MLB Preseason Preview and Power Rankings (5-1)

5.Boston Red Sox

Preview- The Red Sox were among the free agent winners this off season. They signed Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez, and swapped Yoenis Cespedes out of a crowed outfield to bring back SP Rick Porcello. The Porcello move was a good one, they bring back a talented, 26 year old pitcher, and only lose an outfielder who struggled for them, and they didn’t have room for anyway. As for the Sandoval and Ramirez signings, they are being overblown. Sandoval is not that good of a hitter in the regular season, and Ramirez in left field is going to be an adventure.

The reason they are rated this high is the team around those players. Mookie Betts, Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Mike Napoli, Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval, Xander Bogaerts, and eventually Rusney Castillo, will make for a very good line up. They may be overpaying Ramirez and Sandoval, but they have the money to bite that bullet. Bogaerts struggled his rookie year, but has been working hard with a hitting instructor, and seems poised to put together a breakout year. Ortiz keeps hitting, despite his age, and has yet to show any signs of regression.

What may hurt them, is their rotation. Porcello is a good pitcher, but after him, there is only question marks. Clay Bucholz and Justin Masterson have shown potential in their careers, but have been mediocre the last couple of years. They really need an elite pitcher to put at the top of the rotation. They are tentative to give a prospect from their deep farm system in order to bring one back, but they may eventually cave in. For now, their lineup alone makes them a top 5 team.

Player to Watch- OF Mookie Betts- While all eyes have been on Kris Bryant this spring, there is a different player who has been flying under the radar. Mookie Betts is a star in the making, and is ready to become a top outfielder in the game. He will lead off this year for the Red Sox, and is a candidate to hit over .300 and steal 40 bases.

  1. Los Angeles Angels

Preview- When people think of the Angels, they think of Mike Trout. Trout is the best player in the league, and probably the new face of the MLB after Derek Jeter retired. He is the favorite to repeat as AL MVP, but what about the rest of the team?

This team led the majors in wins last year, with 98. They only had one major loss in the offseason, and that was 2B Howie Kendrick. They shipped him up the freeway to the Dodgers in exchange for SP Andrew Heaney. They downgraded at second base, where Johnny Giavotella will start this year, but get a much needed boost to their pitching rotation. They also made some minor signings to boost their bullpen depth, and brought in OF Matt Joyce for outfield depth.

The rest of their team remains mostly the same. Kole Calhoun, Albert Pujols, Erik Ayabar, CJ Cron, Chris Ianetta, the Angels are getting above average production from almost every position except for second base. The lineup doesn’t have the name power some of the other top five teams have, but it will be just as productive.

The concern will be their pitching rotation. First, there is Jered Weaver, who is talented, but has had issues with a loss in velocity the last couple of years. Garret Richards is coming off an injury, and it’s no guarantee he will be able to shake the rust off this year. CJ Wilson has been marred in a decline over the past couple years as well. How good this rotation may come down to the performances of young pitchers Andrew Heaney and Matt Shoemaker. The Angels aren’t the best team on paper, but they are a well-constructed team, and should once again be at the top of the standings.

Player to Watch- SP Matt Shoemaker- Shoemaker was the runner up in the AL Rookie of the Year race, and if he can continue to develop could be the key to the Angels taking the next step.

Bryce Harper

Bryce Harper (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  1. Washington Nationals

Preview- Everyone’s favorite team to win it all, they have more holes than most like to talk about. They are a very good team, but they aren’t as good overall as the two teams ranked above them on this list.

To give credit where it is due, their pitching rotation is fantastic. With Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Max Scherzer, Jordan Zimmerman, and Doug Fister as their starting pitchers, they are an almost lock to make the postseason. The issue will be whether they score runs or not.

Ian Desmond and Anthony Rendon are legitimately good hitters, but after them, the lineup is mediocre. There is no reason to believe that Ryan Zimmerman will make a comeback. He is injury prone, and when he is on the field, he isn’t even that good anymore. Bryce Harper is young, but this will mark three straight years that everyone thinks will be a breakout year, and it hasn’t happened yet. Jayson Werth, Denard Span, and Dan Uggla round out a lineup that is mostly underwhelming. To make it worse, Rendon is dealing with various injury issues entering the season, so his status for now is up in the air.

They are still going to be a good team, but people are getting ahead of themselves in saying they are the favorites to win it all. They have a chance to win, but as a Phillies fan, I remember what happened to the Phillies when they had an all-star rotation but an underwhelming lineup. If they want to win, they are going to need that breakout from Harper now, because their lineup isn’t good enough without it.

Player to Watch- OF Michael Taylor- Span will miss a chunk of April to start out the season, giving Taylor a chance to play. He is a promising prospect, and with a good April, can steal Spans spot permanently, and make it a little more likely they win it all this year.

2. St Louis Cardinals

Preview- The Cardinals are the most consistent team in baseball. While every other team is like a roller coaster and has its ups and downs, the Cardinals are a constant. They may not always be among the best teams in the league, but they are always at least there in the playoffs. This year they have as good a chance as anyone to win it all.

The lineup is talented from top to bottom. Matt Adams will finally get consistent playing time, and Kolten Wong will get a full year. Jason Heyward has struggles his last two years, but maybe the change of scenery will get him back on track. Yadier Molina, Matt Carpenter, and Matt Holiday round out a lineup that is good almost from top to bottom.

Their rotation may be even better. Adam Wainwright is as good as almost any pitcher. After him, they have two very promising young pitchers in Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha. The rotation is rounded out by John Lackey and Lance Lynn, who are both mid 3 era pitchers. Their rotation may not be as good as the Nationals, but barring an injury, they should be among the best in the league still.

Few teams have been as successful as the Cardinals have the last decade. They not only make the playoffs every year, but also have been able to have success in the playoffs, unlike the Nationals and Dodgers, who they are ranked in between. With a top 10 pitching rotation, and a top 10 lineup, they will be amongst the best teams in the league, with the track record to back it up.

Player to Watch- 2B Kolten Wong- Wong was unimpressive in year one, but finished strong in the second half, hitting 11 homeruns. Expect him to raise his average this year. Wong hit over .300 in the minors, and should be expected to do the same in the majors. He also has decent power and speed, with his ceiling being a 20-20 type of hitter.

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers

Preview- The Dodgers are the most talented team on paper, but they were the most talented team last year as well, and all it got them was a first round exit. It’s hard to put them anywhere other than at number one with how much talent they have, but there is going to be that concern of what they will do when they get to the playoffs again.

With all the moves, they made in the off season, trading for Howie Kendrick and Jimmy Rollins, signing Brandon McCarthy, and brining in Cuban prospect Hector Olivera, their best move was trading Matt Kemp. Not because they brought back a promising catcher in Yasmani Grandal, but because it opened up a spot for Joc Pederson on the roster.

The Olivera signing actually was a head scratcher. Did it allow them to bring in a promising player? Yes, but it blocked another promising player from having a space on the roster, Alex Guerrero. Guerrero, another Cuban prospect, was looking very promising, and in line to play third base before the Olivera signing. Now his spot on the team in up in the air. The infield and outfield were already packed, and third was really the only chance he had at playing.

The pitching rotation is probably the second best behind the nationals. Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson, there aren’t very many rotations better than that. Their lineup is even better on paper. Adrian Gonzalez, Howie Kendrick, Jimmy Rollins, Pederson, Carl Crawford, and Yasiel Puig make for an imposing line up.

The problem is, just because you throw a bunch of all stars together it doesn’t mean they will be the best team. It didn’t work for the Bobby Valentine Red Sox, didn’t work for the Marlins a couple years ago, so there is no guarantee it will work for the Dodgers.

Player to Watch- OF Joc Pederson- Pederson has the potential to hit 20-20 in his first year, and to maybe even be a 30-30 player. His potential is sky high, and having a player like Pederson up in the majors is going to be great for the game as a whole.

