MLB Preseason Power Rankings and Preview 25-21

25.Houston Astros

Preview- The Astros will be the true definition of a feast or famine offense. They might hit over 200 homeruns as a team, while also striking out more than any other team. They have 3 players who can hit around 30 homeruns in their lineup. Chris Carter, George Springer, and Evan Gattis all have the power to reach that mark barring an injury. With the 2014 batting champion Jose Altuve at the top of the lineup, they should score plenty of runs when their power hitters are knocking it out.

The problem is, those hitters are all very streaky. Carter, Jason Castro, Evan Gattis, and George Springer strike out more frequently than most hitters do. As a team, they broke the record for strikeouts last year, finishing with over 1500.

Their rotation is probably about league average. Dallas Kuechel and Colin Mchugh both had breakout years, and should be able to continue to find success. What is going to hurt them is the lack of a legitimate ace, and the lack of depth at the bottom of the rotation.

Overall, the future is bright here, but like the Twins they are not ready to break out just yet. In the coming years, they should finally climb out of the cellar, where they have been for a long time. The feast or famine nature of this offense though will keep them from being consistent over long stretches, and the rotation isn’t good enough to carry the team during the times the offense will struggle.

Player to Watch- SP Mark Appel- Appel has the potential to be a top of the rotation talent, but he struggled last year, posting an ERA just under 7.00. If he can hit his stride again, he could find himself up in the majors as soon as this year. In that case, he could make the Astros a potential dark horse team to make the playoffs.

24.Cincinnati Reds

Preview- Like several teams already on this list, the Reds will have no trouble scoring runs. Their line-up includes Joey Votto, Devin Mesoraco, Todd Frazier, Brandon Phillips, Marlon Byrd, and Jay Bruce. A group that could combine for almost 150 homeruns, and that’s being conservative. Votto and Phillips are coming off down years, but are still more than talented enough to have bounce back years. The real star of this lineup is Todd Frazier. Coming off a 20-20 year, Frazier has quickly become one of the most popular players in the MLB, and for good reason. The acquisition of Byrd is over rated, as while his counting stats look good, he has been pretty much home run or bust lately. He strikes out more than Jay Bruce does, and the underlying numbers suggest a regression is likely. Despite Byrd being a potential bust, the offense will still be good though. Beyond the big hitters, they also have Billy Hamilton, who is close to a lock to lead the league in steals. The issue is going to be the pitching.

They traded away Mat Latos, and Homer Bailey is injured, and will miss the beginning of the year. To make matters worse, they announced they will be moving Tony Cingrani to the bullpen. This leaves their starting rotation very thin. Johnny Cueto is as good as any pitcher in the league, but whom do they have after him? Mike Leake? Anthony Descalfani? Jason Marquis? These are not names that inspire confidence. Their pitching will struggle this year, and their lineup is going to have to reach its full potential for them to compete. If the only chance for you to be a good team is for everything to go right, then your chances are not very good.

Player to Watch- SP Robert Stephenson- Stephenson struggles last year in AA, but he is still rated as a top 25 prospect in the MLB. He has the height scouts like to see in pitchers, a fastball that sits in the high 90’s, and good secondary stuff. His problem is, like many young pitchers, control. If he can be more accurate with his pitches, he could be called up by mid-season.

23.Texas Rangers

Preview- A healthy Texas team would actually be decent. Prince Fielder is still a great hitter, and last year was the first signifignt amount of time he has ever missed. The problem is no one can stay healthy.  The problem is they are never healthy. They have already lost star pitcher Yu Darvish to Tommy Johns Surgery, and middle infielder Jurickson Profar to shoulder surgery. This is testing the depth of a roster that was already shallow. They also have Adrian Beltre, Shin-Soo Choo, and Leonys Martin. The lineup isn’t deep, but the top of it could cause some serious problems for pitchers.

The problem is they have already been hit hard by injury. Yu Darvish’s season is over after undergoing Tommy John’s surgery. When healthy, Darvish is easily a top 10 pitcher, but his season has been cut short now for two seasons in a row. Also done for the season is Jurickson Profar. Once a highly touted prospect, he has not been able to show what he can do as he missed all of last year as well. SP Derek Holland is finally healthy, but with his history you can’t count on him to pitch for a whole season.They did add Yovani Gallardo in the off season, but while he is a decent pitcher, he isn’t going to replace the production of Darvish. The biggest problem though is that they have no one else to bring up if someone else goes down. If they are going to succeed, they are going to have to be almost injury free from here on out, and that just isn’t a reasonable thing to predict.

