Pictured: Khris Davis
Source: Ezra Shaw / Getty Images North America

Houston Astros

Though their quest to repeat as World Series champions went unfulfilled in 2018, the Astros assembled their greatest starting rotation in franchise history and set a club record for regular-season wins.

In 2019, Houston’s proverbial window remains wide open, even after losing three starting pitchers. Offensive regression from a historic 2017 pace was offset by the incredible pitching the Astros received. Getting the heart of their once-potent lineup back to full health, while relying on their plethora of pitching prospects to fill a noticeable void, will key their quest for a third straight American League West title.

Los Angeles Angels

The Los Angeles Angels are entering a new era: After 19 seasons, Mike Scioscia will no longer be the manager. In 39 years before Scioscia became their manager, the Angels averaged 76.6 wins per full season, had only 12 winning seasons and made the playoffs three times (without winning a series). In 19 seasons under Scioscia, the Angels averaged 86.8 wins, had 12 winning seasons, made the playoffs seven times and won the franchise’s only World Series title (2002). The challenge now shifts to new manager Brad Ausmus to make the most out of a roster that includes baseball’s best player (Mike Trout) and its most unique (Shohei Ohtani) but probably not enough pitching to be more than a fringe contender.

Oakland Athletics

A year ago at this time, the A’s were just another rebuilding team. And then the games were played in earnest, and the team showed muscle and perseverance. A 97-win season and a strong second-place finish got them a Wild Card berth. And now, with the 2019 season upon us, Oakland is a team that still factors strongly in the American League West. 

The A’s are going to have to get their starting rotation together, or maybe not. Manager Bob Melvin looked positively adroit at using an “opener.” Last year it was done because of injuries that crippled the rotation, but in 2019 it will be no surprise if the A’s stay with the opener concept simply because they’ve shown they can make it work. And, yes, many of the same players who were injured last year are injured still, including some of the organization’s best arms.

The A’s will continue to lean on their power and defense. In the cases of third baseman Matt Chapman and first baseman Matt Olson, they have both qualities. In Khris Davis, they have a year-in, year-out contender for the homer title, and they have depth in power — eight players in double figures for homers last year and five with 20 or more bombs.

Three-quarters of the infield — shortstop Marcus Semien in addition to Chapman and Olson — were in Gold Glove range last year, and the outfield is in good shape, too, with Ramon Laureano and Stephen Piscotty. But there is no answer yet as to a real replacement for catcher Jonathan Lucroy.

Seattle Mariners

The Mariners’ postseason drought, which dates back to 2001 — the longest active streak without a playoff appearance for any of the four major sports in North America — will likely continue for another season. It’s an outcome they are willing to accept in hopes of more sustained success in the years to come. 

As part of a rebuild — GM Jerry Dipoto is calling it a “stepback” — the Mariners culled the roster of several players in their 30s who had expensive contracts or were in their final years of arbitration and headed for free agency. Beginning in early November, Dipoto made nine trades that removed nine contributing players from the Mariners’ 25-man roster, including top pitcher James Paxton, closer Edwin Diaz, shortstop Jean Segura, catcher Mike Zunino and second baseman Robinson Cano. Dipoto admits the team likely won’t match the 89 wins of last season, but will the Mariners even win 70 games in 2019?

Texas Rangers

Two years of going for it and another with the best intentions — if not the all-in financial expenditures — led the Texas Rangers to a point of no return last season. By June, the decision was made that the Rangers would be rebuilding, and 2019 will be more of the same from the team that won back-to-back American League West titles in 2015-16.

And the Rangers get to do it without Adrian Beltre.

Posted in MLB, Top Fantasy Picks

Pictured: Francisco Lindor
Source: Gregory Shamus / Getty Images North America

Chicago White Sox

The safest prediction to make for the White Sox is that 2019 cannot be as miserable as 2018, even if the franchise manages to lose 100 games again.

