Tag Archives: Rays

MLB Weekly-ish: Surprising teams, injuries mark the start of the season

Looking Back

We’re a couple weeks into the 2018 MLB season with most teams having played about 15 games thus far and there are a number of teams that are surprising people by their performances — both good and bad — and some star players are dealing with injuries in this season’s first edition of MLB Weekly.

Taking a look at the standings entering Sunday, the Mets — who are coming off a 70-92 season — are coming out of the gate strong with the best record in the National League and leading the NL East at 11-2. The Nationals, who were the favorites to win the division, sit in fourth place with a 7-8 mark. The Mets’ struggles last season were caused by injuries, with the starting rotation hit particularly hard, so they were expected to have a better season this year assuming health. Through two weeks, their pitchers haven’t dealt with injuries, but C Travis d’Arnaud will undergo Tommy John surgery, which will end his season, and backup C Kevin Plawecki is also on the DL with a broken hand that is expected to keep him out of action for a few weeks. Apart from SP Zack Wheeler, who has a 1.29 ERA in his only start, none of the Mets’ starters have a sub-3.00 ERA but only SP Matt Harvey, who has the worst injury history of the group, has posted an ERA above 4.00 with a 3.60 ERA in his first two starts, but that should get better if he can stay healthy for the first time since 2015.

There’s also an unexpected team at the top of the standings in the NL Central, with the 10-4 Pirates 2.5 games ahead of the second-place Cardinals and the improved Brewers. The Cubs — who have won the division each of the last two seasons — are in fourth place at 7-7. After trading their best pitcher (SP Gerrit Cole) and hitter (OF Andrew McCutchen), the Pirates were thought to be in rebuilding mode and not expected to be competitive in the division in 2018. They are getting production, though, from two of the hitters they added this winter: OF Corey Dickerson, who they acquired in a trade with the Rays, is hitting .347 with 10 RBI and a couple of steals while 3B Colin Moran, who came over from the Astros in the Cole trade, is hitting .316 with 8 RBI in his first 11 games with the team. A couple of young pitchers have had terrific starts to their seasons, with SP Jameson Taillon posting a 0.890ERA with 18 strikeouts in his first three starts and SP Trevor Williams with a 1.56 ERA and 10 strikeouts in three starts.

In the American League, the Angels and Red Sox were both expected to be in the playoff picture this season but not many people expected them to get off to the kinds of starts they they have. The 12-2 Red Sox have been getting it done on the mound, with the second-lowest ERA in the American League. They’ve also been getting offensive production out of SS Xander Bogaerts — who is currently on the DL — and OFs Mookie Betts and Hanley Ramirez, who are all hitting .353 or better. For the Angels, the much-hyped Shohei Ohtani has shown his subpar spring training performance was a fluke and has gotten off to a hot start both at the plate and on the mound. He’s hitting .367 with 3 home runs and 11 games in eight games as a DH and has posted a 2.08 ERA with 18 strikeouts over 13 innings in his first two starts of the season. OF Mike Trout, a perennial MVP candidate, is having the type of season people have come to expect from him with 6 home runs in his first 16 games.

It’s not good news for every team, though. The Cubs are one of the bigger disappointments early in the season at .500. That is due in large part to their pitching. Of their five starters, only SP Kyle Hendricks has a sub-4.00 ERA, and it’s not overly impressive at 3.71. SP Yu Darvish, who the Cubs signed to a big contract this winter despite his struggles in the postseason, has a 6.00 ERA in three starts. The Yankees, who were a game away from making the World Series in 2017, are also 7-7 as they sit in third place in the AL East, but the biggest disappointment early in 2018 is the Dodgers. Coming off their first World Series appearance since 1988, the Dodgers are just 4-9 and 6.5 games out of first in the NL West. Part of that is because 3B Justin Turner started the season on the DL and has yet to play in a game, but they’re not getting much out of SS Corey Seager, who hit .293 last season but is at .196 entering Sunday. The starting pitching is a mixed bag, with Clayton Kershaw sitting at a 1.89 ERA but SP Alex Wood posting a 5.09 ERA and SP Rich Hill at a 6.00 ERA. Closer Kenley Jansen is 0-1 with a 6.35 ERA and a couple of saves in his first six appearances of the season.

