Your Monday Afternoon Power Rankings

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Rays high five.jpg1. Rays:  Ho-hum, another two of three in each of their series last week. It’s exactly that kind of tick-tock boredom that is the stuff of division titles.

2. Yankees:  If one bum starting pitcher is your biggest problem, you’re doing pretty well.

3. Twins: Beating up on the Indians and the Royals may not be all that impressive, but it’s not like the Twins made the schedule. They’re winning the games they’re supposed to be winning and are continuing to look strong. Their next several games are against the Tigers, Indians and Orioles, so it’s only getting moderately harder as the month wears on.

4. Phillies: Dropping two of three to the Dbacks are one of those things that make you go hmmm, but after dismantling the Braves in the final two games of that series and then hopping a cross-country flight before Friday’s game, we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.  Now it’s three against the Giants. Anyone think Roy Halladay is going to have any problems against that offense tonight? Nah, me neither. The bigger question is whether the rest of the rotation can get anyone out who isn’t wearing a Braves uniform.

5. Cardinals: Three runs scored in their last three games. I’m tempted to say “Forget it Jake, it’s China Basin.”

6. Athletics: So far so good for an A’s team that is exceeding expectations, but one wonders if all the nagging injuries are going to catch up soon. You can’t get rich, after all, betting on things like “Eric Chavez is going to carry the offense.”

7. Padres: I still refuse to believe that they’re anywhere near as good as their record, but what happens on the field matters more than my beliefs.

8. Giants: Two out of three from the Cardinals is spiffy, but the return of the 2009 offense is not: 11 runs scored in their last seven games.

9. Angels: Series wins against Detroit and New York show that, slowly but surely, the Halos are righting the ship.

10. Tigers: The biggest question in Detroit: what’s wrong with Rick Porcello?


11. Rockies: Movin’ time: the Rockies being a stretch of 12
straight against the NL West.

12. Marlins: A nine-game
homestand awaits. Literally dozens of people will now get to see what
this team is made of.

13. Blue Jays: The concerns for this
team at this moment in time are more existential in nature than they
are competitive. Like, can they survive in Toronto. Interesting
article
. I’d be more sympathetic if the article wasn’t framed with
the plight of how hard it is to be a ticket scalper, because ticket
scalpers are a nothing but wretched hive of scum and villainy.

14.
Nationals
: As
Chris Needham notes
, you can squint a little bit at this team and
see a legitimately respectable bunch. It could all go sideways tomorrow,
but as I sit here right now I have no basis for saying that they’re
worse than any number of other teams.

15. White Sox: Columnist
writes obituary
, team sweeps weekend series. They need a few more
wins to start playing the “no one believes in us” card with gusto, but
it’s a start.

16. Mets: I can’t decide if they’ve really
turned the corner or if they just had the good fortune to play the Cubs
and Braves at their absolute worst. Let’s give them the benefit of the
doubt, though. They’ve gotten good starting pitching, Ike Davis has
given the fans something positive to talk about and the lineup shuffle
is working out. 

17. Cubs: It’ll take more than three
days of good baseball for me to give the “buy” recommendation on these
guys, but it was three days of good baseball. I missed Saturday’s game,
so I’m still waiting to see Zambrano come out of the pen.

18.
Rangers
: Adam
Morris at Lone Star Ball
pretty much sums up the feelings of fans
for every team not at the very top or the very bottom of this list when
he says “[w]hat is particularly annoying about being two games under
.500 is that
you can sit here and say, if we had just won this game, or this one,
we’d be at .500.  Just one loss that could have been a win.  And .500
feels a whole lot different than 2 games under.”  Ah, April.

19.
Red Sox
: Two of three from Texas, two of three from Baltimore, more
chances per-week to see a knuckleballer pitch . . . baby steps.

20.
Mariners
: Cliff comes back this week. All other comments about this
team are on hold until we see how it goes.

21. Brewers:
Trevor Hoffman pitched in a game with a 20-run lead last week. He also
pitched in a game while behind by 10. Let’s hear it for the Brewers for
confounding our tired old expectations about how to use a bullpen.

22.
Diamondbacks
: An 11 game road trip starts tonight. Why so long? Is
there a convention in town or something?

23. Braves:  The
only silver lining to their atrocious week is that, given how poorly
everyone is hitting the ball, the chance that hitting coach Terry
Pendleton will be given the manager’s job after the season is much, much
lower than it had been before. 

