Cheap Throwback Atlanta Braves Jerseys

On Wednesday, Atlanta Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. hit another leadoff home run against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Acuna’s hit not only helped the Braves beat the Pirates 2-1, but it also made MLB history.

Acuna’s latest home run put him and Braves second baseman Ozzie Albies in unprecedented territory. Per Fox Sports South’s Zach Dillard, Albies and Acuna are the first teammates in baseball history to hit 20+ home runs in the same season before either player turned 22 years old.

Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuña Jr. just became the first teammates in baseball history to hit 20+ home runs in the same season before either player turned 22 years old.

The 20-year-old Acuna has 20 home runs, while the 21-year-old Albies has 21 home runs. Acuna and Albies return to the diamond at 7:10 p.m. Thursday when the Braves play a four-game series against the Miami Marlins.

Cheap Throwback Houston Astros Jerseys

Houston Astros fans — there many reasons to love this team and being able to stay on top of what’s going in Spring Training is one of them. We’re really getting to see the young guns elevate themselves to be a part of this roster soon. Despite what some of us think, the team sees top prospect Francis Martes as a future starter. Here’s why that’s the case.

The Houston Astros 25-man roster is likely going to be pretty much set from now until the end of Spring Training with some minor tweaks with the injury and recovery of Yuli Gurriel. Although it’s understood that likely Marwin Gonzalez fill the gap at first base, there’s still a few position players like Tyler White, A.J. Reed and J.D. Davis to fill the void while Gurriel is out.

But solving that problem is not a difficult solution with the tremendous amount of depth that this team has in its arsenal. But what’s the latest that’s going on the pitching front, another unit that has vast depth?

The latest is that the Houston Astros have big plans for Francis Martes to develop him into a starter for later down the road. It’s highly-unlikely that we’d expect that out of him this season but moving forward, one can certainly start placing their bets on that notion.

Part of that development is that they want him to get a solid change up going so that it increase his repertoire of pitches in his stable. We already know that he has a terrific fast ball as he’s one of our most powerful hurlers, with his breaker being notable as well. But it’s that third pitch that he needs in order to fool batters and A.J. Hinch thinks that could be his changeup.

Here’s what Hinch told Brian McTaggart of MLB.com:

“It’s a sign of maturity and a sign of an understanding it’s going to be an important pitch,” Hinch said. “Especially in the spring, if you don’t dedicate some of your time in the game doing it you’ll never get the proper reps. He’s been better. That would be a huge development for him if we can incorporate the changeup.”

Hinch also added that the club also feels that he is truly a starter over the long-term and that he must incorporate the changeup in order elevate his success exponentially.

Martes will also have to continue to work on his ability to locate correctly as last season was one of encouragement but he would sometimes be placing his pitches all over the place. Decorum and meticulousness are important attributes for a pro pitcher and he’ll have to master that as well if he wants to be a starter.

He’s lost weight coming into camp as well as working on his execution but don’t expect that triple-digit heat pitch to go away as that’s his calling card. But it’d be nice to see a rock-solid change up out of him.

Of course, we know that he’ll likely get his opportunities to develop in the bullpen before making the switch whenever that will be. This team has so much depth at that position, he may be like one of many, who will likely have to start the season at Triple-A Fresno. But we’ll have to see about that as there’s still a lot of Spring Training games left.

Francis pitched encouragingly yesterday in relief against the Washington Nationals, striking out four, allowing one hit, one earned run and walked one through 2.2 innings of work. However, it was a 8-1 losing effort.

 

Cheap Throwback Kansas City Royals Jerseys

Surprise, Ariz.

The Royals put on a Cactus League power display with five home runs against the Mariners on Tuesday at Surprise Stadium. They won 14-9 and remained unbeaten so far this spring.
The game

An ugly first inning did not cause the Royals to shy from the Mariners, who sent a split squad here.

The Royals sent nine men to the plate in back-to-back innings. Jorge Soler, Ryan O’Hearn and Salvador Perez all clubbed at least one homer during that span.

