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.

Trade Deadline Winners And Losers

The trade deadline has come and passed, and players all around the MLB are packing their bags and saying goodbye to their teammates. Not everyone is a winner though, many teams and players walk away from this deadline for the worse. Here are the winners and losers of this year’s trade deadline.

Winners

Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox may have traded most of their pitching staff, but is hard to call this a fire sale. They brought a bunch of established MLB players back by trading Jon Lester and John Lackey. Yoenis Cespedes has a hug ceiling, though he has only shown glimpses of it so far. It is definitely possible he could breakthrough now that he is playing in Fenway, as opposed to the run down football stadium, the A’s call home. Allen Craig is also a solid player, who is a clear improvement over Shane Victorino. Add in the fact Lester said he would consider coming back tom Boston in free agency, and Boston walk away huge winner of this deadline.

Detroit Tigers

Landing David Price is huge, and they didn’t have to give up too much to get him. Losing Austin Jackson is tough, but his production is replaceable. Drew Smyly is a decent pitcher, but you are getting his replacement in Price, and Price is much better than Smyly obviously, so it pays off. A playoff rotation of Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, David Price, and Anibal Sanchez is formidable, and will possibly give them the extra boost they need to win.

New York Yankees

The Yankees didn’t make any big deals, but that was probably the right thing to do. They in all likelihood aren’t going anywhere this year, and it isn’t worth wasting prospects and more money to try to make a desperate push to win it. Sometimes staying put and keeping your players is the right thing to do. Some Yankees fans won’t like it, but it will be worth holding onto Aaron Judge down the road when he is ready for the big league.

Oakland A’s

The A’s are clearly in win now mode after acquiring Jeff Samardzija, Jason Hammel, and Jon Lester. We will not know if it pays off until the playoffs when we can see if they do win it, but if they don’t they could easily look like losers. It is a risk well worth taking though, as for too long they have settled for being a great regular season team, but never in the playoofs. They have always messed around with the Money Ball strategy, but it wasn’t working. Its nice to see them finally put their foot down and try to win. If they lose though, and Lester walks, this trade would look like a Steal for the Red Sox.

Top Prospects

Of all the big deals that happened this deadline, very few of them involved top prospects changing teams. Most deals involved current MLB players, leaving the top rated prospects to stick with the team they have been playing for all along. Many prospects had their names thrown around in trades, but no one really pulled the trigger for them. This is a good sign because it means their current team clearly trusts tem and sees them as a big part of their future. The biggest name we saw move was Addison Russell, who gets to go to a Cubs team that looks like it could be impressive in a few years.

Losers

The Philadelphia Phillies

This Phillies team is done. Howard, Utley, and Rollins are not bringing the Phillies to anymore World Series. The Phillies really needed to improve their farm system this deadline, but failed to do so. Not a single trade, not a single prospect gained. Some moves can still be made off waivers, or in the offseason, but it is easy to see why Phillies fans have lost faith in the Front Office of this team. As a Phillies fan I personally know I went on a twitter tirade against Ruben Amaro and Phillies Owner David Montgomery. Phillies say they don’t want a complete fire sale because they don’t want to lose attendance, what they don’t realize is fans are already sick of many of the players on this team, and they want a fresh group of young players to root for. Phillies could be down for a while if they don’t get some young talent soon.

AL playoff teams

Between the Tigers and A’s rotations, hits may be tough to come by in the playoffs for other teams. On one side, you have the aforementioned Verlander, Scherzer, Price, and Sanchez, on the other side you have Jeff Samardzija, Jon Lester, Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir, and Jason Hammel. Baltimore, LA, and Toronto will have their hands full. None of them have a pitching staff good enough to match up to these guys in a pitching duel, so they will need to rely on their hitters beating some really tough pitchers. The Tigers and A’s are both no clear favorites going in the playoffs.

Joc Pederson

Pederson would normally be a player who was up in the big leagues right now. He has killed AAA this year, and looks to be a player who could have a 30/30 season. Unfortunately, the Dodgers outfield is clogged up with bloated contracts of aging stars. Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford have been terrible, and while Matt Kemp has picked it up lately, he has been a disappointment overall. Of course, Yasiel Puig has been great, but the other three have failed to impress in the other two outfield spots. Many thought one of them would be moved to make room for Pederson, but it wasn’t so. It looks like Pederson will have to wait a little while longer for his debut.

Tampa Bay Rays

They aren’t huge losers, because they needed to get something out of David Price, but they were probably hoping for a little bit more. Nick Franklin has potential, and Drew Smyly is a decent pitcher, but neither are anything special. They at least got something for Price, but it seems like it was only a compensation prize as opposed the haul a team would usually get for a pitcher of his caliber.

