Around The League (4/14-4/15)

:bluejays: 10-2, Haven take care of business against Baltimore, New York and Tampa. The pitching staff has been brilliant with Gilmartin and Lincecum starting 5-0. Addition of Chapman to rotation has worked so far, easing pain of losing Lester. Now can someone wake up Ryan Nash & Maikel Franco? One thing to watch: the 9th inning – after struggling last season, Kimbrel is off to another slow start.
:redsox: 8-3, The Sox lead the AL in SLG% & OPS. The early season surprise is Kenny Gentry who is hitting .457/.525/.714, going 16-of-35 to start the season. Seiya Suzuki looks more comfortable in year 2 having already hit 4 homers. Newcomer Robert Paullus has done a good job in the 9th inning to shut the door on games. Gerrit Cole will need to be better.11 of their next 14 come against MIN/TOR. Might we see the team’s top prospect Roberto Muniz this season — Logan Allen also waiting patiently at AAA.
:rays: 5-7, a team that has yet to find its groove on the road, going just 1-5 away from Tampa. After a good spring, rookie Nathan DeRemer has been fantastic to start the season. Behind him though has been super slow starts from promising young players in Kelenic and Cruz. Most disappointing though has to be the starts of Gary Griffith and Hunter Johnson who are 1-4, having allowed 24 ER in 6 GS. While Bobby Witt has tons of eyes on him at AAA, do not sleep on the abundance of talented young arms waiting in the wings at AA & AAA, including 24 y/o Tyler Dyson who could make an impact sooner rather than later.
:orioles: 2-9, 2-0 on April 12th, 0-9 the rest of the year…1-6 in one-run games tells you all you need to know about the O’s. Young arms Kahnke, Ferguson, and Russell have been good, while Hector Hernandez and Sixto have not been. Keep an eye on AAA starter and O’s top prospect Seaver Sheets to get a shot later this season. With Detmer’s struggles, could the team be enticed to move Tatum to the OF and give Raul Gonzalez a call-up and time at DH?
:yankees: 2-11, The Yankees have allowed 95 runs…29 more than the next closest team, 41 runs above the AL average. With a minor league system that ranks 27th, there is no quick fix to the problems at hand.

:royals: 8-4, Unlike the O’s, the Royals have been good in tight games, holding a 4-1 record in one-run games. Only Toronto has allowed fewer runs than KC. After a disappointing first two seasons in the bigs, Casey Mize has turned a corner here early in 2022. Mize is 2-0, with a FIP of 2.49, over two runs lower than his career average. The retooled bullpen has done what they had hoped and has helped Henry Lockwood pitch better in a different role coming out earlier in less pressure packed situations. The team has only hit 8 homers, none of which have come from Kody Clemens, something that has left the staff confused, but hopeful that he is due to break out soon. AAA Prospect Kevin Knaust has struck out 15, while walking just 1 in 14 2/3 AAA IP this season.
:twins: 7-5, After splitting a 4-game set with Seattle, the Twins lost a pair at home to the Dodgers. Kaleb Cowart has not clicked quite yet in the lineup, but the top 3 of Lopez, Gonzalez, and Copeland remain as good as any. The 7-8-9 of part of the order is alarming with Yelich/Ray, Wilson, and Johnston all hitting below .235. 2021 was a breakthrough for Nathan Kirby, but 2022 has looked like his poorer 2019 and 2020 seasons. The team ERA sits 9th, something that could keep the Twins out of the AL’s top tier of teams later in the season.
:whitesox: 4-7, The record is 4-7, but perhaps that comes with a grain of salt. A team that has been without Bill Black since Opening Day, Roberto Torres more recently, and a team that has played KC/MIN/SEA (23-13). While Nick Allen’s sub-.200 bat might be expected, the .114 start from Byron Buxton has been a bigger concern. Yasiel Puig is the best hitting OF’er to start the season, but his success has kept Tyler Hill’s AB’s limited. On the mound, there has been a lack of consistency. Bill Hauck is again dominating lefties (.179/.258/..429), but struggling mightily against righties (.348/.375/.522). Some talk of a “hot seat” situation for their manager brings up past memories having run through a long list of short tenured managers in the franchise’s past.
