C70 At The Bat

In 2009, before my second full season of blogging the Cardinals, I reached out to other bloggers to other teams to get insights on their clubs.  This year, instead of going through the teams alphabetically, we’ll approach it a little differently, spending a week with each division.  For the tenth straight season, get ready for the upcoming MLB season by playing a little pepper.  

Chicago Cubs
92-70, first in NL Central, lost in NLCS
Website | Twitter

Last year’s Pepper

I know, I know.  If you are a regular reader of this corner of the Internet, probably the last thing you want to read about is the team from up north.  Especially now, when they have two division titles, three NLCS appearances, and a World Series title since the Cardinals lost to them in the 2015 playoffs.  However, unlike that Deadspin series a couple of years ago which notably omitted the Cardinals, we’re going to cover all the teams.  Most of these bloggers I’ve dealt with for a long time, so we can humor them as they extol the glories of the baby bears.

Writer Site Twitter
Josh Timmers Bleed Cubbie Blue Cubsminorswrap
Rob Harris Blue Batting Helmet
Neil Finnell Chicago Cubs Online TheCCO
Ryan Maloney Prose and Ivy  proseandivy
Jacob Misener Cubbies Crib JacobRMisener

C70: What are your thoughts on the offseason? Did the club improve over the winter?

Josh: Funny Yu should ask! (And we’ve got up to six years of those lame jokes coming.) The Cubs lost two starting pitchers in Jake Arrieta and John Lackey and replaced them with two free agent pitchers, Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood. Chatwood is a sneaky good move and I believe that he could thrive now that he doesn’t have to pitch half of his games at Coors Field, although the Cubs didn’t exactly land him at a discount. He’s a big improvement at the back of the rotation over Lackey, who was pretty much pitching on the fumes of his career last season. Signing Chatwood allows the Cubs to leave Mike Montgomery in a swing role, providing left-handed depth to both the starting rotation and the bullpen.

But Darvish was the big fish that Theo Epstein and company landed this winter. He’s no longer the ace that he was before the Tommy John surgery, but he’s still a very good pitcher who was the top free agent available this winter. He’s only a marginal improvement over the now certainly-departed Arrieta, but Arrieta was showing some troubling signs of decline last season. I’m confident that Darvish will be a better pitcher than Arrieta going forward, or at least as confident as you can be with any pitcher.

The bullpen took a big blow by losing closer Wade Davis, although I do understand why the Cubs were reluctant to match what the Rockies offered Davis. The Cubs are hoping that newly-signined Brandon Morrow can step into the closer role. Morrow has been terrific since he made the transition to the bullpen, but he’s 33 years old and was in the minors as recently as 2016. It’s risky move, but the money saved likely went into signing Darvish. On top of that, the Cubs are hoping that Steve Cishek can help stabilize a bullpen that was very shaky at times last year. They’re also counting on a bounce back from Justin Wilson, who oddly struggled after coming over from Detroit last season.

On the offensive side, the Cubs lost backup catcher Alex Avila and signed Chris Gimenez. That’s a big minus on offense but a big plus on defense. But with Willson Contreras as the team’s starter and prospect Victor Caratini (a good-hit, poor-fielding catcher) major-league ready, it was probably better to get a good defensive catcher. Gimenez also has experience working with Darvish, although Darvish joked “I like Contreras better” at his press conference. The rest of the lineup remains pretty much the same because there was very little reason to mess with it. Jon Jay is gone and Peter Bourjos is in. Bourjos, if he makes the team, will probably not play much as Albert Almora Jr. seems ready to handle the everyday center fielding role. Ian Happ will probably also play more in the outfield.

So to finally answer your question, yes. The Cubs did improve this winter when they signed Darvish.

Rob: Time will tell. If Yu Darvish is more like Jon Lester and less like Edwin Jackson, I’ll say yes. But he’s turning 32 this season, and giving him a six-year deal seems ill-advised to me. Tyler Chatwood does nothing for me, either. The loss of Wade Davis, who was as reliable as any closer could be last season, could be significant, too. We’ll have to see if Brandon Morrow can have comparable success in this role. 

Neil: This was the weirdest off-season in my lifetime, possibly history of the game. And there are several free agents that could still impact races this season.

On paper, the Cubs improved over the off-season. The additions of Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood give Joe Maddon a better Opening Day rotation, again on paper, than he had a year ago. Darvish has a questionable history of pitching with expectations and that is HUGE concern going into the season. Chatwood is a solid, backend of the rotation starter, that should flourish outside of Coors Field. His road numbers back up the projections.

The bullpen is still a concern, mainly the backend. I did not like the Brandon Morrow signing. And giving him the ninth inning, is an extremely questionable decision. His workload in the post-season and World Series last year is reminiscent of what the Cubs did to Aroldis Chapman. If any organization knows how a heavy, post-season workload can impact the following season it is the Cubs. The wild card for the pen could be Justin Wilson. If he has gotten past the mental aspects of pitching for a contending team, he could be the key to the bullpen being a solid group to start the season.

Ryan: This off-season was certainly a waiting game. No 108 years of course – but MLB sure did take its time situating which names will need to be sewn on the back of jerseys this year. It will feel odd to see Jake Arrieta in a Phillies jersey but as odd as that will feel, it will just as good to see Darvish on the Cubs. I feel the signing of Darvish will bring a needed breath of fresh air to the club. I feel Darvish vs Arrieta is nearly a wash when you look at how they each impact the team, however that breath of fresh air will be the difference, overall. All of last year was essentially spent either celebrating the World Series championship the club tried so hard to bring home to Chicago or recovering from doing so. I think they were spent in the first half of the season from all the different emotions and experiences that came along with winning for the first time in 108 years and then they had to dig down deep to turn it around and have the success they had in the 2nd half of the season in order to achieve their 3rd straight trip to the NLCS. The Darvish signing I believe makes them marginally better however that pressure coming off the team’s shoulders to either win, or repeat, will be the major difference in 2018.

Jacob: I think the Cubs had a very clear plan heading into the offseason and they executed it near-perfectly. We knew replacing both Jake Arrieta and John Lackey might be a challenge – but Theo jumped on Tyler Chatwood early in the offseason, locking him up for three years and capped the winter by signing Darvish to a very reasonable six-year, $126 million deal. (Keep in mind MLBTR predicted he’d get 6/160 before the winter began). The bullpen acquisitions of Steve Cishek and Brandon Morrow shore up an already talented corps and the position player group is re-energized for 2018. This is definitely a better team heading into 2018 – or, at the very least, a deeper one.

C70: A bit of a step back for Jon Lester last season. Does that get better in 2018 or was that the start of a trend?

Josh: I’m not too worried about Lester. At 34 it’s clear that his best days are behind him, but I still think he will be a quality pitcher in 2018. His ERA spiked in 2017, but a lot of that because of a poor strand rate and a big spike in the percentage of home runs allowed on fly balls. I think Lester will bounce back in 2018.

Having said that, I think he days of being an elite pitcher are likely over. He’s lost a tick of velocity. He’s probably now more of a #3 pitcher than the borderline ace pitcher he was in the past. He’s likely behind Jose Quintana and Kyle Hendricks in the Cubs rotation. But he’s still a good pitcher.

Rob: Lester’s first year in Chicago wasn’t too great, either. Maybe he only pitches well in even-numbered seasons. He’s already accomplished what he was brought here to do, but now there’s still three years left on his deal. He’s always going to be the Game One starter in any postseason series.

Neil: Jon Lester will be fine moving forward. He was coming off two trying and long seasons with the Cubs. Add in the fact he had to learn a new catcher in Wilson Contreras then Alex Avila and the natural decline in a player’s career and he was bound to struggle last year. The Cubs’ front office thought he could be their Andy Pettitte over the course of his contract when he signed the long-term deal, and minus the ugly PED admission by Pettitte, Lester is on track to match the projections.

Will Lester ever finish second in Cy Young voting or repeat his 2016 season? Probably not. Will he be a very good starter and help the Cubs win another championship, or championships, over the next three-four years? Yes.

Ryan: I’m not concerned about Lester at all and I’d hardly call it a step back. 2016 was his all-time best season (career best in wins, winning percentage and WHIP, 2nd best ERA of his career, All-Star appearance, finished 2nd in Cy Young Award voting and pitched over 200 innings for the eighth time in his career). Arguably, you could say he had nowhere to go but down. And yet he still managed to put up numbers not all that far off from 2016 and led the team to its 3rd straight NLCS – a playoff position they have reached or surpassed in each of his three years with the team. 2016 was legendary. 2017 was still dominating. I predict Lester to continue as a reliable ace and at least match the numbers from 2017. 

Jacob: Jon Lester isn’t going to come close to 20 wins again, but I don’t think the Cubs signed him with those expectations – at least not on the back end of the deal. Lester will be better than he was last year, but I expect him to a be a mid-3.00 ERA pitcher who takes the ball 30 times and pushes 200 innings this year. If he does that and continues to lead a still-young clubhouse, it’s a win.

C70: What’s one thing people may overlook (either positively or negatively) about this team?

Josh: I think it’s hard to say anything about the Cubs is overlooked as they’ve joined the Yankees, Red Sox and Dodgers as the teams that fans of every other team is sick of hearing about. The only thing I think people might forget is how incredibly young this lineup still is. Because the big core have been in the public eye (and the playoffs) since they first reached the majors, I think most people forget that almost all of these guys were still in the minors as recently as 2014. Even veterans Anthony Rizzo and Jason Heyward are still both only 28. This group could all end up staying together for years like the Dodgers of the 1970s. 

Rob: The team is set up to contend for at least three more years. Sustained success isn’t something the Cubs have ever had before.

Neil: The Cubs kept the young core intact that has already won a World Series. The front office did not trade any of the position-player depth for starting pitching. One of the positives of the off-season for the Cubs. The market came back to them and they were able to add Darvish without impacting the future of the team. With the young position players still with the Cubs, Joe Maddon will be able to mix and match while keeping players fresh and win games. A must for the Cubs is a quick start so they do not have to ‘flip the switch’ again in the second half and run out of gas in October.

Ryan: I’ll answer both positive and negative. I believe you can only put so much stock in how a team performs in Spring Training. However, the Cubs have dominated all spring which says a lot for how deep not only the club is, but the organization. People dismiss Spring Training records, but I think this may be a sign of things to come in 2018. As for the negative, I think the bullpen could be a concern. We were spoiled to have arms that could be relied on like Chapman and Davis over the past couple of seasons. I have faith in the guys that got us there before (Strop, Edwards Jr, etc) but the new names always bring an element of the unknown with them. Hopefully the front office nails it again with guys like Brandon Morrow joining the effort this season. Good news is, with an offense like this, there should be plenty of breathing room late in the game no matter who comes out of the bullpen. 

Jacob: Chatwood at the back end of the rotation has the potential to be a big positive for this team. His road splits were very favorable outside of Coors (3.49 ERA/.200 OPP AVG) last season and he’s sat in the mid-90s with his fastball this spring. He could be a huge upgrade over Lackey in the number five spot in the rotation.

C70: Who is the one key player, the guy that must have a good year for the Cubs to do well?

Josh: I’d say everyone in the rotation, but Jose Quintana stands out. The Cubs gave up a lot for him thinking that he could be their ace for years to come. If he doesn’t perform the way the Cubs believe he can, it’s going to have a major impact on the entire pitching staff. It’s going to mean a lot more innings for a bullpen that underperformed last year and there are no guarantees that they’re going to be any better in 2018.  Quintana has the talent to be an ace. The Cubs will need him to pitch like one if they want to win another World Series in 2018.

Rob: Anthony Rizzo is the beating heart of this team, and always will be as long as he’s with the Cubs. He’ll be the one to watch.

Neil: Addison Russell. He had a bad year on the field and it was even worse for him off the field. Russell has the ability to be one of the best players in the game. But he has not been able to put it all together, or stay healthy, for a whole season. Russell healthy and productive for an entire year would give stability to one of the most important positions on the field. There is a reason the Cubs have won so many games since Russell took over at shortstop. While he might not be as flashy or have the arm that Javier Baez does, Russell is the best shortstop on the roster.

Ryan: I’m going to go outside the box on this one, focus on ‘the guy’ part of that question and say Joe Maddon. With new faces on the coaching staff and the bullpen and a new vibe in the clubhouse – one with a goal of not winning, but winning again – Maddon will again need to use the depth this roster provides and draw up the right matchups day in and day out. Maddon will have to make the right call of when to give guys a day off and which guy comes out of the bullpen on a regular basis. The talent is there. The way Maddon uses it is what will determine whether we win again in 2018. (And for those of you saying that wasn’t question – ok fine – Schwarber.)

Jacob: Outside of Kris Bryant or Anthony Rizzo, who are givens being the franchise cornerstones, Jose Quintana is my key to 2018. You largely know what you’re going to get from Yu Darvish, Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks. If Quintana continues to be the horse he’s been during his career, you could see him turn in a career season and really add unparalleled depth in the Chicago starting rotation.

C70: What’s your projection for 2018? Where does the team wind up overall?

Josh: The Cubs should win the NL Central again. In fact, it’s hard not to say that the three NL divisions aren’t already decided and Spring Training hasn’t even opened yet. (Of course, we know that’s not the way it works and baseball has a way of surprising.) I don’t think either the Brewers or the Cardinals have enough talent to hang with the Cubs over 162 games. As many question marks as the Cubs pitching staff has, the Brewers and Cardinals both have more and neither of their lineups are as talented as the Cubs. They should win the division by another 5-6 games over one of those two teams.

Beyond that, it’s hard to say. The Nationals and Dodgers are both very good teams, but neither one is better than the Cubs. I don’t think they’re worse, either. The Cubs could get knocked out in the first round of the playoffs or they could win the World Series again. There are three elite National League teams and one of them will get a chance to beat an elite American League team.

Rob: I think the Cubs will win the division again, by maybe two games over the Brewers and four or five over the Cardinals. 96-66 sounds about right to me.

Neil:  I predicted the Cubs would win 95 games last season, a NL Central Championship and make a run in the playoffs. I thought they would struggle to start the year and they did. But I did not see it lasting the entire first half. The Cubs ended up three wins short of my prediction. I still think it will take 95 victories to win the NL Central. The Cubs have the best team on paper in the division. Like all of the pre-season contenders, health is the key this year. And unlike last season, the players will not have a problem staying focused on the team’s goals. If the Cubs can avoid the injury bug, a third straight Central title and a fourth trip to the NLCS are realistic for this team. Advancing to the World Series and winning it again … well that is hopefully something we all get to talk about in October.