MLB Pre Season Preview and Power Rankings 10-6

10.Cleveland Indians

Preview- Despite averaging less than three runs a game after the all-star break, the Indians were still competing for the last wildcard spot until the 159th game. This was because of a tremendous, young, pitching rotation. Corey Kluber, the reigning AL CY Young winner, led the rotation. While some people expect Corey Kluber to regress a little bit, there is little reason to believe last year was a fluke except the fact that he had never pitched that well before. After Kluber, they also have Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, Gavin Floyd, and Danny Salazar. Bauer and Salazar both posted ERA’s over four, but are both young, and showed a lot of promise last year. Floyd is coming off an injury, but before he was injured, had an ERA under 3. Carrasco posted an ERA of 2.55 over 133 innings, with 140 K’s.

The issue for the Indians will be their hitting and defense. On defense, they led the league in errors. Their infield defense was particularly bad, where injuries stretched them thin. On offense, they were boosted by the breakout performance of Michael Brantley. Unlike with Kluber, some regression is expected for Brantley. He will still be a good hitter, but his BABIP last year was over inflated, so his average should be expected to dip a little bit. This along with him turning 28, which is usually the age where steals start to go down. This means we should expect a slight regression across the board for Brantley, but for him to still be an overall, good player. Indians fans should also expect some improvement out of Jason Kipnis. The addition of Brandon Moss should also help, as most likely a healthier season overall for the tem. The Indians will once again push for a playoff spot.

Player to Watch- SS Francisco Lindor- Lindor has been one of the best prospects in baseball for a while now, and should finally make his debut this year, giving a huge boost to the lineup.

  1. Toronto Blue Jays

Preview- There are few teams with as much power as the Blue Jays have. Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion are both going to hit at least 30 homeruns if healthy, and could reach 40 with good years. After that, Josh Donaldson also has 30+ homerun potential. Donaldson hit 29 last year, despite being marred in a slump for part of the season, and playing in Coliseum. Besides the power hitters, they have Jose Reyes, who continues to be one of the best hitting SS’s in the league. The additions of Michael Saunders and Russell Martin should prove to be small improvements. Beyond that, there are some holes at the bottom of the lineup. Dalton Pompey was a good minor league hitter, but still needs to prove he can hit in the Majors. They are also pretty weak at second base.

Their pitching rotation also has a lot of promise. Starting Pitchers Drew Hutchinson, Aaron Sanchez, and Daniel Norris, all have the potential to be anywhere from middle-of-the-rotation pitchers, to potentially top end talent, but have yet to show it in the MLB. Sanchez and Norris have barley even played in the Majors yet. Sanchez has worked mostly out of the bullpen, where he had a lot of success. As for Norris, he has one start and it wasn’t very good. There will be growing pains, but overall, their pitching rotation should be good. Their bullpen is still pretty weak though. Overall, they should be able to push for a playoff spot in an AL East that is weak.

Player to Watch- SP Drew Hutchinson- Hutchinson has the most potential of all the young Blue Jays pitchers, mostly because he has the most experience. He already showed the ability to miss bats in the MLB, and it isn’t rare to see young pitchers drastically improve their ERA . Expect him to get his ERA down to around 3.5 this year, and to continue to strike hitters out. There is a lot of promise here.

  1. Pittsburgh Pirates

Preview – After being bad for such a long time, the Pirates are finally a winning team. The question is can they improve even more and become a team that can win playoff games? They have now made the postseason in each of the last two years, falling in the divisional round to the Cardinals in 2013, and to the Giants in the Wildcard play in game last year.

Everyone knows about how good OF Andrew McCutchen is, being probably the second best OF in the game, only behind Mike Trout. Neil Walker has become one of the better home run hitters at second base, having a pace of 20 homeruns in every year since 2012. He has had some chronic back issues, but managed to play all of last year. Walker is in a contract year, and is a candidate for an even bigger breakout this year. They also have Starling Marte in the OF. While Marte has had his share of struggles in his young career, he put it all together in the second half last year, with a line of .348/.408/.567. The 30+ steals will continue to be there, and a sharp uptick in power number wouldn’t be surprising this year. He is another breakout candidate on this Pirates team. Pedro Alvarez is always going to struggle to make contact, but the power should come back this year. The lineup should be able to score runs this year.

The rotation is good as well. Francisco Liriano, Jeff Locke, Gerrit Cole, and Vance Worley should all be able to keep their ERA around 3.5. Cole in particular has a chance to really improve. Overall, the Pirates should again be in that wildcard spot, but they may need that breakout from Gerrit Cole if they want to be able to win a playoff series. Otherwise, it may be hard for them to win a series if they get matched up against a team who can throw out a true ace again.

Player to Watch – OF Gregory Polanco- Polanco had a disappointing rookie year, but has the talent to be one of the better hitters on the team.

  1. Detroit Tigers

Preview- Despite being one of the winningest teams over the past three years, the Tigers have little to show for it. They have made the postseason in every year since 2011, and even made the World Series once. Despite that, they have had no parades, and wear no rings on their fingers.

There is a lot to like about this team. For one, their lineup should be very good.  Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Ian Kinsler, Yoenis Cespedes, and J.D. Martinez make for a phenomenal top of the lineup. Miggy is coming off a down year, but that’s a down year by his standards. He was still one of the best hitters in Baseball, and still finished with over 100 RBI’s. Yoenis Cespedes is also coming off a down year, but with his raw power, there is reason to expect a bounce back. They also have a couple of young players in Anthony Gose and Nick Castelanos, who have the potential to be very good as well.

Losing Max Scherzer will hurt their pitching rotation, but even without him, it is still decent. They have David Price as their ace, and then Anibal Sanchez, and Alfredo Simon who are good pitchers as well. Justin Verlander will start the season on the DL, but he has been a league average pitcher at best the past two years, so missing him won’t hurt them too much.

What has been, and still is, their weakness, is the bullpen. The bullpen is league average during the season, but hasn’t been dependable at all in the postseason. A full season of Joakim Soria will probably help, but with Joe Nathan and his 4.81 ERA still in the closers role, it will again be hard to depend on late leads for the Tigers. They should at least be a playoff team again though. Who knows what will happen once they get there though.

Player to Watch- 3B Nick Castellanos- He was relatively unimpressive last year, but this is what he has done in the first year at every level. He could definitely take a big step this year.

  1. Seattle Mariners

Preview- The Mariners, like the Marlins, are receiving a lot of hype this season. With the Mariners though, that hype may be warranted. They have a lineup with a lot of potential, and already had a great pitching staff.

Their staff is headlined by Felix Hernandez, who after Clayton Kershaw may be the best pitcher in the league. James Paxton was looking like a terrific pitcher last year before having to miss four months with a shoulder injury. Taijuan Walker has been one of the more hyped pitching prospects in the last few years, and will finally make his full season debut this year. Hisashi Iwakuma is also in the rotation, and while he may not be as well known as Walker and King Felix, he has been one of the most under rated pitchers of the last couple of years, and should continue to produce.

The lineup isn’t quite as good, but as said above, it has potential. The top of the lineup is Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager, Austin Jackson, and Nelson Cruz. While those four are all very good, the line up gets weaker after that. Dustin Ackley and Seth Smith aren’t terrible hitters, but they aren’t very good either. Logan Morrison has showed potential in a few years, but lately has had off the field issues, which has affected his play. Catcher Mike Zunio is probably the best defensive catcher behind Yadier Molina, and can hit 20+ homeruns, but he hit under .200 last year. If he can get his average up, he could be one of the best catchers in the league. This could finally be the year they make the playoffs. With a great rotation, and a decent lineup, there is a good chance they make the playoffs for the first time in a while.

