2016 MLB Postseason Predictions

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October baseball is less than five months away. Yeah, there is a lot of season left, and many story lines that are about to unfold. Yet, here I am, predicting how October will turn out, and who will be crowned the 2016 World Champions of Baseball. Take a look with me here:

In case you missed it, I predicted both the National and American League playoff pictures leading up to this.

AL Playoff Picture

WILD CARD GAME

Kansas City Royals v Baltimore Orioles

This is one of the toughest things to predict in baseball, as it is truly one game take all, a spectacle that is rarely seen in baseball.Baltimore would be the home team by virtue of better record in my predictions, but Kansas City will have the edge in starting pitching. I’m going to say that it’s time for a changing of the guard in the American League and have the Orioles’ bats carrying them to a victory in this game, and leading them to the ALDS.

AMERICAN LEAGUE DIVISION SERIES

Baltimore Orioles v Toronto Blue Jays

In what would be a very competitive series between division rivals, I’m going to give the

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Blue Jays P Marcus Stroman will lead Toronto’s pitching staff into the postseason.

edge to the Blue Jays. I believe Toronto will be the better team and take the division because of its superior starting pitching, and that’s exactly the reason they should be able to beat Baltimore in the postseason. I’d look for ace P Marcus Stroman to win the first and last game of this series to move to the ALCS.

Cleveland Indians v Houston Astros

I expect that this series would be highly competitive, as both teams boast great pitching. However, I’m going to give the edge to the Astros, as they have more postseason experience than the Indians, and are led by SS Carlos Correa who will no doubt have some postseason heroics ready for October 2016.

AMERICAN LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES

Houston Astros v Toronto Blue Jays

I believe this series would go 7 games. The Blue Jays boast the better offense, while the ‘Stros have the deeper pitching staff. However, I feel as if the Blue Jays are a team of destiny this season, with everything seeming to click for them at the right time. I think reigning AL MVP 3B Josh Donaldson and OF Jose Bautista will have some heroics that will carry the Jays to the World Series for the first time since 1993.

NL Playoff Picture

WILD CARD GAME

Pittsburgh Pirates v St. Louis Cardinals

Division rivals facing off once again in the Wild Card Game. The Cardinals will have the home field advantage, but I predict that the Pirates will come out with P Gerrit Cole and jump on the Cardinals starter early to clinch their spot in the next round of the playoffs.

NATIONAL LEAGUE DIVISION SERIES

Pittsburgh Pirates v Chicago Cubs

The Pirates will be faced with another division rival in the playoffs. Obviously these rosters will change from present day, but the Cubs are simply deeper than the Pirates and are built for the playoffs. In a full 5 game series, I expect the Cubs to pull it out at Wrigley to move on to the NLCS.

San Francisco Giants v New York Mets

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San Francisco Giants’ pitcher Madison Bumgarner has been a consistent postseason performer.

While the Mets are the reigning NL Champs and have one of the best rotations in baseball, I’m giving the edge to the Giants in this series. San Francisco’s lineup is loaded with players who have past postseason heroics under their belt, and the best rotation that this team has taken into the playoffs in years. In 5 games, I think the Giants take the series at the Mets’ Citi Field behind P Madison Bumgarner.

NATIONAL LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES

San Francisco Giants v Chicago Cubs

I’m taking the Giants to take the NL Crown. The Cubs are a youthful but inexperienced team. I believe that is where the Giants will benefit under this spotlight, and ride their starting pitching to their fourth World Series appearance in the last six years. I expect C Buster Posey to have one of his best postseason series of his young career.

WORLD SERIES

San Francisco Giants v Toronto Blue Jays

Obviously, home field advantage is decided by the 2016 All-Star Game, but I think it’s a safe bet to take the AL in that game. This match up truly puts the game’s best hitting team against the game’s best pitching team in Toronto and San Francisco respectively. In a full 7 game series, I’m taking the Giants to come through with more postseason heroics and take their fourth World Series Crown in six years. The team’s rotation has a lot of playoff experience, and Ps Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija have pitched against the Blue Jays in the past year. Overall, I believe this match up favors the Giants, who will continue their dynasty towards the future.

Let me know what you think of my predictions, and enjoy what should be a very entertaining 2016 MLB Season!

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2016 American League Preview & Predictions

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The first week of the regular season is in the books, but it’s still not too late to throw out some previews and predictions, right? Well, that’s exactly what I’m going to do, breaking down the highly-competitive American League team by team.

