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 O.co 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.

What MLB Teams Would Look Like If Players Stayed Home (NL West)

The continuation of yesterdays article. Today we look at the NL west. To give credit where credit is due, I would like to remind you this article was inspired by a similar article on elitedaily.com by Josh Milford (What Nba Teams Would Look Like If Players Went Home).

Los Angeles Dodgers

dodgers depth chart

 

Like their close neighbors the Angels, the Dodgers have one of the strongest teams in the MLB. An outfield combo of Stanton, Braun, and Crisp comes with an impressive power speed combo. Their infield is suspect, but has potential if Singleton and Moustakas play to their ability. James Shields is a solid front line pitcher, but his consistency issues will hurt the Dodgers at times. Overall they have a very good shot at winning the divison and even the World Series with a team like this.

San Diego Padres

padres depth chart

 

The Padres would have a very strong top of the lineup. Jones, Craig, A Gonz, and Jaso are all top hitters at their position. The back half wouldnt be as strong though, Punto, Gwynn Jr. Wigginton and Barnes are all bench players who will be forced to start for the Padres. Thankfully for them, they also have one of the best pitchers in baseball to be their Ace. Padres are among the worst teams this year in the MLB, but they would stand a decent chance in this MLB.

San Francisco Giants

giants  depth chart

The Giants have the same problem the A’s had, which is the fact the most talented baseball players seem to be from southern California, leaving the Giants with most of the leftovers. They do get Tulo and Hill, which makes for one of the stronger middle infields, but they have one of the weaker outfields. The rest of their team is solid, and Matt Garza is a decent front of the rotation pitcher, but overall their team isnt strong enough to compete with the other teams in the West.

Arizona Diamondbacks

dbacks depth chart

While the Dbacks have a very strong outfield and middle infield, the fact they would have to put Affedelt at starter would really hurt them. Affedelt used to start before he was forced into the bullpen, but the Dbacks would have never had the luxury of putting him in the bullpen.  Thier lineup may be good enough to help them stay competitive, but I doubt they could win a playoff series with Affedelt as their ace.

Colorado Rockies

rockies depth chart

 

With a team filled mostly of players who are bench players in the rel MLB, the Rockies would find it tough to find wins. Top prospect Kris Bryant may be their only saving grace, as he has showed tremendous power in the Cubs farm system this year. Other than him though, no one else has been very impressive lately. The Rockies had to take the leftovers from a lot of other areas since their aren’t many baseball players from Colorado, so it is no suprise they ended up with a weak team.

 

Tomorrow we will look at the Al Central.

 

MLB Preseason Rankings 20-11

20. Seattle Mariners- The Mariners may have made the biggest splash of the off season in acquiring 2B Robinson Cano, but that doesn’t mean they are a good team. Their rotation will no doubt be good with the likes of Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma at the helm, and coveted prospect Taijuan Walker ready to prove why he is so highly regarded. Their lineup leaves a lot to be desired though, and may struggle to produce.

19. Milwaukee Brewers- Brewers are another team who could raise or fall a lot in these rankings over the year. Their lineup, at least on paper, is good. Ryan Braun is a star, steroids or not, and Carlos Gomez is no slouch himself.  My concern is their rotation, which could be good, but could also be a disaster. It is full of guys like Matt Garza, Yovani Gallardo, and Kyle Lohse. The types of pitchers who can at times be filthy, but at time be disastrous. All Brewers cans can hope for is that all the stars align, and these guys lean more toward the filthy side.

18. LA Angels – I am really concerned with this lineup after the departure of Mark Trumbo. Sure, Mike Trout is still one of the best hitters out there, but after that what do you have? A declining Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton, one-year wonder David Freese, and the consistently decent Erick Aybar and Howard Kendrick. Not a bad lineup, but it certainly isn’t as scary as it should be. The rotation is ok, Jared Weaver is over rated, but is still a good pitcher, same with C.J. Wilson. Hector Santiago is a good, but I don’t think he replaces the value they lost in Trumbo.

17.San Francisco Giants- The Giants are hard to place. Every time I start to believe in them, they fall apart, but then as I push them to the side they start playing good again. Tim Lincecum will never be the same, but he is still serviceable. Matt Cain can’t do any worse than last year. The real prize of this team is Madison Bumgarner though, the best pitcher nobody talks about. I don’t think they will win anything this year, but I said the same thing the two years they won the World Series.

