MLB Pre Season Preview and Power Rankings 10-6

10.Cleveland Indians

Preview- Despite averaging less than three runs a game after the all-star break, the Indians were still competing for the last wildcard spot until the 159th game. This was because of a tremendous, young, pitching rotation. Corey Kluber, the reigning AL CY Young winner, led the rotation. While some people expect Corey Kluber to regress a little bit, there is little reason to believe last year was a fluke except the fact that he had never pitched that well before. After Kluber, they also have Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, Gavin Floyd, and Danny Salazar. Bauer and Salazar both posted ERA’s over four, but are both young, and showed a lot of promise last year. Floyd is coming off an injury, but before he was injured, had an ERA under 3. Carrasco posted an ERA of 2.55 over 133 innings, with 140 K’s.

The issue for the Indians will be their hitting and defense. On defense, they led the league in errors. Their infield defense was particularly bad, where injuries stretched them thin. On offense, they were boosted by the breakout performance of Michael Brantley. Unlike with Kluber, some regression is expected for Brantley. He will still be a good hitter, but his BABIP last year was over inflated, so his average should be expected to dip a little bit. This along with him turning 28, which is usually the age where steals start to go down. This means we should expect a slight regression across the board for Brantley, but for him to still be an overall, good player. Indians fans should also expect some improvement out of Jason Kipnis. The addition of Brandon Moss should also help, as most likely a healthier season overall for the tem. The Indians will once again push for a playoff spot.

Player to Watch- SS Francisco Lindor- Lindor has been one of the best prospects in baseball for a while now, and should finally make his debut this year, giving a huge boost to the lineup.

  1. Toronto Blue Jays

Preview- There are few teams with as much power as the Blue Jays have. Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion are both going to hit at least 30 homeruns if healthy, and could reach 40 with good years. After that, Josh Donaldson also has 30+ homerun potential. Donaldson hit 29 last year, despite being marred in a slump for part of the season, and playing in O.co Coliseum. Besides the power hitters, they have Jose Reyes, who continues to be one of the best hitting SS’s in the league. The additions of Michael Saunders and Russell Martin should prove to be small improvements. Beyond that, there are some holes at the bottom of the lineup. Dalton Pompey was a good minor league hitter, but still needs to prove he can hit in the Majors. They are also pretty weak at second base.

Their pitching rotation also has a lot of promise. Starting Pitchers Drew Hutchinson, Aaron Sanchez, and Daniel Norris, all have the potential to be anywhere from middle-of-the-rotation pitchers, to potentially top end talent, but have yet to show it in the MLB. Sanchez and Norris have barley even played in the Majors yet. Sanchez has worked mostly out of the bullpen, where he had a lot of success. As for Norris, he has one start and it wasn’t very good. There will be growing pains, but overall, their pitching rotation should be good. Their bullpen is still pretty weak though. Overall, they should be able to push for a playoff spot in an AL East that is weak.

Player to Watch- SP Drew Hutchinson- Hutchinson has the most potential of all the young Blue Jays pitchers, mostly because he has the most experience. He already showed the ability to miss bats in the MLB, and it isn’t rare to see young pitchers drastically improve their ERA . Expect him to get his ERA down to around 3.5 this year, and to continue to strike hitters out. There is a lot of promise here.

  1. Pittsburgh Pirates

Preview – After being bad for such a long time, the Pirates are finally a winning team. The question is can they improve even more and become a team that can win playoff games? They have now made the postseason in each of the last two years, falling in the divisional round to the Cardinals in 2013, and to the Giants in the Wildcard play in game last year.

Everyone knows about how good OF Andrew McCutchen is, being probably the second best OF in the game, only behind Mike Trout. Neil Walker has become one of the better home run hitters at second base, having a pace of 20 homeruns in every year since 2012. He has had some chronic back issues, but managed to play all of last year. Walker is in a contract year, and is a candidate for an even bigger breakout this year. They also have Starling Marte in the OF. While Marte has had his share of struggles in his young career, he put it all together in the second half last year, with a line of .348/.408/.567. The 30+ steals will continue to be there, and a sharp uptick in power number wouldn’t be surprising this year. He is another breakout candidate on this Pirates team. Pedro Alvarez is always going to struggle to make contact, but the power should come back this year. The lineup should be able to score runs this year.