AL East

1. Toronto Blue Jays (96-66)

The Blue Jays are very well good enough to win 100 games, but the division they play in is

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Jose Bautista (above) looks to lead a high-powered offense into the postseason for the Jays.

the best in baseball. I have to assume that the AL East teams are going to beat up on each other, not allowing any to break away too far from the pack. The Blue Jays’ offense is loaded, and now gets a full season with SS Troy Tulowitzki in the lineup. Ace P Marcus Stroman returns after missing almost all of the 2015 season, and he is the leader of the pitching staff. If there is a weakness on this Jays’ team it is the starting pitching, but with a powerhouse offense and a solid bullpen, it’s nothing that a Trade Deadline move for another starting pitcher can’t fix.

2. Baltimore Orioles (94-68)

Picking the second team in this division was more difficult for me than the winner, as each of the teams in the AL East could make a run. However, the Orioles are constructed very similarly to the Blue Jays, in that they have a powerhouse offense. In fact, the Orioles offense may be even BETTER than the Jays, and has the potential to break the MLB record for home runs in a season. However, the Orioles starting pitching pales in comparison to its counterparts, and the team is depending on big seasons from Ps Chris Tillman and Ubaldo Jimenez. The O’s will be another team that could use a starting pitching addition at the Trade Deadline to make a run at the postseason.

3. Tampa Bay Rays (90-72)

It’s sad that the Rays have the potential to win 90 games and still miss the postseason. Led by true ace P Chris Archer, the Rays are hoping that their starting rotation can recover from injuries to hold up for one of its best offensive teams it has had in years. The Rays added OF Corey Dickerson, 1B/DH Logan Morrison and utility man Steve Pearce to add some punch and protection to 3B Evan Longoria. However, I still believe the Rays are a big bat and a few bullpen additions away from being AL East champions again.

4. Boston Red Sox (87-75)

For a fourth place team to have 87 wins is ludicrous, but that’s exactly how I believe the AL East will pan out this season. The Red Sox made some big additions in the off season, bringing in P David Price in free agency and closer Craig Kimbrel via trade. With DH David Ortiz in his final season, he surely can be expected for a large offensive output, but I believe it is the supporting cast that will let him down. OF Mookie Betts is expected to be one of MLB’s best outfielders this year, but I am not one that believes that. While Betts is a solid player, I believe he will need more time to develop before being considered a top player. 1B Hanley Ramirez should rebound with a nice season, but 3B Pablo Sandoval is doing nothing but holding the Sox back. They are a couple bats short in this offensive powerhouse of a division. Outside of Price, the Red Sox rotation has a lot of question marks, whether it be health or production. The team will be counting on young Ps Eduardo Rodriguez and Henry Owens to produce, and it will be hard for them to succeed in this division.

5. New York Yankees (83-79)

Yes, I’m picking all 5 teams to finish above .500 in the AL East. I have no idea if the math would even allow such a thing, but it is a likely scenario to me. The Yankees are by no means a bad team, but simply not the best in this division. P C.C. Sabathia is not the same pitcher he once was, and P Masahiro Tanaka’s elbow is hanging on by a thread. Outside of those two, the Yanks’ rotation is mediocre at best. On offense, New York is plagued by aging veterans on bloated contracts and little versatility. DH Alex Rodriguez will still be productive, but is no longer an option in the field. 1B Mark Teixiera is still handy with the glove, but at this point he is always a liability to be injured. OF Carlos Beltran is still a solid hitter, but his skills are rapidly declining. The Yanks will very much benefit from these players’ contracts expiring, and being able to reallocate money throughout the team. However, the bullpen has a chance to be the best in this division, and SS Starlin Castro may revive his career under the New York spotlight. There is a future coming for NYY, but I expect them to miss the postseason in 2016.

AL Central

1. Cleveland Indians (93-69)

Yes, I’m going to be one of those fools that picks against the Royals, AGAIN. To me, the Indians are a playoff run waiting to happen. The team’s rotation is stacked, led by former

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It’s up to Indians’ manager Terry Francona (above) to push the right buttons to get his team to go.

CY Young Award winner P Corey Kluber. If the team’s starting pitching can remain consistent, the Indians’ rotation could rival the Mets for the best in baseball. Offense is where the majority of the question lies with this team. OF Michael Brantley is still recovering from a shoulder injury, and is unquestionably the team’s best hitter. C/1B Carlos Santana is highly inconsistent, and the team hopes that SS Francisco Lindor can carry the load in his first full season. However, the team is led by manager Terry Francona, who has a knack for getting the most out of his players. With a couple Trade Deadline additions, such as an impact reliever and a hitter, I believe the Tribe can return to the postseason.

2. Kansas City Royals (91-71)

Look, its hard for me to pick against them, okay? Yet, this may be the year that the Royals show some chinks in their armor. OF Lorenzo Cain is already injured, and playing deep into the postseason for a couple of straight years can be taxing for any team. KC still sports one of the best bullpens in baseball, and now has P Edinson Volquez for a full season. However, every team in baseball will be gunning for them, so I expect the team to fall a few wins short of the division crown.

3. Detroit Tigers (85-77)

The Tigers are built to hit. After adding OF Justin Upton via free agency, the team sports one of the deadliest 3-4-5s in baseball. However, where the Tigers lack is pitching, as the team is relying heavily upon P Justin Verlander and free agent addition P Jordan Zimmerman to carry the load. P Anibal Sanchez had a bad season for the first time in his career in 2015, but should be able to rebound. Outside of those three, the team lacks options in both the rotation and bullpen and most certainly will be seeking arms come Trade Deadline time. In an offensive-minded American League, a team devoid of pitching is a team that will not win, a la the Tigers’ predicted third place finish.

4. Chicago White Sox (77-85)

The White Sox were expected to be better this season, but with a lack of quality pitching behind ace P Chris Sale, I expect the team to falter. P Carlos Rodon is still young, but appears that he could become a solid No. 2 behind Sale. Yet, the team is still depending on P John Danks for a bounce-back season, and has an offense that is highly dependent on 1B Jose Abreu and 3B Todd Frazier. The White Sox could stand to add arms to both the bullpen and rotation, and is missing a couple impact bats that its rivals will benefit from in 2016.

5. Minnesota Twins (63-99)

The Twins have the unfortunate privilege of being the worst team in the American League in 2016. With young stars OF Byron Buxton and 3B Miguel Sano getting their first year of big league experience under their belts, the future will be bright for Minnesota. Just not in 2016. The team’s pitching staff leaves much to be desired, as they are highly dependent on overpaid veterans that have struggled in the past few seasons, such as Ps Ervin Santana and Ricky Nolasco. As the season progresses, the Twins will be able to offload some of their productive players for much-needed prospects while letting their top young players make their MLB debuts and begin gaining experience as they build their next core.

AL WEST

1. Houston Astros (94-68)

The Astros roared their way back onto the scene in 2015, and I wouldn’t expect that to stop

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Astros’ SS Carlos Correa (above) could win the AL MVP this season.

anytime soon. Now, the team benefits from SS Carlos Correa being in the big leagues for a full season, and the kid has MVP potential. I compare him to a more athletic A-Rod of yesteryear. With a multitude of top prospects on the way, and solid hitters around him, the ‘Stros offense should roll again this season. Of course, the team sports reigning AL CY Young award winner Dallas Keuchel, who should be able to remain a top performer for years to come. The team’s rotation is solid behind him, but a Trade Deadline addition of another starter could really put this team over the top. Houston’s bullpen is strong, and they have a multitude of closing options after acquiring former Phillies’ closer Ken Giles in the off season. For now, P Luke Gregerson will remain in the role, leaving the ‘Stros with a strong 1-2 punch to close out ball games.

2. Texas Rangers (90-72)

It is hard for me to have the Rangers missing the playoffs, as I believe they are one of the best teams in baseball. P Cole Hamels will headline the rotation, but reinforcements in the way of P Yu Darvish are not far behind, giving the Rangers’ one of the best 1-2 combos at the top of a rotation in baseball. If Ps Derek Holland and Martin Perez can remain healthy, the Rangers will have a very solid rotation. The bullpen is anchored by closer Shawn Tolleson, and could still use another impact arm to bridge the gap at the end of the games. On offense, the Rangers are stacked, led by 1B Prince Fielder, who showed that he was fully healthy in 2015. Now, the team has added SS/OF Ian Desmond to the fold, and will benefit from the promotions of top prospects OF Nomar Mazara and 1B/3B/OF Joey Gallo. Mazara is a complete hitter with developing power, while Gallo is a homer-happy player in the mold of former 1B/OF Adam Dunn (so home run or strikeout). If the team can get any contribution from OF/DH Josh Hamilton this season, it will be gravy for a team that is very balanced. Even if the team misses the playoffs this year, they will surely be favorites coming into next year, as they will battle the ‘Stros down to the wire for the division.

3. Seattle Mariners (84-78)

The Mariners are making progress, building a solid, balanced team. They just play in a great division and in a strong American League. 2B Robinson Cano looks poised to perform equivalent to his monstrous contract, and the team should finally see some production out of P Taijuan Walker. However, the team could still use an impact bat to pair with Cano and OF Nelson Cruz to make their lineup that much deeper. Seattle will also be seeking arms for the rotation and bullpen, as each unit could be solidified as the team is already facing injuries early in 2016.

4. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (78-84)

Let the blow up begin in LA. Simply put, this team is not constructed to win. The Angels are saddled by the huge contracts of 1B Albert Pujols, and Ps Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson. Pujols is still a solid player, but is showing signs of decline. Weaver is barely hitting 80 MPH with his fastball, and I fully expect this to be his last season in the big leagues. He has been on a decline for almost four years now. Wilson always deals with injury issues, and is no longer a viable option in the rotation. Outside of P Garrett Richards and Andrew Heaney, the Angels lack options for the rotation, and it will prove to be their downfall this season. On offense, the team is still led by OF Mike Trout, but has done little to surround him with support. I fully expect the team’s offense to struggle around him, leading to owner Arte Moreno making a big change with manager Mike Scoscia taking the fall.

5. Oakland Athletics (70-92)

What can you do if you’re the A’s? You’re in a small market with limited ability to make big moves, and are forced to develop prospects in order to win. While the team is one of the best in baseball at producing young talent, that process takes a lot longer than adding key free agents to gear up for the long season, which is why the A’s will find themselves at the bottom of the division again. By only being able to add free agents like P Rich Hill, the team has to take fliers on veterans that might pan out. Yet in 2016, I don’t see the team’s normally savvy moves working out. I’d expect top P Sonny Gray to get moved at the Trade Deadline for a package of young, top prospects that may help propel the Athletics into being more competitive next season.

Watch out for my 2016 MLB Postseason & Awards Predictions coming soon!

2016 National League Preview & Predictions

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The Major League Baseball season is only four days away, so as Opening Day rosters get their final tweaks and additions, is there a better time than now to preview the season for the National League?

There is a lot of disparity between the American and National League this season, as almost every team in the American League is in position to attempt to compete for a playoff spot, while several National League teams are in rebuilding mode.

NL EAST

1. New York Mets (95-67)

The Mets are built to win now. They have one of the deepest, if not the deepest, starting rotations in baseball. It will only get boosted further when P Zack Wheeler returns mid

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Mets’ 3B David Wright will be a key player for the team this season.

season after recovering from Tommy John Surgery. The team added SS Asdrubal Cabrera in the off season, and he will prove to be a major upgrade both offensively and defensively. With OF Yoenis Cespedes returning and a full year of OF Michael Conforto in the outfield, the Mets’ offense should be improved. The X-Factor for the team will be if 3B David Wright can stay healthy and contribute at a competent level. It will be interesting to see if back injuries have sapped Wright of his power.

2. Washington Nationals (85-77)

I’m not as high on the Nationals as most are. First off, they are a perpetually injury plagued team. 1B Ryan Zimmerman will inevitably miss some time. OF Jayson Werth, P Stephen Strasburg, and 3B Anthony Rendon have shown themselves to be injury prone as well. Without P Jordan Zimmerman, the Nationals are down a No. 2 starter, putting a lot more pressure on Strasburg to perform in a contract year. With one of the game’s best pitching prospects, P Lucas Giolito, set to debut at some point in the summer, the Nats will receive some reinforcements, but I don’t believe it will be enough to make the playoffs.

3. Miami Marlins (81-81)

The Marlins are a work in progress. They are moving in the right direction, but it will take another off season of positive momentum to put this team in position for the playoffs. First, the Marlins must get OF Giancarlo Stanton and P Jose Fernandez through the season healthy. While I believe they will make it through 2016, I don’t see the back end of the Marlins’ starting rotation or bullpen holding its own through the year, limiting the team to a .500 record.

4. Philadelphia Phillies (73-89)

Fresh off a season as the worst team in baseball, the Phillies are primed for an improvement. It’s not a monumental improvement, but one nonetheless. This season is a critical one in the rebuilding process for the Phils, as many of their top prospects will debut one after another during the summer. If veteran players perform, like 1B Ryan Howard and Ps Jeremy Hellickson and Charlie Morton, expect Philadelphia to be players at the Trade Deadline to add even more depth to an already deep farm system.

5. Atlanta Braves (62-100)

The Braves are built to lose. The goal for the season is to continue to build the farm system in hopes of building a semi-competitive team for the opening of a new ballpark in the coming seasons, in order to build a winner in the future. 1B Freddie Freeman and P Julio Teheran are the best pieces that the team has, and while they have repeatedly said that neither will be traded, if they receive an offer that blows them away, they will take it. I fully expect the Braves to be the worst team in baseball this season. Expect them to be players at the Trade Deadline, shipping any and every veteran with value away for prospects.

NL CENTRAL

1. Chicago Cubs (98-64)

I believe the Cubs will be the best team in the National League. They are too deep to not win. This is the best team that manager Joe Maddon has ever had, and he will be able to

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The Chicago Cubs are looking to build off of their success from 2015.

mix and match his way through the season. The team added OF Jason Heyward and P John Lackey from the rival Cardinals, and both moves will prove to be critical down the stretch. This team could be an offensive juggernaut that has just enough pitching to make a deep October run. I’d expect the team to add a relief arm or two around the Trade Deadline to solidify the end of games.

2. St. Louis Cardinals (95-67)

The Cards are in the middle of one of the best divisions in baseball. I believe they will come up just short of the Cubs for the division crown, but still have what it takes to take a Wild Card spot. In comparison to the Cubs, the Cardinals don’t have the same offensive firepower, but have great starting pitching depth. If P Adam Wainwright can make it through the season healthy, the Cardinals top four starters rival any other team’s foursome in the game today. That will be enough to carry them through most of the season, as Cardinals’ hitters are notoriously timely and clutch, with OF/1B Matt Holliday leading the way offensively.

3. Pittsburgh Pirates (93-69)

Another year, another spot in the Wild Card game for the Bucs. While this team doesn’t have the financial power that its rivals do, the Pirates may still manage to have the most balanced squad in this division. The pitching staff is led by P Gerrit Cole, who is looking to cement his ace status with another terrific performance this season. The team will receive a boost from top pitching prospects, Tyler Glasnow and Jameson Taillon debuting at some point this summer, giving the Pirates the potential for a deep rotation. On offense, the team is led by OF Andrew McCutchen, but it is OFs Gregory Polanco and Starling Marte that are primed for big, breakout campaigns. Look for the Pirates’ outfield to be one of the best in baseball.

4. Cincinnati Reds (70-92)

The Reds have the unfortunate task of rebuilding in one of the deepest divisions in baseball. The team’s pitching staff is young, but extremely inexperienced. This will hurt the team all season long. With aging veterans 2B Brandon Phillips and OF Jay Bruce occupying roster spots that are better suited for prospects needing to prove themselves, expect the Reds to move them at the Trade Deadline. 1B Joey Votto is still one of the best hitters in baseball, but will be plagued by having no help around him offensively.

5. Milwaukee Brewers (64-98)

Baseball won’t be fun to watch in Milwaukee this summer. Another team in rebuilding mode, the Brewers are even worse off than the Reds in this division. The Brewers have little to no starting pitching depth, and boast only OF Ryan Braun as the lone intimidating offensive threat. C Jonathan Lucroy is a valuable piece, but I fully expect the Brewers to move him before the Trade Deadline for a return of prospects. It will be a few seasons before the Brewers are in position to compete again.

NL WEST

1. San Francisco Giants (94-68)

It’s an even year, so the Giants are set to win the World Series, right? Well, it’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility, as the Giants have one of the best starting rotations in

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Giants’ OF Hunter Pence plays a vital role in energizing the team.

baseball. Led by P Madison Bumgarner, the Giants added Ps Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardizija to the mix. With P Matt Cain returning from injury and Jake Peavy as a holdover the Giants have the makings of a dominant rotation. On offense, the team is led by C Buster Posey and OF Hunter Pence. The team is depending on Pence remaining healthy through the summer, but also betting on repeat performances from SS Brandon Crawford and IF Matt Duffy. I like those odds, and believe the Giants will find their way into the playoffs.

2. Los Angeles Dodgers (89-73)

The Dodgers aren’t a bad team, but just not good enough to make the playoffs. Unable to make it out of Spring Training without a significant amount of injuries to its starting rotation, the Dodgers are already starting off the season in a deficit with a first-year manager. P Clayton Kershaw will still be a dominant force, and I expect P Kenta Maeda and SS Corey Seager to compete for Rookie of the Year honors, but pitching is what will ultimately keep LA out of the postseason.

3. Arizona Diamondbacks (83-79)

All of Arizona’s big, flashy moves in the off season have to work, right? Wrong. Yes, bringing in P Zack Greinke is a huge plus, and P Shelby Miller would’ve won 10 more games had he been in Arizona last season, but the team still plays its home games at Chase Field. That is not the easiest place for pitchers to succeed, and I believe their additions will find that it is a bit difficult to perform in that environment. On offense, 1B Paul Goldschmidt is still carrying the load, and I don’t believe that DBacks have added enough around him to make a truly elite offensive club. The team is hoping for 3B/OF Yasmany Tomas to have a big season, but I don’t think that will be enough in this pitching heavy division.

4. San Diego Padres (73-89)

The Padres are in a curious position. After GM A.J. Preller made moves like acquiring OF Matt Kemp and P James Shields last off season, the team appeared to be primed to compete. However, when those moves proved to be faulty, as Shields gave up far too many home runs, and Kemp showed that he may never truly regain his previous form from his heydays in LA. Now, I expect the Pads to try and move veterans, like Shields and Kemp, in an attempt to offload payroll and acquire prospects. This team is simply not good enough to compete in any facet of the game.

5. Colorado Rockies (68-94)

The Rockies are stuck in the cellar of the NL West. It isn’t necessarily their fault, as they are in the midst of a rebuild without much good pitching. The team is hoping for P Jon Gray to get healthy and on track to make good on his previous top prospect form. P Jeff Hoffman, acquired in last season’s Troy Tulowitzki trade, may very well debut this season, and outside of 3B Nolan Arenado, that is the most excitement that Rockies’ fans will have this season. Wait on those prospects, they’re coming.

Look out for my American League preview & predictions, which will be followed by my 2016 MLB Postseason Predictions.

The Big Plan: Philadelphia Phillies Rebuild

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If you know anything about baseball, even the most simple of fans can notice that the Philadelphia Phillies are one of the worst, if not THE worst, teams in Major League Baseball. Of course, that is by design, as the team is in full “rebuild-mode” in 2015.

The every day lineup is filled with leadoff, No. 2, and No. 8-type

Chase Utley (above) is having a career-worst season in 2015.

Chase Utley (above) is having a career-worst season in 2015.

hitters, and is lacking any serious power threat outside of the shell of old 1B Ryan Howard that bats cleanup everyday. 2B Chase Utley is having a career-worst season, just getting his batting average above .200 on June 2. Needless to say, runs are few and far between for this team.

The pitching staff matches the offense, and features two reliable starters who will be both traded by the Trade Deadline, in P Cole Hamels and Aaron Harang. Closer Jonathan Papelbon is the most consistent arm in the bullpen but is also rumored to be in trade talks, with his contract being the main hurdle. The Phils trot out journeyman pitchers Jerome Williams and Sean O’ Sullivan every five days to soak up innings until the team’s younger pitching prospects are ready to compete at the major league level.

With the team ready to potentially trade six players (Howard, Hamels, Harang, Papelbon and OFs Ben Revere and Domonic Brown) before the trade deadline, there will be an influx of young players from the minor leagues, new talent acquired from other teams, and fringe-major league veteran types that will fill the void until next season.

3B Maikel Franco (above) is the latest top prospect to reach the big leagues with the Phillies.

3B Maikel Franco (above) is the latest top prospect to reach the big leagues with the Phillies.

So, the Phillies have the potential to get even worse as the rest of 2015 plays out, but that will open up playing time for their young players, like LF Cody Asche, 3B Maikel Franco, P Severino Gonzalez and OF Odubel Herrera. It is believed that if P Aaron Nola continues developing this season, he could make some starts in September for the non-competitive club. At best, oft-injured prospect P Adam Morgan and P David Buchanan get their arms right and come up to gain some experience against big league competition. Yet, the team should still finish as one of the bottom three teams in all of MLB.

So, what is the big picture? Developing young talent, shipping out the old, overpriced veterans for prospects, and acquiring key veterans to help build the club for the future. This process will really take shape after the Trade Deadline, when we are able to see what talent GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. is able to add to the farm system. After that, it will be determined where the acquired players will play, whether it be the major or minor leagues. Obviously, based on the players’ performances for the rest of the season, it will set the team up for the beginning of next season.

I’d expect Nola, Buchanan, Morgan and Gonzalez to be competing for rotation spots next year, with an outside shot of P Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez and Philippe Aumont pushing for a chance to be starters if they can finally figure themselves out. I’d expect that one of the prospects the Phils acquire will be a nearly-ready major league starting pitching, and I would expect him to be in the mix for the rotation next season. Top prospect Ps Ben Lively, Zach Eflin and Tom Windle all could make their major league debuts in the latter portion of 2016 and have the potential to be impact arms down the road. In terms of free agent additions, I could see the team signing a veteran pitcher in the mold of the Harang move this past off season. Think Ps Mark Buehrle, Marco Estrada, or Bud Norris. These are veteran pitchers that probably wouldn’t cost more than $5-8 million on a one-year deal, have the ability to pitch a lot of innings, and if they are pitching well, can be used as trade chips come trading season when contenders are looking to top off their teams.

Franco, Asche, Cs Cameron Rupp and Carlos Ruiz, Herrera, IFs

J.P. Crawford (above) represents the next wave of Phillies' players, as he is the organization's top prospect.

J.P. Crawford (above) represents the next wave of Phillies’ players, as he is the organization’s top prospect.

Freddy Galvis, Cesar Hernandez, Darin Ruf and Utley will be the main holdovers beginning next season, which leaves a lot of at-bats for young players to come up and get experience at the big league level. Top prospects SS J.P. Crawford and OF Roman Quinn should be ready to make their respective major league debuts sometime in 2016, but surely not to begin the year. Oft-injured prospect OF Kelly Dugan has shown his potential in flashes, but hasn’t been able to stay on the field consistently. His bat could definitely find a place in the Phils’ lineup. As part of the team’s 2015 Trade Deadline haul, I would expect a nearly-ready major league position player to be in the mix for at-bats this year and in 2016. Outside of that, most of the Phillies’ hitting prospects are more than a year away from possibly making an impact at the major league level. The team will probably take a similar route in free agency towards veteran hitters that they currently do pitchers, signing players that have the potential to be trade chips down the line. While I’m one that would pine for SS Jimmy Rollins to return on a one-year deal to help mentor the younger players (especially Crawford), I’m sure the team is thinking someone along the lines of IF/OF Daniel Murphy, utility men Sean Rodriguez and Jeff Keppinger, and OFs Gerardo Parra and Matt Joyce.

Overall, the plan is to bide time while sprinkling in the major league debuts of several top prospects over the next 2-3 seasons. If all goes well, I fully expect 2015 to be the low point of this Phillies’ rebuild, with exciting steps moving forward in the rest of 2015 and 2016, as younger players of the next up and coming core will get to mature in front of our eyes at the major league level.

Trade Deadline Winners and Losers

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The 2014 MLB Trade Deadline was definitely one of the most active that I can remember in the past 10 years. Two ace pitchers, Jon Lester and David Price, were dealt away. The Major League best Oakland A’s traded away their cleanup hitter, and arguably their best player. On top of all that, the team that was expected to be the deadline’s biggest seller, the Philadelphia Phillies, did nothing at all.

Overall, I believe some teams made great moves that either helped them in the short term or long term, while other team’s moves or non-moves have left me scratching my head. Here’s my take on this year’s Trade Deadline winners and losers:

WINNERS

Boston Red Sox

Dare I say that the Boston Red Sox were the Trade Deadline’s biggest winner? The Sox are clearly out of the postseason

Yoenis Cespedes (above) will look to boost a Boston outfield through 2015.

Yoenis Cespedes (above) will look to boost a Boston outfield through 2015.

picture this year, and had trade assets. Not to mention they received great offers. For less than half a season of P Jon Lester, the Sox got a little more than a year of OF Yoenis Cespedes, plus a chance to resign him to a large contract that Oakland couldn’t have afforded. There’s also the potential of Lester returning to the Red Sox via free agency this off season.  Boston wasn’t done there, and turned around quickly to deal P John Lackey to the Cardinals for P Joe Kelly and 1B/OF Allen Craig. For less than a season and a half of Lackey, the Red Sox acquired two young, controllable players who have each performed at a high level in the Major Leagues, but have struggled with injuries this season. Craig, 29, has driven in 90 runs in a season twice before, and can’t become a free agent until 2018. Kelly, 26, won 10 games last season, and can’t become a free agent until 2019. Finally, the Red Sox dealt P Andrew Miller to the division rival Baltimore Orioles, for pitching prospect Eduardo Rodriguez. A great haul came in return for two expiring contracts and a veteran pitcher.

