Wednesday, July 29, 2020

MLB Trade Review: Astros acquire Velazquez

      The Houston Astros have acquired RHP Hector Velazquez from the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for a player to be named later.

       The Astros need experienced pitchers, especially in their bullpen. Opening Day was less than a week ago, and the Astros have already had seven relief pitchers make their MLB debut (Blake Taylor, Enoli Paredes, Cristian Javier, Brandon Bailey, Brandon Bielak, Andre Scrubb and Nivaldo Rodriguez). Velazquez was claimed off waivers by Baltimore from Boston in March, but he didn't make the team. The Mexican righty has starting experience, and he has had some success over his three year MLB career. With injuries impacted the pitching staff heavily, Velazquez is a fine pick-up. While he threw it less than 17% of the time last year, Velazquez's slider is a pitch that the Astros might look to abuse. The slider had a .125 average against and a 32.9 whiff rate, plus an average exit velocity of 85 mph, all the best among Velazquez's five pitches. The Orioles don't need Velazquez, as he didn't make the team, and when the squad is as bad as they are, getting value from anything is worth it.

       Velazquez, 31, had a 5.43 ERA with 49 strikeouts in 56.1 innings for the Boston Red Sox last year. In three seasons for the Red Sox, Velazquez has appeared in 89 games (starting 19 of them), and he had a 3.90 ERA with 121 strikeouts in 166 innings. Velazquez has a career ERA+ of 117. 

Monday, July 27, 2020

Ranking every single MLB stadium

 The thing that separates MLB parks from arenas and fields from the other major sports is their uniqueness. Every NHL and NBA arena has the exact same dimensions, with just their location being the thing that puts them apart from the rest. The same could be said for the NFL, although some seating arrangements are different. Every MLB stadium has different field dimensions compared to the next one, plus a different skyline view and other quirks. While I rank them, keep one thing in mind: these are based off of looks and special details. Age of the park has nothing to do with the rankings, so sorry Wrigley Field and Fenway Park, the thing that aids you in other rankings is gone now. Another disclaimer: I have not been to every MLB stadium. 

       30. Guaranteed Rate Field, Chicago White Sox
I have never been a big fan of Guaranteed Rate Field. It is just a default baseball stadium, with nothing that makes it special. The signs on top of the scoreboard that I will now call "the seven swirls" are cool, but that's just about it. There's not many ballparks that I don't like, but this is one of them.

       29. RingCentral Coliseum, Oakland Athletics
The MLB stadium with the most foul territory space, RingCentral Coliseum (formerly known as the Oakland Coliseum) is hardly an MLB stadium, as it doubled as the field for the Oakland Raiders before they moved to Las Vegas this year. With weird and ugly gaps all-throughout the outfield, this place has little outfield seating, and A's fans won't be too sad to see it go when (if) they open up a new ballpark in a few years. 

       28. Miller Park, Milwaukee Brewers 
From here-on-out, I like every single stadium. Miller Park has a retractable roof, which does give it bonus points. So does the slide that their mascot goes down. But besides that, nothing else really separates it from the rest of the league. 

       27. Tropicana Field, Tampa Bay Rays
I already know that Brewers fans won't be happy with this one. The main thing that Miller Park has going for it are the roof and the slide, and "the Trop" has the roof, and the stingrays in center field are cooler than the slide, especially since it also relates to the team. Who wouldn't love Ji-Man Choi hitting right-handed bombs into a tank full of Rays. Oh, well, I think we could have seen that coming.

       26. Globe Life Field, Texas Rangers
This ranking is more arbitrary, since it is mostly based off of my first impressions. Globe Life Field is a big step-down from its predecessor, Globe Life Park. The retractable roof is great, but the main thing that the park has going for it is the scoreboard hanging high-up over right field, making us wait for the glorious day when someone finds a way to hit a baseball off of it. Besides that, it is kind of bland.

       25. Rogers Centre, Toronto Blue Jays
The view of Rogers Centre is great when the retractable roof is open. Plus, the hotel is center field is one of the more creative things in an MLB stadium. So, Rogers Centre should be high up on the list. However, the many decks in left and right field look really bad, so it drops a lot of spots. 

       24. Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City Royals
I have never been a big fan of Kauffman Stadium, and I don't know why. The fountains in the outfield is a really nice touch, but the rest of the field has never stood out to me. It has already risen many spots while I was doing these rankings, and I wouldn't be surprised if it went up more in the future. 

       23. Yankee Stadium, New York Yankees
As a Yankee fan, this placement feels weird. But, Yankee Stadium feels like it was built to be the most average MLB stadium that there is. The short porch in right is always fun, and I really like the look of the terraces that were added in a few years ago. However, nothing makes this place special, besides the team that plays there. Monument Park moves it up multiple spots. 

       22. Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles Dodgers
Dodger Stadium has a very similar problem to Yankee Stadium, as it seems basic. However, the beautiful background of Los Angeles mountains definitely moves it up a lot of places. The concourse underneath the outfield seats is a fun touch, but the ugly batter's eye in center field hurts its placement. 

       21. Chase Field, Arizona Diamondbacks
Chase Field has an odd batter's eye in center field, but the pool in right-center is an automatic win. While it might be pointless, the sharp edges separating the bullpen and the crowd down the left and right field line is a fun quirk. Also, with the Arizona weather, a retractable roof is a very important touch. 

       20. Marlins Park, Miami Marlins
While the loss of the sculpture in left-center field makes the stadium less unique, but Marlins Park is still unique. Like Chase Field, there is a pool, but it is in an exclusive club in left field. A wall in right-center field separates center field from right field, and makes the right field section of seats, right behind the bullpen, look cool. 

       19. Target Field, Minnesota Twins
Down the left field line, the wall in foul territory with standing room space on it is a really nice add for Target Field. The view of the right field seats, and over the right field seats of the city is also a very good look. The dimensions are kooky, which makes a unique ballpark.

       18. Truist Park, Atlanta Braves 
The second newest ballpark in the league after Globe Life Field, the park was called SunTrust park when it opened up, and it is a nice ballpark. However, the company name change made an awful sounding ballpark. The chophouse in right field looks very cool, especially with the seating in front. The park looks very clean, and my only complaint with it is the awful name. 

       17. Comerica Park, Detroit Tigers
While it doesn't compare to Monument Park, the brick wall in left-center with the Tigers' retired numbers is a good idea. While having the center field wall 420 feet deep isn't good for hitters, down the line at Comerica is shallow, and the gaps make it easy for triples and inside-the-park-home-runs, which are always great. 

       16. T-Mobile Park, Seattle Mariners
Formerly known as Safeco Field, the left field concourse that leads up to the bullpen is a good look. Also, the second deck in left ends short enough so that it is possible to hit the ball out of the stadium, the most fun type of home run. 

       15. Busch Stadium, St. Louis Cardinals
The most improved stadium on the list, Busch Stadium gets so many points for the arch in the background behind right-center field. Besides that, the buildings to the left of the arch also make a good looking background. The left-center buildings are a clean look, and the green batter's eye is nice, although fans are not allowed on it, unlike Globe Life Park, the former field of the Rangers. 

       14. Wrigley Field, Chicago Cubs
I'm sorry, Cubs fans. You should have been prepared for that, with age not a factor. I've never been a big fan of the ivy on the outfield wall, but it is a quirk that makes Wrigley unique. The buildings around the stadium make the field feel like it is in a neighborhood, because it is. Also, the seating down the right field line and the scoreboard look good. 

       13. Petco Park, San Diego Padres
The warehouse down the left field line is original to Petco. It is always special when someone hits a home run that lands on top of it. Also, the San Diego buildings make a cool background for a stadium. Plus, Bartolo Colon's only home run was in this park, so that's a bonus.

       12. Progressive Field, Cleveland Indians
The high wall in left field isn't the best high wall in left field in the MLB, but it creates a cool aesthetic, especially down the line with the standing room only section. Also, the concourse in center behind the bullpen makes the bullpen feel like it is in the stands and not the field. Progressive Field has always been a favorite of mine, and that's why it is at the 12th spot.

       11. Coors Field, Colorado Rockies
Who doesn't love home runs (besides pitchers)? The elevation of Denver helps balls travel further, leading to more home runs, despite a big outfield. The purple row of seats at exactly one mile above sea level is also a great touch by the Rockies. The trees in center are random, but still feel cool. 

       10. Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati Reds
While there isn't anything super special with it, "Great American" is just a good looking stadium. I like the smoke stack-looking pillars in right-center, plus the bullpens are condensed down the line so that they don't take away any seats. 

       9. Citi Field, New York Mets
The decks in left field look natural, unlike the odd, trampled decks at the Rogers Centre and other places. Also, the bridge right-center over the bullpen is a very good look, and the Pepsi Porch might not be a unique thing, but it also overlooks the bridge in a nice way. 

       8. Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia Phillies

While it may be contaminated right now, "CBP" has a bridge behind the center field batter's eye which bridges left and right field, making traveling through the ballpark a fun experience, as you can watch the game while walking, and you can look over the elevated bullpens in center field. Also, who wouldn't love the Philly Phanatic roaming around?

       7. Nationals Park, Washington Nationals

The left-center seats are much different from the other sections, as they are colored red and separate from everything else, making the park feel unique throughout. To dead center, two walls converge to make a tiny gap far away from home plate, a little quirk that isn't in every stadium. While Yankee Stadium is perfectly average in a boring way, Nationals Park is similar, but in a good way.

       6. Minute Maid Park, Houston Astros

The Crawford Boxes in left-center are so unique and odd that it makes Minute Maid Park special. The train on top of the boxes does the exact same thing, and in a cooler way. Right field is a little bland, but that's fine, especially with everything going on in left. Minute Maid could go for a top-three spot, but the infamous Tal's Hill is no longer apart of the field. 

       5. Angel Stadium, Los Angeles Angels

While Angel Stadium might not be as high on other people's lists as it is on mine, I've always loved it because of the rocks in left-center field, a really cool touch. While it may not be great for money, having no seats and instead having grass from left-center to center makes the park seem less major league, but more fun. Also, there is a hit it for $1 million can in the outfield. 