:tigers: 4-9, Another team not winning close games, the Tigers are 1-6 in one-run games. While their pitchers have an AL best 141 strikeouts, they’ve allowed the second most hits 120 and 3rd most runs (61). The defense is bad, very, very, very bad. Opponents have stolen 14 of 15 on the base paths, while starting pitchers are watching ball after ball find a spot in the field. Matthew Liberatore’s BABIP has gone from .247 last year to .341 this season, Albert Suarez from .302 to .455, and Ronnie Kandillas .323 to .500. While that doesn’t seem sustainable at all, it has plagued the Tigers to start the year and put their pitching coach on the hot seat. Jake Venables has shown early improvements at AAA which could push his timeline up to take over in LF up a month or two.
:cleveland_guardians: 3-9, Stephen Strasburg has been good in each of his starts, yet sits at 0-3. While Chris Betts and Cade Cahill are hitting, few else are. It leaves a team in transition. In a long rumored financial tough spot, could it lead to Cleveland being an active seller come June and July? Cade Cahill is set to enter his final year of arbitration while Chris Betts, Mark McCain, and Rod Swift each have just two more years after 2021. One piece that could help free up money would be Strasburg, an arm that many contenders would enjoy adding to their staff. One exciting addition to Cleveland which some believe should come soon would be the promotion of Jazz Chisholm hte 24 y/o at AAA who appears ready for a shot in the bigs

:astros: 9-3, After a 6-0 start sweeping the Phillies and Yankees, Houston has entered perhaps one of the most difficult stretches of any schedule this season, going 3-3 with the Angels & D-Backs and with its 15 of their next 19 games coming against the Angels, Jays, and Mariners — only a brief break against the 8-4 Rangers. The ‘Stros are lead the AL in team batting average and OBP despite newcomer Alex Bregman not firing on all cylinders and catcher Joey Bart struggling to the tune of a .176 average. MLB Pro saw what Fernando Tatis Jr. is capable of with his 3-homer performance last night. Will Rainey has been used as a 2-inning opener in each of his 3 starts, will that tire bullpen arms as the season goes along? The duo of Davila and Lamb have pressure to get going. Garrett Crochet is coming off of a tough debut at AAA, but could make the big league squad later this year.
:mariners: 8-4, Seattle is 8-4, but with the the 10th best AL team ERA to start the year, shocking. Hultzen is off to another brilliant start, but Hooper was shown control struggles early, while Mark Appel has allowed 23 hits in 18 innings. Do they have the pieces to fix the bullpen? Can prospect Roger Willis improve his control at AA and make an appearance later this season? Matthew Thompson does not have many innings at AA, but continues to be highly-regarded by scouts league-wide, someone who also could make an impact this season.
:rangers: 8-4, After dropping 2 of 3 in Miami, Texas bounced back by winning a series in Toronto and then taking a pair at home from Colorado. While they have only scored 46 runs, they have allowed the 2nd fewest in the AL (43), thanks in part to the top bullpen ERA. Since being acquired last season from Boston, Trent Higginbotham has been a terrific piece out of the pen. Zack Burdi has picked up where he left off last year to form a formidable back end of the bullpen. Offensive problems do bring worries. They rank 7th in BA & OBP and 12th in SLG%, with the 3-4-5 not providing any help. Some scouts wonder if 2019 1st round pick Riley Greene could have a meteoric rise up the system this season. While still 21, Greene was terrific in the WDL and is off to a blistering start in the minors.
:angels: 7-5, A 3-3 start with no production from Kaleb Cowart replacement Luken Baker sent the Angels panicking. After a very, very quiet off-season, the Angels made the decision to bring in Carlos Romero and J.D. Martinez post Opening Day. With Baker demoted, it appears as though Buster Posey will be manning first base more than predicted. Is this a move that might lead them to the Angels regretting the money they gave Posey? Rookie Austin Tait has shown his sweet swing hitting .422 early, but his lack of patience (0 walks) still brings worry for long lasting MLB level success. The surprise in LA early has been the starters performing better than the bullpen, especially with the lack of any early season performance from Kyle Funkhouser. Can Paul Erickson last in the rotation all year or will they be forced to move him back to the bullpen? The pair of Gleyber Torres and Dansby Swanson continue to fight over the starting SS job, but is either a legitimate option longterm?
