2017 Predictions and Useless Guesses

Last season was no different than seasons past. I, once again, wrote a prediction piece and I, once again, was wrong across the board. There’s nothing wrong with that, as someone has to be wrong – why not me? I’ll look at this again prior to Opening Day of 2018, realizing how silly I was, likely predicting another Manager of the Year who will be the first to lose his job, just like last year.  Anyway…here goes nothing!

American League


Courtesy: MLB.com

AL East

  1. Boston Red Sox
  2. Toronto Blue Jays
  3. Baltimore Orioles
  4. Tampa Bay Rays
  5. New York Yankees

 

AL Central

  1. Cleveland Indians
  2. Detroit Tigers
  3. Minnesota Twins
  4. Kansas City Royals
  5. Chicago White Sox

 

Courtesy: MLB.com

AL West

  1. Texas Rangers
  2. Houston Astros
  3. Seattle Mariners
  4. Los Angeles Angels
  5. Oakland Athletics

AL Wild Cards

  1. Houston Astros
  2. Detroit Tigers

National League

NL East

  1. Washington Nationals
  2. New York Mets
  3. Miami Marlins
  4. Atlanta Braves
  5. Philadelphia Phillies

 

Courtesy: MLB.com

NL Central

  1. Chicago Cubs
  2. Pittsburgh Pirates
  3. St. Louis Cardinals
  4. Milwaukee Brewers
  5. Cincinnati Reds

 

Courtesy: rumorsandrants.com

NL West

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers
  2. San Francisco Giants
  3. Arizona Diamondbacks
  4. Colorado Rockies
  5. San Diego Padres

NL Wild Cards

  1. New York Mets
  2. San Francisco Giants

World Series Prediction

Cleveland Indians over Chicago Cubs in seven – redemption.

AL Manager of the Year

Terry Francona, Cleveland Indians

So close last season, Tito has a roster that is improved with the addition of Edwin Encarnacion. In addition to that, you’ll see a healthy Michael Brantley. With a roster and lineup as loaded as the Tribe’s, why does he deserve this award, do you ask? Francona will maneuver all of those pieces in ways that make him look like a master, including the usage of Cody Allen and Andrew Miller as situational closers, changing the way that the league will use the bullpen for years to come.

NL Manager of the Year

Dave Roberts, Los Angeles Dodgers

Roberts, like Francona, has a lot of talent; however, Roberts doesn’t have the pitching depth that Cleveland has. He finds ways to win games, just like he found ways to be such a useful player during his career. He’ll find a way to help Yasiel Puig find success, and he rides Clayton Kershaw and Julio Urias‘ breakout to a division title. Young players like Cody Bellinger and Urias are the difference in the Dodgers’ success, and Roberts plays a major role in their ascension to success.

Courtesy: teepublic.com

AL MVP

Edwin Encarnacion, 1B/DH, Cleveland Indians

The contract will look even more brilliant when “Edwing” lead Cleveland to a title. The right-handed pop in between Brantley, Jason Kipnis, and fellow Dominican masher, switch-hitting Carlos Santana, makes the Indians’ offense one for the ages, in a season for the ages from the 34-year-old slugger.

NL MVP

Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Chicago Cubs

Certainly, it may be challenging to find a Most Valuable Player on a team that wins over 100 games, especially one with reigning MVP Kris Bryant, but Rizzo has even more support around him in 2017. Another impressive season from Bryant will be enhanced by further gains from Addison Russell and Javier Baez, while Jason Heyward finds his groove again. In the midst of all of that mashing is Rizzo, who will reach career-highs in home runs, RBI, runs, and OPS, leading the Cubs back to the World Series.

AL Cy Young

Carlos Carrasco, RHP, Cleveland Indians

Perhaps he is a darkhorse with Corey Kluber still around, but this is the year that it all comes together for this guy.  Carrasco will reach 200 innings, eclipse 220 strikeouts, and continue to show overpowering stuff that he has mastered to control.  Counting on more than 30 starts from Carrasco may be the new version of counting on ten starts from Brett Anderson, but…he will be part of the Indians domination over the AL.

NL Cy Young

Clayton Kershaw, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers

Since 2009, Kershaw has a 2.24 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP over 1,652.1 innings. While he has to share the spotlight with the likes of Max Scherzer, Madison Bumgarner, Jon Lester, and Johnny Cueto in the NL, a healthy Kershaw is by far the best pitcher in the world…and certainly the NL. Bank on his healthy back and another Cy Young award in 2017, his 4th prior to turning 30.

AL Rookie of the Year

Andrew Benintendi, OF, Boston Red Sox

This seems like an easy one. Benintendi will be capable of spraying the ball all over the field, while his muscle growth over the winter seems to be the key in some of those balls flying out of the park in 2017. The 7th overall pick in the 2015 draft, he is already well-known, while his results and rapid arrival to the Red Sox have led to lofty expectations…expectations that he will reach in his first full season.

Courtesy: ATLallday.com

NL Rookie of the Year

Dansby Swanson, SS, Atlanta Braves

Swanson was taken with the 1st pick overall in the 2015 draft, several picks before Benintendi. He, also, rose quickly, reaching the A-T-L and playing in 38 games last season. He just fell short of losing his rookie status, which will allow him to run away with the award in 2017. He is one of the fresh faces of the Braves’ youth movement as they open a new stadium this year, beginning a new foundation of talent for the former perennial powerhouse of the NL East. It won’t be long, thanks to players like Swanson, until the Braves are relevant again.