       4. PNC Park, Pittsburgh Pirates

While most people have it as number one, PNC Park is not there for me, but it is still amazing. The Roberto Clemente Bridge and the Allegheny River work as a great background. The field itself feels small, with little outfield seating, and it is very possible to hit a ball into the river. The very short wall in left makes robbing a home run easier, and that is always fun.

       3. Oracle Park, San Francisco Giants

While having four different names since opening in 2000 is not ideal, Oracle Park is the best stadium in the National League. While I'm not the biggest fan of left field, with the biggest thing to point out being a statue of a Coca-Cola bottle and a baseball glove, right field is where it makes it great. Triple alley is one of my favorite on-field quirks, and who could forget McCovey Cove, the body of water in right field that tops PNC Park's Allegheny River. 

       2. Fenway Park, Boston Red Sox

Our runner-up might have one of the smallest capacities, but it is possibly the coolest park. Fenway has the green monster in left field, which makes it top-five, easily. But, Fenway Park gets a higher ranking because of other things, like the odd configurationof the walls in center field. With the monster, the pesky pole is often overshadowed, but it helps odd home runs occur in right field. 

       1. Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore Orioles

While it would be best for the "Oriole Park at" part of the name to be dropped, Camden Yards is the best MLB stadium. The B&O warehouse trumps the buildings at Petco Park and other places, and it also is the border for a concourse on Eutaw Street that includes a standing room area in right field. Plus, "Boog's", a barbecue place in right-center field run by former MVP Boog Powell, is a great place to eat. 

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Washington Nationals 2020 Season Preview

From Getty Images

       The bullpen has become arguably the most important part of an MLB team. Teams have found a lot of success on the shoulders of a great bullpen, but the Washington Nationals proved that a bullpen isn't as necessary as we all thought. With a pretty thin relief core, the Nationals used their starters as relievers, and they won their first World Series. While they have improved on their weak points, it will be very hard to recreate the magic of last year after an awful start and an amazing comeback.

       Offseason additions: RHP Will Harris, 2B Starlin Castro, 1B Eric Thames, RHP Ryne Harper, LHP Sam Freeman.

       Offseason subtractions: 3B Anthony Rendon, 2B Brian Dozier, 1B Matt Adams, OF Gerardo Parra, RHP Hunter Strickland, LHP Matt Grace, RHP Jeremy Hellickson, RHP Fernando Rodney.

The Nationals have the best top-3 starters in the league. While he only made 27 starts last year, his least since his rookie year of 2008, Max Scherzer had another great season. He had a 2.92 ERA with 243 strikeouts in 172.1 innings, for a league leading 12.7 K/9. However, it was the first time since 2015 where Scherzer wasn't the league leader in strikeouts. His 1.027 WHIP also didn't lead the league for the first time since 2015. Scherzer finished 3rd in Cy Young voting, and he has finished top-5 for that award the last seven seasons. Scherzer's slider had a .168 wOBA against and a 50.6% whiff rate. Forced to choose between Stephen Strasburg and third baseman Anthony Rendon, both big ticket free agents, the Nationals brought back Strasburg, the first overall pick in 2009, giving him $245 million over seven years, while Rendon got the exact same contract from the Angels. Strasburg pitched a league leading 209 innings last year, with a 3.32 ERA and 251 strikeouts. With a 2.51 ERA and 14 strikeouts in 14.1 innings over two World Series starts, Strasburg brought home the title of World Series MVP. The Nationals signed Patrick Corbin to a six year deal before the season. Corbin finished 11th in Cy Young voting, with a 3.25 ERA and 238 strikeouts in 202 innings. Corbin allowed 7.5 hits per nine innings, but he had an 8.4 percent BB rate, his highest since 2016. Anibal Sanchez's first season with the Nationals saw him pitch in 166 innings, his most since 2013, but he struck out 134 batters for a 7.3 K/9, tied with his 2014 season for his lowest since 2010. Sanchez had a hard hit percentage against of 28.1%. After Joe Ross opted-out, the 5th starter competition was between Erick Fedde and Austin Voth. Fedde pitched in 78 innings last year, but he only struck out 41 batters with a 4.50 ERA. Voth pitched in 43.2 innings, but had more strikeouts than Fedde, with 44, and he had a 3.30 ERA.

Sean Doolittle lost closing privileges in the playoffs after the worst season of his career, but he should retain the job for 2020. Doolittle had a career high 29 saves last year, but he had a 4.05 ERA with 66 strikeouts in 60 innings. Doolittle's WHIP jumped exactly 700 points. He allowed an average exit velocity of 90.9 mph, after it was 84.4 mph in 2018. Daniel Hudson recorded the final out of the World Series, and he converted six saves in 24 regular season games after coming over from Toronto. For the Nats, Hudson had a 1.44 ERA and 23 strikeouts, plus a 0.880 WHIP. The Nationals signed Will Harris, who blew Game 7 of the World Series for Houston, allowing the Nationals to win. Harris had a 1.50 ERA in his age 34 season, a career best. He struck out 62 in 60 innings, with 26 of the Ks coming versus his curveball. That curve had a .151 average against. Tanner Rainey came over from the Reds for Tanner Roark before the season, and dominated strikeout-wise, with 74 Ks in 48.1 innings. Rainey had a 3.91 ERA and only allowed 32 hits, but somehow walked 38 batters. Rainey throws a fastball that can reach 100 miles per hour. Ryne Harper debuted for the Twins last year, four days after his 30th birthday. Harper was decent for Minnesota, with a 3.81 ERA and 50 Ks in 54.1 innings. Harper only walked 10 batters, for a 4.4% BB rate. Injured list placements put Roenis Elias and Wander Suero's statuses in question. The left-handed Elias had a 3.64 ERA with 14 saves for the Mariners last year before being traded to the Nats. Elias made just four appearances in Washington thanks to a hamstring strain. Roenis' change-up, sinker and curveball, combined for about 50% of his pitches, all had an average against under .200. Suero made 78 appearances out of the 'pen last year, and struck out 81 batters in 71.1 innings. While he had a 4.54 ERA, Suero's FIP of 3.07 was much better. Suero throws a cutter with a 2554 rpm average spin rate. After being claimed off of waivers in May, Javy Guerra pitched in 53.2 innings for the Nationals. Guerra had a 4.66 ERA with a 7.6 K/9 if you combined his Nationals stats and his stats with the Blue Jays early in the season. Sam Freeman has a very good chance of making the team as a non-roster invitee. While he only pitched in one game last year, Freeman struck out 58 batters in 50.1 innings in 2018, with a 4.29 ERA, and he has a 3.62 career ERA. In 2018, Freeman had a 2.4 barrel percentage.

Kurt Suzuki and Yan Gomes split catching duties last year, and Suzuki produced at the plate more, earning the job in the postseason. Suzuki hit 17 home runs with a .264 average plus an OPS of .809 in 2019, the first season of his second stint with the Nationals. Suzuki only struck out 11.7% of the time. Gomes, a native of Brazil, was an all-star in 2018, but he only had a .704 OPS last year, with 12 home runs. Gomes is quick to throw to second base, and will be one of the best back-up catchers in the league, although he will play more than a back-up.

Howie Kendrick won the Nationals the World Series. After a surprisingly great regular season, with a .344 average, a .966 OPS and 17 home runs (the first two were career highs, the home runs were his most since he hit 18 in 2011), Kendrick hit a Grand Slam against the Dodgers to win the NLDS, and a two-run home run against Harris to win Game 7. Kendrick has mostly played second base in his career, but he moved to first when Ryan Zimmerman was hurt. With Zimmerman opting-out of the season, Kendrick can split first base and DH with Eric Thames, signed from Milwaukee. Thames improved defensively last year, with two outs above average. He hit 25 home runs with an .851 OPS, which are both better than his 2018 numbers. Starlin Castro, who was coached by Manager Dave Martinez in Chicago, is the new second baseman. Castro just turned 30, but he already has over 1,600 hits. Castro played in all 162 games for the Marlins last year, and hit a career high 22 home runs with a .270 average. Castro has 11 outs above average between second base, third base and shortstop last year. Trea Turner might be the fastest player in baseball. In each of his five seasons, Turner has had a sprint speed of at leats 30 ft/s, at 30.3 last year. Turner stole 35 bases, and hit 19 home runs, with a .298 average plus an OPS of .850. With a .596 slugging against fastballs, Turner has become an ideal lead-off hitter. After Rendon left, Carter Kieboom will take over at third base. Kieboom, a natural shortstop, is the Nationals' top prospect and the 21st best prospect in baseball, per MLB Pipeline. Kieboom had an 11 game debut last year, although it was less than stellar, with a .128 average. For AAA Fresno, Kieboom had a .303 average, a .902 OPS and 16 home runs in 109 games. Veteran infielder Asdrubal Cabrera was the second baseman last year, but will move into a utility role. In 38 games after being released by Texas and signed by Washington, Cabrera hit six home runs with a .323 average and an OPS of .969. Cabrera had seven outs above average combined at three different positions. Wilmer Difo will make the team as a back-up infielder and speed threat. Difo had a 27.8 ft/s sprint speed last year, which was a decrease of 1.8 ft/s from 2016, which is a big gap.