Ryan: There’s no reason for me to think the Cubs can’t win it all in 2018. I believe the team will win the NL Central by at least 10 games considering how dominant this rotation and lineup should be. Hopefully they play a team in the NL East again this year in the NLDS or NLCS so I can see them play in the postseason as I did last year in DC. (Selfishly, east coast trips are easiest for me so hopefully they end up in the playoffs playing road playoff games throughout October nearby). And while that would work out best for me, one thing I think all Cubs fans would agree on – no matter which teams they have to go through to get there – I think we all feel comfortable saying this year could be the year…again. 

Jacob: With Kyle Schwarber looking like a new player and the entire roster well-rested, it’s World Series or bust. With one of the best rotations in the game and a very, very deep position player group, I think the Cubs lock up the Central with two weeks left in the regular season and square off against the Astros in the Fall Classic come October.

C70: What’s one question I should have asked and what’s the answer to it?

Josh: The Cubs built their current team through a strong farm system. What’s it like now? It’s not very good, actually. They traded two of the best prospects in the game the past two years for Aroldis Chapman and Quintana. They dealt another good prospect for Justin Wilson and Avila. They haven’t had a top ten draft pick since Ian Happ. But along with the aforementioned Caratini, they do have some pitchers who could contribute in 2018. Dillon Maples made his major league debut last fall and he could end up as a major league closer if he can keep his control issues in check. He’s also a great story, as he was a kid who got a huge overslot bonus (back when such things were allowed) and then struggled for years with control problems and injuries. He was ready to quit baseball last year, but his dad talked him out of it and he shot through three minor league levels last year to make the majors. He could be an important bullpen piece this season.

The wonderfully-named Adbert Alzolay is the Cubs best pitching prospect. He’s a starter who came out of nowhere last season. He added about 2-3 mph on to his fastball and his curve got a lot sharper after he worked on developing his legs. He also started yoga and meditation to keep himself more focused on the mound. He could be major-league ready by mid-season and could end up in the rotation if there is a vacancy.

The other pitcher who could take that spot is Thomas Hatch, the 2016 3rd-round pick who impressed in his first season of pro ball last year. He’s more of a #3/#4 pitcher than an ace, but he could shore up the back of the Cubs rotation in the second half if necessary.

Rob: Will Wrigley Field be ready by Opening Day? I hope so, but right now it looks like a crazy mess of construction equipment. 

Neil: What impact will the new coaching staff, especially Chili Davis, have on the young players? Nationally the Cubs are viewed as a much older team than they actually are. Anthony Rizzo is only 28 years old (29 in August) and Kris Bryant (26), Russell (24), Baez (25), Willson Contreras (25, 26 in May), Albert Almora Jr. (23, 24 in April), Kyle Schwarber (25), Ian Happ (23, 24 in August) and Kyle Hendricks (28) are all younger than Rizzo. The Cubs are viewed as having a horrible system which impacts the future. There is some truth to that, but the future is now with the Cubs and for the next four years. There is still a lot of development needed. These players are not a finished product and on the downside of their career. It’s the exact opposite. The coaches the Cubs brought in can help take the players to the next level. And Davis is now in charge of developing arguably the best group of young position players in the game. If Davis can reach and teach the importance of contact and situational hitting, the Cubs’ offense has the pieces to be even better than the last two seasons which will help keep the Cardinals, Brewers, Pirates and Reds looking up at them in the NL Central standings for the next several years.

Ryan: “Do you have any gum?” Yes, but it’s my last piece. Sorry. Go Cubs!

Jacob: What will the Cubs get out of Brandon Morrow? They’ll get what they need. If they use him in a traditional closer role – similar to how they did Wade Davis last year – his injuries, etc. from the past are completely irrelevant in my mind. Instead of throwing $52 million at Davis, the Cubs answered the closer role question for the next two years while barely breaking the $20 million mark. Oh, and that allowed them to add Darvish while still staying under the luxury tax threshold. 

In all seriousness, I do appreciate these guys taking the time to talk about the Cubs.  We know that, right now, the road to October runs through Chicago.  Which means, if the Cardinals do win this season, that win is all the more sweet!


In 2009, before my second full season of blogging the Cardinals, I reached out to other bloggers to other teams to get insights on their clubs.  This year, instead of going through the teams alphabetically, we’ll approach it a little differently, spending a week with each division.  For the tenth straight season, get ready for the upcoming MLB season by playing a little pepper.  

Chicago White Sox
67-95, fourth in AL Central
Website | Twitter

Last year’s Pepper

There a lot of mixed feelings when it comes to the White Sox.  I mean, they are from Chicago, which isn’t good.  But they are the rivals of the Cubs, which is.  Then they went out and snatched Luis Robert from out of the Cardinals’ clutches, which is not good (especially according to Kyle Reis, who still mourns the loss of Lou Bob).  No matter what you think about the Sox, though, they should be interesting to watch over the next few years.  We’ve got some great bloggers to fill us in on just what we should be watching for in 2018.

Writer Site Twitter
Josh Nelson Sox Machine soxmachine_josh
The staff Southside Showdown SoxShowdown

C70: What are your thoughts on the offseason? Did the club improve over the winter?

Josh: The offseason went as expected. Chicago wasn’t in the market to make significant additions but Rick Hahn made two smart moves that will help make the team better in 2018: signing Welington Castillo, and trading for relievers Joakim Soria/Luis Avilan. Castillo will provide more offense from the catching position, and Soria/Avilan will help handle high leverage situations. The significant additions (should) come next year.

Showdown: The White Sox did not make much of an attempt to improve in the short term over the winter, but that is not a bad thing. Their only major league acquisitions were signing catcher Wellington Castillo and trading for relievers Joakim Soria and Luis Avilan. What they didn’t do is sign aging veterans like Carlos Gonzalez, Jose Bautista, and Mike Moustakas, who would have taken at bats away from some of their younger, big league ready players who may or may not be part of their future like Nicky Delmonico and Yolmer Sanchez. This year will serve as a year to get top prospects like Eloy Jimenez and Michael Kopech a taste of the majors and to see what they have in their inexperienced roster. (Jack Soble)

C70: What’s the most interesting roster “battle” that may happen in spring training?

Josh: Thanks to Carson Fulmer‘s poor spring, the fifth starting pitching spot is available. Hector Santiago was a non-roster invitee that had a chance of making the team serving as a swingman out of the bullpen. From what we have seen from Fulmer, where he has allowed more home runs (7) than striking out batters (5), Santiago could be the White Sox fifth starter to start 2018. Once Carlos Rodon returns from injury, or Michael Kopech is ready for a promotion, then Santiago can move to the bullpen. We’ll see how Renteria handles this role as it was assumed Fulmer would get first crack starting games in Chicago. That seems like a long shot of happening now.

Showdown: At this point in the spring, the White Sox 25-man roster is all but finalized despite no official announcement being made. The last “battle” would be the center field job between Adam Engel and Ryan Cordell, but despite Cordell having a great spring, the coaching staff is in love with Engel, who hasn’t had a bad spring himself. I’m betting on the incumbent, and that pretty much does it for roster sports come Opening Day on the Southside of Chicago. (Patrick Flowers)

C70: What’s one thing people may overlook (either positively or negatively) about this team?

Josh: Jose Abreu is the best first baseman in the American League. ZiPS projects Abreu to have the highest WAR total for first baseman in the American League with another 30+ home run / 100+ RBI season.

Showdown: I think people overlook the possibility this White Sox lineup could actually be really good. You have Yoan Moncada leading off, and indications are he could be a very good leadoff hitter. We don’t know what peak Moncada looks like yet, but he’s been getting on base and hitting extremely well this spring. Following him you have Jose Abreu, who is going to be good for 30 home runs and 100 RBIs. Avisail Garcia, while probably not going to hit .333 again this year, could still be a strong .280 hitter this year. Wellington Castillo was one of the best hitting catchers in baseball last year, and could do it again. Tim Anderson, while a question mark because of his sophomore slump, figures to bounce back and could become a serious weapon in the lineup. Nicky Delmonico has shown he can be an above average hitter in a small sample size. If he is healthy and plays up to his apparently very high potential he could be an under the radar key contributor. Adam Engel and Yolmer Sanchez are the two biggest question marks. Even Yolmer Sanchez could hit .260 at the bottom of the lineup and be an above average contributor. Adam Engel could represent the only real “hole” in the lineup, but if he hits like he has during this spring could be really good. DH is a question mark, but we could see Matt Davidson make a jump in his second full year. Don’t sleep on this Sox lineup.  (David Wildman)

C70: Who is the one key player, the guy that must have a good year for the White Sox to do well?

Josh: Depends on your definition of “well”? If “well” means a winning record, I’ll say Lucas Giolito because I feel he has the most potential to have a very good year starting games for the White Sox and lead a rotation that will be fluid in members during 2018.

If your definition of “well” is making you believe the White Sox will be destined for greater things soon, that is Yoan Moncada. If Moncada can generate a 4+ WAR season that will get fans to really believe this team is ready to turn the corner with Eloy Jimenez, Kopech, Alec Hansen, and Luis Robert waiting in the wings.

Showdown: You could argue for any one of the young pitchers, or Yoan Moncada. You might suggest Avi Garcia needs to repeat his successful year. While all these things might be true, the most important success comes from the middle of the diamond. Tim Anderson had a tough 2017 season, due to a personal event that took a lot of his time and energy from him. He rebounded late in the season and looked like a solid contributor for the rebuild. Getting the news that your best friend was murdered isn’t easy for anyone, and Anderson admitted it got to him too much throughout the season. However, his play picked up when he started seeing a therapist, and Anderson believes that is no coincidence. Anderson won’t suddenly walk at a league average rate, but he should have a solid average and be a threat on the base paths. Additionally, he won’t set the world on fire with his defense, but he can be at the very least, an average shortstop defensively. He has always struggled out of the gate, so if he has another slow start, don’t give up on him. (Griffin Meadors)

C70: What’s your projection for 2018? Where does the team wind up overall?

Josh: 73-89, 4th place in AL Central.

Showdown: Ultimately, the White Sox are still in “non-compete” mode in 2018, if for no other reason than they’re not looking to add to the major league roster solely to compete. As is, the lineup may be a sleeper, but the pitching staff will bog the team down in the standings. Lucas Giolito looks like a stud this spring, following up his impressive end of 2017, and Reynaldo Lopez isn’t far behind him. Outside of Giolito and Lopez, the rotation really falls off of the table with James Shields who is a shell of himself and Miguel Gonzalez in his second stint with the White Sox not really intimidating any opposing lineups. The fifth spot in the rotation will go to the veteran Hector Santiago, who has been mildly impressive this spring, or former first round draft selection Carson Fulmer, who has an ERA just shy of 20.00 in four starts this spring. I can see this team, as is, winning anywhere from 72-78 games in 2018. (Patrick Flowers)

C70: What’s one question I should have asked and what’s the answer to it?

Josh: Who on the White Sox can help my fantasy baseball team? If you are in the late rounds and want to pick up a bat that could surprise, Nicky Delmonico is your man.

Showdown: One question that should have been asked about a team like the White Sox is: will we see any of the top prospects make it to the Major Leagues level this year aside from the usual September call-ups? The two that I believe have a very good chance to get called up before September this year are right-handed pitcher Michael Kopech and outfielder Eloy Jimenez. In my opinion, I think we will see Michael Kopech much earlier than people might anticipate. He’s starting the season in Triple-A for the Charlotte Knights and if he cruises through his first five or so starts, then I think he will get the call shortly after. This would give Michael Kopech an estimated May/June call-up date. Eloy Jimenez on the other hand will be starting this season in Double-A for the Birmingham Barons. Eloy saw limited action this spring due to a knee injury, but he made the most of his time when he got the chance. In 7 plate appearances, Eloy had a .571 avg with 2 HR, 3 RBI, and a 2.381 OPS. He was able to quickly advance through the Sox minor league system last season and I imagine that will be the case again this season. He’s only seen 18 games of experience in AA for his career, so he should get a lot of work there this season and then he will be briefly called-up to Triple-A for a couple of months before getting called-up to the Majors. Estimated call-up date for Eloy Jimenez: late June or the middle of July, so right around the All Star break. 

My thanks to everyone for dropping some Chicago knowledge on us.  It’s going to be interesting to see how the prospect haul from the last couple of years begins to pay off!


As many of you probably know, around this time of year the United Cardinal Bloggers get together and pose questions to each other.  I was the one that brought up the rear on the questioning, which meant much of the great questions had already been asked.  Still, I was able to get some of those that participated to give some quick hits about the 2018 season.

Before we get into that, though, I wanted to share a few links.  If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve probably seen where I’m try to run something called The Cardinal Six this season.  Before every series, I’ll put out a six-question form about what’s coming up, some general, some specific.  Each question as a point total and we’ll keep track of who wins all year long.

As a season preview, though, I’ve expanded it out to 16 questions (in honor of Ray Lankford) and you can find that form here.  Put in what some identifying name (one that you’ll use all year long so we can match things up) and get going.  You’ve got questions like where will the Cardinals finish in the division to how many strikeouts will Alex Reyes have and all sorts of things in between.  We’ve got over 20 folks competing now and it’d be great to push that number even higher.  Again, click here to get started.  I’ll probably put the Mets series Six out a week from today and hopefully we’ll get each series’s questions out at least a day before first pitch.

Also, it was a full weekend of podcasting from me, so if you want to waste about 2.5 hours this morning, I’ve got you covered.  First, you’ve got Allen and I talking on Friday over at Meet Me at Musial.  Allen correctly suggested that Carson Kelly could be sent down to the minors and I wondered about the 40-man issues.  We’ll find out how the latter gets sorted out now that the former has happened.

The 40-man cropped up on Saturday as I talked to Kyle Reis as part of the Conversations With C70 series, but it was only a minor point in a wide-ranging discussion that talked about how Kyle got into minors analysis and what exactly is going on with this Prospects After Dark stuff.  Kyle, who you probably know that you can read over at Birds on the Black, also talked about the overabundance of prospects at the upper levels and who might be a rising star to check out this season.

