NL West Predictions

We have officially entered Opening Day week. With the first two games of the MLB regular season down, all 30 teams will kick off their schedules on Thursday. I know I speak for a lot of people when I say it’s about time. My final predictions will come from the NL West.

2018 NL West Standings:

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers (92-71)
  2. Colorado Rockies (91-72)
  3. Arizona Diamondbacks (82-80)
  4. San Fransisco Giants (73-89)
  5. San Diego Padres (66-96)

The 2018 NL West was basically a 3 team race the whole year, minus the D-Backs in the last 2 weeks of September. The Dodgers did not look like the reigning pennant winners for the majority of the season, yet still managed 92 wins without their all world shortstop Corey Seager. The Rockies were in 1st place for a decent amount of time, and ended up getting a Wild Card game victory. Nolan Arenado was his normal All-Star self, and the emergence of Kyle Freeland really propelled them. The Diamondbacks spent quite some time on top of the division last year, until the aforementioned September collapse. The Giants, with the additions of Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen were primed to contend, but that quickly faded and it ended up being a very disappointing year by the Bay. Lastly, the Padres, who were in a full rebuild year, ended up exactly where most people expected; the cellar. That is not to say that last year didn’t have its bright spots, however. Many of their young prospects took major steps in their developmental process, and are primed to make their much awaited debuts (*cough cough Tatis Jr.).

Offseason Summary

Los Angeles Dodgers:

Notable Additions- OF AJ Pollock, RP Joe Kelly, C Russell Martin, OF Paulo Orlando

Notable Subtractions- 3B Manny Machado, C Yasmani Grandal, OF Matt Kemp, OF Yasiel Puig, SP Alex Wood

Colorado Rockies:

Notable Additions- 2B Daniel Murphy, 1B Mark Reynolds

Notable Subtractions- 2B DJ LeMahieu, RP Adam Ottavino, OF Carlos Gonzalez

Arizona Diamondbacks:

Notable Additions- INF Eduardo Escobar, INF Wilmer Flores, SP Merrill Kelly, RP Greg Holland, SP Luke Weaver, C Carson Kelly

Notable Subtractions- 1B Paul Goldschmidt, OF AJ Pollock, SP Patrick Corbin, UTIL Chris Owings, RP Brad Boxberger

San Fransisco Giants:

Notable Additions- SP Drew Pomeranz, RP Nick Vincent, C Stephen Vogt, OF Gerardo Parra, 3B Yangervis Solarte, RP Trevor Gott

Notable Subtractions- OF Hunter Pence, RP Hunter Strickland

San Diego Padres:

Notable Additions- 3B Manny Machado, 2B Ian Kinsler, SP Garrett Richards, RP Adam Warren, RP Aaron Loup

Notable Subtractions- SP Clayton Richard

The NL West offseason was highlighted by big name players either leaving the division, or entering the division (and in a few cases, changing teams in the division). The Dodgers shipped off Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, and Alex Wood, but wasted no time bringing in a reinforcement by the name of AJ Pollock, whom they plucked from the D-Backs free agency carousel. Trading for Russell Martin was an under the radar move, knowing that Grandal would most likely not be returning. They also gave the back end of their bullpen some help by signing Joe Kelly after an electric showing in the Fall Classic….against the Dodgers. Losing Machado is not all that big of a deal, considering Corey Seager will be returning after being out all of 2018. The Rockies were not involved in many transactions, but the ones they were involved in could prove to be significant. Bringing in Daniel Murphy to replace DJ LeMahieu will most likely make their offense slightly more prolific (as if they needed that). However, losing Adam Ottavino could prove to be a major loss in their quest to find a bridge to Wade Davis. Longtime Rockie Carlos Gonzalez also departed. The Diamondbacks major move was shipping Paul Goldschmidt off to the Cardinals in exchange for Luke Weaver, Carson Kelly, and Andy Young. Weaver and Kelly regressed in 2018, but there is still plenty of hope for guys that are so young. They also lost significant pieces in AJ Pollock and Patrick Corbin, signifying something of a rebuild on the horizon. Bringing in Eduardo Escobar and Wilmer Flores will provide some veteran depth and versatility, and signing Merrill Kelly out of Korea could prove to be very positive. The Giants, while they did not lose too many guys, did not add to their roster in a major way either. They brought in a crop of veterans in Pomeranz, Parra, and Vogt, while adding a very inconsistent Solarte and trading for up-and-down reliever Trevor Gott. Quite possibly the biggest move of their winter was the addition of a new GM, Farhan Zaidi, who was part of the Dodgers front office. The major question for this new regime could be, how long does Mad-Bum stay in a Giants uniform? Lastly, the Padres made major, major headlines, obviously, when they signed Manny Machado to a 10 yr/ $300 million deal. They also added a veteran infielder in Ian Kinsler and took a flyer out on the injured Garrett Richards, who will not play in 2019 due to Tommy John surgery. Adding bullpen depth in Warren is also a big plus. With a loaded farm system, and a revamped excitement at the major league level, the Padres could be very good in the years to come.

