Power Rankings: American League East

The AL East has been heating up and here is how I see the division shaping out at this point of the season. Most of the teams have been playing well and here is where they land on my list.

5. Tampa Bay Rays

The way the Rays have been playing has not been great and their record has been telling that story. Right now they are 27-31 but they have been fighting to get back to .500.

They were recently swept by the Kansas City Royals and that was a tough series for them on defense. They did find a way to bounce back by winning their next 2 series against the Minnesota Twins and the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Through 61 games there is still room for this team to work their way back into a good spot in the standings. They are capable of going on a hot streak and if they do they will be right back in contention.

4. Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays could be playing better, but right now they are in a good position. They are 3rd place in the division and 6th place in the American League standings.

The offensive fire power of this team is something special, but they have been struggling lately. They lost a series to the Tigers and now they are playing against their division rivals in the Orioles. They should be able to win the series and keep their winning ways going.

Josh Donaldson and Edwin Encarnacion have been carrying the load for their team with their hot hitting. They all have help from each other and that’s what makes them a championship caliber team.

3. New York Yankees

The Yankees are still trying to figure out what works for them and they are making different things work. They have arrived back to the .500 area after sweeping the Los Angeles Angels, but they are still fighting through injuries.

A big help in that effort has been Carlos Beltran. Beltran has been on fire recently and he was the driving force behind the sweep of the Angels. By getting on base and driving runs in he made a difference in that series.

They will need to win the next series to stay in reach of the rest of the division, but the way they have been producing runs makes it likely that they will continue their success.

2. Boston Red Sox

Boston has been playing like one of the best teams in baseball this season. They have a great record through 59 games and they are just playing great.

Recently they have not been showing how great they are. In their last four series they split two of them and lost the other two. It looks like the Blue Jays have their number this season although their records say otherwise.

Toronto could be a matchup problem for them later on in the season, but Boston will have time to adjust and fix what has been hurting them in those series against Toronto.

1. Baltimore Orioles

The top spot in the AL East power rankings goes to the Baltimore Orioles. This team has been the best team not only in their division, but in their league as well. They have a record of 36-23 and that can be attributed to great hitting.

This team loves to put big numbers on the board and they have been doing just that. In their last 5 games they have averaged 5 runs per game. The Orioles are good at exploiting bad pitching matchups against their lineup.

They recently lost third baseman Manny Machado for 4 games due to a brawl between him and Yordano Ventura of the Kansas City Royals. Hopefully that does not derail the hot streak the team has been on.

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Where Ian Desmond Could End Up

One of the top free-agents that is currently still on the market is Ian Desmond. The 30-year old right-handed hitting shortstop has put up good offensive numbers in his career while playing for the Washington Nationals. However, he didn’t have his best season last year. This is part of the reason that he still remains unsigned.

A three-time Silver Slugger Award winner and one-time All-Star, Desmond is a career .264 hitter. He’s always been a power threat, hitting 20 or more home runs in a season three times over the course his career. Desmond’s best season so far came in 2o12 when he batted .292 and hit 25 home runs while driving in 73 runs. He collected 80 RBIs the following season and 91 in 2014. Unfortunately, 2015 was not such a good year as he only hit .233, a career low. To make matters worse, he also committed 27 errors at shortstop. This disastrous season is the main reason for Desmond’s stock plummeting.

With Alexi Ramirez and Asdrubal Cabrera both off the board, Desmond is the best remaining free-agent shortstop. There aren’t too many teams currently looking for someone at that position right now, although there is some interest in Desmond as a second baseman. He’s never played the position before in the MLB, but the transition probably wouldn’t be too difficult. Second base is actually an easier position to play. He might even play better defensively there.

The St. Louis Cardinals have reportedly expressed interest in Desmond. According to Jon Morosi of MLB Network, their starting shortstop Jhonny Peralta has spoken to team officials about playing different positions in the future. He could potentially be moved to the outfield. If the Cardinals did end up signing Desmond, he would most likely play shortstop and serve as a backup second baseman to Kolten Wong. That is, if Peralta is willing to try another position right away. The Cardinals have always valued depth at all positions. Adding Desmond would definitely help add depth in the middle of the infield.

The Tampa Bay Rays are also apparently interested in Desmond. Right now, Brad Miller is the team’s starting shortstop. He was traded from the Seattle Mariners to the Rays back in November. Miller is a young player and the Rays reportedly think he could be the starting shortstop of the future. This combined with the fact they’d lose a draft pick by signing Desmond means that it’s unlikely that the Rays really pursue him. Also, the money he’s going to want is probably more than they’re willing to spend.

