Opening Week Previews

Last Season I had a lot on and fell back on the weekly previews. This season, I intend to get these running again and hopefully get everyone back in the swing for the new season.

We come off a fantastic season last season where Divisional Round was as good a Divisional Round that I’ve seen and it just petered out in the LCS and World Series.

Unfortunately, the moody Royals managed to win the World Series over the Mets and the schedulers have scheduled a nice wee opening week for us.

I’ll run with 5 series of the week (Spiggle’s series of the week, AL, NL, Interleague and White Sox) and hopefully give you all something to look forward to (unless you are a Brewers fan).

So to start off, I give you the Spiggle’s Series of the Week

Spiggle’s Series of the Week

New York Mets @ Kansas City Royals

WS Winners 2015

WS Winners 2015

 

Sunday 1:37am (Live on BT Sport and MLBTV)

Tuesday 9:15pm (Live on BT Sport and MLBTV)

Game 1 – Matt Harvey v Edinson Volques

Game 2 – Noah Syndegaard v Ian Kennedy

Hello baby. World Series repeat on the opening night and the Royals are already calling the Mets out. They have an issue with Noah Syndegaard throwing over Alcides Escobar’s head in Game Three of the World Series and they have told the Mets that they are out for revenge.

Now, I don’t expect the fireworks to happen on Opening Night (MLB’s big promotional night) but Syndegaard is pitching Game 2 on Tuesday Night and I fully expect to see the fireworks then and I for one will be tuning in to see the fists flying and balls thrown inside on the Mets hitters.

The Royals tried the same rubbish last year against the A’s, the White Sox and the Angels and they ended up with 5 players suspended. However, the momentum the gained from this unified them and ultimately let them to the World Series.

Personally, I love to see this sort of thing happen, but my advice to the Mets is to be the better team here. Don’t react, let the Royals try their rubbish and watch as Manfred hands out the bans.

On a baseball front, the Royals have lost both Holland and Madson to their dominant pen, they have also lost Zobrist and Cueto. I personally don’t think that they are the same force that they were last season and are there for the taking.

Interestingly there are injuries to starting pitchers for both teams with Matt Harvey having blood clots in his bladder and Ian Kennedy suffering from tightness in his hamstring. I wouldn’t expect either starter to go deep into the game and this series could be tight.

Spiggle’s Prediction

Now as much as I’d love to predict a sweep for the Mets, I reckon it will be a 1-1 tie with the Royals winning Game 1 and the Mets winning Game 2.

Player to Watch:-

Yoenis Cespedes confounded everyone by signing back with the Mets, he turned down reportedly higher offers from the Orioles, Tigers and White Sox to sign back with the Mets and the Mets will be looking for his bat and crazy collection of cars to ignite their bats against the current World Champs.

AL Series of the Week

Toronto Blue Jays @ Tampa Bay Rays

Marcus Stroman - How Good Can He Be ?

Marcus Stroman – How Good Can He Be ?

Sunday 9:05pm (live on BT Sport and MLBTV)

Monday 12:10am (live on MLBTV)

Tuesday 12:10am (live on MLBTV)

Wednesday 6:10pm (live on MLBTV)

Game 1 – Marcus Stoman v Chris Archer

Game 2 – RA Dickey v Drew Smyly

Game 3 – TBD (Probably JA Happ) v Jake Odorizzi

Game 4 – TBD (Probably Aaron Sanchez) v Matt Moore

What? you say. The AL series of the week does not feature the Yankees and Red Sox. There is a reason for this, they are not the best two teams in the AL East.

The Blue Jays lost out to the Royals in the ALCS last year after pulling the miracle and coming back to beat the Rangers in the ALDS. However, the much fancied Blue Jays have got pitching issues and their issues not only run to the back of their rotation where they are running out JA Happ and Aaron Sanchez but to their pen as well where Gavin Floyd is their long man and Roberto Osuna is their closer. They also have Marco Estrada starting the season on the DL and he is not expected to return until their series against the Red Sox, so they will be running with a 4 man rotation until then.

Still, they can probably cope with this knowing that they can out-hit any team in the AL. They have some of the most fearsome hitters on the planet in their line up with Bautista, Donaldson, Encarnion and Tulowitski supported by Russell Martin and Kevin Pillar. Put these hard hitting maniacs into a home run friendly park and you can see why I reckon they’ll be in the top two in the AL East this season.

