Worry or Not? Struggling MLB Teams

Tampa Bay Rays 4-6 

Many people picked to win the American League pennant were the Tampa Bay Rays.  The stellar pitching staff along with a manager that knows how to manipulate the lineup to out think opposing clubs, they are a sabermetric dream of a squad.  All was looking good after taking three of four from the defending NL East Champs the Atlanta Braves. Then they took a trip to Baltimore.  The Orioles swept the hapless Rays holding their lineup to just eight runs over a three game stretch.  

Looking deeper into the numbers, if not for an explosion of offense (14 runs) in the fourth game of the season the Rays bats have been relatively silent.  As a team the Rays are hitting just .213 with an OPS under 700.  Individually other than Brandon Lowe (OPS 1.032) and Willy Adames (OPS .919) the rest of the lineup has underperformed.  

Charlie Morton and Blake Snell have been less than impressive in their combined starts.  Morton most notably losing a little zip on the fast ball.  The depth of the pitching staff has kept them relevant and will continue to keep them relevant.   Tyler Glasnow has stepped up and shown glimpses of number one starter potential. The bullpen still has ridiculous talent that can pick up the slack of a struggling top of the rotation. 

The Rays have to get more consistency up and down the lineup.  Jose Martinez has been given more at bats lately and has shown the ability that made him a target in the offseason for the Rays.  The key for the lineup though is finding more power.  Hunter Renfroe has blasted a few but they still need more feared power hitters in order to be a serious threat for the Yankees in the east and the rest of the American League. 

Verdict: Not worried

Texas Rangers 2-5

The Rangers intrigued me entering the 2020 season.  With wholesale changes made to the starting rotation they seemed to have fixed a problem in 2019.  With Kyle Gibson, Jordan Lyles and Corey Kluber at the top of the rotation along with a powerful offense the Rangers should be ready to take the next step from rebuilding club to potential playoff contender. That hasn’t been the case through the first seven games of the season.  

It has been the offense that has looked sluggish out of the gate.  In fact it doesn’t seem like they even left the gate.  Choo, Andrus, Frazier, Santana, Odor and Calhoun were all guys that were supposed to be carrying the load offensively and it has not happened. With Danny Santana now hitting the injured list this team is looking for a spark that just isn’t there.  

With the expansion of the playoffs I had the Rangers pencilled in as one of the last spots but in a very crowded AL West they have a hell of a mountain to climb. 

Verdict: Very worried

New York Mets 3-7

New York was looking to compete even without Noah Syndergaard in 2020.  A revamped bullpen and a lineup featuring 2019 rookie of the year Pete Alonso looked like the beginning of what could be a very successful season.  

The lineup has generated a lot of production.  Robinson Cano, Jeff McNeil, Brandon Nimmo and JD Davis have all produced above the anticipated level.  As a team they have a .342 OBP, the problem hasn’t been getting people on base; it’s been driving them in. They are hitting just .228 with runners on and an OPS of .666.  The Met’s have multiple proven run producers that have been unable to come up with the big hits. 

The Mets have gotten great contributions from their rotation,  Offseason signing Michael Wachs and rookie David Peterson have both shown glimpses of what they can do in the regular season.  

Edwin Diaz’s continued struggles are very worrisome but the depth of the Mets bullpen should be able to bounce back.  The question of whether you believe that the bats will come around or  not.  I believe that the power they have up and down the lineup will eventually come through. 

Verdict: Not worried

Arizona Diamondbacks 3-7

I was one of the people that thought Arizona was going to be taking major steps in the right direction in 2020.  The addition of former All-Stars Madison Bumgarner and Starling Marte to an already developing potential powerhouse seemed like a great fit.  Their start to the season has not shown the results.  

The bats have been silent. As a team they are hitting just .192 with a slugging percentage at just .265.  The struggles are throughout the lineup, other than Christian Walker, Starling Marte and Ketel Marte no player on the Diamondbacks has an OPS over .630.  

The complete lack of offense has not been helped out by the pitching staff.  The D-Backs have a team ERA 5.44, highlighted by the struggles of starters Luke Weaver and Robbie Ray.  Ray’s command most notably has led to crooked numbers on the scoreboard.  

The Diamondbacks have a lot of questions followed by very few answers. They will need Ketel Marte and Starling Marte to lead their offense until Eduardo Escobar, David Peralta and company can figure out a way to return to the form of 2019.  This team is in some serious trouble. 

Who steps up for Mikolas?

The return of Carlos Martinez to the rotation should have been a celebration in the city featuring the best fans in baseball.  The eccentric “Tsunami” bringing his big personality and elite level stuff back into the rotation should have been a huge step in the right direction for a Cardinals rotation that is widely known for their depth. It did not go as planned, Martinez getting smacked around for six runs over two innings. The Cardinals will need better outings from their former ace and closer going forward with the news of the injury to Miles Mikolas, sidelining him for the remainder of 2020.  Martinez isn’t the only one that is going to have to step up for the Cardinals; there are multiple players that are going to need to take the next step fast.  

