AL Teams that benefit from expanded playoffs

Detroit Tigers

Most overlooked the Tigers in 2021.  After a brutal start to the season the young Tigers squad actually put together a respectable season finishing 77-85, finishing third in the division.  Detroit went into the offseason looking to fill out their rotation with some veteran arms and find some pop to add to the middle of the lineup.  They were successful in both. 

The Tigers added veterans Micheal Pineda and Eduardo Rodriguez to a rotation that was highlighted with young arms.  Former first overall pick Casey Mize should still be looked at as the ace of the staff but the addition of Rodriguez is an under the radar move that could make the Tigers a serious threat in the Central Division.  Rodriguez was 13-8 last year with an ERA of 4.74, his expected ERA was actually just 3.50, he was a victim of the short porches of Fenway Park on multiple occasions.  He should thrive in a much more pitcher friendly park in Detroit.  The Tigers also feature two young arms, Matt Manning and Tarik Skubal, both project to make huge strides in 2022.  The rotation will also get a huge boost with the addition of gold glover Tucker Barnhart behind the plate.  

The offense needed to add more pop in the offseason, they ranked in the bottom of baseball in isolated power. They added power hitter Javy Baez as well as announced that Spencer Torkelson will start the season on the MLB roster.  Baez brings some baggage, he is a strikeout machine that can be his own worst enemy at times but his speed and gap power should play well in Comerica Park.  Detroit still has the veteran presence of Miggy Cabrera and Jonathon Schoop in the middle of the lineup and a litany of speed throughout the lineup that puts pressure on the opposing defense.  AJ Hinch allows his team to play to their strengths and it paid off last year and should help them get to the next level in 2022.

Seattle Mariners

The Mariners were supposed to be a few years away from contention.  Top level prospects Logan Gilbert, Julio Rodriguez and Jared Kelenic were “eventually” going to find their way to the show. Rather than wait the Mariners exceeded expectations and put together an unfathomable 90 win season. Now the prospects are ready and the expectations are as high as they have ever been in Seattle.  

The Mariners won 90 games with one of the worst offenses in all of baseball, they were 30th in batting average, 28th in OBP and 22nd in isolated power.  Basically the offense needed improvement.  For the on-base percentage, they added Adam Frazier, coming off an all-star season where he featured an OBP of .368. For the power they added Jesse Winker, coming off a season where he slugged .558 and a .251 ISO, Winker can also get on base a little big with a .398 OBP.  A fully healthy Mitch Haniger will be huge for the middle of the order.  Seattle will rely on their youth to take a step forward but they have done more than enough to fill in a lineup that was loaded with holes. 

The Mariners also bolstered their rotation by adding Cy Young award winner Robbie Ray.  Ray was lights out for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2021, he will now have been playing in a much more pitcher friendly ballpark.  Despite his success last season Robbie Ray still has question marks about consistency.  Ray’s overall success can be attributed to his ability to finally throw strikes consistently.  In the disaster that was 2020, Ray’s BB/9 reached as high as 7, in 2021 he had a career best 2.42.  Behind Ray the Mariners feature the top prospect Logan Gilbert, Marco Gonzalez and Chris Flexen who are as solid as any 3-4 starters in the entire league.  They have question marks for the 5th spot but overall this is a solid rotation that can compete with any inside of the division.

The Mariner’s bullpen has Paul Sewald, Ken Giles, Drew Steckenrider and Diego Castillo.  All interchangeable parts that can close, go multiple innings or maybe even start if needed.  It’s solid and I didn’t even name everyone.

Erasing a Legend

There are always going to be strong feelings one way or the other about the “steroid” era in baseball.  While some say the boost of power saved baseball, others will tell you that it is a .  Every player will forever be followed by a question, Did you cheat?  It’s like their shadow, always following them.  They will never be able to escape it.  Yesterday the greatest star of that era felt the effects of the mistakes of many.  Barry Bonds will officially be removed from the Hall of Fame ballot.  His legacy will not be enshrined with the greatest the sport has ever seen.  Time will erase him from America’s pastime.  He is now just a name in the records books that the greats of the future will be chasing. 

Barry Bonds Resume

14-time all-star

Single season homerun champion

All time homerun champion

8-time gold glover

12-time silver slugger

2-time batting champion

7-time NL MVP

Bonds resume speaks for itself.  He could do anything on a baseball field, run, hit, throw, defend.  The definition of a  five tool player.  In a time where power was king he wore the crown and there was no one that could challenge him.  Even in his final season at the age of 43 Bonds was able to make an impact by leading the league in walks (132).  When his career ended there was little doubt that he was in the argument to be the greatest baseball player of all time.  The decision to leave him out of the hall of fame is not only wrong but it continues baseball’s unwillingness to grow.  Baseball would rather hide its history than face it.  By leaving him out they are hoping that he will be forgotten.  They cast aside the Black Sox in 1919, they cut all ties they could with Pete Rose and now they are dismissing their home run champion.  