Projected 2019 Standings:

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers (94-68)
  2. Colorado Rockies (88-74)
  3. San Diego Padres (80-82)
  4. Arizona Diamondbacks (76-86)
  5. San Fransisco Giants (70-92)

NL Central Predictions

I hope all of the die-hard baseball fans out there are excited; we are less than two weeks away from Opening Day (3/28) and only a few days away from the Mariners and Athletics kicking off the regular season with a 2 game set in Japan. Buckle up. This week, I will be breaking down the NL Central, and of course, giving my predicted 2019 standings.

2018 NL Central Standings

  1. Milwaukee Brewers (96-67)
  2. Chicago Cubs (95-68)
  3. St. Louis Cardinals (88-74)
  4. Pittsburgh Pirates (82-79)
  5. Cincinnati Reds (67-95)

The NL Central in 2018 came down to the last game of the season. Well, technically, it came down to a game 163, which the Brewers took from the Cubs, and eventually rode that momentum to being 1 win away from a World Series birth. The Cardinals threatened the top 2 teams up until the last few weeks of the season, when they completely fell apart. The Pirates surprised many people in 2018, and were even in the postseason race up until about mid-August, when they too fell apart. The Reds, after firing Bryan Price before game 20, had some bright spots, and played around .500 ball for a good portion of the season under interim manager Jim Riggleman. For the Reds, however, 2018 was more a season to develop and evaluate the many young players they featured. The bottom line last season in this division was the incredible September the Brewers had, and the Cubs not being able to put away the division in the final 2 weeks of the season.

2018/19 Offseason Summary

Milwaukee Brewers:

Notable Additions- C Yasmani Grandal, OF Ben Gamel, RP Alex Claudio, 2B Cory Spangenberg, SP Josh Tomlin

Notable Subtractions- OF Domingo Santana, OF Keon Broxton, SP Wade Miley, RP Dan Jennings, SP Gio Gonzalez

Chicago Cubs:

Notable Additions- RP Brad Brach, IF Daniel Descalso, RP Xavier Cedeno

Notable Subtractions- RP Jesse Chavez, RP Justin Wilson, 2B Daniel Murphy, SP Drew Smyly, IF Tommy La Stella

St. Louis Cardinals:

Notable Additions- 1B Paul Goldschmidt, RP Andrew Miller, C Matt Wieters

Notable Subtractions- SP Luke Weaver, C Carson Kelly, RP Tyler Lyons

Pittsburgh Pirates:

Notable Additions- OF Lonnie Chisenhall, IF Jung Ho Kang, OF Melky Cabrera, P Jordan Lyles, RP Brandon Maurer, RP Tyler Lyons, SP Francisco Liriano

Notable Subtractions- IF Josh Harrison, SS Jordy Mercer, SP Ivan Nova, OF Jordan Luplow

Cincinnati Reds:

Notable Additions- OF Yasiel Puig, OF Matt Kemp, SP Alex Wood, SP Tanner Roark, SP Sonny Gray, SS Jose Iglesias, IF Derek Dietrich, RP Zach Duke

