Tom Verducci: Second half preview for National League teams

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The first half of the season is over, and the All-Star break is at an end. Now, all 30 MLB teams must get ready for the second half, including the traDe Jerseys De Jerseysadline and the stretch run for division titles or wild-card spots. For some clubs, the La Jerseyste summer and early fall will be a time to throw everything they have into securing a coveted postseason berth. For others, the back half of the season will be about restocking for next year or finding out which pLa Jerseysyers will be a part of the future.

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Where does your team stand as the second half begins? Sports Illustrated senior baseball writer Tom Verducci is here to tell you with his midseason preview viDe Jerseysos for each team. Tom recaps the first half and what went right or wrong for each squad before giving his prediction as to what the second half holds.

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Below, you’ll find Tom’s previews for every National League Jerseys team. For his takes on the American League Jerseys, go here.

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ViDe Jerseysos are listed alphabetically by team name. All standings are as of Thursday, July 14.

AtLa Jerseysnta Braves Jerseys Jerseys

Record: 31–58 (.348)

Fifth pLa Jerseysce in NL East (22 1/2 games behind WAS)

16 1/2 games behind second pLa Jerseysce in NL wild card (NYM/MIA)

Verducci: AtLa Jerseysnta Braves Jerseys Jerseys 2016 midseason preview

Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci previews the AtLa Jerseysnta Braves Jerseys Jerseys at the halfway point of the 2016 season.

Milwaukee Brewers Jerseys Jerseys

Record: 38–49 (.437)

Fourth pLa Jerseysce in NL Central (14 1/2 games behind CHC)

8 1/2 games behind second pLa Jerseysce in NL wild card (NYM/MIA)

Verducci: Milwaukee Brewers Jerseys Jerseys 2016 midseason preview

Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci previews the Milwaukee Brewers Jerseys Jerseys at the halfway point of the 2016 season.

St. Louis Cardinals Jerseys Jerseys

Record: 46–42 (.523)

Second pLa Jerseysce in NL Central (Seven games behind CHC)

One game behind second pLa Jerseysce in NL wild card (NYM/MIA)

Verducci: St. Louis Cardinals Jerseys Jerseys 2016 midseason preview

Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci previews the St. Louis Cardinals Jerseys Jerseys at the halfway point of the 2016 season.

Chicago Cubs Jerseys Jerseys

Record: 53–35 (.602)

First pLa Jerseysce in NL Central (Seven-game lead over STL)

Verducci: Chicago Cubs Jerseys Jerseys 2016 midseason preview

Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci previews the Chicago Cubs Jerseys Jerseys at the halfway point of the 2016 season.

Arizona Diamondbacks Jerseys Jerseys

Record: 38–52 (.422)

Fifth pLa Jerseysce in NL West Jerseys (19 games behind SFG)

10 games behind second pLa Jerseysce in NL wild card (NYM/MIA)

Verducci: Arizona Diamondbacks Jerseys Jerseys 2016 midseason preview

Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci previews the Arizona Diamondbacks Jerseys Jerseys at the halfway point of the 2016 season.

Los Angeles Dodgers Jerseys Jerseys

Record: 51–40 (.560)

Second pLa Jerseysce in NL West Jerseys (6 1/2 games behind SFG)

First pLa Jerseysce in NL wild card (2 1/2 games ahead of NYM/MIA)

Verducci: Los Angeles Dodgers Jerseys Jerseys 2016 midseason preview

Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci previews the Los Angeles Dodgers Jerseys Jerseys at the halfway point of the 2016 season.

San Francis Jerseysco Giants Jerseys Jerseys

Record: 57–33 (.633)

First pLa Jerseysce in NL West Jerseys (6 1/2 games ahead of La JerseysD)

Verducci: San Francis Jerseysco Giants Jerseys Jerseys 2016 midseason preview

Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci previews the San Francis Jerseysco Giants Jerseys Jerseys at the halfway point of the 2016 season.

Miami Marlins Jerseys Jerseys

Record: 47–41 (.534)

Second pLa Jerseysce in NL East (Six games behind WAS)

Tied for second pLa Jerseysce in NL wild card with NYM

Verducci: Miami Marlins Jerseys Jerseys 2016 midseason preview

Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci previews the Miami Marlins Jerseys Jerseys at the halfway point of the 2016 season.

New York Mets Jerseys Jerseys

Record: 47–41 (.534)

Second pLa Jerseysce in NL East (Six games behind WAS)

Tied for second pLa Jerseysce in NL wild card with MIA

Verducci: New York Mets Jerseys Jerseys 2016 midseason preview

Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci previews the New York Mets Jerseys Jerseys at the halfway point of the 2016 season.

