, with a 2.32 ERA and 72 strikeouts in 54.1 innings. Pressly's curveball, which had a slugging against of .218, also had a league-leading spin rate of 3305 rpm. The Astros brought back Joe Smith after the 36-year-old posted a 1.80 ERA with 22 strikeouts in 25 innings last year. Smith's slider, a pitch thrown 41% of the time in 2019, had an average against of .080. Peacock will return to the bullpen, where he entered the game from in eight of his 23 games played. He had a 4.12 ERA with 96 strikeouts in 91.2 innings. Peacock had an xBA against of .224, as he was under the .230 mark for the 5th consecutive season.  Chris Devenski had a sub-3 ERA from 2016-2017, but has been awful since. 2019 was his worst year, with a 4.83 ERA and 72 strikeouts in 69 innings over 61 games. A .587 slugging against his fastball has to change. Joe Biagini had a 3.78 ERA in 50 games for the Blue Jays last year before being traded to Houston at the deadline with Aaron Sanchez. Biagini had a 7.36 ERA in 14.2 innings for the Astros. He had an xSLG of .505, a career worst. The Astros did not have a lefty on their playoff roster, which could help Blake Taylor's roster case, especially with Wade Miley gone. Acquired from the Mets for Jake Marisnick, Taylor allowed four hits and no runs in 7 innings this Spring. He had a 2.16 ERA with 10 saves and 74 strikeouts in 66.2 innings in the minors. However, only 0.1 of those innings were at AAA. Righty Bryan Abreu had a 1.04 ERA with 13 strikeouts in 8.2 games last year. He did not have good minor league numbers, though. Abreu is Houston's 5th best prospect, per MLB Pipeline. Framber Valdez, another lefty, has started 13 of his 34 career games. He had a 5.86 ERA in 70.2 innings with 68 Ks last year. Valdez is another Houston pitcher with a great spin rate on his curveball, at 2960 rpm. The Astros could carry Forrest Whitley, the team's number one prospect and only top-100 prospect at 19 (ranking, not age), due to the cancellation of the minor league season. Whitley finally made it to AAA last year, but struggled, allowing nine home runs with 29 strikeouts in 24.1 innings, and a horrid 12.21 ERA. The final roster spot could go to Cy Sneed, a 6-4 righty with a big, orange beard. Sneed pitched in eight games last year, with a 5.48 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 21.1 innings.

Robinson Chirinos left to return to the other Texas team, the Rangers. Martin Maldonado, Houston's trade deadline acquisition for two years in a row, will finally stay with the club, signing a two year deal in the offseason. An elite defender, Maldonado has mainly been a backup in his career, explaining him only winning one Gold Glove. He hit 12 home runs for the Royals, Astros and Cubs last year. Six of them came in his 27 games for the Astros, where he posted a .781 OPS. The Astros brought in Dustin Garneau as a backup. For the rival Angels and A's last year, Garneau hit .244 with a .757 OPS. He struggled against fastballs, with an xBA of .190. Garrett Stubbs, who played in 19 games last year, can play the outfield as well as catcher. He is an intriguing option with rosters expanding to 26. The team's 23rd best prospect, Stubbs has great speed for his position, at 28.0 ft/s.

The Astros have the best infield in the league. They had a really good infield entering 2019, but Yuli Gurriel's breakout season completed it. While he had hit over .290 in two seasons leading up to 2019, his power came along. He had a career high 31 home runs and 104 RBIs, swiping five bags with a .298 average and .884 OPS. Gurriel struck out just 10.6% of the time. Jose Altuve's 2017 MVP has come into question. While he hit a career high 31 home runs in 2019, he did not make the all-star team for the first time since 2013. A six time 30 base stealer, Altuve stole just six bases last year. That does not mean that he has slowed down, as a 28.6 ft/s average sprint speed was slightly his best in the last five years. He hit .298, his lowest mark since 2013. It was also the first time since that 2013 season that he did not receive an MVP vote. After a bad 2018 season, Carlos Correa was valuable when healthy in 2019. That was not often, as he played in just 75 games. However, he still hit 21 home runs with a .279 average and .926 OPS. Correa also had nine outs above average at shortstop. Alex Bregman played a lot of shortstop (his natural position) when Correa was injured. He had his best season, with an 8.4 WAR, 41 home runs, 112 RBIs, five stolen bases, a .296 average and a 1.015 OPS. He won his first Silver Slugger award, but finished just short of the MVP award. Bregman had a career high .418 wOBA. He led the league with 119 walks. Aledmys Diaz was a valuable utility piece. He can play all over the infield, with the outfield mixed in too. He started to walk more, with a career high 10.5% walk rate. He hit nine home runs with an .823 OPS in 69 games. Yordan Alvarez is technically a first baseman but will mainly be a DH. He won Rookie of the Year last year, hitting 27 home runs with a .313 average and 1.067 OPS in only 87 games. Alvarez had an xSLG of .602 and an average exit velocity of 92.2 mph.

George Springer had career highs in home runs (39), RBIs (96), average (.292) and OPS (.974) among other things. He did that while playing in only 122 games. Springer had a .591 slugging with eight outs above average. With Jake Marisnick on the Mets now, Springer will get more time in center field. Four time all-star Michael Brantley was a great addition to the team. He hit a career high 22 home runs with a .311 average and .875 OPS in his first year away from Cleveland. A 10.4% K rate shows Brantley's skillset. Josh Reddick did not have a great year. While he hit .275, he had a weak .728 OPS with 14 home runs. Like Brantley, Reddick doesn't strike out often, with a 12% K rate. He does not hit the ball hard, with an 86 mph exit velocity. Top prospect Kyle Tucker is coming for Reddick's job. The 5th overall pick in 2015 hit four home runs with five stolen bases with an .857 OPS in 22 games last year. He had a .909 OPS with 34 home runs and 30 stolen bases in AAA. Tucker has a 91.3 mph exit velocity in his career. However, Reddick should be the right fielder to start. Myles Straw is fighting with Stubbs for the last roster spot when rosters go back to 26 men. Straw is one of baseball's fastest players. In 56 games last year, Straw stole eight bases in nine attempts. Straw had a 30.1 ft/s sprint speed, in the top one percent of the league. He also had three outs above average at five different positions, including both middle infield spots. He had a .269 average, which is fine for a speed/defensive replacement.

