MLB Free Agent Catchers Predicted Landing Spots

This is one real weak free agent catcher class. There may be only three guys in this group who wind up being the starting catcher for the team they sign with. The rest of them will hope to be back ups, but some may just receive an invite to spring training.

1. Jonathan Lucroy: Arizona Diamondbacks, 3-years/$30M

2017 Stats: 6 HR, 40 RBI, .265/.345/.371, 20/75 CS, 0.6 WAR

Jonathan Lucroy had an extremely disappointing year after arguably the best season of his career and an All-Star Game appearance in 2016. He was traded at the deadline by the Rangers to the Rockies, and the change of scenery helped his cause. It was not the “Coors” effect as his power numbers were still down. However, he increased his OPS from .635 to .865. Defensively, he was horrible and he never really has been very good back there. In a weak class he is still the top catcher. He should receive 3-years as many teams are in need of help behind the dish.

Other Destinations: Rockies, Athletics, Rangers, White Sox

2. Welington Castillo: Colorado Rockies, 2-years/$18M

2017 Stats: 20 HR, 53 RBI, .282/.323/.490, 24/49 CS, 2.1 WAR

Welington Castillo was extremely underrated last year as he may have been a top-10 overall catcher in baseball last year. So, why isn’t he number 1? It was the best year he has had in his 8-year career and it is not very close. Defensively, he was one of the best in baseball as he led the league in runners caught stealing percentage. The Rockies lose Lucroy, but they’ll go out and sign Castillo, as they hope he can give the same production as he did in 2017.

Other Destinations: Diamondbacks, Orioles, Athletics, Rangers, White Sox

3. Alex Avila: Oakland Athletics, 2-years/$18M

2017 Stats: 14 HR, 49 RBI, .264/.387/.447, 17/55 CS, 2.7 WAR

Does Alex Avila deserve the same amount of money as Castillo? Definitely, not. Will he receive the same or close to it? Yes. A very thin class and multiple teams who need starting catchers means a nice payday for Avila. The Athletics are a team who can afford to overpay for a position they desperately need. Avila had a solid season offensively, but he will need to improve defensively if he is going to live up to his contract.

Other Destinations: Yankees, Diamondbacks, Rockies, Rangers, White Sox

4. Chris Iannetta: Texas Rangers, 2-years/$14M

2017 Stats: 17 HR, 43 RBI, .254/.354/.511, 8/33 CS, 1.8 WAR

Chris Iannetta is not very good defensively, but he has enough pop in his bat to warrant himself a decent contract. As mentioned, the Rangers traded Lucroy at the deadline last season, but either way he was most likely gone. They are very thin at the position and Iannetta actually has a chance to become their starting catcher. He can keep that position if he improves defensively a bit and continues to drive the ball out of the park.

Other Destinations: Diamondbacks, Athletics, White Sox, Cubs, Tigers

5. Nick Hundley: Chicago White Sox, 2-years/$12M

2017 Stats: 9 HR, 35 RBI, .244/.272/.418, 15/51 CS, 0.5 WAR

Nick Hundley is another player who has a chance to start if he is signed to the right team, and the White Sox are one of those teams. The Sox are very young and do not have a true starting catcher at the moment. They may want to bring in a veteran catcher to help with their young staff, even if that means overpaying for a player a bit. Hundley has some pop in his bat as well.

Other Destinations: Giants, Padres, Rockies, Athletics, Tigers

6. Rene Rivera: New York Mets, 2-years/$8M

2017 Stats: 10 HR, 35 RBI, .252/.305/.431, 12/33 CS, 0.1 WAR

This most sought out true backup catcher this off-season may be Rene Rivera. He had a serviceable year at the dish last year and is one of the better defensive catchers in the league. The Mets’ pitching staff has trouble holding guys in and they will look to bring back Rivera to be their go to defensive man behind the plate.

Other Destinations: Athletics, Cubs, Giants, Blue Jays, Tigers

7. A.J. Ellis: Chicago Cubs, 1-year/$4M

2017 Stats: 6 HR, 14 RBI, .210/.298/.371, 5/15 CS, 0.4 WAR

A.J. Ellis has been one of the more consistent back up catchers in the league throughout his 10-year career. The Cubs already have their starting catcher in Willson Contreras, but they need a back up since Avila will most likely not be back. Ellis will come very cheap and he will serve as a solid defensive back up, who will call a good game.

Other Destinations: Mets, Marlins, Nationals, Giants, Blue Jays, Tigers, White Sox

8. Jose Lobaton: San Francisco Giants, 1-year/$3M

2017 Stats: 4 HR, 11 RBI, .170/.248/.277, 8/41 CS, -1.0 WAR

Jose Lobaton was just downright bad last year. There is only one reason why Lobaton makes this list. He is a switch-hitter. The Giants need someone to spell Buster Posey every now and then. Lobaton can fit into their lineup nicely in any game since he can hit from both sides of the plate. Lobaton has had some serviceable years in the past and the Giants will get him relatively cheap. They will hope he can turn back the clock a bit and give them a decent year.

