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The memory of last year’s miserable finish must be the starting point for 2019.  Beginning last season with 7-2 start only to watch the misery of a 0-4 finish, including the pitiful bowl loss to Ohio, serves as the primary motivator for the 2019 Aztecs.  Revenge, gnashing of teeth and general thirst to hurt must precede this Aztec football campaign.

Granted, most everything can improve, but I’m hard pressed to envision the Aztec defense allowing less than last year’s 3.0 yards per rush.  Impressive plus.  Also, while 7-6 was impermissible disappointing and foul, four of the six losses were by 4 (Nevada), 3 (UNLV), 9, (Fresno State) and 1 (Hawaii), thus one could make the argument that 2018’s offense was generally one score away from a win.  I could also claim that the Aztec offense scoring a woeful 30 touchdowns leaves much to improve.  And I do.  Averaging at least four offensive touchdowns is primary for this year’s success.

As usual, the position analysis unfolds in all well thought glory.

Quarterback:  Ryan Agnew’s (sr) job to lose.  I’m not sold on Ryan (I’m sure he is deeply concerned).  Last year he completed barely half his pass attempts (51.6%) and 115 completions created only 1,651 yards.  I grant sharing the position with the injured Christian Chapman was less than ideal, but at times Mr. Agnew seemed to spend too much mental time watching the clock featuring the return of Mr. Chapman.  This year’s introduction of the spread offense should allow for a great deal of creativity on behalf of Mr. Agnew.  He is a qb who can run vertically.  Such talent creates options for offensive coordinator Jeff Horton on behalf of Mr. Agnew.  The back up is juco transfer Jordon Brookshire (jr) followed by Mark Salazar (soph) and/or Carson Baker (rs-fr).

Running back:  Once Juwan Washington (sr) went down, so did the 2018 Aztec running game.  I was hoping Nebraska transfer Greg Bell (jr) would provide a true 1-2 punch that Aztec fans expect.  Alas, Mr. Bell is injured and unlikely to play in 2019.  Mr. Washington, injured or not, had a good year in 2018 (5.0 yards per carry, 10 tds, 111 yards per game).  The problem was the mere 9 games he played.  Expect a healthy Juwan Washington to rush for a minimum of 1,500 yards in 2019.  If, please God, no, he is not healthy, last year’s challenge of maintaining an impactful run game rears its ugly head, yet again.  I found Chase Jasmin (jr) to be a significant step down from Mr. Washington.  Mr. Jasmin runs a tad too slashy (new word) for me.  I’m hopeful that both Chance Bell (soph) and Jordan Byrd (soph) receive more opportunities to run the ball in 2019.

Fullback:  This position was little used, less the standard blocking, last year.  Isaac Lessard (sr), last year’s starting fullback is injured.  Either Grady Vazquez (jr) or Connor McBride (so) do most of the initial pushing and shoving on behalf of Mr. Washington.  However, in light of the spread offense, I expect the fullback position to be less of an influence compared to past years.

Wide Receiver:  Five guys played last year.  So, I’m proposing a mix of those five to significantly expand the number of catches from last year.  Ethan Dedeaux (so), Kobe Smith (so), Elijah Kothe (so), Bj Busbee (so . . . those of you paying attention have discovered a theme) and Isiah Macklin (jr . . . theme no more).  These gentlemen can catch the ball and run vertically.  What more do I want?  I remain a fan of wide receivers coach Hunkie Cooper.  Why?  Because Mr. Cooper demands, at the very least, the ability to block downfield to create those extra yards for their fellow Aztec with the ball.  This year, his receiving corps blossoms with the spread offense.

Tight End:  Parker Houston becomes “the man”.  He will block less in the 2019 offensive scheme, thus his 16 catches from 2018 should increase enough to notice.  Daniel Bellinger is second on the depth chart.  Alex Wilson (so) and Nic McTear (rs-fr) should be in the mix as the season progresses.  Much like the wide receivers, this is a position that will benefit from the offensive change.

O line:  A disappointment in 2018.  I labeled last year’s squad to be the pre-season best in the MWC.  Wrong.  Tyler Roemer’s departure during the 2018 season was the cherry on top of a bad blocking performance by the Aztec o-line.  Injury did not help, but injury is part of the annual puzzle that must be solved.  As currently listed, the experience is found on the left side.  Left tackle Kyle Spalding (jr), Daishawn Dixon (sr) at left guard and #2 man behind Mr. Spalding, Zachary Thomas (jr), supply brains as well as brawn.  Keith Ismael (jr) and Dominic Gudino (jr) are listed 1 and 2 at the center spot, though Mr. Gudino is far too talented not to start at another line position.  Is this a sign that I should be content with depth?  The massive William Dunkle (6′ 5″, 355, rs-fr) is currently listed as the starting right guard.  The University or Oregon transfer Jacob Capra (jr) most likely earns the right tackle spot.  I’m expecting a return to blocking prominence in 2019.

Defense

D line:  Sophomores, Connor Mitchell and Keshawn Banks, are the defensive ends.  These two received significant playing time in 2018.  Good gets better in 2019.  Myles Cheatum (sr) will be the nose guard.  Juco transfers, Jalil Lecky (jr) and Jonah Tavai (jr), add size and experience (something more than high school football experience) given the relative youth and inexperience of non-starter defensive linemen.  The return of former head coach Brady Hoke as defensive line coach guarantees a much improved Aztec front three during 2019.

Linebacker:  A point of strength, again.  Yawn.  Kyahva Tezino (sr) and his 127 tackles from 2018 centers the defense.  A mix of Caden McDonald (so), Andrew Aleki (jr), Troy Cassidy (sr), Kaelin Himphill (jr), Seyddrick Lakalaka (so) and Will Stricklin (jr) will raise hell, chaos and confusion to the opponents detriment.  A deep and talented group.

D backfield:  These guys are as good as the linebackers.  Luq Barcoo (sr) returns from injury.  Trenton Thompson (jr) and the other Thompson (Tariq, also a junior), Dwyane Johnson (jr) and Darren Hall (so) complete the starting five.  Kyree Woods (sr) may not start, but he will see quality time on the field.

Kicking, punting and special teams:  John Barron is gone.  Boo.  I will miss John.  He was good.  Matt Araiza (rs-fr) is the field goal kicker for now.  If he misses from inside 30 yards, Rocky will sit Mr. Araiza and instead institute two-point plays after touchdowns until further notice.  Do not miss the easy/makable kicks, Mr. Araiza.  Brandon Heicklen (sr) improved his punting game as the 2018 season progressed.  Turner Bernard (jr) handles the long snaps.  Rocky and Jeff will deploy the usual mix of running backs and wide receivers to catch kick offs and punts.  Key word is catch.  Fumbles are death.

The Schedule

Weber State (8/31) is no slouch.  Aztec faithful are painfully aware of our history with FCS schools.  Weber State made the second round of last year’s FCS playoffs.  If the Aztecs overlook these guys, we are off to an official bad start.

@ UCLA.  A game we can win, Pasadena or no Pasadena.  The Bruins play Oklahoma the following Saturday.  I’m anticipating a dose of only-a-MWC-school in light of the Sooners impending arrival.

@ New Mexico State.  Aztecs win.  The Aggies were 3-9 last year and 2-3 at home.

Utah State.  As stated in my ever dazzling MWC football review, Utah State is built around Jordan Love.  A substantial amount of 2018 talent on both sides of the ball is gone.  However, USU has a bye week to prepare game strategy prior to their Aztec date.  SDSU’s defense must set the tone early and often.

@CSU followed by a SDSU bye week. The good news is traveling to Fort Collins in early October makes crazy weather less of a factor.  With a week to prepare, the Aztecs dominate on both sides of the football.

Wyoming at home is a win.

@ San Jose State is a win.

@ UNLV.  Ditto.

Nevada arrives after our second bye week.  College football mavens think more of the Wolf Pack’s ability than I do.  Win.

