MLBRT 3/19, Spring Training thoughts & predictions…

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Less than three weeks and spring training will be over and the MLB real season begins…finally!  

All teams have one goal in mind… the October games and the World Series trophy. Some teams goals are more realistic than others, but, then, every season does have its surprises.

Cubs? Padres? Marlins? Could any of these teams be this year’s Kansas City Royals and see action deep into October? 

The Round Table crew is back with their thoughts on who improved the most this off season and might  make some noise come October… as well as their thoughts on the Cubbies’ Kris Bryant… who might be holding the MVP and Cy Young trophys at season’s end… why is Panda talking up a blue streak… and, oh… did somebody mention Tampa Bay? 

1) The Hot Stove/free agent season is for all intents and purposes over, and, essentially, teams have either signed whatever big dawgs that they could and/or have made any trades that they could. Spring Training is now in full bore as teams begin to see what shakes out and how the pieces will fit together as they pare down rosters for the 2015 season.

In your opinion, which team improved the most as they go into the 2015 season… if, they were a 2104 playoff team are they now better situated for a Worlds Series run, and, if they were not a 2014 playoff team are they now?

Archie1Archie: The team that made the biggest moves and acquisitions IMO is the San Diego Padres.

The additions of Kemp, Myers and Upton in their outfield are enough to bring hope to the Friar Faithful. When you throw in James Shields and Josh Johnson and all the additional bullpen help they acquired one can see where fans feel they have revamped the entire team to make a legitimate run at post-season.

E.J. 12Earl: I could go with the Nationals, I could go with the Red Sox but I’ll go with the Miami

Miami Marlins to Break Out in 2015?
Miami Marlins to Break Out in 2015?

Marlins here. I think the Marlins took a big step to put a real team around Giancarlo Stanton. Bringing in Dee Gordon and Dan Haren from the Dodgers, signing Michael Morse and trading for Mat Latos, David Phelps, and Martin Prado the Marlins have declared their intent on winning the NL East. Throw in signing Ichiro Suzuki for some veteran leadership to go with their homegrown talent in Stanton, Yelich, and others I like what the Marlins have done and I think they can make a serious run as long as they get back star pitcher Jose Fernandez early enough in the season.

meJoe: I’ll pick the San Diego Padres… They had some decent pitching and added to it by picking up James Shields and Josh Johnson. However, they could not score runs for their pitchers… just 535 runs in 2014. Now, with a remade outfield of Justin Upton, Matt Kemps and Wil Meyers and also Derek Norris at catcher scoring runs should no longer be a problem.

Kemp, Myers & Upton
Kemp, Myers & Upton

I think they should get at least a wild card and wouldn’t be shocked if they snuck into first place at the regular season’s end.

Steve 01Steve: I like San Diego. They made some huge moves in the offseason, getting Justin Upton, Matt Kemp, James Shields, and Josh Johnson to help their roster offensively and defensively. The Padres are going to be there in the end, and I expect them to compete for a division title, and at worse will make a wild card run. This is the kind of team that could be like the Kansas City Royals of last year. Will have a super talented roster, but will be under the radar being in the same division as the Dodgers and Giants.

The Padres pitching staff has one of the best 1,2,3 in all of baseball with Shields, Johnson, and Cashner. They couldn’t score last season, but that will change this season.

2) The news is that the Chicago Cubs will send third baseman, Kris Bryant back to the Minor Leagues, even though his numbers, so far this spring, have been nothing less than sensational (includes 6 HRS as of 3/15). Media sources are intimating that one reason the Cubs may send him down is the future money that the Cubs could owe Bryant when he is eligible to be a free agent.

Scott Boras (left) and Theo Epstein (right) disagree over the best way handle Kris Bryant
Scott Boras (left) and Theo Epstein (right) disagree over the best way handle Kris Bryant

His agent, uber-agent Scott Boras, wants him to make the most money possible which means taking him into his free agency as soon as possible, IF, the Cubs delay putting Bryant on their MLB roster until sometime later in the season… by about a month or so… then his free agency gets pushed down the road by an additional year… which, effectively, leaves Bryant under team control for an extra year at relatively bargain basement prices.

With all the forgoing understood, combined with the fact that Bryant appears to offensively ready to face MLB pitchers…

Is it in the best interests of the Cubs and/or Bryant to keep him down on the farm?

Archie1Archie:  I have never bought into the entire business portion of baseball that dictates when a kid should move up. I have always felt that IF they prove themselves against Major League talent then they should be playing Major League ball. So I do NOT believe it is best for Bryant, the Cubs or the Cubs fans to hold him off until later in the year.

Kris Bryant
Kris Bryant

I still believe in the old adage, “You can’t win a play-off spot in April and May but you can damn sure lose one.” So if that kid is the real deal and he can help the Cubs stack wins early on then by-God he should be up and playing.

