MLB May Power Rankings: Astros Dominating the MLB

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Welcome to my Power Rankings for May.  The Astros have taken the league by storm this month.  They came out on top this time around.  See below for the rest.

Records as of May 31, 2017 at 7:00 AM

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Biggest Jump

Blue Jays: Up by 8

 

Biggest Drop

White Sox: Down by 12

 

That’s all for this month’s ranks.  Stay tuned for a new Baseball Bits coming soon.

Ranking The Teams 24-19, My Version: The Bad

Welcome to Day 2 of my MLB preseason power rankings.  We started off this list with teams hitting rock bottom, like the Padres and Twins.  Now, we arrive at some teams who aren’t great but may look a little bit better.  A lot of these teams have a strong area that will lead them to victories.  Read below for the next tier of my rankings and what I think is the strong point for each of these teams.  You can comment your power rankings below, too.  So, let’s get started with #24.

 

Missed a previous article?  Check below:

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

24. milwaukee-brewers Milwaukee Brewers

Off-season Review

Image result for eric thames brewers

The Brewers had a quiet off-season, but it was also very different, unique and interesting.  Their biggest move?  Signing Eric Thames to a three year deal.  Yes, Eric Thames.  Remember him?  They also traded Tyler Thornburg for Red Sox third baseman Travis Shaw, and made a couple other small moves and modifications.  Pretty quiet off-season, but also pretty risky, one of the riskiest I’ve seen.  But is it too risky?  

The Case for the Brewers

The Brewers are still rebuilding, they just added more young players to their rebuilding team.  However, they signed a lot of players that were typically make or break. This is very risky, and they won’t necessarily do as well.  The Brewers could be a complete bust.  The entire lineup is this way, and the rotation is going to be a problem.  So, until the Brewers get their act together and prove their consistency, I won’t be able to accept them as a contender.

The Strong Point

The rotation is an issue, but this team has a relatively strong lineup with good depth.  Ryan Braun is still a strong hitter, and you never know with Eric Thames and Travis Shaw, but they could do well or go full bust.  Domingo Santana is a powerful young hitter as well, and prospect Orlando Arcia will make a bigger impact this year.  This lineup has a strong core and good depth.  

Best Case Scenario: The off-season moves pay off, and the Brewers contend in a tough division, reminding fans of the 2014 season.  

 

Worst Case Scenario: The new players flop, the rotation brings the team down, and the Brewers finish among the worst.  

 

Projected Record: 72-90, 5th in NL Central

 


23. cincinnati_reds_logo Cincinnati Reds

Off-season Review

Besides signing Desmond Jennings and Ryan Raburn to minors deals and upgrading the bullpen, the Reds had a pretty quiet off-season.  They did trade away Brandon Phillips to the Braves for prospects and continued their gradual rebuild.  For a while, they were refusing to rebuild and that was holding them back from eventual contention. But I think that’s over.  Now that they’re rebuilding, they’ll be able to contend in the future and they’re not doing so bad right now.  

The Case for the Reds

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The Reds are finally rebuilding, but after all that stalling, they’re actually in a decent position.  Last year, after beginning a slow rebuild they were able to really develop some of their prospects.  Now, they’ll enter the season with a handful of prospects at the major league level.  They have some pitching prospects ready to crack the rotation and young hitters Jose Peraza and Scott Schebler will be able to take over for Jay Bruce and Brandon Phillips.  Bruce was traded to the Mets for prospects at last year’s deadline.  So, with all those young guns ready, the Reds could contend sooner than you think.

The Strong Point

The young rotation is pretty good, but I’m liking this infield.  They have young power hitters, like Jose Peraza and Eugenio Suarez, and some veterans like Joey Votto and Zack Cozart.  Votto, a long time Red, will lead a young, powerful lineup and infield.  Each one of these guys will have a significant role at the plate and in the field.  So, maybe they could lead the Reds to victory.  At least soon they could.

Best Case Scenario: The young Reds bounce back and compete for a wild card spot.

Worst Case Scenario: The young guns flop, Joey Votto declines, and the Reds finish in last-place in the NL Central.

Projected Record: 74-88, 4th in NL Central

 

22. la-angels-of-anaheim Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

 Off-season Review

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The Angels took their last steps toward a better team this off-season.  In the position they’re in, they could contend very soon, within the next year or two!  While losing Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson, the Angels rebuilt their rotation.  As long as history doesn’t repeat itself and injuries don’t strike again, the Angels’ rotation will be better.  They also got Ben Revere, Cameron Maybin and Luis Valbuena to add to the lineup.  Hopefully, this means the Angels will improve overall in 2017.

The Case for the Angels

The Angels aren’t quite in a position to contend, but they have definitely improved from last year.  The rotation is better and the lineup was really boosted this past off-season.  The Angels could contend, and soon.  They’re not quite there yet.  However, if they can fine-tune their rotation and find some more top of the lineup guys in addition to Mike Trout and Albert Pujols, they will be able to go for it next year.  The Angels were at their worst last year, and are finally starting to look better.  But they’re not quite there yet.