The Arizona Diamondbacks could potentially land Desmond. This is a team that would probably play him at second base as opposed to shortstop. It’s been reported that Arizona is looking to upgrade at that position. Chris Owings is their starting second baseman as of right now. Desmond would certainly be an upgrade over him. The Diamondbacks have dramatically improved their starting pitching this offseason, and are expected to to compete for a division title in 2016. Adding Desmond would help improve their offense and cap off a very good offseason.

A return to Washington seems very unlikely at this point. Desmond turned down the Nationals’ one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer. He figured he’d make more money somewhere else. This seems very improbable, especially considering where we’re at in the offseason. The best thing Desmond can do is sign with a team as quickly as possible, whether that team be the Cardinals, Rays, Diamondbacks, or someone else. The sooner, the better.

The All-Free Agent Team

It’s now late January. We are about three weeks away from pitchers and catchers reporting and 68 days from Opening Day. There are still quite a few good free agents on the market. There are so many, in fact, that you can make a roster of them and likely have a team that would contend. Just for fun, I made that roster. You are welcome.

Pitchers

Starting Rotation

1. Yovani Gallardo

Gallardo will be 30 next month and is coming off of one of the best seasons of his 9 year career. In his only year with the Texas Rangers, he went 13-11 with a 3.42 ERA in 184 innings in 2015. He might not have “ace” stuff but he will take the hill every 5th day and give you his best. He has started at least 30 games in each season since 2009. He brings experience (6 appearances in playoff games over 3 postseasons) and if you like the National League, he is not too shabby with the bat (12 career home runs, 83 hits).

Rumored destinations: Rockies, Orioles, Astros

2. Doug Fister

Fister had a rough 2015 after a 16-win 2014 season. He fought injuries all year and logged just 103 innings. Before that, he had three straight double-digit win seasons. He was supposed to be a huge part in the mega-rotation the Nationals thought they had last year. He was 5th in WHIP in 2014, finishing ahead of the likes of Madison Bumgarner and his former teammate Stephen Strasburg.

Rumored destinations: Astros, Marlins, Rockies

3. Mat Latos

Latos did not do himself any favors in 2015. With rumored locker room issues combined with an ERA near 5 with three separate teams, it’s no secret why he is still on the market in late January. There must be some team willing to take a risk when they look at his previous seasons. He had an ERA under 3.50 in every season between 2010 and 2014. He was in the Cy Young discussion in 2010 with the San Diego Padres. Some teams are scared to sign Latos but the talent is there. He may just need the right locker room. If he can stay healthy, he makes any rotation better.

Rumored destinations: Orioles and Royals

4. Cliff Lee

Lee will be 38 before this upcoming season is over. He’s had a really tough two seasons, battling through injuries and didn’t pitch at all in 2015. His last full season was 2013 when he was an All-Star for the Phillies, winning 14 games, striking out 222 batters and a 2.87 ERA. He has some left in the tank. He’s rumored to not be 100% healthy yet but there will be a team willing to risk it. He has logged 82 innings of playoff baseball and has 143 wins. Veterans are always needed on a rotation.

Rumored destinations: Yankees

5. Tim Lincecum

Lincecum won two straight Cy Youngs in 2008 and 2009. He has battled some injuries and struggles on the mound in the last few seasons. Perhaps a change of scenery would do him well. He only logged 76 innings in 2015. His WHIP was the highest of his career. He is only 31 so it’s not to say he can’t turn things around. He could start at the back of this rotation and be a solid plug-in guy for now. Before 2015, he logged  7 straight seasons of double-digit wins and he also boasts three World Series rings. Any staff could use that experience.

Rumored destinations: Padres and Marlins

Bullpen

Franklin Morales

In Morales’ only year with the Royals in 2015, he was a vital part to their World Series run. In 67 appearances, he had a 3.18 ERA. He struggled a bit in the playoffs but he has a track record as a solid late-innings guy. He is a lefty, which ups his value. He has experience in many ballparks in both leagues, having pitched 6 seasons in the NL and 4 in the AL. A team could always use a veteran lefty out of the ‘pen. Morales can be that guy.

Rumored destinations: Twins, Red Sox and Royals

Burke Badenhop, Middle Relief

Badenhop has appeared in at least 63 games in four straight seasons, including 68 last year. He posted a 3.93 ERA and finished 17 games for the Reds last season. He has pitched for 5 different teams and held an ERA under four for all but one of them. He won’t blow you away or become the next Trevor Hoffman but he is a steady hand that any shaky bullpen would love to have.

Rumored destinations: Tigers

Neal Cotts, Middle Relief

Cotts finished last season with the Twins. He had a 3.41 ERA in 68 games for the Twins and Brewers. He has pitched 141 games in the last two seasons. He is a lefty that has pitched for 10 seasons. He is a 2005 World Series champion and has pitched for both Chicago teams in the playoffs.