Washington Nationals Jerseys Jerseys

Record: 54–36 (.600)

First pLa Jerseysce in NL East (Six games ahead of NYM/MIA)

Verducci: Washington Nationals Jerseys Jerseys 2016 midseason preview

Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci previews the Washington Nationals Jerseys Jerseys at the halfway point of the 2016 season.

San Diego Padres Jerseys Jerseys

Record: 38–51 (.427)

Fourth pLa Jerseysce in NL West Jerseys (18 1/2 games behind SFG)

9 1/2 games behind second pLa Jerseysce in NL wild card (NYM/MIA)

Verducci: San Diego Padres Jerseys Jerseys 2016 midseason preview

Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci previews the San Diego Padres Jerseys Jerseys at the halfway point of the 2016 season.

PhiLa JerseysDe Jerseyslphia PHill Jerseysies Jerseys Jerseys

Record: 42–48 (.467)

Fourth pLa Jerseysce in NL East (12 games behind WAS)

Six games behind second pLa Jerseysce in NL wild card (NYM/MIA)

Verducci: PhiLa JerseysDe Jerseyslphia PHill Jerseysies Jerseys Jerseys 2016 midseason preview

Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci previews the PhiLa JerseysDe Jerseyslphia PHill Jerseysies Jerseys Jerseys at the halfway point of the 2016 season.

Pittsburgh Pirates Jerseys Jerseys

Record: 46–43 (.517)

Third pLa Jerseysce in NL Central (7 1/2 games behind CHC)

1 1/2 games behind second pLa Jerseysce in NL wild card (NYM/MIA)

Verducci: Pittsburgh Pirates Jerseys Jerseys 2016 midseason preview

Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci previews the Pittsburgh Pirates Jerseys Jerseys at the halfway point of the 2016 season.

Cincinnati Reds Jerseys Jerseys

Record: 32–57 (.360)

Fifth pLa Jerseysce in NL Central (21 1/2 games behind CHC)

15 1/2 games behind second pLa Jerseysce in NL wild card (NYM/MIA)

Verducci: Cincinnati Reds Jerseys Jerseys 2016 midseason preview

Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci previews the Cincinnati Reds Jerseys Jerseys at the halfway point of the 2016 season.

Colorado Rockies Jerseys Jerseys

Record: 40–48 (.455)

Third pLa Jerseysce in NL West Jerseys (16 games behind SFG)

Seven games behind second pLa Jerseysce in NL wild card (NYM/MIA)

Verducci: Colorado Rockies Jerseys Jerseys 2016 midseason preview

Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci previews the Colorado Rockies Jerseys Jerseys at the halfway point of the 2016 season.

For more second-half preview content, check out Jay Jerseys Jaffe’s bold predictions for the AL and NL.

Second-half storylines: Giants, Indians, Orioles are teams to watch

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Before the second half of the baseball season begins Friday, let’s take a look at some of the most intriguing statistical storylines from the first half, with an eye on the key stat to know looking ahead.

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Oh right, it’s an even year

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The Giants Jerseys went 17-18 (.486) in their first 35 games, ninth in the NL and 16th in the majors. But since May Jerseys 11, they’ve been the best team in baseball by going 40-15, with five fewer losses than any other team.

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The Elias Jerseys Sports Bureau notes that the 40-15 stretch is tied for the Giants Jerseys’ best 55-game stretch since moving to San Francis Jerseysco, also achieved in 1962.

They’ve done it on the strength of pitching, simiLa Jerseysr to the Giants Jerseys teams that won the 2010, 2012 and 2014 World Series. The 2.80 ERA by their starters since May Jerseys 11 is the best in baseball by more than half a run (Cubs Jerseys, 3.52).


There are 40 pLa Jerseysyers in baseball with 3.0 or more wins above repLa Jerseyscement this season (the equivalent of an All-Star season), and the Giants Jerseys have four — Madison Bumgarner Jerseys Jerseys, Johnny Cueto Jerseys Jerseys, Brandon Belt Jerseys Jerseys and Brandon Crawford Jerseys Jerseys.

Second-half stat to watch: The Giants Jerseys’ pitching staff has benefited greatly from catcher Buster Posey Jerseys Jerseys, who rates as the game’s top pitch-framer, and an infield that has a major-League Jerseys best 41 De Jerseysfensive runs saved. Next most by a team is the Blue Jay Jerseyss Jerseys with 24.

Summer and fall of BelieveLa Jerseysnd?

The Indians Jerseys lead the AL Central by 6½ games. Elias Jerseys notes that they’ve led by at least six games three times at the break in their history (1995, 1998, 1999) and went on to win the division each time.