       Projected Opening Day Lineup
CF George Springer (R)
LF Michael Brantley (L)
2B Jose Altuve (R)
3B Alex Bregman (R)
DH Yordan Alvarez (L)
SS Carlos Correa (R)
1B Yuli Gurriel (R)
RF Josh Reddick (L)
C Martin Maldonado (R)

       Projected Rotation
Justin Verlander (R)
Zack Greinke (R)
Lance McCullers Jr. (R)
Jose Urquidy (R)
Josh James (R)

       Projected Bullpen
Roberto Osuna, closer (R)
Ryan Pressly (R)
Joe Smith (R)
Brad Peacock (R)
Chris Devenski (R)
Blake Taylor (L)
Joe Biagini (R)
Forrest Whitley (R)
Framber Valdez (L)
Bryan Abreu (R)
Cy Sneed (R)

       Projected Bench
C Dustin Garneau (R)
C/OF Garrett Stubbs (L)
IF Aledmys Diaz (R)
OF Kyle Tucker (L)
OF Myles Straw (R)

Baseball-Reference OOTP Simulator Stats:
47-42 record, 4th in AL West
Most home runs: Yordan Alvarez (23)
Highest batting average: Michael Brantley (.384)
Highest OPS: Michael Brantley (1.052)
Best ERA, starters: Justin Verlander (4.42)
Best ERA, relievers: Ryan Pressly (2.19)
Most innings pitched: Justin Verlander (124.1)
Most strikeouts: Justin Verlander (145)
Best K/9: Brad Peacock (11.0)

Record through 60 games, last five seasons:
2019: 40-20
2018: 37-23
2017: 42-18
2016: 28-32
2015: 34-26

The Astros took a big hit this offseason. Losing Cole, Will Harris and others will definitely hurt. However, their lineup is still potent with Altuve, Springer, Bregman, Alvarez and more. Even without trash cans, the Astros are the best team in the AL West. They will once again win the AL West, and make the playoffs.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Detroit Tigers 2020 Season Preview 2.0

       Nothing went right for the Tigers in 2020. While everyone thought that the Orioles would finish last in the MLB, the Tigers proved everybody wrong, going 47-114. They drafted Spencer Torkelson 1st overall in June, their second first overall pick in three years, after pitcher Casey Mize was selected in 2018. The lineup is terrible, and the rotation is even worse. They missed their chance to trade away Matthew Boyd at the deadline, costing them valuable assets. It will be another rough season for the Tigers.

       Offseason additions: 1B CJ Cron, 2B Jonathan Schoop, C Austin Romine, RHP Ivan Nova, OF Cameron Maybin, RHP Zack Godley, OF Jorge Bonifacio, LHP Hector Santiago.

       Offseason subtractions: UT Brandon Dixon, UT Ronny Rodriguez, C John Hicks, LHP Daniel Stumpf, IF Gordon Beckham, IF Josh Harrison, LHP Matt Moore.

Matthew Boyd emerged as one of baseball's top strikeout starters. Boyd, who has three more years left under contract, struck out 238 batters in 185.1 innings. However, he allowed a league leading 39 home runs, and 94 earned runs in total, for a 4.56 ERA. Boyd saw most of his stats drop-off from his 2018 numbers, but those strikeouts were the main difference, as his K/9 rose by 3.2 points. Spencer Turnbull had an ERA under 3.00 in June. Injuries and poor play hurt that as the year went on. He went 3-17, leading the league in the latter category. He had a 4.61 ERA in 148.1 innings. He also hit a league leading 16 batters. Turnbull's big issue is his sinker, which allowed a .349 average against and a 92.1 average exit velocity against. Veteran starter Ivan Nova had one of his worst seasons for the White Sox last year. He allowed 225 hits, a league high. He had a 4.72 ERA with just 114 strikeouts in 187 innings for a 5.5 K/9, which was not the lowest of his career. To show how bad Nova was, he was in the bottom half of the league in all of the following categories: exit velocity against, hard hit percentage, xwOBA, xERA, xBA, xSLG, barrel percentage, K%, Whiff%, fastball velocity, fastball spin and curve spin. Expensive veteran Jordan Zimmermann has been terrible in all four of his seasons in Detroit. He had a 6.91 ERA in 23 starts last year. In his Tigers career, Zimmermann has a 5.61 ERA and 6.4 K/9 in 508.2 innings. Zimmermann, like Nova, is in the bottom half of the league in all of the previously mentioned categories, except for fastball spin, as he just barely escapes, falling in the 51st percentile. Daniel Norris is always injured. He is still only 26, and the lefty had a 4.49 ERA in 144.1 innings last year. It was the most he's pitched in an MLB season, in his sixth year overall. Norris had an average velocity against of 90.2 mph, in the bottom six percent of the league. Non-roster invitee Hector Santiago has a 4.14 ERA in 257 career games (139 starts) with 826 strikeouts in 920.2 innings over nine years for four different teams. For the Mets and White Sox last year, Santiago had a 6.68 ERA with 40 Ks in 33.2 innings. He will likely make the bullpen.

There are not many guaranteed spots in the Tigers bullpen. After Shane Greene was traded at the deadline, Joe Jimenez stepped in as closer. A 2018 all-star, Jimenez converted nine saves with a 4.37 ERA and 82 strikeouts in 59.2 innings. His fastball (2528) has a much better spin rate than his slider (2329). Former starter Buck Farmer had a productive season as a reliever. He pitched in 73 games, striking out 73 in 67.2 innings with a 3.72 ERA. Farmer had a career high 25.3% K rate. Nick Ramirez is in camp as a non-roster invitee, but he was a vital part of the bullpen last year. Ramirez pitched in 79.2 innings over 46 games as a 29 year old rookie last year. He struck out 74 and had a 4.07 ERA. Ramirez does not throw hard, with a fastball averaging 90.1 mph (he throws a cutter averaging 86.7 mph more often). However, he can limit hard contact with an 86 miles per hour average exit velocity. Swingman Gregory Soto played in 33 games (seven starts), with a 5.77 ERA and 7 K/9. Him being a lefty helps his case for the roster. He was one of seven AL pitchers to commit three errors. Soto's .298 xBA was awful. Jose Cisnero played for the Astros from 2013-2014, and made his return to the MLB in 2019, with a 4.33 ERA and 40 strikeouts in 35.1 innings. Cisnero throws a mid-to-high-90s fastball. The Tigers used the first overall pick in the Rule-5 draft on Rony Garcia. He had a 4.01 ERA with 129 strikeouts in 130.1 innings for High-A Tampa and AA Trenton (Yankees system). Both Tyler Alexander and Zack Godley are the starter/reliever-type. Alexander is a lefty, while Godley has more experience and his right-handed. Alexander had a 4.86 ERA in 53.2 innings. Godley had a 6.39 ERA for the D-Backs last year, but joined the Blue Jays late last year. He had a 3.94 ERA in 16 innings for Toronto. He had a 3.37 ERA with 165 strikeouts in 155 innings in 2017. Godley throws his curveball over 40% of the time, showing that he could be best-suited for a relief role. David McKay debuted at age 24 for Seattle before being waived and claimed by the Tigers in August. Combined, McKay had a 5.47 ERA with 34 strikeouts in 26.1 innings. His curveball has a great spin rate of 3054. The Tigers could give the last spot to young of their young arms in Casey Mize or Matt Manning. Or, the could go with starter Dario Agrazal. Debuting for the Pirates last year, Agrazal made 14 starts (plus one relief appearance) with a 4.91 ERA. His K/9 of 5.0 was one of the lowest in the league.

