Sizing up the American League East: The Baltimore Orioles

Last week, I wrote an article about which team in the AL East has the best starting rotation. In a series of five articles, we’ll cover each of the AL East team’s position players, starting with the Baltimore Orioles.

It’s also important to keep in mind that the free agency period isn’t finished yet. It is entirely possible that the Jays sign Kris Bryant or trade for Jose Ramirez once this dumb lockout is over, so this article may be revised if that is the case. Furthermore, all projected lineups in this series will be brought to you by Fangraphs’ depth chart.
The Bad Birds of the East are going to be bad once again. I’m starting with them because it gives a chance for my editor to use the Oriole trash can picture. Speaking of trash, let’s talk about the Oriole infield. Below is the projected infield for the 2022 Baltimore Orioles.
Jacob Nottingham (Catcher)
Anthony Bemboom (Catcher)
Ryan Mountcastler (First Baseman)
Trey Mancini (Backup First Baseman)
Rougned Odor (Second Baseman)
Ramon Urias (Shortstop)
Kelvin Guiterrez (Third Baseman)
Jorge Mateo (Utility)
Adley Rutschman (Catcher)
I hope Oriole fans are happy with another first overall pick! Nottingham has played only 53 games in the MLB and has hit below the Mendoza Line for his career. His defense is okay, but not more than average. Bemboom’s career is pretty much the same story. However, Rutschman will likely make his debut in 2022, we’ll get to him later.
Aside from Adley, Mountcastle is the only shining spot in the infield for the Orioles. He had a slash line of .255/.309/.796 with 33 home runs. This led to him finishing sixth in rookie of the year voting. If Mountcastle can build off his impressive second rookie season, he could be one of few bright spots for the team.
On a more serious note, it is nice to see Trey Mancini back in baseball. Sho …

Read More

Author: Brennan Delaney / Blue Jays Nation

Jake Muzzin’s departure from the Leafs lineup creates opportunities for Sandin and Liljegren

Jake Muzzin is out for the foreseeable future due to a concussion, which doesn’t bode well for the Maple Leafs.
The 32-year-old has been one of Toronto’s best defencemen in the last two years, up until this season where he’s struggled.
Since the beginning of this season, Muzzin hasn’t seemed himself.
It might be because of age. As a player, at 32-years-old, your body starts to slow down — mentally and physically. Muzzin has also endured a lot of physical battles throughout his career, whether it be injuries or just bumps along the road.
Diving into the numbers part, here’s how his last two seasons have compared to each other.
                  Muzzin’s 2020-21 season                                      Muzzin’s 2021-22 season

As you can see, Muzzin’s numbers have dropped significantly compared to last season. Looking at last year, the 32-year-old presented a lot of positives at both even strength and the power play. This season, Muzzin has struggled in almost every regard, only having a positive GF/60 and CF/60 at even strength.
There’s no timeline for a return after Muzzin suffered a concussion vs. St. Louis on Saturday night. It’s unfortunate that he’s out, especially with a concussion, but this break will give him time to heal any wounds he may have suffered this season.
“I think in a lot of ways,” said Mitch Marner when asked about where the Maple Leafs miss Muzzin most. “[Muzzin] brings a lot of things to this team, kind of the same as me. I’m an energizer. He’s a big guy that does a lot for us on the ice — blocking shots, throwing his body around. Penalty-kill wise, he’s one of the best in the league with his stick and reading plays, and reading the ice. We miss him in a lot of ways out there. He’s got great leadership on that bench as well. He’s obviously done some amazing things in his career, so we miss him in a lot of ways, but a head’s no joke. We gotta make sure when he’s coming back, he’s fully ready to go. We don’t need anything hurting him in the future, or even past hockey. He’s got a family and kids, and stuff like that. There’s more important things than trying to battle through stuff like that.”
Marner makes a good point in not rushing Muzzin back. Concussions are scary and can affect your brain in many different ways. He has a family and a long life after the game of hockey.
You’ll risk a hell of a lot if yo …

Read More

Author: Nick Barden / The Leafs Nation

PHF ownership puts up $25M growth investment for next season

The Premier Hockey Federation (PHF), the league in which our Toronto Six play, announced yesterday morning that some major positive changes are coming:

The PHF is excited to announce a commitment from the Board of Governors to invest over $25 million in direct payments to its players over the next three years, with a salary cap increase up to $750,000 per team for next season.
Read more about #TodaysPHFhttps://t.co/gyeLGXOCy3 pic.twitter.com/tS1nuCoQCD
— PHF (@PHF) January 18, 2022

This growth effort comes after years of hard work by everyone involved with this league and the fight to create equal opportunities for women and transgender people. In the words of Mike Murphy, one of my idols in the combined space of hockey stats and advocacy for inclusion and equity:

