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.

Players to Target in Keeper Leagues

C-Salvador Perez- Kansas City Royals

Last year Perez was a favorite sleeper pick, and it just didn’t work out. He had an okay season, but not the type of season people

expected. He started the season in a major slump, discouraging many fantasy owners. He did manage to get his average up close to

.300 by the end of the season, but he was predicted by most to hit over .300. His strong finish is a great sign that he is finally settling into the majors and should be the hitting machine he was in the minors.

Perez is going at around 150 in most drafts, which is a fair place for him to go. Based on his second half, he should at least hit over .300 with 15 homeruns. He may even do even better and sneak close to 20 homeruns.

1B- Jose Abreu – Chicago White Sox

People are shying away from Aberu because of his lack of MLB Experience. That critique is fair, but looking at the past few Cuban players to come to the MLB, there doesn’t seem to be much of a learning Curve. Former Cuban stars OF Yoenis Cespedes, OF Yasiel Puig, and RP Aroldis Chapman all hit the ground running and have already established themselves in the MLB. There is no reason to believe there will be a learning curve for Abreu at this point

Abreu showed remarkable power while in Cuba. Between 2011 and 2012, Abreu hit .394 / .542/ .837 with 75 walks, 35 home runs, 71 runs and 99 RBI in only 87 games. While playing in the World Baseball Classic, he hit three homeruns including a Grand Slam in 25 games. He showed in Cuba the ability to use the entire field his BA may suffer this year, but he should be able to produce good power in his first year. He is going late in drafts, and could be a steal late in the draft. He has 30 homerun potential, especially considering his home ball park.

2B- Jurickson Profar – Texas Rangers

Profar’s first taste of the pros left a lot to be desired, but he is still only a year removed from being one of the most highly touted prospects in baseball. He only managed to hit .234, without the power or speed numbers to pad it. Part of the problem was he wasn’t getting consistent playing time, and bounced from position to position due to the crowded Rangers infield.

One thing in Profar’s favor this offseason though is the trade of Ian Kinsler, which seals Profar’s role as the starting second basemen. He will have chance to play every day, and play in the same position. His plate discipline, power, and a great ability to make contact, make him a dangerous player. His upside his huge, and it would be smart to get him now for a keeper league before he becomes overpriced in future drafts.

SS- Jonathan Villar- Houston Astros

Every time a SS has a good season, ESPN loves to blow them up and rank them way too high to actually draft. Last year Jean Segura and Everth Cabrera were both steals at the end of the draft, but now they are both being drafted in the top 100 picks, which is poor value. SS is such a shallow position that people often reach for the few established players there are at the position. You often either have to take someone like Elvis Andrus excessively early, for what they actually give you, or are stuck with a scrub in your fantasy lineup.

Villar presents a chance to get a SS just like Segura, Andrus, or Cabrera late. Instead of taking the consistently mediocre Asdrubal Cabrera late, take Villar, whose stat line should look very similar to the top SS late. He has great speed, but that is about it. If your league measures OBP instead of AVG he is even better. He won’t hit many homeruns, but few Shortstops do. He will steal around 40 bases though. It is the same thing you are getting with Segura, Cabrera, and Andrus. Only difference is you are getting him almost 10 rounds later.

3B- Xander Bogaerts- Boston Red Sox

Bogaerts was one of the top prospects last year, but just didn’t have a place on the team to play. His natural position, SS, was

blocked by Stephen Drew, and 3B was blocked by Will Middlebrooks. Even when Middlebrooks was demoted, the Red Sox chose to instead give Jose Iglesias as chance instead of Bogaerts. Bogaerts finally got a chance in August though as a Utility player, and worked his way into the starting lineup by the end of the year. Now with Drew gone, Bogaerts will get a chance to slide back over to SS and play every day. This will eventually give him the added bonus of SS eligibility.

Bogaerts has been a favorite of scouts for a while. He has the potential to be a four category contributor, with only steals being the position he won’t contribute in. He has impressive power, with the ability to hit for even more power than he did in the minors. He should be a must target in Keeper leagues, and even re-draft leagues.

OF-Adam Eaton- Chicago Whitesox

Adam Eaton has the potential to hit 10 homeruns with 30 steals if he can stay healthy. A sleeper going into last year, injuries derailed his first season with the Diamondbacks, and he would later be sent to the Whitesox in a three way trade that sent Mark Trumbo to Arizona. A fresh start could be great for Eaton.

Eaton made a name for himself in the minors for a great ability to get on base, OBP of .450 in the minors. That, combined with good speed, has allowed him to be a force on the base paths. For a guy being drafted around pick 210, Eaton could be a great value add as a final outfielder.

SP- Zack Wheeler- NY Mets

The other young Mets pitcher who broke out last year, Wheeler was over shadowed by the stunning performance of Matt Harvey. Wheeler wasn’t as good as Harvey was, but he still showed he is more than capable of being a great pitcher at this level. His stuff is nasty, and while he could definitely improve his control, he has the potential to be almost as good Harvey.

Now, as he enters his second MLB season, he has a chance to really step up. His ERA may not be as good as Harvey’s was before his unfortunate injury, but he should be the same strikeout machine. Plus, with a much improved Met’s team, he has a chance to get more wins than he did last year.

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Brewers Bring In Matt Garza

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

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

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

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

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

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

Major League Off Season Report Card (Brewers)

Moves so far

Ryan Braun

Ryan Braun (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • Traded OF Norichika Aoki to Kansas City for RP Will Smith

Rumor Mill

  • Not expected to do much of anything this offseason
  • Various names have been thrown around in rumors, but nothing has stuck

Brewers have been dead quiet this offseason. Besides, for acquiring a decent starter in Will Smith, they haven’t made a single notable move.

At the beginning of the winter meetings, GM Doug Melvin said they would be quiet this offseason. “We like parts of our ball club. Some parts we need help, there’s not a lot of openings in the regular lineup. One position we need to fill is first base. We were really hurt by the lack of production there,” Melvin said.

With 1B Corey Hart injured, the Brewers were never able to find a replacement at first. With Hart leaving in free agency, they still haven’t found a new first basemen, and may be doomed to have a gaping hole at first once again. A trade for Mets 1B Ike Davis has been looked it, and they have also talked to 1B Michael Young, but neither of those deals are close to happening.

Brewers also need to improve the bullpen. The Will Smith trade helps, he can go into either the bullpen, or even the rotation if necessary. The Brewers need him in the bullpen though. They still need more help in the bullpen, but that seems unlikely right now.

Thanks to a boring off season, the Brewers are most likely doomed to mediocre again this year. They seem content to just be patient and hope their young guys grow into good players. Their team is mediocre right now, they need to add some more talent, but just don’t seem interested in doing so.

The lineup inst bad, or at least the top half of it isn’t. With players like SS Jean Segura, OF Carlos Gomez, OF Ryan Braun, 3B Aramis Ramirez, and C Jonathan Lucroy, the lineup can do damage. The back half is very week though, with OF Kris Davis, 2B Rickie Weeks, and 1B Juan Francisco all struggling last year.

Brewers get a D, they need to add some value to this team somewhere, but have to do so. They will go into another season without a 1B, without a reliable bullpen, and with a gaping hole in the back half of their lineup.

If there is any news, this will be updated.

Next team up is the Cardinals.