The Tigers signed Austin Romine to a one year deal so he will finally get his chance to be a starting catcher. He had a career high .281 average and .748 OPS for the Yankees last year. Now sporting a beard like other former Yankees before him, Romine hit the ball hard a good 40% of the time last year. With John Hicks gone, the catching depth is not as good as it used to be. Jake Rogers is an elite defender but hit .125 in 35 games last year. Rogers made MLB Pipeline's all defense team two times, but missed out to the A's Sean Murphy this year. Rogers threw out 49.3 percent of runners in his minor league career. Grayson Greiner played in 58 games last year, with a .202 average and .559 OPS. He may be on the 3-man squad that must require a catcher, as Rogers stays as the backup.

Miguel Cabrera will be a Hall of Famer and the Tigers will eventually retire his number 24. The two time MVP and Triple Crown winner had a .937 OPS and .315 average in 1680 games for the team. Unfortunately, they might be best without Cabrera and his lengthy contract right now. Cabrera had a respectable .282 average last year, but he hit just 12 home runs in 136 games, and his .744 OPS was the second lowest of his career. Cabrera can still hit the ball hard, with an average exit velocity of 90.3 mph. The Tigers signed a pair of veterans from the Twins in CJ Cron and Jonathan Schoop. Cron and Cabrera will alternate at first base and DH. Cron hit 25 home runs with a career high 78 RBIs last year. He hit .253 with a .780 OPS. His OPS+ was barely above average, at 103. Cron's 15% barrel percentage was a career high. Schoop, a former 32 home run hitter, hit 23 bombs last year, with a .256 average and .777 OPS. With five outs above average, Schoop is a good defender at second base. Schoop and Cron are very welcome additions who have played in the division before. The rest of the infield is where things get tricky. Jordy Mercer hit .270 with a .747 OPS last year, but he may not make the team. Utility man Niko Goodrum is trying to settle on one position, and that may be at short. Goodrum hit 12 home runs and stole 12 bases with a .743 OPS last year. Goodrum had a combined eight outs above average at seven different positions last year, with six of them at short. He is fast, with a 29.0 ft/s sprint speed. The third base job is between Jeimer Candelario and Dawel Lugo, who are both out of options. Candelario hit 19 home runs in 2018, but hit just eight last season, with a .203 average and .643 OPS. Lugo hit six home runs with a .652 OPS last year. Harold Castro seems to be a lock as a utility infielder. He hit .291 with five homers and six stolen bases in 97 games, but he had a .689 OPS. He isn't a great fielder, with -3 outs above average, but he can play a lot of positions.

The Tigers brought back Cameron Maybin on a one year deal. The journeyman is entering his third stint as a Tiger. He hit a career high 11 home runs with nine stolen bases, a .285 average and .858 OPS in 82 games for the Yankees last year. His sprint speed has slightly decreased, but he still fast, at 28.7 ft/s. In 88 games, JaCoby Jones also hit 11 home runs, with seven stolen bases and a .740 OPS last year. Jones hit the ball surprisingly hard, for an average of 91.3 mph. Victor Reyes had a solid season. The 25-year-old played in 69 games, hitting three home runs with nine stolen bases, plus a .304 average. Reyes is really fast for a guy who is six feet tall and five inches, with a 28.9 sprint speed. Former first rounder Christin Stewart hit 10 home runs last year, but still had a .693 OPS. He is a bad fielder, with -7 outs above average. Travis Demeritte was acquired for Shane Greene at the deadline. He started off his Tigers career strong, with a .291 average and .822 OPS 22 games in. He struggled the rest of the way, with three home runs, three stolen bases and a .225 average plus a .630 OPS. He played in 48 total games. Four of Demeritte's five hits in Spring Training were home runs.

       Projected Opening Day Lineup
RF Cameron Maybin (R)
2B Jonathan Schoop (R)
DH Miguel Cabrera (R)
1B CJ Cron (R)
SS Niko Goodrum (S)
C Austin Romine (R)
LF Victor Reyes (S)
CF JaCoby Jones (R)
3B Jeimer Candelario (S)

        Projected Rotation
Matthew Boyd (L)
Spencer Turnbull (R)
Daniel Norris (L)
Ivan Nova (R)
Jordan Zimmermann (R)

        Projected Bullpen
Joe Jimenez, closer (R)
Buck Farmer (R)
Jose Cisnero (R)
Nick Ramirez (L)
David McKay (R)
Gregory Soto (L)
Zack Godley (R)
Rony Garcia (R)
Hector Santiago (L)
Tyler Alexander (L)
Dario Agrazal (R)

        Projected Bench
C Jake Rogers (R)
SS Jordy Mercer (R)
UT Harold Castro (L)
OF Travis Demeritte (R)
IF Dawel Lugo (R)

Baseball-Reference OOTP Simulator Stats
32-57 record, 5th in AL Central
Most home runs: CJ Cron (22)
Highest batting average: Cameron Maybin (.310)
Highest OPS: Cameron Maybin (.792)
Best ERA, starters: Jordan Zimmermann (4.50)
Best ERA, relievers: Buck Farmer (1.82)
Most innings pitched: Jordan Zimmermann (108)
Most strikeouts: Matthew Boyd (108)
Best K/9: Joe Jimenez (10.7)

Record through 60 games, last five seasons:
2019: 23-37
2018: 28-32
2017: 29-31
2016: 30-30
2015: 31-29

Despite their awful records in previous years, the Tigers haven't actually started off the season terribly in recent years, although their 2019 record through 60 games says otherwise. But, they are just really, really bad. Their pitching staff is just an open audition, the lineup has some decent players at the top of it but falls off quickly, and while they have a lot of competition for roster spots, that is because no one is good enough to blow anyone away. The Tigers will show the world once again in 2020 that they are one of the worst teams in baseball, if not the worst.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Colorado Rockies 2020 Season Preview 2.0

        2019 was not a fun year for the Rockies. The team could not win away from Coors Field, with a 28-53 road record. They had an overall record of 71-91, skidding to 4th in the NL West, 35 games behind the first place Dodgers. The offseason was even less fun, as the Rockies did not sign anyone to a major league contract, and trade rumors ended up angering face-of-the-franchise third baseman Nolan Arenado. The Rockies will look to put the offseason behind them, and focus on their biggest issue. For about every year in franchise history, that is pitching. They will miss outfielder Ian Desmond, who has opted-out of the season.

