6/15/16 – Day 3 of our 10th Annual First Week of Summer Baseball Trip: Southwest

Day 3 of the baseball trip was going to be a mostly driving day as we headed to Anaheim to see the Angels and the Twins. Because of this, we got up around 9:30 am, checked out of our hotel, and headed to eat breakfast before getting on the road to California.

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One of the first places that comes up when you google “best breakfast in Phoenix” is Matt’s Big Breakfast so that’s where we headed for our first meal of the day.

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After eating at Matt’s we had a long car ride to Anaheim. The ride was about six hours with a couple of stops at gas stations and to take a picture at the California welcome sign.

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Finally at around 4:45 pm we spotted the “big A” that stands in the parking lot of Angel Stadium of Anaheim. We parked next to the A and took a few pictures before heading around to the home plate gate.

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After we entered the stadium, we headed to the team shop where I got a Huston Street shirsey and a pair of socks, and Dad got a Angels hat.

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I picked a Street shirsey specifically because of this encounter that I had with him on our trip last year.

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After checking out the shop, we headed to find some food. Dad had read that “the Smoke Ring” was a good BBQ stand in the stadium so we headed over there first.

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After visiting “the Smoke Ring” we headed over to a place called “Spuds” that was serving up some crazy french fry baskets.

After finishing our fries, we went to find our seats… after hanging out in the seats for a couple of minutes, I decided to take a walk around the park. The coolest part of the park has to be centerfield where you can see the back of the rock formation and the flags from all the years that the Angels have made the playoffs.

I made it back to our section with just minutes to go until first pitch. The starting pitchers for the Angels and Twins were Hector Santiago and Tyler Duffey, respectively.

The first couple innings of the game were uninteresting until in the bottom of the fourth Jefry Marte singled in Mike Trout to give the Angels a 1-0 lead.

Later that inning, Angels’ catcher Jett Bandy grounded into a force out that scored C.J. Cron and made the score 2-0.

In the top of the 5th ex-Nat Kurt Suzuki singled to center field and drove in Brian Dozier to cut the Angels’ lead in half.

In the bottom half of the 5th, Cron would give the Angels there two run lead back with a single to score Yunel Escobar.

Duffey proceeded to load the bases before the inning was over so Twins’ manager Paul Molitor elected to bring in reliever Taylor Rogers. Rogers was no better than Duffey as he walked the first batter he faced, Marte, to make it 4-1.

With Rogers still pitching in the bottom half of the fifth, the next batter, Bandy hit a fly ball down the right field line that Twins’ rookie Max Kepler seemed to lose in the lights as he tracked it down. The ball fell in behind Kepler for a single and made the score 6-1 instead of ending the inning.

Rogers, still not out of the inning had to face Angels’ shortstop Andrelton Simmons, activated of the Disabled List earlier in the day. Simmons made the Twins pay for their mistake as he singled to right to make the score now 7-1.

The Twins couldn’t get anything going in the top of the sixth, but in the bottom half of the inning, the Angels were back for more runs. Albert Pujols singled to drive in Kole Calhoun, then Cron hit a double to left field after Twins’ left fielder Robbie Grossman took a poor path to the ball. Cron’s hit scored both Trout and Pujols.

The Twins got back on the board in the top of the eighth when Joe Mauer singled in Byron Buxton, but at that point it was far too late, and the Twins were still down eight runs.

Al Alburquerque came on for the ninth for Anaheim and closed the game to improve the Angels’ record to 29-37 while the Twins fell to 20-45.

After the game, we headed back to our car and drove two hours south to San Diego to check in to our hotel and get some sleep before the Padres vs Nationals game the next day.

Extra Game Notes:

  • There are two hats outside of Angels’ Stadium and one of them apparently has a tag with the size 849 ½ in it.

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  • The seats we were sitting in were the first row of the back portion of the lower level and had very little extra leg room.