The Rays are making the unusual step of going with a 4 man rotation to start the season with Erasmo Ramirez in the long role. They also have no closer with MacGee traded to the Rockies and Boxberger on the DL, slipping into that role should be Alex Colombe. Despite this, I have them as favourites for the AL East. With a rotation that boasts Chris Archer at the helm with support from Smyly, Odorizzi and Matt Moore, all four are under the age of 30 and are as sexy a rotation that you’ll see in the American League. They put a smashing defence behind that foursome with arguably the best centre fielder in the game in Kevin Kiermeyer and Evan Longoria (not to be confused with the actress Eva Longoria) supporting at third base, you can see why I’m excited by this year’s Rays.

They have a tough start in the slugging Blue Jays, but if they can stretch their rotation out and keep the ball in the ball park, they should have a good chance against the Canadian Clubbers.

Spiggle’s Prediction

This is the age old battle of hitting vs pitching. It’s my belief that good pitching will always beat good hitting but the hitting lineup of the Blue Jays is fierce. I’m going to take the Rays to win 3-1 with the Blue Jays winning Game 2 behind the knuckleballer.

Player to Watch

In order to win, the Blue Jays need to score runs and there was no better last year than the MVP Josh Donaldson. Donaldson has a nice stroke which allows him to hit the ball to all parts of the field and he has progressed into a phenominal home run hitter.

NL Series of the Week

Los Angeles Dodgers @ San Francisco Giants

Kershaw

Kershaw

Thursday 9:35pm (live on MLBTV)

Friday 3:15am (live on MLBTV)

Saturday 9:05pm (live on MLBTV and BT Sport)

Sunday 9:05pm (live on MLBTV)

Game 1 – Alex Wood v Jake Peavy

Game 2 – TBD (probably Carlos Frias) v TBD (probably Matt Cain)

Game 3 – Clayton Kershaw v Madison Bumgartner

Game 4 – Scott Kazmir v Johnny Cueto

I love good old fashioned rivalries and over the last 10 years or so, there has been no rivalry as fierce as the Dodgers and Giants. The high-spending Dodgers have had to look on in envy as every second year since 2010, the Giants have walked away with the big prize. They won it in 2010, 2012 and 2014 and if the pattern holds true, then they should be a good bet to win it this year.

In the off-season, they certainly spent as if they want the big prize. They shelled out over $200 million to bring in Johnny Cueto and the under-performing Jeff Samardzija. Their rotation looks strong and their pen has always been strong, could 2016 be the year of the Giant again? Although they are currently wound up with the ban of tobacco in their clubhouse. Gone is the sound of the chewing tobacco being spat into the metallic tin from the Giants.

Trying to stop them is the free-spending Dodgers. who currently have more injuries to their rotation that most other teams have starters. They currently have injuries to Hyun Jin Ryu, Mike Bolsinger, Brett Anderson, Frankie Montas, Brandon Beachy and Brandon McCarthy, add this to the loss of Zach Greinke and the 5th starter competion between Zach Lee and Carlos Frias, you can see the issues that the Dodgers have going into the season.

Despite this, they still have Clayton Kershaw who is the best starting pitcher in baseball over the last 5 years and Kenley Jansson who is in the elite class of closer, they just need to get the rest sorted out.

With the aforementioned Frias probably facing Matt Cain in Game Two, the mouth watering match up of Kershaw v Bumgartner in Game Three which will be shown live on BT Sport on Saturday night, we should be in for a hell of a series with the bonus of not having to watch Samardzija pitch.

One thing I would recommend is to use the radio overlay and listen to the sweet sounds of Jon Miller on the Giants Broadcast (although Dodgers fans will recommend you listen to Vin Scully).

Get ready for a good old fashioned slobbernocker and remember that both Bummy and Kershaw can hit as well.

Spiggle’s Prediction

I have the Giants to win the World Series this year and the Dodgers are a mess at the moment. I’m going for the Giants to win this 3-1 with the Dodgers winning in Game 2 behind Kershaw

Player to Watch

Buster Posey is my pick for MVP and this guy has it all. He has power, the ability to get on base, the ability to drive in runs but his most important skill is his management of one of the highest profile pitching staffs in the National League. Buster has all the tools (he is even catching one (Shark))

Interleague Series of the Week

Chicago Cubs @ Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Kris Bryant

Kris Bryant

Monday 3:05am (live on BT Sport and MLBTV)

Tuesday 3:05am (live on MLBTV)

Game 1 – Jake Arrieta v Garrett Richards

Game 2 – John Lester v Andrew Heaney

Vegas have the Cubs to win the World Series this year and I for one would be happy to see them make a lot of money and be wrong for this one. This Cubs team is overhyped after a very good season last season and an off-season where they pulled in some big names. Pitching wise, they added to their rotation by bringing in Lester’s Red sox mate John Lackey. Hitting wise they brought back Dexter Fowler and added to their already strong lineup by bringing in both Ben Zobrist and Jason Heyward. Is it enough though?

