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.

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

With the popularity of the recent article on elitedaily.com by Josh Milford about What NBA Teams Would Look Like If Players Went Home, I thought it would be fun to look at the same thing in the MLB. Going into it I didn’t think it would be too hard, but boy was I wrong. The research for the article took me over a week, and I had to dig into some really obscure players for some teams.  The research is done though, and the teams are set. For some teams I had to borrow the left over players from other areas, because there just wasn’t enough players from their own region. it was also tough because there are a lot of baseball teams in close proximity to each other, making it hard to tell which player should go where, so for some players I had make a close decision, and base it mostly off which ballpark they were closer to. Unfortunately, it also means foreign players wouldn’t be in the league, which is a significant hit to the pool of players in baseball. I will release the teams in six different posts, separated by divisions.

Here is what the Al West would look like.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Angels Depth Chart

 

California is one of the best places to find baseball players. The beautiful weather allows them to play the sport year round, which is why it is the place where the most baseball players are from. Problem is, there is five teams in California, which means they have to split those five players. The Angels still ended u-p with a very strong team though, including a team favorite in pitcher Garret Richards. the only area where they are weak is the middle infield, but their outfield and corner infielders would be among the strongest in the game.  They would be my pick to win their division if players stayed home.

Texas Rangers

Rangers depth chart

 

Like California, Texas is the home of a lot of baseball players. They aren’t quite as strong as California though, and they also have to share the state with the Houston Astros. They ended up with a fairly strong team though, with their Ace Clayton Kershaw being the biggest strength. Like the Angels they also have a weak middle infield, but so do most teams seeing as many of the best middle infielders in the game are from other countries. They have a good outfield though, and good young corner infielders. They wouldnt be as good as the Angels, but would definitely compete for a wildcard spot.

Seattle Mariners

Mariners depth chart

 

Seattle makes yet another strong team in the Al West. They have the strongest Middle infield of the three teams thus far, but also the weakest corner infield. Their biggest problem would be a lack of real power. they do not have a single real power threat, only a few players with solid power.  never the less, with the amount of skill on the team, they would still be able to score runs. Jon Lester is a great, reliable pitcher at the front of the rotation as well.

Houston Astros

Astros Depth Chart

 

The Astros, while a solid team, seem to have gotten the worse end of the players from Texas. While researching for these two teams, it just seemed there was just a little more talent around the Dallas area, as opposed to the Houston area. Despite that, they still do have a good team. Matt Carpenter and Anthony Rendon are both strong players in the infield, and Jay Bruce is a major power source from the outfield. CArl Crawford and Michael Bourn have both been underwhelming latley, but both have the talent to be stars still.

Oakland Athletics

Oakland depth chart

 

With all the teams in California, one of them were going to end up with a weaker cast, unfortunately that is the Athletics. While they do get the promising young player Joc Pederson, it isnt a good sign they had to settle for a minor league player. Their middle infield is solid, but aging. Their pitcher, Doug Fister, is also just solid, but not the type of guy you want at the front of your rotation. The A’s may be the best team in the actual AL West, but they are the worst in this hypothetical Al West.

 

Tomorrow we will look at the NL West.

MLB Preseason Rankings 10-1

10.  Atlanta Braves- The Braves resigned many of their young stars this off season, but despite that, they failed to improve this off season. They are still, for the most part, the same team they were last year. To be fair, that isn’t a bad thing, they were a good team last year. Issue is they were prone to strikeouts, and streakiness. On top of that, SP Kris Medlen is on his way to get Tommy Johns, and Mike Minor and Brandon Beachy are starting the season on the DL as well. Like last year, braves will just have to hope they enter the playoffs on one of their hot streaks.

9. Texas Rangers- There is no doubt, about how scary the Rangers lineup can be. They added OF Shin-Soo Choo and 1B Prince Fielder to an already potent lineup. Jurickson Profar finally has a chance to prove himself in an everyday role, and they still have Adrian Beltre, Alex Rios, and Elvis Andrus. My concern though is for their rotation. SP Yu Darvish proved himself as an ace last year, and Martin Perez pitched better last year than his stat line suggested. The back half is where there are question marks though, with Derek Holland and Matt Harrison dealing with serious injuries, and the rest of the group having never truly proved themselves.

8. Tampa Bay Rays – No matter what, the Rays are always around at the end of the year. Their rotation is possibly the best from top to bottom in the league, and their lineup, while not great, can hold their own. With Wil Myers having his first full year, and with luck a full season out of 3B Evan Longoria as well, the Rays could make some noise this year. There are some holes in this lineup, but it is still better than it has been in years. It may finally be good enough to get the Rays a ring.

7. Oakland A’s – Billy Beane is a lot smarter than we all are. Every off season he underwhelms us, but then by the end of the season and decide all those underwhelming moves worked out. Oakland didn’t add too much this offseason. They brought in a handful of relievers, but their bullpen was already one of the best in the off season. They trade Brett Anderson, but he hasn’t given them much value lately anyway. The A’s are always going to be there because they understand how to build a team. They still don’t have the star power to win a world series though. Unless OF Yoenis Cespedes steps up this season and becomes a star like many, including myself, think he can be, the A’s will continue to be the first team out of the playoffs like every year. They are a very good team, but not a World Series team, at least not yet.

6. New York Yankees – The Yankees walked away from this off season as the paper champions. OF Jacoby Ellsbury, OF Carlos Beltran, C Brian McCann, and SP Masahiro Tanaka all earned their pinstripes this offseason. The Yankees may regret these moves in a few years when they find themselves paying over the hill player’s lots of money, but for now, they should be right back in the World Series competition. They also will finally get to send Michael Pineda out onto the mound. Yankees should be a very good team this year barring any major injuries.

