Tag Archives: Yoenis Cespedes

NL East Division position comparison: left field

My continuing position-by-position evaluation of the National League East Division teams moves to the outfield today after previously covering and ranking the entire infield.

The Philadelphia Phillies had the top catcher in the rankings and the club’s projected starter finished third in the division at each of first basesecond baseshortstop, and third base.

The outfield coverage begins in left field today. Over the next couple of days, I’ll move across to center field and then over to right field. As we get to the weekend, I’ll cover each club’s projected starting pitching rotation, their benches, bullpens, and finally the managers.

Once this evaluation process is complete, fans should have a better idea as February arrives of where each team in the division stands. Pitchers and catchers will be reporting to Clearwater, Florida for Phillies spring training on February 11, just about two weeks from now.

NL EAST – 2020 LEFT FIELD RANKINGS

1) Juan Soto, Washington Nationals: Just 21 years of age, Soto is one of the best young players in baseball. He was the runner-up for the 2018 NL Rookie of the Year Award to the player who is likely to appear in a couple of days at the top of the right field ranking. Last season, Soto upped his game, blasting 34 home runs with 71 extra-base hits, 110 RBIs, 110 runs scored and a dozen stolen bases while fashioning a .282/.401/.548 slash line. He then came through in the Nationals October 2019 run to their first-ever World Series crown, slashing .273/.373/.554 with five homers and 14 RBIs in the postseason. Just an average defender, Soto may never win a Gold Glove, but he doesn’t hurt the Nats in that regard. Soto looks right now as if he could sit atop this positional list for years to come.

2) Marcell Ozuna, Atlanta Braves:  A solid offensive contributor and left field defender, Ozuna hung out on the free agent market for way too long this off-season. The Braves took advantage, scooping him up a week ago with a one-year, $18 million deal that will allow Ozuna to reset his value for another run at the market a year from now. Meanwhile, Atlanta will be the beneficiaries for at least the 2020 campaign during which the two-time NL All-Star will play at age 29. He has a .272 career average over seven big-league seasons, and a year ago produced 29 homers with 89 RBIs and 80 runs scored while helping lead the Saint Louis Cardinals to the NL Central crown. Atlanta also has a pair of solid veterans in Nick Markakis and Adam Duvall on their roster to cover the position effectively should injury strike.

3) Andrew McCutchen, Philadelphia Phillies: So much of this ranking depends on ‘Cutch’ fully bouncing back from the devastating knee injury and subsequent surgery that ended his first Phillies season in early June. The former NL MVP and five-time All-Star is not that level of performer any longer. However, prior to the injury he had a .378 on-base percentage as the Phillies leadoff hitter, and had produced 10 homers, 12 doubles, 29 RBIs, and 45 runs scored in just 262 plate appearances. I wrote a piece at the start of this month asking what we should expect from him in the coming season. Let’s hope that his reply below is what we actually get in 2020. If there are any recurring or lingering injury issues, Jay Bruce and Nick Williams would try to pick up the slack.

4) Corey Dickerson, Miami Marlins: The Phillies obtained Dickerson from Pittsburgh at the trade deadline last season in an attempt to remain in the playoff race after both McCutchen and Bruce had suffered injuries. He was one of the few bright spots for the club before suffering his own season-ending injury in mid-September. Dickerson hit .293 with eight homers, 20 extra-base hits and a staggering 34 RBIs in just 137 plate appearances over 34 games with the Phillies in 2019. That performance and a solid seven-year big-league career earned him a two-year, $17.5 million deal with the rebuilding Fish. He turns 31 years of age in late May and should give them a solid return on their investment if he stays healthy.

5) J.D. Davis, New York Mets: There remains a certain segment of the organization and fan base still hopes Yoenis Cespedes will be healthy and return to some semblance of his All-Star days. Now at age 34 and having missed most of the last two years with injuries, that is highly unlikely. Davis made 79 starts in left during the 2019 season, his first with the Mets after coming in a five-player deal with Houston at this time a year ago. He has the ability to make this bottom ranking look a bit foolish if it all comes together. Davis slashed .307/.369/.527 and delivered 22 homers, 22 doubles, 57 RBIs, and 65 runs scored over 453 plate appearances in 2019. He could end up at least in the middle of these rankings by the end of the upcoming season. If he instead falters, odds are that Dominic Smith would fare better as a replacement than any Cespedes pipe dream.

