2020 MLB Useless Guesses and Predictions

I’m a little late to the prediction party. Forgive me…between a new baby in the house, a terrible two-year-old, and trying to figure out how I may or may not die from COVID, it’s been a little difficult lately to write. The other months in between have been lost due to parenting. Being an involved husband, father, educator, and lawn care specialist is very time-consuming.

Regardless, with just four teams having played one of their 60 games, it isn’t too late to share what I think is going to happen, right?

AL East Champions: New York Yankees

Newly-signed ace RHP Gerrit Cole showed exactly what he was capable of by shutting down the Nationals on Opening Night. The power of OFs Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge will play up in a shortened season, especially in a division with several teams changing directions or rebuilding (Red Sox, Blue Jays, and Orioles). The only competition is a fierce one from the Rays.

Enjoy the “Block C” this year. They’ll go to the WS as the Indians and be the Spiders in 2021.

AL Central Champions: Cleveland Indians

Strong rotation with continually budding ace RHPs Shane Bieber and Mike Clevinger and plenty of depth. Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor are the heart of the lineup, with Franmil Reyes capable of becoming a monster in the lineup. If the core stays healthy, this team is absolutely capable of a long run in the playoffs.

AL West Champions: Houston Astros

They aren’t the same cheaters but they continue to have a very talented lineup and pitching staff. Their depth may be a bit of a problem offensively, but if they get Yordan Alvarez healthy and Alex Bregman continues to get better approaching his prime, the 2017 *champions* should run away with the AL West

AL Playoff Teams: Tampa Bay Rays, Minnesota Twins, Oakland Athletics, Texas Rangers, and Chicago White Sox

AL Cy Young Award: New York Yankees RHP Gerrit Cole

Cleveland fans will “enjoy him” in this shortened campaign
Courtesy: Beyond the Boxscore

AL MVP: Cleveland Indians SS Francisco Lindor

AL Rookie of the Year: Chicago White Sox OF Luis Robert

AL Manager of the Year: Tampa Bay Rays Kevin Cash

AL Pennant: Cleveland Indians

NL East Champions: Atlanta Braves

They’re extremely young, especially their starting pitching, but they have so much talent. OF Ronald Acuna, Jr. is going to continue to blossom into the best thing since Mike Trout, and, if fully recovered from COVID, 1B Freddie Freeman is one of – if not the best – offensive first basemen in the league. They are well on their way to a 1990s style run with this core.

NL Central Champions: Cincinnati Reds

Their pitching staff is deep. They loaded up on offensive weapons. This is a team that will make a quick turnaround from a couple of disappointing seasons. The biggest upgrade was made in the middle of 2019 when they added RHP Trevor Bauer. He and many others on the pitching staff have benefitted from pitching coordinator and Driveline Baseball president Kyle Boddy over the last several years, with Bauer using some of his unique knowledge to work with Reds’ No.2 prospect Hunter Greene. If they can get some magic from 1B Joey Votto, there is a lot of talent to mash offensively present in 3B Eugenio Suarez, 2B Mike Moustakas, and OF Nicholas Castellanos.

NL West Champions: Los Angeles Dodgers

Giving up a couple of prospects and their 4th outfielder, the Dodgers were able to snag OF Mookie Betts from the financially strapped, huge market, Boston Red Sox (did you catch the sarcasm?). An injury to LHP Clayton Kershaw has already hit, but the club has RHP Walker Buehler to step in as the ace and, one of their top prospects, RHP Dusin May, stepped in to show his nasty arsenal and nasty Carrot Top afro to the world on Opening Night. A healthy SS Corey Seager and continued slugging from OF Cody Bellinger and 1B Max Muncy helps the Dodgers be the class of the West and of the NL.

NL Playoff Teams: Philadelphia Phillies, St. Louis Cardinals, San Diego Padres, Chicago Cubs, and New York Mets

Buehler is now the ace in LA.
Courtesy: Dodgers Nation

NL Cy Young Award: Los Angeles Dodgers RHP Walker Buehler

NL MVP: Atlanta Braves OF Ronald Acuna, Jr.

NL Rookie of the Year: Los Angeles Dodgers 2B Gavin Lux

NL Manager of the Year: Cincinnati Reds David Bell

NL Pennant: Los Angeles Dodgers

World Series Prediction: Los Angeles Dodgers over Cleveland Indians in six games

2019 MLB Midseason Top 75 Prospects

As the second half of the MLB season began in Texas on Thursday night, I felt like it was time to update my blog again. As a teacher and father, this site isn’t what it used to be, but I still love to look out for the next big thing as a long-time baseball nerd and fantasy baseball geek. Enjoy and comment away!!!

