Ranking the World Series players, 1-50 

October, 19, 2014
Oct 19
Royals and GiantsGetty ImagesThe Kansas City Royals and San Francisco Giants both have great roster depth.
With the start of the World Series just two days away, let's take a look at both rosters. Every year someone rises to the occasion and has a profound impact. It could be one of the team's stars, or it could be a role player called upon to do a specific task.

Here is my annual ranking of the 50 World Series players, putting all active players from the Kansas City Royals and San Francisco Giants on one handy list. They are ranked based on their potential positive impact in the World Series only (not on their regular-season performances or their future potential). One final note: Position designations are pretty standard. However, I use RHR and LHR for relievers and RHS and LHS for starting pitchers.

1. Buster Posey, C, Giants
He's won the Rookie of the Year award in 2010 and the NL MVP award in 2012, and this is already his third World Series. He entered the poststeason on a tear, posting a .354/.403/.575 slash line in the second half.
San Francisco GiantsAP Photo/David TulisManager Bruce Bochy has exemplified loyalty in his leadership of the San Francisco Giants.
The San Francisco Giants hired Brian Sabean as their senior vice president and general manager on Sept. 30, 1996. Since then, he has led the Giants to seven postseason berths and, with this year’s team, four World Series appearances, including two world championships and counting. He is presently the longest-tenured GM in the sport.

One of his best moves was made almost exactly a decade after he took the job -- on Oct. 26, 2006, he hired Bruce Bochy away from the San Diego Padres to be the manager of the Giants. Together they have become this generation's best general manager-manager combination. They have a strong working relationship, but most importantly, are closest of friends both on and off the field.

They represent the stability and continuity that every major league owner strives for.

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Dayton Moore's blueprint worked in KC 

October, 17, 2014
Oct 17
Dayton MooreAP Photo/Charlie RiedelIt took eight years, but Royals GM Dayton Moore has built an AL pennant winner in Kansas City.
It's time for Kansas City Royals GM Dayton Moore and his entire baseball operations department to stand and take a bow.

Their blueprint worked. It might have taken a few years longer than they preferred, but it worked.

Moore was hired as Royals GM on June 8, 2006, and eight years and fourth months later, he has helped bring the franchise an American League pennant. Kansas City had a losing record for the first seven years of his tenure there. In fact, none of his teams had won more than 75 games in a season until last season, when the Royals went 86-76. This year they went 89-73, but they had to settle for a wild-card spot. Obviously they've made the most of their first trip to the playoffs in 29 years.

Eight years might seem like a long time, but when you look at the history of other small-market teams who have succeeded, such as Oakland, Montreal/Washington, Tampa Bay and Minnesota, history shows it does take six to eight years, if done properly.

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What's next for the St. Louis Cardinals? 

October, 16, 2014
Oct 16
Cole HamelsAP Photo/Alex BrandonCould the St. Louis Cardinals look to trade for Cole Hamels this offseason?

Of all the postseason teams, the St. Louis Cardinals have the least amount of work to do this offseason. GM John Mozeliak has built this team for the long haul, and the only significant free agent he has to be concerned about is All-Star reliever Pat Neshek.

The Cardinals’ needs are a short list that include a right-handed-hitting backup first/third baseman with power who could start against certain left-handed starters and upgrading the bullpen with one significant arm. They also might try to deal one of their young elite arms for a top-of-rotation starter such as Cole Hamels.

Here is a breakdown of what's next for the Cardinals in each position area:

Starting pitchers

The Cardinals' starting rotation should remain mostly intact. Staff ace Adam Wainwright will continue to anchor this steady rotation, and while the Cardinals will make sure his elbow is OK this offseason, there is little doubt he'll once again be a Cy Young Award candidate next year.

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What's next for the Baltimore Orioles? 

October, 15, 2014
Oct 15
OriolesJoy R. Absalon/USA TODAY SportsThe 2014 season ended in disappointing fashion. How will the Orioles restock for 2015?
The Baltimore Orioles got an early start to their offseason when they extended the contract of J.J. Hardy on a three-year, $40 million extension earlier this month. However, that's just the beginning of a few big decisions ahead for general manager Dan Duquette.

The first order of business will be trying to retain two key free agents in outfielder/designated hitter Nelson Cruz and one of the best left-handed relievers in the game in Andrew Miller.

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What's next for the Washington Nationals? 

October, 14, 2014
Oct 14
Ryan ZimmermanChuck Myers/MCT/Getty ImagesShould the Nationals trade Ryan Zimmerman or move him to first base or the outfield?
Regardless of what happens in the National League East this offseason, the Washington Nationals will be heavy favorites to repeat as NL East champions again in 2015. But that doesn't mean they'll have a quiet offseason.

