Reasons for Optimism for Each of MLB’s Last-Place Teams

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The month of August has come to a close and has made way for September, the last full month of the Major League Baseball regular season.

September also ushers in expanded rosters for all 30 teams, allowing them to carry 40 active players throughout the month as opposed to the usual 25. This allows contending teams to go with an “all hands on deck” approach to their playoff push. Meanwhile, teams that have fallen out of the playoff race can showcase their young, up-and-coming players in big league action.

The implementation of the expanded rosters has added a new element of excitement to the September push to the playoffs. It allows contending teams to rest their regular players and get them ready for the postseason, while also allowing the teams at the bottom of the standings to play spoiler with their young talent.

Each of the six last-place teams throughout the league certainly have plenty of reason to despair, but that does not mean that all hope is lost. Every one of these teams has a glimmer of hope to hold onto going forward. For some, that hope may very well come in the form of a September call-up, while others, such as the Baltimore Orioles, may have to wait several more years for the future to reveal itself.

If you are a fan of one of these bottom-feeding teams then hopefully this will give you a reason to keep the faith for 2019 and beyond.

Baltimore Orioles

There is an old adage in life that says, “It is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all.” In baseball, that adage can be amended to, “It is better to have loved, lost, and received a good package of prospects back for your troubles than to never have loved at all.”

For the Baltimore Orioles, the departure of all-stars Manny Machado and Zach Britton was the last punch to the gut that defined the 2018 season for this team and its fans. Sure, the writing was on the wall when it came to these two players since no Orioles fan in their right mind ever expected the team to pay through the nose for Machado or Britton in free agency. Nevertheless, it always hurts to see such massively talented players leave your favorite team.

Even if your team sits in last place in their respective division, there is at least one reason to remain optimistic for the future ahead. Click To Tweet

Luckily for Orioles fans, the team did not hesitate and were able to capitalize on the value of those two players at the trade deadline. The Orioles did not come away empty-handed, acquiring young talents such as outfielder, Yusniel Diaz, who is now their #1 prospect, third baseman, Rylan Bannon, and pitchers Dillon Tate and Dean Kremer. Those four players now make up part of Baltimore’s top 25 prospects list.

The Orioles will still be saddled with some unfortunate contracts, particularly those of declining veterans Chris Davis, Mark Trumbo, Alex Cobb, and Andrew Cashner. Those four players make up a total of $50 million towards Baltimore’s 2019 payroll. Barring a drastic turnaround from one of those players the Orioles will be unable to parse them off to another team, thus forcing them to endure the remainder of those contracts.

Nevertheless, Baltimore’s farm system took a major step forward this year. Eventually, those veteran contracts will expire, and when they do the Orioles could potentially have more than a few budding stars ready to come up and take their place on the major league roster. Stay patient, Orioles fans, the future may be several years off but it is certainly brighter than it has been in a long time.

Kansas City Royals

It is hard to believe that just three years ago at this time the Kansas City Royals were making their run towards an eventual World Series Championship. Alas, that was three years ago, and the 2018 season has been a frustrating tractor pull for a rebuilding Royals team.

The Royals are currently 46-93 on the season and are occupying the last place spot in a below average American League Central division. The departure of their World Series stars such as Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, and Mike Moustakas signaled the end of an era in Kansas City.

Now a new era is beginning within the walls of Kauffman Stadium, and it centers around the Royals’ new crop of rising stars in the lineup. Adalberto Mondesi, Brett Phillips, and Ryan O’Hearn are three young, promising newcomers that have the potential to usher in a new era of success in Kansas City.

Mondesi, the 23-year-old son of former major leaguer, Raul Mondesi, has been in the Royals’ system since 2011. He is a speedy middle infielder who has also shown flashes of brilliance with his glove. Should he find a way to improve his plate discipline he could end up being the Royals’ lead-off man of the future.

Phillips, 24, was acquired via trade for Mike Moustakas and was viewed as the major prize that Kansas City received in that deal. Phillips was dominant in the minor leagues in 2017, hitting .305 with 17 home runs while playing for Milwaukee’s Triple-A affiliate. He has struggled thus far in 2018, but there is little doubt that the ceiling for Phillips is still extremely high. A return to form could see him occupying the middle part of the Royals’ order for years to come.

Ryan O’Hearn, 24, is another product of the Royals’ farm system that is turning a lot of heads in the second half of the 2018 season. O’Hearn was drafted by Kansas City in 2014 and has shown consistent power throughout his minor-league career. That power, thus far, has carried over to the majors as he has already hit 9 home runs in his first 26 games with the Royals. The rest of his numbers look decent as well, slashing a modest .264/.347/.644 with a .991 OPS. At just 24 years old, O’Hearn has yet to even enter his prime power years so there could be a lot more to come in the next few years.

