The Cardiac Kids are alive and well.  This year’s team is exhausting.  Couple our need to take the last two games to the wire with a start time of 7:30 p.m. (this game), and I’m whipped.

The offensive line was in fine shape.  Sure the occasional breakdown and holding call (we would have scored 35 points!  Keep your hands to yourself, big guys) flared.  When Zach Thomas went down during the second quarter causing Dominic Gudino to take the right guard spot, I’m thinking, “Well, let’s see if the o-line firms or collapses”.  Firm was the outcome.  Juwan Washington averaged 5.1 per carry, Chase Jasmin (definitely the #2 guy behind Juwan) averaged 5.9 per carry and Ryan Agnew (he has speed Christian Chapman can only dream of ) averaged 4 yards per carry.  No other proof is required as to the effectiveness of the big guys.  The second half was 21 plus minutes of pushing, shoving and being generally unpleasant with the Arizona State defense.  The Sun Devil defensive line and linebackers were torn and frayed.

Ryan Agnew’s 12/24/129 seems paltry, but his three consecutive completions to B.J. Busbee (welcome to the field of play) and Ethan Dedeaux (twice) was part of a 6/9/77 sequence which tied the game at 14.  Not bad for a first start.

John Barron from 54 had enough on the ball to have nailed a 65 yard attempt.  WOW!  17-14 will never be as impressive again.

Kyahva Tezino had a fantastic game.  He was everywhere less the stands selling popcorn.  I must admit concern about Kyree Woods.  He gave up too many completions.  Without improvement, I see either Luq Baarcoo, Jeff Clay or Darren Hall taking his spot.  ASU was picking on Mr. Woods for a reason.

The Aztec defense, less my concerns about Mr. Woods, gathered momentum during the second half.  ASU had the ball in the third and fourth quarters for a total of 8 minutes and 54 seconds.  At the half, the Sun Devils had 254 yards of total offense.  At the end of the third quarter they tacked on an additional and whopping 13 yards (yawn).  Well done, Aztecs.

Kudos to SDSU administration for the SDSU West presentation so kindly aired by CBS during the game.  I choose to believe this notice was especially effective coupled with a win over a ranked rigged 5 school.

In addition to B.J. Busbee (fr-rs), congrats to Jordan Byrd (fr), Shane Coleman (fr-rs) and Keshawn Banks (fr) on substantial play time and bright futures.

2-1.

Go, Aztecs.

 

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Aztecs 28, Sac State 14

Posted: September 9, 2018 in Uncategorized

So much ugly, so little time.

We were lucky.  Sacramento State was looking like Eastern Illinois and Cal Poly SLO.  We were looking at 0-2.  Thankfully, we decided to play football the entire fourth quarter.

The offensive line disappointed consecutive games.  More sustained pushing and shoving is needed.  Juwan Washington rushing 36 times for an average of 4.3 yards per carry is an indication of an anemic o-line.

Christian Chapman is likely to miss the Arizona State game.  Ryan Agnew filled in admirably.  11/17/159 is a productive half of football.  Sure, the two picks kept Sac State in the game, but the Aztec defense allowed one score, rather than two, off the interceptions.

Ethan Dedeaux, Kahale Warring and Tim Wilson, Jr. made the most of their 6, 3 and 3 receptions.  211 of the evening’s total of 271 yards receiving were due to their talents.  Not bad and something to build on.

God bless John Barron.  Without his 52 and 32 yard scores, the first half is absolutely miserable.

Speaking of miserable, the Aztec defense held the Hornets to 1.7 yards per rush and a mere 234 yards of total offense.

Disaster averted.  Arizona State is next.  At least we are at home.

1-1.

Go, Aztecs.

 

Where to begin.

The first half had a pall.  Sure, 7-0 was pleasant, but the inability of the Aztec offensive line to block outside the tackles, especially to the left, was forcing Juwan Washington to run up the gut (with gusto), and nowhere else.

To speak of “to the left”, Tyler Roemer (left tackle) and Daishawn Dixon (left guard) were repeatedly unable to hold blocks during the first half.  Boo.

So, Jeff Horton calls up the gut plays . . . and we score.  Juwan ran for 20+, 10+, 40+, 6-ish, then a td.  Kudos to Dominic Guidino, Keith Ismael and the afore criticized Mr. Dixon for plowing openings galore for Mr. Washington.

Stanford goes three and out.  We follow with seeming momentum until Isaac Lessard is flagged for a chop block, thus we punt.  Boo.  However, during this sequence, Ethan Dedeaux (r-fr) catches a pass (in other receiving news, Fred Trevillion dropped his first opportunity, thus enhancing the legend of Hit Me On My Number And I Drop My First Pass Trevillion).  Mr. Dedeaux is one to watch  and offers Christian Chapman dreams of 60% completion rates.

Stanford scores two points via a hesitant safety by the officiating squad.  The head ref (forgive my lack of football referee knowledge) seemed to need a tutorial in signaling the safety call.  Perhaps because the call was crap.

Prior to this bit of neighbohood football officiating, Chase Jasmin spelled Mr. Washington, thus received his first dose of competitive, non-wipe out football.  He did so the next set of downs as well (and gathered a rushing first down).  Yes, this is Jeff Horton taking a look under the hood for future reference.  Howl all you want about why-was-Juwan-not-in-the-game.  I don’t care.  Many Aztec fans deplore this side of Mr. Horton, but I offer my inestimable support (incredibly valuable.  Much like your drunken friend cheering you on during a fight . . . that you are losing) in preparation for the MWC schedule.  You know, what really matters.

Then comes the Noble Hall moment.  Mr. Hall catches a batted football and decides to emulate Juwan Washington (mistake).  Rather than tucking the ball with both arms securely against his midsection, he assumes the spirit of Mr. Washington, and has the ball poked out of his arms into Stanford possession, which allows the halftime score of 9-7.  However, I disagree with Rocky that this moment was a game changer or momentum shift.

The first possession in the third quarter features Mr. Dedeaux catching another pass from Mr. Chapman.  Unreal.  Based off of last year.  And the year before.  However, we punt.

Stanford scores by and large because of consecutive penalties on the Aztec defensive backfield.  Boo.

Coach Horton then displays what could be an actual passing game.  The one where receivers catch passes from Christian Chapman.  I offer, Mr. Trevillion, Mr. Dedeaux, and Tim Wilson, Jr making consecutive catches.  Mr. Trevillion makes another catch.  John Barron hits a field goal.  16-10.  Not bad.

As Stanford works towards another score, I find comfort with the fact that Bryce “Heisman” Love has done nothing.  The Aztec defense has face stuffed him all game long.  When Stanford goes horizontal, they do so with nothing to show.  Yet, when they throw vertical, our defensive backfield is at risk.  The Stanford receivers stepped in front and made catches.  They out jumped us and made catches.  Thus, the Aztec defensive weakness.  But, better to have one weakness than many.

Remaining Aztec highlights of the third and fourth quarters feature another 40+ run by Mr. Washington and catches by Mr. Dedeaux and Mr. Wilson, plus a nine yard run by Chase Jasmin.  We had a chance to score during the Dedeaux-Wilson-Jasmin sequence, but our o-line gave up consecutive sacks of Mr. Chapman.  Again, boo.

