20/20 Vision: American League East Edition

With my first installment of 20/20 Vision published, I’ll switch over to the American League East for the second edition.  The A.L. East figures to remain pretty competitive in the future, thanks to four deep farm systems.  With that being said, I expect one team to become a cellar-dweller by 2020.  Without further ado, here are my predictions for the five American League East teams in 2020.

Baltimore Orioles: 68-94

  1. Austin Hays, RF
  2. Ryan Mountcastle, 2B
  3. Trey Mancini, LF
  4. Chris Davis, 1B
  5. Christian Walker, DH
  6. Chance Sisco, C
  7. Brad Miller, SS
  8. Jomar Reyes, 3B
  9. Cedric Mullins, CF

Starting Five: Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman, Tanner Scott, Cody Sedlock, Keegan Akin

The Orioles suffer from a largely inadequate farm system, although it has taken some big steps forward over the past year.  Ryan Mountcastle has broken out in 2017, en route to 15 homer season thus far.  Austin Hays has also been bringing the power between High-A Frederick and Double-A Bowie, hitting over 20 homers and batting .331 over 98 games.  Chance Sisco has the tools to be the catcher of the future for the O’s, and Christian Walker and Cedric Mullins could become productive players in hitter-friendly Camden Yards.

On the pitching side, Baltimore will retain Bundy and Gausman through 2020, placing them at the front of the rotation.  Tanner Scott has been very effective in his first full season as a starting pitcher, posting a 1.83 ERA in 20 starts at Double-A Bowie.  Cody Sedlock and Keegan Akin don’t have Scott’s upside, but they are safe bets to become back of the rotation starters.

Obviously, I don’t have Manny Machado penciled in at third base, meaning the Orioles will have to turn elsewhere for offensive.  Trey Mancini looks like he could have major staying power as a prolific hitter based on his remarkable 2017 season.  Chris Davis should still be able to bang out 30 home runs in 2020, and signing future free agent Brad Miller could add another solid, veteran bat to a young Orioles lineup.

Boston Red Sox: 90-72

  1. Mookie Betts, RF
  2. Andrew Benintendi, LF
  3. Rafael Devers, 3B
  4. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
  5. Yasmani Grandal, C
  6. Jackie Bradley Jr., CF
  7. Sam Travis, 1B
  8. Josh Ockimey, DH
  9. C.J. Chatham, SS

Starting Five: Chris Sale, Cole Hamels, David Price, Mike Shawaryn, Brian Johnson

The Sox’ starting nine almost exclusively features homegrown players, with the exception of Yasmani Grandal.  It’s been over a decade since the Red Sox last had a formidable presence behind the dish, and Grandal can be their answer at catcher for years to come.  Sam Travis will work his way into a full-time role at first base.  I expect Rafael Devers to emerge as one of the best hitters in the game, putting up numbers similar to current third basemen Adrian Beltre and Joey Votto.  Josh Ockimey and C.J. Chatham should both receive their respective call-ups if they aren’t traded.

The Red Sox will do whatever it takes to keep Chris Sale in Boston for the long haul.  His dominance since calling Fenway Park home should lead to a lengthy tenure in Boston.  David Price’s contract will look like a major albatross at this point, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be an average pitcher.  Along with Sale and Price is southpaw Cole Hamels, who could be traded from Texas to Boston.  With the Rangers falling flat this year, they could look to keep juicing up their farm system, while the Red Sox can use another dependable starter.  Michael Chavis, who is in the midst of a monster season, and Tanner Houck should be enough to bring Hamels to Boston.

New York Yankees: 97-65

  1. Gleyber Torres, SS
  2. Clint Frazier, LF
  3. Aaron Judge, RF
  4. Manny Machado, 3B
  5. Gary Sanchez, C
  6. Justin Smoak, 1B
  7. Starlin Castro, 2B
  8. John Jaso, DH
  9. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF

Starting Five: Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, Justus Sheffield, Domingo Acevedo, Jordan Montgomery

Between a loaded prospect pipeline and a talented big league roster, the New York Yankees are positioned to dominate for the next decade.  Aaron Judge, Clint Frazier, and Gary Sanchez can all provide plenty of offense, and second baseman Starlin Castro has quietly returned to his All-Star form from his Chicago Cubs days.  Based on my doubts regarding Greg Bird, I expect the Yankees to sign a first baseman in the coming years, and Justin Smoak would be a great fit.  Smoak has figured things out at age 30, blasting 30 bombs for the Blue Jays so far in 2017.  Manny Machado could also be destined for the Bronx once he becomes a free agent after 2018, which would slide Gleyber Torres over to shortstop.  Torres, one of the top overall prospects in the minors, was headed for a call-up in 2017 before he tore his Ulnar Collateral Ligament in his non-throwing arm.

Along with Torres, pitching prospects Justus Sheffield and Domingo Acevedo should join the Yankees in the next year or two.  Sheffield accompanied Frazier in the Andrew Miller trade last summer.  The former first round pick has put together a pretty impressive season at Double-A Trenton, posting an ERA just over 3.00.  Acevedo is a few years Sheffield’s senior, and he’s bounced around between different levels this year.  He spent most of his time in Trenton though, displaying excellent command and strikeout potential over eleven starts.