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  • Wednesday was Angels’ shortstop Andrelton Simmons first day off the DL after 34-days.
  • In the top of the fifth with two runners on and one out, Simmons made a fantastic pick to get a force out at second, and in the top of the eighth, Simmons made a backhanded stop deep in the hole and fired an off balanced throw to first for the third out of the inning and prove that despite his time on the DL, he was still one of the best defensive shortstops in the game.
  • A few Angel fans tried the same rally tactic as DBacks fans; by lighting their iPhone flashlights up and waving their phones in the air.
  • Angel Stadium served Cherry Pepsi which was awesome because most stadiums don’t serve cherry sodas.
  • Everybody loves Mike Trout.
  • We found out that Angel Stadium is actually the fourth oldest MLB stadium.
  • The famous/infamous baseball collector Zack Hample was at the game.
  • Before the game the Angels gave out a Canvas Beach Backpack.

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  • Angels’ star Mike Trout is from New Jersey. The Angels’ are sponsored by Jersey Mike’s Subs and have a Jersey Mike’s stand in the stadium, yet the Mike from Jersey that plays for the Angels’ is a spokesman for Subway.

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  • The Angels’ have a Panda Express in their stadium. I had never seen one of those in a stadium until I saw one at Chase Field in Arizona and now one at Angel Stadium.

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6/14/16 – Day 2 of our 10th Annual First Week of Summer Baseball Trip: Southwest

Day 2 of our 10th annual First Week of Summer baseball trip started about 5 hours later than Day 1 because we had spent the night in Phoenix at the Renaissance.

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After waking up, we decided to walk over to The Breakfast Club, a breakfast spot recommended by the hotel and Trip Advisor.

After eating breakfast, we stopped back at the hotel for a couple of minutes before walking over to Chase Field to take a tour of the stadium.

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Our tour started on the 100’s level of Chase Field, but we quickly made our way to the 300’s level where we viewed the field from a new angle from the Phoenix Children’s Hospital Sandlot.

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After checking out an fairly aerial view of the field in the 300’s level, we headed down to the 200’s and Club Level. We walked through the 200’s level and saw some of the offices where DBacks personnel worked, the Owner’s Box, and the Press Box.

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The view from the DBacks Press Box.

Finally we took the elevator all the way down to Field Level where we walked through the bowels of Chase Field and checked out the Post Game Interviews Room. We couldn’t go in the locker room due to the fact that there was a game later that night.

After the interview room, we headed for the Diamondbacks dugout. We hung out in the dugout for a couple of minutes and took some pictures on the field.

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After visiting the ground level of Chase Field, our tour was over so we headed back to the hotel. Before we got to the hotel, we had to stop to get another Fractured Prune doughnut.

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We arrived back at the hotel, took a couple moments to rest, then headed back to Chase Field to eat at the T.G.I. Friday’s in the left field upper deck of Chase Field. We arrived at the TGIF’s at around 4:30. After having some appetizers, drinks, and watching the Diamondbacks take batting practice for an hour, we were ready to enter the stadium.

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The first thing that I did once I was through the gates was head to the last row of the stadium behind home plate to take this picture.

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Afterwards, I decided to walk all the way around the park and check out the pool in centerfield.

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Once I had walked all the way around, I met my Dad at our seats with about 20 minutes left until game time. The starting fielders for the Diamondbacks were warming up right in front of us and four of them, Paul Goldschmidt, Peter O’Brien, David Peralta, and Jean Segura came over to sign autographs. I wasn’t actively trying to get any autographs when they came over so the only one I ended up getting was Goldschmidt but I was pretty happy with getting him alone seeing as he was the best player out of that group.

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Warm up time ended and we were just minutes away from first pitch. The pitching matchup that night featured Kenta Maeda for the Dodgers, and Archie Bradley for the Diamondbacks. The Diamondbacks got off to a hot start in the bottom of the 1st inning when Jake Lamb singled in Segura for the game’s first run.

The Diamondbacks got on the board again in the bottom of the third when Goldschmidt knocked Segura in again to make it 2-0.

The Dodgers rallied in the top of the fifth when Joc Pederson hit a solo homer to right field, and Chase Utley followed it up with a single that scored both Yasmani Grandal and Howie Kendrick to make it 3-2 in favor of the team from L.A.

Despite scoring three in the top half of the fifth, the Dodgers could not get the shutdown inning they needed in the bottom of the fifth as Maeda made a throwing error trying to throw out Segura at first base that allowed Michael Bourn to score.