The Indians Jerseys have owned at least a share of the AL Central lead each day since June 4. In that Span Jerseys, their starters have been the best in baseball, with a 3.13 ERA. When the Indians Jerseys get a lead, they find a way to win. Since June 4, the Indians Jerseys are 23-5 (.821) when leading at any point in the game, the most wins and the third-best win percentage of any team.

Through 87 games this season, Francis Jerseysco Lind Jerseysor Jerseys is replicating his 99-game stint from 2015. He’s hitting .306 with 10 home runs and an .823 OPS after hitting .313 with an .835 OPS La Jerseysst season.

Second-half pLa Jerseysyer to watch Carlos Santana Jerseys Jerseys has upped his output since the team became division leaDe Jerseysrs. He’s hitting .296 since that point, after hitting .223 earlier in the season. He had nine home runs in 193 at-bats to start the season, but has 11 in his La Jerseysst 135.

Can the Orioles Jerseys’ power carry them?

The Orioles Jerseys lead the majors in home runs with 137 through 87 games. They are on pace for 255, which would be the fifth-most in a season.

But teams to hit that many home runs have not had success in October. Of the top 14 teams in home runs, only one won the World Series — the 2009 Yankees Jerseys. Elias Jerseys notes that they’re the only team to lead the League Jerseys in home runs and win a World Series in the La Jerseysst 30 seasons.

Second-half stat to watch:The Orioles Jerseys are 22-13 against their AL East rivals, with a run differential of only plus-13. In such a tight race, the Orioles Jerseys’ overachieving makes the difference between being in first pLa Jerseysce and being in third pLa Jerseysce.

The overachievers and unDe Jerseysrachievers

The Orioles Jerseys are one of a few teams to have outperformed their record based on Bill James’ PythaGore Jerseysan expectation formuLa Jerseys. They are 51-36, though their run differential is more indicative of a 48-win team.

The biggest overachiever is the Rangers Jerseys, who are 54-36 De Jerseysspite having a run differential more resembling a 47-43 team. The Rangers Jerseys are 19-7 in one-run games this season.

The Cardinals Jerseys top the list of unDe Jerseysrachievers, with a 46-42 mark, when their PythaGore Jerseysan expectation is 53-35. The Cardinals Jerseys went 6-6 in their La Jerseysst 12 games, with five of the losses being by one or two runs.

The Mariners Jerseys are 45-44 but should be 50-39 based on their run differential. Their bullpen has been the culprit, with an AL-high 16 blown saves. The Mariners Jerseys have led in 24 of their 44 losses, their fourth-most such losses in the AL.

Amazingly, the Cubs Jerseys are on the list of unDe Jerseysrachieving teams. The Cubs Jerseys are 53-35, though their expected record based on run differential is 58-30. The Cubs Jerseys are 4-28 when scoring three runs or fewer, the third-worst record in the NL.

Riley Foreman also contributed to this report.

Yu Darvish making strides towards return

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ARLINGTON — Rain forced Yu Darvish Jerseys to throw his live batting-practice session indoors on Sunday, but pitching coach Doug Brocail was still pleased with the results.

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Darvish could begin a medical rehabilitation assignment as early as April 26 in Frisco, Texas, although he still has one more live batting-practice session.

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Darvish, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow on March 17, 2015, threw 50 pitches in increments of 15, 15 and 20 in the indoor batting cages. Josh Hamilton Jerseys and Bryan Holaday Jerseys stood at the plate tracking pitches, but did not swing. Chris Gimenez Jerseys, who is almost fully recovered from an infection in his left ankle, caught Darvish.

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“It went very good,” Brocail said. “He had good angle on his fastball, crisp. He spins the ball as good as anybody in the game. His curveball was better than expected, his slider was phenomenal and his changeup was good. He looked good.”
Darvish’s next session is scheduled for Thursday before the Rangers’ game with the Astros.

“Probably one more like this with live hitters,” Darvish said. “Fifty pitches and then see ya, go out on assignment.”

Darvish would likely make 5-6 starts on rehab assignment and be ready to return to the rotation in late May.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs. Share This Email Print + Hide Comments

Freddie Freeman has sore right hand, wrist

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Even as Freddie Freeman Jerseys spent the past two weeks producing surprising encouragement, there was reason to wonder if his right wrist truly had improved to the point where it would be durable enough to withstand the daily rigors the season might bring.

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Freeman was reminded of this when he exited Friday afternoon’s split-squad game with what the Braves termed as discomfort around his right hand and wrist. The veteran first baseman told reporters that he wanted to wait until Saturday to address the matter.

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Freeman made what the Braves hope was just a precautionary exit after he swung through David Buchanan Jerseys’s high fastball to conclude a second-inning strikeout. As Freeman made his way back toward the dugout, he was seen shaking his right hand.

