2017 MLB Preview

HELLO

Baseball starts soon! The season starts APRIL SECOND! Spring training has started now! But I know what you’re thinking: “does tedmond dot net, the premiere website online, have any coverage of baseball?” The answer is: “uh huh, and it turns out this preview is a freaking MONSTER.”

tedmond dot net baseball launches with a team-by-team preview of the entire league, geared to the casual reader who doesn’t really know or care about baseball, compiled by our 6 writers who we are not paying in an article that I refuse to copyedit

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ADDENDUM IN THE FRONT

  • As you  may have noticed while reading, 1/6th of the previews were missing because one of our correspondents had mono and was granted an extension on his previews. Those previews have now been submitted and are now included. if youd like to skip to them automatically, use the handy CTRL+F function and search (mono)

AMERICAN LEAGUE (the bad league)

AL EAST

*** Boston Red Sox ***

Where We Left Them: The Red Sox came into the 2016 season with lofty expectations. David Price, the prize acquisition of the offseason that year, was to headline a strong rotation, backed up by the young core of Jackie Bradley Jr., Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts. Add in the final season of Big Papi and pressure was high in Beantown. For the bulk of the regular season, Boston seemed more than capable of living up to the expectations. They finished 93-69 and went into the playoffs red hot. While not the #1 seed, the breakout of Mookie Betts, combined with a Cy Young season from Rick Porcello and a bullpen featuring one of the best closers in the game in Craig Kimbrel, had “experts” picking the Red Sox to go all the way.

And so of course they were swept out of the first round by the future AL champion Cleveland Indians. Maybe the young guys were afraid of the bright lights. Maybe David Price really does forget how to pitch once the calendar turns to October. Or maybe baseball is really flukey and even the best team can lose 3 times in a row, washing 6 months of excitement and buildup. Either way, the end of the season can be categorized as nothing but a disappointment.

Where We Find Them: Boston comes into Spring Training as one of the strongest teams. If not for the Cubs, there may very well be talking heads across the country describing the Red Sox as the next great dynasty to-be.

New Faces: If you’ve been living under a rock all winter, welcome back. If you’re new to baseball, welcome! Otherwise, you’ve probably heard that the Red Sox acquired starting pitcher Chris Sale from the White Sox at the winter meetings. Sale, a lefty, has been one of the best pitchers in the game over the past 5 years, posting a 3.34 ERA (3.46 FIP) last season over 226 innings. He was worth nearly 5 wins and should slide in perfectly at the top of the rotation. Expect his stats to be even better now that he gets to play behind a competent defense. The Red Sox gave up the top prospect in the game to get him, which should tell you how good of a player they are getting in return and how close this team thinks they are to a title.

The Red Sox also acquired relief pitcher Tyler Thornburg over the winter. Thornburg has been sneaky good in Milwaukee and should provide a nice bridge to Craig Kimbrel at the end of games. Thornburg posted a 199 ERA+ last year, which, if you’re not totally familiar with the stat, is really good. This move may not have been as flashy as the Sale trade, but it may be almost as important.

He may not qualify as a “new face” in the traditional sense, but Pablo Sandoval might as well be a new player for the team this year. After getting paid to watch games from the dugout most of last season, Sandoval has gotten himself back into shape and is ready to contribute. The Red Sox aren’t relying on him as much as they were when they signed him to the crazy deal back in 2015, but if he can become a quality player again, it would be a nice bonus for a team without a set third baseman.

The Red Sox also signed Mitch Moreland and if that makes you go “who?” you’re not the only one. He’s a slightly below-average hitter that the team will hope can stand near first base and grab a ball if it’s hit right at him.

Departures: The biggest loss, literally, and figuratively, facing the Red Sox this year is the retirement of David Ortiz. After finishing up a Hall of Fame career (yup, I said it) with a throwback to his prime-type season, the Red Sox will have to look within to replace his production. The continued growth of Mookie Betts will certainly help, as would a return to form for Sandoval, but the lost production on the field, along with the leadership and gravitas off it, will be tough to replace throughout the season.

What to Expect: I would be surprised if this team isn’t the class of the AL East, and maybe of the AL overall. They have the best rotation in the AL and if they said they had the best rotation in the Majors, I might even believe it. When the reigning Cy Young winner is your #3, that’s a good sign. The trio of young players should continue to mature (Betts is already a perennial MVP candidate) and a full season of Andrew Benintendi could add even more young production. Benintendi is expected to contribute immediately to the team and if he can adjust to the Major League game quickly, which his September call-up suggests will happen, he can be a major asset. A young player with solid defense and gap-power will fits perfectly as a top-of-the order hitter for Mookie to drive in. Couple all the youth with the always solid Pedroia and a return to form, or even respectability, by Sandoval and you’ve got one of the top lineups in the MLB. Oh, and their bullpen has one of the best closers in the game, who will be set up by one of the top relievers in the game. Bullpens can be moody, but if everyone performs like they’ve shown they can, teams are going to have to win games early against this team and that doesn’t seem likely. A top rotation, a top lineup, and a scary bullpen. That adds up to green monster sized potential. I’d be shocked if they’re not fighting towards 90-95 wins and the top of the AL this season.

