Crash Course: Recapping the Events of MLB Opening Weekend

Opening Weekend has come and passed. Here’s everything that you need to know in the world of Major League Baseball in one quick swoop!

Baltimore Orioles

  • Rule 5 Selection Pedro Araujo remains a name to watch. He looked sharp in his major league debut against the Twins Saturday night.
  • The O’s cut ties with a trio of once promising prospects, releasing outfielder Josh Hart and pitchers Lazaro Leyva and Jesus Liranzo. The hope is that at least Liranzo will be able to stick around and come back strong.

Boston Red Sox

  • While rotation depth may be an issue right now, what they have is looking outstanding. David Price and Chris Sale each looked strong in their respective starts, and Craig Kimbrel has done his job as well as anyone.

New York Yankees

  • Billy McKinney’s debut tour with the Yankees didn’t last very long. After going 1-4 against Toronto, he hurt himself in a collision with the wall. While nothing is broken, he was sent to the disabled list for the time being.
  • With McKinney heading to the disabled list, the highly anticipated call-up of Miguel Andujar was announced in a corresponding move. He’s certainly a name to monitor.
  • Keep an eye on Mike Ford. He could make his debut in short order, and could be a rather solid major leaguer.
  • While the Yankees certainly seem likely to be buyers this summer, could they use reliever Dellin Betances as a chip? The 30-year old is under team control through next season via arbitration.
  • Finally, the Yanks brought in Oliver Perez on a minor-league deal over the weekend. He can make $1 million if he can break into the major leagues. My projections have him at a 4.03 ERA for the 2018 season. For those who question it based on his struggles last season, his FIP (fielding independent pitching) was about 0.8 points lower, and his average velocity actually increased (albeit slightly) from 92.8 to 93.1 at the age of 35.

Tampa Bay Rays

  • While I have not been a huge fan of the Rays’ offseason transactions, I am actually rather excited to see Joey Wendle being given an every day opportunity. He has shown sneaky tools, and has always been able to make contact at a decent clip, however it would help if he walked a bit more.

Toronto Blue Jays

  • Aledmys Diaz has looked horrible through the first three games, going 0-9 with three strikeouts. While it’s way too early to push the panic button, as Diaz has shown what he is capable of in the past, he could start seeing playing time dwindle in favor of Yangervis Solarte. At least for his sake, Troy Tulowitzki is out for the foreseeable future.

Chicago White Sox

  • While expectations should certainly be tempered for the White Sox, they have shown a lot to be excited about. Though 2018 may not be the year that the Sox return to the big dance, they should give the Yanks, Tribe, and Astros some stiff competition next season.
  • Tim Anderson is a name to watch in terms of break-out candidates. Hopefully he sees more pitches.

Cleveland Indians

  • Carlos Carrasco got lit up in his first start, however the bullpen and has looked as good as anticipated.
  • Indians fans should be exceptionally encouraged in regard to Jason Kipnis’ recent success.  He looked like a different player through the spring, and could be back. The Mets’ could regret not making that deal.
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Detroit Tigers

  • Inclimate weather has limited the Tigers to just one game, and for their double-header today, they recalled Ryan Kelly.
  • Miguel Cabrera has looked very strong. Hopefully, his struggles last season were due to the injury issues and we have a few more seasons to watch the prolific slugger terrorize opposing pitchers.

Kansas City Royals

  • Aside from the top four hitters on the Royals, the offense has been anemic over the first two games, and doesn’t look as if it is going to get much better anytime soon. Excluding Jon Jay, Lucas Duda, Mike Moustakas, and Whit Merrifield, the team has a combined six hits and two walks.
  • At least Ian Kennedy looked pretty solid.
  • The Royals brought Kyle Lohse in on a minor league deal, which serves as an interesting story line. Now 39, it remains to be seen how much he has left in the tank.

Minnesota Twins

  • The Twins starting pitching has been very good, as Kyle Gibson nearly completed a no-hitter, and Jose Berrios had a complete game shutout over the weekend. Nevertheless, having Berrios, one of the most promising pitchers in the league who has had injury issues in the past, pitch 107 pitches in his 2018 debut wasn’t very smart. Especially when the Twins had a six run lead by the time they reached the fourth inning.

Houston Astros

  • It’s been business as expected for the Astros over the first few days of the season, as Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve continue to make all of major league pitching quiver in their boots. Furthermore, the pitching staff has been very solid as well.
  • Yuli Gurriel will return from his suspension this week. I would imagine that J.D. Davis is optioned to make room for him.

