Buy or Sell: MLB Draft and Copa America

We’re back with another weekly edition of Buy or Sell. This week things get interesting, as we talk about things we don’t get to too often. After weeks of focusing on one specific sport, and then the championships last week, we turn our attention elsewhere.

Japan_national_football_team_World_Cup_2018
Japan national football team World Cup 2018” by Светлана Бекетова is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

This week, Dan, Aman and I really went for it, as we talk about two prospect catchers recently drafted in the Major Leagues and talk about the success they’ll have. We’ll also be talking about an Asian football team and their chances in the Copa America, as they get set for group stages on Friday, June 14th. Make sure to stay tuned for that.

Dan: Adley Rutschman will be on the MLB roster within two seasons?

Rahim: It was definitely a franchise-altering selection by the Baltimore Orioles when they drafted Adley Rutschman with the No. 1 overall pick. With this pick, you would assume Rutschman will be on the Major League roster within two seasons, and that is why I will buy this!

Rutschman just completed his second straight year of dominating baseball for the Oregon State Beavers. He hit 0.354, with a 1.225 OPS over 124 games. This season he led all Division I players in walks and on-base percentage. For more stats, check it out here.

If he can continue that great play in the minors, we could quickly see him up in the main roster for the Orioles. Not only that, but he is viewed as a strong defensive player. That’s a plus for him to jump to the majors quicker, especially with the Orioles being one of Baseball’s worst.

Aman: Unless he all of a sudden has a major dip in form in the Minors, what’s going to stop Adley Rutschman from wearing an MLB jersey in a couple years?

Looking at his stats, he’s honestly worthy of playing this season. Last season for Oregon State, in 57 games played, Rutschman scored 57 runs. Rather consistent, no? Also, you could argue that the team he was drafted by needs him sooner rather than later.

The Orioles are last in their conference. They’ll have to find a way to score more and consistently in the future in order to compete with teams like the Boston Red Sox or the New York Yankees.

I’d say Rutschman is one of the best options to do so, so I buy seeing him playing in the Majors in two seasons, if not even one. Check out Dan’s MLB Draft for more on Rutschman and all the picks from the first round!

Aman: Despite being a guest nation, Japan will surprise many by advancing out of the group stages in the Copa America.

Rahim: I will buy this! I don’t see the opponents being as tough as they are in the World Cup, and Japan will likely benefit from this.

The Copa America involves 12 countries split into three groups. Japan’s group includes Uruguay, Chile and Ecuador. They’ll play each team in group stages once. They have a chance to make it out of group stages into the quarterfinals.

However, I don’t think they’ll be able to win the group. The good thing for Japan, is that if they can get at least one win and one tie to finish 1-1-1 with four points, that could be enough.

In the other groups, you have Brazil, Columbia, Argentina and Peru as likely teams to advance. For Japan’s group, I see Uruguay and Chile advancing. That will leave two spots left for six teams.

Bolivia and Qatar will most likely be the first out, so now it’s between Venezuela, Paraguay, Ecuador and Japan. I think the one win Japan needs to get is against Ecuador, and hope that Paraguay loses to both Columbia and Argentina to give Japan a spot in the quarterfinals and advance out of group stage.

Dan: I’m going to sell Japan making it out of group stages, because it will just be tough to beat both Chile and Uruguay. Like Rahim said, it’ll take at least one win and one tie for them to even have a chance to advance. I don’t think Japan can beat Chile and Uruguay. Those are two of the stronger teams in the Copa America, and it’ll be a hard task to beat either one of them.

Although, I do think Japan could beat Ecuador, it would be a bit of a surprise if Japan were to beat one of the other two in their group, but it wouldn’t be the first time they have surprised us.

Japan made it out of group stages in the World Cup and managed to beat Columbia. They nearly edged out a win against Belgium in the round of 16 as well, but I find it hard to believe that they could do this again this time around.

Rahim: The Braves drafting catcher Shea Langeliers sets them up for World Series bid next year.

Dan: I’m going to have to sell that the Braves drafting Langeliers sets them up for a World Series bid next year, simply because I don’t think he’ll make it up through the farm system that quick.

I think you’ll see someone like Alex Jackson, Sal Giardina, or Raffy Lopez on the major league roster to back up Tyler Flowers before Langeliers.

Within the next five years, sure, I could absolutely see it, because Flowers is 33 and he’s not going to be playing much longer if he stays catching. Langerliers is the Braves’ catcher of the future, but I think next year is a little too early for him.

