Football season is quickly approaching, and teams have began to prepare for the upcoming year. The AFC could be a very competitive conference, but which teams have enough talent to be playoff contenders? My cousin Michael Philipkosky and I broke it all down in this episode of his podcast, the Master Plan.
April is almost here, and when the month begins, so will the MLB season. Just like in my last 7 years writing this blog, I have put together predictions for the season. We only got 60 MLB games last year, but for this year we’ll have a full 162 game season. I just went on my cousin Michael Philipkosky’s podcast, the Master Plan, to discuss all 30 teams, with one episode for the AL and one episode for the NL. You can check out the AL podcast here, and I have my full AL predictions below.
- New York Yankees (96-66, #2 seed)
- Toronto Blue Jays (89-73, #5 seed)
- Tampa Bay Rays (84-78)
- Boston Red Sox (80-82)
- Baltimore Orioles (58-104)
I think the Yankees are in a good position to win this division. They lost some of the pitching depth they had last year, but this lineup is still on another level compared to the other teams in the AL East. Even with some injuries last year, the Yankees were able to dominate the AL East, and I expect the same this year. The question is whether they have the pitching staff to go all the way.
This should be a competitive division behind the Yankees. The Blue Jays, Rays, and Red Sox should all finish somewhat close in the standings. The Jays are really starting to come together. The young talent in the lineup is improving and they’ll be supplemented by new outfielder George Springer and new middle infielder Marcus Semien. Their rotation is also really starting to look sharp.
Tampa was the AL pennant winner last year, but this was a team that was highlighted by its dominant rotation and the Rays lost two of their top three starting pitchers. As a small market team, they tend to subtract in the offseason as opposed to adding. As they lose a key element of their 2020 team, they will see a significant World Series hangover.
The Red Sox should get Chris Sale back towards the end of the year, and when they do they could force the Rays into 4th place. After bringing back Alex Cora and making some underrated signings, I see the Sox finishing around .500 like they did back in 2019. However, this team is hard to read. They have a low floor (they could be a repeat of last year), and a high ceiling (they could potentially contend for a Wild Card). The signings by GM Chaim Bloom have included multiple utility players. Bloom, a University of Pennsylvania alumnus, explained some of his reasoning behind this in a Q&A at a UPenn event on Wednesday. He stated that in the past, utility players were often limited to utility role because they weren’t good enough to play a position every day. However, in modern baseball, there are utility players who can play every day at a variety of positions, like Enrique Hernandez and Marwin Gonzalez who he signed. These players likely flew under the radar due to the fact that they’re utility guys.
I can’t really see the Orioles competing with these teams. The Orioles have improved since 2019, but their early 2020 success was a bit of a fluke. I think the young talent is starting to come along but it won’t be enough to make a noticeable difference just yet.
- Chicago White Sox (101-61, #1 seed)
- Minnesota Twins (90-72, #4 seed)
- Kansas City Royals (77-85)
- Cleveland Indians (75-87)
- Detroit Tigers (66-96)
The White Sox are really starting to come together. They have a good ace in Lucas Giolito. The lineup is looking great between young talent like Luis Robert, Eloy Jimenez, and Nick Madigral and more experienced players like Jose Abreu and Yasmani Grandal. I think they have what it takes to make a deep playoff run this year. I have them ahead of the Twins, who choked in the playoffs last year. Minnesota has a strong rotation headlined by Jose Berrios, Kenta Maeda, and Randy Dobnak, but their lack of elite lineup talent compared to other top teams is going to hold them back from more than a Wild Card. The Twins should be able secure 2nd place though, as the rest of this division is unlikely to compete.
The Royals have added talent, including starting pitcher Mike Minor, and they have a decent core led by Hunter Dozier and Whit Merrifield. However, I don’t think they have quite enough firepower to contend. I think they will get third place over the Indians, who dealt away Carlos Carrasco and Francisco Lindor in an effort to lower payroll. Star hitter and third baseman Jose Ramirez is still in Cleveland, but the Indians don’t have any other big name hitters. They also lack rotation depth behind defending Cy Young winner Shane Bieber. Aside from Bieber and Ramirez, the Indians lack star power. The Tigers got off to a strong start last year thanks to the emergence of outfielder JaCoby Jones. They should perform better than they did in 2019, but I still don’t think they’ll be anywhere close to playoff contention in a 162 game season.
