April Recap: OOTP Rebuild Kansas City Royals

Good afternoon, everyone!

I know it has been quite a while since you all last heard from me. For any of you who are currently in Life 101, you know that life can and will throw anything possible at you.

While life has been trying to suck everything out of me, I have had a little bit of time to simulate Spring Training and April in my Out of the Park 20 rebuild attempt of the Kansas City Royals.

Let’s quickly dive into a few highlights and big moves from the previous month, but before I do, please remember that it is still early in the season and OOTP is not always an accurate depiction of how a team may perform (the Royals are currently 9-16 heading into play today).

Major Transactions:

Traded LHP Danny Duffy (retaining 40% of his remaining contract) to the Houston Astros for LHP Wade Miley and CF Miles Straw (March 22, 2019)

Claimed RHP Miguel Castro off of waivers from the Baltimore Orioles and optioned RHP Kyle Zimmer to Triple-A Omaha (March 23, 2019)

RHP Jorge López was placed on the 10-day IL and RHP Jake Junis had his contract purchased from Triple-A Omaha (April 1, 2019)

RHP Miguel Castro was placed on the 10-day IL and RHP Kyle Zimmer was recalled from Triple-A Omaha (April 13, 2019)

RHP Carlos Estevez was claimed off of waivers from the Colorado Rockies and RHP Kyle Zimmer was optioned to Triple-A Omaha (April 16, 2019)

RHP Miguel Castro was activated from the 10-day IL and RHP Carlos Estevez was designated for assignment (April 24, 2019)

RHP Jorge López was sent on rehab assignment to Double-A Northwest Arkansas (April 26, 2019)

Best Performers:

Whit Merrifield has led the way as he is the team leader in both batting average and RBIs. His offensive production is a huge reason why the team is currently above .500, and he his current production has him on pace to be an 8.5 WAR player. A pleasant surprise has been the ability of Chelsor Cuthbert to hit for average and power. He currently sports a .317/.345/.524 slash line to go along with 4 HR out of the eighth spot in the order. Adalberto Mondesi is also putting in a solid season as he is receiving routine playing time sporting a slash line of .330/.364/.495, but has put that to use with his speed as he has stolen 14 bases without being caught.

On the pitching side of things, we currently employ a bullpen day two to three times in a given week. A huge beneficiary of this has been Ian Kennedy who leads the team with a 3-0 record and 2.84 ERA although his 1.21 WHIP suggests that he is unlikely to continue pitching this well. Rule 5 Draft Pick Sam McWilliams has also done well as a follower in the bullpen day system and his 3.51 ERA is a surprise given that he had not pitched above Double-A coming into the season. His WHIP is a 1.29, but if he can reduce his walks, he should turn into a more effective pitcher.

Prospect Watch:

In his second year at Triple-A Omaha, middle infield prospect Nicky López could be pushing for a roster spot by the end of the year as he has a slash line of .369/.425/.485 and despite a lack of power, his continued presence on base is positive for a prospect with an advanced approach at the plate. Royals fans will be familiar with Brady Singer, and despite an Opening Day blip for Double-A Northwest Arkansas, he anchors a rotation that has helped put the Naturals in first place in the Northern Division of the Texas League. The final prospect to examine is LHP Richard Lovelady who is once again thriving at Triple-A Omaha. With his solid mound presence, he could be another prospect who gets called up in the mid- to late season.

Team Performance:

This may be the part that followers of this series care about, but I believe that it is important to track all parts of an organization when focusing on a rebuild like the Royals. Because of the albatross contracts of Danny Duffy, Ian Kennedy, and Alex Gordon, I was hamstrung on the budget which is one reason I elected to move Dufy, even if I had to eat some money. This will have a negative impact on my ability to develop talent, but hopefully, the limited resources in play will allow me to construct solid depth in the Minor Leagues.

The team is actually off to a good start relative to their real-life performance. I believe that pitching is a huge factor as most of the starting rotation has been solid, but the bullpen has also done a good job closing down games. However, there is solid run production that has helped cover up a few blips. The team is currently 15-13 through April and sits 1 ½ games back of Minnesota who leads the division. We were swept in a two game set early in the year by the Twins, but managed to win a three game series in Tampa Bay after splitting a four game set with the Yankees the previous weekend. However, the team closed April out with a five-game winning streak that it takes into May when we finish three games out of a four game series with the Tampa Bay Rays at home.

