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American League

2018 Season Preview: AL East

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New York Yankees

The Yankees surpassed expectations last season and came within one game of the World Series.  GM Brian Cashman made arguably the biggest move of the offseason by acquiring NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton from the Miami Marlins for Starlin Castro and prospects.  The other big offseason decision made by Cashman was replacing long-time manager Joe Girardi with broadcaster and former player Aaron Boone.

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The baseball world knows about the years that Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez had last season, but Didi Gregorius turned out a tremendous offensive year as well.  Luis Severino turned into the ace that those in the Yankees front office expected him to be.

  • Team Strength: Bullpen

The Yankees have many strengths, but the depth in the bullpen is what sets them apart from the rest of baseball.  The Yankees have an abundance of power arms including Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, and Chad Green.  Cashman added former Yankee David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle during last season from the White Sox.

The Kansas City Royals started the trend of establishing dominant bullpens as the blueprint to success in baseball.  The Yankees bullpen will be the reason they win well into October.

  • Team Weakness: Managerial Inexperience

The Yankees do not have many glaring weaknesses on the roster.  Back of starting rotation depth could become an issue, but the organization has a plethora of young talent at its disposal should the team decide to make a mid-season upgrade.  Manager Aaron Boone has no coaching experience and is making the transition to managing straight from the broadcast booth.

Boone’s background as a player and his family pedigree in the game should prepare him for the grind of managing in New York.  However, there is no substitute for experience.

  • 2018 Outlook: 1st in AL East

New York is one of the most complete team’s in MLB, and a division title is certainly in the cards for the Yankees.  The lineup and strength of the bullpen will take them deep into October.

Boston Red Sox

The Sox’s 2017 Season was basically a repeat of their 2016 Season: Great regular season combined with an early postseason exit.  The Red Sox finished last in the AL in home runs in 2017 and failing to replace David Ortiz could be attributed to the problem.  President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski negotiated well into February with free agent, slugger J.D. Martinez to fill the void left by Ortiz’s retirement.

The Red Sox felt a managerial change was needed to right the ship.  Astros Bench Coach Alex Cora was brought in to replace John Farrell.  Boston hopes Cora’s player’s manager approach will help carry the Red Sox beyond the first round.  Boston’s unquestioned leader Dustin Pedroia will continue to lead Boston into battle.  Closer Craig Kimbrel still remains as one of the league’s best and fortifies an underrated bullpen that finished 2nd in baseball with a 3.15 ERA.

  • Team Strength: Talented, Young Position Players

The Red Sox have a real chance to rebound offensively in 2018 thanks in part to their young core.  All-Stars Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts are under 25 and should continue to produce offensively.  Last season’s newcomers Andrew Benintendi and Rafael Devers shined bright in their rookie campaigns.  This core of talent will be the reason the Red Sox have sustained success for years to come.

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  • Team Weakeness: Starting Pitching Consistency

The Red Sox can expect another great year from Chris Sale and the team had a starting pitcher ERA that finished in the top 10 of MLB.  Drew Pomeranz had a fine year last season. However, the Sox need more consistency from there two former Cy Young winners David Price and Rick Porcello.  Both players have had up and down careers so far as Red Sox.  If Price and Porcello can have strong seasons the Sox can win the division.

  • 2018 Outlook: 2nd in AL East, WC birth

The Red Sox have the talent to challenge the Yankees and lose the label as underachievers, but whether it happens or not remains to be seen.

Toronto Blue Jays

The window for winning a World Series seems to be all but closed for Canada’s team.   John Gibbons bunch significantly underachieved last season after reaching two straight ALCS in 2015 and 2016.  Toronto appears to be a team that is caught in between contending and rebuilding.  The Jays have replaced popular players like Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista with less expensive players like Kendrys Morales and Curtis Granderson.

Superstar Josh Donaldson headlines (for at least one more season) a lineup that has the potential to be productive.  Justin Smoak blossomed into an All-Star last season.  Toronto acquired former prospect Randal Grichuk from the Cardinals in the offseason, and with Kevin Pillar have the makings of a tremendous defensive outfield.  The Blue Jays are hoping for anything…anything from $20 million a year shortstop Troy Tulowitzki.  He will once again start the year on the disabled list.

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  • Team Strength: Starting Pitching

Toronto features a solid starting staff.  Former 20-game winner J.A. Happ gets the Opening Day start against the Yankees.  Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman are a talented, young duo but health is always the issue with both.  Marco Estrada had a solid 2nd half after a rocky start to 2017.  Jaime Garcia was added to be the fifth starter.  If Toronto were to contend in 2018 the starting rotation would be a major reason for their success.