Notable Subtractions- SP Homer Bailey, CF Billy Hamilton

The general trend we saw in the NL Central this offseason was that a team was either very busy, or hardly making any moves. The Reds were very busy with an offseason that was highlighted by the acquisitions of Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, and Alex Wood from the Dodgers. Follow that up with acquiring Sonny Gray from the Yankees, Tanner Roark from the Nationals, and signing of Jose Iglesias, and the Reds seem to be a much better, and more entertaining team for 2019. Contention might be a bit of a stretch, although crazier things have happened. But at the very least, they will be much improved, and fun to watch. The Cardinals also made massive headlines concerning a trade with an NL West team; this time it was the acquisition of all-world 1B Paul Goldschmidt from the D-Backs. The Cardinals clearly lacked a consistently big power bat in the middle of their order all 2018, and they surely got one when they swung this trade. Going back the other way were two young players who saw some regression in 2018, Luke Weaver and Carson Kelly. For a win-now team like the Cards, giving up those two isn’t a huge deal, but do not count out Weaver and Kelly, as they could turn into big players in the desert. The other major move made by the Cardinals was the signing of lefty super reliever Andrew Miller. Yes, he is coming off an injury-riddled season, but if he’s healthy, watch out. These moves place the Cardinals firmly in contention for the division. The Pirates offseason was filled with under the radar signings, including brining back Jung Ho Kang and Fransisco Liriano. While they did lose their starting middle infield to free agency (Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer), they did make some sneaky moves that might give them a shot at a wild card at the very least. I expect them to hover around .500 for most of the season. The Brewers had a relatively quiet, yet efficient offseason. They got rid of some outfield depth and they sured up their catching spot (at least for a year). Losing Wade Miley might hurt, but they appear to be confident in their core of young pitchers, and Jimmy Nelson coming back from injury. The Brewers should, again, be near the top of the division all season, as they look to make another deep playoff run. The Cubs had an extremely quiet offseason. They did not lose much, other than rental Daniel Murphy, lefty Justin Wilson and fan-favorite Tommy La Stella, but they also did not add much, other than reliever Brad Brach and utility man Daniel Descalso. After a disappointing end to a very good 2018, I expected a little more, but a healthy Kris Bryant and hopeful progressions from young players who regressed a little are better than anything they could have went out and bought. Like last year, I expect them to be near the top of the Central, looking to make a deep postseason run. I believe this division will be one of the most competitive all year long.

Projected 2019 Standings:

  1. Chicago Cubs (94-68)
  2. Milwaukee Brewers (92-70)
  3. St. Louis Cardinals (87-75)
  4. Cincinnati Reds (82-80)
  5. Pittsburgh Pirates (79-83)

NL East Predictions

As we inch ever closer to the start of the MLB regular season, free agents are starting to come off the board at a faster pace, major league teams are making roster cuts, and sports writers are making predictions. Well, I guess it is our turn for the latter. Along with Connor Pittman, we will be breaking down all 6 divisions (I will be doing the NL, Connor the AL).

2018 NL East Standings

  1. Atlanta Braves (90-72)
  2. Washington Nationals (82-80)
  3. Philadelphia Phillies (80-82)
  4. New York Mets (77-85)
  5. Miami Marlins (63-98)

The 2018 NL East was surprising in many ways. In fact, the only team that was not a surprise was the dismal Miami Marlins. The Braves rebuild accelerated much faster than many expected, leading to a division title and breakouts from a very promising young core. The Nationals vastly underperformed under first year skipper Dave Martinez, however, a breakout rookie season from Juan Soto has Nats fans not licking their wounds too much. The Phillies, like the Braves, seemed to turn a corner in their lengthy rebuild and exceeded expectations, even though they ran out of gas in August and September, missing the postseason. The Mets, who started the year off very well, had the injury bug hit them yet again. Even though a promising young core, and a top 5 pitcher in the game emerged, they underperformed yet again. Last but not least (well, about that…), the Marlins did exactly what we expected. They lost, quite a bit. The rebuild process is well under way, and there’s not much more to say about that.

2018/19 Offseason Summary

Atlanta Braves:

Key Additions- 3B Josh Donaldson, C Brian McCann

Key Subtractions- C Kurt Suzuki, SP Anibal Sanchez, RP Brad Brach

Washington Nationals:

Key Additions- SP Patrick Corbin, SP Anibal Sanchez, 2B Brian Dozier, C Yan Gomes, C Kurt Suzuki, RP Kyle Barraclough, RP Trevor Rosenthal, 1B Matt Adams

Key Subtractions- OF Bryce Harper, SP Tanner Roark, RP Ryan Madson

Philadelphia Phillies:

Key Additions- OF Bryce Harper, C J.T. Realmuto, OF Andrew McCutchen, SS Jean Segura, RP David Robertson, RP James Pazos

Key Subtractions- 1B Carlos Santana, SS J.P. Crawford, C Jorge Alfaro, RP Luis Garcia, RHP Sixto Sanchez (#27 prospect)