The rotation is good as well. Francisco Liriano, Jeff Locke, Gerrit Cole, and Vance Worley should all be able to keep their ERA around 3.5. Cole in particular has a chance to really improve. Overall, the Pirates should again be in that wildcard spot, but they may need that breakout from Gerrit Cole if they want to be able to win a playoff series. Otherwise, it may be hard for them to win a series if they get matched up against a team who can throw out a true ace again.

Player to Watch – OF Gregory Polanco- Polanco had a disappointing rookie year, but has the talent to be one of the better hitters on the team.

  1. Detroit Tigers

Preview- Despite being one of the winningest teams over the past three years, the Tigers have little to show for it. They have made the postseason in every year since 2011, and even made the World Series once. Despite that, they have had no parades, and wear no rings on their fingers.

There is a lot to like about this team. For one, their lineup should be very good.  Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Ian Kinsler, Yoenis Cespedes, and J.D. Martinez make for a phenomenal top of the lineup. Miggy is coming off a down year, but that’s a down year by his standards. He was still one of the best hitters in Baseball, and still finished with over 100 RBI’s. Yoenis Cespedes is also coming off a down year, but with his raw power, there is reason to expect a bounce back. They also have a couple of young players in Anthony Gose and Nick Castelanos, who have the potential to be very good as well.

Losing Max Scherzer will hurt their pitching rotation, but even without him, it is still decent. They have David Price as their ace, and then Anibal Sanchez, and Alfredo Simon who are good pitchers as well. Justin Verlander will start the season on the DL, but he has been a league average pitcher at best the past two years, so missing him won’t hurt them too much.

What has been, and still is, their weakness, is the bullpen. The bullpen is league average during the season, but hasn’t been dependable at all in the postseason. A full season of Joakim Soria will probably help, but with Joe Nathan and his 4.81 ERA still in the closers role, it will again be hard to depend on late leads for the Tigers. They should at least be a playoff team again though. Who knows what will happen once they get there though.

Player to Watch- 3B Nick Castellanos- He was relatively unimpressive last year, but this is what he has done in the first year at every level. He could definitely take a big step this year.

  1. Seattle Mariners

Preview- The Mariners, like the Marlins, are receiving a lot of hype this season. With the Mariners though, that hype may be warranted. They have a lineup with a lot of potential, and already had a great pitching staff.

Their staff is headlined by Felix Hernandez, who after Clayton Kershaw may be the best pitcher in the league. James Paxton was looking like a terrific pitcher last year before having to miss four months with a shoulder injury. Taijuan Walker has been one of the more hyped pitching prospects in the last few years, and will finally make his full season debut this year. Hisashi Iwakuma is also in the rotation, and while he may not be as well known as Walker and King Felix, he has been one of the most under rated pitchers of the last couple of years, and should continue to produce.

The lineup isn’t quite as good, but as said above, it has potential. The top of the lineup is Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager, Austin Jackson, and Nelson Cruz. While those four are all very good, the line up gets weaker after that. Dustin Ackley and Seth Smith aren’t terrible hitters, but they aren’t very good either. Logan Morrison has showed potential in a few years, but lately has had off the field issues, which has affected his play. Catcher Mike Zunio is probably the best defensive catcher behind Yadier Molina, and can hit 20+ homeruns, but he hit under .200 last year. If he can get his average up, he could be one of the best catchers in the league. This could finally be the year they make the playoffs. With a great rotation, and a decent lineup, there is a good chance they make the playoffs for the first time in a while.

Player to Watch- SS Brad Miller- Miller has showed flashes of greatness, but hasn’t been able to show any consistency. He is a potential 20-20 player though. If he can improve his approach, and find some consistency, he can be another great hitter to add to the top of the lineup.