- Los Angeles Angels (87-75, #3 seed)
- Houston Astros (84-78)
- Oakland Athletics (76-86)
- Texas Rangers (65-97)
- Seattle Mariners (63-99)
This division is not nearly as strong as it was last year. The Angels always tend to disappoint with a lack of success surrounding star outfielder Mike Trout, but I think they’ll be able to win this weakened division. That doesn’t necessarily imply playoff success. The Angels did add some pitching help and that should put them in position to win the AL West but taking down the Yankees or White Sox will be a difficult feat. The Astros should come close as well, even though they lost outfielders George Springer and Josh Reddick. This lineup’s success between 2017 and 2019 was likely boosted by sign stealing, and the depth of the rotation is slowly dwindling, so I have the Angels edging out Houston here, but it will be close.
The A’s will probably have the biggest drop off in the division. They have a very talented young rotation, but without shortstop Marcus Semien and designated hitter Khris Davis, this lineup is lacking standout hitters. Corner infielders Matt Olson and Matt Chapman are improving at the plate, but that’s not enough lineup talent for a playoff team. I have them falling to third place, but finishing ahead of the Rangers and Mariners.
The Rangers failed to contend last year with an awkward mix of young talent and older players, so they’ve torn it down and prepared for a rebuild headed into this season. Joey Gallo is still here but I don’t expect him to stay for long. Seattle has some young talent that is starting to develop and could have a very strong outfield soon once Kyle Lewis and top prospect Jarred Kelenic fully develop alongside Mitch Haniger. Even with the outfield and the rotation improving, this isn’t the year for Seattle to contend.
That’s all for these American League predictions. I’ll have my NL predictions out in the next couple days. In the meantime, feel free to comment with your thoughts.
The Sox started off their season strong on Friday when they took down the Orioles 13 to 2, in a game where they hit 8 doubles and four of their batters had at least 3 hits.
Nathan Eovaldi looked sharp, pitching 6 full innings. He didn’t allow a run until the 6th when Anthony Santander doubled into the left field corner and Renato Nunez did the same to score Santander. The only other Orioles run was scored in the 7th, when Rio Ruiz hit a solo shot.
While Eovaldi’s pitching was better than we’ve seen in a while, it was the Red Sox lineup that led the way in this easy victory.
The game was scoreless through two innings and included an excellent leaping catch by new Sox OF Kevin Pillar. But the Red Sox knocked out Orioles starter Tommy Milone after scoring 4 runs in the 3rd. It started with an opposite field double by left handed hitter Jackie Bradley Jr. Righty and newcomer Jose Peraza hit another similar looking double into left to score JBJ. J.D. Martinez hit another double that scored Peraza.
Milone walked 3B Rafael Devers, and a wild pitch allowed both Devers and Martinez to advance into scoring position. It was yet another similar double into left, this time by Kevin Pillar, that scored both of them and made it 4-0.
Reliever Cody Carroll came in for Milone to start the 4th, and he walked consecutive batters before a Jose Peraza hit loaded the bases. Carroll’s troubles finding the plate continued when he walked Andrew Benintendi to make it 5-0 Red Sox. Ex-Red Sox reliever Travis Lakins came in to face Martinez with the bases still loaded. Martinez hit an opposite field shot deep into right field, and it nearly left the park for a grand slam. He ended up with a ground rule double to knock in two more runs.
But that wasn’t the end of it for this huge 4th inning. Xander Bogaerts got on base and knocked in an additional run. Kevin Pillar also got his second hit of the day to score another. Christian Vazquez made it 10-0 with his own RBI single. After 6 runs, Lakins finally made it out of the inning by striking out consecutive Red Sox.
The Sox added to their lead in the 6th inning, an inning started by a second ground rule double, this time by Vazquez. JBJ hit another double into the left field corner to score Vazquez, and Peraza got his second double and third hit of the day, scoring JBJ on another shot into the left field corner.
The Red Sox finished the day without a home run, but they made up for it with 8 extra base hits (all doubles), 2 of which were ground rule doubles. Newcomers Pillar and Peraza each had three hit days in addition to DH J.D. Martinez and OF Jackie Bradley Jr. Ironically, the Sox did this with Mitch Moreland, nicknamed Mitchy 2-Bags, sitting on the bench.
It was really exciting to see all these big hits on Opening Day, even though it is against Baltimore and expectations for the rest of the season are low. If the Sox can beat Baltimore 13-2, maybe their big bats will be able to make some noise against top contenders like the Yankees and Braves.
The Sox continue their series against Baltimore with a day game today. Martin Perez will be on the mound for Boston, and Moreland is back in the lineup but Bogaerts will have the day off. In addition, Alex Verdugo, who came here in the Mookie Betts trade, will make his Red Sox debut today. The Sox will hope to have another strong day at the plate with Alex Cobb on the mound for Baltimore. Will Verdugo’s debut be anything like Pillar and Peraza’s?
