AL East

Baseball is Back: Spring Training notes and more

Good Morning and happy Friday! There were three Spring Training games yesterday, all pitting Major League clubs against college teams. Thankfully, all were able to avoid an embarrassing loss to their amateur opponents. While the scores are largely irrelevant, it is fun to report a score and a few statistics. Spring Training action continues today with six games, five of which are exclusively Major League teams.

Back to yesterday:

Phillies 6, University of Tampa 0

Is that Mark Leiter? Yes! Mark Leiter, Jr. is a prospect for the Philadelphia Phillies and started the game yesterday. Leiter spent all of last year at AA, going 6-3 in 17 starts and 23 total appearances. Leiter pitched one perfect inning yesterday.

Leadoff hitter Roman Quinn spurred the Philadelphia offense, going 2-for-3 with a solo HR in the third. Quinn is listed as the Phillies 7th Overall Prospect by MLB.com, and even earned a cup of coffee in the Bigs last season. With an impressive spring, Quinn could be in Philadelphia sooner rather than later.

This game saw a collection of Phillies prospects, including JP Crawford, Jorge Alfaro, Dylan Cozens and Scott Kingery take the field.

Red Sox 9, Northeastern University 6

The hometown (…kind of home away from home?) fans were treated to a number of Major League players yesterday when Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Mitch Moreland and Pablo Sandoval played against Northeastern University.

In his first game action for the BoSox, Moreland hit a three run HR in the third. The Red Sox will be counting on Moreland to replace some of the power that retired when Big Papi retired at the end of last season.

I really wanted to write this article without talking about Pablo Sandoval. I’m sick of reading about how many calories he ingests in the fifth inning of Thursday games played after a double header…UGH. But give Panda credit, he is only 30 years old and is looking to bounce back after only playing three games last season.

LHP Brian Johnson (26 years old) started the game for Boston, hurling two no-hit innings while striking out three.

Tigers 8, Florida Southern College 0

Tigers Manager Brad Ausmus penciled in a number of Major League players in his starting line-up on Thursday, as the team defeated FSC.

Third baseman Nick Castellanos doubled and catcher James McCann drove in a run as the Tigers pitching held the Moccasins (the snake, not the footwear) scoreless.

 

Check back tomorrow for a comprehensive review of the games that are going on today and sometime this weekend for a preview of the NL East- the land of topflight shortstop prospects. Good day!

 

Wednesday Morning Musings: Wieters to Washington, don’t forget about Burdi with the White Sox

Matt Wieters is headed to the Washington Nationals on a two year deal (with an opt-out after one) to become the starting catcher. This move seems to sure up on the only spot in their everyday starting line-up that had a glaring hole.

Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post points out that the move is more than baseball, as the ownership groups of the Orioles and Nationals are “embroiled in a legal fight, one in which the Nationals believe the Orioles are denying them a fair share of the revenue generated by the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network.”

While the legal case is yet to be determined, the message that the Wieters move sends throughout baseball is clear. The Nationals believe that their window to win is relatively short, and that Wieters is an essential piece for this club to compete over the next two years.


In Arizona, the Chicago White Sox and new manager Rick Renteria are enjoying the fruits of their off-season trades. Young studs like Yoan Moncada, Reynaldo Lopez, Michael Kopech and Lucas Giolito are all reportedly turning heads at camp. While these are all higher profile players, Renteria reminded the news media yesterday about Zack Burdi, the club’s 2016 First Round Pick.

It is hard to believe, but a former first round pick seems to be flying under the radar. Burdi, a 21-year-old right handed reliever, went from Class A to AAA last season in dominating fashion. Throughout the year, Burdi struck out 51 in 38 innings and only allowed 3 HR’s. Expect to see Burdi in the Sox ‘pen at some point in 2017.

The White Sox are in full rebuild mode, and it seems that they had an incredible off season. I would not be surprised if Joe Quintana and David Robertson are moved before too long.