(Speaking of Birds on the Black, I kicked off their Pinch Hitters program by paying off a bet I made with Joe Schwarz over the Butler/Arkansas game.  Guess it could have been worse, given this tournament.)

Finally, Sunday night Tara and I spent some time on Gateway to Baseball Heaven talking about the fact that Kelly is going to start in Memphis and what that means going forward.  We also spent some time talking about the pitching staff and just how we feel about this team about 10 days from the opener.

All right, there’s the self-promotion.  Now, let’s see what the other bloggers had to say in the roundtable.  For reference, here’s the question:

Daniel: Let’s do a little rapid fire–feel free to explain however much you like, but short answers are acceptable as well.

–Most surprising player this year
–Player most likely to disappoint
–The one topic we’ll be focusing on the most this season
–Number of Cardinal wins

Adam Butler (The Redbird Daily): Most surprising player — Mike Mayers
Disappointing player — Sam Tuivailala
Hottest topic — Finding the right middle relief formula
Number of wins — 89

Kyle Reis (Birds on the Black): Surprise: Bud Norris, who will be average, which is way better than I ever could have imagined.
Disappointment: Michael Wacha
Story line: Alex Reyes’ health, usage, and debut
Win total: 86

Josey Curtis (Viva El Birdos): Surprising: Luke Weaver
Disappointing: Paul DeJong – maybe not disappointing, but definitely a candidate for a fierce sophomore slump.
Story line: The top of the order, which *should* be one of the best in the league: Fowler-Carpenter-Pham-Ozuna
Wins: 88

Tara Wellman (Birds on the Black): Most surprising player: Brett Cecil… because, has anyone really seen enough to know what he’s going to do?
Most likely to disappoint: Miles Mikolas… not because I don’t think he’ll be good, but because he’s not Chris Archer. Sorry, pal. Tough break, I know. (But actually, probably Matt Carpenter, because that guy can’t do anything right.)
#1 topic: Adam Wainwright… for better or worse
Win total: 87

Mary Clausen (MLB Voice): Most surprising player this year – Harrison Bader
Player most likely to disappoint – Michael Wacha
The one topic we’ll be focusing on the most this season – Alex Reyes
Number of Cardinal wins – 90 (keep fingers crossed. All season? lol)

Joe Schwarz (Birds on the Black): Most surprising: Jack Flaherty
Most likely to disappoint: Tommy Pham
One topic of focus: Adam Wainwright
Wins: 90

As for me, I think I’d say the most surprising player is going to be Adam Wainwright.  Not that he’s going to be the All-Star he’s been before, but if he has an ERA a bit under 4 I think that’s significantly better than anyone thought he could be even a couple of weeks ago.

The most disappointing player?  I’m trying to shake the feeling that it’s going to be Carlos Martinez, that he’s still not going to take that next step we continue to think is coming.  I’m going to be optimistic and not go that way, instead choosing Jedd Gyorko.  Not that he’ll have a bad season, but if injuries or anything else crop up and Jose Martinez stays hot, Matt Carpenter find his way over to that side of the infield more and more often, cutting into Jedd’s playing time.

The one topic we’ll be focusing on?  It’s tough to argue with those picking Alex Reyes.  I think we are also going to be trying to figure out how much to credit Mike Maddux for any pitching-related decisions.

It comes down to the win total.  I really am feeling good about the team right now, but I also know that it’s sitting on a bit of a razor edge.  A bad injury, an ineffective player, and things could go south in a hurry.  I’ll go with 91 wins, saying the Cardinals get to be the team that get a little good luck their way this season.

That’ll wrap another roundtable.  We’ll do it again in the fall!



 JUPITER, Fla., March 18, 2018 –The St. Louis Cardinals announced following today’s game that they have reduced their Spring Training roster by five players, leaving the number of players in Major League camp at 41 (30 roster players & 11 non-roster invitees).

The team today optioned pitchers Jack Flaherty and Ryan Sherriff, catcher Carson Kelly, infielder Breyvic Valera and outfielder Oscar Mercado to the Memphis Redbirds (AAA) roster.

(Edit: John Gant also optioned.)


In 2009, before my second full season of blogging the Cardinals, I reached out to other bloggers to other teams to get insights on their clubs.  This year, instead of going through the teams alphabetically, we’ll approach it a little differently, spending a week with each division.  For the tenth straight season, get ready for the upcoming MLB season by playing a little pepper.  

San Francisco Giants
64-98, fifth in NL West
Website | Twitter

Last year’s Pepper

As Cardinal fans, we tend to have both a negative and perhaps a somewhat inflated view of the Giants.  After all, a team that continually beats the Cardinals in the playoffs has to be pretty good, right?  The Giants took a serious blow last year but it again is an even year and while that didn’t quite work out in 2016, we well remember there was still enough of it for them to hold off the Cardinals.  Because that’s always the way.  Anyway, three excellent San Francisco bloggers are here to fill us in on just what might be in store this season.

Writer Site Twitter
Craig Vaughn THE San Francisco Giants Blog 1flapdown77
Richard Dyer The Giants Cove
Doug Bruzzone McCovey Chronicles

C70: What are your thoughts on the offseason? Did the club improve over the winter?

Craig: Last year I remember being very negative about the team in my “Playing Pepper” responses. I’ll have to go back and look and see if that’s the case. :). Bottom line this off season: I am very happy with what they did. Hey, when you lose 98 you could please me with some free ice cream. But Sabean gave me more than free ice cream. I got Longoria. McCutchen. Jackson. Watson… And hopefully I also get Bumgarner not falling off his motorbike this year. The club is much improved…..as long as no one gets hurt. 

Richard: As I noted in a recent blog, after going 64-98 last season the Giants’ front office made the decision to, 1) double down on their veteran players; and, 2) try to add two outfielders, a third baseman, and at least one reliever. And they did just that. San Francisco traded for 3B Evan Longoria of Tampa Bay and OF Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates, and also signing free agents lefty relief pitcher Tony Watson and OF Austin Jackson.

The 2017 club was definitely improved. But to take a NL Wild Card slot this season, the Giants will have to be better than four of these five teams: Arizona, Milwaukee, Colorado, St. Louis, and the New York Mets. Which is not likely.

Doug: The club definitely improved over the winter! You can’t say they didn’t improve. They saw the soul-sucking void that was the outfield and they got Andrew McCutchen and Austin Jackson to, uh, address a soul-sucking void however you do that. Caution tape, I guess? Plywood? New wallpaper? And, of course, they went out and made a big trade for Evan Longoria. Eduardo Nunez was a perfectly fine player at third base for the Giants last year, but the team saw they were going nowhere and traded him, and for the next two months they saw a series of madcap disasters manning the position. Then, and no one saw this coming because no one saw how they could do it and stay under the luxury tax, they got Tony Watson to be (A) a lefty in the bullpen who (B) wasn’t a disaster every day and in every situation. All in all, if someone put a gun to Bobby Evans’s head and say “Compete next year while staying under the luxury tax and also not trading away top prospect Heliot Ramos or else,” and nobody thought too hard about what the gun was even there for when Evans wouldn’t be evaluated on this mission for months, it would be hard to imagine a more successful offseason.

They still might not be good enough to actually compete, by the way. But I’ll just have to hope that Question 2 gives me the opportunity to talk about that.

C70: Is there any concern that the Giants’ window might be closing soon?

Craig: This question cracked me up when I read it. There is no window left, my man. Just an enclosed cinder block house. It’s pitch black inside. Gonna need to bust a block or two out just to see what’s going on outside; if there’s even still a world out there……

Richard: Organizationally, the Giants’ “window” closed after their 2012 World Series win. Ownership and the front office had just come off winning the Series two of the previous three years. They had a golden opportunity to not just win some championships, but to build a championship organization for years to come. Instead they opted to slap together a series of teams on the cheap and continued to neglect their failing farm system. At the same time the front office was actively resisting the advanced metrics revolution, opting instead to sell a tired “old school” approach to their fanbase.

The Giants accidently got lucky in 2014, riding Madison Bumgarner’s arm to another Series win. But the last three seasons shows what happens when you rely on luck and crossing your fingers instead of building a top-notch baseball franchise.

Doug: Hahaha, yes. Oh, yes. Goodness, yes. The only reason to answer no to this question would be if you think the window is already closed and they’re going to slam into it 162 times next year. This team was godawful last year, and a whole lot of that same cast is going to be back for more. Hunter Pence might be done. Brandon Crawford might have forgotten how to hit. I’ll talk about the rotation later, but suffice to say there are worries there. They went 64-98 last year, and it turns out that 98 losses is an awful lot of losses. Since the Phillies have become terrible, for example, they’ve only had one season where they lost 98 games. It’s honestly really hard to do.

But let’s say that last year doesn’t mean that much. Let’s say that the window is still unequivocally open. Yes, it’s going to close soon. This team is old. Buster Posey is a catcher on the wrong side of 30. Most of the lineup is over 30. If last year was not the reckoning, then there is a reckoning coming, and it is coming soon.

C70: What’s one thing people may overlook (either positively or negatively) about this team?

Craig: I’m gonna say “the bullpen.” My entire reputation is at risk with this answer, I know. But I think losing Raggs will be a good thing. He did great things in SF but near the end, that was one tired voice. A voice I’m sure the pitchers were tuning out. Melancon and Smith will return healthy, Watson is going to be a rock solid anchor, and some of the younger guys are going to be inspired by Curt Young and Matt Herges. The SF Giants bullpen in 2018 will surprise people. There. It’s been said.

Richard: Unlike MLB fanbases in New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, and St. Louis, for some reason most San Francisco Giants fans bond with individual players and managers instead of bonding with the historic franchise and demanding a winning organization. No doubt the Giants’ front office perceives this as a big “positive”. As a result, over the past ten years San Francisco’s ownership and front office have gotten away with “PR selling” inexpensive, poor performing players to their fans instead of actually developing talented players in the minors.

Doug: One thing people sometimes overlook is that Buster Posey has had a better career than Yadier Molina.

This is a good crowd to say that to, right?

C70: Who is the one key player, the guy that must have a good year for the Giants to do well?

Craig: Cueto. Hands down. Preferably hands without blisters on them……

Richard: The problem is, for the Giants to do well in 2018, a number of veteran players will somehow have to have very good years. There is no one “key player” who can carry this team, especially offensively.

For example, catcher Buster Posey is by far the team’s best position player (and should be a lock to be a first year eligible Hall of Famer). But Posey will be 32 this season. He has had only one +.900 OPS season in his 9-year career (.957 in 2012). And he’s hit 20 or more home runs just twice in his career (24 in 2012, 22 in 2014). In 568 PA in 2017, Posey hit just 12 home runs. So Buster Posey can’t carry this team, and the other veteran players that make up the 25-man roster aren’t likely to have multiple breakout seasons at this point in their careers.

Doug: Johnny Cueto. The secret huge weakness of this team is the rotation. Madison Bumgarner has been an excellent pitcher for years, and he’s very likely to be excellent again, but there are question marks in every spot in the rotation. How will Bumgarner respond the year after he had a pretty devastating injury (even when he came back last year, he had his worst strikeout rate and home run rate since he was a rookie)? Will Jeff Samardzija ever not give up runs at the rate that advanced stats say he should be not giving up runs? Will the fourth and fifth starters — Chris Stratton and Ty Blach, at least for now — be effective major league starters? You can’t really be 100% positive about any of those questions, which is why Cueto is so vital. He struggled with blisters last year, and then he struggle with some other mild injuries, and he was never right. He was never the Cy Young contender he’s spent most of his life being. If he has a good year, that’s a huge plus for the rotation and a huge plus for a bullpen that doesn’t want to pitch lots of innings every day. If he doesn’t, that’s one day out of every five that’s for sure no fun, and the Giants really won’t be able to count on most of the other four to be much better.

C70: What’s your projection for 2018? Where does the team wind up overall?

Craig: 88 wins. This is risky because I think even one or two key injuries could doom the season. But I’m sticking with 88 wins and a wild card berth.

Richard: With the additions of McCutchen, Longoria, and Watson there is little doubt that San Francisco should rebound from last season’s 64-98 record. I think they have a good shot at getting to .500 this season, but not much more. And after losing 98 games last season, getting back to .500 this season would be no small achievement.

Doug: The short answer is ¯_(ツ)_/¯. The long answer is ¯_(ツ)_/¯ but then I explain it and write more words. So: the Giants lost 98 games last year. Teams that lost 98 games one year tend to be very bad the next year. On the other hand, teams that lost 98 games one year also tend to not make a big splash like the Giants did this offseason to compete again, so it’s tough to take that history as a guide. So here’s what I’ll go with: Losing 98 games means that your team is fundamentally flawed in myriad ways. For all the work the Giants did, it’s just about impossible to fix all that damage in one offseason. A successful season for them would be something like 84-78, because an 84-78 team doesn’t make you want to die every time you watch them. I’m going to say they’ll wind up in 3rd place, and I’ll consider that overly optimistic.

C70: What’s one question I should have asked and what’s the answer to it?

Craig: “Craig, have you lost your dang mind with that bullpen prediction?” 

Richard: What does the immediate future after 2018 look like for the San Francisco Giants? This is an organization that committed a series of long-term contracts to an aging team of veterans. The Giants will have the third highest MLB payroll in 2018 (only Washington and Boston are higher). The MLB Network reported that in 2020, when all these players will still be under contract and be at or approaching their mid-30s, the San Francisco Giants will have highest salary obligation in the Majors– $122.4 million. And there’s no relief from San Francisco’s farm system in the next several years. The Giants have been routinely rated in the bottom 20% of Baseball America’s team organizational rankings the past six years. And the Giants’ farm system won’t remotely be fixed by having the second pick in the 2018 amateur player draft.

On the positive side, the Giants have by far the wealthiest ownership group in the Majors (Principal Owner Charles Johnson alone is worth $4.9 billion), and the 5th most valuable franchise in baseball ($2.65 billion). [Forbes.com] So San Francisco’s ownership has more than enough resources to buy their way out of the salary pit they’ve put themselves in– if they’re willing to spend their money smarter.