The first couple weeks of the season haven’t been kind to teams in terms of injuries, with the list of players currently on the DL including: Angels SP Matt Shoemaker; Rangers OF Delino Deshields, SS Elvis Andrus and 2B Rougned Odor; Phillies SP Jerad Eickhoff; Blue Jays SS Troy Tulowitzki and 3B Josh Donaldson; Giants SPs Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija and RP Mark Melancon; Indians SP Danny Salazar; Royals C Salvador Perez; Red Sox 2B Dustin Pedroia; Marlins C J.T. Realmuto; Yankees 1B Greg Bird, SP CC Sabathia and 3B Brandon Drury; White Sox SP Carlos Rodon; Nationals 2B Daniel Murphy and OF Adam Eaton; Pirates SP Joe Musgrove; Mariners DH Nelson Cruz; Diamondbacks 3B Jake Lamb; Padres OFs Wil Myers and Manuel Margot; Brewers SP Jimmy Nelson, RP Corey Knebel and OF Christian Yelich; and Cubs 1B Anthony Rizzo.

The Week Ahead

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The Angels and Red Sox are the best teams in the American League right now, and they begin a three-game series in Anaheim on Tuesday after the Red Sox host the Orioles Monday in their traditional 11am start on Patriots’ Day. The Astros begin a weeklong road trip on Monday with the first of four at the division-rival Mariners in Seattle. The classic Cubs-Cardinals rivalry gets going for three games at Wrigley starting Monday, and longtime Yankee SS Derek Jeter brings the team he now co-owns, the Marlins, to Yankee Stadium for a two-game interleague series Monday and Tuesday. Over in Queens, the Mets look to keep their hot start going with a three-game series against the Nationals starting Monday. Later in the week, the Cubs visit the Rockies starting Friday in a series between two teams that made the playoffs last season but haven’t begun 2018 the way they would have liked. And the Dodgers look to get things going when they host the Nationals over the weekend.

In some pitching performances to look out for this week, Astros SP Dallas Keuchel looks to lock down his first win of the season Monday when he faces SP James Paxton and the Mariners. Sabathia is scheduled to come off the DL to get the start Tuesday in the Yankees’ second game against the Marlins. Wednesday sees Cole take the mound for his fourth start for the Astros as he looks to continue his streak of double-digit strikeout performances against Mariners SP Mike Leake. And there are aces scheduled to be dueling in Southern California Saturday night with Ohtani scheduled to start for the Angels and a pitching matchup of Stephen Strasburg and Kershaw on the docket for the Nationals-Dodgers game Saturday.

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4th Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: Over/under and playoff picks

Now that we’ve previewed the 2018 season for all 30 MLB teams, let’s take a look at how the season is going to play out. In this post, I’ll be analyzing Vegas over/under totals for each team and make my playoff picks.

NL East

Atlanta Braves: 74.5
The Braves have some young prospects with potential — including OF Ronald Acuna, who is starting the season in the minors. If they can play well this season, the Braves should be able to get to 75 wins, which is only three more than last season. I’ll go Over.

Miami Marlins: 64.5
The Marlins had a fire sale this winter, getting rid of all of their stars save for C J.T. Realmuto, and I think he’ll be dealt at the trade deadline. They should be the worst team in the majors this season. Under.

New York Mets: 81
Last year, I said the health of the starting pitchers is key to how successful the Mets will be this season. The same applies for this year. They have to be healthier than they were last season, so I think the Mets can barely go Over the 81.

Philadelphia Phillies: 75.5
The Phillies won 66 games last season and I think they’ll be better this year after adding guys like 1B Carlos Santana and SP Jake Arrieta to a roster with young guys like 2B Scott Kingery and SS J.P. Crawford, but I don’t think they’ll see 10 games worth of improvement. It’ll be close, but I’ll go Under.

Washington Nationals: 92.5
The Nationals are the best team in the division with SPs Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg on the mound and OF Bryce Harper providing power in the middle of the lineup. They won 97 games last season so I think they could be around 95 this season. Over.

