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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: Los Angeles Angels

The next AL West team in our continuing previews all 30 MLB teams leading up to the start of the 2018 season, is the Los Angeles Angels, who finished in second place in the division last season

The Angels signed one of the most-hyped players on the market this offseason, inking Japanese sensation Shohei Ohtani — who is known as the “Japanese Babe Ruth” because he can pitch and hit — to a six-year contract. They also signed 3B Zack Cozart and OF Chris Young, and they traded for 2B Ian Kinsler and RP Jim Johnson. And they still have one of the best players in Major League Baseball in OF Mike Trout and veteran DH Albert Pujols as staples of the middle of the lineup. They’re looking to get back to the postseason for the first time since 2014,

The Angels’ .243 average last season was the third-lowest in MLB, and they had the sixth-fewest home runs with 186; their .712 OPS was in the bottom five in the majors. Despite those numbers, Trout put up the type of numbers we’ve come to expect of him. He hit .306 with 33 home runs and a 1.071 OPS; he also stole 22 bases and had a 6.7 WAR. Pujols hit .241 with 23 home runs and a team-high 101 RBI. OF Kole Calhoun hit .244 with 19 homers, and SS Andrelton Simmons added 14 home runs and 19 steals with a .278 average. Kinsler had 22 homers with the Tigers, while Cozart hit .297 with 24 home runs with the Reds. With the Nippon Ham Fighters, Ohtani hit .332 with 8 home runs and a .942 OPS in 65 games.

The pitching staff posted a 4.20 ERA, which ranked in the top half of the league, and was below the league average with 1,312 strikeouts. In the bullpen, the Angels were in the top half of the majors with 43 saves. SP Garrett Richards missed most of last season with an arm injury, but pitched well the few times he took the mound. In six starts,he posted a 2.28 ERA with 27 strikeouts in 27.2 innings. SP Parker Bridwell posted a 3.64 ERA with 73 strikeouts in 121 innings, and SP Matt Shoemaker put up a 4.52 ERA and struck out 69 batters in 77.2 innings over 14 starts. SP Tyler Skaggs made 16 starts, with a 4.55 ERA and 76 strikeouts in 85 innings. RP Blake Parker recorded 8 saves while putting up a 2.54 ERA with 86 strikeouts in 67.1 innings over 71 appearances. With the Braves, Johnson recorded 22 saves but had a disappointing 5.56 ERA with 61 strikeouts in 56.2 innings in 61 games. On the mound, Ohtani recorded a 3.20 ERA with 29 strikeouts in 25.1 innings, and he has a 2.69 career ERA in five seasons in the Japan Pacific League.

The Angels beefed up their offense this winter to give Trout some help. Cozart, in particular, should provide him some support in the middle of the lineup, and if Pujols can stay healthy the veteran can still provide some pop, with around 20 home runs. How the pitching does will largely depend on how healthy the starters are, as many of them dealt with injuries at some point last season that limited the number of starts they made. And the biggest X factor on the team is, of course, Ohtani. He was expected to be a big part of the team from Opening Day, but he has a 27.00 ERA in two spring training starts and is 3-for-28 (.107) with 1 RBI, 3 walks and 9 strikeouts at the plate. With those numbers, there has been speculation that he could open the season in the minors, but it appears he will start 2018 in the majors. If he continues to struggle early in the season, though, he could get sent down. That would put a damper on the team’s expectations for the season and potentially push back by a season the plan they had when they signed the Japanese star.

The Angels finished as runners-up to the Astros in the division last season, and that’s probably the best they can hope for this year. In a competitive American League, I’m not sure they have enough talent — especially with their pitching staff — to land a Wild Card. If they don’t get the type of performance they’re expecting from Ohtani, the Mariners could even pass them in the West. The Angels are on the right track, but they’re likely not yet to the point where they’re a playoff team.

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.angels.comhttp://www.baseball-reference.com

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4th Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: Detroit Tigers

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 Detroit Tigers, who finished in last place in the division last season.

At 64-98, the Tigers are coming off their worst season since 2003 and for the first time since 2004, they’ll play an entire season without ace SP Justin Verlander, who they traded to the Astros in August. And with the three players they got in return not major league-ready yet, the Tigers are probably looking at a few more seasons before they’re competitive again. Their notable signings this offseason were OF Leonys Martin, SP Mike Fiers and P Francisco Liriano. On the other side of the spectrum, they traded 2B Ian Kinsler to the Angels in exchange for a couple of minor leaguers. Among the notable returning players are 1B Miguel Cabrera, SS Jose Iglesias, OF Nicholas Castellanos and SPs Michael Fulmer and Jordan Zimmermann.

