MLB Pre-Season Preview and Power Rankings 15-11 (Dark Horse Teams)

15.Baltimore Orioles

Preview- The Orioles have made the playoffs in two of the last three years, but have fallen in the division round both times. Their lineup has been the reason they have had success. They have finished in the top 10 in runs scored the last two years. That has a lot to do with the emergence of Adam Jones, who in the last three years, has been a top 10 outfielder, showing 30+ homerun power with a BA around .290. Besides Jones, the O’s have 1B Chris Davis, C Matt Wieters, 3B Manny Machado, SS JJ Hardy, OF Alenjandro De Aza, and DH Steve Pearce. They lost OF Nelson Cruz in the off season, but it is reasonable to expect a bounce back year from Chris Davis, which would make up for the loss of Cruz. Machado has had his own issues the last couple of years, but is young, and very talented. If he could get his head together, he could still become a top 3B in the league. After that, both Pearce and De Aza really had nice seasons for the O’s last year, with De Aza coming over at the trade deadline and putting together a great second half.

The concern for this team is going to be pitching. They don’t have a bad pitching rotation, in fact, they finished top 10 in team ERA last year. The issue is the lack of an ace. When they get to the playoffs, they don’t have that go to guy to match up against the other team, and it has cost them. Chris Tillman, Wei-Yen Chen, Bud Norris, and Miguel Gonzalez are all decent pitchers, but if they are matched up against an ace like David Price, Felix Hernandez, Chris Sale, or Corey Kluber in the post season, whom are you going to take to pitch better? The O’s are a talented team, and should once again push for a playoff spot, but if they want to win, they need an ace.

Player to Watch- SP Kevin Gausman – Luckily, they may have that ace. Kevin Gausman was very good for them in his 20 starts last year, and has the potential to be even better. He could be the true, top of the rotation pitcher, they need to win a playoff series.

  1. San Diego Padres

Preview- The Padres surprised everyone this season by wheeling and dealing to bring in a lot of talent to their team. They made a deal with the Dodgers to bring in OF Matt kemp. Switched a couple prospects to the Braves to acquire OF Justin Upton. They got OF Wil Myers back from the Rays in a three team 11 player deal, and signed James Shields in free agency. All of the moves are upgrades on paper, but there is definitely concern of whether these players will fit in with the Padres. Wil Myers struggled to hit last year in Tropicana Field last year. The Trop is deep to center, but still ranks around the middle of ball parks as far as the home run factor. Now he moves to probably the toughest ball park to hit home runs in, PETCO Park. It’s the same issue with Justin Upton, though the move from Turner Field to PETCO isn’t quite as big of a difference. Matt Kemp is in the same boat as Upton, as his former ballpark, Dodger Stadium, was already a tough hitter’s park, but the concern for him is always health. Other hitters on this team include 2B Jedd Gyorko and C Derick Norris. The lineup has talent, but it will be tough for a team of power hitters like they have to find success in this ballpark, and they may have been better off going after hitters who can play small ball

James Shields on the other hand, should have no trouble fitting in. In a ballpark where even a mediocre pitcher can look good, a pitcher like Shields should have no trouble getting outs. The rest of their rotation isn’t bad either. Ian Kennedy, Andrew Cashner, and Tyson Ross are all good pitchers, with the wildcard being Brandon Morrow. The Padres should at least push for a playoff spot, but despite the additions, they still have some concerns.

Player to Watch- OF Wil Myers- The former rookie of the year has yet to find his power stroke, and PETCO won’t help that. He has the raw power to hit here though, he just needs to tap into it.

  1. Chicago Cubs

Preview- The Cubs may have the youngest lineup with the most potential in baseball. With hitters like 3B Kris Bryant, OF Jorge Soler, 2B Javier Baez, SS Starlin Castro, 1B Anthony Rizzo, and eventually SS Addison Russell, if they can find the space for him. The future is very bright for the Cubs.  They also have a handful of talented veterans in OF Chris Coghlan, OF Dexter Fowler, and C Miguel Montero. Even after the group of prospects above, their farm system is still very good, with several other prospects having a chance to be good players in the MLB when they ae promoted.