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Though it is too early to know the extent of the ailment, this was certainly not an encouraging development for Freeman, who battled right wrist discomfort throughout most of last season’s final four months and a portion of this offseason. Freeman did not pick up a bat until Dec. 31, and he did not take regular batting practice until he arrived at Spring Training.


Freeman had felt no previous discomfort over the past two weeks. Through the 12 plate appearances he had compiled entering Friday, he had belted two homers, recorded a double and drawn five walks. His most recent homer was an opposite-field shot that he hit during Wednesday’s game against the Astros.

When Freeman arrived at Spring Training, he indicated that he planned to take things slow during the early days of camp. But he took some swings in batting practice during the second day of full-squad workouts and made starts on six of the Grapefruit League season’s first 12 days.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs. Share This Email Print + Hide Comments

DraftKings MLB picks for Saturday April 9

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The players listed below could provide difference-making stats for DraftKings participants on Saturday.

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James McCann: The catcher will be poised to provide cost-effective production at a premium position when he faces Yankees southpaw CC Sabathia (4.81 ERA, 1.40 WHIP since the outset of 2013). In his career, McCann has posted an .858 OPS against left-handers (.609 vs. righties).

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Ian Kinsler: From a premium lineup spot, Kinsler could reach base often and score multiple runs when he tangles with Sabathia (4.73 ERA, 1.42 WHIP in 2015). The second baseman owns a lifetime .882 OPS against left-handers that compares favorably to his .760 mark vs. righties. Kinsler’s go-ahead RBI single DET@MIA: Kinsler singles in the go-ahead run to leftIan Kinsler smacks a line drive to left field, scoring the go-ahead run in the bottom of the 11th inning

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Justin Upton: Hitting out of the two-hole in Detroit’s powerful lineup, Upton could post a difference-making total in DraftKings contests when he brings his lifetime .886 OPS against left-handers (.805 vs. righties) into a matchup against Sabathia (4.65 FIP in 2015).


Nick Castellanos: Castellanos could provide cost-effective production at the hot corner on Tuesday, as his lifetime .796 OPS against left-handers exceeds his .676 mark vs. righties. He could be part of a Tigers stack — along with McCann, Kinsler, Upton and first baseman Miguel Cabrera — against Sabathia.

Colby Rasmus: Coming off arguably his most powerful season (25 homers across 432 at-bats), Rasmus will be poised to rip a round-tripper when he travels to hitter-friendly Miller Park to face Wily Peralta (career 4.06 ERA, 1.39 WHIP). As a big leaguer, Rasmus has registered a .785 OPS against right-handers (.675 vs. lefties).

Derek Norris: The catcher could post a game-changing total at a premium position when he puts his lifetime .840 OPS against left-handers (.642 vs. righties) to the test against southpaw Jorge De La Rosa at offense-inducing Coors Field. In his career, De La Rosa has allowed right-handed hitters such as Norris to post a .793 OPS (.637 OPS allowed to lefty batters).

Matt Kemp: The cornerstone of the Padres’ lineup, Kemp compiled 23 homers, 100 RBIs and 12 steals last season. The outfielder could excel at a hitter-friendly home venue when he brings his lifetime .325/.386/.546 slash line against left-handers into a matchup with De La Rosa (career 4.57 ERA, 1.43 WHIP). Kemp’s RBI single HOU@SD: Kemp hits an RBI single to right3/27/16: Tony Kemp hits a line-drive single to right field, scoring Leo Heras

Alexei Ramirez Jerseys: With a lifetime .292/.332/.432 slash line against left-handers, Ramirez has the plate skills to thrive against De La Rosa (4.17 ERA, 1.36 WHIP in 2015) at a hitter-friendly road park. Ramirez could also swipe a base against catcher Nick Hundley, who sometimes struggles to thwart opposing basestealers.

Didi Gregorius: With a career .735 OPS against right-handers that notably exceeds his .557 mark vs. lefties, Gregorius could provide cost-effective production at a premium position when he faces Tigers righty Mike Pelfrey (lifetime 4.52 ERA, 1.48 WHIP).

Brian McCann: The catcher has long fared best vs. right-handers, against whom he has registered a lifetime .825 OPS (.755 vs. southpaws). McCann — who led all catchers with 26 homers in 2015 — could drive in multiple runs when he tangles with Pelfrey (4.26 ERA, 1.48 WHIP in 2015).

Ryan Raburn Jerseys: Raburn owns lopsided lifetime splits, with a .830 OPS against left-handers in comparison to a .693 mark vs. righties. The outfielder — who posted a 1.004 OPS against lefties last season — could rip a round-tripper or drive in multiple runs when he bats at his long-ball-happy home park against Padres southpaw Drew Pomeranz (career 4.07 ERA, 1.34 WHIP).

