Friday, May 19, 2017

Should the Red Sox trade for Josh Donaldson?

The idea of the Blue Jays trading Josh Donaldson has banged around the internet a lot since the Jays went 8-17 in April and find themselves in the basement of the AL east. While the Jays have been decimated by injuries and almost assuredly will play better baseball once their studs get back in the lineup and rotation, at this point their hole is probably too big.

CBS' Jonah Keri wrote this piece today to present The Case for Trading Donaldson. Here are the highlights:

  • Donaldson is 31 years old, well on the other side of the 22-26 year old peak we typically see in position players in today's MLB
  • Donaldson will be a free agent after the 2018 season. If a team trades for him now, they will control him for the rest of this season and all of next, meaning the Jays will get more in return for him now than they would at this year's winter meetings or at the trade deadline in 2018 
  • Donaldson's defensive ratings have slipped every year from 2014 to 2016 - he was the best defensive 3B in the majors in 2014, and has slipped down to 14th in 2016
  • There happens to be a lot of contenders with holes at 3B - the Cardinals, Red Sox, Yankees, and Astros to name four, depending on how you feel about Alex Bregman and his shaky defense in 2017. There would be great demand for Donaldson right now, driving up his price
So those are the reasons why the Blue Jays should explore trading Josh Donaldson, but why would teams be willing to pay a hefty price for him? Consider the following:
  • Donaldson was the AL MVP in 2015, when he hit 41 homers with 123 RBI. He followed that up with 37 homers and 99 RBI in 2016. In short, he's one of the three best position players in the American League
  • Using the ISO stat, which is a stat which attempts to measure pure hitting power (it's basically slugging percentage with the singles taken out, or the number of doubles, triples, and homers hit per AB), Donaldson was the 8th most powerful hitter in the majors in 2015 and the 10th most powerful in 2016 (for the record, David Ortiz, in his final season, led the majors in ISO by 27 points!!!)
  • The guy can mash it, he's still a perfectly adequate 3B, and by all accounts he's a great clubhouse guy
  • For the Red Sox, here's a quick rundown of the bWAR of all the players they've run out there at 3B this year: Pablo Sandoval (-0.5), Marco Hernandez (0.2), Brock Holt (-0.2), Josh Rutledge (-0.1), and Deven Marrero (0.1). That's a total of -0.5. This all a fancy way of confirming what anybody who has watched the Red Sox 3B play this year: they're running out a parade of stiffs even worse than the typical 4A player. We need a third-sacker.
So what would it take to get the 2015 MVP onto the Red Sox? Well, a lot. The Blue Jays are in an interesting position with a bunch of aging veterans heading towards free agency. They might go for a full rebuild, but they're more likely to want major-league-ready prospects in return. The Red Sox have quite a few players in that mold - Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr, Eduardo Rodriguez, Blake Swihart, and Mookie Betts to name five. Of course, any package for Donaldson will include talks on Rafael Devers, Jason Groome, and Sam Travis. I see two options:
  • 1. A package headed by Devers that unloads just about every remaining prospect in the Red Sox system
  • 2. Two out of the following three: Bradley Jr, Swihart, Rodriguez, plus a couple lower-level prospects
Would Jackie Bradley Jr, Blake Swihart, and two lesser prospects be enough to get him? Swihart, Ed Rod, and two lesser prospects?  Maybe not if the Astros dangle Alex Bregman. If the Red Sox could get Donaldson for option 2 above, I would do it. Probably not for option 1, although it would be tempting if Sandoval comes back and plays terribly in June.

So if not Donaldson, then what other options are out there for an upgrade at 3B? 
  • It's no secret that Todd Frazier and his .198 batting average is going to be available to rent for the remainder of 2017 at a much cheaper cost than Donaldson. While Frazier is struggling in 2017, he put up bWAR's of 5.1, 4.0, and 3.2 from 2014-2016. He would be an upgrade.
  • Mike Moustakas is on a sinking ship in Kansas City and has generally underperformed expectations. After an all-star campaign in 2015 that saw him rack up 4.4 bWAR, he plummeted to 0.8 in 2016 while hitting just .240 with 7 homers. He might not even be an upgrade over Sandoval at this point.
  • Yunel Escobar will be a free agent after 2017, and if the Angels fall out of contention, he could certainly be had. He's 34 years old and has very little pop in his bat (.391 slugging% last year), but he did hit .314 and .304 in 2015 and 2016 respectively and he gets on base.  He is currently on the shelf with a hamstring strain.
  • Travis Shaw. Just kidding.
  • Jose Reyes. Reyes started 2017 in a horrible slump, but has come on lately to raise his batting average up to....197. Well, he's a free agent after 2017, so he would be cheap, and the Mets are sinking so he'd be available. Yeah, me either.
  • David Freese. He's not the player he once was, but he's got postseason chops and he can still swing the stick a little bit. He's put up slugging percentages of .420, .412, and now .443 from 2015-2017. He has an .816 OPS in part-time duty for the Pirates this year. He is 34 and he's signed through 2018, so that's not ideal.
  • And last but not least, my personal favorite on the list: Trevor Plouffe. I wanted the Red Sox to trade for Trevor Plouffe last year when the Twins fell apart and Travis Shaw was sputtering. Plouffe is still only 30 years old and he's a free agent at the end of 2017. The A's aren't winning anything this year, so he should be available for a very reasonable asking price. Plouffe has put up a slugging percentage of .420 or higher for four straight seasons. Plus, he's got a great name. He's not an all-star, but he's the best fit I could find - cheap, above replacement level, and not locked into a commitment beyond 2017. 
So what do you guys think? Trade for Donaldson? What would you give up? Would you rather go after any of the other guys on my list? Have anybody else in mind? Think we should hold pat and pray the Panda is above replacement level?