It couldn’t be. Not after relief pitcher Danny Farquhar nearly died in the dugout with a blood clot on his brain in April. And 2017 top draft pick Jake Burger ruptured his left Achilles tendon in spring training before tearing it a second time in May. And top pitching prospect Michael Kopech was shut down for Tommy John surgery in early September after making four impressive starts in the big leagues. And the team’s aggressive rebuilding push was stalled when other top prospects Zack Burdi, Dane Dunning, Alec Hansen, Micker Adolfo and Luis Robert lost significant development time to injuries. The Sox needed more than a talent infusion — they needed an exorcism.

Add that backdrop to a team that set the major league record for strikeouts and lost 27 of its first 36 games, and the Sox have to be better this season, especially with the additions of Ivan Nova to the starting rotation, Alex Colome to the bullpen, catcher James McCann and first baseman Yonder Alonso.

But the primary improvement must come from the team’s young veterans as well as the touted arrivals from the farm system. 

Cleveland Indians

The Indians will dip their big toe into the uncertain waters of rebuilding this season. It’s not a total rip-it-down-to-the-studs rebuild, but the signs are there. Besides that, they’ll try to do the hardest thing in baseball — win while turning over big chunks of the roster. Thank goodness for the AL Central.

Manager Terry Francona’s team has won three straight division titles and is favored to win a fourth in 2019, but the cast of characters has changed. Free agents Michael Brantley, Andrew Miller, Lonnie Chisenhall, Josh Donaldson and Rajai Davis are gone. Edwin Encarnacion, Yonder Alonso, Yan Gomes and Yandy Diaz were traded so the Indians could reduce the payroll.

What remains is a finely tuned starting rotation led by two-time Cy Young winner Corey Kluber and two of the best young position players in baseball — Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez. The bullpen has closer Brad Hand and little else. The outfield is an empty page of players such as Bradley Zimmer, Tyler Naquin and Leonys Martin coming off injuries and/or life-threatening illnesses. The final story in the green pasture of Progressive Field is a long way from being written.

The Indians have posted six straight winning seasons. In that time they’ve made four postseason appearances, won three division titles, one pennant and reached Game 7 of the World Series. A seventh consecutive winning season is in order, and so is another trip to the postseason, but this is the most vulnerable the Indians have been since they shocked baseball by winning 92 games in 2013 after losing 94 games the previous year. If a hot team emerges from the rubble of the rebuilding AL Central, they’ll have a chance to beat the Indians.

Detroit Tigers

Four years after their last playoff appearance and 20 months after the trade of Justin Verlander signaled a new direction, the Tigers are deep in the throes of a difficult rebuild as the 2019 season approaches, having nearly halved their payroll from the free-spending days of just a couple years ago. Longtime designated hitter Victor Martinez, who retired, is the latest glory-era cornerstone to disappear into the sunset, but the Tigers are still hamstrung by the $55 million — roughly half their projected 2019 payroll — they will pay this year to untradeable veterans Miguel Cabrera and Jordan Zimmermann. The meager pickups the Tigers made this winter — lefty Matt Moore, shortstop Jordy Mercer, righthander Tyson Ross — are best viewed as stopgaps or potential trade chips in July. On the heels of consecutive 98-loss seasons, this should be another tough year at Comerica Park.

Kansas City Royals

Speed and defense (along with a shutdown bullpen) were at the heart of the Kansas City Royals’ surge, culminating with the 2015 World Series championship. The club hasn’t finished above .500 in the three seasons since, matching the second-most losses in franchise history in 2018 (104). But GM Dayton Moore has made it clear that nothing has changed philosophically for Kansas City, which plays in a relatively cavernous ballpark and still covets athleticism — the fuel for its speed and defensive preference. The Royals largely sat on the sidelines during free agency, but the addition of former Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton — one of the league’s fastest players and best defenders — reinforced Moore’s vision for victory as the rebuild enters its second year.

Minnesota Twins

In almost every way imaginable, 2019 will mark the dawn of a new era in Minnesota. New manager Rocco Baldelli takes over a team missing the on-field and off-field cornerstones of its last half-decade. The front office tandem of Derek Falvey and Thad Levine has a hand-picked skipper, a new-age coaching staff and a roster they’ve begun to reshape in a manner more affirmatively characteristic of their approach to the game. 