As we move forward, the Aztec offensive line needs to ignore the media praise.  The big guys need to prove their collective worth.  Sustain your blocks and protect your quarterback.  The defensive secondary must stay stride for stride with taller wider receivers or face similar results via this 31-10 loss.  And, STOP WITH THE PENALTIES ALREADY!!!!.  Over 100 yards?  C’mon.  Parker Baldwin had a career game.  Juwan Washington is the real deal.  We seem to have the beginnings of a passing game.

Next is Sacramento State at home.  Fireworks await.  I want a shutout (okay, I’ll accept a single digit) of Hornet offense.  Pound and ground, then stretch the field.  May Fred Trevillion catch the first ball thrown to him (I may pass out.  Get it?).  Deliver good basic football without a field’s worth of penalties.

Aztecs, 0-1.

Eleven to go.

 

 

Fear not, a post-Penny letdown will not occur.

I will start with the offense.

Christian Chapman (sr) is the equivalent of a hard working spouse who never misses a day of work, remembers anniversaries and birthdays, enjoys a beer on a hot day and always wears sunscreen.  At times his average passing numbers frustrate me, but I counsel myself with the fact he is mostly mistake free and wins.  This year’s back-up is junior Ryan Agnew (a man waiting his turn if there ever was) or redshirt freshmen Mark Salazar.

Juwan Washington (jr) is a mix of Donnel Pumphrey and Rashaad Penny.  A-la Pumphrey, Juwan can do the excuse-me-pardon-me side step routine or he can bowl you over and leave foot prints on your chest.  His choice.  The #2 back is a contest between Chase Jasmin (so), Chance Bell (r-fr) and Kaegun Williams (r-fr).  However, I would not be surprised to see Jeff Horton take a look at freshmen Zidane Thomas and Jordan Byrd during the Sacramento State and Eastern Michigan games.  I find Mr. Thomas to be the most intriguing of all those standing behind Mr. Washington.

For the first time since Rocky Long’s Aztec coaching tenure, a duo of fullbacks may enjoy the smacking of opposing linebackers and defensive backs.  Isaac Lessard (jr) will enjoy most of the snaps.  Chad Woolsey (sr) moves to the fullback spot on behalf of depth, talent and options for Jeff Horton.

And now, the ever under achieving wide receivers.  Hunkie Cooper gets these guys to block like linemen, now is the long overdue moment to get them to CATCH A PASS!  Fred Trevillion (sr) is far too fond of dropping his first attempt.  When Fred did hold on to a Christian Chapman toss, he averaged an eye-popping 27 yards per catch.  Sadly, that happened a mere 12 times in 2017.  Tim Wilson (so) and Isiah Macklin (so) are likely partners opposite Mr. Trevillion.  If these three disappoint, coach Cooper has 13 other wide receivers to choose from in the never-ending attempt to CATCH A PASS!

Speaking of catching passes, thank goodness for tight ends.  Juniors Kahale Warring and Parker Houston form the best tight end duo in the MWC.  Much catching and running forward awaits.

The Aztec offensive line will be the best in conference and top-5 west of the Rockies (in 2019, I will move that claim to the Mississippi River).  Tyler Roemer (so), Daishawn Dixon (jr), Dominic Gudino (so), Keith Ismael (so) and Ryan Pope (sr) will pound, push, shove and smack from left to right.  I expect Nick Gerhard (jr), Kyle Spalding (so) and Zachary Thomas (so) to push for playing time.  Please note, Ryan Pope is the only senior in that sizable (pun intended) group.  Offensive line coach Mike Schmidt sleeps well.

Now to the other side.  Rocky’s side.

Noble Hall (sr) returns to nose guard.  He will be the anchor to the swirl of Damon Moore (sr), Chibu Onyeukwu (sr), Myles Cheatum (jr), Anthony Luke (sr) and Josh Robinett (so).  Look forward to the fury.

The linebacker spot is loaded as usual.  Leading tackler from 2017, Ronley Lakalaka (jr) will start with Kyahva Tezino (jr) and Andrew Aleki (so).  Substantial minutes await Troy Cassidy (jr), Kaelin Himphill (so) and Josh Bringuel (so).  One to watch is Seyddrick Lakalaka (r-fr), brother of Ronley.

The back five will be Parker Baldwin (sr and #2 tackler from 2017), Ron Smith (jr), Tariq Thompson (so and likely candidate to intercept more passes than Damontae Kazee), Jeff Clay (jr) and Kyree Woods (jr) or Trenton Thompson (so).  In the mix is Tayler Hawkins (so), Garett Binkley (jr), Will Stricklin II (so) and Jeff Chaney (jr).  This group is experienced and deep.

The kicking game belongs to the ultra-confident John Barron II (sr).  I do not look forward to his departure at the end of this season.

The punting efforts of Brandon Heicklen must improve in 2018.  Mr. Heicklen was as consistent as a distracted five-year old in the cereal aisle.

Doug Deakin and Richard Sanchez join the coaching staff.  These two gentlemen have the sizable task of keeping the special teams to the considerable level established by Bobby Hauck.  No small duty.

The usual and frustrating challenge of putting butts in the seats remains.  Granted, attendance has improved during Rocky’s tenure.  But, the creep towards averaging a minimum of 35,000 fans is vexing.

Wins will total a minimum of 8 or a maximum of 12.  Consecutive bowl game #9 awaits.

Go, Aztecs.

 

 

First place in the West division will be a season long contest between Fresno State and San Diego State.  Third goes to Nevada followed by UNLV, San Jose State and Hawaii.

The Mountain, seemingly forever, goes to Boise State.  Air Force finishes second.  My order of New Mexico, Wyoming, Utah State and Colorado State was one change after another until the order presented.

And now, the particulars.

West Division

Fresno State.  The Bulldogs surprised me last year.  I did not believe Jeff Tedford could/would create a quality football team given the shambles he was handed as a first year head coach.  But, he did.  Why the Bulldogs over the Aztecs?  Because Marcus McMaryion returns as the starting qb along with the their top 5 rushers (Mr. McMaryion was #4) from 2017 and for good measure 4 of their top 5 receivers (only losing the #2 receiver from last year.  By the way, when I use the word “receiver”, I am simply identifying the players with the most catches regardless of actual position).

Defensively the Bulldogs enjoy the return of the their top 7 tacklers from last year and 13 or their top 20.  Fresno allowed 321 (I round up from 320.6) yards per game last year.  This group of defenders know their defensive system and should improve even more in 2018.  Additionally, last year’s opposition average score of 18 points might be shaved by a point or two.

San Diego State.  While a returning starting qb, Christian Chapman is not Marcus McMaryion.  Mr. Chapman averaged a mere 144 passing yards per game (Mr. McMaryion was a considerable 51 yards per game better).  Granted, the Aztecs believe in pound and ground first, throw second.  Yet, improved passing yards will be required to beat the Bulldogs.  Juwan Washington will lead the rushing attack and has plenty of experience.  The wide receivers improved in 2017, yet still underachieved.  Only the #3 and #5 receivers from 2017 return.

