MLB Season Preview – Predictions


Man I simply can’t keep doing season previews this long.  Approximently 10,200 words not including this final piece.  So I hope nobody is enjoying these and getting used to them because it is a lot more likely that come NFL season it will be this one article with the division predictions added to it.  Seems like a better 2-3 weeks for my back….although I should try sitting in a proper chair and a desk instead of leaning forward in my recliner…ok I’ll shut up and start with the predicitions


AL wildcard teams

Texas Rangers – I think they’re a lock if they don’t win the division.  Just so solid all around.


Tampa Bay Rays – I BADLY wanted to say KC, I really did.  But I can’t go against the Rays amazing pitching.



Tampa Bay vs Detroit – Pitching, pitching and more pitching.  And yet you would think the tiebreaker for me would be Miggy Cabrera.  Nope.  I’m going to take the Rays to pull the upset.

Oakland vs Boston – The A’s STILL have only 1 series win with Billy Beane running the show.  How is it possible that you lose 6 ALDS, and all of them in the 5th game?  Unreal…make it 7.



Tampa Bay vs Boston – Again, maybe it’s insane of me to believe that the Rays talent is going to emerge so soon, but I have a feeling it will and the Red Sox have to run out of magic at some point don’t they?


NL wildcard teams

Washington Nationals – Probably stupid for not taking them to win the division, but they’ll get in.


Cincinnati Reds – I might be higher on them than most, but the talent is there to do some damage.



Washington vs St.Louis – A rematch of their classic 2012 NLDS that featured that epic Cardinals game 5 comeback.  This time I believe the Nats finish the job.

Los Angeles vs Atlanta – That’s right, the Dodgers go to Atlanta for the 2nd year in a row, and for the 2nd year in a row they knock off the Braves.


Washington vs Los Angeles – The 2 most talented teams in the NL meet to go to the World Series.  Perhaps we would get Kershaw vs Strasburg for a few games?  Let’s hope.  The Dodgers I believe will add a lot by the trade deadline and prove too much for the Nats.


World Series

Tampa Bay vs Los Angeles – A matchup featuring the games 2 elite lefties, but talk about a contrast.  East vs West.  Big market vs small market.  Tradition vs … tradition?  I’m not a word….guy….Anyway, again I just think the Dodgers are going to load up by the deadline and while I’m not expecting an amazing season they’ll be primed for the playoffs and I’ll say they knock off the Rays in 6 games.



Mike Trout – He came extremely close in 2012, I believe this will his breakout season…if it’s possible.



Jason Heyward – WAY off the board!  I realize that, but I also know he’s got the tools to be this guy.


AL Cy Young

Felix Hernandez – This is basically pulling a name out of a hat between Verlander, Price, Darvish, and the King.


NL Cy Young

Stephen Strasburg – I’m probably a tool for going against Kershaw, but it’s going to happen soon for “Stars-burg”.



Xander Bogaerts – I like staying trendy and hanging with the cool kids at school, so if they’re all doing it, so am I.



Travis d’Arnaud – If you read the team previews do I really need to explain this?  It’s what happens to the Jays…


AL Manager of the year

Mike Scioscia – Like last year, this is normally given to the guy who’s team surprises, like Terry Francona or Clint Hurdle.  So it has to be one of the many managers who will screw up my predictions….the Angels are pretty loaded, but everyone thinks they are what they are and that Scioscia is all but gone, so he is a great fit here.


NL Manager of the year

Fredi Gonzalez – This actually isn’t going off the board from my projections.  No Medlin, no McCann, so if they win the division I would consider it to be a pretty big surprise at this point over the extremely talented Nationals.


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MLB Season Preview – AL East


Well my good buddy Phippsy should be a big fan of this year’s preview.  Last year I picked the Sox to finish last in the division despite being a lot more kind to them in my write up than most people outside of “Sox Nation” were, and Phipps threw a fit…at least that’s how I’m telling people the story.  Anyway, enough of my real life drama, going into this season I don’t see anyone in this division as well rounded as the Red Sox.  The Yanks spent a lot, the Rays should be solid, as should the O’s, and last year’s pre season darlings the Jays are going to need the same magic the Red Sox had last year to simply avoid the basement.



71591. Boston Red Sox

And yes it is intentional to go with the older symbols in this year’s previews.  Coming off one of the most surprising seasons in MLB history, it is hard to believe that just 12 months ago we were talking about how much of a disaster this franchise had become.  Now they’re the defending champs with a consensus top 5 prospect in all of a baseball joining the big club this season who has superstar potential.

Pitching: What was reality, 2012 or 2013?  While I don’t believe Clay Bucholtz goes 12-1 with a 1.74 ERA again this season, but I never did buy they were actually as bad as they were in 2012.  No Ryan Demptster this season, but I don’t view him as a big loss.  That bullpen is solid, but for me the big question mark is weather or not Uehara can come anywhere close to the 2013 stats he put up.

Hitting: A nice blend of experience and youth in this lineup, and I love the way all the pieces fit together.  I can’t see Ortiz going .300/30/100 again, and they’ll miss Ellsbury, but they’re a clutch group and really solid 1-9.  The hype around Bogaerts bat is just ridiculous.  There is a ridiculous amount of pressure on this kid as you would expect out of “Sox Nation”.

Defense: As of writing this I still don’t know who will be the CF, but if it’s Jackie Bradly Jr. and he can stay healthy then he is a pretty big upgrade over Ellsbury.  Grady Sizemore when he first came up was elite defensively, but at this point I have no clue what he would give them.  Pedroia and Victorino won gold gloves last season.  Overall they’re solid defensively with potential to be very good depending on CF and what Bogaerts gives them at SS.



8ussmr9nym262dzff1g7te1it2. Tampa Bay Rays

They’ll be right in the thick of it again this season, they always are with Joe Maddon running the show and a seemingly never ending supply of great young pitching.  And I’m always willing to bet on a team that has great pitching.  You can get timely hitting, but you can’t get timely pitching.

Pitching: Despite not believing he would be back, David Price is still in Tampa, and as long as you have an elite staff ace like Price you’re pitching looks pretty good.  But add to him, Matt Moore went 17-4, Alex Cobb might have better stuff than Moore, and Chris Archer went 9-7 with a 3.22 ERA in 22 starts.  So that staff is great.  Bullpen looks real good too with Grant Balfour closing and Heath Bell added to the mix.

Hitting: I believe the key here is Desmond Jennings.  I fully expect Myers to build on his ROY campaign, Longoria had a bit of an off year but I expect 30/.290/100 out of him if healthy.  But if Jennings realizes his immense potential than he would give them the speed at the top of the order they need, and that one more big bat that would give this pitching staff some runs to work with.

Defense: Longoria is a gold glove candidate, I don’t have many nice things to say about Escobar but the kid is elite defensively, again Jennings is a 5 tool guy who if he puts it together will be great in CF, Loney is solid at 1st, and just all around the diamond there aren’t holes.  As much as pitching, D is also a major staple of the Rays success under Joe Maddon.



72053. New York Yankees

They don’t seem to be getting much hype right now, but while the Yanks over spent for their free agents this offseason, it does in fact look like a much improved group.  But while they are improved, the pitching staff remains a huge question mark for this ball club.  If they can get enough pitching, they’ll go to the playoffs and maybe do some damage.

Pitching: They’ll only have half of C.C. Sabathia this season, but that’s a good thing I would think.  They spent big to bring in Masahiro Tanaka, but even Brian Cashman said he only expects Tanaka to be a middle of the rotation guy, yet he’s their number 2 arm.  Kuroda did give them 200 innings last season, but he’s 38.  Overall I’m not a big believer in this staff.  Obviously the bullpen is a huge question mark with the retirement of Mariano Rivera.

Hitting: This is the best lineup in the division in my mind.  A great blend of righty and lefty sticks with some switch hitters mixed in.  Speed at the top of the order, lots of power in the middle, and yes they’re old but I don’t think they’re too old.  I love the Brian McCann pickup.  I think the guy is a leader and obviously a real good LH bat at the plate.  They won’t miss Cano as much as some may think, and won’t miss A-Fraud at all.

Defense: They’re too old in the field.  Ellsbury covers a lot of ground and has won a gold glove, but doesn’t have a good arm.  Jeter is in his last year.  2 pretty vital positions to be solid at defensively.  They’ll be average at best.  This is where they will miss Robinson Cano and Alex Rodriguez who are replaced by Brian Roberts and Kelly Johnson.



4bmrvfygivt6dgyw9hntp3aqc4. Baltimore Orioles

Buck Showalter will have this team competitive yet again this season.  And while I put them 4th, it would be in no way a shock to see them in a wildcard spot come October.  They will likely start the season with Manny Machado on the DL, and the pitching isn’t great, but they’ll compete and have some pretty good pieces on the way.

Pitching: They have been able to overcome average pitching the last 2 seasons.  But that is where the good news stops.  They lost Scott Feldman and replaced him with Ubaldo Jimenez who is electric when on but is wildly inconsistent.  They were hoping Dylan Bundy would be here by now, but Tommy John surgery shut him down last season.  Kevin Gausman will likely need a bit more time in the minors.  In the pen they traded closer Jim Johnson and I really don’t know who’ll take over as the teams closer.

Hitting: Manny Machado comes in as a total wildcard for them this season after tearing up his knee late last season.  As of writing this there is no official word on weather he will start the season on the big club, but why rush him?  Take your time with a stud like this.  Chris Davis won’t have a season like 2013 again, but .270/30-40/100 would be a big drop off and yet still a great season.  Adam Jones is a stud, nothing more needs to be said.  They aren’t the Yankees, but I would put there lineup right there with the Red Sox in this division.