 

The MVP: Mookie Betts

The Ace: Chris Sale

The Breakout Candidate: Andrew Benintendi

The Step-Back Candidate: Rick Porcello

The Record: 95-67

The Finish: ALCS Losers

-eric

*** Toronto Blue Jays ***

Ah, the Blue Jays. Recently, they’ve been very fun to watch as their team has been mostly built around high powered slugging. I love pitchers duels as much as the next guy, but there’s just something about a team that could reasonably put up 10 runs on any given day that’s exciting. Their pitching isn’t terrible either, but it doesn’t have that big frontline star. The Jays have some strong options in Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez. They also have nice 3-5 guys like Marco Estrada, J.A. Happ, and Francisco Liriano. But those guys don’t quite jump off the page like the hitters they have like Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, Troy Tulowitzki, Russell Martin, Devon Travis, etc. Their defense is no slouch either. They make some really flashy plays from the likes of Kevin Pillar, Tulo, and Donaldson. I’m going to take a moment here to say go watch a Kevin Pillar defensive highlight video! Here’s one:

. Hopefully our glorious content host at tedmond.net can embed that video. It seems like every other out he makes would go on ESPN’s web gems.

So what are the Jays trying to do this year? As with most teams, they’re trying to win a World Series! The past two years they’ve made it to the ALCS and fallen short of the World Series. They’re in a division that will be fairly competitive and they’ll probably have to fight for a wild card spot, as the Red Sox look to be possibly the best team in the American League. The good news is the AL Wild Card is relatively wide open, with no teams really as a favorite. Some likely competitors will be the Jays, Orioles, Rangers, Angels, Mariners, and probably more I’m forgetting.

The Jays largest hole is probably their bullpen. As they saw last year against the Indians in the ALCS and the year before against the Royals in the ALCS, a really strong bullpen is tough to contend with in the postseason. The Royals rode that strategy to a World Series in 2015 with Greg Holland, Wade Davis, and Kelvin Herrera. The Indians got to the World Series last year with the help of Andrew Miller and Cody Miller. The Cubs won the World Series with strong relievers like Aroldis Chapman, Pedro Strop, and CJ Edwards. The Jays bullpen last year put up middle of the road numbers compared to the league, having the 16th most WAR of the 30 teams. This year’s bullpen doesn’t look much different and figures to put up around the same number. It will be interesting to see if they try to make any acquisitions mid season for a top tier reliever like the Indians and Cubs did at the deadline last year. They also could try to convert Aaron Sanchez from a starter to a reliever as I heard talked about many times last year. But that just seems silly, as Sanchez is either their best or second best starter and can probably provide more value that way.

-chmiel

*** Tampa Bay Rays ***

Rays – 83-79 (16)

If you’ve ever talked to me about baseball, you know I love decrying luck and trying to strip all context from everything. BaseRuns is a way Fangraphs tries to take sequencing out of a team’s winning percentage. Similar to how people don’t care about RBIs any more (or shouldn’t) because you can’t really control when you have people on base and when you’re getting your hits, BaseRuns basically looks at a team’s overall offense and defense (not just runs, like pythag winning %) and calculates an expected W/L from there. In 2016, the Rangers won 95 games and the AL West, while the Rays only won a disappointing 68 games. But, if you take away sequencing and look at BaseRuns, the Rangers were an 82 win team and the Rays 81! The Rangers and Rays over- and underperformed by 13 wins, respectively, which is a staggeringly high amount.

I take this BaseRuns detour because the Ray’s slightly-above-average projection shouldn’t be that shocking to anyone – their very poor record last year was masking mostly average performance. If the Rays had been lucky and won oodles of one-run games they could have won 90+ games, and then everyone would think they’re awesome!

Who to watch:

Evan Longoria. Projections see him as a slightly above-average hitter and very good defender, good for 3.8 WAR, which is similar to what he was in 2014 and 2015. But last year he turned up the power and cranked 36 dingers – even if that is part of the league-wide power spike, he was good for a 123 wRC+ in 2016. If he can keep up that power and still play his sterling defense, Longoria will continue to be very interesting.

Kevin Kiermaier is projected to hit worse than Longoria, but be worth 4.3 WAR, which is kind of amazing. But that’s what happens when you have someone who can hit at a league-average level and play CF at an astonishingly high level – check out a Kiermaier highlight reel sometime, he isn’t human.

Maybe Mallex Smith is ready for the big time? Probably won’t be anything more than a utility kind of player this year, but if he develops into a star that could easily launch the Rays into strong AL East contenders.

Their pitchers – oh how I love Rays pitchers. Get undersized dudes with good fastballs and see what happens. Chris Archer is an extremely good pitcher, weird 2016 aside (in fact, his FIP and xFIP were more in line with previous seasons). I have an unhealthy obsession with Jose De Leon – dude completely ripped apart minor league pitching, and I think getting him for a few seasons of Logan Forsythe was an absolute coup – Forsythe is a good player, but De Leon could be special. Even with a pretty disastrous 2016 cup of coffee, Steamer projects De Leon to have a 3.5 ERA and be worth 2.4 WAR in only 117 innings – if he can make it through a full season healthy an that effective, that’s a top 15 starter. Bunch of other interesting dudes – Snell and Odorizzi round out the rest of the top 4, and all in all it’s a pretty good 4.

Divisional Chances: Interesting! They probably can’t catch the Red Sox for the AL East, but there are 6 other teams in the AL projected for 82-84 wins, so those 2 wild card spots could end up being very competitive, and barring more bad sequencing luck, the Rays should be right in it.

