MLB Second Half Forecast: The AL East

The Major League Baseball All Star Break is over, and teams are gearing up to begin the second half of the season. Some teams are expecting to make deep pushes to the playoffs, other teams still have hopes of making the postseason, and yet others realize the don’t have a chance.

Today we’ll size up the AL East Division and look at the three contending teams in it. We will look at the Boston Red SoxNew York Yankees, and Tampa Bay Rays and what to expect from them as they begin their playoff runs.

Red Sox

Red Sox – (49-41, 3rd place) The 2018 World Series Champions have struggled from the onset of this season. They began the season with a 3-8 west coast road-trip. Chris Sale, the ace of their starting rotation, was getting shelled regularly, and the Sox didn’t climb above .500 until almost Mid-May. Mookie Betts, last year’s AL MVP, isn’t producing at the same rate (he’s human), but the team is still scoring a lot of runs.

Pitching has been the problem. Beyond Sale, the rotation has been up and down. Rick Porcello has pitched to a 5.33 ERA, the inconsistent Eduardo Rodriguez has been — you guessed it — inconsistent. David Price has pitched well, but at age 33 isn’t giving the length he once did. The Boston bullpen, so good last season, has been incredibly bad after letting Craig Kimbrel and Joe Kelly leave as free agents. Nathan Eovaldi, who signed a 4 year/68 million dollar deal last off-season to return and be a starter, has been named the closer when he comes back from injury.

What to expect — Team President of baseball ops Dave Dombrowski plans to look for a starting pitcher, according to Ken Rosenthal.

If the Red Sox shore up the bullpen and add a starter, look for them to creep closer in the standings and make things harder for the Yankees and Rays.

yankees

Yankees – (57-31, 1st place) After a sluggish 6-9 start in April, the Yankees have spent the vast majority of the last two months atop the AL East. The team has been riddled with injuries all season, with a whopping 22 different players hitting the injury list. At one point, more than half of the original starting lineup was sidelined at the same time, and a whopping 22 different players have been plagued by injury in 2019. The good news is the Yankees lineup is now mostly healthy. First baseman Luke Voit could be back as soon as tomorrow, and Giancarlo Stanton hopes to return from his second IL stint in August.

It’s not a secret Brian Cashman is looking to add a starting pitcher, and Marcus Stroman, Madison Bumgarner and Trevor Bauer have been the names most often bandied about. Zack Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard from the crosstown Mets are also reportedly being shopped around. The Yankees have to find a way to get deeper into games. The rotation collectively is averaging about five innings per start and the bullpen has been carrying a heavy load. Any of the aforementioned starters would help fill this void. The Yankees also could get the injured Luis Severino back before season’s end, provided he has no further setbacks.

What to expect — If they stay healthy, more home runs and more wins. However, if the rotation doesn’t help out more, it could wear down the pen during the dog days of Summer.

TB Rays

Rays – (52-39, 2nd place) The Tampa Bay Rays are currently 6.5 games behind the Yankees as we head into the second half of the season. These feisty, youthful Rays spent the 39 of the first 41 games of the season in first place before the Bronx Bombers overtook them. Starting pitcher Blake Snell (5-7, 4.70 ERA) has been up and down after his Cy Young Award winning season in 2018. The lineup doesn’t have the flashy names like the Red Sox and Yankees, but there is good young talent. Austin Meadows, Brandon Lowe, and Willy Adames are expected to become impact players in the lineup, while starters Snell, Tyler Glasnow and Brandon McKay form a talented nucleus for the rotation.

There is veteran leadership from starter Charlie Morton (10-2, 2.32 ERA), CF Kevin Kiermaier (who’s still only 29) and recently acquired catcher Travis D’Arnaud. Closer Jose Alvarado and starter Glasnow (6-1, 1.86) are out until mid-August, but should make an impact upon return.

McKay made a couple starts and was sent back to Triple-A to continue developing and honing his craft. Tyler Glasnow (forearm) and Jose Alvarado (oblique) being out a while hurts the team, but Brandon Lowe and closer Diego Castillo are expected to be activated from the IL this weekend.