Player to Watch- SS Brad Miller- Miller has showed flashes of greatness, but hasn’t been able to show any consistency. He is a potential 20-20 player though. If he can improve his approach, and find some consistency, he can be another great hitter to add to the top of the lineup.

MLB Pre-Season Preview and Power Rankings 15-11 (Dark Horse Teams)

15.Baltimore Orioles

Preview- The Orioles have made the playoffs in two of the last three years, but have fallen in the division round both times. Their lineup has been the reason they have had success. They have finished in the top 10 in runs scored the last two years. That has a lot to do with the emergence of Adam Jones, who in the last three years, has been a top 10 outfielder, showing 30+ homerun power with a BA around .290. Besides Jones, the O’s have 1B Chris Davis, C Matt Wieters, 3B Manny Machado, SS JJ Hardy, OF Alenjandro De Aza, and DH Steve Pearce. They lost OF Nelson Cruz in the off season, but it is reasonable to expect a bounce back year from Chris Davis, which would make up for the loss of Cruz. Machado has had his own issues the last couple of years, but is young, and very talented. If he could get his head together, he could still become a top 3B in the league. After that, both Pearce and De Aza really had nice seasons for the O’s last year, with De Aza coming over at the trade deadline and putting together a great second half.

The concern for this team is going to be pitching. They don’t have a bad pitching rotation, in fact, they finished top 10 in team ERA last year. The issue is the lack of an ace. When they get to the playoffs, they don’t have that go to guy to match up against the other team, and it has cost them. Chris Tillman, Wei-Yen Chen, Bud Norris, and Miguel Gonzalez are all decent pitchers, but if they are matched up against an ace like David Price, Felix Hernandez, Chris Sale, or Corey Kluber in the post season, whom are you going to take to pitch better? The O’s are a talented team, and should once again push for a playoff spot, but if they want to win, they need an ace.

Player to Watch- SP Kevin Gausman – Luckily, they may have that ace. Kevin Gausman was very good for them in his 20 starts last year, and has the potential to be even better. He could be the true, top of the rotation pitcher, they need to win a playoff series.

  1. San Diego Padres

Preview- The Padres surprised everyone this season by wheeling and dealing to bring in a lot of talent to their team. They made a deal with the Dodgers to bring in OF Matt kemp. Switched a couple prospects to the Braves to acquire OF Justin Upton. They got OF Wil Myers back from the Rays in a three team 11 player deal, and signed James Shields in free agency. All of the moves are upgrades on paper, but there is definitely concern of whether these players will fit in with the Padres. Wil Myers struggled to hit last year in Tropicana Field last year. The Trop is deep to center, but still ranks around the middle of ball parks as far as the home run factor. Now he moves to probably the toughest ball park to hit home runs in, PETCO Park. It’s the same issue with Justin Upton, though the move from Turner Field to PETCO isn’t quite as big of a difference. Matt Kemp is in the same boat as Upton, as his former ballpark, Dodger Stadium, was already a tough hitter’s park, but the concern for him is always health. Other hitters on this team include 2B Jedd Gyorko and C Derick Norris. The lineup has talent, but it will be tough for a team of power hitters like they have to find success in this ballpark, and they may have been better off going after hitters who can play small ball

James Shields on the other hand, should have no trouble fitting in. In a ballpark where even a mediocre pitcher can look good, a pitcher like Shields should have no trouble getting outs. The rest of their rotation isn’t bad either. Ian Kennedy, Andrew Cashner, and Tyson Ross are all good pitchers, with the wildcard being Brandon Morrow. The Padres should at least push for a playoff spot, but despite the additions, they still have some concerns.

Player to Watch- OF Wil Myers- The former rookie of the year has yet to find his power stroke, and PETCO won’t help that. He has the raw power to hit here though, he just needs to tap into it.

  1. Chicago Cubs

Preview- The Cubs may have the youngest lineup with the most potential in baseball. With hitters like 3B Kris Bryant, OF Jorge Soler, 2B Javier Baez, SS Starlin Castro, 1B Anthony Rizzo, and eventually SS Addison Russell, if they can find the space for him. The future is very bright for the Cubs.  They also have a handful of talented veterans in OF Chris Coghlan, OF Dexter Fowler, and C Miguel Montero. Even after the group of prospects above, their farm system is still very good, with several other prospects having a chance to be good players in the MLB when they ae promoted.

Their pitching is also good, though could use some improvement. They signed Jon Lester in the offseason, which gives them an elite pitcher at the top of their rotation. After that, they have a handful of successful, though underwhelming, pitchers in Jake Arietta, Jason Hammel, and Kyle Hendricks. Three pitchers who are good, especially for middle of the rotation pitchers, but are not going to overpower opposing hitters. Their fifth pitcher though is Travis Wood, who had an ERA over 5 last year. That is the one place on this team they can stand to upgrade. With a stocked farm system, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Cubs traded for a starting pitcher at mid-season, Maybe Cole Hamels. If not, they may wait until the offseason, and go after a free agent like Jordan Zimmerman. They also secretly have a very good bullpen. As a unit, the bullpen’s ERA was 3.61, good for 15th in the majors. The strength of the bullpen is the back end though, where Pedro Strop, Hector Rondon, and Neil Ramirez all had an ERA under 2.5. Remember, the Royals got to the World Series with a lot of help from their talented, young, bullpen.

Player to Watch- Everyone- Seriously, pick a name and they are a candidate for a breakout year. Theo Epstein has turned this team around, and Cubs fans should be very excited. It might not be this year, but with a little luck, it wouldn’t be a surprise if they made a push this year.

  1. Miami Marlins

Preview– The Marlins made a lot of moves in the off season, but I am not as high on them as some other people are. Are they a good team? Yes, they are, but not World Series contenders like some analysts like to predict. A lot of their off season acquisitions are being over rated by the media. Dee Gordon might be fast, but he has a terrible approach for a leadoff hitter. Someone with his speed should be getting better than a .320 OBP, and should be making more contact, not striking out over 100 times. He will help, but his talents are being exaggerated after a fluky first half where he hit over .300. SP Mat Latos also came to Miami, and while he is talented, he has had an abundance of health concerns the last year and a half, and it has affected his ability. After missing about two months last year, he came back with his velocity down over 2 mph, and his strikeout rate fell from 8.4 in the prior years to just 6.5. While you could say that was just him being rusty and shaking off the injury, his injury issues carried into the offseason as well. While he should be a good pitcher still, there is no reason to think he will magically get better and be an ace again. People also talk about the acquisition of SP Dan Haren as if it is something special, but his ERA over the past three seasons is around 4.3, so he isn’t much more than a fifth starter.

So why do I have them at 12 if I don’t like their off season? Because the rest of their team was already good. OF Giancarlo Stanton has more power than anyone in the majors. He can hit over 40 homeruns even playing in a spacious ball park. They also have OF Christian Yelich, who is a star in the making. Jose Fernandez is an ace, but he will miss some time recovering from Tommy Johns still. Henderson Alvarez is a decent pitcher as well, though he isn’t the type to overpower hitters. Their time may come, but let’s not jump the gun on this team.

Player to Watch- OF Marcell Ozuna- Has shown the power, but not the consistency. With a deeper lineup, he should get a chance to break out this year, and really show his talent.

  1. Chicago White Sox

Preview- While everyone is talking about the Marlins and Cubs as the dark horse team this year, people are overlooking the team on the South side of Chicago. Maybe the Cubs have a brighter future than the Sox, but the White Sox are more ready to win right now.

