1. Does the suspension of Jorge Polanco drastically affect this team or do you believe they will be fine without him? Is there a chance we see Nick Gordon sooner than anticipated because of this?
Nate Leer: While it certainly doesn’t help the Twins to lose a projected starter, I don’t think this will end up being a big blow to their chances of making the postseason again. Polanco was likely to experience some regression this year potentially offensively and defensively. It is entirely possible that his lack of arm strength could have made him a nonfactor at SS especially considering the struggles he had so far this spring in that department. It is also possible that his batting, and especially his power, would have regressed this year making him a poor option given his at best average D. The point is, Polanco was far from a sure thing this year, the Twins have other options and I would rather try out Gordon and/or Eduardo Escobar right away than wait for Polanco to struggle and then be replaced. This way we will know by the All-star break whether we have another viable option.
Kras: I would agree with Nate Leer. The loss of Polanco doesn’t help the team any but I also don’t think we need to cancel the season. The Twins have enough other pieces that they will be fine. Luckily for the Twins they have a guy that can step in and fill the role in utility man Eduardo Escobar. I also think it is likely that we see Ehire Adrianza fill in at SS from time to time. Adrianza will have to fill the role of the utility infielder for the time being. As far as Nick Gordon is concerned I will like to see him get a shot to play some SS as well. However, I don’t think Gordon will see time with the big club until later in the season unless injuries or another suspension factor in.
2. What is your prediction for the Twins this coming season? Will they be a playoff team?
Nate Leer: This team is poised to be in the playoffs again. The addition of a couple quality veteran SPs makes them better than last year. On paper, they also look better in the bullpen and could have Miguel Sano in the lineup all year. Those additions make them at least a threat to Cleveland in the AL Central and a good bet to be one of the top 5 teams in the AL. We’re gonna win, Twins!
Kras: I think they will make the playoffs again this season. As improved as I feel the Twins are I don’t see them making a run at Cleveland for the division just yet. The Twins greatest additions have been to the pitching staff which was in major need of upgrades if they were to be competitive this season or even take another step forward. Jake Odorizzi and Lance Lynn fill holes in the starting rotation while Addison Reed and Fernando Rodney bring experience to the bullpen. I think these upgrades alone get the Twins at least a handful more wins than last season. Assuming CF Byron Buxton doesn’t bat under .200 for the first half of the season they should be a team that has growing success going into this season. As for their win total for this season I will put them in 91-win range. I am optimistic this team will build on what they accomplished last year.
3. Is the best case scenario for the Wolves to play the beat up Warriors in the 1st round of the playoffs? Do they have a REAL chance to beat the Warriors if they meet?
Nate Leer: No and no. The best case scenario would be to get back up to the 5 or 6 seed. That would let them avoid Golden State in the first round which is good because they have no chance to win that series whether Curry plays or not. If Curry and another of the Warriors big 4 is out and Jimmy Butler is back, the Wolves might have a shot. I think the best they can realistically hope for is to win one game in the series.
Kras: The way the Wolves are playing as of late they don’t have a REAL chance to beat anybody in a series. They were in a great position all year to not have to worry about Golden State or Houston and now it looks as if it will be one of those 2 teams that they will have to face. That, of course assumes the Wolves don’t get passed by the L.A. Clippers before it is all said and done. The Wolves appear to be lost on D without Jimmy Butler on the floor and with that they have had trouble closing out games in the 4th quarter without him as well. Nate Leer is correct, even without Steph Curry the Warriors would still roll over the Wolves with minimal effort. The Warriors only need 2 of their big 4 on the court and they would have no problem getting the to the next round. Assuming the Wolves face the Warriors they should be happy if they can push the series past 5 games.
1. Which 2 MLB teams do you see making a run at the World Series heading into the 2018 season?
Kras: There are a handful of teams that I can see making a serious run at a World Series title but ultimately I think it will be the 2 teams that were there last year, the Astros and Dodgers. Both the Dodgers and Astros are built around a young core of good talent that includes a well-built pitching staff. In the case of the Dodgers they have any elite arm on the staff and as long as Clayton Kershaw is healthy. However, if these teams meet again in the World Series I would have to lean towards the Astros winning it again, as hard as that would be. As runner ups I like the Cleveland Indians and Chicago Cubs.
Nate Leer: My picks are the Red Sox and the Nationals. They both have impressive rotations, especially at the top, and powerful lineups. The Sox also have a stud closer to help finish games. The Nats don’t have a comparable closer but have lots of good arms. If they need it, I am confident they will trade for an upgrade at closer or maybe sign Greg Holland. These 2 teams are built to win and I think
2. Do the injuries to all of the Warriors big 4 make them no longer the favorites to win the NBA Championship? Is the dynasty in jeopardy?
Kras: As good as the Warriors are even with the big 4 beat up if they do not get significantly healthier it will be hard for me to pick them to come out of the West and go to the Finals. The Houston Rockets have better than I expected this season and I would have to pick them as the favorite as of right now. As far as the GSW dynasty, I don’t think it is over. I think they are young enough and talented enough that they will compete for some years yet. Steph Curry will be a staple in the organization and as long as they can 1 of the other big 3 around him, preferably Kevin Durant or Klay Thompson, then I think they will be fine. This year however is certainly up in the air.
Nate Leer: Unless and until one of the Warriors Big 4 is out for the season, they are still the favorite in my mind. KD is clearly the 2nd best player in the league and, given the quality of his supporting cast, I don’t think they will be beat by Houston, Cleveland or any other challengers.
3. With the Final 4 set, who is your pick to win it all?
Kras: As much as I would like to see Loyola-Chicago go on to win the whole thing I think it will ultimately be the Kansas Jayhawks HC Bill Self has done another great job getting his players to play their best basketball late in the season. Malik Newman has been a force over the last 2 months which has helped the Hawks get to this point. Assuming Newman keeps scoring like he has been and the Kansas big men can stay out of foul trouble, the Final Four is theirs to lose.
Nate Leer: I will be agreeing with Kras and, luckily, sticking with my original pick to win it all, Kansas. As I pointed out in the previous FSL post, KU has an elite coach and enough talent to win it all. The fact that almost all the other top seeds are already eliminated makes the road to the title appear to be easier but it also showcases how fickle the bracket can be. Any team can win any night. That means that Villanova can obviously beat KU right away and or super Cinderella Loyola-Maramount could win it all. I will be betting on Self’s squad but won’t be surprised if any of the last 4 teams cuts down the nets.