The Tigers hit .258 last season, which put them in the top half of Major League Baseball, but their 187 home runs were in the bottom half of the league and their .748 OPS was near the middle of the pack. Castellanos was among the team’s best hitters with a .272 average, 26 home runs, 101 RBI and an .811 OPS. Cabrera had one of the worst seasons of his career, hitting .249 with 16 home runs in 130 games, and DH Victor Martinez also continued his downward trend with a .255 average and just 10 homers in 107 games. Iglesias hit .255 with 6 home runs in 130 games, and C James McCann added 13 home runs on a .253 average. OF Mikie Mahtook hit .276 with 12 dingers. With the Cubs and Mariners last season, Martin hit a paltry .172 with 3 home runs in just 49 games.

The pitchers posted a MLB-worst 5.36 ERA — and that was with having Verlander for all but the last month of the season — and were tied for the fourth-fewest strikeouts with 1,202. Unsurprisingly, with just 64 wins, the team’s 32 saves were tied for the third-fewest in the league. In 25 starts, Fulmer posted a 3.83 ERA with 114 strikeouts in 164.2 innings — and what worse for the rest of the rotation. Zimmermann posted a 6.08 ERA in 29 starts in which he struck out 103 batters in 160 innings. SP Matt Boyd posted a 5.27 ERA with 110 strikeouts in 135 innings. With the Astros, Fiers put up a 5.22 ERA in 29 games, including 28 starts, while striking out 146 batters in 153.1 innings. RP Shane Greene — who took over the closer’s job in August after the team traded RP Justin Wilson — ended up with 9 saves and a 2.66 ERA with 73 strikeouts in 67.2 innings over 71 games.

The trades the Tigers have made since July have been an indication that they are in the midst of a rebuilding process so fans shouldn’t expect much of an improvement over last year. This season should give them an idea of what their future offense may look like with young players like 2B Dixon Machado and 3B Jeimer Candelario expected to make the major-league roster out of spring training and get the starting jobs at their positions. The rotation, on the other hand, is made up of largely mediocre veterans without much upside at this point in their careers, with the exception of Fulmer and, to a lesser extent, Boyd, but they need to take their games to the next level if they want to help get the team out of the basement in the AL Central.

With the Indians and the Twins the best squads in the division, and the White Sox expected to be better this season, it won’t be easy for the Tigers to get many more than 64 wins they earned last season, so they’re likely going to experience their third last-place finish in the last four seasons, but there could be some promising signs for the team if the youngsters show some promising signs.

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.tigers.comhttp://www.baseball-reference.com

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4th Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: Chicago White Sox

The AL Central teams are up next in our monthlong series previewing all 30 MLB teams leading up to the start of the 2018 season, with the Chicago White Sox, who came in fourth place in the division last season, up first.

The White Sox are going to rely on young players to get them out of the rut they’re in — they’re coming off of five straight losing seasons and haven’t made the playoffs since 2008. Despite such a streak, they just made a couple of minor moves this offseason, adding RP Joakim Soria in a three-team trade and signing C Welington Castillo to help guide a young rotation. They also signed free-agent P Miguel Gonzalez, who played for the Sox in 2016 and 2017 before they traded him to the Rangers late last season. 1B Jose Abreu is the centerpiece of their offense, and young SPs Lucas Giolito and Carson Fulmer are looking to prove themselves in what could be, depending on their performance, their first full seasons in Major League Baseball.

The White Sox finished in the top half of the majors last season with a .256 average, but they were near the bottom of the league with 186 home runs and a .731 OPS. Abreu hit .304 with 33 home runs, 102 RBI and a .906 OPS last season. OF Avisail Garcia had a career year, hitting .330 with 18 home runs and an .885 OPS in 136 games, while 3B Matt Davidson hit 26 homers in 118 games in his rookie season, but his average was just .220. OF Nick Delmonico hit .262 with 9 home runs in 43 games, and much-hyped Cuban prospect 2B Yoan Moncada disappointed with a .231 average and 8 home runs in 54 games. With the Orioles, Castillo hit .282 with 20 home runs in 96 games.

The pitchers posted a 4.78 ERA, which was the sixth-worst in the majors, with their 1,193 ranking as the third-fewest in the majors. The bullpen ranked last in MLB with just 25 saves. SP James Shields, who is the projected No. 1 starter for the White Sox this year, pitched 21 games last season with a 5.23 ERA and 103 strikeouts in 117 innings. In 22 starts with the White Sox, Gonzalez posted a 4.31 ERA with 85 strikeouts in 133.2 innings. Giolito showed some promising signs, posting a 2.38 ERA with 34 strikeouts in 45.1 innings over seven starts. Things weren’t so bright for Fulmer, who appeared in seven games — five starts — and put up a 3.86 ERA while striking out 17 batters in 23.1 innings. SP Reynaldo Lopez posted a 4.72 ERA in eight games. Soria posted a 3.70 ERA in 59 appearances with the Royals last season; he struck out 64 batters in 56 innings.

