Your Monday Afternoon Power Rankings

19 Comments

1. Phillies (1): In case you missed this little factoid from Gleeman, the Phillies will be able to start one of their big three of Halladay, Hamels and Oswalt in 17 of 19 potential playoff games. Yikes.

2. Twins (2): Just because they clinched doesn’t mean they don’t have something to play for, as you can bet that they’d love to pass up the Rays for the best record on the AL to get a little more home-cookin’ if they make it to the ALCS.

3. Rays (4): Although, it’s gonna be hard for the Twins to snag that best record given how the Rays are ending the season with the Mariners, Orioles and Royals.

4. Yankees (3): There’s no panic like Yankees fan panic.

5. Padres (8): They bounced back nicely following last weekend’s ugly series against the Cardinals. But unless the Braves completely crater — which it totally possible! — this weekend’s series against the Giants will be the biggest series they’ve played since the 2006 NLDS.

6. Giants (7): They’ve taken the schizo crown from the Cardinals: They either score like nuts or get shut down. Yesterday was a rare four-spot from them.

7. Rangers (6): The only thing they have to play for this week is health and happiness. And maybe pride, as they’re probably getting really damn tired of hearing how the Rays and Yankees would rather play them than Minnesota in the first round.

8. Braves (5): There’s probably something seriously wrong with your roster construction or your luck or both when you’re playing must-win games with Brandon Beachy and Mike Minor making starts.  Fact is that they’re just not a good team right now, and even if they hang on for the wild card, it’s hard to see them giving either the Reds or the NL West champ much of a battle, let alone taking down the Phillies.

9. Reds (10): Not that they’re any great shakes themselves these days. September has been the Reds’ worst month by far, and they’re not carrying a ton of momentum into the playoffs. Not that I’m sure momentum matters, but it certainly makes it hard to be terribly optimistic about them at the moment. Still: I’d like to see them play the Phillies. I’m curious how Aroldis Chapman matches up with the Phillies’ lefty bats.

10. Red Sox (11): There is probably a German word that perfectly captures the concept of “that feeling of disappointment one experiences when lamenting a loss that seemingly knocks you out of playoff contention despite the fact that you really didn’t have any chance of making the playoffs to begin with.” I probably couldn’t pronounce it, but that’s what a lot of Red Sox fans are feeling today.

11. Rockies (9): That Diamondbacks series was pretty much their Waterloo. The pitching, she just didn’t hold up. They now need to win like crazy, hope the Padres and Giants quit see-sawing and one of them just buries the other next weekend and hope that the Braves continue their swoon. All of those things are possible, but it’s looking close to over.

12. Tigers (15): Detroit finished its home schedule 52-29. Too bad they couldn’t play them all at home.

13. White Sox (13): I love how Ozzie Guillen has continued to ratchet up his “the White Sox don’t want me no more” rhetoric in the past week. This despite the fact that the Sox continually say that they want him. I haven’t seen someone work so hard to bring about their own end since Godric greeted the sunrise on the roof of the Hotel Carmilla. Look, I’m not exactly proud of that reference either, but my wife likes the show so I started watching it and it’s grown on me, OK?  I’ve only finished seasons one and two, though, so don’t spoil anything for me after that. 

14. Blue Jays (16): Deep thought: how come all the people who think it’s fair to question Jose Bautista’s professional integrity for hitting 50+ home runs don’t think of questioning Aroldis Chapman for throwing 105 miles per hour? At least there’s precedent for someone hitting 50. No, this doesn’t mean that I think it’s fair to question Chapman. It just means that PED-hysterics are still hung up on home run totals despite the fact that everything we know about PEDs suggests that the ‘roids=dingers calculus is facile and reductionist.

15. Cardinals (12): Has any team been less fun than the 2010 Cardinals? They just seem miserable.

16. Athletics (14): Clearly not ready for prime time, as the series with the Rangers showed, but I remain convinced that if they actually try to get a bat that helps them — as opposed to signing someone Beane thinks he could flip in the middle of next season — they could make serious noise in the west next year.

17. Mets (18): Taking two of three from the Phillies is a nice way to spend the season’s penultimate weekend. And they even performed a valuable service yesterday: showing the National League that Cole Hamels can be hit.

18. Angels (19): Dropping three at home to a reeling White Sox team ain’t exactly uplifting. And it all but assured the Angels’ first sub-.500 season since 2003.