That’s all I have as far as updating you all on the big picture for the team, but you can feel free to ask any questions in the comments. Until the May update, I will be simulating the next month of games where the winning will hopefully continue.

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)

Out of the Park 20 Campaign

You guys may not know this, but I’m a huge fan of the baseball management simulator Out of the Park Baseball. More so than MLB the Show (of which I’m also a fan), Out of the Park baseball delivers an experience for hardcore baseball fans who care about some of the greater nuances in the game.

A similar comparison may be that of the FIFA franchise and Football Manager. At the core, they are about the same sport, but the reasons for playing them are very different.

I find myself playing MLB the Show to see how many home runs I can hit with a player like Giancarlo Stanton before the All-Star Break; whereas, I have to build a complete team in order to be a serious contender for the World Series in Out of the Park Baseball..

However, I am really writing this to solicit the opinion from our readers to see which team they want me to rebuild. Below, I’ll outline a few guidelines, but I don’t plan on playing with a complete team like the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers, etc.

Here are the groundrules before you vote:

Ground Rules

1. Realistic moves are not the goal.

For those of you who don’t know, I have found many ways to finagle top prospects from an AI willing to trade guys like Domingo German, Shane Bieber, and even Vladimir Guerrero, Jr! For the purposes of the rebuild, the goal is not to make every single move that would be made by that team’s general manager, but to make moves that I think will move the team forward. Some realistic moves may be made, but those will not be the motif.

2. Your favorite player could be moved.

Baseball, like other sports, is a business at the end of the day. I still remember being devastated when I found out that my Texas Rangers pulled out of the Cliff Lee negotiations. He was the first ace the franchise had in many years, and I thought he would be a key for winning future World Series titles. However, he flamed out a year later, and I came to understand some of the reasons the Rangers balked at paying him hundreds of millions over the course of seven years. Bear in mind, I could elect to let your favorite player leave in free agency, or trade him for prospects, so please understand this.

 3. All games before the playoffs will be simulated.

This is pretty self-explanatory, but I can’t manage to control every game’s outcome and still give you content updates on a regular basis. As such, the main emphasis will actually be on developing prospects, and any acquisitions made. That said, I’ll still update y’all on big games.

4. The goal is to win the World Series.

I may amend this if I get a team that can’t get beyond the final hurdle, but the idea is to win the World Series. Following this, the series will end, but I am always willing to do another at the conclusion of one series.

Now that it is all out of the way, I’m going to put a poll up until March 22, and then I will take control of whichever team wins the poll. Please don’t cry if I don’t pick your team. I hope to get around the big leagues and cover as many teams as possible.

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)

AL East Division Preview

First, I’d like to apologize. My personal and work life has been a bit of a crisis lately, and that’s no excuse. I will have the AL Central and AL West up on time (guaranteed or Marcus knows where to send the hitmen).

Before I get into predicting the future, let’s take one moment to revisit the standings from last year. This division was truly remarkable as it produced the World Series champion and had two teams finish with 100 or more wins while also having a team lose more than 100 games; something I’m near certain has never happened before.

  1. Boston Red Sox 108-54
  2. New York Yankees 100-62 (8.0 GB)
  3. Tampa Bay Rays 90-72 (18.0 GB)
  4. Toronto Blue Jays 73-89 (35.0 GB)
  5. Baltimore Orioles 47-115 (61.0 GB)