Aman: I buy the Braves being in the World Series next year, but I wouldn’t say Shea Langeliers would be the reason why. Although he would be quite a boost in the cause, he alone wouldn’t propel the Braves to the World Series.

Obviously, the Braves’ batting lineup is one of the best in the league with all the young talent, but their issue is typically the pitching, as I wrote about a while ago, which has caused set backs.

Therefore, if the Braves improve their pitching, they’ll definitely contest for a World Series spot. Langeliers will definitely solidify the team, but he alone wouldn’t be the reason the Braves could succeed. Therefore, I sell.

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And there you have it! Now, what do you think?

  • Will Adley Rutschman be on the MLB roster within two seasons?
  • Despite being a guest nation, Japan will surprise by advancing out of the group stages in the Copa America?
  • Did the Braves drafting catcher Shea Langeliers set them up for World Series bid next year?

Let us know your thoughts in the comment!

The curious case of Craig Kimbrel

It’s June, and MLB’s fastest player to ever record 300 career saves is team-less.

That’s right, ladies and gentleman. The same 31-year-old Craig Kimbrel with 333 career saves and the hilarious pitching stance is still a free agent.

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Craig Kimbrel” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

It’s been over seven months since Kimbrel threw a pitch in the majors. In an age where MLB playoff teams often have two or three flame-throwers in their ‘pen, it might come as a shock to some that one of the premier game-finishers and his 868 strikeouts in 532.2 career innings is still available…or is it?

 

REASONS KIMBREL IS UNSIGNED

Kimbrel entered the offseason with some lofty demands, initially seeking a five year contract in the neighborhood of $100 million. Most teams felt that was an awfully steep price and commitment for a 31-year-old player who might play 60 innings in a season.

Another “knock” on Kimbrel, is that he’s had walk rates over 4.5 BB/9 in two of his last three seasons. Definitely a nit-picky stat since it’s recent, but it’s worth noting. Closers are meant to come in and shut the door, not give free bases and make life harder on a manager, a team, and the die hard fan screaming at the TV and breaking their third remote of the season when the closer walks the lead-off man yet again.

Over the past two seasons, MLB free agency has seen teams shy away from signing big time contracts early in the free agency period. The top four contracts given out in 2018 – Jake Arrieta, Yu Darvish, JD Martinez and Eric Hosmer – all signed after February 10th. Three of those players not named Hosmer were also 30 years old while waiting for free agency. Too many teams have shelled out some baaaaad, massive contracts to players on the wrong side of 30 in the past 10 years, making me believe teams are letting the value fall on some of the best players in the game.

 

WHY HE’S A VALUE

At 31, Kimbrel still offers value as a closer, as he can still touch triple digits on the radar gun and has a nine year track record of success. It might take a few games for Kimbrel to get back into top form, but Kimbrel could provide a playoff team with a rested arm down the stretch. Rested arms down the stretch are a very, very valuable asset to have come playoff time.

Also, he’s never finished a season under 13.2 K/9, and his career average is 14.7. Aroldis Chapman’s career average is 14.9 K/9. Simply put, this guy does what closers do best: shut the door. Enough said.

 

LIKELY DESTINATIONS

There are many teams right now who could use Kimbrel, mostly being teams already shaping up to be playing in October. With that, let’s take a look at the contenders who might end up signing the valuable flame-throwing ginger.

  • ATLANTA BRAVES

Kimbrel would return to the team where he started his career, where he collected over half of his career saves (186). Atlanta (32-27) remains in the hunt in the NL East, just one game behind the Phillies as of June 2nd. The worst part? The Braves have blown 10 saves so far this year. Give them even half of those back and the Braves would be 37-22 with a four game lead over Philly.

  • CHICAGO CUBS

The Cubs closer situation is in big trouble right now. The Cubs have blown 11 of 22 save chances this year, the worst percentage in baseball. Brandon Morrow was supposed to be closer, but he has yet to return from an injury sustained last season. Sign Kimbrel to close, get Morrow back to throw in the eighth, and the Cubs back-end of the bullpen becomes nasty. The Cubs (31-26) are slumping recently and moved to second place, but could be 40-17 had they converted nine of their 11 blown chances. Sorry to remind you, Cubs fans.

  • MINNESOTA TWINS

The AL Central first-place Twins are the hottest team in baseball, and seem to have all things working for them. A solid starting staff has allowed the bullpen to throw the second fewest innings thus far in MLB. By adding Kimbrel, the Twins would solidify themselves as contenders and give them an imposing arm with postseason experience for a playoff run. The Twins can’t afford to sleep on the high powered offenses of the Yankees and Astros.