Player to Watch- 2B Rougned Odor- While Profar was getting hyped up by MLB scouts everywhere, Odor fell under the radar. Truth is, Odor was a very good prospect as well, and while his first season wasn’t super impressive, he did show he has what it takes to play in the MLB. Expect him to hit better this year, if he could reach his production from the minors the Rangers may not miss Profar that much this year.

22.Tampa Bay Rays

Preview- No team was hurt more by someone leaving than the Rays were. It wasn’t the loss of a hitter, wasn’t the loss of a pitcher, it was the loss of Joe Maddon. Few managers effect the game the way Maddon does, he is without a doubt the best manager in baseball. He turned a franchise that hadn’t really ever done anything into perineal contenders. They also lost President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman. The duo of Maddon and Friedman seemed to supply the Rays with a never ending in flux of talent. When the Rays couldn’t afford to keep their stars, they were able to replace them with someone else. The players who left often ended up struggling as well.

Now they have a new group of people in charge though, and the future is unknown. The Rays still have a good rotation, a good bullpen, and a very good defense to back them up. The problem on the field is going to be scoring runs. Evan Longoria hasn’t looked like he used to in years. After him the offense gets even worse. Short of a couple years where he was all-star worthy, Asdrubal Cabrera has been mediocre with the bat. Desmond Jennings is talented, but has yet to live up to his potential, and has showed no signs of improvement. James Loney can hit for average, but isn’t really a threat to do much more. After that, there is nothing. Nick Franklin, Steven Souza, Kevin Kiermaier, these aren’t major league hitters. Besides James Loney and most of this team will struggle to hit over .250. This is a rebuilding year for the Rays, they do have some good prospects, but none that are ready to play,

Player to Watch- 3B Evan Longoria- There was a point where Evan Longoria looked like one of the best players in the league. More recently, he has struggled to get hits, and while he still shows 20+ home run power, the Rays need more. If he can get back to his old form, it would go a long way in helping the Rays field a winning team.

21.Milwaukee Brewers-

Preview- The Brewers were the big story at mid-season last year. They were surprisingly in first place, and were playing better than almost any team in the league. Unfortunately, for them, the story had a bad ending. As good as they were in the first half, they were just as bad in the second.  To be honest, judging by the talent on their roster, the true team is probably closer to the second half performance.

To start, they lost a lot of rotation depth over the off-season, trading away Yovani Gallardo and Marco Estrada. This will cause them to rely on a starter like Mike Fiers, who while talented, has missed a lot of time with injury. Their other starters include Matt Garza, Kyle Lohse, and Jimmy Nelson. Nelson, like Fiers, has missed time with injury. Garza has been as consistent as pitchers come, and should once again be reliable. The rotation overall is good, but underwhelming.

Their lineup, like the rotation, is good, but underwhelming. Braun is coming off two straight down years, marred with injuries and suspensions. Jean Segura and Scooter Gennett both took a significant step back last year, and Aramis Ramirez is getting old. Carlos Gomez is a star though, and he alone should keep this lineup scoring runs.

The Brewers problem though is that they are just overall, underwhelming. They will play many close games this year, and if things go their way, they could end up winning games. It’s hard to bet on a team like that though, cause it could be equally as bad if things go wrong.

Player to Watch- OF Khris Davis- Davis has the power to be the top of the lineup hitter, but not the approach. His OBP was under .300, and that type of production will kill a team no matter how many home runs a player hits. He is still young though, and if he can start drawing more walks, and get his BA up just a little, he could really give the Brewers a boost.

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

With the popularity of the recent article on elitedaily.com by Josh Milford about What NBA Teams Would Look Like If Players Went Home, I thought it would be fun to look at the same thing in the MLB. Going into it I didn’t think it would be too hard, but boy was I wrong. The research for the article took me over a week, and I had to dig into some really obscure players for some teams.  The research is done though, and the teams are set. For some teams I had to borrow the left over players from other areas, because there just wasn’t enough players from their own region. it was also tough because there are a lot of baseball teams in close proximity to each other, making it hard to tell which player should go where, so for some players I had make a close decision, and base it mostly off which ballpark they were closer to. Unfortunately, it also means foreign players wouldn’t be in the league, which is a significant hit to the pool of players in baseball. I will release the teams in six different posts, separated by divisions.