If you want to see a list of sleepers for 2017, check out these 12 players HERE!

Comment, Share, Like on social media! It will be a great season, no matter how terribly wrong we all may be in our predictions!

 

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Random Baseball Thoughts: 11/23

It Has Been a LONG Time

To say that the last three months, since I last wrote on this blog, have been miserable would be the understatement of my lifetime. Personal issues aside, I can easily say that the 2016 World Series was the best that I’ve ever seen. As a former writer on an Indians blog, I adopted them as my team – and was forced to do so after the MLB.TV blacked out my local team. Watching the Tribe all season, off-and-on due to the above issues, was truly exciting. The Tyler Naquin inside-the-parker and celebration, the year-long smoothness of Francisco Lindor up-the-middle, and the dominance by Corey Kluber were impressive to cling to during my own struggles; however, the Indians making it to the World Series and getting that 3-1 lead was what I thought would bring me out of the funk of life.

They did it.
They did it.

Unfortunately, it didn’t happen that way, but…WOW! Rajai Davis‘ home run, the ups and downs of the whole series, and the hope that came along with it…It didn’t get much better than that. Congratulations to the Chicago Cubs and the 108 years of futility that their fans had to endure for their majestic comeback. It is scary to think of how good they could be over the next several years as Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and Javier Baez blossom in their dynamic lineup.

Now…onto some other things…

Potential Lockout

Of course, the owners want to take this time of great celebration and success for the entire league to leap into their demands. Sure, the International Draft and all of the international signings need to have some sort of reform. The punishments of signing money and draft picks haven’t seemed to do enough damage to the clubs that continue to shell out the millions needed to sign the top international teenagers. A draft would “even the playing field” and allow the worst teams to get the best players. Isn’t that similar to the amateur draft, though? Are the best players going in order in the draft, or are the teams using their bonus money and the demands of the bonus babies to still play a role in who they take? This is a problem, sure, but all player acquisition options seem to be that way in MLB. People didn’t like the way that the Houston Astros lost and stockpiled players. The Cubs did something similar and found the results that they did in 2016. Are the Cincinnati Reds next to go down the hundred-losses path to find eventual success, or will the owners cry foul on that, as well?

There are all kinds of other options that need to be adjusted, but equality and fairness in dollars, which comes along with a salary cap, will only go so far if stupid people are in charge. The Indians ranked 24th in MLB payroll on Opening Day last season, while the Cubs were 14th, just behind my hometown Reds, who went 68-94, just 35.5 games back of those Cubbies. The owners, the billionaires, want more money coming towards them, which makes the International Draft and a salary cap so endearing to them. The players, the millionaires, want more money in the only league that has fully guaranteed contracts – just imagine what would have happened to a Ryan Howard contract in the NFL!

greedOnce again, it could be the game and the fans who lose out while these rich people banter over their money. The game continues to grow globally, with another World Baseball Classic this spring, but all of the positivity that comes from that jubilance could be crushed. So, here’s my take: get over yourselves and take better care of the game, and don’t ruin this amazing high that fans are on after an incredible postseason with arrogance and greed!

Big Contracts for Small Names

Cecil cashed in - not bad for a setup man. Courtesy: todaysknuckleball.com
Cecil cashed in – not bad for a setup man.
Courtesy: todaysknuckleball.com

After watching Andrew Miller dominate down the stretch and in the playoffs, the St. Louis Cardinals dove into free agency with what could be a huge belly flop, signing Brett Cecil for four years and $30.5MM to get the ball to last season’s surprise closer, Seung-hwan Oh, who was dominant after replacing Trevor Rosenthal last season. Cecil is an interesting investment. After faltering as a starter for Toronto, he was moved to the bullpen full-time in 2012. In his four seasons of serving only out of the ‘pen, Cecil has managed a 2.90 ERA (2.73 FIP), 1.17 WHIP, and 11.5 K:9 over 205 IP and 243 appearances. If you compare Cecil’s four seasons to Miller’s first three as a reliever, they are pretty similar, as Miller posted a 2.57 ERA (2.37 FIP), 1.05 WHIP, and 13.3 K:9 over 133.1 IP and 163 appearances. Miller, of course, signed with the Yankees for four years and $36MM after the 2014 season, becoming more dominant since then (1.72 ERA (1.90 FIP), 0.76 WHIP, and 14.8 K:9 over 136 IP and 130 appearances). It appears that Cecil was able to successfully attach himself to Miller’s coattails, riding them to a huge payday.

That's a lot of money. Courtesy: insidesocial.com
That’s a lot of money.
Courtesy: insidesocial.com

Jumping to the outfield, the Astros added to their’s by signing Josh Reddick to a four-year, $52MM deal. It seemed like a strange addition when you consider that the Astros have George Springer in right, the position that Reddick has played for most of his career. Still, with Jake Marisnick in center and Nori Aoki in left, the outfield was an area of need this winter. After going from Wild Card winners in 2015 to 3rd in the AL West in 2016, the Astros needed to continue to push towards their winning window with their solid core of talent. Reddick, however, may not be worth $13MM per season, having seen his best season way back in 2012. It seems like a lot of money for someone who posted a 1.2 WAR in 2016, but it appears that Houston believes his thumb injury played a larger role in his lack of offensive prowess last season. This looks a lot like the deal that the Yankees gave to Jacoby Ellsbury, banking on his insane 2011 season after a couple of average seasons in 2012 and 2013. He hasn’t lived up to the contract, unless you’re paying $20MM per year for past performance, which Houston appears to be doing, as well, this offseason.

