Real Deal Baseball 2015 Team Previews – AL Edition

Continuing team previews, we will be looking at the American League and how the teams stack up in their respective divisions. Overall, the American League takes a bit of a back seat to the National League in regards to the quantity of teams that have a chance to be dominating teams and can be pointed out as teams that can clearly make a run a the title. Overlook some of these teams at your own risk, though.

Finish Reading: Real Deal Baseball 2015 Team Previews – AL Edition

AL East

Boston Red Sox –

 

The Red Sox are a team out for revenge after getting overrun in the championship game in 2014 by a score of 437 to 317. Really, how could they compete with Chris Davis serving a PED suspension and Patrick Corbin on the DL. Chris Davis left a bad taste in Boston’s mouth and he was promptly shipped out this year for Joey Votto. This is a team that should be able to make another solid run with a good mix of veterans and young upside players as there are very few question marks on this team.

 

Tampa Bay Rays

 

The new owner of the Tampa Bay franchise has quickly turned this team into a contender. Flags fly forever….not with this new ownership. Out goes the young up and comers and in comes the veterans. A slurry of moves this offseason has their fan base reeling as they rush to the stores to buy new jersey’s for the new members of the organization and season ticket sales have skyrocketed. Look for this team to make some noise in this division this year.

 

Toronto Blue Jays

 

A franchise who has suffered under perennial underachievers has fired their hitting coach this year and look to get better production from their offense. Will the move pan out or will they be sitting home looking to next year? The rotation and bullpen are about as solid as it gets with a mix of youth and veterans and hope to keep games close while their bats come around. The quality bats in their farm can’t get here soon enough for the Toronto ownership, but will look forward to the day when they can ship out underachiever Jennings and supplant him with #1 prospect Byron Buxton. A team on the rise, but will it be enough?

 

Baltimore Orioles

 

Home of this baseball fans favorite ballpark, Camden Yards. This owner has assembled a team of veteran bats and a youth movement on the mound. Most of their production came from those bats last year though and ownership is hoping that their pitching takes the expected next step. If the pitching staff doesn’t take this team to a new level this year it may be a long year and ownership may need to look to infusing their offense with some younger players. Baltimore believes in their organizational approach and looks to strongly compete in a division that can be had with some timely wins.

 

New York Yankees

 

The Yankees are hoping to pull out a Houston Astros type rebuild, and may need several years for this storied franchise to get back on track. Unfortunately, the loss of one of their potential building blocks, Oscar Taveres has set this team back even further. Undeterred, this franchise quietly has made several off season moves to acquire some quality prospects and young players to aid in their effort. A bottom 5 finish for this team is in store during a rebuild, but the Yankees ownership will continue to quietly plug away and will get this team on track in order to win back their fanbase.

 

AL Central

 Minnesota Twins

 

The Twins went through some rough patches with ownership this offseason, but the no nonsense, no beer in the clubhouse new ownership looks to take a playoff team from 2014 to the promised land this year. Countless moves in the offseason have shipped out their future on the farm and traded them in for productive arms and bats. Built for the NOW this team is up against the cap and sits on four 1st round draft picks and will look to finesse this team into the playoffs with an eye to the prize.

 

Detroit Tigers

 

A year after narrowly missing the championship game the Detroit Tigers have kept their team mainly intact and look for another run at a championship. A well run Real Deal organization over the years this team gets no favors from the their MLB team with their drafting and lackluster farm system. Built to win now on veteran leadership this is a team that will quickly need to look to infusing some youth into their lineup to maintain their winning ways. With a mark on their back from the teams below them in the division this is still the team to beat in the AL Central.

 

Kansas City Royals

 

Another new member to the Real Deal family who looks to turn around the fortunes of a poorly run franchise who finished with a disappointing 6-14 record in 2014. There were more holes on this team than a golf course and ownership quickly made moves to get on par with the division. Sacrificing young talent who would take years to reach the majors this club went out and bought some producers to start to get them headed towards the playoffs. A lot of breaks will need to go in their favor to reach the playoffs, but they now have a direction and a strategy that will help them build and grow.

 

Chicago White Sox

 

A team that headed into the 2014 season with a terrible ball club after several owners in the inaugural season had their hands in on destroying their value and nobody wanted this team. With no farm and no future in sight ownership has quietly made their moves and will ride the bat of one Jose Abreu back into fantasy relevancy. Adding a few productive bats and arms over the offseason to surround Abreu, this is a sleeper team in this division after finishing 7-13 in 2014. A team to watch in 2015 as they are definitely a team on the rise.