  1. Wander Franco, SS, TB

    Incredibly talented, Franco was elite well before the graduation of Guerrero and Tatis
    Courtesy: Baseball America
  2. MacKenzie Gore, LHP, SD
  3. Jo Adell, OF, LAA
  4. Kyle Tucker, OF, HOU
  5. Luis Robert, OF, CWS
  6. Casey Mize, RHP, DET
  7. Brendan McKay, LHP/DH, TB
  8. Keston Hiura, 2B, MIL
  9. Yordan Alvarez, 1B, HOU
  10. Brendan Rodgers, SS, COL
  11. Bo Bichette, SS, TOR
  12. Forrest Whitley, RHP, HOU
  13. Royce Lewis, SS, MIN
  14. Jesus Luzardo, LHP, OAK
  15. Carter Kieboom, SS, WAS
  16. Luis Urias, 2B/SS, SD
  17. Gavin Lux, SS, LAD
  18. Dylan Cease, RHP, CWS
  19. Cristian Pache, OF, ATL
  20. Alex Kirilloff, OF, MIN
  21. Jarred Kelenic, OF, SEA

    Kelenic is already making the Mets look more foolish than we already knew they were
    Courtesy: MiLB.com
  22. Matt Manning, RHP, DET
  23. A.J. Puk, LHP, OAK
  24. Taylor Trammell, OF, CIN
  25. Sixto Sanchez, RHP, MIA
  26. Alec Bohm, 1B/3B, PHI
  27. Adley Rutschman, C, BAL
  28. Ian Anderson, RHP, ATL
  29. Andrew Vaughn, 1B, CWS
  30. Nate Pearson, RHP, TOR
  31. Joey Bart, C, SF
  32. Michael Kopech, RHP, CW
  33. Brent Honeywell, RHP, TB
  34. Mitch Keller, RHP, PIT
  35. Francisco Mejia, C, SD
  36. Nolan Gorman, 3B, STL

    Gorman has Joey Gallo-like power potential
    Courtesy: MiLB.com
  37. Triston McKenzie, RHP, CLE
  38. Jesus Sanchez, OF, TB
  39. Hunter Greene, RHP, CIN
  40. Brusdar Graterol, RHP, MIN
  41. Keibert Ruiz, C, LAD
  42. Kyle Wright, RHP, ATL
  43. Jonathan India, 3B, CIN
  44. Grayson Rodriguez, RHP, BAL
  45. Nick Madrigal, 2B, CWS
  46. Ke’Bryan Hayes, 3B, PIT
  47. Matthew Liberatore, LHP, TB
  48. Luis Patino, RHP, SD
  49. Drew Waters, OF, ATL
  50. Dustin May, RHP, LAD
  51. Nolan Jones, 3B, CLE
  52. Sean Murphy, C, OAK
  53. Deivi Garcia, RHP, NYY
  54. Nate Lowe, 1B, TB
  55. Julio Rodriguez, OF, SEA
  56. DL Hall, LHP, BAL
  57. Hunter Bishop, OF, SF
  58. Bobby Witt, Jr., SS, KC
  59. J.J. Bleday, OF, MIA
  60. Justus Sheffield, LHP, SEA
  61. Ronny Mauricio, SS, NYM
  62. Andres Gimenez, SS, NYM
  63. Brady Singer, RHP, KC
  64. Vidal Brujan, 2B, TB
  65. Marco Luciano, SS, SF

    Luciano is young but has the tools to be the next great Giant
    Courtesy: Baseball America
  66. George Valera, OF, CLE
  67. Dylan Carlson, OF, ST
  68. C.J. Abrams, SS, SD
  69. Oneil Cruz, SS, PIT
  70. Jordan Balazovic, RHP, MIN
  71. Shane Baz, RHP, TB
  72. Xavier Edwards, SS, SD
  73. Kristian Robinson, OF, ARZ
  74. Ryan Mountcastle, 1B/3B, BAL
  75. Brice Turang, SS, MIL

2019 MLB Top 100 Prospects

Below is my annual prospect list. Take what you want from this list. I am not paid by a team, nor do I have the opportunity to view many of these players in person. It’s just one of the hundreds of lists that you can compare it to each year. I am a husband, father, and teacher, so I can’t devote as much time as I used to towards writing, but I thoroughly enjoy compiling this list before each season and revisiting it at the midpoint of the year.

Courtesy: Yahoo

1. Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., TOR, 3B

He may have reported to camp in what the kids say would be “thicc”, but he is going to hit…and he is also going to spend time in the minors due to the nature of team-control and budgetary restrictions that teams have put on themselves, rather than just focusing on winning. You have to love his comps: a blend of his father and Miguel Cabrera – you’d take that every chance you could, right?

2. Fernando Tatis, Jr., SD, SS

Freakishly athletic and strong. He won’t make the contact that Vlad, Jr. will, but he’s a special player. Remember, he was part of the package from the White Sox for…James Shields. Ouch.

3. Eloy Jimenez, CWS, OF

Big and strong with light tower power, playing half of his games in a bandbox. He’ll compete for some MVPs on offensive numbers alone.

4. Wander Franco, TB, SS

After the success of Juan Soto and Ronald Acuna, Jr., many prospect lovers will clamor for Franco to be the next elite-level teenager in the majors. He won the Appalachian League ROY after posting 28 extra-base hits in just 242 ABs, walking more than he struck out at the tender age of 17. He’s going to be at the top of this list once the other three crack the bigs by June.

5. Victor Robles, WAS, OF

When Bryce Harper signed with the Phillies, PECOTA had the Nationals with about the same projected number of wins. Why? Because – IF – Robles can stay healthy, he is capable of production across the board offensively, with elite defense. With Robles and Soto in Washington, they’ll be okay.