The Nats have decisions to make on three significant free agents: first baseman Adam LaRoche, second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera and reliever Rafael Soriano. They also must address their next free-agent class (following the 2015 season), which includes Jordan Zimmermann, Ian Desmond, Tyler Clippard, Doug Fister, Denard Span and Matt Thornton. Do they extend them? Do they trade them now while they have strong value? Or do they just prepare to let them depart via free agency next offseason, in which they may or may not get draft pick compensation for them?

Other areas the Nats will need to tend to include what to do with Ryan Zimmerman and how to improve the team's bench and bullpen depth.

Here is a look at each area heading into the offseason:

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What's next for the Los Angeles Dodgers? 

October, 13, 2014
Oct 13
Hanley RamirezRichard Mackson/USA TODAY SportsThe Dodgers will have to address Hanley Ramirez's impending free-agent status early this offseason.
The Los Angeles Dodgers' offseason begins with ownership making a decision on the status of GM Ned Colletti and manager Don Mattingly. Multiple media outlets are reporting that Mattingly's job is safe, but Colleti's job could be in jeopardy. Once those decisions are finalized, whether it's Colletti or a new GM, the objectives for the team this offseason are: addressing Hanley Ramirez's impending free-agent status, improving the bullpen (which was clearly exposed in their National League Division Series loss), dealing with the over-crowded outfield, adding another starter and, most importantly, getting the team younger.

Here's a look at each area:

Hanley Ramirez

Ramirez has played in 130 games just once since 2010 and has to be considered a health risk at this point.

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DipotoKyle Terada/USA TODAY SportsGM Jerry Dipoto likely won't overhaul the Angels, but there are a few upgrades he needs to make.
The Los Angeles Angels finished the regular season with the American League's best record, but their questionable starting rotation let them down in the short division series against the Kansas City Royals. There is no doubt Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto's top priority this offseason will be to find an upgrade or two for their starting rotation.

Jered Weaver will return as their ace after another successful season; he tied for the AL lead with 18 wins to go along with a 3.59 ERA and 169 strikeouts. Garrett Richards is expected back for most or all of the season, giving the Angels two ace-type pitchers at the top of their rotation. Matt Shoemaker, who just had a breakout rookie season (16-4 record, 3.04 ERA, 1.07 WHIP), should be a solid No. 3. But after those three, Dipoto has to be concerned

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What's next for the Detroit Tigers? 

October, 7, 2014
Oct 7
Max Scherzer Hannah Foslien/Getty ImagesWill Tigers ace Max Scherzer return to the club for 2015 or leave via free agency?
The Detroit Tigers' first order of business this offseason will be to address their impending free agents. This includes their staff ace Max Scherzer, team MVP Victor Martinez, clubhouse leader Torii Hunter and setup man Joba Chamberlain. The Tigers would like to bring them all back, but it's highly unlikely to happen. Scherzer already has turned down a six-year, $144 million offer, and Martinez will be the most sought-after American League bat on the free-agent market.

Detroit must have special emphasis this offseason in rebuilding its bullpen to a championship level, a weakness that was exposed during the regular season and postseason.

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What's next for the Oakland Athletics? 

October, 6, 2014
Oct 6
 Jeff Samardzija Jason O. Watson/Getty ImagesThe A's have a solid corps returning, including Josh Reddick, Jeff Samardzija and Sonny Gray.
The Oakland Athletics' front office is in the process of determining their offseason game plan, but one thing they have made clear to me: They have no plans to trade Josh Donaldson or Jeff Samardzija, at least not at this time. That doesn't necessarily mean they're going "all in" to try to win again in 2015; it means they're trying to rebuild yet compete at the same time, if possible.

The Athletics have eight impending free agents, including pitchers Jon Lester, Jason Hammel and Luke Gregerson.

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Ranking the MLB playoff lineups 

October, 1, 2014
Oct 1
Los Angeles DodgersRobert Hanashiro/USA TODAY SportsThe Dodgers scored 21 more runs than any other team in baseball during the month of September.
We ranked the playoff rotations and starting pitchers Monday and the playoff bullpens Tuesday; today we rank -- and discuss -- the lineups of the nine remaining playoff teams.

1. Los Angeles Dodgers
MLB ranks (regular season):
Runs: 6th | OPS: 3rd | HR: 16th | SB: 2nd

Projected lineup
Dee Gordon, 2B
Yasiel Puig, CF
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Matt Kemp, RF
Hanley Ramirez, SS
Carl Crawford, LF
Juan Uribe, 3B
A.J. Ellis, C

The Dodgers enter this postseason with a much better lineup than last year's team, which reached the National League Championship Series before falling to the St. Louis Cardinals.