AL East

Baltimore Orioles: 73
It won’t be an easy road for the Orioles, who have to face the Yankees and Red Sox nearly 40 times this season. I expect them to win around 70 games, so I’ll go Under.

Boston Red Sox: 91.5
Adding J.D. Martinez this weekend will provide the Red Sox with much-needed power, which should help them stay above 90 wins this season after winning 93 in 2017. I’ll go Over.

New York Yankees: 94.5
Adding OF Giancarlo Stanton to a team that already includes OF Aaron Judge gives the Yankees a duo that could hit 100 home runs between them. Stanton’s health is a concern, though, as last season was us the second time in his career he’s played at least 150 games. I don’t think he’ll get there this year, so I’m going to go slightly Under.

Tampa Bay Rays: 77.5
The Rays won 80 games last year and I think they’ll do worse than that this season. I think who they trade — or don’t — at the deadline could be key to how well they do this season, but I think SP Chris Archer will be dealt. If he is, I think they end up Under 77.5 wins.

Toronto Blue Jays: 81
The Blue Jays aren’t the worst team in the division, but I also don’t think they’re a .500 team. They won 76 games in 2017 and I don’t think they’re five games better this season, so this is a relatively easy Under for me.

NL Central

Chicago Cubs: 94.5
NInety-five wins is a lot for a Cubs team that lost Arrieta and replaced him with SP Yu Darvish, who I think is past his prime and will ultimately be a disappointment with his new team. Overall, I think the starting rotation is worse than last year, so I don’t think the Cubs get to 95 wins. They could get to 90, but that would still be Under.

Cincinnati Reds: 73.5
I think the Reds will be hard-pressed to get to 70 wins after winning 68 a year ago. Other than 1B Joey Votto, they don’t have many stars on the team. It’s going to be Under for them.

Milwaukee Brewers: 84.5
The Brewers were one of the most-improved teams this offseason, trading for or signing OFs Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain. They won 86 games last season and I don’t think they’ll win fewer than that this year, so this is Over.

Pittsburgh Pirates: 73
The Pirates traded SP Gerrit Cole and OF Andrew McCutchen this winter and got mainly prospects back in return, which doesn’t bode well for their results this season. I’m not sure they get to 70 wins this season, let alone 73 so I’m going Under.

St. Louis Cardinals: 85.5
Like the Brewers, the Cardinals improved their team this offseason, adding OF Marcell Ozuna, who should hit more than 30 home runs again this season to provide more pop for an offense that already includes SS Paul DeJong, who had 25 home runs last year. I’m going Over for the Cardinals.

AL Central

Chicago White Sox: 68
The White Sox don’t have much upside this season. I don’t think they’ll lose 100 games, but I think their loss total will be in the 90s, so their win total could be close to 68 but I’m going to go with what I think is the safer pick and go Under.

Cleveland Indians: 94.5
The Indians won 102 games last season, but I don’t think they break 100 again in 2018., They won more than 20 straight games last year, which I think helped inflate their win total. But they’re in a division with four teams that aren’t very good, so I think they can get up to 95 victories. Over.

Detroit Tigers: 68.5
The Tigers won 64 games last year, when they had SP Justin Verlander for most of the season. Without him on the roster in 2018, I don’t see how they beat that total. They could lose 100 games this year, so it’s Under.

Kansas City Royals: 71.5
The Royals lost 1B Eric Hosmer and OF Lorenzo Cain in free agency this winter, which will hurt them at the plate and cause them to fall from their 80-win total a year ago, but 71 wins may be dropping them a little too far. I think they’ll finish with about 75 or so wins, so I’m going Over 71.5.

Minnesota Twins: 82.5
I think the Twins won more games last year than they should have given their talent. They’ll be starting this season with SP Ervin Santana on the DL and SS Jorge Polanco serving an 80-game PED suspension, so they won’t match last year’s 85 wins. But I think they can get 83 or 84 so it doesn’t give me much margin for error, but I’m taking the Over.

NL West

Arizona Diamondbacks: 85.5
The Diamondbacks have a good offense led by 1B Paul Goldschmidt and their pitching can be good if SP Zack Greinke and Robbie Ray continue to pitch well, like they did in 2017. I think the Diamondbacks go Over 85.5.