Joe Mauer’s retirement and various expiring contracts left the team tremendous payroll flexibility, and they used it to collect players whose price tags made them undesirable to other teams, despite good talent. Betting on talent, in the absence of consistent production, will define 2019 and could set the direction of the franchise in years to come.

Posted in MLB, Top Fantasy Picks

Pictured: Mookie Betts
Source: Ezra Shaw / Getty Image North America

Baltimore Orioles

The teardown of the Orioles began in July as they spiraled deeper into last place in the American League East. The task of rebuilding was next on the docket and ensured that they wouldn’t contend again for at least a few years. There’s no timetable given and no reason to believe in a quick fix. Changes have ripped apart the organization like a tornado — a new head of baseball operations, new assistants, a new manager and new director of player development and director of scouting. The Orioles got a late start in making the hires and evaluating the talent on their roster, which doesn’t stack up to their division rivals. It isn’t close. They took a hard fall into last place with 115 losses, worst in the majors, and reaching triple-digit losses again is a realistic possibility.

Boston Red Sox

And now comes the hard part — when the encore doubles as the farewell tour. The Red Sox shocked baseball with a run of wire-to-wire dominance unwitnessed since the 1998 Yankees, winning 108 games and their fourth World Series title since 2004. They cleared every obstacle in their path, from Opening Day, when the bullpen imploded vs. Tampa, to Game 3 of the World Series, when a walk-off homer beat them in the 18th inning. They return basically their entire roster, but change is coming. In the next two years alone, free agency looms for standouts such as Chris Sale, J.D. Martinez, Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Rick Porcello and Jackie Bradley Jr. They’ll be motivated to go for broke, because this isn’t the start of a budding dynasty. It’s already the last waltz.

New York Yankees

This will give you an idea of the lofty expectations the Yankees face in 2019: Last year’s 100-win campaign, which ended when the Yanks gave the eventual champion Red Sox their toughest October series, is generally considered a flop in New York. Too harsh? Maybe. But the loaded Yankees are a World Series-or-bust team again, thanks to big-name stars such as Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, blooming youngsters like Gleyber Torres and a velocity-crazed bullpen. 

GM Brian Cashman re-signed Brett Gardner and CC Sabathia and bolstered the rotation by trading for Seattle lefty James Paxton and re-signing J.A. Happ. Paxton could be the October ace the Yankees crave, and he and Luis Severino should lead a rotation that just might be the key to toppling Boston in the brawny American League East. 

The Yankees, with all their young talent, are set up to contend for years, but they might have to go through Boston to get back to the World Series — which would be a nice way to celebrate the 10th anniversary of their last championship season.

Tampa Bay Rays

The Rays were quite pleased to win 90 games in a 2018 season that started brutally bad and included a string of key injuries that forced them to employ some innovative strategy.

But they were far from satisfied.

Team officials started talking that way right from the start of the offseason, plotting to be aggressive and take advantage of some rare financial flexibility to do so at a higher price point. And they showed they were serious about making the most of their window to contend, working an early November trade to acquire catcher Mike Zunino in a sell-high deal for outfielder Mallex Smith in the first in a series of moves that may continue up until Opening Day.

By Christmas, the Rays had let veteran closer Sergio Romo and outfielder Carlos Gomez become free agents, DFA’d leading home run hitter C.J. Cron (getting only the $50,000 waiver fee), signed free agent starter Charlie Morton to a two-year, $30 million deal, swapped supposed cornerstone first baseman Jake Bauers for hard-hitting Yandy Diaz and traded three minor league pitchers in a deal that netted reliever Emilio Pagan (plus a draft pick).

Rather than seeking to plug specific holes, senior VP Chaim Bloom said their approach was more about saying, “Okay, we have this group now that did what they did last year, that we feel strongly about their futures; how can we help support that group to put them in the best position to do what we didn’t do this past year, which is pop champagne and get to the postseason?” 