On the other side, 13 of the top 20 tacklers return including 7 of the top 10.  The Aztec defense allowed 6 yards less per game than did the Bulldogs in 2017.  A smaller number at year’s end would not surprise.  Improving upon last year’s 22% of converted fourth downs by the opposition would be silly good.

University of Nevada.  As mentioned above, Ty Gangi is what separates the Wolf Pack from the remaining three teams in the West.  61% completion rate coupled with 275 yards passing per game for a 3-9/3-5 team is impressive.  As insurance, the #2 qb also returns for 2018.  The top 4 rushers return (Mr. Gangi was #3.  Lessening his exposure should be priority one for the Wolf Pack coaching staff in 2018).  They lose their #1 receiver from last year, but return the next 6 in line.

2017’s defense gave up 471 ypg.  Ouch.  But, if your team allowed third down conversions 44% of the time and fourth down conversions 55% of the time, 471 yards allowed would be expected.  With 14 of the top 20 tacklers including 7 of the top 10 returning, that ugly number should reduce significantly in 2018.

UNLV.  If the Wolf Pack stumbles, the Rebels will take the third spot in the West.  4 of their top 5 rushers return as do the #2, #3 and #4 receivers.  Armani Rogers returns as starting qb (Okay, fine.  He started 9 of 12 games.  75% is close to 100%).  Mr. Rogers is the definition of raw talent.  If he improves last year’s posting of 52% completion rate and paltry 147 passing ypg, the Rebels will be in the thick of every MWC game.  If not, Mr. Rogers may revert to starting 75% of the Rebels games.

Defensively, UNLV was as bad as their in-state brethren.  The second and fourth quarter scores had a cumulative difference of 57 points on behalf of the opposition.  Entering the locker room at halftime and end of game upside down must change in 2018.  14 of the top 20 tacklers return meaning the defensive coaching staff will suffer fewer I-can’t-believe-this moments in 2018.

San Jose State.  The good news: a lot of 2017 offense returns in 2018 meaning introducing fewer new ideas and more repition.  The bad news: a lot of 2017 offense returns.  These guys averaged 16 points a game last year.  Montel Aaron returns as the starting qb.  Much like Mr. Rogers at UNLV, Mr. Aaron has a wealth of potential.  Throwing more interceptions (10) than touchdowns (8) must stop.  His back up, Josh Love, features the same upside down result (7 picks to 5 scores).  While returning 4 of their top 5 rushers, the #2 rusher, Zamore Zigler, is listed as a cornerback for the 2018 season.  Additional concern lies with last year’s average of only 120 rushing yards per game.  The top 6 receivers return as well.  Hardly a barren scenario for 2018, but the offense needs to improve quickly.

The defense returns 13 of the top 20 tacklers.  These 13 were part of a group that gave up 499 ypg, allowed 85% of fourth down conversions and 325 points in the first two quarters of the season.  The Spartans average half time score for 2017 was 27-8.  Yes, the Spartans had the 8.  Entering the locker room down 19 points on a regular basis is bad for the defensive soul.

University of Hawaii.  I know.  You are thinking, how can Hawaii be worse than San Jose State?  Read the following, then you will know.

The only running back with any 2017 experience while wearing a University of Hawaii uniform is Freddie Holly III.  He ran for 30 yards on 9 carries.  He is the guy.  Hawaii’s returning qb who wore the same jersey as Mr. Holly is Cole McDonald.  In 2017, Mr. McDonald had 9 attempts and completed 5.  On behalf of Rainbow fans who are pointing at the entrance of senior transfer Larry Tuileta, he has yet to play in a division one football game.  Either he or Mr. McDonald is the guy.  As if this could not get worse, sadly I report that one (#2) of last year’s top 5 receivers returns.  The Rainbow offense averaged 23 points a game last year.  Expect a significant reduction in 2018.

To compound matters, Hawaii returns the fewest of their top 20 tacklers in the West:  12.  Cold comfort is their top 2 tacklers return.  The 2017 defense allowed 34 points a game, 210 rushing yards pg and 249 passing yards pg.  2018 may well be worse.

14 juco transfers are currently on the roster.  All sorely needed.  Surfing and eating fish tacos will be much more pleasant than watching 2018 Hawaii football.

Mountain Division

Boise State.  As obvious as ketchup on a hamburger and mustard on a hot dog, Boise finishes first in the Mountain.  Brett Rypien returns for his senior year.  Last year’s 348 attempts could easily approach 400 during 2018.  Boise returns their #3, #4 and #5 receivers.  Mr. Rypien will keep them busy.  The #1 (Alex Mattison who ran for 1,100+ yards) and #4 rushers return.  Plenty of balance and choice awaits this season.

Defensively the Broncos return an impressive 16 of their top 20 tacklers.  Learning curves, if any, will be extremely short.  An outstanding bunch.

Air Force.  When speaking of running the ball, I always go past the top 5 with the Falcons.  So many guys get to run the ball during the course of their season.  7 of their top 10 return.  Sure, two are qbs and two are wide receivers, but we speak of Air Force.  Running the ball is democratic.  Everybody gets a turn.  Arion Worthman returns as the #1 qb and offensive guide.  In case he wants to throw the ball down field, the top 3 receivers from last year return (they had a total of 39 catches between them).

They lose half of their top 10 tacklers from last year, but return 8 of the second 10.  The less time the Air Force defense spends on the field, the better.  Have a seat and watch the running game.

University of New Mexico.  The starting and #3 qb return.  Both threw more interceptions than touchdowns.  Tyrone Owens returns as the #1 rusher.  After Mr. Owens there is little proven ability in the form a running back rather than a qb who runs.  The good news is the #1, #3 and #4 receivers return and can they stretch the field averaging 13.6, 20.7 and 20.2 yards per catch respectively.

2017 featured one bad defensive first half after another.  If the UNM defense began the game in the third quarter, the win was theirs.  68% of points allowed by the Lobos defense were scored during the first half.  Astounding for the wrong reason.  13 of the top 20 tacklers return, though they lose 4 of their top 6.  If the defense plays four quarters rather than half a game, the Lobos may surprise.  If not, gonna be a long year.

Note:  Regarding Bob Davie, I do not comment on innocence or guilt when publishing my MWC preview.  I’m strictly here for the football.  Mr. Davie went 9-4 in 2016 and recovered from an awful 2015 start to finish 7-6.  I’m betting well timed luck strikes again.

University of Wyoming.  See what happens when Josh Allen leaves.  Stumble, plummet, go boom.  Or maybe not.  The #2 qb returns.  Nick Smith will get all the snaps he can handle this year.  He will throw to the top 1 – 7 returning receivers.  Lots of experienced hands await.  3 of the top 4 rushers return including the top two, Trey Woods and Kellen Overstreet, but both must greatly improve upon their respective poor average ypg of 3.5 and 4.4.

Wyoming’s defense allowed a respectable 335 ypg in 2017.  16 of the top 20 return.  But, given the lack of a running game, the 2018 Cowboys defense may spend far too much time on the field.  Defending what may be a one dimensional Cowboy offense bodes ill for the other Cowboys.