We are a little over a week away from the start of the MLB season, which will make baseball the first of America’s 4 major sports leagues to return after pausing during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, the first of a three episode 2020 MLB prediction podcast series with my cousin, Michael Philipkosky, was released as a part of his podcast, the Master Plan. This episode covered the AL and NL East, as teams will only be playing divisional match-ups and match-ups against teams in the corresponding NL division.
You can listen to the podcast on Apple Podcasts or Spotify using the links below:
In addition, I have added both of our standings predictions below alongside my brief breakdown of each of these 10 squads. Keep reading to check that out.Continue reading
Welcome to Part 7 of my NFL Draft Report Cards. Last week, I reviewed the AFC North, where the Browns and Ravens boasted a couple of the best draft classes in the entire league. The AFC South doesn’t have any teams that dominated to this extent. In fact, one team struggled more than any other team in the entire AFC. Keep reading to see my grade for each pick as well as my final grades. As I post more articles, I will also include links to the rest of my draft grades.
NFL Draft Report Cards 2019
Overall Grade: B-
Draft Report Card:
I didn’t mind this draft, as there were no terribly confusing picks and the Titans filled most of their biggest needs. But the Titans did take some significant risks here. I especially liked the A.J. Brown pick, as he will make an instant impact in the receiving game. Jeffery Simmons may not play this season. But the Titans desperately needed a DT, and it’s not a terrible late 1st round choice. Nate Davis was a reach, but he does fill a need as well. They also added DB depth with the selection of Amani Hooker. They didn’t need any more OLBs even with Brian Orakpo retiring. They could’ve added a tight end instead with Delanie Walker getting older. But overall, this was still a solid draft that filled plenty of needs.
Overall Grade: C+
Draft Report Card:
The Colts had a boatload of big needs going in, so even with 10 draft picks, it would’ve been hard to fulfill all their needs. The Colts did fill a good number of them though. They got some front seven help, added WR Parris Campbell, and drafted a corner early. However, they reached quite a bit on some of these picks when it was not necessary. Indy had much better options in many of these scenarios. The failure to take advantage of these options definitely impacts their grade, but the filling of most needs boosts it.
Overall Grade: C+
Draft Report Card:
The Jaguars did fill most of their biggest needs, but their priorities were not quite set straight. Jawaan Taylor was a steal in Round 2. But did Jacksonville need a tackle? No. The Jags opted to take Taylor and wait on their other needs as opposed to grabbing a RB or S early. They didn’t really address the secondary at all, instead opting to snag top players available like Gardner Minshew and Dontavius Russell in the late rounds. At other times, they reached for picks. Some of these picks will pay off to an extent, but others just didn’t make sense.
Overall Grade: C
Draft Report Card:
The Texans didn’t even have that many needs to fill. But they threw their needs aside on some of these picks. I think the Texans were selectively targeting a group of players they believed were underrated and had a future, and the Texans are entitled to their own opinions. They may love this draft class. But in my eyes, many of these picks were unnecessary reaches. For example, they took tackles Tytus Howard and Max Scharping when there were better options and they needed a guard more. In the meantime, they failed to add depth at wide receiver and linebacker. Many of these picks confused me. They weren’t a fit, a bargain, or a need filler, so that significantly bogs down their grade.
That’s all for this portion of my NFL Draft Report Cards. Next time, I’ll wrap this series up with the AFC West, where another two of the best draft classes in the league came from. Which AFC West teams came out on top? Stay tuned for my next post to find out.
Welcome to Part 6 of my NFL Draft Report Cards. Last week, I reviewed the home division of my New England Patriots, the AFC East. Though the Pats should win the division, the Jets outdid them in the draft. But in my eyes, an AFC North team was the overall draft winner. Which team is it? Keep reading to see my Draft Report Card for each team, including a grade for each pick as well as my final grades. As I post more articles, I will also include links to the rest of my draft grades.
NFL Draft Report Cards 2019
Overall Grade: A
Draft Report Card:
I feel the Browns won this year’s draft. Not only did they snag two major steals at positions of need in Greedy Williams and Mack Wilson, they also filled most of the rest of their biggest needs. In addition to Williams, a CB and Wilson, an ILB, the Browns drafted a tackle, a safety, an outside linebacker. Some of their other picks were slight reaches, but they filled most of their needs, so I really like this draft class.
Overall Grade: B+
Draft Report Card:
The Ravens started off this draft historically strong. They grabbed their two WRs of the future (hopefully Lamar Jackson is able to throw to them). They also drafted a much needed edge rusher in Jaylon Ferguson, who happens to be a great fit. The later rounds didn’t go as well. They did make some decent picks later on. I understand the selections of RB Justice Hill and DT Daylon Mack. But the Ravens didn’t need another guard or corner, and the Ravens been fine with Robert Griffin III as Jackson’s sole backup. Overall, this is a pretty good draft class, but it was a bit top heavy, and they didn’t prioritize their biggest needs in the later rounds.