Starting with the reigning Rookie of the Year, Jose Abreu is potentially the best first basemen in baseball right now, and seems to be improving. Scouts once thought he would merely be a power hitter, he proved to be a good, overall hitter, showing both power and the ability to hit for average. They also have Alexei Ramirez, who is one of the best hitting shortstops in the league. They have OF Melky Cabrera, who continues to be a talented all around hitter even though he has been on five different teams in the past six years. They added Adam LaRoche as well, who should be able to put together a very good year in the hitter friendly confines of US Cellular Field. Their pitching is good as well. Chris Sale is a top 10 pitcher in the league, and while there was some injury concerns coming into spring training, he seems to be in mid-season form. The addition of Jeff Samardzija gives them a second ace at the top of their rotation. After them, they have another solid pitcher in Jose Quintana, who posted a 3.32 ERA, with over 170 K’s. The back end of their rotation leaves something to be desired though. John Danks and Hector Noesi both posted ERA’s over 4.5 last year. Noesi still has a chance to improve as a pitcher, but what they got last year from Danks will probably be what they get this year. Their bullpen is good though, with only one of their bullpen arms posting an ERA over 3 last year. The addition of David Robertson as closer will be a huge boost. They are the dark horse team that no one is talking about.

Player to Watch- OF Adam Eaton- We know how good Abreu is, but another up and coming player on the Sox, is Eaton. He can be a great leadoff hitter if he can stay healthy, that’s a big if though. He has missed a lot of time in his short career.

MLB Pre Season Preview and Power Rankings 20-16

20. New York Yankees-

Preview- On paper, the Yankees should be a good team. After last year though, what is on paper means nothing. Yankees won free agency last year, but many of the players they signed disappointed, and their rotation feel apart at the hinges because of injuries.

Even before Masahiro Tanaka was hurt though, they still weren’t playing good. The lineup has talent, but is full of under achievers, and injury risks. Carlos Beltran is a borderline Hall of famer, but he seems to be on his last legs. Brian McCann is also starting to decline, as his BA fell under .240 last year. Jacoby Ellsbury is productive when healthy, but he has missed significant time over several seasons. Mark Teixera hasn’t been good for a couple years now, and while Didi Gregorius is good with the glove, he has still yet to show he can handle a bat.

As for their pitching, Tanaka looks like the real deal, but there are many question marks after that. Can Michael Pineda stay on the field? He has missed most of his two years with the Yankees. Can CC Sabathia still be a solid pitcher even though his fastball velocity has taken a nose dive? So far the answer to that has been no. Ivan Nova has also dealt with injury issues, and while he has shown flashes of greatness, he has been inconsistent. Nathan Eovaldi was a solid addition to the rotation, but despite the talent in the rotation, there is no guarantee it will translate to the games.

For now Yankees seem to be looking at the third straight year out of the playoffs.

Player to Watch: CP Dellin Betances- One area of the Yankees that should be good is their bullpen. Betances is competing with Andrew Miller for the role of closer, but the smart money is one Betances to win it. He showed tons of potential last year, finishing with an ERA of 1.40 over 97.2 innings.

  1. Kansas City Royals-

Preview- The Royals made a miracle run all the way to the World Series last year, before falling to the San Francisco Giants. Expect a major step back this year though. Not only did they lose SP James Shields, who gave them a 3.21 ERA over 227 innings, but they were over achieving last year, and only clicked at the right time.

Take a look at their lineup, it just isn’t that talented. Only two players last year showed adequate offensive production, Lorenzo Cain and Alex Gordon. Both of them had an OPS + of over 100. After that it was just a group of players who weren’t really hitting. Eric Hosmer continues to dispaoint, as he has yet ti live up to the potential he showed his rookie year. Hosmer was good they year before that, but that year is now sandwiched in between two mediocre years. Mike Moustakas can hit for power, but his mechanics are terrible, and he goes on long cold streaks that can kill his team. The only other hitter of significance is Alcides Escobar, a gold glove defensive talent, who can get on base and steal when he has to. Overall though, they have no one hitter to rely on, just a handful of decent hitters, supported by streaky guys, and underachievers.

On the mound, they have a terrific bullpen, and an underwhelming rotation. Yordano Ventura and Danny Duffy both have potential, but neither have shown enough yet to be completely confident in. After that Edison Volquez and Chris Young join the rotation, and they have already proven you can’t rely on them for various reasons. Overall, this is just a decent team, which caught lightning in a bottle because of their great defense and bullpen. Problem is, lightning rarely strikes the same place twice.

Player to Watch- Yordano Ventura- He showed a lot of promise, but still has things to work on. His 1.3 WHIP and 20% strikeout rate leaves a lot to be desired. Could be a star though.

  1. San Francisco Giants-

Preview- I know, how can I rank the two teams in the world series outside the top 15. Like the Royals, this is a team that overachieved last year. The squeaked into the playoffs, clinging onto that second wildcard spot, and then started playing really well. They fully deserve the title last year for their play down the stretch, but it doesn’t make them a good team.

Lets start with their rotation. Madison Bumgarner is a great pitcher, but at 24, he threw 270 pitches last year. He could be in for a slight regression this year. After that, Matt Cain has been terrible of late, and hasn’t had an ERA under 4 since 2012. Tim Hudson had a great first half of the year, but posted an ERA of 4.98 over the second half, and will turn 40 in July. Jake Peavy was good for the Giants last year, but he hasn’t had two straight years pitching over 30 games since 2007, and is turning 34. After that there is Tim Lincecum, whose down fall had been noted by everyone.

Their hitting isn’t much better. They replace Pablo Sandoval with Casey Mcgehee, who has a line of .249/.312/.353, over the past three seasons. They have Brandon belt, who despite being a breakout canidate every year, has yet to do so. A middle infield of Joe Panik and Brandon Crawford, both of whom are decent guys to have, but won’t light up the box score or have any great contribution to the team. Norichika Aoki, and Angel Pagan are both sub par hitters as well. The offensive production on this team will mostly come down to Buster Posey and Hunter Pence. Posey is the best hitting catcher in baseball, and Pence has down well for himself in San Francisco. They wont be enough to make up for the struggles of the rotation though.

Player to Watch- SP Matt Cain- If Giants have any hope of repeating, Cain needs to regain his form. He used to be a top 20 pitcher, but he like Tim Lincecum has just lost it. It may look too late for Lincecum, but Cain may still get it together.

  1. Oakland Athletics-

Preview- The A’s put a lot into trying to win last year, and fell on their faces. In doing so, they lost many talented players, and have nothing left from those trades to speak for it. They traded SS prospect Addison Russell to bring back starting pitchers Jason Hammel and Jeff Sarmardzija, and neither of them are still on the team. They sent OF Yoenis Cespedes to Boston to bring back SP Jon Lester, and Lester left in free agency.

They also traded away star 3B Josh Donaldson to bring back 3B Brett Lawrie in the off-season. Lawrie was once a highly regarded prospect, but has failed to live up to the hype. OF Brandon Moss was also traded to Cleveland. Their three best power hitters have all been trade within one year.

What have they added in the off season? Well Billy Butler, who has been as unimpressive as it gets among DH’s. They also added Ben Zobrist and Ike Davis. Zobrist is a decent hitter, but is over rated by the general public. This is another classic Billy Beane team, one put together with recycled parts.

There is no reason to worry about the pitching. For as long as Billy Beane has been there they have lost pitchers, only to replace them with other good pitchers from their farm system. Their minor leagues is a factory for starting pitchers. They still have Sonny Gray, who has proven to be a very good pitcher. While many of the other names in the rotation aren’t super impressive, the history of this team tells me they will still all do good.

Player to Watch- 3B- Brett Lawrie- Lawrie was once a very highly regarded prospect, but it just hasn’t panned out yet. He looked like a player who was going to hit 20-20 regularly. The A’s are hoping the change of scenery can get him going.

English: New Hampshire Fisher Cats catcher, Tr...

English: New Hampshire Fisher Cats catcher, Travis d’Arnaud. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  1. New York Mets

Preview- The Mets have a very bright future. Their rotation is stocked with young talent. Matt Harvey looked like one of the best pitchers in the league two years ago, before having Tommy John surgery. Jacob deGrom is the reigning rookie of the year, and while he was not as higly regarded coming out of the minors as his teammates, looks to be the real deal. They also have a couple pitchers still waiting in the wings, like Noah Syndergaard and Rafeal Montero. Zack Wheeler has also impressed thus far, but recently underwent Tommy Johns and will miss the season.