Report Card: Evaluating the Cincinnati Reds Trades (July 2015-Present)

A friend of mine is a diehard fan of the Cincinnati Reds who is less than pleased about the recent moves by his team. I received a text message moments after the Phillips trade was announced from my old pal which read, “I’m starting to think winning is second to staying out of the red, pun intended.”

While many of their recent moves have been head scratching (that Chapman deal was so, so, so bad) I wanted to take a look at the trades the organization has made over the last few years as they look to rebuild. Here is a look at each of the major trades since July of 2015:

Johnny Cueto- Traded on July 26, 2015 to the Royals for Brandon Finnegan, John Lamb and Cody Reed. 

For Johnny Cueto, the Reds brought back a paltry return of Brandon Finnegan, John Lamb and Cody Reed from the Royals. Finnegan was the cornerstone of the deal and pitched well in his first full year in the Bigs. The 23-year-old southpaw was 10-11 with a 3.98 ERA.

While those numbers seem average, what was most impressive is that he made 31 starts and had a stellar strikeout to walk ratio. Finnegan struck out 145 batters while only walking 84, good enough for a 173 SO/W ratio. Finnegan should be there throughout the rebuilding process and serve as a top of the rotation starter, likely maxing out as a quality number two arm.

Lamb was traded away to the Tampa Bay Rays for cash in November.

The 23-year-old Reed was 0-7 last year. Pitching 47.2 innings and sported a 7.36 ERA.

Two out of three were complete misses in this deal, with Finnegan being approximately as advertised. It is tough to deal a homegrown ace for only one player of value.

Baseball on Tap Trade Grade: C-


Mike Leake- Traded on July 31, 2015 to the Giants for RHP Kuery Mella and 1B/OF Adam Duvall

At the trade deadline in 2015, the Reds dealt Mike Leake (then only 27-years-old) to the San Francisco Giants for RHP Kuery Mella and Adam Duvall. Mella pitched rather well for the Class A Daytona Tortugas (ahh…I love MiLB names…) and earned a ticket directly to AAA. In his lone start at AAA, Mella pitched well. The 23-year-old righty is currently in camp with the Reds, but should start the year in the minors.

Adam Duvall burst on to the scene last year and started in left for the 2016 Reds. While Duvall smashed 33 HR’s and 103 RBI’s in his first year as a starter (good enough to earn an All-Star bid) he will be entering his age 28 season in 2017. With this Reds team being so far away, it is likely that Duvall will be on his way out of town before the Reds are ready to compete.

While the Reds were not interested in resigning Leake (especially to the 5 year/$80 million dollar deal he received from the Cardinals) they did receive a fair haul for Leake. Mella could be a middle of the rotation type starter (at best), but Duvall should be flipped for players that will help the Reds compete a few years down the line.

Considering Leake’s impending free-agency at the end of the year, it was not a terrible deal.

Baseball on Tap Trade Grade: B- (With the potential for a higher grade if Duvall is moved at the right time). 


Todd Frazier- Traded December 16, 2015 to the White Sox for 2B Jose Perza, OF Scott Schebler and OF Brandon Dixon

Todd Frazier (who at the time was 29) was sent to the White Sox as a part of a three team deal that included the Dodgers. Frazier, along with Joey Votto, was the face of the franchise and was coming off of an impressive All-Star campaign in 2015. In the trade, the Reds acquired Jose Peraza, Scott Schebler and Brandon Dixon.

Peraza is the likely starter at second now that Phillips was sent to Atlanta. As a rookie last season, Peraza was a key contributor by hitting .324 in 274 AB’s. Peraza does not display a lot of power (3 HR’s last year) but is speedy (21 SB’s). Peraza figures to be a mainstay in the Reds long-term rebuild.