Rumored destinations: Twins and Cubs

Tommy Hunter, Setup Man

Hunter finished the season as apart of the Cubs after being dealt from the Orioles. He can get you a save every now and then but is mostly a 7th or 8th inning guy. He posted a 4.18 ERA in 58 total appearances in 2015 with a 4-2 record.

Rumored destinations: Mets and Orioles

Ryan Webb, Setup Man

Webb appeared in just 40 games for the Indians in 2015 but pitched well. He had a 3.20 ERA and when healthy, can be a viable setup guy for a depleted bullpen. He’s not a big strikeout guy but he will get the job done.

Rumored Destinations: Tigers and Indians

Tyler Clippard, Closer

Clippard is the only legitimate closer left on the market. He notched 19 saves last year as he bounced around from the Washington Nationals in 2014 to the Oakland A’s to start 2015 only to be dealt to the Mets at the deadline to aid their playoff run. He was an All-Star in 2014, posting a 2.18 ERA in 75 games. He had a 2.92 ERA in 2015 with both teams. He has appeared in at least 69 games in every season since 2010. For a team looking for a closer, the 30 year-old Clippard is likely the best option available.

Rumored destinations: Yankees

Starting Lineup

1. Dexter Fowler, CF

Fowler has gotten better and better in recent years. He has played at least 100 games every season of his career, which started in 2008. You can pencil him in for at least 7 triples, 15 home runs and right around 20 stolen bases. He is an excellent defender patrolling center field. He would serve as a good leadoff hitter, as that it what he has done for most of his 8-year career. He hasn’t had an on-base  percentage lower than .346 since his rookie year. He is also coming off of a career high in home runs with 17.

Rumored destinations: White Sox and Angels

2. Howie Kendrick, 2B

Fighting through injury last season for the Dodgers, Kendrick put together a good season at age 31. He hit .295 with 22 doubles and 9 home runs in 117 games. He is just a year removed from his best season in 2014, when he had a career high 181 hits. He gets the job done with the glove and will be a veteran presence towards the top of the order. Good hitting second baseman are always needed.

Rumored destinations: Diamondbacks

3. Justin Morneau, 1B

Morneau had a tough 2015 with injuries ending it early. He did finish with a .310 average in 49 games. Going back to his 2014 season, he led the league with a .319 clip and added 17 home runs and 82 RBI. The 2006 AL MVP has played 13 seasons in the bigs and has 241 career home runs. Granted, one could say he has had good numbers because he plays at Coors Field but that has been disproved before. He was a great hitter in Minnesota too. At age 34, he still has got some pop in that bat.

Rumored destinations: Rockies and Rays

4. Marlon Byrd, LF

Byrd might be 38 years old, but that hasn’t stopped him from totaling 48 home runs in the last two seasons. He finished 2015 with the Giants and combined with his numbers with the Reds, he hit .247 with 23 home runs and a .743 OPS. The guy can still slug it and could definitely be put in the cleanup spot. He was an All-Star in 2010 and hasn’t slowed down much since. In fact, his four career 20+ home run seasons have all come after the age of 30.

Rumored destinations: Rays

5. David Freese, 3B

Freese is mostly known for his clutch 2011 postseason for the Cardinals when he was NLCS and World Series MVP. Since then, he has quietly been a consistent presence at the hot corner. He hit 14 home runs last year while hitting a vanilla .257. However, he also racked up 27 doubles and had a .743 OPS. He still can provide a steady bat. He won’t blow you away with numbers but he will be there if you need him.

Rumored destinations: Pirates and Red Sox

6. Ian Desmond, SS

Desmond has been a constant in the rumors flying around many teams seeking a shortstop. And for good reason. Over the past four seasons, he has been one of the best offensive shortstops in the game. He has hit at least 19 home runs every season since 2012, when he was an All-Star. His numbers dipped a bit after a dreadful first half to 2015. He has hit 88 home runs in the last four seasons and is young enough to still be in his peak. He also has only missed 18 games in the last three seasons.

Rumored destinations: Rays and White Sox

7. Alex Rios, RF

Rios’ power has declined significantly in the past two seasons. In his last 236 games, he has hit 8 home runs. He can still hit, however, posting a .280 average in 2014 and .255 last season. He is likely a bottom of the order hitter now in his mid-30’s with no power. Now a World Series champion, there will be a clubhouse that will seek his experience in the outfield.

Rumored destination: Royals

8. Pedro Alvarez, DH

Alvarez is nothing short of a liability at first base, with 23 errors last season. That being said, his bat is worth putting in the lineup. He smacked 27 home runs last season and is just two seasons removed from a 36 home run, 100 RBI campaign in 2013. His average is usually below .250 but that power threat is tantalizing. As a full time DH, he could do some serious damage.