The issue is going to be hitter. While their lineup still leaves a lot to be desired. It has improved immensely from recent years. Michael Cuddyer, Juan Lageres, Curtis Granderson, Lucas Duda, David Wright, and Travis d’Arnaud make for a unimpressive, but still decent lineup. If they want to really press for a title in the coming years, they will have to find some more hitting prospects.

The question is can they win this year? They can certainly be in the mix this year, especially with that rotation. As far as making the playoffs, they may still be a year off. Harvey may have to readjust to the majors, and is most likely on a pitch count this year. They are still a year away from having their full rotation as well. They are going to be a dangerous team down the road though, especially if they can find a way to flip one of their stockpile of young pitchers into a equally good young bat.

Player to Watch- C Travis d’Arnaud- d’Arnaud was once the prize of the Phillies farm system. Then he was flipped to Toronto to bring back Roy Halladay, and then flipped to the Mets in exchange for R.A. Dickey. He has struggled thus far, but expect a bit of a breakout year for him this season. He could be one of the better hitting catchers.

MLB Preseason Power Rankings and Preview 25-21

25.Houston Astros

Preview- The Astros will be the true definition of a feast or famine offense. They might hit over 200 homeruns as a team, while also striking out more than any other team. They have 3 players who can hit around 30 homeruns in their lineup. Chris Carter, George Springer, and Evan Gattis all have the power to reach that mark barring an injury. With the 2014 batting champion Jose Altuve at the top of the lineup, they should score plenty of runs when their power hitters are knocking it out.

The problem is, those hitters are all very streaky. Carter, Jason Castro, Evan Gattis, and George Springer strike out more frequently than most hitters do. As a team, they broke the record for strikeouts last year, finishing with over 1500.

Their rotation is probably about league average. Dallas Kuechel and Colin Mchugh both had breakout years, and should be able to continue to find success. What is going to hurt them is the lack of a legitimate ace, and the lack of depth at the bottom of the rotation.

Overall, the future is bright here, but like the Twins they are not ready to break out just yet. In the coming years, they should finally climb out of the cellar, where they have been for a long time. The feast or famine nature of this offense though will keep them from being consistent over long stretches, and the rotation isn’t good enough to carry the team during the times the offense will struggle.

Player to Watch- SP Mark Appel- Appel has the potential to be a top of the rotation talent, but he struggled last year, posting an ERA just under 7.00. If he can hit his stride again, he could find himself up in the majors as soon as this year. In that case, he could make the Astros a potential dark horse team to make the playoffs.

24.Cincinnati Reds

Preview- Like several teams already on this list, the Reds will have no trouble scoring runs. Their line-up includes Joey Votto, Devin Mesoraco, Todd Frazier, Brandon Phillips, Marlon Byrd, and Jay Bruce. A group that could combine for almost 150 homeruns, and that’s being conservative. Votto and Phillips are coming off down years, but are still more than talented enough to have bounce back years. The real star of this lineup is Todd Frazier. Coming off a 20-20 year, Frazier has quickly become one of the most popular players in the MLB, and for good reason. The acquisition of Byrd is over rated, as while his counting stats look good, he has been pretty much home run or bust lately. He strikes out more than Jay Bruce does, and the underlying numbers suggest a regression is likely. Despite Byrd being a potential bust, the offense will still be good though. Beyond the big hitters, they also have Billy Hamilton, who is close to a lock to lead the league in steals. The issue is going to be the pitching.

They traded away Mat Latos, and Homer Bailey is injured, and will miss the beginning of the year. To make matters worse, they announced they will be moving Tony Cingrani to the bullpen. This leaves their starting rotation very thin. Johnny Cueto is as good as any pitcher in the league, but whom do they have after him? Mike Leake? Anthony Descalfani? Jason Marquis? These are not names that inspire confidence. Their pitching will struggle this year, and their lineup is going to have to reach its full potential for them to compete. If the only chance for you to be a good team is for everything to go right, then your chances are not very good.

Player to Watch- SP Robert Stephenson- Stephenson struggles last year in AA, but he is still rated as a top 25 prospect in the MLB. He has the height scouts like to see in pitchers, a fastball that sits in the high 90’s, and good secondary stuff. His problem is, like many young pitchers, control. If he can be more accurate with his pitches, he could be called up by mid-season.

23.Texas Rangers

Preview- A healthy Texas team would actually be decent. Prince Fielder is still a great hitter, and last year was the first signifignt amount of time he has ever missed. The problem is no one can stay healthy.  The problem is they are never healthy. They have already lost star pitcher Yu Darvish to Tommy Johns Surgery, and middle infielder Jurickson Profar to shoulder surgery. This is testing the depth of a roster that was already shallow. They also have Adrian Beltre, Shin-Soo Choo, and Leonys Martin. The lineup isn’t deep, but the top of it could cause some serious problems for pitchers.

The problem is they have already been hit hard by injury. Yu Darvish’s season is over after undergoing Tommy John’s surgery. When healthy, Darvish is easily a top 10 pitcher, but his season has been cut short now for two seasons in a row. Also done for the season is Jurickson Profar. Once a highly touted prospect, he has not been able to show what he can do as he missed all of last year as well. SP Derek Holland is finally healthy, but with his history you can’t count on him to pitch for a whole season.They did add Yovani Gallardo in the off season, but while he is a decent pitcher, he isn’t going to replace the production of Darvish. The biggest problem though is that they have no one else to bring up if someone else goes down. If they are going to succeed, they are going to have to be almost injury free from here on out, and that just isn’t a reasonable thing to predict.

Player to Watch- 2B Rougned Odor- While Profar was getting hyped up by MLB scouts everywhere, Odor fell under the radar. Truth is, Odor was a very good prospect as well, and while his first season wasn’t super impressive, he did show he has what it takes to play in the MLB. Expect him to hit better this year, if he could reach his production from the minors the Rangers may not miss Profar that much this year.

22.Tampa Bay Rays

Preview- No team was hurt more by someone leaving than the Rays were. It wasn’t the loss of a hitter, wasn’t the loss of a pitcher, it was the loss of Joe Maddon. Few managers effect the game the way Maddon does, he is without a doubt the best manager in baseball. He turned a franchise that hadn’t really ever done anything into perineal contenders. They also lost President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman. The duo of Maddon and Friedman seemed to supply the Rays with a never ending in flux of talent. When the Rays couldn’t afford to keep their stars, they were able to replace them with someone else. The players who left often ended up struggling as well.

Now they have a new group of people in charge though, and the future is unknown. The Rays still have a good rotation, a good bullpen, and a very good defense to back them up. The problem on the field is going to be scoring runs. Evan Longoria hasn’t looked like he used to in years. After him the offense gets even worse. Short of a couple years where he was all-star worthy, Asdrubal Cabrera has been mediocre with the bat. Desmond Jennings is talented, but has yet to live up to his potential, and has showed no signs of improvement. James Loney can hit for average, but isn’t really a threat to do much more. After that, there is nothing. Nick Franklin, Steven Souza, Kevin Kiermaier, these aren’t major league hitters. Besides James Loney and most of this team will struggle to hit over .250. This is a rebuilding year for the Rays, they do have some good prospects, but none that are ready to play,

Player to Watch- 3B Evan Longoria- There was a point where Evan Longoria looked like one of the best players in the league. More recently, he has struggled to get hits, and while he still shows 20+ home run power, the Rays need more. If he can get back to his old form, it would go a long way in helping the Rays field a winning team.