  • Team Weakness: Bullpen

The Jays had trouble in many facets of the game last season, but the bullpen seems least likely based on personnel.  The Jays had a bullpen ERA of 4.21 in 2017.  Even All-Star Roberto Osuna had an inconsistent stretch for Toronto last season.  The Blue Jays desperately need a rebound year from their pen especially with the quality starting pitching the team possess.

  • 2018 Outlook: 3rd in AL East

The Jays look headed for a rebuild after this season. Toronto has a pair of super prospects in Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette on the way so the Jays could return to contention sooner than later.

Baltimore Orioles

The O’s like the Jays saw a massive drop in wins last season.  The O’s fell behind the Yankees and Red Sox and late in the year and never really recovered. Manny Machado got off to uncharacteristically slow start offensively.  Dominant All-Star closer Zach Britton spent time on the DL during the season and ruptured his Achilles tendon in the offseason.  Baltimore saw Jonathan Scoop continue to progress toward stardom.  Schoop finished the season with 30 HR’s and over 100 RBI’s.

The Orioles spent the offseason mulling over whether or not to trade Manny Machado with free agency looming for the superstar at the conclusion of the 2018 Season.  Britton and Adam Jones are also free agents at season’s end.  Buck Showalter’s team could look significantly different after the trade deadline.

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  • Team Strength: Potent lineup

The Orioles finished 5th in MLB with 232 HR.  Baltimore once again sports a lineup that can mash.  Schoop, Machado, and Jones all return.  Trey Mancini had a good rookie season.  Mark Trumbo will miss some time with injury but is two years removed from 47 HR’s.  Chris Davis had a down year in 2017, yet still managed to club 26 dingers.  Power is never an issue with the O’s.

  • Team Weakness: Starting Pitching

However, the issue with the O’s as always is the starting pitching.  Baltimore’s starters finished the 2017 season with a 4.97 ERA.  Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy have big league stuff but have yet to find consistency at the Major League level.  The O’s are banking on Andrew Cashner to stay healthy and provide a boost.  Alex Cobb just agreed to a 4-year, $60 million deal with the team.  Cobb can hopefully provide the top of rotation consistency that has plagued the Orioles for years.

  • 2018 Outlook: 4th in AL East

The Orioles are a day late and a dollar short in the AL East.  The O’s should look for a decent return on Machado, Jones, and Britton come July 31st.

Tampa Bay Rays

Tampa started waving the proverbial white flag on the 2018 season just before the start of Spring Training.  The Rays shipped Jake Odorizzi to Minnesota, dealt Steven Souza to the D’Backs, and released Corey Dickerson over the duration of a weekend.  The team traded long-time face of the franchise Even Longoria to the San Francisco Giants last December.

The Rays were in the playoff race for much of the 2017 Season, so the dramatic dumping of talent screams payroll purge.  The Rays are in the process of trying to build a new stadium and have cited that as the primary reason for the purge.

Team Strength: Remaining assets

Chris Archer is one of the best pitchers in MLB.  He should command a hefty return when the time comes for the Rays to deal him.  Kevin Kiermaier is just 27 and has a very movable contract.  Tampa is making it very clear that no player on their roster is off limits.  This won’t make the fans happy, but at least they aren’t misrepresenting themselves.

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  • Team Weakness: The Future

What happens to the Rays if the team cannot secure funding for a new stadium?  The team is not giving fans much hope or a reason to show up this season.  The Rays already have payroll and attendance issues.  The team weakness goes so much further than the on-field product.

  • 2018 Outlook: 5th in AL East

The bright side is they won’t be the worst baseball team in Florida.

American League

Rangers’ Part Ways with Pitching Coach Doug Brocail

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The Texas Rangers have parted ways with pitching coach Doug Brocail as they continue to analyze their current staff during their transition to new manager Chris Woodward, according to MLB.com’s TR Sullivan.

Brocail had been the team’s pitching coach for the past three seasons after taking over for Mike Maddux following the 2015 season. Prior to taking the Rangers job, he worked in the Houston Astros organization as a pitching coach.

 

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American League

Red Sox Steven Wright Undergoes Knee Surgery

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Boston Red Sox right hander Steven Wright has undergone surgery on his left knee, receiving an arthroscopy and debridement on the joint, according to an official team announcement on Tuesday.

Wright “will continue to rehab and prepare for a return to pitching in the 2019 season”, and will address issues that Wright had reportedly long been dealing with.

Wright posted a  2.68 ERA with 42 strikeouts and 26 walks for Boston this season.

 

 

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American League

2018 Home Run Daily MLB Awards

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Sports Illustrated

Awards week 2018 in Major League Baseball will draw as much intrigue as any of its predecessors. A compelling race for Manager of the Year and the Cy Young Award have people’s attention on the National League side and I’m sure that everyone is eager to see the outcome of the American League’s Most Valuable Player vote as well.

With the week set to kick off tomorrow night with the Rookie of the Year honors, here are Home Run Daily’s Award winners for the 2018 MLB season.