  • MILWAUKEE BREWERS

Can you imagine a one-two punch of Kimbrel and Josh Hader at the end of a game? I can, and it would be absurd. With Corey Knebel out for the year and the Brewers bullpen having thrown the third-most innings so far, Kimbrel could step in and give the Brewers a stacked bullpen and fresh arm for the second half. Manager Craig Counsell showed in last year’s playoff run he’s not afraid to go to the ‘pen early. The more arms the merrier.

  • LOS ANGELES DODGERS

The Dodgers seem to acquire some big name every year, and getting Kimbrel would not surprise me. Kimbrel could pair with Kenley Jansen to give the Dodgers the most imposing one-two bullpen punch in baseball. Jansen has only blown two saves this season, but the Dodgers have blown nine as a team. Acquiring Kimbrel would be nothing more than to separate themselves even further from the field and become favorites to make it to the World Series.

  • TAMPA BAY RAYS

Tampa has an overused ‘pen, already with 262 innings thrown, second-most in MLB. If Tampa – currently 35-22 and just 2.5 games out of first – wants to stay within striking distance of the Yankees, getting Kimbrel to close out close games could be the difference. The Red Sox will likely be around come September, so Kimbrel could help the Rays widen the gap in the wild card race and stay ahead of Boston. Tampa is currently led by Jose Alvarado and Diego Castillo with six saves each, so neither has run away with the job. Kimbrel would run away with the job. Quickly.

  • NEW YORK YANKEES

Why not? Probably the most unlikely to sign Kimbrel, but it is the Yankees after all. The Yanks haven’t been to the World Series since 2009 and are currently 38-20 in the AL East. Injuries have hampered the Yankees offensively, so they may be better than their record indicates. Kimbrel would give the Yankees the best bullpen in baseball with Aroldis Chapman, Adam Ottavino, Zack Britton and Tommy Kahnle. Signing Kimbrel would make the Yanks a very tough out in the playoffs and legit World Series contenders.

 

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It’s only a matter of time before Kimbrel signs. Whoever ends up signing the ginger gun-slinger will be getting one of the top closers in the game and a game-changer, all without having to sacrifice any prospects or draft picks, thus ending the saga of the curious case of Craig Kimbrel.

PREDICTION: Chicago Cubs

 

 

 

 

Atlanta Braves start season with potential, set-backs

Note: Article originally published in The Talon; Dacula High School’s Newspaper and is up to date as of April 19, 2019.

    After finishing last year’s season with an excellent 90 wins and 72 losses, the Atlanta Braves finished first in the National League (NL) East and went on to the playoffs. It was a spectacular season for Braves fans as the Braves made it to the NL Division series, only to lose to the Los Angeles Dodgers 3-1. This season, after making some excellent trades in the off-season, the Braves will once again look to make the playoffs and maybe a World Series, but it is going to be much harder this time around.

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Atlanta Braves by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

    During the off-season, the Braves showed intent in their ambition to once again perform well and improve. The signing of former American League MVP Josh Donaldson from Cleveland is probably the biggest one of their three signings for the Braves. Last season alone, Donaldson managed to score 60 runs in the space of 104 games. To further improve the Braves’ team, last year’s Rookie of the Year Ronald Acuña and first baseman Freddie Freedman signed contract extensions, fortifying the Braves’ batting line-up.

    However, a problem last season was the pitching. Last season, the pitching became weak, especially in the latter end when the Braves had to play the Dodgers. Coming into this season, the Braves were unable to acquire a new pitcher and second pitcher Mike Foltynewicz became injured.

    Due to the strong batting lineup but unstable pitching, the Braves have seen some remarkable wins yet saddening losses at the same time. Since the season started, the Braves have managed to win series against the Chicago Cubs, the Miami Marlins and the Colorado Rockies. However, they have also been at the end of some hard losses against division favorites Pittsburgh Pirates, the New York Mets and now the Arizona Diamondbacks.

    Though the Braves have had recorded some impressive victories so far this season, it still will be very difficult for the Braves to accomplish their goal of reaching the World Series. Unfortunately, it also seems unlikely that Braves will finish first in the NL East after the Pirates signed 2015 National League MVP Bryce Harper. So far, in 18 games, Harper already has 12 runs to his name. His opening three matches against the Braves saw three home runs and three hits along with that. The New York Mets this season will also be looking to challenge for a playoff spot as their record so far is 11-10, being second in the NL East.

