Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Miami Marlins 2020 Season Preview

From The Athletic

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

           Offseason additions: IF Jonathan Villar, 1B Jesus Aguilar, OF Corey Dickerson, C Francisco Cervelli, OF Matt Joyce, RHP Brandon Kintzler, RHP Yimi Garcia, LHP Stephen Tarpley, RHP Brad Boxberger, SHP Pat Venditte, OF Matt Kemp, UT Sean Rodriguez, IF Gosuke Katoh.

           Offseason subtractions: 2B Starlin Castro, OF Curtis Granderson, IF Neil Walker, IF Martin Prado, OF Austin Dean, C Bryan Holaday, OF Rosell Herrera, LHP Jarlin Garcia, RHP Tyler Kinley, LHP Wei-Yin Chen, RHP Austin Brice, LHP Brian Moran, RHP Hector Noesi.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Los Angeles Dodgers 2020 Season Preview

From Getty Images

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, March 9, 2020

Los Angeles Angels 2020 Season Preview

From Getty Images

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Kansas City Royals 2020 Season Preview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Houston Astros 2020 Season Preview

         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 revealed 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 Luhnhow over the cheating. With Dusty Baker now at the helm, the Astros will look to prove everyone wrong.

         Offseason additions: RHP Jared Hughes, RHP Austin Pruitt, C Dustin Garneau.

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

With Cole gone, the Astros will rely 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. In 14 games (two starts) for the Rays last year, Austin Pruitt struck out 39 in 47 innings.

Roberto Osuna remains with the team, even after the controversial postseason situation that ended up getting Assistant GM Brandon Taubman rightfully fired. 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. Ryan Pressly started off really strong, not allowing his first 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. The Astros brought back Joe Smith after the soon-to-be 36-year-old posted a 1.80 ERA with 22 strikeouts in 25 innings last year. Peacock will return to the bullpen, where he entered the game from in eight of his 23 games. He had a 4.12 ERA with 96 strikeouts in 91.2 innings. 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. 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. 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 has allowed two hits in 5.1 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. Trusty veteran Jared Hughes is in camp as a non-roster invitee. He appeared in 72 games for the Reds and Phillies last year, with a 4.04 ERA, but just 54 strikeouts. He has recorded a save in four consecutive seasons, but has only 12 in his career.

Robinson Chirinos left to return to the other Texas team. 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. 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 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. 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. 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. Alex Bregman played a lot of shortstop (his natural position) when Correa was injured. He had his best season, with an 8.4 WAR, with 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. 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 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.

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. 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. Josh Reddick did not have a great year. While he hit .275, he had a weak .728 OPS with 14 home runs. 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. However, Reddick should be the right fielder to start. Myles Straw is fighting with Stubbs for the last roster spot. Straw is one of baseball's fastest players. In 56 games last year, Straw stole eight bases in nine attempts. 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)
Blake Taylor (L)
Chris Devenski (R)
Joe Biagini (R)
Jared Hughes (R)

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

The Astros are still a good team. The cheating scandal may not be great in the press, but it could actually motivate the players to prove people wrong. The Astros are still the best team in the AL West by far, trash cans or not. They win once again win the division in 2020.

Friday, March 6, 2020

Detroit Tigers 2020 Season Preview

         Nothing went right for the Tigers in 2020. While everyone thought the Orioles would finish last in the MLB, the Tigers proved everybody wrong, going 47-114. They will have the first overall pick in June. 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. He has three more years left under contract, He 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. 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. 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. 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. 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.

There are not many guaranteed spots in the Tigers bullpen. After Shane Greene was traded at the deadline, Joe Jimenez stepped in. A 2018 all-star, Jimenez converted nine saves with a 4.37 ERA and 82 strikeouts in 59.2 innings. 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. 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. 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. 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. Alex Wilson is back as a non-roster player. he had a 3.36 ERA for the Tigers in 2018. In his one year in Milwaukee Wilson had a 9.53 ERA in 11.1 innings. 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). The last spot is between Tyler Alexander and Zack Godley. Both are the starter/reliever type. Alexander is a lefty, while Godley has more experience. 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.

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. 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. Grayson Greiner played in 58 games last year, with a .202 average and .559 OPS. He may be the backup to start as Rogers gets more playing time in the minors.

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, that is on the decline. 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. 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. Schoop, a former 32 home run hitter, hit 23 bombs last year, with a .256 average and .777 OPS. 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. 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.