The young players are going to have to step up their game if the White Sox want to improve upon their 67-win season of last year. Moncada, in particular, needs to take his game to the next level. He was part of the package the White Sox got when they traded ace Chris Sale to the Red Sox in December 2016, and hitting .231 like he did last year won’t give the White Sox the production they expected when they acquired him. Castillo gives the offense a boost, but it won’t be enough if enough of his teammates struggle at the plate. P Michael Kopech, who was also part of the haul the team got for Sale, will start the season at Triple-A but may see time in the majors at some point in 2018 if his performance warrants the call-up. SP Carlos Rodon, who underwent shoulder surgery in September, may be able to rejoin the team as soon as June.

With their roster, it’s going to be another bad season for the White Sox. They haven’t finished higher than fourth place in the division since 2012, and that streak should continue this season. They’ll probably be competing with the Tigers to avoid finishing in last place because they should be significantly worse than the other three teams in the division.

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.whitesox.comhttp://www.baseball-reference.com

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4th Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: Boston Red Sox

Our previews of the AL East teams, part of our look at all 30 MLB teams leading up to the start of the 2018 season, continue with the Boston Red Sox, who won the division last season.

It took until February, but the Red Sox finally signed the free agent they had been after all winter — signing DH J.D. Martinez to a five-year deal at the start of spring training. He was the big acquisition for the team coming off of two straight AL East titles, who also re-signed a couple of their free agents with 1B Mitch Moreland and 3B Eduardo Nunez, who they acquired from the Giants at last year’s trade deadline. The core of the team remains intact heading into the season, though veteran 2B Dustin Pedroia won’t be ready for Opening Day and could miss the first few weeks of the season as he continues to recover from October knee surgery. American League Cy Young runner-up Chris Sale looks to repeat the strong performance he had last year in his first season with the team as he enters the last guaranteed year of his contract.

Considering they won 93 games last season, the Red Sox had a disappointing offense. They ranked in top half of Major League Baseball with a .258 average, but their 168 home runs were the fewest in the American League and fourth-fewest in the majors. Their .736 OPS ranked in the bottom 10 in the majors. OF Mookie Betts led the team with 24 home runs and 102 RBI while hitting .264 with a .803 OPS. He also stole 26 bases. DH Hanley Ramirez hit .242 with 23 home runs, and Moreland added 22 homers with a .246 average. Rookie OF Andrew Benintendi had a 20-20 season with 20 home runs and 20 steals, while fellow rookie 3B Rafael Devers hit .284 with 10 home runs in 58 games. OF Jackie Bradley Jr. hit .245 with 17 homers. In 119 games with the Tigers and Diamondbacks last season, Martinez hit .303 with a career-high 45 home runs and a 1.066 OPS, both of which ranked third in the majors.

Pitching was what helped the Red Sox win the division last season, with the staff’s 3.70 ERA ranking fourth in the majors. They were third with 1,580 strikeouts, and their 39 saves matched the league average. Sale had a MLB-best and career high 308 strikeouts on the season with a 2.90 ERA over 214.1 innings in 32 starts. That performance helped him reach a 17-8 record. SP Rick Porcello, who won the 2016 Cy Young Award in the AL, regressed last season, posting a 4.65 ERA with 181 strikeouts in 203.1 innings over 33 starts. SP Drew Pomeranz had a 3.32 ERA and a 17-6 record in 32 starts, striking out 174 batters in 173.2 innings. SP David Price was limited to just 16 games — 11 starts — in 2017, but pitched pretty well with a 3.38 ERA and 76 strikeouts in 74.2 innings. Veteran closer Craig Kimbrel recorded 35 saves in 67 appearances, with a 5-0 record. He had an impressive 126 strikeouts in 69 innings and posted a 1.43 ERA.

Pitching isn’t much of a question for the Red Sox, especially if they can get close to a full year out of Price and Porcello can bounce back and have a decent year. The offense was an issue last year — especially the lack of power — but they went a long way to correcting that by signing Martinez. Based on last year’s numbers, he could hit 50 homers if he plays a full season in 2018. He will be the full-time DH, with some spot starts in the outfield, which will likely push Ramirez into a platoon split with Moreland at first base. With Pedroia out for what could be an extended period at the start of the season, that;ll give guys like Nunez and utilityman Brock Holt a chance to get at-bats early on and, if they do well, perhaps grab some more playing time later in the year. C Christian Vazquez provides some bonus offense as a decent hitter at a position that usually lacks offense.