I am not here to say Barry Bonds is a model citizen. He was disliked by the media and his teammates throughout his career. He rubbed the fanbase the wrong way on more than one occasion.  He was found guilty of perjury by a grand jury. Did he take steroids?  Yes, I think he did, but he was playing in a time where that was the norm.  He did what he had to do to stay on top of the game.  It was wrong and he was punished by the court of public opinion as well as the actual courts.  If you want to put an asterix on his plaque then do it, but to leave him out is wrong. Cooperstown is supposed to be the place where legends are immortalized.  Baseball’s entire history is supposed to be enshrined there.  If you leave out Bonds you are ignoring a whole decade of dominance. 

Erasing history is never the right decision. The MLB needs to step in and do something about this.  Bonds will forever be tarnished, but his impact on the game is undoubtable.  His legacy will be imprinted in their record books. He deserves to have his name imprinted on a plaque.  It would show growth, put him, use an asterix, just put him in.

Braves vs Astros- World Series Breakdown

Atlanta Braves vs Houston Astros

The Houston Astros will take on the Atlanta Braves in the 117th World Series.  The Astros will be in their third World Series over the last five years, while the Braves are in the World Series for the first time since 1999.  The Braves took down the favorites of the National League, the Los Angeles Dodgers. Atlanta has spent the entire postseason as the underdog and this will not change.  

Lineup

The Astros have the advantage over basically any team in baseball. Houston led the AL in batting average, on-base percentage, runs scored and hits.  Yordan Alvarez and Kyle Tucker are the new faces of the Astros offense. Alvarez has been the star of the playoffs, hitting .441, with a .791 slug.  Altuve doesn’t have the flashiest numbers, but has scored 15 runs in ten playoff games.  Houston will likely have to sit Michael Brantley during their trips to Atlanta, unless they trust him or Tucker to handle center field. With Alvarez in the outfield the Astros will have to deal with a very large outfield in Truist Park, the fifth largest outfield in baseball.  Even in a national league park the Astros will still be able to put pressure on any pitching staff.  This lineup is just too loaded.

The Braves made a big push at the deadline to improve their outfield.  Adding Jorge Soler, Joc Pederson, Adam Duvall and NLCS MVP Eddie Rosario to a lineup that featured mainstays Ozzie Albies and Freddie Freeman.  Austin Riley has been the league’s most improved player in 2022, his progression was what kept the Braves in the hunt at the deadline.  The Braves have a lot of power, their lineup doesn’t have the major star power that the Astros have outside of Freddie Freeman.  Ozzie Albies and Adam Duvall were quietly at the top of most offensive categories The Braves can match the Houston star power with the great depth in the lineup and off the bench. 

Rotation

These playoffs have seen the advantage of having a strong starting rotation.  The Braves and Astros have both seen the most production from their starters during the playoffs.  The Astros have overcome the injury to Lance McCullers because of the production from Framber Valdez.  Valdez is effective versus power right handed bats because of his breaking ball.  The Astros will need to rely on Luis Garcia again in this series.  He came up huge for Houston in game 6 of the ALCS, going 5+ giving up no runs and sealing the series for Houston.  Valdez and Garcia will have to eat up innings for Houston, veteran Zach Grienke is still a major question mark and they likely will not travel down the Jake Odorizzi path again in this series.  If Houston can get dominance from their top two starters they can utilize a solid bullpen to hold down the powerful Braves lineup.  

The Atlanta rotation isn’t deep but it’s top three gives them an advantage over Houston, they currently have the best starter 3.27 ERA in the playoffs. Ian Anderson has to step up and be better than the Astros questionable potential starters.  Anderson will be slotted in the #3 role which means he will get the start in Atlanta, where he has much better numbers, holding opposing lineups to just a .207 BA against.  The Braves will likely put together a bullpen game for game four.  While Atlanta has some things to figure out after their top three, they still have the advantage in nearly every other matchup in this series.

Bullpen

The Astros have a system to get through their questionable rotation.  They want to get five innings in order to turn it over to their four bullpen arms Ryne Stanek, Phil Maton, Kendall Graveman and Ryan Pressly. Houston has relied on this system through the American League playoffs. The Stros have gotten a lot of swings and misses from opposing batters.  They are a heavy right handed bullpen which could end up being a problem against the power lefty bats of the Braves.  Houston may have the best overall reliever in this series in closer Ryan Pressly.  

