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

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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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.

DH for every NL team.

NL Central:

Matt Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals

The argument can be made for a couple of different players on the Cardinals roster.  Tyler O’Neil seems to make a lot of sense as he has had a few problems in the field that were well documented.  But I think that Matt Carpenter makes a lot of sense being a DH.  Bro’Neil needs to be active in the game to keep his focus, he has shown he is not great coming off of the bench as a pinch hitter, while Carpenter is a type of player that can focus on film while the team is in the field.  Tommy Edman has shown he can play a great hot corner.  

Nicholas Castellanos, Cincinnati Reds

Castellanos is not a great defender anywhere on the field.  He was a terrible third baseman and a subpar corner outfielder.  Great American Small Park should hide some defensive inefficiencies but he is still not a great option in the field.  With the addition of 6-time gold glove winner in the Pacific League Shogo Akiyama controlling center along with youngster Nick Senzel, Jesse Winker and Aristedes Aquino the Reds have more than a couple great options in the outfield. 

Kyle Schwarber, Chicago Cubs

Kyle Schwarber is the type of player that the DH is built for.  A great power bat that has never had an exact spot in the field to play.  With Albert Almora, Jason Heyward, Ian Happ and the addition of Steven Souza the Cubbies have enough options to handle the outfield and allow Schwarber to just mash. 

Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers

The addition of Avisail Garcia brought up a lot of questions about what was next for former MVP Ryan Braun.  The Brewers had talked about moving Braun over to first base but another addition Justin Smoak makes that an unlikely option.  Braun still brings impact to the lineup and can be protected from injury by just having a few at-bats per game. 

Josh Bell, Pittsburgh Pirates

Josh Bell became one of the most feared hitters in all of baseball, surprisingly Bell has ranked as one of the worst defensive players in all of baseball.  His -31 DRS (fangraphs) was the worst in the league by a first baseman.  With Jose Osuna on the bench the Pirates can have a better defensive first baseman that can actually bring more power to the lineup. 

NL East:

Howie Kendrick, Washington Nationals

Washinton has a litany of veteran players in the infield and they are set on giving prospect Carter Kieboom the job replacing Anthony Rendon.  Kendrick has shown his ability to hit and he has to find a way in the lineup.   DH seems like it was made for Kendrick. 

Marcell Ozuna, Atlanta Braves

The former gold glove winner has seen a consistent decline in his defensive ability due to injuries and just extremely questionable decisions.  The Braves needed to replace the Josh Donaldson pop in the lineup and keeping Ozuna healthy could be as easy as keeping him out of left field.  Austin Riley, Ender Inciarte and Nick Markakis can round out an outfield centered around mega-star Ronald Acuna Jr. 

Jesus Aguilar, Miami Marlins

It seems like Jesus Aguilar’s breakout season of 2018 was actually a lifetime ago.  Aguilar couldn’t replicate his success during the 2019 season but he still brings the power that belongs in a lineup.  The Marlins picked up Aguilar in the offseason, he immediately becomes a threat in the Miami offense.  The Marlins actually have a solid option at first base in Garrett Cooper.  Cooper can handle the defense of first base while Aguilar slots in at the DH spot. 

Neil Walker, Philadelphia Phillies

The Phillies loaded up with veterans in the offseason. Neil Walker will enter the season in a utility bench spot but would make a lot of sense as the DH.  Walker brings a OBP of .344 which would put him right at the top of the Phillies lineup.  The return of Andrew McCutchen will help with a serious problem Philadelphia has.  They were one of the worst teams in the league at getting on base.  Putting Walker in the lineup provides the RBI chances for the big bats as well as a switch hitter for late inning matchup problems.  

Dominic Smith, New York Mets

Long time prospect Dominic Smith found himself overtaken as the future first baseman of the Mets by Pete Alonso.  Smith is still an impact bat that just needed consistent plate appearances.  Smith transitioned to the outfield where he did not excel defensively.  With a healthy Michael Conforto along with Brandon Nimmo, JD Davis and Jake Marisnick the outfield is too stacked for Smith to find a spot.  Smith can hit and he should be given a chance as a full time DH. 

NL West:

Jake Lamb, Arizona Diamondbacks

Injuries have completely derailed the production of Jake Lamb.  With no set spot in the field because of Eduardo Escobar and Christian Walker, DH should be a great spot for Jake Lamb. 

Sam Hilliard, Colorado Rockies

Colorado has to find a way to get consistent at bats for prospect Sam Hilliard.  Charlie Blackmon, David Dahl and Ramail Tapia currently man the massive outfield in Colorado. Putting Hilliard in the DH role gives him a chance to in the majors with consistent at-bats.  The Rockies had a lot of options with Daniel Murphy, Ian Desmond and Garret Hampson, but Hilliard needs to find a spot in the lineup. 