E.J. 12Earl: Well it’s clearly in the best interest of the Cubs financially but it is clearly not in the best interest of Bryant. Bryant is ready to be the Opening Day starter at third base. The MLB system is what it is but it sucks.

meJoe: That’s the way the system works unfortunately… If the Cubbies delay placing him on the MLB roster by a few weeks then they extend his arbitration year out another year which effectively makes him arb eligible in his year 3 of big league service. The same deal works for his free agency eligible year…effectively makes him free agent eligible in year 7 instead of year 6.

Right now Bryant is tearing it up in Spring Training but lets face, mostly, its been against pitchers that are likely not going to be on MLB rosters. Is he the real deal… everyone says so. Will he be the next Trout? Who knows, but, if, his Minor League stats translate well into the Majors then he should be a potential all-star for a long time.

Mike Olt blocking Kris Bryant from Cubs roster spot?
Mike Olt blocking Kris Bryant from Cubs roster spot?

However, hitting is only half the batlle… or maybe 60% of the battle… in being a major leaguer, especially in the NL… no DH… and the rumblings I hear say that he may not have a ready for prime time glove yet. Close, but, not quite there, yet. And, right now Mike Olt is blocking him at 3B. The other possibility is a corner outfield spot and he’s  blocked at the right field spot by Jorge Soler. Left field however is probably going to start the Cubs’ season with a platoon of Chris Coghlan and  Chris Denorfia.  Bryant has been doing some workouts in the outfield, so that’s a possibility. But, then, there is also Arismendy Alcantara who is probably ahead of Bryant on the depth chart.

So, if, the Cubs don’t bring him up?  I don’t see it as that big a deal. Let him get some more defensive seasoning on a full time basis down on the farm, and, if, his bat is that damn good and the position player… 3rd or left… who is blocking him doesn’t produce, then he’ll be up soon enough.  And, the Cubs can get that extra year out of him.001_vl1402_cover_jm_newstand

Steve 01Steve: Bryant is more than ready to join this club, he is what the Cubs need to finish the pieces of the puzzle for this season. When I first heard of this, I was furious that they would actually hold him back for money. I almost wanted to make the two hour trip to Wrigley and start protesting…okay not really, but the Cubs need this.

He hit 40 plus HR in the minors last year and is tearing the cover off the ball in Spring Training so far this year. All this is going to do for Bryant is frustrate him that his team is holding him back, and for the Cubs that may mean that they will not be able to sign him to a long term deal. Do the right thing Cubs, call up Kris Bryant NOW!!!

3) It’s never an exact science… you never know if a player might have a break season, or, if a virtual unknown makes a major league roster and goes on to put up big numbers… but…

What are your predictions for MVP, and CY Young for the 2015 season in both leagues?

Archie1Archie:   Given the track record I think Kershaw is an easy and obvious choice for NL CY. I also think Kluber was fortunate in his CY last year and I feel the difference was the number of games he won. I personally thought Hernandez had a better year given the division he was in and the strength of talent he faced more often. My best guess would be that Hernandez wins the AL CY this year mainly because I feel his team will win more games for him.

Clayton Kershaw
Clayton Kershaw

The MVP race is definitely harder to predict because you never know who is going to have a break out or career season. I would put early money on someone from the Nationals to lead the NL MVP race, probably Harper. And I guess I would put early money on Mike Trout because I think he will lead the Angels to post-season.

E.J. 12Earl: NL Cy Young: I’ll go with Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers. In my opinion he is the best pitcher in the National League. As long as the Dodgers keep winning, then I’ll roll with Kershaw to get his 4th consecutive Cy Young trophy.
AL Cy Young: I’ll go with David Price of the Detroit Tigers. I was tempted to go with his teammate Justin Verlander for some reason, but I think Price can win the award.
NL MVP: I might be stunningly wrong but my gut says Giancarlo Stanton. I know that park in Miami isn’t the easiest to play in but I can’t help but think he’s going to put big numbers up this season to justify his huge new contract.
AL MVP: I’ll stick with Detroit and go with Miguel Cabrera. The Tigers look poised to have a good season and Cabrera has been pretty consistent the past few seasons

meJoe: The easy ones first… Clayton Kershaw, barring injury, wins the NL Cy Young Award. And arguably Giancarlo Stanton was on the way to a NL MVP before his being DLed. So, I predict this season he says healthy and wins it in a walk.

Giancarlo Stanton
Giancarlo Stanton

The AL is not so clear… I think there are at least 4 and maybe 5 pitchers who could win the CY… Felix Hernandez, Chris Sale, Jered Weaver and  Justin Verlander. I’m going out on a limb and taking the dark horse candidate of the 5 and picking Jered Weaver. I just think this is the year he puts everything together and goes off and has a career year.

If Miguel Cabrera stays healthy this year… then I think the MVP once again going to be neck and neck all year between him and Mike Trout. I’ll pick Cabrera to just edge out Trout for the AL MVP.

Steve 01Steve: I will start with the American League. First the Cy Young award will go to Chris Sale of the Chicago White Sox. While he will miss the opening day start due to an injury. This kid has been silently having some great seasons. With the White Sox now revamped, Sale will win 20 games this year and take the award.

For the MVP of the American League, I like for Mike Trout to repeat the award. Trout is young, and plays for a great team in the Angels. It is his award to lose in my opinion.

