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National League

2018 Season Preview: NL East

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Washington Nationals

The Nationals return a stellar collection of offensive talent in 2018.  OF Bryce Harper is coming off of a very good year despite a late season injury.  2016 NL MVP runner-up 2B Daniel Murphy proved that that season was no fluke with his impressive 2017.

1B Ryan Zimmerman and 3B Anthony Rendon stayed healthy and added depth to an already productive lineup.  SS Trea Turner is a budding star and has five-tool abilities on the field.

Washington is hoping they found the right collection of relievers to solve the issue of the bullpen. RHP Brandon Kintzler and RHP Ryan Madson will setup LHP Sean Doolittle who will start the season as the team’s closer.

  • Team Strength: Starting Pitching

RHP Max Scherzer will turn 34 in July and is showing no signs of slowing down coming off of back-to-back NL Cy Young Awards.  RHP Stephen Strasburg has electric stuff and would be the ace of several other clubs.  RHP Tanner Roark is coming off of a rough 2017 but has the track record to rebound in 2018.  LHP Gio Gonzalez is a very good option at the back end of the rotation despite postseason struggles.

The Epoch Times

  • Team Weakness: Managerial Continuity

The Nats have had an impressive run in the NL East since 2012.  D.C. has won four division titles in that time.  Four also represents the number of managers the team has had since 2012.

Dave Martinez was hired in the offseason to replace Dusty Baker and lead the Nationals to their first playoff series victory since 1981 when they were the Montreal Expos.  The Nationals continue to churn out successful seasons year after year but continue to exit the postseason early.  D.C. is hoping Martinez is the guy to push them further into October.

  • 2018 Outlook: 1st in NL East

Harper and Murphy are free agents at season’s end but top prospect OF Victor Robles provides hope for the future in the event either depart.  The Nationals should still be the class of the NL East but with Washington postseason misery seems to repeat itself.

New York Mets

Every team deals with its share of injuries over 162 games but what the Mets went through in 2017 was unbelievable.  The Mets saw virtually every player on the 25-man roster miss time due to injury last season.

OF Yeonis Cespedes’s hamstrings often kept him off of the field.  2017 All-Star OF Michael Conforto was one of the few bright spots before dislocating his shoulder while swinging.  RHP Jeurys Familia returned from suspension only to discover a blood clot in his arm.

A barren farm system combined with a slew of injuries resulted in 92 losses.  The Mets signed OF Jay Bruce and 3B Todd Frazier to provide stability and power to a lineup that lacked both last season.  1B Adrian Gonzalez was brought in to give 1B Dominic Smith more seasoning in the minors.  The catching duo of Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki turned out to be fruitful for the Mets.

RHP A.J. Ramos and LHP Jerry Blevins return to a bullpen looking to recover this season.  RHP Anthony Swarzak signed in the offseason.  This group including Familia are expected to be the stable used in the closer by committee setup the Mets are implementing to start the year.

  • Team Strength: Starting Pitching

The Mets return to the postseason is predicated on their talented pitching.  RHP Jacob deGrom’s great 2017 campaign was overshadowed by the struggles of the team.  RHP Noah Syndergaard had a tremendous spring and has given every indication that “Thor” is back after missing the majority of last season with a torn lat.

“The Dark Knight” RHP Matt Harvey is coming into what will undoubtedly be his last season in Queens.  Harvey’s spring got better with each start.  RHP Seth Lugo will begin the season as the team’s fifth starter.  Lugo was solid in 2016 during the team’s playoff push.

LHP Jason Vargas was signed to be another lefty option in the rotation in the probability that LHP Steven Matz goes down with an injury.  The enigmatic RHP Zack Wheeler will start the season in the minors.

  • Team Weakness: Lack of speed/leadoff hitter

INF Jose Reyes led the Mets in stolen bases last season.  That statement would not be concerning if last season were 2006.  Reyes will be 35 in June and is primarily a utility player at this point in his career.

The Mets lack of speed also leaves the team without a traditional leadoff hitter.  SS Amed Rosario’s alarmingly low walk-rate would prohibit him from being a leadoff option.  Names like OF Brandon Kimmo and Frazier have been kicked around until Conforto returns.

Rising Apple

 

  • 2018 Outlook: 2nd in NL East, WC berth

New manager Mickey Callaway was hired to get the most out of his talented staff, but the team possesses a lineup that will hit home runs and a solid bullpen.  A postseason birth is realistic as long as the team does not revert to the MASH Unit of 2017.

Philadelphia Phillies

The Phillies have been a sexy sleeper choice by many experts coming into the 2018 Season.  The Phils were aggressive in the offseason.  The team signed free agent slugger 1B Carlos Santana from the Cleveland Indians.  The Phillies placed Santana’s locker next to struggling, yet talented third basemen Miakel Franco to help provide leadership.

The 3rd new manager to be hired in the NL East this offseason was the Phillies’ Gabe Kapler.  Kapler, 42 is a younger manager was hired to relate to the Phillies young core of talented everyday players.

York Dispatch

  • Team Strength: Talented Everyday Players

OF Rhys Hoskins hit 18 home runs in just 170 AB and will be penciled in the middle of the Phillies order for years to come.  INF Scott Kingrey had such a remarkable Spring Training that the team gave him an extension…without ever playing in an official major league game!

2B Cesar Hernandez and OF Odubel Herrera are nice pieces that have been productive during tough times.  SS J.P. Crawford has buzz around him again after having a good 2017 in the minors.