Overall Grade: C+
Draft Report Card:
The Bengals made a couple great selections. They found their potential QB-LT duo of the future. The Bengals also filled all of their biggest needs. But they reached on a lot of their picks. I’m not going to make a big deal about their choice to put aside smaller needs in favor of prospects they liked. But Drew Sample, for example could’ve been found in the 4th or 5th. He isn’t 2nd round material. I do give them credit for the promptness on filling their needs though, so I didn’t mind this draft class too much.
Overall Grade: C+
Draft Report Card:
My favorite pick by far from this draft class was the selection of RB Benny Snell Jr. Snell can be the primary backup for James Conner with Le’Veon Bell leaving for good. But other than that, the Steelers didn’t have an amazing draft. They didn’t fill too many needs, and the needs they did fill were filled by reaching. I didn’t mind the Devin Bush pick, as he may not be a good fit, but he can play inside linebacker as they need. Plus, Isaiah Buggs was a steal even though Pittsburgh doesn’t need a DT. But the fact that they didn’t draft a tackle to replace Marcus Gilbert will significantly bog them down.
That’s all for this portion of my NFL Draft Grades. Stay tuned for my AFC South Draft Grades next. As a whole, the AFC South did not have a great draft. But two teams tied for the worst overall grade. Who were they? Find out soon.
Welcome to my annual preseason Baseball Bits article!
If you were unaware, today marks 5 years since I started my Boston Sports Mania blog! The Red Sox were just about to begin their regular season when I started, and just like this year, they were coming off a World Series victory. On my first day, I posted an article titled “MLB 2014 Preview”, which included my predictions for the 2014 MLB season. I still write these prediction articles every year, including this year.
I call March 25th my “blog-a-versary”, and this year is a big milestone. All of my opportunities are a result of this blog. Most recently, I delivered a motivational keynote speech about my story so far at the Visions of Community Conference hosted by the Federation for Children with Special Needs at the Boston Seaport World Trade Center (see below):
I started this blog to write about my favorite sports like baseball, which is what today’s post is about.
In 2018 the Red Sox became the 16th team in the 162-game era to win over 100 regular season games and then go on to win the World Series. They were led by new manager Alex Cora and a new star in J.D. Martinez. But what most Boston sports fans are wondering about now is how the Red Sox will do in 2019 and whether they will repeat. I did some research on 100+ win World Series winners in the 162-game era and how they did in their next season below.
The “Baseball Bits”
Note: In the context of this article, a team who repeats for 2 years in a row is counted for 1 repeat, 3 years in a row is counted for 2 repeats, 4 years in a row is counted for 3 repeats, etc
- Only 23 of 115 (20%) World Series winners have repeated
- In the 162-game era, only 16 of 57 (28%) 100-win teams have won the World Series, including the 2018 Red Sox
- In the 162-game era, only 9 of 56 (16%) World Series winners excluding the 2018 Red Sox have repeated, with 4 of the teams repeating after 100-win seasons
- Of the 15 100 win World Series winners excluding the 2018 Red Sox:9 teams (60%) made the playoffs4 teams (26.67% of the 15) repeated2 of those teams reached 100 wins when they repeated:1976 Cincinnati Reds
- 1978 New York Yankees
- 2 of those teams failed to reach 100 wins again when they repeated:1962 New York Yankees
- 1999 New York Yankees (repeated again in 2000
- The Red Sox did not win the World Series in an 100 win season in the 162-game era until 2018
- Another 2 of the 15 (13.33%) lost the World Series:1968 St. Louis Cardinals
- 1978 Baltimore Orioles
- 3 of the 15 (20%) lost in the LCS2010 New York Yankees
- 2017 Chicago Cubs
- 2018 Houston Astros
- 6 of the 15 (40%) missed the playoffs entirely1969 Detroit Tigers
- 1970 New York Mets
- 1977 Cincinnati Reds
- 1979 New York Yankees
- 1985 Detroit Tigers
- 1987 New York Mets
- Each of the last 3 100-win World Series winners lost in the LCS the next year
Based on the research, I believe the Red Sox have a 20 to 25% chance to repeat. I believe that there is still a select group of elite teams that could win the World Series this year. World Series repeats are less common during the 162-game era as just 9 of 56 (16%) World Series winners repeated. However, 4 of those teams were 100-win teams. World Series winners who did not reach 100 wins in this time frame only repeated 12.1% of the time since 1961. That’s more like a 1 in 8 chance. 100-win World Series winners have repeated 26.67% of the time during the same time frame. I think the significance of being a 100-win team helps improve the Sox chances to repeat.