Fresno State, much like Utah State, loses enough talent to notice.  Yet, by the date of this game (11/16/19) that challenge has been met or not.  The final possession determines the winner.

@ Hawaii.  I’m not looking forward to this game.  Hawaii is vastly improved.  The team with the most mistakes/turnovers/penalties loses.

BYU.  Why we agreed to play these guys is inexplicable.  A divorced parent suddenly agrees to date the former spouse?  The guy you fired wants to be your best friend?  Though, play we must.  This game, while impactful, has no bearing on our MWC standing.  If the Aztecs at this point in the 2019 season have delivered beyond and above expectations, the game becomes significant regarding bowl game designation.  As a fan with decades of BYU/SDSU games in my skull, I long to always beat these guys.  By one or a lot.  Kick BYU butt.

Best case scenario:  10-2.  Worst case scenario:  8-4.  Consecutive bowl game number 10 awaits.

Go, Aztecs.

 

 

 

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Mostly a yawner until the Zach Greinke trade.  Nonetheless, here we go.

The Twins did well.  Not great, but well.  Sergio Romo and Sam Dyson create depth that did not exist.  Closer Taylor Rogers and late inning men Ryne Harper and Mike Morin now have plenty of help holding leads from the sixth inning forward.  Minnesota will have their hands full during the Dog Days as Cleveland continues their slow chug for first in the A.L. Central.  Mr. Romo was swapped for two minor leaguers.  One is interesting.  Lewin Diaz, 22, lefty first baseman in AA.  Mr. Diaz has a cumulative power line of 55/249 accompanied with a recently developed sense of hitting for the sake of batting average and obp.  A rare quality choice by Miami scouts and administration.  Mr. Dyson was traded for three minor leaguers.  A tad excessive given the fact that Mr. Dyson finally became a quality bullpen guy in 2018.  Of the three, Jaylin Davis is, sadly, the only one worth a look.  Mr. Davis is in year three of development.  Currently at AAA he is a right fielder with pop.  I grant Mr. Davis a visit to San Francisco prior to season’s end.

L.A. acquiring Tyler White is a solid late inning addition.  Mr. White is an above average defensive first baseman.  Unfortunately, his bat does not follow his glove.  Andre Scrubb is Houston bound.  A fine choice less a slight bb problem, but I’m sure Houston’s AAA coaching staff will fix that concern.  Mr. Scrubb, either a closer or eighth inning man (you choose), has a lifetime line of 2.37/1.25.

Initially when the Mets traded for Marcus Stroman, I assumed Noah Snydergaard was long gone.  Instead the Mets hold steady and strengthen their starting pitching staff.  With these two and Jacob deGrom, a late wild card charge by the Mets is not out of the question regardless of management.

Hats off to Tampa.  A round of applause coupled with fireworks, please.  Eric Sogard makes injury much more manageable.  Mr. Sogard plays most anywhere.  Jesus Aguilar brings his substantial power and deft glove to first base.  Next, Tampa adds Trevor Richards (a perfect fit for a #5 starter) and Nick Anderson in the bullpen.  At the time of the trade, Mr. Anderson led the lowly Miami bullpen in ip (43 2/3) while sporting a whip of 1.28.  Upon hearing the trade, rumor insists that Ryne Stanek, the Miami bound victim, screamed, “Kansas City!  Please send me to K.C.!  Hell, I’ll go to Baltimore!”

Speaking of screaming, why did Milwaukee trade for the likes of Jordan Lyles, Drew Pomeranz and Ray Black?  Would a decent Broadway show give the Three Stooges starring roles?  S.F. receives Mauricio Dubon.  A quality shortstop who can hit and steal.  Mr. Dubon likely sets up shop in San Francisco immediately.  Cody Ponce was the exchangee (new word) for Mr. Lyles.  He’s a righty starter with a cumulative line of 3.72/1.25.  He is currently in AA.  A nice choice by Pittsburgh.

Corey Dickerson moves from one end of Pennsylvania to the other.  He definitely helps the Phillies.  Mr. Dickerson is a classic under-the-radar player.  As for the player to be named later, betcha’ he’s a 19 year old in rookie ball.  As for the Phils trading for Jason Vargas . . . why?  I loved the Mets demanding Austin Bossart.  He is a 24 year old platoon catcher who cannot hit, but, depending upon which of his minor league seasons, throws out 35% to 46% of baserunners.  So there.

Atlanta takes Chris Martin (I”m not a fan) and Shane Greene (I’m a fan).  Kolby Allard goes to Texas.  In three years of minor league ball, Mr. Allard went from rookie ball to AAA.  He didn’t play, he visited.  Impressive numbers puts him on the hill in Texas this season.  Joey Wentz goes to Detroit.  Year three finds him in AA.  He is progressing well.  Given the Tigers need for mound help, he pitches in the bigs in 2020.

Tanner Roark eats innings and doesn’t walk batters.  He helps Oakland stay in the A.L. wild card hunt.

Martin Maldonado to Houston was a dumb move by Theo.  Do not trade quality defensive catching to upgrade the rest of the defense.  Cubs pitchers are not happy.  Houston pitchers are quite pleased.  Tony Kemp will do his usual 2b/ss/cf rotation in late innings for the Cubs.  Joining Tony Kemp in Chicago is Nick Castellanos.  Imagine his joy as he leaves one team that was 32.5 games out of first place to join a team 1 game out and in the thick of division and wild card consideration.  Life is good.

The Nationals rivaled Milwaukee in “You did what?” land.  Daniel Hudson makes sense.  Roenis Elias does not.  Neither does Hunter Strickland who has thrown 3 1/3 ip the entire season.

Cleveland did well.  Yasiel Puig and Franmil Reyes add significant pop to the middle of the Indians lineup.  Well done.  Logan Allen pitches in Cleveland no later than next year. He was my #1 rated pitcher in the Padres organization.  The Padres receive the much ballyhooed Taylor Trammel who has struggled this year in AA.  Why the collective excitement of baseball mavens over Mr. Trammel?  Finally, Trevor Bauer can now throw baseballs into the Ohio River while pitching for the Reds.

The Zach Greinke deal almost seals the deal for the Astros to appear in the World Series.  I know games must be played, but once the playoffs and three man rotations begin, beating Mr. Greinke, Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole is a tall order.  The Snakes chose well from Houston.  Seth Beer, a first baseman and outfielder, in two years has a line of .307/.401 with 37/128.  Josh Rojas is a middle infielder with gap power and base stealing know how (70 bags in 3 years).  Of the two pitchers selected, Corbin Martin likely takes the mound in Phoenix this year.

Enjoy the Dog Days.  Best baseball ever.

 

Boise remains the class of the Mountain division.  Who knew?  Utah State could easily slip into fourth place with the right amount of wrong.  Air Force has experience that Wyoming, Colorado State and New Mexico do not.  New Mexico.  Don’t get me started.

Mountain

Boise State:  With Brett Rypien gone, the quarterback position goes to Chase Cord.  Jaylon Henderson is the likely back up.  Andrew Van Buren (4.8 yards per rush) and Robert Mahone (4.0 ypr) will do the majority of the running.  Given Mr. Cord’s total of 9 passing attempts last year, the run game will be the primary feature leading into MWC play.  Speaking of passing, Boise loses their top two receivers from last year, but return #3 through #6.  C.T. Thomas (41 catches, 13.0 yards per catch) and John Hightower (31 and 16.3 ypc) lead a deep group of wide receivers and tight ends.  However, equaling last year’s impressive 35 points per game will be a tall order.

The Bronco defense returns last year’s #1 tackler, Kekoa Nawahine (71 tackles) and #3 tackler Riley Whimpey (55 tackles).  Overall, 15 of their top 20 return.  Boise gave up a mere 123 rushing yards per game last year and only 356 yards per game.  Not much changes this year.