 

Cleveland Indians

 

The odds of winning the Powerball are more favorable than this teams odds of a playoff push. Going into the 3rd year of a rebuild this is another bottom 5 team for this season. Gone is old ownership that started the project and new ownership decided that the team needed to be blown up even more with a slurry of late winter meetings trades. This team has some nice building blocks on the 25 man roster, but boasts ONE of the best and deepest farms in the league. Don’t look for this team to fully arrive until 2017, but when it does there may be a changing of the guards in the division.

 

AL West

 

Houston Astros

 

A very well balanced and exciting team headed into the 2015 season. The Astros have narrowly missed winning the division two years in a row and they look to correct that this year. The offseason saw the Astros go after a few productive arms, but are desperately searching for one more cost controlled impact bat. Will Castro bounce back this year or will the organization start to give more opportunity to Stassi? If Stassi does not make an impact the Astros will need to go outside of the organization for their bat to be be viewed as the clearest frontrunner in this challenging division.

 

Seattle Mariners

 

I don’t need no stinking top 3 draft picks…I need production. A fully dismantled and repackaged team for the 2015 season. Players on this team were constantly looking over their shoulders and waiting for a call from their agent to notify them that they had been traded. Quite the team that will be showing up at the spring training facility for the Mariners though and one that is gunning for the top teams from 2014. Nothing is being handed to this team in their 2015 playoff push…they are going to have to take it.

 

Los Angeles Angels

 

A poorly run team in the early parts of the 2014 season saw an ownership change late in the season and new ownership set to the task of getting this team back on track. With one of the worst farms in the league the Angels started correcting that and made most of their moves last year to set up this team for the 2015 season. Top to bottom this is an improved team from a year ago’s 5-15 finish team and look to compete with a potential playoff team in 2015 and have some high quality reinforcements on the way from the farm if they fall short.

 

Texas Rangers

 

The reigning AL West division champion took over this playoff contender prior to the 2014. It appeared to be a team that was set and as long as the new ownership didn’t break anything they would be headed to the playoffs again. This proved, however, to be one of the hardest teams to manage in 2014 though as player after player after player headed to the DL and management was constantly having to adjust and make moves just to stay afloat. You can still hear the old battle cry ….SOLARTE….when you think about this 2014 team. A playoff push is again on the horizon for this team, and with improved health this may turn out to be the team to beat again in this division.

 

Oakland A’s
13….13 current and future 1st round draft picks. That is how many picks this team has. Not to mention all of the 2nd round picks it owns. Everyone knows the direction this team is headed for the 2015 season…straight to the bottom and staring at the 1st overall pick in 2016. While it is not a preferred direction at least this team now HAS a direction. This ownership doesn’t have problem with making the tough decisions and making moves to execute their strategy after inheriting one of the worst organizations in the league this offseason. Look for this team to take a couple of years to fully get on track, but they will arrive before you know it.

Real Deal Baseball 2015 Team Previews – NL Edition

Winter Meetings have come and passed, and it did not disappoint. More than 300 trades were executed during a wild offseason that is a big part of what makes the Real Deal Baseball League so great. We had owners who took over poorly run teams and look to the future in their trade action while others looked to cut salary as their payroll’s climb. In some cases it appears the the rich have gotten richer and others stood pat. Whatever the team strategy it sure was fun and has helped to get us set up for the draft and our 2015 season.

 

Taking a look around the league it just feels like it will be even more competitive than last year. We have teams better positioned to compete in each and every division with only a handful of teams who are rebuilding and even those teams now have what looks to be high quality ownership with a strategy and won’t take long in their rebuilding efforts.

 

Short of doing a full fledged power ranking let’s preview the divisions and teams headed into the draft to see how the teams stack up. I will break these up into two segments, separating the National League and American League.

Finish Reading: Real Deal Baseball 2015 Team Previews – NL Edition

NL East

 

Atlanta Braves –

 

After a 5-15 finish in 2014 the Braves did not look to make a ton of moves this offseason to position their team, but looked to cut payroll and add some arms for their rotation. There are question marks for this team on whether their bats will be enough to compete in the NL West heading into the season, but have a quality top 5 pick in the draft and a late 1st round pick to help address those needs. This team may need some help this year to get into contention, and may look to make a few more moves.