Austin Gomber 

Gomber played the role of long reliever and janitor, cleaning up the mess that Martinez made on the mound at Target Field.  Gomber pitched 1.2 innings striking out one and holding down the powerful Twins lineup long enough to attempt a comeback.  

Gomber’s immediate role looks like he will be in the mop up role for all starters that struggle out of the gate.  Rather than utilize him as a primarily left handed stopper he will be looked upon to eat up an average of two innings per appearance. He has two plus pitches he can utilize out of the pen, making him perfect for the current landscape of the MLB.   

The lengthy lefty brings a better pace to the game rather than Daniel Ponce de Leon.  He can come in and immediately throw strikes which has been an issue in the past for Ponce de Leon. 

Ryan Helsley

At one time he was considered a potential starter, coming into the season he was considered a possible closer.  Now he will be put into a premier setup role. Helsley will be looked at to pitch multiple innings in order to get to closer, Kwang Hyun Kim.  

If Kim is forced into the rotation Helsley is ready to slip straight into the closer role.  His ability to get out batters from both sides of the plate make him an instant successor based on the needs of the organization.  Helsley has the ability and poise to take the spot and run with it.  

Kodi Whitley

Whitley unexpectedly excelled in 2019 at both double-A and triple-A.  Whitley has the ability to miss bats averaging 10K/9 through both levels.  With Ryan Helsely and Giovanny Gallegos being forced into more multi-inning roles throughout the shortened season more opportunity could come Whitely’s way down the stretch in big moments.  

Whitley was utilized in relief against the Twins middle of the order that featured Josh Donaldson, Jorge Polanco and Nelson Cruz.  Whitley showed his mid-90s fastball and an exceptional change up that was able to keep the powerful bats off balance.  The Cardinals will be giving the 25-year old hurler a chance to become a more important factor earlier than planned but he has the stuff to be great.

The Cardinals bullpen has been stellar to start the season.  They have cleaned up the messes made by Carlos Martinez and Dakota Hudson.  In the format they will have to continue to be leaned on throughout the season.  Hudson and Martinez will improve but it will take more than a single person to overcome the loss of an innings eater like Mikolas.  The organization will need to continue to trust their young arms and they will be rewarded. 

Now if the offense could just get going….

NL West Preview and Predictions

Disaster almost struck the Los Angeles Dodgers.  Their huge offseason pickup of Mookie Betts was nearly wasted, luckily the season was salvaged along with the possibility of the two best offensive players in the National League being able to make an impact in the same lineup.  The Dodgers are the clear favorites if the normal season took place, but with the season being relegated to just 60 games, the possibility of a talented squad catching fire can make a huge difference in who wins the west.  

Colorado Rockies

It may shock you that the Rockies along with another team in the NL West actually had the best 60 game run during the season. The Rockies were 37-23 during the middle of the season in 2019.  Unfortunately they were so far behind the front running Dodgers their run came pretty much unnoticed. Colorado will enter 2020 without any major changes to the organization.  Can they rely on their players improving? 

Serious rotation questions. 

The Rockies have Kyle Freeland and Antonio Sentzatela penciled into the rotation to begin 2020. Both pitchers are coming off of seasons of 6+ ERA.  This could lead to serious issues down the line with no clear answers to who replaces them in-season.  Top pitching prospect Ryan Rolison has never pitched above high-A.  He will need at least two full seasons in the minors unless something drastic changes.  That leaves just Chi-Chi Gonzalez and Peter Lambert as the potential 6 and 7 options.  It’s going to be a tough season for the Rockies rotation.  Lots of pressure will be put on the bullpen. 

Trevor Story, Nolan Arenado and…. 

Charlie Blackmon had another stellar season in 2019 with an OPS+ of 123 but the Rockies will need even more from the veteran in 2020.  A few unfortunate dart throws over the last few offseasons have left their mark on the lineup.  Ian Desmond and Daniel Murphy have both performed at a less than expected level and it’s become time to call it a day in the hopes that they will perform.  The time is now to move on and give the youth a chance.  Ryan McMahon, Garrett Hampsona and Sam Hilliard should be three names to keep an eye.  If all three can produce along with a finally healthy David Dahl the Rockies offensive may finally reach its potential. 

San Diego Padres

San Diego has amassed a large amount of young talent.  It’s getting close to put up or shut up time for the Padres and GM AJ Preller.  Accumulating talent is only as valuable as what that talent becomes.  Can they fit together to make a real run or are they a bunch of studs that will go down as historical pieces somewhere else?  2020 is time to see whether or not the Padres have a core worth moving forward.  Who will join Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado as the future of Padres baseball. 