The Red Sox won 93 games and the division last season and improved the team heading into 2018 by signing Martinez to fill a hole in the middle of the order. That bodes well for them, but the Yankees, who finished two games back in the East last season, added an even bigger piece to their team with the acquisition of OF Giancarlo Stanton, which brings them that much closer to catching the Red Sox — if not surpassing them. Barring injuries, those two teams should be battling all season long for first place in the division, with the other three teams in the division essentially also-rans this season and not expected to compete for the title. I’m not sure the Red Sox will be able to hold off the Yankees again this year, but they should surpass 90 wins again and at least get a Wild Card.

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.redsox.comhttp://www.baseball-reference.com

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MLB Hot Stove: Marlins fire sale continues, Angels keep building around Trout

The MLB Winter Meetings are now over and while some coveted free agents — including Yu Darvish, J.D. Martinez, Eric Hosmer, Wade Davis and Jake Arrieta — are still on the market, there have been some transactions of note made since our last hot stove report, including the Marlins continuing to trim payroll and the Angels adding to the team beyond the signing of Shohei Otani.

As far as the Marlins are concerned, after trading 2B Dee Gordon and OF Giancarlo Stanton, they shipped OF Marcell Ozuna out of town, sending him to the Cardinals in exchange for four minor leaguers, including OF Magneuris Sierra and P Sandy Alcantara. Ozuna had a career year last season, hitting .312 with 37 home runs 124 RBI on the way to being named to his second straight National League all-star team. He’ll be joining an outfield in St. Louis that includes Tommy Pham and Dexter Fowler. The Cardinals also traded OF Stephen Piscotty to the A’s for a couple minor leaguers and added RP Luke Gregerson to provide late-inning work out of the bullpen, and potentially compete for the closer role.

The Angels made the first big splash of the winter when they signed Ohtani, known as the Japanese Babe Ruth for his ability to both pitch and hit, but that didn’t stop them from acquiring other players. They made a trade with the Tigers to get 2B Ian Kinsler for a couple minor league players and they signed SS Zack Cozart, who hit a career-high 24 home runs in 2017, to a three-year deal. The Angels, who finished five games out of a playoff berth in October, appear to be going all-in in an attempt to make a World Series run while they still have OF Mike Trout, who will be a free agent after the 2020 season. It won’t be easy, though, being in the same division as the defending World Series champion Astros.

The Cubs have been focused on adding to their pitching staff this offseason. After having already signed Tyler Chatwood, this week they added SP Drew Smyly and RPs Brandon Morrow and Steve Cishek to their team. The addition to their rotation and bullpen are likely in anticipation of losing Arrieta and Davis in free agency.

A day after finalizing their trade for Stanton, the Yankees shed some salary by sending 3B Chase Headley, along with RP Bryan Mitchell, to the Padres — with whom Headley played the first several seasons of his career before being traded to the Bronx — in exchange for OF Jabari Blash. And, although it’s not official yet, the Yankees are reportedly going to re-sign SP CC Sabathia on a one-year, $10 million contract.

In addition to getting Headley, the Padres traded for Phillies SS Freddy Galvis and are rumored to be pursuing Hosmer as they continue to remake their infield as they look to improve upon their 71-91 record from last season.

There were a couple more notable trades made in the last couple of days, both involving other NL West teams. The Giants traded veteran SP Matt Moore to the Rangers, who lost out on the Ohtani sweepstakes, for a couple of minor leaguers. And the Dodgers — who came a game short of winning the World Series — made a salary dump, sending 1B Adrian Gonzalez, SS Charlie Culberson, and Ps Scott Kazmir and Brandon McCarthy to the Braves in exchange for OF Matt Kemp, who played for the Dodgers from 2006-2014. The Braves have already designated Gonzalez for assignment.

Among other signings that have taken place over the last week, the Twins signed SP Michael Pineda and RP Fernando Rodney, who will likely serve as the team’s closer when the season begins; the Rockies re-signed RP Jake McGee and added RP Bryan Shaw to their bullpen; the Phillies reached an agreement with RP Pat Neshek; and the Astros added to their bullpen, inking RPs Joe Smith and Hector Rondon.

There were rumors during the Winter Meetings that the Orioles might trade 3B Manny Machado, who will be a free agent following the 2018 season. While they didn’t reach a deal to move him, that’s something to keep an eye on in the coming days and weeks as the team continues to consider its options, knowing that they will likely lose him to free agency in a year if he isn’t traded now. The Yankees are reportedly interested in acquiring Machado, but the Orioles probably aren’t interested in trading him within the division, especially to the team that just acquired the reigning NL MVP. They’re likely not going to make the playoffs in 2018, though, so they should probably trade Machado this offseason to get something for their best player.

The next couple of weeks of the hot stove could be quiet as team executives and the players’ agents take some time off, but then the activity should pick up again in January as guys like Martinez and Darvish start to sign deals. Other lesser-but-notable names still available include pitchers Greg Holland, Alex Cobb, Jaime Garcia and position players Mike Moustakas, Jay Bruce and Lorenzo Cain.

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