       Offseason additions: RHP Tyler Kinley, OF Matt Kemp, C Elias Diaz, UT Chris Owings, OF Mike Gerber, RHP Ubaldo Jimenez.

       Offseason subtractions: 1B Mark Reynolds, C Chris Iannetta, RHP Chad Bettis, RHP Seunghwan Oh, LHP DJ Johnson, LHP Chris Rusin, RHP Tim Melville.

The Rockies entered 2019 with an actually decent looking rotation. That all fell apart in-season, thanks to Kyle Freeland. Freeland finished 4th in Cy Young voting in 2018, with a 2.85 ERA in 202.1 innings, and having a 0.8 HR/9 ratio, very low for a Rockies starter. However, he struck out just 79 batters in 104.1 innings with a 6.73 ERA in 2019. He made just 22 starts because he was actually sent down to AAA at one point. German Marquez struck out a franchise record 230 batters in 2018. He struck out just 175 in 174 innings, with a 4.76 ERA. While he only walked 35 batters, he threw a league leading 14 wild pitches. Marquez allowed hard contact often, with a hard hit percentage of 43.1%. The only starting pitcher with a good season was Jon Gray, picked 3rd overall in 2013. Gray had a 3.84 ERA. He struck out 150 batters in 150 innings, and his 9.0 K/9 was still below his career average. Gray's 4.69 xERA was a career worst. The rest of the rotation is open for tryouts. Antonio Senzatela made 25 starts, but he had a 6.71 ERA in 124.2 innings with a terrible 5.5 K/9 and 4.1 BB/9. Senzatela threw his mid-90s fastball almost 62% of the time, but the pitch just wasn't good, as opponents hit .345 against it with a .541 slugging. Chi Chi Gonzalez was a spot starter last year. In 15 games (13 starts) Gonzalez had a 5.29 ERA with 46 strikeouts in 63 innings. His fastball was a good pitch, with a spin rate of 2428 rpm, and an average exit velocity against of 86.9 mph. Peter Lambert made 19 starts, but he was just as bad as Senzatela, with a 7.25 ERA and a 5.7 K/9. Jeff Hoffman had a 6.56 ERA with 68 strikeouts in 70 starts. Hoffman had a bloated 12.9 barrel%.

Wade Davis might have had the worst season for a closer in recent memory. He lead the league with 43 saves in 2018, but converted just 15 last year, with an 8.65 ERA with 42 strikeouts in 42.2 innings. It was his first time with a K/9 under nine since he was a starter in 2013. His 1.5 HR/9 was a career worst and his 10.8 H/9 was close to one. His 1.875 WHIP was 198 points higher than his previous career worst. However, he still looks like the Opening Day closer. Scott Oberg had a second consecutive encouraging season, with a 2.25 ERA and 58 strikeouts in 56 innings, to go along with five saves. He allowed just 6.3 hits per nine innings. His .227 xBA against was a career high. However, Oberg's BB% was almost doubled, from 5.3% to 10.3%. Jairo Diaz has had a pattern of not playing in the MLB every other year. That will change in 2020, barring serious injury. Diaz appeared in 56 games, also making five saves, with a 4.53 ERA and 63 strikeouts in 57.2 innings. He throws a high-90s fastball and sinker. Carlos Estevez appeared in a team high 71 games, with a 3.75 ERA and 81 strikeouts in 72 innings. He made 11 saves for the team in 2016 as a 23 year old rookie. At 97.8 mph, Estevez's fastball is harder than Diaz's. Expensive veterans Bryan Shaw and Jake McGee will take up two more roster spots. Shaw, who has lead the league in games played by a pitcher three times, had a 3.11 ERA in five seasons for Cleveland before joining the Rockies. He has a 5.61 ERA in two seasons in Colorado. He struck out just 58 batters in 72 innings last year. It was his lowest K/9 rate since 2012. Shaw's cutter velocity was at an all-time-low of 92.5 mph. McGee, a lefty, has had success as a Rockie before, coming in 2017. He wasn't so bad in 2019, with a 4.35 ERA and 35 strikeouts in 41.1 innings. Once a high strikeout guy for the Rays, McGee has lost his ability to punch batters out. That could be due to the dramatic change in the usage of his fastball. He threw the fastball 48% of the time in 2016, his first season in Colorado. That skyrocket to 92.6% in 2017, and it was down to a still high 80.6% in 2019. Tyler Kinley was the one 40-man roster addition, coming via waiver claim from Miami. Kinley had a solid 3.65 ERA with 46 strikeouts in 49.1 innings over 52 games for the Marlins last year. He throws his slider more often than his fastball, leading to a high BB% of 16.3%. James Pazos could be favored as an extra lefty. Pazos played in 12 games last year, striking out 10 in 10.1 innings allowing two runs for a 1.74 ERA. He had a 2.88 ERA in 60 games in 2018. Yency Almonte is out of options, helping his case. he had a 5.56 ERA in 28 MLB games last year. Hitters hit seven home runs and slugged .811 against his fastball.

In his first season as a full time starter, Tony Wolters had a career high .262 average, with a .666 OPS. He hit just one home run in 121 games, two less than he had in 2018, when he played in 47 less games. With a 16.5% K rate, he doesn't strike out too much. The backup job is a three way competition. Dom Nunez has the advantage of being on the 40-man roster. He debuted late last year, hitting two home runs in 16 games, with a .179 average. Veterans Elias Diaz and Drew Butera are non-roster invitees. A World Series winner in 2015, Butera has a .200 average with a .554 OPS in his 513 game career, spanning over 10 seasons. Elias Diaz hit 10 home runs with a .792 OPS for Pittsburgh in 2018. He hit just two homers last year, with an OPS of .603. His .241 average is better than Butera and Nunez's last year, though in a bigger sample size. Diaz also has a good pop time, in the 93rd percentile among catchers.

Daniel Murphy did not adjust to Coors Field and first base as well as the Rockies had hoped. The two time Silver Slugger winner hit 13 home runs with 78 RBIs. His .279 average was his lowest since 2009, and he had an 87 OPS+, the lowest of his career and just his second time under 100. Murphy whiffed on 25.5% of breaking balls, the worst number of his career. Ryan McMahon took over at second base, hitting 24 home runs while stealing five bases, plus finishing with a .779 OPS. McMahon hits the ball hard, with a 91.4 mph average exit velocity. Trevor Story has established himself as one of the best power hitting shortstops. He hit 35 home runs with a .294 average and .917 OPS, while swiping 23 bags. He finished 12th in MVP voting, and won his second consecutive Silver Slugger award. Story's speed (29.2 ft/s sprint speed) and glove (15 outs above average) aren't talked out as much as guys like Trea Turner and Javier Baez, who Story is relatively close to in both categories. Nolan Arenado has been an all-star in five consecutive seasons, and has won a Gold Glove in all seven seasons of his career. If that isn't enough to show you his defensive skills, Arenado had 17 outs above average last year. He won a Silver Slugger from 2015-2018. He hit 41 home runs with 118 RBIs, a .315 average and a .962 OPS. He finished 6th in MVP voting. Garrett Hampson can play the outfield and middle infield. He hit eight home runs with 15 stolen bases in 105 games last year, with a .247 average and .686 OPS. He had a sprint speed of 30.1 ft/s. Top prospect Brendan Rodgers is recovering from shoulder surgery, and he should be healthy. The former 3rd overall pick debuted last year, with a .224 average and .522 OPS in 25 games. He is the Rockies' number one prospect, and 29th in all of baseball, per MLB Pipeline. Josh Fuentes got a taste of big league action last year, hitting three home runs in 24 games.