Soler, who didn’t even log a hit in his first two starts, crushed two bombs to left field. One of them traveled about 488 feet, according to the tracking system.

“I just hadn’t seen live pitching in a long time,” Soler said in Spanish. “So you kind of don’t have that timing. But once you start seeing more pitches you start warming up.”

Through the first three innings, the Royals recorded 14 base hits and scored 12 times. Center fielder Paulo Orlando contributed two of the hits, improving his spring hitting line to 5 for 7.

Perez went 3 for 3.
The starter

Wily Peralta’s debut for the Royals was rough. He balked, allowed four earned runs and gave up a first-pitch home run. In 41 pitches, he issued a walk and allowed four hits.

“Just a little flat,” manager Ned Yost said. “There weren’t a lot of swings and misses. Chalk that up as a first outing.”

In one instance, a line drive to left field banged into the padding above the fence, a spot left fielder Soler ran past as he tracked the hit. Soler doubled back and fired a throw to Adalberto Mondesi. Two runs scored on the play.

Peralta also fell victim to errors. Third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert dropped a ground ball and couldn’t throw to first base quickly enough to beat the runner, and shortstop Mondesi did not properly field a chopper up the middle. Both mistakes resulted in unearned runs.

But the Royals bats’ promptly took Peralta, who signed with the Royals in December and is on the 40-man roster, off the hook.

“They’re down six after the first inning and just keeping in the game, staying after it, continuing to grind it out and getting back in the lead there with some great at-bats,” Yost said. “A lot of slug in there today.”
A look in the bullpen

In his first outing of the spring, Kelvin Herrera issued two walks, one of them to start the second inning. But when a line drive deflected off Herrera’s glove, second baseman Whit Merrifield was in the right place to catch it and flip the ball with his glove to Mondesi, who bare-handed it to turn an inning-ending double play.

Right-hander Kevin McCarthy, who pitched 45 innings in relief for the Royals in 2017, strung together a pair of scoreless innings in his second Cactus League appearance. McCarthy allowed a leadoff single but got two ground balls and a strikeout to end the threat in the third.

Eric Stout, a left-hander who spent 2017 at Class AAA Omaha, breezed through the fifth thanks to an inning-ending double play that erased a leadoff single. He struck out two in his two-inning appearance. But not before he lost an 0-2 count to Gordon Beckham, who waited out two balls, then yanked a pitch onto the concourse in left field for a solo homer.
Gone for extras

The Royals registered 10 extra-base hits in the first six innings.

Merrifield doubled and tripled in consecutive innings. Over three games, he’s 5 for 8 with two doubles, a triple and a home run.

All the starters but Cuthbert knocked out a base hit.
Up next

The Royals (3-0-1) host the Cincinnati Reds at 2 p.m. Wednesday in Surprise.

 

The Royals’ Jorge Soler received congratulations after hitting a two-run home run in the second inning of Tuesday’s game against the Mariners in Surprise, Ariz. John Sleezer jsleezer@kcstar.com

Cheap Throwback Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Jerseys

On Saturday, Angels fans across the globe celebrated the informal holiday known as ‘Hei Day. I say “informal” because, well, it was something that I had just made up that morning in order to commemorate the Japanese megastar’s first ever appearance for his new MLB team, the Los Angeles Angels.

We only got to see one facet of Ohtani’s toolkit during that match-up against the Milwaukee Brewers, as he was given the day’s start from the mound. With him putting on his pitching cap meant we wouldn’t get to see any of that sweet swing of his, but instead we’d be treated to a two-inning long look at his immense pitching aptitude. OK, so maybe he didn’t exactly blow any doors off in his much ballyhooed debut, throwing 31 pitches over 1 1⁄3 innings, with two Ks and one walk and having a touch of command issues along the way.

The gigantic caveat to his time on the mound was, of course, that it was not only a meaningless spring training game, but it was just the second spring training game of the 2018 camp. Many great pitchers are still pretty rusty at that point, and that’s true even if you’re an MLB vet, and not a 23-year-old who had only previously pitched professionally in Japan.

