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.
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.
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.
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.