If Mercer makes the team, the Tigers can only carry four outfielders. They 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. In 88 games JaCoby Jones also hit 11 home runs, with seven stolen bases and a .740 OPS last year. 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. Former first rounder Christin Stewart hit 10 home runs last year, but still had a .693 OPS. 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. He has four hits in 13 Spring Training at-bats so far, all 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)
Alex Wilson (R)
Gregory Soto (L)
Jose Cisnero (R)
Nick Ramirez (L)
Zack Godley (R)
Rony Garcia (R)

                   Projected Bench
C Grayson Greiner (R)
SS Jordy Mercer (R)
UT Harold Castro (L)
OF Travis Demeritte (R)

The Tigers are really bad. This isn't Major League, where really bad teams can easily become good teams. The Tigers will once again finish 5th in the AL Central, missing the playoffs by 30+ games. 

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Colorado Rockies 2020 Season Preview

     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.

       Offseason additions: RHP Tyler Kinley, 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.

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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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.

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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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.

In his first 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. He did improve defensively. 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.

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. Ryan McMahon took over at second base, hitting 24 home runs while stealing five bases, plus finishing with a .779 OPS. 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. Nolan Arenado has been an all-star in five consecutive seasons, and has won a Gold Glove in all seven seasons of his career. He won a Silver Slugger from 2015-2018. He hit 41 home runs with 118 RBIs, with 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. Top prospect Brendan Rodgers is recovering from shoulder surgery, and it is not clear when he will be healthy, but it should be sometime near the start of the season. The former 3rd overall pick debuted last year, with a .224 average and .522 OPS in 25 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. 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. Despite hitting 20 home runs, Ian Desmond's defense was so bad he had a -1.7 bWAR. A six time 20 base stealer, Desmond stole just three in 2019. He hit .255 with a .788 OPS. The good news is that his OPS was his best since 2012. Raimel Tapia also had a negative WAR, with a weak 74 OPS+. He hit nine home runs and stole nine bases. He had a .275 average with a .724 OPS. 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. 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.

                         Projected Opening Day Roster
CF David Dahl (L)
RF Charlie Blackmon (L)
3B Nolan Arenado (R)
SS Trevor Story (R)
1B Daniel Murphy (L)
LF Ian Desmond (R)
2B Ryan McMahon (L)
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)

                           Projected Bench
C Elias Diaz (R)
UT Garrett Hampson (R)
SS Brendan Rodgers (R)
OF Sam Hilliard (L)
OF Raimel Tapia (L)

The Rockies regressed badly in 2019. To stop that, management did nothing and made their superstar unhappy. That is not a good thing. The Rockies are still better than the Giants, and are more talented than the Padres. But, it looks like another 4th place finish is going to happen for the Rockies in 2020.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Cleveland Indians 2020 Season Preview

           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 with a wild card berth, 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 has a partially torn meniscus, and his availability by Opening Day is in question. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. Swingman Adam Plutko was mainly a starter last year. He had a 4.86 ERA with 78 strikeouts in 109.1 innings.

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. 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. 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. 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. 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. Emmanuel Clase came over in the Corey Kluber trade. He will miss the first month of the year with a back strain. 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. The final two spots are up in the air. 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.

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. 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. 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 a backup. 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. The Indians signed Cesar Hernandez after the Phillies non-tendered him. He has hit for power, average and has stolen bases, but not 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. 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. 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. While outfield auditions will go on, the Indians will likely carry just one backup infielder. That will likely 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.

The Indians are 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. 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 for last year. He hit 21 home runs with a .770 OPS and 108 OPS+. Tyler Naquin will make it close to 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. 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.

                 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)
C Roberto Perez (R)
LF Jordan Luplow (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)
Hunter Wood (R)
Adam Plutko (R)
Phil Maton (R)

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

The Indians are regressing. They can still develop pitchers, and while Terry Francona is a great manager, the ownership is still cutting salary. They traded away Kluber for no impact pieces, and the Bauer trade hurts too, even if it got them Reyes. I predict that the Indians will finish 3rd in the AL Central, missing the playoffs.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Cincinnati Reds 2020 Season Preview

         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. 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. 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. 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. He will be a good 4th starter. The Reds have 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.

Former starter Raisel Iglesias had his worst season yet as Reds closer. While his 34 saves were as 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. It was a drama filled season for Amir Garrett, topped with some fights, including his man vs everybody 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. 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. 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. Justin Shafer pitched in 39.2 innings for Toronto last year. He struck out 39 batters with a 3.86 ERA. 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. The final spot could be between Cody Reed and Lucas Sims. 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 is more of a defensive catcher. But, he 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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.

