MLB Pre Season Preview and Power Rankings 20-16

20. New York Yankees-

Preview- On paper, the Yankees should be a good team. After last year though, what is on paper means nothing. Yankees won free agency last year, but many of the players they signed disappointed, and their rotation feel apart at the hinges because of injuries.

Even before Masahiro Tanaka was hurt though, they still weren’t playing good. The lineup has talent, but is full of under achievers, and injury risks. Carlos Beltran is a borderline Hall of famer, but he seems to be on his last legs. Brian McCann is also starting to decline, as his BA fell under .240 last year. Jacoby Ellsbury is productive when healthy, but he has missed significant time over several seasons. Mark Teixera hasn’t been good for a couple years now, and while Didi Gregorius is good with the glove, he has still yet to show he can handle a bat.

As for their pitching, Tanaka looks like the real deal, but there are many question marks after that. Can Michael Pineda stay on the field? He has missed most of his two years with the Yankees. Can CC Sabathia still be a solid pitcher even though his fastball velocity has taken a nose dive? So far the answer to that has been no. Ivan Nova has also dealt with injury issues, and while he has shown flashes of greatness, he has been inconsistent. Nathan Eovaldi was a solid addition to the rotation, but despite the talent in the rotation, there is no guarantee it will translate to the games.

For now Yankees seem to be looking at the third straight year out of the playoffs.

Player to Watch: CP Dellin Betances- One area of the Yankees that should be good is their bullpen. Betances is competing with Andrew Miller for the role of closer, but the smart money is one Betances to win it. He showed tons of potential last year, finishing with an ERA of 1.40 over 97.2 innings.

  1. Kansas City Royals-

Preview- The Royals made a miracle run all the way to the World Series last year, before falling to the San Francisco Giants. Expect a major step back this year though. Not only did they lose SP James Shields, who gave them a 3.21 ERA over 227 innings, but they were over achieving last year, and only clicked at the right time.

Take a look at their lineup, it just isn’t that talented. Only two players last year showed adequate offensive production, Lorenzo Cain and Alex Gordon. Both of them had an OPS + of over 100. After that it was just a group of players who weren’t really hitting. Eric Hosmer continues to dispaoint, as he has yet ti live up to the potential he showed his rookie year. Hosmer was good they year before that, but that year is now sandwiched in between two mediocre years. Mike Moustakas can hit for power, but his mechanics are terrible, and he goes on long cold streaks that can kill his team. The only other hitter of significance is Alcides Escobar, a gold glove defensive talent, who can get on base and steal when he has to. Overall though, they have no one hitter to rely on, just a handful of decent hitters, supported by streaky guys, and underachievers.

On the mound, they have a terrific bullpen, and an underwhelming rotation. Yordano Ventura and Danny Duffy both have potential, but neither have shown enough yet to be completely confident in. After that Edison Volquez and Chris Young join the rotation, and they have already proven you can’t rely on them for various reasons. Overall, this is just a decent team, which caught lightning in a bottle because of their great defense and bullpen. Problem is, lightning rarely strikes the same place twice.

Player to Watch- Yordano Ventura- He showed a lot of promise, but still has things to work on. His 1.3 WHIP and 20% strikeout rate leaves a lot to be desired. Could be a star though.

  1. San Francisco Giants-

Preview- I know, how can I rank the two teams in the world series outside the top 15. Like the Royals, this is a team that overachieved last year. The squeaked into the playoffs, clinging onto that second wildcard spot, and then started playing really well. They fully deserve the title last year for their play down the stretch, but it doesn’t make them a good team.

Lets start with their rotation. Madison Bumgarner is a great pitcher, but at 24, he threw 270 pitches last year. He could be in for a slight regression this year. After that, Matt Cain has been terrible of late, and hasn’t had an ERA under 4 since 2012. Tim Hudson had a great first half of the year, but posted an ERA of 4.98 over the second half, and will turn 40 in July. Jake Peavy was good for the Giants last year, but he hasn’t had two straight years pitching over 30 games since 2007, and is turning 34. After that there is Tim Lincecum, whose down fall had been noted by everyone.

