MLB Preseason Preview and Power Rankings (5-1)

5.Boston Red Sox

Preview- The Red Sox were among the free agent winners this off season. They signed Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez, and swapped Yoenis Cespedes out of a crowed outfield to bring back SP Rick Porcello. The Porcello move was a good one, they bring back a talented, 26 year old pitcher, and only lose an outfielder who struggled for them, and they didn’t have room for anyway. As for the Sandoval and Ramirez signings, they are being overblown. Sandoval is not that good of a hitter in the regular season, and Ramirez in left field is going to be an adventure.

The reason they are rated this high is the team around those players. Mookie Betts, Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Mike Napoli, Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval, Xander Bogaerts, and eventually Rusney Castillo, will make for a very good line up. They may be overpaying Ramirez and Sandoval, but they have the money to bite that bullet. Bogaerts struggled his rookie year, but has been working hard with a hitting instructor, and seems poised to put together a breakout year. Ortiz keeps hitting, despite his age, and has yet to show any signs of regression.

What may hurt them, is their rotation. Porcello is a good pitcher, but after him, there is only question marks. Clay Bucholz and Justin Masterson have shown potential in their careers, but have been mediocre the last couple of years. They really need an elite pitcher to put at the top of the rotation. They are tentative to give a prospect from their deep farm system in order to bring one back, but they may eventually cave in. For now, their lineup alone makes them a top 5 team.

Player to Watch- OF Mookie Betts- While all eyes have been on Kris Bryant this spring, there is a different player who has been flying under the radar. Mookie Betts is a star in the making, and is ready to become a top outfielder in the game. He will lead off this year for the Red Sox, and is a candidate to hit over .300 and steal 40 bases.

  1. Los Angeles Angels

Preview- When people think of the Angels, they think of Mike Trout. Trout is the best player in the league, and probably the new face of the MLB after Derek Jeter retired. He is the favorite to repeat as AL MVP, but what about the rest of the team?

This team led the majors in wins last year, with 98. They only had one major loss in the offseason, and that was 2B Howie Kendrick. They shipped him up the freeway to the Dodgers in exchange for SP Andrew Heaney. They downgraded at second base, where Johnny Giavotella will start this year, but get a much needed boost to their pitching rotation. They also made some minor signings to boost their bullpen depth, and brought in OF Matt Joyce for outfield depth.

The rest of their team remains mostly the same. Kole Calhoun, Albert Pujols, Erik Ayabar, CJ Cron, Chris Ianetta, the Angels are getting above average production from almost every position except for second base. The lineup doesn’t have the name power some of the other top five teams have, but it will be just as productive.

The concern will be their pitching rotation. First, there is Jered Weaver, who is talented, but has had issues with a loss in velocity the last couple of years. Garret Richards is coming off an injury, and it’s no guarantee he will be able to shake the rust off this year. CJ Wilson has been marred in a decline over the past couple years as well. How good this rotation may come down to the performances of young pitchers Andrew Heaney and Matt Shoemaker. The Angels aren’t the best team on paper, but they are a well-constructed team, and should once again be at the top of the standings.

Player to Watch- SP Matt Shoemaker- Shoemaker was the runner up in the AL Rookie of the Year race, and if he can continue to develop could be the key to the Angels taking the next step.

Bryce Harper

Bryce Harper (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  1. Washington Nationals

Preview- Everyone’s favorite team to win it all, they have more holes than most like to talk about. They are a very good team, but they aren’t as good overall as the two teams ranked above them on this list.

To give credit where it is due, their pitching rotation is fantastic. With Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Max Scherzer, Jordan Zimmerman, and Doug Fister as their starting pitchers, they are an almost lock to make the postseason. The issue will be whether they score runs or not.

Ian Desmond and Anthony Rendon are legitimately good hitters, but after them, the lineup is mediocre. There is no reason to believe that Ryan Zimmerman will make a comeback. He is injury prone, and when he is on the field, he isn’t even that good anymore. Bryce Harper is young, but this will mark three straight years that everyone thinks will be a breakout year, and it hasn’t happened yet. Jayson Werth, Denard Span, and Dan Uggla round out a lineup that is mostly underwhelming. To make it worse, Rendon is dealing with various injury issues entering the season, so his status for now is up in the air.

