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Murray Mailbag | Breaking down AL West and Acuña’s debut

Robert Murray

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Mar 15, 2018; Lake Buena Vista, FL, USA; Atlanta Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. (82) at Champion Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

On Wednesday, FanRag Sports’ Robert Murray answered fan questions on Instagram Live regarding the 2018 MLB season. Here were some of the highlights:

Thoughts on Ronald Acuña’s debut?

This may be the most hyped MLB debut since Kris Bryant or Bryce Harper. Acuña has been the talk of baseball for some time now. The No. 1 prospect in the game, he has elite potential. Some believe he’ll be one of the best players in the game before too long.

However, as for his debut, Braves people are optimistic he’ll get it going early on. However, I’m going to tame expectations a bit. Big league pitching is a different animal and it could take some time to adjust. That said, I expect the transition to be a short one. He’s too talented of a player not to get it figured out sooner rather than later.

For the Braves, the future is now. Atlanta, as well as the rest of baseball, will have their eyes on Acuña, who is batting sixth and starting in left field Wednesday night.

How good are Phillies’ chances of adding Machado or Harper?

This is something I wrote in my “Murray Monday” column. I had been of the belief that the Phillies should wait a couple years for the opportunity to sign Mike Trout, who has strong Philadelphia ties.

Things have changed.

With the timeline accelerated for the Phillies’ rebuild (at least, as of now), I’m more inclined to say that the Phillies not only should but will pursue one of Machado or Harper in the offseason. Some league executives feel the same way, too.

And not only do I think they will pursue one, I will go a step further: the Phillies will sign one of the two and my early prediction is Machado.

Which Indians prospect should fans monitor?

Right-handed pitcher Shane Bieber.

Only 22 years old, Bieber is quickly establishing himself as one of Cleveland’s top prospects. Last year, he burst onto the scene with a 10-5 record in stints with Single-A Lake County, High-A Lynchburg and Double-A Akron, with a 2.86 ERA and 162:10 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 173.1 innings pitched.

That success has continued this season, with a 1.04 ERA in Triple-A. Furthermore, what’s impressing folks is an improved strikeout rate – 28 strikeouts in 26 innings pitched.

That, among other reasons, has the scouting community keeping an eye on Bieber. When his time for a call-up comes is unclear. However, if the success continues, it wouldn’t be a shock to see Bieber in the majors before too long. He’s one to keep an eye on.

What to make of the AL West right now?

Coming into the season, I expected the Houston Astros to run away with the division. I didn’t buy into the Los Angeles Angels as a contender. So far, at least, I’ve been proven wrong. After watching the Angels play, I have a feeling their success will continue throughout the season.

I thought the rotation would be a disaster – I recommended they sign Lance Lynn and when they failed to do so, I gave them a bit of heat. So far, while it hasn’t been great, it’s been better than I anticipated, ranking 17th in the league in ERA with 4.11.

The offense has been fantastic, as expected, ranking fourth in the league in runs scored.

While I believe the Angels are here to stay, I don’t feel the same way about the Oakland Athletics and Seattle Mariners. Both are nice stories, but I anticipate both sliding, with the Athletics’ drop being more significant than the Mariners given the gap in talent between the two teams.

When/if Oakland decides to sell, look for Jonathan Lucroy to be a prime trade target from contending teams. One team that could make sense for Lucroy if their catching situation doesn’t pick up is the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Robert Murray is a baseball writer and reporter for FanRag Sports. He has written previously for MLB Injury News, Sports Injury Alert and Baseball Essential.

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