21.Milwaukee Brewers-

Preview- The Brewers were the big story at mid-season last year. They were surprisingly in first place, and were playing better than almost any team in the league. Unfortunately, for them, the story had a bad ending. As good as they were in the first half, they were just as bad in the second.  To be honest, judging by the talent on their roster, the true team is probably closer to the second half performance.

To start, they lost a lot of rotation depth over the off-season, trading away Yovani Gallardo and Marco Estrada. This will cause them to rely on a starter like Mike Fiers, who while talented, has missed a lot of time with injury. Their other starters include Matt Garza, Kyle Lohse, and Jimmy Nelson. Nelson, like Fiers, has missed time with injury. Garza has been as consistent as pitchers come, and should once again be reliable. The rotation overall is good, but underwhelming.

Their lineup, like the rotation, is good, but underwhelming. Braun is coming off two straight down years, marred with injuries and suspensions. Jean Segura and Scooter Gennett both took a significant step back last year, and Aramis Ramirez is getting old. Carlos Gomez is a star though, and he alone should keep this lineup scoring runs.

The Brewers problem though is that they are just overall, underwhelming. They will play many close games this year, and if things go their way, they could end up winning games. It’s hard to bet on a team like that though, cause it could be equally as bad if things go wrong.

Player to Watch- OF Khris Davis- Davis has the power to be the top of the lineup hitter, but not the approach. His OBP was under .300, and that type of production will kill a team no matter how many home runs a player hits. He is still young though, and if he can start drawing more walks, and get his BA up just a little, he could really give the Brewers a boost.

MLB Preseason Power Rankings and Preview 30-26

30.Philadelphia Phillies

Preview-It wasn’t long ago that the Phillies were winning 100 games, and had a top of the rotation that could match up against almost any 1-2-3 in history. Now they are just bad, historically bad. They were already one of the worst teams in the league last year, and not only did they not get better, they got worst. To be fair, that was part of the plan. The Phillies are in rebuild mode, they traded Marlon Byrd, traded Jimmy Rollins, and Ryan Howard, Jonathan Papelbon, Chase Utley, and Cole Hamels are being discussed in trade talks as well.

Their rotation is mediocre at best, and their lineup, who already struggled to score last year, now has two less hitters who can actually hit. Maybe Maikel Franco, their 3rd base prospect, will come up at some point and help a little, but short of someone in the Phillies organization discovering the fountain of youth, the lineup will be among the worst in the league, if not the worst.

The best case scenario for the Phillies this year, would be for Hamels to dominate, while the Red Sox rotation struggles, convincing the Red Sox to part with top catching prospect Blake Swihart to acquire Hamels, or to part with OF Mookie Betts, who already looks like a star in his short time spent in the MLB.

Player to Watch: CP Ken Giles- This team will be bad, but there is at least some positives. They have a young and talented bullpen, and the most exciting pitcher in it is Ken “Hundred Miles” Giles. Currently he is the setup man, but if Papelbon is moved Giles will slide into the closer role. Giles finished last year with an ERA of 1.18, and 64 K’s over 45.2 innings.

29.Arizona Diamondbacks

Preview- Paul Goldschmidt could put up an MVP worthy season, which with his talent is likely, and the D Backs will still struggle to get over 75 wins. After Goldy, the entire team is all question marks. Can Mark Trumbo improve his approach at the plate, so he actually has a chance to show off that power? Can Aaron Hill play a full season, and his age just catching up to him? Will Archie Bradley’s struggles in the minors last year carry over to this season, or was it just a bump in the road? Will Yasmany Tomas live up to his potential?

They at least have one other reliable player in AJ Pollock, but even he has had some trouble with injuries the past couple years. Plus even if they all stay healthy, they just haven’t played good. Mark Trumbo is on the short list of players to have an On Base Percentage under .300 in over 2000 plate appearances.

They were in the bottom 5 of every major pitching stats last year as well. That was without Patrick Corbin, who had Tommy John surgery last March before the season, but they still lack depth in their rotation even with him back on the mound.

Player to Watch-OF Yasmany Tomas- The Success of other Cuban players at this level bodes well for Tomas. Tomas could very well be the guy who helps protect Goldy in the lineup the diamondbacks hoped they were getting in Trumbo. Even if he succeeds, the Diamondbacks still probably won’t be very good, but it will at least make the team more exciting to watch.

English: Troy Tulowitzki at shortstop in 2007....

English: Troy Tulowitzki at shortstop in 2007. Français : Troy Tulowitzki à l’arrêt-court en 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

28.Colorado Rockies-

Preview- The Rockies lineup is actually very good. Troy Tulowitzki is the best SS in baseball provided he is healthy. Carlos Gonzalez struggled last year, but has enough talent that it is reasonable to think he should become at least a slightly above average player. What really gives their lineup a boost is the emergence of OF Corey Dickerson. Dickerson hit 24 home-runs last year, with a BA sitting over .300. Rockies can also expect a better performance out of 3B Nolan Arenado, who continues to improve. They also have 1B Justin Morneau and OF Charlie Blackmon who put together solid seasons last year. Overall, their lineup should once again be around the top 10 in the league, if not higher.

That has never been the problem though. They were top 5 in runs last year, yet still finished with the second worst record. One of the problems is health, especially the health of Tulo who has missed the better part of the last three seasons. More importantly though, their problem is pitching. Finding a pitcher who can have success in the thin air of Coors is like trying to find a power hitter who can have success at Safeco in Seattle. Their pitching staff had a league worst 4.84 ERA last year. Not a single pitcher with more than 10 starts on their roster had an ERA under 4. With no notable additions to the pitching rotation in the off season. It should be another year where the Rockies waste their offensive production with a lack of pitching.

Player to watchSP Jon Gray – Gray is the Rockies one foreseeable chance this year of having a solid top of the rotation pitcher, or at least someone who can keep their ERA under 4. He has not wowed in the minors numbers wise yet, but he has the stuff to be a very good pitcher. He may not break camp, but he should make the team at some point. If he can reach his potential, he should finally give the Rockies the pitcher they desperately need. Then they just need 4 more pitchers.

28.Minnesota Twins

Preview- The future for the Twins looks bright. They have two of the best prospects in baseball waiting in the wings in Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano, and already have some good young players like Danny Santana contributing at the MLB level. Unfortunately, for the Twins, that future is still probably a year away. They still have one of the worst rotations in the league, and one of the worst defenses backing up that rotation.

The Twins finished last in defensive efficiency last year. To make matters worse their pitchers have finished last in strikeouts in the past two seasons. So not only do they have a poor defense, but they have a defense that is relied on to make plays more than anyone in the league. This might be why their pitchers have struggled so much recently, and may be why the only pitcher who saw success was Phil Hughes, who had the best K/BB ratio in the MLB last year.

Their lineup will be decent though. The Twins finished 7th in runs last year, helped out by the emergence of several young hitters. The emergence of Danny Santana and Brian Dozier was a huge boost to them last year. They may also be able to ass Miguel Sano to the lineup at some point, which will be a huge power boost to the team. Joe Mauer’s best days are behind him, and getting very poor production out of him at 1st base is going to hurt, but the rest of the lineup should, again, pick up the slack. Still though, the lineup won’t be good enough to make up for the pitching and defense.

Player to Watch- 3B Miguel Sano- Sano has legit power, and if he can stay healthy in work his way into the MLB, he will get a chance to show it. Again, even with Sano, this won’t be a year Twins win, but it should at least make them more exciting to watch. When he comes up, you can expect a 30 home run a year guy.

26.Atlanta Braves-

Preview- No team’s major league roster took more of a nose dive than the Atlanta Braves. They traded away 62 homeruns in Evan Gattis, Jason Heyward, and Justin Upton. On top of that, they lost over 400 innings pitched with Ervin Santana and Aaron Harang. That is production they failed to replace. The only key offensive player they added to their roster was Nick Markakis, and he isn’t going to come anywhere near to replacing the power they lost.

