Lack Of Timely Hitting Dooms Cubs

The Cubs lost their series opener in Miami against the Marlins. The Cubs had the bases loaded in the top of the ninth after Addison Russell, Albert Almora, and David Ross had managed to get on with one out. After Ross, Chris Coghlan and Ben Zobrist came up to the plate.

Coghlan struck out swinging and Zobrist popped up to end the inning. The loss marked the first four game losing streak for the Cubs this season. Had Coghlan or Zobrist gotten on base with a single, the Cubs could have scored one or even two runners. The Cubs would have to fend off the Marlins again in that inning to win the anyway, but it is possible the Cubs could have won in they could have gotten a few more hits in the ninth.

Prior to losing to the Marlins, the Cubs had been swept by their division rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals. This cut the Cubs’ lead in the NL Central by three games. The Cubs still have a large lead on the second place Cardinals, but had a 12.5 game lead prior to being swept.

The Cubs lost their games against the Marlins and the Cardinals for a number of reasons, but mainly it has been their hitting, or lack thereof holding them back. In the series against the Cardinals, the Cubs averaged 2.33 runs per game. In their opener versus the Marlins, the Cubs only scored two runs. Nine runs over four games is abnormal for one of the MLB’s best offenses.

In addition to the Cubs struggling offense, several young prospects have taken the place of established stars in recent games. Albert Almora took the place a Dexter Fowler, and Willson Contreras took the place of Anthony Rizzo. There will be growing pains as Joe Maddon tries to get his prospects some playing time, but hopefully they will pass as the Cubs starters return to play.

Those prospects will become valuable in the near future, however, as they are considered for potential trades. For the past several weeks, multiple sources have said that the Cubs are looking to make a trade in order to bring in a big time reliever. Whether Albert Almora or Willson Contreras will be moved is speculation at this point but nothing should be ruled out at this point as the Cubs try to take improve their team for a long postseason run and try to take home some hardware.

Moving Forward

The Cubs have three more games to play the against the Marlins after losing the series opener and will round out the month of June against the Cincinnati Reds in Ohio. The Cubs will then finish their current road trip in New York against the Mets and then come home to play the Reds again in July.

The Cubs will look to get back on track going forward with two series against a last place NL Central rival. The Cincinnati Reds are 28-45 as of June 23rd, have a 17-20 home record, and are 20 games back of the 1st place Cubs. While it is still early in the season, the Cubs need to end their losing streak.

2016 MLB Draft Predictions

As the season wears on more and more fans begin to look towards the MLB draft as a beacon of hope for the future of their favorite ball clubs. While it is still too early to know for sure where these players will land and who the teams will select, here’s how I feel the first three picks will go when the draft begins June 9th. Check in later for more draft predictions going further along in the first round.

First Overall

The first pick in the June draft is held by the Philadelphia Phillies, a team with obvious needs throughout the organization but, as a surprise to many, a competent team so far this season.

Many believe the Phillies will select arguably the top talent, high school left hander Jason Groome, with the first pick, however that may not actually be the case. High school players are hardly ever selected with the number one pick unless they are seen as a “can’t miss” prospect with superstar potential. Those players include the likes of Ken Griffey Jr, Chipper Jones, Alex Rodriguez, and Justin Upton.

Selecting a high school arm at 1-1 is even more unlikely for the Phillies, as there have only been two selected first overall since 1990, and one of them (Brady Aiken, 2014) did not even sign with the team that drafted him.

Teams tend draft safer players when they have the first overall pick, so that is why I expect the Phillies to select Florida left hander AJ Puk. Puk will likely be the safest pick at 1-1 because he possesses the best combination of a high floor and the upside needed to be the first overall pick of any player in the draft, basically saying teams feel like they know what they are going to get from Puk, and that is a solid big league starter with the potential for more.

Second Overall

The team that played their way to the honor of the second overall pick of the MLB Draft is the Cincinnati Reds. The Reds are not in the same place as the Phillies, as they do not have a top farm system and they don’t appear to have the big league talent necessary to swap for promising young players.

The Reds should look to go with the player they feel is the best available here. The player who could potentially take more time than the Phillies’ AJ Puk to reach the majors, and thus will inherently have more risk attatched.

I would expect the Reds to select either Kyle Lewis or Riley Pint here. Both players offer tremendous upside but have equally concerning risk. Pint is a high school right hander who has touched 100 miles per hour and has been described as having the best arm in the draft. Lewis on the other hand is a college outfielder from Mercer that is crushing opposition pitching, batting .367 with 17 home runs and 56 RBIs so far this season.