24. Dodgers: Dropping
series to the Reds and the Nats is not something a contender does, and
as I see this team right now, they’re not a contender.

25.
Astros
: Lance Berkman coming back made this team look a lot more
respectable.

26. Royals: I rip Dayton Moore a lot, but
this quote after the Royals cut Juan Cruz the other day actually made me
have sympathy for the guy: “We looked real smart and real aggressive
when we signed Juan Cruz. Now we look real stupid for signing
Juan Cruz.” Sometimes it just seems that everything turns to poop in
Kansas City.

27. Reds:
Lost in the talk of when Aroldis Chapman may come up is whose place he’d
take in the rotation. Homer Bailey is out of options and can’t be sent
down and Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake have actually pitched well. Do you
pull a Zambrano with Aaron Harang and make him a reliever?

28.
Indians
: They won some games and lost some games last week, but all
were lopsided affairs. The Pirates did that too, just before going into
the tank.

29. Orioles: It’s around 1PM on Monday as I
write this and, contrary to my prediction, Dave Trembley hasn’t been
fired yet. Does one win against the Red Sox really count for that much?

30.
Pirates
:  One of the ugliest weeks of baseball I’ve seen from a
team in a long, long time.

Mets closer Jeurys Familia receives a 15-game suspension for domestic violence

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Mets closer Jeurys Familia has received a 15-game suspension for domestic violence.

Familia was arrested in October following an incident at his home. Criminal charges were dropped in December. As we know, however, MLB’s domestic violence policy does not require criminal proceedings to be commenced, let alone completed, before the leveling of league punishment. MLB has been investigating the incident for the past several months.

Familia saved 51 games for the Mets last year while posting a 2.55 ERA. The Mets are expecting Addison Reed to fill in at closer until he returns.

Familia has released a statement:

Today, I accepted a 15-game suspension from Major League Baseball resulting from my inappropriate behavior on October 31, 2016. With all that has been written and discussed regarding this matter, it is important that it be known that I never physically touched, harmed or threatened my wife that evening. I did,however, act in an unacceptable manner and am terribly disappointed in myself. I am alone to blame for the problems of that evening.

My wife and I cooperated fully with Major League Baseball’s investigation, and I’ve taken meaningful steps to assure that nothing like this will ever happen again. I have learned from this experience, and have grown as a husband, a father, and a man.

I apologize to the Mets’ organization, my teammates, and all my fans. I look forward to rejoining the Mets and being part of another World Series run. Out of respect for my teammates and my family, I will have no further comment.

Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred has a statement as well:

My office has completed its investigation into the events leading up to Jeurys Familia’s arrest on October 31, 2016.  Mr. Familia and his wife cooperated fully throughout the investigation, including submitting to in-person interviews with MLB’s Department of Investigations.  My office also received cooperation from the Fort Lee Municipal Prosecutor.  The evidence reviewed by my office does not support a determination that Mr. Familia physically assaulted his wife, or threatened her or others with physical force or harm, on October 31, 2016.  Nevertheless, I have concluded that Mr. Familia’s overall conduct that night was inappropriate, violated the Policy, and warrants discipline.

It is clear that Mr. Familia regrets what transpired that night and takes full responsibility for his actions.  Mr. Familia already has undergone 12 ninety-minute counseling sessions with an approved counselor specializing in the area of domestic violence, and received a favorable evaluation from the counselor regarding his willingness to take concrete steps to ensure that he is not involved in another incident of this type.  Further, he has agreed to speak to other players about what he has learned through this process, and to donate time and money to local organizations aimed at the prevention of, and the treatment of victims of, domestic violence.

2017 Preview: Milwaukee Brewers

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Milwaukee Brewers.

Every year, Major League Baseball plays host to two casts of characters: the contenders and the rebuilders. You might find slight variations — the rebuilders who stand a chance of contending, the contenders on the verge of rebuilding, or those stuck somewhere in between — but by and large, the lines are clearly drawn.

The 2017 Brewers, for better or worse, are rebuilders. Sure, you won’t find them at the bottom of the NL Central come October (that place is unequivocally reserved for the Reds), but neither will you see them snag a Wild Card berth or run away with the division title. This is the year of cultivating a fertile farm system, giving their big league prospects room to stretch and grow and figuring out whether Ryan Braun has a future in Milwaukee beyond 2017.