Defense: Best fielding team in the division if not the entire AL.  Adam Jones won his 3rd gold glove last season, J.J. Hardy won his 2nd straight, and Manny Machado won his first last season.  Then you have Matt Wieters who won back to back gold gloves in 2011 and 2012, and Nick Markakis who took one home in 2011.  Pretty impressive!



98256e6rrugp88puehfylgn2k5. Toronto Blue Jays

They are a mess right now and Alex Anthopoulos seems to be a dead man walking.  Here they are sending Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman down, yet just a year ago weren’t they “all in”?  Not that it’s the wrong move to send those kids back, but the term being tossed around describing the Jays is “a little bit pregnant”.  In other words, pick a (expletive) direction!

Pitching: The good news is that they have a couple of guys in Dickey and Buehrle who can eat up a TON of innings.  But after those 2, Esmil Rogers was the only guy who had over 100 innings (137.2).  Morrow has ace stuff but can never stay healthy.  IF…big if…he can have that career year, then the staff looks a hell of a lot better, but right now it looks horrible.  The bullpen was a lone bright spot last season and they’ll need a repeat performance out of them.

Hitting: Big bats?  Yep.  But the lineup is terrible as a whole.  Way too many free swingers and not enough guys who will either take pitches or simply put the ball in play.  As of writing this Jose Reyes hurt his hamstring and so that likely puts him on the DL to start the season.  They added Navarro who hit .300 which is more than any other Jay could say for last season, but he won’t hit .300 in the AL East.  Obviously they need to be more healthy than last season but I still don’t see them being able to gel.

Defense: This is interesting because you talk about the clubs achilles heal last season, I can’t remember how many times a circus of errors cost this team games early on.  If they have even adequate D at the start of last season, maybe this team has a lot better feeling the rest of the way and at least competes for a wildcard spot.  Navarro is a big upgrade behind the plate, Goins will be a massive upgrade defensively over what Bonifacio brought, but still a lot of question marks.



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MLB Season Preview – AL Central


Probably the weakest division of the 3 in the AL, but it does boast the most consistent team in the AL over the last 3 seasons.  Maybe that is due to the division being down, but then how do you explain the 4 playoff series wins?  The Tribe rose up last season and won a wildcard spot and they’ll be a threat this season, the Royals have been threatening to bust out for a few seasons now, and while the Twins and White Sox are down both have been well run organizations for a long time and have high end young talent which may turn some heads this season.



28961. Detroit Tigers

The division champs aren’t going anywhere.  Pitching staff is still great, the lineup even without Fielder is still great, maybe they’ll miss Jim Leyland but what seems to happen a lot in sports after a long time manager/coach leaves a great team is that short term they get a jolt from the change.  Brad Ausmus has been highly touted for a few years now and should do a great job.

Pitching: Easily the best staff in the division, maybe in the AL.  Verlander is just the best in my mind.  Kershaw, Strasburg, Price, all great pitchers.  I’ll take JV and I don’t care that he only went 13-12 last season, he was still great.  And behind that guy you have the Cy Young winner, not bad.  If you’re looking for a Max Scherzer breakout this season, Rick Porcello could be that guy.  I like Joe Nathan being brought into close, but he is 40 so he may not have much left.  Losing Bruce Rondon for the year hurts their pen.

Hitting: Cabrera’s numbers might be hurt with Prince Fielder no longer around, but he is still going to be one of the elite bats in all of baseball.  At least they better hope he stays that way after giving him that ridiculous 10 year/292 million dollar extension!!  Kinsler gives them a solid stick at 2nd, Victor Martinez looked good despite missing all of 2012, so they’ll be fine.  They don’t have a ton of speed, but definitely will put enough runs on the board for this pitching staff.

Defense: Jose Iglesias likely done for the season, so they just dealt for Alex Gonzalez though and you know he will be solid.  Kinsler is a good bat at 2nd but not a great fielder.  Cabrera is better at 1st probably than Fielder, and rookie Nick Castellanous is likely going to be better at 3rd than Cabrera was, so that is an improvement.  The OF is ok.  Jackson and Hunter can cover a ton of ground and both have good arms.  Overall it is a solid defensive club.



0az2nlnnt5fz3qtzgmhzrvuhs2. Kansas City Royals

Believe it or not this is their oldest symbol.  They changed it I believe in 2002 to a darker blue.  Come on!  Anyway, this HAS to be the season this team gets back to the playoffs.  The Central is pretty weak, and they’re pretty well balanced.  They’re overdue for a return to the playoffs.  It has now been 27 seasons (28 years) of no postseason baseball.  At that time they were a model franchise.

Pitching: Easily the 2nd best staff in the division.  James Shields is a legitimate staff ace.  They also got 211.2 innings last season out of Jeremy Guthrie.  And while 3-5 they have question marks, they have 2 kids in Kyle Zimmer and Yordano Ventura who are really close.  Zimmer has ace type stuff, and while Ventura is small and might be better suited for the bullpen, he has electric stuff and had 3 quality major league starts in September.  As for the pen, it was the best in the AL last season.  Closer Greg Holland was simply lights out.

Hitting: I like their lineup, I don’t love it.  They really could use one of Hosmer or Butler to take the next step and become an elite hitter.  Both are nice, but not feared.  I feel like they have more potential to do that than Alex Gordon.  All 3 put up pretty similar numbers.  Mike Moustakas is a kid who has the tools to be a real good hitter, but hasn’t really figured it out yet at the major league level.  They do have the ability to manufacture runs though with a lot of speed and contact hitters in the lineup.

Defense: Best defensive team in the division for sure.  3 gold glove winners last season in Perez, Hosmer and Gordon.  Alex Gordon in fact has won it 3 years in a row so that move to LF from 3B certainly helped his career!  Lorenzo Cain isn’t anything good offensively, but his D in CF is outstanding.  Really all over the diamond this team is just great defensively, right there with the Orioles as the best defensive team in the AL.



22693. Cleveland Indians

I missed on a lot last season, but maybe the worst of all the misses was on the Tribe.  I thought it would take a while for Francona to turn this team around, at least a season.  Nope.  Took spring training.  But there is a big question going into this season as to weather or not they can repeat or exceed an incredible and surprising 2013 season.

Pitching: It’s not looking good.  Justin Masterson is the staff ace, but apparently contract talks have broken off between him and the organization and he will test free agency.  So that likely means he will be dealt prior to July 31st.  It looked like Trevor Bauer might be ready last season, but he’ll need more seasoning.  And the bullpen might be in as rough of shape as the starting staff.  It’s not pretty, and could be a LONG season in Cleveland if they don’t get some shocking performances.

Hitting: While the staff looks pretty bad, the bats will have to pick up the slack much like the Indians teams of the 90’s did.  And while this lineup is good, it isn’t THAT good.  They’re just kind of solid 1-9.  Nobody stands out.  No big power, some speed with Bourn and Kipnis, Brantly and Kipnis had the top BA of only .284, so the chances that they start mashing this season like the Tribe of old are slim to none.  Nice lineup, but nothing special.

Defense: The Indians haven’t had a gold glove winner since Grady Sizemore went back to back in 07 and 08.  They aren’t that good defensively either and the more research I do on this team the more I find myself asking “how the hell did Terry Francona do this?!”  No other way to describe them defensively as just ok.  Nobody that hurts them, but no stud either.



pk7vvonkkx7cbcgxgr6gt0pl24. Minnesota Twins

While the Royals hardly ever mess with their symbol, I LOVE this old school one for the Twins!  I’m still stunned that this team fell off the way they did after the 2010 season.  They were so strong from 2002-2010 and because of budget restraints were still very young.  But everything went wrong.  We will see if Ron Gardenhire can get them back to playing like those teams did.

Pitching: It is an improved staff, but still isn’t anything to get too pumped about.  Ricky Nolasco can give you 200 innings, but he’s just ok.  Phil Hughes has the talent to be a number 2 guy, and I think getting out of NY will be good for him, but you shouldn’t be depending on him.  Kyle Gibson once upon a time was an elite prospect, but injuries and inconsistency have him chasing his potential.  Bullpen is the middle of the pack but they did find a decent closer last season in Glen Perkins.

Hitting: Moving Mauer to 1B should help his power numbers specifically.  It is tough to top a .324 BA, but doubling his HR totals (11 in 2013) should be attainable.  Brian Dozier was a nice surprise at 2B last season, but outside of these 2 it isn’t pretty.  Nobody had 20 HR’s, they don’t steal a lot of bags, other than Mauer nobody with more than 200 AB’s hit .260.  It’s bad.  Stud prospects Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano can’t get here fast enough.

Defense: No gold glove winners kicking around (Mauer was but obviously not at 1st), but this team is really solid in the field.  Mauer shouldn’t have too much trouble adjusting to playing 1B, Dozier is solid at 2nd, they aren’t flashy but they don’t make many mistakes.  A .987 fielding percentage last season.



c2vhdvooe4c1i8j6930y0s9go5. Chicago White Sox

Paul Konerko is just about the only recognizable face that this team will be putting on the field this season, and it could be his last.  They’re rebuilding on the South side of the windy city, so it might be a few years until we see something similar to the team that had been right in the mix in the AL central since 2005.