Utah State.  A notable mix of offense returns.  Jordan Love should receive the majority of, if not all the snaps.  If Mr. Love remains healthy, the Aggies may do better than advertised, but if Mr. Love is injured, no proven back up is present.  The #3 and #4 rushers return.  The #1, #2 and #4 receivers from 2017 return as well.

The defense welcomes back 18 of the top 20 tacklers.  Yet, the Aggies defense gave away 399 ypg last year.  If they can hold well against lesser or equal opponents, perhaps they give Air Force a run for second place.  If not, ending with an ill-timed losing streak (last year’s result) will disappoint, again.

Colorado State.  Nick Stevens moves on.  5 newbies are competing for his job.  Of those 5, not a one took a game snap while wearing a CSU jersey in 2017.  They lose 4 of their top 5 receivers, but return the #2, #3 and #4 running backs.  A less than perfect mix of offense.

Their top 4 tacklers return and 13 of the top 20 overall.  Much like Utah State, repeating last year’s offense allowed of 432 ypg is a non-starter in 2018.  Success will be out of reach.  Winning winnable games will be key to the Rams success or failure in 2018.  Given the state of the offense, this task belongs to the defense.

 

 

 

From the first snap, we were elsewhere.  Four (!) personal foul penalties in the first half was a gift of 60 yards to the Black Knights.  The last act of kindness we needed to offer a team that took “pound and ground” to a new level . . . against us.

Antonio Rosales getting tossed early in the game summed his entire year.  Mr. Rosales was not part of the offensive line for most of the year.  Why include him at the end of the year?  His start was badly timed and lent to the lack of focus during the first half.

Army’s offensive line was lower and faster than the Aztec defensive line.  The result was those mind-numbing drives that took 10+ minutes off the clock.  If you didn’t notice, Army had the ball 10+ minutes each quarter.  The Aztec offense rarely found the football to snap and throw (14 minutes to the second the entire game).  Less Rashaad Penny (save your money) and Juwan Washington, the offense never established any rhythm to speak of.

Kudos to Anthony Luke and his interception.  A rare bright spot.

Good luck to Bobby Hauck and Danny Gonzales.  New opportunity and well deserved, though I grimace at coaching changes.

10-3 finishes the year.  Not so bad, but I suffer from coulda, shoulda, woulda.  If I fold my arms and frown at 10-3, life is good for SDSU football.  Keep the frowns coming.

 

 

As stated in my 2017 A.L. rankings, no preamble.

First:  St. Louis (3.4  MLB best).  Only two positions need any hint of improvement (short and third).  St. Louis may have the best catching prospect in all of baseball, Andrew Knizner.  He will arrive no later than 2019.  Though, fear not Cardinal fans, lots of help and choice is on the way for 2018.

Starting pitching rated well.  Relief pitching rated better.

2018 Help:  The previously mentioned Mr. Knizner, Luke Voit (1b, MLB/AAA), Rangel Ravelo (1b, AAA), Alex Mejia (2b, MLB/AAA), Breyvic Valer (2b, MLB/AAA), Nick Martini (lf, AAA/AA), Jose Adolis Garcia (rf, AAA/AA), Jack Flaherty (starter, MLB/AAA/AA), Mark Montgomery (reliever, AAA), Josh Lucas (reliever, MLB/AAA), Sam Tuivailala (reliever, MLB/AAA) and John Brebbia (reliever, MLB/AAA).  A couple of years away help, Magneuris Sierra (cf, AA/A+) and Jacob Evans (reliever, A+).

Second:  Arizona (3.3).  Less third base, all other 2-9 positions rated 4.0.  Lots of candidates to look over during March, 2018.

Starting pitching development is lagging.  Relief development is above average.

2018 Help:  Christian Walker (1b, MLB/AAA.  Good enough to trade Paul Goldschmidt?  Probably not), Ildemaro Vargas (2b, MLB/AAA), Kevin Medrano (2b, AAA/AA), Ketel Marte (ss, MLB/AAA), Rey Fuentes (cf, MLB/AAA), Oswaldo Arcia (rf, MLB/AAA and the best of all Arizona outfield prospects), Jimmie Sherfy (reliever, MLB/AAA), Jacob Miller (reliever, AAA/AA) and Gabriel Moya (reliever, MLB/AA.  No AAA.  Why?  Dumb, dumb, dumb).  2019 or later help, Mark Karaviotis (1b, A+/A), Ramon Hernandez (3b, A), Ben DeLuzio (lf, A+/A, though he played mostly rf in A ball), Yoan Lopez (reliever, A+) and Kirby Bellow (reliever, A+).

Third:  L.A. (3.2).  Not as deep per position as St. Louis or Arizona, but close.  Given the relative youth of the Dodgers, I’m guessing many of the 2018 Help names would be available for trade.

Starting pitching improved, while relief pitching took a step backwards.

2018 Help:  Willie Calhoun (2b, MLB/AAA), Tim LoCastro (2b, AAA/AA, though he logged more games in center than second at the AA level), Jose Fernandez (2b, AA), Max Muncy (3b, MLB/AAA), Rob Segedin (3b, MLB/AAA), Alex Verdugo (cf, MLB/AAA), Henry Ramos (rf, AAA/AA), Yusniel Diaz (rf, AA/A+), Scott Barlow (starter, AA), Tim Shibuya (starter, AA) and Brian Moran (reliever, AA).  2019 help, Jose Brizuela (1b, A+) and Johan Mieses (cf, A+.  One to watch).

Fourth:  Pittsburgh (2.9).  Strength is found at catcher, second and left.  Improvement is needed at short, third, center and right.

Starting pitching holds a strong mix of MLB/AAA and AA/A+ 2017 exposure.  Relief development is not on par with starting pitching.

2018 Help:  Jacob Stallings (c, MLB/AAA), Edwin Espinal (1b, AAA), Jordan Luplow (lf, MLB/AAA/AA), Jordan George (mostly dh at the AA/A+ level.  Perfect trade material for an A.L. team) and Tyler Glasnow (starter, MLB/AAA).  2019/20 help, Stephen Alemais (2b, A+), Hunter Owen (3b, A, but needs to reduce his 16 kicks) and Pedro Vasquez (starter, A+).

Fifth (tie):  Philadelphia (2.8).  The Phils boast the best defensive catchers in development in the N.L.  Six rated catchers have toss rates ranging from 33% to 47%.  Outstanding.  Now that Carlos Santana plays first base in Philadelphia, does Rhys Hopkins return to AAA for left field school or stay in Philly and learn on the job (a shaky proposition)?

Starting pitching development is one of the best in the N.L while relief pitching is just a step behind.

2018 Help:  Scott Kingrey (2b, AAA/AA), Drew Stankiewicz (2b, AA/A+), Andrew Pullin (lf, AA), Carlos Tocci (cf, AA), Thomas Eshelman (starter, AAA/AA) along with fellow starters (Nick Pivetta and Ben Lively who did not pitch quite enough in Philadelphia during 2017 to lose their prospect status), Jesen Therrien (reliever, MLB/AAA) and Yacksel Rios (reliever, MLB/AAA/AA).  Distant help, Jesus Alastre (rf, A) and the A+ relief quartet of Luke Leftwich, J.D. Hammer, Austin Davis and Trevor Bettencourt.