I’ll try to write more often. Get back on my bandwagon and I’ll tell you wonderful things about baseball and life. America needs me right now, so I’m back.

2017 Free Agency: Optional Options

As a Cincinnati Reds homer, I’m looking ahead to next season…actually, I’m looking forward to 2020, when the team will have time to truly rebuild their roster. Unfortunately, for a non-contending, rebuilder within a “small-market”, Cincinnati will not be a big player in free agency. Like many other clubs that are looking to build from within or on-the-cheap, free agency isn’t very kind, leaving the remnants of the market to pick through like a racoon at a garbage can. Oh, those beady eyes in your headlights in January will just be Walt Jocketty or Billy Beane looking for a backup infielder.

This winter, as with any other, baseball fans will see plenty of players on the move, including Mark Trumbo, Edwin Encarnacion, Aroldis Chapman, and Ian Desmond, who appear to be the few “big names” on the market. In addition to those select few, there are plenty of players with options, but are they going to get picked up? Let’s take a look at those optional options for 2017, shall we…

Opting Out

Dexter Fowler, OF, Chicago Cubs: $9MM mutual option, $5MM buyout

Fowler is having a stellar season, even having spent some time on the DL. He is earning $13MM this season on a one-year deal and has responded after facing a weak market this past winter with a career-best .877 OPS. The 2016 All-Star isn’t really needed as a leadoff hitter in Chicago with Jason Heyward getting paid mega-millions to be that type of player, but Fowler should be able to cash in. The Cubs will likely accept their portion of the option very quickly.

Phillies' 1B Howard has been on a sad decline for half a decade
Phillies’ 1B Howard has been on a sad decline for half a decade

Ryan Howard, 1B, Philadelphia Phillies: $23MM club option, $10MM buyout

Howard has had one of the worst contracts in baseball since the start of the 2012 season. Coincidentally, that is when his five-year, $125MM extension kicked in. Finally, the Phillies will be able to walk away from him and his horrific deal, and they’ll be more than happy to drop $10MM in order to do that. We’ll see if they release him and roll with Tommy Joseph, which they basically have done since the beginning of June.

Matt Holliday, OF, St. Louis Cardinals: $17MM club/vesting option, $1MM buyout

Holliday has collapsed in his age-36 season. His .237/.310/.449 line is the worst of his career. His 18 home runs have saved his line a bit, but he is still well short of his career .303/.382/.515 line. He certainly won’t rank in the top 10 in the NL MVP voting, which is all that it would take for his option in 2017 to vest. The Cardinals aren’t churning out prospects like they were a few years ago, so it will be interesting to see which direction they go to stay within the Cardinal Way.

Yoenis Cespedes, OF, New York Mets: can opt-out of remaining two-years, $47.5MM

Cespedes could cash in significantly in a weak market this winter. With so few power bats available, the 30-year-old corner outfielder, if healthy, would likely increase his AAV to $25-$28MM per season. He will beat his career-high for OPS this year. He just needs to stay on the field to keep the Mets in contention.

The Yankees will get out from under the weight of Sabathia's deal
The Yankees will get out from under the weight of Sabathia’s deal

CC Sabathia, LHP New York Yankees: $25MM vesting option (if he doesn’t end the season on the DL with a shoulder injury, spend 45 days or more on the DL with a shoulder injury, or make six or more relief appearances because of a shoulder injury), $5MM buyout

If you asked in mid-June, Sabathia may have been worth a $20MM gamble for New York. On June 16th, he had a 2.20 ERA and 1.24 WHIP over his first 11 starts; however, he has a 6.85 ERA and 1.54 WHIP over his last eight starts. With Mark Teixeira retiring after the 2016 season, the Yankees will have quite a bit of money to spend – unless they are serious about their rebuild and continue to add young talent to the roster. The Yankees may need to check-in on Sabathia’s shoulder, given his recent woes, and make sure everything is clean; although, the MLBPA may find a way to keep his option guaranteed with such a move.

Also: Coco Crisp, OF, Oakland A’s; Clay Buchholz, RHP, Boston Red Sox; Jon Niese, LHP, New York Mets;

 

Opting In

Jay Bruce, OF, New York Mets: $13MM club option, $1MM buyout

Bruce, who was recently acquired by the Mets from Cincinnati for a pair of prospects, will provide a lot of value to New York, especially if Cespedes remains on the shelf with his quad injury, but even more so if Cespedes opts out and signs elsewhere this winter. Bruce is a fine outfielder who is capable of strong production, as evidenced by his rebound 2016 season, but his lengthy slumps and declining defense don’t make him worth a huge deal. The $13MM option is still a fine value for the Mets, who may end up in quite a limbo with their other outfielder about a week after the World Series.