The Strong Point

The lineup is awesome in LA.  They have some good power hitters like Mike Trout and some good depth too.  This lineup is going to kick butt.  They will eventually lead the team to the playoffs with a little more fine-tuning.  The lineup is not part of what is holding this team back.  The only reason that they struggled last year was a lack of depth.  They fixed that problem in the off-season and now this lineup is overpowered.

Best Case Scenario: The lineup thrives, the rotation looks a whole lot better, and the Angels return to the playoffs determined to win.

Worst Case Scenario: The rotation cannot get healthy, and the lineup doesn’t live up to its expectations, bringing the Angels down to last-place in the AL West.

Projected Record: 76-86, 4th in AL West

 

21. chicago-white-sox Chicago White Sox

Off-season Review

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It’s time for a rebuild in Chicago.  Last year’s plan failed, Todd Frazier’s a pending free agent, and the current White Sox are starting to look old.  The rotation looks good.  They signed Derek Holland and traded for Lucas Giolito.  But the rest of the team is not in a good position.  They already tried to rebuild.  They traded away Chris Sale and Adam Eaton.  They don’t look young yet.  But this season will be all about that.  The White Sox will be able to rebuild and do decent at the same time.  But will it hurt them in the future!

The Case for the White Sox

The White Sox may not contend, but they will do alright.  Maybe they should’ve rebuilt earlier, but they dodged what could have been a devastating bullet.  The Padres got hit by that devastating bullet.  The White Sox got lucky and things came out all right.  The lineup might not be the best anymore, but this is a decent team with a strong rotation.  They won’t be absolutely terrible.

The Strong Point

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What do you think the strong point is here?  The rotation, of course.  Despite losing Chris Sale, Jose Quintana will lead a White Sox rotation full of newly found depth.  Hopefully, new signing Derek Holland does as well as he used to, and James Shields bounces back, maybe not all the way but a little bit.  But one thing you can guarantee is this rotation will be exciting to watch.  Behind Quintana, it’ll be Carlos Rodon, Shields, Holland and Giolito and Miguel Gonzalez will compete for spot #5.  I could see any of these pitchers doing strongly or bouncing back in 2017.

Best Case Scenario: The rotation breaks out while the rest of the team does alright, and the White Sox are in the battle for a playoff spot.

Worst Case Scenario: The White Sox bust and are forced to go full rebuild, being hit by an almost as devastating bullet as the Padres were.

Projected Record: 78-84, 4th in AL Central

 

20. arizona-dbacks Arizona Diamondbacks

Off-season Review

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The D-Backs were very active this off-season.  They have a nice and young, talented team but something wasn’t clicking last year when they could’ve made the playoffs.  This off-season, they added a lot of big names.  They upgraded the bullpen with Fernando Rodney, J.J. Hoover and Tom Wilhelmsen.  They resigned Rubby De La Rosa but added Jorge De La Rosa, who may take his spot.  They signed catcher Chris Iannetta and added some depth to the lineup.  They traded away Jean Segura but got Taijuan Walker and Ketel Marte in return.  Will these moves pay off?

The Case for the Diamondbacks

The D-Backs are a young, powerful team that aren’t quite at a contending level this year, but will do decently.  They have a lot of young talent but don’t have many players at star level yet besides Zack Greinke,  Paul Goldschmidt and A.J. Pollock.  Some of these players will eventually develop into stars, but right now they don’t match up to other teams in the MLB.  The D-Backs aren’t terrible, but they aren’t contenders.  However, a young team leaves a window of opportunity.

The Strong Point

This team has talent all over, and lots of depth.  It’s that depth that’s this team’s strong point.  There are plenty of options for this team.  In the lineup, in the rotation, even a few different options for a weak bullpen.  What they did this off-season really added to their depth, and this team wouldn’t have this depth without what they did this off-season.  Now, the Diamondbacks have a lot more depth, and that should pay off in 2017.

Best Case Scenario: The young guns break out and the D-Backs are the surprise team that wins the NL West.

Worst Case Scenario: The young team flops and the D-Backs have another year towards the bottom of the NL West.  At least they’re practically guaranteed to top the Padres.

Projected Record: 79-83, 4th in NL West

 

19. Baltimore-Orioles-Logo Baltimore Orioles

Off-season Review

The Orioles weren’t extremely active this off-season, but they resigned some of their free agents, and they added some depth in Johnny Giovatella, Craig Gentry and Michael Bourn.  They resigned Mark Trumbo and signed Welington Castillo to replace Matt Wieters as well.  They also traded away Yovani Gallardo for outfielder Seth Smith.  Now, they have some depth, and most of their starting positions are filled, but something’s missing.

The Case for the Orioles

The Orioles could be a contender, but there are a couple problems with that.  First of all, they are in a very tough division.  You saw how the Rays were affected by playing in the AL East.  As decent as they are, they ranked 25th.  It will be tough to beat Toronto and the Yankees and Red Sox to the playoffs.  They also have rotation problems again after trading away Yovani Gallardo.  The Orioles will be a good power hitting team.  But their rotation is not good enough for Baltimore to be considered a contender.  They don’t have an ace, and they don’t have depth.  If they can improve their rotation, they’ll contend again.  But until then, the Orioles won’t be able to reach their full potential.