Utah State:  Jordan Love takes the best-quarterback-in-the-MWC title by a wide margin.  However, equaling (or approaching) 2018’s grand total of 3,567 yards passing (294 passing yards per game) isn’t happening given the loss of 5 of his top 6 receivers (running backs included).  No matter the talent of Mr. Love, scores of newbies at the starting wide receiver and tight end slots, catching and running forward may take awhile to develop.  As the receiving corps took a graduation hit, so to did the running game.  3 of the top 4 are gone leaving Gerold Bright carrying the load until a #2 back is established.  Given the lack of proven talent around Mr. Bright, look for last year’s 203 rushing yards per game to dip.  Perhaps dramatically.  Intriguing, in a train wreck sense, is the fact that the Aggies have only two back up quarterbacks.  If Mr. Love goes down with an injury, Henry Colombi, last year’s #2 qb, stands between success and disaster.  The Aggies are truly a team dependent upon their starting quarterback.

The Aggie defense takes a sizable hit with the departure of 6 of their top 10 tacklers.  Granted, the return of their #1 tackler, David Woodward (134 tackles), offers a fine example of how to hit, wrap up and return an opposing player to a horizontal position.  As good as last year’s defense was, the opposition averaged 5 yards per play.  That number increases in 2019.

A note on the return of head coach Gary Andersen.  Rarely does lightning strike twice in the same spot.  Mr. Andersen had success his first run with Utah State.  But, he was absolutely awful with Oregon State (7 wins, 23 losses).  Coaching a team built around one player leads to anticipated success or surprising disappointment.

Air Force:  The Falcons averaged 30 points per game last year.  2019 returns Isaiah Sanders and D.J. Hammond III at the quarterback position.  This year, they score more points.   The Falcons also return 3 of their top 4 rushers.  Kadin Remsberg has the opportunity to improve last year’s eye-popping 5.8 ypr.  Air Force does lose their # 3 and #5 receiver from 2018, but catching footballs far down field is an unusual sight at Colorado Springs.  So, who cares.  Run, run, run.  When in doubt, run.

Defensively, they take a bit of a hit (pun intended) losing half of their top 10 tacklers, but retain Jeremy Fejedelem (#1 with 104 tackles), Kyle Johnson (#2, 70 tackles) and Jordan Jackson (#5, 54 tackles).  The challenge for the 2019 Air Force defense will be maintaining 2018’s defense average of 3.5 yards per rush and 14.6 yards per catch by the opposition.

Wyoming:  Choosing between the Cowboys and Colorado State is a coin toss.  I choose Wyoming because of their coaching staff.  Let the shouting begin.

Tyler Vander Waal had a dreadful 2018.  He completed 49% of his passes.  In 10 games, he threw for only 5 touchdowns and 1,310 yards.  He was as effective as a t-shirt during a snow storm.  When Mr. Vander Waal was seated on the bench, Sean Chambers threw 15/25 and 266 yards.  August practice will determine the starter between these two.  Xazavian Valladay is searching for a running partner in the back field or at least a fullback in a bad mood.  Austin Conway (32 catches) and Raghib Ismail Jr (24 catches) are the only returning receivers who had double digit receptions in 2018.

The 2018 Cowboy defense kept opponents to a more than respectable 326 yards per game.  7 of the top 10 tacklers return including Mr. #1 Wilson Logan (103 bring downs).  Wyoming’s defense will keep them in the game more often than not.  Will the offense score often enough to say “Thank you”?

Colorado State:  After sharing the starting quarterback role in 2018 Colin Hill may well do so again.  The Nebraska transfer, Patrick O’Brien, will serve as either plan A or plan B depending upon Mr. Hill’s August practice performance.  Since both players are redshirt juniors, they will also enjoy each other’s company in 2020.  Joy.  2018’s rushing game was anemic.  The Rams lose their top rusher from 2018.  Anemic becomes stagnant.  Marvin Kinsey Jr and Marcus McElroy are the primary running backs..  Adam Prenticeis is an actual fullback who not only blocks well, but can also run.  The running backs need a lot of work to improve.  If not, 106 rushing yards per game could sink to double digits.  Mr. Hill and Mr. O’Brien will throw primarily to Warren Jackson (32 catches) and Cameron Butler (29 catches) until the depth chart generates at least one more wide receiver who plays on Saturdays.

The Rams move their #5 tackler from 2018, Scott Brooks, to the offensive side of the ball in 2019.  This removes a total of 5 of their top 10 tacklers from last season.  Jamal Hicks (48 bring downs) is the top returner followed by Ellison Hubbard (22 tackles).  Neither total says much on behalf of the 2019 CSU defense.  They gave up a painful 452 yards per game last year.  This year may be worse.

New Mexico:  Why Bob Davie remains employed at UNM is beyond me.  The Lobos are painful to watch.  They have the emotional maturity of a 15 year old having a bad day on a high school freshmen football team.  Yeah.  They are that out of control and ego centered.

Either Sheriron Jones or Tevaka Tuioti start at quarterback.  Mr. Jones had 13 tds and an appalling 12 picks.  Mr. Tuioti offered 5 tds and 2 intercetptions.  When passes were completed, Elijah Lilly (21 catches, 17.9 ypc) and Anselem Umeh (16 catches, 19.8 ypc) proved they could motor downfield in a hurry.  The running game, which averaged a paltry 3.6 yards per rush in 2018, features Daevon Vigilant and Ahmari Davis in the backfield.  Much more is needed for an improved 2019.

Incredibly, as in I-can’t-believe-this-is-happening incredibly, the Lobos lose 9 (!) of their top 10 tacklers and 13 of their top 20.  A bad, disorderly UNM defensive squad gave up 473 yards per game last year and allowed opponents an average of better than 6 yards per play.  This year gets worse.

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West

The West division will be a three school race between Fresno State, Hawaii (that’s right, Hawaii) and San Diego State.  Nevada and UNLV battle for the fourth spot.  San Jose State, God bless them, takes another small step forward.

San Diego State:  Ryan Agnew is the full-time starter at qb.  Last year sharing the position with Christian Chapman did nothing on behalf of Mr. Agnew’s confidence.  I remain not completely sold on Mr. Agnew’s ability.  Time will quickly tell.  Once Juwan Washington was injured, the running game became entirely ineffective.  The proverbial fart in the wind.  A healthy Mr. Washington coupled with the Nebraska transfer Greg Bell does wonders for the running game.  The returning wide receivers feature a bevy of players who played a bit last year.  Three or four must emerge to assist Mr. Agnew in establishing an improved passing game.

Brady Hoke returns as the defensive line coach.  While I tsk-tsk the return of former head coaches as head coach, not so with former head coaches becoming assistants.  SDSU allowed a miserly 3 yards per rush last year.  Hard to improve upon.  Kyahva Tezino (#1, 127 tackles), Tariq Thompson (#3, 60 tackles) and Trenton Thompson (#4, 57 tackles) lead a group of only 12 of the top 20 tacklers returning for the 2019 season.

Hawaii:  In front of Fresno State?  True.

Cole McDonald returns from a total of 36 touchdowns in 2018 (with only 10 interceptions).  Will he improve upon his 3,875 total yards in 2019?  If so, 4,000 yards is seemingly possible.  Mr. McDonald keeps his receivers happy of which the #2 and #3 wide outs return.  What is striking about Hawaii’s offense is the return of their top 3 rushers.  Fred Holly III, Miles Reed and Dayton Fruta averaged 4.3, 4.3 and 4.9 ypr respectively last season.  They provide Hawaii with a balanced offense and lots of options.

On the defensive side, the top 3 tacklers return with 7 of the top 10.  8 of the next 10 return as well.  For the first time in a volcano’s age, the Rainbow Warriors may limit opposing teams to less than 400 yards per game.  What must improve is the run defense that gave away 4.9 yards per rush to non-Rainbow Warriors in 2018.

Fresno State:  The exit of Marcus McMaryion completely changes the face of the Bulldogs offense.  Averaging 35 points per game becomes a hey-remember-when moment.  So does averaging more than 420 yards of offense per game.  Jorge Reyna (8/12/111) takes the reins.  The four qb back-ups are freshmen or redshirt freshmen.  If Mr. Reyna suffers injury, the plug is pulled on the 2019 season.  Good news is found in the return of Ronnie Rivers and Jordan Mims as the featured running backs.  Saevion Johnson (6.2 ypr) will be ready for more carries in 2019.  Jared Rice (55 catches) and Derrion Grim (20 catches) offer Mr. Reyna downfield opportunities.  Given the departure of last year’s #1 and #3 receivers, look for Mr. Rivers and Mr. Mims to catch throws coming out of the backfield on a regular basis.

Fresno loses 4 of their top 5 tacklers and return 11 of the top 20.  Last year’s measly 14 points allowed per game will increase notably in 2019.  Opponents averaging only 322 yards per game will also head north.

Nevada:  In front of UNLV by a hair because they return more offense from 2018 than the Rebels.  Ty Gangi is gone, so  Christian Solano (23/45/200 with 4 picks) finally starts as a senior.  Football people make a lot of noise about Nevada landing Malik Henry of Last Chance U fame, but I do not share the excitement.  The top 3 rushers return.  3 of the top 4 receivers return.  Mr. Solano will have options.

The defense will be porous.  The Wolf Pack loses 7 of their top 10 tacklers.  They return 11 of the top 20.  Whereas Hawaii drops below 400 yards allowed per game, Nevada rises above 400 yards allowed per game in 2019.

UNLV:  Suddenly, Armani Rogers is a junior.  He has yet to come close to realizing his substantial talent.  Max Gilliam out-played him last year and may do so again this year.  Charles Williams is the only returning running back of note.  The top 4 receivers return.  However, in 177 attempts between Mr. Rogers and Mr. Gilliam, 12 picks were thrown.  Getting the ball downfield consistently will be a concern.

Half of the top 10 tacklers return along with 8 of the next 10.  Not bad.  What is bad is these returners were part of a group that gave up 454 yards per game and 37 points per game.

San Jose State:  If they win three games this year, rejoice and give to the poor.  Josh Love returns for the final season.  He played in only 8 games last year.  Playing the entire 2019 season for the Spartans would be helpful.  If he goes down, the Spartan coaching staff is looking at two freshmen back up qbs.  Please, no.  Tre Walker and Bailey Gaither are the top two returning receivers.  Tyler Nevens and DeJon Packer need support in the backfield or this year will drag like a broken bumper behind a twenty year old truck.

15 of the top 20 tacklers return.  Another year older and wiser.  This group includes 4 of the top 5.  Reason to hope for improved defense breathes in San Jose.  These guys were 5 yards shy of allowing 500 yards per game last year.  Can’t get any worse, right?

 

Padres

Adding Manny Machado adds excitement and misplaced hope.  The Padres offense will sparkle during the 2019 season only to lose 8-6, 9-5 and similar scores of wasted runs.  Yes, I need pitching and lots of it before turning the corner to Happy Street near Petco Park.

Offense:  Eric Hosmer, Wil Myers and Mr. Machado likely smack 25 to 30 dingers each and drive in at least 85 rbi per.  Hunter Renfroe should join them.  Manuel Margot, Luis Urias (he should land the starting shortstop job and is the proud recipient of my #1 offensive player in the Pads minor league system) and Ian “Old Man” Kinsler will benefit from improved pitch selection with runners on base.  The catching duo of Austin Hedges and Francisco Mejia will not last long.  Eventually, Mr. Mejia becomes the full-time catcher as 2019 progresses.  Franmil Reyes will make a case for playing time and press either Wil Myers or Hunter Renfroe as the year unfolds.  Or the Padres package him in late July to an unforgiving land such as Baltimore or Miami.

Pitching:  The reason why third place is the best outcome in 2019.  Joey Lucchesi (or lefty #1) had a decent 2018 and holds promise, but not as a #1 starter.  Robbie Erlin (lefty #2) pitched better than Mr. Lucchesi, yet, he too, is not a #1 starter.  Matt Strahm (lefty #3.  Yes, we have theme among starting Padres pitchers) likely emerges from the bullpen to start, though I lobby for his role as a closer.  Eric Lauer is also a lefty.  That’s all I have on behalf of Mr. Lauer, though I once spent a night in his hometown of Elyria, Ohio.  A nice place.  Bryan Mitchell appearing as a potential starter on any team is a sign of debacle.  Chris Paddack, Logan Allen and Jacob Nix will get a long look during 2019.  The bullpen is led by Kirby Yates (not a bad choice), Brad Wieck, Adam “Human Rain Delay” Warren ann Aaron Loup (when not the fifth starter during bad times).

Note:  Until Andy Green is fired, the Padres will continue to languish from unrealized offensive production and poor pitching management as nine innings flutter by.  Why a 205-281 manager is retained for a fourth year is inexplicable.  Mr. Green needs to move on.

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Angels

Behold, Arte Moreno again spends enormous, spectacular, incredible amounts of money on a single player.  But, this guy’s name is Mike Trout.  I’m fine.

Offense:  Mike Trout, Mike Trout, Mike Trout.  Yes, he’s the best baseball player of my lifetime.  When he first arrived in 2011, he caught my eye.  2012, I was sold.  Speaking of best players, Andrelton Simmons is the best shortstop on the planet.  Yes, even better than Ozzie Smith (blaspheme is some circles).  His glove, arm and brain are unsurpassed at the #6 spot on the field.  Plus, his obp has increased each year since 2015.  Albert Pujols will have a serviceable year, again, in 2019.  Guess how many times Albert drove in 100+ runs during his seven years in Anaheim?  C’mon.  You can do it.  No, not ever.  No, not twice.  Four seasons.  You didn’t know, did you?  Sure, bashing Albert for the money paid is in vogue (I do so), but he is more productive than given credit, less the injury years of 2013 and last year.  On behalf of his bat, the less he plays first base, the better.  Kole Calhoun had an awful, absolutely awful, 2018.  I’m of the opinion he is done. He can’t hit a fastball.  Michael Hermosillo is right field’s heir.  Justin Upton is Albert Pujols in the outfield.  He’ll do well enough.  Justin Bour will hit 20 home runs and drive in 75.  Yawn.  David Fletcher owns second base.  Zack Cozart played a mere 58 games last year after a breakout year in 2017.  2019 will prove 2017 to be the rule or the exception.  Jonathan Lucroy and Jose Briceno share the catching duties.  Why?  Mr. Briceno threw out 44% of base runners last year.  Mr. Lucroy should catch on Sundays only.  Shohei Ohtani will take turns at dh with Mr. Pujols until he returns to the mound.  Yes, he is the real deal both at the plate and on the mound.

Pitching:  Once, Mr. Ohtani returns, the Angels starting staff becomes deep enough.  Until his return, Matt Harvey, Andrew Heaney, and Tyler Skaggs shoulder the load.  Jaime Barria should be the #5 starter, thus pushing Nick Tropeano and Trevor Cahill into the bullpen or Salt Lake City.  Said bullpen is shallow.   Cam Bedrosian, Noe Ramirez, Justin Anderson and, let’s say, Ty Buttrey make for a wobbly path to Cody Allen.

Note:  Hiring Brad Asmus was dumb.  He’s gone at year’s end.  If Billy Eppler admits a mistake sooner rather than later.

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Dodgers

Complain all you want, but Dave Roberts is arguably the best manager in the N.L.  He takes a lot of talent, keeps that talent happy (or happy enough), slogs through the inevitable late summer stall and delivers the playoffs or better.  So there.