 

MORE RECENT PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES CONTENT:

Nationals may finally be starting to heat up as June arrives in NL East

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It was a good week for Max Scherzer and the Nationals

This past week of action in Major League Baseball saw us pass Memorial Day and moved into the month of June. While the Philadelphia Phillies (33-26) remain in first place in the National League East Division standings, their lead has grown more tenuous.

Over this past weekend, I released my first MLB Power Rankings of the 2019 season. Fans of the team might be surprised to find that the Phillies ranked just 15th, exactly in the middle among the 30 teams.
This wasn’t an effort to be overly critical, provocative, or sensationalist. My Power Rankings are not at all based on my feelings. They are a statistics-based evaluation of where each team stands when factoring in offense, defense, and pitching factors, as well as their win-loss records.
The Phillies have remained atop their division largely because the other four teams haven’t done much to distinguish themselves this season. My rankings found the Braves as the top statistical team in the division, finishing four places above the Phillies at 12th overall in MLB. Meanwhile, the Mets, Marlins, and Nationals all ranked 22-23-24 in that order.
That the Phillies only turn out to rank as a middle-of-the-pack ball club should be cause for concern at this point. The team has major holes to fill in the starting rotation and on the bench, and has to find some way to overcome the plethora of injuries which have steadily eroded their bullpen depth.
And now, thanks to the arrest of their starting center fielder of the last five years on domestic assault charges, an incident that almost certainly has spelled the end of Odubel Herrera‘s time in Philly, the club powers-that-be have a hole in their starting lineup as well.
Currently in the midst of a four-game losing streak that is their longest of the season, the Phillies are now in San Diego for three games to end a 23-game stretch of the schedule that may be their toughest of the entire year. They are now 10-10 in that hard-fought month, which on balance is nothing of which to be ashamed.
The Phillies are a first-place baseball team. They have been perched atop the divisional standings for all but seven days in this 2019 regular season. But there remains a long summer ahead. Four months of grueling play. If they don’t address the holes, they will not remain on top for very long.
As always, my NL East Beat report reveals how each of those Phillies divisional rivals fared over the course of the past week: games scores, pivotal performers, key injuries, and other important updates on each team are included.

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST DIVISION STANDINGS

EAST DIVISION

    <th aria-label="Win-Loss %" class=" poptip hide_non_quals center" data-filter="1" data-name="Win-Loss %" data-stat="win_loss_perc" data-tip="Win-Loss Percentage
    W / (W + L)
    For players, leaders need one decision for every ten team games.
    For managers, minimum to qualify for leading is 320 games.” scope=”col” style=”background-color: #dadcde; border-color: rgb(116, 118, 120) rgb(170, 170, 170); border-image: initial; border-style: solid; border-width: 1px; float: none !important; margin: 0px; opacity: initial; padding: 0px 12.375px; text-align: center;”>W-L%

    <th aria-label="Games Back" class=" poptip sort_default_asc center" data-stat="games_back" data-tip="Games Back of Division/League Leader
    Computed as games over .500 of leader (W-L) minus games over .500 of team divided by two.
    Typically computed at the end of play for a particular day.
    Blank for 1st game of DH.” scope=”col” style=”background-color: #dadcde; border-color: rgb(116, 118, 120) rgb(116, 118, 120) rgb(116, 118, 120) rgb(170, 170, 170); border-image: initial; border-style: solid; border-width: 1px; float: none !important; margin: 0px; opacity: initial; padding: 0px 12.375px; text-align: center;”>GB

    East Division
    Team W L
    Philadelphia Phillies 33 27 .550
    Atlanta Braves 32 27 .542 0.5
    New York Mets 28 31 .475 4.5
    Washington Nationals 26 33 .441 6.5
    Miami Marlins 21 36 .368 10.5

    ATLANTA BRAVES (2 – 3)

    Summary: The defending NL East champions had a losing week and still picked up a half-game in the standings on the Phillies, moving within one game of the division lead.
    They dropped the first three games of the week, two to the Mets and their series opener with the Detroit Tigers. Their offense then awoke to put 17 runs up on the scoreboard, allowing them to beat down the Tigers and win the final two games.
    Key injuries: Center fielder Ender Inciarte has a lumbar strain and is said to be weeks away from resuming baseball activity. Righty reliever Darren O’Day has missed two months with a forearm strain for two months and has not yet begun throwing.
    Upcoming: Following an off-day on Monday, Atlanta goes on the road this week. They will travel to face the host Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park for three games, and then down to Marlins Park for three over the weekend in Miami.