Detroit Tigers

Tigers’ GM Dave Dombrowski has to be thinking that if this move doesn’t put Detroit over the top, I don’t know what will. The Tigers acquired former Cy Young award winner P David Price from the Rays, and sent OF Austin Jackson to the Mariners and P Drew Smyly and infield prospect Willy Adames to the Rays. This trade gives them an incredible top three pitchers of Price, Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, who have each won the Cy Young. However, acquiring a great player isn’t the only reason the Tigers are winner of this trade deadline. They won because they didn’t give up their entire farm system, or lose any major pieces of the puzzle, and still added an impact pitcher to the fold. This move won’t hurt Detroit that much down the road if they fail to resign Price this off season. At least it gives them the first crack at trying to retain his services, as well as a legitimate shot at a World Series title.

Oakland Athletics

The A’s made the first splash of the day, acquiring P Jon Lester and OF Jonny Gomes from the Red Sox for OF Yoenis Cespedes. While the loss of Cespedes hurts, realistically, the A’s had no chance at resigning him next off season, and got the best value that they could for him now. Bringing Lester into the fold gives them an ace of the staff, and someone who can show the younger pitchers how to handle the postseason. It’s a toss up between who has the better rotation now, between the Tigers and A’s. However, Oakland did what was necessary to cement them as one of the league’s best teams going into the stretch run of the season. To soften the blow of losing Cespedes’ bat, the A’s reacquired OF Sam Fuld from the Minnesota Twins, forming a Fuld/Gomes platoon in the outfield.


 

LOSERS

Philadelphia Phillies

How is it possible that you are rumored to be the team with the most pieces to sell, be in last place in your division, and

Ruben Amaro (above) has some explaining to do after the Trade Deadline.

Ruben Amaro (above) has some explaining to do after the Trade Deadline.

simply stand pat and do nothing at the Trade Deadline? Well, Phillies’ GM Ruben Amaro did just that, and didn’t make a single deal at the deadline. Simply, the Phillies should have paid attention to what the Red Sox did, and maybe try and reload for next season since this one is an obvious lost cause. Instead, the Phillies will attempt to be active in August, passing their players through waivers to see if any team will bite and want to work out a deal. That will be the only way to massage this blow, it what is another sign of how bad this team truly is right now.

Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates were rumored to be active, and I’m sure the team explored various avenues for trades, but they too stood pat. Simply put, their rotation as currently constructed is not good enough for them to compete in the postseason. The Pirates probably thought about acquiring Lester or Price, but didn’t want to lose their top prospects for players they probably have no chance of resigning. However, I’m surprised Pittsburgh didn’t try to pull off a smaller deal, similar to how the Cardinals acquired P Justin Masterson for a prospect. Maybe they could’ve tried Mets P Bartolo Colon or Padres P Ian Kennedy? It’s hard for me to accept standing pat when there are obvious needs for a competing club. Maybe they too are waiting for an August trade.

Los Angeles Angels

The Angels aren’t necessarily losers because of what they did or didn’t do, but simply because of the moves the A’s and Tigers made. These are probably the three best teams in the American League right now, and there is simply no way for the Angels to match the kind of moves their peers made today by bringing in ace pitchers. Also, come playoff time, the Angels rotation will probably fall a pitcher or two short in comparison with one of their opponents. They’d better hope that those big contracts for 1B Albert Pujols and OF Josh Hamilton pay off in the postseason.


 

A LITTLE CONFUSED

St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals are a competing team and wanted to add veteran pitchers. I understand that. I’m just not quite sure why it was  Ps Justin Masterson and John Lackey. Masterson is having a down season, has been struggling with injury, and has seen his velocity dip. It’s tough to sell that he’s an upgrade in the rotation. Lackey is having a solid year, and comes with a cheap contract for next season, but was it really worth Joe Kelly and Allen Craig? Both players were homegrown through the St. Louis system, have performed well in the past, are controllable for multiple years and were both dealing with injuries this season. I have a hard time believing a solid return for them is Lackey. By moving Craig, the Cardinals are ultimately opening up a spot for top prospect OF Oscar Taveras to play everyday, but wouldn’t it have been wiser to keep Craig for this stretch run, and then maybe revisit moving him in the off season? I guess only time can tell with these deals, but as of now, it appears to me that the Cardinals did some subtraction, not addition.