6. Jo Adell, LAA, OF

Adell just hurt himself in spring training while running the bases, but he’s proven to be an athletic super-talent. With all of the “how much money can Mike Trout earn” articles after the signings of Harper and Manny Machado this offseason, perhaps the Angels could reach to their minor leagues instead of their pockets for their next star.

7. Forrest Whitley, HOU, RHP

He’s a monster. He also has been caught cheating already. Based on what Trevor Bauer says about Astros’ pitchers, he’ll fit right in. He’s a potential ace for a team with two of them on their current roster. If he stays healthy, he could be Houston’s third-best pitcher by the end of the season.

Courtesy: Cincinnati.com

8. Nick Senzel, CIN, INF/OF

Cincinnati management keeps saying that he could open the year in center. He’s an athlete, but there could be some growing pains for people who are used to watching Billy Hamilton patrol center. Still, with the albatross that Hamilton was at the dish, Senzel could stay on the bench and leave center empty and STILL look like a better player than Hamilton did at times.

9. Royce Lewis, MIN, SS

Things are coming together. Speed, power, and developing patience will make it a race to the top between Lewis and Franco as the next young superstar shortstop.

10. Kyle Tucker, HOU, OF

Some are going to sour on him due to his struggles in his cup of coffee last season; however, there’s still a lot to like here, and he’s still quite worthy of the ranking.

11. Keston Hiura, MIL, 2B

A second baseman who can’t absolutely rake, he’ll just need to get a better approach to truly grasp his potential. He’ll be up quickly in 2019 and is proving capable in his early spring efforts.

12. Alex Kirilloff, MIN, OF

Kirilloff is a gifted hitter. He has a solid approach and will be a difficult player to hold back for long. Minnesota has a bright outlook in Double-A this year with this guy and Lewis.

13. Bo Bichette, TOR, SS

Bichette gets lost in the sparkle surrounding Guerrero, but he is an elite prospect in his own right. His speed and gap power could continue to inflate his stock if and when those doubles turn into bombs.

14. Taylor Trammell, CIN, OF

Trammell is a potential fantasy monster. He reminds me of what Gregory Polanco was supposed to become. The Double-A test will go a long way in determining whether he can be a piece to build around or just another part.

Courtesy: NBC Sports

15. Jesus Luzardo, OAK, LHP

The numbers are insane. His opportunities this spring have been dominant. He could be the best A’s pitcher the moment that he takes the mound, and he could be this year’s version of Walker Buehler for fantasy teams.

16. Brendan Rodgers, COL, SS

The Troy Tulowitzki comparisons were unfair. A breathing shortstop with any offensive abilities will have to live with that in Colorado for a long time. Still, Rodgers is an intriguing piece. Keeping Nolen Arenado around for the long haul will keep the Rockies offense relevant, and Rodgers could be another part to trouble the opposition.

17. MacKenzie Gore, SD, LHP

His first full season didn’t have the dominant numbers of his first taste of the minors, but the stuff is still there. He has No.1 potential on stuff alone. His lanky frame allows for projectability so it could get better by the time he lands in San Diego.

18. Casey Mize, DET, RHP

He was the first overall pick, a college arm, and has electric stuff. The Tigers are going to be awful. He’ll move quickly and will be their ace in short order.

19. Sixto Sanchez, MIA, RHP

His inclusion in the deal for J.T. Realmuto was what was holding up the deal. It finally happened and the deal was consummated. He’ll become solid and the Marlins will trade him, as they do everyone. Enjoy him while he’s there, Marlin fan.

20. Nick Madrigal, CWS, 2B

Yoan Moncada was moved to third. It wasn’t for Yolmer Sanchez. Madrigal can hit. He isn’t big and he isn’t going to be a masher, but he’ll get on base and he will hit a ton.

21. Carter Kieboom, WAS, SS

Kieboom has an interesting blend of power and contact skills. His approach could lead to further growth offensively.

22. Dylan Cease, CWS, RHP

Harnessing his stuff is all that is necessary for this right-hander to be ready for the bigs. He’ll have big K numbers but he must cut back on free passes before he is truly ready.

23. Alex Reyes, STL, RHP

Has he been on this list for a decade yet? Seems like it! The Cardinals rotation is a guess due to the issues with Carlos Martinez and his constant injuries and Adam Wainwright another year older. Reyes is in a prime position to be an asset this season.

24. Luis Urias, SD, INF

Another small guy who can do a little bit of everything. Is he a shortstop or a second baseman? The two-year contract that Ian Kinsler signed could mean that Urias is at short until Tatis is ready. Will he prove himself worthy enough to take over the keystone by that point?

25. Brendan McKay, TB, LHP/DH

The first baseman/pitcher project has officially died. McKay will take on the dreaded DH label early for those of you who enjoy fantasy baseball. Still, that arm could be special enough, and it is special enough, to warrant this spot.

26. Keibert Ruiz, LAD, C

Honeywell and his screwball are making a comeback from TJ surgery.

27. Brent Honeywell, TB, RHP

28. Francisco Mejia, SD, C

He can mash. Austin Hedges is great defensively but won’t be able to hold him back for too long.

29. Alex Verdugo, LAD, OF

30. Chris Paddack, SD, RHP

31. Mitch Keller, PIT, RHP

Courtesy: True Blue LA

32. Dustin May, LAD, RHP

His hair is disgusting. Worse than Clint Frazier‘s ever was. Disturbing enough to make you forget about how great his arm is.

