By Ron Kaplan, contributor

Every year I tell myself I’m really going to study up on my baseball. I get all the magazines, more out of habit than anything else since the information is somewhat repetitive between them and often outdated by the time the season starts. One year, when I was on jury duty, I memorized the projected starting lineups for all the teams. That lasted about a month. When I was a kid, there were ten teams and you really could memorize everyone on the 25-man roster. There wasn’t the huge turnover we have nowadays. (Tell us more, grandpa.)


Most of the JMLers are back this year. A couple have changed teams, a few will no doubt start 2019 in the minors. So here’s what we have so far.

Alex Bregman, Houston Astros, has been the busiest of all the MOTs, between his Youtube channel, dropping in at weddings, and recovering from elbow surgery. Here are a few stories featuring the Astros infielder:

Joc Pederson, LA Dodgers, homered in their spring training openerNice. But will he be a Dodger for much longer?

Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers, is a “senior statesman” at the age of 35. What kind of season will he have as he gets set to perhaps wrest the crown from Hank Greenberg as the all-time Jewish home run king? When you get to be that age (I’ve got socks older than Braun), you have to make adjustments.

Ian Kinsler, who will be 37 on June 22 (sharing a birthday with the NBA’s Omri Casspi), begins 2019 with a new team in a new league, having signed as a free agent by the San Diego Padres. How will that work out? Maybe the addition of mega-FA Manny Machado will propel the previously poor Pods towards pennant possibilities.

Kevin Pillar, Toronto Blue Jays, might also be on a new team by the time spring training ends. Of course, they’ve been saying that for a couple of years now. He is the longest-tenured of all the current Jays.

Will first baseman Rowdy Tellez, Pillar’s teammate who burst on the scene last year in a big waystart the season with the big club?

Will this be the year Atlanta Braves pitcher Max Fried sticks? What about Ryan Sherriff, who appeared in five games for the St. Louis Cardinals before going down with an injury? Sherriff was released and has since signed with the Tampa Bay Rays. Or Zach Weiss, who managed just one appearance for the Cincinnati Reds, giving up two walks and two home runs without retiring a batter? Weiss signed a minor league deal with the Minnesota Twins in the off-season. Or Richard Bleier, one of the few bright spots among Baltimore Orioles pitchers before suffering a season-ending injury? So far, he seems to be off to a good start as he gears up towards opening day. Robert Stock of the Padres also made a good first impression in his debut last season.

Not on anyone’s roster so far? Danny Valencia, the power-hitting utilityman who last played with the Orioles. He’s just four homers shy of the century mark. Hope he gets them someplace, but he has a reputation as a problem child in the clubhouse and has played for seven teams over his nine major league seasons. (Then again, as of this posting Bryce Harper hasn’t been signed either.)

And last but not least, our two MOT managers, Gabe Kapler of the Philadelphia Phillies and Brad Ausmus for thee LA Angels.

The Chicago Cubs have hired two former JML pitchers — Craig Breslow and Josh Zeid — to work in their front office. Breslow, dubbed “the smartest man in baseball” during his 12-year career, will have the title “director of strategic initiatives for baseball operations,” while Zeid, who appeared in 12 games for the Astros in 2013-14, will be a pitching analyst in the player development department.

According to JewishBaseballNews, there are a few more MOTs in spring training, including non-roster invitees such as Jeremy Bleich (Phillies), Rob Kaminsky (Cleveland Indians), Dean Kremer (Orioles), Ryan Lavarnway (NY Yankees), and RC Orlan (Indians). Garrett Stubbs, who is listed on the Astros’ 40-man roster, is also in ST.  Bleich made his ML debut with the Oakland A’s last year, appearing in two games.

Ron Kaplan (@RonKaplanNJ) hosts Kaplan’s Korner, a blog about Jews and sports. He is the author of three books, including The Jewish Olympics: The History of the Maccabiah Games and Hank  Greenberg in 1938: Hatred and Home Runs in the Shadow of War.

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