Ranking The Teams 30-25, My Version: The Ugly

Each year since 2014, David Schoenfield has ranked all 30 teams in tiers during the preseason.  For the third year straight, I am creating my own version.  I am out of school this week, so throughout the week, I will be posting my rankings.  Today they start with the bottom 6.  

30. minnesota-twins Minnesota Twins

Off-season Review

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In the process of a rebuild, the Twins let older players Kurt Suzuki and Trevor Plouffe sign elsewhere in free agency.  However, they also lost young pitcher Tommy Milone.  They signed veterans Jason Castro, J.B. Shuck and Ryan Vogelsong.  These guys are nice veteran boosters and mentors, but are unnecessary signings.  The young Minnesota Twins just need a little time to develop before coming back to contention.  

The Case for the Twins

The Twins will not contend in any way this year.  They are in the midst of a rebuild, and actually have a bright future ahead.  The Tigers and Royals will get old and decline which will leave room open for the Twins in coming years.  For now, they need to focus on establishing their young players, and wins and losses will not matter for them this year.  But in coming years, look for the Twins to finally get better.   

The Bright Spot

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Joe Mauer and Brian Dozier are getting older, and I’m liking the young talent on the Twins.  The younger players they have will do well this year, and eventually bring the team up with them. Third year player Miguel Sano is one guy who could make an impact.  He will take a full time job at third base in 2017, and will be a bigger contributor to the lineup.  He could be a team leader in the future.  Byron Buxton is another player to keep an eye on.  Despite a disappointing 2016 for both of them, 2017 should be a good year for Buxton and Sano.  

Best Case Scenario: The Twins surprise many, as their young guns bounce back and lead the Twins to a second place finish in the AL Central.

Worst Case Scenario: Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano continue to regress and the Twins finish with the worst record in baseball.

Projected Finish: 63-99, 5th in AL Central

29. san diego-padres San Diego Padres

Off-season Review

The Padres didn’t do much in the off-season.  After losing veterans they shouldn’t have spent their money on, the Padres are at a desperate state.  They will not compete this season, so it’s time for a rebuild.  They did sign veteran Erick Aybar to a minor league deal, but he’s no more than a veteran mentor, and will not lead the Padres to contend.  The Padres will focus on building upon their young roster, and if they did that a couple of years back, they might of had a legitimate chance this year.

The Case for the Padres

The Padres may be at their worst ever.  While building a young roster, they will not compete this season.  None of their starting pitchers are very established yet, and the lineup has some bright spots, but needs work.  This rebuild could take a long time, but it’s worth it.  If the Padres tried to go for it this season, the end result would be the biggest MLB failure in a long time.

The Bright Spot

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One investment from a couple of years ago that was worth it was the signing of Wil Myers.  Myers has done well for the Padres, and him, Yangervis Solarte and Erick Aybar make up a nice infield of veterans to teach the younger players.  Myers will actually put up some impressive stats in 2017.  In 2016, he was a Home Run Derby participant and All Star.  Myers will continue to put up good numbers in 2017, and he will make the Padres look just a tiny bit better.

Best Case Scenario: Wil Myers boosts the lineup, and the young rotation breaks through as the Padres finish just under .500.

Worst Case Scenario: The Padres have their worst season in history, the young players struggle at the major league level, and the Padres barely endure a dismal season.

Projected Finish: 63-99, 5th in NL West

28. oakland-a's Oakland Athletics

Off-season Review

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The Athletics weren’t quite as active as they usually are this off-season, but they did fine-tune their team.  They aren’t anywhere near contending, but adding some depth with experienced players will at least prevent disaster in 2017.  Rajai Davis recently came back to Oakland.  Alejandro De Aza, Ross Detwiler and Jaff Decker were invited to spring training among other veterans.  They also signed young third baseman Trevor Plouffe.  They filled most of their major off-season needs, and that will help them despite other problems.

The Case for the Athletics

The A’s have a nice mix of veterans and younger players.  Once their prospects develop, this will benefit them and they will thrive.  But that might not happen for a while, and right now, they’re just going to be considered an old team that won’t contend.  If they rebuild a little, maybe they’ll season their young players more and see more success soon.  But whether they rebuild or stay put, the Athletics aren’t going to have a winning season.