The Braves got a lot out of their bullpen in the playoffs.  AJ Minter, Tyler Matzek and Will Smith have all been great in the playoffs.  Smith most notably has recouped from a tough stretch towards the end of the season.  In the postseason Will Smith has been dominant, picking up four saves and giving up no runs over his seven inning pitched. The Braves have seen cracks in Luke Jackson, their righty reliever that had a breakout 2022.  He gave up 5 runs in the NLCS and may need to be used sparingly in the World Series.  Luckily for Atlanta, they have veteran Jesse Chavez who can step up and handle the role of righty shutdown reliever. 

Conclusion

I loved the Braves over the Brewers, I thought they could compete with the Dodgers.  I think they have enough to take down the favorite Houston Astros.  The loss of Lance Mccullers was able to be masked in their series with the Boston Red Sox.  The Braves bring better pitching to this series and an offense that can match the Astros.  The Astros look of invincibility at home took a hit after their game two loss to Boston.  Veteran Charlie Morton and an experienced Atlanta offense will get them a victory in game one and a victory in the series. 

Pick: Atlanta Braves in 6

ALCS Breakdown and Prediction

Boston Red Sox vs Houston Astros 

The ALCS is set. One team that has become a cornerstone of the event and a team that has come out of nowhere to shock the baseball world. The Red Sox will head to Houston for game one, for the third time in this postseason they will be the underdog. Boston is coming off a forgettable 2020 season, finishing 24-36, dead last in the AL East. The organization had to start the season without their ace Chris Sale and dealt with injuries to the pitching staff all season.They will face off with the Astros, making their fifth straight appearance in the ALCS 

Both teams have explosive offenses, ranking 2nd (Houston) and 3rd (Boston) in slugging percentage and OPS.  The Astros are 1st in the league in OBP, Red Sox are 4th.  Both teams relied on their offense to carry them in their division series matchups. 

Houston has the deepest lineup in the league. Kyle Tucker could arguably have been the best player in baseball in the second half of the season. He carried his hot streak into the NLDS, hitting two dingers and driving in seven runs.  Tucker could be in the middle of any lineup in the league but he sits in the seven spot in the Houston lineup behind a litany of all-stars and this year’s American League batting champion Yuli Gurriel.  Martin Maldonado would be the only spot in the order where you could conceivably have a “break” but manager Dusty Baker will not hesitate to pinch hit for him when necessary.  This lineup is stacked.

The Red Sox have an offense that can match the Astros for depth.  Featuring multiple power hitters up and down the lineup, they will need another solid performance from the top of the lineup to give the red hot Rafael Devers a chance to drive in runs.  Enrique Hernandez and Kyle Schwarber have to continue to set the tone the way they have so far during the playoffs. JD Martinez looks like he is healthy enough to make an impact giving the Red Sox the full allotment of their talent.  

Pitching has been a question for Boston most of the season. Can their staff match up with the vaunted Houston offense.  Chris Sale is coming off a forgettable start against the Rays in game 2.  Eduardo Rodriguez has been inconsistent to say the least. The Sox have been forced to rely on the resurgent Nathan Eovaldi and their bullpen to get them to this point. The secret weapon of the Boston staff is Tanner Houck.  Houck pitched in three games during the NLDS, surrendering just three hits in his seven inning pitched.  Houck along with newly appointed closer Garrett Whitlock give Boston two pieces that they will be able to go to at any time.  The Red Sox were able to make it work in a smaller series but they may be stretched thin in a full seven game series.  

The Astros were able to get two starts out of Lance McCullers in the division series. They will need his stability in this series against the power bats of the Red Sox.  After McCullers, the Astros will have Framber Valdez who has the ability to handle the right-handed power bats of the Red Sox.  The Astros still don’t know what they are going to get out of Zack Greinke, but they have their own weapon that could be used in the bullpen or as a starter in Cristian Javier.  Javier could play a big role due to his ability to be versatile.  Unlike the Red Sox the Astros know exactly what they want to do in their bullpen.  If their starters can get them to the fifth or sixth, you line up Ryne Stanek, Kendall Graverman and Ryan Pressly to seal the deal. 

The similarities between these two teams is pretty remarkable. They are offensive juggernauts that are still trying to piece together what they want to do with their pitching.  The Sox are led by former Astros coach Alex Cora who has brought in a lot of the same concepts on the offensive side of the ball  (not sign stealing).  The Red Sox have the power to compete with the Astros, ultimately it will come down to the pitching depth Houston brings to the table and their home field advantage.  The Red Sox are a great story, but Chris Sale doesn’t seem right and after Nathan Eovaldi Boston has too many questions in their rotation.  Boston has enough to win a few games but the Astros are just  better defensively and on the mound.  Houston will get a scare by losing game one, but the Astros will regroup and take the series at home. 