Offense:  An outfield rotating between Joc Pederson (strikes out far too often, though 2018 was an improvement), A.J. Pollock, Cody Bellinger (no, I’m not sold on the first base change), Enrique Hernandez, Andrew Toles and Alex Verdugo (#1 in my rating of the Dodgers minor league system) protects against injury.  Speaking of injury, Corey Seager returns in 2019.  Shortstops and Tommy John surgery are close cousins to pitchers and Tommy John surgery.  Wait and see.  Justin Turner, Chris Taylor and Max Muncy complete the infield.  Austin Barnes and the returning Russell Martin form a passable defensive duo with little bat.  Will Smith is a year away before he becomes the starting catcher.

Pitching:  Injuries Are Us.  Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler and Rich Hill are on the shelf.  Gonna be a sloooooooooooow start to 2019 for Dodger fans.  Prepare to lose winnable games through May.  At least.  Hyun-Jin Ryu is the #1 starter.  Kenta Maeda follows.  Candidly, these two are good, but do not replace the above mentioned.  Given the lack of depth, the rush job of Julio Urias continues.  Kenley Jansen’s long term health continues to be a question.  Joe Kelly, if healthy (there is that word again), could take the closer spot, though he is better served as the eighth inning guy.  Ross Stripling will spend time as both a starter and reliever.  Scott Alexander, Dylan Floro and Pedro Baez will be plenty busy until the starting rotation can get to the fifth inning on a regular basis.

Note:  The Dodgers run out of luck during the N.L. playoffs.  Philly and whomever emerges from the N.L. Central battle for the World Series spot.

 

 

Let me begin by acknowledging I believe in the Albert Pujols Rule:  ten-year contracts are nut job crazy.  Bat shit crazy.  Crazy crazy.  Ask Artie Moreno.

The only ten-year good news is Manny can leave after year five.  Here’s hoping.  Face the fact that five years from now, Mr. Machado is halfway to the Hall of Fame (no) or he is breaking his surf board, swearing off non-meat and heading east (yes).

Many positive facts adorn this signing by the Padres.  First, Padres management took a chance.  Taking a chance can be applauded (successfully brewing a beer that is not an IPA) or booed (Tesla and cars).  Time will tell.  Manny is all of 26.  He has logged seven years of productive MLB time primarily with bad to average Baltimore Orioles teams and a half-year with the Dodgers.  During his Baltimore time (not a jail reference, though it could be), Manny played when all was lost by the middle of August if not before.  2012 through 2017, he played a minimum of 156 games each of those years including 162 in 2015 and again in 2018.  Less 2012, he had a minimum of 630+ at bats.  He did a lot by himself or with very little help.

179 home runs have flown from his bat the last five years.  If he stays all 10 years in San Diego that equates to 358 dingers as a Padre.  Granted, his rbi total registered only once above 100 (107 in 2018).  Only two other seasons was he above 90.  The N.L.’s long time reputation as a fastball league may well make the difference and place Mr. Machado above the 100 rbi mark on a seasonal basis.  Then again, Padres’ hitters look at on base percentage as an after thought preferring to strike out or ground out while again attempting to pull an outside pitch much to the delight of middle infielders.  And, as long as MLB continues the dreaded inter-league play, perhaps one off-speed pitch too many during a three-game series against an A.L. team will leave Manny walking to the dugout with a stranded, nay, abandoned runner on second.

His cumulative line of .282/.335 and 31/90 along with 37 doubles does not scream $300 million over any period of time.  Nor does wrapping Manny firmly in the middle of the San Diego line up full of young, frolicking, yet underachieving souls make the ridiculous sum of money for an absurd number of years any more palatable.  Yes, those of you who scream and point to increased ticket sales (and rightfully so) will fall into the grind of August playoff slippage swallowed by September’s cruel cry of “Not yet!  We don’t have enough pitching!”  Damn the Dodgers and Rockies!  But, not the Snakes because trading Paul Goldschmidt for a box fan and tube of sunscreen was dumb.  And certainly not the Giants because not having money or a minor league development system is small and short.

Fine, let’s talk about the lineup.  Do not be too quick to assume potential and power realized in the trio of Manny Machado, Eric Hosmer and Wil “I’m Injured” Myers.  Much good may come.  And should.  But should is a dangerous word.  I should lose weight.  I should wear my glasses while driving.  I should take out the trash.  Machado, Hosmer and Myers should do well.

What about the others?  Franmil Reyes (best player in the Padres system who must be on the 25 man roster before the season begins), Manuel Margot, Hunter Renfroe, Travis Jankowski, Luis Urias (lose Fernando Tatis, Jr. and stick with Mr. Urias.  You read that slander here first) and the catching duo of Austin Hedges and Francisco Mejia would surely benefit from Machado/Hosmer/Myers.  True.  And here is the intrigue, Eric Hosmer is the old man at the age of 29.  All others mentioned are between the ages of 21 (Mr. Urias) and 28 (Mr. Myers).  Contracts are a distant concern.  The future is bright and near, not the usual dot on the Pacific’s horizon in the Padres case.

I admit that the Padres are my favorite N.L. team and have been since the days of the Taco Bell uniforms and fist fights in the left field stands at the Murph during Dodger games.  Ah, sweet times.  But, in the name of Carmelo “Except for fly balls, I like playing left field” Martinez, $300 million for 10 years for anybody is deranged.

2018 MLB Development Review

Posted: December 31, 2018 in Uncategorized

I have changed my ratings approach.  Why?  Because I wanted to.

The reason is I was spending too much time making a case for players who hit .280/.360 with gap power.  After five years of engaging in my chosen activity of rating the minor league systems of all 30 MLB teams, I grew weary of searching for reasons to find above average AAA players who rarely saw the light of day, much less created production, at the big league level.

My offensive search is now confined to guys who jump up as obvious (to me) candidates to reach the concrete structures found in 30 locations in the U.S. and Canada.  My pitching results offer pitchers with sub-1.00 whips and without a base on balls problem, meaning less than 3 walks per 9 innings pitched.  I no longer separate starters from relievers having endured my brain exploding when average to poor MLB teams suffering from a lack of pitching talent decide in early July to take a long groomed closer and attempt (with pure disaster) to transform him into a #5 starter.

I still rate catchers separately from the other everyday positions.  Toss rates (throwing out baserunners to the unclean) of 33% or better get my attention.  If a catcher hits .250/.325, be happy.

Finally, I will list my top 10 hitting and pitching prospects for each league.  You are welcome.

A.L. East

Boston:  Finally, other than Tzu-Wei Lin, talent arrives in Pawtucket.  Michael Chavis, Esteban Quiroz and John Ockimey arrive to form a pool of late 2019 talent along with the aging (in baseball terms) Cole Sturgeon and Tony Renda.  Once the Sox take the inevitable offer for Blake Swihart, Oscar Hernandez (44% toss rate) finally gets a shot in Boston.  Pitching development is pathetic.  Only six guys made the cut.  I’m not a Jalen Beeks believer.  Travis Lakins and Matthew Gorst have a better chance than Mr. Beeks.

Baltimore:  How bad can a baseball operation become?  Three guys with offensive production found my attention.  No more.  Two catchers at the A+ level have decent toss rates.  One hits (Daniel Fajardo) and one does not (Stuart Levy).  However, pitching prospects are found in Jay Flaa, Luis Gonzalez, Branden Kline and Zach Pop.  The goal is not to rush these guys to a bad Baltimore team in 2019.  Wait.

NYY:  Ryan McBroom has the best chance of staying in the Bronx for a half-dozen years or so.  Devyn Bolasky is a stud in the making, but not until 2020.  Francisco Diaz (56% in AA and 39% in A+ and he hits!) is a prime candidate for Brian Cashman to rush and ruin given the catching circus that is Gary Sanchez.  If Mr. Diaz can spend a full year in AAA, the outcome is more likely to be a success.  The pitching available in 2019 is good and plentiful.  Erik Swanson, Mike King (especially), Stephen Tarpley, Luis Cessa and Domingo Acevedo should all see time in the Bronx this coming season.  However, eight guys who pitched in A+ ball in 2018 are the ones to watch.  Yeah, too many to name, but the 2019 NYY Trenton team should lead all AA teams in whip, era and wins.