Joc Pederson, Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers are going to play the matchup game as they always do, so naming one guy as the potential DH is trivial but I would go with Joc Pederson.  Pederson has shown his ability to play the corners as well as first base.  With the addition of Mookie Betts, the Dodgers now have two solid defenders in the outfield. Betts, Bellinger and former gold glove winner AJ Pollock would give the Dodgers their best defensive outfield.  Max Muncy is a better defender at first base so Pederson in the DH role makes the most sense. 

Josh Naylor, San Diego Padres

Josh Naylor mashed in triple-A slugging .573.  He has legit power that can be put right into the middle of the Padre lineup.  Naylor will have to find his way onto the roster.  Franchy Cordero, Will Myers and Juan Lagares are all candidates to take outfield spots from Naylor entering the season.  Despite the competition Naylor brings the most potential power and that is a need in San Diego to protect Manny Machado and Eric Hosmer.

Hunter Pence, San Francisco Giants

Hunter Pence had a resurgence in 2019 with the Texas Rangers.  Injuries cut his season short, ending what was going to be a great comeback season.  He had a WRC+ of 128 along with a .910 OPS he became a great story about a career renaissance. 

The Giants have a set outfield with Mike Yastrzemski, Alex Dickerson and Billy Hamilton.  Pence would be able to get consistent at-bats as the DH and not have to man the large and interesting San Francisco outfield.  

Five Underrated Sports Moments

1) Joe Carter’s game winner 1993 World Series.

Five time All-Star Joe Carter had a near Hall of Fame career.  While his numbers don’t transition well to the analytics world that we know today, he still made an impact with his power and speed through his career. Carter spent a long time in the league making his impact most notably in the 1993 World Series where he not only sent home the Philadelphia Phillies but also gave Toronto their second straight World Series title. Carter’s homer literally won the World Series for the Blue Jays yet it seems to be ignored in history. The fact that this home run was in Toronto also makes it one of the craziest atmospheres in baseball.

2) Lance Berkman’s game tying single, game six 2011 World Series.

David Freese’s game winner will live on in baseball history.  We all tend to forget that it was actually Lance Berkman that saved the series for the Cardinals in game six. The Cardinals were down to their final out and final strike when Berkman shot a single up the middle that kept the game going for the Redbirds.  While Freese’s homer is obviously the moment that should be played over and over again, it was Berkman that made everything possible. Lance had a great career but this moment was by far the biggest of his career. 

https://www.mlb.com/video/berkman-s-game-tying-single-c19955467

3) Derek Fisher’s game winner with .4 seconds left 2004 Western Conference Semifinal.

The Lakers had plenty of guys that took the spotlight in 2004.  Shaq and Kobe were in their prime and dominating the league. Big shot Robert Horry was the guy known for hitting the game winners, hence the nickname.  However it was a shot in the 2004 Western Conference semi-final that stuck out to me. The Spurs and Lakers were battling for dominance in the Western Conference and this game was the swing that led to the win for Los Angeles.  The Lakers seemed done after the Spurs took the lead on a shot from Tim Duncan. This game was over and then out of nowhere the role player Derek Fisher launched a shot with .4 seconds on the clock and sent the fans home, giving the Lakers a 3-2 advantage in the series.  If this shot doesn’t happen we likely see the Spurs versus the Pistons in that year’s NBA Finals. 

4) DeWayne Wise saved Mark Buehrle’s perfect game. 

I watched this game live on WGN when I was in high school.  Soft tossing Mark Buehrle had a very underrated career that had a few highlight moments and one was on July 23rd 2009.  Buehrle threw a perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays. That perfect game was nearly taken away by Gabe Kapler leading off the ninth driving a ball deep to center field.  Little known DeWayne Wise was playing shallow in center and immediately broke into a full sprint back to the wall jumping up off the wall knocking the ball back into play, juggling it before hauling it in. Wise never did anything else in his career that was noteworthy but this catch was awesome and will stay in my memory forever. 

5) Hatteberg’s walk-off for 20 straight. 

We all know the story of Moneyball.  The real world story of Scott Hatteberg is still hard to believe. The former Red Sox catcher seemed like his career was over after suffering an arm injury that forced him out of the position he had played his whole career.  Hatteberg only hit 106 homers in his entire 14-year career. By far his most memorable homer was on Sept 4th 2002 when he took the first pitcher from Royals pitcher Jason Grimsley over the right field wall and gave the A’s their (at the time) record 20th straight win.  While the story was made more famous by Hollywood years later, the actual game was as dramatic as it comes. Oakland had blown a massive lead and needed the former catcher to just get on base but he swung his way into history. If you haven’t seen Chris Pratt’s portrayal of the homer you have to watch Moneyball, he absolutely crushes the performance.