New York Mets:

Key Additions- 2B Robinson Cano, RP Edwin Diaz, C Wilson Ramos, IF Jed Lowrie, RP Justin Wilson, OF Keon Broxton, RP Jeurys Familia,

Key Subtractions- OF Jay Bruce, RP Anthony Swarzak, IF Wilmer Flores, OF Jarred Kelenic (#56 prospect), RHP Justin Dunn (#91 prospect)

Miami Marlins:

Key Additions- IF Neil Walker, OF Curtis Granderson, RP Sergio Romo, C Jorge Alfaro, RHP Sixto Sanchez (#27 prospect), Victor Victor Mesa (#99 prospect)

Key Subtractions- J.T. Realmuto, Kyle Barraclough

2019 Season Outlook

Of all the divisions in baseball, the NL East was probably the busiest in all of baseball. The Mets new GM, Brodie Van Wagenen, made huge splashes early when he traded for Cano and Diaz of the Mariners, giving up two top-100 prospects in the process. He also made very nice moves in the signings of Wilson Ramos, Jed Lowrie, and bringing back Familia. As long as the Mets stay healthy, I give them a legit shot at the division, or a wild card spot. The Nationals were also very busy early in the offseason, when they signed Patrick Corbin to a 6yr/$140 mil contract. In more under the radar moves, they signed Anibal Sanchez, Matt Adams, Trevor Rosenthal, and Kurt Suzuki, as well as trading for Yan Gomes and Kyle Barraclough. The major question going into the year for the Nats will be how they can function without Bryce Harper’s presence in the lineup. The breakout from Juan Soto, a healthy Adam Eaton, and Anthony Rendon continuing to mash, along with their star-studded rotation should firmly place them as contenders. The Phillies made the most noise of any team this offseason. They swung major trades (Segura/Pazos from the Mariners, Realmuto from the Marlins), and obviously went on a free agent binge with the signings of McCutchen, Robertson, and Harper. I still think they need more in the rotation to back up Nola, but their lineup alone should make them front runners, or at least contenders in the division. The defending division champs were relatively quiet. They brought back Nick Markakis and Brian McCann, as well as signing Josh Donaldson to an expensive 1 year deal, but they also lost important contributors from last year’s team in Anibal Sanchez, Kurt Suzuki, and Brad Brach. Nevertheless, the young core of this team is scary good, and will presumably be progressing. If they can add one more rotation arm, I really, really like this team. Aside from bringing on some potential trade bait/”clubhouse” guys in Neil Walker and Curtis Granderson, the Marlins accomplished one. major thing this offseason; they finally traded Realmuto. They swung Sixto Sanchez, the Phillies top prospect, but I feel they should have gotten a little more. Hopefully, for their sake, some of their young core can develop at the big league level, but expect another long summer in Little Havana.

Overall, I expect this to be a relatively tight 4 team race. The Phils, Nats, Braves, and Mets all are very interesting. Health will of course be a major factor, but if all 4 of these teams can stay relatively healthy, I fully expect this division race to come down to the final games of the season, as well as these teams being alive in the Wild Card hunt late. Here are my 2019 projected standings, with records, for the NL East:

  1. Philles (91-71)
  2. Braves (90-72)
  3. Nationals (87-75)
  4. Mets (80-82)
  5. Marlins (66-96)

Top 10 Right Now Series: Part 5

For the final installment of the Top 10 Right Now series, I will reveal my top 10 at two very loaded positions; relief pitcher and shortstop. With the shift by front offices recently to a more analytical way of breaking down numbers, relief pitching has come to the forefront of importance in the roster building process. Velocity is way up, the “bullpen game” has started to see more and more appearances, and the late inning chess match to figure out batter/pitcher matchups have, once again, made relief pitching an incredibly important and fascinating part of the game. Meanwhile, at the shortstop position, we are truly in the middle of a golden age. There are an incredible number of talented, multi-dimensional shortstops that are so exciting to watch day in and day out. The days of the weak hitting, strong defender model of shortstop are long gone, only to be replaced by a crop of fantastic all around players who are vital to their teams’ success.