Doug: “What kind of depth do the Giants have in order to weather the injuries that inevitably crop up during a long baseball season?” Oh, none, and thanks for bringing it up. The backup plan for middle infield is either Kelby Tomlinson or no plan, which are basically the same thing. The backup plan for the rotation is more unproven rookies, who as someone who attends a lot of AAA Giants games I certainly have unrealistic hopes for, but they come with legitimate question marks. The backup plan in the outfield is basically the same crew that disappointed us so badly last year, the backup plan at the corner infield spots is Pablo Sandoval (lol), and the backup plan at catcher is who cares about the backup plan at catcher this team is built on not needing a backup plan at catcher if we need a backup plan at catcher we’re doomed. The team had a depth problem last year too and it really came back to bite them; they’ve mostly addressed their needs this year by vastly improving the top of the team, but once you get through that top, it’s very, very rough.

My thanks to all of these guys for giving us a little bit of insight on the boys in orange and black.  We’ll see if all that veteran presence will help push them to October!

1 comment

In 2009, before my second full season of blogging the Cardinals, I reached out to other bloggers to other teams to get insights on their clubs.  This year, instead of going through the teams alphabetically, we’ll approach it a little differently, spending a week with each division.  For the tenth straight season, get ready for the upcoming MLB season by playing a little pepper.  

Texas Rangers
78-84, third in AL West
Website | Twitter

Last year’s Pepper

It was a bit of a down year for Texas last year.  Not only did they finish under .500 for only the second time since 2008, they had to watch as their in-state rivals won 100 games, the division, and their first World Series.  That’s a gut punch that we as Cardinal fans are all too familiar with.  So what’s next for the Rangers?  How do they absorb that blow and come back from it?  You know you are in for a treat when an accountant by day, writer by night (or whenever he can) brings you the info.  Let’s get to it!

Writer Site Twitter
Brandon Land One Strike Away onestrikeaway

C70: What are your thoughts on the offseason? Did the club improve over the winter?

Brandon: This offseason was a bit different compared to what Rangers fans have become accustomed to. Not only did the franchise ship away Yu Darvish at the trade deadline last season, but there was never any real push by the club to sign Darvish as a free agent. Not for lack of appreciating his talents, mind you, but more an issue of money.

Now, many fans are quick to assume that this means the Rangers are cash-strapped. I don’t believe that to necessarily be the case. More likely, in my mind, is an admission that this club, without very significant improvements from key players already on the roster — Mazara, Odor, etc. — isn’t one starting pitcher away from dethroning the Astros in the AL West. Their strategy was to go out and sign a number of low-risk propositions, throw them against the wall, and see if anything sticks. They’re not exactly saying that 2018 is a season to retool, but the moves — and lack of high-impact moves — would seem to indicate that.

C70: It feels like we’ve been talking about Jurickson Profar forever but he’s only 24. Will he ever approach the levels folks expected of him a few years ago?

Brandon: Profar is an interesting case. He only turned 25 in February. He came up and spent some time in a utility role in 2013, then Ian Kinsler was traded away for Prince Fielder. Many people forget that the entire purpose of that trade was to open a position for Profar while also improving in another area (adding some pop at first base). Obviously, a shoulder injury robbed Profar of two seasons, Fielder ended up with a career-ending neck injury, and Rougned Odor stepped into the fold.

Odor obviously has the long ball, and fans tend to fall in love with it, but the dirty little secret is that Profar might actually still be the better player. He’s better defensively than Odor, and the last time he got consistent playing time in 2016 with 306 plate appearances, he was a better hitter (78 wRC+) than Odor was in 2017 when, in 651 plate appearances, he the worst everyday hitter in baseball (61 wRC+).

Odor has the contract he signed before the 2017 season, but Profar is out of minor league options. He’s going to be on the big club, and at least to start the season, he’ll be in a super-utility role. That’s not his preference, but it’s what he’s got, and the hope is that he’s worked on his athleticism a bit this offseason to be a better all-around player for the Rangers. If Odor continues to struggle with pitch recognition, you could see a bit more of Profar than people might expect. That might not be such a bad thing. He may never come close to the ceiling some scouts had him pegged for, but I think he can still have a solid Major League career.

C70: What’s one thing people may overlook (either positively or negatively) about this team?

Brandon: This one’s a bit more difficult to pin just because of the situation the Rangers find themselves in. Other than a 2014 season in which injuries washed away any hope, the Texas Rangers have been competitive in their division since 2009. When you’re trading away prospects each year to fill holes for a playoff push, the bill eventually comes due. That appears to be the case now. However, all the reports tell me that Willie Calhoun — received in exchange for Yu Darvish from the Dodgers — is a Major League ready hitter. He might not have a definitive position just yet, but he appears ready to be a contributor on offense.

C70: Who is the one key player, the guy that must have a good year for the Rangers to do well?

Brandon: In my mind, this player is Nomar Mazara. Mazara has a beautiful swing, and while he’s slow as molasses in the outfield, if he can get the ball in the air a bit more this season rather than on the ground, I think we’re going to look back and realize he’s had a pretty good season. That isn’t to say that if he has a good season, the Rangers will too. However, if he doesn’t improve, I don’t think we’ll be talking about the Rangers even as wild card contenders by mid-August.

C70: What’s your projection for 2018? Where does the team wind up overall?

Brandon: I’ll go with 80-82. Right now, I don’t think the pitching staff is good enough to keep enough games close. The offense should be above-average, but Cole Hamels isn’t a strikeout pitcher the way he once was. Unless he and another starter can be studs in the starting rotation, I don’t feel it’s realistic to project the 2018 Rangers anywhere above .500.

C70: What’s one question I should have asked and what’s the answer to it?

Brandon: A question I think we’ll see floated around a bit is whether or not Adrian Beltre will be traded this season. Beltre will be 39 in April, and while he’s still been good — and is still a fan favorite — if the Rangers aren’t in the mix near the trade deadline, they should probably look into dealing him. Will they? That remains to be seen. He puts fans in seats, and that might be the ultimate goal for the team in 2018. However, if we’re being realistic and things go as I expect they will, it might be reasonable to consider offers in July.

It’s important to keep in mind that Joey Gallo, while slated to be the regular first baseman for 2018, is actually a third baseman with a lot of athleticism. His physical tools are probably better suited there. Combine that with the fact that Ronald Guzman is waiting to play first base at Triple-A, and if the Rangers can get a nice return for Beltre, they might be better for it post-2018.

From one accountant to another, I extend my appreciation to Brandon for giving us a glimpse at what the Rangers fandom is thinking.  Even if it is an off year, there still should be some exciting stuff to watch there in Texas!


In 2009, before my second full season of blogging the Cardinals, I reached out to other bloggers to other teams to get insights on their clubs.  This year, instead of going through the teams alphabetically, we’ll approach it a little differently, spending a week with each division.  For the tenth straight season, get ready for the upcoming MLB season by playing a little pepper.  

San Diego Padres
71-91, fourth in NL West
Website | Twitter

Last year’s Pepper

Sometimes it feels like the Padres get overlooked when you talk about teams out in California.  Granted, they’ve had some tough times as of late, but they’ve also had some iconic players come through there and there have been some good years as well.  Even the burst of offseason activity a couple of winters ago got them headlines for a while but the results didn’t follow.  So are they building something out there at Petco Park?  We’ve got three Padres bloggers to let us know just that.

Writer Site Twitter
Scott Dunsmore Ghost of Ray Kroc/The Kept Faith GhostofRAK
Jodes Paranal Gaslamp Ball jodes0405
Richard Dorsha East Village Times outsidepaint

C70: What are your thoughts on the offseason? Did the club improve over the winter?

Scott: I guess they improved in some areas, sure.  Eric Hosmer was the big one, obviously. I suppose that is an offensive improvement, because it’s likely a wash defensively, with Wil Myers moving back to the outfield. Defensively, Freddy Galvis is a legitimate shortstop, a position the Padres have been sorely lacking at since the days of Everth Cabrera. And that wasn’t very long a period. We’re just sitting around waiting for Fernando Tatis Jr to get called up. Galvis is a better “stopgap” then the likes of Erick Aybar or Alexei Ramirez.

The bullpen continues to be one of the strongest aspects of the team with Brad Hand locked in as closer and newly added Japanese submariner Kazuhisa Makita.  But that starting rotation, man. When Clayton Richard is an early favorite to be the Opening Day starter, your rotation needs a little work, to say the least.

Jodes: This team still isn’t going to be a contender in 2018, but I think both the big league club and the organization as a whole did improve in the offseason. AJ Preller and his crew addressed some big questions that the team had going into Winter. They signed a legit, proven shortstop in Freddy Galvis as well as a solid backup catcher in A.J. Ellis. Not to mention the big blockbuster signing of the winter, Eric Hosmer, who turned this skeptic into a fan almost immediately with the way he’s stepped into a leadership role and connected with his teammates in camp. There’s a ton of depth in both the outfield and infield, and both the starting pitching and bullpen have some very strong contenders this year. All of this indicates that we’ll be watching a more well-rounded and overall stronger team in 2018. Maybe we won’t be watching them into October, but it’ll be a more exciting regular season for Padres fans.

Richard: Padres fans have developed a hastag: #trusttheprocess (which morphed into #trusttheprellerprocess because too many non-Padres tweets had the former). This team is trying to use the small-market model implemented successfully by the Astros and Royals and not-so-successfully by many (Pittsburgh, Minnesota, Milwaukee, etc). 2017 was not supposed to be a contending year, neither is 2018.

So, did the team improve over the winter? Yes. But that was not really the point. The Padres signed Eric Hosmer to the largest contract in team history because they think he will still be in his prime when this team is ready to contend (in 2019 or 2020). So, this offseason did what it was supposed to do: build for the future without blocking any young players. I call that a success.

C70: It was strange not seeing the Padres steal a Cardinals minor leaguer in the Rule 5 draft this season. What are the thoughts on Luis Perdomo and Allen Córdoba?

Scott: Perdomo has managed to exceed expectations and become a halfway decent mid-rotation starting pitcher. Is he a #1? No way. And anyone who may think that is, quite frankly, nuttier than a fruitcake.

Who’s that second player? I don’t remember ever seeing that guy. Seriously, I had to look it up to see how much Córdoba played last year and was shocked to see he appeared in 100 games. He made 227 plate appearances and hit .208, which means he was used predominantly as a defensive replacement and/or a pinch hitter. Most of those appearances in the field came in the outfield. There was some chatter among Padres fans when Aybar went on the DL last season to give Córdoba a shot at shortstop, but that scenario didn’t work out the way we all hoped it would. What I’m trying to say is he’s likely starting the season in the minors and he’ll be lucky to find his way back to the Majors with a set position and not be just an Alexi Amarista clone.

Jodes: Luis Perdomo was a lot of fun to watch last year, and I’m looking forward to doing more of that in 2018. At this point, it’s looking likely that he’ll get one of three remaining open rotation spots. He still has a lot to work on at the big league level, like his strikeout rate which was pretty low in 2017, but he showed a lot of promise last season and just a few days ago when he made his Spring debut. I was actually at the game out in Surprise, AZ and Perdomo pitched really well – he struck out five batters in three innings! I know it was just one brief Spring outing, but if it’s any indication at all as to the improvements he made over the offseason, I think we’ll be in for another solid season from the young righty.

As for Cordoba, we have yet to see. He started off his 2017 season with some success, but went downhill as opposing pitchers became more familiar with him and his weaknesses as a young hitter. Earlier this year, just before Spring Training began and while he was back home in Panama, he was in a car accident in which he sustained a concussion. As of about a week ago, he still hadn’t made an appearance in Arizona, and it’s looking less and less like he’ll get any playing time at the big league level this season. And that’s not a bad thing. He’ll benefit much more from some consistent at-bats in the minors, where he can take his time developing and honing his craft among some competition that’s more his speed, as opposed to MLB-level opponents that he may not be entirely ready to face yet.

Richard: I got really used to former Cardinals joining the team. I mean, even beyond rule 5 guys (I’ll take Jon Jay to block, Peter). Allen Cordoba is a nice addition, but I don’t think he projects as anything but a depth outfielder, especially with Wil Myers moving back to the outfield.

Luis Perdomo is an interesting player. The second half of his 2016 had many Padre fans excited. 2017 was a bit of a step back, mostly due to lack of control. But he is still just a kid and he is exactly the type of innings-eater a team like the Padres needs. He is under team control until 2022, so I fully expect him to be a mainstay in the rotation for the next few years.

C70: What’s one thing people may overlook (either positively or negatively) about this team?

Scott: Nothing. I have no expectations, either positive or negative, for this team. And neither should anyone else. Anyone who tells you otherwise is probably delusional. Some may see that as being negative. I see it as being realistic.

Not that this season won’t be fun to watch. The future is getting bright for this organization. It should be interesting to see if Hosmer actually is the positive influence that they’re paying $21 million a year for the next five years for. Will Myers’ move back to the outfield prove to the key to his 2016 first half production? Will Manuel Margot continue to impress? Will Hunter Renfroe continue to overthrow the bases for no reason? Will Fernando Tatis Jr. get the call to the big club before September? I don’t know the answers to any of those questions. But I’m looking forward to finding out.

Jodes: The strength of the Padres bench going into the season is something I think a lot of people don’t think about. Especially after the Hosmer signing, the competition really heated up for those last position player roles on the Opening Day roster. For example, with Hosmer taking the starting 1B job Wil Myers is moving back to right field. And with Manuel Margot basically a lock as the starting center fielder, there are still quite a few strong contenders vying for that last outfield spot. No matter what happens there will be some nice bats left to sit on the Padres bench and be real assets late in games.

Richard: The Padres defense, especially in the infield will be really, really good. Hosmer is elite and Chase Headley has won a Gold Glove. Freddy Galvis is possibly the best defensive shortstop the team has run out to the position in years. Whether Carlos Asuaje or Cory Spangenberg win the second base job, all they need to do is be league average to make the infield defense stellar. When you have a team with Clayton Richard and Perdomo, who will try to keep the ball on the ground, a good defensive infield will save dozens of runs over the course of a season. Add in Manny Margot in CF and Austin Hedges behind the dish and I don’t think I’m exaggerating to say the Padres will have one of the best defensive teams in the league.

C70: Who is the one key player, the guy that must have a good year for the Padres to do well?

Scott: Myers. Next question.