What to expect — It’s hard to tell what the Rays may or may not do, but I wouldn’t expect them to trade away any young talent. Manager Kevin Cash and his coaching staff has done a stellar job getting the most out of his team, and Senior VP/GM Erik Neander also deserves credit. The Rays may fall to 3rd place behind the Yankees and Red Sox, but at the very least, I expect them to scratch and claw all the way to the bitter end.

 


 

I would like to take a minute and thank every person who took the time to read this, and any of my previous work on The Titanium Spine. For the immediate future, I’m mothballing my site and going on hiatus.

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MLB Non-Roster Invitees – American League Central

Welcome back! Pitchers and catchers have been in camps across Florida and Arizona, getting acquainted or reacquainted with each other. This week, position players will be in camp looking to get things started. In addition to players on 40 man rosters, there are several “non roster invitees” with each team, looking to make good impressions. Some are young guys, usually early round picks that teams are excited to see, and the rest are veteran ballplayers trying to latch on somewhere.

On Friday, we took a look at three non-roster invitees on each team in the AL East who To start off your Monday. Let’s pick three NRI’s on each team in the AL Central to talk about.

Chicago White Sox

  • Blake Rutherford (RF) – Rutherford, a 2016 1st round draft pick, came to the White Sox in the summer of 2017 from the New York Yankees in the deal that sent David Robertson, Todd Frazier and Tommy Kahnle to the Bronx. Rutherford, 21, spent last year in High-A ball where he posted a .293/.345/.436 slash line to go with seven home runs and 78 RBI. A left-handed hitter, Rutherford is tall and lanky (6’3″, 195), can play all three outfield spots and can steal a few bags (15 in 2018). He is expected to begin 2019 with the Double-A Birmingham Barons.
  • Ryan Goins (INF) – Goins began the 2018 season with the Royals, where he posted an anemic .226 average in 41 games. He was released at the beginning of July and signed a minor league deal with Philadelphia the following day. The 31 year old Goins spent the rest of the season with their Triple-A team where he hit .220 over 42 games. At least he was consistent. He’s no more than minor league filler, but will provide steady infield defense no matter where he plays.
  • Evan Marshall (RHP) – If 28 year old Evan Marshall never throws another major league pitch, he’s come out on top. He’s overcome and returned from brain injury from a 105 mph comebacker and he and his wife, Allie, had a major health scare when their four-month son Ryan became ill. Thankfully, it appears both Evan and Ryan are healthy now. Here’s hoping Evan can resume his major league career on Chicago’s South Side in 2019.

Cleveland Indians

  • Dioner Navarro (C) – Wait, what? The 35 year old switch-hitting catcher hasn’t played a major league game since 2016, when he split the season between the White Sox and Toronto Blue Jays, hitting a weak .207. In 2018, Navarro played 20 games with the Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League, with pedestrian results. Surprises can happen, but I will be stunned if he plays another MLB game.
  • Matt Joyce (OF) – After hitting a career-high 25 home runs in 2017, the left-handed slugger lost his mojo in ’18. He finished the season barely above the “Mendoza Line” at .208 and only seven HR’s in 83 games. After two seasons in Oakland, Joyce signed a minor-league deal with the Tribe a little more than a week ago. He rebounded nicely in ’16 after having a rough 2015 season in Anaheim, but at age 34, the odds are a bit longer.
  • Alex Wilson (RHP) – Signed to a minor league deal the same day as the aforementioned Matt Joyce, Wilson came from the Tigers, where he spent the last four seasons. He had decent numbers last season, posting a 1.05 WHIP to go with a 3.36 ERA. The 32 year old Wilson isn’t a strikeout pitcher. He “only” throws 92-93 with his heat and has a cutter (86-88) he employs well. Wilson could be a guy the Indians make good use of, especially after losing Andrew Miller and Cody Allen to free agency

