MLB Preseason Preview and Power Rankings (5-1)

5.Boston Red Sox

Preview- The Red Sox were among the free agent winners this off season. They signed Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez, and swapped Yoenis Cespedes out of a crowed outfield to bring back SP Rick Porcello. The Porcello move was a good one, they bring back a talented, 26 year old pitcher, and only lose an outfielder who struggled for them, and they didn’t have room for anyway. As for the Sandoval and Ramirez signings, they are being overblown. Sandoval is not that good of a hitter in the regular season, and Ramirez in left field is going to be an adventure.

The reason they are rated this high is the team around those players. Mookie Betts, Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Mike Napoli, Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval, Xander Bogaerts, and eventually Rusney Castillo, will make for a very good line up. They may be overpaying Ramirez and Sandoval, but they have the money to bite that bullet. Bogaerts struggled his rookie year, but has been working hard with a hitting instructor, and seems poised to put together a breakout year. Ortiz keeps hitting, despite his age, and has yet to show any signs of regression.

What may hurt them, is their rotation. Porcello is a good pitcher, but after him, there is only question marks. Clay Bucholz and Justin Masterson have shown potential in their careers, but have been mediocre the last couple of years. They really need an elite pitcher to put at the top of the rotation. They are tentative to give a prospect from their deep farm system in order to bring one back, but they may eventually cave in. For now, their lineup alone makes them a top 5 team.

Player to Watch- OF Mookie Betts- While all eyes have been on Kris Bryant this spring, there is a different player who has been flying under the radar. Mookie Betts is a star in the making, and is ready to become a top outfielder in the game. He will lead off this year for the Red Sox, and is a candidate to hit over .300 and steal 40 bases.

  1. Los Angeles Angels

Preview- When people think of the Angels, they think of Mike Trout. Trout is the best player in the league, and probably the new face of the MLB after Derek Jeter retired. He is the favorite to repeat as AL MVP, but what about the rest of the team?

This team led the majors in wins last year, with 98. They only had one major loss in the offseason, and that was 2B Howie Kendrick. They shipped him up the freeway to the Dodgers in exchange for SP Andrew Heaney. They downgraded at second base, where Johnny Giavotella will start this year, but get a much needed boost to their pitching rotation. They also made some minor signings to boost their bullpen depth, and brought in OF Matt Joyce for outfield depth.

The rest of their team remains mostly the same. Kole Calhoun, Albert Pujols, Erik Ayabar, CJ Cron, Chris Ianetta, the Angels are getting above average production from almost every position except for second base. The lineup doesn’t have the name power some of the other top five teams have, but it will be just as productive.

The concern will be their pitching rotation. First, there is Jered Weaver, who is talented, but has had issues with a loss in velocity the last couple of years. Garret Richards is coming off an injury, and it’s no guarantee he will be able to shake the rust off this year. CJ Wilson has been marred in a decline over the past couple years as well. How good this rotation may come down to the performances of young pitchers Andrew Heaney and Matt Shoemaker. The Angels aren’t the best team on paper, but they are a well-constructed team, and should once again be at the top of the standings.

Player to Watch- SP Matt Shoemaker- Shoemaker was the runner up in the AL Rookie of the Year race, and if he can continue to develop could be the key to the Angels taking the next step.

Bryce Harper

Bryce Harper (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  1. Washington Nationals

Preview- Everyone’s favorite team to win it all, they have more holes than most like to talk about. They are a very good team, but they aren’t as good overall as the two teams ranked above them on this list.

To give credit where it is due, their pitching rotation is fantastic. With Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Max Scherzer, Jordan Zimmerman, and Doug Fister as their starting pitchers, they are an almost lock to make the postseason. The issue will be whether they score runs or not.

Ian Desmond and Anthony Rendon are legitimately good hitters, but after them, the lineup is mediocre. There is no reason to believe that Ryan Zimmerman will make a comeback. He is injury prone, and when he is on the field, he isn’t even that good anymore. Bryce Harper is young, but this will mark three straight years that everyone thinks will be a breakout year, and it hasn’t happened yet. Jayson Werth, Denard Span, and Dan Uggla round out a lineup that is mostly underwhelming. To make it worse, Rendon is dealing with various injury issues entering the season, so his status for now is up in the air.

They are still going to be a good team, but people are getting ahead of themselves in saying they are the favorites to win it all. They have a chance to win, but as a Phillies fan, I remember what happened to the Phillies when they had an all-star rotation but an underwhelming lineup. If they want to win, they are going to need that breakout from Harper now, because their lineup isn’t good enough without it.