Nolan Arenado: After compiling 42 homers and 130 RBIs in 2015, Arenado has established himself as one of the premier sluggers in baseball. Batting at his offense-inducing home park, the third baseman could post a game-changing total in DraftKings contests when he brings his lifetime .288/.349/.504 slash line against left-handers into a matchup with Pomeranz, who made 44 of his 53 appearances in 2015 as a reliever. Arenado optimistic in 2016 Arenado likes the team chemistry early in the seasonThomas Harding talks to Nolan Arenado about his excitement for the 2016 season and the Rockies’ team chemistry

David Ortiz Jerseys: Ortiz continued to defy Father Time when he posted a .325/.401/.701 slash line in the second half of 2015. The slugger could rip a round-tripper when he takes his lofty lifetime .976 OPS against right-handers (.814 vs. lefties) into hitter-friendly Rogers Centre to face righty R.A. Dickey (4.45 FIP in 2015).

Clayton Kershaw: The left-hander — who owns a 1.90 ERA and a 0.88 WHIP since the outset of 2013 — reminded DraftKings participants of his dominance when he held the Padres to one hit across seven scoreless innings on Opening Day. Kershaw will be poised to silence the opposition when he takes on the Giants at pitcher-friendly AT&T Park.

Steven Matz: Matz — who registered a lifetime 2.24 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP in the Minors — posted a 2.27 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP across six Major League starts in 2015. The southpaw could spin a gem when he works at home against a rebuilding Phillies lineup that includes one player (Ryan Howard) who exceeded the 15-homer mark last season. Matz’s hitless start NYM@CHC: Matz keeps Cubs hitless over five innings4/1/16: Steven Matz keeps the Cubs’ bats quiet as he pitches five innings of no-hit ball while striking out six batters

Carlos Martinez: After posting a 3.01 ERA in his first season working primarily as a starter, Martinez could get his 2016 campaign off to a spectacular start when he travels to offense-suppressing Turner Field to face a Braves lineup that does not include a single player who hit 20 homers in 2015.

Chris Sale Jerseys: With a lifetime 2.92 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 10.3K/9 rate, the left-hander is arguably the most dominant hurler on the Junior Circuit. Sale could combine a handful of punchouts with a win when he works at home against the Indians in a seemingly advantageous matchup with Cody Anderson Jerseys.

All statistics are accurate through the completion of Thursday’s games.

Fred Zinkie is the lead fantasy baseball writer for Follow him on Twitter at @FredZinkieMLB This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs. Share This Email Print + Hide Comments

Tale of the fantasy tape: Astros vs. Rangers

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The American League West turned into the battle of Texas in 2015, as the Rangers and Astros reigned supreme over their divisional foes. Before these rivals settle their competition on the field in ’16, we can get a head start on assessing them by comparing the fantasy value of their key players for the upcoming campaign.

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Catcher: Catcher is not an offensive focal point for either team, as both Robinson Chirinos and Jason Castro are options only in 15-team two-catcher leagues. Both backstops profile as low-average hitters who can post a double-digit homer total, leaving this position in a tie.

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First base: Coming off a career year (.278 average, 23 homers, 85 RBIs), Mitch Moreland gives the Rangers a sizable edge over Houston’s unsettled first-base situation. The Astros will give a long look to all-or-nothing slugger Jon Singleton, but he may be just a placeholder until prized prospect A.J. Reed arrives during the season. Moreland’s two-run double TEX@HOU: Moreland opens scoring with two-run double9/26/15: Mitch Moreland slashes a two-run double into the left-center-field gap to open the scoring in the top of the 1st inning

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Second base: A five-category asset who leads his position in fantasy value, Jose Altuve easily wins this battle against ascending youngster Rougned Odor. The 22-year-old Odor can take major strides in 2016, but he is unlikely to get close to Altuve for the foreseeable future. Outlook: Altuve, 2B, HOU Outlook: Altuve primed for another impressive seasonJose Altuve is poised for a strong 2016 after producing a career-high 15 homers while leading the AL in hits and steals two years in a row

Shortstop: It took just 99 games in 2015 for Carlos Correa to prove that he is the class of the shortstop position. Expected to be a first-round pick in virtually all ’16 drafts, the 21-year-old will rank far ahead of Elvis Andrus. Andrus can give fantasy owners 25 steals, but he does not make a major impact in other areas. Outlook: Correa, SS, HOU Outlook: Correa posseses an exceptional skill setCarlos Correa can develop into one of the game’s top overall performers in 2016 after winning ’15 AL Rookie of the Year honors