In his first season as a full-time right fielder Charlie Blackmon hit 32 home runs with a .314 average and .940 OPS in 140 games. His speed has declined. Once a 42 base stealer, Blackmon stole just two last season, getting caught five times. Blackmon was never crazy fast, but his 26.7 ft/s sprint speed in 2019 was a career low. He has been an all-star in four consecutive seasons. The 10th overall pick in 2012, David Dahl made his first all-star team, hitting 15 home runs with a .302 average and a career best .877 OPS. Dahl had a .619 slugging percentage against fastballs. Ian Desmond will sit out in 2020 due to the pandemic. Desmond's absence leaves a hole in centerfield. Raimel Tapia can fill that. He had a negative WAR, with a weak 74 OPS+. He hit nine home runs and stole nine bases. Tapia had a .275 average with a .724 OPS. A good fielder, Tapia had five outs above average combined between his time in center and left field. Sam Hilliard got a 27 game trial last year. He hit seven home runs with a 1.006 OPS, helping his case for a roster spot in 2020. He had a 90.8 mph average exit velocity. Yonathan Daza also debuted in 2019, but was less successful offensively, with a .206 average and .494 OPS. He had just two extra base hits (no homers) in 44 games. The Rockies signed Matt Kemp to a MiLB deal after hearing about Desmond's decision. A three time all-star, Kemp hit 21 home runs with an .818 OPS in 2018, but only played in 20 games last year.

       Projected Opening Day Lineup
LF David Dahl (L)
RF Charlie Blackmon (L)
3B Nolan Arenado (R)
SS Trevor Story (R)
DH Daniel Murphy (L)
1B Ryan McMahon (L)
CF Sam Hilliard (L)
2B Brendan Rodgers (R)
C Tony Wolters (L)

       Projected Rotation
German Marquez (R)
Jon Gray (R)
Kyle Freeland (L)
Antonio Senzatela (R)
Chi Chi Gonzalez (R)

       Projected Bullpen
Wade Davis, closer (R)
Scott Oberg (R)
Jairo Diaz (R)
Carlos Estevez (R)
Jake McGee (L)
Bryan Shaw (R)
Tyler Kinley (R)
James Pazos (L)
Yency Almonte (R)
Peter Lambert (R)
Jeff Hoffman (R)

       Projected Bench
C Elias Diaz (R)
OF Raimel Tapia (L)
OF Matt Kemp (R)
UT Garrett Hampson (R)
IF Josh Fuentes (R)

Baseball-Reference OOTP Simulator Stats:
48-38 record, 2nd in NL West
Most home runs: Nolan Arenado (27)
Highest batting average: Daniel Murphy (.341)
Highest OPS: Nolan Arenado (.981)
Best ERA, starters: Antonio Senzatela (3.59)
Best ERA, relievers: Wade Davis (2.50)
Most innings pitched: German Marquez (114.2)
Most strikeouts: German Marquez (115)
Best K/9: Jairo Diaz (12.4)

Record through 60 games, last five seasons:
2019: 31-29
2018: 31-29
2017: 37-23
2016: 28-32
2015: 27-33

The Rockies badly regressed in 2019, and that seems irreversible. Management did not try to improve the team in the offseason, and with a mad Arenado, things actually got worse. Their young stars like Dahl and Story hold up the team, but as Blackmon and Wade Davis regress, the Rockies seem to be missing their window. For what seems like the millionth year in a row, the Rockies' pitching staff will hold them from a playoff berth in 2020. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Cleveland Indians 2020 Season Preview 2.0

       Entering 2019, the Indians were the favorites for the AL Central title. They saw the Twins surprise them, and run away with the division. The Indians were forced to settle for a wild card race, except they missed the playoffs entirely. The Indians finished three games back of the Rays, and four back of the A's for both spots. The Indians traded away Trevor Bauer at the deadline, and
two time Cy Young winner Corey Kluber in the offseason. Superstar Francisco Lindor is a free agent in two seasons, and the Indians seem more likely to trade him than pay him. Things in Cleveland can blow up very fast.

       Offseason additions: IF Cesar Hernandez, OF Domingo Santana, OF Delino DeShields Jr., RHP Emmanuel Clase, C Sandy Leon, RHP Dominic Leone, C Cameron Rupp.

       Offseason subtractions: RHP Corey Kluber, OF Yasiel Puig, RHP Tyler Clippard, 2B Jason Kipnis, OF Leonys Martin, C Kevin Plawecki, LHP Tyler Olson, RHP Dan Otero, RHP Nick Goody, RHP AJ Cole.

Mike Clevinger missed the beginning of 2019, but he dominated when he returned. He struck out 169 batters in 126 innings with a 2.71 ERA. His 1.056 WHIP and 2.49 FIP were career highs. He had a .206 expected batting average. Shane Bieber broke out in his second season, winning all-star MVP, and finishing 4th in AL Cy Young voting. He struck out 259 batters in 214.1 innings with a 3.28 ERA. His 1.7 BB/9 was the best in the league. Bieber's problem is that he allows very hard contact, with an average exit velocity against of 90.4 miles per hour. Carlos Carrasco had an emotional return from leukemia in September. He acted mainly as a reliever after his absence. He will be a starter again in 2020. Even though he had a bloated 5.29 ERA, he still had a 10.8 K/9, tying his previous career high. Carrasco allowed 277 less batted balls than he did in 2018 because of his absence, but he allowed just one less barrel than the previous season. Zach Plesac debuted with a 3.81 ERA in 115.2 innings. His 6.8 K/9 was low, but he had a very good 7.9 H/9. His change-up, curveball and slider all had exit velocities against of under 86, but his total number isn't good because of the fastball's exit velocity against of 92.7 mph. Aaron Civale's debut was only 10 starts, but he had a 2.34 ERA. He also is not a strikeout pitcher, with a 7.2 K/9. He had a 6.9 hits per nine ratio. He had an elite xwOBACON of .313. Swingman Adam Plutko was mainly a starter last year. He had a 4.86 ERA with 78 strikeouts in 109.1 innings. Plutko's most impressive pitch is the pitch he throws the least, his curveball. The pitch has a .166 expected batting average and a 2886 rpm spin rate.