A huge day for women’s hockey. Players inside and outside the PHF have worked hard for news like today’s news to come. They earned it.This investment represents so many things, including an opportunity to continue playing the sport they love and we love to watch them play.
— Mike Murphy (@DigDeepBSB) January 18, 2022

One of the most substantial changes comes to the salary cap, which is currently $300,000 per team, and will be raised to $750,000 per team, more than 150% increase. Not only will there be salary growth, but there’s a $7.5M package to cover salaries and benefits. This includes full healthcare benefits provided by the clubs. It also grants the players 10% equity in the franchises, which will be managed by an investment pool owned by all PHF players.
According to Holly Morrison at The Ice Garden, the health benefits package also continues the existing pregnancy leave agreement that the league has, as posted on their Player Benefits page.
Other improvements include updating the existing playing facilities, purchasing new equipment for the players (it’s un …

Read More

Author: Ryan Hobart / The Leafs Nation

Leafs’ Latest: Jake Muzzin unavailable for New York trip after suffering concussion

After a day full of snow yesterday, in which the Maple Leafs still held practice, they take one final day to prepare for their two games in New York.
Toronto is coming off a road trip that saw them give up a few leads, but still come out with four points from four games. When you look back at the Maple Leafs’ recent play, there’s things to be happy about. But, other teams in the Atlantic Division are playing just as good, or better.
Sheldon Keefe understands that and wants that to be the focus going forward,
“We’re 7-2-1 in our last 10 games, but over that span, we’ve actually lost ground on Boston,” said Keefe after Monday’s practice. “That’s just the nature of the way the division has gone. Obviously, Florida and Tampa don’t lose very often. We’ve been fortunate to stay up with them, but despite the fact that there’s a lot of season left, you can’t take days off, can’t take nights off. That’s why it was frustrating that we gave up those points on the road like we did, whether it was giving up a lead, or giving up two points in Arizona. Those are tough points. Those are things that you have to be ab …

Read More

Author: Nick Barden / The Leafs Nation

Auston Matthews and Jack Campbell are the Leafs All-Stars

If I were to ask you which two Leafs would you most like to see get some rest over the All-Star weekend, you’d probably answer Jack Campbell and Auston Matthews. And to that the NHL will say you’re shit out of luck because…

𝐘𝐎𝐔𝐑 𝐀𝐓𝐋𝐀𝐍𝐓𝐈𝐂 𝐃𝐈𝐕𝐈𝐒𝐈𝐎𝐍 𝐀𝐋𝐋-𝐒𝐓𝐀𝐑 𝐂𝐀𝐏𝐓𝐀𝐈𝐍 #NHLAllStar | #LeafsForever pic.twitter.com/PCUWnGEzF2
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) January 13, 2022

Our Souper star! #NHLAllStar | #LeafsForever pic.twitter.com/Cgz9b1sSCV
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) January 13, 2022

Well here we are. And while it’s undoubtedly a feather in Auston’s cap that he won the fan vote in such a deep division to be the team All-Star, and that Jack Campbell now has yet another accomplishment to use against the Leafs as he negotiates his contract this summer, the cynic in me still wishes that more Habs fans showed up for Nick Suzuki and Jake Allen and we could rest the stars instead of sending them off to Vegas for a weekend, especially with Auston still not having tested positive for COVID.
Considering that the Olympics aren’t happening and we don’t need to worry about that ruining the Leafs stars from that, maybe I should take the shut the hell up approach, and shift back to the positives here.
We are celebrating seasons that have Matthews and Campbell in contention for some major awards as well, and have kept the Leafs at the top of the league. They are certainly players deserving of being celebrated and today we’re doing that.
As for the rest of the Atlantic Division lineup, here it is (courtesy of NHL.com)

Atlantic Division (All-Star appearances)
F Drake Batherson, OTT (1st)
F Patrice Bergeron, BOS (3rd)
F Jonathan Huberdeau, FLA (2nd)
F Dylan Larkin, DET (2nd)
F Auston Matthews, TOR (4th)*
F Nick Suzuki, MTL (1st)
D Rasmus Dahlin, BUF (1st)
D Victor Hedman, TBL (3rd)
G Jack Campbell, TOR (1st)
G Andrei Vasilevskiy, TBL (4th)
Presumably players like William Nylander and Morgan Rielly could receive some consideration in the last man in voting, and with just two defensemen on the Atlantic roster it seems like we are a collision course with Rielly being the selection, although I don’t doubt Detroit will show up for Seider as well, and again (somewhat cynically) we are going to see players opt out or have convenient injuries before the game is played.
It does seem silly that we are looking at a lineup that includes Nick Suzuki, Dylan Larkin, and Drake Batherson, but not Steven Stamkos, Brad Marchand, or David Pastrnak, so the Atlantic has plenty of places to go.
The All-Star game will be played on February 5th. …

Read More

Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Ranking every Toronto Maple Leafs prospect, Winter 2021