Toronto Blue Jays

The Toronto Blue Jays head into the new season firmly fixated on building for the future after definitively closing their previous competitive window during a miserable 2018. At the transition’s forefront is top prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who tore through Double-A and Triple-A while earning wide acclaim as the best prospect in baseball. Guerrero, who will be 20 on Opening Day, is the first such franchise-altering talent acquired and developed internally since Carlos Delgado, and for the team to avoid an extended period of pain, he’ll need to hit the ground running after Josh Donaldson became the latest star slugger to depart the club. Once called up, likely after his free agency has been pushed back a year, Guerrero will arrive to find a new manager in Charlie Montoyo and a mostly new coaching staff. A return to contention hinges on how the Blue Jays manage to fill in around their budding star, as there’s very little certainty on the roster beyond him. 

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Posted in MLB, Top Fantasy Picks

MLB Wild Card Games

Twins vs Yankees Preview

The New York Yankees have traditionally dominated the Minnesota Twins in the postseason and hope to continue that trend when the teams meet Tuesday night (8 p.m. ET on ESPN) in the American League Wild Card Game at Yankee Stadium. Want to be part of this wild card game, go to FanPicks and enter this contest!!!

New York defeated Minnesota in the AL Division Series in 2003, 2004, 2009 and 2010, claiming 12 of 14 contests in that span.  This encounter will be the first taste of October for the Yankees’ “Baby Bombers,” putting MVP candidate Aaron Judge – who led the AL in homers (52) and walks (127) – on a big stage in the Bronx that has played host to many legends.

The Twins authored one of the great turnarounds in baseball history by going from 59 victories in 2016 to 85 this year, but must overcome the pressure of past postseason failures, having lost 12 straight playoff games and 19 of their last 21 dating to the 2002 ALCS. Ervin Santana, who is 0-5 with a 6.43 ERA in six career starts at Yankee Stadium, gets the start for Minnesota opposite New York ace Luis Severino.

PITCHING MATCHUP:

Twins RH Ervin Santana (16-8, 3.28 ERA) vs. Yankees RH Luis Severino (14-6, 2.98)

Minnesota Twins

Santana tied Cleveland’s Corey Kluber, the AL Cy Young Award favorite, for most shutouts (three) and complete games (five) in the AL in an All-Star campaign in which he posted the second-lowest ERA of his 13-year-career. The 34-year-old finished the regular season with three straight road starts, including a tough loss at Yankee Stadium on September 18 in which he allowed two runs and seven hits in 5 2/3 innings. Judge went deep in that one against Santana, who owns a 5.66 ERA in 20 career starts versus New York — his highest mark against an AL team.

New York Yankees

Severino finished his breakout regular season by going 3-0 with a 2.10 ERA in five September starts, during which he allowed 15 hits and struck out 38 in 30 dominant innings. The one outliner in that stretch was a three-inning, three-run outing against Minnesota on September 20, when the 23-year-old was pulled following a 46-pitch third inning. That was the only career meeting with the Twins for Severino, who was 8-5 with a 3.71 ERA at home this year.

Rockies vs Diamondbacks Preview

Two teams make their long-awaited return to the postseason when the Colorado Rockies visit the Arizona Diamondbacks for a battle of National League West rivals in the NL Wild Card Game on Wednesday night (8 p.m. ET on TBS). If you want to make your mark during mlb post-season action, enter this wild card game contest featured at FanPicks.com.

The Diamondbacks are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2011 and had an 11-8 record this year against the Rockies, who make their first postseason appearance since 2009. Arizona went 52-29 at Chase Field this year and boast a powerful middle of the lineup as J.D. Martinez launched 29 homers in 62 games after being acquired from Detroit while Paul Goldschmidt knocked in 120 runs, but the first baseman finished the regular season by going 0-for-17.