    Outside of the NL East, there are plenty of other teams who are hungry for and are capable of achieving a playoff spot ahead of the Braves, including the Cubs, Dodgers or the Diamondbacks. The Braves will have to play exceptional and near-perfect this season if they envision a World Series spot.

    The Braves have been blessed with a strong and feared batting lineup which will take them far this season. But only so far, not far enough. If the pitching situation is not improved, it can cost matches, especially in the playoffs. Hopefully Foltynewicz will recover soon and the Braves can win more series, but until then, it is up in the air as to how the Braves will finish this season.

NL East Mount Rushmore

Chipper Jones” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Atlanta Braves

  • Hank Aaron, RF, 1B, 1954-1974
  • Chipper Jones, 3B, LF, 1993, 1995-2012
  • Greg Maddux, P, 1993-2003
  • Warren Spahn, p, 1942, 1946-1964

Hank Aaron is one of the most iconic figures in the history of baseball. He’s second on MLB’s all-time home runs list with 755, but many still consider him the home run king. He leads the Braves in pretty much every offensive category and holds the MLB record for career RBI’s with 2,297. Aaron spent 21 seasons with the Braves and was a 20-time All-Star.

Chipper Jones spent his entire 19-year career with the Braves and was elected into the baseball Hall of Fame in 2018. Jones was an 8x All-Star, 2x Silver Slugger winner, and the 1999 MVP. He finished his career with a .303 batting average, 468 home runs and 2,726 hits.

Greg Maddux spent 11 seasons with the Braves. In terms of stats, there aren’t many people in franchise history who were better. Maddux won four straight Cy Young awards. Three of them came with Atlanta. He appeared in six All-Star games with the team. Maddux managed to post a 194-88 win/loss record, which is .688 percent, and a 2.63 ERA. He tallied 1,828 strikeouts and only 383 walks.

While he never technically played for the Atlanta Braves, Warren Spahn spent 21 seasons with the Boston Braves and the Milwaukee Braves. He is widely considered the greatest pitcher in Braves history. He is a 17x All-Star, and he also won a Cy young Award. Spahn is the franchise leader in wins (356), games started (635), shutouts (63) and innings pitched (5,046).

 

Bryce Harper” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Washington Nationals/Montreal Expos

  • Bryce Harper, OF, 2012-2018
  • Gary Carter, C, RF, 1974-1984, 1992
  • Vladimir Guerrero, RF, 1996-2003
  • Max Scherzer, P, 2015-Present

Bryce Harper may not even be a National here soon, but there’s no question he is on the franchises Mount Rushmore. He’s only been on the team for seven seasons, but he’s only been in the league for seven years. You can say Harper revived baseball in D.C. Ever since his arrival, they have been making the playoffs. Although nothing has come during the playoffs, the Nationals still are relevant again. Harper was the NL Rookie of the Year in 2012, NL MVP in 2015, and has made six All-Star games so far. No matter where Harper signs this offseason, his impact in the nation’s capital are unmatched.

Gary Carter spent 12 seasons with the Montreal Expos and is arguably one of the greatest catchers in MLB history. His bWAR is just incredible, and he also managed to win three Gold Gloves and three Silver Sluggers with the team. Carter also appeared in seven All-Star games with the franchise and wears an Expos hat on his Hall of Fame plaque.

No matter where the ball was thrown, you could be sure that Vladimir Guerrero was going to find away to hit it. Guerrero is remembered as having one of the greatest arms in the history of the game. Who could forget when he would hit balls that bounced in front of the plate? Vlad could hit, run, throw and do anything else you needed him to do.

I may get a lot of heat for who I’m about to put in the last spot on this Mount Rushmore because of time spent with the team, but I’ll be sure to explain why I’m picking this player. Typically you must be on a team for eight seasons before you are in talks for Mount Rushmore, but for the last spot on this young franchises list, I’m going with Max Scherzer.

Scherzer has only been on the Nationals for four seasons, but in those four seasons he has changed the course of that team in so many ways. So far, he has 68-32 with 1,128 strikeouts. He’s won two Cy Young awards and made the All-Star game each of his four seasons with the team. He threw two no hitters in his first year with the team, and in 2016 he tied an MLB record for strikeouts in a game with 20. Scherzer has lead the league in strikeouts the last three seasons, while also leading the league in wins and innings pitched in 2016 and 2018.

