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.

Trade Deadline Winners And Losers

The trade deadline has come and passed, and players all around the MLB are packing their bags and saying goodbye to their teammates. Not everyone is a winner though, many teams and players walk away from this deadline for the worse. Here are the winners and losers of this year’s trade deadline.

Winners

Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox may have traded most of their pitching staff, but is hard to call this a fire sale. They brought a bunch of established MLB players back by trading Jon Lester and John Lackey. Yoenis Cespedes has a hug ceiling, though he has only shown glimpses of it so far. It is definitely possible he could breakthrough now that he is playing in Fenway, as opposed to the run down football stadium, the A’s call home. Allen Craig is also a solid player, who is a clear improvement over Shane Victorino. Add in the fact Lester said he would consider coming back tom Boston in free agency, and Boston walk away huge winner of this deadline.

Detroit Tigers

Landing David Price is huge, and they didn’t have to give up too much to get him. Losing Austin Jackson is tough, but his production is replaceable. Drew Smyly is a decent pitcher, but you are getting his replacement in Price, and Price is much better than Smyly obviously, so it pays off. A playoff rotation of Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, David Price, and Anibal Sanchez is formidable, and will possibly give them the extra boost they need to win.

New York Yankees

The Yankees didn’t make any big deals, but that was probably the right thing to do. They in all likelihood aren’t going anywhere this year, and it isn’t worth wasting prospects and more money to try to make a desperate push to win it. Sometimes staying put and keeping your players is the right thing to do. Some Yankees fans won’t like it, but it will be worth holding onto Aaron Judge down the road when he is ready for the big league.

Oakland A’s

The A’s are clearly in win now mode after acquiring Jeff Samardzija, Jason Hammel, and Jon Lester. We will not know if it pays off until the playoffs when we can see if they do win it, but if they don’t they could easily look like losers. It is a risk well worth taking though, as for too long they have settled for being a great regular season team, but never in the playoofs. They have always messed around with the Money Ball strategy, but it wasn’t working. Its nice to see them finally put their foot down and try to win. If they lose though, and Lester walks, this trade would look like a Steal for the Red Sox.

Top Prospects

Of all the big deals that happened this deadline, very few of them involved top prospects changing teams. Most deals involved current MLB players, leaving the top rated prospects to stick with the team they have been playing for all along. Many prospects had their names thrown around in trades, but no one really pulled the trigger for them. This is a good sign because it means their current team clearly trusts tem and sees them as a big part of their future. The biggest name we saw move was Addison Russell, who gets to go to a Cubs team that looks like it could be impressive in a few years.

Losers

The Philadelphia Phillies

This Phillies team is done. Howard, Utley, and Rollins are not bringing the Phillies to anymore World Series. The Phillies really needed to improve their farm system this deadline, but failed to do so. Not a single trade, not a single prospect gained. Some moves can still be made off waivers, or in the offseason, but it is easy to see why Phillies fans have lost faith in the Front Office of this team. As a Phillies fan I personally know I went on a twitter tirade against Ruben Amaro and Phillies Owner David Montgomery. Phillies say they don’t want a complete fire sale because they don’t want to lose attendance, what they don’t realize is fans are already sick of many of the players on this team, and they want a fresh group of young players to root for. Phillies could be down for a while if they don’t get some young talent soon.

AL playoff teams

Between the Tigers and A’s rotations, hits may be tough to come by in the playoffs for other teams. On one side, you have the aforementioned Verlander, Scherzer, Price, and Sanchez, on the other side you have Jeff Samardzija, Jon Lester, Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir, and Jason Hammel. Baltimore, LA, and Toronto will have their hands full. None of them have a pitching staff good enough to match up to these guys in a pitching duel, so they will need to rely on their hitters beating some really tough pitchers. The Tigers and A’s are both no clear favorites going in the playoffs.

Joc Pederson

Pederson would normally be a player who was up in the big leagues right now. He has killed AAA this year, and looks to be a player who could have a 30/30 season. Unfortunately, the Dodgers outfield is clogged up with bloated contracts of aging stars. Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford have been terrible, and while Matt Kemp has picked it up lately, he has been a disappointment overall. Of course, Yasiel Puig has been great, but the other three have failed to impress in the other two outfield spots. Many thought one of them would be moved to make room for Pederson, but it wasn’t so. It looks like Pederson will have to wait a little while longer for his debut.

Tampa Bay Rays

They aren’t huge losers, because they needed to get something out of David Price, but they were probably hoping for a little bit more. Nick Franklin has potential, and Drew Smyly is a decent pitcher, but neither are anything special. They at least got something for Price, but it seems like it was only a compensation prize as opposed the haul a team would usually get for a pitcher of his caliber.