Los Angeles Angels

  • Mike Trout went 0-6 on Opening Day following a mediocre spring, but then the world remembered that Mike Trout was Mike Trout. He looks healthy and ready to go for the 2018 season, and should be among the favorites for the American League Most Valuable Player Award once again.
  • Ian Kinsler wound up on the shelf with a minor injury, which led to the Halos calling up Nolan Fontana to hold down a spot on the bench. Personally, I am excited to see Jefry Marte get more of an opportunity.
  • To increase their depth, the Angels made a minor trade sending out of options catcher Carlos Perez to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for Ryan Schimpf. Schimpf has bounced around a bit over the past few months, having gone from San Diego to Tampa to Atlanta and now Los Angeles. Schimpf has very good power, but that’s about it. He will serve as some additional depth for the Halos who will hope that the power will return in 2016 form.

Oakland Athletics

  • The A’s swung a minor deal with the Cards sending Casey Meisner over there in exchange for Josh Lucas. Lucas seems likely to slot into a rather high position on the taxi squad in case of injury. A’s fans can expect to see him a lot once injuries start propping up.

Texas Rangers

  • The Rangers have shown some very good signs over the past few days. While I’m not sure if I like them for playoff contention, Doug Fister looked very good in his start against the Astros. He’s long been a favorite of mine and I hope his success continues.
  • Jurickson Profar remains on the Rangers 25-man roster in a bench capacity. That will be an interesting situation to monitor throughout the season.
  • Delino DeShields has a broken hamate bone and will miss some time, which ironically means that we could get a rather extended look at Rule 5 selection Carlos Tocci. I currently have Tocci ranked 13th of all Rangers prospect as his hit tool should certainly play in the majors. While he doesn’t have much power or speed, you could do a lot worse for an injury replacement. He looked rather solid in the Venezuelan Winter League, however he could stand to walk more.

Seattle Mariners

  • 2017 was a disaster for the Mariners in terms of injuries, and 2018 has followed suit as catcher Mike Zunino went down to an oblique strain. While there were reports of the M’s possibly seeking a vet catcher, it has been announced that it is just a grade one strain. I would imagine that they just go with a combination of David Freitas and Mike Marjama until Zunino is ready to go. Freitas was a waiver claim from Atlanta back in October.

Atlanta Braves

  • Luckily for the Braves, they went into the season with ample depth at the catcher’s position. After carrying three catchers onto the opening day roster, one has already been forced to the disabled list, while another could well find himself there in the coming hours. Luckily, Alex Anthopoulos didn’t waste any time in picking up a replacement, as he traded infielder Ryan Schimpf to the Angels for Carlos Perez.
  • Minor league signing Miguel Socolovich and fireballer Josh Ravin found their way to the big league roster despite lackluster springs. Their inclusions represent nine bullpen arms on the 25-man roster. This is a very good move for the Braves who have a young, budding rotation, and it makes sense to preserve their starters.  
  • The Braves have something very good in Preston Tucker. That is what happens when a very good team (Houston) is forced to make roster cuts.
  • As for Ryan Flaherty, don’t go too crazy for him yet. He is running with a .583 BABip at this time. If you happen to have him on your fantasy baseball team, trade him now while his stats look robust. He still offers important versatility and leadership for a young Braves team.
  • Anibal Sanchez is expected to start April 2nd. With a full 40-man roster, and no players who seem likely to be shifted to the 60-Day Disabled List, the Braves will need to make a roster cut. I would imagine Shane Carle is optioned to Triple-A at the very least, and could be designated. There are a few other candidates to hit limbo tomorrow: Rex Brothers, Jesse Biddle, Jason Hursh, Socolovich, and Ravin all seem like possibilities.
  • SLEEPER ALERT: Somebody should take a shot on Akeel Morris. I have him ranked as the #17 prospect in the Braves system based on his ceiling as a very good set-up man. He may frustrate initially, however let him get his feet wet, and he could be exceptional.