Comeback Player of the Year:

NL: Matt Kemp, OF- Dodgers

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The 2018 Los Angeles Dodgers were nowhere near as impressive or dominant as their 2017 counterpart but still reached the World Series for the second straight year. The man largely responsible for that is Matt Kemp, for it seemed as if he was the only one on the team producing at many points. Driving in 85 runs on top of a .290 AVG and 21 HR, Kemp was named an All-Star for the first time since 2012 and proved that the Dodgers made the right choice in bringing him back. After bouncing around from San Diego and Atlanta before returning to LA last season, Kemp exorcised the demons of many frustrating seasons this year and proved that he is still a force to be reckoned with.

AL: Xander Bogaerts, SS- Red Sox

Bogaerts was hit on the right wrist by a pitch against Tampa Bay on July 6, 2017 and suffered a sprained joint. He elected to not be put on the disabled list, and the decision effectively torpedoed his season. The consistent offense Red Sox fans had become accustomed to seeing from him went MIA as he finished the year batting .273 with just 10 homers. Bogaerts himself admitted that playing with the injury was a mistake, but he atoned for it this year, bouncing back with one of the best years of his still young career. The Aruban batted .288 and posted career highs in both homers (23) and RBI (103). The MLB is currently loaded with eons of talented young shortstops: Francisco Lindor, Trevor Story, Carlos Correa and Ozzie Albies, just to name a few. Bogaerts showed any doubters this year that he still belongs in that conversation.

Rookie of the Year:

AL: Finalists- Gleyber Torres, 2B/SS- Yankees, Shohei Ohtani,  RHP/DH- Angels, Miguel Andujar, 3B- Yankees

Our pick: Miguel Andujar

In a season where all the hype for the New York Yankees was surrounding Giancarlo Stanton and fellow rookie Gleyber Torres, Miguel Andujar stole the spotlight. He was arguably the team’s most consistent force throughout the season when considering that Stanton under-performed and Aaron Judge was lost for a lengthy stretch due to injury. For the season, Andujar batted .297 with 27 HR, 92 RBI and 47 doubles, the last of which broke the Yankees’ rookie record held by the legendary Joe DiMaggio. That’s pretty elite company to be in, especially as a 23-year-old. The Yankees will look to add a shortstop this offseason with Didi Gregorious losing 2019 to Tommy John surgery, but it’s safe to say Andujar has the hot corner locked up.

NL: Finalists- Juan Soto- OF, Nationals, Walker Buehler, RHP- Dodgers, Ronald Acuna, OF- Braves

Our pick: Ronald Acuna

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Entering 2018, the hype was there and then some for no. 2 overall prospect Ronald Acuna, and when he was called up on April 25, he delivered as expected. The 20-year-old Venezuelan wasted no time in showing why he’s considered to be a future face of the game, wowing fans with his play on both sides of the ball and helping spark the upstart Braves to their first NL East title since 2013. Acuna batted .293 with 26 HR and 64 RBI in addition to 16 stolen bases.  He also made the highlight reel in playoffs with an impressive grand slam in Game 3 of the NLDS off fellow nominee Walker Buehler. Numbers like that from a kid not even old enough to drink in the United States tell you something: this guy is going to be a freak.

Manager of the Year

NL Finalists: Bud Black- Rockies, Brian Snitker- Braves, Craig Counsell- Brewers

Our pick: Brian Snitker

The Milwaukee Brewers have always been my NL team, and as such I want oh so badly to give this one to Counsell, who led the Brewers on an incredible run. However, the most truly deserving nominee is Atlanta’s Brian Snitker. The Braves were considered to still be in the process of rebuilding entering the 2018 season and were not expected to be contenders. However, propelled by the efforts of Acuna, Albies, Freddie Freeman, Nick Markakis and Mike Foltynewicz, the Bravos turned nearly every head in baseball and won the NL East from rival and perennial winner Washington. Considering that he was thought of as just an interim piece when Atlanta promoted him from Triple-A following Fredi Gonzalez’ 2016 firing, Snitker’s success with the Braves is remarkable. Leading such a young and unproven team to a division championship is impressive for any manager. Thanks in part to Snitker’s efforts, baseball is quickly returning to prominence in Georgia.

AL Finalists: Bob Melvin- Athletics, Alex Cora, Red Sox, Kevin Cash- Rays

Our pick: Bob Melvin

Image result for bob melvin 2018

Under Melvin, the Athletics were one of the game’s best teams from 2012 to 2014, but the team fell rapidly afterwards, so much so that it’s a bit surprising he was never fired. However, the 2018 A’s showed glimpses of the team of old and qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 2014. Despite what can be argued as a lack of talent on paper, Oakland was a revelation this season and finished second only to the defending World Champion Astros in the West. Matt Chapman, Khris Davis and Sean Manaea led the way on the field, but Melvin’s savvy and intuitive leadership was the true reason behind Oakland’s appearance in the Wild Card game. This would be Melvin’s third Manager of the Year crown. Tampa Bay’s Kevin Cash could be a major dark horse here, however, as he led the Rays to their first winning record in five years despite an egregious lack of talent and fan investment.