What MLB Teams Would Look Like If Players Stayed Home (AL East)

Check out the NBA version of this here at elitedaily.com

New York Yankees

yankees depth chart

 

The Yankee fans would have still gotten to enjoy the careers of Jeter and A Rod, but I seriously doubt they would have 27 world series rings if they had to pick all their players from their own area. Whether you think it is a good thing or not, you cannot deny the Yankees have built their team throughout the years off of free agency. Corbin is a good pitcher, and they have a decent enough outfield, but they wouldn’t be the powerhouse they normally are. The Al East would be tough, and the Yanks may not be able to keep up

 

Boston Red Sox

red sox depth chart

 

 

The Red sox would have two of the most promising young players in the league, and not too much after that. Harvey and Springer are team cornerstones, but their infield is weak. Pollock and Davis are productive players, but in the end they may just not have enough firepower. Fortunately, they wont need much fire power with Harvey on the mound. 3 runs will be good enough for a win when he is pitching. having Harvey may be just enough to put them over their rivals the Yankees.

 

Toronto Blue Jays

bluejays depth chart

 

It is easy to tell what type of team this would be, as we have already seen them at a pro level. It is a very similar team to the one that took the field for Canada in the World Baseball Classic in 2013. Canada failed to get out of the group stage tht year, and it wouldn’t be surprising if they also failed to make the playoffs in the MLB. Weak pitching and a lack of power would make it hard for them to find wins. their outfield is their weakest area. They would have a better chance then they did in the WBC, but it would still be tough.

 

Tampa Bay Rays

rays depth chrt

 

*It should be spelled McCutchen, not Mcutchen*

 

The Rays are usually one of the strongest teams each year, and they would be even more so in this league. Sale is one of the most dominate pitchers in the league, and Rizzo and Gordon are both enjoying huge breakout years. After that they have Desmond, and of course reigning MVP Andrew McCutchen. Add is Lucroy, and this team looks more like an All Star team. Dom Brown would be a major weak point, but no lineup is perfect. They would be the favorite to win their division, and they would have a cross country rivalry with the Angels to see who ends up on top.

Baltimore Orioles

O's depth chart

 

One of my most vocal opinions is my disdain for the Upton brothers. It may be because they are both on my favorite teams rival the Braves, but I hated them before that. it is probably because they are so talented, yet consistently fail to met their hype, especially BJ. Still, in a league lacking forign talent, they would be among the best players in the league, Provided BJ doesn’t play like he has with the Braves. David Wright, and Mark Teixera are two other strong components to this team, add in Mat Latos and the O’s are a team that could makes some noise.

 

Tomorrow we finish up in the NL East

MLB Preseason Rankings 10-1

10.  Atlanta Braves- The Braves resigned many of their young stars this off season, but despite that, they failed to improve this off season. They are still, for the most part, the same team they were last year. To be fair, that isn’t a bad thing, they were a good team last year. Issue is they were prone to strikeouts, and streakiness. On top of that, SP Kris Medlen is on his way to get Tommy Johns, and Mike Minor and Brandon Beachy are starting the season on the DL as well. Like last year, braves will just have to hope they enter the playoffs on one of their hot streaks.

9. Texas Rangers- There is no doubt, about how scary the Rangers lineup can be. They added OF Shin-Soo Choo and 1B Prince Fielder to an already potent lineup. Jurickson Profar finally has a chance to prove himself in an everyday role, and they still have Adrian Beltre, Alex Rios, and Elvis Andrus. My concern though is for their rotation. SP Yu Darvish proved himself as an ace last year, and Martin Perez pitched better last year than his stat line suggested. The back half is where there are question marks though, with Derek Holland and Matt Harrison dealing with serious injuries, and the rest of the group having never truly proved themselves.

8. Tampa Bay Rays – No matter what, the Rays are always around at the end of the year. Their rotation is possibly the best from top to bottom in the league, and their lineup, while not great, can hold their own. With Wil Myers having his first full year, and with luck a full season out of 3B Evan Longoria as well, the Rays could make some noise this year. There are some holes in this lineup, but it is still better than it has been in years. It may finally be good enough to get the Rays a ring.

7. Oakland A’s – Billy Beane is a lot smarter than we all are. Every off season he underwhelms us, but then by the end of the season and decide all those underwhelming moves worked out. Oakland didn’t add too much this offseason. They brought in a handful of relievers, but their bullpen was already one of the best in the off season. They trade Brett Anderson, but he hasn’t given them much value lately anyway. The A’s are always going to be there because they understand how to build a team. They still don’t have the star power to win a world series though. Unless OF Yoenis Cespedes steps up this season and becomes a star like many, including myself, think he can be, the A’s will continue to be the first team out of the playoffs like every year. They are a very good team, but not a World Series team, at least not yet.

6. New York Yankees – The Yankees walked away from this off season as the paper champions. OF Jacoby Ellsbury, OF Carlos Beltran, C Brian McCann, and SP Masahiro Tanaka all earned their pinstripes this offseason. The Yankees may regret these moves in a few years when they find themselves paying over the hill player’s lots of money, but for now, they should be right back in the World Series competition. They also will finally get to send Michael Pineda out onto the mound. Yankees should be a very good team this year barring any major injuries.