 

Philadelphia Phillies –

 

The Phillies can be a much better team than their 8-12 record in 2014 might suggest. This may be a sleeper team in the division if everything starts to click. There are a few aging vets here and their rotation has a few top line starters, and could very well find some talent with three decently placed draft picks. The question is whether it will be enough while the Phillies wait for a few good farm hands in Crawford and Nola to be ready or will they get anxious and trade those pieces in to compete. Maikel Franco may be the Phillies wild card this year.

 

Washington Nationals –

 

A team that started out so hot in 2014 that it didn’t look like anyone was going to be able to touch them in the division until injuries started to mount. A look down through this roster and all you see is stud, stud, stud, stud, stud, injured stud, and injured potential stud. The Nationals did not need to make a ton of moves to position themselves for the 2015 season, and looks like another winning season and playoff push is in store.

 

NY Mets –

 

A vastly better run organization than the MLB team is. Things didn’t work out as well as the Mets owner had hoped in the 2014 season and ended on the losers side with a 6-14 record. The Mets quickly learned they needed to rebuild and cashed in on playoff hopeful teams desire to add chips and collected quite a few very desirable farm hands with short paths to the majors. This may be a team that starts out slowly this year, but quickly gains steam as the season progresses and might catch a few by surprise. Will it be enough or is 2016 their season for a breakout?

 

Miami Marlins –

 

We all know what we have in the Marlins as we see them now. Let’s not forget how this team got to the position they are in. In the inaugural season this was a team that everyone looked to as not having a shot in the world and then slowly growing into a hopeful to ultimately winning the championship. Smart, timely moves have gotten this team to what we see now and they have to be considered a heavy favorite for the 2015 season as well.

 

NL West

 

San Diego Padres –

 

In a division that has to be considered one of the tougher divisions in this league the Padres have their work cut out for them. Last year this was a dog of a team that fought the odds and came close to a playoff berth just to fade at the end. This years team is filled with a mix of bounce back candidates, risers, sleepers and studs. The Padres look to take back the division this year, but know that it is a long season and a lot can happen. Has two years worth of rebuilding by prior ownership and some nice finishing touches by new ownership done enough for a playoff push?

 

Arizona Diamondbacks –

 

Arizona is a team who just couldn’t win in their division last year and went 1-7 against division rivals. They look to change that this year with a quality mix of players and are hopeful to have some reinforcements on the way in Archie Bradley and Peter O’Brien. Pitching may have been their undoing in 2014, but have added to their rotation for the start of the season and very well may be led in scoring by two breakout candidates in Pollack and Eaton. This is definitely a team to watch in the 2015 season.

 

San Francisco Giants –

 

The Giants did not feel the need to make any drastic moves to their team this offseason with only two trades, and why should they after winning the division last year with at 15-5 record and own a good team top to bottom. Chances are they make a similar run this year, and hope they can watch in the rearview mirror like they did last year. The only question is whether they can squeak out the tough games this year like they did last year. Time will tell, but with the new scheduling format this year the Giants may not have the leisure of looking in the rearview mirror in this division again this year.

 

Colorado Rockies –

 

I’m young, I’m good, I’m in need of a 1st baseman. It won’t take much for this Rockies team to put a woopin’ on teams. Seriously, this team only needs a 1st baseman and it looks like a team that could rocket to the front and not look back.  Oh, yea…and to keep Carlos Gonzalez out of the trainers room and off the DL. The Rockies are another team that did not need to change anything this offseason with zero trades, but that may need to change to find that elusive 1st baseman and take the division by storm. Don’t underestimate this team in 2015.

 

LA Dodgers  –

 

What’s not to like about this team? Sure it has a few holes that need to be addressed, but ownership is not done with this team and it will surely be a team that fights for the top spot in the division again in 2015. In a blockbuster trade that shipped out aging Kemp and Zobrist along with stud Greinke the Dodger’s got younger with Justin Upton and Taijuan Walker. While I don’t see the powerhouse that led the division in scoring in 2014 it is still a high quality playoff contender in a division that should just pound on each other.

 

NL Central

 

St. Louis Cardinals –

 

After finishing 3rd in the division in 2014 the Cardinals look to remain as a team in the hunt again in 2015. This, however, is a division that features the reigning champion Brewers and a Cubs team that will feature more top 10 prospects on their roster this year than most teams will ever even have in their farms. The Cardinals have their work cut out for them this year, but have the bats to do it…the bullpen to do it…and a rotation that juuuust needs another piece or two. This is a team that will find a way to win, but it isn’t going to be easy.