16. Cleveland Indians – For the life of me I cant figure out why the Indians were so good last year. Everything about them is decent, but no one on this team jumps out at me. Their hitting is ok, but it could be much better. They have one very talented pitcher in Justin Masterson, but no one else is too impressive in this rotation. This was just a team that went out last year, and did their job.

15. Arizona Diamondbacks- The Diamondbacks made a great move in acquiring Mark Trumbo, who should make a great pairing with the very talented Paul Goldschmidt. Their lineup should be lethal this year, and so should their bullpen with the addition of Closer Addison Reed. Unfortunately, they failed to acquire the ace they needed in the off season. To make matters worse, SP Patrick Corbin looks to be sidelined for the season. This will put a stop to their hopes for this season, but their future is looking good.

14. Kansas City Royals – Every off season has a new bandwagon. A new team everyone predicts is going to have a breakout year.While I like the Royals, I am not as in love with them as every other baseball analyst seems to be. I have yet to see anything too impressive from once touted prospects Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, and Salvador Perez. They all seem to be decent MLB players, but as of now, I would say they were a little over hyped.  They have a good team, and can definitely compete, but they aren’t as much of a sleeper everyone makes them out to be.

13. Baltimore Orioles – The team I really like to compete this year is the Orioles. They are my Kansas City Royals. Unlike the Royals, they have established stars. Adam Jones, Chris Davis, Manny Machado, Nelson Cruz, and Nick Markakis this lineup will score runs. I also love the very undervalued trade for David Lough. Pitching is a concern, but even that improved this off season. Ubaldo Jiminez is a nice acquisition, and they have a few pitching prospects that are ready to produce. They are at a disadvantage because of their division, but they should at least make it a competition and not just roll over.

12. Cincinnati Reds – The Reds are a team I really thought were going to go somewhere a few years ago in Joey Votto’s MVP season. So far, they haven’t done much. They are a good team that will be in it to the end, but they have shown me nothing the last two years for me to see them as World Series winners. Maybe if Cueto stays healthy, and Brandon Phillips finds a fountain of youth, but I just don’t see it right now. They will contend for one of those wildcard spots, but not much more than that.

11. Pittsburgh Pirates- Another team I just don’t understand. I understand them a little more than the Indians, they do have a couple legit stars in Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez, along with the promising Starling Marte, but their team in general isn’t as impressive as their play indicates. It goes to show, sometimes hard work and heart can do wonders, we just saw the Red Sox win off it. Pirates will compete, but I don’t think they are good enough yet to make a World Series.

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Mount Rushmore of the MLB

We have looked at who would be on the basketball Mount Rushmore after Lebron’s comments, now lets see who would be on the other three major sports Mount Rushmore. In this article, I will give you my MLB Mount Rushmore.

As in the NBA Mount Rushmore article, these people aren’t the best players or GM’s in Baseball history, but what they did changed the game more than anyone else.

Number 1- Jackie Robinson

Get the obvious one out of the way. The only player to have his number retired by every team, it is for good reason. Robinson broke the color barrier back in the 50’s opening the game for some of the greats in baseball

Jackie Robinson (photo credit Wikipedia)

history, like Hank Aaron and Willie Mays. He was a hall of fame player himself. While he may not be as great as Mays and Aaron, he was still a very skilled player. A great base runner, with a good eye and swing, he was a perfect leadoff man.

He put up with a lot of racism throughout his career, but managed to keep a cool head for the most part.

Jackie Robinson opened up the game for an entire group of people, and his actions eventually paved the way for Roberto Clemente to be the first latino to play in the MLB. He not only changed baseball, but helped push the civil rights movement forward.His mark on baseball is undeniable, as is his mark on America as a whole.

Number 2- Babe Ruth

The Sultan of Swat, the Great Bambino, otherwise known as the only player in sports with more nicknames than Shaq. Babe Ruth is arguably the best player ever, but there is no argument about his impact on the game. Babe Ruth made home runs a commodity. Before him, every player was trying to put the ball in play, and trying to play small ball. No one swung from their hips, or tried to put the ball in the seats. When Ruth switched from a pitcher

Babe Ruth (Photo credit Sports Illustrated)

to a hitter though, he starting crushing the balls. After that, more and more players were emulating his swing. Home runs went mainstream, and baseball flourished because of it. Ruth revolutionized the game to be a more exciting game rather than a technical one.