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

RSM Top 30 Red Sox Prospects - May 2017

With first month of the baseball season in the books we now have some numbers to digest for this crop of Red Sox farmhands.  And with the month of April in the rearview mirror, Andrew Benintendi has now accumulated  enough big league at bats to graduate from prospect status and gracefully exits from our rankings.

The rankings include, after the player's name, the team they are playing for as of May 1.  The number in {  } is April's ranking.  The slash line for hitters is HR/RBI/BA/OBP/OPS and the line for the pitchers is W-L/ERA/K-BB/WHIP.

In addition to Benintendi's graduation, four other members of April's Top 30 have slid down below number 30.  Therefore we will see five new Top 30 prospects in May.

1. Rafael Devers, 3B- Portland {2}. The new top prospect for the Red Sox began 2016 in Salem with a very slow first half.  Devers' AA debut has been much stronger. Although after a red hot start which had Devers hitting .372 in the first week or so, including an opening day home run, Devers did tail off to a degree.  But Rafael finished April at 2/7/.274/.297/.748 with five doubles to go along with the pair of home runs.  Near the end of April, the Sea Dogs moved Devers into the cleanup spot, and he marked that occasion by homering in that game as well.  With third base in flux in Boston, the fan base clamors to see Devers as soon as possible. And even though in a recent Boston Herald interview, Devers intimated he would like to see Boston before the end of this season, Devers is likely to spend a large part if not all of it in Maine.

2. Jay Groome, LHP- Greenville {3}. The Sox 2016 first round pick had perhaps the worst start to a season imaginable. The much ballyhooed lefty took the mound on April 10 and lasted only 1.1 innings and was charged with nine earned runs on seven hits and three walks. And that is not the bad news.  The last couple of pitches Groome tossed hardly made it up to the plate.  He left the game to have his apparent injury diagnosed.  Here is where the good news (relatively speaking) portion of Groome's debut comes in.  He had not injured his multi-million dollar left arm.  Groome has a lat injury and was placed on the DL.  The Red Sox will be very cautious with Groome, and may be a while before he sees the mound again. Until then the ERA remains at 60.75.

3.Sam Travis, 1B- Pawtucket {4}. After a strong spring training, Travis started slowly for the Paw Sox: 1/1/.233/.313/.647.  Travis' April woes were exacerbated by a collision with catcher Blake Swihart as they tracked a foul pop up. Each missed the next few games.

4. Bobby Dalbec, 3B- Greenville {5}. Like Travis, Dalbec is off to a slower than expected start in the South Atlantic League: 1/7/.244/.340/.670., with four doubles.  The .340 OBP fueled in part by ten base on balls, highlights Dalbec's early season stats.

5. Josh Ockimey, 1B- Salem {7}. Ockimey breaks into the top five of the RSM rankings for the first time sparked by a red hot April: 3/21/.343/.432/1.003 mixing in five doubles and a triple.  The 21 RBI were seven more than any other Red Sox minor league hitter in April. Ockimey was the Carolina League Player of the Week for April 10-16, and through the 21st his batting average was at. 438. Josh also had a strong beginning in 2016 at Greenville, so his challenge this season will be to produce for an entire season.

6. Marco Hernandez, IF- Boston {6}. Hernandez put himself in John Farrell's favor during spring training, and has continued to get regular playing time throughout April.  Injuries to Dustin Pedroia, Brock Holt, and most recently, Pablo Sandoval have provided the opportunity for Marco to play.  His numbers for April were: 0/2/.286/.314/.640 with a pair of doubles.  There is a divide among Red Sox nation about Hernandez' future. Is he a big league regular or is he only a 4A player?  At age 24, it seems Hernandez will have enough at bats to help answer those questions.  He is also likely to compile enough MLB at bats to graduate from this list sooner rather than later.

7. Shaun Anderson, RHP- Greenville {17}.  The big righty from the University of Florida jumps up ten spots to become the second highest ranked pitching prospect behind Jay Groome.  Anderson had an outstanding April : 2-0/0.98/24-7/0.90 while making five starts which spanned 27.2 innings.  With Anderson's SEC experience and at age 22, a few more strong starts could lead to a promotion to Salem.