Tampa Bay Rays: 83-79

  1. Steven Souza, LF
  2. Kevin Kiermaier, CF
  3. Evan Longoria, 3B
  4. Logan Morrison, DH
  5. Jake Bauers, 1B
  6. Jesus Sanchez, RF
  7. Willy Adames, SS
  8. Tyler Flowers, C
  9. Lucius Fox, 2B

Starting Five: Brent Honeywell, Brendan McKay, Jose De Leon, Jacob Faria, Blake Snell

The Tampa Bay Rays will always be handcuffed by their inability to spend amounts comparable to the Yankees and Red Sox, but their youthful organization provides the club with a chance to succeed in the future.  Evan Longoria is entrenched at the hot corner for Tampa, and outfielders Steven Souza and Kevin Kiermaier should remain stalwarts in St. Petersburg for years to come.  I think that an affordable extension for Logan Morrison would go a long way towards strengthening the Rays offense.  Morrison has hit 28 home runs in his second season as a Ray, and he’s in the midst of what should be his prime at age 29.

The lineup in 2020 should rely on many players currently in the minor leagues, starting with Jake Bauers.  A former seventh round pick for the Padres in 2013, Bauers has steadily put up decent offensive numbers in the higher levels of the minors.  His power is below average for a first baseman, but his ability to hit for a respectable average and defensive prowess should help him positively impact the Rays.  Jesus Sanchez is a young, yet formidable outfielding prospect.  In Low-A ball this year, he’s blasted 12 home runs and hit for a .310 average, and he’s only 19 years old.  Sanchez may wind up being blocked in the outfield, but his bat projects to be so good that the Rays would have no choice but to find him playing time.  Willy Adames also have some nice offensive upside as a shortstop.  He’s somewhat comparable to Reds’ shortstop Zack Cozart.

As usual, the Rays true strength looks like it will come from their rotation, led by current top prospect Brent Honeywell.  Honeywell showed his filthy arsenal of pitches in this year’s Futures Game, striking out fellow prospects Alex Verdugo, Amed Rosario, Eloy Jimenez, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.  His screwball is unbelievably deceptive, adding another unique element to his repertoire.  This year’s fourth overall pick Brendan McKay should join Honeywell atop the rotation.  Although the Rays have allowed McKay to begin his professional career as a two-way player, he likely will wind up as a starter in the long run.  McKay has all the tools to be an effective pitcher, led by his refined command and above average curveball.  With Jose De Leon, Jacob Faria, and Blake Snell at the back end of the rotation, the Rays pitching staff looks like it could carry the team in 2020.

Toronto Blue Jays: 85-77

  1. Anthony Alford, LF
  2. Bo Bichette, 2B
  3. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 1B
  4. Josh Donaldson, 3B
  5. J.D. Martinez, DH
  6. Troy Tulowitzki, SS
  7. Kevin Pillar, CF
  8. Max Pentecost, C
  9. Teoscar Hernandez, RF

Starting Five: Marcus Stroman, Sean-Reid Foley, Patrick Corbin, Matt Harvey, T.J. Zeuch

The Jays may be an aging team now, but their farm system and willingness to spend could lead to a division crown in 2020 if things break right.  I expect Toronto to resign Josh Donaldson after 2018, ultimately keeping him in the Six for the majority of his career.  I think they’ll also go out and sign J.D. Martinez this offseason to replace Jose Bautista.  Troy Tulowitzki and Kevin Pillar will still be in Toronto in 2020 as well.  Max Pentecost, a defensively competent catcher, is set to replace Russell Martin behind the dish once Martin’s contract expires.

For the offense to become a full-fledged powerhouse, the Blue Jays’ top prospects will have to live up to their potential.  It starts with Anthony Alford, a speedy centerfielder who has a knack for getting on base.  Alford looks like he will be a dependable player, but Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. have the upside of future All-Stars.  Both sons of former big leaguers, Bichette and Guerrero have both dominated Low-A Lansing and High-A Dunedin in 2017.  The crazy part?  They’re both still teenagers.  If these two continue to hit the way they are now, they could take Major League Baseball by storm in the 2020’s.

Marcus Stroman should be the ace of the pitching staff for the next few years, followed by current prospect Sean Reid-Foley.  Foley has struggled a bit in Double-A this season, but he’s still just 21 years old, and he demonstrated good strikeout ability and command last season.  Rather than rely on prospects for pitching, future free agents Patrick Corbin and Matt Harvey should join Toronto’s rotation.  Neither Corbin nor Harvey should cost the Blue Jays any serious money, but both have some solid upside if they can rebound from recent struggles.

 

Based on my projected lineups for the East, the New York Yankees figure to head the division, with the Boston Red Sox not far behind.  Both teams feature young, dynamic lineups that also include veterans with established, impressive track records.  The Boston pitching staff could make them vulnerable to fall down the pecking order in the A.L. East, especially if Chris Sale starts to suffer injuries as he continues to age.