33. Ian Anderson, ATL, RHP

34. Mike Soroka, ATL, RHP

35. Austin Riley, ATL, 3B

36. Jazz Chizholm, ARZ, SS

37. Nolan Gorman, STL, 3B

38. Michael Kopech, CWS, RHP

39. Joey Bart, SF, C

40. Vidal Brujan, TB, 2B

41. A.J. Puk, OAK, LHP

42. Kyle Wright, ATL, RHP

43. Yordan Alvarez, HOU, OF

44. Triston McKenzie, CLE, RHP

45. Cristian Pache, ATL, OF

46. Brusdar Graterol, MIN, RHP

47. Gavin Lux, LAD, INF

48. Justus Sheffield, SEA. LHP

49. Jonathan India, CIN, 3B

50. Jesus Sanchez, TB, OF

51. Yusniel Diaz, BAL, OF

52. Hunter Greene, CIN, RHP

53. Luis Patino, SD, RHP

54. Luis Robert, CWS, OF

55. Ke’Bryan Hayes, PIT, 3B

56. Peter Alonso, NYM, 1B

57. Andres Gimenez, NYM, SS

58. Nolan Jones, CLE, 3B

59. Sculy Matias, KC, OF

HUGE power.

60. Danny Jansen, TOR, C

61. Adonis Medina, PHI, RHP

62. Ryan Mountcastle, BAL, 3B

63. Jarred Kelernic, SEA, OF

64. Bubba Thompson, TEX, OF

65. Bryse Wilson, ATL, RHP

66. Leody Taveras, TEX, OF

67. Corbin Martin, HOU, RHP

68. Brady Singer, KC, RHP

69. DL Hall, BAL, LHP

70. Alec Bohm, PHI, 3B

71. Estevan Florial, NYY, OF

72. Josh James, HOU, RHP

73. William Contreras, ATL, C

He’s 6’6″…at SS.
Courtesy: Pirates Prospects

74. Oneil Cruz, PIT, SS

He’s a HUGE kid. It’ll be interesting if he is a SS long-term or not.

75. Adrian Morejon, SD, LHP

76. Khalil Lee, KC, OF

77. Dakota Hudson, STL, RHP

If he gets a rotation spot, he’ll never lose it. He could be special.

78. Jon Duplantier, ARZ, RHP

79. Drew Waters, ATL, OF

80. Jonathan Loaisiga, NYY, RHP

81. Nate Pearson, TOR, RHP

82. MJ Melendez, KC, C

83. Jahmai Jones, LAA, 2B

84. Ronaldo Hernandez, TB, C

85. Sandy Alcantara, MIA, RHP

86. Matt Manning, DET, RHP

87. Matthew Liberatore, TB, LHP

88. Touki Toussaint, ATL, RHP

89. Dane Dunning, CWS, RHP

90. Luis Garcia, WAS, INF

91. Daulton Varsho, ARZ, C

92. Lucius Fox, TB, C

93. Travis Swaggerty, PIT, OF

94. Nico Hoerner, CHC, SS

95. Michael Chavis, BOS, 1B/3B

96. Sean Murphy, OAK, C

97. Brandon Lowe, TB, 2B

98. Will Smith, LAD, C

99. Garrett Hampson, COL, INF

100. Griffin Canning, LAA, RHP



Cleveland Indians Stuff

TribeAs a fan of the Cleveland Indians, I’ve been fortunate to share in my enjoyment with some awesome people and fellow writers, first at Bleacher Report, then Wahoos on First, and now at Always the Jake. The site has all kinds of great stuff, including a Twitter feature that has all of the Indians news that you need from various sites, all in one stop! Check it out and follow the site on Twitter and Facebook, too!

Here are some great articles from the site to check out:

Brian Heise investigates the Albert Belle trucking of Fernando Vina in 1996

Which relievers make sense for the Indians at the trade deadline? 

goatHow the Jose Ramirez contract is such a bargain

A Yan Gomes love story, by Kyle Downing

Jason Kipnis is producing again, by Matt Bretz

Learn more about Indians prospects

2018 Prospects: MLB Midseason Top 50

As the All-Star Game begins tonight, MLB is on its way into the second half. As usual, a lot of talented young players have made their presence felt, as players like Juan Soto, Gleyber Torres, and Ronald Acuna have positively impacted their clubs, giving new life and new blood to their clubs. This new list of prospects is an update to the top 100 from the preseason!

  1. Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., 3B, TOR

    Vlad Guerrero, Jr. will probably graduate from this list. There is very little to prove in the minors. Courtesy: MILB.com
  2. Fernando Tatis, Jr., SS, SD
  3. Eloy Jimenez, OF, CWS
  4. Jo Adell, OF, LAA
  5. Nick Senzel, 2B/3B, CIN
  6. Kyle Tucker, OF, HOU
  7. Forrest Whitley, RHP, HOU
  8. Victor Robles, OF, WASH
  9. Keston Hiura, 2B, MIL
  10. Bo Bichette, SS, TOR
  11. Brendan Rodgers, SS, COL
  12. Francisco Mejia, C, CLE
  13. Jesus Luzardo, LHP, OAK
  14. Michael Kopech, RHP, CWS
  15. Taylor Trammell, OF, CIN