Pitching: This staff is actually pretty good and made me think hard about placing them ahead of the Twins and possibly the Indians in the division because while it isn’t saying much, they are better at the top than those 2 teams.  Sale is an elite number 2 guy if he isn’t an ace, and Jose Quintana gave them 200 innnings last season with a 3.51 ERA.  It gets bleak after them though.  Their bullpen was pretty bad last season, finishing the year with an ERA of 4.00.  Nate Jones will start this season as the closer.

Hitting: The total wildcard here is Cuban rookie Jose Dariel Abreu or JDA as he will be known as I’m certain….he won’t be Yasiel Puig, but big things are expected out of the 27 year old.  Adam Dunn can still go deep but that’s all he can do.  If you read my preview last season, specifically on the D-Backs, then you know I’m a big Adam Eaton guy and a lot of pundits seem to feel the same way.  He was never fully healthy last season, so this could be his coming out party as a top lead off man.

Defense: Worst fielding team in the division last season, 2nd worst in all of baseball.  121 errors and just a .980 fielding percentage.  Terrible to say the least, but it isn’t that shocking with such a young team.  I like Alexei Ramirez at short, but outside of him I really don’t know what they’ll get from their kids in the field.



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MLB Season Preview – AL West


Following in the failed footsteps of the LA Angels, the Mariners broke the bank this offseason for the top free agent in 2B Robinson Cano.  But while the Angels and Mariners try to throw cash at their problems, the A’s and Rangers remain as 2 of the best franchises not just in this division but in all of baseball.  However it seems inevitable for the Astros, as they look set to spend another season in the division cellar as they continue to rebuild.



ydt3406ddwhd2pncda6epyoh41. Oakland Athletics

So most people have taken the Rangers to win the division and likely everyone will now with Jarrod Parker out for the season.  I’m going to stick with the A’s.  They just have so much depth in the organization and seem to get the most out of their talent that I believe they’ll take the West for the 3rd year in a row.

Pitching: Again, no Parker so that hurts.  But Sonny Gray emerged last season and could take over as the staff ace.  And maybe I’m crazy but I won’t be anything shocked if they get big years out of Scott Kazmir and Drew Pomeranz.  A past star like Kazmir is exactly what they had when Bartolo Colon showed up, and look how he did for them.  And Pomeranz everyone knows has great stuff.  And if they don’t pan out, I still won’t be shocked if Billy Beane finds other diamonds in the rough.  Their bullpen is simply one of the best in baseball.  Johnson in for Balfour as closer should be a smooth transition.

Hitting: 3rd in the AL in HR’s last season, though not a great team BA.  But I really like the middle of the order with Donaldson, Cespedes, and Moss.  I wouldn’t expect Coco Crisp to hit 22 bombs again this season, but they certainly are getting his max potential.  They have a lot of free swingers, but unlike a team…lets say the Jays…this lineup meshes together much better.

Defense: Great fielding has never been a staple of Billy Beane teams.  In the prime of “moneyball” (2000-2003) they had 468 errors.  Some of that is a result of the steroid era when all fielding numbers were down, but last season they were under 100 errors on the season.  No gold glove winners on the horizon here, but they’re ok.



13712. Texas Rangers

I might not be like all the cool kids in picking this team to win the division, but it isn’t like they can’t and I definitely believe this will be a playoff team.  They have developed into one of the elite organizations in all of baseball and adding Fielder and Choo to an already solid lineup should do nothing but help.

Pitching: It isn’t a GREAT staff, but when you have a legit staff ace like they do in Yu Darvish then you’re already in decent shape.  They’ll miss Derek Holland (out likely until midseason) who I believe is a solid number 2 guy.  They brought in “crafty lefty” (never any crafty righties) Joe Saunders to help fill the void.  Perez and Ogando are pretty solid back of the rotation guys, so while they aren’t the Tigers, Rays, or Nationals, they are solid when healthy.  Neftali Feliz is back from Tommy John and back in the bullpen, it’ll be interesting to see if he ends up closing again or if they’ll stick with Soria.

Hitting: Maybe the best lineup in baseball.  A lot of power, a lot of speed, they make contact, they’re great.  They of course were able to move Kinsler in the Fielder deal because they have 21 year old Jurikson Profar ready to step in, but he’s out until June.  But when he gets back, if he lives up to his potential, they’ll be even better.  It is a tremendous lineup and it will win the Rangers a lot of games all on it’s own.

Defense: Pretty solid.  A team fielding percentage of .986 tied them for 10th in the majors last season.  When Profar gets back he should be an upgrade at 2nd over what Kinsler was in the field.  Elvis Andrus has never won a gold glove but he is among the elite gloves in baseball.  Beltre has 4 gold gloves to his name, and Alex Rios has a great arm in RF.  Not the strength of this team, but far from a weakness.



4903. Los Angeles Angels

I still haven’t jumped completely off their bandwagon as being a post season threat.  As much as I like Mike Scioscia as a manager it might just simply be time for a change.  Andy Reid is a great football coach, but in the end in Philly it was just clear he needed to go.  And it worked out great for both sides.  Might be the same situation here.

Pitching: I’m not a big C.J. Wilson guy, but he had a damn good season last year.  If Weaver stays healthy it is a real good 1-2 at the top of the rotation.  But after them it gets REAL thin.  One of Richards, Santiago or Skaggs stepping up would be huge for this ball club.  And while Ernesto Frieri had 37 saves and gets a lot of K’s, the bullpen was one of the worst in all of baseball last year with 4.12 ERA.

Hitting: Pujols is obviously on the back 9 of his career, but if he stays healthy he is still a great hitter.  Don’t expect 40 HR’s and 120 RBI’s, but .280/30/100 should be attainable if he gets 500 AB’s.  Not anywhere near what they paid for, but solid.  I would expect Josh Hamilton’s numbers to be a bit better in his second season there.  But of course Mike Trout is the catalyst for this team.  The sky is the limit for this kid.  This lineup is more than capable of putting a lot of runs on the board.

Defense: Well Trout is incredible in CF and Aybar has won a gold glove at SS so those are 2 pretty vital positions to be great at right there.  But David Freese is pretty bad at 3rd which was a big reason the Cards were so willing to move him, and this team already despite having gloves like Trout and Aybar finished 27th in the majors last season with a brutal .981 fielding percentage.



28914. Seattle Mariners

Flashy offseason, but we have seen this story from the Mariners before and it never seems to translate.  But a lot of people do seem to like this team going into the season, a lot more than I do anyway.  Tough not to like the rotation obviously, and I know what the thought process is on Cano, but as I said….they’ve been here before.

Pitching: The King is alive and well with a fat new contract and as long as Hernandez is at the top of the rotation you’re sitting pretty.  They went hard after David Price, but at least as of now failed to bring him in.  Hisashi Iwakuma was awesome last season, but he’s hurt to open this season.  Top prospect Taijuan Walker is going to be on this team at some point this season, but he’s hurt right now too.  They could use him stepping in because behind Hernandez and Iwakuma they’re nothing special.  They’ll need their starters to go really deep every night because this bullpen was a tire fire last season, however they did bring in Fernando Rodney which should be a big boost.

Hitting: Well you would at least think that Cano, Corey Hart and Logan Morrison would boost the offense, but that park is such a grave yard for hitters.  It is just my opinion but if those guys can ignore the power numbers and simply focus on hitting balls in the gaps then they’ll be much better off, but that’s easier said than done.  I don’t love the lineup, but there is potential.

Defense: This is where they’ll get a big boost from Cano.  He has a ridiculous glove at 2nd.  After him they don’t have any gold glove calibre guys but they’re ok.  Dustin Ackley could take some time adjusting to playing LF.  Corey Hart is hurt right now so we will see if he’s in right or DH, but he has a cannon in RF.



10945. Houston Astros

Well if there is one team everyone should agree on finishing in a spot, it is the ‘stros finishing last in the very difficult AL West.  It’s not a good team, and on top of that the other 4 in this division are pretty loaded.  But they have compiled the best prospect crop in baseball, so the hope is that help will arrive soon.

Pitching: Scott Feldman is the ace….the O’s let him walk and the O’s staff isn’t pretty.  I can’t sugar coat this for all you Astros fans…Chris McQuid…so maybe I’ll just rave about how Mark Appel and hard throwing Mike Foltynewicz are on their way.  The bullpen added Chad Qualls and he’s good, so that’s….something.  I don’t know if he’ll be the closer or not.  I believe they’re going closer by committee, at least as of writing this.  It’s not a good staff top to bottom but as I said they do have some studs on the way.

Hitting: Folwer and Altuve at the top of the order is actually pretty good.  Chris Carter has a lot of power and if he can get his BA up 20-30 points he’ll be pretty nice bat to have.  It’ll be interesting to see what they do with stud prospect George Springer.  After the year he had in the minors I don’t see how they send him back, but that’s just me.

Defense: They’re young so you can’t expect them to have great leather at this point.  They led the majors last season in errors with 125.  Matt Dominguez is pretty solid at 3rd and I know manager Bo Porter was stressing how vital it would be that they improve in the field this offseason.  But coming into the season, it isn’t a pretty picture.



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MLB Season Preview – NL East


This division is weak and it is a division where I just can’t see much changing from what I have predicted here.  Last year I tried to get cute and claim the Phillies would make one last charge into the playoffs, but that was flat out stupid!  Not getting cute this time around with it.  The Braves are a safe pick, and I’m going to say the only team that can knock them off at the top are the Nationals.  Nats have more talent, but the Braves are one of the top 2 or 3 run organizations in MLB.