19. Dodgers (20): Kevin Baxter of the L.A. Times wrote an article over the weekend about how the example of the Rangers and Padres might make Dodgers fans feel better, what with going from owner-induced financial dire straits to playoff team in relatively short order. The difference, I guess, is that neither of those teams decided to punt player development during their dark days like that Dodgers have. And of course, each of those teams got new owners at the end of the road. There’s a pretty decent chance that L.A. is stuck with Frank McCourt for a long time.

20. Marlins (23): For a guy who watches baseball every single day and writes little recaps of nearly every game, I probably shouldn’t be surprised that the Marlins have a good chance of finishing above .500, but I am.

21. Astros (17): Houston extended all of their coaches’ contracts through 2012 over the weekend (they offered Jeff Bagwell the same two years, but he hasn’t decided if he’s going to come back yet). Brad Mills is under contract through 2011 with a team option for 2012. It’s been some time since there was this kind of stability in the dugout for the Astros.

22. Brewers (22): Only seven more games until the Brewers can fire their manager and trade their big star! Feel the excitement, Milwaukee!

23. Cubs (21): Mike Quade is 19-11 as the Cubs’ skipper. I get the feeling like the Cubs’ decision about the manager’s job is less about who to hire as much as it’s about how to deal with Ryne Sandberg if he’s not the choice.

24. Orioles (24): After taking two of three in Boston, the O’s get swept in Toronto. It was their 12th, 13th and 14th straight loss north of the border. No one has had this much trouble in Toronto since Keith Richards got busted by the Mounties at the Harbour Castle Hotel back in ’77.

25. Nationals (27): Hey, they got Nyjer Morgan back! That’s good news. For bloggers and stenographers at disciplinary hearings and stuff anyway.

26. Indians (25): Paul Cousineau at The DiaTribe tries to be optimistic as the season winds down, noting that Fausto Carmona, Carlos Carrasco and Justin Masterson have combined for a 2.35 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 63 K and 21 BB in 80 1/3 IP this month. But then doesn’t it seem like something happens with the Indians late each season that causes some people to think that they may sneak up on people and surprise next year? Only for things to stink again? I hope not, because I get a ton of Indians games where I live an I can
go to Indians games more ea
sily than I can go to any other team’s games, so even if I don’t root for them, better Indians baseball makes my summers more enjoyable. I’m just not optimistic, that’s all.

27. Royals (26): I’m rather excited about the Royals’ offseason. There’s a ton of talent down on the farm and it will be interesting to see if Dayton Moore eschews his past habits — inexplicably signing veterans that superficially fill holes but actually solve no problems — and allows the youngins to come up and develop without the Jose Guillens of the world blocking their way.

28. Diamondbacks (30): Dbacks hitters passed 1,400 strikeouts last week, setting a new record. That’s fun.

29. Mariners (28): I like stuff like this article from Larry Stone: comparing the Blue Jays and Mariners since they debuted in 1977. They’ve each played 5,376 games as yesterday. By way of comparison, both the Cubs and the Braves surpassed the 20,000 game mark this season.

30. Pirates (29): The Pirates notched their 100th loss over the weekend. Baltimore and Seattle could still join them, but there’s a good chance that the Bucs will be alone in the century club this year.

Report: Rangers agree to six-year extension with Rougned Odor

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Rangers have reportedly agreed to a six-year, $49.5 million extension for second baseman Rougned Odor, according to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports and Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. The extension comes with a club option for a seventh year, Heyman adds.

It’s close to the six-year, $52.5 million extension Jason Kipnis netted with the Indians in 2014, a sum Odor was rumored to be seeking during contract negotiations over the last two years. Granted, the circumstances are a little different this time around. Both players signed extensions on the cusp of their fourth year in the major leagues, but at 27 years old, Kipnis was coming off of an All-Star campaign and a career-high 4.5 fWAR performance. Odor, meanwhile, saw mixed results in 2016, batting 33 home runs and putting up 2.0 fWAR while struggling to stay consistent at the plate and exhibiting poor defense.

According to MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan, Odor previously agreed to a $563,180 salary for 2017. Depending on when the extension kicks in, it should cover all three of Odor’s arbitration-eligible seasons and two seasons of potential free agency. The team has yet to confirm the extension.

2017 Preview: Minnesota Twins

Getty Images
Leave a comment

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 Minnesota Twins.

Which iteration of the Twins will we get in 2017? The second-place contenders of 2015, blazing their way through the standings with 83 wins and a handful of hot prospects? The burnouts of 2016, flopping to the bottom of the division with 103 losses and a lineup held in place by Brian Dozier and, well, Brian Dozier? Or something in between?

