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5 MLB Players Who Have to Get off to a Hot Start in Spring Games

March has arrived!

For the first time since Madison Bumgarner’s October heroics, we’re going to have some live baseball games this week. The majority of teams have playoff aspirations, but for those to come true, key players will need to have bounce-back seasons.

Whether it’s a player such as CC Sabathia coming off injury, or a former top prospect looking for a bounce-back season, a hot start in spring training would be a great sign to alleviate the stress in the front office and for the fans.

Admittedly, 99 percent of the time I ignore spring-training stats, as should you. Last season, four of the top 10 players in spring OPS went on to have terrible regular seasons. Justin Verlander threw 20 scoreless innings but after a strong April went on to one of the worst seasons of his career. It’s a time when players get their reps in order to get ready for the arduous 162-game season.

However, for the prospect or veteran fighting for a roster spot or a player coming back from injury, spring training can be very important. These players need to prove themselves to earn playing time or fend off a top prospect to keep their jobs.

A hot start could do just that.

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Updating the Hottest Questions of the 2014-2015 MLB Offseason, Week 15

The MLB season is right around the corner.

Most, if not all, of the questions we entered this offseason with have been answered. With James Shields signing with the San Diego Padres, all of the biggest free agents have now signed with new teams. Players have already started reporting to spring training and, with the first games just over two weeks away, most rosters are set.

However, the excitement of the rumor mill is far from over. 

Cuban infield prospect Yoan Moncada, who “virtually every team in baseball covets,” according to’s Jim Calliswill sign with a new team by the end of the month, per Jesse Sanchez of

Whether they admit it or not, the Philadelphia Phillies are officially in rebuilding mode. Ace Cole Hamels and closer Jonathan Papelbon are still on the market, but are they going to start the season in Philly?

There’s also that Alex Rodriguez fella, who is back dominating the media again with the New York Yankees. What can we expect from him in 2015 and beyond?

I can’t wait for the season to begin, but first, there are a few more deals that could change the landscape of the 2015 season.

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MLB Teams That Have Quietly Taken Step Forward This Offseason

ESPN’s David Schoenfield provided a great list of surprise Major League Baseball teams over the last decade that went from finishing under .500 to making the playoffs the following season. It’s happened nine times over the past three years, including the last two World Series champions! 

There are plenty of options to choose from for the 2015 season when looking at most improved, including the Boston Red Sox, who spent $183 million on two players (among many other deals), but that wouldn’t qualify as a “quiet” way of going about things

To make my list, I tried to find teams that made a majority of under-the-radar moves (signing one big fish or two is optional) and used FanGraphs‘ projected win totals for 2015 as my go-to source to find the biggest projected improvements.

There were a few obvious teams, such as the aforementioned Red Sox (17-win improvement) and the Cubs (11-win improvement), but the teams I grabbed weren’t in the spotlight as much yet are still projected to have a much better team heading into 2015.

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MLB Stars Who’s Health Will Directly Determine 2015 Playoff Races

Whether it’s an aging star who’s breaking down or a superstar who’s recovering from an offseason surgery, just about every team in the league already has health concerns.

The list of big-name stars goes on and on. So to try and make things easier to digest, I broke down some of the biggest injuries by division.

Two-time MVP Miguel Cabrera possibly not being ready for the season opener is the AL’s biggest injury news. On the other hand, two of the best young pitchers in baseball, Matt Harvey and Jose Fernandez, are coming off Tommy John surgery, and their recoveries will determine how the NL East shakes out. 

Over the course of a 162-game season, every team will have to battle through their fair share of injuries. Here is a list of the top players recovering from various injuries that will have a tremendous impact on playoff races this season.

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Once-Promising MLB Offseasons That Are Fading Fast

For many MLB teams, the offseason doesn’t begin until the new year.

Clubs such as the San Diego Padres and Chicago White Sox have been aggressive from the beginning and have made drastic improvements to their rosters. Will they automatically be the winners when Opening Day of the 2015 season begins? There’s still plenty of time, so we’ll have to wait and see.

