Hanley Ramirez will be activated from the disabled list in a week, which means the Los Angeles Dodgers have a big decision to make. While the Dodgers are likely to cruise into the postseason, they haven’t exactly locked down the division just yet. To do so, and then get to the Fall Classic, the team will need to keep Ramirez healthy. And that leads to the question: Which position should he be playing? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons for putting Ramirez at shortstop or third base.
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Flags fly forever.
We hear this axiom repeated often. You could call it the baseball version of Al Davis’ famous battle cry, “Just win, baby!” Championships endure, we’re told. Teams on the brink of contention should always push their chips to the center of the table, they say.
But raising a flag is difficult. And so some teams are content to be merely good enough to contend — especially when that roster is cost-efficient.
For a long time, the Oakland Athletics have been such a club. But this year is different. This year, it seems, Oakland should go for the jugular.
Each season, a number of teams end up stuck in the middle. The teams that can clearly navigate themselves out of that middle are often rewarded, but the teams that do nothing (looking at you, Philadelphia Phillies) often just remain trapped in their mediocrity. As the July 31 trading deadline begins to appear at the horizon of our road trip through the season, there are four teams that should be looking to be buyers. Here they are, plus lists of the players each should be targeting.
Last season, the Pittsburgh Pirates came within one win of the National League Championship Series, and their star center fielder Andrew McCutchen took home the National League Most Valuable Player award. It was an amazing season, but thus far the success has not carried over to 2014.
After winning five of its first seven games, Pittsburgh has dropped 14 of its past 19 contests, to fall to fourth place. As a result, the Bucs dropped 11 spots in the ESPN Power Rankings this week, all the way back to 24th place. And this isn’t some short-term overreaction. The Pirates are in real trouble.
Last season the Cleveland Indians started the year 8-10 and, despite winning one contest by a 19-6 count, had been outscored by six runs in the process. This April, the Indians have started 8-10 and, despite winning one contest by a 12-6 count, have been outscored by seven runs in the process. Last April they were mired in the 20s in the ESPN Power Rankings all month, and this week they have slid back to 22.
Last year, the Indians turned things around and earned a postseason berth. This year, the Indians will turn things around, and are still on the short list for earning a trip to the playoffs. Let’s consider why.
Coming off an 86-win 2013 season, the Kansas City Royals entered this season with a good deal of optimism. In fact, back in February, we even laid out a blueprint for how they could make the postseason. But a horrible start to the season has frittered away much of that optimism, as the Royals were swept in resounding fashion by the lowly Minnesota Twins, who outscored them 21-5 this past weekend. Kansas City’s record is now 4-7, and it has the second-worst run differential in the American League (minus-14).
Although it’s just one swept series and it’s still early, it’s hard to see where the Royals as currently constituted could make enough gains to reach the postseason.
The Chicago White Sox are almost certainly not going to contend this year. That was the prevailing opinion entering the season, and one week of baseball — despite a respectable 3-3 record — has done little to change that notion, as they rank 25th in ESPN.com’s latest power rankings.
The team is rebuilding, but thanks to the busy offseason of general manager Rick Hahn and his baseball operations staff, the path back to contention may not be as long as we think. The White Sox have done or are doing five things correctly that bode well for the future and make them worth following this year.
In the week leading up to Opening Day there is always a lot of discussion about how 25-man rosters will shape up. Now that those rosters have been finalized across the league, we can finally see which teams made smart choices.
Here’s a look at the teams that did not.
As we look to a new year, we also look to those players getting fresh starts. Some have a new team to thank for their fresh starts, others a change in position or role. But no matter the circumstances, there are plenty of players who are approaching this season with a renewed sense of optimism. Prince Fielder and Mark Trumbo are obvious choices, but let’s dig a little deeper, shall we?
Here are 10 players who will benefit the most from some sort of change of scenery.
The Cleveland Indians enter spring training with a classic situation of an incumbent player being pushed by a top prospect. Asdrubal Cabrera is a former All-Star who has been the team’s starting shortstop for the past five seasons. Francisco Lindor is a top prospect — the No. 6 prospect in baseball, according to ESPN’s Keith Law — but is just 20 years old and has played only 21 games above Class A. The plan for Lindor will probably be to give him a half-season of playing time in the minors before even thinking about promoting him to the major league level. But there are more than a few reasons why pushing him to the big leagues for Opening Day and trading Cabrera is the right move for Cleveland.
Most prospects need plenty of seasoning to mature, but Lindor profiles as a player who is capable of making a rapid ascension.