Pick: Astros in 5

Why the Angels stink.

The Angels have Mike Trout and Shohei Otani.  One is currently the best baseball player alive, the other is a modern day Babe Ruth that is revolutionizing the game.  Those two player alone should make them a legit contender in any division in major league baseball.  At least, that’s what many baseball analysts believed at the start of 2021.  A popular pick to take the next step this season has been nothing but a disappointment.  They currently are 20-27 just dead last in their division.  The Angels have tons of talent but…they stink.  Why?

They signed Jose Quintana.

Blaming Quintana is harsh but honestly what did they think they were getting.  The Angels had to do something to bolster their rotation but adding Quintana wasn’t putting a bandaid on a cut it was like pouring vinegar on it. Quintana is second on the team in starts and features a glorious 8.53 ERA.  The Angels should have seen this coming, the former White Sox All-Star was coming off of his worst season in the bigs with the Chicago Cubs.  The argument could have been made that it was a small sample size and Wrigley field is a nightmare for any pitcher, but if you take a deeper dive you see that he is giving up massive hard hit rates.  Currently Quintana has a HR/Flyball rate of 21%,  that is five point higher than what was the highest of his career when he gave up a 16% HR/Flyball rate.  He is giving up the long ball like he has a contract incentive.  

The Angels have long had issues with their pitching staff and relying on a veteran that was showing regression in every major category is a huge reason why they stink.  But it is not the only reason. 

Quintana isn’t even the worst.

Signing an regressing veteran to fill in a need in your rotation is dumb. What is even dumber is spending all your money on bats when your staff is throwing BP to the opposing offenses. As a staff, the Angels are ranked dead last in ERA, dead last in WHIP, 28th in isolated power and 28th in OPS.  This pitching staff is not only bad, it is historically pathetic. 

Dylan Bundy was a great story in 2020 but he has regressed to the underwhelming pitcher that was in Baltimore. 

Grffin Canning has potential.  At least that is what I keep hearing.  I have never actually seen it but I feel like the Angels keep telling themselves that Canning is good eventually they will be right.  

The bullpen is laughable.  Mike Mayers was closing for them at one point this season.  The same Mayers that had a historically bad MLB debut with the Cardinals back in 2016 (look it up if you haven’t seen it.) 

The Angels loaded their team with top of the order bats but that they could just fill some holes in the pen and rotation.  It hasn’t worked and unless they randomly strike pitching gold, this team is going to live in the poor house.

Where is Jo Adell?

Angels top prospect Jo Adell was not an immediate impact bat when he made his debut in 2020.  While he didn’t dazzle in his first taste of the bigs he has begun the minor league season showing the potential that he possesses.  The former 10th overall pick of the Angels in 2017 has already hit 10 homeruns in just 17 games this season at triple-A.  The Angels offense has found some hidden gems over the last two seasons with Jared Walsh and David Fletcher taking over major roles in the offense but injuries have depleted alot of the offense and as a team they could use some new blood to spark the team. Also David Fletcher is horrible right now.  

Adell isn’t a big need.  The offense has been productive despite losses of key contributors throughout the season. When a team is in a funk they need to find a way to inspire and the power and youth of Adell can help overcome the problems they are having with the pitching staff. 

Two Contenders, Two Pretenders

Contender- Boston Red Sox (14-9) 5.65 RPG 

Boston didn’t have high expectations this season.  The AL East was considered the deepest division in the American League. The Blue Jays, Yankees and Rays all had high expectations coming into 2021 but it has been the Red Sox that have been the most impressive team standing on top of the league, led by their stout offense. 

The Red Sox are the #1 in slugging percentage (.468), 6th in ISO (.180), 1st in hits per game (9.75), third in runs per game (5.17).  The offense has excelled despite the fact that offseason additions Hunter Renfroe, Marwin Gonzalez and Kike Hernandez have given them basically nothing to this point of the season.  Last year’s standout Bobby Dalbec just hit his first homer last night against the mets.  With all of these guys not performing, how is the offense so good?? Simple answer is the return to form of one of the best hitters in baseball over the last five years, JD Martinez.  Martinez has erased the memory of 2020 and begun to return to dominance with a slash line that seems almost inconceivable, .370/.446/.753.  Martinez also has a new co-host to his barrel party, the often forgotten piece of the Mookie Betts trade, Alex Verdugo.  The long-time Dodger top prospect has finally found his swing and together, he and Martinez are running through the league.  