:athletics: 7-6, Oakland sits above .500 as well at 7-6. In the midst of a 10-game roadie, the A’s are 3-3 heading into tonight’s finale in Tampa. John Larson’s perfect game was just one of two fantastic Larson starts thus far. No one else in the rotation has an ERA below 5 at the moment. With the trio of Baz, Pardinho, and Winn waiting not far off, reinforcements could be on the way later this season. Gregg Faustini’s average sits just below .300, but his walk rate sitting at 2.1% needs to grow, while his K rate at 31.2% is up from 27% a season ago. The early season gift has been the play of Cam Randall, the 23 y/o 1B who has a team best 3 homers. Known for his bat, Randall’s growth gives Oakland another middle of the order power bat for the future. With Groshans, Lofton, and Musgrave all near MLB ready as well, Oakland’s youth movement is bringing lots of talent. Will they remain patient?

:nationals3: 7-5, The Nats are tied with the Mets at 7-5 after taking 2 of 3 in Atlanta. The season has come with trials and tribulations as Mark Davies (dead arm) and Nick Pickett (tendinitis) each have landed on the IL. While Ed Reith has been up and down, Jackson Kowar has given 21 marvelous innings, striking out 17 and walking a mere pair. The 25 y/o rookie brings plenty of firepower to a quality rotation. After starting the year without issue, Arodys Vizcaino has been hit hard in each of his last two outings. Offensively, the lack of production from Ed Palmer stands out like a sore thumb. Palmer is hitting .103, going 3-of-29, without an XBH thus far. He has been rescued somewhat by his 8 drawn walks. Free-agent addition Cesar Lopez has 6 early homers and is leading the way. For success all season long, Palmer, Anthony Rendon, and Rymer Liriano must get going. If the offensive struggles continue, keep an eye on the lauded Matthew Grace or Mark Blalock to be given a chance.
:mets: After going 70-92 last season, the Mets made changes trading Lincecum and Wilcox. It’s early, but last season seems to be a thing of the past. 5-2 on the road, the Mets are seeing some of their youth shine. Mackenzie Gore has adapted well to his new home as has the transition of Jesus Torres from pen to rotation. Alberto Vega’s slow start is a concern, but his track record is too strong to suggest it will last long. The return of Kyle Radatz to the bullpen has been stabilizing and has brought back his best. Conner Capel has sat in well hitting between Den Dekker and Marte. All eyes are on Marte to bust out of his .146 start. 2020 2nd round pick Seth Boomer could ascend up the minor league ladder quickly and be a quality addition to the Mets pen come August or September.
:braves: 7-6, Wednesday’s 20 hit performance was a relief for a squad that not been hitting. They still rank 12th in BA & SLG% and 7th in hits, homers, and runs scored. MVP hopeful Taylor Sparks is still looking for his 1st long ball, while the pair of Varsho and Smith behind the plate have not picked up on last year’s success. Free-agent add Masutaro Ohayashi has continued to hit in his new home, but has not been given ample opportunities to drive in runs with those in front of him struggling. Lots of eyes and attention are at AAA on Nick Madrigal waiting to see when he is given a chance. At 25 y/o and on a big league deal already, keeping him in AAA raises plenty of questions. Allard & Buehler have been great, while RIvera & Aiken have not. The offense needs a spark…
:marlins: 5-7, A 5-3 start has been met with a 4-game losing streak in which the Marlins have been outscored 36-6. While Ronald Acuna has shown growth in his ability to slug the ball, their still lacks a consistent ability to make contact. Struggles at the plate continue for 2nd year Wander Franco. With both future stars struggling, there is too much firepower lacking. New management in Miami must deal with the lingering questions of what to do with Cam Gallagher and Corey Seager, each of whom are playing on their final year of their contracts, while Lance McCullers enters his last year of arbitration next year. With the 25th ranked farm system, trading someone like Seager could net pieces to help build things back up on South Beach.
