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 East)

Check out the NBA version of this here at elitedaily.com

Philadelphia Phillies

phillies depth chart

 

The Phillies would have possibly the best top of the lineup in the league with Trout, Goldy, and Frazier on board. After that though, their team is pretty weak. Whether it is the middle infield with players no one would even recognize, or the outfield full of disappointing players like Blanks and Heisy. Not to mention the fact they would need a minor leaguer to step up to be their number one pitcher. Biddle, who is actually in the Phillies system, has showed potential, but isn’t quite ready to take the mound as an ace. If Biddle works out, the Phillies could be a pretty good team. if he doesn’t work out, well at least they would be able to enjoy the careers of two potential future hall of famers in Goldy and Trout.

 

 

Atlanta Braves

Braves depth chart

 

The South East is a place where many baseball players grow up, and the Braves benefit by being one of the only south east teams not in Florida, so they get the best players from multiple states. It clearly worked out for them as they would have a scary good team. Wainwright is one of the best pitchers in the league, and is currently in a neck and neck competition for the NL Cy Young. Besides him, they have the best young catcher in the league, one of the best young third basemen, and a strong middle infield with two guys enjoying breakout years. Their outfield is a little old, but still talented. They would be one of the best teams in the league.

 

 

 

New York Mets

Mets depth chart

 

 

 

The Mets have always lived in the Yankees shadow, but in this league they would both be on even playing field. Like the yankees, the Mets would struggle to put up runs. The Yankees lineup probably gets a slight edge, but not by much. The best player in the lineup would probably be Markakis, who has always been an underwhelming player. He isn’t bad, but just doesn’t stand out as a star.Besides him they also have the much maligned Pierzynski, who always seems to leave behind enemies every where he goes. He can still contribute with the bat at least though. The stregth pf this team would definitely be Hector Santiago, who is a very promising young pitcher.They would still probably end up competing with the Phillies for fourth place every year though.

 

 

Miami Marlins

marlins depth chart

 

They may not be as strong as the Rays are, but the Marlins would still be a great team. Florida is one of the best place for baseball, with sunshine year round, meaning they get to play year round. Grienke is the best player on this team, as he is one of the best pitchers in the league. He had been an underachiever for a few years, but has finally established himself in LA, so maybe he just needed the warm weather to be good.  Besides him, the lineup has a lot of potential, but could also be a disaster. Hosmer, Machado, Miller, Morse, and Arencibia, have all looked like All Stars at times, but have also all looked like they don’t belong. In the end, if even a handful of these guys panned out, the marlins would be a team to watch.

 

Washington Nationals

Nats depth chart

 

yet another strong team in the NL East. With Hamilton, Myers, Zimmerman, Phillips, Seager, and Weiters at the top of the lineup, it is easy to see this team putting up runs. The question is, what Verlander will they get? Verlander has been among the best in baseball at times, but he has been terrible the last two years. At just 31 it is hard to believe he is already out of his prime, so he can definitely get his career back on track. If he turns up for the Nats, they could give the Braves a run for their money.

Did The Fans Get The All Star Lineup Right? (American League)

 

Derek Jeter

Derek Jeter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The All Star teams have been announced, with only one spot left on each of the teams for the Final Fan Vote. Did the fans get it right though? Did they chose the right starting lineups for each side, or did they once again pick the most popular players over the best choices? The answer is they once again seem to have snubbed the players who actually deserve to start. Lets look into who should actually be starting, beginning with the AL Squad.

Catcher

Who it is- Matt Wieters- BAL

Wieters was certainly on his way to having an All Star season, before a tragic injury. He was hitting over .300 with 5 homeruns through the first month, but then it was announced he needed Tommy Johns and his season was over. Unfortunate, but since then a few Al Catchers have surpassed him and probably should have been voted in instead. He played well, but not well enough to keep the lead despite missing two months.

Who it should be- Salvador Perez- KC

Perez has had a few very rough patches over the first few months. There have been times where he looked lost at the plate. Even with that, his overall stats are very impressive. A .289 AVG, 10 homeruns, and he leagues all catchers with a 3.2 WAR. If you stretch out Wieters stats they would have probably ended up better, but we can only judge on what we know, and Perez, due to no fault of Wieters, simply has been more effective. It is worth noting that Perez will start anyway due to Wieters injury.

First Base

Who it is- Miguel Cabrera- DET

This one is difficult, because of how many good options there is at first in the AL. Miggy certainly has a case for the spot, and his track record certainly helps his case. He leads all AL first basemen with a .311 BA. He may be having an off year by his standards, he only has 14 homeruns, but he is still one of the best players around, and it’s hard to argue with the pick.

Who it should be- Edwin Encarnacion- TOR

Miggy is a good choice, but if we are going with who has been the best this year it is probably Encarnacion. The only stat he significantly trails Miggy in is AVG, though he still is hitting a decent .277. He has still managed to keep up with Miggy in OBP, being only .003 behind him. He has the best WAR among first basemen. Unfortunately, he was just placed on the DL, so even if he were voted in, it would still be Miggy playing first in the All Star Game. Other decent options include Oakland’s Brandon Moss, and the Rookie Jose Abreu from the White Sox, who has 27 total home runs.