Schebler played in 82 games last season for the Reds, splitting time between all three outfield positions. In his age 25 season, Schebler swatted 9 HR’s to go along with a .265 AVG. Schebler should see consistent playing time this year and provide some protection for Joey Votto and Duvall. Schebler is under team control through the 2022 season.

Dixon, a third round pick in the 2013 MLB Draft, spent his entire age 24 season with AA Pensacola. In 419 AB’s, Dixon hit 16 HR’s and drove in 65 RBI’s. He will need to cut down on the strikeouts (137 last year) to move through the system. From what I can tell, he is at best a fourth outfielder somewhere down the road.

While the first two players are nice acquisitions for the Reds, it seems that the team may have received only an average (maybe slightly above) return.

Trade Grade: C+


Aroldis Chapman- Traded December 28, 2015 to the New York Yankees for RHP Rookie Davis, 2B Tony Renda and RHP Caleb Cotham

The Chapman deal seems to be the worst of the bunch.

Rookie Davis was a dominant force in AA last year, going 10-3 with a 2.94 ERA. Davis earned a promotion to AAA but struggled upon his arrival. With the Reds rotation in flux, Davis could crack the rotation out of Spring Training. If not, he will likely make his debut at some point in 2017.

Tony Renda was a 2nd Round Pick by the Nationals in 2012, but at the time of the trade the 24-year-old had never played above AA. Renda cracked the Big League roster last year, but struggled in just 60 AB’s. He does not appear to be a part of the long-term rebuild.

Caleb Cotham was 28 years old when he was acquired, and had a whopping total of 9.2 Major League innings under his belt. The righty struggled out of the Reds pen last year, throwing 24.1 IP with a 7.40 ERA. He is no longer listed on the team’s 40 Man Roster.

Eric Jagielo hit .205 for AA Pensacola last year with only 7 HR’s. He will be entering his age 25 season and seems to be a complete bust.

So, the Reds got ONE useful player out of this deal. When comparing that to what the Yankees landed for Chapman in July of 2016 (just eight months after this trade), it is embarrassing. The Yankees received four players, including super prospect Gleyber Torres and outfield prospect Billy McKinney. In all of the trades that the Reds have made, none of the players they received are as good as Torres. In fact, none of the players that the Reds have received even cracked the Baseball Prospectus Top 101 Prospects, that was released earlier today. 

Trade Grade: F


Jay Bruce- Traded on July 31, 2016 to the New York Mets for 2B Dilson Herrera and LHP Max Wottel. 

Jay Bruce hit 238 HR’s during his eight plus seasons with the Reds, but the team moved on from the lefty slugger at the trade deadline last year. His impending free agency after the 2017 season surely played a part in this decision.

What the Reds received in return was a mediocre prospect in Dilson Herrera, and a long-term project in Max Wottel.

When the 2015 season ended and it was obvious the Mets would not resign Daniel Murphy, many fans believed the job would be handed over to Herrera. He had a cup of coffee with the team in 2014 and 2015, but many were high on him as a potential 20 HR hitter out of the second base position. It was shocking to most when Neil Walker was acquired from the Pirates for Jon Niese that December, but it kept Herrera on the back burner and made him expendable.

With Phillips out of town, Peraza seems to be next in line to start at second leaving Herrera without a position. The Reds could use the toolsy 22-year-old (who hit 15 HR’s in AAA last year) to acquire another player, or hope to switch him to another position.

Wotell is a big lefty (6’3″) out of North Carolina who was a third round pick by the Mets in the 2015 draft. He has yet to pitch above Rookie Ball, where he has struggled to the tune of 5.05 ERA.

It makes very little sense to have acquired Herrera when Peraza was already in the system. A pitcher like Robert Gsellman or Marcus Molina would have made more sense.

Trade Grade: C- 


Dan Straily- Traded on January 19, 2017 to the Marlins for RHP Austin Brice, RHP Luis Castillo and OF Isaiah White

In what is nothing short of an act of alchemy, the Reds turned garbage into gold (maybe silver). The Reds had claimed Straily off of waivers from the Padres in April of 2016 and cashed in on his 14-8 2016 season.