Fifth (tie):  Colorado (2.8).  First, short and center offer immediate help.

Both types of pitching are solid if unspectacular.

2018 Help:  Jordan Patterson (1b, MLB/AAA), Ryan McMahon (1b, MLB/AAA), Brian Mundell (1b, AA/A+), Daniel Castro (ss, MLB/AAA), Mike Tauchman (cf, MLB/AAA), Raimel Tapia (cf, MLB/AAA), Noel Cuevas (rf, AAA), Ryan Carpenter (starter, AAA), Sam Howard (starter, AAA/AA) and the AA relief trio of James Farris, Shane Broyles and Matt Pierpont.  2019 or so help, Hamlet Marte (c, A+), Tyler Nevin (1b, A), Colton Welker (3b, A), Brendan Rogers (ss, A+), Jose Gomez (ss, A), Wes Rogers (lf, A+) and Sam Hilliard (rf, A+).

Sixth:  NYM (2.7).  Enough depth to earn no less than average at all 2-9 spots.  Hardly a ringing endorsement, but they could be worse (as you will soon read once we get to #10).

Both starting and relief pitching rated above average.  Given the Mets recent arm woes (the Angels of the N.L.), the Mets organization could afford no worse than a 3.0 rating for both types of pitching.

2018 Help:  Kevin Plawecki (c, MLB/AAA.  Kevin can hit, but he can’t throw out a baserunner for a cold beer during a July day game.  How about first base or left?), Dominic Smith (1b, MLB/AAA), Ahmed Rosario (ss, MLB/AAA), Christopher Flexen (starter, MLB/AA), Marcos Molina (starter, AA/A+), Tim Peterson (reliever, AA), Alberto Baldonado (reliever, AA), Drew Smith (reliever, AA) and Kyle Regnault (reliever, AA).  2019 forward help, Anthony Dimino (c, A+), Jeff McNeil (2b, A+) and Austin McGeorge (reliever, A+).

Seventh:  San Diego (2.5).  2-9 spots bounce from 1.0 (second and right) to 4.0 (center).

Starting and relief both rated above average.

2018 Help:  Jose Pirela (1b, MLB/AAA), Rafael Ortega (cf, MLB/AAA), Franchy Cordero (cf, MLB/AAA), Kyle McGrath (reliever, MLB/AAA/AA.  Mr. McGrath threw a whopping 6 innings in AAA), Joey Lucchesi (reliever, AA) and Rafael DE Paula (reliever, AA).  2019/2020 help, Austin Allen (c, A+).

Eighth (tie): Atlanta (2.1).  I thought the Padres were thin, then I finished Atlanta.  Only one 2-9 spot rated higher than above average; center.  Three positions (first, short and third) have only two prospects per.

Starting pitching development offers at least two prospects while relief pitching is mostly face down in an algae laced lake.

2018 Help:  Austin Riley (3b, AA), Ronald Acuna (cf, AAA/AA/A+.  Atlanta bound in 2018), Xavier Avery (cf, MLB/AAA), Lucas Sims (starter, MLB/AAA) and Luis Gohara (starter, MLB/AAA/AA/A+.  As rapid a rise as Mr. Acuna).  Dots on the horizon of help, Alay Lago (2b, A+), Tyler Neslony (rf, A+) and Jon Kennedy (reliever, A).

Eighth (tie):  Cincinnati (2.1).  Maybe four guys who aren’t pitchers get a call during 2018.  Development at short, third and left has mysteriously been put on hold.

Much like Atlanta, thank goodness for starting pitching or the mound is a vacant lot.

2018 Help:  Nick Senzel (2b, AA/A+.  He has the bat and the glove), Juan Perez (ss, AAA), Tyler Goeddel (cf, AAA/AA), Jesse Winkler (rf, MLB/AAA.  Jay Bruce is long gone.  Your time is upon you, Mr. Winkler) and Tyler Mahle (starter, MLB/AAA/AA).  2019-ish help, Shedric Long (2b, A+), Taylor Trammell (3b, A) and the A ball relief trio of Jesse Adams, Ryan Hendrix and Dauri Moreta.

Ninth:  Milwaukee (2.0).  First, short and third each rated 1.0, and there go the Brewers.

Starting pitching has prospects.  Relief is in tatters and scored a 0.  Why?  One AAA guy, one AA guy, four A+ guys, two A guys and the last two spots were not filled.  That’s why.

2018 Help:  Two guys could offer substantial help.  Lewis Brinson (cf, MLB/AAA) and Brett Phillips (rf, MLB/AAA).  Nathan Orf (2b, AAA) is the only other 2-9 player likely to live in Milwaukee during the summer of 2018.  Cody Ponce (starter, AA/A+) and Corbin Burnes (starter, AA/A+) both need a full year in AAA, but probably won’t get it.  Future help, Keston Hiura (dh, A) and Brad Kuntz (reliever, A+).

Tenth:  Miami (1.9).  One guy each at second, short and right.  Average at catcher and first.

Both starting and relief earned 1.0.  Boo.  What exactly do system wide pitching coaches do?

2018 Help:  Brian Anderson (2b, MLB/AAA), Christian Colon (2b, MLB/AAA), Eury Perez (lf, MLB/AAA), Dillon Peters (starter, MLB/AA.  Skipped AAA) and James Buckelew (reliever, AA).  2019 and beyond help, Ben Meyer (starter, A+).  Nobody else.

Eleventh:  Washington (1.8).  Second, short, third and right have one or two candidates at A+  or A ball.  That is not depth.  That is indicative of wasting time and money while pretending to have a development system.

Starting pitching earned a 1.0 while relief was average.

2018 Help:  Victor Robles (cf, MLB/AA/A+.  Granted, I believe Mr. Robles is a future top-notch MLB player, but why he was rushed to Washington – a playoff team – is the definition of thoughtless development) and John Sims (starter, AA).  Future help, Juan Soto (rf, A), Grant Borne (starter, A+) and R.C. Orlan (reliever, A+).  Refer to my final sentence regarding the Marlins.

Twelfth:  Cubs (1.7).  Lots of average and below average development.  As an example, catching finished with six guys rated, but nobody was more than serviceable.  First and short had similar results.  In the corporate world, the Cubs system would be loaded with middle management.

Starting pitching is as bad as Miami’s and Washington’s.  Relief pitching scored above average (one of two positions to do so).

2018 Help:  Victor Caratini MLB/AAA.  He can hit, but finds baserunners impossible), Brad Markey (reliever, AAA/AA) and Daury Torrez (reliever, AA).  2019/2020 help, Viamel  Machin (3b, A), Roberto Caro (rf, A), Michael Rucker (starter, A+), Pedro Araujo (reliever, A+) and Craig Brooks (reliever, A+).  The Cubs and Nats are addicted to free agency.  These two organizations abide by the dictum of “play catch” in their respective player development systems.