The Strong Point

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The outfield may be decent, but the real strong points in a powerful lineup are the dynamic duo of Manny Machado and Chris Davis.  Davis has been up and down, but I feel like he’s in store for an up year.  Machado has been a consistent home run hitter and has been in MVP conversation year after year in the AL.  Machado has become a superstar, and he is the strongest player on the entire Orioles team.

Best Case Scenario: The strong Orioles lineup leads Baltimore to return to the playoffs, and the rotation does better than expected.

Worst Case Scenario: A struggling rotation leads the Orioles to a last-place finish in the AL East.

Projected Record: 80-82, 4th in AL East

That’s all for today’s rankings.  Part 3 is coming tomorrow, so stay tuned!

Opening Day: Modified Standings and Bold Predictions

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It’s just a couple of hours until the first full day of regular season games starts, and I’m here to get you ready.  Sure, you may have have seen my MLB Preview, but this is a condensed, more accurate version.  I even have some bold predictions for the season.  Let’s get started.

 

AL East

  1. Boston Red Sox 91-71
  2. Toronto Blue Jays 86-76
  3. Tampa Bay Rays 82-80
  4. New York Yankees 76-86
  5. Baltimore Orioles 72-90

The Red Sox made a good move starting Travis Shaw over Pablo Sandoval, and Hanley Ramirez has adjusted well to first.  This lineup is new and improved, and ready to take over a weak but tight division.  Even if the rotation behind David Price is a concern, their bullpen makes up for it.

I just don’t believe the Blue Jays can function without better pitching.  When they lost David Price and LaTroy Hawkins, it was back to square one.  The Rays made some good off season improvements but their lineup still lacks power, and the Yankees are just getting too old to be good anymore.  Starlin Castro was a good first step.  Lastly, the O’s don’t have anything to convince me.  Their outfield is seconds away from shattering, and after Miguel Gonzalez’s release, their rotation is still short a pitcher.   So it looks like easy pickings for the Red Sox, even if they’re a shaky team.

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AL Central

  1. Kansas City Royals 93-69
  2. Detroit Tigers 89-73 (WC)
  3. Chicago White Sox 87-75
  4. Minnesota Twins 78-84
  5. Cleveland Indians 74-88

The Royals cannot be beaten in this division, it just won’t happen.  With a strong lineup and balanced rotation, they’re not going down.  They will be closely challenged however as the Tigers and White Sox improve.  They still have weak areas more than the Royals, but they will compete for wild card spots.  They made key signings like Justin Upton and Austin Jackson that take their teams to the next level.

The Indians aren’t horrible like I said but can’t compete in a tough division after such a quiet off season.

The Twins have a reborn lineup but the pitching can’t support young sensations Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano yet.  This division is up for grabs beyond Kansas City, but the Royals have first place locked up.

 

AL West

  1. Texas Rangers 95-67
  2. Houston Astros 88-74 (WC)
  3. Seattle Mariners 81-81
  4. Oakland Athletics 76-86
  5. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 68-94

 

Alright, at least I have the Astros in the playoffs.  I just believe that the Rangers have more than Houston.  The Astros don’t even have a starting first baseman, and their young rotation is inconsistent.  The Rangers probably have the best trio of batters in the AL with Prince Fielder, Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus.  They have some good lineup improvements to support their lineup this off season and their rotation is completely revamped and healthy.

The Mariners went on a full shopping spree this off season, but they didn’t necessarily fill their main holes, so they’ll only be mediocre.  The Athletics are only slightly improved, and the Angels clearly aren’t going anywhere with such an inconsistent rotation and lineup.  So this division will be a tight dogfight between the Rangers and Astros with the Mariners in the wild card bidding.

AL Playoffs

Wild Card: Tigers over Astros

ALDS: Red Sox over Royals

Rangers over Tigers

ALCS: Rangers over Red Sox

 

NL East

  1. Washington Nationals 93-69
  2. New York Mets 90-72 (WC)
  3. Miami Marlins 83-79
  4. Philadelphia Phillies 67-95
  5. Atlanta Braves 64-98

 

Yes, in my modified predictions, the Mets make the playoffs.  I have always underrated them so maybe if I predict a wild card, they’ll win the division.  Even though I usually overrate the Nationals above them, the Nats have a case this year with an improved lineup, and strong rotation.  Who needs Jordan Zimmermann when you have Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez?

The Marlins have the next best chance but are still working on a weak bullpen, and the Phillies and Braves have absolutely no chance and have practically abandoned their teams for the year.  So that leaves the Mets and Nats to have the best battle yet.  I say they both make the playoffs and lose in the NLDS.  What do you think?

 

NL Central

  1. Chicago Cubs 97-65
  2. St. Louis Cardinals 91-71 (WC)
  3. Pittsburgh Pirates 88-74
  4. Cincinnati Reds 73-89
  5. Milwaukee Brewes 69-93

With the exception of maybe last year, this Cubs team is by far the best Cubs team of the century.  They are favorites to win the World Series, and will not be stopped in this division.  The Pirates and Cards still had good off seasons, but have tapered off from last season’s teams.  They have lost many of their best like Neil Walker, Lance Lynn (temporarily) and Jason Heyward.  They will only compete for the playoff spots behind Chicago.