The Toronto Blue Jays and Tampa Bay Rays have the capability to win the division but are more likely to compete for the Wild Card.  The Rays pitching could carry them if Brent Honeywell develops into the ace that he appears to be.  The Blue Jays lack impact arms, but current prospects Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. could produce numbers similar to those posted by Josh Dondaldson and Edwin Encarnacion in 2015.

Unlike all the other teams in the division, the Baltimore Orioles have a poor outlook.  Some solid hitters have emerged from their farm system in Austin Hays and Ryan Mountcastle, but they still don’t have the pitching upside within the organization to compete in this loaded division.  The albatross contract of Chris Davis could prove costly in the coming years, especially if Manny Machado signs with the New York Yankees.

Advertisements
20/20 Vision: National League East Edition

20/20 Vision: National League East Edition

It’s hard to predict the future, especially in baseball.  Top prospects often become busts, unknown minor leaguers break out and become quality everyday players, and injuries can derail even the brightest of stars.  Changes in management can lead a team to take on a new direction.  Free agents can prove to be boom or bust for their new clubs, either guiding them into October or wallowing away in irrelevance.  To the best of my ability, I try to predict every MLB organization’s lineup for 2020.  In this particular article of the series, I’ll focus on the National League East.

National League East

Atlanta Braves: 88-74

  1. Ozzie Albies, 2B
  2. Ronald Acuna, CF
  3. Freddie Freeman, 1B
  4. Adam Jones, LF
  5. Austin Riley, 3B
  6. Ender Inciarte, RF
  7. Alex Jackson, C
  8. Dansby Swanson, SS

Starting Five: Kolby Allard, Mike Foltynewicz, Mike Soroka, Kyle Wright, Sean Newcomb

The Braves don’t have too many players currently on their roster that figure into their future plans.  Freddie Freeman is the big exception to that statement, as is Ender Inciarte, who has a very team-friendly contract.  I expect Atlanta to trade Julio Teheran by 2019 to add another solid prospect or two.  Adam Jones is my prediction for their big signing prior to the 2020 season.  He will be in the tail-end of his career but still has potential to produce offensively.

Obviously, the Braves’ future will be put on the backs on their loaded farm system.  Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuna are both consensus top 25 prospects, and they should head the Braves lineup for years to come.  Austin Riley has big power potential, as does former sixth overall pick Alex Jackson.  Dansby Swanson may have been demoted back to Triple-A, but he should still develop into a reliable shortstop with a decent bat.

The Braves major strength in the future should be their starting pitching.  Between Kolby Allard, Mike Soroka, and Kyle Wright, Atlanta has some serious upside to look forward to.  Allard and Soroka both look like they could be potential aces.  Mike Foltynewicz has flashed signs that he can be dominant as well.

Miami Marlins: 72-90

  1. Dee Gordon, 2B
  2. J.T. Realmuto, C
  3. Christian Yelich, CF
  4. Justin Bour, 1B
  5. Carlos Gonzalez, RF
  6. Brian Miller, LF
  7. Brian Anderson, 3B
  8. J.T. Riddle, SS

Starting Five: Alex Wood, Jose Urena, Adam Conley, Dillon Peters, Braxton Garrett

The Marlins may have some talented young players in Miami right now, but their future is very grey considering the bleakness of their farm system.  Dee Gordon, Christian Yelich, J.T. Realmuto, Adam Conley, Jose Urena and Justin Bour should all figure into their future plans.  They’re all cheap and controllable for now, and they can help the club compete.  Once the sale of the team takes place, I expect the new ownership to make a few splashes in free agency, namely by signing Carlos Gonzalez and Alex Wood.  Gonzalez is on the decline, but his bat could still be productive down the line.  Alex Wood is putting together a magnificent season.  The Marlins would be wise to sign him and make him their future ace.

Brian Miller and Brain Anderson should both receive a chance to compete for roster spots next spring.  Miller is a solid athlete with some hitting ability.  Anderson was selected to play in the Futures Game a few weeks ago, and his bat could be average as a third baseman.  Dillon Peters and Braxton Garrett are two of the Marlins top pitching prospects.  Garrett has number two starter upside, but he just underwent Tommy John Surgery.

The most notable omission from the Marlins in 2020 is slugger Giancarlo Stanton.  His 13-year, $325 million pact with Miami could hamstring them financially, and new ownership will want to rid the club of it despite his talent.

New York Mets: 77-85

  1. Amed Rosario, SS
  2. Dominic Smith, 1B
  3. Michael Conforto, CF
  4. Yoenis Cespedes, LF
  5. Wilmer Flores, 2B
  6. Pete Alonso, RF
  7. David Thompson, 3B
  8. Thomas Nido, C

Starting Five: Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz, Seth Lugo, David Peterson

This Mets roster looks relatively similar to the one it has now, which isn’t necessarily a good thing.  Michael Conforto looks like he’ll be a star, and Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard can both carry the team when healthy.  But Yoenis Cespedes’ injury issues continue to nag his power and production, and his older age won’t help him return to 2015 form.  Wilmer Flores has had a nice year, and I think the Mets will give him a team-friendly extension in the next year or two.  Matz and Lugo can also be effective if they can stay healthy, but I wouldn’t be hopeful of that.