The Rotation behind Chris Paddack.

San Diego made some interesting moves to bolster their rotation in the offseason. When you add veteran starting pitchers to a rotation you want guys that maybe once were considered potential aces but never panned out all the way.  That is not the case with Zach Davies.  Davies is a solid middle of the rotation starter that will be an innings eater and will pitch to contact.   The Padres stellar infield defense and large park should be a perfect fit for the former Brewer.   

San Diego also decided to take on a reclamation project in the often injured Garrett Richards.  Richards, a former 15 game winner, has not seen 16 starts in four years and only got into three total games last season.  He still brings to the table solid stuff that was a lost cost, potentially high reward signing.

The rest of the rotation behind Paddack will feature high upside starters Dinelson Lamet and Joey Lucchessi.  Both hurlers at certain points of last season found themselves taking the reins as the ace of the staff.  Top prospect MacKenzie Gore should make his debut in 2020 along with a host of other young arms including one of my favorite sleepers Ronald Bolanos in the bullpen.  The young arms that San Diego can throw at you will give them tons of depth that make them dangerous. 

What to do with Eric Hosmer? 

Hosmer is owed a lot of money. With a wRC+ of 95 which is his lowest since 2012.  He did still drive in 99 runs which was the only highlight of his entire season.  The most startling number is the 24% strikeout rate was also a career high.  San Diego will need Eric Hosmer who was a middle of the order producer with Kansas City or they will struggle behind Machado, Tatis and the newly acquired Tommy Pham. 

San Francisco Giants

The Giants got the most shocking news of the offseason.  Their franchise cornerstone Buster Posey decided to sit out the season.  San Francisco was not expected to make a run in 2020, but they did quietly tie the Rockies in the best record over a 60 game period going 37-23 in a 60 game stretch last season.  Can San Francisco’s veterans help them make an unlikely run in this shortened season?  

Can veteran staff lead the way?

Jeff Samardzija (35), Johnny Cueto (34), Drew Smyly (31), Kevin Gausman (29)

The front four of the Giants rotation reads like a list of potential trade chips by the end of August.  The contracts of Samardzija and Cueto may be tough to move but veteran’s Smyly and Guasman have shown the ability to handle the rotation and bullpen piece when needed. They could be valuable trade chips as the season goes on.  Top pitching prospect Logan Webb will round out the rotation, he reintroduced himself in spring training last year hitting 98mph on his fastball a year after recovering from Tommy John surgery.  With Webb the Giants should have a solid young arm to begin the rebuild of the starting staff but the rest of the arms in the system still need time to move up the board. 

Derek Rodriguez was disappointing last season off the heels of a stellar 2018, if he is able to rebound and discover what made him successful he could be another strong piece for the future.  The Giants rotation has the arms to keep them competitive but with the age and injury history of the top of the rotation they will need more depth to have any chance to compete.  

What to do without Posey. 

The Giants veterans just sit in the rotation.  Evan Longoria, Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt, Hunter Pence and even Pablo Sandoval all will have prominent roles in the lineup for San Francisco.  Journeyman Alex Dickerson and Mike Yaztremski both burst onto the scene last year, proving their worth on the major league level.  If they both can contribute similarly the Giants may have the bats to compete with the top of the powerful NL West.  

The signing of Wilmer Flores and the emergence last season of Mauricio Dubon along with Crawford will make a nice stop gap for the eventual coming of top prospect Marco Luciano.  Luciano most likely won’t see any time this season but he has a bright future in San Francisco and will look to take on a role in the bigs sooner than later.  

With the loss of Buster Posey for 2020 many will speculate that the Joey Bart era behind the plate will soon be coming to the bay.  Posey most likely will then be seeing more time at first base when he returns.  Bart though still hasn’t seen much time at higher levels playing only 22 games in double-A.  In those games he produced with a .902 OPS which could push the front office to give him the first shot behind the plate.  

Arizona Diamondbacks

Arizona was one of the teams I was looking at as a potential sleeper to come out of the NL West.  Multiple offseason additions solidified a young core of players that already began their ascent to potential stardom. The front office made moves to take the next step in an ongoing battle with the dominant Los Angeles Dodgers. 

Madbum, the leader they need.

Arizona shocked the rest of the league by signing long time Giant Madison Bumgarner to lead their rotation.  The longtime division rival now finds himself in a similar role that he entered the league to do.  He has to step up and lead a developing team to overtake the powerful Dodgers. Bumgarner is still in the midst of the prime of his career as he enters his age 30 season.  Coming off of a WAR of 3.2 for a Giants team that didn’t always give him the support necessary for success shows that he has not lost anything as the innings have piled up.  Bumgarner brings leadership to a staff that has desperately needed it.  With a young core staff they need a guy who has been down the stretch and knows how to win.  

