At the beginning of Spring Training, I’m so completely grateful for the return of baseball. But two weeks later and I’m like “F this … give me some real baseball.”
To be fair, I don’t remember feeling that way back in 2015 and 2016. Back then, there were more positional battles to iron out, so performances mattered a little more, and so many top prospects to watch. In that respect, the recent Nico Hoerner infusion has rekindled my excitement a bit … but I’m still ready for the real stuff.
- MLB.com has a list of the six toughest clubs to project in 2019 and to my surprise, the Chicago Cubs are not the NL Central’s representatives … which I’m not sure is either a good or bad thing. Instead, it’s the Brewers representing thee division, thanks to questions stemming from a starting rotation with a lot of questions – just like last year. And on top of that, MLB.com rightfully points out that even with solid campaigns in 2019, guys like Christian Yelich, Lorenzo Cain, and Josh Hader are unlikely to repeat their performances. I think that’s actually a fair assessment – and for some clarity, I think you could arguably lump Javy Baez into this group, as well.
- I suppose the Cubs have plenty of questions, too, but more candidates for positive regression/growth (Kris Bryant, Willson Contreras, Albert Almora, Ian Happ, Yu Darvish, Tyler Chatwood, Jose Quintana, Kyle Schwarber, Jason Heyward, Carl Edwards Jr.) than they do negative regression/aging (Javy Baez, Jon Lester, Cole Hamels). Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Hendricks don’t really fit in either group – they’re just too consistent (he says hopefully while knocking on wood).
- Projecting the Cubs lineup is obviously a fool’s errand, given how frequently people change positions, let alone Joe Maddon’s revolving batting orders, but MLB.com gave it their best shot with the Cubs (and every other team in the league). Unfortunately, although he’ll probably lead off against traditional lefties, Albert Almora is probably not going to be the everyday leadoff hitter this season as MLB guesses (I don’t even think he’ll get the most chances there). Indeed, I think Ian Happ has at least as much of a shot at leading off and just playing more in general than Almora, especially until Almora proves his first-half struggles against righties and second-half struggles against everyone was just a fluke.
- Wouldn’t that be nice, though?
- I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Ben Zobrist and Daniel Descalso hit leadoff, either. And I’m sure, at some point, Rizzo will get his go at it again, but maybe only if he’s struggling and/or the lineup isn’t clicking.
- Spring Training stats don’t matter and this is a small sample, but Chris Archer has been impressive here in the early going: eight strikeouts in five scoreless innings. It’s easy to forget about the Pirates, and Archer, for that matter, but if he’s as good as he can be, that starting staff could be an issue. And from the sounds of it, he’s feeling good: “I try not to get too caught up in [good results],” Archer said. “It’s nice when you get them. But yeah, I feel great. The biggest thing for me is health. Whenever I don’t have to be tentative, I don’t have to be passive because my body, there’s an ailment, I’m happy.” Archer didn’t have a great run with the Pirates down the 2018 stretch, but he did hold the Cubs to six scoreless innings with nine strikeouts.
- Then again, at the end of September, I probably could’ve struck out nine Cubs over six scoreless …
- The Cardinals bullpen this season might be pretty devastating. Think about it, there’s the obvious suspects: Andrew Miller, Jordan Hicks, and Dakota Hudson, but that group might also get Carlos Martinez, who’s not ready for the rotation yet, plus Alex Reyes and John Gant, who also appear to be preparing as relievers this Spring.
- UPDATE: Before I clicked publish, Cardinals Manager Mike Shildt confirmed Reyes’ position:
Mike Shildt confirms that Alex Reyes is competing for a spot in the #STLCards opening day bullpen, not rotation.
— Jenifer Langosch (@LangoschMLB) March 12, 2019
- Anyway, all three of those guys are talented starters and could be even more effective as relievers. Obviously, the Cardinals would prefer the former, but the way bullpens are used in today’s game … well.
- Speaking of which, Andrew Miller is feeling good both on the mound and with respect to his health: “My recovery, my velocity, my repeatability in my mechanics have been good, so I’m happy with it. I’m not having to get any sort of special treatments.”
- The 2018 AL Cy Young Award winner, Blake Snell, has thrown just four innings this Spring and we’re just 2.5 weeks away from Opening Day. But according to the man, himself, he’ll be ready: “I’m where I need to be,'” Snell said via The Tampa Bay Times. “I just feel me and (pitching coach Kyle Snyder) have a set plan and it’s working. And it’s what’s best for me. People are probably like, why don’t you go three-four innings, but that’s not where I’m at. I need to be ready to go for opening day. Just be ready for that day. How we did that, it’s for us to decide.”
- I am surprised by how few innings Snell has thrown to this point, but if he’s feeling good and looks this good …
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) March 11, 2019
- … maybe he will be ready.
- On the contrary, Braves starter Mike Foltynewicz, who broke out in a big way last season (2.85 ERA, 3.37 FIP, 3.9 WAR) and is crucial to the Braves chances has already been ruled out for Opening Day due to elbow soreness.
- ESPN.com has begun ranking MLB’s top 100 players, starting first with the back 50. We’ll take a deeper look into the rankings when the full list is out, but with Jon Lester (No. 97) and Willson Contreras (No. 92) already making an appearance, I’m guessing the Cubs will end up with at least six players on the final list (Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Javy Baez, Kyle Hendricks).
- Also at ESPN, David Schoenfield tries to find likely landing spots for Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel, but as expected, neither player is mocked to the Cubs in any capacity.
- This is just a cool visual:
— Daren Willman (@darenw) March 12, 2019
- Reminder, Max Scherzer has been very, very good:
Max Scherzer led @MLB in strikeouts.
Max Scherzer led MLB in complete games.
Max Scherzer led MLB in shutouts.
Max Scherzer led the NL in WHIP.
Max Scherzer led the NL in SO/9.
Max Scherzer led the NL in SO/BB.
— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) March 12, 2019
- If you’re a fan of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” this is going to make you belly-laugh:
— Cut4 (@Cut4) March 12, 2019