Amed Rosario was just called-up, entrenching him in shortstop for the foreseeable future.  Rosario may have more hype, but I expect Dominic Smith to be a more productive player long-term.  He is an elite hitter with an efficient approach, whereas Rosario has been vulnerable to strikeout more.  Smith also features an elite glove at first base.  Pete Alonso is currently a first baseman in the system but won’t be ready before Smith gets the call.  The Mets would be foolish not to find a place for his bat, though, prompting a move to right field.  Alonso has Mark Trumbo-like power.

Thomas Nido could receive a call-up as early as next year if Travis d’Arnaud continues to perform so poorly.  Nido has a great work ethic, and his defense could help him stick in the big leagues.  David Thompson is probably just a placeholder at third, similar to T.J. Rivera’s role now.  David Peterson was the club’s first round draft choice this June.  He could develop into a solid mid-rotation starter.

Some may wonder, “Why won’t the Mets sign anybody in free agency?”  It’s a good question considering they don’t have many financial obligations for the future right now. At one point or another, though, the Mets will need to extend some combination of Conforto, deGrom, and Syndergaard, which will take a big chunk out of their spending money.

Philadelphia Phillies: 81-81

  1. Odubel Herrera, CF
  2. Nick Williams, RF
  3. Rhys Hoskins, 1B
  4. Dylan Cozens, LF
  5. Maikel Franco, 3B
  6. Scott Kingery, 2B
  7. Jorge Alfaro, C
  8. J.P. Crawford, SS

Starting Five: Gerrit Cole, Aaron Nola, Vince Velasquez, Jared Eickhoff, Franklyn Kilome

Like the Braves, the Phillies future will depend on their plentiful farm system.  Odubel Herrera is already under contract for 2020, and I don’t expect the Phillies to move Maikel Franco, Nick Williams, Aaron Nola, Vince Velasquez, or Jared Eickoff by then either.  I could see Philadelphia making a play for Gerrit Cole in free agency in a few years, making him their long-term ace.

Of the prospects in the lineup, the most notable is Rhys Hoskins.  A 2017 Futures Game selection, Hoskins has 62 home runs since the beginning of his 2016 campaign.  He is a legitimate impact bat who has patience at the plate and could become a hitter similar to Paul Goldschmidt.  He’s that good.  Dylan Cozens has some elite power as well, and he figures to hit in the middle of the order.  Scott Kingery, a former Arizona Wildcat, has broken out with a 23 home run season.  The 23 year-old reminds me of Chase Utley for his “gamer” mentality and offensive upside.  Jorge Alfaro should provide pop from the catcher’s position, giving Philadelphia yet another impact bat.

J.P. Crawford is an interesting potential shortstop.  His stock is way down as a prospect due to his lack of ability to hit upper-level pitching in the minors.  However, his defensive skills are a plus, giving him the ability to stick as a big leaguer.  Adeiny Hechavarria is a good comparison for Crawford moving forward.  Franklyn Kilome is still a year or two away, but he could be a solid back-end starter.

Washington Nationals: 94-68

  1. Victor Robles, CF
  2. Trea Turner, SS
  3. Bryce Harper, RF
  4. Daniel Murphy, 1B
  5. Wilson Ramos, C
  6. Carter Kieboom, 2B
  7. Adam Eaton, LF
  8. Drew Ward, 3B

Starting Five: Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Seth Romero, Tanner Roark, Erick Fedde

Of the 2017 roster, Adam Eaton, Max Scherzer, and Stephen Strasburg are already under contract through 2020.  Trea Turner, Tanner Roark, and Erick Fedde will all still have less than six years of service time, meaning they will still be in Washington.  Victor Robles, Carter Kieboom, Drew Ward, and Seth Romero are all Nationals prospects who I expect to have graduated to the big leagues by 2020.

The most intriguing aspect of the Nationals’ future lies with Bryce Harper.  He will become a free agent at the end of the 2018 season, and he is set to receive a historically large contract from whatever team he opts to sign with.  The Yankees, Cubs and Dodgers have all been talked about as possibilities, but I think Harper will wind up signing a long-term deal with the Nats.  Harper’s legacy will forever be engraved in Washington, and the Nationals have enough money to reach a deal.

I also expect Daniel Murphy to resign after the 2018 season on another three year deal.  Once Wilson Ramos becomes a free agent again, I expect the Nationals to pounce on him as well.

 

The shape of the division in 2020 isn’t all that different from the way the 2017 season has gone.  The Nationals have the means to stay on top if they can retain the services of Bryce Harper.  The Braves will just be tapping into their plethora of young prospects, who could form a dynasty similar to the 1990’s Braves.  The Phillies are in the same boat as the Braves, except with less pitching and a more powerful lineup.  The Mets have some pitching, but an overall lack of offensive firepower will hold them back.  The Miami Marlins situation looks dreadful, but the inevitable selling of the franchise could help move things in a different direction.

Predicting the Landing Spots for Sonny Gray and Yu Darvish

Predicting the Landing Spots for Sonny Gray and Yu Darvish

With the annual non-waiver trade deadline just days away, there are two top-tier players who seem destined to be on the move.  Oakland Athletics starter Sonny Gray has been rumored to be a main target of several contenders, as has Yu Darvish of the Texas Rangers.  The two A.L. West righthanders are the top pitchers on the active trade market, and it would be a major shock to see them stay put on their current clubs.  Here are the two landing spots that make the most sense for Gray and Darvish.