The Dodger’s would answer in the top of the sixth with back-to-back solo home runs from Justin Turner and again from Pederson to make it 5-3.

To start the sixth inning, Goldschmidt hit a line drive right back at the Dodgers’ pitcher Maeda that struck him right under his right knee. Maeda was able to pick up the ball and throw Goldy out at first, but he had to be helped off the field and relieved by J.P. Howell.

In the bottom of the sixth, with Dodgers’ reliever Louis Coleman now pitching, D-Backs’ catcher Chris Hermann singled in Peralta to make it 5-4, Dodgers.

Controversial Dodgers’ second baseman Chase Utley finally put the game away in the top of the seventh when he hit a two-run homer to right field of off D-Backs reliever Zac Curtis to make the score 7-4.

Jake Lamb probably thought he had another RBI when he hit a deep fly to centerfield in the bottom of the seventh, but Pederson made a leaping catch at the wall to help out his pitcher, Casey Fien.

Dodgers’ closer Kenley Jansen came in to work the ninth and sat down Hermann, Rickie Weeks Jr., and Wellington Castillo, all on strikes, all swinging.

With the win the second place Dodgers record moved to 34-32 and the fourth place Diamondbacks fell to 29-38.

After the game we headed to the D-Backs store to buy a pair of D-Backs socks then headed back to our hotel.

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Extra Game Notes:

  • I tried to go out to get something to eat in the seventh inning but all the food stands were closing. At Nats Park, the food stands are required to stay open for three hours or until the game ends so I was surprised to see the DBacks’ food stations closing after only about 2 and a half hours. Because of this, I had to eat at a Carl’s Jr. on the way back to our hotel.

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  • J.P. Howell and Louis Coleman pitched for the second night in a row for the Dodgers.
  • Our usher, Andy, told us that many D-Backs fans are worried that their manager Chip Hale will get fired and replaced with former Nationals’ manager and current Diamondbacks’ third base coach Matt Williams. He said Williams wasn’t even a good third base coach much less manager.
  • There were less beach balls confiscated… maybe two, and no iPhone flashlight rally for the D-Backs.
  • When on the tour of Chase Field, we noticed two interesting things at the entrance to the D-Backs dugout. One was a tire that had been placed in the wall using cement. The tire was for D-Backs players to take their frustration out on after a poor at bat, pitching performance, or game. After the tire, mounted high upon the ceiling was a pullups bar that it seemed like only a giant could reach… it made sense that it was so high because it was Randy Johnson’s old pullup bar.
  • Once again, the stadium’s roof was open for a night game. This is supposedly a rare occurrence.
  • The D-Backs really seem to be playing up their July 16th Sombrero Night and I don’t blame them, we really wish we could be in Arizona on the 16th to see thousands of fans wearing Diamondbacks’ sombreros.

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  • Dodgers’ right fielder Trayce Thompson had a nice game defensively as he made a diving catch, and threw out two runners trying to advance to second base.

6/13/16 – Day 1 of our 10th Annual First Week of Summer Baseball Trip: Southwest

Monday, June 13th, 2016 was the start of our much anticipated, 10th annual First Week of Summer baseball trip. This year we were heading out west to see games in Phoenix, Anaheim, San Diego, and Los Angeles. Because of this, we had a very early flight out of DCA.

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We arrived at the airport and stopped for a early breakfast at the Magic Pan Crepe Stand.

After eating, we spent a couple minutes in the American Airlines lounge before getting on our flight to Phoenix. After arriving in Phoenix and picking up our rent-a-car, we drove out to pick up our tickets for the next two games in Arizona.IMG_3365

After picking up our tickets, we walked across the street to check out Sun Devil Stadium, home of Arizona St. football, and to look in the Arizona St. Athletic Hall of Fame.

After visiting ASU, we walked over to a Fractured Prune franchise; the doughnut company was originally founded in Ocean City, MD.

After having two amazing doughnuts each, we headed to our hotel, the Renaissance, to check in. After taking a short nap, we awoke and walked over to nearby Chase Field visit my 24th stadium, and my Dad’s 26th.IMG_3088

We entered Chase and headed over to the Diamondbacks team shop which boasted some quality shirseys.