Santana will be useful for Cleveland, even if they re-sign Napoli
Santana will be useful for Cleveland, even if they re-sign Napoli

Carlos Santana, 1B/DH, Cleveland Indians: $12MM club option, $1.2MM buyout

Santana is an interesting player due to his ugly batting averages, average power, and incredible on-base skills. Everyone is waiting for him to finally put it all together, which would lead to a very Adam Dunn-like 30 HR, 100 R, 100 BB season for Cleveland; however, he just can’t beat the shift and his deflated BABIP keep him from meeting some of those numbers. With Mike Napoli also reaching free agency, the Indians will likely opt-in on Santana, as they couldn’t afford to lose them both. They may not be able to re-sign Napoli after his huge season, but they could offer him a qualifying offer and keep him around for one more season. Since Napoli’s decision will come after the option decision on Santana, expect the former catcher to stick for one more year with the Tribe.

Jonathan Lucroy, C, Texas Rangers: $5.25MM, $25K buyout

Duh. The Rangers just gave up a nice prospect package for the best catcher this side of Buster Posey, so you can expect them to take on this very affordable option. Lucroy is public enemy No.1 in Cleveland right now, but he had the right in his contract and used it to his advantage. Playing in Arlington for half of his games, his numbers could inflate and help him inflate his earnings when he reaches free agency after the 2017 season.

Jason Hammel, RHP, Chicago Cubs: $10MM club option, $2MM buyout

Hammel has been excellent in 2016, posting a 3.07 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in 21 starts. In his career, Hammel has a 3.33 ERA and 1.10 WHIP over 399.2 innings while wearing a Cubs’ uniform and a 4.77 ERA and 1.43 WHIP in any other uniform. He needs to be in Chicago and Chicago needs him in their rotation, as the incredible talent within their system that continues rising to the majors aren’t talented on the mound. Hammel is a bargain with his production in a Cubs’ uniform.

Also: Matt Moore, LHP, San Francisco Giants; Cameron Maybin, OF, Detroit Tigers; Alcides Escobar, SS, Kansas City Royals; Yunel Escobar, 3B, Los Angeles Angels;

There are several additional players with options that you can find at MLB Trade Rumors.  It looks like the 2016-2017 offseason will be very trade-heavy as teams try to structure their rosters with talent without unloading gobs of cash on talent that may not be quite as talented as your typical market. In addition to that, the 2017-2018 market could have an even slower market with Matt Harvey, Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, and Jose Fernandez heading towards free agency after the 2018 season.

 

Statistically Scouting the Lower Minors – 6/11

There are a lot of things that make prospects special – their incredibly smooth deliveries, their sweet swings, and their game-changing gloves; however, I don’t have time to travel around the country. Therefore, scouting becomes what baseball is all about – the numbers. Based on the numbers, here are some prospects to watch in the coming months:

(NOTE: CLICK ON THE BLUE HYPERLINK TO VIEW PLAYER STATS!)

Midwest League

This monster is a few years from crushing the ball in Wrigley Courtesy: Baseball Prospectus
This monster is a few years from crushing the ball in Wrigley
Courtesy: Baseball Prospectus

Eloy Jimenez, OF, Chicago Cubs

Signed as the No. 1 international prospect in 2013 for $2.8 million, the Cubs look to have another dynamic bat coming up through their system. The 6’4″, 200-pound right fielder is second in the MWL with eight home runs, while his 18 doubles show that the power is coming and will translate to future longballs. The rich are getting richer, though it will be at least a couple of more years before Jimenez is making it rain for the Cubbies.

Matt Hall, RHP, Detroit Tigers

The numbers speak for themselves with Hall, whose microscopic ERA and 10.24 K:9 scream that a promotion is needed, but not as much as his age. Though he is 22 – a bit old for the MWL, Hall was a 6th round pick in last year’s draft, so he just needed to get some innings in the minors. Still, he is ready for the Florida State League after dominating to this extent.

South Atlantic League

Brian Mundell, 1B, Colorado Rockies

Like Hall, Mundell was a 2015 college draftee (7th round), and, like Hall, Mundell is dominating his league as a 22-year-old. His 32 doubles are 11 more than the next closest player, while his .351 average is pacing the league by a whopping 26 points. Add in his solid approach (30:22 K:BB), and you have yourself a potential star in Colorado at first base…if he continues hitting like this as he moves up, which should happen soon.

Could Keller become the next homegrown talent for the Pirates? Courtesy: piratesprospects.com
Could Keller become the next homegrown talent for the Pirates?
Courtesy: piratesprospects.com

Mitch Keller, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates

Keller could be creating his own version of “Mitchapalooza” by dominating and becoming the next big arm in the Pirates system. In his first taste of full-season ball, the 20-year-old, 6’4″ righty has a 69:6 K:BB and is holding opponents to a .195 BAA. When you strike out 10 per nine, don’t walk anyone, and don’t allow many hits, you can become a pretty valuable arm.

California League

Travis Demeritte, 2B, Texas Rangers

The Rangers don’t need much help up the middle, but Demeritte looks like a guy who can provide offensive production wherever he ends up playing. After ripping 25 homers in his age-19 season, Demeritte looks to be enjoying his time in the offensive heaven of the California league, having driven 15 bombs and 13 doubles in his first 58 games. There are some things he needs to work on, including his swing and miss, as his 80:31 K:BB in just 217 AB is grotesque. Plus, he was suspended for 80 games for PEDs last season. Still, power has value and Demeritte appears to have it.