The Bright Spot

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Khris Davis was acquired from Milwaukee in the 2015-16 off-season, and since joining the Athletics, he has been their best hitter, and has been a bright spot on the Athletics by putting up impressive stats.  Davis was a home run hitter in 2016, with 42 dingers.  He drove in 102 runs and got a career best 137 hits.  The 42 dingers, also his career best, were enough to tie Edwin Encarnacion and Brian Dozier for 3rd in the MLB.  Encarnacion and Dozier are team leading stars, and Davis may be developing to be just that.  Davis had more home runs than the Rockies’ star third baseman Nolan Arenado!  I also think starting pitcher Sonny Gray could look good in a bounce back year, but Davis is the safest bet.

Best Case Scenario: The rotation bounces back, the lineup finally finds a way to do strongly and the A’s attempt to return to the playoffs.

Worst Case Scenario: The injury bug hits Oakland at its hardest, and the Athletics finish terribly, with one of the worst records.

Projected Finish: 65-97, 5th in AL West

27. philadelphia.phillies Philadelphia Phillies

Off-season in Review

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The Phillies have finally established a young roster, but it will take a couple years to return to stardom.  The rotation still needs work but they added some veteran mentors/big hitters to help their case.  They acquired starting pitcher Clay Buchholz, and added Howie Kendrick and Michael Saunders to the lineup.  Now, with veteran mentors to help a young, talented roster, the Phillies could be back to contention a couple of years from now.

The Case for the Phillies

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The era of washed up, old Phillies is over.  Ryan Howard, Carlos Ruiz, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Ben Revere, John Mayberry Jr. and Domonic Brown are all gone. Now, it’s time for the young guns to take over this team.  This puts this year’s team pretty low in the rankings.  However, don’t be surprised if the Phillies are the next surprise wild card in 2018.  These young players are very talented, and once they’re developed, which will happen over the next year or two, the Phillies will be good once again.

The Bright Spot

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Putting the older guys aside, there are a few talented young guns that have already broke out.  Odubel Herrera, Freddy Galvis and Maikel Franco are already doing strongly.  Franco is the Phillies’ bright spot.  He is keeping this lineup alive.  In a couple of years, Franco could be a superstar.  The new environment in Philly leaves him with an important role in the lineup, and I think he will come through in that role.

Best Case Scenario: The Phillies return to contention with an impressive season by a lot of young players.

Worst Case Scenario: The Phillies fail again, and the young guns go full bust.

Projected Finish: 65-97, 5th in NL East

26. atlanta-braves Atlanta Braves

Off-season Review

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The Braves are in the midst of a rebuild.  The starting rotation is getting old after they added Bartolo Colon and R.A. Dickey, but the older players are still good.  The lineup also includes veteran mentor Matt Kemp.  The rest of it consists of young stars and players ready to breakout.  Dansby Swanson is the favorite for the NL Rookie of The Year, Freddie Freeman continues to shine, Nick Markakis has done alright in Atlanta, and new acquisitions Brandon Phillips and Kurt Suzuki will help this team improve.

The Case for the Braves

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The Braves won’t compete this season, but they’ve put together a nice mix of old and young that could do well in the future.  The pitching staff still needs to develop and be fine-tuned, but the lineup is looking better, and could be a lot more powerful this year and in future years.  The Braves currently lack depth, but once more prospects break the majors, the Braves could have some of the best hitting in the MLB, with a strong lineup led by Freddie Freeman.

The Bright Spot

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Some of the older players provide power to the lineup, but younger players Freddie Freeman and Dansby Swanson make the Braves a little more fun to watch.  Freeman really broke out last year, with a stellar performance especially in the 2nd half.  Freeman had already established himself as a franchise player, but he really went all out in 2o16.  Swanson has a potentially great rookie season ahead of him.  The Braves have opened up a spot at shortstop for him, and Swanson will take advantage of that.

Best Case Scenario: The rotation finally gathers itself, the lineup is dominant, and the Braves compete for a wild card in the NL East.

Worst Case Scenario: The rotation is a bust, the lineup doesn’t perform like it should, and the Braves finish last in the NL East.

Projected Finish: 67-95, 4th in NL East

 

25. Tampa_Bay_Rays Tampa Bay Rays

Off-season Review

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The Rays didn’t have a huge off-season.  They lost some crucial guys, and they traded away Logan Forsythe and Drew Smyly.  However, they added to their pitching depth in that trade by acquiring Jose De Leon.  Despite losing Desmond Jennings, they resigned Logan Morrison and signed Colby Rasmus to help fill out the starting lineup.  Wilson Ramos and Nathan Eovaldi were also signed but are recovering from injuries.  They made a lot of small moves, but nothing major enough to impact the Rays.