However, as much as I hate to admit it as a huge Boston fan, I am sticking with my prediction that the Sox will fail to reverse the trend of World Series winners. I think they will lose in the ALCS to either the New York Yankees or Houston Astros. The odds are stacked against the Sox reaching 100 wins as well since only 4 of the 15 100-win World Series winners even reached 100 wins again the next year. I don’t think the Red Sox will reach the century mark but will come close at somewhere between 92 and 96 games. A bullpen with no proven closer to start the season helps support my prediction A World Series repeat is unlikely to happen, though you shouldn’t rule it out yet.
Alex Cora did wonders for this team last year, so maybe he’ll be able to recreate the magic of 2018. If he can, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be 2019 AL Manager of the Year.
That’s all for today’s Baseball Bits. After all I have accomplished in the last 5 years, I look forward to creating even better content over the next 5 years. Stay tuned for more soon, including the next portion of my MLB Preseason Power Rankings.
Welcome to Article #1 of my 6th annual set of MLB preseason power rankings and 5th annual MLB power ranking series. Back in 2015, I got the idea to break up my pre-season Power Rankings into 5 articles from David Schoenfield of ESPN. Even though Schoenfield no longer posts power rankings in this format, I have stuck with it and given the rankings my own flavor in recent years. In this article, though I am covering some of the worst teams in the league, all of these teams have some good pieces, and I will be pointing those out. Click the links below for other articles in the series (I will add them as I post them):
2019 MLB Preseason Power Rankings Series:
I also released my 3rd annual preseason Baseball Bits!
30. Miami Marlins
The Case for the Marlins
The Marlins traded away most of their best players a year ago, and after dealing away C J.T. Realmuto this off-season, things can only get worse from here. The hole Realmuto left behind should outweigh the upside of Miami’s younger players, for now. The Marlins did add a couple veterans to the lineup and signed a new closer in Sergio Romo. Plus, the bulk of the prospects acquired from their recent rebuild should be making their way up as 2020 and 2021 approach, and when that time comes, this team will be on the rise again. But for now, they remain in the NL East basement after a rough 2018.
The Bright Spot
It was not easy coming up with something here. A lot has gone wrong in Miami in the last year and a half. But I think the bright spot of this team is the top of the rotation. Jose Urena, Miami’s longest tenured player, leads the group, with seasoned veterans in Wei-Yin Chen and Dan Straily behind him. Straily has had a lot of success with the Marlins, and when Chen is healthy, he shows flashes of dominance.
Projected Finish: 61-101, 5th in NL East
29. Baltimore Orioles
The Case for the Orioles
Baltimore’s 2018 season was historically bad, as they won just 47 games. But with Dylan Bundy and Alex Cobb (likely out of it early in 2018 after lack of Spring Training time) primed to bounce back, they should improve at least slightly from their nightmare season. Adam Jones’ departure hurts, but Cedric Mullins is ready to replace him, and Yusniel Diaz will be here soon. Maybe Chris Davis can even rise to the occasion with Jones out of the lineup. The bullpen is still a major concern, and the lineup could be better, but I don’t think we’ll see any team perform worse than the 2018 Orioles for a long time.
The Bright Spot
The rotation could be better, but so long as Bundy and Cobb bounce back, the rotation could potentially be a bright spot for this team. Bundy and Cobb could provide Baltimore a 1-2 punch, with Andrew Cashner and Nathan Karns among others serving as depth.
Projected Finish: 66-96, 5th in AL East
28. Detroit Tigers
The Case for the Tigers
Detroit’s rebuild kicked into full swing in 2018 after they dealt away several older players at the 2017 Trade Deadline. Their remaining veterans, even Miguel Cabrera, are declining quickly. This rebuild has dragged on for a while now, leaving the Tigers among the league’s worst teams for a third straight season. Even in a weak division, I can’t see them doing much. Before they contend, Casey Mize and Matt Manning will need to make their way up and Christin Stewart, Jeimer Candelario, and others will need to make their big break through. In the meantime, it could be a long year for the Tigers despite some new additions to their lineup including Jordy Mercer and Josh Harrison.
The Bright Spot
The infield could shine with the additions of Mercer and Harrison. If Candelario continues to develop this year, and Cabrera regains a bit of what he has lost during the last couple of years, people may begin to wonder how the Tigers are stuck in the AL Central basement.