That didn’t stop a few of the old fishwrap plodders from churning out some pieces that were exercises in overreacting to the point of hilarity. Publications like the LA Times made it sound like those 1 1⁄3 IP served as the nails in the Ohtani hype coffin, which would have been funny if they weren’t being 100% serious and instead were dripping in sarcasm.

Those same bitter cranks must have felt somewhat disappointed, then, by Ohtani’s performance in today’s away game against the San Diego Padres, in which the newest prized Halo player made his debut at the dish. There wasn’t going to be any opportunity for clicks-via-hysteria today, nope. Shohei Ohtani dusted himself off after Saturday’s outing, picked up his piece of personal lumber and, penciled in at the #2 spot in the lineup, proceeded to show the baseball world that he is indeed a legit threat in both sides of the game.

Ohtani had three ABs this afternoon under the Arizona sun, and he performed swimmingly in each one of them. There weren’t any big fireworks, dingers or power strokes, but instead we saw a batter filled with unending patience, an astute eye for the strike zone, and an ability to make contact when it counted.

In his first AB, for instance, he took two strikes right away and quickly found himself in an 0-2 hole; but then he dug in and settled down, working himself back into a full count and finally drawing a walk on a pitch that may have been tough for other MLB players to lay off of, but not the eagle-eyed Ohtani:

Right away, Ohtani was doing his thing, and his thing is getting on base. He’d draw yet another walk in his second at-bat, setting up his big play of the day during his third at-bat, which came in the third inning. On the first pitch he saw, he made nice contact and put a ball right up the middle of the field, driving in a run in the process. That RBI single would be the cherry on top of Ohtani’s big OBP day, but alas, that’d be all we got to see of him in the contest.

The Angels fans at home must have had smiles from ear to ear at seeing him proving his mettle with the bat, leading to some serious daydreaming in regards to what’s on tap for the rest of his time with the Halos…or maybe that was just me. Either way, Shohei Ohtani looked pretty dang good, but just like his lackluster time on the mound last Saturday, there is a big time caveat on today’s game as well: it’s a meaningless spring training game.

Still, where there’s time to overreact to the bad things, hopefully the grumpiest of baseball scribes can now put out some glowing praise for the biggest MLB import in ages. This is spring training, after all, and the bigger the name, the less middle ground there is to stand on and everything becomes either a boom or a bust for the coming season. Us Angels fans know better, and let’s face it, we’re going to be hyped beyond belief no matter what he does in Tempe.

We’ll get our next chance to see Ohtani on Friday, in which he’ll return to the mound as the Halos’ starter, in either the day’s regular Cactus League game, or the B game that’s currently scheduled. Either way, all eyes will be back on Ohtani, and rightfully so.

Cheap Throwback Los Angeles Dodgers Jerseys

The Dodgers open up spring training this week, with competition for a spot on the 25-man roster very high. Even the bench will be difficult to sort out.

The Dodgers will have some tough decisions to make regarding who makes the final cut on the 25-man roster. The competition for the position players for a bench slot will be very, very high due to the franchise’s depth, and quality depth at that.

I believe that the team will go with nine bullpen arms due to how they like to manage the team and heavily use the pen. That leaves four spots on the bench. And it’s a tough four to select. What I think the bench should be will be different from I think the Dodgers select. I predict that the Opening Day bench will be as followed:

This is assuming that the starting lineup will be Cody Bellinger at first, Logan Forsythe at second, Corey Seager at short, Justin Turner at third, Austin Barnes at catcher, Yasiel Puig in right, Chris Taylor in center, and Joc Pederson in left. Also, the assumption is Andrew Toles not being completely healthy because who knows how he will be coming off a torn ACL?

Utley is a given. His return can be judged as neither good or bad at the moment because we do not know how his real value to the team will play out. Off production and age, he should not even be considered because there are other younger players more deserving of a shot.