The Red Sox offense has prevailed in an AL East that has suddenly become very winnable with the struggles of the Yankees and the injuries to the Blue Jays.  The Sox will be around for awhile because they rebuilt their bullpen and found the offense that was never seen in 2020 

Pretender- Seattle Mariners (13-9)

Seattle is a town known for their rainy weather but the future of their baseball team is very bright.  The sunshine has begun to peak through the clouds at the start of the 2021 season.  The Mariners are still waiting for their star prospects to make their way to the bigs.  Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez are both going to be in the bigs sooner rather than later but for now the Mariners are showing signs of life with their current crop of rising stars.  Ty France has looked like the diamond of the deal made last year with San Diego, Taylor Trammell has gotten some big hits and is showing major power and Marco Gonzalez seems like a steal.  

The Mariners have come out of the gates on fire.  They are pulling out victories that they would not have a year prior.  Their bullpen has been great for Seattle but their lack of depth in the rotation is already starting to show.  Outside of Chris Flexen the rotation has a cumulative ERA of over 4.5.  As a staff they are bottom ten in walks per game, they give up a ton of free bases and it has come back to haunt them.  Seattle has given their fnabse some hope for the future but it would be the best situation for them to move on from veterans like Kyle Seager and Mitch Haniger at the deadline to try and continue to build up the pitching staff.  As the Astors get healthy and the Angels find their consistency on offense, Seattle will be fighting to stay out of the cellar of their own division. 

Contender- Milwaukee Brewers (13-8)

The Brewers stink on offense, like historically. As a team Milwaukee is hitting just .208, good for 27th in baseball and they strike out 28% of their at bats.  This is a team that for half of the season actually had Christian Yelich in their lineup. Despite their abysmal offense the Brewers still find themselves on top of the NL Central.  

The offense is putrid but Manager Craig Counsell finds ways to get just enough from his bats to back up his elite level pitching.  Corbine Burnes leads a staff that has been lights out from the start of the season and shows no signs of slowing down.  Along with Burnes is ace 1A Brandon Woodruff, who has allowed just five runs in 29 innings pitched this year.  On most teams that would make him the “top guy”, in this rotation, he is just another guy.  Milwaukee is more than just a top two, 25-year old Freddy Peralta looks to finally be healthy enough to show off the potential the organization has always seen in him.  Peralta has announced himself to the league and makes for a filthy #3 starte .  

The Brewers will eventually get their star Christian Yelich back.  His time away has allowed other players to get more at-bats and find their way at the plate. Long time prospect Billy McKinney has shown some pop and veteran slugger Travis Shaw has seemed to be reborn in his return to the Brewers after a season away in Toronto.  The Brew Crew will never be a potent offense but they have enough power to put themselves up at any moment and feature some of the nastiest arms out of the bullpen as you will ever see.  The NL Central is currently up for grabs and this team can pitch themselves into the playoffs.  

Pretender- San Francisco Giants (14-8)

The Giants currently sit in second place in the NL West and first place in the very early wild card rankings.  The Giants have leaned on their pitching staff in 2021, currently as a team they have the third lowest ERA (2.94) sitting just behind division powerhouses the Dodger and Padres.  San Francisco has accumulated this pitching staff by taking a lot of risks on veterans in free agency.  Their rotation consists of Aaron Sanchez, Alex Wood, Anthony DeScalfani, Johnny Cueto, Kevin Gausman and Logan Webb.  Only Cueto could conceivable consider himself ever to be a team’s #1 starter, the rest were talented guys that have never panned out on the major league level consistently but they have found a home with the Giants. They are a staff that doesn’t give up free passes, they force teams to put the ball in play and it has worked out so far. 

The Giants know how to take advantage of a matchup. You will likely never see Darin Ruf or Austin Slater both in the lineup against a righty and the same goes for Alex Dickerson against a lefty. The Giants play their advantage and do what they can to get the most out of their hitters.  Their offseason addition of Tommy LaStella added another veteran to a lineup that is loaded with quality hitters.  Evan Longoria has had a resurgence to begin the season, leading the team with a .972 OPS, while future hall of famer Buster Posey has also picked up his old form with a .911 OPS.  The Giants rely on matchups and 

The NL West is very top heavy so the Giants could find themselves with a chance to make a run for a wild card spot by beating up the bottom dwellers Arizona and Colorado but they lack the depth in the rotation to make a long run.  What San Fran has done to start the season has impressed but they are yet to have a single matchup against the elite in the national league.  When they get their matchups with the Dodgers and Padres reality will set in and that reality is that they are rebuilding.  They have some solid major league talent but to compete in the loaded NL West they need more firepower  If their veteran rotation continues to impress they will have solid trade chips to improve their top ten ranked farm system.  Joey Bart and Mario Luciano will be on their way to the bigs leagues soon and this team will be ready to make a run, but not this year.