Sam Howard, LHP, Colorado Rockies

Howard has received a promotion to Double-A after posting a 2.47 ERA and 1.02 WHIP over 65.2 innings, while holding opposing hitters to a .184 average. At 23, he is right where he needs to be now, and as a college arm, Howard could jump another level in 2016. He allowed a single run over 6.1 innings in his first Double-A start, so he doesn’t appear to be slowing down. Also, he’s left-handed and breathing, which is always useful.

Carolina League

Drew Ward, 3B, Washington Nationals

At 21, Ward is having his best season to date. He leads the Carolina League in OPS, matching his career-high with 10 homers this season. His 15 doubles show solid power, as well, but it is his 53:28 K:BB that shows the best improvement, as his 13% walk rate is, by far, his best in a full season league. At 6″3′, 215-pounds, Ward could continue to develop power and become a useful piece for the Nationals.

Matt Cooper, RHP, Chicago White Sox

At 24, you’re probably wondering why Cooper could be a prospect in Advance A-ball. Well, this is his first season as a starter and he has struck out 11.4 per nine. His 92 strikeouts, in 72.2 innings, top the league by 28 punchouts. The 2014 16th round pick out of Hawaii was dominant as a reliever prior to this season, and he looks like a solid late-round find by the White Sox.

Florida State League

Stewart could move quickly to Detroit Courtesy: MiLB.com
Stewart could move quickly to Detroit
Courtesy: MiLB.com

Christin Stewart, OF, Detroit Tigers

The Tigers’ 1st round pick last season, Stewart has shown impressive power (16 home runs and 12 doubles) and an advanced approach at the plate (60:43 K:BB) in his first taste of the FSL. As a college draftee out of Tennessee, he could move pretty quickly for the Tigers, who are in the middle of a “rebuild-while-winning” situation.

Chance Adams, RHP, New York Yankees

Adams was a 5th round pick last season by the Bronx Bombers. They eased him in as a reliever last season, but they have converted the 21-year-old to a starter this season. He has responded by striking out 11.4 per nine and holding opponents to a .196 BAA. At 6′, 215, he won’t intimidate, but you have to approve of the results.

 

 

Early Projections Show Cubs Potential Dominance

Remember that time that the Chicago Cubs won 97 games and weren’t even that good. Yeah…that was last year. Only, it wasn’t that they weren’t that good, it was more that they didn’t have their best players out there for the entire season. A full season of OF Kyle Schwarber and 3B Kris Bryant could be enough to get the team to 100 wins. Then, you have to factor in the addition of OF Jason Heyward, and this team is downright scary.

You don’t believe me? Just visit the 2016 Steamer projections over at Fangraphs.

Based on Steamer, the Cubs have three of the top 11 overall position players (based on WAR), as Bryant ranks 7th (5.6), with 1B Anthony Rizzo (5.1) and Heyward (4.8) coming in at 10th and 11th, respectively. If that wasn’t enough, RHP Jake Arrieta (5th, 5.2) and LHP Jon Lester (14th, 4.4) give the Cubs two of the top 15 most valuable starting pitchers in baseball.

With all of this top-tier talent, Fangraphs has the Cubs projected to lead MLB in wins, using their crystal ball to estimate that the lovable losers will earn 95 wins in 2016.

Russell is a star in the making, who won't be overshadowed by Bryant and Schwarber for too long. Courtesy: My Cubs Today
Russell is a star in the making, who won’t be overshadowed by Bryant and Schwarber for too long.
Courtesy: My Cubs Today

However, it isn’t just the top-tier talent that the Cubs possess. They also signed 2B Ben Zobrist to take over second base, trading 2B/SS Starlin Castro to the Yankees for RHP Adam Warren, who is can fill a role in the bullpen or the rotation, while opening up shortstop for SS Addison Russell, who turns 22 later this month and will offer improved defense at short and another player with a full season of production, as Russell spent a brief amount of time in the minors in 2015 – similar to Bryant. RHP John Lackey was also added to the rotation, adding another veteran arm to the rotation, solidifying that group for another possible postseason run. If Chicago keeps OF Jorge Soler, since he was rumored to be on the move for pitching earlier this winter, and actually have a full, healthy season out of him, that give the Cubs a 24-year-old who could blast 25 or more home runs from right field.

The front office may not be done with re-working the club for 2016, as they hope to build a consistent winner. Even with a loaded MLB roster, the Cubs possess an incredibly talent group of players in the minors, several of which made my 2016 Top 100 Prospect List, including: SS Gleyber Torres, OF Billy McKinney, RHP Duane Underwood, RHP Carl Edwards, Jr., OF Albert Almora, OF Ian Happ, and RHP Pierce Johnson.

In 2016, the Chicago Cubs are capable of much, much more than they accomplished in 2016. After signing Heyward away from the division-rival St. Louis Cardinals, they are the front runners for the NL Central and the World Series championship. Sure, there are 162 games to play, health to maintain, and possible regression and decline for some of their veterans, but with so many young, gifted, and talent players on their roster, and continuing through the minors, it will be a new team dealing with a new curse, as the billy goat sacrifices will finally come to an end around Wrigley Field.

 

 

 

Why the Cleveland Indians Need to Make a Deal

When the Cleveland Indians dealt Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn to the Atlanta Braves in August, with cash, they were able to dump quite a bit of salary in the process. Swisher is set to make $15 million and Bourn is set to make $14 million, and the Braves are desperately seeking a deal of Swisher in their rebuilding process, which seems to be taking on horrible contracts and dealing their existing talent for prospects, as they did with Shelby Miller in their recent deal with Arizona. Regardless of the deal, the Indians are now in a very interesting spot. Their current roster, after arbitration projections from MLBTradeRumors, will earn roughly $64.9 million in 2016. After acquiring Collin Cowgill from the Angels, the Indians CAN’T be finished, right?

