Orioles

Aggies find success in 1st SEC season

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Aggies find success in 1st SEC season

COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) No. 10 Texas A&M has reached 10 wins for the first time since 1998.

The accomplishment is even sweeter for the Aggies because of the skeptics who predicted they'd struggle in their first season in the Southeastern Conference.

Texas A&M wrapped up its regular season Saturday night with a 59-29 win over fellow SEC newcomer Missouri. This is its first season of double-digit wins since an 11-3 record in 1998.

The Aggies aren't surprised. They say they knew they'd have a good year after leaving the Big 12.

``People acted like we were going to be some kind of doormat or something,'' senior linebacker Sean Porter said. ``But this entire time we had a lot of confidence.''

Coach Kevin Sumlin said he heard three concerns about his team repeatedly entering the season. They were that the Aggies didn't have an established quarterback after Ryan Tannehill was taken drafted eighth overall, that his offense wouldn't work in the SEC, and that his defensive front was thin.

The Aggies answered the first question in resounding fashion as freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel won the starting job near the end of training camp and went on to account for 4,600 yards of total offense. He has thrown for 24 touchdowns and ran for 19 this season to make him one of the top contenders for the Heisman Trophy.

He's a big reason why Sumlin's high-flying offense succeeded in perhaps the toughest defensive league in the country. The Aggies are third in the nation in total offense with 552 yards a game.

The unit has also been helped by a veteran offensive line and the development of freshman receiver Mike Evans. The 6-foot-5 former high school basketball star, led the Aggies with 75 receptions for 1,022 yards.

As for the defense, defensive end Damontre Moore led a group that excelled in its switch from a 3-4 scheme to the 4-3 under first-year defensive coordinator Mark Snyder. Moore, who moved from outside linebacker to end, has a team-leading 12 1/2 sacks and 20 tackles for losses this season.

``I think that these guys kind of took (the criticism) to heart and they set a tone for this program that: `You know what, not only can we compete but we can win,''' Sumlin said.

The Aggies also used last season's struggles as motivation this year. They entered 2011 with a top-10 ranking only to finish a disappointing 7-6 in a season which ended with the firing of coach Mike Sherman.

``The type of season we had last year was just a nightmare of a season,'' offensive lineman Patrick Lewis said. ``We just tried to put it behind us, almost as if it didn't happen. This is a new team and we had high expectations.''

Sumlin believes much of the credit for his team's success goes to A&M's seniors. He called on them to step up when a hurricane postponed the Aggies opener and forced them to play their entire schedule without a week off.

``Those guys have really contributed and led this team,'' Sumlin said. ``As a coaching staff we're forever grateful for them because they didn't sign up for us ... there's no way that we could have won half as many games as we did this year if those guys didn't buy in and lead this football team.''

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What exactly did the Orioles get in return for Manny Machado?

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What exactly did the Orioles get in return for Manny Machado?

So, the Orioles made some headlines earlier this week. I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but minor league pitcher Asher Wojciechowski exercised his opt-out clause and is no longer with the organization. Please keep Orioles fans in your thoughts during this trying time.

As everyone reading this is undoubtedly already aware, the Orioles *also* made a trade yesterday, sending 26-year old superstar Manny Machado to the Los Angeles Dodgers. In return for their once-in-a-lifetime talent, the Orioles received a whopping five prospects from the Dodgers’ minor league system.

Yusniel Diaz, OF, 21

It’s fitting that this trade is being compared to the Erik Bedard trade, which was also a five-for-one, because Diaz could be a poor man’s Adam Jones. He’s not the prospect Jones was, but he could end up being a really nice player.

Talent evaluators are split on his ultimate ceiling. Some describe him as a bona fide stud, and others leave him off their top 100 lists. I’ve seen him ranked as high as 31st overall (by Baseball Prospectus), which, if accurate, is a terrific main piece in a package for a star rental. 

Most consider Diaz’s main flaw as a prospect to be his in-game power, though anyone watching the 2018 MLB Futures Game would be confused by that, as he became the second player ever to hit multiple home runs in the game. It’s possible that more power develops as he matures, and he certainly wouldn’t be the first player to hit for more power once reaching the Majors, but for now, it’s not a strength. I wouldn’t expect him to top 20 home runs in most seasons.