 

Pittsburgh Pirates –

 

I believe that we have found a winner of an owner this offseason for this snakebit team. A team that had several owners last year that did not do this franchise a lot of favors. By adding a few pieces here and there in the offseason this team will put up some points this year, but the question is whether they did enough. In a hyper-competitive division it is going to be a tall task and one that will require patience and perseverance, but a team with some key players to build around and who knows with a few key, timely trades as we go along and this team could get back on track.

 

Chicago Cubs –

 

I heard rumor that Kris Bryant was on the block. Is it true? No way this team moves Kris Bryant. Are you crazy? The curse of the billy goat has been invoked the last two years on this team, but is looking to break that curse this year with Uber-potential- stud Kris Bryant. This teams bats were never the problem to begin with, but that much more potent with Bryant. The pitching is what has held this team back, and the Cubs have addressed that this offseason. Look for this team to give the reigning champs a run for their money in 2015.

 

Milwaukee Brewers –

 

The reigning champions have quickly become the NY Yankees of Real Deal with owners bashing them for their trade moves and the way they always find a way to accrue talent. Love ‘em or hate ‘em this is a team that is setting their sights on another run. If it were any other team I would point out that that the pitching staff is lacking with only three starters, but with four 1st round picks including two in the top 5 and a past history of finding talent it is just too early to condemn that rotation. They are going to need to work to stay on top though, because the Cubs are knocking on their door just itching to push them off of their pedestal.

 

Cincinnati Reds –

 

A lost season in 2014 led to an early fire sale with the Reds picking up some top quality prospects that dreams are made of. This is not a team that will compete this year, but will be looking towards the 2016 season and beyond with patience. With a few high quality players to build around on their 40 man roster in Hamilton, Bruce, Semien and Martinez they wait for the arrival of players such as Urias, Stephenson, Shipley, Reyes, Lorenzen, Zimmer, Meyer and DJ Peterson. This team has a ways to go and will need to find more bats, but if these guys pan out the way they should this team will be golden for almost the next decade.

American League preview coming soon…..

Real Deal (Basketball) Report: All-Star Break Update

We have arrived at the All-Star Break! Things have been getting interesting over the past month, despite the drop-off in big-ticket trades. Playoff races are heating up as the rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer and the middle of the pack are all clawing to claim the last four seeds in each conference.

 

Let’s begin, as always, by taking a look at the current playoff standings:

 

EAST

1. Orlando (53-12)

2. Cleveland (43-22)

3. New York (36-29)

4. Detroit (42-23)

5. Washington (39-26)

6. Milwaukee (37-28)

7. Toronto (35-30)

8. Atlanta (34-31)

In the hunt: Miami (2 games behind), Charlotte (3 games behind)

 

WEST

1. Houston (55-10)

2. Minnesota (44-21)
3. Sacramento (44-21)

4. Memphis (45-20)

5. OKC (44-21)

6. Golden State (41-24)

7. Lakers (35-30)

8. Clippers (34-31)

In the hunt: New Orleans (1 game behind), Denver (1 game behind), Phoenix (3 games behind)

 

So there you have it. Some interesting storylines emerging here:

 

WE’VE GOT A RACE IN THE ATLANTIC!
Toronto, which looked like it had all but wrapped up in the Atlantic early on, has very rapidly been taken over for the division lead by the Knicks – which just goes to show that having one 10 and 10 rebounder is enough to win you a division title (seriously, aside from DeAndre Jordan, New York’s best players have been Joe Johnson and Carlos Boozer). The big question now is whether we’ll see one or both of these teams in the playoffs come the end of the season. It’ll be an interesting final month of the season watching how this plays out, given the current trajectory of both teams.

 

HOUSTON, ORLANDO TO MEET IN FINALS?
If this happens, it would be an extremely boring end to the season – these guys were on top all season thanks to an MVP-caliber season from James Harden and about a billion 20-10 games from Pau Gasol and Nikola Vucevic. But that’s what the playoffs are all about, right? Changing the scripts? Spectacular underdog stories? The other 14 teams in the playoffs will be hoping for some upsets. We have some deadly looking teams (Lakers, Warriors, Hawks, Clippers, Bucks) in the lower seeds that could pose a threat to the top dogs.