    MIAMI MARLINS (5 – 2)

    Summary: While the Fish are still in last place, they have played much better baseball of late. They have won 11 of their last 16 games, and now have three American League teams with a worse record than theirs.
    The Marlins took the finale of a four-game wrap-around series with the Washington Nationals on Monday after dropping the previous three last weekend. Then they captured two of three games against both the San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants to fashion the NL East’s top record over the week.
    Key injuries: First baseman Neil Walker, who had been the club’s most consistent hitter over the first two months, hit the IL with a right quad strain. He is out for an undetermined length. Righty reliever Drew Steckinrider remains out with a flexor strain in his right forearm and hopes to return at some point after the all-star break.
    Upcoming: Miami is off on Monday, then travels to Milwaukee for a three-game set with the Brewers. After that, the Marlins return home to start a nine-game homestand, beginning with a visit from the Braves over the coming weekend.

    NEW YORK METS (2 – 5)

    Summary: The Mets suffered through an unsuccessful week out west, dropping three of four to the Los Angeles Dodgers and then two of three to the Arizona Diamondbacks. In each series, one of their losses came via walk-off fashion.
    Key injuries: Second baseman Robinson Cano missed the entirety of last week with a left quad strain. He is expected back in action this week. Super-utility man and Phillies-killer Jeff McNeil was lost to a hamstring strain and is likely to be out for this week, though he could return on the weekend. Infielder Jed Lowrie has a sprained left knee capsule and Grade 1 hamstring strain and has been moved to the 60-day IL. Outfielder Yoenis Cespedes will miss the rest of the season following right ankle surgery.
    Upcoming: Following a Monday off-day in the schedule the Mets will be home all week at CitiField, hosting the San Francisco Giants and then Colorado Rockies for three games each. It will the the start of 12 straight games in the Big Apple, with the only two “road” tilts coming at Yankee Stadium next week.

    WASHINGTON NATIONALS (4 – 2)

    Summary: The Nationals have appeared to be a sleeping giant, battling numerous key injuries while they got off to perhaps baseball’s most disappointing start to the season. However, the Nats have now won seven of their last nine, and could possibly be righting their ship.
    After dropping last Monday’s tilt to Miami at home, Washington traveled down to Atlanta and back up to Cincinnati. They swept the Braves in two games, then captured two of three in Cincy over the weekend. Now seven games behind the Phillies, it is the closest they have been to the top of the division since May 18.
    Key injuries: First baseman Ryan Zimmerman remains out as he battles plantar fasciitis with no exact timetable for a return. Their 5th starter, Jeremy Hellickson, is out indefinitely with a shoulder strain. The bullpen also remains dinged depth-wise with righties Trevor RosenthalKoda Glover, and Justin Miller all on the IL.
    Upcoming: The Nationals have Monday off and then host the Chicago White Sox for a pair of Interleague games. Washington then heads out on the road for a week. They start it by following the Phillies in to San Diego, where they will take on the Padres in a four-game long weekend series.

    Phillies reach Memorial Day in first place in the National League East standings

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    The top spot in the NL East standings remains occupied by the Phillies

    The Philadelphia Phillies (31-22) have been able to hold on to first place in the National League East Division standings while fighting their way through what is arguably the most challenging portion of their entire 2019 regular season schedule.

