2023 Rival Preview: Bobby Witt Jr. and other youngsters look to bring the Royals back to life

Over the next few weeks, we’ll look at each American League team and discuss their 2022 season, their offseason moves, and their 2023 outlook. 

2022 Season Recap…
Kansas City’s 2022 reminded me a lot of the 2019 Toronto Blue Jays — a mix of veterans and young players, with no legitimate expectations for the season. While I am in no way comparing the talent of the two teams (because the Jays definitely win that category), the overall goal of the year was that the young studs needed to get their feet wet in the MLB.
They were able to accomplish that, although it did come with its hardships, as the Royals finished 65-97 and fifth place in the AL Central. Since their World Series title in 2015, the Royals have finished third place or below each season in their division.
Last season featured the much-anticipated debut of 3B Bobby Witt Jr., who was a top-10 prospect in all of baseball entering the year. Witt was thrown into the fire from the jump, as then-manager Mike Matheny had him batting second on Opening Day. Witt answered the call; his RBI double in the bottom of the 8th gave Kansas City the lead for good, leading the Royals to a 3-1 win over the Guardians to open the season.

Bobby Witt Jr. the hero in his debut with the go ahead RBI for the #royals #OpeningDay pic …

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Author: Evan Stack / Blue Jays Nation

2023 Rival Preview: The Texas Rangers had another spending spree this winter

Over the next few weeks, we’ll look at each American League team and discuss their 2022 season, their offseason moves, and their 2023 outlook. 

2022 Season Recap…
Valentine’s Day just passed us, and if there’s one thing we love, it’s belittling the entire Texas Rangers franchise. Another year has gone by that the Rangers have not won a World Series, and still, the best thing they have to their name is “The Punch” from 2016.
Thankfully, although they finished in fourth place in the AL West last season, the Rangers are starting to develop a core of established veteran players that have elevated the team’s competitive status.
After the 2021 season, the Rangers went out and acquired free agents 2B Marcus Semien, SS Corey Seager, and SP Jon Gray, and the contract numbers on them are quite opulent. Semien signed for seven years and $175 million, Seager was 10 for $325 million, and Gray was four for $56 million. Yeah, Texas had some money to play with.
It was an abysmal start for Semien during his first year with the Rangers. Semien had a .157 batting average through the month of April and didn’t hit his first home run until May 28th (keep in mind he hit 45 in 2021 with the Blue Jays).
The hole Semien dug himself was a tough one to emerge from, and he finished the season with a .248 batting average, 26 …

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Author: Evan Stack / Blue Jays Nation

2023 Rival Preview: All eyes on Shohei Ohtani as the Angels roll into another non-competitive season

Over the next few weeks, we’ll look at each American League team and discuss their 2022 season, their offseason moves, and their 2023 outlook. 

2022 Season Recap…
Although finishing in third place in the AL West, the Angels were four games worse in 2022 than they were in 2021. The Angels missed the postseason for the eighth straight season, even in the face of another set of stellar seasons from their two stars: Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani.
Let’s start with Ohtani, who, if it wasn’t for Aaron Judge hitting 62 homers, would’ve (and should’ve) won his second consecutive AL MVP. Ohtani hit 34 home runs and 95 RBIs, with an .875 OPS and a 145 OPS+. On the mound, Ohtani was 15-9 with a 2.33 ERA. The win total and ERA was a career-best, and his 11.9 K/9 led the American League.
Ohtani was also featured in one of the best matchups played at the Rogers Center this past season; on August 27th, Ohtani and Blue Jays starter Alek Manoah went shot-for-shot, combining for 14 innings pitched, 17 strikeouts, and only one earned run, which was unfortunately given up by Manoah.

This pitchers’ duel was as good as advertised
Shohei Ohtani: 7 IP, 0 R, 2H, 1BB, 9K, up to 100 mph season-high 109 pitches
Alek Manoah: 7 IP, 1 ER, 4H, 2BB, 8K, up to 96 mph, 105 pitches
— Ben Nicholson-Smith (@bnicholsonsmith) August …

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Author: Evan Stack / Blue Jays Nation

2023 Rival Preview: The Orioles had a surprisingly quiet winter after their breakout season

Over the next few weeks, we’ll look at each American League team and discuss their 2022 season, their offseason moves, and their 2023 outlook. Let’s start with the Baltimore Orioles…

2022 season recap…
The Orioles exceeded everyone’s expectations during the 2022 season. Despite being a shoo-in to finish last in the AL East, the Orioles entered September only 1.5 games back of a Wild Card spot. They would ultimately miss the playoffs, but a 4th place division finish and an 83-79 record made the Orioles seem a year or two ahead of their rebuild. They were also no longer the Blue Jays’ punching bag, clearly handing that role over to the Red Sox.
2022 featured the much-anticipated debut of C Adley Rutschman. Rutschman was baseball’s top prospect at the time of his call-up and would finish second in Rookie of the Year voting. Rutschman owned a .254 batting average, 13 homers, and 42 RBIs through 113 games, and it looks like he’ll be the Orioles’ backstop of the future.