Deep Fantasy Sleepers MLB


Bobby Dalbec, 1B, Boston Red Sox (ADP 285)

Do you like dingers?   We all like dingers, Bobby Dalbec really likes dingers.  He hits them in bunches.  In 2019 Dalbec smashed 27 homers in 130 games in the Red Sox minor league system.  He immediately jumped up the prospect list for Boston becoming their top power prospect in the system.  His power transitioned very well in his first official shot in the show.  In 23 games last season he hit eight homers with an insane .330 ISO.  

The path has been cleared for the 25 year-old rookie.  Mitch Moreland was moved last season and the team has moved on from the thought of Michael Chavis at first base.  Dalbec will be inserted right into the middle of a lineup that features plenty of protections around him.  His bat is made for Fenway Park’s green monster and he will be a value for anyone looking for power in the late rounds.  He brings a high strikeout rate and a lack of on-base consistency but with an ADP of 285 he is an extreme value for someone that needs depth and huge potential upside. 

Jared Walsh, 1B, Los Angeles Angels (ADP 208)

The Angels found themselves a gem last season.  The 27-year-old Walsh hit 9 homers and knocked in 26 runs in just 30 games during the 2020 campaign.  Walsh is a late bloomer, but the power didn’t come from nowhere.  In 2018 Walsh had a .329 ISO and in 2019 he followed that up with a .361 ISO in triple-A.  The Angels have a surplus of power hitting first baseman and DH candidates but they won’t be able to ignore the production that Walsh brings.  

Albert Pujols has already announced that he intends to retire at the end of the season and the Angels need to look toward the future at the position.  Walsh brings power and a solid defensive ability which will be an asset to the Angels.  At-bats will be inconsistent this season to start but he is worth a shot in the later rounds to stash. He can easily find himself with consistent opportunities hitting in front of Mike Trout and behind David Fletcher. 

Dylan Moore, INF/OF, Seattle Mariners (ADP 156)

Dylan Moore was a huge pick up for me last season.  His ability to play mutliple positions makes him a great fit into any fantasy lineup.  He had a terrific 2020, in 38 games Moore stole 12 bases, hit 8 homers with an OPS of .854.  The Mariners are in a transition year, with top prospects Taylor Trammell, Julio Rodriguez and Jarred Kelenic soon to be joining Kyle Lewis in the middle of the order, Seattle will be looking to find out who else will be rounding out their roster for the future.  

Moore has the flexibility to fit into the Seattle lineup everyday and hit at the top of the order due to his speed.  Last season had a bit of luck involved but his tools are great for anyone looking for literally anything.  

Bobby Bradley, 1B, Cleveland Indians, (ADP 819)

Fantasy pros has Bobby Bradley projecting in the 800’s.  Calling him a sleeper is very much an understatement.  Bradley brings real power to the table, hitting 33 homers last year in triple-A and following it up with a terrific spring training.  The 24-year old Bradley has been a top prospect in the Indians system since being drafted in 2014.  When given at bats all he does is produce.  In his minor league career his WRC+ has never gone below 109 and his ISO has never gone below .175.  

The Indians cleared the path for Bradley this offseason and he has shown what he can do in the spring.  A young Indians team can allow him to continually get at-bats in the middle of the lineup.  You may not even need to draft Bradley but keep your eye on him post draft if you need some power. 

Myles Straw, SS/OF, Houston Astros (ADP #322)

Astros manager Dusty Baker announced that Myles Straw is a likely candidate to take over the lead-off role with the departure of George Springer.  Straw gives you two position flexibility at both SS and OF.  Straw has been a top prospect in the Astros system since 2015, he got his first real chance in the majors in 2019 where he showed some of his potential stealing 8 bases, scoring 27 runs with a .378 OBP in 56 games.  

Spring training has been a revelation for what he can bring to the Astros with a slash line of .346/.370/.500.  If he is named starter his ADP of #322 makes him an extreme bargain for anyone looking to get a player that will score runs and steal bases.  

Cardinals need to replace Wong. Free agent options.

The Cardinals decided to let Kolten Wong walk this offseason.  They didnt want to pick up his club option that would have paid him $12.5 million in 2021.  Contracts of other players such as Dexter Fowler and Matt Carpenter are likely a big reason why the club felt paying a rather steep price for a second baseman with just two seasons of WAR over 3 was not worth it.  While his 2020 shortened season numbers were not impressive he still leaves a void in the Cardinals lineup that has to be filled.  Internal options Tommy Edman and Edmund Sosa will likely get the first shot. There are external options that may be affordable and impactful.  