The Case for the Rays

The Rays play in the toughest division in the MLB.  They have a talented team, but just don’t stack up to the rest of the AL East.  They would be a mediocre team in a weaker division.  But this is just how it is.  The Rays don’t stack up with everybody else.  A rebuild is not needed, now is just a big wait.  A big wait for the Rays to able to do well again.  They have a good roster, but some of these guys are getting old, or just aren’t as good as the other stars of the league.

The Bright Spot

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The lineup is just mediocre.  The true bright spots in Tampa are Chris Archer and Alex Cobb.  Archer struggled in 2016, but is still the ace of the Rays.  Cobb has been injured the last two years, but will perform well when healthy.  Both of these guys should make a big impact for the Rays in 2017.

Best Case Scenario: The strong rotation leads the Rays to compete towards the top of the AL East, in hopes of a playoff spot.

Worst Case Scenario: Injuries hit hard again, and the Rays look worse than ever, finishing not just last in the AL East, but the whole American League.

Projected Finish: 69-93, 5th in AL East

 

Baseball season is almost here.  This is just the start of my rankings series.  Comment your thoughts and predictions, and check back tomorrow for my 24-19 rankings.  Who will be next on the list?  Check tomorrow to find out!

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Ultimate Super Bowl LI Preview: Video, Prediction and More

The Super Bowl is almost here.  The snacks are ready and the Pats and Falcons are about to face off in a great game.  So, it’s time to look a little bit deeper.  Who will win the big game on Sunday?  Keep reading to find out what I think!

Here’s my video preview for the big game:

 

 

I also have an iMovie trailer, check it out!

 

Okay, that gave you a brief preview, but it’s time to go deeper.  This may be one of the greatest Super Bowls ever.  Either team has a shot to win.  

The Case for the Pats

The Patriots are four time champions looking for a fifth.  One thing that will come to their advantage is their depth.  They have so many options on offense, and rotate the defense very frequently.  Tom Brady is on fire, and the defense is first in scoring defense and has the power to slow down and overwhelm Matt Ryan.

If the Pats win, Brady will be known as the G.O.A.T, and Bill Belichick will be known as the greatest head coach ever.  I think things are looking good for the Pats.  I really think that the Patriots were meant to win this season.  

The Case For The Falcons

Matt Ryan is trying to win the Falcons their first Super Bowl, and I think he has a good chance. The Falcons have an awesome QB-RB-WR combo.  The Falcons don’t have the best defense, but Matt Ryan and his offense have had an MVP caliber season.  The Falcons may not have the awesome past of the Patriots, but they can overwhelm a defense, and they actually looked really good this season.  I think they have a legitimate chance.  

Super Bowl Fast Facts

  • The Patriots have not lost a Super Bowl when they’ve had a Top 10 defense, they are first this year.  
  • However, the Pats have not faced a Top 10 passing QB this season, Matt Ryan is number 1.
  • Matt Ryan has won against 5 of 6 winning QBs in 2016.  
  • However, the Falcons have scored 540 points this season.  No team to score 540 points or more in a season has ever won the Super Bowl.  
  • The Patriots are 17-0 when Dion Lewis plays.  Lewis will play in Super Bowl LI.
  • The Patriots have only thrown 2 turnovers, fewest in the NFL
  • Despite ranking 25th in offensive yards per carry, they only allow 3.85 to opponents.  
  • The last 7 MVP winners to make the Super Bowl have lost

The Final Pick

Typically, I just predict the score. But it’s the Super Bowl, so I went a little deeper.  I simulated the entire game based on my basic score prediction.  Below are the final score and stat predictions I came up with.  

Patriots, 30, Falcons, 23

I think the Patriots will win by a touchdown.  The Falcons just don’t have the depth to cover the Pats offense.  Their defense is terrible in the red zone and will let the Pats score on them.  Although Brady will do strongly and throw for 2 TDs, I think we will also see a Patriots rushing touchdown.  Both these teams went from having a desperate running game to an amazing backfield.  The Falcons will also score at least 1 rushing TD.  