22651. Atlanta Braves

The defending division champs are immediately off to a brutal start with ace Kris Medlin going down for the season with Tommy John surgery.  Couple that with the departures of Tim Hudson and Brian McCann and it isn’t good.  But I’m going against the grain and sticking with them to win the division yet again.  They’re just so consistent and I trust them more than the Nationals.

Pitching: I still think they’ll get solid pitching.  I don’t know how, but I just believe they’ll get it.  Ervin Santana was a good pickup and he should be solid in this division, and he’s only on a 1 year deal so he has a lot of incentive.  The pressure will be on Julio Teheran to be the ace now with Medlin out.  He is capable as he has great stuff.  But the strength of this club is the bullpen.  Craig Kimbrel is the best closer in baseball, Jonny Venters is back later this season, David Carpenter, it just goes on and on.  A major league best 2.46 ERA last season for this group and they might be even better.

Hitting: They need to get all they can out of this lineup with the pitching staff banged up.  I’m going out on a limb here and suggesting that B.J. Upton needs to hit better than .184!  Justin was real solid, but B.J. desperately needs a bounce back season.  What is worse than .184 is .179, which is what Dan Uggla hit.  And while his BA wasn’t that bad, Jason Heyward is capable of a lot more than .254.  Obviously though he needs to stay healthy.  Freddie Freeman is a stud but will now have that fat new contract to live up to.  The talent is there for this lineup to be lethal.

Defense: While Braves fans would like to see more out of Heyward at the dish, they can’t complain out his play in the field.  Between him and the Upton brothers they can cover a ton of ground in the OF.  Then of course last year’s NL gold glove winner at SS Andrelton Simmons and it goes without saying how great he is.  Overall they’re real solid with only 85 errors and a respectable .986 fielding percentage.



223dptvgsgxaazhwbkhflbz7f2. Washington Nationals

I wish this was still their symbol.  Although the Expos would have dealt Strasburg, both Zimmerman’s, and Harper a long time ago!  Matt Williams is the new manager.  The talent can’t be questioned.  They have the arms and the bats to get the job done not only in the AL East but to go to the World Series.  But they have to prove they can put it all together. 

Pitching: Maybe the best staff in baseball.  When Doug Fister is your number 4 man in the rotation I would say you’re pretty good, but I don’t like hearing that a guy has elbow inflammation.  Obviously Strasburg has the best stuff in baseball and I expect him to put it all together one of these years.  Jordan Zimmerman and Gio Gonzalez would be staff aces on most other teams.  The bullpen could be pretty good too but will Drew Storen ever be able to get back to his 2012 form?  That game 5 against the Cardinals would be tough to shake off.

Hitting: Much like Strasburg, one of these years Bryce Harper is going to put it all together.  I thought it was going to be last year as he was my pick for NL MVP, and that pick looked good early on.  But he’s still extremely young.  This is a nicely balanced lineup.  Ton of power, and quite a bit of speed throughout as well.  Wilson Ramos is their number 8 hitter, he went .272/16/59 last season, that not only is good production from you catcher, but great production from your number 8 bat.

Defense: Definitely the weakness of the ball club.  Not good to be over 100 errors on the season and they had 107, 23rd in the majors.  It’s not as though there isn’t talent in the field though.  Both Ryan Zimmerman and LaRoche are former gold glove winners.  They brought in Mark Wiedmaier to clean up the clubs defensive short comings this season, so we will see if that makes a difference.




3. Miami Marlins

I still hate their owner.  He is scum.  But I have to admit they look primed to have a pretty good season.  I still would be shocked if they were much better than .500, part of the reason I have them 3rd is no Matt Harvey for the Mets and half the Phillies being born during the Jimmy Carter administration, but never the less 3rd would still be a great season.

Pitching: Here is another reason why I like them to finish 3rd.  While I rolled my eyes when he was voted ROY over Yasiel Puig, Jose Fernandez was ridiculous.  He’ll likely have set backs this season, but I still expect an ERA under 3.25 and a K/9 around 9.  Henderson Alvarez is going to be a stud simply because that is how it goes for Jays fans.  It’s a solid bullpen, with Steve Cishek coming off a real good 34 save season, and a combined ERA of 3.42.

Hitting: A lot of pressure on Giancarlo Stanton to carry the load for the fish.  The guy can mash, but there isn’t a ton of incentive to pitch to him if a team doesn’t want to.  Garrett Jones is a solid bat, but nothing special.  So they definitely need a guy to emerge.  It’ll probably be OF prospect Jake Marisnick, again just because that’s how it goes for Jays fans.

Defense: Not that bad for such a young team.  I would be lying if I said I knew a ton about these guys and their fielding ability with how young they are and that you simply don’t see much of the Marlins at all up here.  But again, former Jay Adeiny Hechavarria is tremendous in the field, and combined with Marlins defensive player of the year Donovan Solano they’ll make a heck of a double play combo.



ogjdb074li069i7pykw9mzmej4. New York Mets

Who doesn’t love Mr. Met?!  This was never an official symbol of the team, but I’ll take secondary ones like this that are deadly!  This year I’m not expecting much out of this team, but I do believe they’re on their way.  Next season they’ll get Matt Harvey back to likely join Zack Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard and that could be the makings of an elite 1/2/3.

Pitching: It really sucks that we won’t see Matt Harvey this season.  The kid was awesome last season.  I’ll make a prediction right now….Bartolo Colon is going to be a huge bust.  He won’t finish the year with the Mets and this will be his last year in the show.  I’ve just seen the A’s get so much out of guys who are over the hill and then go on to do nothing elsewhere.  In my opinion this teams best bet for an ace would be Zack Wheeler.  Also I expect Noah Syndergaard to come up at some point and put up huge numbers…..because that’s how it goes for the Jays.

Hitting: Just like in the mid 90’s when Norm McDonald did Weekend Update, the answer was always Frank Stallone.  Well for me, the answer is always the Jay who shouldn’t have been let go but was.  Travis d’Arnaud.  I’m expecting Mike Piazza circa 1999 type numbers out of d’Arnaud….because that’s how it goes for the Jays.  On a serious note the lineup needs work.  Granderson was a great add, and Wright is always solid.  Calling Ike Davis a wildcard is a massive understatement.  You just have no idea at this point what he is going to give you.

Defense: Probably the 2nd best defensive club in the division.  Similar numbers to the Phillies last season, but Granderson will be a big upgrade in the OF as long as he stays healthy.  David Wright will never be what he was when he won the gold glove in 2008, but he’s no slouch either.  Ruben Tejada is a huge concern for this team at SS.  They may have to go looking for an upgrade, as Tejada is just much to erratic.




5. Philadelphia Phillies

Let’s blow this up already.  Like I said off the top, I thought they may have 1 more run left in them going into last season.  Now, Roy Halladay has retired, Jimmy Rollins and Ryne Sandberg hate each other, and their core is 3 or 4 years past their prime.  Those contracts aren’t easy to move, but Ruben Amaro has to start moving them.

Pitching: While I don’t believe both of them will be in Philly for the entire season, Lee and Hamels give them a ridiculous amount of innings (of course Hamels is out a month to start the season).  It is a great top of the rotation, and Lee especially was great last season.  A.J. Burnett is a wildcard as he usually is.  You just never know what you’ll get from the guy, but if they get the Burnett from Pittsburgh they’ll be happy.  Papelbon is a solid closer but after that it’s not pretty and they really didn’t do much to improve a bullpen that had an ERA of 4.19 last season.

Hitting: Well they were big names, but the key word there is “were”.  Howard is over the hill.  Utley is over the hill.  Rollins is over the hill.  Dykstra is over the hill.  Schmidt is over the hill.  Oh, apparently the latter 2 did actually retire.  Actually in fairness they have implemented some youth in the last few seasons, namely Dominic Brown.  It’s a great lineup IF they stay healthy, but asking them to stay healthy at this point is ridiculous.

Defense: Their double play combo is a combined 70 years old.  That ain’t good!  97 errors last season, so they need to clean things up a bit.  Marlon Byrd is pretty solid in RF, Dominic Brown was ok in RF so he should be a big upgrade in LF, and while Ben Revere doesn’t have a good arm, he covers a ton of ground in CF.  And Carlos Ruiz is a stud behind the plate, but around the horn they won’t be getting to many balls.



Follow me on twitter @TJ_Soups

MLB Season Preivew – NL Central


I don’t know if anyone outside of Cincy and Pittsburgh will pick against the Cards to win this division yet again.  They’re just simply the model franchise right now, with not only a great team on the field, but always 3 or 4 good prospects on the way.  But Cincinnati and Pittsburgh have built something pretty nice and will at least challenge the Cards.  The Brew crew and the Cubs look locked into the bottom of the division for the time being.



q115izhqg0vdhh7g6eqv1. St. Louis Cardinals

I hit on most of it off the top but again, this team is the model franchise.  How do you go from a legend like Tony LaRussa to a rookie manager like Mike Matheny and not skip a beat?!  I know the manager doesn’t have a big impact on the game, but that’s ridiculous.  This team is simply primed once again to head to the playoffs and challenge for another World Series title.