Cleveland's pitching staff is deep and loaded. Can they survive a deal? Courtesy: Fox Sports
Cleveland’s pitching staff is deep and loaded. Can they survive a deal?
Courtesy: Fox Sports

After finishing 14 games back of the World Series championship-winning Kansas City Royals, the Indians should look to improve on their 669 runs, which ranked 18th in MLB. It would be easy to say that the Tribe should deal from their strength – their pitching, and it is certainly easy to agree with that saying, as the team has 2014 AL Cy Young winner RHP Corey Kluber, RHP Carlos Carrasco, RHP Danny Salazar, and RHP Trevor Bauer, while mixing in LHP T.J. House, RHP Josh Tomlin, and RHP Cody Anderson.

Of that group, Carrasco and Salazar seem to be longed for most by other clubs.

Carrasco, 29, is guaranteed $19,662,500 over the next three seasons, while the two club options for 2019 and 2020 ($9 million and $9.5 million) are well below market value. When you consider that RHP Jeff Samardzija just received a five-year, $90 million deal from the San Francisco Giants after posting a 4.96 ERA and leading the majors in hits and earned runs allowed, the five years and $38 million owed to Carrasco, who had a career-high 10.2 K:9 and a 2.84 FIP in 2015, seems like a very wise investment.

Salazar, 26, isn’t eligible for arbitration until after the 2016 season, and he is under team control, thanks to the arbitration process, through the 2020 season. The young right-hander won 14 games and struck out 195 batters over 185 innings and 30 starts in 2015.

While Fox Sports’ Jon Morosi has stated that the momentum for a deal with the Chicago Cubs is pretty dead, it shouldn’t be.

The Cubs could really use some additional rotation depth in their pursuit of a title. With RHP Jake Arrieta, RHP John Lackey, and LHP Jon Lester at the top of the rotation, Carrasco or Salazar would slide right in as upgrades over RHP Adam Warren, RHP Jason Hammel, LHP Travis Wood, RHP Trevor Cahill, or RHP Kyle Hendricks. Not only that, but the Cubs, who recently signed OF Jason Heyward, could deal OF Jorge Soler, opening up a spot for INF Javier Baez, who could move to the outfield due to the recently signed 2B/OF Ben Zobrist, while postseason masher Kyle Schwarber takes over in the other corner.

Courtesy: Rant Sports
Soler would be a HUGE upgrade for the Indians Courtesy: Rant Sports

The deal makes perfect sense for the Indians, who ranked 22nd in home runs in 2015 and have Cowgill and Lonnie Chisenhall listed as their current starting corner outfielders. Soler, who is under team control through 2021, could be a massive haul for the club offensively. While the soon-to-be 24-year-old has struggled to stay healthy, he certainly has the potential to be an asset for Cleveland.

Soler shouldn’t be enough to acquire either Carrasco or Salazar, but the Cubs have a gluttony of talented young players. Could the Indians get Chicago to add in SS Gleyber Torres, OF Billy McKinney, OF Albert Almora, or OF Ian Happ with Soler? If so, this becomes as necessary for the Indians as laughing at the Browns has become for rest of us.

The Indians can survive this type of deal. They would still have Salazar or Carrasco, whoever isn’t traded, to pair with Kluber at the top of the rotation, while the club could see gains from Bauer and healthy seasons from House or Tomlin to smooth over the rest of the rotation. This is a deal that Cleveland can’t pass up, especially with the trade market that has been set by Arizona’s deal for Miller and the Houston Astros’ acquisition of RHP Ken Giles from Philadelphia.

The Next Big Things in 2015

Courtesy: Joey Gallo Twitter, @JoeyGallo24
Bryant and Gallo at last year’s Futures Game Courtesy: Joey Gallo Twitter, @JoeyGallo24

We’ve seen the arrivals and contributions of the Cubs’ Kris Bryant and, most recently, the Rangers’ Joey Gallo, but they won’t be the last of influential rookies to make splashes in Major League Baseball this year. With Maikel Franco, Addison Russell, Steven Souza, Jr., and Joc Pederson, youngsters will continue to create value in fantasy leagues this season. So…who is next?

C/OF Kyle Schwarber – Chicago Cubs

Year Age Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2014 21 A+-A-A- 72 311 262 55 90 18 2 18 53 5 39 57 .344 .428 .634 1.061 166
2015 22 AA 48 201 161 32 52 7 1 12 35 0 37 42 .323 .445 .602 1.047 97
2 Seasons 120 512 423 87 142 25 3 30 88 5 76 99 .336 .434 .622 1.056 263
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/4/2015.

Schwarber would be best served as a DH or first baseman, but with Anthony Rizzo in town and the Cubs residing in the NL, that isn’t going to happen anytime soon. Schwarber has done nothing but rake since being taken 4th overall in the 2014 draft. He isn’t much of a catcher, however, allowing a whopping 45 stolen bases in 31 games behind the dish. He could certainly provide more punch in the order than Chris Coghlan in left, but he hasn’t played a game in the outfield yet this season. With Jorge Soler’s recent injury, maybe the time for a transition is coming sooner than expected.