Their hitting isn’t much better. They replace Pablo Sandoval with Casey Mcgehee, who has a line of .249/.312/.353, over the past three seasons. They have Brandon belt, who despite being a breakout canidate every year, has yet to do so. A middle infield of Joe Panik and Brandon Crawford, both of whom are decent guys to have, but won’t light up the box score or have any great contribution to the team. Norichika Aoki, and Angel Pagan are both sub par hitters as well. The offensive production on this team will mostly come down to Buster Posey and Hunter Pence. Posey is the best hitting catcher in baseball, and Pence has down well for himself in San Francisco. They wont be enough to make up for the struggles of the rotation though.

Player to Watch- SP Matt Cain- If Giants have any hope of repeating, Cain needs to regain his form. He used to be a top 20 pitcher, but he like Tim Lincecum has just lost it. It may look too late for Lincecum, but Cain may still get it together.

  1. Oakland Athletics-

Preview- The A’s put a lot into trying to win last year, and fell on their faces. In doing so, they lost many talented players, and have nothing left from those trades to speak for it. They traded SS prospect Addison Russell to bring back starting pitchers Jason Hammel and Jeff Sarmardzija, and neither of them are still on the team. They sent OF Yoenis Cespedes to Boston to bring back SP Jon Lester, and Lester left in free agency.

They also traded away star 3B Josh Donaldson to bring back 3B Brett Lawrie in the off-season. Lawrie was once a highly regarded prospect, but has failed to live up to the hype. OF Brandon Moss was also traded to Cleveland. Their three best power hitters have all been trade within one year.

What have they added in the off season? Well Billy Butler, who has been as unimpressive as it gets among DH’s. They also added Ben Zobrist and Ike Davis. Zobrist is a decent hitter, but is over rated by the general public. This is another classic Billy Beane team, one put together with recycled parts.

There is no reason to worry about the pitching. For as long as Billy Beane has been there they have lost pitchers, only to replace them with other good pitchers from their farm system. Their minor leagues is a factory for starting pitchers. They still have Sonny Gray, who has proven to be a very good pitcher. While many of the other names in the rotation aren’t super impressive, the history of this team tells me they will still all do good.

Player to Watch- 3B- Brett Lawrie- Lawrie was once a very highly regarded prospect, but it just hasn’t panned out yet. He looked like a player who was going to hit 20-20 regularly. The A’s are hoping the change of scenery can get him going.

English: New Hampshire Fisher Cats catcher, Tr...

English: New Hampshire Fisher Cats catcher, Travis d’Arnaud. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  1. New York Mets

Preview- The Mets have a very bright future. Their rotation is stocked with young talent. Matt Harvey looked like one of the best pitchers in the league two years ago, before having Tommy John surgery. Jacob deGrom is the reigning rookie of the year, and while he was not as higly regarded coming out of the minors as his teammates, looks to be the real deal. They also have a couple pitchers still waiting in the wings, like Noah Syndergaard and Rafeal Montero. Zack Wheeler has also impressed thus far, but recently underwent Tommy Johns and will miss the season.

The issue is going to be hitter. While their lineup still leaves a lot to be desired. It has improved immensely from recent years. Michael Cuddyer, Juan Lageres, Curtis Granderson, Lucas Duda, David Wright, and Travis d’Arnaud make for a unimpressive, but still decent lineup. If they want to really press for a title in the coming years, they will have to find some more hitting prospects.

The question is can they win this year? They can certainly be in the mix this year, especially with that rotation. As far as making the playoffs, they may still be a year off. Harvey may have to readjust to the majors, and is most likely on a pitch count this year. They are still a year away from having their full rotation as well. They are going to be a dangerous team down the road though, especially if they can find a way to flip one of their stockpile of young pitchers into a equally good young bat.