What? You want more? Fine. Myers needs to show us that he can step up and perform on a consistent level for an entire season. He’s been too hit & miss over the last season and a half since the 2016 All-Star Game. And now that the “team leader and face of the franchise” mantle has been bestowed upon Hosmer, Myers won’t have to worry about that anymore. Probably. In fact, I’m changing my answer to Hosmer. If he doesn’t do well, watch out. All those people who questioned his signing, myself included, will be proven right and I don’t know how the Padres are going to live that down.

If it happens like that.

Which I don’t want to see.

But I do kind of want to see.

Sort of.

But not really.

Jodes: It would be easy (and not untrue) to say someone like Hosmer or Galvis, but my pick goes to Margot. He had something of a breakout season last year as a rookie, and he’s projected to do even better in 2018. With his power and speed in the lineup and his defense in the outfield, his success could be key for this team, and for future Padres teams.

Richard: A key player for the Padres is tricky, because the team really doesn’t plan on contending for anything this year. I will say this, the team really wants Wil Myers to have a bounce-back year. Prior to the Hosmer signing, Myers was the face of the franchise (having received the previous largest contract in team history) and most experts say he didn’t really enjoy the role. This may have been a factor in nearly all of his numbers taking a dip last year. The Padres saw Myers as a player of the ascent, and expected him to keep getting better year over year. They are really, really hoping last year was just a one-year regression, and not a sign of more ominous things to come. I think Myers has a big year.

C70: What’s your projection for 2018? Where does the team wind up overall?

Scott: Ron Fowler, the chairman of the ownership group, has said repeatedly that he expects to finish with at least a .500 record this year. With that starting rotation, though….yeesh, good luck with that. It’s going to be a hard road to travel when you’re down 5 runs after 2 innings every other game.

I would venture to guess 76 wins. Not for any specific scientific rationale, but because that’s where they finished in 2012 and 2013 after winning 71 games in 2011, the same as last year. And history always repeats itself. IT ALWAYS REPEATS ITSELF!

Jodes: I feel like I’ve been pretty optimistic in my answers up to this point, just because that’s my nature. But I do think this team is going to be an interesting one to watch in 2018. In a general sense, they’ll probably be above average, but not much for casual fans to get too excited about or for fans of other teams to be wary of just yet. If you want a more specific answer, I see them finishing at 3rd or 4th in the NL West, though they may creep higher up in the standings at points during the season.

Richard: The tank is over in San Diego. The team is no longer hoping for a top-5 draft pick. This team thinks it is close and it wants to start a culture of winning. I believe the target is .500 baseball. Most metrics say it won’t get there, but I think 75-80 wins is a pretty realistic target. It is not beyond the realm of possibilities for the team to get to 82 wins. Most of the season success depends on the rotation. I have absolutely no idea who will lead this team in innings, and I don’t think the front office does, either.

C70: What’s one question I should have asked and what’s the answer to it?

Scott: When will Padres management get their heads out of their [backsides] and go back to brown full-time as a color scheme?

We’ll find out in 2020, apparently. This year is all about celebrating the 20th anniversary of the 1998 World Series team and they’ll wear the 1998 uniforms on Way Back Wednesdays. And next year is the 50th anniversary of the Major League Padres. So I’m sure they’ll be doing all sorts of 1969 flashback stuff on Wednesdays next season, which wouldn’t be too bad as they wore brown in 1969. So that leaves 2020 as the earliest we could see significant changes to the most boring, uninspired uniform set in Major League Baseball.

Jodes: Maybe something about Jedd Gyorko? I was a big fan of his when he was in San Diego and continue to root for him (when the Cards aren’t playing against the Padres). Jon Jay was fine when he was here, but I was bummed about that trade when it happened and, especially with how well Gyorko has played against his former team the past couple of seasons, I’m still bitter about it.

Richard: Let’s bring this full circle. Since Padre fans have to decide whether to #trusttheprocess or not, I will offer my take on the process. I trust what GM AJ Preller is trying to do at Petco Park. Most analysts say the Padres have the best, or near the best, farm system in baseball. They, legitimately, have 2-3 potential aces starting games in various levels. They have, possibly, the most exciting position player prospect in baseball (Fernando Tatis). I firmly believe they have a 2-5 year window coming up where they have a chance for a Championship. We’ll see how it goes, but this is how small-market teams have to do this. So, I do #trusttheprocess, mostly because I have no choice but to trust this front office.  

My thanks to Scott, Jodes, and Richard for giving us a bit of insight on their favorite club.  We’ll see if the Hosmer deal pays dividends on and off the field, enough to have them as a playoff threat this year or at least soon!


In 2009, before my second full season of blogging the Cardinals, I reached out to other bloggers to other teams to get insights on their clubs.  This year, instead of going through the teams alphabetically, we’ll approach it a little differently, spending a week with each division.  For the tenth straight season, get ready for the upcoming MLB season by playing a little pepper.  

Seattle Mariners
78-84, third in AL West
Website | Twitter

Last year’s Pepper

I don’t know why but I have a bit of a soft spot for the Mariners.  Probably because they had Ken Griffey Jr during the years when I was really getting into baseball (I remember having an article talking about him and the Cardinal rookie that was going to be making an impact–Todd Zeile.)  Then there was King Felix Hernandez, who was a dynamo right out of the gate. Plus there’s the whole cool color scheme and beautiful stadium.  There’s just not a lot of winning that has happened, at least not consistently.  We’ve got three great writers here to talk about whether winning will be happening in the Pacific Northwest this season!

Writer Site Twitter
Tim Chalberg msonmnd24
Megan Shear Section 331 Section331
Dave Nichols The Spokesman DNicholsSR

C70: What are your thoughts on the offseason? Did the club improve over the winter?

Tim: Well, yes, the Mariners improved this winter, but this is the most depressing offseason I can remember in my quarter century of Mariners fandom. However, I will start with the positives first.

Ryon Healy will be a marginal upgrade over Danny Valencia and the couple months of Yonder Alonso we got after the trade deadline, at least assuming that this hand injury doesn’t linger all season. Healy has his own holes, notably in his plate discipline, but Valencia’s production was deceptively shallow. Juan Nicasio is an obvious upgrade as a free agent signing that adds bullpen depth. Dee Gordon is also an upgrade, though it’s hard to say how much of one with him switching to center field. He will hit more than the departing Jarrod Dyson, but time will tell if it will be enough to offset Dyson’s elite baserunning and defense. Gordon has the tools to be a great center fielder, but it’s one thing to have potential and another to perform. I’m rooting for him though because he seems likable and his abundant athleticism make him exciting to watch. His skillset on paper is a better fit in center field than second base or shortstop. I’m surprised nobody tried moving him earlier. He isn’t all that different from Reds outfielder Billy Hamilton, who started out as a shortstop in the minors and only transitioned to the outfield in the high minors before he stuck in the majors.

With all that said, it sure doesn’t feel like the Mariners improved. This entire offseason boiled down to whether the Mariners would get Shohei Ohtani or not, and they did not, but even worse the hated Angels acquired him. Then, on top of that, the defending World Champion Astros added Gerrit Cole. It’s hard to imagine the Mariners leapfrogging either the Angels or Astros next year, or for the next 3-5 years, or maybe even longer since the Mariners have the worse farm system in all of baseball according to Baseball America. The Mariners already have the longest playoff drought in all of North American Sports and after the way this offseason went it feels like whatever shimmer of hope was snuffed out, then dowsed again to make sure that there is no trace of hope. The baseball gods have forsaken the Emerald city.

Megan: Not really? Sort of? I’m not sure, to be honest. After hearing some news coming out of camp so far, it seems like Dee Gordon has easily made his transition to the outfield, and then of course we got Ichiro back. And while I’m not super confident that Ichiro will add a lot to the advancement of the team, it’s nice to have him back in a Mariners uniform. Since I only started being really involved with the game about 11 years ago, Ichiro is basically my Ken Griffey Jr, or my Edgar. I’m getting the chance to see him play in Seattle for at least another year, which is something I didn’t think would happen when he left back in 2012. So in a way, to me, they have improved, just because he creates such a huge buzz wherever he goes, and if you’re a Mariners fan, sometimes all you really have is that concept of the worst day at the ballpark being better than the best day anywhere else.

Dave: The club might have improved — marginally — over the winter with the addition of Dee Gordon and Ryon Healy, but it needed to do much more. With a staff full of injury concerns, the M’s didn’t make a move for pitching, though there were bargains to be had – and still are. And there’s no power in the outfield whatsoever. The Ichiro reunion tour is a cute sideshow for what will probably be another .500 season give or take.

C70: There are a couple of former Cardinals on your pitching staff. What do you think you’ll see out of Mike Leake and Marco Gonzales this year?

Tim: Leake and Gonzales will both log over 100 innings for the Mariners next year. I expect Leake to lead the Mariners in innings pitched and entrench himself as the borderline ace of the staff. He performed remarkably well after the August trade, and I know he won’t be quite so good, but the only pitcher better than him on this staff is James Paxton and he is yet to come close to pitching a full season uninjured. Leake’s hittable, strike-throwing style is not sexy, but it plays up in a big park like Safeco Field with the rangy outfield defense that the Mariners can field as well. Leake is a great fit here and I am excited to see a full season of him.

Marco Gonzales will remain a lightning rod for controversy in Seattle because the guy the Mariners gave up, Tyler O’Neill, was a prospect many a Mariners fan fell in love with. Those biceps! The thunderous power! He was fun to follow in ways that Gonzales is not. Moreover, Gonzales did not show well in his month or so with the Mariners last season but I see what Dipoto sees in him. He throws strikes and is aggressive with his fastball early, commanding it fairly well. His changeup flashes as a true strikeout pitch when he gets ahead in the count, and word in spring training is that he has also added a cutter into the repertoire. Gonzales will make this team though and log significant innings, probably as a swing man.

Megan: I have to admit I’m not familiar with Marco Gonzales. I just looked up his numbers on FanGraphs, and it seems like he is still super new even to the game, and certainly to the majors. Unfortunately I didn’t get to many Rainiers games last year (it is a slog through bad traffic between Seattle and Tacoma, and not an easy haul to make frequently), but his numbers look alright for the two(?) games he played last year. Looks like he was with the Cards for the majority of the year? He’s still young, so I guess we’ll see. Mike Leake, on the other hand, seems really excited to be here, and appears to be projected well for the upcoming season. Another thing about being a Mariners fan, it’s nice to have players who actively want to be in Seattle. We’ve been down in the basement for so long, an enthusiastic player is something people really glom onto.

Dave: Leake is still in his prime and finished strong last season so I expect he’ll provide his normal 30 starts with serviceable peripherals. I’m not sold on Gonzales. He seems like a two-pitch guy with only one real plus pitch, his changeup. Still, the M’s are going to give him every opportunity to stick in the rotation. And they really don’t have much of a choice at this point.

C70: What’s one thing people may overlook (either positively or negatively) about this team?

Tim: I think people may overlook how decent the starting rotation is. There has generally been hand-wringing over the lack of pitching moves after the atrocious season that M’s starting pitchers had last year. However, nobody would have survived last year’s incredible barrage of injuries. There were two separate stints last year where ALL FIVE pitchers in the opening day rotation were injured at the same time. Yovani Gallardo easily paced the team in innings pitched despite breaking camp as the mop up man in the bullpen! Nobody is going to look good when they go with starters 6 through 10 for extended periods of time. The Mariners rotation will be significantly better this year even if only two or three pitchers in their rotation miss several months. That’s a low bar to clear and I have faith that they will. Mike Leake is also essentially a new pickup for 2018 given how late the Mariners acquired him in the 2017 season so he makes me feel even better about the staff.

Megan: I don’t know how to answer that, really. I think people have us pegged for the most part; we have a bunch of really fun players but for whatever reason that gear just hasn’t clicked into place. We’ve come really close in recent years, but no dice. A lot of fans probably can say this about their teams, but I feel like we have a lot of guys who really love the game and love playing here, and who genuinely love the fans. I sometimes feel like outsiders think that it’s just gloomy and awful to play for and be a fan of the team; but that’s just not the case. For myself, the game is priority; the Mariners are just the icing on that particular cake. They work hard, they’re engaging, and their fun to watch, even if the season goes poorly. We still support them. 

Dave: I touched on it earlier but the rotation is paper thin with the injury-prone James Paxton and Felix Hernandez as its anchors. Paxton is a No. 2 on anyone’s staff but has yet to make more than 24 starts in a season. Felix, still a fan favorite, is an old 32.

C70: Who is the one key player, the guy that must have a good year for the Mariners to do well?

Tim: I would say Felix Hernandez at this point. If he can stay healthy and productive then the starting rotation looks pretty solid. Paxton, Leake, and Hernandez are a top 3 that works with the offensive and defensive talent the Mariners possess. King Felix does not have to be a Cy Young candidate again, but 25-28 quality starts in the 6 inning, 2-3 run range would go a long way for this ballclub.

Megan: I have two answers; Felix Hernandez and Mike Zunino. Felix spent a lot of last year in a bad situation with injuries and sub-Felix performances, and now he’s out again with an injury from a line drive in a game the other week. We may see someone else rise to take his place next to James Paxton, but right now I really just want to see him come back to being better than last year. He won’t be 2009 Felix again, and we all have to live with that, but I want to see him back to at least at 2011 Felix. Mike Zunino has slowly been working his way up to being a hard-hitting catcher, and he and Felix work well together at the plate, and we have never really had a catcher that can just wail in a long time. I think if both of these things can happen this year, we might come out alright.

Dave: It’s Felix. He’s slotted as the No. 2 behind Paxton and after Leake at No. 3 it’s a collection of question marks, never-weres and soft-tossers. If Felix can’t give the Mariners 25 competent starts this year they won’t come anywhere close to competing.

C70: What’s your projection for 2018? Where does the team wind up overall?

Tim: I think the Mariners end up 78-84, third in the AL West behind the Astros and Angels. I could also see them slipping behind the Rangers and maybe even the A’s.

Megan: I am terrible at this, so I’m not going to even try. Mostly, I just hope for a winning season. I think that it’s great that people want to try and guess what will happen, and I know that’s part of the numbers game, but I have been too optimistic and been let down too many times to want to play with that kind of fire. I’d be happy if we came in second in the AL West; but I also know we have some very heavy competition there, and getting past the Astros is a high bar. That doesn’t answer your question, really, but that’s the way I approach the game and the team; supportively and cautiously.