After leaving the shop, we went to find our seats. We were sitting in seats 7, and 8 in row F of Section S; down the third base line. Paul Goldschmidt came over to sign autographs but left too quickly for me to have a good opportunity at him.FullSizeRender (5).jpg

Because of the seats we were sitting in, we had access to a level of the D-Backs stadium under the 100 level seats. We explored this underground level which included the American Airlines Lounge, and the Audi Quattro Lounge. The underground area was also where the batting cages were and on our way out we walked by them as D-Backs Shortstop Nick Ahmed was taking a few hacks before game time.

The game had a 6:40 start time and featured a matchup that had Arizona Diamondbacks’ starter Zack Greinke facing his old team, the Los Angeles Dodgers. Mike Bolsinger was on the bump for L.A. Things were looking ominous for Greinke and the D-Backs when in the top of the first, Dodgers’ young SS Corey Seager singled and then was driven in by a double from 3B Justin Turner.

The D-Backs responded in the bottom of the first when, with 2 outs, star 1B Paul Goldschmidt hit a solo homer to right center field.

Another solo HR came for the D-Backs in the bottom of the third courtesy of 3B Jake Lamb.

Corey Seager was back at it in the top of the fifth hitting a solo homer to centerfield off of Greinke that tied the game at 2-2.

After Seager, Turner stepped to the plate for the Dodgers. Turner hit a deep fly ball to left field which probably would have gotten out for another solo home run had DBacks’ left fielder Peter O’Brien not made a leaping catch at the wall.

The Dodgers’ could not get the shutdown inning that they needed in the bottom of the fifth as Jean Segura knocked in Nick Ahmed with a single to put the D-Backs up 3-2.

In the next half inning, Segura would rob Dodger outfielder Scott Van Slyke of a RBI bloop single with an over the shoulder catch in shallow centerfield.

In the top of the eighth, Daniel Hudson came in to relieve Greinke. Hudson then walked the bases loaded with only one out. In came Diamondbacks’ closer Brad Ziegler to try to preserve the lead. Ziegler struck out pinch hitter Kike Hernandez then for the final out of the inning, DBacks’ centerfielder Michael Bourn made a spectacular diving catch to rob Howie Kendrick of a RBI or two.

Ziegler came back out for the ninth and set the Dodgers down in order to give himself the 5 out save and the Diamondbacks their 29th victory.

Extra Game Notes:

  • I saw Dodger fans have at least four beach balls confiscated by Diamondbacks’ security after they were batted around in the crowd for a while.
  • As a sort of rallying call, DBacks’ fans all across the stadium lit up the strobe flashlights on their phones and held them in their air.
  • I ate at Rey Gloria’s Tamale stand and had a good “Green Chicken” Tamale with rice and beans.IMG_3101
  • The game featured a lot of hard hit balls to the fence some of which turned into homers, while others were caught.
  • One of these catches was spectacular by Dodgers’ centerfielder Joc Pederson who caught a liner to center then proceeded to go crashing into the centerfield wall.
  • While, Pederson made some spectacular plays in the outfield, two of the Diamondbacks’ outfielders did not fare so well. David Peralta allowed Justin Turner’s first inning RBI double to ricochet by him after hitting the wall, and Yasmany Tomas had basically the same thing happen to him on a Van Slyke double in the second.
  • There were about half as many Dodger fans in attendance as Diamondback fans.
  • Because of this attendance, Zack Greinke’s at bats were some of the liveliest moments of the game with Dodgers’ fans booing and DBacks’ fans responding with loud encouragement for their above average hitting pitcher.
  • Greinke had a good game at the plate along with on the mound as he sent the first pitch of his first at bat out to deep centerfield for a flyout  and singled in his second AB.
  • When we arrived at the stadium, the roof was closed, but shortly before game time, the roof was opened for the night. Despite the opened roof, the inside of Chase Field was still 20 degrees cooler than the outdoor, upper 90’s Arizona heat.
  • Dad and I were shown on the scoreboard twice even though Dad was wearing a Nationals’ cap.
  • Former Nationals Manager Matt Williams is now the third base coach for the Diamondbacks and former Nats reliever Tyler Clippard is the setup man for the DBacks.IMG_3371
  • According to our usher Andy, four of the Sportscenter Top 10 Plays for the next day came from catches in this game. Three from the DBacks (O’Brien, Segura, Bourn) and one from the Dodgers (Pederson.)

