1. Can the Minnesota Twins be a factor in their division or is it still too early to consider them a contender?
JJ Benz: This team may be a contender in a year or two but not this year. In the last couple of offseasons, the organization has not addressed the bullpen problems. The starting rotation is average at best and they certainly aren’t going to out hit teams. This organization has taken pride in playing the game the “right” way but the league is shifting. Teams don’t care if a player hits .220 as long as that player has over 20 HR’s. I hope the GM has a plan for the future because Theo Epstein isn’t walking through the door any time.
Kras: The Twins have surprised me so far this season by being as productive as they have been. The starting pitching has been respectable and so far the bullpen has held up to support the starters. Miguel Sano has started to develop into the offensive force we all heard he might be. To go along with that, the Twins have also gotten quality play from players such as Jason Castro, Eddie Rosario, Max Kepler, and Jorge Polanco. All this has made for a competitive club so far but I am not convinced they will remain that way. The team has had their struggles so far this season already as well. From RP Michael Tonkin and SP Kyle Gibson being sent down recently to Byron Buxton being nearly non-existent in the first month. The Twins will need everyone to be playing their best ball to remain in the mix but they are at least fun to watch for the moment.
2. Should the Twins bring up Jose Berrios with Kyle Gibson being ineffective and demoted?
Kras: I think so. Berrios has been up and down a few times now and for as good as he is in the minors, that has no bearing on what he can and will be as a MLB pitcher. I believe Berrios has proven all he can outside of the majors. The Twins need another starter and they also need to see if Berrios is the guy for the future. If he isn’t, the Twins will be in an even deeper hole in the pitching department. My question now going forward will be: Will we see Kyle Gibson again and if so, why?
Nate Leer: Yes, I think Berrios should be brought up and given a long look. As Kras points out, he has nothing to prove at AAA. The Twins need to plug him in and let him pitch through some struggles for a couple months. Even though the team has been surprisingly competitive to this point, management needs to resist the urge to win at all costs. Hopefully the new regime does a better job of taking the long view on developing young players and letting Berrios learn at the major league level, like they have been doing with Buxton, is the right move for the long term health of the franchise.
3. Seeing how the Minnesota Vikings did not go O-line heavy in the draft, do you think they are likely to try and find another lineman to sign and who do you think that will be?
Kras: I could certainly see them adding another body to the mix before all is said and done. As far as not going O-line heavy in the draft, there was not an overwhelming amount of talent to take and with that being the case it was the right move to use those picks to fill other areas of need. I also believe that the Vikings feel they have made significant improvements along the O-line from where they were last season. That said, they thought they had plenty of depth going into last season and we found out how quickly that can change. As far as who they should go and get, maybe a Ryan Clady type to add another body at tackle but the reality is all the quality options are already claimed by teams.
Nate Leer: Add depth, particularly at OT, should be the #1 priority for GM Rick Spielman now that the draft is over. Clady would be a great addition but I suspect he would rather go somewhere he can compete for the starting job. I think bringing back Jake Long, who was just starting to play decent before suffering a season ending Achilles injury last year with the Vikings, would help with the depth. If Long is rehabbing and interested in coming back, he would be a welcomed addition to come in and compete in training camp.
1. Will the Houston Rockets be able to beat the San Antonio Spurs in their best of 7 series and if so do you feel the Rockets have a better chance than the Spurs against the Golden State Warriors in a 7-game series?
Kras: I think ultimately the Spurs will prevail as the winners in the series but I do buy the belief that the Rockets might be a tougher challenge for the Warriors. I think the Spur’s D is enough to stop the Rockets but I do not believe the Spurs have the speed or the shooting to run up and down the floor with the Warriors. I do think the Rockets might be able to run with the Warriors a bit and if they are on, they can shoot the 3-ball well enough to score with them. Whoever ends up in the Western Conference Finals, it will be a tough and hard fought series which should be fun to watch.
Nate Leer: I still trust the experience and coaching of the Spurs more than the talent of the Rockets. The Rockets would have a better chance to win a couple games against the Warriors but ultimately neither team has a chance to win the series. This is a classic example of style of play mattering. The solid all-around Spurs may beat the flashy, high scoring Rockets but actually have less of a chance against the supremely talented Warriors. The Rockets are capable of beating anyone in a single game if their 3 point shooters heat up. However, I do not think that is a formula for winning playoff series against good teams.
2. With the baseball season in full swing yet still early, who do you think will be the AL & NL Cy Young Award winners this season?
JJ Benz: I think the 2 Cy Young award winners will be a couple LHPs. Boston’s Chris Sale in the AL will win a lot of games and probably lead the league in strikeouts. The Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw is also going to win a lot of games. In the end, Washington’s Max Scherzer will push Kershaw for the award but Kershaw has my vote.
Kras: I think JJ Benz has a couple quality picks for Cy Young winners. It is early but we all know how great Kershaw can be so I think it is his award lose. The biggest hurdle for Kershaw will be whether he can remain healthy all season and stay away from the arm and back issues. In the AL, I like Sale but I think there are a couple players that can challenge Sale. Astros’ LHP Dallas Keuchel and teammate RHP Lance McCullers Jr. are 2 pitchers who could be in the race down the stretch. McCullers is more of a long shot but has looked really good at times this season and Keuchel has been pitching lights out so far this season. Health is the biggest thing for all of these guys as they all have the stuff to win it.
3. Who is more likely to repeat as Finals Champion in their respective sport, the Cleveland Cavaliers or the Pittsburgh Penguins?
Kras: At this point, I would have to pick the Cleveland Cavaliers. Although the Cavs will likely be facing the ever dangerous Golden State Warriors, Lebron James has been there before and knows what it takes. Although Kevin Durant is an added element that wasn’t there last season, picking the Penguins to repeat is just too difficult to do. Hockey has too many strange things that can happen and all it takes is one hot goalie to turn a series.
Nate Leer: I agree with Kras although that changes if the Penguins beat the Capitals in their series. The Caps look like the biggest threat to Pittsburgh repeating whereas the Cavs still have to face their only real threat, the Warriors. So, as of today, I would bet on Lebron and company but that will change as soon as the Penguins-Capitals ends. Obviously, if Pittsburgh loses, the Cavs have a better chance. Alternatively, if the Penguins win, they seem to have the easier path to repeating.