Sonny Gray to the Los Angeles Dodgers

Although there has reportedly been major discussions regarding Darvish being traded to Los Angeles, Sonny Gray is much more likely to wind up in Chavez Ravine.  Gray would give the Dodgers another top arm to pair with Clayton Kershaw over the next several years, whereas Darvish would merely be a rental unless Andrew Friedman is willing to pay a pretty penny to resign the Japanese-born starter.  Speaking of Friedman, the Dodgers President was able to reach a deal last summer with Oakland for Rich Hill and Josh Reddick.  The Athletics are surely familiar with the deep Dodgers’ farm system and likely have their eyes set on a few names in particular.  Alex Verdugo is probably at the top of the A’s wishlist but don’t expect Friedman to move his prized outfield prospect.  Verdugo’s advanced approach and impressive .328/.401/.446 slash line at Triple-A Oklahoma City this season should make him nearly untouchable in trade talks.

With that being said, the Athletics would have to expect a major return for Gray given how much Jose Quintana cost the Chicago Cubs.  The package would likely have to be headlined by pitcher Walker Buehler, who MLB.com ranked the 13th overall prospect in baseball.  Buheler, who attended Vanderbilt like Sonny Gray, features a mid-to-high 90’s fastball along with an above-average slider and curveball.  Buehler has demonstrated great command in the minor leagues and could become the future ace of the A’s.

Also joining Buehler would be former fourth round pick Willie Calhoun.  Calhoun has torn up the Pacific Coast League in 2017, hitting 23 home runs while posting a .942 OPS.  The 22 year-old is best suited for the American League, however, due to his lack of proficiency in any one defensive position.  He could play in left field, but he may fare better as a designated hitter.  If the Dodgers were to include another prospect such as Edwin Rios, Billy Beane and the A’s would likely pull the trigger on moving Sonny Gray.

Yu Darvish to the Chicago Cubs for Kyle Schwarber

If you thought the Chicago Cubs were finished making trades, think again.

As they demonstrated last season, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer won’t hesitate to surrender valuable pieces of the future for an immediate return that gives them a chance to win a World Series.  Like in the A’s-Dodgers deal, the history between Epstein and Rangers’ General Manager John Daniels will help this deal come to fruition.

Jose Quintana was a great pickup, but the Cubs’ pitching staff could still use an extra punch to carry them into October.  Yu Darvish’s track record of dominance makes him a top option despite his 4.01 ERA in 2017.  Darvish is only under contract through the remainder of the season, which will make him less costly than Sonny Gray.  Imagine if the Cubs entered the postseason with a pitching staff of Lester, Darvish, Quintana, Arrieta and Hendricks; what team would want to face that Rotation of Death?

Alas, Darvish may not carry the price-tag that Gray does, but it would still require the Cubs to part with a former top prospect.  Theo Epstein likely would prefer to retain Ian Happ for his versatility, but the Cubs would be willing to give up Kyle Schwarber.  In what has been a nightmarish season, Schwarber is hitting just .191 with a .308 on-base percentage.  He does have seventeen home runs, though, and he has been more productive since his brief demotion to Triple-A.  Schwarber still holds the potential to be a fearsome middle-of-the-order hitter and becoming a full-time DH could remedy any future struggles.  Schwarber is likely pressing at the plate as a result of his defensive failures.  Making him a designated hitter would allow the 24 year-old to focus solely on hitting, which is a scary thought.

Predicting the Biggest Trades to Come

Predicting the Biggest Trades to Come

With the Chicago Cubs acquiring Jose Quintana from the White Sox last week, the stage has been set for a busy trade market as the July 31st trade deadline approaches.  Unlike in recent years, the number of buyers is fairly low, with teams like the Dodgers, Nationals, Diamondbacks, and Astros essentially locking up playoff spots by the All-Star break.  However, expect these contenders to do everything they can to further enhance their odds of winning the World Series.  That being said, here are the biggest trades I expect to come to fruition over the next two weeks.

Los Angeles Dodgers Receive Zach Britton from the Baltimore Orioles for Walker Buehler, Drew Jackson, and Andrew Sopko

The Los Angeles Dodgers have been nearly unstoppable in 2017, thanks in part to huge years from Alex Wood, Kenley Jansen, Justin Turner, and eventual Rookie of the Year Cody Bellinger.  The starting rotation led by Clayton Kershaw has been excellent, and their offense has been dynamic.  Jansen is putting together a historically great season as a closer, and Pedro Baez is another efficient reliever who manager Dave Roberts can rely on late in games.  If they were to acquire Britton, their team would be the best overall in baseball.  Despite missing serious time this year due to a left forearm strain, Britton proved to be one of the best relievers in baseball last season when he posted a .54 ERA in 69 appearances for the Orioles.