Watchability: 6.5/10 – Very interesting pitchers, but after the top 2 the hitters aren’t very good. But hopefully a season-long wild card race will keep things exciting.

-tom

*** New York Yankees ***

Things Steven Should Know About This Team

  • I think yogi berra died last year
  • The cubs traded prospect gleyber torres to the yankees last year for pitcher and domestic abuser arnoldis chapman (whom Tedmond dot net baseball will NOT be devoting attention to OR capitalizing the name of), who is a domestic abuser, and gleyber is gonna become a superstar in the MLB soon. Also he has isanely fake eyebrows and he’s done the Lil Bow Wow Eyebrow Slice Thing.
  • Yankees catcher Gary “Clean” Sanchez only played a few games last year because he was a rookie but he hit a bundle of home runs and he’ll probably do worse this year because if he does the same he’ll basically hit 100 homer runs and that’s not allowed by MLB Comissioner Rod Mandlebaum
  • The yankees are generally really good and buy a lot of expensive superstar players so everyone hates them, but they haven’t done that in the past couple of years so the team is very lame and average this year. But in 2018 former MVP Bryce Harper who has a sweet-ass swing is gonna be a free agent and he’s FOR SURE gonna get like half a billion dollars to go to the Yankees and then we can hate them. But for now please hate the Red Sox as your “overly spendy AL East team.”
  • Nathan “Famous” Eovaldi can throw like 100 miles per hour but people still destroy his pitches, he’s really not even much of a meme player So you can just delete this sentence from your brain. But Tedmond dot net baseball, which is committed to publishing the TRUTH, will not be deleting this sentence from the site. “You type it, we’ll post it!” – Tedmond dot net baseball.

Prediction The yankees will be on Sunday night baseball 20 times and go 82-82. Brett gardner will steal 20 bases very quietly. People will talk about Bryce Harper a lot.

ted

GUEST SECOND OPINION PROVIDED BY “SCOTT LANDROVERI”

“They have He Whom Shall Not Be Named [name omitted due to crimes – eds.] back now, right? I predict some strong closing wins from the Yanks”  

*** Baltimore Orioles *** (mono)

Orioles based on last couple seasons (sorry that’s when I started to actually know baseball):

good!

Orioles have been (keep in mind this is for the last couple years) quite the successful team! They’ve made it to the playoff most of the time!

 

PECOTA projections | actual Wins
2012: 71 | 93
2013: 75 | 85
2014: 75 | 96
2015: 78 | 81
2016: 72 | 89

 

Above is a table of wins PECOTA, a sabermetric system for forecasting MLB player performance, predicted versus Orioles actual wins. As you can see, PECOTA has been consistently wrong. PECOTA is a very reliable source for getting your projections, so what can be making the predictions so wrong so frequently? Their batters all have around .250 BA, under .500 SLG, and around .780 OPS – Except Manny Machado (we will discuss later). Their defensive WAR is positive on all players, and their pitching is led by two solid players, Ubaldo Jimenez and Chris Tillman, but not followed by much else. The Orioles seem to get their way into the postseason through peaking at the right moment. They have the talent and end up showing their true potential at the right times. PECOTA has seemed to sick them with a losing record because they are in a historically good division even if the division is actually playing well.

 

Manny “a singular man” Machado.

Machado hit three homers in Chicago against the White Sox. What made it even more outstanding was he homered in the first, second and third innings. He became the second player in major league history to homer in the first three innings in the same game. Carl Reynolds of the White Sox (Wooh White Sox?!) was the first on July 2, 1930. Machado had hit a total of four homers his previous 36 games that year. Machado became the 16th Oriole with a three-homer game and it was the 21st time it happened. He’s quite the talented, young lad.

Their batting order is not too shabby. Chris Davis isn’t the worst, however, he has had 200+ strikeouts the past two years, and Trumbo hits for power and does it quite successfully with 47 blamos. For the rest of their batting order, tenor saxophone section leader Jen from Baltimore says, “JJ Hardy is hot; Adam jones is overrated”

-tommy john

AL WEST

*** Oakland A’s ***

Where we left them: Hey, did you know that Oakland has a baseball team? One that plays there 81 times a year? Most people in Oakland don’t and if you were only casually paying attention to the MLB last year you may not have either. And it’s not like the A’s did themselves any favors, finishing last in the AL West, sporting a 69-93 record. More well-known for being the subject of a movie than an actual functioning team, the A’s were one of the least exciting teams last year. Stuck in a rebuild without young exciting players or a stacked farm system (Wonder how much the A’s regret trading away Addison Russell for what amounted to a tease for the organization?), the A’s are just trying to go through their season without anyone noticing, because if someone does notice, they aren’t coming back with a positive opinion.

Where we find them:

New Faces: The A’s have been surprisingly active during the offseason, but none of the moves inspire confidence. Matt Joyce, an Outfielder that was below average last year in Pittsburgh was signed to a two-year deal. He’s 32, so it’s not like the A’s are hoping for some sort of breakout here. The other “major” move was to sign Rajai Davis to a one-year deal. The game 7 near-hero for the Indians couldn’t crack an outfield that included Lonnie “I’m trying, I’m just bad” Chisenhall and Tyler “I don’t call fly balls” Naquin, so that should tell you all you need to know. The general idea for a rebuilding team is to sign bounce-back candidates or young, potential-filled players. The A’s have done neither. They’ve assembled a team of old, unexciting players that I assume they will try to trade at the deadline, but there isn’t a huge market for old, unexciting players, which is why they were all willing to sign with Oakland. If you have a bunch of options, Oakland generally isn’t your first choice. The A’s also signed a bad 3rd baseman in Trevor Plouffe and an almost average infielder in Adam Rosales, neither of which are on the right side of 30.