This division produced a few surprises. The first is the effectiveness that the Tampa Bay Rays had with what eventually became a three-man rotation due to trades and injuries. They were expected to employ the opener for the entire season, but the idea was every fourth or fifth day which means a four-man rotation for those paying attention. I would have called you a liar if you told me that Sergio Romo would be an effective pitcher not only at the back end of games, but opening them as well. The fact that they came close to the second Wild Card spot is enough of a reason to award Kevin Cash the American League Manager of the Year Award. The next surprise was the emergence of the Yankees and Red Sox as dominating forces in the league. I think Nathan and I could come to a consensus that both managers should have been fired for missing the postseason, so long as injuries didn’t destroy the roster. The fact that J.D. Martinez catapulted them in the way that he did speaks more to his evolution as a player than it does that one move making the team win 108 games. To be clear, he was a monster, but that entire team has an incredible roster from top to bottom, and 108 wins is a very difficult benchmark to hit. For all the hype surrounding an outfield with Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge, rookie manager Aaron Boone did a great job managing the roster and battling the various crises that arose over the course of the past year. Perhaps the final surprise is just how bad the Baltimore Orioles were. Chris Davis was one of the worst hitters in the entire history of baseball (including the “Dead Ball Era” where walks counted like hits today for batting average) and the starting rotation wasn’t any better. Sorry Orioles fans, but it’s not looking much better this year either. Still, many things went wrong for a club I would have predicted to finish in last, but not struggle to win 50 games.

Enough of the dreary (unless you happen to root for the Orioles, then dismal is the new excellent), let’s break down the offseason moves. Before I look at key additions and subtractions, the offseason winner of the division has to be the New York Yankees. Boston was far too stagnant, and is even behind Tampa Bay in my book. Toronto made some solid moves, but nothing incredible as they look to the future, and Baltimore is hoping to lose as much as possible in order to secure a top 5 draft pick.

Offseason Recap

Boston Red Sox

Key Additions: 1B Steve Pearce, SP Nathan Eovaldi
Key Subtractions: CL Craig Kimbrel, 2B Ian Kinsler, RP Joe Kelly

New York Yankees

Key Additions: SP James Paxton, RP Zack Britton (even got a name change with their contract), RP Adam Ottavino, 2B DJ LeMahieu
Key Subtractions: INF Ronald Torreyes, SP Justus Sheffield (top prospect traded to Mariners for James Paxton), SP Sonny Gray

Tampa Bay Rays

Key Additions: C Mike Zunino, 3B/DH Yandy Díaz (trade with Indians), SP Charlie Morton, RF Avisail García
Key Subtractions: 1B Jake Bauers (trade with Indians), 1B C.J. Cron, CF Mallex Smith

Toronto Blue Jays

Key Additions: SS Freddy Galvis, RP Bud Norris, SP Clayton Richard
Key Subtractions: SS Aledmys Díaz

Baltimore Orioles

Key Additions: SP/RP Nate Karns, SS Drew Jackson (Rule 5 Draft)
Key Subtractions: CF Adam Jones

2019 Season Outlook

Outside of the New York Yankees, none of the teams really made a strong push to get better. Even in the case of the Yankees, they strengthened the bullpen, already the calling card of their team. They did a good job getting Paxton as another ace for the staff, but with Luis Severino set to miss a month or two following rehab, they could become reliant on a bullpen that threw a significant amount of innings. Compared to their direct rivals, the Boston Red Sox, I’d take the bullpen of the Yankees every day of the week. I’m not really sure how the Red Sox plan to close out games considering Kimbrel was second in the American league with 42 saves. That’s a massive hole for any pitcher to feel, but when you lose your setup man to a World Series rival, the Los Angeles Dodgers, it looks bad that your former closer is still on the open market. I think the Tampa Bay Rays will hope that a young core highlighted by Willy Adames and Brett Honeycutt can propel them forward, but they have a team that has proven it can win at the highest level, and any further progression is bonus as far as the Rays should be concerned. If Kevin Cash manages to have similar success with the opener in year 2, he better win the American League Manager of the Year Award. Toronto will be average like they were last season as they haven’t really gotten significantly better, but they haven’t regressed either. They will give guys like Lourdes Gurriel, Jr. and Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. opportunities, when the latter returns from injury. Paired with a farm system that still has Bo Bichette and a few other pitchers, namely Sean Reid-Foley, they could sit pat and let their young guys grow. Baltimore is likely to be a dumpster fire, sorry, but they have made clear strides by hiring Brendan Hyde as their manager and Mike Elias as the general manager, a clear step towards better scouting and player development.

Predicted 2019 Standings

  1. New York Yankees 105-57
  2. Boston Red Sox 99-63
  3. Tampa Bay Rays 94-68
  4. Toronto Blue Jays 79-83
  5. Baltimore Orioles 45-117

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 MLB.com 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 MLB.com prospect), RHP Justin Dunn (#91 MLB.com prospect)

Miami Marlins:

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