Colorado Rockies: 82
The Rockies won 87 games last season, but I think they’ll be worse than that this year. They’ll still be better than .500 and I think they could win 84 or 85 games, so I’ll go Over.

Los Angeles Dodgers: 96.5
The Dodgers will be without injured 3B Justin Turner to start the season, which will hurt them early on. They did trade for OF Matt Kemp, who could make up for some of Turner’s lost production. Other teams in the division got better this winter, so the Dodgers probably won’t lead the majors in wins like they did last season, with 104. They should stay above 90, though, and it’ll be close but I’m going Over 96.5. They could hit the 97-win mark.

San Diego Padres: 69.5
For the second straight winter, the Padres spent money to sign a free-agent bat, this time with Hosmer. He’ll help the offense put runs on the board, along with OF Wil Myers, who moves off of first base to make room for Hosmer defensively. The Padres had 71 wins last season, and I think they’ll have at least that many this year so I’m going Over 69.5.

San Francisco Giants: 81.5
The Giants improved their offense this season, trading for McCutchen and 3B Evan Longoria. Their starting rotation took a hit in spring training, though, with SPs Jeff Samardzija and Madison Bumgarner both suffering injuries that will keep them sidelined for a significant length of time. Those injuries will tamper expectations, but I still think they can surpass .500 this year, so I’ll go Over.

AL West

Houston Astros: 96.5
The Astros won 101 games last season and this year have Verlander or the entire season, in addition to Cole, who they acquired from the Pirates. With the offense they have — headlined by 2B Jose Altuve, SS Carlos Correa, 3B Alex Bregman and OF George Springer — and their pitching, the Astros should surpass 100 wins again this season. I’m going Over.

Los Angeles Angels: 84.5
The Angels made one of the biggest signings of the offseason with SP/DH Shohei Ohtani, but he has struggled this spring so he may not do as well as the Angels had hoped he would. I still think they can get to 85 wins behind the bat of OF Mike Trout,so I’ll go Over.

Oakland Athletics: 74.5
The A’s won 75 games last year and I think they may be a little better this season after acquiring OF Stephen PIscotty. I think they can barely get Over 74.5 wins.

Seattle Mariners: 81.5
I think the Mariners are around a .500 team. They won 78 games last year and I think they’ll end up within a couple games of that total this season, so I’m going to go Under 81.5, but it could be close.

Texas Rangers: 77.5
The Rangers are clearly the worst team in the division and I don’t think they’ll come close to the 78 wins they earned last season. I think this is an easy Under pick.

World Series - Houston Astros v Los Angeles Dodgers - Game Seven

Playoff Picks

National League

NL East Champs: Washington Nationals
NL Central Champs: Chicago Cubs
NL West Champs: Los Angeles Dodgers
NL Wild Cards: Milwaukee Brewers, St. Louis Cardinals

American League

AL East Champs: Boston Red Sox
AL Central Champs: Cleveland Indians
AL West Champs: Houston Astros
AL Wild Cards: New York Yankees, Los Angeles Angels

World Series: Astros over Brewers in 6 games

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4th Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: San Francisco Giants

Finishing up the NL West, the next team in our continuing series previewing all 30 MLB teams leading up to the start of the 2018 season is the San Francisco Giants, who finished in last place in the division last season

The Giants had a disappointing showing last season, going 64-98 a year after making the playoffs as an 87-win team. Looking to get back to their winning ways, the Giants added some veterans with playoff experience to  the team this offseason. At the plate, they traded for 3B Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen, giving up players like SS Christian Arroyo, OF Denard Span and P Kyle Crick in those two deals. They also signed free-agent RP Tony Watson and OF Austin Jackson. The newest additions to the squad join the likes of C Buster Posey, 1B Brandon Belt and SPs Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto as the Giants hope to make a push to return to the postseason in what should be a competitive NL West.