Departures: The biggest departure story concerning the A’s was the lack of a departure from pitcher Sonny Gray. Gray had been a fast-rising young starter in 2015, before having a disastrous 2016, just as the A’s were looking to trade him. What was supposed to be the key to jump starting the rebuild, instead became an attractive buy-low option for contending teams. Gray clearly has the stuff to be front of the rotation pitcher, he’s shown it before, but you can’t fault other teams for being fearful that the 2016 version of Gray, which included a negative WAR coming of a 5.8 WAR season, was a sign of things to come instead of a fluke. If Gray can come out of the gate strong for the A’s, they may be able to salvage some of that lost value at the trade deadline, but the team seems to have missed the chance to hit the jackpot by refusing to trade him after 2015. Guess Moneyball didn’t make the right calculations.

What to expect:

Mediocrity. If we’re lucky. There simply isn’t much talent on this team. The A’s are the Ramen Noodles of baseball. They’re cheap, unexciting, and not particularly good. Sonny Gray headlines a not-terrible rotation that lacks a true ace, while Marcus Semien may be the lone bright spot among position players. At 27, he still has a chance to build upon his 3-win season last year. If he does, the A’s would be smart to move him. There simply isn’t enough here to compete yet, so whatever young pieces are performing should be turned into future talent. It’s a sucky place to be in as a fan, but at least trades are a sign of effort. So far, the front office hasn’t shown much. If Gray returns to his all-star level and the rest of the rotation performs at their expected average level, the veteran position players could probably get this team towards 70 or 75 wins. The bullpen is surprisingly competent for a bad team so if they can ever get a lead, they may have a chance to hold it.  But that’s assuming everything breaks correctly. A 75-win ceiling isn’t something to be proud of. At least Khris Davis still spells his name in a fun way and mashes baseballs.

 

The MVP: Marcus Semien

The Ace: Sonny Gray (I hope so for the A’s sake)

The Breakout Candidate: Marcus Semien

The Step-Back Candidate: Khris Davis

The Record: 68-94

The Finish: Last in the AL West

-eric

*** Houston Astros *** (mono)

Houston Astros

Here’s some stuff you should know about the Astros:

 

  • First off, Astros is short for astronauts. the franchise just forgot they did that and made the mascot a space bird-thing. I honestly just made that up but as I was writing it down I noticed it could be true. Uhhh look it up.

 

  • Dallas Keuchel’s beard weights more than most beards. It’s density-to-length ratio is pristine and he doesn’t deserve any complaints toward it.

 

  • Jose Altuve is really good and y’all best remember that!!!! He’s averaging stats similar to hall of famers and hitting milestones earlier than most. KEEP’ER EYE ON ‘M. He has only been in the MLB for 6 years and already has reached the 1000 hit milestone. Don’t forget about the man’s BA consistently above .310 for the past couple seasons, AND don’t forget that he’s small. Show some extra thought for him because of his height. Toss him a penny if you see him. He deserves it.

 

  • Dallas Keuchel is also a pretty good pitcher! This 2015 Cy Young winner is the Astro’s most reliable, right next to Lance Mccullers Jr., and will probably continue to be seeing as the space birds haven’t much to acquire new pitching.

 

  • George Springer’s race is still unknown.

 

  • The Astros will most likely fall behind the rangers in the lead of the AL West division.- tommy john

*** Texas Rangers ***

Things Steven Should Know About This Team

  • There are other players on this team but the most important player is this one: Second baseman Rougned “In November I’m turning a year” Odor BLASTED Jose bautista in the face
  • Rougned odor’s little brother (also named Rougned odor) who is in the minor leagues, faces criminal charges for jerking off a tied-down teammate in a hazing ritual. I think their dad is also named Rougned odor
  • Rough Ned. Oh Dor. That’s how I pronounce it.
  • Third baseman Adrian “Fasten your seat” Beltre is going to be in the hall of f
  • Outfielder Josh “The Musical” Hamilton is getting paid tens of millions of dollars by the Angels to play for the Rangers, and also his knee is continually broken. I literally wrote this sentence yesterday (2/25) just joking around but today is the sequel to yesterday (2/26) and well look at that:

  • The Rangers have a good catcher Johnny “Tonic Water” Lucroy, and he could have been on the Indians who made the world series but he rejected that trade and now he’s here on the Rangers. Throughout their careers, Baseball players often switch teams and we don’t fault them for it. But when a person switches the team they’re a fan of? People get mad. I’m just saying.
  • The Rangers have a few really good young players that may be good this year. You can find their names using search engines

Preditctions: {setting up for a joke} George bush used to own this team. The team will go the way of the name of Dubya’s old oil prospecting company: Arbusto! R. Bust-o. The Rangers will Bust. The team will be bad and go… 87 – 75 Rougned Odor will play second base.