    Trammell is good.
  16. Mitch Keller, RHP, PIT
  17. Royce Lewis, SS, MIN
  18. Sixto Sanchez, RHP, PHI
  19. Alex Reyes, RHP, STL
  20. Willy Adames, SS, TB
  21. MacKenzie Gore, LHP, SD
  22. Hunter Greene, RHP, CIN
  23. Jesus Sanchez, OF, TB
  24. Carter Kieboom, SS, WASH

    Kieboom packs a punch with a great approach, but how long will he be a SS? Courtesy: Baseball America
  25. Triston McKenzie, RHP, CLE
  26. Alex Verdugo, OF, LAD
  27. Luis Robert, OF, CWS
  28. Brendan McKay, LHP/1B, TB
  29. Luis Urias, 2B/SS, SD
  30. Austin Riley, 3B, ATL
  31. Yordan Alvarez, 1B/OF, HOU
  32. Keibert Ruiz, C, LAD
  33. Dylan Cease, RHP, CWS
  34. Mike Soroka, RHP, ATL
  35. Justus Sheffield, LHP, NYY
  36. Yusniel Diaz, OF, LAD
  37. Ryan Mountcastle, 3B, BAL

    TJ won’t stop him. Courtesy: The Sports Post
  38. Brent Honeywell, RHP, TB
  39. Estevan Florial, OF, NYY
  40. Chris Paddack, RHP, SD
  41. Michel Baez, RHP, SD
  42. Ian Anderson, RHP, ATL
  43. Leody Taveras, OF, TEX
  44. Alex Kirilloff, OF, MIN
  45. Seuly Matias, OF, KC

    Matias could hit 50 HR in the Sally League…but he is striking out in nearly 40% of his ABs! Dat power, tho! Courtesy: The Sporting News
  46. Willie Calhoun, OF, TEX
  47. Jonathan India, 3B, CIN
  48. Andres Gimenez, SS, NYM
  49. Casey Mize, RHP, DET
  50. Brusdar Graterol, RHP, MIN

Fantasy: 2nd Half Sleepers to Buy Low

The first half of the season is officially over as we head into the All-Star break. Tonight’s Homerun Derby will be exciting for fans of the National League, as only one of the eight competitors, Astros 3B Alex Bregman, comes from the American League, but, for those who aren’t interested in this event, you may be seeking help in the second half of your fantasy baseball season.

Here are five players to watch in the second half of the 2018 season, who could even out their statistics to become the players everyone wants early in 2019 drafts!

Urena should be better, even if his team, overall, won’t be Courtesy: Zimbio

Marlins RHP Jose Urena

Urena is 2-9 with a 4.39 ERA and 1.22 WHIP. So, why would he be someone to acquire? The 26-year-old has some positive things to keep in mind for gains going forward in his 3.70 FIP, which ranks just behind the ranks of Lance McCullers, Jr., Jameson Taillon, and Eduardo Rodriguez. He also is striking out more (7.37 vs. 5.99) and walking fewer (2.32 vs. 3.39) batters per nine this season, while posting a near league-average BABIP of .304. Not to mention he has significantly increased his groundball percentage (from 43.1 last year to 53.1 this year), while cutting his HR/FB rate from 13.1% to 11.1% this season. Sure, he was 14-7 last year and the wins won’t be coming from the team behind him in Miami, but he should look better over the second half AND he could get traded since Miami doesn’t like talent!

Phillies RHP Nick Pivetta

Pivetta is an interesting case. He has absurd strikeout totals this season, posting a 10.57 K:9, leading to a sexy 113:30 K:BB over 96.1 innings in the first half. Like Urena, this puts him in the top 30 in FIP with a 3.74 FIP, but that goes with a ghastly 4.63 ERA. The 6’5″ 25-year-old has been bitten by the longball, which has severely damaged his value, allowing 14 bombs on a 15.4% HR/FB rate, which is actually lower than last season. He has been a bit unlucky on the BABIP side of things, as that stat stands at .329. Could he be trade bait as the Phillies go for a veteran arm or another bat? Possibly. Is he a future ace? Unlikely. But he misses enough bats at the major league level to warrant several looks, and his numbers, with a little help, could look much nicer at the end of the season.

A Rockies pitcher worth watching in fantasy? Freeland is your man! Courtesy: Beyond the Boxscore

Rockies LHP Kyle Freeland

Can you really trust a Rockies’ pitcher? Well, that 3.11 ERA is likely to increase…likely…but – maybe not! Why would Freeland be any different? He has a 4.08 FIP, a lucky .269 BABIP, and has an elevated 82.5 LOB%, so he screams regression, right? Wrong! The 25-year-old lefty strikes out a little over seven per nine, but the reason that he could keep it up is the inability of opposing batters to make hard contact. In spacious Coor’s Field, you may think that doesn’t matter much, but Freeland has a 29.9% hard contact rate (12th lowest in MLB) and a 21.5% soft contact rate (11th highest in MLB). With a talented infield and over 70% of baseballs not getting hit hard, Freeland could continue to stifle the competition…even pitching half of his games in Coor’s Field!