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

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

New York Yankees

yankees depth chart

 

The Yankee fans would have still gotten to enjoy the careers of Jeter and A Rod, but I seriously doubt they would have 27 world series rings if they had to pick all their players from their own area. Whether you think it is a good thing or not, you cannot deny the Yankees have built their team throughout the years off of free agency. Corbin is a good pitcher, and they have a decent enough outfield, but they wouldn’t be the powerhouse they normally are. The Al East would be tough, and the Yanks may not be able to keep up

 

Boston Red Sox

red sox depth chart

 

 

The Red sox would have two of the most promising young players in the league, and not too much after that. Harvey and Springer are team cornerstones, but their infield is weak. Pollock and Davis are productive players, but in the end they may just not have enough firepower. Fortunately, they wont need much fire power with Harvey on the mound. 3 runs will be good enough for a win when he is pitching. having Harvey may be just enough to put them over their rivals the Yankees.

 

Toronto Blue Jays

bluejays depth chart

 

It is easy to tell what type of team this would be, as we have already seen them at a pro level. It is a very similar team to the one that took the field for Canada in the World Baseball Classic in 2013. Canada failed to get out of the group stage tht year, and it wouldn’t be surprising if they also failed to make the playoffs in the MLB. Weak pitching and a lack of power would make it hard for them to find wins. their outfield is their weakest area. They would have a better chance then they did in the WBC, but it would still be tough.

 

Tampa Bay Rays

rays depth chrt

 

*It should be spelled McCutchen, not Mcutchen*

 

The Rays are usually one of the strongest teams each year, and they would be even more so in this league. Sale is one of the most dominate pitchers in the league, and Rizzo and Gordon are both enjoying huge breakout years. After that they have Desmond, and of course reigning MVP Andrew McCutchen. Add is Lucroy, and this team looks more like an All Star team. Dom Brown would be a major weak point, but no lineup is perfect. They would be the favorite to win their division, and they would have a cross country rivalry with the Angels to see who ends up on top.

Baltimore Orioles

O's depth chart

 

One of my most vocal opinions is my disdain for the Upton brothers. It may be because they are both on my favorite teams rival the Braves, but I hated them before that. it is probably because they are so talented, yet consistently fail to met their hype, especially BJ. Still, in a league lacking forign talent, they would be among the best players in the league, Provided BJ doesn’t play like he has with the Braves. David Wright, and Mark Teixera are two other strong components to this team, add in Mat Latos and the O’s are a team that could makes some noise.

 

Tomorrow we finish up in the NL East

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 Report Card (Rays)

Moves so far

  • Re-signed 1B James Loney to 3 year deal for $21 million
  • Acquire Closer Heath Bell and C Ryan Hanigan in 3 team deal

Rumor Mill

  • Still listening to offers on SP David Price

The Rays have been quiet this offseason, only making two moves of note. That could change at any second though if they can find a suitor for Price.

Trading Price is complicated for the Rays, because they want major league players back since they want to compete this year. Usually when a team is trading a star player, it’s because they are rebuilding, so they can take prospects back and wait for them to be ready. Problem is, no one seems to want to give up talented Major League ready players for Price. The Rays GM has said he is disappointed in Price’s value on the market thus far, they thought they would get some better offers.

Re-signing Loney was a good move. He was a reliable hitter last year, not spectacular, but consistent. The market for 1B wasn’t particularly deep, and signing Loney to a reasonable deal made perfect sense.

The Heath Bell acquisition would have been great three years ago, but recently he has been more of a liability than an asset. After average over 30 saves a season during his tenure with the Padres his career has taken a down turn. He signed a big deal with the Marlins, and blew 8 of 27 save chances, in route to season ERA over 5. He was traded to the Diamondbacks the next year, and while he was better, his era was still above 4, and he blew 7 of 22 save chances.

Hanigan is an all right catcher, but is nothing special. He can rotate with Jose Molina, and while the position of catcher will not be a weakness for the Rays, it won’t give them any value.

They haven’t added any value to their team this off-season, it will be tough to keep up in the AL East if they don’t keep improving. Then again we have been saying it will be tough for the Rays to compete for a while now, but they keep staying in the race.

Rays get a C, resigning Loney was smart, but we will have to see what Heath Bell shows up this season. A Price trade could change this grade dramatically, for better or worse.

This will be updated if there is any news.

Next up is the NL Central.