5. Washington Nationals – The Nationals are a very talented, very young team. Bryce harper is primed to finally break out and show the power that made him the most hyped prospect in a long time. They also have an extremely talented rotation. SP Stephen Strasburg, SP Gio Gonzalez, SP Jordan Zimmerman, and SP Doug Fister make for a lethal 1-2-3-4 punch. They faltered last year, but they have a year of experience, and should reclaim their place atop of the NL East.

4.Detroit Tigers – The lineup will miss the bat of 1B Prince Fielder, but this is still a talented team. The Fielder move opens up space for prospect Nick Castellanos, and Ian Kinsler looks to show the Rangers they made a mistake in trading him. In addition, any lineup with Miguel Cabrera is going to have success. Their rotation is also strong, as Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, and Anibal Sanchez make a very strong top of the rotation. The Tiger have made a name for themselves in falling apart in the playoffs, but if they can get on a hot streak, they have a great chance at bringing home a ring.

3. LA Dodgers – The Dodgers on paper could be the best team in baseball. Their lineup on paper is strong from top to bottom, with the exception of Dee Gordon at second base, who should be replaced by Cuban prospect Alex Guerrero soon enough, and C A.J. Ellis. OF Matt Kemp’s health is a serious concern, as is OF Yasiel Puig’s attitude. Their rotation is even stronger, and unlike the lineup has proven they can get it done consistently. Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball, and Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu are damn good pitchers as well. Dodgers have a lot to prove, but they can be the most dangerous team in baseball if they get it together.

2. Boston Red Sox – It’s hard to rank the reigning champ anywhere but the number one spot, but the loss of Jacoby Ellsbury hurts. They are still a very good team though. Maybe not as talented as other teams, but sometimes chemistry is more important. No team had more chemistry last year than the Red Sox did, they rode that teamwork all the way to earning a World Series ring. The emergence of SS Xander Bogaerts should be a joy to watch, and the Red Sox should once again find themselves in the mix in an attempt to repeat.

1. St. Louis Cardinals – No non-Cardinal fan loves the Cardinals more than I do. I may not root for them, my allegiance lies in Philadelphia, but I have a deep admiration for the way the Cardinals run their team. They somehow always manage to keep their farm system stocked while also keeping a talented Major League team together. They never sell out the present for the future, nor the future for the present. Every move they make seems to be well thought out, and usually works out for them in the end. They are still one of the best teams from top down in the league, and have a few emerging young players like 2B Kolten Wong, SP Michael Wacha, and OF Oscar Tavares. They know how to build a team, and are my favorite to win this year as of now.

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Major League Off Season Report Card (Athletics)

Moves so far

Jim Johnson replaces Grant Balfour at closer for the A’s (photo credit Baltimore Sun)

  • Signed IF Nick Punto to a one-year, $2.75 million deal
  • Signed SP Scott Kazmir to a two-year, $22 million deal
  • Traded 2B Jemile Weeks and C Michael Freitas to Baltimore for Closer Jim Johnson
  • Traded OF Michael Choice and 2B Chris Bostick to Texas for OF Craig Gentry and RP Josh Lindbloom
  • Traded OF Seth Smith to San Diego for RP Luke Gregerson
  • Traded SP Brett Anderson and $2 million to Colorado for Pitching Prospect Chris Jensen and RP Drew Pomeranz

Rumor Mill

  • Seem to no longer be interested in OF Nelson Cruz
  • Contrary to reports earlier in off season, OF Yoenis Cespedes and SS Jed Lowrie will not be traded.

Talk about Déjà vu. Every year the A’s seem to either trade their best pitchers, or let them walk, and every year they continue to have a strong rotation. This year they let Bartolo Colon walk, and trade Brett Anderson. Losing Anderson doesn’t make much of a difference seeing as he hasn’t played very much in the last few years anyway. Colon is different, he was their Ace last year and will be hard to replace. Then again people thought Gio Gonzalez and Trevor Cahill would be hard to replace, and the rotation hasn’t missed a beat since then. Sonny Gray will be expected to step up and fill the void along with new comer Scott Kazmir.

The A’s spent a lot of time this off season improving upon an already strong Bullpen. They added multiple high end relievers, and only lost closer Grant Balfour in the process, now with the Rays. Their bullpen was one of the best in the league last year, and it seems it will be once again thanks to this offseason.

It seems The A’s will be pretty much the same team they were last year. That overall good team that refuses to go away, until the playoffs that is. I just don’t see anyone in this rotation being able to be that finisher you want in the playoffs. Their staff will be solid and consistent throughout, with few holes. Who do they have that can match up to a Justin Verlander or Clayton Kershaw though? I understand they have made a name for themselves by being a small market team as well as an annually competitive team, but they need to spend some money eventually to get that guy who will put them over the top. The A’s have almost all the pieces they need for a World Series team, all they are missing is the star player to carry them there.

The A’s get a B, despite once again trading in some of their best players for fresh meat, they made smart calculated moves like always. At least they seem willing to hold on to potential stars Cespedes and Lowrie for now, hopefully that doesn’t change. Until they start taking chances though, they may never reach the next level. They are the oppiste of the Dodgers. While the Dodgers fail to see the merit in having role players on their team, the al’s fail to see the importance of Star’s.

If the A’s make any moves this will be updated.

That is it, all 30 teams have been graded. A full offseason overview will be published closer to spring training along with off season awards.

Leave a comment on who you thought had the best off season.