The outfield from last year remains intact. Now entering his third season at age 21, Juan Soto hit 34 home runs with 110 RBIs, 12 stolen bases and a .949 OPS. Soto finished 9th in MVP voting, and helped Nats fans forget about Bryce Harper. Soto had an average exit velocity of 92 mph. Another former top prospect in Victor Robles also had a great season. While he wasn't spectactular at the plate, with 17 home runs and an OPS of .745, Robles stole 28 bases, and cemented himself as potentially the best defensive player in baseball, with a league leading 23 outs above average, 22 of them in center and one in right. However, Robles had an average exit velocity of only 83.3 mph. Adam Eaton, who the Nationals traded Cy Young candidate Lucas Giolito for back before the 2017 season, hit a career high 15 home runs with 15 stolen bases. Eaton hit .279 with a .792 OPS. Eaton has had an OPS+ of over 100 for six consecutive seasons. Michael A. Taylor played in only 53 games last year, his lowest since 2014. Taylor stole just six bases, with a .669 OPS. With a 29.1 ft/s sprint speed and two outs above average, Taylor is still a good fourth outfielder. Emilio Bonifacio has not played in the majors since 2017, but he can play all over the field, so his versatality is valuable. Bonifacio has played for eight teams in his eleven year career (including the Nationals, who he played for in 2008), with a .256 average and a .645 OPS. Andrew Stevenson can be used as a pinch-runner, and he had a 28.5 ft/s sprint speed last year. In 37 MLB Plate Appearances last year, Stevenson had a .953 OPS.

       Projected Opening Day Lineup
SS Trea Turner (R)
RF Adam Eaton (L)
LF Juan Soto (L)
DH Eric Thames (L)
2B Starlin Castro (R)
1B Howie Kendrick (R)
3B Carter Kieboom (R)
C Kurt Suzuki (R)
CF Victor Robles (R)

       Projected Rotation
Max Scherzer (R)
Stephen Strasburg (R)
Patrick Corbin (L)
Anibal Sanchez (R)
Austin Voth (R)

       Projected Bullpen
Sean Doolittle, closer (L)
Daniel Hudson (R)
Will Harris (R)
Tanner Rainey (R)
Roenis Elias (L)
Wander Suero (R)
Sam Freeman (L)
Ryne Harper (R)
Javy Guerra (R)
Erick Fedde (R)

       Projected Bench
C Kurt Suzuki (R)
IF Asdrubal Cabrera (S)
IF Wilmer Difo (S)
OF Michael A. Taylor (R)
UT Emilio Bonifacio (S)
OF Andrew Stevenson (L)

Baseball-Reference OOTP Simulator Stats
64-39 record, 1st in NL East
Most home runs: Juan Soto (30)
Highest batting average: Juan Soto (.345)
Highest OPS: Juan Soto (1.122)
Best ERA, starters: Max Scherzer (2.63)
Best ERA, relievers: Wander Suero (2.51)
Most innings pitched: Max Scherzer (143.2)
Most strikeouts: Max Scherzer (216)
Best K/9: Max Scherzer (13.5)

Record through 60 games, last five seasons:
2019: 27-33
2018: 35-25
2017: 38-22
2016: 36-24
2015: 31-29

The Nationals are really good. While their lineup isn't as deep as other teams, and their bullpen is not what you would call "amazing", their rotation makes up for it, and so do stars like Turner and Soto. The Nationals will finish 1st in the NL East in 2020, but get knocked out in the NLDS.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Toronto Blue Jays 2020 Season Preview

       In 2019, the Blue Jays entered the year just waiting for their top prospects to debut. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Cavan Biggio started that, and soon Bo Bichette joined. The Blue Jays were a bad team, as the lineup around them and the pitching staff struggled. In the offseason, the team went out and improved the rotation, and look more competitive than last year. Besides the 60-game season, 2020 will be a normal year for the Toronto Pittsburgh Blue Jays. Oh right, they also have to change their home ballpark.

       Offseason additions: LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu, RHP Tanner Roark, RHP Chase Anderson, 3B Travis Shaw, IF Joe Panik, RHP Shun Yamaguchi, RHP Anthony Bass, RHP AJ Cole, C Caleb Joseph, RHP Jake Petricka.

       Offseason subtractions: 1B Justin Smoak, RHP Derek Law, RHP Ryan Tepera, RHP Jason Adam, LHP Clayton Richard, RHP Justin Shafer.

Hyun-Jin Ryu will take over from Marcus Stroman as the ace of the staff after signing a four year, $80 million dollar contract for his age 33 season. Ryu is not a big strikeout pitcher, with only 163 Ks in 182.2 innings. But, he led the league with a 2.32 ERA in 29 starts for the Dodgers, and finished 2nd in Cy Young voting. Ryu, whose ERA was 1.45 after 22 starts, could have had a much better final number if not for two back-to-back starts against the Yankees and Diamondbacks where he allowed seven earned runs in each game in less than five innings. Ryu allowed an average exit velocity of 86.6 mph, plus a 4.7 barrel percentage and a BB% of just 3.3 percent. Matt Shoemaker returns from a torn ACL. The former Angel has never pitched in more than 160 innings over his seven year career, but he has a career 3.81 ERA. He was doing great before the injury last season, with a 1.57 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 28.2 innings over five starts. In his rookie season, Trent Thornton lead the team with 154.1 innings pitched. Thornton had a 4.84 ERA with 149 strikeouts and threw six different pitches. Thornton's slider had a 3089 rpm spin rate, and a .215 xBA against. Tanner Roark comes in a two year deal, after a career high 8.6 K/9 in a contract year. Roark pitched in 165.1 innings (averaging only 5.1 innings per start), his least since he was a part-time reliever in 2015. Roark's 36.7 groundball percentage was his lowest over the last five seasons. six-year veteran Chase Anderson was acquired from Milwaukee via trade. Anderson, who has a 3.94 mark in his career, finished with an ERA of 4.21 last year, striking out 124 in 139 innings. Anderson's change-up had a .188 average against with an average exit velocity against of 82.4 mph. The 8th best prospect in all of baseball, Nate Pearson, might not make the Opening Day roster, but he will be pitching for the Jays in 2020, especially if Anderson's recovery from an oblique injury takes a couple days longer than it is expected to. Pearson, who can easily hit over 100 miles per hour on the radar gun, had a 2.30 ERA in 101.2 innings while striking out 119 batters. Pearson will turn 24 in a month. Anthony Kay, the main return of the Stroman trade, can make the team out of the 'pen. Kay made three appearances last year, striking out 13 and allowing nine runs in 14 innings.

Ken Giles is almost a lock to get traded, unless the Blue Jays surprise everybody. Giles might have had his best season last year, and it was definitely his best since he was with the Phillies. Giles had a 1.87 ERA with 83 strikeouts in 53 innings and he completed 23 saves. To complement his fastball that can reach up to 100 miles per hour, Giles' slider had a 54.4% whiff rate, with a .190 slugging against. The Blue Jays will be Anthony Bass' 4th team in four years, and his sixth team since 2013, although Bass has never played for multiple teams in a single season. Claimed off of waivers from Seattle in October, Bass had a 3.56 ERA with five saves and 43 strikeouts in 48 innings for the Mariners. Bass' main pitch is his sinker, which helped his groundball rate rise up to 54.7%. The Blue Jays signed Rafael Dolis, who pitched for the Cubs from 2011 to 2013. Dolis spent last year in Japan, and for their Central League, completed 19 saves with a 2.11 ERA and 50 strikeouts in 55.1 innings. While the Blue Jays signed a Dominican who played in Japan, they also signed a Japanese player who played in Japan. Shun Yamaguchi was a starter overseas, unlike Dolis, but he will likely come out of the pen. Yamaguchi had a 2.78 ERA with 194 strikeouts in 181 innings last year. Canadian Jordan Romano was a Rule-5 pick by Chicago, who traded him to the Rangers, who returned him back to Toronto. Romano made his debut for the Blue Jays, and struck out 21 batters in 15.2 innings, but he allowed 13 earned runs for a 7.63 ERA. Romano had 53 strikeouts in 37.2 AAA innings. Sam Gaviglio was mainly a starter for Toronto in 2018, but solely came out of the bullpen last year. Gaviglio struck out 88 in 95.2 innings, with a 4.61 ERA. Gaviglio's main pitch is his slider, which allowed 11 home runs, but had a .183 average against. Lefty Ryan Borucki could come out of the bullpen. Elbow issues cost Borucki most of 2019 but he had a good rookie season of 2018, with a 3.87 ERA in 17 starts. Wilmer Font, currently on the IL for "undisclosed reasons", will likely join the team soon. Font played for three teams in 2018, and three teams in 2019, with only the Rays overlapping. In 23 games (14 starts) for the Blue Jays, most of the time as an opener, Font had a 3.66 ERA with 53 strikeouts in 39.1 innings. For the final spot, starters Thomas Hatch, Jacob Waguespack and Sean Reid-Foley can earn the spot, but AJ Cole, a non-roster invitee, is the favorite. Another reliever who can pitch multiple innings, Cole had a 3.81 ERA with 30 strikeouts in 26 innings for the Indians last year. Cole's slider had a 40.7% whiff rate last year.

Danny Jansen is the catcher of the future, and his rookie season could have gone worse. Jansen hit 13 home runs, which is nice, but he hit .207 with an OPS of .640, so there is a lot of room for improvements. Jansen only struck out 79 times in 107 games, which lead to an above average 20.6% K rate. His xBA of .242 shows that Jansen was unlucky at the plate. Reese McGuire, a 1st rounder by the Pirates in 2013, is still only 25, and just a few months older than Jansen. McGuire was successful in his 30 games last year, hitting .299 with five home runs and an .872 OPS. His left-handed bat can compliment Jansen well.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who entered the season as baseball's top prospect, had a decent rookie season, and a monster home run derby. At age 20, Guerrero hit 15 home runs with a .272 average and a .772 OPS. Guerrero, listed at 250 pounds, with a 26.2 ft/s sprint speed, was not a good defender at third base, so the Blue Jays are moving him to first. Guerrero had -14 outs above average last year. Guerrero could see a lot of time at DH as well, alternating with Rowdy Tellez. Tellez hit 21 home runs last year, but he struck out 119 times and only walked 29 times, leading to an OPS of .742. Tellez had a barrel percentage of 13.2%. Cavan Biggio finished 5th in Rookie of the Year voting, just one spot ahead of Guerrero. Biggio hit 16 home runs and stole 14 bases, while playing in less games than Guerrero. Biggio played first base and both corner outfield positions, but he was great defensively at second, with seven outs above average. While his late debut made him not get any Rookie of the Year votes, but he still lost rookie eligibility, Bo Bichette was the best Blue Jay to debut last year, based off of their 2019 stats. Bichette played in just 46 games, but he hit 11 home runs and stole four bases, while hitting .311 with a .930 OPS. Travis Shaw hit 31 home runs in 2017 and 32 in 2018, but was a bench bat for the Brewers last year, and could not hit. Shaw finished with a .157 average and an OPS of .551, while hitting only seven homers in 86 games. Former Gold Glove winner Joe Panik signed with the Jays in a back-up role. Panik had a .627 OPS for the Giants before being released and signed by the Mets. Panik improved in 39 games for New York, hitting .277 with two home runs. Over the last five years, Panik has struck out just 9.1% of the time. Brandon Drury can play multiple positions, and he hit 15 home runs last year. Currently on the IL for an "undisclosed reason", Drury can return soon. Drury had six outs above average at third last year, and five outs above average combined between six positions.