Projected Finish: 66-96, 5th in AL Central
27. Kansas City Royals
The Case for the Royals
The Hosmer-Moustakas era in Kansas City is officially over, with Alcides Escobar leaving in free agency, and Mike Moustakas leaving at the 2018 Trade Deadline. The team still has a capable rotation, but the bullpen lacks the depth it has contained in past years. The lineup may lack power this year with Salvador Perez on the IL and Hosmer and Moose gone, but hopefully, Billy Hamilton’s speed will at least partially make up for it. Even with Hamilton and Chris Owings on board, this team is bound to decline a little bit more before the rebuilding is over. The next crop of prospects is not ready yet, and during this transitional period for the Royals, things could get ugly.
The Bright Spot
Speed and youth will make the Royals special this year. A lot of young players are primed to breakout, including INF Hunter Dozier, RHP Jorge Lopez, and C Cam Gallagher. Hamilton and Gore will make for a dynamic outfield and add speed to an otherwise dull starting lineup.
Projected Finish: 67-95, 4th in AL Central
26. Arizona Diamondbacks
The Case for the Diamondbacks
The Diamondbacks declined a bit in 2018 despite minimal roster subtractions. You might think they would bounce back considering their young roster, but after trading away star 1B Paul Goldschmidt, this team is not going far. The lineup lacks big hitters beyond underrated outfielder David Peralta and new addition Adam Jones. The pitching staff is thin behind Zack Greinke and Robbie Ray. In a tough division, the Diamondbacks will struggle this year, as Manny Machado leads the Padres to outperform them, the Giants exceed expectations, and the Rockies and Dodgers sit on top.
The Bright Spot
The rotation may have lost some of its depth. But until Greinke or Ray leaves, the rotation will still highlight this team. Taijuan Walker’s return from the IL will only boost this strong rotation further. Luke Weaver is also underrated and could make an impact.
Projected Finish: 68-94, 5th in NL West
25. Pittsburgh Pirates
The Case for the Pirates
The Pirates exceeded expectations with a sub-.500 season in 2018. But the departures of Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer (both fled for Detroit) leave a huge hole in the middle infield, and the rotation is extremely top-heavy. The Pirates would perform better with 5 average starters than their Big 3 and little depth behind them. The outfield is this team’s strong point right now, but Gregory Polanco will be missed during his time on the IL. 3B Ke’Bryan Hayes and other top prospects may fix Pittsburgh’s infield problems once they make their way up, and Mitch Keller could make this rotation even scarier. But for now, the Pirates will be stuck on the bottom of a tough division.
The Bright Spot
There are multiple bright spots to consider for this team. But the infield is in such bad shape that it’s hard to rank them much higher than this in such a tough NL Central. The outfield could make things interesting once Polanco returns, as they will own three outfielders who could be considered Top 10 at their positions. The incoming prospects could help accelerate their progress as well.
Projected Finish: 67-95, 5th in NL Central
That’s all for Part 1 of my MLB 2019 preseason power rankings. Stay tuned for my next power rankings article, where I will look at the teams I ranked #24-19 and discuss things to look forward too for those teams.
Though Manny Machado has just signed a 10 year, $300 million contract with the Padres, Bryce Harper and many other top MLB free agents are still on the market with Cactus League and Grapefruit League action starting up. With Harper rumors really starting to heat up, I will be listing my Top 5 of the remaining MLB free agents and predicting their contracts. Feel free to comment with your thoughts. I’ll start with the obvious #1:
1. Bryce Harper, OF
2018 Team: Washington Nationals
If you’ve been following any kind of MLB off-season news, you’ve probably heard plenty about Harper, so I’ll keep this brief. The Nationals could still be in it to re-sign the 26-year old Harper after a strong start to his career in Washington. But the Phillies appear to be the current front runners. The latest rumors suggest that the Phillies are in Vegas with Harper and may have a deal done by Monday. But earlier this week, we heard the same thing about Friday, and it didn’t end up happening. Will Harper end up in Philly, or will a mystery team swoop in before the Phillies finalize things?
My Prediction: San Francisco Giants, 10 years, $330 million
I’ve heard things suggesting that the Giants aren’t up to offer a $300 million contract to Harper. But now that they are reportedly willing to offer a long-term deal, they could change their mind considering the mutual interest between Harper and San Fran. If the Giants came close to Philly’s offer, maybe Harper would sign there out of impatience. Plus, the Phillies are division rivals of the Nats, and the west coast is closer to Harper’s hometown.
2. Craig Kimbrel, CL
2018 Team: Boston Red Sox
Kimbrel’s agent made it clear that although Kimbrel has been stubborn about his contract, he will pitch in 2019. But with the late inning relief market already settling down, where does Kimbrel fit? Sure, he could re-sign with Atlanta. But you cannot discount Arodys Vizcaino as a closing option for the Braves.
