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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
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.
- 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 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.
- 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.
April 2019’s Biggest MLB Stories
Holy smokes, the first season of the 2019 MLB season is already in the books, and stories were abundant in this one. From certain players tearing it up and others struggling to records being broken, April 2019 was certainly eventful in the baseball world. Here are the biggest stories, happenings and surprises from the first month of the 2019 campaign.
Albert the Great
At 39, Albert Pujols might not be the revered slugger that he was in his prime, but the Anaheim Angel is still getting it done and joined elite company in April. His two-run double off of Kansas City’s Homer Bailey on April 28 gave him career RBIs no. 1,996 and 1,997, putting him ahead of Barry Bonds and in sole possession of no. 3 on the all-time list. Only Alex Rodriguez (2,086) and Hank Aaron (2,297) remain ahead of him. Though it’s unlikely that he’ll ever catch the latter, Pujols could pass A-Rod with a healthy and productive 2019 and 2020.
C&C on a tear
Outfielders Cody Bellinger of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Christian Yelich of the Milwaukee Brewers spent April wreaking havoc on National League pitching. Bellinger appears to have regained his form after a sophomore slump in 2018 and was the first month’s best hitter. The 23-year-old currently has the NL Triple Crown with a .431 AVG, 14 HR and 37 RBI. Reigning MVP Yelich is picking up where he left off last year, and owns a share of the homer lead in addition to a .353 AVG and 34 RBI. It’s obviously still early and both of these guys will cool off at some point, but they are as good as it gets in the Senior Circuit right now.
K&K still on the sidelines
Two of this past winter’s most high-profile free agents still remain unsigned as the calendar turns to May. 2015 American League Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel and 2x Reliever of the Year Craig Kimbrel are still without homes and MLB.com Insider Ken Rosenthal reports that it may be as long as June before either star signs. Both men have different contract desires, as Rosenthal reports that Kimbrel does not want a one-year deal whilst Keuchel is aiming for the short-term. There are plenty of teams that would love the services of either, but it looks as if a signing won’t occur any time soon.
Medical costs soaring in the Bronx
The New York Yankees had enough injuries in the first month of the season to fill an entire hospital ward. Sophomore manager Aaron Boone has had the difficult task of holding his team together with more than half his starting lineup on the disabled list. Miguel Andujar, Dellin Betances, Greg Bird, Clint Frazier, Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge, Luis Severino and Giancarlo Stanton are all currently laid up. Considering half of the team’s minor league system has seemingly played in the past month, New York has done pretty well and Boone should be commended for his work. But fans in the Bronx will feel much better when all their superstars return.
Boston Red Sox ace Chris Sale is one of the MLB’s most dominant lefties and has been since he became a starter in 2012, but he’s been MIA for the first month of this year. Fans accustomed to the 7x All-Star dazzling batters with his slider would be shocked to see that he’s currently 0-5 with a 6.30 ERA. There’s still every chance that he can turn it around, but the Red Sox and their Nation have not enjoyed their ace struggling so mightily. Sale has taken full responsibility for his failures, but if his team wants to repeat as World Series champions, they’ll need him to regain his form.
Slow start for Harper in Philly
The most high-profile free agent acquisition in recent MLB history hasn’t gotten off to the start that his new team was expecting. 26-year-old Bryce Harper is having a rougher time acclimating to the Philadelphia Phillies than anyone would have thought. Through the first month of what is to be a very long tenure in the City of Brotherly Love, Harper is batting .231 with 6 HR and 20 RBI. He’s far too talented to struggle like this long-term, but considering what the Phillies are paying him, they can’t be too happy.
Vlad Jr. makes long awaited debut
The baseball world had been chomping at the bit for some time to see no.1 prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. at the big league level. However, the Toronto Blue Jays waited patiently with the young phenom and allowed him to spend the end of 2018 and the beginning of this season with Triple-A Buffalo. Fans finally got their wish when the Jays made the call last week and brought Guerrero up for his MLB debut on April 26 vs. Oakland. A proud Vlad Sr. looked on as his son ripped a double in the bottom of the ninth for his first career knock. There will surely be many more to come.
Mets endure deGrom TJ scare
Jacob deGrom is currently the best pitcher baseball has to offer and he hasn’t slowed on the heels of his masterful 2018 campaign. However, the Mets and their fans had to endure a brief panic when it looked as if the superstar righty had been claimed by the curse of Tommy John. It turned out to be nothing more than a scare and deGrom only missed one start, but baseball fans in Queens surely thought the sky was falling at the time.
Ichiro retires in grand fashion
Though it happened in March actually and most fans may have forgotten about it by now, it’s still one of best stories to come from baseball in some time. The Seattle Mariners opened the 2019 season vs. the Athletics at Tokyo Dome in Japan’s capital. It was undoubtedly an amazing experience for all players involved, but it stood out for one player especially. 45-year-old Ichiro Suzuki played the series with the Mariners and called it a career after the second game. Not many foreign players in Major League Baseball can say that they played their last game in front of their native country and it’s an honor Ichiro more than earned throughout his 28-year professional career in Japan and North America. An undoubted future Hall of Famer and one of the best hitters of all time, Ichiro walked off an MLB field for the last time to a thunderous ovation from his countrymen. Thanks for the memories, no.51.
Rays Place Austin Meadows On IL
The Tampa Bay Rays placed outfielder Austin Meadows on the 10-day injured list due to a sprained right thunb.
Rays general manager Erik Neander said that the team may be without Meadows for “a few weeks”, according to the Tamp Bay Times’ Marc Topkin.
Meadows has started the 2019 season hot, posting a stellar .351/.422/.676 slash line to go along with six homers for Tampa Bay.
Blue Jays’ Matt Shoemaker Out for Season with Torn ACL
Shoemaker, who was initially placed on the 10-day injured list, suffered the injury during a game on Saturday.
Shoemaker, 32, was off to an impressive start for Toronto, pitching the the tune of 1.57 ERA.
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