Other Destinations: Nationals, Tigers, Blue Jays, Rangers, Athletics

9. Carlos Ruiz: Toronto Blue Jays, 1-year/$3M

2017 Stats: 3 HR, 11 RBI, .216/.313/.352, 7/30 CS, 0.5 WAR

CHOOOOCH! Carlos Ruiz may have had the worst year of his career last season, but he will still get a deal with a team to be their back up. He is definitely on the decline in his career, but he will bring a valuable veteran presence to any team he plays for. The Blue Jays do not really have a back up catcher and need someone who can give Martin a rest every now and then. Ruiz will fit nicely in Toronto and I would not be surprised to see him with the Blue Jays come 2018.

Other Destinations: White Sox, Tigers, Athletics, Cubs, Rangers, Mariners, Phillies

10. Derek Norris: Detroit Tigers, 1-year/$2M

2017 Stats: 9 HR, 24 RBI, .201/.258/.380, 8/41 CS, 0.0 WAR

Derek Norris‘ 2017 season was cut short due to a suspension in which he was accused of domestic violence. He would be much higher on this list if it was not for that incident as he had better numbers than most of the other players on this list in only 53 games. I’m sure some team will take a chance on him since he will come very cheap and he does have the chance to be productive.

Other Destinations: Athletics, Mets, Blue Jays, Giants, Cubs, Nationals
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Do Not Stress the Slow Start

As the Cleveland Cavaliers have a slow and bumpy start to the season, many fans are wondering what is wrong and calling for the firing of Ty Lue. The team has started 3-3 and is currently 7th place in the Eastern Conference.  The season is still very young so no one should worry about the record or seeding of the Cavs, but should fret about the overall play of the team. Defensively they have been horrendous, to say the least, and it seems they have yet to find their niche offensively.

Offensively, the only player on the team averaging over 20 points is LeBron James and only three players with over 9 minutes per game are shooting above 46%, LeBron, Thompson, and Korver (Tristan Thompson only averages 4 shots a game). Jeff Green has proven to be worth every penny of his contract yet Dwyane Wade has had an extremely slow start to the season, shooting 43% on 8 attempts per game, with 3.6 assists and 1.8 rebounds.  Wade’s numbers highlight the biggest offensive issue for the Cavs, the lack of production from their bench.  With only two people coming off the bench totaling double-digit point’s per game and Tristan Thompson only averaging 7 rebounds off the bench, the starters have been relied upon heavier than should be with this stacked roster.

Defensively, the Cavs are ranked 26th out of 30th with a net rating 112.0 and rank 22nd in points off of turnovers while allowing 109.5 points per game, ranked 24th.  The Cavs currently have a defensive rating that is worse than the Phoenix Suns….. should I go any further?  This is very similar to the team of last season in terms of defensive woes; however, the glaring difference is their ability to get back on defense has worsened. Teams are picking apart the Cavs on the fast break consistently no matter who is on the court.  Jae Crowder has been the one bright side on defense and hopefully, his willingness to switch on every play and defend can spread to the rest of the team. LeBron needs to understand his want to play “free safety” much like Draymond does in Golden State, solely relies on the ability for the rest of the defense to switch and roll to the open man constantly.  More times than not this season, LeBron has sagged off of his man attempting to free roam defensively, normally resulting in a score from his man.  The team’s communication on defense is nowhere near capable of allowing LeBron to play defense in this manner.

Houston Rockets Season Preview

Projected Starting Lineup:

Projected Bench:

Projected Record: 

59-23

After posting a 55-27 record and attaining the 3rd seed, the Rockets made a huge splash this offseason.  Houston made a trade for arguably the best Point Guard of the last ten years and even a top 5 all time PG. A classic Daryl Morey move, shooting for a star, literally and figuratively. In his tenure, Morey’s rosters year to year are top 12 in roster turnover every offseason and this offseason was no different. This trade for Paul is puzzling, to say the least. The Rockets are betting on themselves not only financially, but with scheming as well. CP3’s contract is for only one year forcing the Rockets to either re-sign him or use him as a one-year rental. If Paul makes an All-Pro team, something he has done 8 times, he will receive a “super max”. If the Rockets were to re-sign him at that rate, they would pay him $207 million over 5 seasons, with Paul being 36 in his final contractual season. For a team that just maxed out James Harden to an insane extension, Paul’s age coupled with the money draws the question, will it be worth it?

Schematically, Chris Paul draws comparisons to Steve Nash with his court vision and efficiency with the ball, yet one glaring difference is their pace of play. The stats between the two draw very similar parallels, with Paul being the more efficient floor general but Nash is the better shooter (42% 3PFG). The stats are not what could be problematic, it is the pace of play. Nash is a run the floor type guard, who created looks in a fiasco of speed and penetration kick outs, while shooting the 3 at a crazy clip. At the same time, CP3 is a slower pace of play, pick and roll specialist shooting less 3 point shots than Nash in the D’Antonio system. The system was constructed for a quick guard who loves to run the floor, think the success James Harden had his first year with D’Antonio. Will Chris Paul change his pace of play to better fit the system?  Only time will tell.