    As we reach Memorial Day, the only off-day in this stretch of 23 games in 24 days against tough competition outside of the division, that daunting gauntlet has been more than halfway run.
    The team has won seven of 10 games since dropping three of the first four during this stretch. The Phillies are now 8-6 over the first two weeks of the nearly month-long test.
    The club returns home briefly on Tuesday to begin a three-game series with the Saint Louis Cardinals at Citizens Bank Park. Then the Phillies will head back out on the road, flying west for six games against the top two teams in the NL West, the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres.
    The Phillies offensive attack has been inconsistent to this point, and is ranked mostly in the middle of the pack in the National League. They are currently 6th in the league in runs per game and on-base percentage, 8th in hits and OPS, 12th in home runs and steals.
    So maybe it has been the pitching that has kept the Phillies in first place? Not hardly. The staff has been just as inconsistent. Phillies pitchers as a group are ranked 14th of the 15 NL teams in batting average against and OPS. They are 7th in ERA, 11th in strikeouts, 8th in walks.
    Defense maybe? Nope. The Phillies rank just 10th in the league in fielding percentage. Their 31 errors are sixth-most in the National League.
    Fact of the matter is that the Phillies have outperformed their team statistics to this point. That overall inconsistency is the primary reason that the club has won as many as four straight games just once all season – their first four games of the year. On the flip side, their talent is strong enough that they haven’t lost more than three in a row, which has happened just twice.
    There is plenty of room for growth with this 2019 Phillies team. The most obvious is Bryce Harper. Despite ranking 15th in the NL in RBIs, Harper has underperformed his talent and career averages in nearly every other offensive category. Third base, where Maikel Franco has cooled considerably, and center field are other areas where improvement could come.
    Barring devastating injuries, it is hard to see this Phillies team doing any worse than they have already performed. And with that said, they remain in first place in the division and are dueling the Chicago Cubs for the league’s second-best record.
    As always, my NL East Beat report reveals how each of those Phillies divisional rivals fared over the course of the past week: games scores, pivotal performers, key injuries, and other important updates on each team are included.

    NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST DIVISION STANDINGS

    EAST DIVISION

      <th aria-label="Win-Loss %" class=" poptip hide_non_quals center" data-filter="1" data-name="Win-Loss %" data-stat="win_loss_perc" data-tip="Win-Loss Percentage
      W / (W + L)
      For players, leaders need one decision for every ten team games.
      For managers, minimum to qualify for leading is 320 games.” scope=”col” style=”background-color: #dadcde; border-color: rgb(116, 118, 120) rgb(170, 170, 170); border-image: initial; border-style: solid; border-width: 1px; float: none !important; margin: 0px; opacity: initial; padding: 0px 12.375px; text-align: center;”>W-L%

      <th aria-label="Games Back" class=" poptip sort_default_asc center" data-stat="games_back" data-tip="Games Back of Division/League Leader
      Computed as games over .500 of leader (W-L) minus games over .500 of team divided by two.
      Typically computed at the end of play for a particular day.
      Blank for 1st game of DH.” scope=”col” style=”background-color: #dadcde; border-color: rgb(116, 118, 120) rgb(116, 118, 120) rgb(116, 118, 120) rgb(170, 170, 170); border-image: initial; border-style: solid; border-width: 1px; float: none !important; margin: 0px; opacity: initial; padding: 0px 12.375px; text-align: center;”>GB

      East Division
      Team W L
      Philadelphia Phillies 33 22 .600
      Atlanta Braves 30 26 .536 3.5
      New York Mets 27 28 .491 6.0
      Washington Nationals 24 32 .429 9.5
      Miami Marlins 19 34 .358 13.0

      ATLANTA BRAVES (5 – 2)

      Summary: the Braves have won 12 of their last 16 games and have been pressuring the Phillies for weeks now. That continued last week when Atlanta captured three of four in San Francisco and then two of three over the weekend in Saint Louis.
      The Braves scored more than four runs in just three of their games last week, and manager Brian Snitker‘s squad has built their surge largely on consistently excellent starting pitching.
      Young right-hander Mike Soroka and lefty Max Fried have paced the starting rotation, which has also gotten solid work from Julio Teheran and Kevin Gausman. If Mike Foltynewicz, who is still finding himself since returning from the IL, can return to form the defending division champs can be expected to keep that pressure coming.
      Veteran first baseman Freddie Freeman is enjoying an All-Star caliber season. He is slashing .317/.406/.577 and leads the Braves with 13 homers, 38 runs and 27 extra-base hits. Last year’s NL Rookie of the Year, Ronald Acuna is having a find sophomore year slashing .277/.368/.480 with 11 homers, 31 RBIs, 35 runs and five steals. Shortstop Dansby Swanson continues to lead the team with 35 RBIs.
      Key injuries: starting center fielder Ender Inciarte has gone on the IL with a lumbar strain and is likely to miss at least a few weeks. Righty reliever Darren O’Day has a right forearm strain and has not even thrown from a mound.
      Upcoming: Following an off-day on Memorial Day the Braves will be home this week at SunTrust Park. They host the division-rival Washington Nationals on Tuesday and Wednesday, enjoy another off-day on Thursday, and then host the Detroit Tigers for an Interleague series over the weekend.