-ted

*** Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim ***

There’s really only one place to start when looking at the Angels, and that’s with Mike Trout. Mike Trout is the undeniable best player in baseball. He’s been an all star starting in his rookie year and every year since. He’s won the AL MVP twice, and I would debate that he should have won the award even more. He’s truly an all around star. He can hit for power, logging around 30+ home runs a year and a career ISO of 0.251. For context, ISO (isolated power) averages out around 0.140 and a classic slugger like David Ortiz has a career ISO of 0.265. But Trout does more than just hit dingers! He had a 17% walk rate last year–almost equal to his 20.1% K rate, which is not a common thing to see these days. He hits for average: hitting 0.315 last year. He even steals bases! He’s had 3 seasons of 30+ stolen bases, including last year. All encompassed, Mike Trout is conservatively worth at least 8 wins a year all by himself. So with him, the Angels are off to a good start.

From there, though, they don’t have much going for them. The Angels are definitely trying to contend this year, but it’s hard to look past the fact that they went 74-88 last year. To make the postseason, they’ll likely need AT LEAST 86 wins. So how do they grab a hold of at least 12 more wins?

Well, last year the Angels rotation was a mess. One of their top guys, Garrett Richards, made 6 starts. They had Jered Weaver and his 45 mph fast ball. Tyler Skaggs made 10 starts. You get the picture. This year, however, Fangraphs has their starting pitching projected at 13.4 WAR. Last year, their starters put up 5.6 WAR. Right there, just hitting the projection would add 8 wins. Only 4 more to go! Let’s take a look at their relief pitching. They have a projected 2.1 WAR, yikes. But last year they put up just 0.3, so that’s a 2 win bonus. Then, obviously, with all projections there’s a certain error bar. Things can break right or break wrong or the projection systems can be wrong, although they’re generally solid predictors.

So the Angels have a shot at the postseason. In baseball, I’d never count any postseason team out from World Series contention. The first step is getting there. How will they do that? Will they win the division? Probably not. The Astros have a really strong team, but even they put up just an 84-78 record last year. I really have no idea how the AL West is going to go. I think the Astros, Angels, or Mariners could all win the division. I don’t think the Rangers will as their division winning record last year was fueled by a lot of close wins that may not fall their way again this year, but it’s hard to count out the previous year’s pennant winner. More realistically, though, is that the Angels will be fighting for a wild card spot with the Rangers and Mariners as well as AL East teams like the Orioles and Blue Jays.

-chmiel

*** Seattle Mariners ***

Every year, I feel the baseball community gets really excited for the Mariners and every year they seem to let everyone down (although maybe that’s just me.) With the Mariners projected around 83 wins this season, they are right in the hunt for a wildcard spot. So how do they get there? What do the Mariners have to do to make their first playoff appearance since 2001? Will childhood me ever stop confusing them with the Marlins? As far as the latter is concerned, no I will no. A part of my brain will always struggle with that. As for the former points, they have their work cut out for them, but they also have an excellent mix of talent around the field to get there.

Let’s start with the man who every Mariners fan has adored and hoped would lead them back to the playoffs, Felix Hernandez. Coming off his worst season in his very impressive career, he will need to bounce back and be the centerpiece of the team as he always has been. I have no doubts he will. Reports are looking good as he is working out hard and feels great (then again aren’t there reports like this on every player ever?) It shouldn’t be too hard though to beat his numbers from last year, and that starts with getting more than 25 starts, something he hasn’t done since his first season with the Mariners in 2005. A Mariners team with a top performing Felix Hernandez at the helm will always be a team to give fans and the baseball community hope for the playoffs.

Felix isn’t the answer to the Mariners prayers as the past decade has shown. While dominant, he needs a team around him to get there and this Mariners team (as per usual) has people excited for how fresh and innovative it is. The Mariners seem to be approaching this season from a standpoint of solid base hitting, strong defense, and speed. As many have pointed out, they are looking a bit like the Royals of the past few years (which is appropriate given the addition of Jarrod Dyson.) Kyle Seager and Robinson Cano are sure to continue putting up stellar numbers while Jean Sagura, Dyson, Nelson Cruz, and some smart platoon play will likely get the Mariners the rest of the way. The Mariners offense feels a little top heavy, but their bottom half appears to be a very solid foundation that will prevent the whole thing from collapsing.

The Mariners are the team I am actually looking forward to following the most this season. Yet again, they enter the season giving a lot of reason to hope and get excited. Will they make it to the playoffs? It will be close but it will be a fun ride getting there.

-stocky

AL CENTRAL

*** Detroit Tigers ***

Things Steven Should Know About This Team:

  • Justin “kate upton’s husband” Verlander is a pitcher and he’s married to kate upton. In that one scandal where they leaked a lot of nude pictures of celebrities, there’s a picture of kate upton doin a nude mirror selfie but more importantly is that Justin verlander is in the picture and he looks very silly with his big-ass Athlete Hamstrings and you can google for it because this site is WORK SAFE
  • Justin Verlander was gonna win the best pitcher award but then he didn’t and kate upton got mad on twitter. The two are married.
  • People will tell you that 1B Miguel Cabrera is a really good hitter but in my opinion it’s because he uses an unfairly light bat. Other players swing tree trunks whereas Miguel “twigs” Cabrera basically swings like… a stick of cheap reject home depot pinewood derby car lumber. I have not researched this subject but just watch and see – the bat goes too fast to be legal. Also baseball doesn’t have rules about how light the bat can be, which paves the way for an increasingly older Miguel Cabrera to switch to a Mark McGuire powerBat in a couple of years, and that’s simply Un Fair.
  • Pitcher “Michael Fulmer” is good and won the rookie of the year award last year for being young and good at the same time. Due to regression to the mean (which I’m sure Chmiel will mention 2000 times) he will probably be a tad worse this year, but that’s okay
  • Predictions: I don’t really care about the Tigers at all and I neglected doing research for this team (as for all other teams) So to be honest, I’m not really able to give a good prediction here. Maybe like 75-87 or something.