Top 10 Relief Pitchers Right Now (according to Nathan White):

  1. Craig Kimbrel, Red Sox
  2. Josh Hader, Brewers
  3. Kenley Jansen, Dodgers
  4. Aroldis Chapman, Yankees
  5. Blake Treinen, Athletics
  6. Corey Knebel, Brewers
  7. Adam Ottavino, Yankees
  8. Edwin Diaz, Mets
  9. Archie Bradley, Diamondbacks
  10. Andrew Miller, Cardinals

Just Missed: Brad Hand, Indians; Chad Green, Yankees; Sean Doolittle, Nationals; Felipe Vazquez, Pirates

Craig Kimbrel needs no introduction. The intimidation factor alone puts him at the top of this list. Oh, and let’s not forget his stuff or K/9. Josh Hader broke onto the scene in 2017 and followed that up with quite possibly the most dominant season out of a reliever for a very long time. He can work multiple innings, he gets both lefties and righties out, and he strikes A LOT of hitters out. Kenley Jansen struggled coming out of the gate in 2018, then looked like his normal self, then towards the latter part of the year he had an abnormal heart condition that sidelined him for much of the stretch run. Regardless, this guy is absolutely dominant, and incredibly consistent at the back end of the Dodger bullpen. Aroldis Chapman struggled (by his standards) at times in 2018, but at the end of the day, he throws 100+ with improving command over a slider that he hardly even needs. Plain filthy. Blake Treinen, when he was with the Nats, still had the upper 90’s heat with filthy movement on his pitches, but since he’s been with Oakland, he has become “the guy” in that bullpen, and is in contention for filthiest pure stuff in the game. Corey Knebel, much like his teammate Josh Hader, had a breakout year in 2018, and although he was injured for a bit in 2018, as well as going through some command issues, he is still one of the best backend relievers in the game. Adam Ottavino enjoyed a breakout campaign in 2018, even though hitters still knew about his wipeout slider and hard fastball well before last year. Edwin Diaz, since coming onto the scene a few years back, has been held back by one thing; command. In 2018 he found it, and turned in an exceptional year. Archie Bradley had his ups and downs in 2018, as does every player, but he can go multiple innings as a ‘fireman’, and features an upper 90’s fastball with a wipeout slider. Andrew Miller just a few years ago was at the top of this list, but injuries and spurts of command loss somewhat derailed him last season. However, I believe Miller Time will flourish as a fireman in St. Louis.

Top 10 SS Right Now (according to Nathan White):

  1. Francisco Lindor, Indians
  2. Manny Machado, FA
  3. Corey Seager, Dodgers
  4. Carlos Correa, Astros
  5. Andrelton Simmons, Angels
  6. Xander Bogaerts, Red Sox
  7. Javier Baez, Cubs
  8. Trevor Story, Rockies
  9. Elvis Andrus, Rangers
  10. Trea Turner, Nationals

Just Missed: Jean Segura, Phillies; Didi Gregorious, Yankees; Paul DeJong, Cardinals; Marcus Semien, Athletics

Francisco Lindor is truly a treat to watch play. He is the definition of a 5 tool player, brings it everyday, and quite possibly is the 2nd best player in all of baseball, behind some guy named Trout. Manny Machado shifted from 3rd to short before his contract year and even though he passed the eye test at short, the defensive metrics like him better at 3rd. Nevertheless, he is one of the premiere bats in our game, can pick it at short, and has an absolute cannon. Corey Seager was injured for the 2018 season, but that does not change the fact that he hit for average & power, plays good defense at an incredibly hard defensive position, and has great intangibles for such a young player. Carlos Correa surely took his lumps (injuries and struggled at the plate by his standards) in 2018, but like Seager, it does not change the fact that he is incredibly talented and will only get better as he enters his prime. Andrelton Simmons has always been an absolute wizard (giving Ozzie a little competition) defensively, but his bat has come alive the past 2 years and change, making him an absolute game changer. Xander Bogaerts struggled a bit in 2018, but he is solid in all phases of the game, and plays everyday for a loaded Red Sox team. Javier Baez did not start playing short everyday until Addison Russell got injured (and the domestic dispute problem reared its ugly, ugly head). Had he been at short the whole year, he might be higher on this list because he is an incredibly dynamic talent. Pre-2018, he was inconsistent at best at the plate, but he cleaned that up in a major way, and is now a true 5 tool talent in the middle of the Cubs lineup. Trevor Story has been very streaky since his breakout in 2016, but this past season he was a legit MVP candidate until he faded a bit in September. He has massive power, plays good defense, and can run. Elvis Andrus is as consistent as they come for a Texas team that looks like they will be in the cellar again in 2019. He plays very good defense and can get it done very well at the plate. Trea Turner struggled in 2018 at times. But much like some others on this list, he is a very young player, who has a tremendous amount of talent. Turner possesses sneaky pop, incredible speed, and plays very good defense.

