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

Image result for jason castro twins

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

Image result for miguel sano byron buxton

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

Image result for wil myers padres

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

Image result for rajai davis a's

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

Image result for khris davis a's

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

Image result for howie kendrick welcome to phillies

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

Image result for jimmy rollins phillies

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

Image result for maikel franco

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

Image result for bartolo colon braves

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

Image result for freddie freeman

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

Image result for dansby swanson

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

rasmus-rays.jpg

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

Image result for chris archer

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!

Advertisements

MLB 2017 Predictions: Baseball Will Be Fun Again

The Super Bowl is in the books, and spring training is around the corner.  It’s time to take a look at what’s in store for this baseball season.  As Bryce Harper stated in 2016, he wants baseball to be fun again.  Well, 2017 will bring that, and I’ll tell you how.  There will be competition, players will have better seasons, and the MLB will just be a little bit more interesting.  Who will win it all?  Keep reading to find out.

My Predictions

AL East

  1. boston-red-sox Boston Red Sox 92-70
  2. Toronto_Blue_Jays Toronto Blue Jays 88-74
  3. new-york-yankees New York Yankees 87-75
  4. image Baltimore Orioles 80-82
  5. Tampa_Bay_Rays Tampa Bay Rays 69-93

The Red Sox did lose David Ortiz, but they got Chris Sale in the off-season, and after this off season, the rotation looks better, the bullpen is alright, and their lineup is still good.  The Blue Jays are still going to be good, but after the loss of Edwin Encarnacion and Michael Saunders, they won’t be a playoff team.  Despite signing Kendrys Morales, this team doesn’t include a true superstar.  The Yankees went young and are looking better, but it will take time for them to return to the playoffs.  The Orioles rotation is falling apart again, and the Matt Wieters-less lineup isn’t enough.  Meanwhile, the Rays won’t get much better.  Despite a good rotation, they need big hitters to compete in the East.

AL Central

  1. cleveland-indians Cleveland Indians 92-70
  2. detroit-tigers Detroit Tigers 89-73
  3. kansas-city-royals Kansas City Royals 81-81
  4. chicago-white-sox Chicago White Sox 78-84
  5. minnesota-twins  Minnesota Twins 63-99

The Indians signed Edwin Encarnacion and will definitely stay on top because of that.    But what else did they do this off season?  Not much, that will hurt them in the playoffs.  The Tigers and Royals didn’t do much either, but one or both of them could have a bounce back seasons.  It won’t be enough to Top Cleveland though. The White Sox are depending on young talent, which isn’t a safe bet, and the Twins are still in the middle of a treacherous rebuild.  

AL West

  1. texas-rangers Texas Rangers 94-68
  2. houston-astros Houston Astros 91-71
  3. seattle-mariners-logo Seattle Mariners 86-76
  4. la-angels-of-anaheim Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 76-86
  5. oakland-a's Oakland Athletics 65-97

I don’t know why people are saying the Rangers are going to miss the playoffs.  Their lineup is almost as good as last year.  Despite losing Mitch Moreland and Ian Desmond, Josh Hamilton is working his way back and Jurickson Profar may contribute more in 2017.  The rotation is just as good if not better.  The Astros could also be a significant contender, with a better lineup and bullpen.  The Mariners and Angels also made some good moves and they both have gotten better overall. However, neither team is quite fit to contend yet.  Meanwhile, the Athletics are in a rebuild and will not contend either.  

NL East

  1. washington-nats Washington Nationals 93-69
  2. new-york-mets New York Mets 90-72
  3. miami-marlins Miami Marlins 87-75
  4. atlanta-braves Atlanta Braves 67-95
  5. philadelphia.phillies Philadelphia Phillies 65-97

The Nationals haven’t really done much this off-season, but they really haven’t lost much, and with a little fine-tuning, they could be as good as they have been.  The Mets should also be playoff material as they’ve put together a good lineup and still have one of the best rotations in the league.  The Marlins have also improved.  They have a good young lineup and the rotation has a lot of depth.  Although Jose Fernandez passed away, they added Jeff Locke and Edinson Volquez to maintain strength in their rotation.  Meanwhile, the Braves have a nice balance of old and young, but it will take a couple of years for them to rebuild.  Same with the Phillies.  Neither team will compete this year, but they are making smart moves for their future.  