Enrique Hernandez, 29, 1.1 WAR (2020)

The Cardinals are one of the worst teams in baseball against left-handed pitching over the last two seasons.  St. Louis had just an OPS of .713 in 2020 against southpaws.  Enter in Kiki Hernandez.  A long time lefty smasher, Hernandez has been a vital bench player for the World Champion Los Angeles Dodgers since 2014.  He carries a career OPS of .820 versus lefties and tons of versatility on top of that. 

Hernandez will be a cheaper option to Wong as he is projected to sign for just around $6 million a year.  Adding a player that can play multiple positions and provide some pop to a lineup that lacks consistent power options would be an answer to a few of the St. Louis offensive problems.

Johnathan Villar, 30, -0.3 (2020), 4.0 (2019)

Villar had a disastorous 2020, there is no other way around it.  Cashing in on this would be advantageous to anyone willing to take a shot on the veteran.  Villar brings instant offense to any team with his speed and power.  Villar had the best season of his career in 2019 hitting 24 homers and stealing 40 bases.  He had his second highest career OBP at .339.   

Villar is a high-risk, high reward option that will be cheap.  His ability to switch hit is also a great value for late game moves. 

Tommy LaStella, 32, 3.2 WAR (2020)

Tommy LaStella not being signed yet is a great example of the ridiculous nature of MLB free agency at the moment.  A veteran player that has hit at an all-star level over the last two seasons is still sitting on the market without much of an idea on where he will be next season. 

LaStella has had two straight seasons with a WRC+ over 120.  In 2020 LaStella ranked 25th overall in the league in OBP (.370).  He would fit very nicely into the leadoff spot that was vacated by Wong.  While he doesn’t have the speed that Wong brings to the table his ability to get on base could set up very nicely for Paul Goldschmidt.   An inability to consistently hit lefties has hampered LaStella’s overall numbers but the Cardinals could easilit platoon him with Tommy Edman, allowing for a solid bat to be used later on in the game. 

Cardinals trades that won’t happen but should.

Clint Frazier, New York Yankees

The Yankees are stacked with outfielders.  They could use some pitching depth.  The Cardinals are stacked with you pitchers and could really use some power in the outfield. Frazier is coming off of his best season in the bigs.  Filling in for Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge for a bulk of his shortened season, Frazier was able to finally show off the skills that had once rated him as one of the top offensive prospects in all of baseball. 

Frazier, 26, is still very young and can immediately be an impact bat in the middle of the Cardinals offense. Playing in 39 games in 2020, Frazier hit 8 homers with an ISO of .244.  Frazier’s power is the real deal, he hit 12 homers in just 69 games in 2019. He has shown an ability to continue to develop as he was able to have a career high .387 OBP this season while getting a nomination for the gold glove.  

The Cardinals could have a chance to grab a talented young hitter that is ready to get full time at bats.  The Yankees may not have the interest they once did in Carlos Martinez but a package of Martinez and another young hurler could be enough to grab Frazier.  This would be a win for both clubs.  

There is no reason not to go after Frazier.  The only argument anyone could make is that he is unproven long term.  Well all players are at some point and he has had a lot more success at the major league level than O’Neil, Bader, Thomas or Justin Williams.  

Trevor Story, Colorado Rockies

Why does everyone always talk about the Cardinals getting Nolan Arenado or Francisco Lindor?  What about Trevor Story. Like Lindor, Story is a free agent to be in after the 2021 season.  The Rockies likely will look to move Story for some assets if they think they will not be able to resign him. His abilities have been overshadowed by his fellow left side of the infield partner Arenado but his numbers match up very well.  Story has added speed to the arsenal over the last three seasons.  He actually led the league in steals in 2020 with 15.  

The power is what will attract potential suitors.  His numbers away from Coors have not been great but his six homers in opposing parks last season show that the power will travel.  It’s time for the Cardinals to move on from the Paul DeJong experiment.  While Lindor seems to be the popular choice Story could come at a cheaper price.  

Whit Merrifield, Kansas City Royals

Whit Merrifield is insanely underpaid. He signed a 4-year extension in 2020 worth just $16.25 million.  Kansas City is still a few years away from being truly competitive in the American League.  They have an asset in Merrifield that they can move for some serious pieces to complete their full rebuild.  Merrifield is a perfect fit for the Cardinals at the top of the order.  Putting him in front of Golschmidt will immediately be a step up from Kolten Wong and Tommy Edman.  