Not to mention he is still one of only a few in an elite class of hitters with 600 home runs. he could hit, he could pitch, he could do it all, and he did it all well. He has left a lasting legacy on baseball. He retired from baseball in 1935, and still most current fans know he he is. There are few players in sports with that kind of lasting power. As a bonus, he managed to put a curse on the Red Sox that kept them from winning a World Series for 86 years.

Number 3- Willie Mays

Mays is probably the best all-around player in MLB history. He was also the most fun player to watch. He really paved the way for a more fluid game. Befor him no one in the MLB was ever flashy, no one ever showed off the way he did. Mays used to have his cap specifically fitted to blow off his

Willie Mays (Photo Credit ESPN)

head while he was tracking down a fly ball. He would famously make basket catches. he livened the game up and got rid of the stuffy unwritten rule book of the MLB, well at least part of it. He made the game fun to watch. More players like him followed, who liked to show off and be flashy in the field, at the plate, and on the bases, but he was the original.

He could do everything, hit for power, over 600 home runs, steal bases, play defense, get on base. He may have not changed the game quite as much as the other three on this list, but like said above, he made it a whole lot more fun to watch.

Number 4- Branch Rickey

Rickey broke two color barriers in the MLB. He was the General Manager of the Dodgers when they picked up jackie Robinson, it was Rickey’s decision to do so. After that, he also signed the first latino player, Roberto Clemente, while he was the GM of the Pirates. Some will make the argument it wasn’t because of a sense of civic duty on Rickey’s part, but who cares, he still

Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson (Photo Credit NY Daily News)

pushed for both signings. no matter what his reason was, he still pushed for those changes. It is still because of him those changes went through. he stood behind Jackie, even when other players on the Dodgers demanded he was taken off the team, and even when he received death threats. Seems like a lot for a man to go through if he is only doing it to make his team better.

Rickey was also the brains behind saving the minor leagues. He invented the idea of a farm system, where teams can put young players to let their skills mature before they reach the majors. before Rickey, the minors were dying and no one really cared much about them. Rickey  was one of the first people to promote the widespread use of helmets in baseball as well. Rickeys actions as a general manager shaped baseball in so many ways, breaking color barriers, creating systems we still use today. He has earned his place on the baseball Mount Rushmore.
Who is on your Mount Rushmore? Leave your answer in the comments section. If you liked this article, follow me on WordPress and share it on Facebook and Twitter.

Braves Agree to New Deals With Heyward and Freeman

Freddie Freeman will be donning the Braves Jersey for at least eight more years. (Photo Credit NBC sports)

Earlier, when I made my Braves Offseason article, I torched the Braves for their inactivity and past poor decision making. They made up for that today though by coming to new deals with their two youngest and most talented players. 1B Freddie Freeman, and OF Jayson Heyward will both be sticking around in Atlanta for a few more years.

Freeman agreed to what is reported by ESPN to be an eight-year, $125 million deal. Braves also reached terms with Heyward on a much smaller two-year, $13.3 million deal. Both players are only 24, and have both reached a point where they are considered some of the best players in the league.

Heyward has shown to struggle a little every now and then, which is why his deal wasn’t as substantial as Freeman’s. On the other hand, Freeman has already proven himself, and continues to improve. Extending Freeman through his prime, he is under contract until he is 32, for a fairly reasonable price is a brilliant move. It bares comparison to when the Cardinals did the same thing with 1B Albert Pujols, signing him to a big deal while in his prime, and letting him walk at the end of it.

Braves are in a tough spot, losing C Brian McCann and SP Tim Hudson, but these deals mean they have some time to bounce back. Unfortunately for them they also gave up a lot to bring the Upton brothers in last year, neither of which has panned out. B.J. and Justin Upton are going to hurt the Braves for a while, but at least they can make up for by having quality players like Freeman and Heyward around on a bargain.