They are still going to be a good team, but people are getting ahead of themselves in saying they are the favorites to win it all. They have a chance to win, but as a Phillies fan, I remember what happened to the Phillies when they had an all-star rotation but an underwhelming lineup. If they want to win, they are going to need that breakout from Harper now, because their lineup isn’t good enough without it.

Player to Watch- OF Michael Taylor- Span will miss a chunk of April to start out the season, giving Taylor a chance to play. He is a promising prospect, and with a good April, can steal Spans spot permanently, and make it a little more likely they win it all this year.

2. St Louis Cardinals

Preview- The Cardinals are the most consistent team in baseball. While every other team is like a roller coaster and has its ups and downs, the Cardinals are a constant. They may not always be among the best teams in the league, but they are always at least there in the playoffs. This year they have as good a chance as anyone to win it all.

The lineup is talented from top to bottom. Matt Adams will finally get consistent playing time, and Kolten Wong will get a full year. Jason Heyward has struggles his last two years, but maybe the change of scenery will get him back on track. Yadier Molina, Matt Carpenter, and Matt Holiday round out a lineup that is good almost from top to bottom.

Their rotation may be even better. Adam Wainwright is as good as almost any pitcher. After him, they have two very promising young pitchers in Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha. The rotation is rounded out by John Lackey and Lance Lynn, who are both mid 3 era pitchers. Their rotation may not be as good as the Nationals, but barring an injury, they should be among the best in the league still.

Few teams have been as successful as the Cardinals have the last decade. They not only make the playoffs every year, but also have been able to have success in the playoffs, unlike the Nationals and Dodgers, who they are ranked in between. With a top 10 pitching rotation, and a top 10 lineup, they will be amongst the best teams in the league, with the track record to back it up.

Player to Watch- 2B Kolten Wong- Wong was unimpressive in year one, but finished strong in the second half, hitting 11 homeruns. Expect him to raise his average this year. Wong hit over .300 in the minors, and should be expected to do the same in the majors. He also has decent power and speed, with his ceiling being a 20-20 type of hitter.

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers

Preview- The Dodgers are the most talented team on paper, but they were the most talented team last year as well, and all it got them was a first round exit. It’s hard to put them anywhere other than at number one with how much talent they have, but there is going to be that concern of what they will do when they get to the playoffs again.

With all the moves, they made in the off season, trading for Howie Kendrick and Jimmy Rollins, signing Brandon McCarthy, and brining in Cuban prospect Hector Olivera, their best move was trading Matt Kemp. Not because they brought back a promising catcher in Yasmani Grandal, but because it opened up a spot for Joc Pederson on the roster.

The Olivera signing actually was a head scratcher. Did it allow them to bring in a promising player? Yes, but it blocked another promising player from having a space on the roster, Alex Guerrero. Guerrero, another Cuban prospect, was looking very promising, and in line to play third base before the Olivera signing. Now his spot on the team in up in the air. The infield and outfield were already packed, and third was really the only chance he had at playing.

The pitching rotation is probably the second best behind the nationals. Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson, there aren’t very many rotations better than that. Their lineup is even better on paper. Adrian Gonzalez, Howie Kendrick, Jimmy Rollins, Pederson, Carl Crawford, and Yasiel Puig make for an imposing line up.

The problem is, just because you throw a bunch of all stars together it doesn’t mean they will be the best team. It didn’t work for the Bobby Valentine Red Sox, didn’t work for the Marlins a couple years ago, so there is no guarantee it will work for the Dodgers.

Player to Watch- OF Joc Pederson- Pederson has the potential to hit 20-20 in his first year, and to maybe even be a 30-30 player. His potential is sky high, and having a player like Pederson up in the majors is going to be great for the game as a whole.

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

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

Philadelphia Phillies

phillies depth chart

 

The Phillies would have possibly the best top of the lineup in the league with Trout, Goldy, and Frazier on board. After that though, their team is pretty weak. Whether it is the middle infield with players no one would even recognize, or the outfield full of disappointing players like Blanks and Heisy. Not to mention the fact they would need a minor leaguer to step up to be their number one pitcher. Biddle, who is actually in the Phillies system, has showed potential, but isn’t quite ready to take the mound as an ace. If Biddle works out, the Phillies could be a pretty good team. if he doesn’t work out, well at least they would be able to enjoy the careers of two potential future hall of famers in Goldy and Trout.