Their pitching is also good, though could use some improvement. They signed Jon Lester in the offseason, which gives them an elite pitcher at the top of their rotation. After that, they have a handful of successful, though underwhelming, pitchers in Jake Arietta, Jason Hammel, and Kyle Hendricks. Three pitchers who are good, especially for middle of the rotation pitchers, but are not going to overpower opposing hitters. Their fifth pitcher though is Travis Wood, who had an ERA over 5 last year. That is the one place on this team they can stand to upgrade. With a stocked farm system, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Cubs traded for a starting pitcher at mid-season, Maybe Cole Hamels. If not, they may wait until the offseason, and go after a free agent like Jordan Zimmerman. They also secretly have a very good bullpen. As a unit, the bullpen’s ERA was 3.61, good for 15th in the majors. The strength of the bullpen is the back end though, where Pedro Strop, Hector Rondon, and Neil Ramirez all had an ERA under 2.5. Remember, the Royals got to the World Series with a lot of help from their talented, young, bullpen.

Player to Watch- Everyone- Seriously, pick a name and they are a candidate for a breakout year. Theo Epstein has turned this team around, and Cubs fans should be very excited. It might not be this year, but with a little luck, it wouldn’t be a surprise if they made a push this year.

  1. Miami Marlins

Preview– The Marlins made a lot of moves in the off season, but I am not as high on them as some other people are. Are they a good team? Yes, they are, but not World Series contenders like some analysts like to predict. A lot of their off season acquisitions are being over rated by the media. Dee Gordon might be fast, but he has a terrible approach for a leadoff hitter. Someone with his speed should be getting better than a .320 OBP, and should be making more contact, not striking out over 100 times. He will help, but his talents are being exaggerated after a fluky first half where he hit over .300. SP Mat Latos also came to Miami, and while he is talented, he has had an abundance of health concerns the last year and a half, and it has affected his ability. After missing about two months last year, he came back with his velocity down over 2 mph, and his strikeout rate fell from 8.4 in the prior years to just 6.5. While you could say that was just him being rusty and shaking off the injury, his injury issues carried into the offseason as well. While he should be a good pitcher still, there is no reason to think he will magically get better and be an ace again. People also talk about the acquisition of SP Dan Haren as if it is something special, but his ERA over the past three seasons is around 4.3, so he isn’t much more than a fifth starter.

So why do I have them at 12 if I don’t like their off season? Because the rest of their team was already good. OF Giancarlo Stanton has more power than anyone in the majors. He can hit over 40 homeruns even playing in a spacious ball park. They also have OF Christian Yelich, who is a star in the making. Jose Fernandez is an ace, but he will miss some time recovering from Tommy Johns still. Henderson Alvarez is a decent pitcher as well, though he isn’t the type to overpower hitters. Their time may come, but let’s not jump the gun on this team.

Player to Watch- OF Marcell Ozuna- Has shown the power, but not the consistency. With a deeper lineup, he should get a chance to break out this year, and really show his talent.

  1. Chicago White Sox

Preview- While everyone is talking about the Marlins and Cubs as the dark horse team this year, people are overlooking the team on the South side of Chicago. Maybe the Cubs have a brighter future than the Sox, but the White Sox are more ready to win right now.

Starting with the reigning Rookie of the Year, Jose Abreu is potentially the best first basemen in baseball right now, and seems to be improving. Scouts once thought he would merely be a power hitter, he proved to be a good, overall hitter, showing both power and the ability to hit for average. They also have Alexei Ramirez, who is one of the best hitting shortstops in the league. They have OF Melky Cabrera, who continues to be a talented all around hitter even though he has been on five different teams in the past six years. They added Adam LaRoche as well, who should be able to put together a very good year in the hitter friendly confines of US Cellular Field. Their pitching is good as well. Chris Sale is a top 10 pitcher in the league, and while there was some injury concerns coming into spring training, he seems to be in mid-season form. The addition of Jeff Samardzija gives them a second ace at the top of their rotation. After them, they have another solid pitcher in Jose Quintana, who posted a 3.32 ERA, with over 170 K’s. The back end of their rotation leaves something to be desired though. John Danks and Hector Noesi both posted ERA’s over 4.5 last year. Noesi still has a chance to improve as a pitcher, but what they got last year from Danks will probably be what they get this year. Their bullpen is good though, with only one of their bullpen arms posting an ERA over 3 last year. The addition of David Robertson as closer will be a huge boost. They are the dark horse team that no one is talking about.

Player to Watch- OF Adam Eaton- We know how good Abreu is, but another up and coming player on the Sox, is Eaton. He can be a great leadoff hitter if he can stay healthy, that’s a big if though. He has missed a lot of time in his short career.