On June 20, closer Brad Hand had an ERA of 0.86. He struggled the rest of the year, ending with a 3.30 ERA. That was his highest ERA since he was a Marlins swingman in 2015. He struck out 84 batters with a career high 34 saves in 57.1 innings. His K% stayed above 30% for the 4th season in a row. Nick Wittgren's first year with the Indians was very good, with a 2.81 ERA and 60 strikeouts in 57.2 innings with four saves. Another former Marlin, Wittgren struggles with allowing soft contact, with a bloated 92 mph exit velocity. James Karinchak had a 2.67 ERA with 74 strikeouts in 30.1 MiLB innings, for a whopping 22 K/9. However, he still had a 5 BB/9. He was a September call-up, striking out eight in 5.1 innings, allowing one run. He throws two pitches, including a high 90s fastball. Submariner Adam Cimber's first full season in Cleveland did not go well. He had a 4.45 ERA with a 6.5 K/9 and 8.9 H/9. He pitched in just 58.2 innings despite playing 68 games. Cimber's expected ERA skyrocket from 2.71 in 2018 to 4.11. He will be one of the few right handers affected by the three batter limit rule. Another player affected by the rule will be lefty Oliver Perez. He had a 1.39 ERA in 2018, but regressed with a 3.98 ERA in 2019. He struck out 48 batters in 40.2 innings over 67 games. Perez's pitch percentage has drastically changed over the years. When he was a starter with the Mets in 2008, he threw his fastball 67.8%, his slider 27.1% and his sinker 1.3% of the time, with a change-up and curveball mixed in there as well. Now, Perez has not thrown his curveball since 2009 and the change-up since 2013, and his fastball percentage has decreased to 14.7% in 2019, with a 49.2% use of his slider and the remaining 36% of pitches being the sinker. Emmanuel Clase was a disappointing return for Corey Kluber in the eyes of many fans. It got even worse when Clase was suspended 80 games for the use of PEDs and will miss the year. He possesses a 102 miles per hour fastball. Hunter Wood came over from the Rays midseason. He had a 2.98 ERA with 39 strikeouts in 45.1 innings combined. Wood's fastball has a spin rate of 2492 rpm, better than his curveball's 2328. The final two spots are up in the air for when roster's revert to 26 men. Plutko can get one as a swingman when Clevinger returns. That would leave Logan Allen, Phil Maton and James Hoyt up for the final spot. They combined to play in just 18 games for the Indians last year. A former top prospect for the Padres, Allen is a lefty starter that would move to the pen. Acquired midseason for Trevor Bauer, Allen played in one game in Cleveland, striking out three in 2.1 innings, not allowing a run. Maton and Hoyt are standard relievers. Maton had a 2.92 ERA with 13 strikeouts in 12.1 innings, while Hoyt had a 2.16 ERA with 10 strikeouts in 8.1 innings. Maton is a very interesting pitcher because of the spin he puts on the ball. His fastball has a 2583 rpm, but lower than his curveball (2764 rpm) and cutter (2844). The cutter is the big takeaway here, with horizontal movement of 7.6 inches more than average, the most in the league. Hoyt has a 56.7% whiff rate on his slider. He allows hard contact, with an exit velocity of 92.5 mph. He threw just 15 pitches in the majors in 2018, but nine of those pitches were fastballs. However, he only threw eight fastballs in 2019, out of 123. Jefry Rodriguez is another long reliever option, and had a 4.63 ERA in 10 games (8 starts) after coming over from Washington for catcher Yan Gomes.

Roberto Perez had a big breakout year in his first season as a full-time starter. He hit 24 home runs, crushing his previous career high by 16. He also had a .774 OPS, and won his first career Gold Glove. Perez was helped out by a barrel percentage of 11 percent, raising his career average up to 8.3%. Sandy Leon hit .310 with an .845 OPS for the Red Sox in 2016, but has regressed offensively since. He hit five home runs with a .192 average and .548 OPS in his last of five seasons in Boston. With a 23.5 ft/s sprint speed, Leon is one of baseball's slowest players. The Indians acquired Leon in a trade, but not for former backup Kevin Plawecki, who signed in Boston.

The Indians will have something that is very, very rare. They will have an all switch hitting infield, not including backups. In his return to Cleveland, Carlos Santana tied his career high in home runs with 34, while walking 108 times with a .281 average and .911 OPS. He won a Silver Slugger and was 16th in MVP voting. Santana hit the ball hard, with a 91.8 mph average exit velocity. The Indians signed Cesar Hernandez after the Phillies non-tendered him. He has hit for power, average and has stolen bases, but never all at the same time. He stole 15+ stolen bases a season from 2015-2018, but stole just nine in 2019. He hit .294 in both 2016 and 2017, but that lowered to .279 in 2019. He hit 14 home runs, one off of his career high 15 set in 2018. Hernandez is fast, with a 28.7 ft/s sprint speed, but that has deteriorated over the years. Superstar Francisco Lindor won his second Gold Glove. He finished 15th in MVP voting, which was actually his worst ranking since he didn't receive a vote in his rookie season. "Mr Smile" hit 32 home runs with 22 stolen bases with a .284 average and an .854 OPS. He has two Gold Gloves and two Silver Sluggers, but he has never won both of them in the same year. He had 11 outs above average last year. Jose Ramirez finished third in MVP voting in 2017 and 2018. He started off slow, with a .198 average and a .586 OPS on June 12. He went on a tear in the second half, finishing with 23 home runs and 24 stolen bases. His .806 OPS might seem low, but it is a huge improvement. Ramirez had a 13.7% K rate, which is really good. However, it is also his worst in a five year stretch. While outfield auditions will go on, the Indians will likely carry just one backup infielder. That could be former top prospect Christian Arroyo, acquired from Tampa Bay in the same midseason trade as Hunter Wood. Arroyo has played in just 70 career games, with six home runs, a .215 average and a .622 OPS. He did not play for the Indians after the trade.