Dave: This is a .500 ballclub. There’s enough hitting with Nelson Cruz, Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager to make things interesting on occasion. Dee Gordon will be fun to watch running around the bases and flopping around in center field. But the rotation is one injury away from nightmare status and there’s not a single pitcher that has “upside” written on him. They needed to buy a starting pitcher during the off-season.

C70: What’s one question I should have asked and what’s the answer to it?

Tim: You should have asked “will the Mariners innovation off the field turn into wins in 2018 and beyond?” The Mariners hired a couple women, which in itself is unfortunately radical. However, in particular, Dr. Lorena Martin is overseeing player health and training and has some radical ideas as far as baseball is concerned. She has talked about mandatory days off for everyone and different models for managing pitchers that are optimal for health and performance. One of the most intriguing concepts is minimizing the traditional starting pitcher role and going with what Lookout Landing calls “the wolfpack.” The basic concept is that a starting pitcher would go to the mound only trying to get through 4 or 5 innings, then a pitcher or two come in to throw multiple innings, and an overpowering closer finishes off the game. In theory this approach would limit high pitch counts while also allowing a pitcher’s stuff to play up more because of the limited endurance needed. There is some thought that Nicasio was specifically signed because of his starting background, which would suggest he is just fine being used in multiple inning relief outings. Both Erasmo Ramirez and Marco Gonzales, likely candidates for the back end of the M’s rotation and long spots in their bullpen, profile similarly well. The whole staff makes a little more sense if some version of this strategy will get deployed by Scott Servais in the regular season. The Mariners are in that .500 limbo range where every little edge counts, especially now that the second wild card is a path to the playoffs. If different training can make the team play 2% better (or something like that, and I know that’s a very abstract way to think about this) then maybe this team reaches more of an upper end estimate of their true talent, which lives somewhere in the low to mid-80s for a win total. That’s a record that keeps the Mariners in the playoff hunt into September, or certainly long enough to rationalize some trade deadline acquisitions that could further push the team over the hump.

Megan: You probably would not have known to ask it, but “What’s up with the Maple Grove?” would have been an excellent question. The answer is: Team Fun. A handful of us started the Maple Grove cheering section early in the season last year, during a game James Paxton started against the Jays. I don’t know what happens in St Louis on the probably rare occasions you face Toronto, but here in Seattle, fans in BC get on tour buses and come down in droves. My friend Daniel and I started making Hunter Pence-style signs as a harmless joke two years ago to troll the Canadian fans, and that turned into “reclaiming” Canada during this Paxton start last year (Paxton is from British Columbia). More of our friends got into it (other fans on Twitter, basically), and then the team helped us out by providing a Japanese maple tree in whatever section we sit in (usually left field bleachers), and now we have a Twitter account to announce the section prior to the start, and fans come and take pictures of the tree and our banner and get their “Eh” cards, designed by our gal Hillary (who also made the banner we hang behind us). Paxton himself seems to really dig it, and win or lose, we just hang out, make up chants, invite people to chill in our section, and have a good time at the ballpark. It’s a rowdy but friendly atmosphere, and everyone is welcome to join. Go Mariners!

Dave: Is this the year Dan Vogelbach sticks in the big leagues? Probably not, since the M’s acquired Healy to play first. But Vogelbach is still only 25 and has plenty of power so even if they stash him again he’s the in-house replacement for Cruz at DH when Cruz’ contract expires at the end of the season.

It’s going to be an interesting year out west and it would be surprising if the Mariners at least don’t play some role in it.  My thanks to everyone for giving us some thoughts about the club!


In 2009, before my second full season of blogging the Cardinals, I reached out to other bloggers to other teams to get insights on their clubs.  This year, instead of going through the teams alphabetically, we’ll approach it a little differently, spending a week with each division.  For the tenth straight season, get ready for the upcoming MLB season by playing a little pepper.  

Los Angeles Dodgers
104-58, first in NL West, lost in World Series
Website | Twitter

Last year’s Pepper

It’s hard to believe but one of the longest World Series droughts in baseball happens to be out in Los Angeles.  We think about the lavish spending of late and all the quality stars that are wearing Dodger blue, but you have to go back to Orel Hershiser and Kirk Gibson‘s miraculous home run in that upset of Oakland in 1988 to find their last crown.  It almost changed last year as they went to Game 7 of the World Series before coming up short.  Can they take that final step this season?  That’s what we have these excellent bloggers for, to find out!

Writer Site Twitter
Scott Andes LA Dodger Report Ladodgerreport
Alex Campos Dodgers Digest ac3581
Stacie Wheeler Dodgers Digest StacieMWheeler

C70: What are your thoughts on the offseason? Did the club improve over the winter?

Scott: I don’t think the club improved at all, but it’s hard to improve on a club that won 104 games in the regular season and the National league pennant. This is a team that lost game 7 of the World Series and finished with the best record in baseball. So you know they’re already a very good team.

The entire offseason for the Dodgers was all about staying below that luxury tax threshold (so boring!) of 197 million dollars. The Dodgers not only don’t want to pay the overages but also don’t want to suffer the draft compensation or international signing penalties that accompany going over the tax. I think it was mostly about not losing that draft pick compensation more than anything because I have a hard time believing that the Dodgers, the richest team in MLB, is strapped for cash.  So they had to dump some of their terrible contracts in order to do this, which is why they made that big trade with the Braves. Gone is Adrian Gonzalez, Brandon McCarthy, Scott Kazmir and Charlie Culberson. swapping three horrendous contracts for one horrendous contract makes sense math wise. It’s kind of sad to see Gonzo go but with the emergence of NL rookie of the year Cody Bellinger he wouldn’t have gotten many chances to play this year.

Gone are Brandon Morrow and Yu Darvish, both going to the Cubs. The only additions this year were pitchers Scott Alexander and Zach Neal, both ground ball pitchers, and Tom Koehler. Reports indicate the Dodgers want to use Koehler in the bullpen. I’m sure he can be a useful piece in the role as a long man/spot starter or middle reliever.  Oh and then there’s Matt Kemp, whom the Dodgers were unable to get rid of. Sure they tried their hardest to dump him, but nobody wanted him. It looks like he’ll suit up for the club in spring training but it remains to be seen if he’ll make the club or not. The left field position is the one spot up for grabs amongst a number of players. Joc Pederson, Andrew Toles, rookie Alex Verdugo and Kemp will all battle for the job.

I would have liked to see the club add another reliable starting pitcher. I liked Jake Arrieta but I know there’s little chance of the club adding all that payroll this year. I like the team this year but feel there’s a need for another right handed starter.

Alex: It’s almost impossible to improve after a 105-win season. I don’t think the Dodgers improved, and I don’t see them winning that many games again. However, the offseason was mostly a success to me. The Dodgers accomplished something I couldn’t have imagined them doing by getting under the luxury tax. This sets them up extremely well for next offseason. However, just looking at the 2017 season, the team will probably be worse overall.

Stacie: For the second straight year, it was a relatively quiet offseason for the Dodgers. It was more about weddings-six of them to be exact- than any big free agent signings. Last winter they re-signed important key free agent players Justin Turner, Kenley Jansen and Rich Hill. This winter the Dodgers front office was more cash conscious with a focus on staying under the luxury tax threshold in time for next year’s free agent class.

It’s not like they needed to upgrade a team who won 104 games and is the reigning National League Champion much anyhow. They made some smaller moves instead. They inked Chase Utley to a two-year deal, retaining the influential veteran. They also signed free agent RHP Tom Koehler. Unfortunately he will start the season on the disabled list with a right anterior shoulder capsule strain. Koehler was the only free-agent pitcher the Dodgers signed to a major league contract this winter, and he had been looked to as a potential setup man for Kenley Jansen out of the bullpen.

Most of the talk has been about the December 16, 2017 trade between the Atlanta Braves and the Dodgers that brought Matt Kemp back to Los Angeles. The Dodgers sent Adrian Gonzalez, Scott Kazmir, Brandon McCarthy, Charlie Culberson and cash in return for Kemp. The trade gave them some additional payroll flexibility even if they aren’t able to trade Kemp.

I’m fine with the small moves and conservative approach if it means the Dodgers are able to lock up Kershaw and potentially go for Bryce Harper next year. Although there are still holes to be filled, after all there’s no Brandon Morrow in the bullpen anymore, the team is still pretty darn good. Decisions still have to be made as far as the roster especially in regards to the crowded outfield and various options for the bullpen, but the Dodgers’ moves and non-moves this off-season once again give me an optimistic outlook going into Opening Day.

C70: What are the odds that this is the last season in Dodger blue for Clayton Kershaw?

Scott: Probably pretty low to be honest, but I’m worried about it. The thought terrifies me. Kershaw will likely opt out and then the Dodgers will rework his contract, but why wait? I want it done ASAP. I find it hard to believe that the front office would just let him walk. Not only is he the ace of the staff, obviously and not only is he the best pitcher in baseball, but he’s also the face of the franchise. There’s no way they would be able to replace the greatest Dodger pitcher of this generation. You just give him whatever he wants and make it work. There’s no way I believe that they can’t make that happen financially speaking. They’ve got the money. Just sign him and stop worrying Dodger fans across the globe. He’s not getting any younger (approaching age 30 season), but making sure he finishes his career in Dodger Blue should be top priority.

Alex: I’d be shocked if the Dodgers let Kershaw walk. His opt-out is scary and, barring another serious back injury, he’s almost guaranteed to exercise it. However, he only cares about winning, which the Dodgers can offer long term. By getting under the luxury tax threshold, they can also offer him basically any amount of money. It would be a PR nightmare if Kershaw walked, and while this front office has yet to be deterred from a move because of “perception”, I don’t think they let him get away..

Stacie: The odds are high that Kershaw opts out after this season, but the odds are also very high that he remains a Dodger for the remainder of his career. Dodgers owner Mark Walter made it clear when asked at Camelback Ranch that he wants Kershaw to be a Dodger for life. Kershaw has $65 million and two years remaining on his seven-year contract, less than the three years and $71 million his former teammate Zack Greinke bowed out of when he signed with the division rival Arizona D-backs. Obviously Kershaw is in an entirely different category than Greinke. He’s a once-in-a-generation pitching ace so integral to the Dodgers’ goal of winning a World Championship as well as a historic player that is part of their franchise legacy. I can’t even begin to fathom the three-time Cy Young award winner and 2014 NL M.V.P. ever donning a jersey that is not Dodger Blue.

C70: What’s one thing people may overlook (positively or negatively) about this team?

Scott: One thing people may possibly overlook about the Dodgers is how many darn pitches this team sees. The Dodgers saw 24,347 pitches during the 2017 season, led MLB in walks and were sixth in OBP. The team is patient and they will absolutely wait you out. That’s their primary offensive philosophy taught by Dave Roberts and Turner Ward. They just refuse to swing at balls. “Pass the baton” is what they say if you don’t get anything good to hit. It’s been a strategy that has worked well for them.

One negative for them is making too many pitching changes. Things improved a lot in 2017 from the year before, but they still need to get more innings out of their starting rotation. Otherwise you get a burnt bullpen by the time you reach the World Series, and we saw how that turned out.

Alex: People overlook how great this organization is at maximizing talent. They’ve taken cast offs and turned them into stars. They’ve turned Chris Taylor, Justin Turner, Brandon Morrow and Tony Cingrani into legitimately good players after being cast off by their former teams. When they sign a guy like Pat Venditte or trade for a guy like Jake Peter, you have to squint and know that there’s something in them that could be turned into a good player.

Stacie: This team is still one of the best in baseball. Although the World Series loss was brutal, the outlook for this team this year as well as in the long-term is positive. Their dominant pitching, both starting and relief, solid defense and talented young core of players including consecutive NL Rookie of the Year award winners Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger, plus the overall depth of their system set them up to perform at the highest level for years to come.

One transaction that may be overlooked is the offseason acquisition of left-handed pitcher Scott Alexander and position player Jake Peter. The three-team January trade sent Luis Avilan to the Chicago White Sox and minor leaguers Erick Mejia and Trevor Oaks to the Kansas City Royals. The Dodgers got Alexander plus Peter, who has already hit three home runs this spring as a non-roster invitee. Alexander, who emerged as a key reliever out of the Royals’ pen last year, will be a late-inning guy for Dave Roberts. Peter looks like a solid prospect who may end up getting a shot with the big club at some point this year.

C70: Who is the one key player, the guy that must have a good year for the Dodgers to do well?

Scott: Oh that’s Justin Turner for sure. He’s their most important position player. He’s their best all-around pure hitter. He makes the offense go. If he’s out for any extended amount of time then the Dodgers are truly and royally screwed. Not only is he a great hitter, but he’s also a wonderful defensive third baseman (one of the best in MLB), a great teammate and beloved by all fans. Hey wait, didn’t I say this last year too? That is the red dream.

Alex: Last year, Chris Taylor broke out and became the table-setter for the Dodgers. He became their everyday leadoff hitter and provided above average defense in center field. It seemed like the Dodgers really took off when he took off, and when he cooled off later in the season, the Dodgers forgot how to win. Their center field depth isn’t exactly strong, with Andrew Toles (coming off an ACL) and Alex Verdugo (unproven top prospect, probably better suited for a corner OF spot) behind him. If Taylor regresses too hard, that could make life more difficult for LA.

Stacie: The Dodgers’ success is almost certainly always closely linked to Kershaw’s success, but a lot is riding on the performance of Chris Taylor in 2018. When Logan Forsythe broke his toe and Joc Pederson scuffled, Taylor stepped into play center field and excelled offensively as well as defensively in center field.  His breakout season with the Dodgers was a big reason for the team’s success last year, but it’s still a bit unclear to whether he can bring a repeat performance in 2018.

Even if CT3’s 4.7 WAR season isn’t improved upon in 2018, the Dodgers look to Taylor and his revamped swing to sustain his level of performance at the plate and provide versatile defense in center field, at shortstop and second base.

C70: What’s your projection for 2018? Where does the team wind up overall?

Scott: There should be little to no competition in the NL West. A sixth consecutive NL West title for the Dodgers looks like a lock. However the playoffs are a different story. The Cubs have beefed up their pitching staff (thanks to swiping two ex-Dodgers) and the Nationals will be good again too. The Brewers and Cardinals should be at least fringy competitive. I don’t think they win 104 games again but 95-99 wins looks good. I’ll predict a 99-63 record and I’m hoping for a return trip to the World Series. Hopefully they win the thing this year.