Colorado had to battle its way into the playoffs, edging Milwaukee by one game for the final spot, but led the NL in runs (824) while featuring the NL batting champ Charlie Blackmon (.331), the major league runner up in RBIs Nolan Arenado (130) and a red-hot Carlos Gonzalez, who was 9-for-15 in his last four games with five extra-base hits. Arizona’s starting pitcher Zack Greinke has given up five home runs in 42 at-bats to Gonzalez in his career but is 13-1 with a 2.87 ERA at home in 2017, while the Rockies will go with fellow hard-throwing righty Jon Gray, who finished the season with four straight wins – one of them against the Diamondbacks.

PITCHING MATCHUP:

Rockies RH Jon Gray (10-4, 3.67 ERA) vs. Diamondbacks RH Zack Greinke (17-7, 3.20)

Colorado Rockies

Gray became a key part of the rotation after the All-Star break while going 8-4 with a 3.65 ERA over 15 starts, and allowed seven runs across 30 innings in his last five outings. The 25-year-old Oklahoma native also struck out 10 to win at Arizona on June 30 and is 2-2 with a 4.75 ERA lifetime versus the Diamondbacks. Martinez is 2-for-6 with a pair of homers and David Peralta 6-for-13 with a triple against Gray, who has 112 strikeouts in 110 1/3 innings in 2017.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Greinke reached 17 victories for the third time in four seasons, but struggled in his last home start against Miami on September 22 when he permitted eight runs over four innings. The 33-year-old Orlando native, who ended the regular season by limiting Kansas City to two runs over four innings Friday, is 9-5 lifetime against Colorado after going 2-1 with a 3.41 ERA in five outings this season. Mark Reynolds and Trevor Story have homered four times apiece against Greinke.

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Posted in MLB

American League Division Series

Red Sox vs Indians Game 1

Boston’s David Ortiz makes his last playoff run and starts it against a team managed by Terry Francona, who helped guide Ortiz and the Red Sox to World Series titles in 2004 and 2007. Francona must find a way to work around Ortiz with a pitching staff at less-than full strength when the Cleveland Indians host Boston in Game 1 of the American League Division Series on Thursday (Enter Contests).

About the Red Sox

The Red Sox had a chance to earn homefield advantage throughout the playoffs but closed with five losses in the last six games to drop into third place and make it necessary to travel to Cleveland for Game 1. “Big Papi” went 3-for-20 with one extra-base hit in those six games while being showered with tributes, but the bigger issue for Boston was closer Craig Kimbrel suffering the loss in two of those games and issuing six walks in two total innings over his three appearances. Ortiz (38 home runs, 127 RBIs), Mookie Betts (31, 113) and Hanley Ramirez (30, 111) became the first trio in franchise history to reach 30 homers and 100 RBIs in the same season. The Red Sox took the season series 4-2, winning two of three in Cleveland.

Rick Porcello emerged as an AL Cy Young candidate in the second half and went 8-1 over his final 11 starts, yielding three or fewer earned runs in each of those outings. The New Jersey native had a string of 11 straight starts completing at least seven innings come to an end in his last two starts as he surrendered a total of six runs and 16 hits in 12 1/3 innings against Tampa Bay and Toronto. Porcello earned a home win over Cleveland on May 22 and is 10-4 with a 3.35 ERA in 22 career starts against the Indians.

About the Indians

The Indians’ pitching issues have more to do with health as Carlos Carrasco (fractured finger) will miss the playoffs, Danny Salazar (forearm) is limited to the bullpen and Cy Young candidate Corey Kluber (quad) starts Game 2 on 10 days’ rest. Shortstop Francisco Lindor batted .233 after Sept. 1 and was 6-for-23 against Boston this season.

Trevor Bauer (12-8, 4.26) will get the start. He might have slotted fourth in a fully healthy Cleveland rotation. The right-hander struggled down the stretch with a 7.20 ERA in his last five starts. The lone quality start in that bunch came Saturday, when the UCLA product held Kansas City to three runs on six hits and two walks while striking out nine in six innings. Bauer faced Boston twice this season and allowed a total of six runs with 10 hits in six innings of work.