 

 

Atlanta Braves

Braves depth chart

 

The South East is a place where many baseball players grow up, and the Braves benefit by being one of the only south east teams not in Florida, so they get the best players from multiple states. It clearly worked out for them as they would have a scary good team. Wainwright is one of the best pitchers in the league, and is currently in a neck and neck competition for the NL Cy Young. Besides him, they have the best young catcher in the league, one of the best young third basemen, and a strong middle infield with two guys enjoying breakout years. Their outfield is a little old, but still talented. They would be one of the best teams in the league.

 

 

 

New York Mets

Mets depth chart

 

 

 

The Mets have always lived in the Yankees shadow, but in this league they would both be on even playing field. Like the yankees, the Mets would struggle to put up runs. The Yankees lineup probably gets a slight edge, but not by much. The best player in the lineup would probably be Markakis, who has always been an underwhelming player. He isn’t bad, but just doesn’t stand out as a star.Besides him they also have the much maligned Pierzynski, who always seems to leave behind enemies every where he goes. He can still contribute with the bat at least though. The stregth pf this team would definitely be Hector Santiago, who is a very promising young pitcher.They would still probably end up competing with the Phillies for fourth place every year though.

 

 

Miami Marlins

marlins depth chart

 

They may not be as strong as the Rays are, but the Marlins would still be a great team. Florida is one of the best place for baseball, with sunshine year round, meaning they get to play year round. Grienke is the best player on this team, as he is one of the best pitchers in the league. He had been an underachiever for a few years, but has finally established himself in LA, so maybe he just needed the warm weather to be good.  Besides him, the lineup has a lot of potential, but could also be a disaster. Hosmer, Machado, Miller, Morse, and Arencibia, have all looked like All Stars at times, but have also all looked like they don’t belong. In the end, if even a handful of these guys panned out, the marlins would be a team to watch.

 

Washington Nationals

Nats depth chart

 

yet another strong team in the NL East. With Hamilton, Myers, Zimmerman, Phillips, Seager, and Weiters at the top of the lineup, it is easy to see this team putting up runs. The question is, what Verlander will they get? Verlander has been among the best in baseball at times, but he has been terrible the last two years. At just 31 it is hard to believe he is already out of his prime, so he can definitely get his career back on track. If he turns up for the Nats, they could give the Braves a run for their money.

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 (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.

Major League Offseason Report Card (Nationals)

Ian Desmond

Ian Desmond (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Moves so far

  • Acquired SP Doug Fister from Tigers for 2B Stephen Lombardozzi
  • Sign OF Nate Mccoulth to 2 year $10.75 Million deal

Rumor Mill

  • Possibly interested in 1b/3b Michael Young
  • Working on extensions for SP Jordan Zimmerman and SS Ian Desmond

Nationals are one of the most promising young teams in baseball. They have made all the right decisions the last few years, only exception being the big Jayson Werth deal. They didn’t do anything super flashy this offseason so far, instead they have focused on signing up their own, and made a couple small deals that didn’t cost them much.

Fister will step into their 4th rotation spot, impressive considering many consider him a number two guy in most rotations. This gives them a starting four of Strasburg, Zimmerman, Gonzalez, and Fister.

Mccoulth will step in as the 4th outfielder, filling in for one of Bryce Harper, Werth, or Dernad Span when need be, or being a spark plug off the bench. A little bit of an overpay, but a good signing none the less.

Nationals suffered from a sophomore slump after their breakout year in 2012. They are ready to get back in first though in a NL East division where no one stands out.

There most pressing issue should be to get Desmond and Zimmerman under contracts through their prime. They have a very promising core of players, if they can keep them all, they can go places.

Nationals get a B for this offseason so far, solid signings to bolster an already talented team. It will go up to an A if they get those extensions signed.

This will be updated if any news comes out.

Next team up to bat is the Braves