But he is a lock for a spot, no matter what happens. You do not bring back an established 39-year-old just to send him to triple-A. He should spare Logan Forsythe and Cody Bellinger at second base and first base, respectively, while bringing veteran leadership and experience.

Matt Kemp is a polarizing pick. He has declined the past few seasons while also taking a shot at Los Angeles as a baseball town in the past. So some fans are not sold on him being worthy of being on the team. But he is owed $21.5 million this season and seems to be going through a bodily transformation that might bode well for him.

The money alone is enough for him to make the major league roster. Front offices will never let over $20 million rot in the minor leagues (although why not?), and Kemp is not an attractive get for other teams, so he will most definitely be staying in Los Angeles. Add in the physical change and the potential he can bring off the bench is intriguing.

But he will need to prove his worth, especially on defense, where Kemp needs to show at least some competence because the 33-year-old has been horrendous as he has declined.

Grandal and Hernandez have been critical pieces to the Dodgers the last three seasons and the team would be foolish not to have them on the roster, and they know it.

Grandal has been the team’s starter behind the plate since 2015, and the front office loves his overall defensive package. However, with his impending free agency, disappointing offensive performance last year, and Austin Barnes’ emergence, Grandal’s only role figures to be a backup.

But he won’t be your typical backup because you can expect him to see more reps than your standard reserve due to his pedigree. But the Dodgers can afford and should trade him because they have Kyle Farmer that can be a capable backup to Barnes.

Enrique Hernandez is a dream player for Andrew Friedman and Co. because of how much they love defensive versatility and platoon matchups. He can play all defensive positions but pitcher and catcher and hits considerably well against left-handed pitching.

He is not a guy who has to play every day (his inability against right-handers shows that), but you can use him on any given night as a defensive replacement. He has proven to be a valuable get for Los Angeles and is a fan favorite. He has done everything that has been asked of him, so there is no reason for him not to return.

With these four making it, it means the likes of Alex Verdugo, Kyle Farmer, Rob Segedin, and a potentially healthy Andrew Toles will be left out. Whether that is right or wrong, who knows?

Naturally, a trade would shake things up. If it were up to me, I would move Grandal and see what you can get for him before he leaves for nothing. And then something would have to be done with Matt Kemp. I am intrigued by him, but I am going into this thinking that we will be getting what he has been the past few years: Bad defensively, declining with the bat, and a negative clubhouse presence. Then the bench would be constructed as:
Enrique Hernandez
Alex Verdugo
Andrew Toles
Rob Segedin/Chase Utley

Verdugo deserves a chance to show what he can do and potentially win the left field starting job for himself. He is the future. Toles, assuming he returns healthy, can be a huge boost. Segedin hasn’t blown us away, but he is a younger version of a 39-year-old Utley, which isn’t good, but he has the potential to do more and is more versatile on defense.

This is an enviable problem to have but leaving guys out will always be tough.

Cheap Throwback Milwaukee Brewers Jerseys

Milwaukee Brewers
Milwaukee Brewers

The Milwaukee Brewers won 86 games last season and put their rebuild firmly in the rear view mirror with their acquisitions of Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain this winter. Last year’s team was projected by most outlets to post a win total somewhere in the mid-70s, leading many to quickly suggest that their success was fluky even as they contended for a playoff spot until the very end of the season. But the Brewers won’t be surprising anyone this season and according to the recently released PECOTA projections from Baseball Prospectus, we should expect our beloved local nine to be right in the thick of the postseason chase once again in 2018.

As their roster stands right now, the Brewers are forecasted to finish with an 83-79 record during the upcoming season. Only seven teams in the National League are projected to finish with a record over .500 and the Brewers are one of them, though PECOTA has them sitting on the outside of the playoff picture. The Dodgers are clearly the class of the NL according to the computer algorithms, with an expected record of 99-63. The Cubs and Nationals are both projected to win their respective divisions as well and finish with matching records of 89-73. Arizona would win the first Wild Card with an 86-76 record, while the Cardinals and Giants would have to go to a tiebreaker for the second Wild Card if they match their 84-78 projections.