 

Chase Utley – Phillies vs Nats 8.2.12” by Matthew Straubmuller is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Philadelphia Phillies

  • Mike Schmidt, 1B, 3B, 1972-1989
  • Steve Carlton, P, 1972-1986
  • Roy Halladay, P, 2010-2013
  • Chase Utley, 2B, 2003-2015

Arguably the greatest player Philadelphia Phillies history is Mike Schmidt. Schmidt is the franchise leader in home runs (584), games played (2404) and RBI’s (1595). Schmidt spent his entire 18-year career with the Phillies and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1995. He was a 12x All-Star, 10x Gold Glove winner, 6x Silver Slugger winner, 3x MVP, and the 1980 World Series MVP in which he won his only world series title.

Steve Carlton played 15 years with the Phillies and was one of the most dominate pitchers in the league during that time. He’s the franchise leader in wins (241), strikeouts (3031) and games started (499). On top of these incredible stats, Carlton also won four straight Cy Young awards while with the franchise.

This may be a confusing decision to some people, but I choose to put Roy Halladay on this list for a couple reasons. Halladay compiled a 55-29 record while in Philly and racked up 622 strikeouts. Halladay was one of the most dominate pitchers of his time. In 2010, his first year with the team, he won the NL Cy Young award. His 2010 season is really what puts him on this list for me. On May 29th, 2010, Halladay threw the 20th perfect game in MLB history. Later that season, on October 6th, 2010, Halladay became just the second pitcher in MLB history to throw a no-hitter in Postseason history. Two no-hitters/perfect games in one season and a Cy Young award is enough to put the late great Roy Halladay on this list.

Chase Utley essentially was the Phillies franchise during his 13 years with the team. He was a part of the historic 2008 and 2009 teams that won a World Series in 2008 and then made the World series again in 2009, but lost to the Yankees. Utley made all six of his All-Star game appearances with the Phillies, including five straight from 2006-2010.

 

David Wright” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

New York Mets

  • Tom Seaver, P, 1967-1977, 1983
  • Dwight Gooden, P, 1984-1994
  • Mike Piazza, C, 1B, 1998-2005
  • David Wright, 3B, 2004-2016, 2018

One of the greatest pitchers in baseball history is going to kick the New York Mets Mount Rushmore off. Tom Seaver leads the franchise in wins (198), ERA (2.57), WHIP (1.076), games started (395), strikeouts (2541), innings pitched (3045.2) and shutouts (44). In his 12 years with the team he made ten All-Star games, including seven straight from 1967-1973. Seaver won three Cy Young awards as a Met and led the league in ERA in 1970, 1971, 1973. Seaver also led the team to their 1969 World Series and won the 1967 Rookie of the Year award.

Ahh Dwight “Doc” Gooden, let’s put the drug use aside (even though that’s what he’s known for). He won the 1984 Rookie of the Year award, and then won the 1985 Cy Young award. Doc didn’t really have the stats of a stellar player, as he only made four All-Star teams, which came in his first five years in the league.

Mike Piazza spent eight years with the team and now leads the franchise in slugging percentage. He was a 6x All-Star and a 5x Silver Slugger award winner. Without a doubt, the biggest moment of Piazza’s career with the Mets, and maybe even his whole career, is the home run he hit in the first baseball game after the 9/11 attacks in the Mets home of Citi Field. Piazza also went into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2016 with a New York Mets hat on his plaque.

Would this Mount Rushmore really be complete without Captain America, David Wright? Wright spent his entire 14-year career with the Mets. Injuries unfortunately ended his career a few years earlier than it should have ended. When he was healthy, Wright was one of the best 3rd basemen in the league. He leads the franchise in runs scored (949) and hits (1777). Wright was a 7x All-Star, 2x Silver Slugger winner, and a 2x Gold Glove winner. It will be interesting to see if he is ever elected into baseball immortality.

 

Giancarlo Stanton” by Corn Farmer is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Miami Marlins

  • Gary Sheffield, RF, 3B, SS, 1993-1998
  • Hanley Ramirez, SS, 1B, 3B, 2006-2012
  • Jose Fernandez, P, 2013-2016
  • Giancarlo Stanton, RF, 2010-2017

Gary Sheffield spent 22 years in the league. Six of those came with the Florida Marlins. This is another case where an exception is made for the eight-year rule. Sheffield spent more years with the Marlins than any other franchise, and it was hard to find many players for this somewhat young franchise. The Marlins have only been a franchise since 1993, which Sheffield was apart of. He recorded 538 hits, 122 home runs, and a .288 batting average during his time with the franchise. Sheffield also made two All-Star appearances with the team and played a huge role in the 1997 World Series championship.