Second Base

Who it is- Robinson Cano- SEA

This one may be one of the biggest mistakes, not because Cano doesn’t deserve it, but because of the people he was selected over. Cano, by all accounts, has had a decent season. He is hitting over .320 after all, which is right where it usually is. His power numbers though, as many expected with him moving from the Yankees to the Mariners, have taken a significant hit, hitting only 6 homeruns thus far. He has been ok, but there are two players who have played great so far, and deserve it more than Cano does.

Who it should be- Jose Altuve- HOU

Altuve has officially broken out into a star player. He is hitting over .330, and has 38 stolen bases to his name. His isn’t much of a power hitter, but he makes up for that in every other aspect of the game. An argument can also be made for Ian Kinsler, but none of his stats really stand out the way Altuve’s do. Altuve not being voted in to be the Starter is one of the worst decisions by the voters.

Shortstop

Who it is- Derek Jeter-NYY

Speaking of bad decisions, Jeter does not deserve to an all-star. It will be nice to see Jeter get a sendoff in his final year, but he just hasn’t been very good. He just hasn’t been productive this year, with less than 30 runs and RBI’s, a .266 AVG, and only 2 homeruns. He hasn’t been hurting his team, but he doesn’t help them either. This is a clear case of a fan favorite getting in, as Jeter usually does. Add in the fact that Jeter is retiring, it isn’t surprising he won the vote, just disappointing.

Who it should be- Alexi Ramirez- CHW

Alexi has had a very solid season, hitting right around .280, hitting 8 homeruns, with 14 steals. His OBP leaves a little to be desired, being only .030 points higher than his average, but at SS in the AL this year you have to take what you can get. The position has been very weak, but Alexi has managed to be a solid force in the White Sox lineup, and has far out performed Jeter.

Third Base

Who it is- Josh Donaldson- OAK

Donaldson was having a great season before June. Through May, he was hitting right around .280, with 15 homeruns. In June, it has been a different story, as he has been hitting under the Mendoza line since June 1st, with only 4 homeruns. It has his AVG down to a disappointing .242. He does still lead 3rd basemen in WAR, but he has been scuffling so bad it’s hard to say he is the best the AL can throw out there.

Who it should be- Adrian Beltre- TEX

Beltre had a tough start to the year, including a trip to the DL. He has bounced back though, to get his numbers right where you would expect them to be. He has his AVG over .330, his OPS is at .910, and he has 12 homeruns despite a dl stint. Despite around 80 less at bats, he has more hits, and more doubles than Donaldson. He is the hottest third basemen in the AL, and deserves to be starting.

Mike Trout

Mike Trout (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Outfield

Who it is- Mike Trout -LAA, Adam Jones -BAL, Jose Bautista –TOR

The fans actually got these three picks right. Trout had a bad stretch at the beginning of May, but if you looked at his stats you would never know and he is on pace to have more homeruns than in any previous year. Bautista has his normal power numbers as well as a big uptick in his batting average, hitting .293, whereas he hit .259 last year. He also has an OBP above .410, thanks to his 60 walks. Adam Jones’ AVG sits a little over .300, he has 16 long balls, though he does have a comparatively unimpressive .329 OBP because he has only walked 11 times. These have been the most impressive outfielders overall though. Nelson Cruz has been better than his teammate Adam Jones, but since he is at starting at DH that is a non-issue.

Who it should be- Michael Brantley- CLE

If anyone were to replace one of the three actual starters, it would be Brantley, who is in the middle of a breakout year. He is hitting over .330, and has already passed his career high at homeruns, he has 13 currently to go along with his 10 steals. The argument is definitely there for him to be in over Jones, after all Brantley’s WAR is higher thanks to a much better OBP of .387. It more or less comes down to preference, as both are very deserving. In this case, Jones track record can play as a tie breaker, but Brantley has definitely impressed this season.

Designated Hitter

Who it is- Nelson Cruz- BAL

Cruz leads the league with 28 homeruns, and that comes with an AVG of .294. Cruz has been fantastic, and has bounced back after being suspended during the Biogenesis scandal last year. Still, it is tough to say whether he is deserving of the starting nod, as there is someone even better.

Who it should be- Victor Martinez- DET

Martinez has been a force in the Tigers lineup, really filling the gap Prince Fielder left behind Miggy in the lineup. He has 21 homeruns, a .328 AVG, to go along with an OPS that is only a little shy of 1.000, it currently sits at .991. He has also only struck out 23 times. As impressive as Cruz has been, it is hard to say Martinez should not have a place in this starting lineup. This may be the toughest decision on the AL Squad, but my personal preference would be towards Martinez, who has been a better overall hitter.

