Cubs

The Jaguars' next coach will be...

983977.jpg

The Jaguars' next coach will be...

From Comcast SportsNetJACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- The Jacksonville Jaguars hired Seattle defensive coordinator Gus Bradley as head coach Thursday, the latest move in the team's rebuilding project.He joins general manager David Caldwell, who led the coaching search after being hired last week.Bradley spent the last four seasons in Seattle, where his defense improved each of the last three years and finished in the top 10 in points and yards the last two. This season, the Seahawks ranked first in the NFL in points allowed (15.3), fourth in yards (306.2) and tied for fourth in takeaways (31).The Jaguars were 30th in the league in total defense in 2012.Bradley began his NFL coaching career with Tampa Bay as a defensive quality control coach in 2006. He was the Buccaneers' linebackers coach the next two seasons before going to Seattle. Bradley coached in college from 1990-2005, including two stints at his alma mater, North Dakota State, and four years at Fort Lewis College (1992-95).But his rise through the NFL ranks had him on several teams' radar. He also interviewed for the head job in Philadelphia this week."He's got a brilliant football mind," Seahawks coach Peter Carroll said this week. "He's got a way of reaching people and touching people and getting the best out of them, coaches and players alike. He's got everything that you're looking for."The Jaguars interviewed defensive coordinator Mel Tucker, St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden before striking a deal with Bradley.Bradley replaces Mike Mularkey, who went 2-14 in his only season in Jacksonville. Mularkey replaced fired coach Jack Del Rio last January and failed to make the team any better in his first season.Owner Shad Khan fired general manager Gene Smith, the architect of the roster the last four years, and charged Caldwell with turning around one of the league's worst franchises. Caldwell's first move was ousting Mularkey, saying the team "needed a fresh start.""I'm looking for a co-builder of our team," Caldwell said last week. "I felt like it was an atmosphere of change. I felt like that to do that, you've got to have a fresh start across the board."Many believed Caldwell would target close friend and college roommate Greg Roman, San Francisco's offensive coordinator.Instead, Caldwell and Bradley will team up in hope of getting the Jaguars back to the playoffs for the first time since 2007. Jacksonville has missed the postseason 11 times in the last 13 years."The relationship between the general manager and the coach is vital," Khan said last week. "It has to be a symbiotic relationship and they have to grow together and the coach has to be somebody that it's very, very important to win and very, very important for Jacksonville."Bradley inherits a team with few playmakers on either side of the ball.The Jaguars have running back Maurice Jones-Drew under contract for another year and have young and talented receivers Justin Blackmon and Cecil Shorts III. But the offensive line was a mess in 2012, adding to the team's quarterback woes.Jacksonville traded up to draft Blaine Gabbert with the 10th overall pick in 2010, but the former Missouri standout has made little progress in 24 starts. Gabbert completed 58 percent of his passes for 1,662 yards this season, with nine touchdowns and six interceptions. He also was sacked 22 times in 10 games.Gabbert was benched in favor of Chad Henne in mid-November. Henne started the final six games, finishing with 2,084 yards passing, 11 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He was sacked 28 times.Neither quarterback had the benefit of having Jones-Drew for the entire season. Nonetheless, it was clear that neither was the answer.Caldwell said he had "others in mind" to compete for the starting job.Defensively, the Jaguars could lose linebacker Daryl Smith, defensive tackle Terrance Knighton and cornerbacks Derek Cox and Rashean Mathis to free agency. The more pressing issue will be how to generate more consistent pass rush.The Jaguars had a league-low 20 sacks this season. Philadelphia Eagles cast-off Jason Babin helped down the stretch, but the Jaguars are likely to use the No. 2 pick in April's NFL draft to find a pass rusher.Bradley helped develop rookie defensive end Bruce Irvin this season. Irvin, the 15th overall pick, led all rookies with eight sacks. His defense had other young stars, too.Linebacker Bobby Wagner, a second-round draft pick, ranked second among rookies in tackles with 140 and fourth with three interceptions. Safety Earl Thomas was voted to his second consecutive Pro Bowl. Second-year cornerback Richard Sherman led the team with eight interceptions, and defensive end Chris Clemons has a career-high 11 sacks.

Javy Baez loses out on NL MVP to Christian Yelich

Javy Baez loses out on NL MVP to Christian Yelich

Javy Baez had an absolutely fantastic 2018 campaign, but he is not the National League MVP.