Tampa:  Brandon Lowe, Austin Meadows and Nathaniel Lowe should be Tampa bound after spring training.  Rene Pinto (A+, 47% toss rate and he hits) is the catcher of the not too distant future.  Pitching rated almost as deep as NYY.  Colin Poche, Hunter Wood and Diego Castillo arrive in 2019.  Benton Moss, Brock Burke and Yoel Espinal are not far behind, though better served in 2020.

Toronto:  Yep, Vlad, Jr. is that good.  As good as Dad?  No.  But, he is bound for Canada this coming season.  Harold Ramirez and Jonathan Davis need a couple hundred ab in AAA before leaving later in the 2019 season.  Broke Lundquist and Cullen Large are two guys to watch make their way through A+ ball and beyond.  Albert Mineo is the best of 3 rated catchers.  Justin Dillon is the Jays’ best pitching prospect.  Jose Fernandez and Sam Gaviglio are likely to join him in Toronto.

A.L. Central

White Sox:  Eloy Jimenez has the same amount of potential as Vald, Jr.  However, the White Sox quickly run out of 2019 help.  Most of the talent is AA bound.  Luis Gonzalez (A+/A) and Laz Rivera (A) shine in a shallow pool.  Seby Zavala (AA, 38% and hits with power) probably endures a rush job to Chicago in 2019.  The best of the pitching prospects are Ian Hamilton, Brandon Brennan, Colton Turner and Jimmy Lambert.  We all know the White Sox need as much help as the Orioles.

Cleveland:  They make trades for younger players for a reason:  They don’t have any ready AAA talent.  Granted, 2019’s AA team will feature Ernie Clement and Jorma Rodriguez, but the drop off is steep.  Adam Plutko, Ben Taylor, Shane Bieber and Evan Marshall all get a chance to pitch near Lake Erie this coming season.

Detroit:  The Tigers are getting better fast.  Ronny Rodriguez highlights a group including Jacob Robson, Will Maddox, Daniel Woodrow, Issac Paredes (potential plus) and Willi Castro (see Mr. Paredes).  Jake Rogers likely overtakes Grayson Greiner given his 56% toss rate at AA last year.  But, he’s not an everyday catcher in Detroit until more offensive talent arrives.  Pitching, less AA, rated well.  Johnny Barbator, Drew Verhagen, Hunter Cervanka and Blaine Hardy bid for innings pitched in Detroit during 2019.

K.C.:  Generally, ugh.  However, Jecksson Flores and Nicky Lopez probably help in Kansas City this coming year.   The Royals suffer from AAAA development (the old joke about too good for AAA, yet nothing happens in the majors).  This organization is thin.  However, look forward to the 2020 arrival of Xavier Fernandez (AA, 41% and hits).  Speaking of catching, why did Royals management rush Meibrys Viloria from A+ ball to K.C. last year?  Dumb, dumb, dumb.  The best pitching prospects spend 2019 in A+.  Not a lot of ready talent except for Jake Newberry.

Minnesota:  Zander Wiel and Nick Gordon leave spring training with the big club.  The Twins have a boat load of talent headed to AA and  A+ ball in 2019.  Alex Kirilloff, Luiz Arraez, Royce Lewis and Jordan Gore are among the names to watch.  Wynston Sawyer is as good an immediate catching prospect as Francisco Diaz and Xavier Hernandez.  The Twins are the deepest A.L. club with eight quality defensive catching prospects.  Pitching offers no more than three 2019 candidates:  Alan Busenitz, Cody Stashak and Andrew Vasquez.

A.L. West

Angels:  Taylor Ward gets his full-time chance in 2019.  Bo Way probably arrives in early August after the Angels discover hiring Brad Asmus was a mistake.  Joe Hudson (39%) is a 2019 ready catching prospect who can also hit.  Jeremy Beasley is far and away the best pitching prospect in system.  Maybe Greg Mahle sticks next season.  The rest of the talent, unlikely to offer significant help, is 2020 bound.

Houston:  Loaded.  I know Kyle Tucker, J.D. Davis and Tyler White all had time in Houston last year, but I consider them primarily AAA talent waiting for a 500 ab season in The Bigs.  Taylor Jones (AA) and Yordan Alvarez (AA) join the talent fight in AAA this coming season.  Garrett Stubbs gets a chance to catch (45% and a productive bat)) in Houston in 2019.  James Ritchie (34% and said bat) needs to wait a year.  While thinking “The rich get richer”, may I present the Astros pitching development.  Wind.  Tumbleweeds.  Crickets.  Except for Ryan Hartman and Corbin Martin, their best is two to three years away.

Oakland:  Two guys are ready and two guys are due for a post-July 31 arrival.  Ramon Laureano and Dustin Fowler make the club during spring training.  Eli White and Luis Barrera arrive late summer.  Then, not much.  Season Murphy (33% and he hits) is the best catching prospect, but he needs a full year in AAA.  Jonah Heim (A+, 40% and hits) is right behind him.  2019 AAA pitching will develop well with the arrival of Ben Bracewell, Parker Dunshee, Jesus Lazardo and John Gorman.

Seattle:  Given the extensive player movement during the off-season, Dan Vogelbach makes the team after a good spring.  Joey Curletta is the next best bet, but later in the year.  Pitching development is horrible.  Maybe Williams Perez and Andrew Moore help in 2019.  I could not find ten pitching prospects system wide.  I found eight.  Of which four are a bit of a stretch.  Boo.

Texas:  Their offensive development resembles Seattle’s pitching “development”.  Less Hunter Cole, not much.  Five guys in AAA need to prove they are not AAAA captives.  Pitching offers Ricardo Rodriguez, Reed Garrett, Tyler Wagner and Brady Feigi (one to watch).

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Is the above a cool break or not?  I’m impressed.   You are jealous.

N.L. East

Atlanta:  Michael Reed should play permanently in Atlanta.  Sal Giardina will join him.  Alejandro Salazar, Luis Marte and Austin Riley (the best of this trio) will begin the year in AAA, and may enjoy the sight, sound and sweat of Atlanta late summer.  Four pitchers likely enjoy the big league in 2019:  Kyle Wright, Mike Soroka, Bryse Wilson and Corbin Clouse.  After years of decline, the Braves have rediscovered the value of player development.

Miami:  Austin Dean and J.T. Riddle have potential plus.  Peter Moony and Justin Twine should assist the Fish in slowly moving away from mediocrity.  Tomas Telis (52%) and Austin Nola (37%) are quality catching prospects.  Miami is loaded with outstanding pitching from AAA to A ball.  Joe Gunkel, Trevor Richards, Pablo Lopez and Jeff Brigham will become permanent residents of Miami in 2019.

NYM:  Jeff McNeil plays all of 2019 in Queens.  Luis Guillorme and Kevin Kaczmarski join Mr. McNeil.  Peter Alonso does not spend all of 2109 in AAA.  However, the Mets are thin in offensive development especially in AA and A+ ball.  Tim Peterson, Jacob Rhame and Daniel Zamora will complete the Mets’ 2019 pitching staff.

Philly:  Joey Menses makes the jump to the Bigs in 2019.  Austin Listi might, though he most likely arrives in 2020.  Much like the Mets, Philadelphia struggles to develop a deep pool of offensive talent in the minors.  Cole Irvin, Ben Lively (no more AAA demotions), Brandon Leibrandt, Tyler Gilbert and Austin Davis have major league ability.  Much like the Marlins, the Phillies are loaded with quality prospects from AAA to A ball.