It’s nearly the end of 2021, which means it’s finally time to update the Toronto Maple Leafs prospect rankings.
Even without a first-round pick in two of the past three drafts, the Leafs have compiled a fringe top ten prospect pool in the NHL, primarily based upon the depth of their system. In today’s ranking, there are 34 players deemed “Leafs prospects” based on the criteria I’ll set out in just a moment. Of that group, there are prospects as deep as the late 20s that I like to varying extents. Toronto has done a great job of filling out their system with swings on talent deep in the draft and through undrafted free agents.
Before we get into the ranking, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page by establishing the criteria I use for my list. To be eligible for this ranking the player must meet each of the following:
NHL exclusive rights are owned by the Maple Leafs, either by being signed or drafted.
This excludes players on AHL contracts, meaning the likes of Keith Petruzzelli, Curtis Douglas, and Jeremy McKenna, among others, are not included.

They are under the age of 24. …

Read More

Author: Kyle Cushman / The Leafs Nation

3 areas where the Raptors are better than they were in Tampa

3 areas where the Raptors are better than they were in Tampa

The Toronto Raptors currently stand at 11-13, which is the same record that they had during their forced sabbatical to Tampa last season. However, fans should be much more optimistic about this team’s direction considering how they have made some positive strides. Last year was nauseating at times. Toronto clearly wanted to win games, but […]
3 areas where the Raptors are better than they were in Tampa – Raptors Rapture – Raptors Rapture – A Toronto Raptors Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

Read More

Author: Mike Luciano / Raptors HQ

News from the Rink: Updates on the status of injured Leafs

After coming off a road trip in California, which saw the Leafs get the sweep (for the first time since 2018), they’re back in Toronto.
It’s been a day of returns for some Leafs who’ve been out for some time due to injury. One is Ilya Mikheyev, and the other is Petr Mrazek. Ondrej Kase, however, was absent once again from practice.
He’s missed the last two games due to an upper-body injury.

Keefe says Kase skated this morning and it went well. Plan is for him to join the morning skate but will not play tomorrow.
— David Alter (@dalter) November 30, 2021

Ilya Mikheyev skates before Leafs take the ice
Starting with Mikheyev, he’s been out since training camp after suffering a broken thumb. The 27-year-old skated before practice at Ford Performance Centre on Tuesday.

Ilya Mikheyev taking feeds from Alex Kerfoot with Petr Mrázek in goal. pic.twitter.com/651hbLxVdf
— David Alter (@dalter) November 30, 2021

Mikheyev is on week seven of his recovery, which means he may return to full practices (or maybe even game action) very soon.
Petr Mrázek takes in full Leafs practice
Back on October 14th vs. Ottawa, Mrázek suffered a groin injury which …

Read More

Author: Nick Barden / The Leafs Nation

The Leafs aren’t for sale or at least not yet

The Leafs aren’t for sale or at least not yet

Last Saturday during the 32 Thoughts segment (which enough with the 32 thoughts brand already, but I digress) Elliotte Friedman introduced us to the idea that before the Fenway Sports Group was actively engaged in negotiations to purchase the Pittsburgh Penguins, they were sniffing around the opportunity to merge with Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment, the parent company of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Yesterday in his 32 Thoughts column, Friedman expanded on the idea:
It’s going to be an interesting time around Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment. Prior to making its push for the Pittsburgh Penguins, Fenway Sports Group — through an intermediary — approached MLSE about the possibility of a merger. This was 12-18 months ago. It wasn’t the right time and didn’t go far, but that would have been one monstrous powerhouse, potentially featuring Liverpool, the Leafs, the Raptors, Toronto FC, Scotiabank Arena, the Argonauts and a baseball team. (That would have been the incredibly interesting one. FSG owns the Red Sox, while my employer, Rogers, owns the Blue Jays along with 37.5 per cent of MLSE. So, something would have to give.) There’s change at the top of our company and The Globe and Mail reported that could mean …

Read More

Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

News and Notes: Matthews returns, new lines, and a couple of injury updates

Following last night’s game which included the apparently unforgivable act of having a student athlete sit on the bench instead of an AHL goaltender, the Leafs have closed out the necessary steps in bringing in Michael Hutchinson as their emergency call up goaltender.
As expected, the Leafs bring up Michael Hutchinson

Whether your issues are that the Leafs shouldn’t have had to wait a game to do this, or if you are offended that the Leafs spend to the salary cap, you can take a deep breath and recognize that it didn’t really matter, and the worst that could have happened was Alex Bishop could have had the night of his life, and we would have been treated to a nice story at the cost of 1/82nd of the results of the regular season.
Mrazek will be out 14 days, which means six games. There are back to back games Friday and Saturday night this week, so it seems likely that Michael Hutchinson will get the start Saturday in Pittsburgh. If he sees anytime in net beyond that it will depend on the health and play of Jack Campbell.
Beyond Mrazek, there are a couple of other injury …

Read More

Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation