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

Grading the Mookie Betts Trade

Los Angeles Dodgers- Receive Mookie Betts and David Price

The Dodgers are perennial contenders year after year.  Losing three straight times in the postseason to the eventual champions. They were very open about doing what it took to add another impact player.  They were in on Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon and Stephen Strasburg. When they got Scott Boras’d (that’s a thing now) on all of them it was time to go after a team looking to begin a rebuild in the Boston Red Sox.  

Betts was not going to re-sign with Boston.  The Red Sox saw the writing on the wall and it was time to get what they could out of their All-Star.  The Dodgers didn’t hesitate when they saw the opportunity. Moving top prospect Alex Verdugo as well as a picking up a portion of the David Price contract has allowed the already talented Dodgers to become a legit SUPER team. 

Grade: A++++++

Boston Red Sox- Receive Alex Verdugo and Brusdar Graterol #53

I understand that Boston fans are angry but they should really look on the bright side of the situation. Alex Verdugo immediately puts himself in the starting lineup for the Red Sox for years to come. 

Verdugo, 23, is a future star in Boston.  In 2018 mlb.com called him “One of the best pure hitting prospects in baseball”.  The Dodgers loaded roster was unable to find consistent AB’s for Verdugo but when he played he excelled.  He is not just just a hitter either, Verdugo has one of the highest rated arms in baseball, which should fill in nicely in right field.  

So, who is Brusdar Graterol?

Graterol, 21, is currently the #53 overall prospect in all of baseball.  He brings a ridiculous fastball that will consistently stay in the triple digits. He has dealt with injuries over the last two seasons but his plus arm should make him a candidate for a bullpen role.  With the Red Sox severe need for bullpen pieces they may have a future closer on their hands.  

Boston loses the trade because they lost the best player, but really did they do that bad? I say no. If they were not going to re-sign Betts, this isn’t that bad.

Grade: B-

Minnesota Twins- Kenta Maeda

The Twins need pitching.  Behind Jose Berrios there is not much that you can depend on in the Twins rotation.  Jake Odorizzi, Homer Bailey, Rich Hill and Michael Pineida are the probables behind their star.  Adding Maeda gives the Twins another guy that has proven himself in the rotation as well as out of the bullpen. 

The Twins gave up a prospect they didn’t see a future in and added depth in a place they needed it most.  Solid job.

How the Cole signing helps the Cardinals.

Stephen Strasburg returned to the Washington Nationals agreeing to a 7-year $245 million dollar contract smashing David Price’s $217 million contract signed in 2016.  Strasburg now has the largest contract ever signed by a pitcher.

Gerrit Cole…hold my beer.

Cole signing a 9-year $324 million contract to join the New York Yankees on Tuesday immediately surpassing Strasburg’s deal.  The Yankees have planted their flag in the American League East for years to come. The Yanks will have a rotation that now includes James Paxton, Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, JA Happ along with the aforementioned Cole.  The Yankees will have a rotation that will match their powerful lineup and lockdown bullpen. 

Why does this help the St. Louis Cardinals?  

The Boston Red Sox have openly stated that they are looking to cut down salary heading into the 2020 season.  David Price, being the obvious salary to try and dump. Price has had a connection to the Redbirds since he signed his mega deal in 2016.  St. Louis has a need for another impact starter to place behind Jack Flaherty and Dakota Hudson. Injuries to Alex Reyes and Carlos Martinez have changed the future of the rotation.  Price, has had a few injury concerns throughout his career but his numbers when healthy have not tailed off to a point of major concern. David Price’s SIERRA if eligible last season would rank in the top 13 right behind Jack Flaherty. Price is owed $32 million each year for the next three.  Pricey (ha pun intended), but acceptable if the Red Sox can throw in a kicker. 

The signing of Gerrit Cole has put the Red Sox even further behind in the AL East. Boston has to make a decision on their future.  By moving Mookie Betts or Andrew Benintendi along with Price would be enough for St. Louis to include one of their young rising outfielders, Tyler O’Neil, Randy Arozerena or Adolis Garcia. 

The Cardinals have to go out and take advantage of a Red Sox right now, while the iron is hot.  Boston sees the writing on the wall. They have to do some remodeling before they can make a run at the division title.  They also see teams like Oakland and Tampa Bay continuing to emerge. They are desperate, throw them a name like Carlos Martinez and a prospect and you can not only get a solid piece to your rotation but a potential proven outfield commodity.  

MLB DFS August 9 Attack Edwin

Pitcher Spotlight- Yu Darvish, Chicago Cubs

Darvish in a pitcher friendly ballpark at one point would have been a scary concept.  This Yu Darvish has turned his season around, putting up twenty points in 4 of 5 of his last five games.  His most recent start against Cincinnati Darvish went six innings, struck out seven, giving up just two hits.  