The Brewers and Reds are both in rebuilding stages after making a splash in 2013 and 2014.  They are two of the worst teams in the league and will not compete for this division in any way, shape or form.

 

NL West

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers 92-70
  2. Arizona Diamondbacks 87-75
  3. San Diego Padres 86-76
  4. San Francisco Giants 86-76
  5. Colorado Rockies 63-99

The Dodgers still rule this division even after a weak off season.  The Giants are overrated and young, the D-Backs just aren’t ready yet, and the Padres are a big sleeper but have the potential to be a bust as well.  LA has a strong rotation with great depth and despite numerous injuries, the Dodgers’ spot starters are happy to help, and they do.  The Rockies have done a minimal amount of improvements, and I don’t see them going anywhere.  Their rotation is a mess, and they have such big holes at positions like first base that they’ll have to call up players off of the 40-man roster.

NL Playoffs

 

Wild Card: Mets over Cardinals

NLDS: Dodgers over Nationals

Cubs over Mets

NLCS: Cubs over Dodgers

 

World Series: Rangers over Cubs

 

10 Bold Predictions for the 2016 Season

  1. Former Mariners Smoak and Saunders both bat above .270

Justin_Smoak

Justin Smoak and Michael Saunders’ contributions in Seattle have not yet showed up on the Blue Jays.  I say they both have comeback years and Smoak earns his job back from Chris Colabello easily.  After a .273 avergage in 2014, Saunders batted just .194 in ’15 in just 9 games played.  Saunders missed most of the year.  Smoak has never put up that good of stats, but he has a chance to rebound from the last two years, as he sucked in 2014.

  1. Starlin Castro finally breaks through, as the Yankees star player

You can’t spell Starlin without Star.  Year after year the Cubs have gotten their hopes up about the young shortstop.  However, this young guy has showed his skills and I think he’s ready to fully breakthrough.  I have this guy hitting between .310 and .320 with a personal best in average and dingers.  Hopefully, he can adjust to the Yankees system and be strengthened by the Yanks.

  1. White Sox and Tigers will each get at least 85 wins

Both teams sucked last season, what happened?  They both made very bold moves in the off season, as I had said.  The Tigers have a much better rotation in 2016, while the White Sox have revamped their lineup.  They may not beat the Royals in the division race, but between the two of them, they could put on a big fight.

  1. Eric Hosmer and Jason Heyward win MVPs

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The Royals have had Hosmer his entire career and he’s just been a subpar star the whole time.  When will he fully breakout and have a rampage season?  2016 of course.  Hosmer’s stats have increased recently as he takes a lead role on the Royals.  He is a well known veteran in Kansas City and it’s time that his name is known league-wide.  Heyward meanwhile has developed really well and after a strong year with the Cardinals, he looks like a serious MVP candidate.  He put up a career best .293 average last season.  The Cubs have put him in a crucial role and Heyward’s ready to nail it.

  1. Yu Darvish wins AL Comeback Player and AL CY Young

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I have Yu Darvish winning both the AL Cy Young and AL Comeback Player of the Year.  The guy looked outstanding in his rookie season and when he’s healthy, I think he could still do great things.

  1. Mets infield hits 3 times more homers than Yoenis Cespedes

Between Asdrubal Cabrera and Neil Walker, the Mets have made a splash in the infield.  Add on David Wright and Lucas Duda, and you’ve got yourself the infield of a super-team.  Between all those guys, I think they will hit 3 times the homers of Yoenis Cespedes.  I think Cespedes will hit about 40 homers.  However, I think each of the Mets infielders will hit 20-35 dingers this year.  They have a lot of potential.  That’s what potential can do.

  1. Harrison and Freese combine for 70 dingers and Pirates only win 88 games

Yes, even with the Pirates winning just 88 games and missing the playoffs, I see the hitting doing surprisingly well this year.  I have two mediocre guys combining for 70 taters, and one of them isn’t even a full time starter.  That doesn’t even include Andrew McCutchen, Gregory Polanco and Starling Marte.  The Pirates lineup is overpowered to an extreme level.

  1. At least one Reds player comes in the Top 5 in the NL for AVG, HRs or ERA

There are many candidates on the team that could do this.  Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, even Raisel Iglesias or Homer Bailey.  But I think despite the Reds not being that good as a team, they have veteran players that can do big things when given the chance.  The Reds had a somewhat healthy year last year, and I’m feeling it will happen again.

  1. Giants run out of even-year luck, miss playoffs

Yes, the Giants don’t win the World Series in 2016, or even make the playoffs.  The NL just has too many teams that are better this year.  The Mets aren’t going to miss the playoffs even if the Nats beat them out in the NL East!  That leaves the Cards, D-Backs, Pirates and Giants to fight over Wild Card #2. Compared to those three teams, the Giants look like garbage.  Well what if they win the division?  No way, not happening.  The Dodgers are just too hard to beat even after such an empty off season, and if they don’t win, the D-Backs have a pretty good chance too.

  1. Entire Dodgers rotation ends up with ERAs under 3.50

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The Dodgers rotation is stacked.  Despite injuries, it’ll start the season looking like this:

  1. Clayton Kershaw
  2. Kenta Maeda
  3. Scott Kazmir
  4. Hyun-Jin Ryu
  5. Alex Wood

Even without Brett Anderson and Brandon McCarthy, that rotation is pretty overpowered.  Kenta Maeda was a star in Japan and I think he can adjust, and if Scott Kazmir pitches like he did in Houston, then the Dodgers top 3 is ready to shut down the league.  Hyun-Jin Ryu is efficient and powerful when he’s healthy, and Alex Wood can really pitch if they need him.

 

Enjoy your Opening Day!  Go Red Sox!

 

Scouting Report: Chicago White Sox

The White Sox had the best off season in ages and after me predicting them to do badly the last two seasons, they have finally earned my respect.  The White Sox have had a great off season.  They upgraded their lineup to an extreme, acquiring/signing a couple of powerfully slugging stars.  In this article I’ve reviewed the White Sox’s off season and and talked about some questions going into Opening Day.

 

Off-Season Review

The White Sox made some off season moves that could lead them to a playoff berth.  However, they do have serious weaknesses as well that they just didn’t end up filling.  Will the White Sox go big or go home?

The Sox started the off season pretty quietly.  Their moves were minimal, but could pay off big.  Most of their moves also came late, they didn’t look like playoff team until late in the off season.  They didn’t start making any moves until late November, and they were small.

They acquired Tommy Kahnle from the Rockies to start, and they signed both Alex Avila and Dioner Navarro at catcher, replacing the trio of Geovany Soto, Tyler Flowers and Rob Brantly.  At the Winter Meetings however, they took part in a blockbuster 3-team trade.  They gave Frankie Montas, Trayce Thompson and Micah Johnson to the Dodgers, who gave the Cincinnati Reds Jose Peraza and Scott Schebler, and the Reds gave Chicago Todd Frazier, their star third baseman.  This was a good move for the rebuilding Reds and the Sox, the Reds needed to go young, and the White Sox needed a starting third baseman.  They also acquired Brett Lawrie from the A’s.  He’s also a 3B, so he’s projected to start at second base instead.

After the meetings, the White Sox were extremely quiet.  It wasn’t until February until they signed any free agent not on the 2015 White Sox, as they re-signed reliever Matt Albers in January.  Then they really went on a shopping spree.  They got starter Mat Latos, shortstop Jimmy Rollins, outfielder Austin Jackson and Travis Ishikawa.  Rollins will fill the hole at shortstop, even after rumors of Ian Desmond coming to the White Sox.  Latos will fill a hole at the bottom of the rotation, and Jackson will bring power to the lineup, but wasn’t necessarily a fit until the whole Adam LaRoche thing.  Now either Avisail Garcia or Melky Cabrera will make room by becoming the new DH.

No matter how many moves they made, the White Sox wouldn’t be any better than 2nd place in a wild card, but I think they can do just that with the bold moves they made, and no more.

 

Opening Day Questions

The rotation looks young and awesome on paper.  Is it for real?

Who knows?  This rotation may be one of the biggest analysis mysteries of the league.  Young pitchers Carlos Rodon and Jose Quintana backed up ace Chris Sale last year, but I think Rodon is being rushed to a crucial position at such a young age, and that concerns me.

Quintana is another story, he’s been in the majors quite a while now and the 26 year old has potential for a monster season.  But sleepers who are projected to breakout aren’t always the kind of guys I like, even though that’s my weakness in predictions, breakouts.

I get it, I don’t like young guys, I don’t like breakout candidates, who do I like?  Yes, the experienced veterans.  Although this league may be getting younger, in my opinion, older veterans can still leave a big mark on the league.  A perfect example is Mat Latos, another White Sox pitcher.  The guy used to be a middle to high rotation guy who was a star, but he’s really tapered off recently, enough to get released by the Dodgers one week before the season ended.  I think he still has his Padres days in him, pitching like that will do the Sox a big favor.

With Quintana on an uptrend, the White Sox have a power three in the rotation with Sale, Quintana and Latos or Rodon, whoever emerges into the White Sox rotation better.  It could be a foursome even.  John Danks has never been the best, but he can pitch, and for now, he’s earned himself the final rotation spot.  So yes, I like this rotation, and think that they will succeed, but there is a chance they won’t perform.

 

Will the off season moves significantly improve the lineup?

Todd Frazier is a big upgrade from a combo of Conor Gillaspie, Tyler Orr and Tyler Saladino in 2015, and I like Austin Jackson as a boost of speed and power in the lineup, and Avisail Garcia can still play in Adam LaRoche’s place.  Jimmy Rollins could do well, but I’m a little worried that he’s lost it at the age he’s at.  Brett Lawrie lost his stuff he had in Toronto too.  It’s funny, Lawrie now sucks, and he was traded to Oakland for defending AL MVP Josh Donaldson who suddenly emerged into a star.  I’m a little worried about the Sox’s lineup, but hey, second and third are an improvement from last year, and that will boost the lineup along with the presence of Austin Jackson.

Is new shortstop Jimmy Rollins going to make an impact this season?