Braves grade is upgraded to a C because of this. They are still competitors, but they will not be as good as last year. They are way to streaky of a team, and lost some of their consistency in Mcann and Hudson. It is also reasonable to predict a drop in production from 3B Chris Johnson, who benefited from an unsurd babip of over .400 last year. They will be good, but not as good as the Nationals.

Major League Off Season Report Card (Athletics)

Moves so far

Jim Johnson replaces Grant Balfour at closer for the A’s (photo credit Baltimore Sun)

  • Signed IF Nick Punto to a one-year, $2.75 million deal
  • Signed SP Scott Kazmir to a two-year, $22 million deal
  • Traded 2B Jemile Weeks and C Michael Freitas to Baltimore for Closer Jim Johnson
  • Traded OF Michael Choice and 2B Chris Bostick to Texas for OF Craig Gentry and RP Josh Lindbloom
  • Traded OF Seth Smith to San Diego for RP Luke Gregerson
  • Traded SP Brett Anderson and $2 million to Colorado for Pitching Prospect Chris Jensen and RP Drew Pomeranz

Rumor Mill

  • Seem to no longer be interested in OF Nelson Cruz
  • Contrary to reports earlier in off season, OF Yoenis Cespedes and SS Jed Lowrie will not be traded.

Talk about Déjà vu. Every year the A’s seem to either trade their best pitchers, or let them walk, and every year they continue to have a strong rotation. This year they let Bartolo Colon walk, and trade Brett Anderson. Losing Anderson doesn’t make much of a difference seeing as he hasn’t played very much in the last few years anyway. Colon is different, he was their Ace last year and will be hard to replace. Then again people thought Gio Gonzalez and Trevor Cahill would be hard to replace, and the rotation hasn’t missed a beat since then. Sonny Gray will be expected to step up and fill the void along with new comer Scott Kazmir.

The A’s spent a lot of time this off season improving upon an already strong Bullpen. They added multiple high end relievers, and only lost closer Grant Balfour in the process, now with the Rays. Their bullpen was one of the best in the league last year, and it seems it will be once again thanks to this offseason.

It seems The A’s will be pretty much the same team they were last year. That overall good team that refuses to go away, until the playoffs that is. I just don’t see anyone in this rotation being able to be that finisher you want in the playoffs. Their staff will be solid and consistent throughout, with few holes. Who do they have that can match up to a Justin Verlander or Clayton Kershaw though? I understand they have made a name for themselves by being a small market team as well as an annually competitive team, but they need to spend some money eventually to get that guy who will put them over the top. The A’s have almost all the pieces they need for a World Series team, all they are missing is the star player to carry them there.

The A’s get a B, despite once again trading in some of their best players for fresh meat, they made smart calculated moves like always. At least they seem willing to hold on to potential stars Cespedes and Lowrie for now, hopefully that doesn’t change. Until they start taking chances though, they may never reach the next level. They are the oppiste of the Dodgers. While the Dodgers fail to see the merit in having role players on their team, the al’s fail to see the importance of Star’s.

If the A’s make any moves this will be updated.

That is it, all 30 teams have been graded. A full offseason overview will be published closer to spring training along with off season awards.

Leave a comment on who you thought had the best off season.

Brewers Bring In Matt Garza

Matt Garza and the Brewers may be in for a Tough season (Photo Credit Yahoo Sports)

After the original deal was delayed, the brewers and SP Matt Garza have finally agreed to a deal that should keep Garza in Milwaukee for at least five years. Garza will earn at least $50 million over the course of the contract, with a chance to make even more in incentives.

Brewers finally make a move this off season, but it likely won’t help much because the Brewers are still weak in many areas. Garza will help, but they could still us more help in a very unproven rotation.

Garza has experience in the NL Central at least, playing for a few years with the Cubs before being traded to the Rangers last year. He finished last year with a 3.8 ERA between the Cubs and Rangers. He is capable of being a solid pitcher, but isn’t the ace the Brew crew were looking for.

Brewers are still in desperate need of bullpen help, as well as first basemen. Their lineup has potential, with five potential all-stars, but the back half is weak and can easily be improved.

Brewers grade is upgraded to a D+, they are still having way too quiet of an offseason coming off the season they had. They needed to make many improvements this year and they just haven’t come through thus far.