The Diamondbacks also had a player decide to sit out the 2020 season.  Veteran starter Mike Leake has decided to invoke his right to forgo the season, leaving the Diamondbacks with an open slot in the rotation. The immediate replacements are between righty Merrill Kelly and young lefty Alex Young.  Both rode the roller coaster of success and failure in 2019 and both will be given the chance to win the job.  Kelly, the former KBO standout, likely will have the first shot to take the job but his run of getting blown up in the middle of the season leaves him with a quicker hook than what would have happened if the season was going from day one. With Young it is a similar story, bursting onto the scene he looked like a lefty of the future for Arizona.  His peripheral numbers are intriguing in just 15 starts last season Young had 7 wins and an ERA of 3.56.  The troubling numbers show in the advanced analytics that show his vulnerabilities. Young’s FIP sits at 4.86 and he gives up a hard hit percentage of 48%.  

Arizona’s top four are as good as any in the division with Bumgarner, Robbie Ray, Zac Gallen and Luke Weaver.  If they can find a number five that gives them a push this staff can be enough to sneak into the playoffs.  

Arizona’s offense is very nice. 

The easiest thing to say about the Arizona offense is that it is explosive.  The addition of Starling Marte allows everyone to move back and put themselves in an even better position to drive in runs.  Ketel Marte is a serious star in the making, Eduardo Escobar, Christain Walker, David Peralta, Kole Calhoun and Carson Kelly all have the chance to hit 20 homers and hit above .300.  Starling Marte brought his OBP up to .342 last season and his ISO up to .200.  This team is loaded and dangerous. 

Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers have been stacked for a number of years.  They have dominated not only the West but honestly the entire national league.  Despite being loaded with talent they have not been able to put it all together.  Their response to this is like what you would do on the video game MLB “The Show”, put the best possible player in your lineup in order to put yourselves over the top.  That player in this instance is Mookie Betts.  This team is good and I am not going to waste much time on breaking them down, but here we go. 

Rotation flaws?

Not really.  The re-acquiring of Alex Wood has put the Dodgers in a great spot.  Wood will slot into the #4 spot in the rotation behind Kershaw, Buehler and the rising phoenix Julio Urias.  That leaves one spot for either veteran Ross Stripling or young fireballer Dustin May, both would be top three on most rotations in baseball.  The Dodgers have as good of a full staff as anyone in baseball.  

Is Gavin Lux ready to make an impact?

When you have a top five prospect in baseball ready to take the reins it’s always exciting.  Lux will be given the chance to show what he is made of.  The Dodgers have plenty of bench depth to put Lux in a great spot day by day.  If they see a bad matchup then you can put guys like Enrique Hernandez and Chris Taylor in the lineup.  Lux doesn’t have to come in and carry the lineup,  he has maybe the least pressure of any top prospect in the entire league.  He can relax and play his game.  

Verdict:

The NL West is the Dodgers division.  They have the bats and the arms to take the entire league. The only team that can give them any trouble would likely be the Arizona Diamondbacks.  They have built a team that is ready to make a run at the playoffs right now. 

Standings:

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers
  2. Arizona Diamondbacks
  3. San Diego Padres
  4. Colorado Rockies
  5. San Francisco Giants

Let’s fix the New York Knicks

Draft Lamelo Ball or Tyrese Haliburton.  

The first move is going to be dependent on draft position.  If the Knicks are lucky enough to find themselves in a top three pick they should have a shot at Lamelo Ball.  Ball obviously comes with some baggage but his skill set and size make him NBA ready.  New York has had a spinning wheel of point guards over the last few seasons.  Elfrid Payton, Frank Ntilkina, Dennis Smith Jr. have all spent time running the point position last season, none of them performing to the level that allowed them to take charge of the position.  

If Ball is not there for New York they need to look at Iowa State Cyclone Tyrese Haliburton.  Haliburton flourished in his final year in Ames, stuffing the stat sheets  averaging over 5 boards and 6 assists along with 15 points. Haliburton was able to shoot over 40% from behind the arc.  His consistent shooting and size set him apart from Cole Anthony, the other top PG prospect.  

New York is in need of a leader.  They have had a long history of instability at the position and the addition of one of the premier guards in the draft is a need to go along with RJ Barrett and Julius Randle.  

Trade for Devin Booker.

We may not know exactly the player Devin Booker is.  He has never been given the chance to play with a team that can help his talents flourish.  The raw potential of the 23-year old is something that the league can’t ignore.  Booker’s extension has him in Phoenix for the next few seasons but if the organization can’t find a way to make them winners it won’t take long for Booker to want a new opportunity.  Players now have all of the power in the league and it is a matter of time before Booker gets fed up with the direction of the team.  The Suns have done their best to build around Booker and the combinations they are putting together are not working.  