Alex: It’s tough to see the Dodgers not winning the West again. The Giants stole everyone’s franchise players, the Diamondbacks and Rockies should still be pesky, but the Dodgers have the most talent and the most depth. I’ll put them at 96-66 and they’ll probably win the division by double-digit games again. They’ve taken a step forward in the postseason each of the last three years, so the next step has to be a World Series championship right?

Stacie: Even though the Dodgers didn’t make any big moves or changes this winter, they remain one of the top teams in MLB with a solid farm system. They should win their sixth (!) consecutive NL West title with my projection of a 99-63 record. Then again, they won ten more games than I predicted last year. 

C70: What’s one question I should have asked and what’s the answer to it?

Scott: You should have asked me if there is anyone on the Dodgers that can replace Scott Van Slyke‘s National anthem stand-off skills. The answer to that question is a resounding no. Then again where is your Joe Kelly?

Alex: I appreciate that you didn’t ask about the World Series, but I probably would have. I also might have asked about Yasiel Puig, and whether I think he can maintain what he did last season. No, I’m not over the World Series. Yes, Yasiel Puig definitely has the talent to continue as an above-average hitter and premium defensive right fielder. 

Stacie: The Dodgers have won five consecutive NL West Division titles and now a NL Championship. Will 2018 be the year they win it all? The Dodgers finally returned to the World Series in 2017 after a 29-year drought, only to be beaten by the Houston Astros in seven games. The Dodgers retained essentially the same team they had last year, bookended with two of the top pitchers on the planet i.e. Kershaw and Kenley Jansen. It’s difficult to start all over again in the spring after battling through 162 games and three playoff series before losing in Game 7.

The good news is that the team has been constructed so that they aren’t one-year wonders, and they all seem to have come back this spring determined and seeking redemption. The Dodgers also still have the depth to make mid-season trades and adjustments to put themselves in a more advantageous state of affairs should they need to. It was also the first postseason experience for many of the young players like Seager, Bellinger and Austin Barnes who are poised to play on the biggest stage for years to come. The World Series loss only fueled the team further in their pursuit of that elusive world series win. It will be hard to top the thrill of last season’s 104-win run, but all the talent and depth- plus now with the experience- certainly puts them right back in it as one of the top teams in baseball to start 2018.

Great to have Scott, Alex, and Stacie give us some thoughts on the Dodgers.  It would surprise nobody if late October finds its home in Chavez Ravine yet again!


In 2009, before my second full season of blogging the Cardinals, I reached out to other bloggers to other teams to get insights on their clubs.  This year, instead of going through the teams alphabetically, we’ll approach it a little differently, spending a week with each division.  For the tenth straight season, get ready for the upcoming MLB season by playing a little pepper.  

Oakland Athletics
75-87, fifth in AL West
Website | Twitter

Last year’s Pepper

Oakland is one of those teams that always spurs some interest even as they deal with their economic realities.  It feels like they overcome those problems more often than not–which is the legend of Billy Beane–but even when things aren’t going their way, there’s something intriguing about the Athletics and I don’t think it’s just the unique green and gold color scheme.  We’ve got a blogger from one of the oldest and most respected blogs on the Internet with us today to talk about what will be happening by the bay in 2018. (EDIT: Bonus! Due to circumstances beyond his control, Mr. Leary got his answers to me late, but I wanted to go ahead and add them in since they were so good!)

Writer Site Twitter
Tim Eckert-Fong Athletics Nation teckertfong
Jason Leary Junk Ball JasonALeary

C70: What are your thoughts on the offseason? Did the club improve over the winter?

Tim: The club did improve over the winter but were fairly conservative in doing so. This is a team that’s still waiting on a good number of prospects to graduate, and it’s not quite “go for it” time. Most of the A’s moves were an effort to get better now without getting worse in the future, like taking a low risk signing in Yusmeiro Petit. All in all, they were successful in doing so, though that means the offseason wasn’t particularly exciting. They also didn’t address their primary area of concern even a little bit. By not acquiring or signing a starter, the A’s are pretty clearly signaling the future is their first and foremost concern. 

Jason: After finishing in last place in 2017 for the third season in a row there was once again nowhere to go but up this offseason for the Oakland A’s. With the bar set that low the Athletics certainly managed to improve their roster in what shaped up as one of the strangest, slowest-moving offseasons in recent memory.

Outfielder Stephen Piscotty, acquired from the St. Louis Cardinals, fulfills Oakland’s desire to add a young, affordable source of right-handed power to their outfield. Free-agent Yusmeiro Petit and trade acquisition Emilio Pagan provide depth to a bullpen that will probably be called on often to limit the workload of Oakland’s relatively inexperienced starting rotation in 2018. The bullpen also gained a much-needed left-handed reliever when Ryan Buchter was acquired from the Kansas City Royals. And Spring Training free-agent signee Jonathan Lucroy gives the A’s a buy-low former All-Star catcher with the potential to improve the team’s offense and provide the pitching staff with some veteran guidance.

The A’s could have used a veteran starting pitcher and closer to bolster a pitching staff that sorely lacks experience but even in a slow-developing free agent market with bargains to be found, proven arms remained out of reach of the notoriously small-budget franchise. Overall, Oakland’s offseason was full of solid but unspectacular moves as the club continues to slowly build around promising young players such as third baseman Matt Chapman and first baseman Matt Olson while the maturing pitching staff rounds into shape and the promising farm system develops more reinforcements for the big league club.

C70: Cardinal fans are going to be keeping their eye on Stephen Piscotty. Will he be an upgrade from what you had in 2017?

Tim: Piscotty should be an upgrade, provided he can get back to his 2016 form. There’s a lot of hope among the fanbase that returning close to home to his ailing mother will help his on-field results. I don’t think there’s much doubt the physical tools are still there and everyone has a down year every now and then. He should provide a stabilizing defensive presence while slotting into a lineup of solid young hitters which is exactly what the A’s needed. He’ll be a good fit defensively, too. The A’s have been trotting out Khris Davis for two years now and while he’s got solid range, his extremely limited arm has made him a liability. 

Jason: Oakland’s right fielders only produced a combined OPS of .792 in 2017 which gives Piscotty a fairly low bar to clear to qualify as an upgrade but Baseball Reference only projects him for 2018 OPS of .780 – and that’s one of the most optimistic projections I can find. But any projection for Piscotty is going to be dragged down by an abysmal 2017 in which he cratered to a .700 OPS after a couple of solid seasons where he was at .800 or better.

My gut says that playing closer to home and his ailing mother along with getting a fresh start with the A’s who are intent on penciling him into the lineup everyday will lead to a rejuvenated Piscotty posting offensive numbers that are more reflective of his promising 2015 and 2016 seasons in St. Louis. But my gut also says that an extra slice of pizza and a few more beers is always a good idea at any party even though the stats on the bathroom scale always disagrees.

I’ll hope this is one of the rare time that my gut wins out over the available stats.

C70: What’s one thing people may overlook (either positively or negatively) about this team?

Tim: The A’s went .500 over the last half of the season once some younger guys came up and some older guys were jettisoned off at the deadline. The offense was the second best in the game per wRC+ in that timeframe, and while the youth movement isn’t complete, a lot of pieces have arrived. That’s pretty good for a rebuilding team, particularly one that was starting inning eaters over and over for the majority of the season. Top to bottom, the A’s have an enticing lineup both offensively and defensively so if the pitching staff can surprise, the A’s very well may contend.

Jason: I think people may be overlooking the high ceiling on this franchise after it hit the floor with yet another last place finish in 2017. Chapman and Olson each have 30-homer potential, Piscotty could easily chip in 20 or more with a solid glove in right field, Lucroy is an intriguing bounceback candidate, shortstop Marcus Semien has 20-20 potential and promising prospect Dustin Fowler has an opportunity to run away with the center field job. If Blake Treinen can settle in as a reliable closer there are some interesting arms around him in the bullpen and there is enough young potential in the rotation to surprise some people if things break right.

On top of all that, the promising farm system has a potential ace in A.J. Puk leading rising fast and hard-hitting infielder Franklin Barreto knocking on the door with more intriguing prospects in the wings. With such a young team the A’s could easily stumble through another disappointing season as everyone endures growing pains but there’s also the potential for everything to come together in a hurry like it did for Oakland in 2012 when they went from an afterthought in rebuilding mode to surprising AL West champions.

C70: Who is the one key player, the guy that must have a good year for the A’s to do well?

Tim: There are a number of guys on the starting staff who will have to put up good years, but I’m going to single out Sean Manaea. A few years ago, Manaea was a top prospect with top of the rotation potential. He’s been good, but more of a #3 or #4 type. If the A’s are going to surprise in the standings this year, they’ll need a pitcher to step up. Manaea has the best pedigree and stuff to be that guy, but he’ll have to refine his command for extended periods of time. He’s done it before and been a good pitcher, but it’s time to take the next step.

Jason: Considering the depressing fact that the A’s have made the basement of the AL West their home for three consecutive seasons just finishing in fourth place in 2018 would qualify as doing well. But when you’ve been that bad for that long you clearly have a lot of problems which means it takes a lot of things to break right to start turning things around. In my opinion, the A’s will do well in 2018 if they finally break free of the AL West’s cellar and show some promise that they’re heading into 2019 as a dark horse playoff contender. With that in mind, I believe that there’s a key player from the starting rotation, bullpen, position players and minor leagues for the team to qualify as doing well this season.

In the rotation, Sean Manaea has to lock down a spot as a reliable option on a staff desperately seeking stability. Kendall Graveman is the most experienced starter the A’s currently have but Manaea seems to have the most untapped upside. If he can find some consistency, Oakland can at least feature a solid (if unspectacular) 1-2 punch of Manaea and Graveman.

In the bullpen, Treinen needs to nail down the closer’s job in Oakland after failing to do so with the Nationals in 2017. If the back end of the A’s bullpen can settle down all the other pieces can fall into place and manager Bob Melvin can simply as his young starters to give him several good innings while he mixes and matches his relievers leading up to Treinen.

As for position players, Dustin Fowler needs to shake off the rust after missing a ton of playing time after suffering a gruesome knee injury with the New York Yankees last season. The former top prospect has a chance to be Oakland’s everyday center fielder and if he can harness the potential he showed with New York, the A’s could have another young offensive and defensive building block to work with along with Chapman and Olson.

In the minor leagues, Puk is the prospect who probably has the most potential to put the A’s on track to emerge from 2018 as one of the rising young teams in the American League. While Manaea and Graveman have the potential to be No. 2 or No. 3 starters on their best days, Puk is the one young arm toward the top of the A’s system with ace potential. If he can force his way into Oakland’s rotation around the All-Star break and all the other pieces fall into place, the A’s could play spoiler in the second half of the 2018 season.

C70: What’s your projection for 2018? Where does the team wind up overall?

Tim: I think the A’s end up around .500, which would certainly be a win. There’s too much youth for the A’s to not endure a losing streak here and a rough patch of injuries there, but the talent is obvious from that 2017 second half. A season of .500 ball would put the A’s squarely in line to go out and acquire or sign some talent next offseason and compete in 2019. The name of 2018 is finding out who’s real and who isn’t, seeing if the guys who showed so much promise last season can stick. Once that inevitable attrition happens, the A’s can truly go for it. It’s still a figuring out kind of year, but it’s imperative the A’s show some on field success.

Jason: After making the playoffs for the third year in a row in 2015, the A’s have only managed to win 68, 69 and 75 games a season. At this point, just finishing at .500 in 2018 will seem like an amazing accomplishment and that’s about as high as I set my expectations this year.

Give me 81 or 82 wins in a season where Chapman, Olson, Fowler and Barreto form a core of strong, young everyday players and Puk, Manaea and Graveman lead a promising rotation supported by a reliable, versatile bullpen anchored by Treinen. Throw in a return to form by Piscotty, a bounceback season by Lucroy that yields some decent prospects in a deadline trade and a farm system that kicks into high gear and 2018 will be a success for the A’s.

C70: What’s one question I should have asked and what’s the answer to it?

Tim: You should have asked about the Matts (Chapman and Olson) who looked like superstars in 2017. You should have asked are they real, and boy am I glad you didn’t. Sophomores are hard to predict! I’ll tell you this: Chapman’s glove and Olson’s power are two of the best tools in the game. The former is nearly certain to make Chapman at least leave average, and he may well be the best defensive third baseman in a game chalk full. The latter is more of a question mark, but how many guys hit 24 home runs in 59 games? This team desperately needed superstar ability, and those two guys showed the tools. The results of 2018 rest largely on their shoulders.

Jason: How about, “Will the A’s ever get a new ballpark in Oakland?” And the answer is: I think it’ll eventually happen. At this pace, the A’s may not be playing ball in that new Oakland stadium for a decade but I think a deal will get done if the team actually delivers on its promise of a privately financed facility. The Coliseum site will be wide open for development once the Oakland Raiders and Golden State Warriors leave town and Howard Terminal is as intriguing as it is logistically challenging. Then again, I also wouldn’t be surprised if the franchise was calling Montreal home in a decade since the franchise has shown a knack for jumping from town to town (Philadelphia to Kansas City to Oakland) and the city of Oakland has shown a knack for losing professional sports franchises (Warriors and the Raiders twice). 

Really appreciate Tim (and Jason!) spending a little time with us to talk about the Oakland club.  We’ll all be keeping eyes on Piscotty but there may be other reasons to follow the A’s this year!


In 2009, before my second full season of blogging the Cardinals, I reached out to other bloggers to other teams to get insights on their clubs.  This year, instead of going through the teams alphabetically, we’ll approach it a little differently, spending a week with each division.  For the tenth straight season, get ready for the upcoming MLB season by playing a little pepper.  

Colorado Rockies
87-75, third in NL West, lost in Wild Card Game
Website | Twitter

Last year’s Pepper

The Rockies surprised some folks last year, putting up a solid season and grabbing the last Wild Card slot.  While their playoff run didn’t extend past that moment, it still was a wonderful season for the folks in purple.  Today, we’ve got a Colorado blogger to tell us how likely it is that this is not a blip on the radar but a continued trend.

Writer Site Twitter
Kevin Henry Rox Pile RoxPileFS

C70: What are your thoughts on the offseason? Did the club improve over the winter?