The Giants hit .249 last season, which was in the bottom 10 of Major League Baseball, and their 128 home runs were the fewest in the majors. Their .689 OPS was also the worst in the league. Posey’s .320 average led the team, but his 12 home runs were a career low; he had an .861 OPS. Belt led the team with 18 home runs, which tied his career high, but he hit just .241, which was well below his .268 career average. OF Hunter Pence hit .260 with 13 home runs, and 2B Joe Panik hit .288 with 10 homers while SS Brandon Crawford hit .253 with 14 home runs. McCutchen hit .279 with 28 home runs for the Pirates, but Longoria had a down year with the Rays, hitting .261 with 20 home ruhs, 16 fewer than in 2016.

The pitchers posted a 4.50 ERA,which was in the bottom half of the league, as were their 1,234 strikeouts. The bullpen recorded 32 saves, which was the fewest in the National League and tied for the third-worst in the majors. Bumgarner missed much of the season with injury, making only 17 starts. He did well when he pitched, though, putting up a 3.32 ERA with 101 strikeouts in 111 innings. Cueto posted a disappointing 4.52 ERA in 25 starts, with 136 strikeouts in 147.1 innings. SP Jeff Samardzija put up a 4.42 ERA with 205 strikeouts in 207.2 innings over 32 starts. RP Sam Dyson led the team with 14 saves in 38 games after being traded by the Rangers in June. RP Mark Melancon added 11 saves with a 4.50 ERA and 29 strikeouts in 30 innings over 32 appearances. With the Pirates and Dodgers, Watson posted a 3.38 ERA with 53 strikeouts in 66.2 innings, and he recorded 10 saves in 71 games.

McCutchen and Longoria should provide the Giants with much needed power at the plate, but Posey’s consistent downward trend in home runs over the past few seasons is troubling. He’s still hitting for average but isn’t as prolific of a power hitter. While the Giants helped improve the offense, they didn’t do the same with their pitching. The rotation is sure to be improved just with a full season from Bumgarner, but the rest of the starters have question marks. Cueto’s ERA went up  nearly two runs last season, and it would help the team if it could get his ERA back under 3.00. In the bullpen, the Giants have yet to name a closer and have several possible candidates to fill the role. I would expect Melancon to get the first shot at closing out games in the ninth.

The NL West could be one of the most competitive divisions in the majors this season, but I don’t think the Giants will be among the top teams in the division. Even though they got better this winter, the Dodgers are still the class of the division and the Rockies and Diamondbacks are both probably still better than the Giants, who don’t have enough pitching to make a serious run for a Wild Card. The Giants should avoid last place this season, but I don’t think they’ll do much better than that.

Be sure to check back every day around 12pm Eastern for another team preview, see them all here, and follow me on Twitter for a link to each new post when it’s posted.

Source: http://www.sfgiants.comhttp://www.baseball-reference.com

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4th Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: Arizona Diamondbacks

Up next in our preview of all 30 MLB teams leading up to the start of the 2018 season is the NL West, with the Arizona Diamondbacks, who came in second place last season, up first for the division

With a 93-69 record, the Diamondbacks made their first playoff appearance since 2011 last season but got swept by the Dodgers in the NLDS. There is still room for improvement on the team, so they made some acquisitions this winter. Their biggest addition was acquiring OF Steven Souza in a three-team trade in which they sent 3B Brandon Drury to the Yankees. They also signed OF Jarrod Dyson and C Alex Avila, adding them to an offense that includes 1B Paul Goldschmidt, OF A.J. Pollock and 3B Jake Lamb. The starting pitchers remain the same as last season, with Zack Greinke and Robbie Ray leading the rotation. A big loss this winter is OF J.D. Martinez, who they had for the second half of last season after trading for him in July.

The Diamondbacks hit .254 last season, which was just below the MLB average. They hit 220 home runs, which put them in the top half of the majors, and their .774 OPS was the seventh-highest in the league. Goidschmidt hit .297 with 36 home runs and 120 RBI with a .966 OPS. Lamb hit 30 home runs and 105 RBI with a .248 average. OFs David Peralta and Pollock each hit 14 homers, with Peralta hitting .293 and Pollock .266. Souza hit .239 with a career-best 30 homers with the Rays last season and Dyson stole 28 bases with the Mariners while hitting .251.