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.

 

Headley Heading to The Bronx in the First Big Offesason Move

In the first big move of the trade deadline, the New York Yankees have acquired 3B Chase Headley from the San Diego Padres. They will send 3B Yangervis Solarte, as well as minor league pitcher Rafeal De Paula, over to San Diego in the deal.

The Yankees make the move hoping Headley will help boost a struggling offense. The Yankees are only 21st in the league in runs, and besides Jacoby Ellsbury, none of their big off season acquisitions have paid off. Brain McCann, Carlos Beltran, and Kelly Johnson have all hit under .250 thus far, and none of them has more than 10 homeruns.

Chase Headley hasn’t had too much success of his own though, as he is hitting only .229, with seven homeruns. The Yankees hope the change of scenery, along with a much more hitter friendly ballpark, will help get Headley back on track.

Headley has been involved in trade talks ever since his breakout 2012 season where he led the league with 115 RBI, as well as 31 homeruns and a .376 on base percentage. He struggled last year though, and has continued to struggle into this year.

Yankees are mostly likely not done making moves, as they have major holes in their starting rotation with CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova being shelved for the year, and Masahiro Tanaka possibly joining them soon.

As for the Padres, they were already the worst offense in the league, being dead last in runs scored, batting average, on base percentage, and slugging percentage. The move continues the apparent fire sale the Padres are having, after they already sent closer Huston Street to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The Padres don’t have many more pieces to deal, but could maybe get something for SS Everth Cabrera, SP Ian Kennedy, or RP Joaquin Benoit. They have already acquired some good pieces in both of their deals, and could definitely benefit by taking a few more prospects back before the deadline.

It seems as if the Padres have been in rebuilding mode for a long time, as they can never hold on to the players they get. At some point, they are going to need to stop rebuilding and get something working.

Overall, this was a good deal for both teams. Yankees get a guy they have been trying to acquire for a while, as well as an answer to who will replace A Rod, without having to give up too much. For the Padres, they manage to salvage something from Headley, who just wasn’t working out in San Diego.

Preseason MLB Rankings 30-21

30. Houston Astros – Right now, the Astros main goal should be to just see what some of their young guys can do. Bring OF George Springer and 1B Jonathan Singleton up at some point, let them get their at bats. Another decent goal would be to not finish with the worst MLB record this year, as they did the last two years

29. Chicago Cubs- Like the Astros, the Cubs are in the middle of a rebuilding process. Expect to see 2B prospect Javier Baez, who so far in Spring Training has showed amazing power, get a chance this year. Cubs best hope is for Baez to come up, and for SS Starlin Castro and 1B Anthony Rizzo to live up to their potential.

28. Philadelphia Phillies- Unlike the previous two teams, the Phillies are not in the middle of a rebuild process. Instead of throwing in the towel, GM Ruben Amaro decided to double down this off season and add multiple again Veterans on short deal in an attempt to squeeze every win out of the aging Phillies Core that they. Phillies do have a couple prospects to look forward to this year though in 3B Maikel Franco and SP Jesse Biddle, but their prospects of winning this year do not look very bright.

27. Minnesota Twins- The Twins have Joe Mauer, and that is about it. They have a couple decent players after that, but none worth mentioning. Their rotation is frightening, but not in a good way. Opposing lineups are probably excited at the prospects of going up against the likes of starting pitchers Phil Hughes, Vance Worley, and Mike Pelfrey in consecutive days. The Twins do have one of the best farm systems though, and should be able to bounce back soon should prospects like Miguel Sano turn out.

26. Colorado Rockies – As always, the combo of OF Carlos Gonzalez and SS troy Tulowitzki will keep them from being embarrassing, but their rotation is still going to hold them back. They added SP Jordan Lyles, because we all know how well fly able pitchers do in Coors Field. Brett Anderson could be a decent add, but he will have to stay healthy to be so, and even if there are now doubts if he can reclaim he form from back in Oakland. They may not be the worst team in the MLB, but I just can’t see them competing, or even improving this year.

25. Miami Marlins- The Marlins might have one of the more promising young rotations in baseball. Jose Fernandez showed in his rookie year that he could be a legitimate ace. Behind him, are a hand full of other young pitchers with a lot of upside, including former Tigers prospect Jacob Turner. The issue is still their lineup though. While improved, it still should end up as one of the worst in the league. Giancarlo Stanton is still one of the most powerful hitters in the league, and OF Christian Yellich has a lot of potential, but besides that, there isn’t much. Garret Jones and Casey McGhee are ok, but they aren’t going to make a huge difference. Marlins still have a long way to go.

