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.

Home Run Derby Preview

Blue Jays at Orioles September 1, 2011

Blue Jays at Orioles September 1, 2011 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now that the World Cup is over, and all of the NBA’s biggest free agents have chosen their destination, all eyes can be focused on the MLB All Star Break. As always, the break will be kicked off tonight with Home Run Derby, and this year there is a whole new format. First of all, each league will have five players instead of four, and secondly, the MLB is introducing a bracket format, that will ensure the final will have one player from each league. The derby will have four rounds this year. The players will only get seven outs in each round, as opposed to the usual 10. Here is a quick breakdown of how the new format will work.

First Round- All five players in each league will compete against each other, and the top three hitters from each side will move on, with the top hitter getting a bye, advancing to the third round.

Second Round- The second and third home run leaders will compete against each other to try to move on to face the top hitter. Home Runs are not cumilative this time meaning there will be a clean slate in each round.

Third Round- The final two hitters in each league compete against each other, winner moves on to the finals.

Fourth Round- Final Round, the top hitters from each league match against each other, and the player with the most home runs wins the derby.

The new format is an attempt to make the derby move faster by only having seven outs, and increase the drama by having more head to head matchups.

Troy Tulowitzki and Jose Bautista were both named the captains of their respective leagues, which is interesting because this means they got to pick the people they will be competing against until the last round. Tulo pick OF Giancarlo Stanton, 3B Todd Frazier, OF Yasiel Puig, and 1B Justin Morneau. Bautista picked reigning champion OF Yoenis Cespedes, 3B Josh Donaldson, OF Adam Jones, and hometown pick 2B Brian Dozier. Without further ado, here is my predictions of how the derby will go

First Round

AL

José Bautista in 2009

José Bautista in 2009 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jose Bautista- Bautista makes a strong showing as captain, and belts a healthy nine homers, all to left field, in the first round, which is good enough for him to advance to the second round.

Yoenis Cespedes- Cespedes picks up right where he left off in last years derby and belts 12 home runs, topping all other players in the AL and giving him the direct bye to the third round.

Josh Donaldson- He doesn’t have quite as much success as his Athletics teammate Cespedes does in this round, but he does manage to hit seven home runs, which just pushes him into the second round.

Adam Jones- Jones is the unfortunate soul who swings and misses a few times during the derby, and fails to advance only getting to 4 home runs.

Brian Dozier- Dozier will definitely have the support of the crowd seeing that he is from the home team Twins. While he is having an impressive season, he is just not the type of player the usually has success at the derby. The home support will help him get to six home runs, but he will not advance.

Result- Cespedes advances to third round, Bautista and Donaldson advance to second round. Jones and Dozier eliminated.

NL

Troy Tulowitzki

Troy Tulowitzki (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Troy Tulowitzki- Captain Tulo is certainly an impressive hitter, leading all middle infielders in homeruns this season. He will hit 9 home runs, and advance to the second round.

Giancarlo Stanton- The player formerly known as Mike Stanton is everyone’s pick to win the derby, and for good reason. He has massive power, having the longest avg home run distance. He matches Cespedes’ 12 home runs, and earns the bye to the third round.

Todd Frazier- Frazier has a real chance to become a fan favorite here. He is already beloved by Reds fans due to his fun personality and talent, and showing both on the national stage can excel him to fame. Frazier puts on a show for fans hitting 10 home runs in the first round, and advances to second round.

Yasiel Puig- A fan favorite coming in, the one thing that can be said for Puig is that he will be entertaining to watch. It is going to take a while to get his 7 outs if he will flip the bat as much as he usually does after home runs. He will get to 8 homeruns, which won’t be enough, but to no fault of Puig’s talent.

Justin Morneau- A former champion, he beat Hamilton the year Hamilton broke the record for most homeruns in a derby at Old Yankees Stadium, Morneau won’t get a chance to win again. He may be making a home coming back in Minnesota, but there is a reason he left as he had a hard time getting the ball to get out of Target Field. Morneau is the low home run hitter of the day, only getting four.

Result- Stanton advances to third round, Frazier and Tulo advance to second, Puig and Morneau eliminated.

Second Round

AL

Bautista vs. Donaldson

Donaldson has a hard time keeping up with MVP candidate Bautista. Donaldson fails to matches Bautista’s eight homers in this round, putting up only six to match.

NL

Frazier vs Tulo

Frazier continues to put on a show for fan, and seals his place in the nation’s heart by putting up another 10 home runs, and most likely dedicating it to his friend and Reds bat boy Teddy Kramer. Tulo puts on a show of his own, but falls short only hitting nine home runs to Frazier’s 10.

Result- Frazier and Bautista advance to third round, Donaldson and Tulo are eliminated.

Third Round

AL

Cespedes vs Bautista

All rested up after getting to sit during the last round. Cespedes comes out and puts up 11 homeruns, to beat Bautistas nine home runs. Cespedes advances to the finals and gets his chance to keep his crown.

NL

Stanton vs Frazier

It has been a great show for Frazier, but he runs into the inhuman Stanton, who blasts 10 no doubters into the stands, which will top Fraziers 8 home runs in the round. Stanton moves on to take on Cespedes in the finals.

Result- Cespedes and Stanton move on and take each other on in the finals. Frazier and Bautista eliminated.

Final Round

Stanton vs Cespedes

Cespedes puts up a hefty 11 home runs, which isn’t enough to top everyone’s pick to win it, as Stanton puts up 12 of his own. Stanton may not lead the league in homeruns, but he does have the most power of anyone in the majors. Stanton takes the crown, and it will probably be the first of many unless he decides to stop competing.