      MIAMI MARLINS (3 – 3)

      Summary: the Marlins began last week with a three-game sweep in Detroit that stretched their season-high winning streak out to six in a row. However, they resumed their previous losing ways by getting swept by the Nationals over the weekend.
      Though they went on that winning streak, not much has really changed for the Fish. Jorge Alfaro continues to lead in homers with seven, Brian Anderson in RBIs with 21, and Neil Walker in the average categories with a .285/.364/.431 slash line.
      38-year-old veteran Curtis Granderson has 14 extra-base hits in just 150 plate appearances. Rookie Harold Ramirez has slashed .395/.439/.553 over his first 11 big-league games following a mid-May promotion and given the club a shot in the arm.
      On the mound, lefty Caleb Smith finally had his first poor outing of the season his last time out, surrendering five earned runs over just three innings against the Nationals. On the season he continues to sport All-Star caliber numbers: 38 hits over 56 innings with a 72/16 K:BB and a 0.964 WHIP.
      Key injuries: Righty reliever Drew Steckenrider was placed on the 60-day IL with a forearm strain and is out until after the MLB All-Star Game break. While the Marlins have five other players on the IL, none can be considered key guys. This has been a largely healthy squad all year – they’re just not very good in this early stage of a rebuild. Think of where the Phillies were about 3-4 years ago.
      Upcoming: Miami is in Washington to finish up a four-game wraparound series with the Nationals on Memorial Day. They return home to host the San Francisco Giants for three games, the only three home tilts in the middle of a 13 road games out of 16 stretch. They’ll be in San Diego over the weekend.

      NEW YORK METS (6 – 1)

      Summary: it has been a mostly miserable season in the Big Apple, but the Mets feel that they may now be righting the ship after they swept the Nationals in four games then won two of three over the Tigers this past week.
      In the first six games, the club scored at least five runs in each. Six of the seven games were decided by two runs or less, as the Mets showed some mental toughness in putting together their big week.
      Getting right fielder Michael Conforto back into the lineup following a stay on the IL could help keep the Mets rolling. Rookie first baseman Pete Alonso continues to lead the club in most major offensive categories, but much of that was built up over a hot first month or so. He has been cold for a few weeks now.
      The Mets top four starting pitchers have fought through bouts of inconsistency, but are pitching well overall. Jake deGrom, Noah SyndergaardZack Wheeler and Steven Matz give the club a chance to be in most games. New closer Edwin Diaz went through a brief rough stretch at the start of the month but has returned to lights-out status of late.
      Key injuries: Veteran bats Robinson CanoYoenis Cespedes and Jed Lowrie are all on the IL with assorted injuries. Cespedes will miss the rest of the season after ankle surgery last week following an accident on his home ranch. Jeff McNeil, who has been excellent as a super-utility player, is on the IL with a left hamstring strain. Outfielder Brandon Nimmo is also on the IL with whiplash and a bulging cervical disc. Relievers Seth LugoLuis Avilan and Justin Wilson are out with a variety of injuries, none due back soon.
      Upcoming: the Mets begin a week-long western road trip on Memorial Day. They will play four at Dodger Stadium and then three in Phoenix over the weekend against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

      WASHINGTON NATIONALS (3 – 4)