Washington:  Rafael Bautista is the best guy in the Nats system.  Hunter Jones and Alec Keller arrive in Washington during 2019.  After these three, offensive talent thins quickly at the AAA and AA levels.  Spencer Kieboom (48%) gets another chance to stay in 2019.  Kyle McGowin, Trevor Gott and Austin Williams are the top three pitching prospects.

N.L. Central

Cubs:  Evidently, Theo Epstein does not enjoy the work involved in developing home-grown talent.  After Victor Caratini, the wait will be long for Roberto Caro (A ball in 2018).  Notable offensive production is difficult to find in the Cubs’ minor league system.  Thankfully, two catching prospects are close.  P.J. Higgins (39%) and Jhonny Pereda (38%) can both throw and hit.  Kyle Ryan and Randy Rosario have the best chance of pitching in Chicago.  The Cubs do a better job of developing pitching than hitting.

Cincinnati:  Three players deserve the long look.  Brandon Dixon, Nick Senzel and Brian O’Grady.  Dilson Herrera is also worthy.  Lucas Sims and Austin Brile are the top two pitching prospects.  Alex Powers and Joel Bender are a year away.

Milwaukee:  Orlando Arcia makes a permanent move to Milwaukee in 2019.  Dylan Moore may join him.  Certainly no later than 2020.  Nate Orf, Ji-Man Choi and Maurcio Dubon all see time in Cincy this coming year.  Christian Betancourt (44% and a solid bat) makes the case for shedding the AAAA label in 2019.  Pitching talent is difficult to find.  Two years from now, maybe Zack Brown and Jon Olczak arrive.

Pittsburgh:  Jason Martin is the best in system, but he likely spends next year in AAA.  Kevin Kramer, Kevin Newman and Jose Osuna get some time in Pittsburgh next year.  Raul Hernandez (50%) is the best of four catchers at least two years away.  Pitching help likely arrives in 2020.  Eduardo Vera, Cam Vieaux, Scooter Hightower and J.T. Brubaker all need full year in AAA.

St. Louis:  Ramon Urias and Randy Arozarena have the talent to exit AAA after their first 200 abs in 2019.  Rangel Ravelo and Tyler O’Neill make the team during spring.  Giovanni Gallegos and Tyler Webb improve the pitching staff.  Jack Flaherty gets a look.

N.L. West

Arizona:  Juniel Querecuto stays in Arizona 2019 forward.  Ildemaro Vargas, Socrates Brito, Kevin Chacon, Christian Walker and Cesar Puello create a lot of choice for Arizona management in putting together 2019’s team.  The majority of the pitching talent arrives to AAA next year.

Colorado:  With an asterisk, consider Josh Fuentes, Raimel Tapia and Mike Tauchman joining the big club.  Why the asterisk?  The Rockies’ AAA team is located in sky-high Albuquerque.  No major league pitching prospects were found at the AAA level.  Two at AA meaning Peter Lambert and Logan Cozart are unlikely to arrive in 2019.

L.A.:  Alex Verdugo, Edwin Rios, Andrew Toles and Connor Joe hopefully find a place to play in L.A. as 2019 begins.  Will Smith (39% and hits) is the only catcher of note.  Sadly, the Dodgers don’t excel at creating pitching talent with the same success as offensive talent.  Andrew Istler and Caleb Ferguson are the most likely to live in Smog Land in 2019.

San Diego:  I do not understand all the joy and praise aimed at San Diego’s minor league system.  I find their efforts average and not near as good the past few years.  Franmil Reyes should make the team during spring.  Luis Urias joins him.  Travis Jankowski gets one last chance.  No, I’m not a Fernando Tatis, Jr. fan.  He’s overrated.  Francisco Diaz needs ab.  Lots of ab as he handles the pitching staff.  Jacob Nix and Brad Wieck stay in San Diego the entire year.  Logan Allen, Chris Paddack, T.J. Weir and Trevor Frank arrive no later than 2020.  I do find the Padres much better at developing pitching than everyday players.

San Francisco:  The struggle is real.  The struggle continues.  Management needs to be dunked by angry water polo players.  These guys think thin is thick.  Austin Slater, Alen Hanson and Miguel Gomez all get a chance to stay in San Francisco.  Same with Ronnie Freeman (41%) and Trevor Brown (37%).  Derek Law and Ray Black make the pitching staff in 2019.  Dan Slania, Dillon McNamara and Dusten Knight need AAA time.

Top-10 A.L. Hitting Prospects

1. Vladimir Guerrero, Jr (Blue Jays,  AAA/AA).

2. Ryan McKenna (Orioles, A+).

3. Jarren Duran (Boston, A).

4 (tie). Devyn Bolasky (NYY, AA).

4 (tie). Cole Sturgeon (Boston, AA).

5. Alex Kirilloff (Twins, A+/A).

6. Nathaniel Lowe (Rays, AA/A+).

7 (tie).  Kevin Smith (Jays, A).

7 (tie).  Michael Helman (Twins, A).

8. Eloy Jimenez (W. Sox, AAA/AA).

9 (tie). Taylor Ward (Angels, AAA).

9 (tie).  Brandon Sandoval (Angels, A+)

10. David Fletcher (Angels, AAA).

Top-10 A.L. Pitching Prospects

1. Brendan McKay (Rays, A).

2. Justin Dillon (Jays, AA).

3. Gus Varland (Oakland, A+).

4. Justin Ferrell (Astros, A+).

5. Mike King (NYY, AAA/AA).

6. Brady Feigi (Texas, AA).

7. Zac Lowther (Orioles, A).

8. Blaine Hardy (Tigers, AAA).

9. Patrick Sandoval (Astros, A+).

10. Michael Peoples (Cleveland, AA).

Top-10 N.L. Hitting Prospects

1. Juan Yepez (St. Louis, A).

2. Alen Hanson (Giants, AAA).

3. Justin Twine (Miami, AA).

4. Randy Arozarena (St. Louis, AA).

5. Roberto Caro (Cubs, A).

6. Dylan Moore (Brewers, AA).

7. Juniel Querecuto (Arizona, AAA/AA).

8. Jeff McNeil (NYM, AAA).

9. Rafael Bautista (Nationals, AAA).

10 (tie).  Michael Reed (Braves, AAA, AA).

10 (tie).  Travis Janksowski (Padres, AAA).

Top-10 N.L. Pitching Prosepcts

1. Steve Villines (NYM, A+).

2. Giovanny Gallegos (St. Louis, AAA).

3. Austen Williams (Nationals, AAA).

4. Tyler Webb (St. Louis, AAA).

5. Kyle McGowin (Nationals, AAA).

6. Clayton Andrews (Brewers, A+).

7 (tie). Kyle Keller (Miami, A+).

7 (tie). Walter Borkovich (Braves, A+).

8 (tie).  Addison Ross (Phillies, A).

8 (tie).  Robbie Gordon (St. Louis, A).

9. Trevor McGill (Padres, A+).

10. Chris Paddack (Padres, AA).

The promising start of 6 – 1 crumbles to 7 – 6.  Four consecutive losses.  The fourth was an absolute butt kicking courtesy of the Ohio Bobcats, 27-0.  The Aztec offense imploded.  We resembled a fourth grade effort at building a papier-mache volcano project gone horribly wrong.  Crap was everywhere with nothing to show.  The game’s end shutout provides emphasis for areas to improve in 2019.  Offense, offense, offense and, um, let’s see, offense.

Rocky and Jeff need to reconsider their commitment to pound and ground given the fact that once Juwan Washington was injured three of the next four games featured SDSU rushing totals of less than 200 yards.  His first game after recovering from his injury also featured  a game total of less than 200 yards . . . as did the next two games as well.  Pound and ground?  More like slap and tickle.  This unimpressive result lies at the collective feet of the offensive line and to a lesser extent the tight ends.  Certainly, injury played a part, but which season does injury not play a part in the journey of an offensive line?  Mike Schmidt has much to fix next year during spring and summer ball.