Pitching: They don’t have a quality starter on the horizon…because their kids are already on the staff and look great.  Wainwright is a stud, Wacha looks like he will become a stud, and then you have Shelby Miller.  Miller came into last season as mine and many other people’s pick as NL ROY, had a 15-9 season with a 3.06 ERA and was basically forgotten because Wacha was so good!  I love the power arms the Reds have, but this is the best staff in the division.  And with Rosenthal, Carolos Martinez, and Jason Motte due back by the end of May, the bullpen might be even better than the staff 

Hitting: Did anyone even notice that they lost Albert Pujols 2 years ago?  What an amazing decision for the franchise that was!  If Oscar Tavares isn’t a starter on opening day, it won’t be long until he is.  How do the 2 teams in last year’s World Series each have a top 5 prospect?!  Unreal.  But this lineup is just really well constructed.  Matt Carpenter leading off is real solid.  Holliday, Adams, and Craig give them a lot of power in the middle of the lineup, and Molina has become a real solid bat no matter where they slot him.  Great lineup 1-8.

Defense: Other than Molina, they don’t look as solid as the team that had a .988 fielding percentage and only committed 75 errors.  Tavares would help the OF a lot but where do they put him?  Bourjos they obviously wanted for a reason, and you don’t want to take Holliday or Craig’s bats out of the lineup.  It is a little head scratching that Peralta was brought in to start at SS as he is far from good defensively, but tough to question the Cards front office.  I’m sure they’ll look to upgrade.




2. Cincinnati Reds

3 times in 4 seasons this team has made the playoffs.  Albeit last year was just the wildcard game, but still a pretty good accomplishment for a franchise who prior to the 2010 season hadn’t been to the playoffs since 1995, yet the enter 2014 with Brian Price taking over for Dusty Baker as manager.  I do think that with the right breaks they can steal the division from the Cards.

Pitching: As I said before I love that they have power arms in the rotation.  Latos, Bailey, Cueto, and last year left hander Tony Cingrani emerged (120 K’s in just 104.2 IP).  And they have yet ANOTHER big arm on the way perhaps by next season named Robert Stephenson who has ace potential.  But they’re already beat up.  Cueto still isn’t fully healthy after missing most of last season, Bailey injured his groin, and Latos had knee surgery in February and may start the season on the DL.  As will star closer Aroldis Chapman after taking that line drive off his face in spring training.  There is no timeline for his return, and it’ll likely mean J.J. Hoover takes over as closer for now.

Hitting: Rookie Billy Hamilton is a big key for this team.  If he can have an OBP of .310-.330 then it’ll be huge with his incredible speed on the bases.  And he’ll have some big bats to drive him in.  Phillips, Votto, and Bruce all have pretty big power, and a guy like Todd Frazier has provided some nice power for them as well.  I seem to like this lineup more than most do, as I believe it’s pretty balanced.

Defense: They’re really solid in the field, as last year they finished 6th in the majors with a .988 fielding percentage and committed just 76 errors.  Hamilton can cover a ton of ground in CF, although he doesn’t have the arm that Shin-Soo Choo had.  Former Expo (say that while I can) Brandon Phillips is the star of this team defensively as he won his 4th gold glove last season.



7xkp9hnp9jq11e1zia4tdcqjh3. Pittsburgh Pirates

Some experts are expecting them to take a step back.  That is entirely possible.  But I think this club is going to build off the momentum of last season and be neck and neck with the Reds all year.  They might not improve, but I believe they’ll be in the wildcard hunt.  They have a lot of talented players who aren’t even close to their ceiling.

Pitching: The huge key here is Liriano.  Was last season just one last great season for a guy who at one time looked like he would be among the elite in baseball?  Or has he got his career back on track?  If he gives them 16 wins and a 3.02 ERA again then they look good.  Otherwise they’ll need Gerrit Cole to really step up which is a lot to ask from a 23 year old.  The rest of the staff is pretty questionable though, and what they really could use is Jameson Tallion emerging.  The bullpen was awesome last season.  Jason Grilli is a damn good closer, and Mark Melancon was lights out.

Hitting: Obviously they’re led by NL MVP Andrew McCutchen, and it wouldn’t shock me if he was even better.  He is more than capable of a 30/30 season.  Sterling Marte has the tools to be a great lead off man but he has to improve his OBP.  Prospect Gregory Polanco is close and might be on the opening day roster.  He is a 5 tool OF who Pirate fans are really excited about.  Overall they have a lot of power 1-6, and some pretty good speed with the aforementioned McCutchen and Marte.  They’ll need to be better than last season, but the talent is there to do it.

Defense: Despite having a stud in CF with McCutchen (gold glove winner in 2012), there pretty literally was no “D” in Pittsburgh last season.  The OF as a whole can cover a ton of ground, but the IF is pretty sketchy.  Neil Walker came up as a catcher, Alvarez has a great bat but isn’t real smooth in the field, and Jordy Mercer is a work in progress at SS.  Russell Martin is solid behind the plate, but overall they can make life pretty tough on their pitching staff.



61874. Milwaukee Brewers

Man I love this symbol.  I mean on this particular one they needed to shed the name of the club, but that is one of the best symbols in all of sports.  Ironically one of the worst things in sports is Ryan Braun and all eyes will be on him entering this season.  He’s had a great spring, but if he doesn’t produce at an elite level, Brewers fans will want him gone after last season’s mess.

Pitching: Yovani Gallardo does have some pretty great stuff.  But which guy will they get?  He was pretty bad in the first half last season, and great in the second half.  When he’s on, he’s a top of the rotation guy.  Kyle Lohse is a solid guy and might be their most consistent guy.  Ironic since the reason they got him so cheap was because he was so inconsistent during his career.  Not that Matt Garza is…but I like Garza for them as their number 3 guy.  Much like Gallardo, when he’s on he’s awesome.  I don’t want that from my number 1, but my number 3 can be that way.  The bullpen has been overhauled after a terrible 2013.

Hitting: Again the question has to be asked of which Braun will we see?  If he can get back to his MVP type numbers….and do it CLEAN….then all will be forgiven not just in Wisconsin but in that clubhouse as well.  He is the key to this team getting back to the top of the division.  You know what Carlos Gomez is going to give them, Aramis Ramirez is still a solid bat when healthy, and Jonathan Lucroy provides a lot of pop for a catcher.  They desperately need to upgrade at 1st though.  Lyle Overbay?  That didn’t work for the Jays in 2006, and it sure as hell isn’t going to work for Milwaukee 8 years later.

Defense: Well Carlos Gomez won the gold glove last season and it could be the first of many for him.  Ramirez was at one time pretty great defensively and perhaps doesn’t have a gold glove only because Scott Rolen was in his way in the NL all those years.  But they ranked last year as one of the worst defensive clubs in baseball committing an NL worst 114 errors and .981 fielding percentage.  This must be cleaned up.



54120819115. Chicago Cubs

The rebuild continues on the North side of Chicago as some of the patience seems to be wearing thin with Theo Epstein.  But they need to stick with it.  The guy is brilliant, he just needs time to get the pieces in place.  Once they are, they’ll land free agents and become a contender once again, and baseball is so much better when the Cubs are a contender.

Pitching: Samardzija gives them a lot of innings and a lot of K’s, but he gets rocked too much which is why they tried to move him this off season.  Travis Wood was a lot more reliable posting a very nice 3.11 ERA.  But it’s not pretty not just on the staff but what is coming.  None of their top prospects are pitchers.  And the pen might be worse than the staff, so it could be a long year for Cubs pitching.

Hitting: Can Anthony Rizzo take that next step and get his BA up to the .260-.270 range?  Will Starlin Castro simply grow up and start playing up to his massive potential?  If those things happen the lineup could be in decent shape.  But if those things don’t happen I don’t know where they’ll get more offense from.  Nate Schierholtz is a solid bat but I can’t see him exceeding last year’s performance.  Too many “if’s” in this lineup to expect big things from them.

Defense: With such a young team it should come as no surprise that they aren’t very good in the field.  Better than the Brewers, and pretty even with the Pirates, but that’s not an accomplishment.  Castro could be a gold glover, but again he needs to grow up especially with prospect Javier Baez coming for his job.



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MLB Season Preview – NL West


I had this as a 2 team race last season, but it was no race.  The Dodgers were the dominant team in the NL West by season’s end and even though PLENTY can change from now until September, that is how it looks as we enter the season.  The Giants are still ahead of the rest of the division in my mind but they must add some legitimate bats.  The D-Backs, Rocks and Padres look as though they’ll battle it out for 3rd in the West for at least another season.



61511. Los Angeles Dodgers

Of course as I write this, the Dodgers are already on pace for 162 wins after a 2-0 start.  Well I don’t know if they got a great bang for their buck last season, but they did get in the the NLCS and were the talk of baseball during the 2nd half of the season.  It’s good to see the Dodgers back on top.  Baseball is better when teams like the Dodgers are elite.  Now the trick is staying on top.

Pitching: One of the best staff’s in baseball.  Kershaw is just ridiculous, Grienke would be an ace on most other clubs, Hyun-Jin Ryu is a great number 3, Beckett and Haren are seasoned vets who both are still capable of 1 more big season.  Here’s the problem…injuries.  Chad Billingsly will be a huge add, but he’s not back until June and likely won’t be fully healthy until next season.  Kershaw, Ryu, Grienke and Beckett all enter the season either on the DL or questionable.  Long term they should be fine, but it is a concern.  The bullpen is ok, but could use some upgrades which they will without a doubt go get.  Kenley Jansen is a real good closer though.

Hitting: The big revelation last season was Puig.  Even though he’s only 23, I see him as the type of kid that will never fully learn discipline either at the plate or on the bases.  But he has so much talent that he will still be an elite player.  Matt Kemp will be ready to go soon, and unlike last year Hanley Ramirez is ready to go.  If they get full seasons out of those 2 it will be a huge lift to an already solid offensive team.  Not much to talk about here, 1-8 they’re pretty loaded.