Andrew Cashner
Andrew Cashner

Moving over to the National League. My Cy Young winner may surprise you. I like Andrew Cashner to win the Cy Young award, just ahead of Kershaw. Cashner had a fantastic season last season with the Padres, and had a 2.55 ERA. While he only went 5-7, the Padres could not score runs during his starts. Cashner is going to be the shock of the NL. With the Padres making some offensive moves, they will score runs, and Cashner will “cash” in.

As far as the MVP goes? Well this one is the hardest of the four I think. So I will go with Giancarlo Stanton of the Marlins. This kid just signed a huge deal, and was runner up to Kershaw last year. Had he not have been hit in the face with a pitch late last season, he may have overtaken Kershaw for the award last year. I like Stanton to hit 40 plus HR and 120 RBI.

4) Pablo Sandoval recently, said “I knew early in spring training last year (2014) I was going to leave. (The Giants) didn’t respect my agent. Contract talks, everything. The way (GM) Brian Sabean talked to my agent. If, you want me around, you make the effort to push and get me back.”

He also added that the only two people he really respected on the team were manager Bruce Bochy and teammate Hunter Pence.

Curiously, on 11/1/2104, he also said this: “I want to wear that jersey for the rest of my career. I’m going to go from what my heart tells me. I’d love to be back here, I love the fans, I love my teammates. They taught me a lot of things, to respect the game and play the game right.”

In your opinion, what is this all really about? Is the Panda just running at the mouth for the sake of running at the mouth, or, is there more here than meets the eye?

Archie: I think the November ’14 comment was posturing and preparing for the offseason and I think the recent comments is just “sour grapes” maybe with the feeling the Giants disrespected him. Bottom line its all spilled milk talk.pablo

Earl: He’s running his mouth. Unfortunately, he’s not the first athlete to sign with a new team and then take potshots at the old team. I hate it though. Why not just be complimentary of the franchise that put you in the position to be paid? He’s won with the Giants, he was beloved by the fans, so shut up say “I had a great time in San Francisco” whether it was true or not and move on.

meJoe: I’m of two minds here…

I think Sandoval is doing a little of the running of the mouth and should just STFU and let it go.

But, then, for him to come right out and be as blatant as he was, then, something makes me think someone  must of said something that he felt was somehow an insult. And, I have heard while maybe he was beloved by the Bay Area fans, there was some talk that some Giant players didn’t think he was the best teammate and that he didn’t;t always put forth the best effort or stay in the best of shape.

So, maybe there was something behind all the grousing and then maybe there may not have been  anything… still… the bottom line is this… Ya never know when ya might meet up with the dudes that you been dissing so just STFU and let it lie.bos_a_pablo88_cr_600x400

Steve 01Steve: The Giants offered Sandoval a ton of money to stay with the team. So I think this is more Pablo Sandoval running his mouth. The Giants would be stupid not to want a guy like this who led them to three World Series championships. I think that Sandoval just wanted out of San Francisco, and he is trying to save face with the San Francisco fans, and the organization. He saw greater pastures, and a greater paycheck with Boston, that is why he left.

5) The preseason predictions for the AL East mostly seem to be saying it’s going to be between the Boston Red Sox and the Toronto Blue Jays depending on each team’s pitching.

That being said, and, leaving the New York Yankees and the Baltimore Orioles out the conversation… do the Tampa Bay Rays have a snow ball’s chance in hell of making the playoffs in 2015?

Rays chances of playoff games in October?
Rays chances of playoff games in October?

Archie1Archie: Uh…………no. I don’t see them even getting out of the cellar this year. With Madden leaving, Shields leaving, Myers traded; they are just a shell of the contending team they once were. Maybe they will prove me wrong; but I doubt it.

E.J. 12Earl: Anything is possible but it’s hard for me to look at the Rays roster and see playoffs. I won’t say snow ball’s chance in hell but I’d put the percentage of the Rays making the playoffs at under 10%.

meJoe: I think the Rays could have put up with Joe Maddon leaving; I think they could have put up with the players that left, but, when Andrew Friedman left to go to the Dodgers… that was the one thing they could not afford have happen.

Freidman, as the Rays’ Director of Baseball Development, was the brains behind the team that always was able to piece together the players and/or find the diamonds in the rough that kept them relevant in the AL East more times than not.

Former Rays VP Andrew Friedman, left, and former manager Joe Maddon
Former Rays VP Andrew Friedman, left, and former manager Joe Maddon

Without Friedman… they really don’t have a snow ball’s chance in hell of making the playoffs.

Steve 01Steve: I said this last week. I will never count out the Tampa Bay Rays, as they always seem to pull a rabbit out of the hat. With that being said, I will not predict that the Rays will make the playoffs. I actually have them finishing in the basement of the AL East, with Boston winning the division and Toronto and Baltimore right there. The Rays have just lost too much though this season. Ben Zobrist is gone, and their manager Joe Maddon left just to name a few. I think that their core has been diminished and I don’t see any way the Rays can compete for a wild-card berth. However, like I said, you can never out this team out.

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