8. Roniel Raudes, RHP- Salem  {9}. The righty from Nicaragua has reached high A ball at age 19.  Raudes still has some adjustments to make: 1-1/5.82/14/8/1.47. As a pitcher who relies on command rather than overpowering stuff, Raudes will need to make those adjustments at each level.

9. Michael Chavis, 3B- Salem {11}. Just a few days into the new season an old problem cropped for Chavis. He went onto the DL, but this time he was back after the 7 day stay, and came back with a bang. On April 19, Chavis crushed three home runs in cavernous Salem Memorial Ballpark.  In the 23 year history of the park no player had accomplished this. Chavis hit two more bombs over the next three games, and the five home runs lead to Chavis being the second consecutive Salem Sox player to be the Carolina League Player of the Week, following Josh Ockimey.  Michael finished April with a line of: 5/13/.341/.463/1.236.  Chavis was drafted out of a Georgia high school back in the first round of 2014 with expected power.  If Chavis' power can blossom, he will rise in the Sox system.

10. Travis Lakins, RHP- Salem {12}. Lakins is another college arm who had an outstanding April. Travis began his second season at Salem with: 4-0/3.08/32-8/1.25 in five starts. The Ohio State product is pounding on the door to Double AA, and if May is a duplicate of April, that door will open.

11. Brian Johnson, LHP- Pawtucket {8} The highlight of April for Johnson was gaining his first big league win. On April 18, Johnson made his second big league start and beat the Blue Jays going five innings in a 9-5 Boston win. Between the one game recall to Boston and leaving another start early when he was hit off the side of his head by a line drive to the mound, Johnson only hurled 15.2 innings in AAA going: 0-0/2.87/17-8/1.60.

12. Nick Longhi, 1B- Portland {10}. One of the challenges for Longhi as reaches AA is to show some power expected from a big league first baseman. Despite hitting .282 for his minor league career through last year, Longhi has only seven home runs in 1067 at bats. Longhi has two home run for all of 2016.  Longhi has hit two long balls in April for Portland. This may mean Longhi will develop his power or it just may be a result of the friendlier dimensions of Hadlock Field.  On the down side for April, Longhi hit only .194.

13. Robby Scott, LHP- Boston {14}. Until the last ranking or two, Robby Scott wasn't listed because he was not really considered a prospect.  Soon he may not be listed with the prospects because he will a bonafide major leaguer. Boston started the season with three lefties in the bullpen and it was widely assumed Scott was third in the pecking order. But not John Farrell's pecking order, Scott for all of April has been the first option as a lefty specialist from the Boston bullpen. And Scott has continued to produce with 2.08 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP in nine appearances. Quite a story for the former Independent Leaguer.

14. Ben Taylor, RHP- Boston {15}. Along with Scott the other surprise contributor for the Boston bullpen.  The only difference in their seasons is that Taylor has gone back and forth between Boston and Pawtucket. To illustrate how quickly Taylor has made the big leagues, the Sox drafted him the same year as Andrew Benintendi, 2015. Taylor pitched over seven innings in April for the Red Sox and had an ERA of 1.17.

15. CJ Chatham, SS- XST {13}. A hamstring injury suffered in the latter stages of spring training has kept last year's second round pick in extended spring training.  An assignment to Greenville is expected when CJ is healthy.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Red Sox vs Cubs Sunday Night Baseball Live Chat 4-30-17

Come join the Maineiacs as we chat live tonight while the Cubs take on the Red Sox in Fenway Park. Come chat with us - it will help you survive Aaron Boone in the booth.
Live Blog Red Sox vs Cubs Sunday Night Baseball
 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Matt, Manny, and the Beanball

Here's a few thoughts about the beaning of Manny Machado that I just had to get off my chest while waiting through an off day and a likely rainout tonight at Fenway:

First of all, I've absolutely had it with the deluge of insufferable tweets, columns, think pieces, and TV show rants that come out of the woodwork every time there's a high-profile beaning in the MLB. You know the ones I'm talking about - beaning is a symbol of the old fashioned Neanderthal macho culture of a sport dominated by men, there's no place in the game any more for beaning, and any time a beanball goes anywhere near the cranium we have to immediately compare it to Tony Conigliaro. Some of these blowhards even went as far as to connect beaning in baseball to rape culture in our society at large, as if hitting a man with a thrown baseball is similar to sexual assault. Good grief.

These are the same soft namby-pambies that cry that fighting should be removed from the NHL, suspensions should be handed out for leaving the dugouts to remove brawls from MLB, and every time a quarterback gets breathed on too heavily it should be a fine and 15-yard penalty in the NFL. Enough. Sometimes you deserve to get punched in the face. Sometimes a man has to stand up for his teammate and fight someone. Sometimes you have to learn to take a beating in response to something stupid you did. Whether Machado meant to or not, when you slide and almost blow out the knee and ankle of the opponent's captain, you're going to get a fastball to the ribs for that. End of story. You know who doesn't whine and cry about beanings? The players themselves. They get it. If these blowhards would stop clutching their pearls for a second at the thought of any form of aggression or violence, they just might see that there are life lessons for young men here.