3B Miguel Sano – Minnesota Twins

Year Age Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2010 17 Rk-FRk 61 241 212 34 65 16 1 7 29 4 24 60 .307 .379 .491 .870 104
2011 18 Rk 66 293 267 58 78 18 7 20 59 5 23 77 .292 .352 .637 .988 170
2012 19 A 129 553 457 75 118 28 4 28 100 8 80 144 .258 .373 .521 .893 238
2012 19 FgW 20 59 49 11 13 3 0 4 14 1 8 17 .265 .373 .571 .944 28
2013 20 AA-A+ 123 519 439 86 123 30 5 35 103 11 65 142 .280 .382 .610 .992 268
2015 22 AA 46 197 166 33 42 10 1 10 33 4 26 48 .253 .355 .506 .861 84
5 Seasons 425 1803 1541 286 426 102 18 100 324 32 218 471 .276 .371 .561 .931 864
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/4/2015.
Twins' 3B (or DH) Miguel Sano Courtesy: Baseball America
Twins’ 3B (or DH) Miguel Sano
Courtesy: Baseball America

Sano is back at the hot corner after missing all of 2014 due to Tommy John surgery and he’s back to being a powerful producer in Double-A. While Trevor Plouffe has been providing some production at the Major League level, the Twins are in need of some help at the designated hitter spot. Sano’s ability to stay at third has long been debated, so plugging him in at DH would likely provide an upgrade to the .238/.289/.308 line that the Twins’ have received out of that spot in 2015. Sano ripped 35 homers at the age of 20, so it’s easy to see why he is someone to get excited about.

RHP Jose Berrios – Minnesota Twins

Year Age Tm Lg Lev Aff W L ERA GS GF CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO WHIP H9 SO9 SO/W
2012 18 2 Teams 2 Lgs Rk MIN 3 0 1.17 4 4 0 0 30.2 15 4 4 4 49 0.620 4.4 14.4 12.25
2013 19 Cedar Rapids MIDW A MIN 7 7 3.99 19 0 0 0 103.2 105 58 46 40 100 1.399 9.1 8.7 2.50
2014 20 3 Teams 3 Lgs A+-AA-AAA MIN 12 8 2.77 25 0 2 1 139.2 118 52 43 38 140 1.117 7.6 9.0 3.68
2015 21 Chattanooga SOUL AA MIN 6 3 3.25 11 0 1 1 69.1 63 26 25 20 77 1.197 8.2 10.0 3.85
4 Seasons 28 18 3.09 59 4 3 2 343.1 301 140 118 102 366 1.174 7.9 9.6 3.59
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/4/2015.

After some shoulder troubles in 2014, Berrios has been lights out this season. He continues to increase his strikeout rate, and, at just 21, looks like someone who can help a staff that is already 13th in starting pitcher ERA. Where the Twins lack talent is starters who can miss bats. The team has just 193 strikeouts (28th in MLB) and a .276 batting average allowed (second worst in MLB). The club has had an impressive season, but by adding Berrios down the stretch, they’d likely be adding a pitcher who is more capable of dominance than anyone on the club’s current staff.

2B/SS Trevor Story – Colorado Rockies

Year Age Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2011 18 Rk 47 210 179 37 48 8 2 6 28 13 26 41 .268 .364 .436 .799 78
2012 19 A 122 548 477 96 132 43 6 18 63 15 60 121 .277 .367 .505 .872 241
2013 20 A+ 130 554 497 71 116 34 5 12 65 23 45 183 .233 .305 .394 .700 196
2014 21 AA-A+-A- 108 463 396 69 104 26 8 14 48 23 60 144 .263 .367 .475 .841 188
2014 21 A- 2 8 7 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 1 3 .286 .375 .429 .804 3
2014 21 A+ 50 218 184 38 61 17 7 5 28 20 31 59 .332 .436 .582 1.017 107
2014 21 AA 56 237 205 29 41 8 1 9 20 3 28 82 .200 .302 .380 .683 78
2014 21 Fal 22 97 86 8 22 9 1 1 14 3 11 26 .256 .340 .419 .759 36
2015 22 AA 48 212 180 34 55 13 4 7 30 9 26 58 .306 .396 .539 .935 97
5 Seasons 455 1987 1729 307 455 124 25 57 234 83 217 547 .263 .353 .463 .815 800
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/4/2015.

Troy Tulowitzki is still the shortstop, even with the rumors flying that he could be dealt, but Story is more likely to develop his own narrative as the Rockies’ second baseman. The Rockies may have more interest in dealing the large contract that Tulowitzki has in order to rebuild, but D.J. LeMahieu, the club’s reigning NL Gold Glove winner at second, may be a nice asset, as well. Since he is arbitration-eligible for the first time this offseason, he’ll likely be due a substantial raise thanks to his glove. However, his bat is playing up this season, as the 26-year-old is hitting .339/.394/.495 after posting a .276/.314/.361 line over his first 1,281 career plate appearances. Story could handle the keystone position, allowing the Rockies to clear LeMahieu and his increasing salary and surprising bat. After looking at what Story has done, he’ll be another fine offensive force for the thin-air aided Rockies.