Defense: Again I’ll start with Puig and his discipline or lack there of.  But that arm in RF is ridiculous.  If they were to start Eithier in RF over Puig, each starter will have won a gold glove.  Puig COULD, but it’s just a matter of weather he feels like doing it.  The IF isn’t pretty.  Even though Gonzalez has 3 gold gloves at 1st, Ramirez isn’t good at SS and they need to go with Dee Gordon at 2nd after Cuban rookie Alexander Guerrero was apparently a disaster at 2nd during spring training.  Tough to clean it up though when the bats are so good.



22962. San Francisco Giants

Well I had the Giants winning their 3rd title in 4 years last year, and they didn’t come close!  A shocking 3rd place finish in the NL West, 10 games below .500, everything that could have gone wrong, did go wrong.  But I’m not going to count this club out.  They have a great manager, great leadership, and are still in their prime.   

Pitching: It was all about their staff in winning the 2010 and 2012 World Series titles, but that staff as fallen off a bit.  Obviously Tim Lincecum isn’t what he was, but he wasn’t that guy in 2012.  They brought in Tim Hudson this off season and perhaps they can get one more good season out of him.  They brought back Tim Lincecum for 2 years, 35 million which most think is crazy, but perhaps they can still get something out of him.  Vogelsong is healthy and should be a lot better, and you know what Cain and Bumgarner will give them.  Sergio Romo is a dominant closer and their bullpen is great.  If all that wasn’t enough, their system is completely loaded with yet more arms on their way.

Hitting: They need more out of their bats for sure.  Buster Posey can only do so much and I don’t think bringing in Michael Morse is the answer.  I do think Brandon Belt is capable of giving them more power in the lineup.  It isn’t a bad lineup, but you can’t expect hitters to constantly deliver at the right time like they did in 2012.  They have the resources to bring in some legit help, and they need to pull the trigger on doing so at some point this season.

Defense: Around the IF this group is very solid defensively.  No gold gloves, nobody who stands out, but they’re just very fundamentally sound all over the diamond.  The OF however is a different story.  It’s a good thing that Angel Pagan covers a ton of ground in CF because neither Morse or Pence are very good out there.  If Morse is a question mark at the plate and terrible in LF it really makes you wonder why the Giants of all teams took the chance on him.



fh73oczerrqvptlk706emifth3. Arizona Diamondbacks

Maybe I’m an idiot….ok, I know I’m an idiot, but I seem to like this team a lot more than most do.  I think they can contend for a wildcard spot.  Yet I’ve seen the Sporting News pick them 5th, ESPN pick them 4th, and here I am saying 3rd with a legit chance to finish 2nd.  I think they’re a good overall team and I think Kirk Gibson does a good job managing.

Pitching: Not often do you start off talking about a team’s prospect, but Archie Bradley might be the top pitching prospect in baseball.  Keith Law of ESPN sees it that way.  And with Corbin done for the year, they may have to turn to Bradley sooner than expected.  Even if they don’t though, Wade Miley and Trevor Cahill may not be household names but Miley is solid and Cahill is a guy with a ton of talent.  If McCarthy can stay healthy…always a massive “IF”, they’ll be pretty good.  The bullpen is ok, middle of the pack last season but no arms that will intimidate opposing teams.

Hitting: It all starts with slugger Paul Goldschmidt.  The guy has become one of the elite bats in all of baseball and I like what they did brining in Mark Trumbo to give him some protection.  Martin Prado and Aaron Hill also give them real solid sticks and are both threats to hit over .300.  I don’t love the top of the order, but A.J. Pollack looks like he has some upside.  Having said that, I’m not sure why he’s leading off and not Gerardo Parra. 

Defense: Goldschmidt does it in the field as well as he won his first gold glove last season, as did Parra in RF.  One of the best defensive clubs in the NL last season with a .988 fielding percentage and only committing 75 errors.  Really Trumbo is the only question mark defensively and if you need to have one weak defensive player you want him at either 1st or LF.



ej4v6a8q5w5gegtf7ilqbhoz74. Colorado Rockies

Boooooo!  This is the only symbol they’ve ever had, I want something retro!  Well this team is right there with Arizona and San Diego as the after thoughts of this division.  But if they can get the pitching they might make some noise.  It’s not to the extreme that it was in the late 90’s, but it really is getting to be an old storyline with the Rockies.

Pitching: They made the big move this off season for lefty Brett Anderson who has trouble staying healthy.  But when he is healthy he is a number 1 so obviously he is the key to this staff.  De La Rosa and Chacin are really solid pitchers for them, but if Anderson can give them 150 innings then they’ll likely have the pitching they need.  The bullpen isn’t great, LaTroy Hawkins has never won a Cy Young but he did a great job mentoring the man.  Rex Brothers is a solid lefty, but they don’t have much other than that.

Hitting: Of course this team is led offensively by Tulowitzki, but it’s easily the 2nd best lineup in the division.  Gonzalez, Cuddyer, Rosario, and then of course Justin Morneau who finally got back to at least contributing and we will see if the Canadian can come all the way back this season in Denver.

Defense: Tulo leads them on the field as well with as he has 2 gold gloves and would likely have 4 or 5 if he weren’t in the same league as Jimmy Rollins.  Last year Gonzalez received the third gold glove of his career while Nolan Arenado got his first.  But for all that hardware, they’re really just ok defensively.  Middle of the pack in fielding percentage and committed 90 errors last season which isn’t bad, but they can definitely stand to improve on that number.



16ijawjyoq2m75gmdxhgdbwjk5. San Diego Padres  

The hitters grave yard known as PETCO Park will have a new look this season as they have changed the dimensions of the ballpark to make it a lot more hitter friendly.  Back in the steroid era you had to make your ballpark ridiculously difficult to hit in.  Welcome to 2014 San Diego!  I don’t know if they have the talent offensively to take advantage of this though.

Pitching: It might be just the pitchers that get hurt by this.  Andrew Cashner is nice, but he’s not an ace.  Ian Kennedy was better after coming over from Arizona, but still wasn’t anything special.  Oh and Jays fans tell me if this is a shock…Josh Johnson is hurt.  I do like lefty Eric Stults a lot though, he gave them 200 innings last season.  They’re deep in the rotation but I don’t like the front end.  Fences moved it could expose them badly over time.  They’re a lot better in the pen which has been this clubs staple for quite a few years now.  Street is a great closer, Joaquin Benoit was brought into replace Luke Gregorson, Stauffer and Thayer might give them more innings this season than Johnson!  

Hitting: Remains to be seen really.  Again, fences moved in and maybe it’ll improve some numbers.  Jedd Gyorko is a guy who should benefit a lot from this.  But only him and Will Venable had over 20 HR’s last season.  There are still 81 games played on the road.  Adrian Gonzalez was able to hit for power in that park so it can’t be used as the excuse for all that ail’s this team.  They have a real good leadoff man in Everth Cabrera, but overall the lineup just simply isn’t very good.

Defense: Only 83 errors on the season last year for this team.  The IF looks real good with Cabrera, former gold glover Chase Headley and Yonder Alonso is really smooth over at 1st.  The real surprise may have been Gyorko who had the fewest amount of errors by an NL 2B with just 4.  Venable is terrific in RF and no matter who starts in LF and CF they have guys like Denorfia, Maybin, and Quentin who can cover a ton of ground.



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Lost the Battle, Won the War



It sucks.  Flat out sucks.  I was messaging with Bobcats Captain Grant Baker for a bit after the game last night and I just felt sick for him.  Felt sick for the entire team.  I was fortunate enough to start doing the color (yes I use American spelling for you first time readers) commentary for their games back in January and frankly I sat in on one pre game interview with play by play man Shane Tomayer and didn’t really have anything to do with anyone on the team except for Grant and rookie forward River Beattie whom my sister and brother in law were billets for.  But nevertheless you get attached to a team when they go on a ride like this.  But even though it is now over, what an unbelievable run it was!


Whether it has been the Bobcats, the Blazers, or even the Lancers which I’m too young to have watched (don’t get to say that much anymore), this city hasn’t seen much quality Jr. A hockey over the years.  The Blazers had some pretty good years in the late 90’s/early 2000’s (as I hit on too many times during our broadcasts), they had a few years where they maybe would win a round, but nothing special.  The ONE season they had a team capable of winning the league happened to be the 99-2000 season, when Fort McMurray was hosting the RBC Cup and had bought…sorry, no backspace button….had BROUGHT in one of the best teams ever to play in the AJHL.  So I guess you could say this city has been snake bit when it comes to the Blazers/Bobcats.


It’s pretty tough to gain any traction when a team just seems to have 1 disappointment after another.  It finally looked like things had changed a few years ago when Brian Curran did a tremendous job here and was really the best coached we’ve had in Lloyd for a long time.  Curran had the Bobcats 3rd in the North and it looked as though they were about to go on a pretty good playoff run.  But just when it looked like things were turning, the team was swept in the first round and came close to being moved to Whitecourt.  Curran moved on to Drumheller, and even though the team was staying they were back to the bottom yet again.


Even after that scare of the team leaving, and now being basically community owned, it’s been tough to draw fans because quite frankly it doesn’t matter how anyone thinks the team will do, anyone from Lloyd just expects the team to never come close.  This season the team gets off to a very surprising start, maintains there spot in the top half of the North all season long, has maybe their best game of the regular season on Hockey Day in Canada in front of a packed house, yet games 1 and 2 against Whitecourt even though the crowds were solid, you could simply tell that people weren’t buying in.  Man did they ever start buying in….