Manny Machado knew he was going to get beaned on Sunday the minute he woke up and got out of bed. When Machado arrived at the ballpark, he knew he was getting pelted with a 95 mph fastball later that day. Did he avoid it? Ask his manger to take him out of the lineup? No, he manned up, got dressed, and took his beaning that he knew was coming. There's life lesson #1 for anyone who cares to teach lessons rather than scream about the impact of violence on our children watching at home.

The real story here that should have been written about on Twitter, in columns, and screamed about on TV is Manny Machado taking his beaning like a man, then getting up, brushing himself off, stepping back into the batter's box, and ripping an RBI double into the gap.  He didn't whine about it, he didn't start a fight in response, he didn't cry about violence in the sport. There's life lesson #2 for anyone who cares - take your consequences, then come back stronger.

Should Matt Barnes have thrown at Machado's head and potentially seriously injured one of the game's brightest stars? No. Do I believe Barnes meant to hit him in the head? Absolutely not. If Barnes could have walked up to the plate and chosen the exact spot to hit Machado, he would have chosen high up on his back above the numbers and under his name. That's where I believe he was aiming. The combination of the adrenaline flowing knowing that he's beaning someone and might have to fistfight right away if they charge the mound and the fact pitchers never practice throwing pitches to that spot caused it to miss high. I don't understand how this is so hard for people to accept, including Dustin Pedroia.

Speaking of that, what the hell was Pedroia doing? Why would the captain of the team yell from the dugout where his entire team can hear him, essentially saying "my teammate f'd up there Manny, I'm so sorry I love you so much, you know I love you, please don't be mad at me, we're good right Manny?" Hey Dustin, how about just saying you would have hit him in his first at bat and moved on? Why throw your teammate under the bus who is beaning someone and taking a 4-game suspension as retribution for a slide on your knee? How about kissing and making up with Manny in a text conversation after the game out of camera shot?

And finally, of course, it wouldn't be an RSM post by me without a shot at replay in baseball. Replay is ruining the sport of baseball and nobody with any power to do anything about it seems to care. A team can't even bean someone who deserves it then move on with life any more. Both teams had to stand around pissed off at each other, then Machado had to watch Kelly warm up, thinking that Kelly would probably plunk him again. It was the most awkward, inane, and unnecessary scene I've seen on a baseball field in some time. Not because beaning culture needs to be removed from the game - because replay needs to be removed from the game.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

RSM Red Sox Top 30 Prospects- April 2017

Another baseball season is in its infancy and as the new campaign commences, it is time to look at the top 30 kids in the Red Sox system.  Spring training performances and assignments have made some changes to our pre season rankings. Each player is listed with their Opening Day assignment, and in { } is their pre season ranking.

1. Andrew Benintendi, LF Boston {1}.  As expected Benintendi was the Opening Day starting left fielder for Boston, batting second in the potent lineup. Benny Baseball celebrated by capping a Sox win with a three run home run.  During April, Benintendi will go over 130 major league at bats and will lose his prospect status. As Andrew leaves this list, he will rocket to the top of the list of AL Rookie of the Year candidates.

2. Rafael Devers, 3B Portland {2}. Devers is poised to move to the number one spot in our May rankings.  He has something else in common with Andrew Benintendi, which was an Opening Day home run.  In his first AA at bat, Devers cracked a 400+ foot home run to right field at Hadlock Field. Unless Rafael destroys AA, he may well spend all of 2017 in Maine since he is only 20.  But do not bet against Devers torching the Eastern League pitching and forcing Boston's hand.

3. Jay Groome, LHP Greenville{3}. Like Boston has done with other highly regarded teenagers in recent years, the Red Sox assigned Groome to Greenville. At age 18, last year's first round pick, is skipping Lowell and going to a full season club.  Groome is expected to have each start capped at five innings to protect the young arm.  But a number of baseball people around the game feel with his explosive fastball and plus-plus curveball, Groome could flash through the minor leagues and be big league ready sooner than his age would indicate.

4. Sam Travis, 1B Pawtucket {4}. For the second year in a row, Travis excelled for the big club in the exhibition games. His goal for 2017 is to stay healthy and pile up some AAA at bats that were lost after a knee injury ended 2016 in late May. Travis' defensive work around the bag could also use some AAA reps.  By mid season Travis could force his way into the picture in Boston.

5. Bobby Dalbec, 3B Greenville {6}. This power hitting third sacker, along with Jay Groome, could make the 2016 draft one to remember.  Dalbec continued to show his power during the spring games.  Dalbec seemed to perform well enough to be pushed up to High A Salem.  But as mentioned in our pre season rankings, 2014 draftee Michael Chavis also was ticketed for Salem, so to get playing time for both, Dalbec goes to Greenville. But if Dalbec repeats his Lowell numbers from '16, he will make room for himself in Salem.