 

 

Did the Fans Get The All Star Lineup Right? (NL Squad)

Yadier Molina

Yadier Molina (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Catcher

Who it is- Yadier Molina- STL

No surprise here as Molina usually wins the vote. Question is, does he deserve it this year. By all accounts, he has had a nice year for a catcher. He is hitting right around .290, and has 7 homeruns to go with that. He is getting on base at an impressive .341 rate. All of his defensive stats, which is his forte, are right on line with what they usually are. The only problem is that there is someone even better.

Who it should be- Devin Mesoraco- CIN

Despite having less than 200 at bats, he already has 15 homeruns. He has hit a homerun every 12.7 at bats. He would have over 20 homeruns if he hadn’t missed as much time as he did.  He is also hitting .309, and gets on base at a rate of .373. His OPS sits at .990, and his WAR is second among NL Catchers, only Lucroy has a better war. Lucroy is another option, but Mesoraco’s power numbers are too impressive to ignore.

First Base

Who it is- Paul Goldschmidt – ARI

This is an easy choice and really doesn’t need too much explanation. There are other NL first basemen having all-star worthy years, like Anthony Rizzo and Matt Adams, but no one else is having an MVP year like Goldy. He has an OPS of .958, 16 homeruns, and is hitting .312. No other first basemen is showing elite power as well as a high batting AVG, which puts Goldy far above the rest.

Who it should be- Paul Goldschmidt- ARI

As I said, this choice was 100% correct by the fans. If I were forced to pick someone else, it would be Anthony Rizzo of the Cubs, who has really broke out and has 19 homeruns so far. His AVG sits at a decent, but unimpressive .270. Matt Adams of the Cardinals is also impressive with a .331 AVG, but he only has 10 homeruns, with is disappointing for a first basemen.

Chase Utley

Chase Utley (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Second Base

Who it is- Chase Utley- PHI

I will be honest and tell you Utley is one of my favorite players in the league. With that said, he does not deserve to be starting tin the All Star game. He may lead NL second basemen in WAR, but his overall stats just aren’t that impressive. He isn’t having a bad season, at least not for his age with his injury history, but when compared to other second basemen he just doesn’t stand out. He is hitting .290 with 7 homeruns, including his first walk off homerun since 2006, which again is good, but others are more impressive.

Who it should be- Dee Gordon –LAD

If you can steal over 40 bases before the All Star break while playing second base, you deserve to start the All Star game. Unfortunately, like Altuve in the AL, Gordon was passed up for the player with the better track record. He has a better AVG and more walks than Utley, hitting .299, and the only stat he isn’t impressing in is homeruns. When a guy is this fast, and can get on base at a rate above .350 as he is, it is so valuable at the top of the lineup.

Shortstop

Who it is- Troy Tulowitzki- COL

Like Goldy, this was the obvious choice. Tulo isn’t only the best shortstop, but he may be the best player in the NL right now. He is hitting .349, has 18 homeruns, and is currently the only player in the league who’s OPS exceeds 1.000. The choice to start Tulo at short stop was the easiest choice between the two all-star squads.

Who it should be- Troy Tulowitzki –COL

Other shortstops are having seasons that would normally be good enough, unfortunately for them though Tulo isn’t a human being. It is like comparing Iron Man to Thor. Ian Desmond is a great baseball player, just like Iron Man is a great superhero, but when you put them up against a god, the playing field is just a little uneven.

Third Base

Who it is- Aramis Ramirez –MIL

Is Ramirez having a decent season? Yea, you could say that. It is not good enough to deserve being in the All Star game though. He is hitting .283 with only 11 homeruns. By no means is that bad, but there are just better players out there.

Who it should be- Todd Frazier- CIN

I have another bias to admit, as Todd Frazier went to the same college as I do, Rutgers, and I therefore want him to succeed. The stats will speak for themselves though, as he is hitting .289, with 17 homeruns to go along with it, enough to convince Tulo to select him to the Home Run Derby. He leads NL third basemen in WAR, home runs, and with 13 stolen bases, he also leads them in steals. Even without my bias towards him, most should be able to see Frazier has been the most impressive third basemen in the NL.

Andrew McCutchen

Andrew McCutchen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Outfield

Who it is- Andrew McCutchen- PIT, Carlos Gomez- MIL, and Yasiel Puig- LAD

McCutchen deserves to be in the lineup without a doubt. Puig and Gomez have also impressed, my problem is that I think there is one player better than these two. Their stats are very similar, with the only major difference being Puig’s lead in OBP, his is at .391 as opposed to Gomez’s who is getting on base at a rate of .367. By extension, Puig also has higher OPS, .902 as opposed to Gomez’s .876. Due to this, I will take Puig over Gomez, and will take the following player over Gomez.

Who it should be- Giancarlo Stanton- MIA

Stanton will be at DH, which makes this problem moot, but the thing he is he should have been above Gomez to start. It isn’t a big issue, but Stanton has simply been more impressive, and deserved the recognition of starting in the outfield. He has the same batting AVG, eight more home runs, and is getting on base at a .402 rate, thanks to having twice as many walks as Gomez.

Designated Hitter

Who it is- Giancarlo Stanton- MIA

See above for the summary of his season. Since he is being upgraded to starting in the outfield he no longer needs to be at DH obviously, which opens it up for someone else.

Who it should be- Todd Frazier CIN or Carlos Gomez MIL

This is getting a little complicated but I will explain. Since the NL does not have a DH, the role should just go to the next best hitter. If Frazier isn’t going to play third as he should, he should at least get the DH spot. However, if he does get third, and Stanton gets the outfield, then Gomez would be the best choice here. Frazier at third and Gomez at DH, along with all of my other picks, would be the ideal situation. I would like to thank the AL for having a DH and making this harder for me.

 

A List of Snubs will be released once the final vote has been decided, and a analysis of the pitchers will be released once the Starters are announced for the two sides.

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