  • Team Weakness: Lack of Quality Starting Pitching

RHP Aaron Nola and the newly signed RHP Jake Arrieta aside the Phillies are lacking quality starting pitching.  RHP Jared Eickoff saw his ERA go from 3.65 in 2016 to 4.71 in 2017.  RHP Vince Velazquez when healthy had pitch count issues and trouble making it through three plus innings.  RHP Nick Pivetta had a good strikeout numbers but an ERA over six.  The Phillies need more out of the back of the rotation to make a jump in 2018.

  • 2018 Outlook: 3rd in NL East

The Phillies spent money this offseason thinking the team had talent to make strides in the NL East.  The Phillies will finish around .500 if they take advantage of playing the Braves and Marlins 40 times.  The starting pitching and growing pains will push contention back another year to 2019.

Atlanta Braves

The Bravos offseason was marred by controversy.  Former GM John Coppolella received a lifetime ban from MLB for committing several amateur signing infractions.  The team lost 13 prospects as a result of Coppolella’s conduct.  Atlanta hired Dodgers executive and former Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos.

The Braves became the latest team to move on from OF Matt Kemp as they traded him to the Dodgers for Adrian Gonzalez, LHP Scott Kazmir, RHP Brandon McCarthy, and SS Charlie Culberson.  The move was widely viewed as a salary dump by both clubs as Gonzalez was immediately released.  The Braves have suffered four straight losing seasons after only having two losing seasons between 1991 and 2013.

The quietest superstar in the league resides in Atlanta and his name is 1B Freddie Freeman.  Freeman is the centerpiece a rebuild that’s taken longer than expected.  OF Ender Inciarte continues to grow as an effective everyday player.

Talking Chop

The team has high hopes for SS Dansby Swanson after a semi-sophomore slump in 2017.  The usually reliable RHP Julio Teheran had a 4.49 ERA in the Braves new hitter friendly stadium SunTrust Park.

  • Team Strength: Good Farm System

Help is on the way in Atlanta.  The Braves feature eight players in MLB.com’s 2018 Prospect Watch.  OF Ronald Acuna is considered to be one of the top prospects in the game.  RHP’s Kyle Wright and Mike Soroka are only considered to be a year or two away from reaching Atlanta.

  • Team Weakness: Lack of Established Major League Talent

A team going through the rebuilding phase is going to traditionally lack in quality Major Leaguers.  Freeman, Inciarte, and OF Nick Markakis are a few of the names that resonate with the average fan.

The Braves and their fans will have to continue to be patient.  Swanson and 2B Ozzie Albies have the potential to be very good major leaguers, but until the young pitching and Acuna arrive the Major League cupboard will be virtually empty.

  • 2018 Outlook: 4th in NL East

The Braves now has a proven GM who needs time to get acclimated to the organization.  The farm system is loaded, but how much longer will the rebuild last in Atlanta?

Miami Marlins

Usually fans are excited when their team has as active an offseason as the Marlins had last winter.  Active in the sense of making trades not in the sense of trading four of the team’s best players for financial reasons.

The new ownership group headed by Derek Jeter embraced the traditional “Marlin Way” of dumping salary.  OF Giancarlo Stanton was traded to the Yankees, OF Marcell Ozuna was traded to the Cardinals, OF Christian Yelich was traded to the Brewers, and 2B Dee Gordon was traded to the Mariners.

Jeter met with the team’s season ticket holders and insisted that the organization had a plan and was headed in the right direction.  A tough sell for a fan base that has seen this purge two times before with two different owners.  The World Series Championship was the one thing lacking this time around.

USA Today

  • Team Strength: No Expectations

The previous Marlins fire sales gave the young players a relaxed environment where they could develop and go through the ups and downs of turning into a quality major leaguer.  This time will be no different.  Players like OF Lewis Brinson can get the traditional Triple-A experience while at the Major League level.  C J.T. Realmuto, 2B Starlin Castro, and 1B Justin Bour get the chance to play on a team that is destined for 100 losses and can only hope to be dealt before July 31st.

  • Team Weakness: Different This Time?

Jeter can preach the rebuild plan all he wants, but Marlins fans have heard this tale before.  The Marlins will be lousy enough for the next few years to draft and develop young, affordable talent.  What happens when the Marlins have to pay those talented players?  Will Jeter and Co. make good on their promise to compete?  Will they still even be the owners by then?

  • 2018 Outlook: 5th in NL East

You really have to feel for Marlins fans.  2018 and the seasons to come will be a true test for the fan base.

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

Image result for matt kemp 2018

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

Image result for ronald acuna jr

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

Image result for jacob degrom

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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Los Angeles Dodgers

Dodgers Offered Yasiel Puig to Nationals for Bryce Harper

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The Los Angeles Dodgers have reportedly been interested in acquiring Washington Nationals superstar Bryce Harper, and attempted to land him via trade last season before Washington ultimately decided to keep him for the remainder of the year.

According to the Los Angeles Times’ Jorge Castillo, the Dodgers offered Yasiel Puig as part of a potential deal to land Harper from Washington, but were unsuccessful in their attempt to pry the outfield slugger from the Nationals.

Washington had placed Harper on waivers but pulled him off when the Dodgers claimed him.

While the deal didn’t come to fruition, it’s fun to imagine what the Dodgers could have done with Harper in their lineup, and to wonder if it would have changed the outcome of the World Series, which they lost to the Boston Red Sox.

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National League

Pirates Re-Sign Jung Ho Kang

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The Pittsburgh Pirates have signed third baseman Jung Ho Kang to a one-year, $3 million contract that includes $2.5 million in performance incentives, according to the New York Post’s Joel Sherman.

Kang was solid during his first two seasons in Pittsburgh, but a DUI arrest and a sexual assault investigations have clouded his career. Kang only played in 3 major league games this season and was released by his Dominican Winter League.

It will be interesting to see how Kang bounces back in a return to the majors this season.

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