Texas Rangers

Perhaps the best news for Texas Rangers fans is this simple fact: for a last-place team, they’re not actually that bad. The Rangers are currently 61-78, just 17 games under .500 which is much better than some of their last-place counterparts throughout the league.

The Rangers’ pitching has been abysmal all season long, posting a collective 4.97 ERA, which is the third worst in all of baseball. That is the bad news, and the departure of Cole Hamels only ensures that the starting pitching will be even worse down the stretch.

However, Rangers fans can take solace in the fact that their offense is still firing on all cylinders. Texas ranks 6th in the league in runs scored, and the young stars at the core of their offense are leading the way. Rougned Odor, Nomar Mazara, and Joey Gallo have provided plenty of power and steady offense for the Rangers this season. For Odor and Mazara, the 2018 season has been a major rebound from their poor performances in 2017 which saw their batting averages take a major dip.

The Rangers can still score runs at a torrid pace, there is no doubt about that. A few upgrades to the starting rotation could launch the Rangers right back into contention in 2019.

Miami Marlins

There may be no single fan base in all of sports that has suffered more in 2018 than Miami Marlins fans. New ownership came in and absolutely decimated the roster, leaving Marlins fans with the equivalent of a Triple-A roster to watch for the 2018 season.

However, it is not all doom and gloom down in Miami. The team was not stripped of all its talent entirely, and the pieces that remain could set up Miami nicely in the future. Catcher, J.T. Realmuto, and second baseman, Starlin Castro, are both having impressive 2018 seasons down in Miami and could both be part of offseason deals to help bolster the Marlins’ farm system. Both players are entering their late 20s which makes them prime trade candidates for a Marlins team that is looking to accrue younger talent to build towards the future.

It is difficult to view the departure of more talented players as a positive, but Marlins fans need to remember that this is exactly how the rebuilding process works. It is long, arduous, and depressing, but the end result will, hopefully, make it all worth it. Watching players like Realmuto and Castro leave will be difficult, and it could lead to another last-place finish in 2019, but the potential return could do wonders for the Marlins’ farm system and their future.

Cincinnati Reds

The Cincinnati Red, despite their poor record, have a lot to be excited about as the 2018 season winds down to a close. The Reds, much like the Texas Rangers, suffer from a lackluster starting pitching staff, ranking 27th in the league with a collective 5.20 ERA posted from their starters.

The Reds will have to focus on bolstering their pitching staff in the offseason but, luckily, their offense appears to be all squared away. Joey Votto, as always, is having another productive season at the age of 33, despite a drastic decrease in his power. However, it is the emergence of the young stars that occupy the remainder of the Reds’ infield that provides hope for the future. Scooter Gennett, Jose Peraza, and Eugenio Suarez have all turned into everyday stars for the Reds, bringing both power and clutch hitting to the table every single at-bat. The lack of power from Votto this season has largely gone unnoticed due to the power provided from Gennett (22 HRs) and Suarez (31 HRs) this season. Jose Peraza, meanwhile, provides a speed factor with 20 stolen bases on the year as well as plate discipline, having struck out only 62 times in 545 at-bats.

The Reds have already locked up Eugenio Suarez into a long-term contract that runs through the 2025 season, and Jose Peraza is under team control for the 2019 season. Scooter Gennett has one more year of arbitration for the 2019 season and then he will be a free agent after that. It would behoove the Reds to sign the Cincinnati native to a long-term deal if they can, thus ensuring the future of their offense for years to come.

San Diego Padres

In contrast to the Cincinnati Reds and their impressive infield, the Padres’ reason for hope comes from the young, rising stars that occupy the vast outfield at PETCO Park.

Hunter Renfroe (26), Manuel Margot (23), and Franmil Reyes (23) have provided a spark to the Padres’ struggling offense in 2018. Renfroe has shown off the power that many scouts and evaluators have known about for years, crushing 19 home runs so far this season. Manuel Margot, the Padres’ young centerfielder, has struggled to hit consistently but has shown flashes of promise with his speed and defense. Margot is likely to improve as he gets older and stronger. The most exciting newcomer might be Franmil Reyes, who earned playing time due to an injury-plagued season for the Padres’ regular right fielder, Wil Myers. Reyes is currently slashing .262/.315/.541 with 15 home runs in his first 66 games.

The Padres showed that they can lure big-name players through free agency when they signed Eric Hosmer this past offseason. They will likely try to do the same in this next offseason, hopefully, to help bolster their pitching staff and put some established, veteran talent around their up-and-coming young stars.

 

 

 

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