In return for Straily, the Reds received a fireball pitcher in Luis Castillo and another valuable pitcher in Austin Brice. White is a project, and reminds me of a poor man’s Billy Hamilton when it comes to his skill set.

Castillo and Brice should both contribute for the Reds as they rebuild.

Trade Grade: A-


Brandon Phillips- Traded on February 12, 2017 to the Braves for RHP Carlos Portuondo and LHP Andrew McKirahan

This one seems to be purely financial. Phillips was due $14,000,000 this year and the Reds were looking to move the money. Portuondo, who hails from Cuba, has been playing in the USA for two years but has yet to make the Majors. At 29 years of age, it is unlikely he will be a key component of a winning team anytime soon.

McKirahan is coming off of his second Tommy John surgery and did not pitch at all in 2016.

The only upside to this deal is that Peraza is no longer buried and will be able to play everyday at 2b.

Trade Grade: D


2015-2017 Trade Report Card: Cincinnati Reds

Cueto: C-

Leake: B-

Frazier: C+

Chapman: F

Bruce: C-

Straily: A-

Phillips: D

Comments: My friend has a point…

While the Reds aren’t the laughing stock of the league, they missed a great opportunity to drastically improve their team. Instead, they are going to need to hit on an inordinate amount of homegrown prospects rather than acquiring those that have been developed by other organizations that should have been required over the last year and a half. The Reds are over three seasons away from being a serious contender.

Flyer-Sign-Suspend (formerly FMK): Chief Wahoo, Matt Wieters and Commissioner Manfred

The “locker room talk” game (I know, you come here to escape politics)  “F#%k, Marry, Kill” will debut on Baseball on Tap this evening in a new, more politically correct form. “Flyer, Sign, Suspend” is a bit hokey, but will serve as a means to summarize a few of the main stories in baseball.

FlyerMatt Wieters, Free Agent. When Wieters was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles out of Georgia Tech n 2007, there was plenty of fanfare. The two-time All-American hit .359 over his career in Atlanta while serving as the team’s starting catcher and at times, their closer. But Wieters is still without a job, and his agent, the always personable Scott Boras, is busy concocting some story about how the market is playing perfectly into their hands.

Ken Rosenthal made a list of eight potential landing spots earlier today. Of the bunch, the Colorado Rockies seem to be the best fit. As Rosenthal noted, the team has spent a lot of money this offseason, but the Wieters could be the last piece needed to make them a serious contender.

The Rockies would be well served taking a flyer on Matt Wieters who would work well with a young pitching staff and add even more pop to the line-up. Plug Wieters in at Coors Field with Blackmon, Desmond, Story, CarGo and LeMahieu? Boras would have to like the idea of padding stats on a one year deal. If the Rockies could pony up the bucks for Wieters, they would be legitimate contenders to take down the Dodgers in the NL West.

Sign: Rob Manfred, Commissioner. Even though Commissioner Rob Manfred is pissing off baseball purists by suggesting a few new rules, I respect that he is trying. I was appalled by the suggestion of putting a runner on second to start extra innings, but I could live without seeing the pitcher and catcher play a light game of catch in the middle of an inning to put a guy on first. While not all of the ideas are worth committing to, I think the Commissioner should be applauded for having the guts to live in reality. Baseball is an entertainment business, and any common sense approaches to make the game more interesting in a world filled with gnat-like attention spans is worthy of consideration. I’m willing to let Manfred tinker in order to ensure the long-term stability of America’s pastime.

Suspend: Chief Wahoo, Cleveland Indians. The time has come. Rob Manfred met with officials from the Cleveland Indians last month to discuss the future of this offensive logo. While the team has been phasing Chief Wahoo out of focus (and will continue to do so in 2017) gradualism in this case is unacceptable. The only reason Chief Wahoo is not as controversial as the Washington Redskins of the NFL is that the team’s name does not describe a physical trait. The character is offensive, as it plays upon stereotypes related to skin color and ignorance. If the logo had played on a stereotype related to just about any other minority in this county, it would have been eliminated a long time ago.