Brewers star Christian Yelich was deemed the best player in the Senior Circuit, receiving 29 of the 30 first-place votes. Baez finished second with no first-place votes. Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado finished third after leading the NL in homers (38) and posting a .935 OPS for a Colorado team that lost out on the division in Game 163 and then beat the Cubs in the NL Wild-Card Game.

It may not be popular with Cubs fans who love them some Javy, but it's easy to see why Yelich will take home the highest yearly honor.

The 26-year-old outfielder enjoyed a special season, leading the league in OPS (1.000), batting average (.326) and WAR (7.6 — FanGraphs), finishing 1.3 WAR above the next highest guy (Anthony Rendon — 6.3). For reference, Baez notched a 5.3 WAR.

Baez led the NL in RBI (111) and was among the league leaders in nearly every offensive category while also filling a huge role for the Cubs playing very good defense all over the infield (104 games at second base, 65 at shortstop, 22 at third base and even played an out at first base). 

It's easy to say Baez was the Cubs' most important and valuable player in 2018 and there's no way they win 95 games or maintain a share of first place through Game 162 without his contributions.

But the Brewers surged past the Cubs in the NL Central in large part because of Yelich, who slashed .372/.451/.762 (1.213 OPS) from July 14 on, driving in 68 runs and hitting 25 homers in only 68 games. He was even hotter over the last two weeks of the season — posting a .488/.621/1.116 slash line (1.737 OPS) while Milwaukee went 11-2 and caught the Cubs from behind. 

With both players under contract through at least the 2021 season in the same division, it'll be interesting to see if they can build off their breakout campaigns and continue to battle against each other for future NL MVP voting.

Luis Robert highlights White Sox prospects as Arizona Fall League concludes

Luis Robert highlights White Sox prospects as Arizona Fall League concludes

The Arizona Fall League wrapped up on Thursday for White Sox prospects and the overall results were mixed.

Perhaps the most important thing from the seven-week season is that Luis Robert began to show his potential. After injuries limited him to just 50 games in 2018, his first season playing in the U.S., Robert added 18 games and 79 plate appearances against much more experienced players in Arizona.

Robert, still just 21 and the second-youngest hitter on the team, hit in his first 14 games in the AFL and tallied a hit in 16 of his 18 games. He did this while missing over a week in the middle of the season due to a hamstring injury. The Cuban outfielder’s final numbers are .324/.367/.432. He had five walks, which isn’t an inspiring total, but he kept the strikeouts down at 13.

One of the things that still hasn’t shown in games very often is Robert’s power. He didn’t hit a home run in the 2018 minor league season, but it’s possible his thumb injury was affecting his ability to hit for power. Robert’s power didn’t come through much in the AFL, but there was definitely improvement. He hit two home runs and had two doubles, but this home run last week was definitely seductive.

The AFL isn’t make or break for prospects. Adam Engel hit .403/.523/.642 in the AFL in 2015 and hasn’t shown the ability to hit in the majors yet. Still, Robert showed flashes of his potential with the bat while also causing chaos on the base paths with five stolen bases in five attempts.

Robert was one of seven White Sox minor leaguers who played for the Glendale Desert Dogs. Glendale finished the season 12-18.

The next biggest hitting prospect on Glendale was Luis Alexander Basabe. Basabe struggled in his time in Arizona, but did show some of what has makes him an intriguing prospect.

Basabe hit just .180, but did draw 12 walks in 63 plate appearances. The 22-year-old isn’t known for hitting for average. He is a career .258 hitter in six minor league seasons, including a .251 mark in Double-A in the second half of 2018. However, if he can draw walks at a high rate while bringing good speed in the outfield, he can have some value.

Overall, hitting .180/.333/.180 is a disappointing stint, but there was at least one positive with the walk rate.

Laz Rivera rounded out White Sox hitters with a line of .215/.271/.246. Rivera had solid stints at both levels of Single-A in 2018, his first full season of pro ball, but the AFL showed he may find the adjustment to Double-A a tough one.

On the pitching side the only marquee name was Zack Burdi, but he got shut down early in the season. He made only five appearances (4 2/3 innings, 3 unearned runs, 5 strikeouts, 1 walk, 2 hits), but Rick Hahn said there’s nothing to be concerned about.

Tanner Banks (4.43 ERA, 10 strikeouts, 5 walks, 30 hits in 22 1/3 innings), Zach Thompson (2.70 ERA, 15 strikeouts, 6 walks, 10 hits in 13 1/3 innings) and Danny Dopico (6.57 ERA, 15 strikeouts, 12 walks, 10 hits in 12 1/3 innings) also pitched for Glendale. All three will be 25 or older when 2019 rolls around.