Merrifield has been on the market for most of his career in Kansas City.  They are running out of time to move him for top value and could be pressed to do so soon.  The Cardinals could get a guy that led the league in hits in 2019, two straight years of an OPS of .800 while stealing 111 bases since his debut in 2017.  Merrifield is a hit machine that is the answer for a leadoff spot that has lacked consistency. 

Ketel Marte, Arizona Diamondbacks

The Cardinals were able to raid the Arizona selling spree two years ago by adding Paul Goldschmidt.  There is a new star that Arizona may have lost faith in last year, Ketel Marte.  Marte was not the same player in 2020.  Coming off of a career year in 2019 a lot was expected of Marte.  The Diamondbacks dealt with inconsistencies in the lineup and rotation.  Marte and the rest of the team were never able to overcome their slow start.  

Marte fits into a similar mold as the aforementioned Merrifield but his youth and potential make him a potential steal.  Marte has not been given a chance to excel on a winning team where he is protected in the lineup.  Putting him in front of Goldschimdt will force opposing pitchers to throw to challenge him and when he makes contact the results have spoken for themselves.    

Marte is locked in to a serviceable contract that will at its max pay him just $12million in the final year. The contract is affordable and will finish in his age 30 season in 2024.  He is cheap and has a ceiling that is vastly higher than any option the Cardinals currently have.

Ranking top three offensive free agents for the St. Louis Caridnals

The Cardinals offense sucked in 2020.  There were a lot of factors that played into that, including the long layoff from positive Covid tests but, to be honest they were not much better in 2019.  Heading into the 2021 the rotation and bullpen is loaded with options that are above league average.  The biggest need will be on the offensive side of the ball.  The upcoming offseason doesn’ feature the Manny Machado, Bryce Harper or Mike Trout’s that the fanbase would crave over but there are some options that can bring some much needed production to the lineup. 

This list is focusing on just the offensive free agents.  Guys like Liam Hendricks, and Trevor Bauer (whom both should be on the Cardinals radar) will be completely excluded from this list  

3. DJ LeMahieu, 32, INF

Who wouldn’t want a two-time batting champion with position versatility?  No one is the answer.  The reason LeMahieu isn’t number one on this list is that he has already verbally stated that he wants to resign with the Yankees. 

LeMahieu has the ability to play every infield spot including SS if in a bind and he can do it at a high level. His batting statistics jump at you but quietly he has amassed a nice collection of gold gloves (3) in his career. After two terrific seasons in New York amassing a WRC+ of 135 and 177 respectively.

The experiment of Paul DeJong at shortstop has been unsuccessful.  DeJong’s power has shown through his career hitting 35,19, and 30 homers over the last three seasons before 2020.  Moving DeJong to the bench, would be the best option for the team.  Resigning Kolten Wong, moving Tommy Edman to shortstop and having LeMahieu at third would be the best option for the team.  

2. Nelson Cruz, 40, DH

The DH in the national league is here to stay. The Cardinals have a chance to add a monster bat and not hurt themselves on the defense.  The ageless wonder Nelson Cruz is the answer to all the problems that you have in the ISO department. Since 2014 Nelson Cruz’s ISO has not gone below .250.  In comparison the highest Cardinals outfielder ISO was Harrison Bader at just .217.  St. Louis needs power and they need it badly.  With a team slugging percentage of .373 they rank 27th in the entire league.  

The protection of Nelson Cruz can open up a lot of possibilities in the Cardinals lineup.  Their lone star Paul Goldschmidt has had literally no protection behind him, with the Cardinals cleanup hitters in the bottom five in every offensive category. Cruz is the perfect fit for the Cardinals because he brings one thing to the table and that is power.  It is exactly what the Cardinals need; he can be gotten at an affordable price for a likely one-year deal. 

1. Marcell Ozuna, 30, OF/DH

Marcell Ozuna’s first go round with the Cardinals wasn’t ideal.  His two seasons with the redbirds Ozuna saw just a grand total of just .777.  Ozuna played his Cardinals tenure with a serious shoulder injury that held back his offensive abilities.  

Ozuna took a shot on himself signing a one-year deal with the Atlanta Braves. Through sixty games Ozuna not only put himself in the conversation for the MVP, but his protection for Freddie Freeman took his ability to the next level. Ozuna led the National League in homers, RBI, and total bases.  A motivated Marcell Ozuna can be a game changer the Cardinals thought they had traded for. 

A second go around in St. Louis doesn’t seem likely but on the list of things that Cardinals need he fits the bill.  A contract of four years and $125 million would be the likely number that would bring him in, at just 30 years old he is still young enough that the Cardinals can have him for the prime years of his career. He can be the staple of the offense along with Paul Goldschmidt and the newly emerging Dylan Carlson.  A core lineup featuring those three can immediately make them a contender.