A Reason for Every Last Place MLB Team to be Optimistic

It’s fair to say that every last place team in Major League Baseball (Baltimore Orioles, Kansas City Royals, Seattle Mariners, Miami Marlins, Cincinnati Reds, San Francisco Giants) won’t be appearing in the 2019 postseason. With that said, they all have something to be optimistic about. Here is a reason for every last place MLB team to do as such.

Baltimore Orioles: Trey Mancini

Chris Davis is the only remaining member of the competitive Orioles teams from earlier this decade. And in what appears to be a second consecutive tumultuous season, the Orioles are looking for young players to build around; Mancini continues to show that he’s capable of growing into such a player.

A 2017 American League Rookie of the Year finalist, Mancini has been the most consistent and reliable figure in the Orioles starting lineup in recent memory. He’s currently hitting a team and career-high .305 and has totaled 10 home runs, 26 RBIs, and 17 doubles; Mancini also owns a career-best .354 BABIP (batting average on balls in play). He’s a contact hitter, the driving force of Baltimore’s offense, and their best all-around player.

Mancini is a versatile fielder. While the bulk of his reps have come at the corner outfield positions, the 27-year-old has also played first base for an extended period of time. That versatility bodes well for a team looking to experiment with younger players.

Kansas City Royals: Productive Infield

While they’re struggling to get reliable starting pitching, the Royals have seen their infield, highlighted by Whit Merrifield, Hunter Dozier, and Adalberto Mondesi, thrive at the plate. Merrifield, who mans second base, is one of the best hitting middle infielders in the sport. He’s currently hitting .290 (Merrifield is a career .293 hitter), and his pure contact hitting makes him difficult to strikeout.

It might be difficult to see, but every last-place team in @MLB still has a reason to be optimistic right now. @RPStratakos sets the scene here.Click To Tweet

After a quiet 2018 campaign Dozier is coming into his own as one of the best young third basemen in baseball. Hitting a team-high .322 while totaling 11 home runs, 33 RBIs, and making contact at a career-best 91.6 mph exit velocity, Dozier has been a vital source of power in manager Ned Yost‘s lineup.

Mondesi is the most underrated aspect of the Royals young core. After coming up and down from the minor leagues from 2016-18, the shortstop has found a permanent gig in the Royals infield and is rapidly improving; he’s hitting .290 and has driven in a team-high 41 runs.

Seattle Mariners: Domingo Santana

Last year was a discouraging period of time for Santana, as he became a fourth outfielder for the Milwaukee Brewers given the offseason additions of Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain, as well as the fact that Ryan Braun‘s contract makes it difficult to sit him. With the Mariners, Santana is reviving himself.

Currently hitting .278 while totaling 10 home runs and 42 RBIs, he has been one of the most productive outfielders in the sport. After Santana’s 2017 campaign, highlighted by him totaling 30 home runs and 85 RBIs, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. He can hit for contact, power, and is a reliable left fielder.

The Mariners have gone through a roster teardown, but still have many highly productive bats, and Santana exemplifies the organization’s vision of staying competitive while retooling.

MIAMI, FLORIDA – MAY 14: Caleb Smith #31 of the Miami Marlins delivers a pitch in the first inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Marlins Park on May 14, 2019 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Miami Marlins: Caleb Smith

The Marlins are looking for an identity, and while they have few, if any, building blocks on their 25-man roster, they may have found a rotation anchor in Smith.

After a respectable, but not wowing 2018 season, the southpaw has shown immense signs of improvement. He owns a 3.05 ERA and 0.96 WHIP while totaling 72 strikeouts in 56 innings. Smith heavily relies on his fastball and slider, but can revert to his changeup. He has also pitched through six innings in six of his 10 starts.

Whether you’re a team in contention, or in MLB’s cellar, you need reliable starting pitching. Smith is giving the Marlins precisely that and something to be extremely optimistic about going forward, as they look for position players worth building around and reasons to keep fans dialed in.

Cincinnati Reds: Luis Castillo

The Reds acquired veteran pitchers Alex Wood, Tanner Roark, and Sonny Gray in the offseason, but the story of their pitching staff has been the 26-year-old Castillo.

The right-hander owns a 2.45 ERA and 1.11 WHIP this season while totaling 82 strikeouts in 69.2 innings. He has also pitched three shutouts and surrendered fewer home runs — which was an issue in 2018, as he surrendered 28 in 31 starts. Castillo has a four-pitch arsenal which includes a fastball, sinker, slider, and changeup.

The Reds play in the most competitive division in MLB, that being the National League Central, but they’re beginning to see youngsters grow on the scene and compete at a high level. Castillo is the best thing the organization has going for itself right now.

San Francisco Giants: Tyler Austin

It’s been another rough season for the Giants. Their lineup is nearing the end of its prime and is underwhelming, from a production standpoint, and their starting rotation has severely underperformed. Austin has been one of extremely few bright spots for the Giants.

Coming over in an April trade with the Minnesota Twins, the first baseman — and now also left fielder — has been an exciting power bat in the Giants order. In 58 at-bats Austin has totaled five home runs and 13 RBIs. But he’s not just hitting home runs; he’s absolutely demolishing them. Austin has recorded a career high in barrel percentage (21.2) and exit velocity (91.2 percent) this season.

The Giants need a spark, and Austin’s power is giving them something to relish over; it can’t be all doom and gloom.

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