I don’t know.  I liked what he had to prove in Dodger Town but he’s just getting older by the year, it’s life everybody.  He still looked decent in his last years with Philadelphia too.  Rollins got just a minor league deal in Chicago, and after my prediction of Ian Desmond signing here, I was a little disappointed, but Rollins did still enter the off season looking like a top FA shortstop, just nobody wanted to sign him because they wanted someone who would last.  Still, Desmond’s deal was small anyways.  This could be his last year before retirement, but hey, I think he’s had a good career, and he can be a placeholder at short and in the lineup, and have one last acceptable year.

 

White Sox Projected Roster

 

Rotation

 

Chris Sale

Jose Quintana

Mat Latos

Carlos Rodon

John Danks

 

Bullpen

 

David Robertson (CL)

Zach Duke

Dan Jennings

Zach Putnam

Jake Petricka

Matt Albers

Tommy Kahnle

 

Lineup

  1. Adam Eaton CF
  2. Melky Cabrera DH
  3. Jose Abreu 1B
  4. Todd Frazier 3B
  5. Brett Lawrie 2B
  6. Austin Jackson RF
  7. Avisail Garcia LF
  8. Alex Avila C
  9. Jimmy Rollins SS

Bench

 

Carlos Sanchez

J.B. Shuck

Dioner Navarro

Travis Ishikawa

 

That’s all for my analysis on the White Sox.  I will continue this series through the first month of baseball, starting with the Reds coming up next.

 

 

 

 

Scouting Report: Chicago Cubs

 

 

 

2016-cubs-kyle-schwarber.jpg

The Cubs have been one of the most effective teams this off season.  They snagged Ben Zobrist, Jason Heyward, Dexter Fowler and other top free agents.  They already went to the NLCS in 2015, who knows how powerful they’ll be in 2016.  This article looks at all the moves this team made to fill the cracks from the 2016 NLCS and look at some question marks at camp.  Can this team win their first ring in ages?

 

Off-Season Review

 

The Cubs had a pretty effective off season.  They got stars, prospects and everything else they need to win a pennant.   The Cubs came in to the off season with clear needs: rotation and bullpen help, an outfielder and maybe a middle infielder.

You could’ve never seen what was coming based on how slow the Cubs were to begin the off season.  They got Spencer Patton in a trade with Texas, who will compete for a roster spot now that Rex Brothers is gone.  Oh, by the way, they got him in November via free agency and released him at camp.  All the sudden, on the first day of the Winter Meetings, they got super busy!  They traded Starlin Castro to the Yankees for Adam Warren and Brendan Ryan and signed Ben Zobrist in his place, moving Addison Russell to short.  They later released Ryan and he signed with the Nats, but they held on to Warren.  Still not much in return for their star shortstop who might be a second baseman in New York.  Throughout the winter meetings they got some minor deals in.

They signed relievers Brandon Gomes and Jean Machi and resigned Trevor Cahill.  But their biggest splash was at he end of the meetings.  There was a tight race for Jason Heyward.  Many teams, including the Cardinals, Nationals and Cubs were interested, until the Cubbies struck an eight year deal with the prime-age outfielder.  After the Meetings it was quiet in Chicago.  They did however get Edgar Olmos off waivers while waiving quality reliever Yoervis Medina.  Medina must’ve not fit in the Cubbies’ system.

The same took place in January, they did however get Kristopher Negron, Munenori Kawasaki among others signed to minor league contracts.  It wasn’t until late February when the Cubs got active again.  They made a minor trade to get Chris Coghlan out of the way and receive spot starter Aaron Brooks in return.  They signed Manny Parra and Shane Victorino, key players to minors deals, but the biggest and most surprising signing was a resigning of Dexter Fowler.  they had J-Hey locked up in center, now he would move to right, kicking Jorge Soler out of his starting role.  Now that was an iffy signing unless the Cubs can find Kyle Schwarber an infield or catching position opening.

Soler was worthy of the starting position, but Schwarber is too good to bench for him.  The Cubs signed good players, but the bad thing about this team is that the players signed may not fit correctly in Chicago.  There are so many players on this team that will be benched and deserve opportunities.  I gave them a pretty good grade because if they just have players they should have starting sitting on their bench, and yet they additionally have powerful starters, it makes for a good team, but a) If the team is too crammed, it could hurt them and b) The team, especially its youth isn’t reaching its full potential.

Off Season Grade: A-

 

Spring Training Questions

 

Is the bullpen all set?

I’ve been a little worried about the depth of this bullpen.  The late inning relief in Chicago is satisfying, but the long relief sector of the bullpen could be short on players.  Sure, they got a lot of good, older minor league relievers but the only reliever that isn’t some washed up older guy besides the set up and closing pitchers is Travis Wood, who could also be needed as a spot starter!  Sure, they have Aaron Brooks now, but some of their rotation is injury prone, and they need a better bullpen to back them up.

Who will come out of the tight position battles?

The one issue with the Cubs is that the powerful youth of this team isn’t getting its shot, staying in the shadows of the big name players.  Here I will go over a couple clustered areas in the Cubs lineup, most showcasing a young guy competing with a veteran.  Note: Some of these are only significant enough for the young guy to get some playing time, not necessarily the starting job.