-ted

*** Chicago White Sox ***

White Sox – 71-91 (-96)

They finally did it! They started the rebuild! For a while the White Sox tried the whole stars and scrubs thing, but never really got anything going. Despite some really strong players in Chris Sale, Jose Abreu, Jose Quintana, and Adam Eaton, their scrubs were too many and too scrubby. From 2014-2016, the Sox gave Avisail Garcia 1,244 plate appearances, and he was worth a total of -0.9 WAR. That’s right, someone who was an almost-everyday player would have better served the team by chilling in AAA and letting almost anyone else get at bats. This is the downfall of the stars and scrubs approach – you really want it to be more like stars and ok-average sorts of dudes, not actual scrubs.

But it’s time to rejoice! The Sox managed to turn Chris Sale and Adam Eaton into Yoan Moncada and Lucas Giolito (the #1 and #3 overall prospects according to MLB.com at this time) as well as Michael Kopech and Reynaldo Lopez (#30 and #38). That is a huge prospect haul, and they still have Quintana, who, while criminally underrated, should still be able to nab a similar package. It’s looking more and more likely that they’ll open the season with Quintan and try to trade him to a contender at the deadline – this is slightly risky as he may be ineffective or hurt, but the upside could be enormous – by the middle of the season, the amorphous 82-82 win blob in the AL may be sorting itself out, and a contending team might pay a king’s ransom to separate itself from the pack.

The reason I focus so much on the rebuild and exciting trades for prospects, is that this is the worst time for the major league team. They’re projected to be terrible this year, they’ll probably lose Quintana at some point and lose even more games, and they’ll still be horrible for a few years after this. But Sox fans shouldn’t be disappointed at the poor major league teams! This just means you’re stockpiling ammo for a few years from now – could be especially good in the AL Central, where very few teams really have the potential to be juggernauts. The Indians look very good now, but probably don’t have the market or super-elite talents to stay a 95 win team. And the Royals and Tigers both look like their competitive windows are closing, so maybe in 2-3 years the White Sox will be emerging from the ashes like a phoenix while those 2 are just molting. And the Twins are basically a shrug emoji. Look Sox fans, just ask the Cubs how they feel about the rebuild now. Or even the Astros! There’s some pain, but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

What to watch: The newly acquired dudes, hope they develop and don’t all bust! Also Quintana – if he has a strong 1st half, Sox could continue the prospect bonanza.

Divisional Chances: Basically 0. We’re at Padres level here.
Watchability: 1/10 for now, and 0 once Quintana leaves.

-schwermy

*** Minnesota Twins ***

Where We Left Them: If you were a Twins fan last season, you probably left them sometime in May. There really wasn’t a whole lot to watch. The team finished 59-103, the worst record in Twins history. A step backwards for Byron Buxton and the disappearance of Miguel Sano hurt bad. But it wasn’t like these guys really thought they were going to win it all last year. I hope. The late season resurgence of Brian Dozier gave Twins fans something to look forward to as they headed into the offseason. (Can you resurge if you never emerged in the first place? Was Brian Dozier good this whole time? How was the universe created? These are questions that keep humanity up at night.)  

Where We Find Them:

New Faces: There wasn’t much warmth coming off the stove in Minnesota this winter. The Twins focused mainly on pitching depth, and minor league pitching depth at that. They signed one Major league pitcher, righty Matt Belisle. If you don’t know who that is, don’t worry, I didn’t either. The internet is telling me he was a pretty good relief pitcher for the Nationals last season, sporting a 1.76 ERA, but over a fairly small sample size of 46 innings. His career ERA is 4.20, so I wouldn’t get too excited in Minnesota, but bullpen depth is always nice. The man is 36, so expectations should be tempered towards the career performance rather than the small sample breakout he had last year. The other signing was catcher Jason Castro, who will likely be a boring and uneventful replacement for departing starter Kurt Suzuki.

Departures: Kurt Suzuki was the biggest loss the Twins suffered during the offseason, but don’t let that convince it was a big loss. Suzuki was an average at best catcher who was replaced by a slightly (very slightly) above-average at best catcher.

There was almost a lot more to write about here. For most of the offseason, the Twins were engaged in what amounted to 6th grade dance flirting with the Dodgers over a trade of Brian Dozier. The deal, as reported, would have sent Dozier to Los Angeles in exchange for Jose De Leon, one of the top pitching prospects in baseball. The Twins wanted more. The Dodgers didn’t want to give up more. After a month of those two sentences being reported on from “sources” and “higher-ups,” the Dodgers went in a different direction. Congrats to the Twins for standing their ground, but time will tell if they made a mistake holding on to current talent instead of furthering the amount of young, exciting players they have.