2016 MLB Playoffs Predictions

American League Playoffs:

Division Winners: Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians, Houston Astros

Wild Cards: Toronto Blue Jays, New York Yankees

AL Wild Card: Blue Jays over Yankees

AL Division Series: Red Sox over Blue Jays, Astros over Indians

AL Championship Series: Red Sox over Astros

I predict the Boston Red Sox will win the American League just one year after finishing in last place in the AL East (AP)

In the AL the three division winners will the the Boston Red Sox, the Cleveland Indians, and the Houston Astros. Both wild card teams come out of the AL East in the Toronto Blue Jays, and the New York Yankees. The Blue Jays should take care of the Yankees in the wild card game and go on to face the Red Sox in the Division Series. The Red Sox will beat their division opponent in the ALDS and in the other matchup, the Astros will beat the Indians. That means, in the AL Championship Series, the Red Sox will face the Astros. I have the Red Sox beating the Astros which is a fairly bold prediction when you have a team that finished in last place in the AL East last season beating a team that won the AL Wild Card Game and almost beat the future World Champions in the ALDS in 2015.

National League Playoffs:

Division Winners: New York Mets, Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers

Wild Cards: Washington Nationals, San Francisco Giants

NL Wild Card: Nationals over Giants

NL Division Series: Cubs over Nationals, Dodgers over Mets

NL Championship Series: Cubs over Dodgers

In the NL the three division winners look like they will be the New York Mets, the Chicago Cubs, and the Los Angeles Dodgers. The two wild card teams will be the Washington Nationals and the San Francisco Giants, both interesting stories. The Nats still have a lot of talent but need to recover from last season’s major disappointment. The Giants have won the World Series in 2014, 2012, and 2010. Those are all even numbered years and it is 2016 so it would be amazing to see them win it all for the fourth even numbered year in a row. Unfortunately for them I have them making an early exit from the postseason as the lose to the Nats in the NL Wild Card game. Next would be the National League Division Series where the Nationals would face the Cubs and the Dodgers would face the Mets. I have the Cubs beating the Nats and the Dodgers getting revenge against the Mets for the 2015 playoffs. In the NLCS the Cubs will take on the Dodgers and win to head to the World Series with a chance to break their 107 year Championship drought.

World Series: Cubs over Red Sox

Theo Epstein and the Cubs are shaping up to be the World Series favorites. (www.theheckler.com)

In the World Series in 2016 we will have two classic teams in the Cubs and the Red Sox. The Red Sox will be looking to win their first World Series since 2013 while the Cubs will be looking to capture their first Championship since 1908. This will also be the Cubs first time in the World Series since 1945. Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein will also be facing his old employers in the Red Sox. He has helped bring in a ton of young talent to the Cubs organization like Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, and Addison Russell. They are all part of the reason I believe that this season the Chicago Cubs will break their 107 years curse and finally win the World Series.

2016 National League West Division Preview

Clayton Kershaw, looking to lead the Dodgers’ to their fourth straight NL West Division title, will have to hold off strong competition in the Giants and the Diamondbacks. (realtalksportsmania.sportsblog.com)

Projected NL West Standings:

