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 (AL West)

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

Cleveland Indians

Indians depth chart

 

Unlike the teams in the west, the central teams do not have an abundance of talent that is homegrown. At least in the Indians case though, they were able to have a team of Major Leagues players. There may not be a single all star worthy player on the team, but there is at least some potenital there, and they were able to have pretty much all teams actually from their area. Indians wouldn’t be a good team, but they wouldnt be the worse team either.

Kansas City Royals

Royals depth chart

 

While still not a great team, the Royals at least have a team with star players, including their staff ace Cliff Lee, and DH Matt Holiday. Other than those two, Morrison has always had the potential to be a star player, but hasn’t put it together, and Derek Norris is enjoying an all star year. Of the five teams in the Al Central, the Indians are the strongest on paper, and would be the favorites to win the division. I’m not sure if they could beat the Angels once they reached the playoffs though.

Minnesota Twins

twins depth chart

 

The twins are in the same place as the Indians are. Their team is full of major league role players. The difference between the two teams may be Alex Gordon, as he gives the Twins something the Indians don’t have, which is a star player. The staff ace Josh Johnson was once an elite pitcher before having his career derailed by injuries. Ike Davis and Jason Kubel could make more a nice pair of corner outfielders, but Davis has failed to live up to his potential, and Kubel isn’t a young player anymore. Overall, they are an OK team, but would be nothing special.

Chicago White Sox

whitesox depth chart

 

The White Sox suffer from the fact they do not only share a state with another team, but they share a city. This in a state that doesn’t have an abundance of baseball stars growing up in. So after the players from Illinois are split between the Cubs and Whitesox, the two teams had to take the scraps from the other teams regions. They still managed to get a respectable team given the situation. Kipnis and Werth are both talented players, and Lind and Thole both have always had the potential to be stars.

 

Detroit Tigers

tigers depth chart

 

Creating the Tigers team I ran into a few issues. One, Michigan doesn’t isn’t a big baseball state, meaning there weren’t many players to chose from. Secondly, every bordering state has a team of its own, meaning they have a really don’t have a second state to add to their pool of players like others. In the end, they were settling for the scraps left by the other teams looking for scraps in other states. With a team filled with some players average baseball fans have never even heard of, the Tigers may have come out being the worst team in this hypothetical MLB.

 

Tomorrow we look at the NL 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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Major League Off Season Report Card (Indians)

Moves so far

John Axford

  • Traded CF Drew Stubbs to the Colorado Rockies in exchange for Pitcher Josh Outman.
  • SP John Axford signed to a one-year, $4.5 million deal
  • LF David Murphy signed a two-year deal worth $12 million
  • DH Jason Giambi has re-signed with the Cleveland Indians
  • Signed INF David Adams

Rumor Mill

  • Looking for pitching in free agency

The Indians lost a lot this off season. SP Ubaldo Jimenez, SP Scott Kazmir, SP Joe Smith and closer Chris Perez all have left the Indians, depleting the Indians pitching staff. The signing of John Axford, and acquisition of Josh Outman helps, but it doesn’t fill the void left.

After coming onto the scene as a premiere, closer a few years ago, John Axford has struggled to get outs, finally losing his job as the Brewers closer last year. He will get a fresh chance to be the Indians closer unless they make another move.

 Josh Outman can take a spot in the rotation if necessary, or he could come out of the bullpen. Depending on what the Indians do the rest of this off season, they will put him where they most need the help. He is a serviceable pitcher, but is nothing special. He has a 4.3 ERA out of the pen last year for the Rockies.

Resigning Giambi ensures they have a power bat off the bench. Despite hitting below the Mendoza line last year, Giambi managed to hit 9 home runs off the bench, and over 30 rbi’s.

Signing Murphy makes up for losing Stubbs. Both are liability’s with a bat in their hand, but provide good defense. Murphy hit only a little over .220 last year with the Rangers, whereas Stubbs hit .230 for the Indians.

Indians lost a lot of value from last year, it will be hard for them to make the playoffs again with their pitching staff being depleted the way it has.

Indians get a D, they really need to make some more moves and improve their rotation. Names like Closer Fernando Rodney, and SP Jason Hammel have been thrown around. If they can’t they will fall way behind the Tigers and White Sox, who both improved a lot.

If the Indians make any moves, an update will be posted.

Next up is the NL West.