Player to Watch- OF Michael Taylor- Span will miss a chunk of April to start out the season, giving Taylor a chance to play. He is a promising prospect, and with a good April, can steal Spans spot permanently, and make it a little more likely they win it all this year.

2. St Louis Cardinals

Preview- The Cardinals are the most consistent team in baseball. While every other team is like a roller coaster and has its ups and downs, the Cardinals are a constant. They may not always be among the best teams in the league, but they are always at least there in the playoffs. This year they have as good a chance as anyone to win it all.

The lineup is talented from top to bottom. Matt Adams will finally get consistent playing time, and Kolten Wong will get a full year. Jason Heyward has struggles his last two years, but maybe the change of scenery will get him back on track. Yadier Molina, Matt Carpenter, and Matt Holiday round out a lineup that is good almost from top to bottom.

Their rotation may be even better. Adam Wainwright is as good as almost any pitcher. After him, they have two very promising young pitchers in Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha. The rotation is rounded out by John Lackey and Lance Lynn, who are both mid 3 era pitchers. Their rotation may not be as good as the Nationals, but barring an injury, they should be among the best in the league still.

Few teams have been as successful as the Cardinals have the last decade. They not only make the playoffs every year, but also have been able to have success in the playoffs, unlike the Nationals and Dodgers, who they are ranked in between. With a top 10 pitching rotation, and a top 10 lineup, they will be amongst the best teams in the league, with the track record to back it up.

Player to Watch- 2B Kolten Wong- Wong was unimpressive in year one, but finished strong in the second half, hitting 11 homeruns. Expect him to raise his average this year. Wong hit over .300 in the minors, and should be expected to do the same in the majors. He also has decent power and speed, with his ceiling being a 20-20 type of hitter.

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers

Preview- The Dodgers are the most talented team on paper, but they were the most talented team last year as well, and all it got them was a first round exit. It’s hard to put them anywhere other than at number one with how much talent they have, but there is going to be that concern of what they will do when they get to the playoffs again.

With all the moves, they made in the off season, trading for Howie Kendrick and Jimmy Rollins, signing Brandon McCarthy, and brining in Cuban prospect Hector Olivera, their best move was trading Matt Kemp. Not because they brought back a promising catcher in Yasmani Grandal, but because it opened up a spot for Joc Pederson on the roster.

The Olivera signing actually was a head scratcher. Did it allow them to bring in a promising player? Yes, but it blocked another promising player from having a space on the roster, Alex Guerrero. Guerrero, another Cuban prospect, was looking very promising, and in line to play third base before the Olivera signing. Now his spot on the team in up in the air. The infield and outfield were already packed, and third was really the only chance he had at playing.

The pitching rotation is probably the second best behind the nationals. Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson, there aren’t very many rotations better than that. Their lineup is even better on paper. Adrian Gonzalez, Howie Kendrick, Jimmy Rollins, Pederson, Carl Crawford, and Yasiel Puig make for an imposing line up.

The problem is, just because you throw a bunch of all stars together it doesn’t mean they will be the best team. It didn’t work for the Bobby Valentine Red Sox, didn’t work for the Marlins a couple years ago, so there is no guarantee it will work for the Dodgers.

Player to Watch- OF Joc Pederson- Pederson has the potential to hit 20-20 in his first year, and to maybe even be a 30-30 player. His potential is sky high, and having a player like Pederson up in the majors is going to be great for the game as a whole.

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

The continuation of yesterdays article. Today we look at the NL west. To give credit where credit is due, I would like to remind you this article was inspired by a similar article on elitedaily.com by Josh Milford (What Nba Teams Would Look Like If Players Went Home).

Los Angeles Dodgers

dodgers depth chart

 

Like their close neighbors the Angels, the Dodgers have one of the strongest teams in the MLB. An outfield combo of Stanton, Braun, and Crisp comes with an impressive power speed combo. Their infield is suspect, but has potential if Singleton and Moustakas play to their ability. James Shields is a solid front line pitcher, but his consistency issues will hurt the Dodgers at times. Overall they have a very good shot at winning the divison and even the World Series with a team like this.

San Diego Padres

padres depth chart

 

The Padres would have a very strong top of the lineup. Jones, Craig, A Gonz, and Jaso are all top hitters at their position. The back half wouldnt be as strong though, Punto, Gwynn Jr. Wigginton and Barnes are all bench players who will be forced to start for the Padres. Thankfully for them, they also have one of the best pitchers in baseball to be their Ace. Padres are among the worst teams this year in the MLB, but they would stand a decent chance in this MLB.