Thirteenth:  San Francisco (1.6).  Not a single candidate at first or center.  Nobody.  Zero.  Nada.  Zilch.  One guy at short.  Two guys each at catcher, second, and left.  Three guys at third.

Starting pitching earned a 1.0.  Relief a 2.0.

2018 Help:  Ryder Jones (3b, MLB/AAA) and Austin Slater (rf, MLB/AAA).  2019+ future help, Ryan Howard (ss, A+), Bryan Reynolds (rf, A+), Ryan Halstead (reliever, A+), Dustin Knight (reliever, A+) and Pat Ruotolo (reliever, A).  The Giants are the bottom of bottoms in player development.  Cold winds blow off San Francisco Bay.  So, too, throughout the development levels of AAA, AA, A+ and A ball.  Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

 

 

 

No more preamble.  Read the prior years if you wonder or have question about my ratings.  Enjoy, if you must.

A.L.

First (tie):  L.A. Anaheim Angels (3.2 rating).  Why Carlos Perez does not get a longer look in Anaheim is a puzzle.  He crushed opposing pitching (for a catcher) and has a AAA toss rate of 41%.  First, second and left along with catching are the strongest of the 2-9 spots.  Left and right are a short step behind.

Relief pitching develops at a faster rate than starting pitching.  Eric Karch (AA) and Greg Mahle (MLB/AAA/AA, though his AAA numbers in no way indicated a 2017 arrival to the Show) are the best of the bullpen candidates while Jordan Kipper (AA) may well see the Big A before the end of the 2018 season (especially in light of the Angels’ substantial arm woes).

2018 Help:  The above mentioned Mr. Perez, Mr. Karch, Mr. Mahle (though a full year in AAA might be a better idea) and Mr. Kipper, Matt Thaiss (1b, AA/A+), Kaleb Cowart (3b.  His AAA offensive numbers are considerable.  2018 is his last chance to land a full-time gig in Anaheim), Cesar Puello (cf, MLB/AAA), Ramon Flores (rf, MLB/AAA) and Forrest Allday (rf, AA).

First (tie):  Oakland (3.2).  Depth at second, third, left and center.  The only average 2-9 spot is first (assuming Matt Olson makes the team at the end of March, 2018, precious little is behind him at the lower levels).

Starting pitching is a struggle.  Less Dustin Hurlbutt (A+), the A’s will do a lot of up-down shuttling with their top-five starting candidates (Zach Neal, Paul Blackburn, Frankie Montas, James Naile and Corey Walter) until one of the five hopefully sticks.  Relief development is a tad better, but without a standout.

2018 Help:  Mr. Hurlbutt (but beware the rush job), Sheldon Neuse (3b, AA/A+ and  potential plus), Tyler Ramirez (lf, AA/A+ and potential plus), Yairo Munoz (ss, AA) and B.J. Boyd (cf, AA).  Two guys who are two years away are Brett Siddall (lf, A+) and Seth Brown (rf, A+).

Second (tie):  Baltimore (3.1).  Only left field rated average.  All the 2-9 spots rated above average.  Catching is overflowing with choice (or trade bait to those organizations who struggle to develop catching depth).  Chance Cisco (c, MLB/AAA), Audrey Perez (c, MLB/ AAA) and Austin Wynns (c, AA) can all knock the cover off the ball.  Francisco Pena (MLB/AAA) has a 56% toss rate at AAA.

Bullpen development is arguably the best in the A.L.  Eight of their top ten are in AAA and AA.  Starting pitching, not so much.  Average at best and nowhere near MLB ready as the relievers.

2018 Help:  Any of the above mentioned catchers, Luis Sardinas (2b, MLB/AAA), D.J. Stewart (lf, AA), Austin Hays (cf, MLB/AA.  Yep, he skipped AAA.  Tremendous potential), Gabriel Rosa (rf, AA), Jimmy Yacabonis (relief, MLB/AAA) and Donnie Hart (relief, MLB/AAA).  Guys two years away are Jomar Reyes (2b, A+), Ryan Mountcastle (ss, A+), Alex Wells (starter, A) and Luis Gonzalez (reliever, A+).

Second (tie):  NYY (3.1).  Need a first baseman, shortstop or left fielder?  Call Brian Cashman.  He has plenty to choose from . . . though sometimes I wonder what Brian wonders.  Two spots that do need improvement are second (one candidate, Nick Solak) and right (two possibilities, the average duo of Jhalan Jackson and Isiah Gilliam).

Starting pitching is deep.  Five legitimate candidates to stay in the Bronx in 2018 and beyond, four of which had the “cup of coffee”  and AAA innings in 2017:  Caleb Smith, Luis Cessa, Domingo German and Dietrich Enns.  The fifth is my personal favorite, Chance Adams (AAA/AA).  The bullpen also does well.  All of the top ten are a mix of MLB/AAA, AAA and AA experience during 2017.

2018 Help:  The starters were already mentioned.  The best of the ‘pen is Ben Heller (MLB/AAA) and Tyler Webb (MLB/AAA).  Position players are Miguel Andujar (3b. MLB/AAA), Tyler Wade (ss, MLB/AAA), Gleyber Torres (ss, AAA/AA.  His AAA performance was outstanding), Thairo Estrada (ss, AA) and Jorge Mateo (ss, AA), Jack Cave (cf, AAA/AA and cool name) and Jeff Hendrix (cf, AA/A+).  Two to three years away, Carlos Vidal (lf, A).

Second (tie):  Tampa Bay (3.1).  First and right were exceptional.  Catching, second, third and left were above average.  The question for 2018 is can the five AA guys who rated best at their positions (Dalton Kelly, Riley Unroe, Grant Kay, Joe McCarthy and Braxton Lee) make the jump to the big club in 2018?

Relief pitching development is exceptional.  Five of the top ten relievers received my coveted asterisk (at least coveted by me).  All starting pitching top ten prospects are AA ball and up.  Rare air.

2018 Help:  Besides the five 2-9 players mentioned above, Justin Williams (rf, AA), Chih-Wei Hu (starter, MLB/AAA), Ryan Yarbrough (starter, AAA), Jose Mujica (starter, AA), Andrew Kittredge (relief, MLB/AAA), Ryan Stanck (relief, MLB/AAA), Diego Castillo (relief, AA).  Two years or so away, consider Brett Sullivan (c, A+), Daniel Rodriguez (c, A+), Brandon Lowe (2b, A+), Mike Brosseau (3b, A+/A), Spencer Jones (relief, A+) and Dalton Moats (relief, A+).

Second (tie):  Houston (3.1).  If their starting and relief pitching each rated better than average, the Astros would have rated first in A.L. development.  ’tis not the case.  All position players less shortstop have at least four guys who rated.  Spring training will be a gladiator fest to see who survives.  All outfield signs at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches during the month of March should have Darwin references to survival and change.  Yeah, the Astros are that deep.

Pitching is a slow step away from horrid.  Only one AAA starting candidate (Rogelio Armenteros).  The majority of the top ten pitched in A+ during 2017.  Thus, too soon to say.  Relievers closely modeled their starter counterparts.