The Reds have a watered-down lineup after moving Yasiel Puig and Scooter Gennett.  They have officially entered into a rebuild mood around their pitching.  Sporting a top three rotation that can be one of the tops in the league entering 2020 is not going to help their offense.  They sport a 23.5% strikeout rate over their last 10 games.  Darvish has a great matchup and his cost is just outside of the top on the slate leaving you wiggle room for upper level hitters. 

Potential Stacks- Kansas City Royals, Boston Red Sox, San Diego Padres, Houston Astros

It’s hard to ignore the Kansas City Royals.  They have multiple low-priced power options that can help you fill up your lineups.  They get a matchup with the infamous Edwin Jackson. Jackson enters this matchup giving up a little over three homers per game during his time with the Toronto Blue Jays.  Jorge Soler, Hunter Dozier and Alex Gordon are all plays that make sense for a middle of the order stack.  Keeping my eye on Ryan O’Hearn at just 2.8K can be a great value for someone trying to play Walker Buehler.  

It’s simple, Edwin Jackson is a powderkeg and the low cost of the Kansas City Bats makes a lot of sense. 

Potential one off plays-

Justin Upton- Los Angeles Angels

Most will look to Mike Trout in the Angels matchup with Brian Johnson.  I would prefer the cost of Justin Upton who will most likely be batting cleanup holds a career .365 wOBA against lefties. Johnson only strikes out 16% of batters.  Upton at 3.8K is a value with monstorous upside. 

Xander Bogaerts- Boston Red Sox

Bogaerts is not cheap so this as a one off has to be well planned out.  Angels starter Jaime Barria gives up a lot of hard contact, 43.4% to right handed hitters.  Xander excels at home with a .680 slugging percentage in Fenway.

Aaron Judge- New York Yankees

Aaron Judge is way to cheap. He’s struggling right now but with his potential power against Sean Reid-Foley, worth the shot.

P: Yu Darvish, Chicago Cubs, $9,200

P: Drew Smyly, Philadelphia Phillies, $5,800

C: Kyle Higashioka, New York Yankees, $3,500

1B: Yuli Gurriel, Houston Astros, $5,000

2B: Whit Merrifield, Kansas City Royals, $4,500

3B: Hunter Dozier, Kansas City Royals, $4,400

SS: Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox, $5,000

OF: Jorge Solar, Kansas City Royals, $4,600

OF: Aaron Judge, New York Yankees, $4,200

OF: Alex Gordon, Kansas City Royals, $3,800

MLB DFS August 5 2019

Pitcher Spotlight- Charlie Morton at home is the way to go.

The top two pitchers for the slate are Lucas Giolito and Charlie Morton.  Giolito has the better matchup against the high strikeout rated Detroit Tigers.  Morton gets the nod for me facing the free-swinging Toronto Blue Jays at the Trop.  Morton has been great all season, he has excelled at home.  Over Morton’s last ten starts he has struck out at least ten in 8 of those games. The Blue Jays have legit power in their lineup, but they don’t walk much so the power can be limited as well as it can be negated by the potential K’s.  

Stack I’m looking at: Cleveland Indians

This is a gamble against Mike Minor.  The Indians have been one of the hottest teams in the league and Minor has been on a second half decline.  Minor has given up four runs or more in each of his last four starts.  The Indians will also be a low owned stacked with guys like Mike Montgomery, Merrill Kelly and Rick Porcello on the mound.  I am going to target the middle of the order with Jose Ramirez, Francisco Lindor and of course the lefty masher Jordan Luplow. You can fit them in at an affordable cost.

Stackable Teams: Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays

JD Martinez is a must start against Mike Montgomery whom has been a gas can all season. JD’s stats versus lefties are elite on all levels.  If you can fit him in with Morton and some nice smaller stacks around him, you are looking at a cashable lineup.

Sneaky Stack: Milwaukee Brewers

Moustakas is too cheap on this slate. The Brewers have a nice potential night versus a high contact pitcher in the Pirates Agrazal.  He gives up a nice hard contact and ISO versus left-handed power bats.

P: Charlie Morton, Tampa Bay Rays, $10,700

P: Eric Fedde, Washington Nationals, $5,600

C: James McCann, Chicago White Sox, $3,400

1B: Ryan O’Hearn, Kansas City Royals, $3,000

2B: Mike Moustakas, Milwaukee Brewers, $4,200

3B: Jose Ramirez, Cleveland Indians, $4,800

SS: Francisco Lindor, Cleveland Indians, $5,400

OF: Jordan Luplow, Cleveland Indians, $4,400

OF: JD Martinez, Boston Red Sox, $5,100

OF: Sam Travis, Boston Red Sox, $3,400

ALCS Preview and Pick

It’s not often in sports that the two best teams actually have a chance to meet.  We are lucky enough to have our baseball dreams come true as the defending World Champions the Houston Astros will meet the best team in baseball in 2018 the Boston Red Sox.  No matter who wins this the victor will come out as the favorite in the fall classic.  Let’s break it down.