6. Marco Hernandez, INF Pawtucket {8}.  Marco had one of the best springs of anyone in the entire Red Sox camp.  At only age 24, Hernandez has not only made himself a definite top prospect, but has established himself as someone whose future includes a full time big league job.  In fact Hernandez ended up in Boston and in the lineup during the season's first week when Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts went on a brief bereavement leave. Ironically the current position considered the biggest question mark for Boston is third base.  Hernandez is the third of our top six prospects who could be a big league third baseman in the future.  In fact, Hernandez, depending on circumstances, could play a lot of third for Boston this year.

7. Josh Ockimey, 1B Salem {7}. Ockimey climbs another rung on the Red Sox ladder up to High A Salem. At age 21, this power hitter needs to put up consistent numbers throughout 2017.  Ockimey pounded the South Atlantic League in early 2016, but tailed off badly in the latter half. If Ockimey can put up an entire season of power hitting, he is one of the guys whose ascension could deepen the somewhat depleted top of the Sox system.

8. Brian Johnson, LHP Pawtucket {5}. Boston began spring training with six big league starting pitchers: Chris Sale, Rick Porcello, David Price, Eduardo Rodriguez, Steven Wright, and Drew Pomeranz.  Three younger lefties were considered the depth in spots seven to nine: Henry Owens, Roenis Elias, and Johnson. Things changed while in Florida, Price is hurt and Pomeranz was set back due to some arm issues (although he is scheduled to pitch in April).  Elias was also hurt and Owens pitched so abysmally his future in Boston is a big question.  Veteran big leaguer, Kyle Kendrick came to camp on a AAA contract and pitched very well.  Kendrick is now likely the " number 6" starter. That leaves Brian Johnson.  Brian also pitched not as well as hoped in Florida, but better than Owens.  Johnson very much needs to begin his AAA season with a string of impressive outings to solidify his chance to pitch for Boston when needed this year. The Red Sox need this and Johnson needs this type of beginning in order to salvage what seemed like a certain long big league career just two years ago.

9. Roniel Raudes, RHP Salem {10}. Roniel has reached High A Salem at age 19.  Raudes has compiled impressive numbers in his career despite not having high octane stuff. Raudes has outstanding command and his game is predicated on that ability.

10. Nick Longhi, 1B Portland {11}. The second Sea Dog on this list, Longhi along with his corner infield mate, Devers, will be two of the must see guys at Hadlock this year.  To show the balance of the upper end of this list, not only are there two Sea Dogs, but counting Marco Hernandez' time in Boston this week, there are two each from Boston, Pawtucket, Salem, and Greenville also.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Cousin Jason's 2017 Predictions

AL East
Boston- These Sox should wear out opponents offensively, let’s hope the pitching staff gets healthy and does the same
Tampa Bay- Why not the Rays? They pitch as well as any of the other AL East teams, maybe they finally can hit to match
Toronto- The Jays have plenty of pieces, can John Gibbons correctly put the puzzle together
New York- We’re a couple of years away from the next great chapter in the Sox/Yankees rivalry
Baltimore- The O’s seemingly overachieve every year, but this pitching staff will need to use more smoke and mirrors than the Great and Powerful Oz to repeat that feat in 2017

AL Central
Cleveland- Can the Lake Erie Warriors replicate 2016? Playing in the Central will help their chances, current slew of injuries will not
**Detroit- The Bengals got the band back together for one last tour, are they Hot-N-Ready to memorialize Mr. I with a pennant? Motown would go crazy, crazy if so
Minnesota- The Twins have a young nucleus that will surprise many by being consistently competitive
Chicago- The rebuild has already netted lots of future stars, a strong 2nd half from Moncada, Lopez, Giolito, and Kopech leap the South Siders out of the cellar
Kansas City- It may be more of a reload than a rebuild but the Royals sell off their potential free agents and it’s like 2007 in KC

AL West
Seattle- The M’s sniffed the playoffs last year, a better offensive unit gets them over the hump
*Houston- The ‘Stros could be MLB’s best team in 2018...which means they are a year away
Texas- The Rangers have too many question marks on their pitching staff to hang with their counterparts in a tough division
Anaheim- Halo fans will again enjoy watching Mike Trout be one of the best players in all of baseball, sadly his teammates are only mediocre at best
Oakland- The A’s could easily finish 3rd in this division if their usual off-season free agent shopping spree at Marden’s pays off and their young pitchers continue to mature, not sure that happens enough in 2017

Post Season
Wildcard Game: Verlander and the Upton’s (a pair of bombs each) lead the Tigers over the Astros
ALDS: Red Sox over Tigers in 6, Mariners over Indians in 7
ALCS: Red Sox over Mariners in 7 as home team wins each game

AL Awards
MVP Mike Trout
Cy Young Justin Verlander
Manager Scott Servais
ROY Mitch Haniger, picking Benintendi is too easy (probably correct though) so I’ll go out on a limb
HR Champion Edwin Encarnacion 44
Comeback Jacoby Ellsbury