PECOTA forecasts the Brewers to finish with a cumulative -4 Fielding Runs Above Average, but that total would also be good enough for sixth-best in the league. Milwaukee’s offense wound up being their Achilles heel last season but the projections think the lineup will be able to produce the league’s fourth-most runs in 2018 at 762. Here’s how PECOTA thinks the starting lineup and bench will look:

If the projections are to be believed, both of Milwaukee’s big winter additions will be their best hitters by WARP in 2018. Lorenzo Cain posted an elite 5.6 WARP in 2017 with Kansas City and the computers believe he’ll continue to be highly productive in his upcoming age-32 season, forecasting 3.5 WARP with a league-average batting line and his usual excellent center field defense. Christian Yelich is projected for 18 home runs and the team’s best True Average at .279, and that may undersell the positive effect that moving to Miller Park could have on his production at the dish. Eric Thames, Domingo Santana, Ryan Braun, Travis Shaw, and Jesus Aguilar are also projected for league-average or better offensive contributions in 2018.

Overall, though, PECOTA expects most of Milwaukee’s biggest producers to take a step back during the upcoming season. With that in mind, it’s certainly encouraging that the Brewers are still projected to have one of the top run-scoring offenses in the league even though none of their returning starters are expected to match their production from last season. One could posit that the team’s offensive ceiling may well be much higher if any or all of Travis Shaw, Eric Thames, Manny Pina, Domingo Santana, or Orlando Arcia approach their numbers from last season.

Run prevention was the strength of the team last year but the loss of Jimmy Nelson has Milwaukee’s staff slated to take a step back in 2018. Their collection of hurlers is projected to finish ninth in the league with 738 runs allowed and no one currently in-house is projected to surpass 2.0 WARP. Zach Davies, Chase Anderson, and Jhoulys Chacin are the three pitchers right now that are ticketed for the Opening Day starting rotation, and all three of them are expected to finish with an ERA between 4.10-4.30. That level of production seems like par for the course for Davies and Chacin but would be quite a sharp regression from the sub-3.00 mark that Anderson compiled in 2017. None of the group battling for the #4 and #5 spots – Brent Suter, Yovani Gallardo, Junior Guerra, Brandon Woodruff, and Aaron Wilkerson – jump off the page with their projections. A healthy Jimmy Nelson would be the far-and-away the top pitcher in the rotation with a 3.58 ERA, but there’s no telling how effective he’ll actually be upon his return from shoulder surgery. Interestingly, PECOTA appears to be pretty high on top pitching prospect Corbin Burnes and projects him to be roughly a league-average starter even before stepping foot on a AAA mound.

Things look better in the bullpen, which figures to be anchored by another All-Star level season from Corey Knebel. Josh Hader and Jacob Barnes ought to form an effective setup combo, and the computers are pretty high on Oliver Drake, too. Jeremy Jeffress and Matt Albers look more like roster filler in the eyes of PECOTA and according to the projections, Adrian Houser and Taylor Williams may be nipping at their heels before too long.

What these projections illustrate are the same sorts of things that have been suggested throughout the winter – it’s a top-heavy National League with only a handful of teams projected to finish with winning records, creating an ideal situation for a team like the Brewers to try and boost their postseason hopes. Five teams have projected win totals between 81 and 86 games, including the Milwaukee Nine, which ought to make for a hotly contested Wild Card race. We have been saying it all offseason, but the numbers make it even easier to see where the team should look to upgrade their roster – in the starting rotation and at second base. There is still time for Slingin’ Stearns to shore up those needs before the regular season begins and give his team a further boost in their quest for a championship.