Kevin: Yes, the Rockies improved their bullpen by adding Bryan Shaw to the mix. Wade Davis brings consistency to the closer position but will he fare better than Greg Holland did last season? That’s a big question. Holland was solid except for a horrid stretch in August.

The only change in the lineup (as of this writing) is catcher Chris Iannetta being added to the mix. Jonathan Lucroy was a solid pickup for the Rockies at the trade deadline and his veteran leadership paid big dividends for a rookie-laden rotation. If Iannetta can keep teaching, Colorado’s young pitchers such as Jon Gray, Kyle Freeland, German Marquez, Antonio Senzatela and Jeff Hoffman can progress nicely this season.

However, Colorado still needs another bat in the lineup, in my opinion. It’s possible that the return of David Dahl from injury and the likely promotion of Ryan McMahon to first base will help, but it would be nice to have a veteran slugger in the order to go along with Nolan Arenado, Charlie Blackmon and DJ LeMahieu.

C70: There are always questions about Colorado pitching. What does the rotation look like this season?

Kevin: Last season proved the Rockies can grow their own pitching … and it can work. Kyle Freeland, German Marquez and Antonio Senzatela were huge reasons why the Rockies made the playoffs last year. The rotation will be very similar in 2018, except that Jon Gray and Chad Bettis should be available for full seasons after missing big portions of last season. Pitching will be one of the strengths of the Rockies this season. Yes, you read that correctly.

C70: What’s one thing people may overlook (either positively or negatively) about this team?

Kevin: This team made the playoffs last year without David Dahl, who burst onto the scene as a rookie in 2016, and with Ian Desmond having a dismal season. Carlos Gonzalez disappointed for much of the season and Trevor Story totaled 190 strikeouts as he struggled in his sophomore year. There were a lot of reasons why Colorado shouldn’t have held off Milwaukee for the second Wild Card spot … yet they did. That resiliency will pay dividends for a young team in 2018.

C70: Who is the one key player, the guy that must have a good year for the Rockies to do well?

Kevin: It all starts at the top with Charlie Blackmon. Last season, he had a historic season for a leadoff hitter. When he is clicking, so is Colorado’s offense. He not only sets the tone as the leadoff batter but also sets the table for Nolan Arenado to rack up a huge number of RBI every year.

C70: What’s your projection for 2018? Where does the team wind up overall?

Kevin: I will go with 84-78 and once again earning a Wild Card berth in what will be a tough National League West.

C70: What’s one question I should have asked and what’s the answer to it?

Kevin: Is this a make-or-break year for the Rockies? My answer would be yes. Charlie Blackmon and DJ LeMahieu are scheduled to be free agents after this season and their returns to Colorado are questionable. Will Colorado sign them to long-term deals knowing Nolan Arenado is scheduled to be a free agent after the 2019 season? Will the Rockies do everything they can to keep Arenado, even if it means letting go of other players? Those are the questions that Rockies fans are asking right now and one of the reasons why the Rockies may be “all in” on 2018.

Appreciate Kevin making the time to let us know more about the Mile High team.  It’s always fun to see what Colorado can do during a season and here’s hoping they make it another great year for their fans!


In 2009, before my second full season of blogging the Cardinals, I reached out to other bloggers to other teams to get insights on their clubs.  This year, instead of going through the teams alphabetically, we’ll approach it a little differently, spending a week with each division.  For the tenth straight season, get ready for the upcoming MLB season by playing a little pepper.  

Los Angeles Angels
80-82, second in AL West
Website | Twitter

Last year’s Pepper

Because they are out on the West Coast and play in the wrong league, I often don’t think much about the Angels.  (Perhaps it was a defense mechanism after Albert Pujols left as well.)  Yet the Angels always have something interesting going, whether it’s the best player in baseball or landing one of the biggest prizes of the offseason.  We’ve got three bloggers here today to let us know whether all of this talent and interest will pay off in 2018.

Writer Site Twitter
Rahul Setty Halos Heaven RahulSetty_
Nate Aderhold nate_ader
Vincent Page Halos Hangout VincentPage74

C70: What are your thoughts on the offseason? Did the club improve over the winter?

Rahul: With a lot of holes to fill this winter, the Angels were in a tricky position entering this offseason. They not only did the best they could but they aced it, in the end, by adding Justin Upton, Ian Kinsler, Zack Cozart, Rene Rivera, and of course, Shohei Ohtani. In conclusion, yes, they did improve.

Nate: I thought the Angels had a great offseason. They were, thankfully, one of the few teams this winter to miss the league-wide memo that spending market-rate money on players is bad praxis, and were rewarded as a result.

The retention of Justin Upton, the acquisitions of Zack Cozart and Ian Kinsler, and the good fortune of signing Shohei Ohtani provide the Angels with easily their most potent offense since 2014. Only three Angels regulars posted a 100 OPS+ or better last season: Upton, Andrelton Simmons, and Mike Trout. This year, thanks to the aforementioned offseason additions and the new hitter-friendly dimensions at the Big A, there’s a chance the entire starting nine posts above-average offensive numbers. When probably the worst everyday hitter in your lineup is an aging (though slimmed and allegedly healthy) Albert Pujols, things are looking up.

On the pitching side, the Angels again had the good fortune of signing Ohtani. It’s hard to fault the team for not adding any arms beyond the young superstar, seeing as how they have essentially an entire rotation returning from injury this spring. When there are ostensibly seven healthy MLB starters on the roster entering Cactus League play, convincing an eighth to join the fray probably isn’t easy. However, having literally anyone in the rotation (other than Ohtani) who hasn’t suffered a major injury to their throwing arm in the last year sure would be nice. Maybe if Lance Lynn is still available come May…

Vincent: I do believe the Angels not only improved, but are the most improved team going into 2018. Milwaukee and the Yankees are both teams you could argue for, but the Angels signed veterans to help them contend this year while also improving their farm system to a fringe top-ten unit. Not only did they add Shohei Ohtani, but they also added a couple players (Kevin Maitan, Logan Soto) from the Braves scandal. Billy Eppler really made his case as the best general manager in baseball this offseason.

C70: Which part of Shohei Ohtani’s game are you most excited to watch?

Rahul: Definitely the pitching side of it. Through the few pitching performances seen this spring, Ohtani has had electric, filthy stuff with an arsenal that few pitchers can match. I bet Pitcher Ohtani would strike out Hitter Ohtani, all day and every day.

Nate: While I’m generally excited to see everything Ohtani can do (including run the bases; don’t sleep on his speed), I’m most interested in the logistics of how he and the Angels plan to balance his workload over the course of the season. Playing 162 games in 184 days is a taxing and exhausting process for even part-time players. The reason we’ve not seen hitter/pitcher since Babe Ruth, other than the skill sets required, is because of the excessive toll it’s presumed to take. We know Ohtani won’t be in the lineup the day before or after he’s on the mound, but what about pinch-hitting late in those games? Come September, will it be worthwhile for the Angels to have Ohtani in the lineup at 80% if the result is he’s only at 70% for his next start? If it’s late in Game 161 and the Angels need a clutch hit to make the postseason, will they bring Ohtani off the bench even if he threw eight innings the previous day? These are questions I’m sure the Angels’ front office and coaching staff have been attempting to wrap their heads around for months, and since Ohtani’s the first two-way player in a century, they have no data to fall back on to answer those queries. Missteps are inevitable when navigating uncharted territory, so the Angels’ journey with Ohtani this season—balancing winning now vs protecting his future—should be a fascinating one to follow.

Vincent: I’m personally more excited for the pitching. I think that’s the general consensus in the baseball world, but it’s not hyperbolic to say he already has some of the best breaking balls in the MLB. His slider is nearly untouchable. It’s going to be interesting to see if he can avoid the similar injuries other Japanese pitchers have faced when coming to the states. The entire Ohtani experience has been awesome to cover and watch first hand, and I really think he pitches well this year. At the plate, I think we could see a tough learning curve in 2018. I’d guess .240 batting average with 10-12 home runs. 

C70: What’s one thing people may overlook (either positively or negatively) about this team?

Rahul: The Angels have a surprisingly large amount of starting pitching depth, knock on wood. Ohtani aside, Garrett Richards can go toe to toe with the best pitchers in the league, and both Andrew Heaney and Nick Tropeano are returning from UCL surgery. J.C. Ramirez is an innings eater, Parker Bridwell surprised last year, and Jaime Barria will be ready by midseason. I’m still waiting on the Tyler Skaggs breakout that hasn’t happened yet, but he certainly is a serviceable arm. The starting pitching *knock on wood* will not be a weakness.

Nate: With all the focus on the Angels’ implementation of a six-man rotation to circumvent potential injury pitfalls and workload concerns for their young and/or on-the-mend starters, I think it’s been easy to overlook how patchwork their bullpen is. Their equally hodgepodge relief corps was a surprise success in 2017, riding resurgent seasons from thirtysomethings David Hernandez, Bud Norris, Blake Parker, and Yusmiero Petit to the fifth-best bullpen ERA (and fourth-best FIP, whatever that’s worth) in the American League. But even if we could prove all four of those seasons were the result of sustainable improvements in skill set and not your annual flashes in the bullpen pan—hello, 2013 Dane De La Rosa—we’d still be left with the fact that, of that quartet, only Blake Parker is returning to Anaheim in 2018. That’s about 180 innings of quality relief out the door, roughly a third of their total 2017 bullpen output.

With no big names acquired to supplement those losses, the Angels will need a whole lot to break right to replicate last season’s bullpen success. Jose Alvarez will likely be serviceable as the team’s lone lefty reliever for the fourth year running, but beyond that the fate of the ‘pen is highly unpredictable. Not only does the team need now-closer Parker to maintain his sudden success, but also for young guys like Cam Bedrosian, Keynan Middleton, and Eduardo Paredes to put together full MLB seasons and for buy-low pickups Jim Johnson, Blake Wood, and Noe Ramirez to not completely blow up in their face. GM Billy Eppler has shown it’s possible to build a strong bullpen from proverbial scraps, but it remains to be seen whether that’s a reliable strategy for success year in and year out.

Vincent: Nobody is paying attention to the extension of Justin Upton. It was probably the most underrated move of the offseason, but to finally have a true slugger, not Albert Pujols, in the lineup behind Mike Trout is going to do wonders for the Halos offense. A full season of Trout and Upton together is going to be fun to watch, and we may see a career year from both of them. 

C70: Who is the one key player, the guy that must have a good year for the Angels to do well?

Rahul: I’m going to go with Garrett Richards, who has not pitched often the past two seasons. When he has, he has been among the best pitchers in baseball. Even just three months of Richards will make a world of difference.

Nate: If we’re not omitting Mike Trout, it’s Mike Trout. His reliable 8+ wins every year are the only reason the Angels have a shot at the playoffs. If we’re omitting Mike Trout? Then its Garrett Richards.

Richards is the linchpin of the Angels’ rotation. If he’s out for any prolonged period of time, the whole wheel is likely to come off. With Richards on the mound every fifth (or sixth) day, that means fewer innings and less pressure on: 1) Tyler Skaggs, Andrew Heaney, and Nick Tropeano, who are all still in the nascent stages of their Tommy John recoveries; 2) Matt Shoemaker and J.C. Ramirez, who both underwent TJ-adjacent procedures on their throwing arms late in 2017; and 3) Shohei Ohtani, who’s only trying to be the first two-way player in a century—no big deal. With Richards out, the likelihood of a ripple effect down the rest of the staff increases exponentially. Richards doesn’t even need to be particularly good this year for the Angels to do well, he just needs to be healthy. With major injuries sidelining him long-term in three of the past four seasons, that’s a bigger ask than one might think.

Vincent: There’s the obvious guys, Trout, Upton, Ohtani. However, I think the one guy who is going to dictate the Angels success the most is Garrett Richards. Last time we saw him pitch the majority of a season, he was an ace. Last year in his limited time, he showed he still has that ace material. While Ohtani is special, Richards is the guy who has to come in and show that he is the #1 pitcher for the Angels. He definitely has the ability to do it, he just has to remain available this season. 

C70: What’s your projection for 2018? Where does the team wind up overall?

Rahul: 90 wins and second in the division to the pesky Astros. They will be midseason buyers and end up with a wild card.

Nate: If the injury bug abates, I see the Angels with a shot at a 90-win season. That should be good enough for an AL Wild Card spot.

Vincent: My prediction for them is that they travel to Boston for the American League Wild Card. Houston is as much as a juggernaut as we’ve seen in modern baseball. However, the rest of the Angels division is weak, and the Halos should see their record get a boost because of that. I think they can go into Boston and win that game, but in the playoffs you never know. 

C70: What’s one question I should have asked and what’s the answer to it?

Rahul: Definitely about the farm system. Often the punching bag, the Angels farm system has seen a revitalization over the past two years to better talent evaluation and player development. The Angels don’t have any eye-popping superstars in their affiliates quite yet, but they have a semblance of maturing young talent, which isn’t something that could be said previously.

Nate: The one question you should have asked is: Will Mike Scioscia‘s 19th season as manager of the Angels be his final one? The reason it wasn’t asked is probably that no one knows the answer. I feel confident saying that the Angels are definitely going to try offering Scioscia a new contract at some point in 2018 no matter how the team is performing. Arte Moreno has only ever worked with one manager in his 15 years as owner, and he’s gotta know that any new manager is just going to beget another new manager, and so on—and probably every three years, not every two decades. Whether Scioscia will accept the team’s inevitable offer is anyone’s guess. I could see the team doing well and Scioscia deciding to leave on a high note, doing poorly and him deciding to stick it out for one more shot at glory, or anything in between. My vote would be for him to stay in Anaheim, but then again I also couldn’t imagine staying in the same job for 20 years, so I wouldn’t begrudge him if he wants out.

Vincent: Two things I’m really excited to watch this year: the six-man rotation and Mike Trout. With Ohtani and the Angels history with injuries to their starters, I think the six-man rotation is going to be phenomenal for them. With Trout, he was having his best season ever before his injury last year. And now, he has what is probably the most talented team he’s ever had around him. I really believe he’s going to have his best year ever, and take home his third MVP Award along with his first postseason series win. 

It feels like it’s about time for an Angels run, doesn’t it?  We’ll see how the season develops but likely nothing they’ll do will top what’s coming in 2019 for Cardinals fans, when Pujols returns to Busch Stadium for the first time.  I bet 2018 has its own highlights, though!




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