They still have Freddie Freeman, and while he is one of the best young first basemen in the league, he isn’t so good he can carry a lineup. Barring Melvin Upton having a career resurgence, or Andrelton Simmons having a breakout offensive year, this is a team that will struggle to score runs.

They do have some good, young pitchers at the top of their lineup in Julio Teheran and Alex Wood, and added another young pitcher with potential in Shelby Miller. After that though, their rotation is weak. On a normal team, this rotation would be good enough to win, but after losing all the offensive production they did, they need more than a decent rotation to win, they need a great one, and it just isn’t there yet.

As it stands, there isn’t a single player in the Braves lineup with 20 or more home runs last year. Freeman came close with 18, but after him only two other hitters even had 10, those two being Melvin Upton and Chris Johnson.

Player to Watch- SS Andrelton Simmons- Simmons is already the best defensive SS in baseball, no one else is even close to him. His bat is still a work in progress. He is a good fastball hitter, but still struggles against off speed pitches. If he can improve his approach against other pitches, he has the raw tools to be a top 5 SS with the bat as well.

Mock Draft 2.0- After Week One of Free Agency

National Football League Draft

National Football League Draft (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Jameis Winston- QB Florida State

This still appears to be the pick here. Mariota didn’t do enough in his pro day to make the Bucs consider him over Winston. He is probably the better fit for Tampa’s offense, and is a local kid, which the fans will love. Winston should be throwing touchdowns to Mike Evans for the Bucs next year.

  1. Tennessee Titans- Marcus Mariota- QB Oregon

After improving their pass rush in free agency, bringing in Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan, it seems like they are gearing up to address offense in the draft. They say they have faith in Mettenberger for now, but teams always say that. Truth is he is not a franchise QB. They will take Mariota here. Also important is that head coach Ken Whisenhunt seemed to be one of the only people impressed with Mariota’s pro day.

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars- Leonard Williams- DT USC

Jaguars have a young offense in the making between QB Blake Bortles, and wide receivers Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson. They also recently added TE Julius Thomas in free agency. Now they just have to be patient. Meanwhile, they pick the best defensive player in the draft in Williams. He will have an immediate impact, and will serve as both a run stuffer, and a pass rusher from the middle of the Jaguars line.

  1. Oakland Raiders- Kevin White- WR West Virgina

Amari Cooper is probably the better overall WR. He is more polished, and has the better resume. After a great combine, and an impressive pro day though, Kevin White is going to be the first WR off the board. His potential is probably higher than Cooper’s and will probably pair with the big arm of Derrick Carr a little better. Raiders can’t really go wrong here though, as both Cooper and White are going to be studs at the next level.

  1. Washington-Dante Fowler- DE/OLB Florida

With Orakpo signing with the Titans, Washington needs to find a young replacement. Fowler would be the best pass rusher on the board. He needs to bulk up, but coming out of college, he draws comparisons to Von Miller, which is a very good thing. This would give the Redskins a dangerous pass rush, and between Fowler and Ryan Kerrigan, QB’s would have a tough time to deciding whom to run from.

  1. New York Jets- Amari Cooper- WR Alabama

After signing almost every free agent defensive back, the Jets defense is set. They have a strong front seven, and a very expensive secondary. After that, their other needs would be QB, RB, and OL. No one at any of those positions are worth picking here though. Because of that, they may as well just go with best offensive player available, which would be Cooper. The pick would turn what was once their biggest weakness, into perhaps their biggest strength. A WR group of Cooper, Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker, and Jeremy Kerley would be formidable enough that even Ryan Fitzpatrick could score points.

  1. Chicago Bears- Vic Beasley- OLB Clemson

Sticking with Beasley as the pick here. Again, the bears need players who can fir the 3-4 scheme, and Beasley is perfect for it. Taking Beasley would be the first step in rebuilding that once formidable Bears defense. He is an amazing athlete, and will help the Bears create a better pass rush.

  1. Atlanta Falcons- Brandon Scherff- OL Iowa

Falcons spent a lot of money addressing the defense in free agency. While they still need a legit pass rusher, the focus on defense in free agency seems to show they intend to go offense in the draft. They are set at wide receiver, and it’s too early to take a RB. What they do need though is some protection for Matt Ryan. The offensive line showed improvement last year, but could still use a boost. Scherff could slide in almost anywhere on the line except center and give Matt Ryan more time to find Julio Jones and Roddy White down the field.

  1. New York Giants- Arik Armstead- DE Oregon

The Giants struck out big time in free agency. They failed to address almost any of their needs, including a pass rusher. Armstead may be a bit of a reach here, but he is the type of high potential pass rusher the Giants love to take a risk on. Most of the other pass rushers remaining on the board are a better fir for the 3-4 at this point anyway.

  1. 10. St Louis Rams- Andrus Peat- OL Stanford

The Rams have to positions they need to address if they want to give new QB Nick Foles a better chance than they ever gave Sam Bradford. They need to solidify the o line, and they need to give him a WR. With the two best WR’s off the board, the best choice would be to take an o lineman, and to get the WR in the second round. Peat may have the highest ceiling of any linemen in the draft. He needs to improve his technique, but with a little work, he could be an anchor for the Rams offensive line.

  1. Minnesota Vikings- Trae Waynes- CB Michigan State

Bringing in Mike Wallace through a trade gives the Vikings the ability to wait to add another WR. This allows the Vikings to address the biggest need on their team, which is at the cornerback position. Their secondary remains a mess after free agency. Adding the best corner in the draft would be a good first step in fixing that.

  1. Cleveland Browns- Davante Parker- WR Louisville

This pick here makes even more sense after they lost TE Jordan Cameron in free agency. Now with Cameron in Miami, and Josh Gordon suspended for at least a year, they are left with no legit threats on offense. If they want Johnny Manziel, or whomever is their QB this year, to have any chance, they have to get some weapons. Parker is the best receiver on the board, and is an necessary pick for the Browns

  1. New Orleans Saints- Randy Gregory- DE/OLB Nebraska

The Saints have begun to overhaul their team, trading Kenny Stills, Ben Grubbs, and Jimmy Graham. In return, they got a 1st round pick and Max Unger for Graham, a 3rd and linebacker Dannell Ellerbe for Stills, and a 5th round pick for Grubbs. They now need some playmakers on offense, some offensive line help, and a good 3-4 pass rusher. Rangy Gregory is the best player available that fits one of those needs. Like Fowler he needs to bulk up a little, but he should be able to rack up a handful of sacks right out of the gate for the Saints.

  1. Miami Dolphins- Marcus Peters- CB Washington

The Dolphins made a handful of big splashes in free agency, the biggest of which was bringing in Ndamukong Suh. They haven’t addressed the cornerback position though, and it is their biggest need going into the draft. Marcus Peters is probably the best available, and while he comes with some off the field issues after being dismissed from Washington, Dolphins haven’t shied away from taking players with issues in the past. If you disagree, I will remind you again that they signed Suh this off season, who is consistently ranked among the most disliked athletes because of his reputation as a dirty player, and a hothead.

  1. San Francisco 49ers- Jalen Collins- CB LSU

This off season has not been kind to the 49ers. First off, they lose both of their cornerbacks to free agency, Chris Culliver and Perrish Cox. Then Frank Gore leaves as well. To make matters worse, ILB Patrick Willis announces he will retire, and DE Justin Smith has been considering retirement. They have gone from having one of the deepest rosters in the league a few years ago, to having a roster with more holes than. Collins would fill one of the bigger holes at corner, but they will have a lot more work to do. At least they brought in Torrey Smith, and paired him up once again with Anquan Boldin.

  1. Houston Texans- Jaelen Strong- WR Arizona State

After losing Andre Johnson, the Texans need to find someone to take his place. The remaining options in free agency are not very appealing, so they would be wise to look in the draft. Strong is probably the safest pick left on the board. He doesn’t have elite speed, but he is a smart route runner, has good hands, and will be a good red zone target in the NFL. Paired with Deandre Hopkins, the two would make a great duo for whomever ends up behind center for the Texans.

