MLB Preseason Power Rankings and Preview 25-21

25.Houston Astros

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.

24.Cincinnati Reds

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.

23.Texas Rangers

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.

21.Milwaukee Brewers-

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.

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 (Rangers)

Moves so far

Prince Fielder (Photo Credit USA Today)

  • Acquired 1B Prince Fielder and $30 million from the Tigers for 2B Ian Kinsler
  • Signed OF Shin-Soo Choo to a seven-year, $130 million deal
  • Signed C J.P. Arencibia to a one-year, $1.8 million deal
  • Acquired OF Michael Choice and 2B Chris Bostick from the A’s for OF Craig Gentry and RHP Josh Lindbloom
  • Re-signed C Geovany Soto to a one-year, $3 million deal
  • Re-signed SP Colby Lewis  to a minor league deal
  • Signed RP Jose Contreras to a minor-league deal

Rumor Mill

  • Interested in signing a starter to replace the injured Dereck Holland
  • One of many teams bidding for SP Masahiro Tanaka

The Rangers made a lot of noise this off season when they traded their veteran 2B Ian Kinsler for 1B Prince Fielder. The deal just seemed to make too much sense for both teams. Not only does the deal fix the Rangers problems at first, but also it opens up a space for the Rangers once number one prospect, Jurickson Profar, to finally get regular playing time. Profar had been blocked by SS Elvis Andrus and Kinsler, and the consensus was one of the three were going tpo be traded. The fact they were able to bring back a proven MLB star in return for Kinsler makes it all the better.

The deal has its downsides. Fielder has a huge contract with seven years left on it. With his size, his playing career could take a decline earlier than most. Rangers may be hurting from this in four years, but for now, it was an amazing move for them.

The Rangers also brought in Shin Soo Choo this offseason, who was among the best free agent outfielders. He replaces the oft injured Nelson Cruz in right field. Choo is coming off a very good year, but he is also 31. Giving a 31 year old a seven year contract is always risky, especially with someone who has shown some inconsistencies in the past. Never the less, Shoo is an improvement in right field for now, and definitely makes this team better. The deal falls in the same category as the Fielder trade, good for now, but it may hurt in a few years.

Besides that, the Rangers resigned C Geovany Soto, and brought ion C J.P. Arencibia to compete. Neither are great options, but they are both capable of being good.

The Rangers also brought a few guys in on Minor League deals, including Colby Lewis and Jose Contreras.

Rangers need to find a starter to replace Holland now that he has had major surgery putting him out for most of this upcoming season. Tanaka seems unlikely, but guys like Bronson Arroyo and Ervin Santana are still on the market. Ranger need to jump on one of them.

Rangers get an A-, their offseason was good, but it also may come back to bite them in the offseason. There is no doubting they have improved vastly for this year though.

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

Next team is the Angels.

Lucky Number 7

Clayton Kershaw was drafted seventh overall by the Dodgers (Photo Credit Wikipedia)

The MLB draft has statistically, been one of the least successful drafts over the years. The game doesn’t always translate well from level to level, and many picks never even most picks don’t even make the majors. There is one draft spot though, that year after year, produces quality talent. That draft spot is not one, not two, not three, but lucky spot number seven that seems to always pay off for the team picking there.

From Fangraphs, the seventh overall draft spot has produced a total WAR of over 130 since 2002. No other draft spot even has half of that number, and the eight, nine and ten spots combined are still a full 15 points below that total.

Clayton Kershaw, Troy Tulowitzki, Prince Fielder, Matt Harvey, Nick Markakis, Homer Bailey, and Archie Bradley are among those taken seventh since 2002. Want to go back even further? How about Frank Thomas, the most recent addition to the Baseball Hall Of Fame. The White Sox picked Thomas seventh overall back in 1989.

It is an interesting phenomenon. How can one spot have so much for success than every single other spot?

This year the Phillies have the seventh overall pick. Phillies love to take risks on toolsey high school athletes in the first round, they have done so in the last seven years, so it only makes sense they will go for that again. It is a draft deep in pitching, but the Phillies would be wise to address their severe lack of depth in position player prospects. Michael Gettys, from Gainesville High school in Georgia fits the description of the players the Phillies usually target perfectly.

Whether they will be able to turn up a star player like every other team in their position seems to always do is left to be seen. It is an interesting statistic to ponder though.

Major League Off Season Report Card (Tigers)

Moves so far

English: Ian Kinsler

English: Ian Kinsler (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • Acquired 2B Ian Kinsler from Texas in exchange for 1B Prince Fielder and cash
  • Traded RHP Doug Fister to the Washington Nationals in exchange for IF/OF Steve Lombardozzi, RP Ian Krol and pitching prospect Robbie Ray
  • Signed RP Joe Nathan to a two-year, $20 million deal
  • Signed OF Rajai Davis to a two-year, $10 million deal
  • Signed RP Joba Chamberlain to a one-year, $2.5 million deal

Rumor Mill

  • Rick Porcello Possibly on trade market

The Tigers have had an impressive off season, and have managed to shed payroll down the line in doing so. Their big move came when they traded 1B Prince Fielder for 2B Ian Kinsler. While Fielder is the better player in the deal, the Tigers were able to shed some of his massive 9 year contract, 7 years left on it, while acquiring one of the best 2B in the league. Fielder is 29, and will be 37 when his deal expires. He is owed $168 million over the remainder of his contract, with most of that money coming after his prime years. Tigers deserve credit for being able to take that money off the books for what can potentially be a disaster in a few years.

By trading Fielder, first base opens up for Miguel Cabrera to move back in, meaning the Tigers can call up touted 3B prospect Nick Castellanos to man the corner. Despite trading the second best player in their lineup, they have actually managed to balance out their lineup, by adding a power speed mix in Kinsler, a big improvement at 2nd, and making room for their top prospect.

The Fister trade may hurt the rotation, but with the Tigers already having Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, they can afford to lose out on pitching a little.

Joe Nathan is an immediate improvement at closer, a role that has killed them the last two seasons.

Tigers get a B+, they shed payroll and managed to seemingly improve their team. That is what every GM wants to do going into the off season.

If Tigers make any moves, this will be updated.

Next team up is the Royals.