Lourdes Gurriel Jr. had a breakout season, and he may be the best outfielder on the team after moving from short to left field. Gurriel hit 20 home runs with six stolen bases, plus an average of .277 and an .869 OPS in 84 games. In his two year career, Gurriel has an average exit velocity of 90.7 mph. Randal Grichuk might always be known as the guy drafted directly before Mike Trout, but at least they were both Angels picks. Grichuk hit a career high 31 home runs last year. Under contract through 2023, Grichuk had six outs above average last year, and he hit .290 versus fastballs. In his second full season with Toronto, Teoscar Hernandez became the starting center fielder after Kevin Pillar was traded, and he hit a career high 26 home runs. Hernandez also had a .778 OPS, an improvement from 2018. Hernandez is really fast, with a 29.1 ft/s sprint speed. The two extra outfield spots are between many players, most notably Billy McKinney, Anthony Alford and Derek Fisher. In 33 career games, Alford has gone 8-for-55, and is the least experienced of the group. Fisher, once a top prospect with the Astros, hit six home runs in 40 games for the Jays last year,, but he had a .647 OPS. Fisher could have made the team after hitting two home runs in yesterday's summer camp game. McKinney played in 84 games last year, the most of the group. He hit 12 home runs with a .696 OPS.

        Projected Lineup
SS Bo Bichette (R)
2B Cavan Biggio (L)
1B Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (R)
RF Randal Grichuk (R)
3B Travis Shaw (L)
LF Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (R)
CF Teoscar Hernandez (R)
DH Rowdy Tellez (L)
C Danny Jansen (R)

        Projected Rotation
Hyun-Jin Ryu (L)
Matt Shoemaker (R)
Tanner Roark (R)
Trent Thornton (R)
Chase Anderson (R)
Nate Pearson (R)*
*The team might not have a six-man rotation, but Pearson will likely start until Anderson returns

        Projected Bullpen
Ken Giles (R)
Anthony Bass (R)
Rafael Dolis (R)
Sam Gaviglio (R)
Shun Yamaguchi (R)
Anthony Kay (L)
Ryan Borucki (L)
Wilmer Font (R)
Jordan Romano (R)
AJ Cole (R)

          Projected Bench
C Reese McGuire (L)
IF Joe Panik (L)
IF Brandon Drury (R)
OF Billy McKinney (L)
OF Derek Fisher (L)

Baseball-Reference OOTP Simulator Stats
40-63 record, 5th in AL East
Most home runs: Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (30)
Highest batting average: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (.291)
Highest OPS: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (.926)
Best ERA, starters: Nate Pearson (3.86)
Best ERA, relievers: Jordan Romano (5.07)
Most innings pitched: Hyun-Jin Ryu (119.2)
Most strikeouts: Nate Pearson (127)
Best K/9: Jordan Romano (13.3)

Record through 60 games, last five seasons
2019: 22-38
2018: 26-34
2017: 29-31
2016: 31-29
2015: 30-30

The Blue Jays are not supposed to make the playoffs this year. Realistically, they probably won't have a shot until 2022. While their young players progress and their rotation gets better, the Blue Jays will need to upgrade their bullpen before anything else. I predict they will finish in 4th place in the AL East, but the Blue Jays will catch up to the Red Sox.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Texas Rangers 2020 Season Preview

       The Texas Rangers might have had the best offseason out of any team this past year. They upgraded their rotation, sharpened their lineup, and even though an all-star from last year departed, the Rangers are serious playoff contenders, if their bullpen can hold up. Playing against good teams like the Astros, A's and Dodgers will hurt, but Texas is in the best position they've been in since 2016.

       Offseason additions: RHP Corey Kluber, RHP Kyle Gibson, C Robinson Chirinos, 3B Todd Frazier, RHP Jordan Lyles, LHP Joely Rodriguez, RHP Luis Garcia, RHP Derek Law, RHP Juan Nicasio, OF Rob Refsnyder, OF Adolis Garcia, 1B Greg Bird.

       Offseason subtractions: OF Hunter Pence, OF Nomar Mazara, OF Delino Deshields Jr., IF Logan Forsythe, RHP Shelby Miller, RHP Emmanuel Clase, LHP Jeffrey Springs, RHP Adrian Sampson.

The rotation is now the Rangers strength, as the team made one big trade and two free agent signings, after the squad only had two usable starters last year. Mike Minor led the league in pitching bWAR, at 7.7. After a mediocre first season in Texas, Minor had a 3.59 ERA with 200 strikeouts in 208.1 innings, and made his first all-star team. Minor has a fastball with a 2650 rpm spin rate, and his change-up had an average exit velocity against of 83.1 mph. Minor finished 8th in Cy Young voting, three spots behind teammate Lance Lynn. Like Minor, Lynn pitched in 208.1 innings, but Lynn struck out more batters, with 246 Ks. Lynn had a 3.67 ERA and a 1.219 WHIP, and his fastball had a whiff rate of 30.7%. Two-time Cy Young winner Corey Kluber comes over from Cleveland after fracturing his forearm seven starts into the season, and never returned. Kluber struck out 38 batters in 35.2 innings. In 2018, Kluber finished 3rd in Cy Young voting, with a 2.89 ERA and 222 strikeouts in a league leading 215 innings. Kluber had a 0.991 WHIP. Former first rounder Kyle Gibson had a very good 2018 season with Minnesota, but could not consistently perform in 2019, especially in the final two months. Gibson struck out 160 batters in 160 innings, with a 4.84 ERA. Gibson walks too many batters, with an 8.5 BB% over the last five batters. Jordan Lyles struggled with Pittsburgh last year, with a 5.36 ERA in 17 starts, before being traded to Milwaukee. With the Brewers, Lyles found a groove, striking out 56 in 58.2 innings, plus a 2.45 ERA. Combined, Lyles had a 4.15 ERA with a 9.3 K/9, which is good for a 5th starter.

Jose Leclerc was elite in 2018, with a 1.56 ERA. He had an awful start, with an 8.44 ERA 13 appearances in, costing him the closer job. Leclerc slowly lowered that as the year went on, finishing with a 4.33 ERA, and his first 100 strikeout season. Leclerc had 14 saves in 68.2 innings, with a .159 xBA in his career. He has a high-90s fastball with a 2655 rpm spin rate. Nick Goody was a good pitcher for Cleveland last year, finishing with a 3.54 ERA and 50 strikeouts in 40.2 innings. Goody only allowed 30 hits, and his slider had a 45% whiff rate. Jesse Chavez, a former starter that will be 37 years old by the end of the year, was very effective in '18 before a weak 2019. Chavez had a 4.85 ERA with 72 strikeouts in 78 innings, a year after a 2.55 ERA in 95.1 IP. Chavez's 88.1 mph average exit velocity was his best over the last five seasons. Joely Rodriguez returns to the majors after a successful stint in Japan. Rodriguez, who pitched for the Phillies from 2016-17, had a 1.64 ERA with 77 strikeouts in 60.1 innings. Rodriguez also had a 0.928 WHIP. Jonathan Hernandez, ranked as the club's 25th best prospect, debuted last year with a 4.32 ERA and 19 strikeouts in 16.2 innings. Hernandez nearly walked more batters (13) than hits allowed (14). Luke Farrell bounced from the Royals to the Reds to the Cubs in 2017 and 2018 before joining the Rangers four days into 2019. Farrell had a decent stint, with 12 strikeouts in 13.1 innings and a 2.70 ERA. Farrell's fastball had an average against of .136, and his slider was better, at .111. Lefty Brett Martin debuted in 2019, and pitched in 51 games. Martin struck out 61 batters in 61.2 innings, with a 4.76 ERA. Martin's best pitch is a slider thrown 34 percent of the time. Former Mets starter Rafael Montero returned from Tommy John surgery, and was a very good reliever, with a 2.48 ERA and 34 strikeouts in 29 innings, allowing 23 hits. Montero's average exit velocity was up exactly two miles per hour from 2017. Taylor Hearn can make the roster, although his MLB debut was not good, with four earned runs in 0.1 innings. Hearn has a 3.51 ERA with 395 strikeouts in 338 innings over his minor league career. Chris Martin, the best reliever for the Rangers last year, was traded at the deadline for Kolby Allard. The 14th overall pick in 2015, Allard had a 4.96 ERA in nine starts, with 33 strikeouts in 45.1 innings. Allard had a barrel percentage against of just 2.6%. Derek Law was a set-up man for the Blue Jays last year, and he can make the team as a non-roster invitee. Law had a 4.90 ERA with five saves and 67 strikeouts in 60.2 innings.

The Rangers brought back Robinson Chirinos, who was with the team from 2013 to 2018. Chirinos hit 17 home runs for Houston last year, with a .238 average and a .790 OPS. While he may not be the greatest defender, he is a big upgrade offensively over Jeff Mathis, who is still with the club as a back-up. Mathis has played in the league since 2005, and his a career average of .195 with an OPS of .433. Somehow, Mathis had his worst season in 2019. He hit under .200 for the 7th season, with a .158 average and a .433 OPS. Now 37 years old, Mathis has seen his pop-time get worse over the years, and it was at 2.13 seconds last year. The Rangers could carry a third catcher, and that would be Jose Trevino. Trevino is younger and could be a better hitter than Mathis, but he is still not a good hitter. Trevino hit .258 with an OPS of .655 in 51 MLB games last year.

