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.
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.
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 watch– SP 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.
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.
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.