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.

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 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 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 (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.

Major League Off Season Report Card (Tigers)

Moves so far

English: Ian Kinsler

English: Ian Kinsler (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • Acquired 2B Ian Kinsler from Texas in exchange for 1B Prince Fielder and cash
  • Traded RHP Doug Fister to the Washington Nationals in exchange for IF/OF Steve Lombardozzi, RP Ian Krol and pitching prospect Robbie Ray
  • Signed RP Joe Nathan to a two-year, $20 million deal
  • Signed OF Rajai Davis to a two-year, $10 million deal
  • Signed RP Joba Chamberlain to a one-year, $2.5 million deal

Rumor Mill

  • Rick Porcello Possibly on trade market

The Tigers have had an impressive off season, and have managed to shed payroll down the line in doing so. Their big move came when they traded 1B Prince Fielder for 2B Ian Kinsler. While Fielder is the better player in the deal, the Tigers were able to shed some of his massive 9 year contract, 7 years left on it, while acquiring one of the best 2B in the league. Fielder is 29, and will be 37 when his deal expires. He is owed $168 million over the remainder of his contract, with most of that money coming after his prime years. Tigers deserve credit for being able to take that money off the books for what can potentially be a disaster in a few years.

By trading Fielder, first base opens up for Miguel Cabrera to move back in, meaning the Tigers can call up touted 3B prospect Nick Castellanos to man the corner. Despite trading the second best player in their lineup, they have actually managed to balance out their lineup, by adding a power speed mix in Kinsler, a big improvement at 2nd, and making room for their top prospect.

The Fister trade may hurt the rotation, but with the Tigers already having Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, they can afford to lose out on pitching a little.

Joe Nathan is an immediate improvement at closer, a role that has killed them the last two seasons.

Tigers get a B+, they shed payroll and managed to seemingly improve their team. That is what every GM wants to do going into the off season.

If Tigers make any moves, this will be updated.

Next team up is the Royals.