2B/SS: Ben Zobrist, Tommy La Stella, Addison Russell, Javier Baez + 2 others

It’s clear who gets the starts here.  Time from the bench, that’s debatable.  I think Javier Baez, Jonathan Herrera and maybe even Munenori Kawasaki and Tommy La Stella should get playing time.  Baez was nearly as strong a prospect as Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber, just didn’t power forward as quickly.  Baez deserves some serious consideration, possibly even to platoon with Addison Russell at short, but the other guys need to prove themselves legitimately before getting any significant time.  Sure, La Stella may get a couple games and injury fill-in time, but no more than that.  The other guys are lucky to get a 40-man roster spot, let alone major league appearances.

LF: Kyle Schwarber, Jorge Soler, Shane Victorino

This is the toughest position battle in the NL.  Schwarber or Soler?  Wait, why is Victorino even here?  He’s more of a backup then fighting for a position.  But if rumors of Kyle Schwarber moving positions are true, Victorino will be considered.  That’s a whole other story, I won’t even get in to that one.  Victorino is better in center and right anyways.  So, back to Soler and Schwarber.  Schwarber quickly found his way to the majors and into a good position on the roster, looking like a multi-year veteran.  He was only a rookie who snuck on to the roster.  He goes up against a rookie who started the year in a full time position and kept it since J-Hey wasn’t here.  Soler wasn’t as broad of a prospect, but was clearly majors ready going into last season.

 

 

Will their off season moves be worth it?

Yes and no.  Yes they will, because they have an improved lineup with more veterans, not just a bunch of strong rookies, but still have good balance.  Personally I thought Dexter Fowler wasn’t a great fit in Chicago, and he was better in Houston, and it would have been a great fit if he signed with the Cardinals.  With that the Cards would have revenge on their rivals.  That gets in to the no part.  Some of the guys they signed don’t fit right, and it would’ve been better just to leave the young sensations in those positions.  Jorge Soler losing his job to an outfield trio of Dexter Fowler, Jason Heyward and young Kyle Schwarber is a perfect example.

Projected Roster

 

Rotation

 

Jake Arrieta

Jon Lester

John Lackey

Jason Hammel

Kyle Hendricks

 

Bullpen

Hector Rondon (CL)

Justin Grimm

Pedro Strop

Travis Wood

Trevor Cahill

Dallas Beeler

Adam Warren

 

Lineup

  1. Dexter Fowler (CF)
  2. Kyle Schwarber (LF)
  3. Anthony Rizzo (1B)
  4. Jason Heyward (RF)
  5. Kris Bryant (3B)
  6. Ben Zobrist (2B)
  7. Miguel Montero (C)
  8. Pitcher
  9. Addison Russell (SS)

 

Bench

David Ross

Javier Baez

Tommy La Stella

Jorge Soler

Shane Victorino

 

That’s all for today.  See my next scouting report tomorrow on the other Chicago team, the White Sox.

 

Scouting Report: Baltimore Orioles

Sarasota, Fl - Yovani Gallardo takes part in Orioles Spring training.
The Orioles may not have made the biggest splash this off season but they made some quality moves.  Unfortunately for O’s fans, I don’t necessarily think that the Orioles have gotten better since last season.  They may have made some moves to maintain their status from last season but some things have not worked out and they aren’t quite as good as they were last season.
Off Season Review
The Orioles had an effective off season in some ways and an ineffective one in another way.  They started with bringing back Matt Wieters on a qualifying offer.  They really needed their star catcher back as their backup options are limited.  They made some trades later in November, bringing in L.J. Hoes for cash and inviting him to spring training.  In early December they got Mark Trumbo and C.J. Riefenhauser for Steve Clevenger.  I thought the Orioles won the trade but still, nobody great was given out to either team in that trade and it didn’t fit their needs.  Riefenhauser later got claimed off waivers by the Cubs.  That was very recently though.
At the non-tender deadline, they had to get rid of starting right fielder David Lough.  They now had not one, but two open outfield spots unless Mark Trumbo or Nolan Reimold stepped up to start.  They later signed Japanese outfielder Hyun-Soo Kim to at least take his place.  They also lost prospects Junior Lake and Edgar Olmos to waivers. Lake was another outfield option!!!  They were really thin now!!  There went another reliever too!!  However, they resigned star reliever Darren O’ Day for four years.
As January came, They traded for Odrisamer Despaigne and resigned Chris Davis long-term (seven years) in what was known as “A serious game of chicken” by MLB.com.  In late free agency, a lot of rumors were flying around Baltimore, and they still are.  Some of the names included Yovani Gallardo, Dexter Fowler, Tim Lincecum, Austin Jackson even Justin Upton and Yoenis Cespedes at one point.  They signed Gallardo for two years, but Fowler went to the Cubs despite almost signing in Baltimore, Jackson went to the White Sox, Upton went to Detroit and Cespedes resigned in New York.
Lincecum is still being rumored, and the Jackson to the Sox isn’t official yet.  In fact, I think Lincecum will sign with the Orioles enough that I put him on their predicted roster. The Orioles made some impact moves, but they still have some unfilled holes.  They did not fulfill the opportunity they had this off season  to improve.  All those rumors and big name signings for a mediocre to bad team.  Not ideal.
Off Season Grade: D+
Spring Training Storylines
Will the big name signings and re-signings make an impact?
Depends on if these guys have up or down seasons, hopefully for Bostonians like me, a down one.  Chris Davis I still don’t think is satisfied in Baltimore.  Hey, at least Yovani Gallardo and maybe Hyun-Soo Kim are good fits.  They still have Adam Jones better than ever, even without his precious pie celebrations.  They have some pretty good sleepers in the lineup to cover.  But still no matter what this team will have holes.  This might not matter.
How will the O’s fill the holes in the outfield and rotation?
Well, prospects play a big role.  Miguel Gonzalez needs more attention as a strong vet that will fight for a slot in the rotation.  Mike Wright, Dylan Bundy and Odrisamer Despaigne could get some spot starts.  In the outfield, sure, they lost Junior Lake who was developing well but they have Dariel Alvarez, they have Nolan Reimold, Jimmy Paredes may transition to right field and then Hyun-Soo Kim will move to left.
But even with prospects, a late signing would really help, even if its only like Alex Rios, Tim Lincecum or Cliff Lee.  I don’t think prospects plus what they have in the majors is going to be quite enough to fill the holes.
Who are some prospects who will be known this year?
Some of the prospects I mentioned above could be good but further down in the system, I’m liking sleep pitching prospect Andrew Triggs, who has looked alright this spring, veteran outfield spring training invitee L.J. Hoes, who returned to Baltimore this off season, and infielder Christian Walker.
Walker got some good time last year and looked ready to take over for Chris Davis, at least if Davis was still playing like he did in 2014 and Hoes got some good backup time in Houston but between their younger outfield prospects and the everyday starters, there was no room for him to shine last year.  There’s a lot of potential in the O’s system.  Despite a bad current team, they have future hope.