AL East Preview and Prediction

New York Yankees

The New York Yankees found themselves back on top in 2019.  Holding off the Tampa Bay Rays and winning the American League East for the first time since 2012.  I was shocked when I saw that up until last season the Yankees had gone six seasons without taking the division crown. Both the Baltimore Orioles and the Toronto Blue Jays had won the division more recently than New York.  

The Yankees have a great lineup.  The potential injuries of Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge are not going to be a problem with the delayed start to the season.  Resigning Brett Gardner will cover the injury of Aaron Hicks. New York has a loaded lineup. The move of Gleyber Torres should hurt defensively but the power that Torres brings should overshadow most defensive liabilities.  The Yankees will get the return of Miguel Andujar provides a problem that most teams would love to have. Last year’s emergence of Gio Urshela gives the Yankees two serious offensive threats at one position. Andujar has been working to potentially play multiple positions to allow another big bat into the lineup.  The Yankees have tons of talent in the lineup and should be ready to jump out as an offensive force.

The Yankees rotation took a big blow before the season started.  Injuries to James Paxton, Luis Severino and Domingo German have left the Yankees in a tough position.  Behind ace Gerrit Cole is Masahiro Tanaka, J.A. Happ Jordan Montgomery and….. New York’s pickup of Cole will hide some of the injuries for a small time.  If Paxton is not able to recover New York will have to find some proven rotation arms to back up their freshly signed stud.  

The Yankees bullpen is loaded.  Chapman, Britton, Ottavino, Green and Kahnle are just some of the names that make up this ridiculous;y talented pen.  They have it all.

Verdict:

This is the Yankees division to win.  Their rotation scares me enough to see the possibility of Tampa making a run but the Yankees were able to figure things out last season when they didn’t have Gerrit Cole.  It will be tough to bet against them.

Boston Red Sox

Mookie Betts- traded.  Chris Sale- Tommy John Surgery.  This has not been a great start to the 2020 season for the Boston Red Sox. 

The offense is still very solid even without Betts. Boston was able to add Alex Verdugo, a long time prospect that will be given the chance to show whether or not he can live up to the hype.  Verdugo is going to join an offense that still has some serious talent. JD Martinez, Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts and Andrew Benintendi will make up the core of the lineup that still make them a serious threat to the division.  The addition of Kevin Pillar will add a little more pop to the lineup coming off of a 21 homer season. Boston will need a repeat in production from infielder Michael Chavis who will get opportunities at both second base and first base.  The depth of the lineup continues with the addition of veteran Johnathon Lucroy to go along with Christian Vazquez who had a terrific 2019 season. The Red Sox may have lost their best player but this is still a lineup that has serious talent.  Martinez, Bogaerts and Devers are still All-Star level talent that can lead this team. 

The biggest issue for Boston will be the starting staff.  With Chris Sale missing the entire 2020 season an already weak rotation will have to hope veterans Martin Perez and Colin McHugh can step up and show the potential they both had many years ago.  Eduardo Rodriguez will have to step into the role of #1 starter coming off of a career season. Rodriguez’s 19 wins and 3.7 WAR headlined a huge 2019 season for the 27 year old. The Red Sox will have to value their veterans as there is no clear relief coming from the minor league system. The Red Sox top rated prospects are mainly positional players.  The highest rated pitcher in the system is Bryan Mata who had pitched in the future’s game in 2018. Mata is still just in Double-A and will not likely make the strides to get to the majors in 2020.  

The bullpen dug themselves out of a hole in the second half of 2019.  Brandon Workman worked his way into the closer role and will enter the season in that role.  Matt Barnes, Josh Taylor and Darwinzon Hernandez have all progressed into a strong set up man crew but they will need more arms to step up to make it through the whole season.  

Verdict:

Boston’s pitching is going to be a problem.  Losing Chris Sale and trading away David Price has put them in a tough situation.  They are in the process of rebuilding what was once a vaunted farm system. They have a strong lineup that doesn’t have a lot of depth but the starters are as good as any in the division. If Boston can get any sort of support from the rotation they have enough offense to be a threat in the division.  This is going to be a rebuild but the talent is still very young and should be competitive.  

Tampa Bay Rays

It is impossible to question the moves made by the Tampa Bay Rays. They have proven that they are ahead of the curve analytically.  The Rays were active in the offseason adding Jose Martinez, Hunter Renfroe, Manuel Margot and Yoshitomo Tsutsugo to an already deep roster.  To try and have an idea of what the lineup is going to be is a waste of time. The Rays are built better than ever to utilize the platoon lineups.  Their mix of power, speed and on-base ability throughout the roster makes them unique and adaptable to any game. The Rays have the advantage of not leaning on a core of players so no injury should really determine the season.  If Austin Meadows, Joey Wendle, Brandon Lowe and Yandy Diaz can take the next step in their development this team is going to be tough to handle. The eventual call up of Wander Franco and Vidal Brujan will make another impact in the lineup if they need a jolt at any point.