To think that this image is not offensive to a significant portion of the population is just foolish. It is time to suspend Chief Wahoo, forever.

Dexter Fowler: The move Mozeliak and the Cardinals had to make

The St. Louis Cardinals handed out a 5 year deal to a player who had his best year in his age 30 season. That peak, by the way, is a .276 AVG, .393 OBP, 13 HR, 48 RBI and 13 SB. Good enough for a 4.2 WAR.

The Cardinals overpaid for Dexter Fowler (the deal likely around $15 million per year), no doubt about it. But, at this point in time, it was a move they had to make.

The Cardinals outfield production was pretty average last season, and now Matt Holliday will be playing in the Bronx. With Stephen Piscotty the only consistent outfielder remaining on the roster, the Cardinals had few options.

Jose Bautista was an option, and he played 91 games in right field last season in Toronto. But he will be entering his age 36 season and may provide little more than what the Cards got out of Matt Holliday, at a much higher price.

Ian Desmond signed for less money (5 years, $70 million) to play for the Rockies. Desmond will likely play left field for the Rockies, but did appear in 130 games in center for the Texas Rangers last season. His performance in center was below league average, but he can man the position.

Fowler is better defensively than Desmond (slightly) and has a higher OBP, but the power isn’t there when compared to Desmond. However, the Cardinals needed a top of the order presence. While they could use a thumper in the middle of the line-up, an adequate defensive center fielder who can man the leadoff position was exactly what they needed.

The Fowler signing is not great, but if the Cards want to play in a do-or-die Wild Card game (they aren’t catching the Cubs in 2017), they had to spend big money on a slightly above average player.

**Photo credit to d-deee on flickr*P*

 

The Winter Meetings: 3 Up and 3 Down

The Winter Meetings concluded in Maryland yesterday and the Hot Stove is a burnin’. Here is my take on the three teams that improved the most and those that made some questionable moves.

3 UP:

Chicago White Sox

Having only finished above .500 twice since the 2008 season, the time had come for a full rebuild on the South Side. By dealing their ace, Chris Sale, the Sox received top-prospect Yoan Moncada (2b/3b/maybe SS) and Mark Kopech (RHP). Many know about the talents of Moncada, but Kopech is also a top-tier prospect. In 134.2 innings on a Minor League mound, Kopech has a sparkling 2.61 ERA to go along with 172 k’s and 69 bb’s. While it must have been difficult to let Sale go, haven’t we all been thinking “when is that scrawny little arm going to fall off of that tall bag of bones?” Great move Chicago.

To add to this, the White Sox also traded the diminutive Adam Eaton to the Nationals for top pitching prospect Lucas Giolito (RHP) and Reynaldo Lopez (RHP). Both are considered by Baseball America to be top-100 prospects and each saw time in the Bigs last season. Adam Eaton, who had a top-15 WAR last season at 6.2, has never appeared in an All-Star Game or hit better than .300 in a season will head to D.C. and take over center field. While he is under team control under a great contract (a little under $30 million due through 2021), he reminds me of a Jayson Werth Lite. Not as strong, not as fast, not quite as hairy, not as good.

Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox got their guy in Chris Sale. While they paid a high price, they acquired an ace who is under team control at a reasonable price for the next three seasons. With the emergence of Rick Porcello, the Sox now have the depth in their rotation to make a run deep into October (assuming David Price never, ever pitches in the playoffs. Just kidding, kind of…)

San Francisco Giants

I get it. The money going to closers is insane. Mark Melancon, who absolutely sucked in Boston (6.20 ERA in 2007), is now the big money closer for the Giants, but he is exactly what they need. The Giants blew a league leading 30 saves last season and still managed to win the Wild Card and advance to the NLDS. With Melancon, a strong rotation that now features a steady Matt Moore and their usual collection of pesky position players, the Giants can expect to have a strong team in 2017 who can chase down LA.