24. San Diego Padres – The Padres are the first team on this list I can see as a Dark Horse candidate. I don’t think it is likely, but they do have some nice pieces. 2B Jed Gyorko, SS Everth Cabrera, and 1B Yonder Alonso all have the potential to be great MLB players. They still just don’t have that star piece though, and there is serious evidence behind the idea teams with bigger ballparks aren’t as competitive. They could be good and compete for a spot, but I don’t think it is going to happen yet.

23. NY Mets- The Mets may have a very bright future. If the Marlins may have one of the best young rotations, the Mets do have the best. Even with SP Matt Harvey on the shelf for a year after getting Tommy Johns surgery, the Mets still have Zack Wheeler, SP Jon Niese, SP Dillon Gee, and eventually prospect Noah Syndergaard. Add in veteran SP Bartolo Colon, and this rotation is is a scary one. Their lineup still needs a lot of work, but even that should improve this year. They aren’t ready to be competitive yet, but the Mets fans have a lot to look forward to.

22. Chicago White Sox – The White Sox had an impressive off season, acquiring Cuban prospect Jose Abreu, whose power seems to be legit, and former Diamondback Prospects Adam Eaton and Matt Davison. White Sox had already acquired OF Avisail Garcia by trading SP Jake Peavy last year. Whitesox have a legit chance to shoot up the power rankings by the end of the year, they just need to prove they can compete first.

21. Toronto Blue Jays- Blue Jays were considered serious contenders by many at this point last year. The year ended up being a disaster, and they now look like the losers of the pair of blockbuster trades they made last year. The R.A. Dickey trade looks like a complete bust, and the huge trade they made for most of the Marlins team doesn’t look much better. This is still a talented team, but their rotation is suspect. The potential for success is still there, but there isn’t nearly as much hype as there was last year.

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Major League Off Season Report Card (Padres)

Moves so far

Josh Johnson

  • Signed SP Josh Johnson a one-year, $8 million deal
  • Acquired OF Seth Smith from the Oakland Athletics in exchange for RP Luke Gregerson
  • Signed Closer Joaquin Benoit to a two-year, $15.5 million deal
  • Traded SP Anthony Bass and cash to the Houston Astros in exchange for Pitching prospect Patrick Schuster
  • Acquired 1B/OF Alex Dickerson from the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for RP Miles Mikolas and OF Jaff Decker
  • Acquired SP Devin Jones from Baltimore Orioles in exchange for RP Brad Brach

Rumor Mill

  • Padres seem intent on keeping 3B Chase Headley, and are working on an extension
  • Looking for a left handed hitter
  • Possible interest in trading for mariners 2B Dustin Ackley

The Padres are in desperate need of a star player, they have been for years. They have an entire roster full of set pieces, but no one on the team could be considered a star. They lack a hitter who can drive runs in. Without any reliable hitters on their team, they have struggled to put runs up on the board.

This wouldn’t be as much of a problem if their rotation was any good, but just like with their lineup, they lack an ace to rely on start to start. Their rotation is by no means bad, it’s at worst mediocre, but it isn’t very good either. Many of their starters struggle outside of PetCo Park. They have also struggled with injuries in the rotation, and the pitching rotation has more or less been a revolving door.

To fix the rotation issues, the signed Josh Johnson. That’s right, to make up for how inconsistent and injury prone their rotation is, they signed the most injury prone and inconsistent starter in the league over the past few years. I guess the padres are using the old fight fire with fire technique, or maybe they like the inconsistency and want Johnson to teach his new teammates how to be as inconsistent as he is.

Other than that, they added OF Seth Smith to their collection of 4th outfielders. Apparently, 4th outfielders are the new Pokémon, you have to collect them all.

The only remarkable move they made this off season was bringing in Closer Joaquin Benoit. Benoit is as consistent as they come, and will sure up the back of the bullpen. One thing you have to give the Padre’s credit for is they always seem to have a nice assortment of relief pitchers coming through, even if they don’t stick around long. They also added a handful of relievers in different trades, so it should continue to be a strength for them.

Padres get a C-, they are still a mediocre team, with a mediocre lineup. Until they can find a way to bring in a couple big bats into their lineup, they will continue to be bottom dwellers in the NL West.

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

Next team up is the Rockies.