      Summary: the week began with the under-achieving Nationals in deep trouble. They were swept in a four-game series at Citi Field vs. a New York Mets squad that had been struggling. But then Washington bounced back, sweeping the last-place Marlins over the weekend at Nationals Park.
      Pending free agent third baseman Anthony Rendon continues to put together an All-Star campaign. The 29-year-old is slashing .329/.423/.678 with team high’s of 10 homers and 29 extra-base hits. He is second on the club with 31 RBIs, behind only the 35 of Juan Soto, who is slashing .288/.388/.513 himself.
      Veteran Howie Kendrick continues to give the club a shot in the arm, slashing .303/.346/.549 with 28 RBIs, third on the club, in just 136 plate appearances. Kendrick has seen action at every infield position other than shortstop.
      On the mound, the starting trio of Max ScherzerStephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin has remained mostly dominating. But nearly every other pitcher, starter or reliever, who manager Dave Martinez has called upon has been a disappointment. It has been that poor pitching depth which has hurt the Nationals more than anything.
      Key injuries: the club’s fourth and fifth starters, Anibal Sanchez and Jeremy Hellickson, are both on the IL. It’s hard to say that is much of a loss, because neither was performing very well. Veteran first baseman Ryan Zimmerman still suffers from plantar fasciitis and hopes to begin baseball activities soon.
      Upcoming: the Nationals host the Marlins on Memorial Day. But after that one game the club will hit the road for 11 of their next 13 contests in a stretch that could either get them back into things, or bury them for good.

      Tigers’ Michael Fulmer Should Be the AL Rookie of the Year

      A pitcher with the Detroit Tigers has been one of the top rookies in the American League this season, and should be the AL’s Rookie of the Year Award winner.

      It has been a full decade since the last Detroit Tigers player won the American League Rookie of the Year Award.
      That year, 23-year old right-handed starting pitcher Justin Verlander went 17-9 over 30 starts with a 3.63 ERA to take the voting by a comfortable margin over the Boston Red Sox 25-year old reliever Jonathan Papelbon.
      Verlander has gone on to a fantastic career with the Tigers over the last dozen seasons. He won 24 games and the 2011 Cy Young Award as part of 173 career victories. This season, Verlander is again a leading Cy Young favorite.
      Now a decade later, the Tigers again have a right-handed starting pitcher up for the award. In my opinion, he deserves to be the winner.
      Michael Fulmer turned 23-years old back in spring training, the same age as Verlander when he won the top rookie honors.
      Fulmer was the New York Mets pick during the supplemental first round of the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft at 44th overall out of a Oklahoma high school. He then went to Detroit in a 2015 trade deadline deal for Yoenis Cespedes.
      Called up by the Tigers at the end of April, Fulmer won seven of his first eight decisions and was 9-2 by the MLB All-Star break.
      Though he only won twice more over the balance of the regular season, it wasn’t for a lack of trying. Fulmer tossed eight Quality Starts over 13 outings in the season’s final two and a half months.
      In the end, Fulmer’s numbers show an 11-7 record, 3.06 ERA, 1.119 WHIP, 3.76 FIP, and a 135 ERA+ mark. He produced a 132/42 K:BB ratio, allowing 136 hits in 159 innings over 26 starts.
      When it came time to vote in the IBWAA 2016 Awards, Fulmer was an easy choice for me as the American League Rookie of the Year.
      I named New York Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez as the runner-up on my ballot, with Texas Rangers outfielder Nomar Mazara in 3rd place.
      In the recently announced BBWAA finalists for the award, both Fulmer and Sanchez are listed. That group named outfielder Tyler Naquin of the Cleveland Indians over Mazara as their 3rd nominee.
      I chose Fulmer for two main reasons. First, he was a part of the Tigers rotation since the end of April.
      The youngster had to perform all summer long in a key position for a team that was battling for a postseason berth throughout, and was a main reason they were able to hang close.
      He also had to perform on the mound in the American League, where the presence of the Designated Hitter in every lineup lengthens things against even the weakest clubs.
      Sanchez was also outstanding, banging 20 homers with 42 RBI and 34 runs scored over what amounts to one-third of a season. He also produced a strong .299/.376/.657 slash line.
      While it isn’t Sanchez’ fault that he wasn’t promoted for good until early August, that does remain the fact.
      For me, what Fulmer achieved in helping his team remain in the hunt as a rookie starting pitcher was more valuable over a longer period of the season than what Sanchez produced in two months.
      In the end, perhaps Sanchez will prove to be the better player. But that isn’t what this award is about. It’s not about speculation, it’s about production on the field as a rookie. Sanchez was really good. Fulmer was more impressive.
      Perhaps the whole “New York’ thing pushes Sanchez to the win when the IBWAA and BBWAA awards are announced over the next couple of weeks. That would be a shame. Michael Fulmer deserves to be the AL Rookie of the Year.