Twins OF Max Kepler

Kepler hasn’t had a great season, slashing just .227/.317/.407 in 366 plate appearances. He has hit better against LHP than RHP this season (.263 vs. .211), but the ball just hasn’t been falling in for him, evidenced by his .243 BABIP. He makes more hard contact and less soft contact than Orioles’ SS Manny Machado, but he just doesn’t have the numbers to match…not even close. However, Kepler is showing some positive gains in 2018 that warrant his spot here. He has cut his K rate from 20.1% to 15.6%, while increasing his BB rate from 8.3% to 11.7%. He is showing signs of breaking out of his season-long slump this month, posting a .255/.367/.490 triple-slash in 60 July plate appearances. Kepler, just 25, could lead the Twins to a strong finish, while the likes of Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano struggle with injuries and lack of production…yet again.

KipIndians 2B Jason Kipnis

Everything about the 2018 season for Kipnis screams bad luck. Sure, there have been times where he wasn’t very good, but the .222/.312/.360 line is a far cry from his .264/.337/.416 career line. Not to mention, this is the same guy who had 23 HR and 82 RBI in 2016! At 31, Kipnis is walking at a 10.8% clip (9.5% for career) and striking out at a 19.7% clip (19.1% for career), but it’s the .258 BABIP (.309 career) that has plagued him this season, and the last two seasons (he hit .232/.291/.414 last year with a .256 BABIP). Since getting moved towards the bottom of the order on May 15th, Kipnis is hitting .267/.360/.459, and his BABIP is closer to the league average at .297. How bad was the start of the season, then? He hit .170/.256/.248 with a .216 BABIP prior to that! So the .937 OPS that he has in the month of July is a nice sign of this continued slump-busting that Kipnis is partaking in…and you should, too!

MLB’s Newest, Greatest Rivalry

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred discussing how he’d like to change the wheel. Courtesy: MLB.com

While you may have been force-fed for the last twenty years that the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees or even the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs are the greatest rivalries in baseball, we are well on our way to witnessing the greatest rivalry in baseball – MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred versus the fans of baseball.

After focusing on the pace of play since his arrival as commissioner in January of 2015, he has recently hinted at eliminating the defensive shift. Mind you, we just passed the 72nd anniversary of the Cleveland Indians and manager Lou Boudreau shifting against Ted Williams on July 14, 1946, but…now…in 2018, as more than 35,000 shifts have taken place in MLB this season, Manfred would like to change defensive shifts.

The lack of offense is the biggest issue for him and the competition committee. The same competition committee that wants to make a game go quicker for those who don’t enjoy watching a lengthy game, want to make it harder for teams to get outs by eliminating the defensive shift, which will make the game longer! 

Nevermind the talented, brilliant minds who have utilized statistical analysis for all 30 MLB franchises to help them gain an advantage over the competition, some obviously better than others, we are now at the mercy of those who don’t know what they want for the game of baseball, as they seem to be wavering between what is happening in the seats and what is happening on the field, not knowing the best way to truly make the game more favorable for the fans or the players.

If teams can’t shift, they’ll find new ways to dominate, before that is outlawed. Imagine if the NBA banned seven-footers because their players can’t shoot over them…Maybe MLB teams will find more pitchers who miss bats than they already have, since the shift won’t matter when players can’t put the ball in play:

As a longtime fan, it is hard to fathom baseball changing much. While I can get behind the designated hitter being a part of both leagues – it just doesn’t make sense that there are two different games going on, especially with roster structures come playoff and World Series time – there aren’t other parts of the games that need the major tweaking that Manfred seems to want. These include the mound visit limits that were implemented this season (thanks a lot, Willson Contreras), the possibility of starting extra innings with a runner on second base, and, now, forcing two infielders to be on each side of second base to eliminate that pesky shift.

But all of these changes to the game are just to make it shorter – outside of the shift – and it’s hard to understand why these changes are necessary.

I’m aware that many people now have an attention span that doesn’t outlast that of a goldfish, but, perhaps, they will be okay looking at skinny jeans at the mall and trying the latest avocado-infused craft beer instead of complaining about how long a baseball game is lasting…which they’re not watching half the time due to their focus on their $1,000 iPhones! For those people, the Facebook Watch recaps are wonderful. Why do people want a game to be shortened that they love? I love extra innings when I go to a game – it’s free baseball!

Maybe the issue isn’t the fans who love baseball – it’s MLB’s infatuation with the people who don’t love baseball…the people who they want to have as fans while losing their focus on the fans who are already in love with the game.

baseballmemeThe battle is all wrong for Manfred. The players are happy because they have more money coming their way – unless you’re Bryce Harper and his agent, Scott Boras, who think that the shift isn’t fair as he continues to hit into it religiously. The owners have more money coming from revenue than they seem to be investing in their teams. It’s the fans who love the game who are losing the battle with the commissioner, who is focused on who isn’t in the seats more than who is, and who doesn’t like baseball more than those who do.

A game that has been around as long as baseball doesn’t need to change. Rob Manfred needs to change his focus.

Washington Nationals: Soto is a Star

The Pending Free Agency Doom of Bryce Harper is Healed and…Forgotten???

Robles will return this season. He was ranked higher than Soto, but will he produce in the same way?