Posted in MLB

Boston Red Sox Fantasy Baseball Projection 2016

FanPicks is getting ready for the upcoming 2016 MLB season with team’s preview and daily fantasy baseball contests. Set your timer for April 3rd opening day. With over a million dollars to win this MLB season at FanPicks, it’s time for you to register right now, right here! Time for the Boston Red Sox Fantasy Baseball Projection:

Boston Red Sox Fantasy Baseball Projection

Year after year, the Boston Red Sox are a team vying for the World Series and nothing else. So when the team falls at the bottom of their division for the past two years, things are bound to change. Things were made very clear when owner John Henry opened up his wallet to lure David Price. Price signed the most lucrative contract by a MLB pitcher ever. Can his arrival help the proud city of Boston get back to the top like they did three years ago, when they were crown 2013 World Series champion?

Players to watch:

  • David Price
  • David Ortiz
  • Mookie Betts

It will be interesting to see how Price can deal with the pressure of improving Boston’s rotation, especially after the fact that lefties are usually struggling at Fenway Park. But not him, he’s been solid throughout his career there with a 1.95 ERA in 11 starts, while holding Red Sox hitters to an .186/261/.289 slash line.

The 40 years-old Ortiz doesn’t act a day his age, he keeps on slugging the ball and leading the charge in Boston. He finished the 2015 season with 37 homers and 108 RBI’s. With the technology to keep more-aged players in good condition nowadays, it would not be surprising to see the same kind of numbers from him this season. “Big Papy” also announced that this would be his final season, so it’s no secret that he categorize as a sentimental fantasy pick.

Mookie Betts has shown signs of greatness in the latter part of the 2015 season. He had a batting average of .311 after the All-Star game, last year. The 23 years-old has the skill sets to become a franchise cornerstone in the Red Sox organization for years to come.

The Boston Red Sox have the commodity of turning their success around in a single season. Never expect a rebuilding year with them, they’re always a treat of taking home the big honors.

Posted in MLB

Fantasy Baseball Chicago White Sox Projection 2016

For the upcoming 2016 Major League Baseball season, FanPicks take a look at every single team and what are their expectations for the upcoming year. The Chicago White Sox stayed busy this winter, acquiring several veteran to fill offseason needs. They’ve added last year’s home run derby winner Todd Frazier, 2007 National League MVP Jimmy Rollins and 2-time American League Triple leader Austin Jackson. While all those new players in the town of South Side Chicago are upgrading the team, it’s some of the returning players that will lead them to contention. Here is FanPicks Fantasy Baseball Chicago White Sox Projection 2016 :

Fantasy Baseball Chicago White Sox Projection 2016

Player to watch:

  • SP Chris Sale
  • 1B Jose Abreu
  • OF Adam Eaton

Chris Sale, who will turn 27 years-old when the season starts, his bound to upgrade his statistics in 2016. He led the American League in strikeouts, last season. What’s even more impressive is that he won 8 of his first twelve decisions despite missing several week of spring training because of a foot injury. The moment he most shined last year was in June, striking out 75 in 44 innings of work. He finished the campaign losing once in his last five decision.

Abreu became the second player in MLB history to collect 30 homers and a 100 RBI’s in his first two season in the big leagues. The first one was a certain Albert Pujols. The Puerto Rcan should also see more fastball coming his way with the arrival of fellow slugger Todd Frazier, batting behind him in the lineup. Chicago is surely excited to see that combo in action.

The Sox leadoff hitter excelled during the latter part of the 2015 season, posting an on-base percentage of .418, hitting eight of his 14 home runs and driving in 38 runs after the All-Star game. He has set career highs in runs scored, with 98, and stolen bases, with 18, by the end of the year.

For a team that finished last in the American League for home runs swung last year (inside a hitter friendly park for that matter), there was a room for improvement in that department coming into the season. Brett Lawrie and Todd Frazier should provide the help needed to support Jose Abreu at-bats. As for the pitching department, it looks solid with the trio of Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and Carlos Rodon.

Posted in MLB