Baltimore surely would need a solid return for their closer, and a package headed by Walker Buehler would be a great start.  Buehler has serious upside as a number two starter.  Over sixteen starts between High A and Double A in 2017, the Vanderbilt product has a sub-3.00 ERA while striking out 12.5 batters per nine innings.  His potential could eventually see him become the ace that the Orioles have lacked for so long.  In Drew Jackson, the Dodgers would be trading away an elite defender that could man multiple infield positions at Camden Yards for a long time.  Andrew Sopko has the upside of a number four or five starter, with the bullpen also a future possibility.

Kansas City Royals Trade Scott Blewett and Donnie Dewees to the San Francisco Giants for Jeff Samardzija 

Despite the impending free agency of Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, and Lorenzo Cain, the Royals are expected to be buyers at the trade deadline.  They currently sit just 2.5 games out in both the American League Central and Wild Card.  General manager Dayton Moore doesn’t have a ton of highly-touted prospects to trade, so he isn’t equipped to make a deal for a top starting pitcher like Sonny Gray or Gerrit Cole.  However, Kansas City could acquire Jeff Samardzija from the Giants.  Samardzija has been great at eating up innings this season, lasting at least six frames in fifteen starts in 2017.  He would be relatively cheap since a trade would free the Giants of his albatross contract in which he is owed eighteen million dollars annually for the next few years.  San Francisco would likely have to eat some of his salary in order to the Royals to make this trade.

Scott Blewett would headline the return for the Giants.  Blewett is a 21 year-old right-handed starter who stands in at 6’6″.  He has shown promise at times this season, and has the potential to be a back of the rotation starter if he can continue to develop his changeup.  Donnie Dewees has upside similar to Red Sox utility man Brock Holt.  Dewees projects to hit for a decent average with plus speed.  His defense is average at best, but his arm grades out as below average.  He could be a left fielder, or even a second baseman in the future due to his athleticism and offensive profile.

Sonny Gray and Ryon Healy to the Houston Astros For Alex Bregman, Derek Fisher, and A.J. Reed

The Oakland Athletics have already begun trading veterans like Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson away for prospects.  Sonny Gray is the next to go, and the Houston Astros could be a starting pitcher away from a World Series.  However, Houston may have another Athletic in mind in Ryon Healy.  The A’s third baseman is just 25 years old, and he’s got some serious pop and hitting ability despite his substandard approach.  Healy has 19 home runs this season, while holding a .264 batting average, but just a .299 OBP.  Healy could be considered an upgrade over former second overall pick Alex Bregman, the Astros current third baseman.

Bregman and Fisher would headline the return for Oakland.  Bregman flashed solid potential last season after a few weeks of major struggles in the big leagues.  He’s a good defender at third base, and his bat could help him develop into a player similar to Jake Lamb or Kyle Seager, although with less power.  Derek Fisher was briefly called up earlier in this year.  He showed why he was a Futures Game selection in his short stint with Houston.  In just five games, he blasted two longballs and also stole a base.  He is the type of player that the Athletics’ front office covets due to his all-around ability.

A.J. Reed is an interesting piece in this potential swap.  Reed entered the 2016 campaign ranked as the number eleven overall prospect in the game by Baseball America but has taken a serious step backwards since.  In 45 games with the Astros last year, Reed only managed to hit three home runs, and his OPS was under .550.  Houston wanted him to start the 2017 season in Triple A to regain his confidence.  But Reed has only further declined in the minors, hitting just .240 through 85 games.  He has potential similar to Yonder Alonso or Justin Smoak, making him appealing at his current low cost.

Detroit Tigers Send Michael Fulmer to Atlanta For Package Headlined By Ozzie Albies

This trade would come as a shock to many.  The Tigers front office has proven to be reluctant when it comes to tearing down their aging team of veterans including Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera.  The Atlanta Braves have been a pleasant surprise in 2017, sitting just six games back of the Wild Card just days after the All-Star Game.  But based on each team’s current situation and future outlook, this trade could make perfect sense.

In Michael Fulmer, the Atlanta Braves would have a top-tier starting pitcher not just for this year, but for the foreseeable future.  Fulmer is under team control for the next six seasons, and won’t reach arbitration until after 2019.  In his two seasons with the Tigers, the 24 year-old has posted a 3.06 ERA and also won the American League Rookie of the Year in 2016.  He leads all pitchers in HR/9 this season, which would definitely come in handy given how hitter-friendly SunTrust Park has proven to be.  With perhaps the deepest farm system in baseball, Atlanta G.M. John Coppolella can afford to part with some pieces in return for a long-term, dependable starter like Fulmer.

The Detroit Tigers certainly would demand a major prospect package in return for their star.  Ozzie Albies is the perfect headliner.  Albies is ranked as the number twenty-five prospect in baseball by Baseball America.  At just twenty years of age, he is hitting .289 in Triple A and he has stolen 21 bases in 83 games.  Albies also has above-average defensive skills and could likely play shortstop in the Major Leagues.  The Braves would also include right-hander Michael Soroka in the trade.  Soroka compares similarly to Fulmer.  He uses a low-90’s fastball and a solid repertoire of breaking pitches to manipulate hitters.  Soroka doesn’t rely on the strikeout as many young arms do, but that hasn’t hindered his development one bit.  The 19 year-old is already in Double A, and he’s been dominating there.  In 17 starts, he owns a 2.37 ERA for the Mississippi Braves and has potential to be every bit as good as Fulmer.