I’ll predict for now that the Reds end up going with Riley Pint as his enticing arsenal of top of the line stuff will be too much for an organization desperate for elite talent to pass up.

Third Overall

The 2015 Atlanta Braves finished with just 67 wins, earning them the third pick in the MLB Draft.

Often highly touted here on the site, the Braves have one of the best and deepest farm systems in all of baseball. The only issue with the system is the lack of high upside bats, more specifically the lack of high upside bats closer to the major leagues.

This lack of bats has caused the Braves general manager John Coppolella to speak publicly about the organization’s desire to add a college bat in the upcoming draft, but Coppolella also stated that the team would take the best player available at 1-3.

So who is it for the Braves? Do they take the high upside college bat in Kyle Lewis? Would they rather take the best player available in Jason Groome? Or will they pick the safest player here in Louisville’s Corey Ray?

Lewis, as stated above, is crushing pitching but comes with a lot of risk due to some scouts’ concerns about his swing mechanics, lack of experience, and how he is striking out too much for the level of competition he is currently facing. He also plays centerfield and is viewed as a player who will stick there throughout his professional career.

Groome is considered the top talent in the 2016 draft class. A left handed started out of New Jersey who has already thrown a no hitter this year, across which he racked up 19(!!) strikeouts. He has the upside of a frontline starter at the big league level, but as high school pitchers go, he also presents a big risk. Also, with the Braves bevy of high risk/reward pitchers in the minors, the front office may want to go in a different direction.

Corey Ray leads off and plays centerfield for one of the best college teams in the nation in Louisville. He bats from the left side and provides an intriguing skill set of power and speed. The concerns with Ray stem from teams not feeling he has nearly as much upside as a Lewis and they also feel he will be forced to move over to a corner spot when he reaches the majors.

With the Braves’ history of selecting players in-state and the new front office not being afraid to go after high risk/reward players, I would expect them to select Mercer’s Kyle Lewis. Lewis may be risky, but his upside and athletic profile should be enough to convince the Atlanta brass to select him at third overall.

More MLB draft predictions are set to come your way in the following weeks so stay tuned, and as always, thanks for reading.

Bat Flip Crazy

 

In baseball, as with most sports, there are unwritten rules of the game.

 

For instance, you should never talk to a pitcher when he is throwing a no-hitter, or don’t hit-and-run when the count is 0-2. When it comes to sportsmanship, there are debates galore on what is considered to be appropriate or inappropriate. One in particular that seems to have current and former players buzzing is the art, or disgrace for some, of bat flipping.

 

While bat flipping is not new to the sport, it has become more prominent in recent years among some of the sports rising stars à la outfielder Yasiel Puig of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper.

 

In case you are not familiar with the action of which I’m referencing, allow me to provide you with a clip of Puig and one of his signature bat flips:

 

 

 

 (video courtesy of TBS Sports/YouTube User “LilCee354”)

As you can see in the video above, fans for the most part seem to enjoy it, as usually a bat flip follows when a batter knows the hit is a home run. But as fun as bat flipping can be, there have been instances where the action has caused quite the opposite effect.

A perfect example of this would be Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista’s “Bat Flip Heard ‘Round the World”. I’ll set the stage for you.

It was game five of the American League Divisional Series between the Jays and the Texas Rangers last year. With the score tied in the seventh inning at 3-3, Bautitsta launched a three-run rocket to take the lead, and the rest is, as they say, is history.

 

 

 

(Full clip of Bautista’s bat flip, and the craziness that followed. Video Courtesy of Fox Sports/YouTube User “Captain Canada”)

Flipping Out

Since then, there has been somewhat of a line in the sand drawn between players.

Speaking out against Bautista’s bat flip, Hall of Fame and former New York Yankees relief pitcher “Goose” Gossage was quoted by ESPN’s Andrew Marchand as saying:

Bautista is a —-ing disgrace to the game,” Gossage told ESPN. “He’s embarrassing to all the Latin players, whoever played before him. Throwing his bat and acting like a fool, like all those guys in Toronto. [Yoenis] Cespedes , same thing.

Bautista took the higher road in response to Gossage’ criticism:

He’s a great ambassador for the game,” Bautista told ESPN after being informed of Gossage’s comments. “I don’t agree with him. I’m disappointed that he made those comments, but I’m not going to get into it with him. I would never say anything about him, no matter what he said about me. I have too much good stuff to worry about his comments. Today is my first game [of the spring], getting ready for a new season; hopefully, we will whoop some more a**.

Gossage was later quoted as stating

Everything is good,” Gossage told reporters. “I lost my mind for a minute.