 

STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE

It’s no secret anymore that the league’s scheduling system has benefited some teams and damned some others. It’s been enough to knock a few middle-of-the-pack teams out of the playoff hunt entirely and boost some others to 35+ wins already. In fact, when you take a look at ease of schedule, you’ll find that many of the teams that have had, let’s say, enhanced success, have had among the fewest points scored against them this season. Oklahoma City has had the second easiest schedule thus far, so, despite only scoring the ninth most in total points this season, is in a dead heat with Minnesota atop the Northwest (Minnesota’s scored over 1,000 points more than OKC). Detroit, which is 17th in points scored, has had the third easiest schedule in the league and is thus eighth in the overall standings with 42 wins. I could go on, but to avoid the risk of putting most of the league to sleep I’ll just point you toward the standing page and check out the sortables.

 

Now for some less serious stuff.

 

Since it is the All-Star Break, I thought I’d have some fun by naming my own Real Deal All-Star Teams. Let the debates begin!

 

EAST

G: John Wall WAS

G: Kyle Lowry TOR

F: LeBron James CLE

F: Pau Gasol ORL

F: Nikola Vucevic ORL

Reserves: DeAndre Jordan NY, Andre Drummond DET, Paul Millsap ATL, Greg Monroe ORL, Al Horford ATL, Tyson Chandler WAS

 

WEST

G: Steph Curry GS

G: James Harden HOU

F: Blake Griffin LAC

F: Anthony Davis NO

F: DeMarcus Cousins SAC

Reserves: Chris Paul LAC, LaMarcus Aldridge POR, Marc Gasol MEM, Damian Lillard POR, Kevin Durant LAL, Russell Westbrook PHX

 

What do you think? Which one of your All-Star players got snubbed? Am I a homer for picking Horford over Tyreke Evans or Chris Bosh?

 

And now I’d like to introduce a new segment: Best Free Agent. I’ll be keeping track of this for the rest of the season and I’ll present the award in April.

 

Of course, one of the most fun parts about fantasy sports is finding a great in-season free agent. In a 30 team league where *almost* every owner is active at least a few days a week, it’s even harder to find those diamonds in the rough. Whereas normal fantasy players have to decide whether to add Kyle Korver or Markieff Morris this week, us Real Deal GMs are truly scraping the bottom of the barrel for every last drop of NBA talent. If you ask me, that makes finding a great free agent even more rewarding.

 

Let’s take a look at the list of nominees thus far:

 

Hassan Whiteside

Hands down, my biggest regret of the season was dropping this guy. I picked him up in the first place because of Bosh’s injury earlier this season and how thin Miami’s frontcourt was. He was a warm body with an opportunity to play. And, to be honest, he kind of stuck at first, so I dropped him. Huge mistake. He’s been lighting it up for OKC ever since, posting ridiculous 20-point, 20-rebound games left and right. The frontrunner for this award by a wide margin.

 

Langston Galloway
Who? WHO?! This guy came out of freakin’ nowhere and is now such a big sensation that when you type “Langston” into Google, Google autofills “Galloway” ahead of “Hughes” and that is unbelievable. An undrafted rookie out of St. Joseph’s, this is a classic, feel-good NBA 2K15 story come to life, earning his way onto a crap team by outplaying several 10-day contracts – so much so that it almost makes one wonder if the video games industry paid off Phil Jackson. Galloway has been given the chance of a lifetime and taken full advantage. He’s averaging nearly points for the rag-tag, 42-win Pistons.

 

Robert Covington
Another who the hell is this guy guy, Covington is one of the token 76ers putting up empty stats that we fantasy owners love. He’s been very good, averaging over 30 points a game very quietly. Doesn’t seem to get the same fanfare as Galloway or Whiteisde, but he’s been an important piece for a Milwaukee team that’s looking more and more potent.

 

Jason Terry

As a Nets fan, watching Jet last year was a terrible basketball experience. He stunk it up in Brooklyn and was shut down after being traded to Sacramento (or rather, he shut himself down). He’s since been rejuvenated in Houston, and while he’s not going to necessarily win Utah any games, he’s been a very nice little piece, especially since not much was expected of him.

 

Rasual Butler

Though he has cooled down a bit recently, Butler is another one of those back from the dead guys this year. He’s regressed a bit recently, but started the season so well that I can’t ignore him on this list. Yet another important guy who came out of nowhere to help a Detroit team that’s exceeding expectations.

 

Who did I miss? Let me know who you’d put on this list.

 

And that about wraps it up for this year’s All-Star Break report. Enjoy your dunks!