Albies and Soroka would be a great starting point, but the haul for Detroit wouldn’t end there.  Atlanta could also offer slugging infielder Austin Riley.  While he does have a heavy tendency to strikeout, Riley has the power to hit 30 home runs annually at the Major League level.  He could wind up moving to first base, but his defensive skills at the hot corner are sufficient enough for him to stay there.  Add in Rio Ruiz, who has some time playing for Atlanta under his belt, and the Tigers would likely send Michael Fulmer off to the upstart Braves.  In doing so, Detroit would jump-start their rebuild that is years overdue.

The Quintana Trade Makes Both Sides of Chicago Winners

The Quintana Trade Makes Both Sides of Chicago Winners

On Wednesday evening, both Dylan Cease and Eloy Jimenez, the Chicago Cubs’ top two prospects, were scratched from their minor league games.  Trade speculation arose quickly, with many wondering if the Cubs would really part ways with two key pieces of their future for a front-line starting pitcher.  On Thursday, news broke that the Chicago White Sox had dealt southpaw Jose Quintana across town to the Cubs in exchange Jimenez, Cease, Matt Rose, and Bryant Flete.  This was the first deal between the two Chicago teams in the past eleven years, and it certainly is one of the biggest in recent memory.

After parting ways with Chris Sale and Adam Eaton this offseason, the White Sox finally traded Quintana after plenty of rumors dating back to last year.  The returns on Sale, Eaton, and now Quintana have been stupendous, netting the club a plethora of top prospects.  In Eloy Jimenez, they added yet another young stud.  A 20 year-old outfielder from the Dominican Republic, Jimenez has displayed plus-tools across the board, specifically his bat.  He projects as a 25-30 homer guy with a chance to hit around .300.  He has an advanced approach for his age, hitting with power to all fields.  His bat speed is pretty incredible, and he’s been able to translate that into games.  Last year in the Arizona Fall League, Jimenez hit a ball with an exit velocity of 119 MPH, a feat only Jimenez, Aaron Judge, and Giancarlo Stanton have accomplished in a game.

The White Sox also added another high-ceiling arm in Dylan Cease.  Cease was drafted in the sixth round in 2014, but likely would have been a first-round selection had he not injured his throwing arm in the spring.  His fastball has touched triple digits, and his curveball is a nasty put-away pitch when Cease can command it.  His changeup needs refinement if he wants to remain a starter.  Cease has serious upside as a starter or as a back-end reliever down the line, giving the White Sox farm system even more pitching to fall back on.

Despite relinquishing Jimenez and Cease, the Chicago Cubs still come out of this trade as winners.  Quintana carried a high cost, but his team-friendly contract he signed prior to the 2014 season makes him so valuable to a contender like the Cubs.  Quintana is signed through the end of next season for just $8,850,000, but he also has two club options for the 2020 and 2021 seasons.  Each option would cost just $10,500,000 to pick up, meaning Quintana will almost certainly be a Cub until he hits free agency after the 2021 season.  His inexpensive contract allows the Cubs to sign more impact players in free agency, and also to work more diligently on an extension for Kris Bryant.

Another element of the deal that may have influenced Theo Epstein to pay a higher price for Jose Quintana could be pricing the Brewers out of the market.  Many baseball analysts expected Milwaukee to strike first and take initiative on the trade market.  The Cubs instead made the first major move and set a big precedent in the process.  After seeing what White Sox General Manager Rick Hahn was able to trade Quintana for, other teams will be expecting top-flight prospects for pitchers such as Sonny Gray, Michael Fulmer, Justin Verlander, and Yu Darvish.  If the Brewers were to make a move for Gray, for instance, top prospect Lewis Brinson would have to be involved, and he would just be the centerpiece.  Josh Hader may also have to go in any major trade, and the Brewers may be more hesitant to act now that the price on pitching will be higher.

The Cubs still sit 5.5 games back of the Brewers in the National League Central, so they probably need to make another move before the non-waiver trade deadline on July 31.  Only time will tell which Chicago team wins this trade.  Quintana could be terrible on the North Side, and the White Sox prospects may never pan out.  For now, though, both the Cubs and White Sox are winners in the first major trade of the 2017 season.

Predicting the 2017 Home Run Derby Winner

Predicting the 2017 Home Run Derby Winner

With a field including Aaron Judge, Cody Bellinger, Miguel Sano, and reigning Home Run Derby Champion Giancarlo Stanton, this year’s competition is shaping up to be one of the best in years.  The bracket was released early today based on the seeding selection.

The 2017 T-Mobile Home Run Derby Bracket

Each round is five minutes, with each batter having the right to a 45 second timeout whenever they choose.  Any home runs hit in the final minute stop the clock until the batter fails to hit a home run, so hot streaks late in the round are rewarded.  Bonus time can be earned for hitting two home runs over 420 feet, and one home run over 475 feet.  Any ties will be broken via a 90-second swing-off, with no timeouts or bonuses.  Another factor to keep in mind are the expansive dimensions of Marlins Park.