Who else is looking forward to a full year of Adley Rutschman?pic.twitter.com/bbV6zxYPVl
— MLB Caught Stealing (@MLB_CS) January 24, 2023

Many knew about Baltimore’s sluggers: 1B Ryan Mountcastle, RF Anthony Santander, and CF Cedric Mullins are all established major league players who have developed well during their first few years in the league. Mullins was an All-Star in 2021, and although his production regressed a little in 2022, he still finished 3rd in the MLB in stolen bases, profiling as an ideal leadoff man for the Orioles.
Blue Jays fans are more than aware of Mountcastle’s presen …

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Author: Evan Stack / Blue Jays Nation

Ranking Every Blue Jays Pitcher for 2023

A few weeks ago, I released a list ranking each of the thirteen position players projected to start the season on the Blue Jays’ active roster. This time, it’ll be pitchers.

This one’s gonna a be a little more difficult, however. For those of you who either didn’t read or didn’t notice, the position players were ranked based on how much WAR I thought they’d produce. In this case, relievers are disadvantaged in a ranking based on WAR, because they’re not going to pitch even close to the same number of innings.
I’ve had to think about how to do this. Adjusting per IP doesn’t really make sense because WAR doesn’t measure value for relievers as well as I’d like it to. Unfortunately, I think the best way to do it is to rank based on ERA. Volume contributes heavily to value, but I want to rank relievers and starters on the same scale, so this is how I’ll do it.

Keep in mind, just like last time, I’m going to assume that each player stays fully healthy. Even though it’ll never happen, injuries are too hard to predict, especially for pitchers. With that being said, let’s jump in once again, with number 13.
13. Trevor Richards, RHP, Relief
Richards really struggled at the start of 2022, but he got his homer problem under control and finished strong. The issue is that he’s basically always been the same guy when it comes to having a long ball problem. His sudden drop in HR/9 rate at the end of last year doesn’t have a large enough sample to assume that it’s really who he is. Until h …

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Author: Tate Kispech / Blue Jays Nation

Winter League wrap-up: Could Rainer Núñez win the LIDOM MVP? Bowden Francis continues to dominate, and more!

At the end of November, we looked at how each Jays prospect was doing in their respective winter leagues. Today, we’ll do the same.

I don’t think it’s a hot take to say that a Blue Jay prospect could be a Most Valuable Player candidate in the Dominican Winter League (LIDOM). Let’s start there.
Rainer Núñez MVP-calibre campaign:
When Estrellas de Oriente drafted Rainer Núñez in the fourth round of the 2022 LIDOM draft, one has to imagine what they were expecting from the young first baseman.
I wouldn’t assume they expected an MVP calibre season for the rookie, but that’s what they’ve gotten so far.
Núñez, who recently turned 22 years old, is slashing .270/.314/.487 in 118 plate appearances with Estrellas. While that’s impressive in its own right, he currently leads the league with seven homers, again, as a 21/22-year-old.

Le dio pa’ la calle el MVP de esta semana 💥 ¡HOMERUN de Rainer Núñez que empata las acciones para las @EOBASEBALLCLUB! 🐘🔥#LIDOM #CopaBanreservas ⚾️🏆 pic.twitter.com/MXZbP0qcVs
— LIDOM (@LIDOMRD) December 7, 2022

His seven home runs are tied for the most since the 2019 season. Furthermore, the last time someone his age led the league in homers was back in the 2012-13 season. That season saw Marcell Ozuna (also a rookie) hit nine homers as a 22-year-old, which is a LIDOM record for rookies.
A comparable MVP season came from Peter O’Brien in the 2019-2020 season. He slashed .243/.386/.479 with nine homers in 210 plate appearances. While O’Brien was older, he did also have a higher on-base percentage. 
Núñez could very well be in contention for the MVP award this season, and with less than two weeks remaining in the regular season, it’ll come down to the wire. The Dominican Winter League is free to watch on MLB . tv, so definitely tune in! Estrellas are currently fourth in the LIDOM standings, so they’d be in the playoffs if it were to start today!
Vinny Capra:
Next up, we’ll look at Vinny Capra, who also plays for Estrellas.

Vinny …

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Author: Brennan Delaney / Blue Jays Nation

As free agency dwindles, try-outs come to the forefront: some good PTO fits for the Leafs

There’s a certain point each August where the well of news and excitement in the NHL offseason almost completely dries up. We are at that point. The well begins to refill as prospect camps and full team training camps approach, but we’re not quite there yet. We’re in this weird, quiet dead of the summer for hockey. Some resort to watching baseball or spending time outside with loved ones, but me, I choose to look at what remaining free agents could be good choices to bring to Leafs training camp on a Professional Try-Out (PTO) agreement.
It’s quite common for the Leafs to bring in PTO players. Last year, they brought notable forward Joshua Ho-Sang in on an AHL contract and a PTO for the NHL training camp, however he ended up remaining just with the Marlies without an NHL deal. They also brought in another small playmaking forward in Nikita Gusev, both of whom did sign with the Leafs or anywhere else. With their skill levels, if some chemistry or a really good fit developed in training camp, then a contract could easily have materialized for either of them. Over the last 3 years, over 40% of players who signed PTOs went on to …

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Author: Ryan Hobart / The Leafs Nation