The pitchers posted a 3.66 ERA, which was the third-best in the majors, with 1,482 strikeouts, which ranked sixth in the league. The bullpen recorded 43 saves, which was tied for ninth in the majors. Ray made 28 starts, posting a 2.89 ERA with 218 strikeouts in 162 innings. Greinke put up a 3.20 ERA with 215 strikeouts in 202.1 innings over 32 starts on the way to a 17-7 record. SP Zack Godley posted a 3.37 ERA and struck out 165 batters in 155 innings, and SP Taijuan Walker posted a 3.49 ERA with 146 strikeouts in 157.1 innings over 28 starts. In his first season as a reliever, Archie Bradley put up an impressive 1.73 ERA and struck lout 79 batters in 73 innings over 63 appearances.

Martinez signing with the Red Sox hurts the Diamondbacks’ offense because he hit 29 home runs in just 62 games with the team. Souza could make up for some of that production, but I’m not convinced he’ll get to 30 home runs again — prior to last season, his career high was 17, so I think the low 20s is a reasonable estimate for him. Goldschmidt and Lamb should provide good offensive numbers once again at the corner infield positions. Greinke had a nice bounceback season in 2017 after a disappointing 2016. He’ll provide a solid option at the top of the rotation if he can repeat that this year. The bigger question is whether Ray’s 2.89 ERA is repeatable. That was more than a run lower than his career average. With Fernando Rodney having left the team in free agency, Bradley appears to be the front-runner to land the closer job. He’s never closed before, so it remains to be seen if he can repeat last season’s performance pitching in the ninth inning.

The Diamondbacks finished in second place to the Dodgers last season and, although their team is comparable to last year’s squad, the Giants should be better this season, which will provide more competition in the division. ‘That means the Diamondbacks’ 93 win-total from last year may drop a few into the 80s, which should still be enough to compete for a Wild Card in the National League.

Be sure to check back every day around 12pm Eastern for another team preview, see them all here, and follow me on Twitter for a link to each new post when it’s posted.

Source: http://www.dbacks.comhttp://www.baseball-reference.com

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4th Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: Minnesota Twins

The final AL Central team we preview in our monthlong series looking at all 30 MLB teams leading up to the start of the 2018 season is the Minnesota Twins, who came in second place in the division last season.

The Twins were a surprising team last year, winning 85 games and getting an American League Wild Card after losing 103 games in 2016. And they made a number of moves this winter to improve the team, including most recently signing SP Lance Lynn. Earlier in the offseason, they traded for SP Jake Odorizzi and signed DH Logan Morrison and RPs Addison Reed and Fernando Rodney. They also signed SP Michael PIneda to a two-year deal, but that is a signing geared toward 2019 as he will miss most — if not all — of this season as he recovers from the Tommy John surgery he had in July. 1B Joe Mauer returns as the veteran leader in his 15th season with the team.

The Twins hit .260 last season, which placed them in the top 10 in Major League Baseball, but their 206 home runs were middle-of-the-pack, and their .768 OPS was in the top half of the league. 2B Brian Dozier hit .271 with 34 home runs and an .856 OPS. 3B Miguel Sano hit .264 with 28 home runs in 114 games, and OF Eddie Rosario added 27 homers with a .290 average. OF Byron Buxton hit 16 home runs and stole 29 bases. Mauer hit .305 with 7 home runs. OF Max Kepler had 19 long balls. Morrison hit a career-best 38 home runs with the Rays, with a .246 average.

On the mound, the Twins’ 4.59 ERA put them in the bottom half of the league and their 1,166 strikeouts were the second-fewest in the majors. The bullpen recorded 42 games, which was above the league average. SP Ervin Santana posted a 3.28 ERA with 167 strikeouts in 211.1 innings over 33 starts last season. SP Jose Berrios posted a 3.89 ERA in 26 games — 25 starts — and struck out 139 in 145.2 innings, and SP Kyle Gibson struggled with a 5.07 ERA and 121 strikeouts in 158 innings over 29 starts. Odorizzi put up a 4.14 ERA in 28 starts with the Rays; he had 127 strikeouts in 143.1 innings. Lynn posted a respectable 3.43 ERA with the Cardinals, striking out 153 batters in 186.1 innings over 33 starts. Rodney recorded 39 saves with the Diamondbacks last season and put up a 4.23 ERA while striking out 65 in 55.1 innings, and Reed posted a 2.84 ERA with 19 saves for the Mets and Red Sox; he also had 76 strikeouts in 76 innings.