:phillies: 3-8, One of the more disappointing starts to the season comes via the Phillies. Ryobe Kamida’s .167 0 HR, 3RBI start has been alarming, as has the start of rookie Luis Robert. In addition to good starts from Charlie Harper and Cam Gundy, Andrew Vaughn has also gotten off to a quality start. Just like the Yankees though, this is a team that lacks pitching in most places. Pedro Magana has been good, but Mat Latos has been awful. Kevin Flemer has been good in the 8th, but they can’t get him the lead often enough. All eyes are on Anthony Hale, a potential prized FA in 2022, will he be extended or potentially moved this season?

:cardinals: 7-5, Since a 2-3 start, the Cardinals have swept Pittsburgh in a 3-game set and taken game 1 of of a 4-game series against Milwaukee. The new front-office has been patient, trusting that the prior leadership had indeed done a good job building the team. Carrying the team early has been the pitching, in particular a bullpen which has an ERA of 0.55, going 33 innings and having allowed 2 earned runs. Zach Potter’s return to the staff as full-time member to start the year has been shaky, having allowed 18 hits in 9 innings of work, but a .515 BABIP will have that effect. The offense is sputtering with regulars Hernandez, Rodriguez, Candelalia, Rutherford, Guzman, and Bleday all hitting .250 or below. Prospect Logan Tanner has picked up where he left off last season, crushing AA pitching, an option to consider if things in the bigs do not improve.
:pirates: 6-7, A 5-2 start has been met with a tough week this week, going 1-5 after being swept by the Cubs. All blame fits squarely on their bats, as the Buccos have a team batting average of .199. The outfield duo of Conforto and Schlecht are a combined 13-of-64, while 1B Nick Castellanos is posting a slash of .083/.185/.215. The one bright spot has been Mason Majerle who has shown early season improvements from last year’s rookie campaign. A team ERA that ranks 2nd is keeping the Pirates alive. Some around the league feel as though David Moyne could help at 1B, while others believe he would be a defensive liability and net-negative add. With a talented OF, could that lead to Jesus Armando Sanchez or Sergio Pagan being moved for a full-time 1B?
:brewers2: 6-8, A slip-up on Tuesday let to the Brewers dropping a pair in Baltimore. They returned home yesterday and dropped the opener of a series with STL 9-1. Unlike the PIrates, while the offense is hitting (.240/.302/.413, 6th/5th/5th), their pitching has been atrocious. The Brewers’ starters have the NL’s worst ERA at 5.45. The trio of Cuevas, Duimelaar, and Greinke have each allowed 12 earned runs, posting ERA’s above 6 in a combined 47 2/3 IP. After striking out 214 a season ago, Cuevas has only struck out 8 in 16 innings. While Cody McCutc has been effective, it’s a bit of an effectively wild approach, walking 6.8 BB/9 innings. Big money addition Daniel Paolini has fit right in with Milwaukee with 14 hits, 12 walks in 14 games.
:cubs: 5-7, A refocused front-office has led to a quality start in Chicago. 2022’s resurgence extends from the front-office to the likes of Ryan Copeland where the veteran lefty is 2-1 with an ERA of 1.42, this comes after going 3-8 with a 4.32 in his first year with the Cubs. Reliever Alex Ramirez continues to be one of the better relievers across the league, while rookie Ryan Rolison has shown promise in 5 innings of work. The Cubs have yet to see the growth they hoped for from Yordan Alvarez who is hitting .140 and is 1 for his last 21. Same early season struggles are seen from another young and promising player in Eloy Jimenez. Without improvements from Alvarez/Jimenez, the Cubs will struggle to consistently score enough runs to win games.
:reds: 5-8, The Reds 2.50 ERA among their starters is the best in the NL…their 12th ranked bullpen though has done no favors. The same can be said for an offense that ranks last in the NL in OPS & runs scored. Jordan Lyles is back being a reliable front-end starter, but the biggest celebration early is the young arms, the trio of Greene, Pearson, Wilcox. Each has held opponents to a batting average below .185, led by Wilcox’s .121 batting average against. His 4 pitch arsenal has been overpowering early on. Rafael Castillo remains a reliable power threat (4 HR) and Fernando Leguizamo is a reliable bat at SS hitting .289/.341/.368. Ernesto Pena is nowhere near his .300 average from a season ago, beginning 2022 4-of-35.