      Texas Rangers Just a Few Moves From World Series Favorites

      The Texas Rangers should remain prime contenders in the 2017 season, and adding a couple of free agents to the current roster could make all the difference.

      The Texas Rangers are one of baseball’s best and wealthiest teams, and will enter the 2017 season as a favorite to three-peat as AL West champions.
      However, what the Rangers and their fans really want is the big prize that has eluded this franchise since its founding all the way back in 1961 as the Washington Senators.
      The Rangers remain one of only eight clubs in Major League Baseball to never win a World Series championship. 
      They came maddeningly close back in 2011, twice within a single strike of wearing the crown only to see it pulled away by the St. Louis Cardinals.
      A playoff team in five of the last seven years, the Rangers won the AL West with a 95-67 record that had them nine games in front of the Seattle Mariners and 11 games ahead of a young Houston Astros team that many had predicted would give them a run for their money this season.
      The Rangers lost once again in the postseason, however, going down in flames in a three-game ALDS sweep at the hands of the Toronto Blue Jays. The team and their home fans were forced to look on as the Jays celebrated that victory on the Globe Life Park field.

      There will be a $9 million contract albatross hanging around their necks for the next four years, the club’s share of the remaining obligation to Prince Fielder
      Still, thanks to insurance ($9 mill) and the share of his deal still paid by the Detroit Tigers ($6 mill) the financial loss of Fielder is not as bad as it could have been.
      The Rangers have just over $110 million in salary obligations for the 2017 season already on the books after picking up the club option on catcher Jonathan Lucroy. Picking up that option also signals the obvious – the Rangers plan to again contend next year.
      A full, healthy season is anticipated from starting pitcher Yu Darvish, who should team with Cole Hamels to give the Rangers one of the best righty-lefty tandems in the game. 
      What the Rangers really need is another starting arm to lengthen that rotation, and to give them at least a third strong option in a postseason series.
      They could also use a big arm at the back of the bullpen, and a fix for the hole that is opening up in center field.
      This is not a great starting pitching free agent market, but there is a nice arm that would slot in perfectly behind Hamels and Darvish to give the Rangers rotation the depth and quality that it needs to both repeat in the division and compete better in October.
      Jeremy Hellickson will turn 30 years old just as the 2017 season opens. He went 12-10 with a 3.71 ERA and 1.153 WHIP, surrendering 173 hits over 189 innings while making 32 starts for a bad Philadelphia Phillies team this year.
      Hellickson is also very familiar with the American League, having pitched the first five years of his big league career with the Tampa Bay Rays. He would be my choice for the Rangers rotation.
      To add excellence to the back of the bullpen there are a pair of great option, two of the best in the game in lefty Aroldis Chapman, who will turn 29 as Spring Training opens, and righty Kenley Jansen, who just turned 29 years of age.
      You could make an argument after what we just witnessed in the World Series from Terry Francona‘s use of his bullpen weapons that the Rangers might even be smart to go after both of these arms, depending on the price.
      After Hellickson and one of the closers, the third target that I would look at is a return of one of my own to play center field, Carlos Gomez. He turns 31 years old in early December.
      The Rangers are likely to lose free agent Ian Desmond, who had a nice season for Texas. Gomez was signed as a free agent after being released by the division rival Astros in mid-August. 
      Playing primarily in left field for the Rangers, Gomez hit for a .284/.362/.543 slash line with eight homers, 24 RBI, 18 runs, and five stolen bases over 130 plate appearances with Texas.
      I know that simply extrapolating numbers out to a full season is a dangerous game. But do that with Gomez’s numbers and you come up with something like a 30+ homer season with close to 100 RBI and runs scored, and 20-25 steals.
      If the Rangers feel that they have the money, perhaps a more sure thing would be Yoenis Cespedes. But he is going to come at a considerable increase in price over Gomez.
      A key for the Rangers is also going to be the return to health of right fielder Shin-Soo Choo. If that happens, putting Gomez between him and young left fielder Nomar Mazara could prove dynamic.
      Future Hall of Famer Adrian Beltre will turn 38 years old at the beginning of the 2017 season. Going all-in with additions such as these could help solidify his and the team’s chances at finally ending their postseason drought.