The Rangers signed Todd Frazier, a veteran third baseman who will likely start out the season at first base to make room for younger players at third. Frazier, who spent the last two seasons with the Mets, hit 21 home runs with a .251 average and a .772 OPS. His OPS was actually higher than his OPS in 2016, when Frazier hit 40 home runs. Frazier hit .300 against fastballs, but was just 4-for-45 in at-bats ending versus off-speed pitches. Backing up Frazier is Ronald Guzman, a six-foot-five Dominican who is a good defender at first, with four defensive runs saved last year. Guzman hit 10 home runs with a .723 OPS. Guzman strikes out too much, with a K% of 28.8% in his two year career. Another player who strikes out too much is Rougned Odor, who led the league with 178 Ks last year. Odor hit 30 home runs, with 11 stolen bases, but a .205 average and .721 OPS. Odor had a 13.6 barrel percentage, and he is a decent defender, with four outs above average. Elvis Andrus is back for his 12th year in Texas. Andrus stole 31 bases last year, his most since 2013. Andrus also hit 12 home runs with a .275 average. Andrus had six outs above average at short last year. Isiah Kiner-Falefa has catching experience and he can start at third base. Kiner-Falefa had a .620 OPS last year, and he hit four home runs with a 1.167 OPS in Spring Training. Nick Solak was acquired from Tampa Bay midseason and made his MLB debut. In 33 games, Solak hit five home runs with a .293 average and an .884 OPS. Ranked as the team's fifth best prospect, Solak had an 11.1 BB%.

While Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Nelson Cruz and Pete Alonso are all great, Joey Gallo might be the best pure power hitter in baseball. Gallo hit at least 40 home runs in both 2017 and 2018, and while he only played in 70 games last year, he slugged out 22. Gallo had a career high .253 average and a .986 OPS. While his K rate of 38.4% was terrible, Gallo had an average exit velocity of 94.7 mph. Danny Santana was a huge surprise last year, as the utility player appeared in 130 games after playing in just 15 in 2018. Santana hit 28 home runs with 21 stolen bases, plus a .283 average and an OPS of .857. Santana had -3 outs above average combined at seven different positions, plus one out above average at each outfield spot. Willie Calhoun might not be healthy for Opening Day, but he should be back soon. Calhoun, the big return of the Yu Darvish trade in 2017, had a breakout season in 2019, hitting 21 homers with an OPS of .848. The 4th outfielder will be Scott Heineman, who debuted last year. Heineman played in 25 games, hitting two home runs with a .213 average and a .679 OPS. Shin-Soo Choo is a primary DH, but even at age 38, he can be a lead-off hitter. Choo hit 24 home runs with 15 stolen bases, plus an .826 OPS. Choo had an average exit velocity of 91.9 mph.

        Projected Lineup
DH Shin-Soo Choo
SS Elvis Andrus (R)
CF Danny Santana (S)
RF Joey Gallo (L)
1B Todd Frazier (R)
2B Rougned Odor (L)
LF Willie Calhoun (L)
C Robinson Chirinos (R)
3B Isiah Kiner-Falefa (R)

         Projected Rotation
Mike Minor (L)
Lance Lynn (R)
Corey Kluber (R)
Kyle Gibson (R)
Jordan Lyles (R)

         Projected Bullpen
Jose Leclerc (R)
Nick Goody (R)
Joely Rodriguez (L)
Jesse Chavez (R)
Luke Farrell (R)
Rafael Montero (R)
Brett Martin (L)
Taylor Hearn (L)
Derek Law (R)
Kolby Allard (L)
Jonathan Hernandez (R)

            Projected Bench
C Jeff Mathis (R)
C Jose Trevino (R)
1B Ronald Guzman (L)
IF Nick Solak (R)
OF Scott Heineman (R)

Baseball-Reference OOTP Simulator Stats
34-68 record, 5th in AL West
Most home runs: Joey Gallo (28)
Highest batting average: Elvis Andrus (.299)
Highest OPS: Joey Gallo (.851)
Best ERA, starters: Lance Lynn (4.36)
Best ERA, relievers: Rafael Montero (3.75)
Most innings pitched: Corey Kluber (122.1)
Most strikeouts: Lance Lynn (103)
Best K/9: Jordan Lyles (10.9)

Record through 60 games, last five seasons
2019: 32-28
2018: 24-36
2017: 28-32
2016: 37-23
2015: 31-29

The Rangers have a really good rotation. It is easily top-5 in the league. Their lineup isn't special, but it is good enough. The main thing keeping them from the playoffs is their bullpen, but if they improve on that in this coming offseason, then the Rangers will be a playoff team. Until then, they will be on the outside looking in. I predict a third place finish for the Rangers, and no playoff berth.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Tampa Bay Rays 2020 Season Preview

       The Rays have earned themselves a reputation around baseball thanks to their typical offseason. They acquire low-budget players, the players have a good year, the team is surprisingly good, and then they spend the next offseason trading the surprise players in deals that don't look too good on the surface. While the past year has seen that, the Rays come into 2020 stronger than ever, and actually favorites for the first time in a long time.

        Offseason additions: 1B/OF Jose Martinez, OF Hunter Renfroe, OF Manuel Margot, OF Yoshi Tsutsugo, LHP Aaron Loup, OF Randy Arozarena, C Kevan Smith, RHP Dylan Covey.

        Offseason subtractions: OF Tommy Pham, RHP Emilio Pagan, OF Avisail Garcia, C Travis d'Arnaud, RHP Austin Pruitt, 1B Jesus Aguilar, OF Guillermo Heredia, IF Eric Sogard, IF Matt Duffy.

After a Cy Young season that looked impossible to repeat, Blake Snell proved that his Cy Young 2018 season might have been impossible to repeat. Snell had elbow surgery, limiting him to 23 starts, and while he had a career high 12.4 K/9 (147 strikeouts in 107 innings), Snell had a 4.29 ERA. Snell's curveball had an improved whiff rate of 53.9%. While Snell was struggling, Charlie Morton had the best season of his career at age 35. Morton made his second all-star game, finishing with a 3.05 ERA and 240 strikeouts in 194.2 innings. Morton had a league best 0.7 HR/9 with a 1.084 WHIP. Morton's curveball had a .149 average against, and a 2886 rpm. Tyler Glasnow was in the midst of a breakout season when he went on the IL with forearm tightness in early May. He returned for September, and allowed two runs in 12.1 innings. Altogether, Glasnow had a 1.78 ERA with 76 strikeouts and a 0.890 WHIP in 60.2 innings. Glasnow's pitch with the highest average against was his curveball, at .191. Yonny Chirinos earned his way out of having an opener and got to start some games. In 26 games (18 starts), Chirinos had a 3.85 ERA with 114 strikeouts in 133.1 innings, and a 7.6 H/9. Chirinos walked just 5.3% of batters. Like Chirinos, Ryan Yarbrough has had someone open for him a lot. Yarbrough struck out 117 batters in 141.2 innings, with a 4.13 ERA. Yarbrough allowed an average exit velocity of 84.9 mph. After being acquired from Miami, Trevor Richards pitched in seven games, with a 1.93 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 23.1 innings. He had a 4.50 ERA in 112 innings for the Marlins. He could win out the 5th starter job, or go in the bullpen after openers.

While Diego Castillo and Jose Alvarado closed out games for the Rays last year, Nick Anderson is the player that will likely take over from Emilio Pagan, who was traded to San Diego. As a 28 year old rookie, Anderson came over from Miami in the same deal as Richards. He struck out 41 batters in 21.1 innings with a 2.11 ERA last year for Tampa Bay. Combined with his Marlins stats, Anderson had 110 strikeouts in 65 innings, for a 15.2 K/9. Anderson's curveball had a 52% whiff rate. Castillo, who had eight saves last year, struck out 81 batters in 68.2 innings, with a 3.41 ERA. Castillo throws a sinker with an average velocity over 98 miles per hour, and with excessive movement. Alvarado was hampered by injuries, pitching just 30 innings. Alvarado had 39 strikeouts and a 4.80 ERA. Alvarado's issue was that he lost his control, with an 18.5 BB%, 7.5% higher than his already high 2018 number. Journeyman Chaz Roe has found a home in Tampa Bay. He pitched in 71 games last year, 10 more than he did for the Rays in 2018, and he only got two more outs. Roe had a 4.06 ERA with 65 strikeouts for an 11.5 K/9. Roe has a career H/9 of 7.7, and a slider with a 2953 rpm spin rate. Lefty Colin Poche, who the Rays acquired in 2018 from Arizona in the Steven Souza Jr. three team deal, had 72 strikeouts in 51.2 innings. Poche had two saves, and allowed only 33 hits, for a 5.7 H/9. Poche had an xBA against of just .170. Oliver Drake pitched for five teams in 2018, but only one last year. Drake had a 3.21 ERA with 70 strikeouts in 56 innings. Drake is one of seven Rays with a K/9 over 11.0 last year. After being added to the 40-man roster, Aaron Loup is expected to make the team. Loup has appeared in at least 55 games in five different seasons, mainly for Toronto, although he only pitched in 3.1 innings last year. Loup has a career ERA of 3.45, with an 8.4 K/9. Don't be surprised if Loup throws to lefties more than 66% of the time. Andrew Kittredge allowed an average exit velocity of 86.9 mph last year, and allowed groundballs exactly half of the time. Kittredge had a 4.17 ERA with 58 strikeouts in 49.2 innings. Peter Fairbanks could make the team. Fairbanks debuted for the Rangers last year before being traded midseason to Tampa Bay. Combined, he struck out 28 in 21 innings with a 6.86 ERA. Jalen Beeks has starting experience and he can be a bulk guy. Beeks had a 4.31 ERA with 89 strikeouts in 104.1 innings last year.