Detroit Tigers

  • Casey Mize (RHP) – 21 year old Casey Mize was the number one pick in last year’s amateur draft after a successful collegiate career at Auburn University. He has a fastball that ranges 92-96 and can reach back for a little more when he needs it. Mize made five brief starts in the low minors, all but one at High-A ball in Lakeland (Florida State League). Over his 11.2 innings, he struck out ten and walked only two. Look for Mize to spend all 2019 in the minors, and at the very least the first month of 2020 so the Tigers can keep an extra year of team control.
  • Daz Cameron (OF) – Cameron, a 2015 first-round draft pick of the Houston Astros, was acquired by Detroit in the 2017 mid-season trade that sent Justin Verlander to Houston. The young center-fielder, the son of former MLB outfielder Mike Cameron, began 2018 in High-A Lakeland. He was promoted to Double-A after 58 games, and again promoted to Triple-A Toledo after a good showing in more than fifty games in Erie. In AAA, the sleek right-handed hitter struggled a bit in his brief 15 game stint as a Mud Hen. Look for him to begin ’19 in Toledo, but he could be in the Motor City by September, maybe even mid-season if he tears it up.
  • Pete Kozma (INF) – Thirty year old Pete Kozma will never be confused for a good hitter, but hard work and determination are a staple of his. After his days with the Cardinals ended after 2015, he bounced from the Yankees to the Rangers, to Detroit. He even found time to play 24 games with the Perth Heat of the Australian Baseball League. Expect Pete to play in Toledo this year, assuming he stays with the organization. If nothing else, Kozma’s work ethic and experience will be more important to the team than his actual play.

Kansas City Royals

  • Drew Storen (RHP) – The ink on Storen’s minor league deal isn’t even dry, having signed his contract on Friday, Feb. 15.

If he doesn’t make the team, he has an opt-out he can exercise on March 25. Storen spent 2018 recovering and rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, last pitching for the Cincinnati Reds in 2017. If Drew is healthy, he will be a serviceable reliever. Storen, now 31, doesn’t have the velocity he had when he was closing for the Nationals in the early part of this decade, but he knows how to pitch. It’s no-risk, high reward potential for the Royals.

  • Homer Bailey (RHP) – Also pulled from Cincinnati’s recycling bin is former Red Homer Bailey, he of one of the most hideous season stat-lines in recent history. All he did over his 20 starts was go 1-14 with a 6.09 ERA and WHIP of 1.63. He is still only 32, and the velocity is still more than good enough, averaging more than 93 with his gas. Perhaps a much needed change of scenery and some mechanical adjustments will do Bailey good. Another no-risk/potential high reward.
  • M.J. Melendez (C) – 20 year old Melendez was Kansas City’s second round pick in 2017 and is rated as the team’s fifth-best prospect in their system. He spent last year in A-ball in Lexington of the South Atlantic League where he hit a respectable .251 with 19 home runs and 73 RBI in 111 games. It’ll be a while before Melendez reaches the majors for good, but rubbing elbows with the boys in the big-club now will be good motivation for him to work hard and get back.

Minnesota Twins

  • Royce Lewis (SS) – Royce is the top prospect in the Twins organization and was the number one pick of the 2017 amateur draft. Lewis, 19, spent last season split between Single-A Cedar Rapids, where he hit .315, and High-A Fort Myers (.255). His combined stats were respectable, logging .292/.352/.451 with 14 HR’s and 74 RBI. He stole 28 bases in 36 attempts. Lewis had 21 errors in 112 games, but experience and maturity will help clean that up. Look for him to start the season in High-A ball and advance to AA Pensacola later in 2019. If he really crushes it, a promotion to AAA Rochester late in the season isn’t be out of the question.
  • Lucas Duda (1B/DH) – Like a lot of current free agents, the market just hasn’t been there this offseason. The lefty power-hitting Duda took what he could, signing a minor league deal last week. The Twins need a first baseman after Joe Mauer retired, and this is a low-risk deal that will pay off if the 33 year old Duda has a rebound year. He’s never going to hit for average, but if Lucas hits closer to the 30 jacks he tallied in 2017, it’ll be well worth it.
  • Tim Collins (LHP) – Collins first made it to the major leagues back in 2011, when he made the Royals team out of spring training. He stayed in Kansas City through 2014, then missed the 2015, ’16 and ’17 seasons because he had two Tommy John surgeries. The 28 year old Collins resurfaced in 2018 with the Washington Nationals, making 38 appearances. The 5’7″, 168 lb. lefty is small in stature, but still generates a good fastball, still reaching 93-94 even after his elbow surgeries.

And with that, we’ve knocked off the AL Central Division. On Wednesday, we will turn our eyes to some non roster invitees in the AL West. Please join us!