 Baltimore Orioles Projected Roster

Rotation               Bullpen
Chris Tillman        Zach Britton (CL)
Yovani Gallardo    Darren O’ Day
Tim Lincecum**    Brad Brach
Kevin Gausman    Miguel Gonzalez
Ubaldo Jimenez    Brian Matusz
                              Chaz Roe
                          Odrisamer Despaigne
Lineup                       Bench
C: Matt Wieters         Caleb Joseph
1B: Chris Davis          Christian Walker
2B: Jonathan Schoop  Nolan Reimold
SS: J.J. Hardy            Ryan Flaherty
3B: Manny Machado
LF: Hyun-Soo Kim
CF: Adam Jones
RF: Mark Trumbo
DH: Jimmy Paredes
**If Tim Lincecum does not come to the Orioles I have Miguel Gonzalez replacing him in the rotation.
Potential candidates to fill Gonzalez’s relief role would be:
           Dylan Bundy
           Mychal Givens
           Mike Wright
           T.J. McFarland
           Vance Worley
           Tyler Wilson
Projected Record: 74-88
That’s all for today.  Check out my Boston Red Sox report tomorrow!

Red Sox Cream Sale, White Sox

The Red Sox came back to cream the White Sox in an 8-2 blowout.  The rare thing is, the White Sox were the first to score on a Jose Abreu dinger bringing Adam Eaton home.  2-0 Chicago.  But that was only the top of the 1st.

In the bottom of that very inning, Xander Bogaerts singled on a sharp line drive deflecting off Chris Sale, hurting him, and passing shortstop Alexei Ramirez.    He stole second and went ot third on a wild alpitch.  Ortiz doubled down the right field line to drive him in.

In the bottom of the 4th, it was still 2-1.  Ortiz singled, and Napoli walked him to second.  Castillo grounded into a force out, Napoli getting out and Castillo being safe at first with Big Papi on third.  Then Panda got hit, but swung, so it was strike three called.  Sandoval had to leave the game due to a her and injury (Handoval?) and Josh Rutledge again took over at third.  Can Panda last you 9 inning games?

The Red Sox finally followed through in the 5th inning.  JBJ was hit by the pitch, and Holt grounded into a force out, Bradley out at second, Holt safe.  Then Bogaerts singled as he dashed to third.  Hanley Ramirez singled Holt in, and it was still 1st and 3rd, and even though he looked hurt, he was fine and stayed in.  Then Big Papi singled Bogaerts in, and the Red Sox had themselves a 3-2 lead.

They rallied again in the 6th.  They loaded the bases, with a Castillo single, Rutledge HBP, and Swihart single.  JBJ singled again and the bases remained loaded, but it was 4-2.  Holt hits a 2 run single.  1st and 3rd, 6-2 Red Sox.  Matt Albers comes in on relief.  Bogaerts sac fly.  7-2.  After two outs and a Big Papi IBB, as the inning ends.  Albers was stupid to walk his former teammate.  In the 7th,

Castillo gets his 2nd dinger this season, a solo shot in to dead center.  The game ended with pitchers luck, and Leury Garcia, a member of my Tap Baseball team, pinch hitting for catcher Tyler Flowers and a strike out victim of Junichi Tazawa, who closed the game.

The Red Sox split the series with Chicago, but are stillclear sellers at today’s deadline.  Watch for July Rankings and a deadline recap, for Boston and all blockbuster trades, including Scott Kazmir’s trade to Houston, known to me as this year’s kickoff trade.