The Reds might have eight MLB outfielders. 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 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. Jesse Winker has a .285 average with an .845 OPS in his three year career. He hit a career high 16 homers last year. Aristides "The Punisher" Aquino pummeled baseballs, hitting 19 home runs in 56 games. With the Reds' crowded infield, he isn't even a guarantee to 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. 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 Nick Castellanos (R)
LF Jesse Winker (L)
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)
Nate Jones (R)
Cody Reed (L)

                 Projected Bench
CF Nick Senzel (R)
C Curt Casali (R)
OF Aristides Aquino (R)
OF Phil Ervin (R)
UT Kyle Farmer (R)

The Reds are a much better team than they were last year. Their rotation is complete, their bullpen is alright, and their lineup can mash. They will finish 2nd in the NL Central, but ultimately fall short of a playoff birth.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Chicago White Sox 2020 Season Preview

           Every year, there is a team that sticks out to everyone in Spring Training. That might be the White Sox this year. They already have a talented farm system, with former first rounders and international players coming up to join the team this year. They have supplemented their young talent by signing veterans stars. They big issue will be the bullpen, but if Chicago can figure that out, they are legitimate AL Central contenders.

           Offseason additions: C Yasmani Grandal, LHP Dallas Keuchel, DH Edwin Encarnacion, OF Nomar Mazara, RHP Steve Cishek, LHP Gio Gonzalez, LHP Adalberto Mejia, RHP Bryan Mitchell, UT Cheslor Cuthbert, UT Andrew Romine.

           Offseason subtractions: RHP Ivan Nova, LHP Josh Osich, RHP Juan Minaya, C Welington Castillo, OF Ryan Cordell, OF Jon Jay.

The White Sox might have found their ace in Luca Giolito. A former 1st rounder who was once baseball's top pitching prospect, Giolito struggled in his first full season, with the worst ERA in baseball. He rebounded in 2019, with a 3.41 ERA and 228 strikeouts in 176.2 innings. He also had three complete games with two of them being shutouts, both the most in the league. He made the all-star team and finished 6th in AL Cy Young voting. The White Sox signed former Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel to a four year deal. In his one year in Atlanta, Keuchel had a 3.75 ERA and a 121 ERA+ in 112.2 innings. A great fielder, Keuchel is a four time Gold Glove winner. Twelve year veteran Gio Gonzalez is in his third stint with the White Sox, but had not played with the team yet. He made just 17 starts last year with two relief appearances for the Brewers, posting a 3.50 ERA. Reynaldo Lopez had an encouraging 3.91 ERA in 2018, but struggled in 2019, finishing the season with an ERA of 5.38 over 33 starts. He allowed a league leading 110 earned runs. Dylan Cease, acquired with Eloy Jimenez for Jose Quintana in 2017, had a rough debut. He had a 5.79 ERA in 14 starts, but he did finish with a 10 K/9. Top pitching prospect Michael Kopech is back from Tommy John surgery. He made his debut at the end of 2018, making four starts. He will likely start the season back in AAA.

The White Sox acquired Alex Colome last offseason and held onto him at the trade deadline in hopes of being competitive this year. Colome posted a 2.80 ERA with 30 saves and 55 strikeouts in 61 innings. The White Sox locked up set-up man Aaron Bummer, signing the southpaw to a five year deal. Bummer had a breakout 2019 season, limited both righties and lefties to an average under .200, and posting a 2.13 ERA with 60 strikeouts in 67.2 innings. The team poached Steve Cishek from the cross-town Cubs. Cishek saved seven games last year, striking out 57 with a 2.95 ERA in 64 innings. Evan Marshall was a good set-up man, with a 2.49 ERA and 41 strikeouts in 50.2 innings. Lefty Jace Fry struck out 68 batters in 55 innings, and while his 7.2 H/9 was good, his 7.0 BB/9 was among the worst in the league. It lead to an inflated 1.582 WHIP. Former Royals closer Kelvin Herrera hasn't been the same since leaving Kansas City midway through 2018. He had a career worst 6.14 ERA for the White Sox last year. He is still only 30 years old. The White Sox claimed Jimmy Cordero from the Mariners in June. He was solid the rest of the way, pitching in 30 games with a 2.75 ERA and 31 Ks in 36 innings. Ian Hamilton had a AAA ERA of 1.71 in 2018, but allowed 18 runs in 16.1 AAA inning last year before missing the rest of the season with an injury. Carson Fulmer was picked 8th overall in 2015, but has a 6.56 ERA in 44 career games (15 starts).