Miami Marlins

  • On the plus side, the Marlins took a marathon game away from the Chicago Cubs, however they still started Odrisamer Despaigne the following day, and left him in until he reached 82 pitches. While I totally support keeping him on as the starter after he threw just 11 pitches at the end of a 17-inning game, based on the fact that we are in the first weekend, he should have been kept on a stricter pitch count. 93 pitches in the first weekend is not a recipe for success.
  • After a pair of marathon games, the fish placed Brian Ellington in DFA limbo in favor of Severino Gonzalez. While Ellington was pretty terrible last season, he had a pair of very solid seasons preceding it, and could certainly be worth a look for any other teams looking for depth. As for Severino, he has excellent control, and was very good in the Phillies minor league system. He’s at least worth a flier and is still just 25.
  • Trevor Richards will make his major league debut this week. At this juncture, I have him listed as the 17th ranked prospect in the Marlins’ system and believe that he could be a four long-term. His journey from Indy Ball to the majors is an exceptionally interesting. Congrats on making the jump.
  • The fish need to make a corresponding roster move in order to add Richards. I get the vibe that Tayron Guerrero could be the guy to go, as they just called up Severino Gonzalez recently. It would be a strange move to select Gonzalez’s contract just to cut him a day later. Especially when he’s out of minor league options and can refuse assignment to become a free agent if he clears.

New York Mets

  • The Mets are about to have an outfield logjam when Michael Conforto returns from the disabled list. While it seems likely that Brandon Nimmo could be optioned, I would certainly imagine that they are doing their due diligence in looking for a trade partner for Juan Lagares.
  • Anthony Swarzak has an MRI this week due to shoulder soreness. Hopefully things turn out okay for him.

Philadelphia Phillies

  • Despite the -15 run differential for the Phillies through the fist series, there’s certainly a lot to be encouraged about: chiefly the play of rookie Scott Kingery and second year first baseman Rhys Hoskins.
  • One thing that has not been encouraging, however, has been the management of rookie manager Gabe Kapler. Obviously there were the highly publicized (and criticized) omission of Odubel Herrera from the Opening Day lineup, and taking Aaron Nola out of the game after over five as well as the bullpen fiasco of Saturday night, however there have been a litany of other mistakes that have flown under the radar.
  • On Friday night, Kapler blew through eight relievers. Now, on a night where the starter goes just four innings, it’s understandable, however, half of those relievers were only on the mound for anywhere from one to three batters. Had the game gone further into extra innings, they would have been up the creek without a paddle. Especially considering the fact that both big relief signings are on the disabled list at the moment.
  • How can you let Aaron Altherr continue to attempt to steal? I love almost every aspect of Aaron Altherr’s game, and even believe he’s fast, but in terms of judgement on the base paths, he’s certainly lacking.  
  • Jake Arrieta is scheduled to make his Phillies debut on the April 8 against Miami.  I will be in attendance and am very excited to see him get started. While I didn’t love the contract initially, Klentak and co. did a very good job structuring it to minimize the risk of it becoming too much of an albatross. Arrieta will provide a much-needed veteran in an exceptionally unproven rotation.

Washington Nationals

  • Max Scherzer made the Cincinnati Reds look as if they had never seen a major league pitch before, and all signs point to him being able to replicate that against the other 28 teams. He is the definition of an ace.
  • The Nats really need to put the foot on the gas this season, as the Phillies and Braves are both coming quickly. The NL East could become the best division in the league within the next three years.

Chicago Cubs

  • Regardless of Quintana’s struggles the other night, the Cubs are the Cubs. They are in a very good position to continue to find a considerable amount of success in 2018.
  • Carson Sands was released the other day. Once upon a time, Sands was a heralded draft prospect who took home a $1.1 million signing bonus. Unfortunately he stalled out in Class A.
  • It has been reported that the Cubs have shipped Daniel Camarena to the New York Yankees for future considerations. I am a huge fan of Camarena, despite what was a poor spring, as I see him as a decent option as a back of the rotation starter. He’s a finesse lefty who has very solid control and durability.

Cincinnati Reds

  • Rasiel Iglesias was just activated off of the paternity leave list, while Robert Stephenson was optioned to make room. Congrats to his family.
  • The Reds brought in a veteran arm in Yovani Gallardo on a major league contract. It’s certainly an intriguing signing and gives the team some much-needed veteran depth in a rather shallow rotation. Good low-risk move for the Reds.
  • Cincy DFA’d catcher Stuart Turner in a corresponding move. He has never been much with the bat, but nevertheless, I was at least mildly surprised he was cut seeing as how Tony Cruz is now their third line of defense, with a host of considerably less inspiring options in Chadwick Tromp and Joe Hudson behind him. Luckily, the Reds have a pair of promising catching prospects currently in the low minors in Chris Okey and Tyler Stephenson. Hopefully Okey’s wrist issues are behind him and we can see the Okey that we all expected. Very good player and seems like the type of guy who will become a manager some day.