2018 Help:  A.J. Reed (1b, MLB/AAA), Tony Kemp (2b, MLB/AAA), Tyler White (3b, MLB/AAA), Colin Moran (3b, MLB/AAA), Derek Fisher (cf, MLB/AAA) and Dean Deetz (starter, AA).  A couple of years away, Jake Rogers (c, A+/A), Rodrigo Ayaraza (2b, A), Yordan Alvarez (lf, A+/A), Yoanys Quiala (starter, A+), Franklin Perez (starter, A+), Alex Winkleman (starter, A+) and Kevin Hill (reliever, A+).

Third:  Minnesota (3.0).  An organization on the rise.  Yes, challenges exist in the development of second basemen and right fielders, but overall improvement is notable and soon to arrive in Minneapolis/St. Paul.  Especially deep is catching, first, third and both kinds of pitching.

The Twins’ pitching development rivals both the NYY and Tampa (high praise).  Seven of the top ten starting prospects are AA and up while all ten of relievers are AA and up.  Deep is good.

2018 Help:  Mitch Garver (c, MLB/AAA), Carlos Paulino (c, AA), Jonathan Rodriguez (1b, AA), Leonardo Reginatto (3b, AAA), Zach Granite (cf, MLB/AAA and another cool name), Edgar Corcino (rf, AA with no one behind him except cold wind), Nik Turley (starter, MLB/AAA), Jose Berrios (starter, MLB/AAA), Drew Rucinski (relief, MLB/AAA), Alex Wimmers (relief, MLB/AAA), Alan Busenitz (relief, MLB/AAA), Nick Anderson (relief, AA/A+) and Mason Melotakis (relief, AA).  2019 arrivals, Chris Paul (3b, A+) and Max Murphy (cf, A+).

Fourth (tie):  Cleveland (2.7).  Catching, third and center (best depth in the A.L.) saved the 2-9 rankings.  The remainder are vacant to sparse in candidates.

Pitching development is almost in league with the Twins.  Almost.  Starting depth shows six of the top ten in AA and up.  Relief is stronger with all top ten prospects AA and up.

2018 Help:  Francisco Mejia (c, MLB, AA.  Skipped AAA), Yandy Diaz (3b, MLB/AAA.  I  can already hear Cleveland fans yelling obscenities at me.  My question is, does Mr. Diaz replace Jose Ramirez?  I think not.  Plus, Mr. Diaz played two-thirds of his 2017 season at AAA.  Not so obvious), Ryan Merritt (starter, MLB/AAA), Thomas Pannone (starter, AA/A+), Julian Merryweather (starter, AA) and Tyler Olson (reliever, MLB/AAA).  Soon to arrive post-2018, Martin Cervenka (c, A+), Yonathan Mendoza (3b, A+), Mitch Longo (rf, A) and Aaron Civale (starter, A+).

Fourth (tie):  Detroit (2.7).  Most potential help is 2+ years away, less pitching which offers immediate help, thus the fourth place tie.

2018 Help:  Dominic Ficociello (1b, AA), Matt Boyd (starter, MLB/AAA), Artie Lewicki (starter, MLB/AAA/AA) and Jeff Ferrell (reliever, MLB/AAA).  Two plus years away, Blaise Salter (1b, A), Will Maddox (2b, A+), Dustin Frailey (lf, A+), Jake Robson (rf, A+/A), Beau Burrows (starter, A+), Joshua Tucker (starter, A+) and Austin Sodders (starter, A+).

Fourth (tie):  Kansas City (2.7).  Enough help waiting at AAA at the 2-9 spots to notice, yet not everyone has impact status.  Mighty thin at first, short and third, especially after the AAA level.

Starting pitching is average while relief is trending well (seven of the top ten relievers are AAA and AA).

2018 Help:  Cam Gallagher (c, MLB/AAA), Frank Schwindel (1b, AAA/AA), Raul Mondesi (ss, MLB/AAA), Logan Moon (lf, AAA), Jorge Bonifacio (rf, MLB/AAA), Elier Hernandez (rf, AA/A+), Jakob Junis (starter, MLB/AAA), Miguel Almonte (starter, MLB/AA.  No AAA in 2017.  Beware the rush job), Kevin Lenik (reliever, AAA) and Richard Lovelady (reliever, AA/A+).  A few years away, Chris DiVito (1b, A), John Brontsema (2b, A+/A), Vance Vizcaino (lf, A) and Gerson Garbito (starter, A).

Fifth (tie):  Toronto (2.6).  Pitching saved a worse rating.  Most of the 2-9 talent is A+ and A ball.

2018 Help:  Danny Jansen (c, AAA/AA/A+.  Yes, he hits and hits well, but has no toss ability.  A dh in waiting), Anthony Alford (cf, AAA/AA), Nick Tepesch (starter, MLB/AAA.  Nick is 28 years old.  Time to prove his ability), Chris Rowley (starter, MLB/AAA/AA), Ryan Borucki (starter, AA/A+), Andrew Case (reliever, AA/A+) and Carlos Ramirez (reliever, MLB/AAA/AA).  2019 or 2020 help, Vladimir Guerrero (3b, A+/A), Bo Bichette (ss, A+/A) and Bradley Jones (cf, A).

Fifth (tie):  White Sox (2.6).  2-9 spots feature talent or none.  Second, center and left hold the most hope.  First, short and left need a lot of help.

Speaking of needing help, may I present the White Sox woeful attempt to develop starting pitching.  Five of their top ten starters pitched in A+ ball during 2017.  Relief pitching did rate above average, thus saving the entire staff from carnage.

2018 Help:  Rob Brantley (c, MLB/AAA and his 47% toss rate), Jake Peter (2b, AAA/AA), Eloy Jimenez (rf, AA/A+.  He can play) and Ian Hamilton (reliever, A+).

Fifth (tie):  Seattle (2.6).  Six prospects ready in two positions (center and right).  Other than that, not much is immediately ready for 2017.

Starting pitching is two sizable steps above relief pitching.  All ten rated starters are AA and above.  Relief featured 3 A ball pitchers.  Not good.

2018 Help:  Taylor Motter (ss, MLB/AAA), Tyler Smith (ss, MLB/AAA), Braden Bishop (cf, AA/A+.  Talent galore), Ian Miller (cf, AA), Boog Powell (rf, MLB/AAA), Ben Gamel (rf, MLB/AAA), Kyle Waldrop (rf, MLB/AAA/AA), Ryan Weber (starter, MLB/AAA), Emilio Pagan (reliever, MLB/AAA) and Jonathan Aro (reliever, MLB/AAA).  2019-ish help, Chris Mariscal (2b, A+), Eric Filia (rf, A+), Seth Elledge (reliever, A).

Sixth:  Boston (2.5).  Too much rated talent at A+ and A levels in 2017.  A shake out at AA is needed during 2018.

2018 Help:  Danny Mars (lf, AA) and Bobby Poyner (reliever, AA/A+).  Help down the road, Conrad Gregor (1b, A+), Michael Chavis (3b, A+ and the best third base prospect since Wade “Chicken” Boggs), Trevor Kelley (reliever, A+).