I know I wrote all about it in my last piece on the team but game 4 in Whitecourt, trailing 2-0 in the 2nd to a dysfunctional but very talented Wolverines team, and they fight back to tie it.  Go down 3-2, tie it.  Go down 4-3 late in the 3rd of that game, and still down by that score with under 30 seconds to play.  Most teams don’t mean to quit in that situation, but you can’t help but get rushed, panicked, and frustrated.  They kept their heads though and guess who…Austin McDonald scored to tie it with just 10 seconds left and take it to OT where Taylor Mulder wasted no time ending things.


A winner take all game 5 is of course going to bring people out to the rink, but don’t think for a second the way they fought back in game 4 had nothing to do with it.  And they just kept building…oh hold on a second, I have to respond to Tyler King’s tweets as once again his picture of himself trying to look professional followed by his childish twitter fights are clogging up my timeline….ANYWAY, they just kept building momentum and this town really started to take notice this team wasn’t your normal Bobcats/Blazers team, they had something special going on.


The 99 team wasn’t as good as the 2000 team, but the 99 team came closer to going to the league final.  They were up 3-0 on the then St.Albert Saints with game 4 at home.  That team was led by Mark Hallem whom of course everyone who goes to the Civic knows because he’s the only one with his number retired.  But they were carried by mid season pickup Ray Fraser who had been with the Seattle Thunderbirds and was lights out for the Blazers.  He got hurt in game 4 of that series and everything simply fell apart from that point on.


So why bring that up…in the middle of talking about how great this year’s team was?  Well because this just had such a better route to game 7.  They go down 3-1 in this series and simply weren’t getting ANY breaks, especially in game 4 where they really controlled the game.  It would have been the easiest thing ever for this crew to pack it in.  It was already a successful season.  They were down 1-0 going into the 3rd and AGAIN they don’t die.  Fort Mac ties the game late, and AGAIN they don’t die.  Tanner Dunkle comes up huge in OT and they bring it home.


BjizFxjCMAA8zDjThere have been atmosphere’s as good as game 6 was at the Civic Centre, but not for a Jr. A hockey game.  And they didn’t let the fans down either.  For 60 minutes they played fantastic.  Chris Tai had a 32 save shutout and at the end of the broadcast I didn’t really even consider him for player of the game.  Wasn’t because he was in anyway bad, it was because while Fort Mac had 32 shots on goal, the Bobcats really gave them maybe 2 quality scoring chances.


If you tell someone at the start of the season that the Bobcats are going to game 7 of the North semi-final and the team is taking both a fan bus and a fan PLANE to the game and people all over town were gathering at each others homes to watch the game, simply saying you would be laughed out of the room doesn’t do that any kind of justice.  That would have been the equivalent of me telling you right now that the Oilers are trading Sam Gagner and Jeff Petry for Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty this off season.  If you thought I was serious what would your reaction be?  Exactly, yet the former actually happened.


Again, it sucks how it ended.  No power plays in game 7?  Brendan Saulnier wasn’t suspended after yet ANOTHER head shot on a player in this series?  It sounds like sour grapes to say things like “the refs cost us the game”, but it’s no secret with anyone who knows the league that  Fort Mac somehow magically gets the benefit of the calls a hell of a lot more often than not so I don’t blame anyone for saying that stuff.  But man alive does this team have nothing to hang their heads about.  They battled their asses off all season long.  A simply amazing coaching job by Gary Vanhereweghe.  I had been told prior to the season by former Blazer bench boss (and my brother in law, but that makes it sound less professional) Danny Haygarth “unreal hire, he’s a GREAT coach”, and that turned out to be an understatement.


Selfishly I have to take a minute in here to thank Shane Tomayer for having me join him on the broadcasts.  This is the last time we will be doing the broadcasts and it sucks because Shane has done both play by play and color for the games for a lot of years and he does a great job as I’m sure a lot of you have found out.  Don’t know why he wanted me to come in a wreck that….I was horribly rough at the start and by game 6 of the semi-final I was only below average, but I had such a blast doing the games!


But this is about the team and I don’t know how many of the boys, if any, will read this.  They’re setup to have some great years in the seasons to come, but this group will be known as the one that started it all.  Every single one of those kids bought into Vanhereweghe’s system and battled every single night.  Changing the culture is the hardest thing to do in sports, even in junior hockey where rosters are turned over dramatically and no team has more than a 1 or 2 year window to win.  Trust me though, there have been some pretty talented teams in this town who had little to no success at all.  This team changed the culture.  It was an unreal run, you got the city buzzing about the team, tough for the boys to be pumped about this right now but this was an insanely successful season, today this town is saluting you guys.


Crowd Salute


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WHL Playoff Preview


So I’m trying something new.  I would love to write more about junior hockey.  So what the hell?  I think it’s a bit of an underserved market…or at least as underserved as something could be in this era of loud mouths like your’s truly allowed to run their mouths via social media or blogs….anyway….I’ll take a crack at doing a WHL playoff preview.  Likely not going to do this round by round, just one big preview and we will see how respectable or flat out disgusting I am at discussing the dub.  So with that being said…here we go!


Eastern Conference




#1 Edmonton Oil Kings  vs #8 Prince Albert Raiders

After last night’s tilt in Red Deer it is now settled.  The Prince Albert Raiders will simply travel up highway 2 an hour and a half and take on the Edmonton Oil Kings.  The beast of the east to steal a nickname from the great Bam Bam Bigelow.  I don’t know if this is much of a reward for winning a play in game like the Raiders did as they’ll be in tough.  They do have a great PP (3rd in the league this season) led by Jets 1st rounder and 2014 Canadian World Junior D-man Josh Morrissey, and potential top 5 pick in the upcoming draft Leon Draisaitl.  Draisaitl finished 4th in league scoring with 105 points in the regular season and if he is on he will be tough to shutdown.  I’m guessing he will see a lot of Griffin Reinhart in this series.  I enlisted the services of an anonymous WHL scout to help me out for this piece, and he doesn’t seem to think the Raiders will pose much of a challenge.  I talked to him prior to the play in game last night and this is what he had to say: “Really doesn’t matter who Edmonton plays, they should hammer either P.A. or Red Deer”.  The fact is, the Oil Kings have high end NHL prospects leading the way up front (Curtis Lazar/Henrik Samuelsson/Mitch Moroz), on D (Reinhart) and in goal (Tristan Jarry).  Add to that, a lot of these kids have been to the Memorial Cup in 2012, and been to back to back WHL finals, so they have a huge experience edge in either matchup.  I do think though that P.A. has enough elements (great PP, star player, good coach in former Sens bench boss Cory Clouston) to grab a game at home in this series.

Edmonton sweeps




#2 Regina Pats vs #7 Brandon Wheat Kings

A nice season turned in by the Pats who have only won 1 playoff series in the last 11 years, and had only made the playoffs once in the last 5 seasons prior to this.  But they could be in tough against the Wheaties despite being the 7th seed.  WHL scout: “This is really interesting. Regina is missing some key players in Wapple and Dyson Stevenson. Brandon is fully healthy after losing 5 key guys for about 3 weeks. If Regina doesn’t get healthy I expect Brandon to take this in 6 games”.  Not what Pats fans want to hear.  And I’m going to pile on.  Even though this is a 2 vs 7, the Wheaties were only 8 points back in the standings.  The big advantage in this series is you have the Wheaties number 2 ranked PP against the Pats number 20 ranked PK.  So the Pats MUST keep this series 5 on 5, which won’t be easy…they finished 3rd in the league in PIM’s.  The Wheaties have a talented but erratic blueline.  If it is mostly played 5 on 5, perhaps Chandler Stephenson and Morgan Klimchuk can exploit it.  But in the end, I have to agree….

Brandon 4 games to 2




#3 Calgary Hitmen vs #6 Kootenay Ice

This will likely be the last chance Sam Reinhart has to win the scouts over and reclaim his spot atop the rankings heading into the June draft….on the ice anyway.  The Hitmen are just a lot deeper than the Ice are.  Greg Chase, Brady Brassart, Jake Virtanen and Adam Tambellini were all kids who registered over a point per game during the regular season.  I realize the Ice don’t just have Reinhart, but the production by Jaedon Descheneau and Luke Philip were in large part due to Reinhart.  In net neither team has an advantage as both the Hitmen’s Chris Driedger and the Ice MacKenzie Skapski have nearly identical G.A.A. and Sv%.  The special teams battle is definitely between Calgary’s 3rd ranked PK and Kootenay’s 4th ranked PP.  WHL scout: “Calgary on paper should win this easily but Kootenay is a very good team and well coached, but losing Tim Bozon will be too much for them I think. Calgary in 6”  The Ice are disciplined, finishing the season with the 3rd least amount of PIM’s in the regular season, but I don’t see that being a big advantage in this spot.  I actually think the Hitmen close this one out a little quicker.

Calgary 4 games to 1




#4 Medicine Hat vs #5 Swift Current Broncos

No big flashy names in this series, but just good solid teams top to bottom in what should be a long series.  The Broncos have a slight special teams advantage, but nothing dramatic.  Both teams have a 90 point scorer (Tigers Curtis Valk had 92 points, Broncos Graham Black had 97 points).  Both teams do a good job staying out of the box.  Both teams are solid between the pipes.  WHL scout: “The Hat has some balanced scoring and some solid D. Swifty is a tough team with a great goalie. If Swifty can stay out of the box they might have a shot at winning. Swifty in 7”.  I don’t disagree with the analysis of the series, but should it go down to a 7th game in the Hat, I like the home team.  There just isn’t much at all that separates these two squads.