Player to Watch- C Travis d’Arnaud- d’Arnaud was once the prize of the Phillies farm system. Then he was flipped to Toronto to bring back Roy Halladay, and then flipped to the Mets in exchange for R.A. Dickey. He has struggled thus far, but expect a bit of a breakout year for him this season. He could be one of the better hitting catchers.

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 (Royals)

Omar Infante

Moves so far

  • Signed SP Jason Vargas to a four-year, $32 million deal
  • Traded RP Will Smith to Milwaukee for OF Norichika Aoki
  • Signed IF/OF Omar Infante to a four-year, $30 million deal
  • Traded OF David Lough to Baltimore for IF Danny Valencia
  • Signed C Francisco Pena to a one-year deal

Rumor Mill

  • Royals seem to be done trading away their major league players
  • SP Ervin Santana seems to be out of their price range at this time

The Royals have quietly become a respectable team over the last few years. Smart signings, a great farm system, and patience have paid off for the Royals, as they continue to improve.

The Royals are going to lose SP Ervin Santana, they just can’t afford to pay him after the signings they have made. They will hope Jason Vargas can replace his production. Vargas went 9-8 with a 4.02 ERA last year with the Angels.

Royals lose out by trading Lough. Lough is a solid Outfielder who brings energy to the team. They get back Danny Valencia for Lough. Valencia was once a promising prospect in the Twins organization, but he has struggled to hit since being called up. He will most likely be the backup 3rd basemen, and while he can give an ok bat off the bench, he lacks power, and doesn’t present the same value as Lough did.

The Royals best signing was probably Omar Infante. Infante isn’t a great player, but he is solid, and they got him a t a decent price. He can provide an ok bat and good defense from the back of the lineup.

They Royals limited payroll means Royals have to count on their young guys. If players like Hosmer can continue to improve they may have a future, but Royals have failed to hold on to promising young talent two years in a row. Last year they traded OF Wil Myers for James Shield, and Myers went on to win AL Rookie of The Year. This year they trade Lough, who not as talented as Myers, still provided some value to them.

Royals get a C-, I understand they can’t improve too much considering their payroll, but they shouldn’t be losing value in an offseason. Norichika is a downgrade from Lough, and Vargas is a downgrade from Santana.

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

Next team up is the Indians.

Major League Off Season Report Card (Orioles)

*DEAL WITH BALFOUR HAS OFFICIALLY FALLEN THROUGH*

Moves so far

Jim Johnson

Jim Johnson (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • Traded 3B Danny Valencia to Royals for OF David Lough
  • Traded Closer Jim Johnson to Athletics for 2B Jemile Weeks
  • Signed RP Ryan Webb to 2 year deal for $4.5 million
  • Signed Closer Grant Balfour to 2 year deal for $14 million (Deal Reportedly in Jeopardy)

Rumor Mill

  • There was a problem with the physical that may nullify the Balfour deal
    • There seems to be an issue with his shoulder
  • Orioles are interested in 1B/DH Kendrys Morales

Orioles will never be big spenders, but with a group of promising young players, they have found a way to be competitive in the AL East under manager Buck Showalter. Their biggest issue has been starting pitching.

So far, they have failed to address that, but unless the Balfour deal does indeed fall apart they have managed to improve in other areas.

Ryan Webb is one of the better non closer relievers in the game. This move stabilizes the middle of their bullpen.

The trade for David Lough may quietly be one of the best trades of the off season. One unnamed American League general manager said this about the deal “he can do everything that Nate McLouth does. He might end up being an even better hitter than McLouth.”

Lough is a sneaky good player. Isn’t flashy, he won’t put up huge numbers, but he is the type of scrappy, all-around player that can be the final piece to a very good lineup.

The Jim Johnson deal was a dud at first, they didn’t get much back, and it was more or less a salary dump. After they signed Balfour, it looked like it was going to be a win, Balfour is an upgrade over Johnson. If the Balfour deal falls apart though trading Johnson could be a disaster, unless they can find someone else to step into the closer role.

The O’s get a B+ if the Balfour deal stands. If the deal collapses, it will be dropped to a C+.

When there is news, this will be updated.

Next team up is the Rays.