Hanley Ramirez won the 2006 Rookie of the Year award and made his only All-Star appearances with the franchise. He is near the top of most offensive categories. If it wasn’t for Giancarlo Stanton, he would probably lead a lot of them.

Jose Fernandez only played in the league four years before he tragically lost his life in a boating accident in 2016, but what an impact he made on the Marlins franchise and the game of baseball. During his short career, he certainly could’ve been considered Miami’s ace. He won the 2013 Rookie of the Year award and made two All-Star appearances, his first year and his last year. Fernandez was 38-17 with a 2.58 ERA and had 589 strikeouts with just 140 walks. Fernandez’s death rocked the MLB world, as he was arguably one of the most popular players in the league. Rest in Piece.

Although he isn’t on the Marlins anymore, Giancarlo Stanton is without a doubt the best position player in the franchise’s history. He played eight years with the Marlins, and boy what an impact he made. Four All-Star appearances, a Silver Slugger winner, and was the 2017 NL MVP. Stanton recorded 960 hits, 267 home runs and a .268 batting average. Him leaving and being traded to the Yankees may leave a sour taste in some fans’ mouths, but regardless, he is the best player the Marlins franchise has ever seen and may see for a while.

Josh Donaldson - Atlanta Braves

Atlanta Braves sign Donaldson, McCann

So far, this MLB free agency has been relatively quiet. We’re still waiting for all the big-name players to decide on where they’ll be playing. However, the Atlanta Braves have started making moves already, signing two veteran players in the last few days. One of those players is a former league MVP.

On Monday, the Atlanta Braves signed veteran catcher, Brian McCann, to a one-year contract worth $2M. They also signed former league MVP, Josh Donaldson, to a one-year, $23M contract.

Brian McCann - Atlanta Braves
Brian McCann” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Brian McCann

McCann is now 34. He made it clear last November he wants to retire as a Brave, after he spent most of his career with the team. From 2005-2013, McCann was the man Braves fans could count on behind the plate. In that time, he made seven All-Star teams and won five Silver Slugger awards. Seeing as how this contract is a very small one, it can probably be assumed McCann will either retire after the 2019 season, or just continue to sign one-year deals with Atlanta until he decides to call it a career.

Josh Donaldson - Atlanta Braves
Josh Donaldson” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Josh Donaldson

Donaldson is currently only 32. He won the American League MVP back in 2015 with the Toronto Blue Jays. Donaldson will be coming off a year where he missed more than three months because of a calf injury. Injuries also played a hand in ending Donaldson’s 2017 season early. Donaldson has proved that when he is healthy, he can be one of the most dangerous hitters in the league. His goal is to play with the Atlanta Braves long-term, or at least earn a good contract if the Braves don’t want him after the 2019 season. It will be interesting to see if Donaldson can stay healthy and work to power the Atlanta Braves’ lineup alongside first baseman Freddie Freeman.

 

Donaldson + McCann = Winning the Division?

Last year, the Braves finished with a record of 90-72, which was good enough for first place in the NL East. They ended the season eight games above the Washington Nationals. They eventually lost in the NLDS to the Los Angeles Dodgers in just four games.

The Miami Marlins don’t look like they will be challenging for the division anytime soon. The New York Mets do have the 2018 CY Young winner, Jacob DeGrom. They’re also looking to deal Noah Syndergaard. However, they don’t look like they will be contending for the division for a little while either.

The Philadelphia Phillies finished third in the division, but are ready to spend money this off season and are linked to several stars, including Bryce Harper. They look like the only team that could contend with the Braves next season because of their young team and intention to spend money.

The Nationals did finish second in the division, but their record looked better than they played last season. With the possibility they’ll lose Bryce Harper, it seems they’ll fall out of contention for any division titles in the near future.

Because of their position, the Braves looked poised to once again win the division, or at least make the playoffs. If Donaldson stays healthy, they could possibly even make a deep run.

NLDS Preview: Atlanta Braves vs Los Angeles Dodgers

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Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw delivers pitch during NLCS Game 6” by Arturo Pardavila III is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Teams

Los Angeles Dodgers (2), 92-70, hosting the Atlanta Braves (3), 90-72.

 

Some Numbers

  • The Dodgers and Braves squared off against each other seven times this regular season. Los Angeles dominated those match-ups, winning five of them and outscoring Atlanta 35-18. In early June, the Dodgers took two of three when visiting the Braves, and then three of four when the Braves visited the west coast in late July.
  • The Braves are in the playoffs for the first time since 2013, while the Dodgers are in the post-season for the sixth straight season, having won the NL West in all of those years.
  • Dodgers pitchers led the National League in both strikeouts, ERA (3.38), and WHIP (1.152), while the team’s hitters ranked first in runs scored (804), home runs (235), and OPS (.774).
  • The Braves, meanwhile, were second in the NL in batting average (.257), 6th in OPS (.742), which helped them rank 5th in runs scored (759) despite the team hitting eleven home runs behind the league average (175). The pitchers finished with a 3.75 ERA and a 1.284 WHIP.

 

Dodgers Player to Watch: SP Clayton Kershaw

Limited to under 162 innings pitched this season, Kershaw still managed to finish 9-5 with a 2.73 ERA while striking out 8.6 per nine innings, the lowest of his career since his rookie season in 2008.

But the real reason to watch this dominant southpaw this October is because he’s always struggled in the playoffs, from losing Game 6 of the NLCS to the Cardinals in 2013 to his ERA ballooning last post-season in the NLDS against the Diamondbacks (5.68) and in the World Series against the Houston Astros (4.02).

He’s not starting Game 1 for the Dodgers, but could very well end up starting a pivotal Game 2 and possibly a do-or-die Game 5.

 

Braves Player to Watch: 1B Freddie Freeman

Freeman, a left-handed hitting first-baseman, will be key to the Braves’ success, especially in the first two games in Los Angeles. The Dodgers will be starting a pair of left-handed pitchers: Hyun-Jin Ryu and Kershaw.

Even with breakout rookies Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuna in the lineup for most of the season, Freeman paced the Braves, leading the club in WAR, hits, doubles, RBIs, and total bases. Thankfully for Atlanta, he hit .309 against left-handed pitchers this season and even had a higher OPS against them than right-handed pitchers.

For the Braves to have a fighting chance, Freeman will have to maintain or surpass those numbers.

 

Prediction: Dodgers, 3-1

The Dodgers are an experienced club that knows how to win in October. Heck, they’ve already won one game this month, a divisional tiebreaker against the Colorado Rockies. But this is also an aging squad, one that fell short in the Fall Classic last season. The window may be closing, yet it seems like the Dodgers are too strong to fall to a burgeoning Atlanta team. Look for the Dodgers to take this series, three games to one or in an outright sweep.

Predicting the Five National League Playoff Teams

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Chicago Cubs” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

By Mickayeen Farner 

With roughly 40 games remaining for each team in Major League Baseball, races for playoff spots are heating up, which sets up perfectly for a little bit of prediction action. If you missed it, you can catch my American League Predictions here. As easy as the American League was to predict, the National League is just as hard with so many close races. With that in mind, let’s get to the predictions!

NL East Champs: Atlanta Braves

This is such an interesting race between two young teams that are probably a year ahead of where they planned on being. RahimAli Merchant wrote a good piece about the Braves and Ronald Acuna Jr. two days ago (which you can see here), and I agree with him. The thing that puts the Braves over the Phillies here is runs scored. The Braves have scored 60 more runs than the Phillies over the year, and they are close enough with most every other statistic (they are only separated by 0.05 team ERA, for example) that the runs scored differential is enough to put the Braves over the top. They also have MVP candidate and leader in NL WAR (Wins Above Replacement) in Freddie Freeman. That, combined with Ronald Acuna Jr. tearing it up, gives the Braves enough to win the division for the first time since 2013.

NL Central Champs: Chicago Cubs

This one is the easiest to predict. As good as the Brewers and Cardinals have been this year, the Cubs have won the division two years in a row and there’s no reason to think that streak will end. They were the first team in the NL to reach 70 wins and they’ve done it without arguably their best player in Kris Bryant, who hasn’t played in about a month. They’ve had enough experience in the pennant race that the heat of a division race shouldn’t make them sweat.

NL West Champs: Colorado Rockies

You can say this is the homer in me, but just as I mentioned in yesterday’s piece about the Oakland Athletics, these Rockies seem to have that inexplicable magic to them. They have the odds-on favorite to win the NL MVP (according to bovada) in Nolan Arenado, and they have two pitchers (Jon Gray and Kyle Freeland) who are top nine in the National League in FanGraphs WAR. Their weakness is clearly their bullpen, which they spent over $100 million on in the offseason. Wade Davis still leads the NL in saves, and Adam Ottovino only has a 1.70 ERA. If those two can continue to anchor the bullpen, the Rockies will win their first division crown in franchise history.