Seventh:  Texas (1.7).  Below average ratings at short (one guy), third (one guy), center (one guy) and right (two guys both at A+ ball).  Average ratings at first, second and left.  Boo.  Starting and relief pitching barely rated average.

2018 Help:  Brett Nichols (c, MLB/AAA.  A man with a future), Nick Martinez (starter, MLB/AAA.  Time to stay in Arlington, Nick), Tyler Davis (starter, AA.  Do not rush him, and you may have a gem), James Dykstra (starter, AA) and Ricardo Rodriguez (reliever, MLB/AA/A+.  Skipped AAA).  Help on a distant horizon, Carlos Garay (1b, A+/A), Yanio Perez (1b, A), Brallan Perez (2b, A) and Eduardo Pinto (rf, A+).

 

 

The Dodgers/Braves deal did little for me.  Matt Kemp returns to his former team.  His former team that he despises.  His former team that has no position available or need for him.  Perfect sense.  Especially given Mr. Kemp’s long-established club house demeanor (less than pleasant in light of little playing time) and tendency to phone-in effort after the 81st game of the season.  As for the Braves, they designate Adrian Gonzalez for assignment hours after acquiring him, aka, baseball human rights.  Adrian is now free to dh in peace in the A.L.  Scott Kazmir and Brandon McCarthy form the back-end of the Braves starting staff.  Given recent history, if the two combine for 30 starts, well done Atlanta.  Charlie Culberson will play a little of this and a bit of that.

The Cubs improve their bullpen with the signings of Steve Cishek (might he challenge for the closer role?  Recall his save totals of 34, 39 and 25 for the 2013, 2014 and 2016 seasons) and Brandon Morrow (his bb per 9 has plummeted since 2015) while the starting staff gets a bump with Drew Smyly whose arm should be most fresh given his lack of work in 2015 and 2016 (19 starts combined).  Addressing the acquisition of Tyler Chatwood . . . why?

San Diego reacquired Chase Headley to access Bryan Mitchell.  I do not understand the fascination with pitchers who walk 4 batters per 9 (Mr. Mitchell’s primary achievement in 48 games in the Bronx) with strikeout ability.  The walks outweigh strikeouts.  Mr. Headley has no place in San Diego’s long-term plan.  I expect a trade prior to Opening Day.  Good luck to Jabari Blash in NYC.  At the age of 27, his time has arrived for good or for bad.

The Padres ridding themselves of Ryan “Swing and a Miss” Schimpf for a productive minor leaguer (Deion Tansel) was more than expected.

The Padres and Phillies combined for the common good.  Freddy Glavis, less 2015, puts up stellar defensive numbers.  However, he strikes out far too often and abhors the almighty walk.  The Phils did well in choosing Enyel De Los Santos (finished 2017 in AA ball and has posted solid starter numbers his entire minor league career) who may well pitch in Philly during August, 2018.

Continuing with the Phillies, signing Carlos Santana improves much about the Phillies.  Mr. Santana is a guaranteed 25/85 with his bat and plays a ballet first base that few appreciate (though the Phillies’ infielders will).  What this means for Rhys Hopkins is a permanent transfer to left field.  The addition of Pat Neshek (lifetime 2.75 era and 1.02 whip) is sorely needed in the bullpen.

The Angels dramatically improve their infield defense (and offense) with the Ian Kinsler trade and Zac Cozart signing.  Mr. Kinsler (a potential rent given 2018 is the final year of his contract) remains a competent defensive second baseman at the age of 35 and will provide the Angels with offensive production from that position for the first time since Howie Kendrick in 2014.  Of the two minor leaguers traded to Detroit, Troy Montgomery (cf, left-handed batter, AA in 2017) has the best chance to play in Detroit by 2019.  Returning to Zac Cozart, last year was the almighty “breakout year”.  He moves to third base to take the place of Yunel “Kick” Escobar whose 31 errors during his time in Anaheim was a glaring weakness and point of pique with Angel pitchers.

Houston signing Joe Smith and Hector Rondon is the baseball equivalent of Warren Buffett winning $1,000 on a lotto scratcher.  Well done, Astros.

Michael Pineda signing with the Twins is perhaps the small-town tonic (as compared to the bright lights of NYC) that may finally help him realize his potential.  If nothing else, the Twins now have a solid #4 or #5 starter.

Brian Cashman should be arrested for Grand Theft Player.  He stole Giancarlo Stanton.  The Yankees offer equates with getting a yacht for two fishing nets and the old guy at the end of the pier who fishes on Thursdays.  Mr. Stanton makes a boom-boom lineup a triple boom lineup.  As for those chosen by Miami, oy vey!  And not a good oy vey!  So many mavens are quick to point out that Jose Devers is Rafael Devers brother.  Who cares?  Jose Devers is 18 and has played a total of 53 games in rookie ball!  An insane choice by the Fish.  But wait!  There’s more bad decision-making by the Fish!  They choose Jorge Guzman who has pitched 5 seasons of minor league ball . . . 4 of which were in rookie ball!  Why does the phrase “running to stand still” enter my mind?  Finally, Starlin Castro, who is getting better with his glove, lands in Miami.

Then, Miami trades Marcel Ozuna.  Granted, Mr. Ozuna must now define himself without the presence of Mr. Stanton in the lineup.  Will Mr. Ozuna be George Foster, II or become Marcel Ozuna, I?  Zac Gallen was a smart choice by the Fish (I can be even-handed).  He finished year 2 in minor league ball in 2017.  He began in rookie ball, skipped both A- and A ball, and finished this year at the AAA level.  He is a legitimate candidate to pitch in Miami during 2018.  As for the other two choices, the Fish return to suspect choices.  Sandy Alcantara was a bb problem and Daniel Castano finished last year in A- ball.  Too soon to say.

Cardinal management is to be applauded for arranging Scott Piscotty’s trade to Oakland to be near his ailing mother.  Mr. Piscotty received full-time work in St. Louis during the 2016 year and offered his best year.  He will receive plenty of at-bats in 2018 on behalf of the A’s.  The Cards receive Max Schrock who is no more than a year away from the Show.  He is an exceptional shortstop (only 23 kicks in 239 games) and skilled with his bat (cumulative minor league numbers of .324/.372) and all of 23 years old.

Sadly, we wait a few more months to see how all the above pans out.

 

And thus the regular season.  And thus the conference season.

Juwan Washington averaged 9.3 yards per carry.  Rashaad Penny averaged 9.2 yards per carry.  Well done offensive line (most of the runs were in between the tackles, so the o-line gets the bulk, pun intended, of the credit).  By 2019, this group of biggies should be one of the best in the nation.

On the other side, a fine game delivered by both Kyahva Tezino (14 tackles) and Tariq Thompson (2 picks for a season total of 5).  A tip of the hat to Bandon Heicklen who had his best game as an Aztec (41.6 yards per punt).

Almost 29,000 in attendance which is not bad given the game was the day after Thanksgiving and the student section empty due to closed campus.

Now a bowl designation awaits.  This will be the eighth consecutive bowl game for the football program.  Dizzying heights.  Sure, playing in the MWC championship game is ideal, but consider our second place finish in the West division as motivation for next year.

10-2/6-2.  Go Aztecs.