Rumored destinations: Brewers and Rays

Catcher: none

Bench

Austin Jackson, OF

Jackson started the year as the centerfielder for the Seattle Mariners. He was then dealt to the Cubs to aid their playoff run. He played 136 games, hitting 9 home runs, stealing 17 bases and hitting .267. He’s a guy with plus defenses and speed that can get hot with the bat. He also will stay pretty healthy, as he has played at least 129 games in every season since he came to the league in 2010.

Rumored destinations: Cubs and Rangers

Will Venable, OF

Venable was traded from the Padres to the Rangers after the deadline. He’s a plus fielder that gives you the occasional pop (22 home runs in 2013). However, he’s only hit 14 dingers in the two seasons since then. He’s been a consistent .245 to .260 hitter most of his career. If you are looking for a cheap good fielder who is competent with the stick, Venable is the guy.

Rumored destinations: Orioles and Padres

Jimmy Rollins, SS

There is some doubt as to whether the 37 year-old Rollins can still play a good shortstop. His defensive numbers have actually been pretty steady in his mid 30’s. There will be a team that will take a chance on Rollins. He has 2,422 career hits along with 229 home runs. He won the 2007 MVP. Last year he struggled a bit with the bat, hitting just .224 with 13 home runs. He did score 71 runs (he is 4th on the active runs scored list). Teams will value his playoff experience (.673 OPS in 50 games).

Rumored destination: Angels

Ryan Raburn, DH, OF

Raburn has not played a full season since 2011. However, he did hit .301 in 82 games in 2015. He has a bit of pop (16 home runs in 2013, 82 in his career). He usually puts the ball in play (.936 OPS with just 44 strikeouts in 2015). He is a nice bat to have come off the bench and maybe fill in a spot every so often in the outfield.

Rumored destinations: Tigers and Indians

 

Juan Uribe, INF

Uribe is getting up there in age (will be 37 during Spring Training), but he still hit 14 home runs and helped the Mets reach the World Series after he was dealt from the Dodgers to the Braves and then to the Mets. He still scares pitchers enough to make a difference in a lineup.

Rumored destinations: Dodgers and Indians

Clint Barmes: SS, 2B

Barmes is getting up there in age but he still can serve as a veteran presence that can play everyday in a pinch. He hit just .232 for the Padres last year but had his highest slugging percentage (.353) since 2011. He’s a clubhouse guy and any young team would do well to have Barmes on the roster.

 

So there it is. The all-free agent team. It maybe could contend, depending on the division its in. There are plenty of good arms available and a few good bats. Expect signings to flurry in before Spring Training hits later next month.

 

 

 

 

Are the Mariners Contending?

The Seattle Mariners are actually contending, I know, the 66-71 Mariners are just going to do what they always do, drop a vital series and this article becomes useless. I probably would agree with you if you thought that, but something is different about this team, maybe it’s the September call ups and this is just a good ride for a short time. Maybe it’s the hot bats of Trumbo, Seager, and Cano combined with a solid closer taking over in Tom Wilhelmsen. Whatever it is; they need to ride what it is that is making them win and take it all the way to October.

They will be opening up a 4 game series against the second place (Wild Card and A.L. West) Texas Ranger tonight, and with the Rangers coming off a series lost in LA, they look to bounce back from that so they can regain some of the ground they just lost. What gives them the sense that they will be fine is just how poor Seattle plays in Safeco Field (29-36) in contrast to just how well Texas plays on the road this year (39-32).

In a recent 13 game stretch, the Mariners have gone 9-4 in that stretch, improving their record to 66-71. The Mariners have not been over .500 since May 26th. With less then a month of baseball left; Seattle doesn’t have any room to lose, but they have the biggest and most unsuspecting chance ahead of them; Seattle will face Texas 7 times, Anaheim 6 times, Oakland and Houston 3 times. Currently, Seattle is 9 games behind Houston, and just beat them in Houston, which is really hard to do, let alone was the first team to take Dallas Keuchel yard in Houston(Mark Trumbo). I’m not saying they are going to money ball their way into 1st place in the A.L. West, but they have a great opportunity to make the post season via the wild card.

It’ the strength of schedule for the remaining wild card teams that start to make you think; Seattle might have the best chance to do something here.

Texas faces Houston and Seattle 14 times between the two, and play two series against Oakland and one against Detroit and finish the season against Anaheim.

Anaheim faces Houston and Seattle 6 times and will open a series against the Dodgers tonight; they will also play against fellow wild card contenders Minnesota for a 4-game series. They will then finish the season against Texas.

Baltimore who is sliding and sliding fast, will have two series against New York, one four game series against Toronto, 2 against Boston, one against Washington and a four game series against Tampa Bay.