 

What to Expect:

The Twins are rebuilding. They have a former top prospect in Byron Buxton, who seemed overmatched for much of last season, but his future is still bright. Not everyone is going to be Gary Sanchez and Kris Bryant when they are called up. If he can right the ship, it will go a long way towards getting fans excited about the future. He’s a great defender with the hitting tools to be productive at the plate. I like his chances of figuring it out. Dozier is still with the team after having a monstrous September last season. Only time will tell if it was a fluke or Dozier has turned himself into one of the best power hitters in the league. Miguel Sano is another intriguing young player who struggled last year and will look to rebound. His defense leaves something to be desired, but hopefully the bat will keep fans off his case. The rest of the lineup is filled with average or worse players you’ve heard of, but couldn’t pick out of a crowd, a skeleton of what used to be an MVP player in Joe Mauer, and I assume a few guys off the street.

The pitching staff has even less going for it. Their “ace” is Ervin Santana, who is about to turn 35. There’s a reason the Twins acquired young pitchers over the winter. The cupboard is barren. Unless they find a breakout pitcher somewhere on the staff, expect the pitchers to limit the already low ceiling of this team.

Let’s not pretend, the Twins are bad. Hopefully the continued growth of Buxton and Sano, along with the continued mashing of baseballs by Dozier will keep the fans entertained while they wait for the future.

 

The MVP: Byron Buxton

The “Ace”: Ervin Santana

The Breakout Candidate: Miguel Sano

The Step-Back Candidate: Brian Dozier

The Record: 65-97

The Finish: Last in the AL Central

-eric

*** Cleveland Indians ***

So in case you missed it, the Indians were in the World Series last year. This upcoming year they could be even better! Their team has a core of not-too-old guys that could very well be even better than last year. They also suffered some tough injuries last year that they had to work past.

Let’s start with their position players. They have a really solid core with young killer shortstop Francisco Lindor, who put up 4.5 and then 6.3 WAR in the last two years. Then we have Jason Kipnis at second for a good combo of solid hitting and defense. There’s Carlos Santana at 1B who’s well-renowned for his power and great plate discipline, as well as his singing ability of course. They just signed Edwin Encarnacion this year to replace Mike Napoli, which he should be able to out-produce. There’s also a core of younger, less proven players that could be a real benefit to the Cleveland team like CF Tyler Naquin and 3B Jose Ramirez. Finally, they have Michael Brantley hopefully not going to miss the full season like last year.

On the pitching side, they have a great staff of Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, and a good number of other guys who I can’t definitively say are in the top 5, but they at least have depth here. One problem for the Indians last year was that both Carrasco and Salazar ended up being injured during the playoffs. If those guys were healthy, I have a tough time seeing Cubs defeat the Indians in the World Series. The Indians also have a sick bullpen including their closer Cody Allen and midseason pickup Andrew Miller.

With no giant holes across the board, it’s easy to see how the Indians are Fangraphs projected 4th best team in the league (2nd best in the AL behind the Red Sox). If the majority of the starting lineup can stay healthy throughout the year and into the playoffs, this is going to be a top team to reckon with.

Finally, every baseball team has to have some good memes. Here’s my favorite of the Indians. Our content host, tedmond.net, will embed this photo of Corey Kluber (nicknamed Klubot):

-chmiel

*** Kansas City Royals ***

No team in all of baseball makes me go “Meh” more than the Kansas City Royals. Here is a team that constantly is projected to be painstakingly average, yet somehow for the past few years has outperformed that projection. They are a team that does nothing but make easy contact, slowly score with offense that doesn’t excite, play strong defense to keep their leads, and have a strong bullpen to finish out the game. And after all is said and done, make you wish you hadn’t watched that game since nothing exciting happened and no exciting players were on the field. Then you realize it works and got them back to back World Series appearances and a win their second time around and you just have to give it to them that they are good and know how to win.

This has been the (as a dear White Sox commentator who everyone loves to hate would say) the Kansas City Special and the way the Royals have been identified for a while now. But with the incoming season, some trades, and a very unfortunate circumstance later, the Royals don’t look like that “Meh” team to me anymore. Instead, they kinda just look bad as they lost a lot of their contact hitting, great defense, and reliable bullpen. Let’s start with that bullpen that has been gutted and left a broken shell. With Wade Davis heading to the cubs, the Royals lose their star closer as well as a few key pitcher leaving their bullpen with very little depth.

The Royals likely will keep their defense about where it always has been, so that can’t be too bad. However, with Jarrod Dyson leaving and the addition of Jorge Soler and Brandon Moss, the Royals seem to not be adding much solid contact and speed for what they are losing. Moss is pretty uninteresting and appears to profile as more of a power hitter than I’m used to seeing with the Royals. Jorge is a solid player but doesn’t bring much in the speed department. Furthermore, as Moss is more of a power hitter opposed to the contacted oriented hitter the Royals seem to favor, he likely is striking out a lot, something the Royals pride themselves on doing very little of. Stack on top of that Jorge Soler’s high projected strike out rate (28.9%) and Alex Gordon’s rising strike out rates and high projected rate this season (23.8%) and it appears the Royals may not look like the Royals we are used to seeing.

All of that said though, this is a team that has recently come out each season and performed oddly well despite what all analysists and projections say. Do they look different? Sure. Will they likely break .500? I’d say probably not. But they can always come out and shock us. And at least they won’t be the worst team in division. Although that isn’t hard to do in the AL Central these days.