MLB Pre Season Preview and Power Rankings 20-16

20. New York Yankees-

Preview- On paper, the Yankees should be a good team. After last year though, what is on paper means nothing. Yankees won free agency last year, but many of the players they signed disappointed, and their rotation feel apart at the hinges because of injuries.

Even before Masahiro Tanaka was hurt though, they still weren’t playing good. The lineup has talent, but is full of under achievers, and injury risks. Carlos Beltran is a borderline Hall of famer, but he seems to be on his last legs. Brian McCann is also starting to decline, as his BA fell under .240 last year. Jacoby Ellsbury is productive when healthy, but he has missed significant time over several seasons. Mark Teixera hasn’t been good for a couple years now, and while Didi Gregorius is good with the glove, he has still yet to show he can handle a bat.

As for their pitching, Tanaka looks like the real deal, but there are many question marks after that. Can Michael Pineda stay on the field? He has missed most of his two years with the Yankees. Can CC Sabathia still be a solid pitcher even though his fastball velocity has taken a nose dive? So far the answer to that has been no. Ivan Nova has also dealt with injury issues, and while he has shown flashes of greatness, he has been inconsistent. Nathan Eovaldi was a solid addition to the rotation, but despite the talent in the rotation, there is no guarantee it will translate to the games.

For now Yankees seem to be looking at the third straight year out of the playoffs.

Player to Watch: CP Dellin Betances- One area of the Yankees that should be good is their bullpen. Betances is competing with Andrew Miller for the role of closer, but the smart money is one Betances to win it. He showed tons of potential last year, finishing with an ERA of 1.40 over 97.2 innings.

  1. Kansas City Royals-

Preview- The Royals made a miracle run all the way to the World Series last year, before falling to the San Francisco Giants. Expect a major step back this year though. Not only did they lose SP James Shields, who gave them a 3.21 ERA over 227 innings, but they were over achieving last year, and only clicked at the right time.

Take a look at their lineup, it just isn’t that talented. Only two players last year showed adequate offensive production, Lorenzo Cain and Alex Gordon. Both of them had an OPS + of over 100. After that it was just a group of players who weren’t really hitting. Eric Hosmer continues to dispaoint, as he has yet ti live up to the potential he showed his rookie year. Hosmer was good they year before that, but that year is now sandwiched in between two mediocre years. Mike Moustakas can hit for power, but his mechanics are terrible, and he goes on long cold streaks that can kill his team. The only other hitter of significance is Alcides Escobar, a gold glove defensive talent, who can get on base and steal when he has to. Overall though, they have no one hitter to rely on, just a handful of decent hitters, supported by streaky guys, and underachievers.

On the mound, they have a terrific bullpen, and an underwhelming rotation. Yordano Ventura and Danny Duffy both have potential, but neither have shown enough yet to be completely confident in. After that Edison Volquez and Chris Young join the rotation, and they have already proven you can’t rely on them for various reasons. Overall, this is just a decent team, which caught lightning in a bottle because of their great defense and bullpen. Problem is, lightning rarely strikes the same place twice.

Player to Watch- Yordano Ventura- He showed a lot of promise, but still has things to work on. His 1.3 WHIP and 20% strikeout rate leaves a lot to be desired. Could be a star though.

  1. San Francisco Giants-

Preview- I know, how can I rank the two teams in the world series outside the top 15. Like the Royals, this is a team that overachieved last year. The squeaked into the playoffs, clinging onto that second wildcard spot, and then started playing really well. They fully deserve the title last year for their play down the stretch, but it doesn’t make them a good team.

Lets start with their rotation. Madison Bumgarner is a great pitcher, but at 24, he threw 270 pitches last year. He could be in for a slight regression this year. After that, Matt Cain has been terrible of late, and hasn’t had an ERA under 4 since 2012. Tim Hudson had a great first half of the year, but posted an ERA of 4.98 over the second half, and will turn 40 in July. Jake Peavy was good for the Giants last year, but he hasn’t had two straight years pitching over 30 games since 2007, and is turning 34. After that there is Tim Lincecum, whose down fall had been noted by everyone.