Perhaps a more balanced offense would contribute to an improved offensive line.  Yet, I have doubts that Ryan Agnew is “the guy” for 2019.  A completion percentage of 51.6% does not create an abundance of confidence.  Granted, Christian Chapman’s 89 passing attempts given to Mr. Agnew might generate an improved completion rate and a sizable increase of his 1,651 total yards passing.  However, might implies might not.

Given the stellar years of Kahale Warring and Parker Houston at the tight-end spots, I trust coach Horton will continue to incorporate passes in their general direction.  I congratulate coach Hunkie Cooper for offering a strong three-deep on each side of the quarterback group of wide receivers during 2018.  At last, we have receivers who can stretch the field after catching the football.  Let’s stretch more often in 2019.

Returning to the running game, I feel the need to abandon the fullback as permanent partner of Mr. Washington.  How about a dual running back set more offensive snaps than not?  Also, I am unconvinced that Chase Jasmin is the #2 back.  I lean towards Chance Bell.  He runs with more abandon and inflicts pain on those attempting to tackle him.

2018 sputtered to an offensive close of 187 passing yards per game and a very un-Aztec 161.7 rushing yards per game.  Feeble, pale, unsteady.  More proof?  All four MWC losses were single digit.  By 4 to Nevada, 3 to UNLV, 9 to Fresno and 1 to Hawaii.  17 points total.  Our offense could not find 18 more points.  What about the seven wins?  The 14 point difference against Sacramento State provided the only double-digit win of the season.  “Single digit” was the Aztec offense nickname and a ready title for a convention of underachievers.  If “single digit” doesn’t motivate, what will?

As for the 2018 defense, less the first (Stanford) and last (Ohio) games of the season, the SDSU defense held their end of the bargain.  Sure, the defensive backfield can improve, but the front three and linebacking crew were outstanding.  When the opposition is held to an average of 334.6 total yards per game accented with allowing an average of only 3 yards per carry, the defense creates hope.  Also, how many head coaches and offensive coordinators (especially) would give a body part for a defense that allowed an average of 22.2 points per game?  Big-12 coaches would offer wives and children for that chance to win.  Frankly, I’m not sure how Rocky improves on giving up less than 231 passing yards per game and less than 104 rushing yards per game.  Though, he will try.

May spring and summer ball create the return of an Aztec offense that blows past 400 yards per game, one way or the other.

 

Hawaii 31, SDSU 30

Posted: November 28, 2018 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

A boggle of a loss.  Snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.  The perfect end to a disappointing final three MWC games (therein lies the true hurt) of the 2018 season.  The 2018 season was equivalent to an at-fault fender bender followed by losing your wallet.  On Friday night.

John Barron missing from 32 was the moment.  Not to lay, nor do I dare lay, the loss on his talented foot, but if he makes that kick, we never hear the word “overtime.”  This missed kick led to Rocky’s decision to go for two and the game when a standard point after touchdown would have created a second ot and another chance to win.

Hawaii owned the first half.  Cole McDonald was Heisman material.  Then, the vaunted defensive adjustment occurred post-half time, and Mr. McDonald returned to scale, thus no longer shredding the Aztec back eight.  Registering zeros in the third and fourth quarters should have sealed an Aztec win.  But, “should” is a dangerous word:  You should take out the trash.  You should avoid the last beer.  You should eat less crap.

Finishing 7-5 and 4-4 (especially) is inexplicable.  A shoulder shrug of a season.  Coulda, shoulda, woulda.  The 2018 season is to Aztec football fans what Monday morning is to a guy who hates his job, but won’t search for another.

Speaking of searching, seems to me that coaching staff changes will be made.  I will not speculate about specific coaches, but the inconsistency of the running game coupled with the o-line’s inability to block consistently will receive the cold glare of slow review from Rocky.  These guys know coaching is a business.  Things change.  Time advances.  Ideas evolve.  Do we remain Pound and Ground U?  Ryan Agnew threw enough to notice during his time in place of Christian Chapman.  I will say the wide receivers finally delivered a quality season long effort this year.  Something to shift towards or build upon for 2019?

The cold comfort of the MWC portion of our season is our total point spread for the 4 losses was 4 (Nevada), 3 (UNLV), 9 (Fresno State) and 1 (Hawaii).  All 4 losses were within our grasp, but a loss is a loss.  Will next year yield the same without change or major adjustment?

Finally, I doubt, strongly, that any bowl is interested in us given our sloppy end to a promising season.  Perhaps such polite decline is the ultimate motivator during spring ball, 2019.

 

Consecutive MWC losses since I don’t know when.  Perhaps that is a good sign.

Hanging zeros in the third and fourth quarters is proof of a struggling offense.  We gained 64 yards on the ground the entire evening.  Our struggle to block continues.  Additionally, the offense created a paltry 8 first downs the entire game.  No offense stays on the field long enough to score with that few first downs.  The only good offensive news was SDSU receivers averaging 27.2 yards per completion.  Between Christian and Ryan, 8 passes were completed.  Each lays claim to 4.  Spread the mediocrity to equal measure.  Look!  We are both crappy.

Congrats to the defense for keeping the Bulldogs far under their offensive average.  Kyahva Tezino (15 tackles) and Parker Baldwin (14 tackles) gave me a reason to continue watching the game.  At least we had the decency to sack Mr. McMaryion 3 times while he enjoyed a 17/24/267 night.

Fred Trevillion had his best game by far with a line of 4/189 and 2 scores.  Maybe he can repeat that line against Hawaii.

If you did not notice, Hawaii is tied with us for third place in the West.  Saturday night, we arrive ready to play or we end the MWC season with a rough 4-4 record.  Bowl eligible is not the same as an invitation.

7-4/4-3.

 

Ugly was pretty.  Who knew?

The first half featured the Aztec offense wondering what game was played?  Hockey?  Softball?  Tennis?  Why is the ball weirdly shaped?  We could not have looked and played with more incompetency.  Bad is a compliment.  Seemingly, false starts were the order of the day.  We had, I don’t know, 14, 26, 37 false starts.  Sure, I exaggerate, but my point of an absent offense is well taken.  You are welcome.

The good news:  We won.  Fred Trevillion caught the first pass thrown to him.  And did not have a single drop the entire game.  New horizons for Fred.  Chase Jasmin gained the most grueling 78 yards of his life.  He left the game limping (not good news).  His pinball bounce move in the fourth quarter set up Jordan Byrd’s 72 yard run.  Without Chase reversing course, a different outcome emerges.  Kobe Smith can catch punts.  Luq Barcoo is good.  Depth charts don’t mean much to Rocky.  Darren Hall, Connor Mitchell and Damon Moore enjoyed many minutes on the field.  Darren recorded a pick and Damon a sack.  Zidane Thomas had two carries (his first carry was during our third offensive possession of the game.  You think I don’t notice).  He is the fifth running back on the almighty chart.  Who needs starters?

God bless, John Barron.  Without him, we are an average football team hanging our hat on fourth and whatever.

In addition to Darren Hall’s interception, I applaud Tariq Thompson and Ronley Lakalaka for good hands.  Kyahva Tezino will provide nightmares for Brett Rypien the remainder of the season.  Kyahva delivered many a body shiver.  Brandon Heicklen was booming the ball.  He averaged 44.9 yards on 8 punts.  Well done.

I was surprised by Boise not attempting an onside kick after the missed extra point with 5:07 remaining.  Thank you, Boise coaching staff.

As for the numbers, the Aztec defense held Boise to an average of 2.9 yards per play.  Boise had 2 rushing yards at the end of the first quarter.  At the half, they had a total of 72 yards of offense.  The Broncos ballyhooed passing game stalled at 8.1 yards per catch and a slight 178 yards for the game.  If I told you before kickoff that the Aztecs would have 9 first downs and 267 yards of total offense, you would have asked, “Did we lose by two or three touchdowns?”

Thank you, Rocky.

4-1/1-0.

Go, Aztecs.