San Francisco Giants

giants  depth chart

The Giants have the same problem the A’s had, which is the fact the most talented baseball players seem to be from southern California, leaving the Giants with most of the leftovers. They do get Tulo and Hill, which makes for one of the stronger middle infields, but they have one of the weaker outfields. The rest of their team is solid, and Matt Garza is a decent front of the rotation pitcher, but overall their team isnt strong enough to compete with the other teams in the West.

Arizona Diamondbacks

dbacks depth chart

While the Dbacks have a very strong outfield and middle infield, the fact they would have to put Affedelt at starter would really hurt them. Affedelt used to start before he was forced into the bullpen, but the Dbacks would have never had the luxury of putting him in the bullpen.  Thier lineup may be good enough to help them stay competitive, but I doubt they could win a playoff series with Affedelt as their ace.

Colorado Rockies

rockies depth chart

 

With a team filled mostly of players who are bench players in the rel MLB, the Rockies would find it tough to find wins. Top prospect Kris Bryant may be their only saving grace, as he has showed tremendous power in the Cubs farm system this year. Other than him though, no one else has been very impressive lately. The Rockies had to take the leftovers from a lot of other areas since their aren’t many baseball players from Colorado, so it is no suprise they ended up with a weak team.

 

Tomorrow we will look at the Al Central.

 

Update To Dodgers Grade

Latest Move

Clayton Kershaw becomes the richest pitcher in MLB History with this new deal

  • Signed SP Clayton Kershaw to a 7 year deal for $215 Million

Dodgers locked up their Ace, and made him the first $30 million dollar man in baseball history. Despite the huge sum they are paying Kershaw, this was a great move. Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball, and is still only 26. Now the Dodgers get him through his prime years, and don’t have to worry about having an old man breaking the bank on their team.  They also managed to get him without giving up 10 years, which is a plus. They get him to 33, and can re-evaluate then.

Dodgers grade is upgraded to an A, and can be put up to an A+ if they manage to sign SP Masahiro Tanaka out of Japan

Major League Off Season Report Card (Dodgers)

Moves so far

Masahiro Tanaka (Photo Credit Wikipedia)

  • Signed SP Dan Haren to one-year deal worth $10 million
  • Re-signed RP Brian Wilson to a one-year deal
  • Resigned 3B Juan Uribe to a two-year, $15 million deal
  • Re-signed RP J.P. Howell to a two-year, $11.25 million deal
  • Signed RP Jamey Wright to a one-year, $1.8 million deal
  • Signed International Prospect , 2B Alex Guerrero, to four-year, $28 Million deal
  • Signed RP Chris Perez signed a one-year deal

Rumor Mill

  • Among favorites to land Japanese SP prospect Masahiro Tanaka
  • Don’t plan on moving an outfielder at this time

Whatever grade the Dodgers get here may change very soon, as they are among the favorites to land Tanaka, the hottest international prospect this offseason. The Dodgers already have a stacked rotation. Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Dan Haren, Josh Beckett, and Chad Billingsley were already on the roster. If they can land Tanaka, they would easily have the best rotation on paper. They seem determined to land him, with GM Ned Colleti saying “we won’t be outbid.”

They haven’t put all their eggs in the Tanaka basket though. Even without him, they have had a solid off season. Haren is solid as a 5th starter, and they managed to solidify their bullpen. Re-signing Brian Wilson and bringing in Chris Perez, two pitchers who could be closers on other teams, were great moves. They also resigned Howell, and brought in Wright, two solid middle relievers.

They didn’t make many changes on the offensive side. They brought back Juan Uribe after a surprisingly solid season. They also grabbed another international prospect, this time the cuban Guerrero, a second basemen. A.J. Ellis was awful last year, and the Dodgers needed to find a replacement. The Dodgers have had luck with Cuban prospects in the past, so they will try again with Guerrero. They didn’t make any other moves, but besides for catcher there weren’t many places they could have improved. With a very crowded outfield, and first and shortstop occupied, the Dodgers lineup is already very good on paper.

Coming into the season the Dodgers were already paper champions. With a lineup and rotation like this, there aren’t many ways to improve, they just need to execute. The Dodgers still managed to improve in small ways though, and have a chance to go big on Tanaka.

Since money is clearly not a concern for the Dodgers, it’s hard to fault them for overspending. They may get burned if they sign Tanaka, but it doesn’t look like they care. They have a lot of money and they want to spend every penny.

Dodgers get a B+ for now, an A+ if they land Tanaka. The Paper Champs don’t always win though, just ask the red Sox two years ago, the Blue jays, and the Marlins two years ago.

If the Dodgers make any moves, an update will be posted.

Next up is the AL West.