Third base: Adrian Beltre has fallen short of the 20-homer mark in two consecutive seasons, but he can still compile 80 runs and 80 RBIs to go with a high batting mark. Beltre holds a decided advantage over Luis Valbuena, who hit 25 homers last season but struggles to collect base knocks (lifetime .228 average). Outlook: Beltre, 3B, TEX Outlook: Beltre to build off strong second-halfAdrian Beltre could deliver a full season worth of strong production in 2016 after thriving after the All-Star break with a .318 average

Left field: A lifetime .245 hitter, Colby Rasmus found a way to help mixed-league teams last season by ripping a career-best 25 homers. The native Georgian’s power numbers are good enough to earn him an edge over Josh Hamilton, whose frequent injury issues could force Texas to regularly dip into its reserve players. Rasmus on offseason activities Rasmus on favorite offseason activities, 2016 seasonColby Rasmus looks ahead to the 2016 campaign and discusses his love of cattle ranching and how it helps him cope after a long season

Center field: Plucked from the Astros in the 2014 Rule 5 Draft, Delino DeShields became a difference-making spark plug for the Rangers in his rookie campaign. But DeShields cannot yet match the fantasy resume of Carlos Gomez, who accumulated 47 homers and 74 steals in ’13-14 before dealing with injuries during ’15. Outlook: Gomez, CF, HOU Outlook: Gomez set to rebound after disappointing ’15Carlos Gomez dealt with nagging injuries and struggled in 2015, but likely possesses the skills to reach the 20-homer and 30-steal marks

Right field: While dealing with multiple injuries, George Springer has teased and tantalized fantasy owners during his initial two big league seasons. Likely on the verge of his first 20-20 campaign, Springer gives the Astros an edge over Shin-Soo Choo and the Rangers. Choo was outstanding in the second half of 2015 (.343 average), but his stolen-base decline has dropped him out of the early rounds of mixed-league drafts. Outlook: Springer, RF, HOU Outlook: Springer may be on verge of breakout year26-year-old George Springer could complete the upcoming campaign with a solid average and upwards of 25 home runs and 20 steals


Designated hitter: Prince Fielder bounced back from an injury-plagued 2014 season to have an excellent first half in ’15. The slugger tailed off after the All-Star break, but his ability to hit for both power and average places the lifetime .287 hitter ahead of Evan Gattis. The Houston DH has plenty of power, but he is more of a mid-round option due to his contact woes (career .250 average). Outlook: Fielder, 1B, TEX Outlook: Despite power dip, Fielder should succeedPrince Fielder is no longer one of baseball’s preeminent sluggers, but he should remain highly productive in 2016

No. 1 starter: The reigning AL Cy Young winner, Dallas Keuchel Jerseys uses his ground-ball tendencies and improved strikeout rate to win this battle over Cole Hamels. Entering his first full season in the Junior Circuit, Hamels profiles as a low-end No. 2 starter in mixed formats. Outlook: Keuchel, SP, HOU Outlook: Keuchel has skills to dominate AL againDallas Keuchel Jerseys took his game to a new level in 2015, going 20-8 with a 2.48 ERA and should continue to dominate with a high ground-ball rate

No. 2 starter: Capable of being a mixed-league ace once he returns from Tommy John surgery in May, Yu Darvish picks up a point for the Rangers in this spot. The Astros and mixed-league owners will likely get excellent production from Lance McCullers Jerseys, but he is not yet ready to reach Darvish’s level of fantasy value. Outlook: Darvish, SP, TEX Outlook: Darvish to return as early as MayYu Darvish has been plagued by injuries the past two seasons, but is aiming to rejoin the Rangers’ rotation as early as May

No. 3 starter: Though Collin McHugh Jerseys is unlikely to match his 19 wins from a season ago, his ability to log innings and post solid ratios keeps him ahead of southpaw Derek Holland. Having tossed only 95 2/3 innings over the past two seasons, Holland is a major question mark heading into 2016. Outlook: McHugh, SP, HOU Outlook: McHugh provides dependability, consistency19-game-winner Collin McHugh Jerseys benefitted from high run support in 2015, and while a solid 2016 is in order, regression should be expected

No. 4 starter: Assuming that he secures a spot in the Astros’ Opening Day rotation, Mike Fiers Jerseys should use his strong strikeout rate to be a useful mixed-league starter. He holds a decided edge over workhorse Colby Lewis, whose value is limited to AL-only formats due to his lifetime 4.81 ERA and 1.37 WHIP. Outlook: Fiers, SP, MIL Outlook: Fiers could excel due to stellar K:BB ratioMike Fiers Jerseys was brilliant across multiple levels in 2014 and could secure a 2015 rotation spot due to a strong strikeout to walk ratio