LHP Matt Boyd – Toronto Blue Jays

Year Age Lev W L ERA G GS GF CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO WHIP H9 BB9 SO9 SO/W
2013 22 A-A+ 0 3 2.62 8 5 1 0 0 24.0 14 7 7 4 23 0.750 5.2 1.5 8.6 5.75
2014 23 A+-AA 6 7 3.17 26 26 0 1 0 133.1 120 53 47 33 147 1.148 8.1 2.2 9.9 4.45
2015 24 AA 5 1 1.08 11 11 0 0 0 66.2 37 10 8 16 66 0.795 5.0 2.2 8.9 4.13
3 Seasons 11 11 2.49 45 42 1 1 0 224.0 171 70 62 53 236 1.000 6.9 2.1 9.5 4.45
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/4/2015.

The Blue Jays continue to develop talented pitchers and Boyd could be the next to arrive. Since being drafted out of Oregon State, Boyd has dominated the minors. He is a crafty lefty who works 88-90 with a solid change and curve. He will look the part of Mark Buehrle and could replace the aging lefty in the Blue Jays rotation when Buerhle reaches free agency after the season. He may not be an ace, but Boyd certainly knows how to pitch, and with those bats behind him, he just needs to take the next step to Toronto to continue his mature pitching approach.

RHP Aaron Nola – Philadelphia Phillies

Year Age Lev W L ERA G GS GF CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO WHIP H9 BB9 SO9 SO/W
2014 21 A+-AA 4 3 2.93 12 11 1 0 0 55.1 49 19 18 10 45 1.066 8.0 1.6 7.3 4.50
2015 22 AA 6 3 1.81 10 10 0 0 0 64.2 49 14 13 7 50 0.866 6.8 1.0 7.0 7.14
2 Seasons 10 6 2.33 22 21 1 0 0 120.0 98 33 31 17 95 0.958 7.4 1.3 7.1 5.59
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/4/2015.
Phillies' RHP Aaron Nola Courtesy: crashandburnalley.com
Phillies’ RHP Aaron Nola
Courtesy: crashandburnalley.com

Of the many reasons that Phillies’ GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. has been mocked, one of the larger reasons was the fact that Nola wasn’t invited to spring training. It seems like a strange thing to be ridiculed over, but Nola was certainly deserving of a long look considering the club’s lack of MLB-ready talent. The right-hander hasn’t disappointed in 2015, showcasing his talent at the minor league level. While he won’t get much help from the so-called talent on the Philadelphia roster, he does have enough to be a serviceable option for the Phillies right now.

C/OF Peter O’Brien – Arizona Diamondbacks

Year Age Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2012 21 A–Rk 52 227 212 29 45 10 0 10 34 0 10 62 .212 .256 .401 .656 85
2013 22 A+-A 119 506 447 78 130 39 4 22 96 0 41 134 .291 .350 .544 .893 243
2014 23 A+-AA 106 427 399 67 108 23 2 34 74 0 21 111 .271 .316 .594 .910 237
2015 24 AAA 50 208 189 35 63 15 2 12 47 1 11 42 .333 .375 .624 .999 118
4 Seasons 327 1368 1247 209 346 87 8 78 251 1 83 349 .277 .327 .548 .875 683
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/4/2015.

While the club is only 5.5 games out, the recent deal that sent Mark Trumbo to Seattle is a tell-tale sign of things to come in Arizona. The Diamondbacks don’t have the talent to compete with the Giants, Dodgers, and Padres in the NL West. While O’Brien wouldn’t make the team contenders, he certainly provides more offensively than the likes of David Peralta and Ender Inciarte in an outfield corner. He got a case of the yips this spring, unable to return the ball to the pitcher from the catcher spot, so he is likely in the outfield to stay. He has power that will only play up in the desert, so continue to expect impressive power, though the batting average totals are likely to slip as he adjusts to MLB pitching.

LHP Steven Matz – New York Mets

Year Age Lev W L ERA G GS GF CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO WHIP H9 BB9 SO9 SO/W
2012 21 Rk 2 1 1.55 6 6 0 0 0 29.0 16 10 5 17 34 1.138 5.0 5.3 10.6 2.00
2013 22 A 5 6 2.62 21 21 0 1 1 106.1 86 36 31 38 121 1.166 7.3 3.2 10.2 3.18
2014 23 AA-A+ 10 9 2.25 24 24 0 1 0 140.0 132 44 35 35 131 1.193 8.5 2.2 8.4 3.74
2015 24 AAA 6 3 1.98 11 10 0 0 0 68.1 48 17 15 23 70 1.039 6.3 3.0 9.2 3.04
4 Seasons 23 19 2.25 62 61 0 2 1 343.2 282 107 86 113 356 1.149 7.4 3.0 9.3 3.15
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/4/2015.
Mets' LHP Steven Matz Courtesy: NY Post
Mets’ LHP Steven Matz
Courtesy: NY Post

Matz somehow gets lost in the shuffle when the Mets’ young pitching is discussed. With Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Rafael Montero, and Zack Wheeler already reaching the majors, it’s fair to wonder when Matz will get his shot. After dominating since he has returned from Tommy John surgery, Matz is likely the next arm to be called upon – should the Mets have a need. He is a hard-throwing lefty whose stuff seems to continue to gain traction. After missing all of 2010, 2011, and most of 2012, he has been creating a track that leads directly to the Mets rotation. It won’t be long before he gets that shot, which will make the Mets a viable threat in the playoffs with Harvey, Colon, deGrom, and Matz to deal with in a series.