Goose isn’t the only Hall of Famer who has an issue with this “new fangled” celebration. Per Mike Axisa of MLB.com, former Cincinnati Reds catcher Johnny Bench spoke out earlier this spring in regards to Bryce Harper flipping his bat, as well as Harper’s comments on how baseball has become a “tired sport”.

Below is a transcript courtesy of Randy Miller (NJ.com) and the Rich Eisen Show where Bench made the following statements:

You can flip your bat. We had guys do that … and the next time up there was chin music. And if you want to play that way, that’s fine.

“Bring back the excitement? OK, we’ll bring back the brushback pitch, the knockdown pitch. That’s all part of the excitement.”

“I know a lot of the old-timers and a lot of people who watched baseball forever would love to see somebody have a little chin music (as retaliation),” Bench said. “If you want to do that, fine. Flip the bat, run around any way you want, but just expect the next time you come up to the plate, you better watching how much you dig into that batter’s box.

 

It is not just players from the past who are commenting, though, as Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout was recently qouted saying “you will never catch him flipping his bat”.

 

This of course, is not to assume that Trout agrees with either Gossage or Bench, though the Halo’s outfielder is probably the poster boy for baseball purists.

 

On the other side of that previously mentioned line in the sand are veteran sluggers like Boston Red Sox designated hitter David “Big Papi” Oritz. In a recent interview with the Boston Globe’s own Alex Speier, Papi had this to say on the matter:

 

People want to talk about old school. I am old school,” said Ortiz. “How many [expletives] are in the game right now who played in 1997 in the big leagues?

“This game is competition. This ain’t no baby-sitting. There ain’t no crying. When somebody strikes me out, I’m not up there crying, like, ‘Boo-hoo . . . this guy’ . . . No, no, no. There’s none of that. There’s no babysitting in baseball. There’s no babysitting. If you’re going to take it like a baby, I’m going to take [you] deep again. How about that? Take it like a man and make better, quality pitches the next time I face you, and then you get [me] out, and then you do whatever the h— you want. This is competition.”

“Respect? Respect my [expletive]. I don’t have to respect nobody when I’m between those two lines. I’m trying to beat everybody when I’m between those two lines. This ain’t no crying. There’s no, ‘Let me be concerned about taking you deep.’ No.

 

As you can see, there are two schools of thought when it comes to bat flipping. This is certainly something worth keeping track of in 2016, as it will be intriguing to see who does or does not flip their bat.

 

Final Thoughts:

I personally have no issues with athletes celebrating such things as home runs, slam dunks, slap shots, or touch downs. Of course, practicing humility every once and a while is good too.

That being said, I could not resist closing this post with a walk-off bat flip clip…Korean style:

 

(Video courtesy of YouTube User “mybonet”/www.mykbo.net)

 

 

 

 

http://SportsRants.com

Opening Day 2016: What To Watch For

Ah, Opening Day. The field grass is trimmed up just right, fans from all over the country pack stadiums to see the MLB’s best perform, and another season of America’s favorite past time is underway.

With just over 40 days left until the MLB regular seasons first pitch is thrown on Sunday April 3rd, 2016, anticipation is mounting for baseball fans everywhere. A total of eight teams will start the season off on that Sunday, 20 more teams will begin play on Monday April 4th. 2016, and the Miami Marlins host the Detroit Tigers in their home opener on Tuesday April 5th.

That’s three days set to be chock-full of home runs, outstanding pitching, “web gems”, and will feature all 10 of last years playoff teams. So, with the regular season right around the corner, I’ll provide you with a rundown of five must see matchups, and some key players to keep an eye on:

 

St. Louis Cardinals vs. Pittsburgh Pirates (PNC Park on Sunday April 3rd at 1:05 p.m. EST on ESPN)

Probable Pitchers- Adam Wainwright (STL) vs. Gerrit Cole (PIT)

Players to Watch: Andrew McCutchen (PIT), Matt Carpenter (STL), Josh Harrison (PIT), and Matt Holiday (STL)

Chicago Cubs vs. Los Angeles Angels (Angel Stadium of Anaheim on Sunday April 3rd at 3:05 p.m. EST on FSW)

Probable Pitchers- Jon Lester (CHC) vs. Garrett Richards (LAA)

Players to Watch: Mike Trout (LAA), Anthony Rizzo (CHC), Andrelton Simmons (LAA), and Kris Bryant (CHC)

New York Mets vs. Kansas City Royals (Kaufmann Stadium on Sunday April 3rd at 8:37 p.m. EST on ESPN)

Probable Pitchers- Jacob DeGrom (NYM) vs. Edison Volquez (KC)

Players to Watch: Yoenis Cespedes (NYM), Alex Gordon (KC), Neil Walker (NYM), and Lorenzo Cain (KC)