NL East
Washington- The Nats appear to be the best team in the an improving division
**Miami- Improved pitching staff allows Marlins to jump up one spot from 2016
Philadelphia- The Phils get help from their farm system throughout the year to stay ahead of Mets and Braves
New York- The Mets have talent but the health of their pitching staff is littered with red flags
Atlanta- The Braves will be competitive but still need more seasoning

NL Central
Chicago- The Cubbies are still a juggernaut and the rest of the Central division seems to be regressing
*St. Louis- The Cards play over their heads all year, it’s still not enough to catch the Cubs
Pittsburgh- The Buccos play inconsistently but it’s good enough to finish 3rd
Milwaukee- The Brew Crew is better than the Reds but only slightly
Cincinnati- The Reds make some improvements but not enough to stay out of the basement

NL West
San Francisco- Giants break their trend of making the post season every other year
Arizona- Mike Hazen and Torey Lovullo quickly bring the Rattlers up to respectability
Los Angeles- The Dodgers can’t buy their way to the top of the west this time
Colorado- The Rockies could be much better than expected but it’s a tough division
San Diego- The Padres make strides to catch their competitors but are not quite there yet

Post Season
Wildcard Game: Cardinals over Marlins
NLDS: Cubs over Cardinals in 5, Giants over Nationals in 6
NLCS: Cubs over Giants in 7

NL Awards
MVP Matt Carpenter
Cy Young Jameson Taillon
Manager Torey Lovullo
ROY Manuel Margot
HR Champion Paul Goldschmidt 41
Comeback AJ Pollock

World Series
In the epic World Series, almost one hundred years in the making, the Cubs and Red Sox play a 7 game series for the ages with the Cubbies repeating, solidifying Theo Epstein’s shrine in Cooperstown

Barry's 2017 MLB Predictions

I don't have a good track record with these predictions, so I'm going with a slightly more scaled back approach this year.  Last year's sleeper team ended up losing it's first 25 games or so (Sorry Minnesota), so let's see who's getting jinxed this year...

AL East:
1. Toronto
2. Boston*
3. Tampa
4. Orioles
5. Yankees
The Red Sox will have too many injuries to overcome, and their bullpen will be their downfall.  The pitching injuries are too much for the pitching to overcome the decrease in offensive production without Big Papi.  The Blue Jays are right there with the Red Sox talent wise and they seem to be a little more healthy and a little more experienced in the every day lineup.

AL Central:
1. Cleveland
2. Kansas City
3. Minnesota
4. Detroit
5. Chicago
This division may be the weakest in baseball, it is certainly the weakest division in the American League.  The Indians appear to be the class of the division, but I don't see any wild card teams coming out of this group.

AL West:
1. Houston
2. Seattle*
3. Texas
4. Oakland
5. LA Angels
This may be the toughest division in baseball.  The Astros didn't live up to expectations a year ago, but this year is a different story.  Seattle and Texas finish within five games of the division lead and contend for wild card spots all season with the Mariners pulling it out.

NL East:
1. Washington
2. New York*
3. Marlins
4. Philadelphia
5. Atlanta
This division has belonged to the Nationals in recent years and that will continue, but if the Mets starting pitching can stay healthy this year than they will contend all summer long.

NL Central:
1. Chicago
2. St. Louis
3. Pittsburgh
4. Cincinnati
5. Milwaukee
The Cubs may have the most young talent in baseball, but a world series hangover may be in store for them.  Look for them to get a real challenge from the Cardinals and the Pirates look to bounce back from a disappointing year last season with a veteran lineup and some good young pitching.

NL West:
1. LA Dodgers
2. San Francisco*
3. Arizona
4. Colorado
5. San Diego
The top three teams in this division will compete for playoff spots all summer long.  The Diamondbacks look to be improved under old Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo.

Playoffs:
AL Wildcard game: Boston over Seattle

ALDS: Houston over Toronto
             Boston over Cleveland
ALCS: Houston over Boston

NL Wild Card Game: New York Mets over San Francisco

NLDS: Mets over Cubs
Nationals over Dodgers

NLCS Mets over Nationals

World Series:  Astros over Mets in 7 games

AL Awards:
AL MVP: Carlos Correa
AL Cy Young: Chris Sale
AL Manager of the Year: John Gibbons
AL Rookie of the Year: Andrew Benintendi

NL Awards:
NL MVP: Bryce Harper
NL Cy Young: Noah Syndegard
NL Manager of the Year: Terry Collins
NL Rookie of the Year: Jameson Tallion

Brandon's MLB Predictions 2017

Here's a shot at predicting the MLB standings, playoffs, and awards for the 2017 season:

AL East
1. Boston
2. Toronto*
3. Tampa Bay
4. Baltimore
5. NY Yankees
The Rays surprisingly lead the AL east for most of the first half before fading in the second half and missing the playoffs entirely. The O's finally live down to projections for once. The Yankees are younger and more exciting, but have the worst pitching in the AL besides whatever is going on in Minnesota. The Blue Jays have too many bats and talented young arms to miss the playoffs.