In order for it be enough, they need Lester and Lackey to pitch like they did for Boston 3 years ago, they need Arrieta to repeat his CY Young season and for Kyle Hendrix and Jason Hammel to pitch well at the back end of the rotation. They need the bullpen to be a strength and for Kris Bryant, Kyle Scharber and Addison Russell to repeat their successes of their rookie years. That’s an awful lot they need to go right.

The Angels on the otherhand seem to be a team in decline, they are bereft of starting pitching with Garrett Richards and Hector Santiago spearheading their rotation. They back this up with Mike Trout, Albert Pujos and not much else behind them, especially with Josh Hamilton back on the DL and Geovanni Soto in the catching mix. They did pick up Andrelton Simmons in trade but there is certainly a lot of holes to fill for the Angels, especially in the outfield. (The way their outfield looks, there will be no repeat of that awful baseball film called “Angels in the Outfield”

Spiggle’s Prediction

Sorry Angels, I can’t see past a Cubs sweep here and it kills me to say that. The Cubs just have too many weapons for the Angels to deal with. The intriguing match up will be Arrieta vs Trout on Monday in this one. 2-0 Cubs

Player to Watch

Mike Trout is the best player in baseball stuck in a team on the decline. If the Angels want to make the post-season, Trout will need to have an MVP year and there is no better time to do it than now and beating up on Arrieta and Lester.

White Sox Game of the Week

Cleveland Indians @ Chicago White Sox

Jose Abreu

Jose Abreu

Friday 9:10pm (live on MLBTV)

Saturday 9:10pm (live on MLBTV)

Sunday 7:10pm (live on MLBTV)

Game 1 – Cody Anderson v John Danks

Game 2 – Josh Tomlin v Chris Sale

Game 3 – Corey Kluber v Jose Quintana

This weekend is the White Sox home opener and due to the schedule, we get the venerable John Danks opening this series for us. Due to playing the Athletics 4 times this week, it means that we rotate in Sale on Saturday against their 5th starter and Q gets to face Corey Kluber.

The White Sox had a steady winter that was overshadowed by the whole La Roche farce. I for one don’t care if Drake La Roche is in the clubhouse, has a locker room or is giving massages to Chris Sale and Adam Eaton, as long as the team blends together and starts to live up to its potential.

The White Sox missed out on Cespedes, Gordon, Upton and Fowler in their hunt for an outfield solution to the defensive woes, settled on signing Austin Jackson, they also brought in Jimmy Rollins to play Shortstop, Mat Latos as 4th Starter, Brett Lawrie to man 2nd base and the huge signing of Home Run Derby winner Todd Frazier to man the hot corner. The Sox biggest downfalls were scoring runs and playing defence last year and the additions made should hopefully put those demons to rest. The Sox also have stealthily one of the best bullpens in the American League with Nate Jones, Matt Albers and Zach Duke all setting up for premier closer David Robertson.

The Indians are seen as some as the favourites for the AL Central which is surprising to me. They do have a fearsome front three of the rotation, a cracking closer and Lindor and Kipnis manning the middle infield. But they have an awful outfield and some issues in the hot corners and an injury to one of the top three could scupper their season.

Spiggle’s Prediction

If the White Sox want to win the division, they need to learn to beat teams within the division and there is no better time to do this. I see the White Sox winning the series 2-1 with Kluber winning Game 3 to avoid the sweep.

Player to Watch

In 10 years time I want to be at the ceremony which will retire number 79 for Jose Abreu. The Cuban Clubber is the heart of the team and could be an MVP candidate if he can hit around .300 with over 35 homers and 100 RBI’s and with the protection of Frazier, I believe he can do that this year.

Thanks for reading and feel free to discuss this in the forum or in the comments below. Happy New Season and I hope to catch up with you next week where the Royals take a wee trip to Houston and the White Sox stay in the sun for a trip to Florida against the Rays.

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