Chicago, Cleveland and Minnesota will face off against each other 5 times for the rest of the season, making the change of positions between the three in the wild card race so fluctuating that unless one of them run the table they will just keep beating each other up and remaining where they stand. They also will play Kansas City and Detroit 5 times between the three as well.

When you balance the schedule’s of all the remaining wild card teams, and look at the Mariners, who haven’t lost in September so far, you can’t help but think, something special could really happen if the Mariners don’t cool down.

http://SportsRants.com

How The AL East Will Be Won

Major League Baseball will have some pretty fun division races down the stretch. There are also some yawn-inducing divisional races such as the Kansas City Royals (11 game lead) and the St. Louis Cardinals (6 game lead). The NL East, AL East, NL West and AL West are all will be worth watching late in September and even very early October.

Pay particular attention to the AL East. The Blue Jays have taken a rocket ship up the standings and now sit atop the AL East with a half game lead on the New York Yankees. Before the deadline, everyone thought the Yankees winning the division was a forgone conclusion. Now some are thinking they could be left out of the playoffs all together.

It’s still a two and maybe even three-horse race in the AL East. Let’s take a look at how things play out.

American League East

Why the Blue Jays Will Win:

The time is now for the boys north of the border. The front office made that very clear when they acquired Troy Tulowitzki and David Price at the deadline last month. All they have done is ignite the entire franchise and now they have everyone thinking late October baseball in Toronto. Tulowitzki has hit three homers since joining the club and all David Price has done is throw 15 innings in two starts with 18 strikeouts and a 0.60 ERA. The focus is to turn that 1/2 game lead into a 3-5 game lead by September. If the club plays like they have been in the last two weeks, they will cruise to a division title (disclaimer: I am not saying the Blue Jays will go undefeated in September, but it could be close).

(By The New York Times)

(By The New York Times)

Why the Yankees Will Win:

First of all, Alex Rodriguez needs to show a few others on the club where the Fountain of Youth is located that he found. This team is starting to fade, perhaps due to the fatigue of five key players that are 35 or older (A-Rod, Texeira, Beltran, Sabathia, Capuano)? This team needs to find the groove they were enjoying in July. They got there with home runs (153, 3rd in MLB) and clutch, late-inning pitching (2.72 ERA in 8th inning or later, 5th in MLB). It is likely the team that doesn’t win the division will get a Wild Card spot. The Yankees have 11 more games against the Blue Jays  this season and they are 2-7 so far this season. That is not a good trend for the Bronx Bombers.

 

(By USA Today)

(By USA Today)

Why the Rays Will Win: Honestly it will take a colossal collapse by the Blue Jays and/or Yankees. If either of those teams plays above .500 ball for the rest of the season, the Rays are out. It can be done, however if someone not named Chris Archer can step up on that Tampa Bay rotation. Archer has a 2.62 ERA and the rest of the rotation is almost a run worse. It is division or bust for the Rays, they don’t want to face any team in a one-team play-in game.

My Pick: Toronto Blue Jays

They finally have a difference maker in David Price in their pitching staff to complement their explosive offense. They will continue trending upward towards their first division title since 1993.

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.

Teams That Should Buy or Sell

(Jesse Johnson/USA TODAY Sports)

New York Yankees (Buyers): The Yankees are playing winning baseball behind the resurrection of A-Rod, the clutch and power hitting of Mark Teixeira, the ability to score, averaging 4.6 runs a game which ranks 2nd in the American League, the team is 7th in average(.254), 4th in OBP(.323), and 3rd in SLG(.425). The team is 25-16 at home and is 23-24 on the road and only Tampa Bay plays better away(22-18), but worse at home(24-27) in the AL East.

What They Need: Another arm to back up the starting rotation or to come out in long relief, and an outfielder that can stay on the field with any sort of production, between Beltran, Ellsbury, and Young; they need a player that doesn’t know the bench as well as the outfield grass.

Minnesota Twins (Buyers): It’s really refreshing to be talking about WINNING Minnesota baseball. The pitching staff hasn’t been spectacular, but they have been solid, the arise of Kyle Gibson has been very eye opening. Posting a 2.85 ERA over 18 games and even with the really rough month of June, he is still under 3. The twins get Ervin Santana back from suspension, they called up Miguel Sano, who in 11 games so far has hit .378 with a 1.138 OPS 2 HR and 8 RBI’s. The offense is right where it needs to be to win; Ranking 7th in Runs, Hits, Average and Slugging. All Star Glen Perkins is perfect in save situations (28/28) and is posting a 1.21 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, and a 2.25 FIP.

What They Need: The Twins are already trending up within their own dugout, the team is getting healthy and the players seeing playing time are producing. They don’t really need to acquire any heavy talent, the team is very balanced, but I could see them picking up an extra bat to put in the outfield. Plenty at bats for outfielders in Minnesota, and with how good Torii Hunter is in the field, you would like to keep him healthy for the post season push.

Texas Rangers (Sellers): It’s probably head scratching to think of the Rangers being a seller when sitting in 3rd place in the AL West, but the team can’t win at home(16-26) and could move some pieces to make the future more bright. If the team can find ways to stay competitive now, without their ace, 40 moves with the DL, and only 2 hitters batting over .270. The Rangers would benefit now by letting the young talent get experience, get Yu Darvish and Jurickson Profar back next year, make a few trades, and have a solid free agency, the Rangers could be playing for a title next year.

New York Mets (Buyers): The team has been sliding, health isn’t on their side either, but they really have no choice. If they don’t make any kind of push the Nationals will win the NL East in their sleep. The Met’s have an outstanding record at home(32-14) and is pitching absolutely lights out; ranking 3rd in ERA(3.23), 2nd in Walks and hits allowed, 5th in HR, 6th in Strike Outs, and batters are only hitting .239 against them. Jeurys Famila has been the prince of the bullpen; posting a 1.25 ERA, 0.9 WHIP, with an astounding 1.42 ground ball to fly ball ratio. If the Mets can win on the road they will contend as they are only 2 games behind Washington.

What They Need: Hitters, whatever kind of offense that can be plugged in on the corners and make up for the lack of production from the infield. Outside of Duda and Murphy, the Mets are getting really low production from their infielders. It’s not a good sign when 4% of the runs driven in comes from the pitchers. If the Mets make a move, expect them to move an arm for a utility player that can hit and would ideally be able to play 3rd or 2nd.

San Diego Padres (Sellers): A wild card contender after the huge trades made in the off season, the Padres have made no noise and has let a lot of fans down. With the firing of Bud Black, the lack of run support with good pitching and poor pitching during times the offense is hitting, the Padres are ready to move some pieces and use the big trades to try and build something for the future. The division isn’t lost quite yet, but playing behind the 8 ball with the Giants and Dodgers, the Padres should try to cut the suffering down to a minimum and let the team regroup for next year. Upton won’t be a Padre next year, and Matt Kemp is playing almost Robinson Cano like in the first half. It wouldn’t make much sense for San Diego to make a push given their division and how well teams like, Pittsburgh, Chicago, and St. Louis are playing, the wild card seems to be drifting further away down the river.

 

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.

MLB Mid-Season Awards

(Photo from Zimbio)

As a famous commercial ad once stated-chicks dig the long ball!! So as baseballs most ferocious free-swingers flock to Cincinnati to show off their long-ball power in the 2015 Home-Run Derby, you may finally have a better excuse to head to Cincinnati than the fact that you’re going to visit “Kings Island”. With all the festivities coming during All-Star week next week, it seems as good as time as any to show off MY PICKS for mid-season MVP’s, CY-Youngs, and Manager of the year. So lets get to it!

 AL MVP -JOSH DONALDSON

This was a very close race for me when I looked at the candidates. Mike Trout is having his annual MVP-type campaign and Manny Machado has become the most well-rounded lead-off hitter in all of baseball, getting on-base at a clip of .360 while exhibiting power to the tune of an .895 OPS. However Josh Donaldson has simply been ridiculous this season. Donaldson has hit in either the 2 or 3 spot in the order in every game that he has played thus far and has produced accordingly, posting elite-type numbers with 21 Home-Runs, 60 RBI’s, while hitting at a clip of .299/.358/.543/.901. On the team with the best offense in baseball, Donaldson is the best offensive player.

Though we are only at the mid-season point, Donaldson has already posted 4.9 Wins Above Replacement Player, putting him on track to record an almost ridiculous 10 WARP on the year! Adding to his case for MVP, Donaldson has posted a UZR(ultimate-zone rating) of 7.4 on defense which trails only Nolan Arenado for 2nd place in all of baseball while placing a significant 1.3 point difference between himself and 3rd place Manny Machado at the 3rd base position. On a team in the Blue-Jays that has little help on the mound, ranking 12th in the AL in with a forgettable 4.16 team ERA, for the Blue-Jays to be only 3.5 games out of the lead in the AL East and only 3 games back of a wild-card has everything to do with the move they made in the offseason to acquire the mid-season MVP of the AL-Josh Donaldson.

 

 AL CY Young- Chris Archer

Quick note: It kills me that both the AL midseason MVP and AL midseason  Cy-young are products of my Chicago Cubs system before being traded for Rich Harden and Matt Garza!(ugh!)  I guess I can be happy that at least they’re not in the NL. In my estimation this is a 2-pony race, and the pony’s share the same name. Chris Sale and Chris Archer have been the best 2 pitchers by a long shot in the AL.

Chris Sale has actually posted slightly better numbers on the year but call me old-school in a sense that I provide a slight bump for being the ace on a team that is in contention.(Statisticians bring your punches, I’m ready!) While Chris Sale has been absolutely dominant posting a 2.80 ERA to go along with an FIP and xFIP of 2.31 and 2.35, good for a 3.7 WARP this season, he has also played in a less offensively dominant division, in my opinion.

In an AL-East division which sports the top 2 teams in ALL of baseball in terms of run-scored by means of Josh Donaldson’s Toronto Blue Jays and (gulp) Alex Rodriguez’s New York Yankees, Chris Archer has put up tremendous numbers on the year. Posting a 2.74 ERA and a FIP and xFIP of 2.64 and 2.57, Archer has gone 9-6 thus far while striking out 10.87/9 innings and posting a left-on-base percentage of 76.2, all of which is good for 3.2 WARP in the heavy-hitting division.

Furthermore, on a team that was all but left for dead with the departure of their GM Adam Friedman to the Dodgers, shortly followed by their eccentric manager Joe Maddon to the Cubs, Chris Archer has anchored a rotation for a Rays group that finds themselves just 4.5 games back in the division and 4 games back of a wild-card heading towards the break. Throw in the fact that their offense ranks an abysmal 25th in all of baseball in terms of run scored, and you’ve got an AL Cy-young winner in Chris Archer.

 

NL MVP- Bryce Harper

I’m on the Harper-wagon! Heck, I’m driving the wagon. After an off-season that saw Bryce Harper not attend “NatsFest” (come on Nationals marketing, there has GOT to be a better than that) due to some front-office turmoil as Harper was heading towards arbitration. Harper has come out swinging, literally, to show WHY he’s worth much more than the 2 year, 7.5 million dollar deal that was eventually reached to avoid the arbitration judge. Harper has already quadrupled his Wins Above Replacement Player total from last year even though he has played 22 less games so far, posting a 5.7 WARP.

He has become the most-feared left-handed hitter in all of baseball in my opinion by posting an outstanding slash-line of .343/.471/.709 with a wOBA of .490 per fangraphs. He has hit 25 home-runs on the year and knoced in 60 rbi’s while scoring 58 runs himself. While his strike-out rate is at 19.9% he is walking at an all-time career ML high rate of 19.0%, forcing pitchers to pitch to him or walk him. As the Nationals sit ahead of the offensively-starving New York Mets in the NL East by 3 games heading into the break, Bryce Harper has been head-and-shoulders above any other candidate in the race for MVP in the NL to date.

 

NL Cy-Young- Zack Greinke

I REALLY wanted to give this to Max Scherzer. Mainly because a co-worker of mine is a Dodgers fan and has done nothing but harp on how Greinke would beat Scherzer in a head-to-head NLCS match-up, which I don’t buy. However he is right about one thing, Greinke is the mid-season Cy Young award winner. While Scherzer put up the best 3-game stretch of any pitcher I have seen in my lifetime in early June, posting a one-hitter, no-hitter, and taking a no-hitter into the 6th inning the following game, Greinke has been nothing short of amazing the entire season.

Posting a miniscule 1.39 ERA to go along with 2.65 FIP and an xFIP of 3.18, Greinke sits at 8-2 for the Dodgers as they hold a 5.5 game lead over the Giants and Diamondbacks in the NL West. While his xFIP isn’t as strong as Scherzers, Greinke is pitching incredibly well with men on base, posting an 89.5 left-on-base percentage. With the season at the mid-way point, the Dodgers sitting comfortably in first place in their division, and Greinke posting numbers like these, I have to give it to my co-worker and place Greinke as my mid-season Cy Young winner.

 

AL MANAGER- Kevin Cash(in a landslide)

As mentioned in the AL Cy-Young award-winner portion, the Tampa Bay Rays were left for dead. They lost 2-time AL Manager of the Year Joe Maddon to the Cubs, they lost super-executive Andrew Friedman to the Dodgers, and they traded away Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar. They rank 25th in all of baseball in runs scored in a division that has the top 2 overall teams in that category, and one of their trade acquisitions, John Jaso, has been on the DL for most of the year until being activated in the last 2 weeks. Somehow, someway, Kevin Cash has this team in contention in both the wild-card and the AL East.

Now, the AL-East hasn’t exactly had a team run away in the division to date, but for the Rays to have held 1st-place at multiple times throughout the first half of the season is nothing short of a miraculous management job by Cash. It was reported by multiple media sources that, if healthy, the Rays don’t intend to do their annual trade-deadline sell-off and allow Cash to stand pat with the roster he has. If that’s the case, I’m not betting against Cash to get the Rays into the AL Wild-Card game and potentially make some noise in the AL-playoffs this fall.

 

NL MANAGER- Joe Maddon

Respect 90! That was the moniker Joe Maddon implemented upon coming over from the aforementioned Tampa Bay Rays to the Chicago Cubs in the controversial management acquisition in the off-season. His players have listened. With a team full of 21-25 year old’s and minimal playoff experience outside of David Ross, Miguel Montero, and Jon Lester, the Cubs were not expected to contend this year, as many media pundits all but circled 2016 as the year that competitive baseball returned to Wrigley Field. Well to that Joe Maddon has done what he does best, shock the media!

With a team  that saw mega-acquisition Jon Lester get off to a slow start and has had less-than-stellar performances out of other veterans such as Dexter Fowler, Joe Maddon has found a way to have his team in the 2nd wild-card spot as of today. The Cubs are tied with the Nationals for the 4th-best record in the NL despite being in arguably baseball toughest division that includes the MLB-leading St. Louis Cardinals. While the Cubs do sport rookie of the year candidate Kris Bryant, MVP candidate Anthony Rizzo, and super-prospect 21-year old Addison Russell, this Cubs roster is one that would most likely be on the outside looking in of fall baseball  in Wrigley if not for the efforts of manager Joe Maddon.

 

AL East Becoming Competitive Division

(Photo: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports)

A month or so ago, it looked as if the New York Yankees might run away with the AL East division title by the All-Star break because of the inept play of everyone else in the division up to that point. Fast-forward to the present, and it is a totally different look in the AL East. The Baltimore Orioles (41-34) are currently tied for first place with the Tampa Bay Rays (41-34), and the New York Yankees (41-35) and Toronto Blue Jays (41-36) are both within one game of first place in the AL East.

How did we get to this point? Simple, the Orioles have posted an 18-7 record in the month of June with two left to play in the month. During the month, the Orioles had a six-game win streak and are hitting .276 as a team. It helped when the team’s stud catcher Matt Wieters returned from injury. While he isn’t playing everyday yet, he has amassed a slashline of .288/.316/.596 in 16 games during the month of June to go with three home runs, ten runs batted in, nine runs and five doubles. He should continue to build up endurance leading up to the All-Star game, and will most likely return as the everyday starting catcher.

The Tampa Bay Rays have put together a 16-10 record for the month of June after a 14-15 month of May. Both 2B Logan Forsythe (10 runs batted in) and RF Joey Butler (12 runs batted in) have both had a solid month and they have led this team to a first place tie with the Baltimore Orioles. Forsythe is a career .248 hitter, but has a .297 average in 2015, and has been fairly consistent for once.

The New York Yankees have looked solid during certain stretches this season, but have also shown that they can put a five or six-game losing streak together as well. They began the month of June with a seven-game winning streak, behind series sweeps of the Mariners and Angels, but had two separate three game losing streaks this month as well. The Yankees have five players with double-digit home run totals in 2015 (Alex Rodriguez, Brian McCann, Chris Young, Mark Texeira, Stephen Drew), but they are only hitting .257 as a club.

Perhaps the hottest team in all of baseball is the Toronto Blue Jays after posting an 11-game winning streak, which began after a 2-0 loss to the Washington Nationals on June 2 (first game of a doubleheader). They have been firing on all cylinders as a club and their pitching staff has an 18-7 record with a 3.23 ERA in the month of June. They have continually been the cellar-dwellers in the AL East, but might make the playoffs this season if they can continue to play great baseball for the next 3+ months.

Photo: Maddie Meyer-Getty Images

By far one of the biggest underachievers this season, the Boston Red Sox have looked terrible for most of the season, yet they only sit eight games back in the AL East standings. It doesn’t help when they have 3B Pablo Sandoval, who seems to be more interested in liking Instagram photos of women than he does staying in playing shape and helping the Red Sox offense. He was suspended for the offense, but this seems to be Clubhouse Food-gate all over again. Manager John Farrell seems to have lost respect in the clubhouse already, but there don’t seem to be any plans for firing him anytime soon. Sandoval was supposed to come to Boston and help this team win; like he did with the San Francisco Giants, but that hasn’t been the case.

Overall, the AL East has become a fun division race to watch, and I don’t expect that to change in the next month or so. We could be witnessing the resurgence of a division that once was all about the Yankees and Red Sox and then everyone else (I know the Blue Jays were relevant within the last 25 years), but has become more well-rounded and added talent across the board. It is nice to watch the race in the AL East, and that might be all I place my focus on in the coming months with the struggles of my beloved Seattle Mariners.

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