The Twins’ hitting was fine last season, and adding Morrison will provide a boost if he can even come close to the power he showed last season. it’s a largely young offense, which offers room for improvement if they can take their games to the next level. Signing Lynn and trading for Odorizzi provides needed depth in the rotation with Satana sidelined for up to 12 weeks with a finger injury, potentially leaving him out of action until May. Rodney is expected to begin the season as closer, but Reed could step into the ninth-inning role if Rodney struggles.

The Twins added to the team, trying to fill some holes they had last season, but the additions probably aren’t enough for the Twins to overtake the Indians as the best team in the division. They’ll certainly compete again for one of the Wild Cards in the AL, and I think they’ll get it, but if they do I’m not sure they’re good enough for a deep postseason run.

Be sure to check back every day around 12pm Eastern for another team preview, see them all here, and follow me on Twitter for a link to each new post when it’s posted.

Source: http://www.mntwins.comhttp://www.baseball-reference.com

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4th Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: Kansas City Royals

The next AL Central team in our monthlong series previewing all 30 MLB teams leading up to the start of the 2018 season is the Kansas City Royals, who came in third place in the division last season.

Since winning the World Series in 2015, the Royals have won 80 and 81 games, respectively, the last two seasons. They’re looking to get back to where they were in that championship year, and perhaps the move they made this winter that will best help them achieve that goal was re-signing 3B Mike Moustakas, who didn’t have the free-agent market that he expected. They also signed OF Jon Jay and 1B Lucas Duda. They traded for SP Jesse Hahn but subsequently placed him on the 60-day DL with a UCL strain, which could lead to Tommy John surgery. Also unavailable for a while will be OF Jorge Bonifacio, who has been suspended 80 games for testing positive for a PED. They lost longtime 1B Eric Hosmer and OF Lorenzo Cain in free agency.

The Royals were in the top half of Major League Baseball with a .259 average last season while their 193 home runs were below the league average; their .731 OPS placed them in the bottom 10 in the league. Moustakas hit a career-high 38 home runs and 85 RBI last season with a .272 average and .835 OPS. 2B Whit Merrifield had an unexpectedly productive year, hitting 19 home runs and stealing 34 bases with a .288 average. OF Alex Gordon had one of the worst seasons of his career, hitting .208 with 9 home runs, and C Salvador Perez added 27 homers with a .268 average in 129 games. Bonifacio hit .255 with 17 home runs in 113 games. Jay hit .296 with the Cubs and Duda hit 30 home runs with the Mets and Rays but hit just .217.

The pitchers posted a 4.61 ERA,which was in the bottom half of the league, as were their 1,216 strikeouts. The bullpen’s 39 saves matched the league average. SP Danny Duffy was the best in the rotation with a 3.81 ERA and 130 strikeouts over 146.1 innings over 24 starts. SP Ian Kennedy posted a 5.38 ERA with 131 strikeouts in 154 innings, and SP Jason Hammel had a 5.29 ERA in 32 starts with 145 strikeouts in 180.1 innings. Hahn posted a 5.30 ERA with 55 strikeouts in 69.2 innings with the A’s. RP Kelvin Herrera recorded 26 saves in 64 appearances, posting a 4.25 ERA with 56 saves in 59.1 innings.

Re-signing Moustakas is a big move for the Royals because losing him would have put a big hole in the middle of their lineup, especially with Hosmer also gone. The 38 home runs that he hit last season, however, were 16 more than he ever had in a season before so you would expect a drop in his power numbers. Gordon, on the other hand, had such a bad season by his standards that he should be able to bounce back this year. With Bonifacio now out for half of the year, OF Jorge Soler, who hit .144 last year, needs to step up and make up for some of that lost offense. The pitching staff lacks a true No. 1 starter, with Duffy currently pegged for that role, and will have a hard time keeping the team in games. Hahn will miss the first two months of the season, but it could be significantly longer than that. But SP Nathan Karns, who had an injury-shortened season last year could be healthy for the start of the season, or close to it, as he has been pitching in spring training.