At the end of the 2017 season, Nationals all-world super-prospect Victor Robles made his arrival to Washington and showed some of the power and speed (two triples) that made him the No.4 prospect (MLB.com, I, personally, had him No.6) in all of baseball heading into the 2018 season. He would, likely, be in Washington right now if not for his hyperextended elbow, which shelved him on April 9th at Triple-A Syracuse. Sadly, his injury has opened the door for a new player, Juan Soto, who is never going to give up his spot.

Padres Nationals Baseball
This teen is producing in ways not seen for quite some time.

Soto was a highly ranked prospect in his own right. He signed for $1.5 million in 2015 out of the Dominican Republic. At the tender age of 19, he has obliterated every minor league level, posting a .362/.434/.609 line, with 30 doubles, eight triples, 20 bombs, and a 66:58 K:BB in all of 512 minor league plate appearances. He played in all of eight games at Double-A before jumping to the majors, where he has done nothing short but continue to rake, posting a .344/.447/.641 line in his first 20 games and 76 plate appearances (going into Friday’s game).This is one teenager who has lived up to the hype. As someone who has watched the entire career of Bryce Harper, I can comfortably say that Juan Soto’s arrival will make his departure from Washington an easier pill to swallow. For all of the love that Harper receives, and don’t get me wrong – he is a gifted player, he hasn’t had the career that warrants the type of contract that some sad team will inexcusably hand him and Scott Boras after the 2018 season. Sure, he has youth on his side – he’ll be just 26 this October- but youth and prior production doesn’t lead to years of production in later seasons. You can look at the contracts of Jason Heyward with Chicago, Chris Davis in Baltimore, and Jacoby Ellsbury in New York for the possible void of truth in that type of logic.

Harper is as good as gone…or is he?

Harper’s best season was his 2015 MVP campaign. He followed that up with a down 2016, an injury-shortened 2017, and an interesting start to the 2018 season. He’s leading the NL in both home runs  (19) and walks (50), while currently sporting the worst average of his career (.224). Despite that low average, his OPS would rank the 3rd highest of his career. The .213 BABIP doesn’t help, nor does his ability (or inability) to hit against the shift. There was an amazing article on his lack of success this season at Fangraphs that you should read, and the trends have continued since the article was published on 6/5. Still, who in their right mind would bank $300 million or the $400 million that some think it would take over a decade to a player who peaked at 22? The Nationals should feel comfortable not being that team. They have Max Scherzer through 2021 and Stephen Strasburg through 2023, Robles could be another producer, while Soto has, albeit in a small sample size, proven that his minor league, video-game-like production could be his norm at the top level. This is a team that can build in more productive ways than the franchise debilitating super-contract that would come with re-signing their star.

Juan Soto, a 19-year-old who became the first teenager to hit two home runs and walk once in the history of Yankee Stadium, a young man they call the “Childish Bambino”, a young man who can’t possess a Budweiser but does possess the barreling bat of a dynamic veteran, has taken over the future of the franchise in Washington. As fans watch Harper have a season of three outcomes, they can see this star in the making give a glimpse of life without the hard-nosed, oft-injured star, resting comfortably in what the future holds.

Acuna’s Arrival in Atlanta

Acuna has arrived and Atlanta’s future is as loaded as Acuna’s toolbox. Courtesy: West Coast MLB

When Ronald Acuna Jr. takes the field on Wednesday night in Cincinnati, the Atlanta Braves will see their 20-year-old star-in-the-making make his Major League debut, which seems long-awaited due to Acuna’s time in the minors that was to avoid service time issues in later seasons, having apparently turned down an extension that was similar to the one that the Philadelphia Phillies handed out to rookie utility player Scott Kingery this spring.

Now, the supposed generational talent will showcase his skills and become a possible All-Star, knocking out the playing time of OF Preston Tucker, who just a few days was leading the league in RBI. Certainly, Acuna’s prospect star shines a bit brighter than that of Tucker, and nearly every other prospect in the minors, which is why his arrival could change not only the Braves’ season but the future of baseball.

Acuna struggled to start the season, but he’s back on track and ready to unload on MLB.

The process that the Atlanta Braves began several years ago is beginning to take shape right now. Utilizing talented young players like Acuna, Ozzie Albies, Max Fried, A.J. Minter, and Luiz Gohara, the Braves have introduced the first wave of a stacked system that will change the recent lack of success that has come along with Atlanta’s rebuild. With the upcoming free agency of Washington Nationals’ OF Bryce Harper, the entire National League East could be up for grabs as soon as 2019, and the Braves have positioned themselves to begin another dynasty, even after losing several players due to idiotic management by former GM John Copolella.

As a 19-year-old in 2017, Acuna played at three minor league levels, compiling the below statistics:

Register Batting
2017 19 3 Teams AA-AAA-A+ 139 612 557 88 181 31 8 21 82 44 43 144 .325 .374 .522 .896 291 13 4 2 6 0
2017 19 Gwinnett AAA 54 243 221 38 76 14 2 9 33 11 17 48 .344 .393 .548 .940 121 7 2 1 2 0
2017 19 Mississippi AA 57 243 221 29 72 14 1 9 30 19 18 56 .326 .374 .520 .895 115 6 1 0 3 0
2017 19 Florida A+ 28 126 115 21 33 3 5 3 19 14 8 40 .287 .336 .478 .814 55 0 1 1 1 0
2017 19 Peoria Fal 23 99 83 22 27 5 0 7 16 2 12 22 .325 .414 .639 1.053 53 0 2 0 2 0
Mino Mino Mino Minors 253 1106 981 166 299 49 14 30 121 78 99 237 .305 .374 .475 .849 466 26 14 5 7 0
All All All 296 1288 1136 203 353 59 15 39 150 93 121 272 .311 .382 .492 .874 559 30 16 5 10 0
AAA AAA AAA Minors 71 321 290 47 92 16 2 10 35 15 26 70 .317 .375 .490 .865 142 7 2 1 2 0
Rk ( Rk ( Rk ( Minors 57 245 207 42 56 14 4 4 19 16 29 43 .271 .384 .435 .818 90 8 9 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/25/2018.