The Knicks have stockpiled a few draft picks over the last few seasons trading away Kristaps and Marcu Morris.  The picks along with Kevin Knox and their litany of PG’s on the roster may be enough to entice the Suns to move their franchise cornerstone.  Booker along with RJ Barrett and a new young PG picked up in the draft will give them a core that can compete with the middle of the pack in the East.  The talent, along with the addition of another high star will push them where they need to be. 

Commit to Mitchell Robinson

Robinson has faults.  His ability to stay on the court is the biggest problem.  If Robinson can mature as a player he can be the biggest asset the organization has.  The ability to lock down the paint on the defensive end can help a young team develop a team concept. 

If New York is able to add a game changer like Lamelo Ball the pick and roll with Robinson can be deadly, similar to the Chris Paul- Deandre Jordan connection of the mid-2000’s.  Entering 2021 the Knicks have to decide what their direction for Robinson is going to be.  They need to be done with Taj Gibson and Bobby Portis.  Continuing to have pointless veterans in the middle  needs to be a thing of the past.  

It’s time to commit to the youth and ability of Robinson.  Look to the future and run with it. 

The future of the Frontier League – An interview with Manager Phil Warren.


The Frontier League was forced to suspend the 2020 season on June 24th.  The longest running independent baseball league in the United States was looking at a banner year.  The recent expansion with the Can-Am League in the offseason was not only going to add five new teams to the league but was also going to expand the league into another country.  The expansion was going to lead to a new level of exposure for the league that is known more as a midwestern league.  The Gateway Grizzlies were going to celebrate their 20th season as a part of the Frontier League.  Their manager Phil Warren was going to enter his 14th season with the organization.  He was excited to get a chance to see arguably the most talented collection of coaches and players come together during the tenure of the season.  He won’t get that chance.  I got a chance to talk with him about that and what he thinks about the future of baseball. 

With the addition of an unlikely ally the upcoming season was going to have a new look and a new voice helping to guide the Grizzlies. Cross town rivals the River City Rascals closed operations after winning the Frontier League Championship in 2019.  Long time Rascal’s skipper Steve Brook signed on to work alongside Warren bringing along a load of talent from the championship squad. 

“We anticipated several “hard” releases that would have to be made before opening day, which means we had done a great job this off-season.” -Grizzlies Manager, Phil Warren

Warren will be looking at the first season since he was in 8th grade that baseball wasn’t his main priority.  While he is excited for the chance to fish as much as he would like and go on vacation with his family the question of “what if” is going to be on his mind and the minds of the fanbase.  

“We now have turned our attention to building on the assembled 2020 roster to ensure that 2021 has the same outlook.  The work never stops if you want to ensure a successful future.” 

While the coaching staff will work to replenish the roster, there will be plenty of options available in the open market.  With professional teams continuing to cut costs at different minor league levels the access of talent will be available.  Warren spoke about the continued issues between Major League Baseball and the Player’s Association.

“In terms of the future between the players and the owners, this isn’t anything new. Money will always be the driving force.  I think we are simply getting a taste of what’s to come by 2022,  they are able to hide the real issues under the smoke screen of COVID-19.  Ultimately the fans are the ones that will suffer.”

Unlike the MLB season the Frontier League season was not able to make the finances work heading into 2020.  The loss of nearly three months of income along with the limitations of event hosting forced the hand of the ownership groups across the league. Most teams have found ways to supplement their facilities with high school, littel league and other events that can bring in some income but the loss of the season could lead to a lot of different issues down the line for every organization. 

The Frontier League will plan to be back in 2021. The question will be what players and staff will return for most of these organizations.  With a large portion of the staff being forced to be furloughed alot of these talented employees and players could find themselves working in either a different organization or changing their careers completely.  The future is uncertain for the entire league but the Gateway Grizzlies and Phil Warren still see a future in the smallest town in the United States with a professional baseball team in Sauget, Illinois. 

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Who should replace Markakis in Atlanta?

The Braves have been hit pretty hard by COVID-19.  First it was offseason addition Felix Hernandez opting out and now veteran outfielder Nick Markakis has decided to do the same.  Atlanta plans to not only contend in the NL East but they actually see themselves as real candidates to win the NL pennant.  They have to find a replacement for Markakis.  The in-house options are solid but who should be the man to take over right field?

Austin Riley-

Riley’s power is legit.  He is going to have to find consistency on the major league level.  Bursting onto the scene in 2019, it looked like the Braves had a future star at 3rd base or outfielder ready to take over for the departing Josh Donaldson. Opposing pitchers were having a problem leaving the ball over the middle of the plate to the power hitting prospect.  