Here is what the Al West would look like.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Angels Depth Chart

 

California is one of the best places to find baseball players. The beautiful weather allows them to play the sport year round, which is why it is the place where the most baseball players are from. Problem is, there is five teams in California, which means they have to split those five players. The Angels still ended u-p with a very strong team though, including a team favorite in pitcher Garret Richards. the only area where they are weak is the middle infield, but their outfield and corner infielders would be among the strongest in the game.  They would be my pick to win their division if players stayed home.

Texas Rangers

Rangers depth chart

 

Like California, Texas is the home of a lot of baseball players. They aren’t quite as strong as California though, and they also have to share the state with the Houston Astros. They ended up with a fairly strong team though, with their Ace Clayton Kershaw being the biggest strength. Like the Angels they also have a weak middle infield, but so do most teams seeing as many of the best middle infielders in the game are from other countries. They have a good outfield though, and good young corner infielders. They wouldnt be as good as the Angels, but would definitely compete for a wildcard spot.

Seattle Mariners

Mariners depth chart

 

Seattle makes yet another strong team in the Al West. They have the strongest Middle infield of the three teams thus far, but also the weakest corner infield. Their biggest problem would be a lack of real power. they do not have a single real power threat, only a few players with solid power.  never the less, with the amount of skill on the team, they would still be able to score runs. Jon Lester is a great, reliable pitcher at the front of the rotation as well.

Houston Astros

Astros Depth Chart

 

The Astros, while a solid team, seem to have gotten the worse end of the players from Texas. While researching for these two teams, it just seemed there was just a little more talent around the Dallas area, as opposed to the Houston area. Despite that, they still do have a good team. Matt Carpenter and Anthony Rendon are both strong players in the infield, and Jay Bruce is a major power source from the outfield. CArl Crawford and Michael Bourn have both been underwhelming latley, but both have the talent to be stars still.

Oakland Athletics

Oakland depth chart

 

With all the teams in California, one of them were going to end up with a weaker cast, unfortunately that is the Athletics. While they do get the promising young player Joc Pederson, it isnt a good sign they had to settle for a minor league player. Their middle infield is solid, but aging. Their pitcher, Doug Fister, is also just solid, but not the type of guy you want at the front of your rotation. The A’s may be the best team in the actual AL West, but they are the worst in this hypothetical Al West.

 

Tomorrow we will look at the NL West.

Preseason MLB Rankings 30-21

30. Houston Astros – Right now, the Astros main goal should be to just see what some of their young guys can do. Bring OF George Springer and 1B Jonathan Singleton up at some point, let them get their at bats. Another decent goal would be to not finish with the worst MLB record this year, as they did the last two years

29. Chicago Cubs- Like the Astros, the Cubs are in the middle of a rebuilding process. Expect to see 2B prospect Javier Baez, who so far in Spring Training has showed amazing power, get a chance this year. Cubs best hope is for Baez to come up, and for SS Starlin Castro and 1B Anthony Rizzo to live up to their potential.

28. Philadelphia Phillies- Unlike the previous two teams, the Phillies are not in the middle of a rebuild process. Instead of throwing in the towel, GM Ruben Amaro decided to double down this off season and add multiple again Veterans on short deal in an attempt to squeeze every win out of the aging Phillies Core that they. Phillies do have a couple prospects to look forward to this year though in 3B Maikel Franco and SP Jesse Biddle, but their prospects of winning this year do not look very bright.

27. Minnesota Twins- The Twins have Joe Mauer, and that is about it. They have a couple decent players after that, but none worth mentioning. Their rotation is frightening, but not in a good way. Opposing lineups are probably excited at the prospects of going up against the likes of starting pitchers Phil Hughes, Vance Worley, and Mike Pelfrey in consecutive days. The Twins do have one of the best farm systems though, and should be able to bounce back soon should prospects like Miguel Sano turn out.

26. Colorado Rockies – As always, the combo of OF Carlos Gonzalez and SS troy Tulowitzki will keep them from being embarrassing, but their rotation is still going to hold them back. They added SP Jordan Lyles, because we all know how well fly able pitchers do in Coors Field. Brett Anderson could be a decent add, but he will have to stay healthy to be so, and even if there are now doubts if he can reclaim he form from back in Oakland. They may not be the worst team in the MLB, but I just can’t see them competing, or even improving this year.