I predict the Houston Rockets will finish as the 3 seed once again, barely missing the 2 seed for the 2017-2018 season. I believe they will lose in the Western Conference Semifinals, unless Harden can get over his postseason troubles. If they do make it to the Conference Finals, the “Powerhouse from the Bay” will end their season once again for the third time in 4 years. The glaring weakness in the Rockets, is defense, something you must play against the Warriors.  Who will guard KD? Ariza is aging and new addition, PJ Tucker, is by no means a defensive stopper. Who will guard Steph? Chris Paul has proven to have issues covering him and the Rockets traded their best defender in Patrick Beverley. The playoff success for the Rockets will be measured by how well they can defend, the Achilles heel of every Mike D’Antonio team.

 

Photo Credits: BBall Breakdowns

Cleveland Cavaliers Season Preview

Projected Starting Lineup:

Projected Bench:

Projected Record: 55-27

After posting a 51-31 record last season and being the number two seed in the Eastern Conference, the Cavs are looking to make a fourth straight finals trip. The Cavs traded Kyrie Irving to the Boston Celtics and strengthened their bench in the process. The additions of Jae Crowder and Isaiah Thomas are great additions to a playoff-bound team. Isaiah draws close comparisons to Kyrie’s offensive stats, while Jae Crowder brings a great “three and D game”. While teams in the East are progressing, the Cavs have used offseason transactions to bolster their roster. By the looks of it, teams such as the Wizards and Bucks won’t be able to take down the Cavs.

I believe the Cavaliers will beat the Celtics in the ECF, 4-2.  The addition of Kyrie isn’t enough to combat the loss of two key starters for the past two seasons. This may be LeBron’s final season in Cleveland and it is easily the best roster he has ever had in Cleveland. This team has a positive chance to beat the Warriors in the finals, but I believe they will lose 4-3. I hope I’m wrong.

 

Photo Credits: theScore.com

Why LeBron James Will Win the MVP This Season

LeBron James is a force the NBA has never seen before, as every person with a pulse knows. He has Magic’s floor vision, can score with the best of them, and has the physicality that only Shaq can match. The man is already a first ballot Hall of Famer and a top 5 player in NBA history regardless of who you talk to. His list of career accomplishments is matched by few and I believe, he will be adding another trophy to that collection this year. LeBron James will win the Maurice Podoloff trophy or the NBA regular season MVP award for the upcoming 2017-2018 season.

The 2016-2017 campaign saw LeBron shoot 36.3% from beyond the arc, his third highest of his 14 season career. More importantly, however, LeBron grabbed 8.6 boards per game, a career high and also had a career high assists per game with 8.7. The progression he showed in his 14th season is an anomaly, but LeBron James is the biggest enigma in basketball history. It seems every year he does something that we have not seen before. Every year his athleticism is a topic of discussion at the beginning of the season, where pundits debate will this finally be the year that he loses a step? Will this finally be the year the freak of nature comes down to the rest of the leagues’ athleticism? Every year he proves that he is far away from his downfall as last season’s stats portray. LeBron James has an all time elite basketball IQ, which year after year continues to get better and better.

At the beginning of every season, Vegas always has LeBron as one of the top 3 favorites to win the MVP award and for good reason. For his career stat line, he averages 27, 7 and 7.  With a stat line such as this, you can understand how he annually is in the talks for the award. Take his yearly averages and couple that with Kyrie Irving being traded to the Celtics and LeBron is in for one of the best seasons of his career. IT4’s stats are similar to Kyrie Irving’s, but as it always happens with new teammates there should be a 15-20 game adjustment period for Isaiah. With the loss of Kyrie, the Cavs have to overcome the loss of 25.2 points per game and 5.8 assists per game and there is no one better to achieve that feat than LeBron. The Cavs will also shift towards a more LeBron friendly offense, as now they will not be giving Isaiah nearly the same amount of isolation plays as Kyrie received (Kyrie= 409 iso plays, IT4= 248 iso plays).

Last season, only four players received first place votes. Those players were Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James. Coincidentally enough, the first two player’s stats will be negatively affected by the offseason acquisitions of their respected teams. The Rockets acquiring Chris Paul, his 19 PPG, and 10 assists per game, will certainly take away stats from James Hardens’ 2016-2017 campaign. The same goes for the Thunder acquiring Paul George. PG13 brings his averages of 18 PPG, 6 RPG, and 3 APG to OKC to team up with Russ. You can be assured that PG will do the same as Chris Paul and Westbrook’s stats will not be as lofty as last year. Think back to Curry winning two straight MVPs, but not winning once the team added Kevin Durant. Having two stars on one team makes it much more difficult for one of the two to win a regular season MVP award. LeBron’s real competition for the award should end up being Kawhi Leonard and my personal dark horse candidate, Giannis Antetokounmpo (as long as he can consistently hit the 3 point shot).

LBJ has the motivating factors of Kyrie calling him out to the public and not even placing in the top 2 of MVP votes last season. The rest of the league’s MVP candidates should not attain as superb of stats as LeBron. Plus, LeBron has the ability accompanied by his stats to go after the MVP award this season. LeBron should win his first MVP since 2013 in the upcoming NBA season.

 

Photo Credits: Newsnish