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AL Rookie of The Year Race is Almost Too Close To Call

Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated

Last year, there weren’t many good options for AL Rookie of The Year. Wil Myers had a decent rookie year, and was really the only player who stood out at all. This year is a completely different story. Two rookies have not only put themselves in prime position to win the award, but have been two of the best players in baseball two this point. Jose Abreu and Masahiro Tanaka have taken the league by storm and had two of the best rookie years in recent memory.

Masahiro Tanaka’s success comes to no surprise. He was the big target of this year’s free agent market, coming in from Japan on an amazing winning streak, he hadn’t lost a game in Japan in almost a year in a half. Some expected him to have a little bit of an adjustment period, but with how dirty his pitches were in Japan, most agreed he was going to make it in the MLB. Not only has he proved he deserves to be in the MLB, but he has put himself in a position to come away with the CY Young award. Only Fernando Venezuela has ever won both the CY Young and ROY awards in one year, he accomplished that feat in 1981. Tanaka currently boasts a 2.11 ERA, 119 K’s, and a 11-2 record.

Tanaka’s competition for ROY is 1B Jose Abreu, another foreign prospect, this time from Cuba. Abreu was not as well known coming over, and his signing with the White Sox did not make as much noise as Tanaka’s with the Yankees. Still those who did know about Abreu knew the type of power he had. Few expected him to burst onto the scenes as he has so far though, already hitting 22 homeruns in late June despite a 15 day DL-stint. He is on track to become only the second rookie to hit 40 homeruns, Mark McGwire hit 49 in his rookie year with the A’s. Abreu also has 60 RBI’s and a .274 avg. While his AVG may keep him from winning MVP in his rookie year, he definitely has a chance at winning ROY.

It will be tough to judge who deserves the award if both players keep up their current level of play. Abreu has a legit chance at winning the HR Title, and probably would be winning it now if he never went on the DL. Tanaka has already established himself as the best pitcher on the Yankees, and as said, he may come away with the CY Young as well. It’s not often that you see rookies come in and have success this early, Mike Trout being the only case otherwise in recent memory. Usually the ROY was good for a rookie, but these two are already elite players. Then again, these are not your typical rookies. Abreu and Tanaka are 27 and 25, and have already competed at high levels. They both played in the World Baseball Classic, and both showed their ability. Abreu hit 3 HR’s in 6 games, while Tanaka has an ERA under 2.5. The Show was never going to be too big for them.

As of now, Abreu probably is the favorite to win. Hitter play every day, and often get preference in awards like this. If his performance falls even a little though Tanaka will swoop, right in and take the award for himself. They will make teams for confident in the future when signing foreign prospects to big deals.

Major League Off Season Report Card (Angels)

Moves so far

This was my reaction when I heard the Angels traded Mark Trumbo. (Photo Credit USA Today)

  • Acquired SP Hector Santiago from Chicago and SP Tyler Skaggs from Arizona, traded OF Mark Trumbo and SP A.J. Schugel to Arizona
  • Acquired 3B David Freese and RP Fernando Salas from St. Louis for OF Peter Bourjos and OF Randal Grichuk
  • Signed RP Joe Smith to a three-year, $15.75 million deal
  • Signed SP Wade LeBlanc to a minor-league deal
  • Signed SP Chris Volstad to a minor-league deal

Rumor Mill

  • It seems SP Masahiro Tanaka is out of the Angels price range
  • Have had discussions with SP Matt Garza, SP Ubaldo Jimenez, and SP Ervin Santana

The Angels have spent most of this off season working on their subpar pitching staff. Their pitching staff was among the worse in the league last year, giving up over 4.4 runs a game, good for 24th in the league. They were also 26th in batting average allowed, and 27th in WHIP. Pitching was a clear need coming into the year.

They brought in both Hector Santiago, and Tyler Skaggs, by trading their young power hitter Mark Trumbo. Trumbo was a big loss, he is one of the best young power hitters in the league. Taking Skaggs back in return is a huge risk as he has struggled in his short career thus far. Santiago is a decent pitcher, but isn’t ace material. It remains to be seen if this deal will pay off for the Angels, but right now, it seems they may have gotten the short end of the stick.

They didn’t make out much better in their other deal. They moved OF Peter Bourjos, one of the best defensive outfielders, for two struggling players. Had they made this move without trading Trumbo, it would be an okay move. David Freese has potential, and while Fernando Salas is inconsistent, he has the potential to be a decent enough middle relief pitcher to make the deal worth it. Trading Trumbo and Bourjos makes no sense though. They had a surplus of outfielders and could afford to lose one. Clearly, Mike Trout wasn’t going to be traded, and right now people wouldn’t want to trade for Josh Hamilton, so Trumbo and Bourjos were the only options. They could afford to lose one, but by trading both they now have a hole in the OF. Raul Ibanez will probably get a decent amount of playing time, but he cant be an everyday player.

Angels were desperate for pitching this off season, and may have weakened their team in an attempt to remedy that issue. They get a C-, their moves may work out in the end, but for now they seem to have drawn the short straw.

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

Next team is the Mariners.