1. Los Angeles Dodgers

2. San Francisco Giants

3. Arizona Diamondbacks

4. San Diego Padres

5. Colorado Rockies

The Los Angeles Dodgers will be crowned the champions of the NL West once again this season. In my mind the Dodgers have the best pitching in baseball and the second best hitting which makes them the clear choice for first place. You may be thinking, no way, the Cubs or the Mets have the best pitching in baseball. The Dodgers’ obviously have Clayton Kershaw, but after him they have some solid starters in Kenta Maeda, Scott Kazmir, and Alex Wood, and a good closer in Kenley Jansen. They also have a ton of depth with 20+ pitchers who could contribute at the Major League level this season. It is an even numbered year again so the Giants are going to win the World Series, right? No, but I do think they will finish in second and make the playoffs as a Wild Card team. They made some good acquisitions to get Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija who will help them get their. One of the hottest team this offseason, the Arizona Diamondbacks will finish in third place and not make the playoffs even after some big acquisitions like Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller. The Diamondbacks may be a little concerned as the hottest team two off-seasons ago, the San Diego Padres will be finishing behind them in the standings as their quick rebuild obviously did not work. The Padres should look to rebuild as they traded away most of their prospects during the 2014-2015 offseason to get Matt Kemp, Wil Myers, and the now gone Craig Kimbrel. In last place is the Colorado Rockies, who play in a big hitters park actually look like they will have better pitching than hitting… that’s not necessarily a good thing. Nolan Arenado is obviously a great player for Colorado but after him, there is a big drop off. 

2016 National League Central Division Preview

At just 24 years old, Kris Bryant looks to lead the way, for the Chicago Cubs, to their first World Series title in 107 years. (chicagostylesports.com)

Projected NL Central Standings:

1. Chicago Cubs

2. Pittsburgh Pirates

3. St. Louis Cardinals

4. Cincinnati Reds

5. Milwaukee Brewers

 

For the NL Central in 2016 it will be an odd year as it will be the first time since 2008 that the Cardinals have not finished in first or second place. Chicago Cubs fans will be praying that, for the first time since 1907, they will win the World Series. Their prayers will be answered as they are led by superstars Kris Bryant, Jake Arrieta, Anthony Rizzo, and Jason Heyward. The Pittsburgh Pirates will have another good year, but will fall just short of being the second NL Wild Card team losing out to the Giants by one or two games. They return a solid foundation led by homegrown talent, Andrew McCutchen, Gerrit Cole, and Starling Marte. The Cardinals still look like a good team but with the loss of Jason Heyward to their division rivals and with such stiff Divisional competition, they look like the third best team in this division. I will hopefully be watching a lot of Cardinals games this season as Rule 5 Draft Pick Matt Bowman has made the Major League roster. Bowman is a graduate of my high school, St. Albans, and the first player from our program to make it to the major leagues. The Reds and the Brewers both traded away a lot of their best players this offseason and are definitely rebuilding. The Reds sent Todd Frazier to the Chicago White Sox for prospects and the Brewers started shipping out pieces last season in Aramis Ramirez and Gerardo Parra, and shopped catcher Jonathan Lucroy this offseason.

2016 National League East Division Preview

Matt Harvey looks to lead the Mets and their strong young rotation to another division title. (AP)

Projected NL East Standings:

  1. New York Mets
  2. Washington Nationals
  3. Miami Marlins
  4. Atlanta Braves
  5. Philadelphia Phillies

The NL East will be the worst division in baseball in 2016 and that is a good thing for the Nationals and Mets who will be alone together in a tight race for first place. The Mets will obviously by led by their prominent young rotation featuring the likes of Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Noah Syndergaard. The Mets will also have solid hitting. Their lineup doesn’t seem like it will have one star batter but it will have a lot of solid hitters in Travis d’Arnaud, Yoenis Cespedes, Neil Walker, Michael Conforto,  David Wright, Curtis Granderson, and Lucas Duda. The Nats also have a very balanced team with hitters like Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, and Daniel Murphy, and a pitching staff led by Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg. The Marlins should be a fairly average team once again. They have some good hitters and pitchers in Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna, Dee Gordon, Jose Fernandez and Wei-Yen Chen, but they have absolutely no depth behind them. The Braves and Phillies look like they will be the two worst teams in baseball. Freddie Freeman will remain a good first baseman for the Braves but other than him they don’t have many above average players and those who are are veteran players and not young guys with potential. In fifth place the clearly rebuilding Phillies will have two exciting young players, who should have good years, in third baseman Maikel Franco and starting pitcher Aaron Nola. They are going to have to wait a couple of years for the rest of their prospects to develop so they can return to having successful seasons. In the end, this will be the closest race for first place of a division as the Mets will beat the Nats out by one game leaving the Nats to face the Giants in the Wild Card Game.