5. Washington Nationals – The Nationals are a very talented, very young team. Bryce harper is primed to finally break out and show the power that made him the most hyped prospect in a long time. They also have an extremely talented rotation. SP Stephen Strasburg, SP Gio Gonzalez, SP Jordan Zimmerman, and SP Doug Fister make for a lethal 1-2-3-4 punch. They faltered last year, but they have a year of experience, and should reclaim their place atop of the NL East.

4.Detroit Tigers – The lineup will miss the bat of 1B Prince Fielder, but this is still a talented team. The Fielder move opens up space for prospect Nick Castellanos, and Ian Kinsler looks to show the Rangers they made a mistake in trading him. In addition, any lineup with Miguel Cabrera is going to have success. Their rotation is also strong, as Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, and Anibal Sanchez make a very strong top of the rotation. The Tiger have made a name for themselves in falling apart in the playoffs, but if they can get on a hot streak, they have a great chance at bringing home a ring.

3. LA Dodgers – The Dodgers on paper could be the best team in baseball. Their lineup on paper is strong from top to bottom, with the exception of Dee Gordon at second base, who should be replaced by Cuban prospect Alex Guerrero soon enough, and C A.J. Ellis. OF Matt Kemp’s health is a serious concern, as is OF Yasiel Puig’s attitude. Their rotation is even stronger, and unlike the lineup has proven they can get it done consistently. Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball, and Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu are damn good pitchers as well. Dodgers have a lot to prove, but they can be the most dangerous team in baseball if they get it together.

2. Boston Red Sox – It’s hard to rank the reigning champ anywhere but the number one spot, but the loss of Jacoby Ellsbury hurts. They are still a very good team though. Maybe not as talented as other teams, but sometimes chemistry is more important. No team had more chemistry last year than the Red Sox did, they rode that teamwork all the way to earning a World Series ring. The emergence of SS Xander Bogaerts should be a joy to watch, and the Red Sox should once again find themselves in the mix in an attempt to repeat.

1. St. Louis Cardinals – No non-Cardinal fan loves the Cardinals more than I do. I may not root for them, my allegiance lies in Philadelphia, but I have a deep admiration for the way the Cardinals run their team. They somehow always manage to keep their farm system stocked while also keeping a talented Major League team together. They never sell out the present for the future, nor the future for the present. Every move they make seems to be well thought out, and usually works out for them in the end. They are still one of the best teams from top down in the league, and have a few emerging young players like 2B Kolten Wong, SP Michael Wacha, and OF Oscar Tavares. They know how to build a team, and are my favorite to win this year as of now.

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Major League Off Season Report Card (Red Sox)

Moves so far

Red Sox at Orioles July 20, 2011.

Red Sox at Orioles July 20, 2011. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • Resigned 1B Mike Napoli to 2 year deal for $32 Million
  • Signed C A.J. Pierzynski to 1 year deal $8.25 million
  • Signed RP Edward Mujica to 2 year deal for $9.5 million
  • Acquired 2B/SS Jonathan Herrera  from Rockies for RP Franklin Morales

Rumor Mill

  • Still in talks with SS Stephen Drew
  • Working on extension with DH David Ortiz

Losing OF Jacoby Ellsbury to the Yankees has to hurt. Red Sox fans were hurt and confused, confused enough to forget how to spell traitor. So far, the Red Sox haven’t pulled the trigger on a replacement. They may be content giving OF Jackie Bradley Jr. a chance as the starter, or maybe they are working on a trade. However, for now it seems as if they have lost a lot of value in the outfield.

Brining in Mujica was a good move. He performed great as the Cardinals closer year. Even though he won’t be the closer for the Red Sox, his value is still great as a set up man.

The signing of Pierzynski is an upgrade over the bat of C Jarrod Saltalamacchia, but it could hurt the clubhouse. Pierzynski has a history of getting under people’s skins. When he left the Giants, his former teammates said he was a clubhouse cancer. He is tumultuous person, and doesn’t hold back what he is thinking. If he fits in it won’t be a problem, but if he doesn’t, it can hurt the chemistry. One of the reasons Red Sox won the World Series last year was because of team chemistry. The year before they had sent out all the players perceived as clubhouse cancers, and signed a group of players known for being great clubhouse guys.

While on the topic of chemistry, keeping Napoli was huge. It was Napoli along with OF Jonny Gomes that started the beard thing last year that helped build that great chemistry. He is also a big part of the lineup and they could afford to lose two of their best hitters in one offseason.

Losing a star player to a rival hurts, but the Red Sox should still be in good shape.

They get a C, they lost more value than they gained this offseason, but keeping Napoli is worth a passing grade on its own.

If there is any news, this will be updated.

Next up is the Blue Jays.