As always, it’s important to remember to take these projection systems with a grain of salt. The numbers listed are merely the 50th percentile outcomes for each player based on thousands of simulations, so there is plenty of room for variance. The win totals especially have a lot of noise, with a standard deviation of five victories meaning that the Brewers could reasonably fall anywhere between 78 and 88 wins in 2018 as the roster stands today. If I had to bet on players who will outperform their PECOTA projections for next season, I’d put my money on Travis Shaw, Chase Anderson, Christian Yelich, Orlando Arcia, and of course, Junior Guerra.

Cheap Throwback Miami Marlins Jerseys

Miami Marlins co-owner Derek Jeter
Miami Marlins co-owner Derek Jeter

Derek Jeter has taken his share of heat from a disgruntled fan base since taking over as CEO and co-owner of the Miami Marlins in September, primarily for his attempt to slash payroll and increase profit.

But the former New York Yankees shortstop recently had an opportunity to explain why there should be reason for hope.

Jeter was on the cover of the business magazine Fast Company’s February issue and was one of more than 100 business leaders who shared thoughts pertaining to the magazine’s theme for the month: “How to lead with optimism.”

According to Jeter, sometimes the optimistic approach requires short-term sacrifices in order to bring in long-term success.

“When you’re in a position of leadership, every decision you make may not be popular,” Jeter said, according to the magazine.

Marlins fans can resonate with that. Within a span of seven weeks, Jeter and Co. traded four of the team’s top players — Giancarlo Stanton, Dee Gordon, Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich — for a wealth of minor-league prospects. A fifth, catcher J.T. Realmuto, has openly requested to be traded.

While not directly talking about the trades or even specifically about the Marlins in the brief excerpt presented in the magazine, Jeter explained that his basic philosophy from a leadership standpoint prioritizes the success of the organization over the success of an individual.

“People may not agree, but they have to at least respect that you’re doing it with the best interests of the company in mind,” Jeter told the magazine. “There were times when I didn’t like some of the decisions being made about teammates of mine. But I always knew that the ultimate goal was to have the best team on the field.”

Jeter also touched on a couple other points in the excerpt:

▪ On using individualized approaches with each player: “You always hear the phrase, ‘Treat everyone the same.’ Well, treat everyone fairly, but don’t treat everyone the same. There are different personalities you’re dealing with. Some guys you can yell and scream at; others you’ve got to give a hug to, to get the best out of them. The only way you’re able to tell the difference is if you take the time to get to know them.”

▪ On preparing for uncertainty: “They say, ‘The game slows down.’ I think the game slows down when you’re prepared. When you’re not prepared, everything seems to speed up.”

Cheap Throwback Minnesota Twins Jerseys

Per report, the Minnesota Twins could have the inside track to one of the biggest free agents by offering a fifth year on his deal.

The Minnesota Twins have reportedly pondered a five-year deal to prized free agent starter Yu Darvish, per a report from Jon Morosi of MLB.com.

Yu’s suitors

According to the report by Morosi (and gleaned from other reports throughout the offseason), the Twins have discussed a five-year deal with Darvish.

That same report mentioned that the Chicago Cubs are still interested in Darvish, but that their limit is four years. The Los Angeles Dodgers may be willing to go to five years in a deal, but they will need to clear payroll space to avoid having to pay the luxury tax before signing Darvish, so multiple trades would need to happen before the Dodgers could move on Darvish.

Darvish was made an offer by the Milwaukee Brewers, but that was before the team added Lorenzo Cain, Christian Yelich, and Matt Albers, though they still have room to add another free agent, but with Cain and Yelich’s contracts getting larger the next four seasons, there may not be the room for a deal quite to Darvish’s level.

The Philadelphia Phillies have reached out to Darvish as they have to other prominent free agents, hoping to strike a deal with any prominent free agent this winter whose market doesn’t develop, and the interest that Darvish has been receiving likely precludes such a “deal”.

The Rangers have expressed some level of interest, but there have been reports throughout the winter that they do not want to get into the years or the annual dollar figures that are being discussed by Darvish’s camp at this point.