Also under consideration: Rockies and Yankees.

3 DOWN:

Washington Nationals

The Nats were outbid on Chris Sale, who would have given them one of the most devastating starting rotations in all of baseball (Scherzer-Sale-Strasburg) and a chance at some great alliteration-based marketing. Regardless, they went right back to the same team (the White Sox) who had spurned them on Sale and offered a similar package for a guy who has never made an All-Star team and is named after the most mediocre pitcher in baseball history (the other Adam Eaton). Nats fans can’t be happy, thinking that Adam Eaton could be the outfielder they see for years to come as rumors start to swirl that Harper won’t be with the Nats past 2018, if not sooner…

Los Angeles Dodgers

So the Dodgers gave a ton of money (3 years/$48mil) to Rich Hill, a 37 year old who has never in his career thrown over 200 innings. Don’t they already have an aging lefty who can’t stay healthy? Yes, his name is Scott Kazmir. The Dodgers are spinning their tires and going nowhere as the Giants and Rockies improve.

Washington Nationals

Yes, the Nationals are listed in the “3 Down” category twice. I almost went with the Orioles (who haven’t done squadink while the Red Sox and Yankees improve) but I just can’t shake this trade. Baseball Reference (the most glorious website known to man) has a section named “similarity scores” that compares a player’s statistics to those of current and former players. Mike Trout is similar through age 24 to Mickey Mantle, Ken Griffey and Hank Aaron. Fair enough. You want to know who Adam Eaton is compared to? DAVID DEJESUS. The Nats just traded their top pitching prospect (who is considered to be a future front line starter) for David freakin’ DeJesus. BEST CASE, he turns into Johnny Damon. But even then, the Nats traded far too much for a player of Eaton’s caliber.

Also under consideration: Orioles

 

**Photo credit of Chris Sale to Keith Allison** Check him out on flickr.

Francona is headed to the World Series, but what about Cooperstown?

As the Cleveland Indians prepare for what they hope will be their first World Series championship since Harry S. Truman was President, many are considering the Hall of Fame credentials of Terry Francona. We at BoT decided to take a look at Francona’s life in baseball to evaluate his worthiness.

Francona’s career in baseball started as a 22-year-old outfielder with the Montreal Expos in 1981. Over ten seasons in Major League Baseball, Francona amassed 474 hits and had a respectable .274 AVG.

Francona did some coaching in the minors and was eventually hired to be Buddy Bell’s third base coach in Detroit. At the end of the 1996 season, the 38-year-old Francona was hired to be the manager of the Philadelphia Phillies, replacing Jim Fregosi.

The Phillies organization was in a free fall since their pennant winning season in 1993 and brought in the young skipper to right the ship. But Francona and the Phils floundered. Over four seasons, the Phils never finished higher than 3rd place (although the Braves and Mets were mighty good) and suffered two last place finishes. Curt Schilling, Scott Rolen and Bobby Abreu were some of the lone bright spots on a team that relied all too heavily on the likes of Robert Person, Doug Glanville and Desi Relaford. Francona was fired at the end of the 2000 season, with a record of 285-363. This version of Francona showed no signs of one that would go on to manage the Red Sox to two World Series championships.

At the end of the 2003 season, the Boston Red Sox organization was licking its proverbial wounds after a tragic Game 7 loss to the New York Yankees in the ALCS . The infamous decision by Grady Little to leave an overtired Pedro Martinez in the game led to Little’s contract going unrenewed. Theo Epstein had decided to move on, and was in search of a new skipper. Francona, who  had bounced around the American League (including a stop in Cleveland) as an assistant coach over the previous three seasons,  was hired. Epstein, according to a 2003 Associated Press article, had also considered Texas first-base coach DeMarlo Hale, Dodgers third-base coach Gene Hoffman and Anaheim bench coach, Joe Maddon.