:dodgers: 8-5, Having finished 3rd or worse in the NL West in each of the past three standings, the Dodgers are off to a strong start in 2022. Things begin with their offense which leads the NL in runs scored and ranks among the top 3 in BA, OBP, SLG, XBH, and BB, all while star Juan Soto is only putting up a line of .240/.345/.360. Off-season addition Chad Scott (trade w/ Oakland), is flourishing in LA, showing patience at the plate which has led to a .449 OBP through 49 plate appearances. Free-agent 1B Jose Abreu has provided additional pop sitting behind Soto and young catcher Jerry MacDonal. Nathan Eovaldi has been very good early (2.37, 2-0, 19 IP) giving the Dodgers a formidable 1-2-3 with Cosart and Markel. The 10th ranked bullpen will need to improve.
:dbacks: 8-6, After being swept in LA last week, the D-Backs responded by sweeping the Padres and splitting a pair with Houston. To the surprise of no one, the offense is as good as it comes, yet poor base running has cost them some runs. Behind the plate, Matt Hanson continues to look confident and is making it difficult to find time for Adley Rutschman. Stars Vlad Guerrero Jr. and Jeremy Scott each have gotten out of the gate well. The same cannot be said of Shohei Ohtani who is hitting .227/.261/.318, one positive though is he has only struck out twice. On the mound, Arizona’s team ERA ranks 13th, lacking any sort of production in the rotation beyond Morales and Clark, and with a bullpen that has had hiccups. Could veteran minor league FA’s Tanner Scheppers or Domingo Tapia been given a chance to stabilize the pen?
:padres2: 8-6, The Padres have been wonderful at home (7-0) and brutal on the road (1-6), but all together are off to a good start. Despite playing at Petco, the Padres lead the NL in homers (also in hits and XBH). After hitting 17 out of the park last year as a rookie, Steve Cartwright has 6 in 51 AB’s, including a walk-off game-winner on Thursday night. To go with the offense, Michael Matuella and Shane McClanahan have each been dynamite on the mound, striking out 42 in 39 IP, each holding ERA’s below 1.50. After a dazzling start to begin the year, Dautlon Jefferies has had difficulties in each of his next two starts, hIs success will be critical as the season goes on for the Padres. Keep an eye on 2020’s #5 pick Austin Martin. If Martin can show success at AA, could find a spot in the bigs later this season.
:rockies: 6-6, The Rockies have an uphill climb to reach the same levels they have reached the past few seasons. Things got off to a “rocky” start when Antonio Morales, a piece of the Alex Bregman trade in November, was waived/DFA’ed prior to Opening Day. The offense has taken a hit this year, sitting 8th or worse in BA, OBP, SLG. Their starting catcher, 1B, SS, LF, and RF are all currently hitting below .200. Steve Winter and Carlos Correa are a combined 14-of-87, with 26 strikeouts. While last season’s bullpen woes appear to be resolved, the rotation is not firing on all cylinders early. Trevor Bauer has allowed 9 ER in 8 2/3 IP and the Jake Mann as a starter experiment has had mixed results. Brusdar Graterol has gotten off to a hot start at AAA and is worth monitoring for an early season promotion candidate.
:giants: 5-8, The Giants are proving not to be an easy team to play against. 5 of their 13 games have been decided by one run. They appear a confident bunch at home going 4-2 early. Despite a lienup that no longer includes Pardo or Posey, the Giants sit 3rd in hits in the NL. Rule 5 picks Hideki Hayashi and Joey Moran each have gotten off to hot starts hitting above .325. One disappointment early has been centerfielder Jake Mangum who after hitting .257 as a rookie last season, is is 8-of-49 to start the season. While Bryce Bandilla has been hit hard, fellow vet James Paxton has had a pair of quality starts to lead the rotation. Noah Bryant is building off of a good rookie season last year and has continued to show excellent stuff out of the pen.

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