Cy Young Award

AL Finalists: Corey Kluber, RHP- Indians, Blake Snell, LHP- Rays, Justin Verlander, RHP- Astros

Our winner: Blake Snell

Before this season, fans and critics alike could tell that the ability was there for Rays LHP Blake Snell, he just needed fine-tuning. And a demotion to Triple-A proved to be just that. Since he returned to the majors in June of last season Snell has been one of the best pitchers in baseball, and 2018 served as his coming out party. An MLB best 21 wins and .178 BAA coupled with an AL best 1.89 ERA make the man known as Snellzilla the easy favorite for the award, even though he’s matched up against bigger names in Kluber and Verlander. Despite missing the playoffs, the Rays were one of the surprises of the year in the American League and actually finished with less losses than AL Central winner Cleveland. Snell’s breakout year led the way and gave the team enough confidence to trade former ace Chris Archer to Pittsburgh. If Tampa Bay continues to surge, it will be Snell at the helm.

NL Finalists: Jacob deGrom, RHP- Mets, Max Scherzer, RHP- Nationals, Aaron Nola, RHP- Phillies.

Our winner- Jacob deGrom

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This is the most intriguing race of the year without question. Though Nola had a terrific season for Philly, the NL Cy Young is a two-horse race between Scherzer and deGrom. Scherzer by far has the all-around better line of stats, with an NL leading 300 Ks, 18 wins, .188 BAA and 220 IP. His division rival has him by the throat in one area, however, and it could be the difference maker. deGrom’s ERA of 1.70 was the best in the MLB and the lowest a qualifying pitcher has finished with since Zack Greinke’s 1.66 in 2015. That still wasn’t his most impressive achievement this season, that honor goes to his streak of 25 consecutive starts allowing three runs or less that broke a 108-year-old MLB record. If that still doesn’t convince you, remember that he would be 30-0 if the Mets had scored four runs in each of his starts. Scherzer’s all-around line may be more impressive, but it is deGrom who is the most impressive finalist.

MVP:

NL Finalists: Christian Yelich, OF- Brewers, Nolan Arenado, 3B- Rockies, Javier Baez, 2B- Cubs

Our pick: Christian Yelich

The Miami Marlins unloaded their talented outfield in the winter of 2017, sending Giancarlo Stanton to the Yankees, Marcel Ozuna to the Cardinals and Christian Yelich to the Brewers. Milwaukee invested top prospect Lewis Brinson and many others in the Yelich trade, so it obviously had high hopes, but anyone see them paying off like this? Getting out of Miami turned out being the best thing that ever happened to Yelich, as a better supporting cast helped him finally unleash his potential. Leading the NL with a .326 batting average while finishing second in RBI with 111 and third in homers with 36, the 26-year-old also hit for the cycle twice in a three week span. He was awarded his first Silver Slugger and Hank Aaron Awards after the season, during which he was the centerpiece of Milwaukee’s run to its first playoff and NLCS appearance in seven years. Baez and Arenado had reliably strong seasons, but Yelich is the runaway favorite here.

AL Finalists: Mike Trout, CF- Angels, Jose Ramirez, 3B- Indians, Mookie Betts, RF- Red Sox.

Our pick: Mookie Betts

Image result for mookie betts 2018

Much like Yelich, Mookie Betts checked nearly every box in 2018 and continued to rival fellow nominee Trout for the title of the best in baseball. Betts led the MLB with a .346 AVG and .640 slugging % alongside 32 HR and 30 stolen bases, making him just the second Red Sox ever after Jacoby Ellsbury in 2011 to join the 30-30 Club. He also hit for the cycle and led the MLB in its favorite statistic with a 10.9 WAR, which alone is enough to win him MVP in today’s game. Trout is a favorite every year and beat out Betts for MVP in 2016 in an underwhelming decision, but Betts has the advantage this time. On top of his formidable performance, he was also the most consistent offensive player in the game this year, more so even than teammate JD Martinez, who nearly won the Triple Crown. As the centerpiece of Boston’s 2018 World Championship, Betts did pretty much everything a hitter can do this year and will more than likely take home his first career MVP on Thursday.

Agree/disagree? What are your selections?

As previously mentioned, Awards Week begins tomorrow with Rookie of the Year, then continues with Manager of the Year on Tuesday and Cy Young on Wednesday before concluding with MVP on Thursday. Be sure to tune into MLB network each night to see how the BBWAA votes!

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