However, this is number one offense (Falcons) against number one defense (Patriots).  Who won the last match-up like that?  The Broncos did, they had the number one defense.  Defense wins games, and the Pats defense will pressure Matt Ryan well, and the whole Falcons offense will be messed up by it.  The Falcons have only faced three really good defenses this year, the Seahawks (twice), Broncos and Chiefs.  They went 2-2 in those match-ups, one of their wins at home.  In the Super Bowl, it’s a neutral match-up, and unlike those other teams, the Patriots have amazing offense.  They also have depth that Atlanta lacks.  So, after a grand effort by both teams, I see the Patriots edging this one out.

Stat Projections (Passing, Rushing and Receiving)

Patriots

Passing

Tom Brady, 34/54, 348 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT, 2 sacks

 

Rushing

LeGarrette Blount, 17 rush, 76 yards, TD

Dion Lewis, 6 rush, 28 yards

James White: 7 rush, 24 yards

 

Receiving

Julian Edelman, 8/11, 96 yards

Malcolm Mitchell, 6/14, 68 yards, TD

Martellus Bennett, 8/8, 66 yards, TD

Chris Hogan, 6/10, 65 yards

Danny Amendola, 3 /4, 30 yards

Michael Floyd, 2/ 3, 19 yards

Dion Lewis, 1/1, 4 yards

Matt Lengel, 0/1, 0 yards

 

Falcons

 

Passing

Matt Ryan, 31/50, 314 yards, TD, 1 INT, 4 sacks

 

Rushing

Devonta Freeman, 23 rush, 113 yards, TD

Tevin Coleman, 10 rush, 41 yards

Patrick DiMarco, 1 rush, 2 yards

 

Receiving

Julio Jones, 13/22, 139 yards

Mohamed Sanu, 8/11, 68 yards, TD

Austin Hooper, 6/6, 62 yards

Taylor Gabriel, 4/10, 45 yards

Levine Toilolo, 0/1, 0 yards

 

The Super Bowl is almost here.  The food is ready (hopefully).  The game is recorded, and my Super Bowl Sunday is planned.  All that’s left is the wait.  Are you ready for the Big Game?

Scouting Report: Atlanta Falcons

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The Falcons were Carolina’s closest competitor in the NFC South last year.  Most people think due to a weak division, they will be again.  But I say no.  The Falcons have some serious problems.  They have no offensive depth, and the defense has some good players, but also some holes, underachieving players and depth problems.  The Bucs are a big sleeper, and I think the Saints young receiving staff could even top what the Falcons have.  Matt Ryan is being cocky by saying this offense can score 30 points a game.  This team will have a rough ride, and Matt Ryan, Devonta Freeman and more overrated stars will fall.  What does this team have to win?

3 Players to Watch For

1. Tevin Coleman, RB

I know how much attention Devonta Freeman got last season, but with the kind of numbers he put up, and with Tevin Coleman healthy and ready to improve in his sophomore year, I think Freeman had a one and done season that will never happen again.  He is a potential bust for the Falcons in 2016.  Coleman underachieved last year, and he’s hungry to prove to defenders that he still is what he was in college.  I don’t see him doing that badly again.  I see at least 500 yards, and he could even come close to topping Devonta Freeman’s yardage this season, even with the Falcons counting on Freeman to start, at least to begin the season.

2. Mohamed Sanu, WR

Sanu may have not been as impressive in 2015 as he was in 2014 when A.J. Green and Marvin Jones were hurt, but Sanu is still a major underrated sleeper.  Having just one receiver ahead of him helps this year, even though Julio Jones is a little better than A.J. Green, so Sanu should get more targets.  Sanu knew he didn’t want to return to Cincinnati, but this was an interesting and underrated free agent pickup by Atlanta.  The Falcons clearly trust Sanu to step up this season, as they released Roddy White and return specialist Devin Hester, who’s probably the best ever at his position.   The Falcons do have some depth at the position in Justin Hardy, Devin Fuller, Eric Weems and Nick Williams, the only key names are Jones and Sanu.  Sanu is a big sleeper on the Falcons, and I think even with the offense struggling, him and Tevin Coleman will come through this season.  The question is, will guys they trust like Matt Ryan and Devonta Freeman, even Julio Jones keep doing their job, and will problems at tight end and even the o-line make a mark?