Like their Ohio rivals, the Indians have way too many outfielders. Unlike the Reds, Cleveland is without three clear candidates for an outfield spot. The only lock to start is Oscar Mercado. The now 25-year-old center fielder played in 115 games, hitting 15 home runs and stealing 15 bases with a .269 average and .761 OPS. Mercado goes under-the-radar with his speed of 29.5 ft/s. He finished 8th in Rookie of the Year voting. Domingo Santana hit 30 home runs in 2017 before regressing in 2018. He was traded to Seattle before last year. He hit 21 home runs with a .770 OPS and 108 OPS+. Santana is an awful fielder, with -13 outs above average last year. Tyler Naquin should be good for Opening Day after tearing his ACL late last year. He hit 10 homers with a .288 average and a .792 OPS in 89 games. Jordan Luplow had a good first season in Cleveland. He hit 15 home runs with a .923 OPS in 85 games. Luplow hit .341 versus fastballs. If Naquin is healthy then either Jake Bauers or Delino DeShields Jr. will lose their roster spot. Coming over for Kluber, DeShields is a great fielder with 106 stolen bases in 539 career games. However, he also has a career OPS of .668. Bauers hit 12 home runs last year, but struck out 115 times and had a .683 OPS. Greg Allen and Bradley Zimmer have outside chances at a spot. Allen is a speedy outfielder who stole 21 bases in 91 games in 2018. However, he is also a bad hitter, like DeShields. A former first rounder, Zimmer has a .652 OPS in 144 career games. Franmil Reyes will likely be regulated to DHing duties. He hit 37 home runs for the Indians and Padres last year, with an .822 OPS. Reyes crushes the ball, with a 93.3 mph average exit velocity.

       Projected Opening Day Lineup
CF Oscar Mercado (R)
SS Francisco Lindor (S)
3B Jose Ramirez (S)
1B Carlos Santana (S)
DH Franmil Reyes (R)
RF Domingo Santana (R)
2B Cesar Hernandez (S)
LF Jordan Luplow (R)
C Roberto Perez (R)

       Projected Rotation
Mike Clevinger (R)
Shane Bieber (R)
Carlos Carrasco (R)
Zach Plesac (R)
Aaron Civale (R)

       Projected Bullpen
Brad Hand, closer (L)
Nick Wittgren (R)
James Karinchak (R)
Oliver Perez (L)
Adam Cimber (R)
Adam Plutko (R)
Phil Maton (R)
Hunter Wood (R)
James Hoyt (R)
Logan Allen (L)
Jefry Rodriguez (R)

       Projected Bench
C Sandy Leon (S)
IF Christian Arroyo (R)
OF Tyler Naquin (L)
OF Delino Deshields Jr. (R)
1B/OF Jake Bauers (L)

Baseball-Reference OOTP Simulator Stats
58-29 record, 1st in AL Central
Most home runs: Franmil Reyes (23)
Highest batting average: Carlos Santana (.314)
Highest OPS: Carlos Santana (.931)
Best ERA, starters: Shane Bieber (3.23)
Best ERA, relievers: Nick Wittgren (2.45)
Most innings pitched: Shane Bieber (125.1)
Most strikeouts: Shane Bieber (126)
Best K/9: James Karinchak (15.1)

Record through 60 games, last five seasons:
2019: 30-30
2018: 32-28
2017: 31-29
2016: 34-26
2015: 28-32

The Indians aren't great at the start of seasons, as you see by their record through 60 games recently. Their division is tougher now that the White Sox are competent, and they are playing a tough division in the NL Central. The Indians will still do fine, and finish 2nd in the AL Central. However, I think that they will be outside of the playoffs once again in 2019. 

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Cinicinnati Reds 2020 Season Preview 2.0

       Yesterday's season preview was the new and improved White Sox. However, no team improved more than the Reds this offseason. They dished out big deals to improve their lineup and pitching staff. Playing in a tough NL Central, it will not be easy for the Reds to jump up in the standings.

       Offseason additions: IF Mike Moustakas, OF Nick Castellanos, OF Shogo Akiyama, LHP Wade Miley, RHP Pedro Strop, RHP Justin Shafer, OF Travis Jankowski, RHP Nate Jones, RHP Tyler Thornburg, IF Matt Davidson

       Offseason subtractions: IF Jose Peraza, SS Jose Iglesias, LHP Alex Wood, RHP Kevin Gausman, RHP David Hernandez.

The Reds have their ace in Luis Castillo, a 27 year old with a hard fastball. Castillo made his first all-star team in 2019, striking out 226 batters with a 3.40 ERA in 190.2 innings. However, he also allowed 22 home runs and walked 79 batters. His fastball averages more than 96 miles per hour, but he uses his change-up more often to get soft contact. That change-up struck out 155 batters with a .199 slugging against last year. Sonny Gray was an all-star for the first time since 2015. He allowed just 6.3 hits per nine innings, striking out 205 batters with a 2.87 ERA in 175.1 innings. His curveball, which has a 2988 rpm spin rate, held opponents to a .131 batting average. The Reds traded Taylor Trammell, one of their top prospects, at the deadline in a package for Trevor Bauer. Bauer was awful in Cincinnati, making 10 starts with a 6.39 ERA. Overall, Bauer made 34 starts with a 4.48 ERA and 253 strikeouts in 213 innings. The outspoken pitcher throws six pitches, mostly his fastball. The heater was crushed last year, allowing 20 home runs. He is a free agent after the season. Anthony DeSclafani has had issues staying on the field. He made 31 starts in 2019, his most since he made the same number of starts in 2015. He struck out 167 batters in 166.2 innings with a solid 3.89 ERA. Opponents had an expected batting average of .238, a career best for DeSclafani. He will be a good 4th starter. The Reds gave Wade Miley $15 million over two years to be their 5th starter. A journeyman lefty, Miley had a 3.98 ERA in 33 starts for the Astros last season. He is the only Reds starter with less strikeouts than innings pitched last year. He makes up for that and his 90.8 mph fastball with a potent change-up, which had an exit velocity against of just 82.3. Tyler Mahle started in 25 games last year, striking out 129 batters in 129.2 innings.