Medicine Hat 4 games to 3



Western Conference




#1 Kelowna Rockets vs #8 Tri City Americans 

What a coaching job done this season by Rockets bench boss Ryan Huska.  It isn’t some secret that this guy is one of the top coaches in the dub, but the job he did this season was incredible leading the Rockets to a WHL best 118 points.  They’re a very balanced team.  Reclamation project and overager Myles Bell led the team in scoring with just 77 points.  Captain and Washington Capitals 3rd round steal Madison Bowey leads the way on the blueline.  Jordan Cooke is one of the top goaltenders in the league.  Solid special teams (9th on the PP, 1st on the PK).  Just an incredibly balanced and well coached group.  Both teams have good size and actually the Americans have a bit of and edge in this department.  They’ll try to wear down the Rockets and will need Eric Comrie to steal a few games to have any shot in this series.  I expect a low scoring series, but I don’t see the Americans winning a game.

Kelowna sweeps



#2 Portland Winterhawks vs #7 Vancouver Giants

The 3 time finalists and defending Ed Chynoweth Cup champs had yet another tremendous season and will start their defense against a very young Giants team from Vancouver.  Straight up, the Giants don’t come anywhere close to the fire power the Winterhawks posses.  Petan, Bjorkstrand, Pouliot, Dumba, Leipsic, Leier, De Leo, it is ridiculous.  No shock they had the top PP unit in the league this season, also 4th on the PK.  Head coach Mike Johnston will likely stick with Sean Burke’s kid Brendan for this series, but Corbin Boes has been equally great in net for Portland.  This series actually might be more of a mismatch than the Kelowna/Tri-Cities matchup.  Giants have one of the all time great WHL coaches in Don Hay, but he would have to work some absolutely incredible magic to even take this series 6.  I don’t think they win a game.

Portland sweeps




#3 Victoria Royals vs #6 Spokane Chiefs

This is a matchup of the team (the Royals) vs the star (Mitch Holmberg).  Holmberg lead the dub this season with 118 points.  So Royals head coach Dave Lowry’s game plan will be as elementary as it gets: stop Mitch Holmberg.  And he has the squad to do it.  Nothing flashy about the Royals.  Brandon McGee was the only point per game player for the Royals this season, with 67 points in 65 games.  It is a young team too, with 9 players who are eligible for either this year or next year’s draft.  The Chiefs lack size.  Their tallest kid up front is 6’4 Hudson Elynuik who is only 172 pounds and isn’t draft eligible until the 2016.  Only 2 kids up front are over 200 pounds.  That could be a lot of fun for Royals blueliner and Flames draft pick Keegan Kanzig (6’5, 242).  Maybe the Chiefs take a game once it gets back to Spokane and they’ll have last change and a chance to get Holmberg more favorable matchups, but I don’t see anything more than that.

Victoria 4 games to 1




#4 Seattle Thunderbirds vs #5 Everett Silvertips

While McDavid and American Jack Eichel are getting the love right now for the 2015 draft, another stud for that draft wears number 13 for the T-birds and that is Matt Barzal.  54 points in 59 games this season for the 16 year old who often draws comparisons to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.  But the T-birds are led by Ducks 2013 1st rounder Shea Theodore as the D-man led them in scoring with 79 points in just 70 games.  Eye popping stats for a D-man.  The Silvertips also got a 2013 1st round D-man having an impressive season for them in Sharks prospect Mirco Mueller.  They also have one of the leading scorers in the dub in Josh Winquist who registered 93 points in 67 games this season.  As you would expect out of a 4/5 matchup though, there isn’t a lot seperating these teams.  The Silvertips have more size, but the T-birds have some big boys themselves.  T-birds tendy Taran Kozun had a .910 save percentage, but his G.A.A. was 3.22.  Silvertips tendy Austin Lotz had a 2.52 G.A.A. but only a .905 save percentage.  Both teams PP and PK were middle of the pack this season.  So it’s tough.  But at the end of the day I’m going to look behind the bench and suggest Silvertips bench boss Kevin Constantine has more experience than T-birds coach Steve Konowalchuk.

Everett 4 games to 2



WHL Finals Predicition

As much as I don’t like to say this, I got the Hitmen in a slight upset over the Oil Kings in the East final.  I think they’ll be a little more hungry than the Oil Kings, and in the WHL finals I believe for a 4th straight year the Portland Winterhawks will represent the West.  It looks as though it’ll be Portland and Kelowna in the West and if that’s the case while the Rockets might be a bit better coached, the Winterhawks just have too much talent.  If it comes to that it would be a heck of a matchup as both teams are deep up front, the Winterhawks would have that great top pairing of Dumba and Pouliot, but 1-6 the Hitmen are pretty solid on the blueline.  I’ll take the Winterhawks in 6 to repeat as WHL champs and head back to the Memorial Cup.


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Off Season Champs



Congrats to the Denver Broncos for winning the Super Bowl.  No, not the 2013 Super Bowl in which they completely choked in.  No I’m talking of course about this one 6 weeks later that they have won.  Of course the problem with winning this title is that so many fans believe winning the off season Super Bowl means winning the Super Bowl.


How many years did the Washington Redskins do this?  Basically every year since Daniel Snyder has owned the team, and it has NEVER worked.  But fans and media would argue that the Broncos are far from what the Redskins ever were.  Great point.  The Redskins were hoping that signing a bunch of free agents would push them from the bottom to the top.  The Broncos are hoping that these signings push them from Super Bowl losers to Super Bowl winners.


But while that is the logic, it is very far from bullet proof.  It is pretty sexy for Broncos fans to see a D with Terrance Knighton, a healthy Von Miller, a healthy Chris Harris, Aqib Talib, T.J. Ward, and DeMarcus Ware so I understand their euphoria.  But I don’t know why so many intelligent NFL media and fans are anointing them already.  How many times we have seen it in the NFL where a team brings in a lot of talent and it just doesn’t gel?


I have to poke holes in this right away and maybe the most obvious hole is that both Ware and Ward have excelled in 3-4 D’s, where John Fox and Jack Del Rio run a 4-3.  Ware played in a 4-3 last season making the move from outside linebacker to defensive end….and had the worst season of his career.  Some of that without a doubt is injuries, but some of that is getting used to the scheme.


Another hole is who knows which Aqib Talib will show up in Denver?  He was great in New England, and stayed out of trouble.  But the Broncos organization doesn’t have the track record that the Pats have of taking problem childs in and getting them to clean up their act.  Will he revert back to his undisciplined ways that we seen in Tampa?  I don’t know the answer, but it is a pretty vital question.


And I have to say, out of these moves I’m not sure I get why they went out and got Emmanuel Sanders.  He fits, no doubt.  And he’ll put up great numbers in that offense with some guy named Peyton throwing him the ball.  And he’s a change in speed from Eric Decker, so I’m guessing that will make them tougher to game plan for…if that is possible.  If he plays 15 games, just 15 so he can have a slight injury, he’ll have a 1,000 yard season.  So I completely understand all of that, but the problem I have with it is…so would most guys playing with Manning, playing opposite Demaryius Thomas, with Wes Welker in the slot and Julius Thomas at tight end.  I just don’t understand why not save some cap space, or use that space on perhaps a guy like Ansante Samuel?  You can’t have too much depth at corner in this era of pass first, second, third, fourth, fifth.


Then of course you have Von Miller who had a roller coaster season to say the least.  Of course he started the season suspended for 6 games for violating the NFL’s drug policy.  It originally was a 4 game suspension but was increased to 6 after it was discovered that he tried to cheat the system by working with a specimen collector who accepted a fake sample.  So after that mess was out of the way he played a few games, played ok, and then broke his ankle in week 15 and was out for the playoffs.  Now some people don’t believe Miller was busted for a performance enhancing drug (he had tested positive in 2011 for marijuana), but he is now one failed test away from a year long suspension.  And then of course who knows how he will come back off the ankle injury.


Don’t get me wrong in all of this.  I flat out LOVE what the Broncos are doing.  John Elway sees that this group has a small window to win a championship and so he is going all in now.  And the biggest addition this team will see next season will be left tackle Ryan Clady who missed most of last season with a torn ACL.  Clady is an elite LT.  And they can still fill some holes in the draft.  I know some Broncos fans are clamouring for an inside linebacker with the 31st pick.  With how aggressive Elway has been it wouldn’t shock me if he were to trade up into the 15-20 range of this draft to snag Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley should he fall to that point in the draft.  He is a versatile player and would give defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio even more options in his schemes.  Another kid like this who I know some Broncos fans love is Ohio State’s Ryan Shazier whom they likely wouldn’t have to trade up to land.


But can we just cool it on handing these guys the Super Bowl?  You know the number 1 reason the Seattle Seahawks won the Super Bowl last year?  They stayed healthy.  And every year health is the most overlooked stat by NFL fans and media.  You need to stay healthy to have success and it is a lot more likely an older team like the Broncos have injury problems.  The Seahawks were 4th youngest team ever to win the Super Bowl, and they stayed healthy….no coincidence.  The Broncos should be one of the favorites without a doubt, but flashy names don’t equal flashy rings.


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