Eventually Riley ran into some trouble as pitchers began to figure him out.  During his last 123 plate appearances of the season the slash line is not positive, .150/.202/.293. Riley became susceptible to the slider which forced him to try and change his swing to adjust.  His hand trigger became slower which is allowing pitchers to take advantage with high hard fastballs.  

Austin Riley is still young and his problems can be fixed.  If Riley is able to adjust he can fit in nicely in right field and Johan Camargo can take over full time at the hot corner. 

Ender Inciarte-

Inciarte’s injuries saw him lose his spot in the starting lineup. Even before the injuries the writing was on the wall for Ender losing his job.  The 2017 All-Star saw a decline in his OBP in 2018, falling to just .325. 

Ender will have his chance to reclaim his spot in the starting lineup due to his defense. He is a 3-time gold glove award winner will bring his glove but the offense has to show in the lead up to the season.  If Inciarte is able to reclaim his form from 2017 he will be a great place holder for some developing stars that will come on this list.  

Adam Duvall-

Maybe the most established major league player on this list is Adam Duvall.  The long time Red has had spurts of brilliance in 2016 and 2017, hitting 30+ homers over those two seasons.  The power Duvall brings comes at a cost as his career OBP is a pedestrian .292.  In 41 games last year he showed the Braves what he can bring to the table slugging .567.  

The Braves are a team built around a core of power bats already, Duvall seems to fit better in the power off the bench role.  While he could win the job, it may be hard to keep the job. 

Cristian Pache- 

The top outfield prospect in Atlanta will most likely have a legit shot at making the opening day roster.  A potential five tool prospect was a late bloomer in terms of power but saw his slugging percentage rise to .462 in 2019 reaching as high as triple-A.  

Pache looks the part standing at 6’2” and runs like a gazelle.  He has not developed into a legit base stealer but his first to third speed is exceptional.  His speed transitioned well into the defensive.  Pache has center field skills that will work in the right.  With Pache and Ronald Acuna a gap shot in right center field may disappear.  The Braves would be gambling on exposing Pache before necessary but he should have an impact on this season before it’s over.  

Drew Waters-

Waters had a great 2019 season.  Jumping up to compete with Cristian Pache as the #1 outfield prospect in the Braves system, Waters turned some heads last season.  The Georgia native led all Braves minor leaguers in hits, doubles and triples.  If Waters can find a way to cut down the strikeouts, his hard contact rate is hard to ignore.

Waters had a solid .360 OBP split between triple-A and double-A.  He could be a future top of the lineup standout for the Braves but he will have to show an ability to knock down the strikeouts leading up to the first games or he will be relegated to a bench role or not making the team at all. 

Who should it be?

Atlanta will allow everyone to have a chance to win the position. In my opinion if Cristian Pache shows an ability to hit he should be the man to be given the chance.  Adam Duvall’s skills seem perfect for the power bat off the bench and Ender Inciarte has had problems staying healthy.  

While I like Pache, it will most likely be Inciarte getting the first chance.

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Teams that should thrive in a 60 game schedule.

American League Central: Minnesota Twins

The Twins were already going to be favored in the AL Central, a shortened season fits perfectly for the power heavy Twins.  An already powerful offense adding free agent prize Josh Donaldson in the offseason to put him in the middle of the lineup along with the ageless Nelson Cruz.  Minnesota’s lineup depth is arguably as good as any team in baseball. Less games means more rest for 2019 breakouts Mitch Garver and Jorge Polanco.  Polanco, a 2019 all-star, saw some regression in the second half but in a shortened season his .880 first half OPS last year shows the type of potential he can bring to the table in 2020. 

The Twins biggest question leading into the 2020 campaign was going to be their pitching staff behind ace Jose Berrios. They didn’t address it as drastically as the fanbase would like adding Kenta Maeda from the Dodgers being the biggest marquee name.  The Twins still have a serviceable rotation backed up by a very solid bullpen.  The aforementioned Berrios should excel in a condensed season. His second half numbers seemed to show the wear and tear of a long season.  

Minnesota has the bats and the bullpen to be dominant out of the gate.  While the White Sox have improved and the Indians still have a great core, Minnesota is built for immediate impact. 

American League East: Toronto Blue Jays

Youth and power.  The Toronto Blue Jays have a litany of both and that is as dangerous as it can come in a shortened season.  A young team getting off to a good start doesn’t always carry the full length of 162 games.  With just a sixty game season by the time Toronto realizes that they aren’t supposed to win we could be in the playoffs.  

Toronto overhauled their rotation in the offseason adding Chase Anderson, Tanner Roark and Hyun-Jin Ryu.  Ryu is the most notable addition from the LA Dodgers immediately jumps to the top of the rotation for Toronto and brings some much needed playoff experience.  Top prospects Nate Pearson, Simeon Woods Richardson and Anthony Kay could factor into the season if there is a playoff push down the stretch. 