25. Miami Marlins- The Marlins might have one of the more promising young rotations in baseball. Jose Fernandez showed in his rookie year that he could be a legitimate ace. Behind him, are a hand full of other young pitchers with a lot of upside, including former Tigers prospect Jacob Turner. The issue is still their lineup though. While improved, it still should end up as one of the worst in the league. Giancarlo Stanton is still one of the most powerful hitters in the league, and OF Christian Yellich has a lot of potential, but besides that, there isn’t much. Garret Jones and Casey McGhee are ok, but they aren’t going to make a huge difference. Marlins still have a long way to go.

24. San Diego Padres – The Padres are the first team on this list I can see as a Dark Horse candidate. I don’t think it is likely, but they do have some nice pieces. 2B Jed Gyorko, SS Everth Cabrera, and 1B Yonder Alonso all have the potential to be great MLB players. They still just don’t have that star piece though, and there is serious evidence behind the idea teams with bigger ballparks aren’t as competitive. They could be good and compete for a spot, but I don’t think it is going to happen yet.

23. NY Mets- The Mets may have a very bright future. If the Marlins may have one of the best young rotations, the Mets do have the best. Even with SP Matt Harvey on the shelf for a year after getting Tommy Johns surgery, the Mets still have Zack Wheeler, SP Jon Niese, SP Dillon Gee, and eventually prospect Noah Syndergaard. Add in veteran SP Bartolo Colon, and this rotation is is a scary one. Their lineup still needs a lot of work, but even that should improve this year. They aren’t ready to be competitive yet, but the Mets fans have a lot to look forward to.

22. Chicago White Sox – The White Sox had an impressive off season, acquiring Cuban prospect Jose Abreu, whose power seems to be legit, and former Diamondback Prospects Adam Eaton and Matt Davison. White Sox had already acquired OF Avisail Garcia by trading SP Jake Peavy last year. Whitesox have a legit chance to shoot up the power rankings by the end of the year, they just need to prove they can compete first.

21. Toronto Blue Jays- Blue Jays were considered serious contenders by many at this point last year. The year ended up being a disaster, and they now look like the losers of the pair of blockbuster trades they made last year. The R.A. Dickey trade looks like a complete bust, and the huge trade they made for most of the Marlins team doesn’t look much better. This is still a talented team, but their rotation is suspect. The potential for success is still there, but there isn’t nearly as much hype as there was last year.

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Major League Off Season Report Card (Astros)

Moves so far

Dexter Fowler ( Photo Credit Denver Post)

  • Acquired CF Dexter Fowler from the Colorado Rockies in exchange for SP Jordan Lyles and OF Brandon Barnes
  • Signed SP Scott Feldman to a three-year, $30 million deal
  • Signed RHP Chad Qualls to a  two-year deal worth $6 million
  • Acquired SP Anthony Bass and cash from the San Diego Padres in exchange for RP Patrick Schuster
  • Signed RP Jesse Crain to a one-year contract
  • Acquired 1B/OF Jesus Guzman from the San Diego Padres in exchange for INF Ryan Jackson
  • Signed RP Matt Albers to a one-year, $2.45 million contract

Rumor Mill

  • Looking for a first basemen, possibly Lyle Overbay or Mitch Moreland

The Astros have been one of the worst teams in baseball the past few years.  After they traded Hunter Pence, Lance Berkman, and Roy Oswalt, their team became a collection of what many referred to as a minor league team. Few players of note have played for them lately, but that seems to finally be changing.

The Astros acquired Dexter Fowler this offseason, giving them a legit leadoff man, and a respectable bat. Fowler, along with 2B Jose Altuve and C Jason Castro gives them three bats to build around.

The Astros also improved their bullpen, signing Jesse Crain, Chad Qualls, and Matt Albers. Crain is as reliable as they come, posting an ERA under 3.6 in all but two of his ten seasons. Albers hasn’t been as consistent, but he has been better the past few years. He switched to the bullpen after his first two failed seasons as a starter with the Astros. He struggled in the bull pen originally, but in his last two seasons, he has found his from and has become a solid middle reliever. Qualls is a veteran presence, and re-found his form last year with the Marlins, he is another solid addition to the bullpen.

With other solid additions like Scott Feldman and Anthony Bass, there is no doubt the Astro’s have improved this year. Problem is, they still look like they will be the worst team in the AL West. They are moving in the right direction though, and have a good farm system. Once players like 1B Jonathan Singleton, SP Mark Appel, OF George Springer and SS Carlos Correa come up, the Astros will be a scary team once again.

Astros get a B, they didn’t make enough moves to make them competitive, but they improved their team, and are at least trying to rebuild.

If Astros make any moves, an update will be posted.

Next team up is the Rangers

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