AL Central
1. Cleveland
2. Kansas City
3. Detroit
4. Minnesota
5. Chicago
By far the worst division in the American League. Detroit joins the Twins and White Hose in the basement. The Royals have a resurgent run to wild card contention, but come up short. The Indians got better from 2016 and run away to win the division by 15 games.

AL West
1. Houston
2. LA Angels*
3. Seattle
4. Texas
5. Oakland
The Mariners are much more competitive in 2016, but come up short of the postseason again. The Rangers finally underperform their projection. The A's are a year or two away with another crop of young pitchers. The Astros fulfill their considerable potential and add either Jose Quintana, Chris Archer, or both to their rotation. The Angels finally have enough pieces in place around Trout to get back to the playoffs and make some noise.

AL Playoffs
Angels over Blue Jays in Wildcard game
Red Sox over Astros in 6
Angels over Indians in 7

Red Sox over Angels in 6

AL Awards
AL MVP: Mookie Betts
AL ROY: Andrew Benintendi
AL Cy Young: Corey Kluber
AL Manager: AJ Hinch
Comeback: Garrett Richards

NL East
1. Washington
2. NY Mets*
3. Atlanta
4. Miami
5. Philadelphia
The Mets pitching is so strong it doesn't matter who's hitting for them. The Braves comeback begins. The Nationals get it done despite Dusty.

NL Central
1. Chicago
2. St. Louis*
3. Pittsburgh
4. Milwaukee
5. Cincinnati
The Cubbies roll through the NL central again. The Cardinals haven't been to the postseason in a year or two, so they're due for a deep run. The Reds and Beers are awful.

NL West
1. Los Angeles
2. Arizona
3. Colorado
4. San Francisco
5. San Diego
The Giants have to finish down in 4th or 5th one of these years, right? Arizona has a ton of talent on that roster. The Rockies are all bash, again. Dodgers are the class of the division.

NL Playoffs
Mets over Cardinals in wildcard game
Cubs over Mets in 4
Nationals over Dodgers in 6
Nationals over Cubs in 7

World Series
Nationals over Red Sox in 7. It's now or never for the Nationals.

NL Awards
NL MVP: Bryce Harper
NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw
NL ROY: Dansby Swanson
NL Manager: Joe Maddon (after obligatory year-long media ball-washing)
Comeback Player: Matt Harvey

Friday, March 31, 2017

Deacon Art's 2017 MLB Predictions

Baseball kicks in for real in the next day or two, and rumor has it spring may arrive someday as well. As is the annual tradition around RSM I will take a shot at predicting how each division and league playoffs will turn out.  As I tell you who will the 2017 World Series, please try to forget last year I had the Giants winning over Texas.

As always each team will have its own one line comment, followed by some other league predictions. I'll wrap with some random MLB and Red Sox thoughts/predictions.  Let's go.

American League  ( * first wild card  ** second wild card)

East

1. Boston-        Boston's B Boys Bring a Banner to Beantown.
2. Baltimore-   Birds Nest in Second, but Closer to Fifth than First
3. Toronto-      Justin- Jays Only Have Third Place Talent- Harsh but Trudeau.
4. New York-   Flip or Flop
5. Tampa Bay- Another Group of Immigrants Canada Will Take Eventually

Central

1. Kansas City- Royals Avoid July Fire Sale, Then Thrive
2. Cleveland-   Tired Twirlers Take Down Tito's Team
3. Detroit-        Post Illitch Era Decline Begins
4. Minnesota-  Mayday, Mayday
5. Chicago-      Chisox Clearance Continues

West

1. Seattle-          Mariners Build Wall Around Texas Teams
2.* Houston-     Better Team on Paper than M's- Except for Paper Mache Pitching
3. **Texas-       Gotta Root for a Team That has a Nomar
4. Los Angeles- Another Serving of Spoiled Trout
5. Oakland-       Hey Raiders, Got Room for us in Vegas

AL Post Season

Houston tops Texas 11-9 in the wild card game on a walk off Alex Bregman grand slam.

ALDS
Boston takes down Houston in four with Chris Sale winning games one and four.
Kansas City's free agents to be sweep Seattle.

ALCS

KC's post season experience from 2014-15 only goes so far and the Red Sox win their fourth AL pennant in the 2000's in six games.  Xander Bogaerts in the ALCS MVP.