Finishing dead last has its perks, namely a first-round draft pick and the feeling that things can’t be quite as bad as they were the year before. Unfortunately for the Twins, the only major preparation they made for the 2017 season came in the form of a front office shakeup. Derek Falvey assumed control of the club in October, bringing GM Thad Levine into the fold in November as the club assumed a more analytics-friendly approach toward the rebuilding movement.

When it came to roster revisions, however, there wasn’t much moving or shaking this winter. Third baseman Trevor Plouffe, catcher Kurt Suzuki and left-handers Tommy Milone and Pat Dean vacated their spots on the roster. Falvey avoided some of the bigger bats and bullpen arms in free agency and opted to sign backstop Jason Castro and journeyman reliever Ryan Vogelsong instead.

By and large, the core of the Twins’ roster remained the same. Center fielder Byron Buxton, infielder/outfielder Michael Sano and right-hander Jose Berrios still form the nucleus of the club’s top prospects. Middle infielder Brian Dozier will also return in 2017, though he appears to be on borrowed time with the Twins after putting up monster numbers in the second half of 2016. Ervin Santana will head the rotation again, accompanied by fellow veterans Hector Santiago, Kyle Gibson and Phil Hughes, while right-handed relievers Brandon Kintzler, Ryan Pressly and Matt Belisle and rehabbing lefty Glen Perkins attempt to prevent another bullpen collapse in 2017.

Without any major additions to the team (and, excepting the departure of Trevor Plouffe, any major subtractions), the Twins will look to their existing cadre of players for significant improvements in 2017. Miguel Sano is expected to take over third base in Plouffe’s absence, which will bring a welcome end to his short-lived and wholly unsuccessful experiment in right field. Brian Dozier, Jorge Polanco and Joe Mauer should round out the infield, with Byung Ho Park and Kennys Vargas currently vying for a spot as the team’s designated hitter.

The lineup is still four or five or six sluggers shy of formidable, but if Dozier can be counted on to repeat his 42-homer, 5.9 fWAR performance from 2016, there will be at least one Twin worth intentionally walking in 2017. Neither Miguel Sano nor Byron Buxton have quite found their footing against big league pitching yet, and another year spent struggling in the majors could mean another year of sub-optimal run production for the team as well. Jason Castro, who grades as an above-average defender behind the plate, is unlikely to provide any additional pop for the Twins at the plate after slashing just .210/.307/.377 through 376 PA with the Astros in 2016.

The pitching department also leaves a little to be desired in light of the league-worst 5.09 ERA they amassed last season. A veteran-heavy rotation could get a boost from the addition of fifth-starter candidate Jose Berrios, who is thought to be the favorite after fellow rotation candidate Trevor May underwent Tommy John surgery earlier this week. Right-hander Tyler Duffey and 23-year-old southpaw Adalberto Mejia are also waiting in the wings. Both have made convincing cases for their inclusion on the pitching staff this spring, but Duffey is coming off of a 6.43 ERA in 2016 and Mejia lacks some of the polish that Berrios offers. Still, stockpiling young pitching depth isn’t a bad thing, and could give the Twins a cushion in the event of injury or collapse down the stretch.

The bullpen outperformed the rotation in 2016, which is saying… something, though maybe not a lot. They still finished the year with a cumulative 4.63 ERA, good for last place among their American League rivals, and delivered just 2.1 fWAR while taking on the fourth-most innings in the league. The standout performer was 28-year-old righty Ryan Pressly, who worked a 3.70 ERA, 2.7 BB/9 and 8.0 SO/9 in 75 1/3 innings last year. In light of Ryan Vogelsong’s recent departure from the club, the Twins will round out their bullpen with left-hander Craig Breslow, who turned in a 4.50 ERA with the Marlins in 2016 and is looking for a bounce-back season of his own after reworking his delivery at age 36.

For now, it looks like Falvey and the Twins’ front office are taking a wait-and-see approach to the coming season, which bodes well for their long-term vision (assuming most of their young prospects pan out) and not so well for their chances of moving up in the division in the next year or so. That could change by the trade deadline if they can secure a worthwhile return for Dozier, though given the rumors of their understandably high asking price, it could take more than a few months to get a deal in place.

Even assuming that all the chips fall in the Twins’ favor in 2017 — prospects start hitting consistently, the rotation solidifies, and Falvey loosens the purse strings enough to net more established contenders — it’s difficult to imagine anything more than a fourth-place finish for the club as they continue to rebuild and regroup. Barring any major improvements on the inconsistent, if occasionally productive, lineup of 2016, another last-place finish feels imminent.

Prediction: Fifth place, AL Central.