The 3rd overall pick in 2012, Mike Zunino's first year in Tampa Bay was a disaster. He hit nine home runs, his lowest since 2013, and had a .165 average with a .544 OPS. Zunino is an above average defender. The big catching question with the Rays is about Zunino's backup, after Travis d'Arnaud departed. Michael Perez, and Kevan Smith are in a battle, although Perez has the advantage, and Smith can go on the three-man taxi squad. Perez, one of the few left handed hitting catchers, has played in 46 games over the last two seasons for Tampa Bay. He hit 13 home runs with an .833 OPS at AAA, and a .672 OPS at the major league level.

Ji-Man Choi became a fan favorite in Tampa Bay, as the 250 pound first baseman hit 19 home runs with a .261 average and an OPS of .822. He has the first base job, although Jose Martinez could see a lot of time there. While he will likely start on the bench, Martinez can play the corner outfield, and has a career average of .298 with an .821 OPS. He has a hard hit percentage of 41.1% in his career. Brandon Lowe made the all-star team, although a leg injury cost him the chance to play in the game and in most of the second half. Lowe hit 17 home runs in 82 games with five stolen bases, plus an .850 OPS, finishing 3rd in Rookie of the Year voting. Lowe isn't a great fielder, with -4 outs above average at second base. Willy Adames, who was acquired back in 2014 as an 18 year old in the David Price trade, hit 20 home runs, but only had a .317 OBP, causing his OPS to be low at .735. Adames only stole four bases, but at 28.3 ft/s, he has a good sprint speed. Yandy Diaz hits the ball hard, with an average exit velocity of 91.7 mph, both in 2019 and his career. He played in only 79 games, but hit 14 home runs, with a .267 average and an OPS of .816. Diaz's exit velocity against fastballs was 93.4 mph. Joey Wendle can play every infield position, besides first. After a good rookie season with a .300 average, Wendle hit just .231 with an OPS of .633, plus three home runs and eight stolen bases. Wendle has decent speed, with a 28.6 ft/s sprint speed. Daniel Robertson, a 1st rounder in 2012, has been a utility infielder for the Rays over the last three years. Robertson was good in 2018, with a .262 average and a .797 OPS, but he struggled in 2019. Robertson finished with a .213 average, plus a .607 OPS. The Rays might not keep Robertson, as he can be a right handed Wendle.

Austin Meadows might not be healthy, returning from COVID, and he will likely DH to start out the year. Meadows was great in 2019, hitting 33 home runs, 12 stolen bases, a .291 average and an OPS of .922. Meadows was an all-star, but he isn't a great defender, with -2 outs above average last year. The Rays traded Tommy Pham to San Diego for Hunter Renfroe, a trade that wasn't very well received. Renfroe hit a career high 33 home runs last year, but had a .216 average with 154 strikeouts. Renfroe is a good defender, with six outs above average. Kevin Kiermaier won his third Gold Glove, and hit 14 home runs with 19 stolen bases, but he isn't a great hitter. Kiermaier has a career OPS of .723. Kiermaier had a 29.4 ft/s sprint speed, and 17 outs above average. Yoshi Tsutsugo comes over from Japan, where he hit 29 home runs with an .899 OPS last year, although his numbers were worse than his previous two season. Tsutsugo can back-up Diaz at third, and play right field. Renfroe's ex-teammate, Manuel Margot, joins him in Tampa Bay, being acquired for Pagan. Margot is similar to Kiermaier, a player with good speed and gold glove potential. Margot hit 12 home runs with 20 stolen bases, plus a .691 OPS for San Diego. Margot had 10 outs above average. He is entering his 4th full season, and he is still only 25.

       Projected Lineup
DH Austin Meadows (L)
2B Brandon Lowe (L)
3B Yandy Diaz (R)
LF Hunter Renfroe (R)
RF Yoshi Tsutsugo (L)
1B Ji-Man Choi (L)
SS Willy Adames (R)
CF Kevin Kiermaier (L)
C Mike Zunino (R)

       Projected Rotation
Blake Snell (L)
Charlie Morton (R)
Tyler Glasnow (R)
Yonny Chirinos (R)
Ryan Yarbrough (L)

       Projected Bullpen
Nick Anderson, closer (R)
Diego Castillo (R)
Jose Alvarado (L)
Chaz Roe (R)
Colin Poche (L)
Oliver Drake (R)
Trevor Richards (R)
Jalen Beeks (L)
Andrew Kittredge (R)
Aaron Loup (L)
Peter Fairbanks (R)

       Projected Bench
C Michael Perez (L)
1B/OF Jose Martinez (R)
IF Joey Wendle (L)
IF Daniel Robertson (R)
OF Manuel Margot (R)

Baseball-Reference OOTP Simulator Stats:
51-50 record, 2nd in AL East
Most home runs: Hunter Renfroe (21)
Highest batting average: Yandy Diaz (.327)
Highest OPS: Yandy Diaz (.851)
Best ERA, starters: Blake Snell (3.36)
Best ERA, relievers: Jose Alvarado (0.88)
Most innings pitched: Charlie Morton (122.1)
Most strikeouts: Blake Snell (147)
Best K/9: Nick Anderson (15.3)

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

The Rays aren't underrated anymore. Sure, they have some underrated players, but the baseball world has accepted the Rays as a very good team. Their bullpen might be top-3 in the league, they have three really good starters and their lineup is good. The Rays will make the playoffs in 2020, as a Wild Card team, finishing 2nd in the AL East behind the Yankees.

St. Louis Cardinals 2020 Season Preview

       The Cardinals had a big offseason entering 2019, and acquired themselves a six-time all-star, and they still weren't the favorites to win the NL Central. Now, the Cardinals have some separation in the division after an NLCS visit, but it is still a long way from the end of the season, and the Cards could easily regress.

       Offseason additions: IF Brad Miller, OF Austin Dean, LHP Kwang-hyun Kim

       Offseason subtractions: OF Marcell Ozuna, OF Jose Martinez, RHP Michael Wacha, IF Yairo Munoz, RHP Dominic Leone, OF Randy Arozarena, LHP Chase Shreve.

The best part of the season last year for the Cardinals might have been Jack Flaherty's transformation into a bona fide ace. Flaherty had a 4.17 ERA entering the final two months of the season, but he had a 0.71 ERA in August, and a 0.82 ERA in September to lower his final ERA to 2.75 on the year, finishing 4th in Cy Young voting. Flaherty led the league with a 0.968 WHIP and a 6.2 H/9, and he had 231 Ks in 196 innings. Flaherty's slider had a .153 xBA against, plus a whiff rate of 46.1%. After signing a four year, $68 million extension, Miles Mikolas regressed, as he allowed seven more hits than he did in 2018, but pitched in 16.2 less innings. Mikolas went from leading the NL in wins with 18 in 2018 to leading the league in losses with 14 in 2019. His ERA also dropped off from 2.83 to 4.16. Mikolas struck out 144 batters in 184 innings pitched. Mikolas has a career BB% of just 3.9 percent. Dakota Hudson had a very good rookie season, finishing 5th in NL Rookie of the Year voting, with a 3.35 ERA and 136 strikeouts in 174.2 innings. Hudson does have a walk issue, allowing a league-high 86 base on balls in 2019. Adam Wainwright is back for his 15th season as a Cardinal. Wainwright's 2019 might have been his best season since he was a Cy Young finalist in 2014. Wainwright, who will turn 39 during the season, had a 4.19 ERA with 153 strikeouts in 171.2 innings, although his 1.2 HR/9 was the highest of his career. Wainwright's infamous curveball is still potent, and while it had an improved 2749 rpm spin rate, it got less swing-and-misses (percentage, not total number) and had a worse average than it did in Wainwright's eight starts in 2018. The Cardinals could move Carlos Martinez back to starter, without a definitive 5th starter, but he is needed at closer after Jordan Hicks opted out. However, they signed Japanese veteran Kwang-Hyun Kim to a two-year deal, and Kim will likely win out the job. Kim, who will be 32 by Opening Day, had a 2.51 ERA with 180 strikeouts in 190.1 innings for the SK Wyverns, his KBO team since he was 18.

The pen was St. Louis' strong point in 2019, although after Jordan Hicks opted-out and John Brebbia had Tommy John surgery, it has been weakened. Martinez is the best option to close, and he did so while Hicks was out for a good portion of 2019. Last year was the first year in that Martinez did not start in a game in his seven year MLB career. Martinez had a 3.17 ERA, and struck out 53 batters in 48.1 innings, and made 24 saves. Martinez's fastball was up to an average of 96.6 mph, his highest since 2016. Giovanny Gallegos made the Luke Voit trade not as bad last year, becoming a set-up man with a 2.31 ERA and 93 strikeouts in 74 innings. Gallegos also had a 0.811 WHIP, and while he may not be ready for Opening Day after COVID-related concerns, Gallegos will be welcomed, especially after a season with a .187 xBA against. Andrew Miller has closing experience with the Yankees and saved six games last year, so he could be an option to close if Martinez starts. Miller's 1st season with the Cardinals was his worst since 2011. He had an ERA of 4.45 with 70 strikeouts, and he also allowed a career high 11 home runs. It was the first time in his career where Miller was often used as a one-out reliever, pitching in 54.2 innings despite appearing in 73 games. Miller had an xSLG of .288 over the past five years. The Cardinals moved John Gant to the bullpen full-time, and he had another successful season, with a 3.66 ERA and 60 strikeouts in 66.1 innings. Gant's 6.9 H/9 and 8.1 K/9 were both improvements on his previous two seasons in St. Louis. He had a barrel allowed percentage of just 2.9%. Tyler Webb continued his strong end to 2018 with a nice 2019, pitching in a career high 55 innings, with a 3.76 ERA and 48 strikeouts. Webb allowed an average exit velocity of just 86.6 mph. Ryan Helsley, a 26 year old with a fastball averaging nearly 98 miles per hour, debuted in 2019, with a 2.95 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 36.2 innings. Helsley's fastball had a 2509 rpm spin rate last year. Daniel Ponce de Leon has started games for the Cardinals over the last two seasons, but he will come out of the bullpen in 2020. Ponce de Leon had a 3.70 ERA with 52 strikeouts in 48.2 innings in 13 games (eight starts). Batters were 1-for-17 in at-bats ending with Ponce de Leon's curveball. Lefty Brett Cecil missed all of 2019 with a wrist injury. While Cecil was productive from 2013 to 2017, his 2018 was his worst year, finishing with a 6.89 ERA and 19 strikeouts in 32.2 innings. Even then Cecil's fastball velocity was under 90 miles per hour, and it is even more concerning now. Another lefty who did not pitch in the majors last year is Austin Gomber. In 29 games (11 starts) in 2018, Gomber had a 4.44 ERA with 67 strikeouts in 75 innings. In the minors last year, Gomber was limited to just 11 starts due to injury, but he did strike out 52 batters in 45.1 innings. Junior Fernandez is ranked as the club's 10th best prospect. Fernandez debuted last year, with 16 strikeouts in 11.2 innings, allowing seven earned runs. Fernandez had 80 strikeouts with a 1.52 ERA in 65 innings in the minor leagues last season. Genesis Cabrera and Alex Reyes are both unlikely to be healthy for Opening Day, but should return soon. Cabrera, who is just ahead of Fernandez as MLB Pipeline's 9th best Cardinal prospect, throws a high-90s fastball and made his debut last year, even after a disappointing AAA season. Reyes was once a top prospect in the major leagues, but multiple injuries have led to Reyes pitching in seven major league innings over the past three years. Reyes was awful in his short AAA stint last year before getting hurt again, with a 7.39 ERA in 28 innings. Almost 26 years old, time is running out for Reyes to be the elite pitcher he was projected to be.