Houston Astros vs. New York Yankees (Yankee Stadium on Monday April 4th at 1:05 p.m. on ESPN)

Probable Pitchers- Dallas Kuechel (HOU) vs. Masahiro Tanaka (NYY)

Players to Watch: Jose Altuve (HOU), Jacoby Ellsbury (NYY), Carlos Correa (HOU), and Starlin Castro (NYY)

Boston Red Sox vs. Cleveland Indians (Progressive Field on Monday April 4th at 4:10 p.m. on Sports Time Ohio)

Probable Pitchers- David Price (BOS) vs. Corey Kluber (CLE)

Players to Watch: Michael Brantley* (CLE), Xander Bogaerts (BOS), Francisco Lindor (CLE), Mookie Betts (BOS)

 

Honorable Mention: Philadelphia Phillies vs. Cincinnati Reds (Great American Ball Park on Monday April 4th at 4:10 p.m. EST)

The Phils and Red Legs game may not be a “must watch”, but growing up 30 miles east of Cincinnati, I felt compelled to recognize the rich history of Opening Day in Cincy.

 

Other Opening Series Players to Watch:

Jason Heyward- After switching National League Central teams this off-season from the Cards to the Cubs, posting a .293/.359./.797 slash line in 2015 with 79 runs, 13 home runs, and 60 RBI, Chicago will hope to see Heyward improve on those stats for 2016 in pursuit of the teams first World Series title since 1908.

Zack Greinke- Posting a 19-3 record, a 1.66 ERA, and 200 strikeouts with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2015, Greinke begins 2016 with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Greinke will likely be the D-Backs Opening Day starter against the Colorado Rockies on Monday April 4th.

Daniel Murphy- Despite losing his post-season magic in last years Fall Classic with the Mets, Daniel Murphy still posted a solid .288/.322/.770 slash line with 56 runs, 14 home runs, and 73 RBI  for 2015. Murphy begins 2016 anew with the Washington Nationals, and it will certainly be interesting to see how he affects a clubhouse that could use his positive attitude.

Johnny Cueto- The reunion of former Reds pitchers Johnny Cueto and Edison Volquez in last years post-season and World Series with KC was only temporary. After an 11-13 record with 176 strikeouts and a 3.44 ERA in 2015 (split between the Reds and Royals), Cueto will try to better those numbers with his new team, the San Francisco Giants in 2016.

 

(All probable pitchers are based solely off of team depth charts as of February 22nd,2016, and may be subject to change after Spring Training results)

(* Brantley may not be available to the Indians until April or May, as he is still recovering from a right shoulder injury)

(For a complete 2016 regular season schedule, visit MLB.com)

Final Thought:

I’ll simply end with a fitting quote from one of the games all-time greats:

You always get a special kick on Opening Day, no matter how many you go through. You look forward to it like a birthday party when you’re a kid. You think something wonderful is going to happen.- Joe DiMaggio

 

 

Yankees Patience Pays Off With Aroldis Chapman Trade

It’s no secret that the New York Yankees like to make a big splash every offseason. Whether it’s a single big-ticket free agent signing or several big-money purchases the Yankees have never shied away from the free agency market every offseason.

That’s what made this offseason a bit different. Before, during and after the annual Winter Meetings there was not headline stealing move made by the Bronx Bombers. A few minor moves here and there, but the Yankees didn’t make their signature “big move”. It seemed that New York was indeed dedicated to staying the course, with a few minor tweaks, heading into the 2016 season.

That was until Monday’s trade was announced.

Cincinnati Reds’ closer phenom Aroldis Chapman was traded to the New York Yankees for four prospects; right-handers Caleb Cotham and Rookie Davis and infielders Eric Jagielo and Tony Renda.

The move bolstered an already dominant bullpen and will now feature Chapman alongside Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller.

“We felt this was an opportunity for us to add a big arm to our bullpen,” said Yankees general manager Brian Cashman.

A baseball source with knowledge of the situation told ESPN’s Wallace Matthews that the Yankees made the trade with the Reds knowing both Florida law enforcement officials and Major League Baseball are continuing to investigate the October 30th incident in which Chapman allegedly choked his girlfriend and then fired eight shots from a handgun in the garage of his Davie, Florida, home.

The source said the Yankees believe Chapman, who was not charged with domestic violence due to insufficient evidence, might still be suspended by MLB for up to 45 days.

“That was the risk they were willing to take,” said the source.”If he has to sit out the first 30 or 45 days, [the Yankees] felt he was worth it.”