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Ranking the playoff bullpens 

September, 30, 2014
Sep 30
HollandPeter G. Aiken/USA TODAY SportsGreg Holland anchors a Royals bullpen that was sixth in ERA in the second half of this season.
We ranked the playoff rotations and starting pitchers Monday; today we rank -- and discuss -- the bullpens of the 10 playoff teams.

1. Kansas City Royals

Closer: Greg Holland
Setup man: Wade Davis
Situational righties: Kelvin Herrera, Aaron Crow
Situational lefty: Brandon Finnegan

The Royals might not have the deepest bullpen, but they have the best, thanks mostly to a dominant trio of relievers in Herrera, Davis and the league's best closer in Holland, who has converted 46 of 48 save opportunities this year and has the most saves and best conversion rate of any closer in baseball since May 10, 2013.

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Playoff starting pitcher, rotation rankings 

September, 29, 2014
Sep 29
Kershaw/GreinkeUSA TODAY SportsZack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw anchor a formidable Dodgers rotation.
The most important element of every major league team in the playoffs is its starting rotation; it's the closest equivalent to a quarterback on an NFL team or the top three players on an NBA team. History has shown us that elite starting pitching has played a greater role in winning championships than any other aspect of a team's infrastructure.

Evaluating starting rotations for the postseason is much different than doing so for the regular season. During the regular season, you concentrate on the team's depth, even the Nos. 6 and 7 spots on the depth chart. In the postseason, you emphasize the top three starters on each team, with little weight given to the fourth starter and no weight to the fifth starter, who's normally in the bullpen. You especially focus on the team's No. 1 starter, who often pitches twice in a five-game series and as many as three times in a seven-game series. You also must factor in how much workload a pitcher has had in the regular season, how they've pitched at the end of the season and any signs of fatigue, something that's not controllable outside of a cortisone shot to lessen the inflammation in a shoulder or elbow.

History shows that pitchers who can miss bats and post higher strikeout rates often perform better in the postseason than contact pitchers. Why is this? Well, these hurlers are facing the game's best lineups, and they need to have the stuff and command to win those battles. Having impeccable command of all pitches in and out of the strike zone is a necessity, because many hitters on playoff teams don't have many weaknesses to exploit.

With that as a preface, here are my rankings of this year's postseason rotations based on scouting, statistical and sabermetric analysis, with specific matchups, workloads, trends and intangibles all factored in:

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John Hart's offseason to-do list 

September, 25, 2014
Sep 25
John HartAP Photo/David TulisInterim Braves GM John Hart reportedly is mulling the team's offer to take over the job full-time.
Longtime executive John Hart has been offered the full-time general manager job (and senior VP) with the Atlanta Braves, and I think he will take it (although it might be for only the next three years before he passes the torch to 35-year-old John Coppolella). The Braves' GM job would give Hart an opportunity to put closure on his baseball career by building the type of starting rotation he wasn't able to in Cleveland or Texas while also making the Braves' lineup a force like he did in Cleveland.

I'm sure it's tough for Hart to walk away from his present lifestyle, which includes being an analyst for MLB Network and a senior adviser for the Braves, not to mention plenty of time with his family and on the golf course. But once a GM, always a GM, and there is no doubt the lifestyle he is enjoying now will be waiting for him on his 70th birthday, which is right about when he'd be ready to return to it.

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Players who are poised to rebound in '15 

September, 19, 2014
Sep 19
Jason Kipnis, Jay BruceGetty ImagesJay Bruce and Jason Kipnis, both former All-Stars, have been disappointing this season.
Every year there are players who underachieve, and when it happens, opposing general managers pick up the phone and call that team's GM to find out if they can "steal" the player in a trade. GMs view players with the same mindset they do the stock market, trying to acquire players when their stock is down, much like fantasy baseball owners do. Whether it's a real GM or a fantasy GM, identifying those players who will rebound early and getting them before their opponents can is important to success.

As such, I suspect Braves GM Frank Wren, for instance, will be calling Indians GM Chris Antonetti to see if he can pry away Jason Kipnis while his stock is down, and I would expect Yankees GM Brian Cashman to call Reds GM Walt Jocketty to see if he can steal Jay Bruce from them. Here are five players, including Kipnis and Bruce, who I expect to rebound, whether it's with their existing club or the teams they're traded to this offseason:

1. Jason Kipnis, 2B, Cleveland Indians

Kipnis, 27, signed a six-year, $52.5 million deal through 2019 last offseason, with a team option for 2020. His first year of the deal has been a disaster; he has not been getting on base, not hitting home runs and not driving in runs.

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