My Prediction: Boston Red Sox, 4 years, $64 million
Kimbrel will eventually have to settle for a smaller contract, and if there’s any team who could still use relief help, it’s Boston. The Red Sox have been adamant about finding a closer internally. Who knows, Jenrry Mejia or Tyler Thornburg could bounce back. Matt Barnes could step it up. But I think the Red Sox will end up bringing back Kimbrel as a safety net once his price goes down. Barnes, Mejia, Thornburg, and others can set up Kimbrel.
3. Dallas Keuchel, SP
2018 Team: Houston Astros
Keuchel, like Harper, is a Scott Boras client, and Boras clients have tended to sign late into the off-season, so it’s not a huge surprise that Keuchel is still on the market. But unlike the relief market, there is still a handful of teams that could use starting pitching help. The Phillies, Braves, and Padres have been linked to Keuchel, but the Padres just signed Machado, and the Phillies aren’t going to turn attention to Keuchel unless they lose out on Harper. The Braves would be smarter to sign a lower-tier starter considering their surplus of SP prospects on the verge of a major league career. I see the Padres finding a cheaper option and a surprise team signing Kimbrel.
My Prediction: Toronto Blue Jays, 4 years, $68 million
The Blue Jays may have a decent rotation going with Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Matt Shoemaker, Clayton Richard, and Ryan Borucki. But they lack a true ace, and could use depth in case Borucki turns out to be a bust or Shoemaker and Richard are inconsistent or get hurt. Keuchel could help Toronto kill two birds with one stone. Why sign a top line starter with so many prospects about to crack the majors? Well, Toronto’s rebuild is a unique situation. With this legendary group of prospects, Toronto’s a pitcher or two away from contending during a rebuild.
4. Adam Jones, OF
2018 Team: Baltimore Orioles
When people think about all the quality players still on the FA market, they think Harper, Kimbrel, and Keuchel. But what about Adam Jones, who slashed .281/.313/.419 with 15 dingers despite a down year? Back in 2017, he put up a .787 OPS with 26 home runs. Though he is getting up there in age, I think he still has potential to succeed for the next few years to come. But where? He will likely end up with a team that needs OF help but cannot afford Harper. Maybe a small market team that hasn’t spent much this off-season could be a fit.
My Prediction: Cleveland Indians, 3 years, $48 million
The Indians spent a lot in 2016 and 2017, but after cheaping up by trading away Yonder Alonso and Edwin Encarnacion, they may have room for the outfield centerpiece they need. Jones would allow Bradley Zimmer, Leonys Martin, Tyler Naquin, Greg Allen, and Jordan Luplow to split time among the remaining two outfield spots. I don’t see any of them as full time starters, so this is a good depth signing. Maybe trading away one of their lower-end outfielders after could be a smart move. That way, the Indians will have less crowding and more talent.
5. Gio Gonzalez, SP
2018 Teams: Washington Nationals, Milwaukee Brewers
Gonzalez is a cheaper SP option that teams who cannot afford Keuchel may go after. Gonzalez had a strong year in 2018, making the case for a decent sized contract. But he hasn’t received much interest from teams besides the Brewers, who traded for him at the deadline. Who will end up signing him?
My Prediction: San Diego Padres, 3 years, $39 million
The Padres aren’t going to want to invest in Keuchel after signing Machado. So I think it’s more likely that they save a few bucks and add Gonzalez. You could make an argument that the entire Padres rotation is wide open. There is no pitcher on their current roster that I see as a surefire starter. But Gonzalez will provide the Padres with the rotation stability they need, with the help of another low-tier free agent starter or two.
That’s all for today. Stay tuned for MLB predictions once Harper finally makes his decision.
Welcome to my 2018-19 NFL Playoff Predictions. Today, I will show you my playoff bracket alongside score predictions and analysis for each game. Next week, I will update you with Divisional Round predictions unless all of this week’s games are predicted correctly. Below is my official playoff bracket:
I have the Patriots winning it all, though I don’t see them as the most talented team here. I think a favorable schedule, including home field advantage in the AFC Championship after Kansas City’s elimination will help them to a Super Bowl victory. The Super Bowl itself will be an epic battle of two aging superstar QBs, Tom Brady and Drew Brees. It will be close, but I have the Patriots coming out on top. Check out my score predictions and in-depth analysis for all 11 games below.
Wild Card Weekend
Offensively, these two teams are pretty evenly matched. The Colts have given the Texans a hard time in the past. But on Wild Card Weekend, I expect Houston’s defense to step it up and secure the Texans a victory. While Indy struggles to get into the red zone against a strong Texans D, Houston will score on an inexperienced Colts defense with ease as WR DeAndre Hopkins puts up another huge game.