His bat-to-ball ability is his clearest strength, as he projects to consistently hit for a high average. His batting eye, while formerly a weakness, has become a strength in 2018, as he’s actually walked more times than he’s struck out (a rarity in this day and age). That will play well with O’s fans who are tired of seeing their players challenge strikeout records.

Dean Kremer, RHP, 22

Kremer isn’t a major name, which is a disappointment for O’s fans and one of the reasons their haul felt so uninspiring. Compared to more highly-touted prospects like Dustin May, Kremer looks like the team settled.

That said, he’s currently sporting the best K/9 ratio in the minors, and could end up being a diamond in the rough. He’s come a long way since being a 14th-round pick two years ago, and you have to wonder if the Orioles’ much-maligned pitching development can pick up where the much more successful Dodgers instructors left off.

Kremer is also notable for being the first Israeli-born player ever drafted in Major League Baseball.

Rylan Bannon, IF, 22

Bannon was an 8th-rounder last year and is having somewhat of a breakout this season. He’s leading the league in home runs, though playing in a notorious band box of a home park is skewing those numbers.

Bannon is undersized, but has a reputation of a good, if not elite, fielder. He’s a third baseman, but will likely spend some time at second as well. If the power breakout is real, he could end up a solid starter for the Orioles down the road. Again, that’s about all you can hope for in trades of this nature.

Zach Pop, RHP, 21

Pop has been described as potentially a future “right-handed Zach Britton,” which every O’s fan would take in a heartbeat. Of course, he’s not ranked like a future All-Star, as even in the weaker Orioles farm system he’s likely no better than around 25th. 

Still, the filler players in big trades like this are just lottery tickets, and considering his lack of pedigree, Pop seems like a relatively “safe” pitcher with projectability. He strikes out a lot of batters and gets a lot of ground balls, and at the very least can likely become a decent middle reliever.

Breyvic Valera, IF, 26

In a best-case scenario, Valera becomes the Orioles’ Ryan Flaherty replacement. If you squint, you can see somewhat decent upside in each of the other returning players, even despite their modest prospect rankings, but Valera is a clear utility player. 

He gets on base and hits for contact well enough to stick around and has proven capable of defending multiple positions, so there actually might be a spot for him at the end of the Orioles bench.

Overall

This trade has been described as anywhere from adequate and somewhat deflating to a great haul O’s fans should be excited about. Four of the five players have decent ceilings, though the chance of all four (or even just two of them) reaching those ceilings is highly unlikely. It’s just the nature of baseball.

Ultimately, this trade will be judged on the success or failure of Yusniel Diaz, who is the clear centerpiece of the package. Whether or not he succeeds will be partially up to him, and partially up to the front office and player development team.

If this trade is the beginning of the core for the next competitive Orioles team, then it’ll have to be considered a success. If these players each bust out of the league, then it was still the correct decision to trade Machado instead of settling for draft pick compensation, but it will still sting all the more for O’s fans seeing Manny soar to new heights elsewhere.

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Capitals re-sign Madison Bowey leaving Tom Wilson the lone remaining RFA

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USA TODAY Sports

Capitals re-sign Madison Bowey leaving Tom Wilson the lone remaining RFA

Defenseman Madison Bowey re-signed with the Capitals on Thursday, inking a two-year extension that will carry an average of $1 million.

Bowey carried a cap charge of $703,333 last season.

The 23-year-old appeared in 51 games for the Caps in 2017-18, amassing 12 assists, 24 penalty minutes and a plus/minus rating of minus-3.

Bowey also suited up in nine contests for AHL Hershey, though he finished the season as one of the Black Aces during Washington's run to the Stanley Cup.

With Bowey back in the fold, the Caps now have six of seven defenseman from last season’s roster under contract. (Veteran Brooks Orpik remains an unrestricted free agent.)

Bowey had an uneven first year in the NHL—he didn’t play following the late-February addition of Michal Kempny—but the Caps expect that the 6-2, 198-pound right-shot blue liner will become reliable full-time player with more seasoning.

Bowey’s deal leaves Tom Wilson as the Caps' only remaining unsigned restricted free agent. The sides are in discussions on a multi-year extension.

Including Bowey’s extension, the Caps have roughly $7.3 million in salary cap space remaining, according to www.capfriendly.com.

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