No. 5 starter: Looking to prove his 2015 was an aberration, Doug Fister should earn a roster spot in deep mixed formats on the strength of his lifetime 3.42 ERA and 1.21 WHIP. Even coming off a down year, Fister wins this position battle over Martin Perez (career 4.22 ERA, 1.40 WHIP). Zinkie on Fister’s impact Fred Zinkie on Doug Fister’s fantasy fantasy writer Fred Zinkie looks at Doug Fister’s potential fantasy impact for 2016 after signing a one-year deal with the Astros

Closer: In his first full season as a ninth-inning man, Ken Giles should use his notable strikeout skills to approach the top tier of fantasy closers. Shawn Tolleson ought to follow up his impressive 2015 with another solid campaign as the Rangers’ stopper, but the nod here goes to Giles and his dominant skill set. Outlook: Giles, RP, HOU Outlook: Giles could ascend to top-tier closerKen Giles excelled as a closer last season, recording a 1.80 ERA and saving 15 of 17 chances, setting himself up for a strong 2016 campaign

Setup Men: Both clubs have loaded relief corps, leaving this position a tie. While no setup man on either club warrants mixed-league attention, Luke Gregerson Jerseys, Pat Neshek, Tony Sipp, Keone Kela, Tom Wilhelmsen and Sam Dyson all belong on AL-only rosters.

Final verdict: Based on the strength of two first-round-caliber players (Altuve and Correa) and a 10-4 edge in the position-by-position breakdown, the Astros appear to be the AL West favorites in this edition of Tale of the Fantasy Tape.

Fred Zinkie is the lead fantasy baseball writer for Follow him on Twitter at @FredZinkieMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs. Share This Email Print + Hide Comments

Tigers bolster bullpen at Winter Meetings

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Al Avila didn’t need any introduction to the Tigers’ bullpen woes as he entered his first offseason as general manager. As former president/GM Dave Dombrowski’s top assistant, Avila had been part of the effort to fix them for the past several years.

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“The back end [of the bullpen] has been really, really frustrating,” Avila said, “not for lack of trying. Every year, we’ve tried to do the best we can [to fix it].”

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• Tigers acquire Wilson in deal with Yankees

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When Avila took over as GM in August, he made bullpen repair one of his top priorities. With two subtle trades and one mid-range free-agent signing, Avila might have accomplished what bigger deals in past years couldn’t: Build the Tigers a bullpen.

• Hot Stove: Track free agents

With left-hander Justin Wilson added to Francisco Rodriguez and Mark Lowe, the Tigers revamped their late innings with veteran arms for the cost of four prospects — none of them in the Top 5 of MLB Pipeline’s rankings for Detroit — and about $20 million of salary over the next two years, not counting Wilson’s arbitration eligibility. Al Avila joins MLB Now Avila on his new role, expectations for 2016Tigers GM Al Avila joins the panel on MLB Now to discuss his new role with the team, the plan headed into the offseason and more

If the moves work, the peace of mind for Tigers fans, manager Brad Ausmus and even Avila could make it a bargain.

“I feel like there’s a lot less mixing and matching [to do] with what we have right now,” Ausmus said. “I’ve said all along, I’d love to have guys where I can [say] this guy’s the seventh, this guy’s the eighth, ninth. And assuming health, I think we kind of have that.”

Rodriguez, of course, is the closer, having racked up 82 saves over the last two seasons with Milwaukee. He doesn’t have the overpowering arm that Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman Jerseys offered on the trade market, nor the prime years of Brad Boxberger. But with a devastating changeup and an ability to adjust to hitters, Rodriguez racks up strikeouts despite a fastball around 90 mph.

“Rodriguez is certainly the closer. I think that’s pretty clear,” Ausmus said. “And I think at this point, really, Wilson and Lowe are the setup men. Initially, I would say Lowe would probably pitch the eighth, but there might be a scenario where you’re facing a few lefties and you flip-flop them for a game.”

That was the value the Tigers saw in Wilson, statistically tougher on right-handed hitters than left-handed ones. More than a situational lefty, Detroit wanted someone who can also handle a full inning. For that, Wilson fit better than many of the free agents in the club’s discussions.

The Lowe signing resembles the Joaquin Benoit signing of five years ago, catching a reliever off a rebound year and counting on him building off that. In Lowe’s case, the struggles were more about performance than health, but his rediscovery of a mid-90s fastball and his work on a swing-and-miss slider convinced Detroit. The two-year, $11 million deal has a somewhat lower risk than the three-year contract to Benoit.

Lowe was much more effective against right-handed batters (.196 average) than lefties (.276). By acquiring Wilson, the Tigers complemented Lowe, not to mention lefty Blaine Hardy Jerseys.