This will be a high scoring game, and it could potentially end up being a complete shootout. Both these defenses lack the experience to thrive in the playoffs. This will allow QB Dak Prescott to find his receivers and lead the Cowboys to victory. However, QB Russell Wilson and his versatile offense will make it close and come within one possession of the victory.
With TE Hunter Henry back, this Chargers offense will only get better from here. I think they’ll be able to handle the rising Ravens D this time around. You know what they say: it’s hard to beat the same team twice. This time around, the Chargers D will figure out how to shut down QB Lamar Jackson, RB Gus Edwards, and a talented Ravens offense. It won’t be easy, but I see the Chargers as the only road team to win on Wild Card Weekend.
This will be closer than most people expect. QB Nick Foles has unlocked the full potential of the Eagles offense, and it will not be easy for even a dominant Bears D to contain them. But I see QB Mitch Trubisky and his receivers stepping it up and leading a late comeback effort. They will take advantage of the banged-up Eagles secondary and eventually secure the victory in overtime.
This will not be an exciting one to watch. The banged-up Houston offense will struggle to put up points, even against a mediocre New England D. Don’t expect Brady the Pats to score much either against Houston’s strong defense. But I see the Pats getting by, as Brady and his receivers take advantage of Houston’s defensive weakness: their secondary. On the other hand, the Patriots’ well-rounded defense will stand strong.
No matter who wins in this divisional rubber match, it will be a complete shootout. The Chiefs have next to no defense, which will not serve them well against any playoff team. But will QB Patrick Mahomes II and company put up enough points to get by anyway? In the playoffs? I don’t think so. Mahomes will put up a multi-TD effort. But the Chargers’ revamped offense will dominate a weak Kansas City defense and outplay Mahomes and his squad. Even with Mahomes replacing QB Alex Smith, the Chiefs will choke in the playoffs, again, as the Chargers move on to face New England in the AFC Championship.
This will be another close one. But I don’t see this being as high-Scoring as Chicago’s Wild Card Weekend match-up with the Eagles. The Rams have one of the most star-studded defenses in the league. They will severely limit the abilities of a young Bears offense. But Chicago’s D is up there with LA’s. QB Jared Goff has had a good season in general, but he has put up a few duds here and there. After putting up a dud the last time these two teams played, I could see him doing it again. RB Todd Gurley is not at full health and WR Cooper Kupp is done for the year. Goff will find himself short of weapons and will fall short in OT, going one and done for the second year in a row.
Dallas will be able to get by in the first round, but wait till they see an elite contender. The Saints should be able to top the Cowboys with ease, even after their defeat in Dallas. This game will take place in New Orleans, and it will be easier on the Saints now that they have an idea of what they’re up against. Brees and his receivers will put up a decent game, but it’s the Saints defense that I could see stepping it up here against Prescott and his young offense.
In order for TB12 and the Patriots to take down this dominant Chargers offense, they’ll need to get their own act together offensively. But at Gillette Stadium, I have confidence in them. As long as the Chargers or somebody else dethrones the Chiefs before New England has to play them, the Pats will get the opportunity to play the AFC Championship at home, where they are undefeated on the season. Against a decent Chargers D, Brady will have to use a variety of receivers, and the Pats will have to run the ball occasionally. But I have confidence that they are capable, especially on home turf, though this will not be easy. If this was played anywhere but Gillette, the Patriots would likely fall short to LA’s overpowered offense.
Against a tough Bears D, you cannot expect a huge game out of Brees and company. But the Saints have made defensive improvements of their own throughout the season, and I could see them holding the Bears to just 1 TD of their own. The Saints will get by in the end, making the Super Bowl for the first time since 2009.
Fun fact: In 2009, the Saints went 13-3, losing to the same opponents as they did this year. They went on to win the Super Bowl that year.
Super Bowl LIII
In a battle of two star QBs in Brady and Brees, I have the Pats winning it all. But it won’t be Brady who drives the victory. The Saints have succeeded in stopping the run for most of the season, but the at times dominant Pats RB trio might overwhelm them. Meanwhile, Brees will have a strong game here, but I think the Pats’ star-studded secondary will stand strong, holding Brees and his receivers to just 2 TDs. These two things along with a vintage game by TE Rob Gronkowski will lead New England to a 6th Super Bowl victory. I think RBs James White and Sony Michel will shine in this game, and I see the future of this team depending on their success.
That’s all for today’s predictions. Stay tuned for more NFL Playoffs coverage and updates soon.