Yadier Molina is still a big part of the Cardinals team. While he has only hit 20 home runs twice and has a career .738 OPS, Molina is a nine-time all-star, because he has won nine Gold Gloves. Entering his 17th MLB season, the future for Yadi is uncertain, as he is a free agent after the season, but the Cardinals will bring him back if he wants to play, and the catcher who has never played in under 110 games (not counting 2004, when he wasn't called up until June) will want to play. Molina hit .270 with 10 home runs last year, and even stole six bases. Molina struck out just 12.8% of the time. Prospect Andrew Knizer will likely take over the backup job eventually, but for now, Matt Wieters still has it locked down. In his first year with the Cardinals, the four time all-star hit 11 home runs in 67 games.

Paul Goldschmidt's first season with the Cardinals can be seen as a disappointment. Goldschmidt did hit 34 home runs, but for the first time since 2012 he was not an all-star. Goldschmidt's 78 walks were his lowest since his 109 game 2014, and he saw a 30 point drop-off in batting average, down to .260, and his OPS of .821 was a 101 point difference from his 2018 mark. It isn't too concerning yet, and Goldschmidt is still a really good defensive first baseman, with five outs above average. Kolten Wong finally showed what the Cardinals were looking for over the past five years. Wong hit 11 home runs with 24 stolen bases, plus a .285 average and a .784 OPS. Wong repeated his 11 outs above average from 2018, and won his first Gold Glove. Wong doesn't hit the ball hard, with an average exit velocity of 86.2 mph last year. Paul DeJong hit 30 home runs, and most people did not notice. That could be due to the fact that DeJong didn't have any other stats that really stood out, with a .318 OBP, and a .762 OPS. Like Goldschmidt and Wong, DeJong is a great defender, with 13 outs above average, a major improvement from his -5 in 2018. Matt Carpenter has showed his flexibility over the years, moving from second base to third base, to first base and then back to third. Carpenter regressed offensively after a 36 home run 2018, finishing with only 15, plus a .226 average and an OPS of .726. Carpenter's six stolen bases last year was a career high. Carpenter has always walked a lot, with a 14.4 BB% over the past five years. Although he is a good fielder like the other Cardinals infielders, Carpenter could see time at DH with utility infielder Tommy Edman needing a spot in the lineup. Edman had a very successful rookie season, with 11 home runs, 15 stolen bases, a .304 average and an .850 OPS in 92 games. Edman had five outs above average combined, mostly between second and third base, plus right field. Edman had a great sprint speed of 29.4 ft/s. Veteran infielder Brad Miller hit 13 home runs with an .894 OPS for the Indians and Phillies last year, and he can play all four infield positions, and probably the outfield if the Cardinals need him to. Miller had an average exit velocity of 92.6 mph last year. The final spot is between Rangel Ravelo and Edmundo Sosa. Ravelo could replace Jose Martinez as the power hitting pinch hitter. Ravelo, who can also play first base, hit two home runs in 29 games last year. Ravelo hit 12 home runs with a .299 average and an .856 OPS in AAA. For two weeks, he could be more valuable than Sosa, an infielder who has played in the MLB in the last two years, but has made just 10 at-bats. Sosa hit 17 home runs with an .801 OPS for AAA Memphis.

After an awful 2018, with a .180 average in 90 games, Dexter Fowler rebounded, hitting a career high 19 home runs, with eight stolen bases, his most in his three years in St. Louis. Fowler had a .754 OPS, and -1 DRS, an improvement from the last two seasons. Harrison Bader is a good defender, with 14 defensive runs saved in center field last year. At the plate, Bader was below average, with an OPS of .680. He hit 12 home runs with 11 stolen bases. Tyler O'Neill has great AAA numbers, but he has never been a great MLB player. In 60 games last year, O'Neill hit five home runs with a .262 average and an OPS of .723. He is fighting with Lane Thomas for the starting left field job, and O'Neill could also see time at third base. Thomas debuted in 2019, and was a pleasant surprise, playing all three outfield positions, and hitting .316 with an OPS of 1.093. Thomas is younger than O'Neill by almost exactly two months. The Cardinals acquired Austin Dean from Miami during the offseason. Dean hit six home runs with a .665 OPS. Dean has been great at the AAA level, hitting 18 home runs with a .337 average and a 1.036 OPS in 73 games for New Orleans last year.

       Projected Opening Day Lineup
2B Kolten Wong (L)
SS Paul DeJong (R)
1B Paul Goldschmidt (R)
DH Matt Carpenter (L)
RF Dexter Fowler (S)
C Yadier Molina (R)
LF Lane Thomas (R)
3B Tommy Edman (R)
CF Harrison Bader (R)

       Projected Rotation
Jack Flaherty (R)
Miles Mikolas (R)
Dakota Hudson (R)
Adam Wainwright (R)
Kwang-Hyun Kim (L)

       Projected Bullpen
Carlos Martinez (R)
Giovanny Gallegos (R)
Andrew Miller (L)
John Gant (R)
Tyler Webb (L)
Ryan Helsley (R)
Daniel Ponce de Leon (R)
Austin Gomber (L)
Brett Cecil (L)
Junior Fernandez (R)
Genesis Cabrera (L)

       Projected Bench
C Matt Wieters (S)
IF Brad Miller (L)
1B Rangel Ravelo (R)
OF Tyler O'Neill (R)
OF Austin Dean (R)

Baseball-Reference OOTP Simulator Stats
60-41 record, 1st in NL Central
Most home runs: Paul DeJong (21)
Highest batting average: Tommy Edman (.317)
Highest OPS: Paul DeJong (.854)
Best ERA, starters: Jack Flaherty (2.70)
Best ERA, relievers: Ryan Helsley (2.89)
Most innings pitched: Jack Flaherty (130.0)
Most strikeouts: Jack Flaherty (170)
Best K/9: Jack Flaherty (11.8)

Record through 60 games, last five seasons:
2019: 31-29
2018: 33-27
2017: 28-32
2016: 32-28
2015: 39-21

The Cardinals' bullpen is what got them to the playoffs last year, with Jack Flaherty in the rotation being an automatic win for the final two months. The defense helped them as well, but the lineup and the end of the rotation is what lost them games. The rotation, now with Kim, is more complete after Michael Wacha brought it down. The lineup isn't much better, but it is serviceable, and almost everyone can be a starter or at least a bench player on every team. The Cardinals will dominate a weakened NL Central, but fall in the NLDS to the Dodgers.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Seattle Mariners 2020 Season Preview

From Getty Images
       After many years of falling short of ending their playoff drought, the Seattle Mariners decided to blow up again after 2018. James Paxton, Edwin Diaz, Robinson Cano, Mike Zunino, Jean Segura, and Alex Colome were all traded, while Nelson Cruz walked. Some of those trades, specifically the Diaz and Cano deal, seem to have worked out so far, but it has left the Mariners as a bottom-five team in baseball. After a surprisingly quiet offseason from General Manager Jerry Dipoto, known to make many deals, the Mariners enter 2020 in a similar spot as in 2019, looking to hand off roster spots to the future. 

       Offseason additions: RHP Yoshihisa Hirano, RHP Kendall Graveman, RHP Taijuan Walker, RHP Taylor Williams, LHP Nestor Cortes Jr., IF Sam Haggerty, LHP Nick Margevicius.

       Offseason subtractions: C Omar Narvaez, OF Domingo Santana, IF Tim Beckham, RHP Felix Hernandez, IF Ryon Healy, LHP Tommy Milone, RHP Anthony Bass, RHP Connor Sadzeck, LHP Wade LeBlanc, RHP Sam Tuivailala.