3. Courtney Upshaw, OLB/DE

Since being drafted by the Ravens with an early 2nd round pick in 2012, Upshaw has never been an explosive player, and the Ravens have plenty of other linebackers that they’ve started in his place, like Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, and 2014 1st rounder C.J. Mosley.  Suggs and Dumervil have been hurt a lot, but even in a starting role, he’s only racked up 5 sacks.  He’s played in every regular season game since his NFL career started, and still only 5 sacks?  Upshaw does have a lot of upside, but he will have to compete with the youngsters for a starting job in Atlanta after the Ravens declined his fifth year option.  However, I think he’s a sleeper to rack up more sacks than he has so far in his career.  If he finishes camp strong, he should take a starting job at outside linebacker opposite rookie Deion Jones or veteran Sean Weatherspoon, who came boomeranging his way back to Atlanta after a 1-year stint in Arizona.  Courtney Upshaw could be a strong source for the Falcons pass rush this season.  Trust me, he will show up!

 

3 Questions That Must Be Answered

 

1. Can the offense consistently be a force?

That’s very tough to say.  This offense has never been known for consistency, but when they do well, they do very, very well.  the Falcons have usually either gotten off to a terrible start, or fallen apart after a potential playoff contending run.  I don’t trust Matt Ryan and Devonta Freeman to consistently run this offense, although when Ryan finds his receivers in the games he performs in, the Falcons thrive.  I see Matt Ryan as a bust.  He usually is a dominant offensive force but it has tapered off over the last couple seasons, and since when is Devonta Freeman an elite RB based on one great year.  If Freeman struggles, and then Tevin Coleman fails to fill the starting position has well, they could have a problem at RB.  They will be missing elite Steven Jackson, who is lost in free agency, declining in condition as he ages.  I don’t think this offense can be a consistent force, and that will be one thing causing the Falcons to have the terrible season I’m projecting.

2. Will some small defensive tweaks help in 2016?

Vic Beasley Jr. is moving to defensive end, and the linebakcer corps is revamped with Courtney Upshaw and Sean Weatherspoon along with draft pick Deion Jones playing next to veteran Paul Worrilow.  Beasley should be able to find his groove at a new position, and after a rookie year disappointment, could finally be the intriguing pass rusher he was in college.  Upshaw, Weatherspoon and Jones are all getting a fresh start with a new team, even though Jones is new to the NFL, and Weatherspoon has been here before.  The secondary even looks like a minor improvement, even with Jalen Collins suspended for a quarter of the season.  Robert Alford now plays across from Desmond Trufaunt, and Ricardo Allen plays accross from Collins.  I think in the end, the moves will add up to minor improvements in 2016, but nothing major, and it won’t quite make up for the problems on offense.

3. Matt Ryan and Devonta Freeman: STUD or DUD?

I know Matt Ryan and Devonta Freeman have don some pretty good things in their past, but Ryan just doesn’t have it in him anymore, and Devonta Freeman looks to me like a one year wonder that will be overused in 2016, with Tevin Coleman being held to minimal touches, ready to break though.  Ryan lost production in 2015, and I could see that continuing to happen to him in 2016, and this year Freeman.  Both have overachieved at certain points, and really, this Falcons offense is going to have some serious problmes this year if they can’t even figure themselves out.

 

3 Bold Predictions

1. Vic Beasley Jr. or Courtney Upshaw will lead the team in sacks

I think this year is the year for some of Atlanta’s younger pass rushers to thrive.  Adrian Clayborn, Paul Worrilow, Sean Weatherspoon and Dwight Freeney aren’t as productive as they used to be, and young pass rushers Vic Beasley Jr. and Courtney Upshaw could be sleepers to rack up double digit sacks.  Personally, I see the duo will get between 8 and 12 sacks apiece, and the older guys will all be held to 5 or 6 sacks at most.  Upshaw and Beasley are major sleepers, and the guys around them are getting to the age where their prime has ended and they can’t do what they used to be able to do anymore.

2. Tevin Coleman will lead the team in rushing

Like I said earlier, I don’t think Devonta Freeman will ever be what he was last year again.  Tevin Coleman was a highly drafted RB in the 2015 draft, and like a lot of the 2015 RB class, I think he should blossom this year.  He may not get many carries to start the season, but once he gets the chance to prove he’s better than Freeman, his carries will increase, and he will thrive in the Falcons system. Tevin Coleman is a big sleeper, and I like what he’s doing, especially with my faith in Devonta Freeman pretty low right now.