Former starter Raisel Iglesias had his worst season yet as Reds closer. While his 34 saves were a career high, his 4.16 ERA was a tick higher than his 2015 starting numbers. On the plus side, Iglesias' 12 K/9 ratio was a career high. His 8.2 hits per nine was a career worst. So was his 1.224 WHIP. Iglesias abandoned his sinker, his most common pitch in 2018. He went from using it 31.8% to 10.6% of the time. It was a drama filled season for Amir Garrett, topped with some fights, including his Amir Garrett vs the world performance against the Pirates late in the season. On the field, Garrett had a career season. He had a 3.21 ERA with 78 strikeouts in 56 innings. His main issue is the walks. He walked 5.6 batters per nine innings. Garrett's most common pitch is his slider, which was 58% of his pitches. That pitch had an elite whiff rate of 54.3%. Michael Lorenzen has gained traction as a two-way player. As a pitcher, Lorenzen had a 2.92 ERA with 85 strikeouts in 83.1 innings, with seven saves. He played in 100 games total. His outfield numbers are not good. He hit one homer with a .581 OPS in 53 Plate Appearances. He throws a fastball averaging over 97 miles per hour, but educes very soft contact, with an 84.5 mph average. Entering 2019, Pedro Strop had gone five consecutive seasons with a sub-3 ERA, and seven out of eights seasons. He bombed with the Cubs last year, with a 4.97 ERA in 41.2 innings. His 10 saves was the second most of his career to 2018, and his 10.6 K/9 was his most since 2016. Now 34, Strop will have to work his way up from a middle relief role. Robert Stephenson had a career season, with a 3.76 ERA and 81 strikeouts in 64.2 innings. He might have been baseball's most underrated reliever last year, with an expected ERA of 2.70, a slider with a whiff rate of 52.1%, and an expected slugging of .311. Matt Bowman excels at allowing soft contact, with a career average exit velocity against of 84.8 mph. He had a 3.66 ERA in 27 games last year. Justin Shafer pitched in 39.2 innings for Toronto last year. He struck out 39 batters with a 3.86 ERA. His fastball has an above average spin rate of 2460 rpm. Non-roster invitee Nate Jones is always hurt. In his first eight seasons, all with the White Sox, Jones had a 3.12 ERA with 318 strikeouts in 291.1 innings. His once-potent slider has became more hit-able. A pitch with an average against under .100 in 2015 and 2016, batters hit .273 against Jones' slider in 2019. Cody Reed and Lucas Sims will fight for the final spot when rosters revert to 26. Reed, a lefty, played in just three games last year, allowing one run in 6.1 innings. Sims is more of a swingman. In 24 games (4 starts) Sims had a 4.60 ERA with 57 strikeouts in 43 games.

Tucker Barnhart hit a career high 11 home runs in 2019. He still had an 82 OPS+, and his total extra-base hits was his lowest since his 81 game 2015 season. He hit fastballs well, with a .528 slugging against the pitch. Curt Casali hit eight home runs with a .251 average and .741 OPS. While he hit more home runs than he did in 2018, everything else seemed to get worse offensively.

Former MVP and six time all-star Joey Votto is not at his best anymore. He walked 76 times last year, his first time in a full season not walking at least 100 times since 2012, when his 94 walks still led the league. His .357 OBP was the worst of his career. So was his .768 OPS. He struck out 123 times, his most since 2015. His 15 home runs was more than his 2018 total, but his power seems to be gone. Votto had an average of under .200 against off-speed pitches and breaking balls. 2020 might actually be Votto's last shot at the playoffs while he is still a league average player. The Reds gave Mike Moustakas $64 million over four years to play second base. Moustakas played second base for the first time in the MLB in 2019, playing 47 games for the Brewers. Moustakas hit 35 home runs with a career high .845 OPS. That was due to a .329 OBP, the second best of his career. He also had a career high in barrel percentage, with 10.3%. Freddy Galvis had 18 home runs in 115 games for the Blue Jays when the Reds claimed him off waivers late last year. Galvis struggled afterwards, with five homers in 32 games with a .696 OPS. He had 11 outs above average at shortstop and one at second base. His 23 total homers were a career high. Eugenio Suarez had an insane season that went mostly unrecognized. Suarez hit 49 home runs, the most ever for a Venezuelan. However, he struck out a league leading 189 times. He had a .930 OPS and a .572 slugging percentage, with a high 14% barrel percentage. Kyle Farmer played in 97 games at six positions, including pitcher and catcher. Farmer hit nine home runs with a .410 slugging percentage. He walked just 10 times in 197 Plate Appearances, and struck in 30.3% of them.

The Reds might have eight MLB outfielders, and they have 10 on the 40-man roster. The team gave Nick Castellanos a four year, $64 million deal. Castellanos hit a career high 27 home runs with an .863 OPS. His 58 doubles with the Tigers and Cubs lead the MLB. He took off after a trade deadline deal to Chicago. He hit 16 home runs with 21 doubles in 51 games, with a 1.002 OPS. The team gave 31 year old Shogo Akiyama $21 million over three years for him to come over from Japan. Akiyama hit .303 with a .864 OPS and 20 home runs for the Saitama Seibu Lions last year. Former top prospect Nick Senzel made his big league debut. An infielder that was moved to center field, Senzel hit 12 home runs with a .742 OPS in a mediocre 104 game season. His most impressive stat was his 29.4 ft/s sprint speed. Jesse Winker has a .285 average with an .845 OPS in his three year career. He hit a career high 16 homers last year. In 2018, his walk rate was actually higher than his K rate. Aristides "The Punisher" Aquino pummeled baseballs, hitting 19 home runs in 56 games. With the Reds' crowded outfield, he might not make the team. He also stole seven bases with an .891 OPS. Scott Schebler hit 30 home runs in 2017, but hit .123 with a .475 OPS in 30 games last year. His exit velocity decreased from 90.2 in 2018 to 86.5 mph. Phil Ervin had a career high .271 average and .791 OPS in 94 games, with an OPS+ over 100 for the first time last year.

       Projected Opening Day Lineup
CF Shogo Akiyama (L)
1B Joey Votto (L)
3B Eugenio Suarez (R)
2B Mike Moustakas (L)
RF Nicholas Castellanos (R)
DH Jesse Winker (L)
LF Aristedes Aquino (R)
SS Freddy Galvis (S)
C Tucker Barnhart (L)

       Projected Rotation
Luis Castillo (R)
Sonny Gray (R)
Trevor Bauer (R)
Anthony DeSclafani (R)
Wade Miley (L)

       Projected Bullpen
Raisel Iglesias, closer (R)
Amir Garrett (L)
Michael Lorenzen (R)
Pedro Strop (R)
Robert Stephenson (R)
Justin Shafer (R)
Matt Bowman (R)
Nate Jones (R)
Cody Reed (L)
Lucas Sims (R)
Tyler Mahle (R)

       Projected Bench
C Curt Casali (R)
CF Nick Senzel (R)
OF Scott Schebler (L)
UT Kyle Farmer (R)
OF Phil Ervin (R)

Baseball-Reference OOTP Simulator Stats
38-48 record, 4th in NL Central
Most home runs: Nicholas Castellanos (18)
Highest batting average: Jesse Winker (.275)
Highest OPS: Jesse Winker (.867)
Best ERA, starters: Trevor Bauer (3.43)
Best ERA, relievers: Cody Reed (2.88)
Most innings pitched: Sonny Gray (111.2)
Most strikeouts: Trevor Bauer (129)
Best K/9: Robert Stephenson (15.4)

Record through 60 games, last five seasons:
2019: 28-32
2018: 21-39
2017: 29-31
2016: 22-38
2015: 28-32

The Reds made major improvements this offseason. Their rotation might be the best in the division, and their bullpen is also in the top-3. The lineup looks potent now, and they have plenty of outfielders to spare. The Reds have leap-frogged the Cubs in the NL Central power rankings. However, I don't think that they are ready yet. I think that the Reds will finish 3rd in the NL Central, and just barely miss the playoffs.