Sports Round Table: MLB edition
Here at MyFantasySportsTalk.com we have polled our MLB experts on the hot topics surrounding baseball today. Here are their thoughts in the first installment of MFST’s Sports Round Table.
1. Are the Houston Astros for real? Will they be contending in September?
Dan Schalk: Yes, without a doubt. This team can make a claim for most talented in the American League, some of that talent is yet to be fulfilled and some of it is currently in the minor leagues, but the Astros will be hanging around all season and for year’s to come. With a top-flight ace in Dallas Keuchel, the Astros boast an impressive rotation, although young and unproven, Lance McCullers and Brett Oberholtzer are performing very well, both owning sub-three ERA’s. The offensive lineup is lethal with big-time power hitters seemingly up to bat every time as Houston leads MLB in home runs with 95 in 67 games. If the Astros can acquire a solid number two pitcher behind Keuchel and in front of McCullers, without giving up too much young talent, we could be seeing the Astros play deep in October.
Tony Clements: In September, yes they will be contending, now October is questionable. While I wholeheartedly believe that the Astros will become a perennial playoff team, I don’t know if they will be able to make it this season. They have plenty of young talent on their roster as well as that in the minors including, Dallas Keuchel, Carlos Correa, and Jose Altuve. They are currently leading the league in home runs but do have a very low batting average. This type of offense has worked so far this season but keeping up a type of play like that is very hard to accomplish. Look at the Giants and Cardinals both of them have been dominating the league over the past six seasons and they all have a very high team batting average and not necessarily a lot of team home runs. Also, while their pitching has performed extremely well this season, especially the bullpen, they still need a solid number two starter to back up Keuchel. If they can get that done it will be interesting to see if their offensive play will be able to carry them into a wild card spot.
Landin Murphy: The Astros are definitely contenders in the AL West this year. Given the poor early season starts that most of the other teams in their division had, they’ve really been cruising. Until Texas started playing better it seemed to me like they might run away with the division all together. Whether they can hold on for a full season remains to be seen, but they should be near the top of their division regardless. The biggest areas of concern for them are getting on base and closing out games. They may have the most home runs in the AL, but this comes at the expense of getting runners on. They rank near the bottom in league for both Avg and OBP. Likewise, the fact that their premier closer’s ERA is 4.00 raises some question marks. When they need someone to count on down the stretch, I’m not sure they can trust Luke Gregerson.
Hayden Held: I think the Astros will stay atop the AL West and turn some heads when the playoffs start. A big part of their success this year has been the players promoted from the minor leagues. Their offense has become deadly leading the majors in home runs and steals. With a starting rotation led by Dallas Keuchel, an outstanding bullpen, and a lineup powered by Correa and Springer, this team is made for the playoffs. Although they are the second youngest team in the MLB, I expect the Astros to be contending in the playoffs for the first time since 2005.
Colby Gatz: I do think that the Astros are for real. Their ability to hit home runs should make them a tough team to shut down, and they have an ace to their staff in Dallas Keuchel. The other teams in the AL West have flaws that should prevent any of them from running away in the division. Also, I believe that they will look at adding another starting pitcher to their staff come July in order to give the team another reliable starter after Keuchel. If Houston is able to add a starting pitcher to their rotation, then I expect them to contend for the remainder of the season.
2. Who is the team to beat in the AL East?
Dan Schalk: The Toronto Blue Jays. I believe they have the most potent lineup in the East, and most “experts” are down on their pitching staff, but I feel the opposite. With veteran Mark Buerhle pitching like a top of the rotation guy (3 CG leading MLB) the Blue Jays have the talent on the staff to take home the division crown. Drew Hutchison has pitched well owning a 6-1 record despite a 5+ ERA, and Aaron Sanchez who recently went on the DL has the stuff to be an ace of this staff. The key for Toronto will be the health of their lineup, which similar to the Astros produces multiple home run threats consistently up-and-down their unit. If the Jays can acquire a solid bullpen arm, like Aroldis Chapman in Cincinnati, they will be a force in the AL East.
Tony Clements: I agree completely with Dan. The AL East is a very tight race, excluding the Red Sox, and could be decided on the last week of the season. That being said, the Blue Jays offense seems to be just too dominant to be stopped. They are also having this offensive explosion without the front-runner for AL ROY Devon Travis who has been out with an injury. All the talk about their pitching staff not being strong enough seems to be blown extremely out of proportion. They have two seasoned veterans in Mark Buehrle and R.A. Dickey who are both having above average seasons to go along with Drew Hutchinson. Worst case scenario is that they have to trade for one of the many pitchers on the market this year and still end up winning the east. It will be a close race but in the end I believe the Blue Jays will come out on top.
Landin Murphy: Even though the Orioles aren’t leading the division race right now, they’re still the best overall team. The Rays look like a mirage to me. They’re playing great team baseball, but you can’t stay hot for entire season. They just don’t have the overall roster to make it down the stretch. If the Yankees had one more solid starting pitcher I might have gone with them. They’ve been a real surprise this season. However, almost every year it seems they get off to a great start. Then the age of their team sets in at the back-end of the season. The Orioles have a couple of stars in Adam Jones and Manny Machado. If the team can stay healthy, they have the best overall roster.
Hayden Held: The hottest team in the AL East is the Toronto Blue Jays. After a slow start (23-29) they have picked things up and are four games over .500. They’ve won 9 out of their last 10 and are two games back of the Rays. This division race will be great to watch with every team in contention besides the Red Sox. I’d take the Orioles to win the division but they way they’ve been playing lately, the Blue Jays are definitely the team to beat right now.