The most exciting part of the Blue Jays will be their exceptional power throughout the lineup.  Vlad Guerreo Jr., Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio are ready to make an impact right now. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. has legit 30 homer power and the rest of the lineup has legit 25-30 homer power.  This team can erase a deficit very quickly, all it will take is a good start to make them a problem for the American League. 

American League West: Texas Rangers

I loved the Rangers leading into the 2020 season as a dark horse playoff contender.  The additions of Corey Kluber and Robinson Chirinos added playoff experience to a talented team that seemed to be missing something.  They sured up the rest of their rotation by adding two other veteran starters with high upside in Jordan Lyles and Kyle Gibson. Texas may arguably have one of the deepest rotations in the American League one through five.  Their top three starters Kluber, Lance Lynn and Mike Minor can match up with most rotations.  Texas still has some questions in the back end of the pen but Jose Leclerc seemed to settle into the closer role and minor league signee Cody Allen could emerge as a reliable late inning arm down the stretch. 

The Rangers have studs on the offensive side of the ball and the delay in the season allowed Willie Calhoun to heal from getting hit in the face by a fastball in spring training.  Texas has the offensive firepower to hang with anyone.  If they can cut down the strikeouts they can be a serious threat in a shortened season.  The Astros are the clear favorite in the NL West but they will not be able to relax as the rebuild in Texas is nearly finished.

National League Central: Milwaukee Brewers

The Milwaukee Brewers could not have asked for a better situation heading into 2020.  A shorter season seems to work right into the hands of Manager Craig Counsel.  Counsel has morphed into the ultimate game manager during his young career.  The Brewers rotation is not built to handle big inning seasons so the bullpen would again have had to eat a bulk amount of innings.  The shortening of the regular season allows the power arms in the pen to conserve some of their best stuff for the stretch run heading into October.

The Brewers will have a fully healthy Christain Yelich and will have a new cast of power bats lining up behind him.  Avisail Garcia should thrive in Miller Park and a second season of super prospect Keston Hiura should make for a lineup that will provide plenty of pop.  

Milwaukee would have run into problems with the rotation if they had to go a full 162 but this set up makes them a serious threat to take the NL Central.

National League East: Atlanta Braves

Heading into the 2019 postseason it seemed like the Braves were the clear favorite to match up with the Dodgers in the NLCS.  Amazingly neither of those teams were able to overcome their first round opponents but a shortened 2020 season could be just what the club needs to get over the hump of the previous year.  

Atlanta lost Josh Donaldson in the offseason but found a more than adequate replacement in Marcel Ozuna.  Ozuna’s stint with the St. Louis Cardinals didn’t pan out the way the former all-star had hoped but he moved from a pitcher friendly park to a much more hitter friendly Suntrust Field.  Ozuna will also have a full season of Austin Riley at 3rd base.  He will be given the reins to handle the hot corner and hopefully find the skills that showed in his first few weeks in the bigs.  

The Braves swapped out Dallas Keuchel for Cole Hamels in the rotation.  Hamels still has a lot in the tank and should be a huge asset for the Braves behind Mike Soroka and the re-emerging Mike Foltynewicz.  Atlanta doesn’t have the same top of the rotation as the Mets or Nationals but both have better bullpens and lineups which should thrive in this situation. 

National League West: Arizona Diamondbacks

The NL West is tricky.  The obvious favorite and most likely winners will be the LA Dodgers.  Nearly every other team in the division could benefit from a shorter season and expanded playoffs.  My favorite team for this situation though is the Arizona Diamondbacks.  The D-Backs made headlines picking up veteran ace Madison Bumgarner. Bumgarner is still just 30 years old and brings an imposing figure to the desert.  A leader in his many years in San Fran the Diamondbacks sport a still very young core that needed an on field presence like Bumgarner.  Behind Bumgarner, talented Robbie Ray will have less pressure to be the ace and allow him to just show off his impressive skill set.  

The D-Backs had a few stellar offseason additions in the outfield adding Starling Marte and Kole Calhoun.  Arizona’s dynamic of speed and power throughout the lineup will bring fits for opposing pitching staffs.  Ketel Marte has more protection in front of him and behind.  A ful commitment to Christain Walker at first base and Carson Kelly behind the plate is going to pay dividends offensively.  

Arizona’s bullpen is led by Archie Bradley and has plenty of solid arms to hold up over the shortened time frame.  Arizona is going to be fun to watch and should see themselves in the thick of the playoff race.

90’s MLB All-Stars that had terrible seasons.

Being an all-star is a great honor that not many players get a chance to do.  It seems like in the 90’s your resume did not have to be as solid to make the squad.   I wanted to highlight players that were able to make the team but their actual seasons were subpar to say the least. 