The Mariners will be going with a six-man rotation for 2020, with only one pitcher that the Mariners can rely on. Marco Gonzales had 29 decisions last year, something that you don't see in baseball often anymore. Gonzales was top-10 in wins (16) and losses (13) Gonzales had a 3.99 ERA with only 147 strikeouts in 203 innings, and finishing with 210 hits allowed. In his career, Gonzales has walked just 5.7% of batters. Yusei Kikuchi was a big get for Seattle after he posted a 3.04 ERA in Japan. Kikuchi was disappointing in his first North American season, finishing with an ERA of 5.46 with 116 strikeouts in 161.2 innings, one out away from qualifying for the ERA title. The now-29-year-old got hit hard, and his fastball had a slugging against of .622. The Mariners brought back Taijuan Walker, who came all the way back from Tommy John surgery to make one start for Arizona at the end of the year, acting as an opener. In his last full season of 2017, Walker had a career year, with a 3.49 ERA and 146 strikeouts in 157.1 innings. Walker was a first round pick, drafted by the Mariners, and spent his first four major league seasons in Seattle. Another pitcher returning from Tommy John surgery is Kendall Graveman. Graveman was under contract with the Cubs last year, but never made it back to the majors. In parts of five seasons for the A's and Blue Jays, Graveman has a 4.38 ERA with only 286 strikeouts in 446 innings (5.8 K/9). The main return for Paxton was Justus Sheffield. Sheffield, who debuted for the Yankees in 2018 but really got a shot in 2019, struck out 37 batters in 36 innings, but that was his best stat. Sheffield had a 5.50 ERA, and spent most of the year in the minors, and even went back to AA for a stint. Justin Dunn was part of the Diaz and Cano trade, and he had a more positive debut. Dunn made four starts, although he only pitched in 6.2 innings, allowing two runs for a 2.70 ERA and five Ks. Dunn had a 3.55 ERA and a 10.8 K/9 in 25 AA starts. 

After Roenis Elias was traded to Washington at the trade deadline, the new full-time closer could be Yoshihisa Hirano, although a positive COVID test likely means that he will not make Opening Day. Hirano struck out 61 batters in 53 innings for Arizona last year, but had a 4.75 ERA, regression from his 2.44 mark in '18. The Japanese Hirano is entering his third MLB season, at age 36. He had a 39.6% whiff rate on his split finger last year, a pitch with a spin rate of 1271 rpm. After coming over from Minnesota for cash, Matt Magill had five saves in 22 games for Seattle, with 28 strikeouts and a 3.63 ERA. Magill has a career average exit velocity of 90.6 miles per hour, which is not good. He could be the best returning Mariner reliever. Austin Adams allowed just 20 hits in 31 innings, and struck out a whopping 51 batters, putting him in contention for the closer role. Adams also had a 3.77 ERA for the M's. Adams wields a fastball that had an average spin rate of 2601 rpm. Dan Altavilla has pitched in parts of the last four seasons for the Mariners, with a combined ERA of 3.63. Last year was his weakest year of the four, with a 5.52 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 14.2 innings. Altavilla has a career K/9 of 9.8. In his rookie season Brandon Brennan pitched in 47.1 innings, the most among returning Mariners relievers. Brennan had 47 Ks, with a 4.56 ERA. Brennan allowed just 34 hits, although he had very high 4.6 BB/9. Carl Edwards Jr., who had a 3.30 ERA in five seasons with the Cubs, comes to Seattle after an awful 2019. Combined for Chicago and San Diego, Edwards struck out 19 batters in 17 innings, but had an 8.47 ERA. Edwards allowed more walks (13) than hits (12). Left-hander Nestor Cortes Jr. was a bulk pitcher (the pitcher that follows an opener) for the Yankees last year, and was doing well, with a 4.18 ERA in early August. He struggled throughout the rest of the month and September, and finished with a 5.67 ERA and 69 strikeouts in 66.2 innings. Cortes' downfall was his 16 home runs allowed. Another former Yankee prospect, Erik Swanson, has flexibility as he can start. In 58 innings last year, Swanson had a 5.74 ERA and 52 strikeouts. Swanson only allowed 56 hits, but 17(!) of them were home runs. Taylor Williams was productive for the Brewers in 2018, with a 4.25 ERA in 53 innings. He spent most of 2019 in the minors, as he couldn't keep up with the big league club, with an ERA of 9.82 in 14.2 innings. Williams was good in AAA, with a 2.83 ERA and 57 strikeouts in 54 innings, plus a 6.7 H/9. Taylor Guilbeau had a 1.054 WHIP in his debut. As a lefty, Guilbeau pitched just 12.1 innings despite appearing in 17 games, and struck out just seven batters. Guilbeau finished with a 3.65 ERA.

Former Rockies top catching prospect Tom Murphy was acquired from San Francisco days into the season, and appeared in a career high 75 games. Murphy hit 18 home runs, with a .273 average and an OPS of .858. Murphy is one of two returning players who had an OPS of at least .800 last year, and the other player played in just 18 games. Austin Nola, the older brother of Phillies ace Aaron Nola, played a lot of first base last year, but will be the backup catcher after Omar Narvaez was traded to Milwaukee. In 79 games, four more than Murphy, Nola hit 10 home runs, with a .269 average and a .796 OPS, a pleasant surprise for Seattle as a 29 year old rookie.

Like players including Jon Singleton and Scott Kingery before him, Evan White signed a multi-year contract before his first MLB game for a quicker route to the major leagues. The 17th overall pick in 2017, White made MLB Pipeline's all defense team at first base. White, who spent all of 2019 at AA, hit 18 home runs with a .293 average and an OPS of .838. He is ranked as Seattle's 4th best prospect, and the 56th best prospect in the league. Shed Long, acquired in the Sonny Gray deal between the Yankees and Reds that the Mariners had no business being in, will take over the starting second base job from Dee Gordon. Long hit five home runs with three stolen bases and a .787 OPS in 42 games, plus a .795 OPS at AAA, his first year at both levels. Other young player acquired from the previous offseason, JP Crawford took over at shortstop from Jean Segura, whom Crawford was traded for. Crawford hit seven home runs with five stolen bases and a .684 OPS. At age 25, 2020 is a big year for Crawford, who was drafted in the 1st round all the way back in 2013, and has a .222 average and a .687 OPS in a three year MLB career. Kyle Seager has been very consistent in his career, and he has only been with one team. Seager has hit at least 20 home runs in each of the past eight seasons, hitting 23 in just 106 games last year, the games played being his lowest amount since 2011, his rookie season. Seager had three defensive runs saved last year, at 24 in his career. Dee Gordon, still only 32 years old, will embrace being a backup to young players like Long and Crawford, and he can be a 4th or 5th outfielder. Gordon stole 22 bases last year, his lowest 2013, a season that was only 38 games long for Gordon. Gordon, who has stolen 330 bases in his career, can be a pinch-runner, especially in extra-inning games, when runners start on second base. Gordon's sprint speed has decreased, down to 28.5 ft/s last year. Dylan Moore isn't guaranteed to make the team after appearing in 113 games last year. Moore hit nine home runs and stole 11 bases, and played all three outfield and all four infield positions. Dan Vogelbach can play first base, but will be the normal DH, and could also be traded. Vogelbach hit 30 home runs and made the all-star team, but he had a weak batting average of .208 and a .780 OPS. Vogelbach's OPS is only that high thanks to a 16.5 BB%.

With Mitch Haniger potentially out for the season, Mallex Smith is the lone veteran of the outfield. Both have played in four MLB seasons so far. Like Gordon, Smith is very fast, with a league leading 46 stolen bases in 2019. Smith hit six home runs, two more than Gordon has ever hit in a season. Smith's average dropped from .296 in 2018 to .227 in 2019, a 69 point drop. Smith had a 29.4 ft/s sprint speed with 10 outs above average last year. Kyle Lewis is the only other returning player with an OPS over .800, along with Murphy. The 10th best prospect in the Mariners' system, the 11th overall pick in 2016 hit .268 with six home runs in 18 games last year, after a disappointing AA season. The 9th best prospect in the system, Jake Fraley, could start as the 4th outfielder, competing with Tim Lopes for the left field spot. Fraley went 6-for-40 in his MLB stint last year, and hit 19 home runs with 22 stolen bases and a .910 OPS. Like Lewis and Fraley, Tim Lopes debuted in 2019, stealing six bases in 41 games. Lopes hit .270 with a .720 OPS. Lopes can also play second base. Non-roster invitee Jose Marmolejos could make the team as a back-up first baseman and an outfielder. Marmolejos, who was in the Nationals' system from 2011 to 2019, hit 18 home runs with a .315 average and a .909 OPS in the minors last year, mostly in AAA.

       Projected Opening Day Lineup
CF Mallex Smith (L)
SS JP Crawford (L)
3B Kyle Seager (L)
DH Dan Vogelbach (L)
C Tom Murphy (R)
RF Kyle Lewis (R)
1B Evan White (R)
LF Jake Fraley (L)
2B Shed Long (L)

       Projected Rotation
Marco Gonzales (L)
Yusei Kikuchi (L)
Taijuan Walker (R)
Kendall Graveman (R)
Justus Sheffield (L)
Justin Dunn (R)

       Projected Bullpen
Yoshihisa Hirano, closer (R)
Austin Adams (R)
Matt Magill (R)
Dan Altavilla (R)
Brandon Brennan (R)
Taylor Williams (R)
Nestor Cortes Jr. (L)
Carl Edwards Jr. (R)
Erik Swanson (R)
Taylor Guilbeau (L)

       Projected Bench
C Austin Nola (R)
IF Dee Gordon (L)
IF Dylan Moore (R)
UT Tim Lopes (R)
1B/OF Jose Marmolejos (L)

Baseball-Reference OOTP Simulator Stats:
58-43 record, 3rd in AL West
Most home runs: Shed Long (24)
Highest batting average: Shed Long (.273)
Highest OPS: Shed Long (.861)
Best ERA, starters: Marco Gonzales (2.80)
Best ERA, relievers: Dan Altavilla (3.28)
Most innings pitched: Marco Gonzales (141.1)
Most strikeouts: Yusei Kikuchi (115)
Best K/9: Erik Swanson (15.2)

Record through 60 games, last five seasons:
2019: 25-35
2018: 38-22
2017: 30-30
2016: 33-27
2015: 27-33

The Mariners are the one bad team in the AL West. The Astros are still really good, and the A's have some stars as well. The Angels have Mike Trout, and that's enough (they also have Anthony Rendon, and that's good, too). The Rangers might have a top-5 rotation in the major leagues. The Mariners are falling behind, but they could be good in 2-3 years. The Mariners will not be good in 2019, however, and finish last in the AL West.