Starting Pitching- Advantage Houston Astros

The Boston Red Sox are no slouches when it comes to the starting rotation.  Sporting a stud like Chris Sale, former Cy Young winner David Price as well as proven winner Rick Porcello can make any team formidable.  Assuming Porcello stays in the bullpen the Sox can also trot out the talented but inconsistent Nathan Eovaldi or strikeout stud Eduardo Rodriguez.  All are formidable starters for any contending team sporting a combined 3.42 ERA in one of the most offensively gifted divisions in baseball.  In most cases this rotation would be an advantage for any team. But they aren’t playing just any team, they are playing the Houston Astros.

The Astros feature a rotation of All Stars Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Dallas Keuchel and Charlie Morton.  Each of them could be a candidate to start Game 1 or Game 4.  Both Verlander and Cole went through the season with sub three ERA’s while Charlie Morton was just on the other side at 3.13, in a time of offense Astros starting pitching has been as dominant as any we have seen in the game.

Both teams have their strengths in the rotation especially with the strikeouts per nine innings ranking first and third.  Houston will look for more from their starters and most likely get more.  The Stros don’t have as many question marks behind their ace as the Red Sox do, that’ why we have to give the rotation advantage to the defending world champs.

Bullpen- Advantage Houston Astros

The Houston Astros will rely more on the ability of their starters.  But the bullpen is no push over Colin McHugh, Tony Sipp, mid season addition Roberto Osuna all have proven themselves as reliable pitchers to say the least.  New weapon Ryan Pressly was a force in the ALDS, establishing himself as a stopper in the middle innings.  The Astros have multiple option to finish games, look for someone to establish themselves as this series goes on.  My money would be on Osuna but it wouldn’t shock me to see Colin McHugh get a few chances to finish off games.

The Red Sox have a few more question marks in their bullpen outside of Closer Craig Kimbrel. To their advantage they sport a bullpen of mostly righties against a lineup that is heavier on the right side.  Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier will play big roles in transitioning the starters to Kimbrel in the 9th.

Both bullpens have strikeout pitchers but the Astros seem more versatile.  They also will mostly likely not ask for nearly as much out of there bullpen, that’s why you have to give the slight advantage to the Astros.

Lineup- Advantage Boston Red Sox

When you have the two best lineups in baseball going against each other it’s pretty hard to pick the best.  Both have speed, power and clutch from the top to the bottom.

The Red Sox may have arguably the best all around player in baseball leading off in Mookie Betts.  His success though is predicated on the fact that you really can’t pitch around him.  Putting him on base is an automatic risk with his speed on the base paths.  Manager Alex Cora will give him the green light to run in almost any count.  Following Betts is a litany of heavy hitters headlined by offseason signing JD Martinez whom has proven himself to be worth every penny he was paid.  The bounce back season for shortstop Xander Bogaerts has been a huge boost to a lineup that already had great depth.  The key for the Reed Sox may be at first base in this series, Steve Pearce has been great since being picked up in the mid season but his specialty is against left handed pitching.  Veteran Mitch Moreland, known more for his glove work, quietly had a solid season.  Cora will be forced to utilize Moreland against the heavy right handed rotation of the Astros.  This lineup has role players that have played their parts to perfection during the regular season and I see no reason they won’t do the same in the ALCS.

The Astros are deep, Alex Bregman has emerged as the star of the team perhaps sooner than what was expected. Bregman lead the Astros in homers, RBI’s, hits and OBP during the regular season and has brought that success into the playoffs.  George Springer continued his post season heroics in the ALDS clubbing three homers off of Indians pitching.  The surprise of the division series was the bat of Marwin Gonzalez.  Gonzalez was a constant headache for the Indians hitting .538 in the series in 13 at bats.  If Gonzalez can continue to hit he will take pressure off of stars Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa.  Until game three of the NLDS Correa had been on a cold streak that forced AJ Hinch to move him down to sixth in the order,  perhaps the three run homer he hit could be the jolt he needs to get back on track.  The Astros will have to go with defensive specialist Martin Maldonado in the lineup rather then the offensive minded veteran Brian McCann due to the speed and aggressive nature of the Boston lineup.

The Astros have a solid offense, especially against lefties were they mash to a team average of .270 and a .803 OPS.  The Red Sox would be smart to counter their efficiencies by moving up Eovaldi and Porcello in the rotation.  That would me having David Price potentially in the bullpen or just getting one start.  On the other hand the Red Sox were able to contain a the second best lineup against left handed pitching the New York Yankees.

Both offenses are good but the edge has to go to the Red Sox lineup because they have to true MVP candidates in the lineup along with great pieces all around them.  They have the ability to bring more speed and power off the bench in roles that they are comfortable with.  This one is close but gotta go with the Sox for a lineup advantage.

 

Who wins?

This series can go either way.  The Red Sox have been the best team in baseball all year but the Astros are built for the post season with dominant pitching and stellar defense at multiple positions.  My heart says Boston but my head says Astros.

Astros in 6.