These numbers have allowed scouts to compare him to Mike Trout, who has compiled a massive 56.5 bWAR in his eight seasons. The power and speed combination overshadow the swing-and-miss in his game, as well as the 20 times that he was caught stealing, but, even if anyone did spend time saying those numbers need to improve, he is young enough to make adjustments and strengthen the already gaudy ability that he has.

Fantasy baseball players will have a hard time getting the young star, as he has been stashed in most leagues; however, if you’ve got people who, somehow, don’t know who he is or what he could become, then have at it and go grab him NOW!

See more from ESPN, MLB.com, and SB Nation.

Billy Hamilton: Time for a Change

HeadacheBilly Hamilton is an albatross.

I don’t mean that he’s a giant bird, but he has caused Reds fans significant psychological grief for quite some time. It is hard to grasp what he is doing with his skill-set, as he can’t seem to figure out how to utilize his only tool worthy or ranking – speed.

Hamilton’s speed is what makes him a viable option in centerfield for the Reds. Ok…his speed and the fact that he is wearing a glove on his left hand. Beyond that, Hamilton has worn out his welcome as an everyday player, and it is time that Cincinnati does something about this problem.

The Problem

GIF HayesThis isn’t about 12 at-bats in 2018. This isn’t about the time that he was a huge jerk at the annual Cincinnati Reds Caravan – so much so that Reds’ Hall of Famer (yes, team-only) Eric Davis told him to slow down and enjoy the moment when a fan is in front of him. This has everything to do with the fact that as Hamilton makes his 2,000th career Major League plate appearance on Thursday in Pittsburgh, that he’ll be trying to improve upon his career .247/.297/.333 career line, his 19.5% strikeout rate, and his 33.7% flyball rate. Better yet, with his speed, Hamilton needs to improve upon his BABIP (yes, there is some luck involved in this number, but a few more balls not in the air would improve this statistic), which is just above league average at .304 for his career.

As the great (fake) skipper from the American classic Major League, Lou Brown, taught the legendary Willie Mays Hayes – with some negative reinforcement, “With your speed, you should be hitting the ball on the ground and be legging them out. Every time I see you hit one in the air, you owe me 20 push-ups.”

Sadly, in his nearly 2,000 plate appearances, Billy Hamilton hasn’t figured it out.

The Solution

Hamilton isn’t the only one frustrated. Courtesy: Dayton Daily News

With the lack of adjustment on his part, there is a better solution than another putrid season of 600 plate appearances with rancid production, and that is to make Billy Hamilton into a super-utility player.

The 4-man outfield rotation doesn’t need one of those players on a daily basis, especially at the cost of Adam Duvall in left, who is one of the top offensive left fielders in baseball (look it up, it’s a weak position), or Jesse Winker, who needs plate appearances to get acclimated to MLB pitching to afford the Reds an opportunity to see what they have. In addition to Duvall and Winker, Scott Schebler has shown that his bat doesn’t need a platoon-mate, and the Reds can certainly use his power as he can patrol center in a respectable manner.

Certainly, the defense would take a hit for the Reds without Hamilton running around, but when the pitching staff is as patchworked together as it is, how many balls is Hamilton going to rob from 10 rows up in the outfield? And, when they’re playing from behind, how are they going to come back from deficits when you have two easy outs in the lineup (Hamilton and the pitcher’s spot)?

More running the bases, less walking back to the dugout after hitting the ball in the air? Courtesy: Cheatsheet.com

As a super-utility player, Hamilton can avoid the lineup several times per week, while providing breaks at short, second, and center. He’d need to take some time in Louisville to reacquaint himself with the infield; however, he was a shortstop prior to moving to center to streamline his promotion when the Reds still had Zack Cozart and Didi Gregorius in the system at short. This role also allows the Reds to use Hamilton in a pinch-runner role on days that he isn’t in the lineup in key spots, opening up the opportunity for him to run as effectively as he did upon his call-up in 2013 when he stole 13 bases and had just 19 plate appearances. Finally, this role would eliminate the need to carry Phil Gosselin or Cliff Pennington, allowing the club to carry an additional relief pitcher.

Billy Hamilton can run. Billy Hamilton can field. In an age where offense is aplenty, defensive wizardry is sought after, and speed is at a premium, he is still finding a way to make himself the weakest link in the chain. Fortunately for Hamilton and the Cincinnati Reds, there are better solutions to the team’s needs that the soon-to-be 28-year-old can take over. It just takes a little creativity to make Hamilton a viable piece to the Cincinnati Reds’ puzzle again.