“I think when you look at a big league bullpen, there’s two types of lefties,” Ausmus said. “And Blaine Hardy Jerseys’s done an excellent job for two years in a row, but we see him more as the second lefty. It’s not a knock on him; we just think he plays better and can be more successful as the second lefty. [Wilson] is a No. 1 lefty, but he’s not a lefty-lefty only guy.”

Right-hander Alex Wilson Jerseys, last season’s bullpen revelation, joins that quartet as locks according to Ausmus, with Drew VerHagen Jerseys a “very strong consideration.” One big name not on that list is Bruce Rondon Jerseys, the hard-throwing youngster sent home in September.

Rondon could still play a big role in 2016. Now, however, the Tigers don’t have count on him to do it, nor do they have to rely on a converted starter to make the transition while carrying a role.

It’s possible they’re not done adding yet.


“We did have some conversations of the possibility of even adding one more arm,” Avila said. “But we’re going to temper that right now and wait a little bit, because we still would like to add a utility player in the mix. … I don’t want to jump in and spend any more in the bullpen when we still have that area to cover, but in saying that, I do have some guys pushing me to add another arm.

“There’s a list of guys that are still out there, and we’ll see how it all shakes out in the next few days or weeks.”

Jason Beck is a reporter for Read Beck’s Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs. Share This Email Print + Hide Comments

Astros, Luis Valbuena avoid arbitration

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HOUSTON — The Astros have reached a deal with one of their six arbitration-eligible players, agreeing to a $6.125 million contract with corner infielder Luis Valbuena on Friday.

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Friday is the deadline for teams and arbitration-eligible players to exchange contract figures for 2016, and the Astros were still working on deals with 2015 American League Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel Jerseys, veteran catcher Jason Castro Jerseys, designated hitter Evan Gattis, infielder Marwin Gonzalez and reliever Josh Fields Jerseys.

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Valbuena, acquired along with pitcher Dan Straily Jerseys a year ago in the Dexter Fowler Jerseys trade with the Cubs, set single-season career highs in homers (25) and RBIs (56) in 2015 while hitting .224. Valbuena played mostly third base, and he is expected to start at one of the corner-infield spots this coming season.

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Castro and Valbuena are each in their final year of arbitration before becoming free agents, while Gonzalez, Keuchel, Fields and Gattis are going through the process for the first time.

If the players can’t negotiate deals with the Astros by Friday, they will exchange desired salary figures for 2016. The midpoint between what the player wants to be paid and what the team wants to pay him generally serves as a launch point for contract negotiations.

If the two sides can’t agree to a deal by February, their cases would be heard by a three-person arbitration panel, which would side with either the player or the team. Arbitration hearings could lead to bad feelings, so both sides typically work hard to avoid taking the process that far.

The Astros haven’t had a case go to a hearing since outfielder Hunter Pence won a ruling for $6.9 million prior to the 2011 season. Houston had offered to pay him $5.15 million. Prior to Pence, the Astros hadn’t lost an arbitration case since 1996, winning four in a row.

Keuchel was the third player in franchise history to win the Cy Young Award, joining Mike Scott (1986) and Roger Clemens (2004), who both won it in the National League. Keuchel went 20-8 with three complete games and a 2.48 ERA in 33 starts last season, and he led all AL pitchers in wins, WAR (7.2), innings pitched (232) and WHIP (1.017), and he ranked second in ERA and opponents’ batting average (.217). Keuchel dominates in 2015 Keuchel dazzles for Astros in 2015Astros starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel Jerseys dominates the American League in 2015, putting up a 20-8 record, with a 2.48 ERA and 216 strikeouts


Keuchel, who made barely above the Major League minimum at $524,500 last year, could explore a long-term deal with the Astros at some point, but neither side seems eager at present. The lefty is not scheduled to become a free agent until 2019.

Castro, meanwhile, hit .211 last year with 11 homers and 31 RBIs. He started 102 games and excelled defensively, throwing out 24 of 66 runners (32.3 percent) attempting to steal. He made $4 million last year.

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, Tag’s Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs. Share This Email Print + Hide Comments

Wholesale Throwback Baseball Jerseys

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Baseball is a kind of stick to play as the main features, collective, highly confrontational ball games projects. It is carried out in the international community more widely, greater impact, known as “The combination of sports and wisdom.”In the United States, Japan is particularly popular, known as the “national sport.” Baseball game statutory minimum number of nine people, its approximate sport is softball. Baseball players into attack and keep the two sides, the use of bat and glove, in a sector of the baseball field in the game.Game, the two teams alternating offensive: when Offense success back home base, you can get 1 point. Nine innings in a team with the highest score will win. Baseball development that brought baseball jerseys.

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