(1) Giancarlo Stanton vs. (8) Gary Sanchez

This one should be a slam-dunk for Stanton.  Playing in his home ballpark, Stanton will obviously be ready to go, and his unsightly power should help him hit both bonuses for an additional 90 seconds of time.  Gary Sanchez may put up a solid round, but he is no match for Stanton.

Stanton Advances

(2) Aaron Judge vs. (7) Justin Bour

The second Marlins-Yankees showdown may also seem like it has an obvious winner, but in reality, this could go either way.  Judge may have the strength to hit both bonuses and some balls over the statue in center, but he tends to hit a lot of his home runs to the middle of the field.  In the past, sluggers who don’t pull the ball in the Derby have been less successful than players like Todd Frazier and Stanton, who hit nearly all of their home runs to left field.  Bour also has the advantage of knowing Marlins Park better, but Judge should still find a way to win given his monsterous strength.

Judge Advances

(3) Cody Bellinger vs. (6) Charlie Blackmon

With all due respect to Charlie Blackmon, the National League’s best lead-off hitter, Bellinger is going to run away with this match-up.  Bellinger’s long, lofty swing is catered to the Home Run Derby, and his tendency to pull the ball out to right field should benefit him throughout the night.

Bellinger Advances 

(4) Mike Moustakas vs. (5) Miguel Sano

If Miguel Sano played in Yankee Stadium instead of Target Field, this guy would be getting Judge-like praise.  He might have more power than anyone else in this field, and his home run into the Fountain Bar in Kansas City is proof of it.  Moustakas will keep it close, but Sano’s ability to hit some tape-measure shots will allow him to move on.

Sano Advances 

SEMIFINALS: (1) Giancarlo Stanton vs. (5) Miguel Sano

If Sano instead was facing Bellinger or Judge here, I’d have him advancing to the finals.  His power is legitimate, but with Stanton being well-rested at this point in the tournament and trying to impress his home fans, Sano has slim-to-none odds of moving on to the finals.

Stanton Advances

SEMIFINALS: (2) Aaron Judge vs. (3) Cody Bellinger

Assuming my predictions come true, this should be the most anticipated showdown of the Home Run Derby.  On one hand, you have Yankees’ superstar Aaron Judge, who has been the biggest story in baseball this year.  On the other hand, you have the second-biggest sensation in the game, Cody Bellinger, who has hit 24 home runs since his call-up on April 25th.  Both have insane power and potency.  I predict this will go to a swing-off, which will also end in a tie, leading to a second swing-off.  Bellinger will finally beat Judge in that tiebreaker, making for an exhilarating finish to the semifinals.

Bellinger Advances

FINALS: (1) Giancarlo Stanton vs. (3) Cody Bellinger

Beating Judge should take everything Bellinger has, and his long swing could tire him out, especially if he makes it this far.  Stanton should easily make his way to the finals, which gives him a considerable advantage.  Just as Todd Frazier did in 2015, Giancarlo Stanton will win the Home Run Derby in front of his home crowd, and become the first player to win back-to-back Home Run Derbies since Yoenis Cespedes.

GIANCARLO STANTON WINS THE 2017 T-MOBILE HOME RUN DERBY

Predicting the 2017 National League All-Star Roster

Predicting the 2017 National League All-Star Roster

With the All-Star Game rosters just a week away from being announced, I predict which stars from the National League make the cut this year.  I’ll post my American League predictions later today.  With these predictions, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Each team must have at least one representative.
  • The roster will be balanced.  Unfortunately, five first basemen can’t make the team.

Starters

Catcher: Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants

First Base: Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs

Second Base: Daniel Murphy, Washington Nationals

Third Base: Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs

Shortstop: Zack Cozart, Cincinnati Reds

Outfielders: Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals; Charlie Blackmon, Colorado Rockies; Marcell Ozuna, Miami Marlins

All of my predicted starters currently lead the voting at their respective positions, except for Rizzo.  Undoubtedly, Ryan Zimmerman has had the best season among first basemen in the Senior Circuit, but a late voting push will land Rizzo the starting job.

Reserves

J.T. Realmuto, Ryan Zimmerman, Paul Goldschmidt, Justin Turner, Nolan Arenado, Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger, Aaron Altherr, Michael Conforto

There were quite a few snubs here, mostly due to the rule stating each team must have one representative.  Travis Shaw, Giancarlo Stanton, Joey Votto, and Josh Harrison were all very deserving of a spot here.  However, Aaron Altherr wins a place on the team because he’s been the only player on the Phillies worthy of the honor.

Pitchers

Max Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw, Carlos Martinez, Greg Holland, Kenley Jansen, Brad Hand, Chase Anderson, Ivan Nova

Brad Hand is the only surprise here.  Hand has been efficient as the Padres’ closer, whereas nobody else on the team has been productive enough to make the roster.  Scherzer is the pick to start the game, as he may very well be on his way to another Cy Young Award.

Line-Up:

Charlie Blackmon, CF

Kris Bryant, 3B

Bryce Harper, RF

Ryan Zimmerman, DH

Anthony Rizzo, 1B

Daniel Murphy, 2B

Buster Posey, C

Marcell Ozuna, LF

Zack Cozart, SS