First Wildcard: Arizona Diamondbacks

After losing the division by one game, the Diamondbacks will host the wildcard game for the second year in a row. Paul Goldschmidt is an absolute monster, their pitching staff is great, and their bullpen ERA is second in the league. The only reason I don’t see them winning the division is because I think they peaked at the beginning of the year, whereas the Rockies have yet to peak. They’ll still make it in though.

Second Wildcard: Milwaukee Brewers

This one was another tough call, but the Brewers have simply been playing so great all year that I can’t see them not making it in. After making moves in the offseason for Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain, and having Jesús Aguilar play out of his mind, they have the team to punch their ticket to Phoenix for the wildcard playoff game. The only thing that may hold them back is their starting pitching not being stellar. Again, I think they’ve played too great all season to not make it in.

Just Missing Out: Los Angeles Dodgers, St. Louis Cardinals, Philadelphia Phillies 

The Dodgers added some major firepower with Brian Dozier and Manny Machado, but this last week has revealed what I believe will be their downfall: their lack of bullpen depth.

The Cardinals have been on a run lately, and I almost put them ahead of the Brewers, but they haven’t shown the consistency of the Brewers, and that’s why they’ll be on the outside looking in.

Usually I’m very confident in my predictions, but you wouldn’t have to twist my arm to take Philadelphia over Atlanta in the east, and the reason is because they have a bona fide ace in Aaron Nola. Nola is third in the NL in ERA and second in WAR among NL pitchers—just barely behind Max Scherzer. They just aren’t as good as the Brewers or Diamondbacks overall, and they will finish one or two games behind Atlanta. They certainly have a bright future though.

There’s your scorching hot take article. I’m excited to see what your thoughts are!

As He Goes, The Braves Go!

Atlanta Braves
Atlanta Braves Desktop Wallpaper” by Charlie Lyons-Pardue is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

By RahimAli Merchant

Have you been watching what’s happening in the Major Leagues? Are there any teams who may have surprised you by the way they are playing? How about the Atlanta Braves? Did you ever imagine the Atlanta Braves would be in first place in their division in the middle of August? How about them having four All-Stars in this year’s All-Star game? Could they have a Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year on their team?

As much as you may be surprised in the Braves having a two-game lead over their division, you should also be surprised in how they are doing it. With the four All-Stars, first baseman Freddie Freeman, second baseman Ozzie Albies, outfielder Nick Markakis, and starting pitcher Mike Foltynewicz, the Braves have managed to maintain first place and are getting hotter as the season goes on.

Freeman and Markakis have been playing their best baseball all season long, which has put Freeman in the talks for MVP. However, the one small little detail you may have forgotten was their struggles before the All-Star break. I would say one player has changed the attitude in the Braves clubhouse, and it’s not Freeman.

As of Wednesday, August 15th, the Braves are 68-51, which is 1st place in NL East and only a game back for the best record in the National League. They are looking to have their best record in five years and reach for 90 wins or more. The only way that can happen is if rookie outfielder, Ronald Acuna Jr., continues to light it up.

Remember earlier when I said it was one player who changed the attitude of the clubhouse? Well it’s Acuna who’s done that. Whether or not you’re a Braves fan, you’ve got to love Acuna for rookie of the year. Acuna (20) is the youngest to hit a homer in four straight games. He’s also the youngest in five consecutive games. He has eight homers in eight games and is really helping his case for R.O.Y.

Acuna only played in 68 games of the team’s 119 so far due to contract issues and injuries that placed him on the DL. With the Braves lineup the way it is, we could expect to see Acuna and others remain hot. By the way, Acuna is the leadoff batter in this lineup, and he has hit three leadoff homers during this streak. He’s had 264 at-bats, 49 runs, 76 hits, 43 runs batted in, 19 home runs, and 8 stolen bases, all while batting a .288. Although the Homers and RBIs are lower than we’d like, what Acuna is doing now is making everyone afraid to pitch to him.

In case you missed the Braves-Marlins game on Wednesday, let me tell you what happened! Unfortunately, there weren’t any leadoff homers, but there was a leadoff hit-by-pitch which caused a benches-clearing scuffle where Braves manager Brian Snitker and Marlins pitcher Jose Urena were ejected. Acuna would leave the game an inning later after trying to shake it off in his left arm. The only good thing that came from this was that Acuna’s streak will still remain, so hopefully Acuna doesn’t have to miss any time because the Braves go as he goes. The Braves have won five straight games and 14 out of the last 18 to take a 17-game lead in their division. With Acuna as leadoff, the Braves lineup is complete, and anyone in the lineup can carry them behind Acuna, so let’s see where the Braves and Acuna will finish.