If the Brewers did anything right this winter, it was deepening their reserves at nearly every position. Behind the plate, Andrew Susac, Manny Pina and newly-acquired Jett Bandy bandied for the spot. Susac injured his back during camp, and while the MRI results didn’t reveal any significant damage, it doesn’t look like he’ll be healthy in time for Opening Day. Milwaukee skipper Craig Counsell has yet to identify a full-time catcher and could start the year with Pina and Bandy in a hybrid role after both backstops impressed during spring training.

Eric Thames replaced Chris Carter at first base, and while he’s expected to split duties with Jesus Aguilar, appears to be an unconventional acquisition for the Brewers. On paper, the two look miles apart. Carter slashed .222/.321/.499 with 41 home runs and an .821 OPS for the club in 2016, pairing his league-leading homers with a league-leading 206 strikeouts. Thames, meanwhile, flamed out in the majors in 2012 and has not returned to the major league stage since. Never mind that he has only ever played the outfield or that he’s technically made only 181 big league appearances in the last five years, though. Over the past three seasons, he mashed an incredible .349/.457/.721 with 124 home runs and a 1.178 OPS for the NC Dinos of the Korean Baseball Organization, and the three-year, $16 million contract he signed with Milwaukee will look like a steal if he can replicate those numbers in the United States.

The outfield posed another set of questions for the team, who was looking to fill right and center field with a combination of Keon Broxton, Hernan Perez, Domingo Santana, Lewis Brinson, Ryan Cordell, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Kyle Wren. Broxton and Santana claimed spots in center and right, respectively, with Nieuwenhuis beating out the rest of the backup candidates to secure his position as the team’s fourth outfielder. Braun will resume his station in left field after a quiet spring training, during which he declined to participate in the World Baseball Classic or most of the Cactus League competition in order to stay healthy for the upcoming season. (At least, that’s one plausible reason. He also told the Milwaukee Sentinel-Journal’s Todd Rosiak, “I just don’t feel like I need at-bats to feel ready for games.”)

Of course, every team in the throes of rebuilding has at least one weak spot, and the Brewers are no exception. The starting rotation lacks clarity and talent outside of Junior Guerra and Zach Davies, both of whom flourished in their sophomore campaigns with Milwaukee in 2016. The club acquired left-hander Tommy Milone on the cheap, adding him to a lengthy list of candidates that included right-handers Chase Anderson, Wily Peralta, Matt Garza and Jimmy Nelson. Spring training did little to illuminate a clear path for the rotation: Garza imploded, Peralta shone, and Nelson and Anderson proved inconsistent at best.

The bullpen doesn’t look much better beyond newly-minted closer Neftali Feliz, who signed a one-year, $5.35 million deal with the Brewers after polishing off a healthy, productive season with the Pirates in 2016. While his bounce-back season looked like a good omen for Milwaukee, Feliz struggled through a rough spring, working 10 hits, six runs, three walks and seven strikeouts through nine innings in camp. He appears to be fully recovered from the “biceps fatigue” that curtailed his last season in Pittsburgh, and Counsell believes that he’ll improve with more reps this spring.

Elsewhere in the bullpen, the club is hurting for left-handed relief after optioning their only lefty candidate, Brent Suter, to Triple-A Colorado Springs last week. A suitable replacement for Suter has yet to be named, but there’s some chatter that Milone could assume a position in the bullpen if necessary.

Overall, the Brewers didn’t improve their major league roster as much as they stabilized it, opting for low-cost stopgaps while they condition younger, less-seasoned players waiting to break through to the bigs. A plethora of high-caliber prospects crowd the upper rungs of their farm system, so much so that the club has had difficulty trying to find enough room for all of them to develop at the appropriate level. Just take Triple-A Colorado Springs, which boasts a talented outfield of Lewis Brinson, Ryan Cordell and Brett Phillips and rotation battles among Hiram Burgos, Josh Hader, Paolo Espino, Wilkerson, Taylor Jungmann, Wei-Chung Wang and the aforementioned Brent Suter, among others.

Milwaukee is looking at a bright future, to be sure, but that future won’t be fully realized right now. The Brewers’ 2017 season will undoubtedly be more satisfying for its front office than its fans, unless those fans also have a ticket to Security Service Field. Given a few more years to develop their prospects and build out their farm system, however, these rebuilders could begin to look something like contenders.

Prediction: 4th place in NL Central.