3. Julio Jones will break the 1500 yard barrier, but he’ll be 1 of 5 or more to do so

Julio Jones is a dominant wide receiver, but this year’s wide receiver group is domInant as well, especially with Jordy Nelson and Dez Bryant.  I’m sure Julio Jones will break the 1500 yard barrier, but he is one of many that is highly capable.  I expect Antonio Brown, OBJ, Dez Bryant, Jordy Nelson and maybe A.J. Green or DeAndre Hopkins to match that stat.  Plenty are capable, and several will do it.  I don’t even expect Julio to make the Top 3 in receiving yards.  This wide receiver group is loaded, and lots of shocking stats will prove it.

Schedule Breakdown

The Falcons have a couple winnable games, but have a relatively tough schedule, and the way things are looking, I don’t think the Falcons will fare very well.  With revamped defense and young offense, Week 1 already boasts a tough match-up against the Bucs.  Even at home, the Bucs are a major sleeper and I like Tampa to win this.  That could be winnable though.  Then they face a similar team in Oakland, that’s another loss, especially on the road.  The Saints offense could be a little overwhelming for the Falcons secondary in New Orleans, and they will lose under road trip pressure.

Weeks 4-6 boast some very strong opponents.  They can not beat Carolina this year.  The Broncos will be tricky and tough on the offense in a road match-up, and they definitely can’t beat Seattle on their own turf.  They get a one week break at home, hosting the Chargers.  I do think they can win this one, Stevie Johnson is likely out for the year, and although I do see some improvement in San Diego, nothing major will happen.  This is an easy W for the Falcons at home.  But it’s back to the tough schedule in Week 8 against the Packers, who will blow them out.  Then they go to Tampa Bay.  If they can’t beat the Bucs at home, it definitely won’t happen on the road.  After a tough 6-week stretch where the Falcons go a horrid 1-5, they play one more game before the bye, in Philadelphia.  The Eagles will be pretty bad as well, but still have enough in them to beat a sucky Falcons team with home field advantage.  The team will enter the bye at a horrid 1-9, one of the worst first 10 weeks in the league.

Then after the bye come another two terrible match-ups, as they host the powerful Cardinals and sneaky, underrated Chiefs.  Two losses at home fresh off a bye is not good, but is bound to happen with these match-ups, much unlike what would of happened in these games a couple years back.  They get a tough break at the end of the season though.  One tough game stuffed between three easier match-ups.  The first is against the Rams in Los Angeles.  I have to give LA the win here though. At home, the Rams defense will outsmart Matt Ryan’s offense.  They host the 49ers, which I think is an easy W for Atlanta.  The Niners have it even worse then they do.  The Falcons at least have stars on offense.  That just isn’t there in San Francisco.  They get beaten by Carolina on the road, but I think they will close out the season with a third win in New Orleans.  With that weak a defense, this is one game Matt Ryan and the offense could thrive in.

My Prediction

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The Falcons will have a lot of trouble on the road, and the offense may struggle to get going.  An inconsistent Falcons team will not win on the road, even with easy match-ups against the Eagles and Rams.  I say they finish the season 3-13 instead of 2-14 or 1-15.  3-13 is pretty terrible, but at least the Falcons got those wins a little easier then the teams below them in my ranks, and hey, they won three easy home games.  They were just inconsistent and did terrible on the road.  Yes, even with a 3-5 home record.

 

 

 