 

NL Central

 

  1. Chicago_Cubs Chicago Cubs 96-66
  2. St_Louis_Cardinals St. Louis Cardinals 93-69
  3. pittsburgh-pirates Pittsburgh Pirates 85-77
  4. cincinnati_reds_logo Cincinnati Reds 74-88
  5. milwaukee-brewers Milwaukee Brewers 72-90

 

The Cubs made some nice finishing touches in the off-season, and despite losing Jason Hammel, their lineup’s still good, and they will still be a World Series contender.  The Cardinals should compete though.  Their lineup lacks a true star, but young talent should help them improve, along with new outfielder Dexter Fowler.  Their rotation is also looking a lot better for 2017 with Lance Lynn returning.  The Pirates lack a good rotation although their lineup is still good.  But without good pitching they will not be a playoff team.  The Reds are going to be alright but need to trade away the older guys and rebuild if they want any chance at a pennant in the near future, and the Brewers are already rebuilding.  For them, it will take a couple of years to be able to contend again.  

 

NL West

 

  1. los-angeles-dodgers Los Angeles Dodgers 90-72
  2. sanfran-giants San Francisco Giants 88-74
  3. colorado-rockies Colorado Rockies 85-77
  4. arizona-dbacks Arizona Diamondbacks 79-83
  5. san diego-padres San Diego Padres 63-99

The NL West will be a tight division with no clear leader.  The Dodgers are the favorites, but they have flaws, in the bullpen and in the lineup.  For the Giants, it’s an odd year.  The rotation looks good, but the lineup could struggle.  That gives the Rockies the chance to sneak into contention.  They have a powerful lineup and they play in a place where you need that.  Their rotation needs some work, but with a veteran mentor, the young rotation will look a lot better and the Rockies could contend.  They are one team that will help make baseball fun again, along with other teams like the Marlins, Astros, Mariners, Angels and Yankees to name a few.  Their unique experimental style is making the game interesting. Signing a guy like Jason Hammel, Jered Weaver or Doug Fister may help.  The D-Backs are a young team that I expect to improve in 2017.  In a few years, they could contend.  Meanwhile, the Padres are just, the Padres.  They’ve hit rock bottom in a horrific rebuild and may have one of their worst seasons ever.  Signing veterans short term back then didn’t work out, and it’s causing bigger problems now.

2017 MLB Playoffs

In the NL, the Cardinals will be a lot better. They will challenge the Cubs for the throne. Once the Cubs win that series though, they’ll have an easy path to the World Series, as the Nats, Mets and Dodgers are nowhere near as good as the NL Central rivals. In the World Series, I think the Cubs will be the favorite, but the best team doesn’t always win the World Series, and the Cubs won’t repeat. Instead, the Astros will surprise the Cubs, and their young talent will be enough to beat the Cubs. The Cubs are a good young team, but the Astros have more young talent, and that will help them win the World Series.

Too much to take in? Here’s a video to sum it all up: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vWliFjZ7C6k

 

 

Awards

Here are my Top 3 choices for the MVP and Cy Young awards.

AL MVP

  1. Alcides Escobar KC – Escobar will prove himself in a contract year.
  2. Manny Machado BAL – Machado will continue greatness, this time, it will be MVP-worthy.
  3. Matt Holliday NYY – Holliday will come up big with his new team

 

NL MVP

  1. Bryce Harper WSH – Harper won’t repeat last season’s struggles.  Besides, baseball will be fun again for him.
  2. Nolan Arenado COL – Arenado will have another good season, this time bringing the Rockies up with him.
  3. Jason Heyward CHC – Heyward among others will keep the Cubs good in 2017.  The Cubs are still arguably the best team in the MLB.

 

AL Cy Young

 

  1. Cole Hamels TEX – Hamels will have a strong 2017 and go at a Cy Young.
  2. Chris Sale BOS – Sale will be motivated to start strong in Boston.
  3. Derek Holland CWS – Who needs Sale?  In Chicago, they’ll have a new ace in town with a breakout year by Derek Holland.

 

NL Cy Young

  1. Stephen Strasburg WSH – Strasburg will finally get healthy and return to Cy Young level
  2. Zack Greinke ARZ – Greinke will really bounce back in 2017, bringing on memories of  his 2015 greatness.
  3. Jeff Samardzija SF – Samardzija will lead a good 2017 Giants rotation, although the lineup in San Francisco will struggle.

 

ROTY Predictions:

AL – Andrew Benintendi: He will continue greatness in 2017, and go on to win Rookie Of The Year and be one of the better Red Sox hitters.

NL – Dansby Swanson: This won’t be an easy choice for voters, but Swanson will have a great season.  However, other rookies like Tyler Glasnow could chase the award.

 

So, there you have it.  The MLB is worth watching in 2016.  Baseball will be fun again.

Scouting Report: Atlanta Braves

image

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!