Other teams that have been mentioned have been the Yankees and Mariners, but other acquisitions this winter have likely removed them from the competition for Yu’s services.

So while the Minnesota Twins may not be willing to make the top of the market offer in annual value, their willingness to go to a fifth year could certainly get them into the final decision and shows how series the team is in their pursuit of a top starter this offseason!

Cheap Throwback New York Mets Jerseys

New York Mets first-year manager Mickey Callaway won’t name a closer for the start of the season, opting instead to use a committee approach to close out games.

Callaway, in a recent interview with MLB.com, said he’s planning to rotate Jeurys Familia, AJ Ramos, Anthony Swarzak and left-hander Jerry Blevins in save situations to start the season.

“I don’t think we’re going to name a closer to start the season,” Callaway told MLB.com. “If there are three left-handers coming up in a row, we can use Blevins. We want to make sure everyone is pitching when they have the best chance to be successful. I think we have four options to close games.”

Callaway did not indicate whether he would change his approach and name a full-time closer at any point later in the regular season.

Callaway also said that the Mets plan to have Familia throw multiple-inning relief outings in spring training in order to get him ready for extended outings in the regular season. Familia had a franchise single-season 51 saves in 2016 but missed most of last season because of a blood clot in his pitching shoulder.

Ramos, an All-Star closer with the Miami Marlins in 2016, has 99 saves over the past three seasons. He was expected to compete for the closer role with the Mets after New York acquired the right-hander in a trade with Miami last July.

Swarzak signed a two-year deal with the Mets last month after posting a career-best 2.33 ERA in 70 combined appearances last season with the White Sox and Brewers.

Blevins, an 11-year veteran with five career saves, went 6-0 with a 2.94 ERA in 75 appearances last season, his third with the Mets.

Cheap Throwback New York Yankees Jerseys

Throwback New York Yankees
Throwback New York Yankees

Go behind the N.B.A.’s curtain every week with Marc Stein’s weekly newsletter. Sign up here and we’ll send Marc’s expert insights directly to your inbox.

• LeBron James may not be moving to Los Angeles after all.

My best advice when it comes to the looming third installment of the LeBron Sweepstakes: Don’t just assume he’s going to the Lakers in free agency … and don’t write off the Cavaliers yet. King James’ free agency choice is the story line that will lord over the whole league in 2018, but I tend to believe he’s still months away from knowing what he wants to do, despite the persistent chatter that he’s Hollywood-bound.

As his longtime business partner and confidante Maverick Carter stated rather clearly in a November radio interview with Rich Eisen: “When you win as an athlete, that matters the most.” Consider that a pretty decent hint that James is liable to take a long look around to see which franchise can offer him the best hope of challenging Golden State and adding to his three championship rings, whether that’s the Lakers, Houston, Philadelphia, Team X that hasn’t even been mentioned as a possible destination — or, yes, his hometown Cavs.

• Markelle Fultz won’t play another game in his rookie season.

This is the old reverse jinx trick sportswriters love. That’s right: I’m openly hoping I’m wrong here, that just writing this leads to a Fultz comeback after the All-Star break and a stream of I-told-you-sos from angry Philadelphians. But the reality is that it’s near impossible now to envision Fultz playing again before at least summer league, thanks to the mysterious evaporation of the shooting mechanics that helped make him the No. 1 overall pick last June.

Fultz’s teammates, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, missed their entire rookie seasons with the Sixers, yet Fultz’s case is so much scarier and sadder. With Embiid and Simmons, their injury issues were easy to pinpoint. When you hear Sixers Coach Brett Brown speak — “I’ve never experienced anything like this,” Brown said this week — it only amplifies fears that what’s going on with Fultz is being caused by some sort of evil spell derived from whatever plagued the former Los Angeles Dodgers infielder Steve Sax on his throws to first base. (An oft-forgotten part of the story that offers some hope for the Sixers and their fans: Sax eventually got past his 1983 woes to win a World Series with the Dodgers in 1988 and thrive in the field for the Yankees in 1989.)