Scouting Report: Atlanta Braves

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The Braves are still clearly in rebuilding stages, but have a very strong farm system and topped it off with a few veterans.  Their roster looks to be a good mixture of older guys and top prospects ready to take over the majors.  The choice of veterans might be a problem though, some because they only have a few years left before retirement, some just don’t have it anymore, some never have had much and some just aren’t the right fit.  Here’s a breakdown of how the Braves tackled the off season.
Off-Season Review
The Braves clearly weren’t going after any big name free agents, but they needed to fill up the patchy spots in their young team, and unfortunately, some of that had to be done by signing veteran free agents.  They did as much as they could via trade, but got desperate at times.
They started by quickly resigning their catcher, A.J. Pierzynski.  This was mandatory as they didn’t have many other options.  Then they hit the trade market.
They started by swapping shortstops with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.  Basically, they traded Andrelton Simmons to the Angels for Erick Aybar.  But the full move is a lot more complicated.  They additionally traded a prospect of theirs, Jose Briceno, and got Aybar tied to prospects Sean Newcomb and Chris Ellis plus cash.
Just one week later, they sold centerfielder Cameron Maybin to the Tigers for relievers Ian Krol and Gabe Speier.  They signed some more free agents as the non-tender deadline approached.
Starter Bud Norris, reliever Jim Johnson, and after the deadline, David Holmberg, Gordon Beckham and Emilio Bonifacio were signed.  A couple days later, they got Jose Ramirez from Seattle for a PTBNL and cash.  The next week they got D-Backs No. 1 prospect Dansby Swanson with outfielder Ender Inciarte and Aaron Blair for Shelby Miller and Gabe Speier.
The next day they traded Christian Bethancourt to the Padres for Casey Kelly and a prospect.  On December 16, they signed Tyler Flowers to replace Bethancourt as backup catcher.  On January 7th they brought in Alexi Ogando, Kyle Kendrick, Ryan Kelly, Alex Torres, Jhoulys Chacin and Ozzie Albies to minor league deals and spring training invites.  The next day they signed infielder Kelly Johnson to a major league deal.
Carlos Torres and Jeff Francouer also got later minors deals and invitations towards the end of the off season.
The Braves spent the late off season on a bunch of free agent veterans, most on minors deals, but the trades they made early in the off season will really pay off.
Spring Training Storylines
How will the new rotation be?
The new rotation won’t be great, but if things go right, it can go uphill from last year.  Mike Foltynewicz and Matt Wisler need to have good seasons and start emerging into the higher rotation positions they have been put into.  Bud Norris and Kyle Kendrick need to have a big bounce back year, unless David Holmberg or Williams Perez can handle a rotation spot.  The rotation doing well really depends on the older players looking like they did back when they were younger.
Will the veterans pay off?
Depends on the veteran.  Really, this is just going to have to be a prediction.  I think Alexi Ogando and Carlos Torres have a lot of potential to take good major league relief roles this season.  I personally believe in Emilio Bonifacio fitting in nicely.  I think Bud Norris can kick some serious butt again.  For vets they already had at the trade deadline, I think Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher are underrated and could be in starting positions.
The Braves have some veterans with a lot of potential, but some like Gordon Beckham, Kyle Kendrick and Alex Torres have never had anything that impressed me and need to prove to me that they can fit well into their positions. Otherwise, I have them spending some time in the minors.  But they have a good chunk of vets that could boost the team.
The only issue is, when the prospects are ready to hit the majors, will they be better?  We won’t know unless they sit quality vets, which could be an issue.  We could never know.
When can we expect the prospects in the majors?
Guys like Dansby Swanson and Sean Newcomb could make their debuts by June, especially if the veterans don’t pay off.  But in the positions where the Braves have good and developed, but young players, the prospects in those spots might get some more insurance and may not appear till September.
Who are some key non-roster invitees?
Personally, I think this is a similar question to the last one.  My list includes relievers Alexi Ogando and Carlos Torres along with some other pitchers young and old, catcher Ryan Lavarnway, who has seen Braves major league time, young infield prospects Dansby Swanson and Ozzie Albies, and outfielder Jeff Francouer.  There are many more, but these guys highlight my list.
Which trades did they win and which one will pay off most?
Some trades they won, others they didn’t.  They clearly won the one with the D-Backs where they acquired Dansby Swanson and Ender Inciarte, despite giving up Shelby Miller.
The one with the Tigers was questionable, Gabe Speier was later traded again, so it was basically Maybin for Krol, which the Tigers clearly win.
The Jose Ramirez trade wasn’t necessary, even though they barely gave up anything, and the shortstop swap was a win because of the additional acquisition of Sean Newcomb.  The Christian Bethancourt trade was a win, cause Bethancourt didn’t develop as expected and they got some pitching insurance in their farm system.
The best trade for the Braves was the D-Backs one, it helps both their farm system and their major league roster.
So, I think that’s about all for what to watch for in spring training now for my roster and record projection.

Atlanta Braves Projected Roster

Rotation                            Bullpen
Julio Teheran                   Jason Grilli (CL)
Bud Norris                       Williams Perez
Mike Foltynewicz          Jim Johnson
Matt Wisler                     Ian Krol
Kyle Kendrick                 Jhoulys Chacin
                                           Alexi Ogando
                                           Carlos Torres
Lineup                                   Bench
C: A.J. Pierzynski               Tyler Flowers
1B: Freddie Freeman         Jace Peterson
2B: Gordon Beckham       Ender Inciarte
SS: Erick Aybar                   Emilio Bonifacio
3B: Kelly Johnson               Jeff Francouer
LF: Nick Swisher
CF: Michael Bourn
RF: Nick Markakis
Projected Record: 66-96
So that’s all for today.  Catch my Orioles scouting report later today!