Take a look at the Baltimore Orioles last season. Their two biggest moves came in February, signing Ubaldo Jimenez and then Nelson Cruz in what turned out to be the best deal of the offseason.

With high-quality players such as Max Scherzer and James Shields on the free-agent market and Troy Tulowitzki and Cole Hamels potentially on the trade market, there are viable options out there for teams that haven’t been successful early to make a late push.

For the clubs on this list, we’re not quite at panic time yet, but after promising starts to the offseason, it’s time for them to get their acts together.

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8 Best Values Still Available on the 2014-2015 MLB Free Agent Market

Risk versus reward.

My definition of “value” is based on two simple things: what will a player cost your team versus what will the player provide on the field.

Some players may be injury-prone or coming off a bad season, while others haven’t been good in a few years, but what all of these players have in common is upside with minimal risk. Think along the lines of Nelson Cruz’s one-year, $8 million deal the Orioles signed him to last offseason as opposed to the Shin-Soo Choo seven-year, $130 million deal. Cruz had a checkered past, but the potential value was always there.

It’s often the value deals that create championship teams. Just ask the Giants and these two moves that helped secure a couple of World Series heroes. Max Scherzer and Pablo Sandoval may be the cream of the crop in terms of production, but in terms of potential value, the players on this list will dwarf their deals.


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Ranking the Most Overpriced Assets on the MLB Offseason Trade Market

There are five main negatives I looked at for a player to qualify for this list: age, injury history, current contract, rumored acquisition cost and opportunity cost.

In a perfect world, teams would trade for young players who are either signed to team-friendly deals or are young and not injury-prone, so signing them to a long-term deal would be a smart move. While the cost in those deals will be higher, the value of high-end, cost-controlled prospects around the league is greater than ever, so it is even more important to get equal value in return.

Some players on this list have multiple concerns, and some only have one. But they all have one thing in common: I wouldn’t want my team to trade for any of them. I will list other options, either on the trade market or in free agency, teams should pursue instead. 

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Predicting the Most Hotly Coveted 2014-2015 MLB Free Agents

The offseason has officially started, and the rumor mill is getting hot. 

There are a few names, Russell Martin and Yasmany Tomas in particular, who have gotten the most buzz thus far, but the big names in Jon Lester and Pablo Sandoval aren’t far behind. 

This list of players isn’t the top free agents available, but rather the names that have been dominating the rumors to start the season, including a potential position change for the top hitter available this offseason. 

As we wait to see if Clayton Kershaw can win the MVP, let’s dive into the hot stove.

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MLB’s Hardest Places to Play During the Dog Days of Summer

As we head into the dog days of summer and the smell of the playoffs permeates the air, fans get more into each home game and certain places get harder to play.

Baseball is unlike just about every other sport in that it is hard to define a home-field advantage for any specific team. You don’t find fans with faces painted like you would in soccer, football or even the NHL, or any team-specific rally chants that you would see in college games. 

However, that does not mean that certain stadiums are not harder to play when compared to others. Certain things such as average attendance and park factors, which show stadiums where more runs and hits are scored, dictate what stadiums are more difficult for opposing teams.

Here are 10 of the hardest places to play during the dog days of summer. 

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MLB Free Agency: Jose Valverde, Kevin Youkilis and 5 Contract-Year Disasters

Whenever an athlete is playing on the last year of his or her contract, it is crucial to have a good season in order to parlay that success into a long-term deal.

No matter a player’s age, if he shows he can perform at a substantial level, he will greatly enhance his chances of a long-term deal.

Every free-agent class has its top-tier players, but for every good player that maintains their previous levels of excellence, such as Cole Hamels and Zack Greinke, there are guys who do not perform as well when the money is on the line. 

There are a variety of reasons why these players fail. Whether it is age, luck or simply an inability to handle the big moments, their stats do not live up to their expectations heading into the season.

Here are five guys who are having disastrous seasons in their contract year.

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