“Certainly, there are some serious issues here that are in play,” Cashman said. “I acknowledge that’s an area clearly of concern, and I think it certainly is reflective of some of the acquisition price, and there’s risk, and I understand that.”

Aside from Chapman’s person issues the Yankees landed the uber-talented pitcher for a relatively low price, as none of the included prospects were considered “elite” by the Yankees organization. The dissolved trade that would have sent Chapman to the Los Angeles Dodgers certainly drove down Chapman’s value on the market.

If Chapman is spared a major suspension and can avoid any further legal troubles the Yankees will boast the majors most imposing bullpen.

Then and only then will we know if the organization’s patience and perceived risk will truly payoff.

In the meantime, the Yankees have to feel pretty good about how the past 48 hours played out and how the 2016 regular season is starting to shape up for the team.

 

Aroldis Chapman Deal With Dodgers In Limbo Amid Domestic Violence Investigation

It was the talk of the MLB world yesterday, Cincinnati Reds’ coveted closer Aroldis Chapman had been dealt to the Los Angeles Dodgers Reds for two minor leaguers on Monday, but that deal is reportedly in limbo as MLB is investigating the incident under its new domestic violence policy.

A source told ESPN’s Buster Olney that the MLB investigation is not holding up the trade and that it’s up to the teams as to how they want to proceed. The Dodgers are reportedly unsure of what direction they’ll take.

According to a police report obtained by Yahoo! Sports Chapman fired eight gunshots in the garage of his Davie, Florida, home and was accused of choking his girlfriend back on October 30th.

Chapman’s girlfriend told police the incident started when she questioned Chapman about something suspicious on his cellphone. Chapman admitted to police that he fired the gun but denied that he had choked his girlfriend.

According to the police report, officers stated that they did not make any arrests because of inconsistencies in stories and lack of physical evidence of injuries. Assistant State Attorney Marcie Zaccor said there was insufficient evidence to charge Chapman in the incident.

Per MLB’s domestic violence policy, a violator could be subject to suspension or a fine at the discretion of MLB commissioner Rob Manfred.

Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said Monday night that while the deal is not dead, it could take weeks to complete, adding more clouds of confusion to Chapman and the trades status.

“The trade is still possible,” Jocketty told reporters. “We’ve talked to several clubs. I’ve notified them all [Monday] that we will step back for a couple of weeks or whatever it takes. They were fine. This actually came up the last 24 hours. That’s not what held up the trade. We just weren’t able to complete it as fast as we wanted to.”

Chapman’s attorney, Jay Reisinger, told Yahoo! Sports on Monday night, “I’ve reviewed the facts as portrayed. On behalf of Mr. Chapman, we vehemently deny the allegations as stated. Beyond that, we have no further comment at this time.”

The Boston Globe reported that the Boston Red Sox were exploring a trade for Chapman before their trade with the San Diego Padres that brought them Craig Kimbrel last month, but they passed after a background check turned up the alleged domestic violence incident.

Can The Pirates Overtake The Cardinals?

For most of the season the St. Louis Cardinals have been considered a lock to win the National League Central. The Red Birds have had a strangle hold on the division and for a long time were running away with the division. On August 12 the Cardinals beat the Pittsburgh Pirates for a second straight game and had a seven game division lead and it seemed obvious to everyone that they would be crowned NL Central champions.

However, over the last month things have not gone as planned for the Red Birds and the Pirates are now only 2.5 games back with 20 games remaining. The Pittsburgh ball club has won 7 out of their last 10, whereas the Cardinals have lost 7 of their last 10 and the Pirates have the momentum down the stretch.

Today the Pirates begin a brutal stretch, playing the Cubs for four games in a home series. This series could make or break it for the Pittsburgh ball club as they hope to knock the Cardinals out of the division lead. After finishing the series with the Cubs it does not get much easier for Pittsburgh, as they travel to Los Angeles to face the Dodgers and then travel to Colorado for three games against the Rockies and finish up their nine game road stand with three games at Wrigley Field.

If the Pirates can hold their own in the next thirteen games they will have a chance to knock out the Cardinals themselves, as they play St. Louis at home September 28-September 30, before finishing the season with a three game home series against the Cincinnati Reds.

This next stretch is huge for the Pirates and staff ace Gerrit Cole will lead the way getting the start for the Bucs in the first game of today’s doubleheader. Cole has been phenomenal this year and is sporting a 16-8 record and a 2.54 ERA coming in to today’s game. The 25 year old has emerged as one of the best pitchers in the majors league and undoubtedly will start game one for the Pirates in the playoffs.

Meanwhile, the Cardinals will have a much easier end to the season, as they finish the season with 7 games against the Milwaukee Brewers, three games against the Cubs, three against the Reds and three against the Atlanta Braves. For the Pirates to have a chance at winning the division they will have to keep playing very well and be prepared to possibly sweep the Cardinals in their last series against the Red Birds.

Jung Ho Kang will be a key player to watch down the stretch for the Pirates. The 28 year old rookie has filled in admirably at any position he has been asked to play and the third baseman is hitting .290 with 15 home runs and 58 RBIs on the season. Kang has been red hot in September and for the month is hitting ..304 with three home runs and 10 RBIs.

The Pirates will have to rely on Kang to keep his hot bat as they enter their most trying stretch of the season. J.A. Happ has been dominant since coming over to the Pirates and is 5-1 in 7 starts with a 1.79 ERA. Pittsburgh will rely on Happ to be the number three starter behind Cole and Francisco Liriano down the stretch.

With the second best record in baseball at 86-56, the Pirates have been great all year, but they will have to reach new heights if they want to catch the Cardinals and take home the NL Central trophy.

http://SportsRants.com

Future Homes For Potential Trade Players

(Associated Press)

Cole Hammels

With $70.5 Mil still left on his contract with a 2019 $20 Mil Team Option, $24 Mil Vesting Option, and this interesting clause; $6 Mil Buyout Vests if he, 1) has 400 IP in 2017-18, including 200 IP in 2018, and 2) is not on the disabled list with a shoulder or elbow injury at the end of the 2018 season. Philly will have to absorb some of it, but they really can’t keep paying him this kind of money when they keep finding themselves in the basement of the N.L.

I think he would fit best in with Houston or Baltimore. Houston has one of the smallest salaries in the MLB, so it wouldn’t be a shock if they took on half of his contract with Philly and moved some of the young talent they have in their farm to make a really strong playoff push. Baltimore lacks a true Ace in their rotation, so Hammels could come in take on the same responsibilities he had in Philly if he were to come to Baltimore. They also have a comfortable cushion in their salary to take on some of Hammels contract and could hold him for the rest of his contract.

Potential Home:  New York Yankees, Houston Astros, Toronto Blue Jays, San Francisco Giants, Pittsburgh Pirates, Los Angeles Angeles, Baltimore Orioles.

Justin Upton

The lone offensive Padre All Star is playing to his usual numbers, despite playing in a pitcher friendly ball park. It’s bizarre to comprehend that he wasn’t an all star for either year he was in Atlanta, but when he came to San Diego, and the team started losing, the one thing that stood out was Upton; and he finally got paid out for his success this year because of his surroundings.

I could see Upton playing in a Minnesota,  Houston, New York(Mets or Yankees), or Washington uniform. Minnesota and Washington could use Uptons bat and have room to put him in the outfield. Minnesota could rotate him with Torii Hunter between DH and OF to get the most from both. Houston could use his bat and with Springer on the DL, he could start helping now, and until Springers return they could ease him back with some time in the DH role, and allow Upton to see some of the field.

Potential Home: New York Yankees, Houston Astros, Pittsburgh Pirates, Washington Nationals, New York Mets, Minnesota Twins, Tampa Bay Rays.

Johnny Cueto

The sterling ace for the Reds will be a free agent next year, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Cueto help another team for the return of some promising future players. Johnny has been nothing but a true professional for Cincinnati and will be dealt in a professional manor. A real All Star snub this year, the 29 year old Dominican could be the biggest pitcher on the trading block.

His name is rumored with the Yankees right now, he is having another great year, not quite like last year where he was 2nd in the N.L. Cy Young and could have made a strong case to start last years All Star game instead of Kershaw. It looks likely he will go to an A.L. East team, Toronto really needs an arm to make a push for the post season as does Baltimore. Yankee scouts have already been spotted at Reds games, so it could be just a matter of time.

Potential Home: New York Yankees, Houston Astros, Los Angeles Angels, Pittsburgh Pirates, Kansas City, Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago Cubs.

 

Mike Leake

A solid arm that can win in any league, on any team, anytime. The 8th overall pick from Cincinnati in 2009 draft, Leake has been improving yearly, posting an ERA of under 4 for the last 3 seasons now. He will be a Free Agent next year, and could be involved in the same trade as Cueto, the return would be greater in a combined package and would be less work for Cincinnati to move both in one motion. Perhaps a three team trade could be in the works.

Tampa Bay is the type of team that would take on Leake in a trade and would sign him after the season, Tampa is an organization that likes to work big with little. Leake would fit into Tampa really well, he would have a guaranteed spot in the rotation and could help them win today. The A.L. East is up for anyone(except Boston), and the one thing Tampa Bay does well is win on the road, and that fits really well with Leake, as he is 4-2, 2.57 ERA, 0.89 WHIP on the road this year.

Potential Home:  Houston Astros, Los Angeles Angels, Pittsburgh Pirates, Kansas City, Baltimore Orioles, Toronto Blue Jays, Los Angeles Dodgers, Seattle Mariners, Chicago Cubs.

 

Gerardo Parra

The recent trade product of Arizona is becoming more likely to be moved again this year. He has a smoking hot bat this year (.313/ .348/ .500 9 HR, 30 RBI) and Milwaukee is so far in the toilet already they really have no benefit to holding the upcoming free agent unless they want to hold onto him for the future. I imagine the offers are going to outweigh the thought of keeping Parra.

A lot of teams are in the market for a well hitting outfielder. The Yankees could benefit a lot from having Parra platooning with all of the outfielders, given their history of poor health, Parra would be a huge asset for them. I could also see St. Louis taking a swing at acquiring the 28 year old left handed Venezuelan, they could use a nice complimentary bat to go with Randal Grichuk in the outfield.

Potential Home: New York Yankees, Seattle Mariners, St. Louis Cardinals, Kansas City Royals, San Francisco, Chicago Cubs, Tampa Bay Rays, New York Mets.

 

Zach McAllister

Cleveland isn’t having the season they or anyone else thought would happen. McAllister is arbitration eligible after this season, and is only making half a million, but has been really good this year, since moving to the bullpen in April, McAllister has posted a 2.19 ERA,  1.08 WHIP, 50 Strike Outs over 37 innings, batters are only hitting .212, and only has allowed 2 home runs. He can be a starter, but has been very special coming out of the bullpen this year.

Some teams are going to be willing to add him to the starting rotation, but some teams don’t want to mess with success. I could see either LA teams acquiring the 3rd round 2006 pick for some more stability in the bullpen and the possibility of starting or long relief. They all could use a boost in the starting rotation and the bullpen. Dodgers are without Ryu for the remainder of the season, their bullpen has a 3.73 ERA with a  1.27 WHIP. While the Angels bullpen have a better ERA than the starting rotation(3.43/3.56) they could still use the talented arm of McAllister, either from the pen or improving the rotation.

Potential Home: San Francisco Giants, Washington Nationals, Los Angeles Dodgers, Seattle Mariners, Houston Astros, Minnesota Twins, Los Angeles Angels, Tampa Bay Rays, Toronto Blue Jays, Baltimore Orioles.

5 Teams To Keep an Eye On This Trade Deadline

 (Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports)

 

There is no more exciting trade deadline in all of sports than July 31st at 4 pm. Baseball is the only sport where a trade midseason can instantly impact a team the next day. In comparison to football where the player might need time to adjust, learn the system/playbook, and practice with the team, baseball players can be inserted the next day without practice and just play. A team can change the fate of their season by making one or two moves at this deadline both for good and for bad. The 2003 then Florida Marlins made a huge move to acquire closer Ugueth Urbina by trading top prospect Adrian Gonzalez.

Despite departing with a future all star, Urbina was huge for the Marlins winning the 2003 World Series. The 2014 A’s showed us last season that you can also affect chances by making the wrong moves, the Lester/Cespedes deal with Boston was awful for both teams considering neither retained their players and Oakland lost their strangle hold of the AL West by trading their best offensive piece to try and bolster pitching which was their biggest strength. With the new 10 team playoff, it is harder to tell if a team will buy or sell which makes most deals now a days happen closer to the July 31st deadline. Here are the 5 teams I expect to be the most active.

Cincinnati Reds

The Reds have the most likely piece this year to be moved in SP Johnny Cueto, who in turn will likely get many solid offers with the market for SP this year being so high. This is also a Reds team who is looking to rebuild seeing that they are highly unlikely to make any noise in the playoff picture and a core who has been together for a solid 6 years. I expect a high value placed on SP Mike Leake, veteran OF Marlon Byrd, and relievers JJ Hoover, Burke Badenhop and Logan Ondrusek will also be interesting to watch.

My darkhorse player would be OF Jay Bruce, a power hitting left-hander with a cannon in the outfield will be sought after by many teams in baseball and he seems like a more reasonable piece to move than the lucritive contracts of Joey Votto or Brandon Phillips. I expect a ton of change in Cincinnati with an influx of young talent coming their way.

 

New York Yankees

The Pinstripes have been quiet the last couple of years not having the elite teams that we grew up watching in the 90’s. The AL East is completely up for grabs and it is quite unlikely that more than one team from that divison will make the postseason. The Yankees will likely be very aggresive in trade talks this deadline. Troy Tulowitzki is the dream scenario I have doubts about the Yankees having enough to acquire him, Ben Zobrist is the realistic name I can see the Yankees target.

A super utility man who will likely take the starting 2nd base job from Stephen Drew can play all over the diamond, and with the type of tactical changes Joe Girardi likes to endulge in he is a glove fit. Mike Leake also would be a nice fit to the teams rotation, however I see him as more of an NL type pitcher.

 

San Diego Padres

A team who made a ton of moves in the offseason is falling flat on their face with the Dodgers and Giants running away with the NL West. Justin Upton I can see being moved to a top contender to be moved and still a very high value player I expect to be persued by the Mets, Red Sox, Royals, and Astros. Andrew Cashner is one of those players teams will also show interest in, however I think at a much lower value than some of these big name pitchers on the market.

The Padres are usually incredibly active at the deadline and I expect no less this year.

 

New York Mets

The Mets need a bat……..BAD luckily for them a surplus of young pitching is waiting at their disposal. Jon Niese will likely be the man to be moved in order to try and bring some much needed offense. Harvey, Syndergaard, Matz, deGrom, and Colon are dynamite arms in a divison where the Mets still have a good chance. I expect the Mets to push hard for OF Carlos Gomez and they definetly have the pitching talent to make this move.

Do not sleep on this team, if they are able to acquire offensive talent while somehow keeping the young core of pitchers, they could be dangerous, however relying on such young pitchers is risky as well. Proceed with Caution.

 

Houston Astros

The wonderful story that has been the Astros has been exciting to watch. History tells us however that the AL West always comes down to the last day of the season and it seems like one team in that divison gets scalding hot at the right time. It looks like for the second year in a row the Angels will be that team which puts pressure on the Astros to make a move.

There is a ton of young talent with the team and in the system so they fit in the Cueto sweepstakes, I expect the Stros to add a high quality arm while getting rid of some youthful talent in the minor leagues.

ALL STATS AND INFORMATION CAN BE FOUND HERE

5 Fantasy Pitchers Worth Adding

JAMES BORCHUCK | TampaBay Times

Erasmo Ramirez: Here is one of the hottest pitchers under the radar lately. The last start where he gave up more than 2 runs was on May 24th. Since then, he has tossed 8 consecutive games with 2 runs or less with a 6-1 record. Tampa Bay has been able to give the young Nicaraguan run support; averaging 4.5 runs a game. With a really rough start to the season; posting a 12.71 ERA in April, but settled down drastically; posting a 2.90  ERA in May; and an outstanding 1.44 ERA in June, and a 1.50 in the early part of July. I’d look for him to continue his hot success.

Mike Leake: A pitcher that can either throw a complete bomb or a gem; but Leake has been solid for Cincinnati this year. Only giving up 2HRs since June 3rd, while hitters are only hitting .253 off him and earning a 5-3 record during that span. Watch the match ups and don’t be afraid to interchange him with a rotation of other starters, but if you are in a deep league; Leake will surely help you out.

Edinson Volquez: The numbers aren’t impressive, but when Volquez is on the mound, Kansas City wins. The team is 13-5 when he starts; and hasn’t been dealt a loss to his record since June 5th. The best sign of picking him up is how much better he is playing than the rest of his career numbers. With a career ERA of 4.33, he is posting a 3.31 ERA with a 1.24 WHIP compared to his 1.43 Career WHIP. He is pitching for a winning team and is doing what it takes to help the Royals win. Look for him to help any fantasy team lacking a starting pitcher.

Ervin Santana: Only owned on 40% of all ESPN Fantasy leagues; the 32 year old Dominican can still deal. I understand waiting to see how he performs coming off a half season suspension, but this guy pitches too well to let him hang out there for someone else to steal him. If you have a chance to acquire him; take it. Minnesota is playing winning baseball, ranking 2nd in Home Runs, 5th in triples, 7th in average, hits, runs, and slugging. You don’t have to ask for a lot from Santana, as long as he can continue the success he has found since leaving Anaheim, he should give your fantasy team success if still available.

Wei-Yin Chan: 55% of ESPN Fantasy leagues don’t own the 29 year old Taiwanese pitcher. That is an absurd number of people missing out on a consistent and reliable starter. He could have made a case to pitch in this years all star game; posting a 2.78 ERA with a 1.09 WHIP while hitters are only hitting .235 against him. He has only pitched 4 games on the road so far; and in those 4 games, he has posted a 2.57 ERA. Never got dealt a loss in June, but the last two games before the All Star break fell in the loss column with Chan putting up 15 innings, 2.40 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, and hitters only hitting .218.