Francona inherited a team that had averaged 94 wins over the previous two seasons. The Sox had an ace in Pedro Martinez and a legitimate slugger in Manny Ramirez. Johnny Damon was in his prime and David Ortiz was coming off of a 54 HR season. To add to this stable of talent, the organization acquired Francona’s former ace, Curt Schilling, from the Arizona Diamondbacks just a few days before his arrival. Schilling signed a three year extension shortly after arriving, leading many to speculate that he had a lot to do with Francona ending up in Boston.

Regardless of the reason, this talented team with Francona at the helm, was able to rid Boston of the 86-year championship drought on the diamond and won the World Series over the St. Louis Cardinals in 2004. This tremendous season was marked by an epic rally in the ALCS when the team trailed the Yankees three games to none. The 2004 Red Sox remain the only team to ever recover from such a deficit. Whether Francona was the manager or not, this battle-tested group with the infusion of Schilling and his championship pedigree, were poised for a championship season. The 2004 Red Sox made Francona a winner, not the other way around.

In stark contrast to the ’04 team, the 2007 World Series Champions were not as talented The starting rotation was led by Josh Beckett (who had a career year) and supported  by Daisuke Matsuzaka and a duo of 40-year-olds (Schilling and Tim Wakefield). While the team scored the 4th most runs in the majors, it was not as star-studded as the 2004 version. Names like J.D. Drew, Julio Lugo and Coco Crisp replaced Damon and Ramirez. Managers who get more from marginal players are worthy of Hall of Fame consideration, and Francona did just that.

Not only did the offense over perform that year, but he guided his team through the season with a bullpen that included Hideki Okajima, Mike Timlin, Kyle Snyder, Javier Lopez and then closer Jonathan Papelbon. This team won the AL East, swept the Angels in the ALDS and beat the Indians in seven in the ALCS. An impressive season from a team that was not dominant on paper.

Francona’s tenure in Boston ended with two consecutive third place finishes. The 2010 and 2011 each finished seven games out of first place, and the two sides decided to part ways.

The Cleveland Indians hired Francona in 2013 and the team went on to win 92 games. Franconca was selected as the AL Manager of the Year as the team improved on their 68-94 record from the year before.

The 2016 Cleveland Indians have dominated the postseason. After sweeping the Red Sox, the Indians beat the Blue Jays in five. The team is powered by two sluggers, Mike Napoli and Carlos Santana, who had 34 HR’s a piece in the regular season. The team also led the American League in stolen bases, fueled by a quartet of burners. Fransisco Lindor, Jason Kipnis and Jose Ramirez each have more than 15 steals, while a rejuvenated Rajai Davis has 43.

The completeness of the roster extends to the pitching mound. The Cleveland starting rotation, led by ace Corey Kluber, finished with a collective WAR of 8.9, good enough for best in the American League. Combine a strong  starting staff with shutdown relievers Cody Allen and Andrew Miller, and the Indians are a manager’s dream. Above average at nearly every position.

This consistency from a group of average to above average players is a credit to Terry Francona. Baseball fans, especially those in Boston and Cleveland, have been able to watch Francona blossom from a sub .500 manager to one with a strong championship pedigree.

At some point in the next decade or so, the Veterans Committee will receive Francona’s resume for consideration for baseball’s greatest honor, a plaque in the Hall of Fame. Had it not been for the the Grady Little calamity and a loaded ’04 Red Sox roster, it is uncertain that Francona would have had the opportunity to enter this discussion. But he seized the opportunity, and will eventually end up in Cooperstown because of his success with the ’07 Red Sox and his tenure in Cleveland.

Check back soon for a World Series preview, Baseball on Tap’s choice of beer for the Fall Classic, brewery features and…a new logo!