Their hitting isn’t much better. They replace Pablo Sandoval with Casey Mcgehee, who has a line of .249/.312/.353, over the past three seasons. They have Brandon belt, who despite being a breakout canidate every year, has yet to do so. A middle infield of Joe Panik and Brandon Crawford, both of whom are decent guys to have, but won’t light up the box score or have any great contribution to the team. Norichika Aoki, and Angel Pagan are both sub par hitters as well. The offensive production on this team will mostly come down to Buster Posey and Hunter Pence. Posey is the best hitting catcher in baseball, and Pence has down well for himself in San Francisco. They wont be enough to make up for the struggles of the rotation though.

Player to Watch- SP Matt Cain- If Giants have any hope of repeating, Cain needs to regain his form. He used to be a top 20 pitcher, but he like Tim Lincecum has just lost it. It may look too late for Lincecum, but Cain may still get it together.

  1. Oakland Athletics-

Preview- The A’s put a lot into trying to win last year, and fell on their faces. In doing so, they lost many talented players, and have nothing left from those trades to speak for it. They traded SS prospect Addison Russell to bring back starting pitchers Jason Hammel and Jeff Sarmardzija, and neither of them are still on the team. They sent OF Yoenis Cespedes to Boston to bring back SP Jon Lester, and Lester left in free agency.

They also traded away star 3B Josh Donaldson to bring back 3B Brett Lawrie in the off-season. Lawrie was once a highly regarded prospect, but has failed to live up to the hype. OF Brandon Moss was also traded to Cleveland. Their three best power hitters have all been trade within one year.

What have they added in the off season? Well Billy Butler, who has been as unimpressive as it gets among DH’s. They also added Ben Zobrist and Ike Davis. Zobrist is a decent hitter, but is over rated by the general public. This is another classic Billy Beane team, one put together with recycled parts.

There is no reason to worry about the pitching. For as long as Billy Beane has been there they have lost pitchers, only to replace them with other good pitchers from their farm system. Their minor leagues is a factory for starting pitchers. They still have Sonny Gray, who has proven to be a very good pitcher. While many of the other names in the rotation aren’t super impressive, the history of this team tells me they will still all do good.

Player to Watch- 3B- Brett Lawrie- Lawrie was once a very highly regarded prospect, but it just hasn’t panned out yet. He looked like a player who was going to hit 20-20 regularly. The A’s are hoping the change of scenery can get him going.

English: New Hampshire Fisher Cats catcher, Tr...

English: New Hampshire Fisher Cats catcher, Travis d’Arnaud. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  1. New York Mets

Preview- The Mets have a very bright future. Their rotation is stocked with young talent. Matt Harvey looked like one of the best pitchers in the league two years ago, before having Tommy John surgery. Jacob deGrom is the reigning rookie of the year, and while he was not as higly regarded coming out of the minors as his teammates, looks to be the real deal. They also have a couple pitchers still waiting in the wings, like Noah Syndergaard and Rafeal Montero. Zack Wheeler has also impressed thus far, but recently underwent Tommy Johns and will miss the season.

The issue is going to be hitter. While their lineup still leaves a lot to be desired. It has improved immensely from recent years. Michael Cuddyer, Juan Lageres, Curtis Granderson, Lucas Duda, David Wright, and Travis d’Arnaud make for a unimpressive, but still decent lineup. If they want to really press for a title in the coming years, they will have to find some more hitting prospects.

The question is can they win this year? They can certainly be in the mix this year, especially with that rotation. As far as making the playoffs, they may still be a year off. Harvey may have to readjust to the majors, and is most likely on a pitch count this year. They are still a year away from having their full rotation as well. They are going to be a dangerous team down the road though, especially if they can find a way to flip one of their stockpile of young pitchers into a equally good young bat.

Player to Watch- C Travis d’Arnaud- d’Arnaud was once the prize of the Phillies farm system. Then he was flipped to Toronto to bring back Roy Halladay, and then flipped to the Mets in exchange for R.A. Dickey. He has struggled thus far, but expect a bit of a breakout year for him this season. He could be one of the better hitting catchers.

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.