This concludes the “Top 10 Right Now” Series, as we look ahead to Spring Training games, and eventually at long last, the start of the regular season. Making these lists was a very enlightening exercise for me, as digging into and comparing players who might have similar numbers is a very interesting task. Thank you for reading, comparing my lists with yours, and probably laughing at a few of my selections. Opening Day, please hurry.

Top 10 Right Now Series: Part 4

For the 4th installment of the Top 10 Right Now series, I will be breaking down my top picks at First Base and Starting Pitcher. Both of these positions are star-studded and very deep. First basemen have long been known as “sluggers only”, but this is not the case with *most* of the current players at the position. The First basemen of today are continuing to become more well-rounded ballplayers, and some of them can even play multiple defensive positions. As for starting pitchers, the recent trend that the more analytical baseball society we live in has been to use bullpen arms more and more often; while this can be a good game plan at times for matchups, starting pitching will always be a very important part of the game, especially over the marathon of a 162 game schedule. Luckily for us die-hard baseball fans, we are constantly treated to being able to watch some very good starters, most of which will not even make my list just based on the fact that this is a very very deep position.

Top 10 1B Right Now (according to Nathan White):

  1. Freddie Freeman, Braves
  2. Paul Goldschmidt, Cardinals
  3. Joey Votto, Reds
  4. Anthony Rizzo, Cubs
  5. Jose Abreu, White Sox
  6. Rhys Hoskins, Phillies
  7. Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals
  8. Brandon Belt, Giants
  9. Jesus Aguilar, Brewers
  10. Eric Hosmer, Padres

Just Missed: Jake Lamb, Diamondbacks; Max Muncy, Dodgers; Yuli Gurriel, Astros; Matt Olson, Athletics

The top 4 on this list are, in my opinion, on another level all by themselves. Freeman and Goldschmidt are both incredible all around players, who can both carry a team for months. Votto and Rizzo both play very good defense as well, can get on base (Votto especially) at a very high clip, and can of course hit for average and power. Jose Abreu is a very underrated player, most likely because he plays for the White Sox, but he can flat out hit. Rhys Hoskins spent the majority of last year playing left field because of Carlos Santana, but in 2019 he will be back where he belongs. Rhys plays in a very hitter friendly home ballpark, but he could put up offensive numbers anywhere. Ryan Zimmerman found a renaissance a few years ago, and has since put together a few above average offensive years in a row. Brandon Belt is another player that sometimes gets lost in the crowd, but he is about as consistent as they come when talking about excellent defense, and a solid at bat every time. Jesus Aguilar had a major breakout in 2018 (he literally came out of nowhere) for the Brewers and should be considered one of the best power hitters in the NL going into 2019. Finally, Eric Hosmer struggled a bit in his first year with the Padres, but personally, I have always thought of him as one of the best, day-in and day-out. Excellent defense, and a great knowledge of who he is at the plate net him the 10th spot.

Top 10 SP Right Now (according to Nathan White):

  1. Max Scherzer, Nationals
  2. Chris Sale, Red Sox
  3. Jacob deGrom, Mets
  4. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
  5. Corey Kluber, Indians
  6. Justin Verlander, Astros
  7. Carlos Carrasco, Indians
  8. Luis Severino , Yankees
  9. Aaron Nola, Phillies
  10. Blake Snell, Rays

Just Missed: Noah Syndergaard, Mets; Charlie Morton, Rays; Gerrit Cole, Astros; Trevor Bauer, Indians