1990- Ozzie Guillen, SS, Chicago White Sox

Ozzie Guillen won the gold glove in 1990.  His defense was great but how does a player with a  -18 value offensively (Fangraphs) make an all-star team.  The numbers don’t lie.  Ozzie Guillen was horrible with the bat during the season.  Guillen featured a .312 OBP, .062 ISO and a 78 WRC+.  These numbers fit more for a late inning defensive replacement rather than an all-star.  

Clearly this was a defensive selection during a time where the shortstop pool was not overly talented.  Imagine seeing a player with an OPS under .700 making an all-star team in today’s game.  Would never happen.  

1991- Juan Samuel, Utility, Los Angeles Dodgers

Juan Samuel had a long career in the majors.  He had a lot of solid seasons that lead to a total of three all star game appearances.  Samuel was a strikeout machine throughout his career and 1991 was no outlier.  Samuel struck out 133 times while providing little power, finishing with 12 homers and an OBP of just .328. Samuel was a good utility player in his career but to be an all-star is well…ugh.

1992- Roberto Kelly, OF, New York Yankees

Roberto Kelly played for eight different teams during his 14 years in major league baseball.  His best two seasons were 1990 and 1993, sandwiched in between was 1992 when he made his first all star game.  Kelly had a decent season but finished with just a 1.4 WAR and an OPS of .706.   Kelly didn’t bring much to the table on the defensive end either as he finished with a -10 defensive runs saved. 

1993- Scott Copper, 1B/3B,  Boston Red Sox

Scott Cooper had a short career in the MLB career. He was able to make it to two all-star games in his career and neither of which resulted in a stellar season.  Cooper had the task of taking over for future hall of famer Wade Boggs.  He had a solid season in 1993 with an OBP of .355.  He however didn’t do much else well.  Hitting nine homers and slugging just .397.  His OPS of .752 is solid but is very average for a corner infielder on an all-star team.  Cooper was good but he was not an all-star. 

1994- Scott Cooper, 1B,  Boston Red Sox

His 1993 season is basically the same. 

1995- Steve Ontiveros, P, Oakland Athletics

Steve Ontiveros was coming off of a career season in 1994.  He led the league in WHIP and ERA, pitching in 27 games, starting 13.  In 1995 Ontiveros was going to be a cornerstone of the Athletics pitching staff.  It didn’t really work out that way.  Becoming a full time starter Ontiveros pitched in 22 games giving up a WHIP of 1.4 and an ERA of nearly 4.50.  This was the time where most teams had to have a representative, but the A’s had Mark McGwire representing them.  Ontiveros actually got to pitch in the game and took the loss…Duh.

1996- Roger Pavlik, P, Texas Rangers

Wins can be overrated, according to Brian Kenny they shouldn’t even count.  In the case of Roger Pavlik he ended the 1996 season with 16 wins. That sounds great but every other stat was pretty embarrassing.  Pavlik had a 5.16 ERA, a 1.50 WHIP and FIP of 5.00.  Pavlik was an innings eater with 7 complete games but when he was bad, he was very bad.  Pavlik’s ability to eat innings was the lone positive of a season that should have been forgotten.  He will always have that all-star game in the record books but it is hard to believe. 

1997- Royce Clayton, SS, St. Louis Cardinals

Royce Clayton had the task of replacing hall of famer Ozzie Smith.  Clayton had his positives, he was a solid defensive player that was able to steal 30 bases in back to back seasons.  The problem was Clayton really didn’t get on base enough to utilize his speed.  In 1997 Clayton featured an on-base percentage of just .306. Clayton didn’t walk much and he only hit .206.  This was right before the boom of talented shortstops took over the league.  Clayton may not even start in today’s game.  It’s laughable to think he would be an all-star.

1998- Edgar Renteria, SS, Florida Marlins

Having a historical moment can make your career.  In 1997 Edgar Renteria was a part of one of the greatest moments in baseball history, getting the game winning hit in game seven.  His historic moment seemed to grab him some legitimacy heading into the 1998 season.  Renteria stole 41 bases which was the lone highlight of his statistical season.  Edgar’s season finished with a .9 WAR and a WRC+ of 90.  His loan highlighted statistics, stolen bases, had an asterisk next to eat as he was actually caught stealing a staggering 22 times. 

Edgar Renteria had a few very good seasons but being an all-star in 1998 seems like a big reach.  

1999- Ron Coomer, INF, Minnesota Twins

Ron Coomer was a bright spot in a pretty bad stretch for the Minnesota Twins.  Coomer was a middle of the order bat that brought more of a look of a power hitter than a real threat.  Coomer hit a career high 16 homers in 1999 but that really was the highlight of his season.  His .306 OBP along with an OPS+ of just 86.  Not much of an impact for a guy that was supposed to be able to help carry the order. Coomer making the all-star game was clearly just a guy that was put in there because every team needed to have a representative.