The Rays rotation is highlighted by the top three.  Blake Snell, Charlie Morton and Tyler Glasnow can match up with any team’s top three. If Snell and Glasnow can stay healthy in 2020 a team that is so well known for utilizing their bullpen may have one of the strongest rotations in all of baseball. Yonny Chirinos took steps in the right direction last season finding mixed success in the bullpen and the rotation. Tampa Bay has a few interesting prospects that could find their way into the rotation.  Two-way player Brendan McKay and prospect Brent Honeywell could both find themselves in the majors this season.  

The bullpen is similar to the rotation.  Nick Anderson stands out is the potential closer but there are multiple arms that are ready in any situation.  Jose Alavardo, Diego Castillo, Oliver Drake, Colin Poche and Chaz Roe all have nasty stuff. This team is unpredictable and that makes them tough to handle.

Verdict:

My head says this is the Yankees division.  New York is more fragile than Tampa Bay. The Rays could easily win this division if the starting pitching stays healthy.

Baltimore Orioles

There is a light at the end of the tunnel.  It’s just a really long tunnel. The Orioles were able to rebuild what was a horrific farm system. They are currently ranked 13th overall by MLB.com heading into the season.  This ranking includes four players in the top 100 overall, headlined by the #4 overall prospect Adley Rutschmann. The future looks bright for the Orioles but the 2020 season will not be the first year of the turnaround.

Baltimore’s offense doesn’t have a particular player to build their lineup around. Veteran Trey Mancini is the closest thing to a star player with a 135 OPS+, but he may be trade bait for a contender as the year goes on. Anthony Santander was a nice surprise in 2019 blasting 20 homers in limited at bats.  He will be looked upon to garner more playing time in 2020. Another surprise was the play of Hanser Alberto. Alberto led the Orioles in BA (.305), adding some pop with 13 home runs. OF Austin Hays found his way to the majors last season and will be looked upon as the first hope of what’s to come. 

John Means came out of nowhere in 2020 making it to the All-Star game. Means will be looked upon to carry the load for a rotation full of journeyman veterans.  Tommy Milone, Alex Cobb and Wade LeBlanc are going to be holdovers as the organization waits for their young starters to take the next step. Grayson Rodriguez and DJ Hall headline the upcoming starters that will soon be mainstays in the rotation.  Both starters are still considered at least one year away from being ready for the majors.

The Orioles bullpen has rising star Hunter Harvey to go along with Mychal Givens, their most proven arm in the back end.  The pen will feature a litany of other young arms trying to establish themselves in the majors. 

Verdict:

The Baltimore Orioles are at least a few years away from any sort of contention but the work they have done on their farm system has been impressive.  Moving on from Trey Mancini and Mychal Givens in order to continue to bolster their farm system is the best choice for the organization. The problem Baltimore has is they are going to be very low balled by any team interested in Givens and Mancini. Another tough year is ahead for the Orioles and their fans. 

Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays believe in their young talent.  The second generation stars Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio and Vlad Guerrero Jr make up a young core that will be the backbone of the organization.  These young stars are flanked by the power of Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Rowdy Tellez and Teoscar Hernandez. The Blue Jays have built a lineup that will be nightmares for opposing pitchers for years to come. 

The Blue Jays needed the arms to compete with the elite in the American League and they worked hard to find those arms in the offseason adding Chase Anderson, Tanner Roark, Shun Yamaguchi and Hyun-Jin Ryu. Toronto added some veteran arms to give them stability as they await the incoming talent Nate Pearson and Anthony Kay.  Pearson ranks 7th overall prospect in all of baseball while Kay is 67th. They will soon be joined in the top 100 by another drafted arm Alek Monoah the former #11 overall pick is an imposing 6’6” 260lbs and he brings serious strikeout stuff. In his first 17 innings in low-A he Monoah struck out 27 hitters and dominated. He is still far from MLB ready but when he is it will be impactful. 

The Blue Jays have a very formidable closer in Ken Giles.  He propelled them to a mid-level ranked bullpen. He will be backed up in 2020 by AJ Cole, WIlmer Font and potentially Shun Yamaguchi if he doesn’t end up in the rotation.  If Toronto is able to get the innings they expect from their new veteran rotation the back end of the pen should be able to solidify victories.  

Verdict:

Toronto is still a few years away from being serious competitors but they have a lineup with very real potential for explosion.  If the rotation is able to provide them with any sort of support this team has the real ability to compete for third place in the division.  The playoffs are unlikely but watch out for Toronto they are making waves. 

     2020 Season Standings 

  1. Tampa Bay Rays
  2. New York Yankees
  3. Toronto Blue Jays
  4. Boston Red Sox
  5. Baltimore Orioles