Scouting Report: Arizona Diamondbacks

 

chris-owings

 

Welcome to my new scouting report series. Before spring training ends, I hope to cover every team. We start with one of the most active teams of the off season, the Arizona Diamondbacks. They went in to free agency as a mediocre team that lacked a rotation and veterans in the lineup. But the D-Backs have some of the best sleepers in the league, an some young stars to happen. What are the D-Backs looking like?
Off-Season Review

The Diamondbacks started the off season very quiet. It looked like their only targets were veteran infielders like Howie Kendrick, and some insurance in the rotation. Besides trading away Jeremy Hellickson to the Phillies for prospects, their November was very quiet.

But as December began, teams really started to negotiate for the top players in free agency, starting with some major aces. The Red Sox made the first major move, they signed David Price to a seven year, 217 million dollar deal. But surprisingly, not the Dodgers, Giants, Cardinals or Nats but the D-Backs were first to follow, signing Dodgers ace Zack Greinke to a six year, 206 million dollar contract. Greinke had a breakout in 2015 after eleven subpar seasons between Kansas City, Milwaukee and Los Angeles. He lost in the Cy Young race, but hopes to continue his dominance in 2016.

They shortly after traded Dansby Swanson, Aaron Blair and Ender Inciarte for Shelby Miller and Gabe Speier.

Their rotation was now among the best to match their sleep lineup that boosted them in 2015.

Until February, they were very quiet. More Kendrick rumors were in the air, but they ended up trading Aaron Hill, Chase Anderson, Isan Diaz and cash for shortstop Jean Segura and Tyler Wagner.
So that problem was solved, but A.J. Schugel was claimed off waivers by the Pirates, so they signed closer Tyler Clippard, so current closer Brad Ziegler could take his place in a set up role.

The D-Backs close the off season looking better than ever on paper, but their lineup has development questions. Spring training will show a lot about this team’s faith.

Hot Stove/Free Agency Grade: B+
Spring Training Questions

Will the lineup live up to its name?

This is a tough one to answer. Besides Goldy, Yasmany Tomas and A.J. Pollock. David Peralta also is alright, and Chris Owings, Jean Segura and Jake Lamb are still developing. Owings needs to be a better general hitter, Segura didn’t develop very well when he had the chance, and Lamb is good in the field, but needs to improve his bat. It could go either way.

Who are some key non-roster players?

There are a ton of pitchers that could crash the roster like former Reds reliever Sam LeCure, Wesley Wright, Braden Shipley, Matt Stites, Will Locante and Adam Loewen. Former Giants infielder Joaquin Arias and outfielder Jason Bourgeois could make some bench spots.

Is the rotation fulfilled enough?

I think the rotation is just fine. Greinke and Shelby Miller had amazing 2015 seasons and hope to continue, Patrick Corbin has looked fine in his TJ recovery, and the rest of the rotation is filled with young stars Rubby De La Rosa and Robbie Ray. Archie Bradley or Josh Collmenter, maybe even Zack Godley and Daniel Hudson could be spot starters. So it looks like the D-Backs are looking good and their moves paid off, even with the loss of Jeremy Hellickson and Chase Anderson.
Who is the biggest sleeper in the lineup?

I don’t think that the biggest D-Backs sleeper is any of the young infielders. Outfielder David Peralta is among the best, and the veteran hasn’t gotten much attention in the MLB. On the D-Backs staff, he is well known in the lineup, but only Diamondbacks diehards or MLB analysts would call him an MVP contender in the NL. Although this is only his third year, he has really gotten his name out recently.

D-Backs Projected Roster

Rotation               Bullpen
Zack Greinke.      Archie Bradley
Shelby Miller.     Enrique Burgos
Patrick Corbin.      Josh Collmenter
Rubby De La Rosa   Tyler Clippard
Robbie Ray                Evan Marshall
Zack Godley
Brad Ziegler

Lineup                            Bench
C: Welington Castillo     Phil Gosselin
1B: Paul Goldschmidt   Nick Ahmed
2B: Chris Owings        Oscar Hernandez
SS: Jean Segura           Tuffy Gosewisch
3B: Jake Lamb              Joaquin Arias
LF: Yasmany Tomas
CF: A.J. Pollock.
RF: David Peralta

Projected Record: 88-74
That’s all for today everyone. See the Braves new look in the next post in this series.