In a tough division with two teams that made the playoffs last season, including the 102-win Indians, it’ll be tough for the Royals to find much traction in the AL Central this season. I think they may actually fall back to fourth place this year after the White Sox got better this winter. It’s looking like another season without a postseason appearance for the Royals.

Be sure to check back every day around 12pm Eastern for another team preview, see them all here, and follow me on Twitter for a link to each new post when it’s posted.

Source: http://www.royals.comhttp://www.baseball-reference.com

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4th Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: Pittsburgh Pirates

Our look at the NL Central teams, part of our continuing series previewing all 30 MLB teams leading up to the start of the 2018 season, continues with the Pittsburgh Pirates, who finished in fourth place in the division last season.

The Pirates’ notable transactions this offseason involved trades, two of which sent a couple of the team’s best players to other teams. They sent SP Gerrit Cole to the Astros in exchange for four players, including 3B Colin Moran and Ps Joe Musgrove and Michael Feliz. Two days later, the Pirates sent OF Andrew McCutchen to the Giants for a couple of minor leaguers. Last month, the Pirates traded for OF Corey Dickerson after the Rays designated him for assignment. With McCutchen and Cole gone, it’ll put more pressure on players like OFs Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco and SPs Ivan Nova and Jameson Taillon to perform to keep the team afloat.

Last year’s team hit .244, which was tied for the fourth lowest in Major League Baseball. The Pirates hit 151 home runs, which was next-to-last in the majors, and their .704 OPS was third-worst. 1B Josh Bell hit .255 with 26 home runs and an .800 OPS. Polanco hit .251 with 11 home runs 108 games, and Marte hit .275 with 7 home runs and 21 steals in 77 games as he missed 80 games while serving a suspension for PEDs. 2B Josh Harrison hit 16 homers in 128 games with a .272 average, and SS Jordy Mercer added 14 long balls. Dickerson hit .282 with the Rays last season and hit a career-best 27 home runs, while Moran hit .364 in just 7 games with Houston.

The pitching was better, but not by much, with the staff posting a 4.22 ERA, which was slightly better than the league average. The pitchers’ 1,262 strikeouts landed in the bottom half of the majors, as did the 36 saves out of the bullpen. Nova posted a 4.14 ERA last season with 131 strikeouts in 187 innings over 31 starts. Taillon started 25 games, putting up a 4.44 ERA with 125 strikeouts in 133.2 innings. SP Chad Kuhl posted a 4.35 ERA with 142 innings over 157.1 innings, and SP Trevor Williams posted a 4.07 ERA with 117 strikeouts in 150.1 innings. With the Astros, Musgrove split his time between the rotation and bullpen, posting a 4.77 ERA with 98 strikeouts in 109.1 innings over 38 games, including 15 starts. RP Felipe Rivero recorded 21 of the team’s saves last season, with a 1.67 ERA and 88 strikeouts in 75.1 innings in 73 games.

With the moves the Pirates made this winter, they are overall a worse team entering 2018 than they were in 2017. They should get some much-needed power from Dickerson and, presumably, a full season out of Marte, but trading McCutchen takes away nearly 30 home runs from last season. Moran is a promising prospect but has just 34 major-league at-bats on his resume, so it may take some time for him to reach his potential against big-league pitching. The pitching staff has some intriguing young pitchers, especially Taillon, who could have good careers ahead of them but may not reach their prime this season. And Nova has been inconsistent throughout his career and can’t be counted on to fill a role near the top of the rotation, as he will be doing for the Pirates.

The Pirates were a 75-win team last year, and I think they’ll do worse than that this season. Not only did they get worse, but the Brewers and Cardinals got better, and the Cubs are still the best team in the division. The PIrates will finish in fourth place in the division — at best — and could end up in last place, depending on how the Reds do. The Pirates are likely at least a couple years away from being serious contenders for the postseason.

Let me know your thoughts by commenting below. And be sure to subscribe, check back every day around 12pm Eastern for another team preview, see them all here, and follow me on Twitter for a link to each new post when it’s posted.

Source: http://www.pirates.comhttp://www.baseball-reference.com

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