Personally, I love talking about pitching. It truly is an art form. Max Scherzer comes drawn as a bulldog, in that aspect. Max has been dominant for years now, but somehow still manages to improve from year to year. Chris Sale has absolute wipeout stuff, possibly even the best our game has to offer, and he has to pitch in the AL while still putting up fantastic numbers. I think Boston is happy they made that trade. Jacob deGrom had a 2018 for the ages. It was, simply put, one of the best years a pitcher has ever had. I’m not sure how he can possibly follow that up in 2019, but with his stuff and ability to control the zone, I would not put it past him. Clayton Kershaw has been at the top for basically his entire career, and even though the injury bug has bitten him each of the past few seasons, causing his innings to plummet, he is still Clayton Kershaw. Corey Kluber has absolutely filthy stuff, and if this position wasn’t so deep, he could have a legit shot at being the best starter in the game. He is not too far behind. Justin Verlander has gone through a renaissance, to say the least. After having a few down years, due in part to a core injury which caused him to lose some of his velocity, he has cemented himself as one of the best in the business once again. Carlos Carrasco can flat out pitch; sometimes he gets lost in the fire being behind Kluber in that Indians rotation, but Carrasco is incredibly consistent, not to mention filthy. Luis Severino, while he can be inconsistent at times, has one of the most electrifying arms in baseball. When he’s on top of his game, he can completely shut an offense down, and make them look absolutely lost. Even when he’s not at his best, his pure stuff still makes him effective. Aaron Nola and Blake Snell have been highly touted prospects in our game for a few years, both struggled a bit when they first came up, but both proved to the baseball world just how good they can be. Both of these two were Cy Young finalists in their respective leagues, both were the undeniable ace of their overachieving teams, and both project forward very nicely as we look to 2019 and beyond.

Super Bowl Pick

I have taken a few week hiatus from publicly picking the NFL playoff games (some say that is a symptom of post-Parkey depression for which I can neither confirm nor deny…), but since the Super Bowl is quite possibly the biggest sporting event of the year, I figured I would give it one last whirl. This year’s matchup features a team that has been a stalwart in this game for seemingly Tom Brady’s entire career, and a team that has so many weapons I cannot even wrap my head around it.

Yes, it is true, the Patriots are back in the Super Bowl. Stop me if you’ve heard that before. However, the regular season for this Patriots team was anything but the “norm” that we have seen develop in the Brady-Belichick era. More uncharacteristic errors, slightly less dominance, and for a few games, visions that Brady was declining rapidly have seemingly gone by the wayside come playoff time. The Patriots beat up on a very good Chargers team, and essentially controlled the entire game at Arrowhead against a very dangerous Chiefs team. The combination of handoffs to Michel, dump-offs to James White, and underneath routes to Edelman and Gronk have the Pats looking like their normal selves. However, the weakest link of that Pats team, the defense, will surely be put to the test against a high-powered Rams offense who, finally, have a 100% healthy Todd Gurley back at running back. Couple that with the emergence of CJ Anderson towards the latter part of the season, the mostly consistent play from Jared Goff, and a defense that has major playmakers at every level, and you have a matchup for the ages. One head coach that has been doing this for as long as the other has been alive, and another who is so hyper-focused that he pays someone to stand on the sideline and make sure he does not run into the ref while a play is happening. This is going to be epic.

As for the pick part, if the Patriots can contain Gurley and Anderson and force the Rams into obvious passing situations, I like their chances. The Patriots will come out and do what they do best; control time of possession, salt away drives, and play good bend-but-don’t-break defense, and Tom Brady will get his 6th Super Bowl title. The Pick: Patriots 27 Rams 20

Top 10 Right Now Series: Part 3

For the 3rd installment of the Top 10 Right Now series, Left Fielders and Center Fielders will be the topic of discussion. Both of these positions come with a number of disclaimers, and obvious choices, but they are both filled with top-of-the-game talent. The main disclaimer I will throw out about the Left Field portion is that some of the guys listed are primary DH’s. Since there is no DH-specific list, and since most DH’s, when playing in the field, are usually 1st basemen or Left Fielders (two positions not known for all that much defensive specialization), it is a very interesting dynamic to take into consideration when making a list like this. As for Center Field, it is almost a complete flip. Center Fielders are typically KNOWN for their defense (Jim Edmonds and Andruw Jones among others), however, the Center Fielders that are tops at the position in today’s game are mostly great all around players, who are usually right in the MVP conversation in their respective leagues year after year.