  1. San Diego Chargers- Danny Shelton- NT Washington

Chargers end up getting the steal of the draft. Shelton is by far the best Nose Tackle in the draft. The problem with NT, is that is a position that doesn’t exist on many NFL rosters who run the 4-3. The Chargers, who run the 3-4, lack a good NT. He is everything you want a NT to be. He is big and mobile, and if allowed to only work downhill, he will clog up the inside of the Chargers line, forcing opposing running backs to either bounce outside, or find a way to slip past his massive frame.

  1. Kansas City Chiefs- T.J. Clemmings- OT Pittsburgh

Bringing in Jeremy Maclin makes the Chiefs biggest need OL. They could definitely upgrade at QB, but taking any of the QB’s left on the board would be a reach. OL would be the best position to address here, and T.J. Clemmings is the best available. He is still learning the position after switching sports from basketball, but he has all the attributes necessary to be a dominate lineman. With a little work, he could be an all-star.

  1. Cleveland Browns- Malcom Brown- DT Texas (Pick acquired from the Bills)

The Browns addressed wide receiver with their first pick, now they need to address their other big weakness, run defense. They ranked 32nd in the league last year in stopping the run, so it is definitely a place they need help. Brown would make a big difference in that area. This pick would make it a strong first round for the Browns. They get two of the best players in their biggest areas of need.

  1. Philadelphia Eagles- Dorial Green-Beckham- WR Oklahoma

Eagles have had one of the wildest off-seasons in a long time. They traded Lesean Mccoy for Kiko Alsonso, brought in Byron Maxwell, traded Nick Foles for Sam Bradford, and then stole Demarco Murray from their rival the Cowboys. They also lost Jeremy Maclin to the Chiefs though, making Wide receiver a major position of need. Green-Beckham has had some issues, but he is as talented as almost any receiver in this class. He would make a position of weakness into a strength. Eagles would pair him up with last year’s 2nd round pick Jordan Matthews, with Josh Huff in the slot, and Zack Ertz at TE. Not to mention Murray, Ryan Matthews, and Darren Sproles rotating at RB. That’s a better group of weapons than Bradford ever had in St Louis.

  1. Cincinnati Bengals- Shane Ray- DE/OLB Missouri

Bengals probably wouldn’t be able to call the pick in soon enough if Ray fell all the way to 21. If ray had performed in the combine, he could have easily been ranked as one of the top pass rushers in the class. The draft is deep enough that any of the pass rushers could fall this far. Unlike pass rushers from Missouri in the past who failed to live up to their college production, Ray has attributes fitting what an NFL pass rusher looks like. He has great speed for the position, and has a high motor, playing each snap as hard as the last.

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers- Landon Collins- S Alabama

The Steelers need to find a Safety to take over for the aging Troy Polamalu. Collins isn’t a great cover safety, but he can wreak havoc in the box. It will be hard to match the production of a legend like Troy Polamalu, but Collins should be good enough to fill the void.

  1. Detroit Lions- Jordan Phillips- DT Oklahoma

Trading for Haloti Ngata will go a long way in replacing Ndamukong Suh, but DT is still a major hole after also losing Nick Fairley to the Rams. Phillips played NT in college, but would still probably fit nicely in a 4-3 front. He is not only big, but he can use his size to his advantage. He is also surprisingly quick for his size. He won’t be as good as Suh was, but he will at least make running backs think twice before running down the middle.

  1. Arizona Cardinals- Melvin Gordon- RB Wisconsin

The Cardinals problem last year was their offense. While that had a lot to do with the injuries at the QB position, it also was because of a lack of production from the running backs. Andre Ellington hasn’t lived up to his potential, as the Cardinals ranked 31st in rushing last year. No running backs have gone in the first round for two years, but Gordon is talented enough to break that streak.

  1. Carolina Panthers- D.J. Humphries- OT Florida

Offensive Line remains the biggest need for the Panthers, even after almost a week of free agency. If you had any doubts, whether O-line is a need or not, check out this tweet from Adam Schefter. Cam newton has taken a beating in his time in Carolina, and while some of that is attributed to his play style, it has a lot to do with the offensive line. Humphries has the potential to be a stellar tackle.  He is the best available tackle on the board, and this is a rare instance where picking for need is more important than just going best available in general.

  1. Baltimore Ravens- Devin Smith- WR Ohio State

Who exactly is Joe Flacco supposed to throw to next year? There is an aging Steve Smith, and there is Dennis Pitta, that is it. With Torrey Smith going to San Francisco, getting another weapon for Joe Flacco is a priority. Devin Smith is the best deep threat in the draft. Not only does he have blazing speed, but he knows how to use it. He is the perfect target for the big arm of Flacco.

  1. Dallas Cowboys- Shaq Thompson- OLB Washington

Lost in all the talk about losing Demarco Murray to Philadelphia, is the loss of two linebackers as well. Bruce Carter and Justin Durant both walked in free agency. Shaq Thompson made a name for himself in college creating turnovers. He isn’t going to be as good as the top linebackers in the class, and may be just a bit of a reach here, but the pick makes sense. The Cowboys have reached to fit a need in the past, and it has worked, as it did with Travis Frederick. They will wait to the second round to find a replacement for Murray.

  1. Denver Broncos- Benardrick McKinney- ILB Mississippi State

Like the Bears, the Broncos are making the switch to a 3-4 defense. Whenever a team makes that move, it serves them well to stack up on talent with experience in the 3-4. McKinney isn’t going to be a star, but the Broncos already have Von Miller and Demarcus Ware to be the stars of the defense. What they need is someone down the middle willing to do the dirty work. McKinney will be a thumper up the middle of their defense, and will help ease the transition to the new defense.

  1. Indianapolis Colts- Eric Kendricks- ILB UCLA

The Colts addressed many of their needs in free agency. They needed a running back, they brought in Frank Gore. Needed a WR to replace Reggie Wayne, they got Andre Johnson. In addition, they brought in Trent Cole to help the pass rush, and Todd Herremans to help the o-line. None of these are permanent solutions, but they will help. They still need an ILB though, and they will get a great one in Kendricks. Colts fans will have fun watching Kendricks run sideline to sideline to make plays. 

  1. Green Bay Packers- Denzell Perryman- ILB Miami

The Packers were ecstatic when they saw that both of the top inside linebackers were on the board two picks before them. Unfortunately, both will be taken at picks 28 and 29, leaving them having to reach a little bit for Perryman. He isn’t a bad catch as far as consolation prizes go. While his ceiling isn’t as high as Kendricks, and he isn’t as polished coming out of college as McKinney, he is still a solid pick. Like McKinney, he is someone who will be willing to do the dirty work down the middle. This will let Clay Matthews get back to being a playmaker, and get after the QB.

  1. New Orleans Saints- Devin Funchess- WR Michigan (Pick Acquired from Seahawks)

After trading both Jimmy Graham and Kenny Stills, the Saints need to find another weapon for Drew Brees, assuming he isn’t traded as well. Funchess is a big body that Drew Brees should have no trouble finding across the field. He started out as a TE at Michigan, but made the switch to receiver in his last season. The great thing about players who make the switch from TE to Receiver, is it means they usually have the speed to outrun quicker corners, and the strength to overpower the bigger corners.

  1. New England Patriots- PJ Williams- CB Florida State

With Derrelle Revis going back to the Jets, and Brandon Browner signing in New Orleans, there is a need for the Patriots at corner. They do have Logan Ryan, who may be ready to step up as a starter, but after that, there is no one left who could hold their own as a starter. Williams is talented enough to be able to put a receiver on an island. He would be a great pickup at pick 32.