The White Sox went out and signed Yasmani Grandal to a four year deal. One of the best catchers in the game, Grandal is a good defender, and hit 28 home runs with a career high .848 OPS last year, his only season with the Brewers. James McCann was a surprise all-star, with career highs in home runs (18), batting average (.273) and OPS (.789). However, betting on a regression would be wise, especially after a transition from starter to backup.

Jose Abreu was a free agent, but took the qualifying offer before signing an extension. There was no chance he was leaving. He hit 33 home runs with a league leading 123 RBIs, plus a .284 average and .834 OPS. However, his batting average and OPS were actually lower than his career numbers. Second base will be Nick Madrigal's spot very soon. He will likely be called up six weeks into the season for service time purposes. He has Gold Glove potential and stole 35 bases with a .311 batting average in High-A, AA and AAA last year. For now, 26 year old utility infielder Danny Mendick will hold down the fort. He hit two home runs with a .308 average and a .787 OPS in 16 games last year, his first time in the majors. Tim Anderson was a 20-20 player in 2018, and while he didn't reach 20 home runs or 20 stolen bases in 2019, his improvements were more important, raising his batting average by 95 points, up to .335 to win the batting title. His .865 OPS was also a career high by over 100 points. He stole 17 bases and hit 18 home runs. Yoan Moncada, once MLB's top prospect, also saw major improvements. His 217 strikeouts in 2018 led the league, but he rebounded with a career high 25 home runs, with 10 stolen bases, a .315 batting average and a .915 OPS. Andrew Romine is worth having around because he can play every position. His hitting needs improvement. He did not hit a home run in 72 games for Seattle last year, and his .210 batting average and .504 OPS were the worst of his career in a full season. Edwin Encarnacion can spell Abreu a day at first, but will be a primary DH. Encarnacion has hit at least 32 home runs in eight consecutive seasons. He has a career .851 OPS with 414 homers.

Eloy Jimenez made the Opening Day roster last year as the club's top prospect. He hit 31 home runs with an .828 OPS. He finished 4th in Rookie of the Year voting. Luis Robert is in a very similar situation. The club's top prospect this year, Robert had one interesting twist from Jimenez's situation. He already signed an extension, before his first MLB game. In three different minor league levels Robert hit 32 home runs, stole 36 bases, had a .328 batting average with an OPS of 1.001. Robert and Jimenez will be in center and left field for a long time. The White Sox acquired Nomar Mazara from the Rangers. A 24 year old with four years of MLB experience, Mazara hit exactly 20 home runs in his first three seasons, but hit only 19 in 2019. However, his .268 average and .786 OPS last year were career highs. Mazara always starts strong but dies off midseason. Leury Garcia can play the infield as well as the outfield. He led the league with 11 sacrifice hits last year. A seven year veteran, Garcia played in over 100 games for the first time in 2019. He stole 15 bases and his .279 batting average was a career best. Adam Engel is very fast and has a great glove in centerfield. However, he stole just three bases last year. Engel's .242 average was a career high.

                      Projected Opening Day Lineup
SS Tim Anderson (R)
2B Yoan Moncada (S)
1B Jose Abreu (R)
DH Edwin Encarnacion (R)
C Yasmani Grandal (S)
LF Eloy Jimenez (R)
CF Luis Robert (R)
RF Nomar Mazara (L)
2B Danny Mendick (R)

                        Projected Rotation
Lucas Giolito (R)
Dallas Keuchel (L)
Gio Gonzalez (L)
Reynaldo Lopez (R)
Dylan Cease (R)

                        Projected Bullpen
Alex Colome, closer (R)
Aaron Bummer (L)
Evan Marshall (R)
Steve Cishek (R)
Jace Fry (L)
Kelvin Herrera (R)
Jimmy Cordero (R)
Ian Hamilon (R)

                        Projected Bench
C James McCann (R)
UT Leury Garcia (S)
OF Adam Engel (R)
UT Andrew Romine (S)

The White Sox have a lot of young talent. Their rotation is getting better, and while the bullpen does not have a lot of household names, it can hold up. However, they are still a year away from being serious contenders. I think the White Sox are going to finish second in the AL Central, but miss the playoffs.