Top 10 Left Fielders Right Now (according to Nathan. White):

  1. J.D. Martinez, Red Sox
  2. Giancarlo Stanton, Yankees
  3. Marcell Ozuna, Cardinals
  4. Ronald Acuna Jr., Braves
  5. Juan Soto, Nationals
  6. Michael Conforto, Mets
  7. Justin Upton, Angels
  8. Ryan Braun, Brewers
  9. Andrew Benintendi, Red Sox
  10. Tommy Pham, Rays

Just Missed: Khris Davis, Athletics; Michael Brantley, Astros; Eddie Rosario, Twins; David Peralta, Diamondbacks

J.D. Martinez and Giancarlo Stanton are very, very similar players. Almost too similar. Both changed teams to their respective AL East franchises within days of each other last offseason (coincidence?), both CAN play at least a little bit of defense when called upon, but both are incredibly dangerous right handed power hitters, who put up jaw-dropping numbers year after year. Marcell Ozuna was traded from the Marlins last offseason and hit well for average and got on base at a high clip, but the power seemed to be gone for much of the 2018 season. He still provided surplus value with his defense, base running, and bat, however, but he will look to get his power stroke back in 2019. Ronald Acuna Jr. and Juan Soto both burst onto the scene in 2018 with force. Both are incredibly young, dynamic ballplayers, who have the potential to be at the front of the MVP conversation in the NL for years to come. Michael Conforto has been, seemingly, the one staple in a very inconsistent Mets offense over the past few years. He is a bat-first player with good left handed power, and can also play slightly above league average defense. Although Justin Upton had a bit of a down year with the bat in 2018, he is known to be very streaky, and when he’s hot, he is nearly impossible to get out. Ryan Braun had something of a renaissance season in 2018 as he put up very solid numbers with the bat. Andrew Benintendi is sometimes seen as the forgotten man in that potent Boston lineup, but Benny can hit, and hit, and hit. Oh, and he grades out as an above average defender for Left Field as well. Rounding out the top 10, Tommy Pham, who had seen most of his innings in Center Field before he got traded to Tampa, broke out in a huge way in 2017, then regressed a bit last season. Nonetheless, he is a solid hitter, who runs well and plays great defense.

Top 10 Center Fielders Right Now (according to Nathan White):

  1. Mike Trout, Angels
  2. George Springer, Astros
  3. Charlie Blackmon, Rockies
  4. Cody Bellinger, Dodgers
  5. Lorenzo Cain, Brewers
  6. AJ Pollock, Dodgers
  7. Ender Inciarte, Braves
  8. Aaron Hicks, Yankees
  9. Odubel Herrera
  10. Starling Marte

Just Missed: Albert Almora, Cubs; Kevin Kiermier, Rays; Harrison Bader, Cardinals; Jackie Bradley Jr., Red Sox

The first name on this list was the easiest decision I have ever made. Mike Trout needs no explanation. He is the best player in our game currently, and before his career is over, he might be one of the best of all time. George Springer and Charlie Blackmon were two very tough names to put over one another. I put Springer over Blackmon, even coming off a down offensive year for his standards, because projecting forward, I personally feel that Springer will be slightly more productive with the bat. Also, I like Springer’s defense a hair better than Charlie’s. Both are excellent offensive players and can carry their respective teams’ offenses for weeks at a time. Cody Bellinger first burst onto the scene in 2017 as a first baseman, but with the emergence of Max Muncy last year, he found himself playing Center more times than not, and he excelled. Although he has a good amount of swing and miss in his bat, he is a middle of the order, power bat that grades out above average defensively. Lorenzo Cain, after breaking out with the Royals, signed a 5 year deal with the Brewers last offseason and did not disappoint. At times, he was considered the league MVP, before Yelich went on the hottest of all hot streaks. Cain is the whole package, as evidence by his top 3 WAR finish last year. AJ Pollock might find himself moving to a corner outfield spot in the near future, as he recently signed with the Dodgers, who as we already know, have this guy by the name of Bellinger. Pollock, when healthy, is a plus hitter, and an above average defender, who much like Cain, can bring the whole package night in and night out. He just has to stay on the field. Ender Inciarte is arguably the best defensive outfielder in our game, and after being traded to Atlanta, has shown that he is very productive with the bat too. Aaron Hicks, much like Inciarte, was known as a special defender with not much of a stick up until his time in the Bronx started. Since joining the Yankees, his offensive numbers have spiked way up, while maintaining his excellent defense. Odubel Herrera is inconsistent. But, when he is playing to his full potential, he is scary with the bat, both from an on base perspective, and from a damage perspective. Oh, and he plays above average defense at one of the most difficult defensive positions in the game. Starling Marte is not the superstar that he was for a few year stretch, but he still has incredible talent. Taking over in Center Field after Cutch left, he has proven to be a special defender, who can get on base at a high clip, and flash some power as well.