Colby Gatz: The AL East has been one of the toughest divisions to figure out so far this season. The Boston Red Sox seemed to be the favorite coming in to the year, but have struggled mightily and seem destined for another last place finish. The other teams in the East are all bunched together, which should make for a very interesting summer. In my opinion, the team to beat is the Toronto Blue Jays. Their offense is one of if not the best in the game and if their pitching can just be average, they will continue to win a lot of baseball games.
3. Are the Cubs contenders this season?
Dan Schalk: Contenders for the playoffs? Yes. Contenders for a NL pennant? No. This team full of young guns will be in the Wild Card chase, but they will not beat out the Cardinals in the NL Central, and certainly will not beat them in the postseason. Over the next year or two, the Cubs will be one of the best teams in baseball, but 2015 will not end the curse, sorry Chicago fans.
Tony Clements: In September I believe they will be contenders, but I don’t think they will make the playoffs. They are in the toughest division in the MLB, the NL Central, and are looking up at the Cardinals who sport the best record in the league. They will not be able to surpass the Cardinals to win the NL Central but will be in the race for a wild card spot. This is harder said than done as they will have some serious competition with winning one of those spots between the Braves, Mets, Nationals, Pirates, Giants, and Dodgers. With all the young talent that the team has however, there is no need for Cubs fans to worry. While they may not win it this year they are on the rise and on the rise quickly.
Landin Murphy: The Cubs are surely in the mix this season, but catching the Cardinals and beating out the Pirates might be a little too much to ask. The Cubs have been getting great pitching. Both the starting staff and bull pen have been superb. However, most of the young position playing stars, on their roster, need more time to adjust to the big leagues. Without doubt, the Cubs have plenty to look forward to. Their farm system is absolutely loaded with talent, but the Cardinals are the best team in baseball, and the Pirates have far more experience.
Hayden Held: I think the Cubs will be in contention at the end of the year but I don’t think they will make the playoffs. The way the Cardinals (43-23) and the Pirates ( 39-27) are playing now the Cubs best shot would be at a wild card spot. The Cardinals have the division pretty much locked up which means they’ll be battling the Nationals, Pirates, and Giants for the wild card. I think the Cubs will be in the World Series in another few seasons but the curse will continue through 2015.
Colby Gatz: The Cubs have been one of the biggest surprises this season given all of the young talent they are playing everyday. Joe Madden is an excellent manager who often got the Tampa Bay Rays to overachieve so there is no reason to think that he won’t do the same in Chicago. The team also has a bonafide ace in Jon Lester which will definitely help the team as they head into the summer months with a winning record. The talent on the roster, and the experience of the manager, will keep the team in contention until the end of the season.
4. Which starting pitcher is most likely to be dealt at the trade deadline? (Hamels, Cueto, Leake, Kazmir, other)
Dan Schalk: All of the above. The Phillies need to trade Hamels for the livelihood of their supposed “rebuild”. The Reds are incapable of winning with the roster of now aging stars, failing to reach the NLCS once during the prime of their best player’s careers. It is now time for the Reds to start from scratch and trade away their assets before it is too late (similar to the situation Ruben Amaro is stuck in with the Phillies). Kazmir knows the inevitable, Billy Beane is looking for the best deal, and you better believe it’s out there. The dominoes will start to fall soon and I expect a very busy deadline this season.
Tony Clements: While all of these pitchers have a chance to be traded, I believe the most likely to go to another team are Kazmir and Cueto. The Athletics are struggling mightily this season and could really benefit from revamping their farm system after a series of trades has depleted it. They could get a few good prospects in return for Kazmir who many competing teams are looking at. Cueto on the other-hand could get the Reds a few top prospects as he is younger as well as more successful than Kazmir. The Reds are in desperate need to start over as the team they put together over the past few years just still hasn’t panned out. It’s about time to unload and try to get a new core together for their team. Hamels has been on the trading block for a couple of years now and no deals have been able to be made and I believe that the same will continue this season. The Phillies have a very large asking price to go along with Hamels huge contract. If a deal gets done look for it to be a blockbuster deal including multiple players.
Landin Murphy: Without a doubt, the two pitchers most likely to be traded are Scott Kazmir and Johnny Cueto. The Phillies are always rumored to be shopping Cole Hamels. However, unless they’re willing to take less than the king’s ransom they’ve been asking, he’ll stay put. What is that team’s plan? Management has taken a team that won the World Series and basically run it into the ground. Are they just waiting until Hamels gets injured or too old to trade? As far as Kazmir and Cueto, with Oakland at the bottom of the division, you just know Billy Beane is going to shake things up. Kazmir’s contract is up after this season, and I can’t see the team handcuffing itself by spending a premium to retain him. Cueto is also in the last year of his contract. The Reds aren’t likely to give him $200 million, so he’ll likely end up on a contending team sooner rather than later.
Hayden Held: I think Scott Kazmir will most likely be traded before the deadline. He will essentially be a rental for a contending team in need of a starter because he will be a free agent at the end of the season. With so many teams jockeying for playoff position, the A’s will have plenty of offers on Kazmir, and you know Billy Beane will make a deal.
Colby Gatz: This year’s trade deadline should be a very interesting day for many teams in baseball as there are a few great starting pitchers who should be on the market. The one that is most likely to be dealt is Cole Hamels. The Phillies are a rebuilding team and should look to get as much as they can for Hamels in a trade. Given that Hamels still has three more years left on his deal, the Phillies should be able to get a very good package for their star pitcher.
You can follow our Sports Round Table on Twitter:
Dan Schalk: @FFSportsTalk
Tony Clements: Clements_Tony21
Colby Gatz: Bostonfan_15
Hayden Held: @Hheld212