2016 American League West Division Preview

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Dallas Keuchel will lead a strong Astros’ team that has been years in the making. (Mark J. Terrill/AP)

Projected AL West Standings:

  1. Houston Astros
  2. Seattle Mariners
  3. Texas Rangers
  4. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
  5. Oakland Athletics

In 2016, for the first time in 15 years, the Astros will win their division. They have been rebuilding for years, losing 100 games for three years in a row from 2011-2013, but it all appears to be paying off as they look like the clear favorite in the AL West this season. During those three losing seasons they acquired players like Carlos Correa, Dallas Keuchel, and George Springer that will be leaders of their team this year. A team that no one is talking about but I see doing well is the Seattle Mariners. The Mariners will finish in second place due to having the third best offense, led by Kyle Seager and Robinson Cano, and the second best pitching in the AL West, led by Felix Hernandez. In third place will be last seasons AL West Champs, the Texas Rangers. The Rangers have decent hitting but I worry about their pitching. They have some quality starting pitchers in Cole Hamels, Yu Darvish, Martin Perez, and Derek Holland, but I worry about their bullpen. Despite having the second best player in baseball, Mike Trout, the Angels will finish in a disappointing fourth place. In last will be the small-market Oakland Athletics. After cleaning house last offseason, the Athletics will once again be looking to rebuild on a budget, but they do have a strong cornerstone to build around in Sonny Gray.

2016 American League Central Division Preview

Corey Kluber looks to lead the Indians’ strong pitching staff in 2016. (Associated Press)

Projected AL Central Standings:

  1. Cleveland Indians
  2. Kansas City Royals
  3. Detroit Tigers
  4. Chicago White Sox
  5. Minnesota Twins

Picking the Indians to win the AL Central might come as a surprise to you, but they are the only team in the AL Central that seem to be balanced.They will be led on the hitting side by young shortstop Francisco Lindor while on the pitching side a strong top three of Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, and Danny Salazar will lead the charge. In second place, the Royals have good hitting with a solid core of bats that have been in Kansas City for awhile and led them to a World Series title last season. Unfortunately for them, I’m not sure that the starting pitching is there. Yordano Ventura will be a solid starter but after him it gets a little shaky. Similar things can be said for the Tigers whom have solid hitting and actually have three top-notch starters in Jordan Zimmermann, Justin Verlander, and Anibal Sanchez but the last two spots in their rotation and their bullpen definitely could hurt them. The White Sox look to be the opposite of the Royals and the Tigers as they should have a good pitching staff led by Chris Sale and a decent bullpen led by David Robertson, but after Todd Frazier and Jose Abreu, I’m not sure that the hitting is really there. Coming in 5th place will be the Minnesota Twins, one of last years biggest positive surprises. They have a mix of young and veteran quality hitters, but the pitching staff is not looking good whatsoever. Who knows, they might surprise us again this season.

2016 American League East Division Preview

Mookie Betts is one of the Red Sox’s young stars. (Getty Images)

Projected AL East Standings:

  1. Boston Red Sox
  2. Toronto Blue Jays
  3. New York Yankees
  4. Tampa Bay Rays
  5. Baltimore Orioles

The American League East is shaping up to be the most difficult division in baseball this season even with the worst team in the division, the Baltimore Orioles, being an average team who would finish second in the AL Central. The Red Sox will go from worst to first to become the best team in the AL East and also the whole American League. They will be led by rising-stars Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts, and also newly acquired pitcher David Price. In a close second will be last year’s AL East Champions, the Toronto Blue Jays. The Blue Jays will be returning a majority of their team including reigning AL MVP Josh Donaldson. The New York Yankees look poised to finish in third place in the AL East this year in their second season without Derek Jeter. They will also make the playoffs which is pretty decent for a franchise that appears to be saving money for the 2018 free agent class. In fourth place will be the Tampa Bay Rays who will be led by Chris Archer, Evan Longoria, and an very underrated player in Kevin Kiermaier. Finishing in the cellar of the AL East this year will be the Baltimore Orioles. The Orioles are by no means a bad team, who I have already mentioned would be projected to finish in second in the AL Central, but with so many quality teams ahead of them in their division, the O’s won’t have a great record at the end of the year. Come October, the AL East will put three teams in the playoffs with the Red Sox winning the division and the Blue Jays and the Yankees as the two AL Wild Card teams.