Milwaukee Brewers

  • The Brewers made a great move in signing Dan Jennings to bolster the bullpen. He is a proven, veteran option who can be handed the ball confidently.
  • The Brewers have ample first base depth. I can’t help but wonder if one of Eric Thames, Jesus Aguilar or Ji-Man Choi could be flipped to a team in need of some help at first in exchange for some starting depth.  The Yankees stand out in my mind. Nevertheless, too much depth is a very good problem to have.

Pittsburgh Pirates

  • During the first game, Corey Dickerson swung at the first pitch twice in five at bats, neither time successfully. While he took some more pitches in his second game, most of them weren’t even close. He has no doubt talent, but needs to learn discipline. If he can improve his approach, he could be one of the best hitters in the league.
  • Ivan Nova threw just 50 of his 84 pitches for strikes (59.5%), Felipe Rivero threw 13 out of 30 (43.3%), Michael Feliz was 8 for 17 (47.1%). There is a considerable amount of work that needs to be done.
  • The Buccos cut ties with a group of rather notable minor-leaguers including Barrett Barnes and Cody Dickson. I personally believe Barnes could be a very good fourth outfielder based on his tools and plate discipline, and Dickson is worth a look as a reliever.
  • Starting pitcher Joe Musgrove was placed on the 10-day disabled list on Monday.

St. Louis Cardinals

  • The Cardinals did a good job getting value back for the pair of DFAs last week, as they acquired infielder Johan Mieses from the Dodgers for Breyvic Valera, and Casey Meisner from the A’s for Josh Lucas. While neither player is a top prospect by any means, they are certainly notable returns for players in DFA limbo. Mieses is a player to watch in terms of power.

Arizona Diamondbacks

  • As you have probably heard, Yasmany Tomas was placed on outright waivers and seems likely to meet the same fate as Rusney Castillo. If it’s any consolation, if I was running an AL team, I would at least look into him. Regardless of struggles, 31 home runs is still 31 home runs, and there is at least a chance that not playing the field would allow him to focus more on his offensive approach. Just food for thought.

Colorado Rockies

  • The Rockies have a lot of very exciting players, however they need to do a better job building around them if they want to compete in the star-studded and further budding National League West. Personally, I am not a fan of the big money relievers based on the volatility of the position. They need to make a splash for a ground ball pitcher. Marcus Stroman stands out to me, as he posted a ground ball percentage over 60. With him anchoring the Rockies rotation, they could be an exceptional team.

Los Angeles Dodgers

  • As an analyst, journalist, whatever you want to call me, I do my best to keep bias out of my work, however, Chase Utley is my favorite baseball player of all time. The man has no cartilage left in his knees yet he stole a base yesterday. That was an outstanding move by the Dodgers to keep him around.
  • Forsythe looked miserable out there in the field the other night committing three errors in one night while going 0-10. He really needs to pick up the pace while Turner is out. He has not been very good in his Dodgers tenure as he posted a .678 OPS last season.
  • The Dodgers rotation is something else. They are my pre-season pick for the World Series this season, as they boast such depth. Furthermore, I would be shocked if an extension wasn’t worked out with Clayton Kershaw by the time July rolls around.
  • I like the idea in picking up Valera from the Cards, however they gave up a guy who hit more than 50 home runs over the last two minor league seasons, while also boasting double-digit steal totals throughout his minor league career. Despite the depth of the system, I personally would have waited a few days. With the minor league season starting soon, cuts are beginning quickly. To this point, none of the guys who I would consider to be potential diamonds in the rough are infielders, however they’re coming. Johan Mieses could be very good.
  • Speaking of which, the Dodgers brought in Frank Duncan after he was released by the Diamondbacks. He really struggled last season, however looked outstanding in his first extended look at Triple-A in 2016. While he’s no guarantee, he’s a name to look at.

San Diego Padres

  • Nothing made me happier to see Joey Lucchesi make his major league debut in under two seasons. I had him ranked third on my pre-season Padres prospect rankings. The Padres had an excellent 2016 draft selecting projectable college pitchers such as Eric Lauer and Cal Quantrill. I just wish they gave Boomer White more of a shot before cutting ties.
  • “Lucchesi doesn’t have a scouting grade below 55. He has three above average pitches, plus control and should be ready this season. He should start the season in El Paso, but could be up before his 25th birthday.”

San Francisco Giants

  • Johnny Cueto looked amazing the other night as he took a perfect game into the 7th. While I don’t believe that the Giants can compete in 2017, as the Dodgers have the division down, and there are quite a few teams who look stronger competing for the Wild Card, if Cueto continues to pitch like that, he could be the most coveted pitcher come July.
  • Joe Panik has looked rather solid as well.

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