AL MVP & Rookie of Year: Andrew Benintendi in a remake of Fred Lynn 1975.
AL Cy  Chris Sale   ( 24 wins make it a landslide)
Manager of the Year: Scott Servais, Seattle
Home Run Champ: Nelson Cruz 44
Comeback: Felix Hernandez  ( joins Sale as only AL 20 game winners)

National League

East

1. Washington-    Nats Won't be the Only Thing Not Passed in DC This Year.
2. Miami-            Mattingly's Marlins Mature
3. New York-      They're Still Citi
4. Atlanta-           Good at Stockpiling Young Pitchers, Like Bartolo Colon & RA Dickey.
5. Philadelphia-   Best Philly Pitcher Could Be Clay Buchholz...Fake News

Central

1. Pittsburgh- Sometimes the Best Deals are Those You Don't Make (see A. McCutchen)
2.* Chicago-  Looked Unbeatable Throughout Campaign Until Hacked by Russians
3. St. Louis-   Shoulda Grabbed a Better Cubbie Than Dexter Fowler
4. Milwaukee-Rebuild Yet to Come to a Head
5.Cincinnati- This Dick Williams Team Will Not "Win More Than We'll Lose"

West

1. Colorado-          The National's League's Best Story
2.** Los Angeles- The winner is ...La La Land!.......No Wait
3. San Francisco-   Odd/Even Year Lock Blown All to Hell, Who Knows Now
4. Arizona-            The DBacks Hazen of the NL West Comes Soon
5. San Diego-         At Least They Have Don Orsillo

NL Post Season

Cubs beat LA 4-3 when Jon Lester picks potential tying run off first base to end the game

NLDS

Cubs over Nationals in five: Trump tweets he will throw out first pitch for NLDS Game Six
Pirates sweep Rockies

NLCS

Despite the Cubs outscoring the Pirates by ten runs in the series, the Pirates win 4 games to 3.
NLCS MVP is Gerrit Cole.

NL MVP  Andrew McCutchen
NL CY     Gerrit Cole
Manager   Bud Black, Colorado
Rookie      Dansby Swanson, Braves edges out Josh Bell of Pittsburgh
Home Run Giancarlo Stanton 55
Comeback Stanton

WORLD SERIES

In a replay of the first Series ever in 1903 (although this time not a best of nine) the Pirates and Boston meet in Game One at Fenway Park.  Boston with 96 regular season wins gained the home field advantage over the 92 win Pirates.

The Red Sox win Games One and Two at home behind Chris Sale and Rick Porcello.  The Pirates go home to win the next two to tie the series.  In Game Five the Sox explode on the highly touted Buccos pitching to win 14-4 with five home runs from their outfielders, two apiece for Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley, Jr, and a three run blast from Andrew Benintendi.  The Red Sox return to Fenway and put away their fourth World Championship of the 21st century. The 3-1 win was paced by a three run double by Jackie Bradley, Jr. and David Price coming out of the bullpen to get the last six outs. JBJ is the World Series MVP, not only for his bat, but for making a back to plate Game Six saving catch reminiscent of Willie Mays in 1954( yeah, I wasn't alive then either, look it up on You Tube for chrissakes).

Other Random MLB Predictions

Thursday, March 2, 2017

David Price's Elbow Hurts and So Does My Heart

Reports are out all over Red Sox Twitter this morning that David Price has been scratched from his next start with elbow/forearm soreness. He got an MRI and apparently didn't like the results, because he's getting a second opinion. That's right, our $217 million man is visiting the dreaded office of Dr. James Andrews, Tommy John surgery extraordinaire.

So, to recap, the Red Sox signed Price to a 7 year, $217 million contract before the 2016 season. Price proceeded to underperform expectations, not pitch "like a true ace", and lost yet another postseason game running his postseason record as a starter to 0-8. And now it looks like he'll need Tommy John surgery and be out until late in the 2018 season, and really not back to top form until the 2019 season. For those counting at home, by the time April 2019 rolls around, the Red Sox will have paid Price around $90 million. It reminds this blogger of the John Lackey contract - a less-than-stellar beginning in Boston, looked like the worst contract in the history of sports for most of it, then a major injury and rehab, but rebounded to become a vital part of the 2013 championship team before being traded away. Let's hope at least that last part comes true for Price, who even before this injury was dealing with headlines in the Boston Globe like "Will Boston Ever See the Good Old David Price?"

Now, before we go any further I would like to add this important disclaimer: David Price was good last year. Really good. He led the American League in innings pitched and games started (seems like an important part of "pitching like an ace!"). His K/9 was just 0.3 less than in 2015. He won 17 games and struck out 228 batters, good for the second-highest total of his career. His control was slightly worse than normal, posting his highest BB/9 in four years (2.0), and a few more balls left the park pitching in Fenway, resulting in his highest HR/9 in his career (1.2). But David Price is still a damned good pitcher, folks. His absence hurts.

Finally, what will this do to the Red Sox rotation? Well, this article claiming that Drew Pomeranz wants zero part of being put in the bullpen might not matter, since the big lefty will most likely now be firmly entrenched in the top five. Sox rotation will shake out like this if in fact Price is out for 2017:
1. Chris Sale
2. Rick Porcello
3. Eduardo Rodriguez
4. Steven Wright
5. Drew Pomeranz

That's still a pretty damned good starting rotation. The Chris Sale trade is looking better and better. My only issue is this: what happens when another starter gets hurt? The depth beyond this is scary - anyone want to see more of Henry Owens starting games for Boston? Me either. Brian Johnson anyone? Eh. Clay Buchholz? He's wearing a Phillies uniform now. It gets scary quick down here beyond the top five. Get Brian Bannister on this quickly, we need another Rich Hill for depth.