-stocky

NATIONAL LEAGUE (the good league)

NL WEST

*** Los Angeles Dodgers ***

Things Steven Should Know About This Team

  • Clayton “Slimy K” Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball. He missed a lot of last year with an injury and still was the best pitcher by a longshot. His wife makes him donate to charity when he swears and he’s good at ping pong. He’s a real goober.
  • 3B Corey “Kyle” Seager is the younger brother of Kyle “Corey” Seager, who is on the Mariners. But despite his relative youth, he’s way better than his older brother. That’s gotta be depressing for the older brother! I am better than my little brother at everything and always will be!
  • Outfielder Yasiel “Big Memey” Puig is constantly in jeopardy but he’s a Real Treat to Watch Play. Here’s a video of him slacking off in the field. Also this video has the annotation: “WATCH – What if Peter Pan was a black guy?” That’s gotta be compelling stuff.
  • Pitcher Julio “Saturn” Urias is like 5 years old, and only one of his eyes works, but he’s going to be either really good and everyone will be excited or he’ll be really bad and people will chalk it up to that he’s 5.
  • The Dodgers are projected by a lot of projection systems to be the best team. Last year they made the national league championship but then the cubs wrecked ‘em

Predictions:

Thank god Best Announcer Ever Vin Scully is out. What a toxic clubhouse presence. Maybe this year they’ll have less than 30 people on the DL (Brandon McCarthy will still go on the DL). 100-62.

-ted

*** San Francisco Giants *** (mono)

What the heck Conor Gillaspie?! Where were you before?! Also, can we expect that to carry through to this season because we’d all love to see more of that. For the rest of Giant’s lineup, there is a lot of potential. They definitely can win the world series ANY year, let alone EYBS. Although they have not kept up the even year streak, this is a dynastic team we are dealing with here.

Let’s start with their illustrious rotation. They recently received Johnny Cueto which is a pretty solid move by any standards, and they obtained hot reliever Mark “LegoMan” Melancon from the Pirates. Last year Cueto and Bumgardner, Their pitcher numero uno, put up identical numbers, and it’s not like Bumgardner was under performing. The Giants just have two of him now. Jeeeezz… Well, for the rest of their rotation, there isn’t much confetti. Samardzey has not been an adequate, consistent pitcher since he left the Cubs. For the rest of their rotation, there’s not much to rely on. It’s what’s stopping the Giants from being the dynastic team. Relying on two pitchers to win them the majority of 7 games, consistently, is virtually impossible for baseball postseason. Besides their two all-star pitchers, their lineup poses some strength.

 

With leadoff hitter Denard Span, the Giants have a rally-friendly lineup. Their rallies could be infinite!! Seriously. The skill level after their 6th guy, Edwardo Nunez, doesn’t diminish that much from the previous 5. Nunez actually provides for another start granted he has a bunch of steals and similar batting skills to Span. As previously stated, the big people are a noteworthy team.

 

There’s not much else I can say about this team that I clearly see as being great. I predict that they have lower-90’s wins, Matt Cain is going to cuss a lot, and Hunter Pence, though always keeping his cool, will look like he’s about to start shouting things.

-tommy john

*** San Diego Padres ***

Padres – 65-97 (-151)

The Padres…. Huh. They were not very exciting for a while, then they signed AJ Preller, he made a ton of trades and boom! Everyone’s favorite sleeper pick. But they were actually just bad still, and their farm system was barren. Yikes. Then they managed to rebuild their farm system (I’m told it’s quite good now) but the major league talent is still lacking, to say the least. Here is what 2017 has to offer.

Worth Watching:

Wil Myers signed a 6 year, $83M deal this offseason, thus becoming the official Face of the Franchise for the padres. He was their only qualified batter in 2016 and quietly put up a solid 3.8 WAR season. He’s only projected for 2.4 WAR, which is pretty light for a Face of the Franchise sort of player, but if you believe in the breakout, he’s closer to star territory.

While Myers was the only batter to qualify in 2016, they had a few interesting players get 400+ PA – Yangervis Solarte put up 2.8 WAR! And Alexei Ramirez contributed -2.1. That’s right, a negative value. Ramirez is no longer on the team so you’ve got some addition by subtraction right there, and if you think Solarte can recreate 2016 instead of his tepid projection of 1.6 WAR, boom! You’ve added a few wins to their ledger! Now they just have to find like 20 more.

While the hitters aren’t very interesting, the pitchers sort of are! Carter Capps has got to be cheating – there is no way that delivery is legal. I refuse to believe it. But MLB says it’s ok, and as long as they do, he’ll keep doing it, and keep getting major league batters out. He’s good and fun (and definitely cheating).

And their starters will certainly… exist, if nothing else. You know, a lot of teams have a tough time getting a reliable #5 starter, and the Padres have a bunch of them. Such names as Luis Perdomo, Christian Friedrich, Hector Santiago, and Clayton Richard, and I’ll bet you don’t even know which one of those isn’t actually a Padre!

Divisional Chances: None. They’re in a division with the Dodgers and Giants, and even the Rockies and Diamondbacks are halfheartedly convincing themselves and observers that they’re trying to win. Padres have no shot in this division.

Excitement over season: 0.

-schwermy

*** Colorado Rockies ***

Rockies Preview
—————–
Brendan Rodgers: 15, eta 2018
Jeff Hoffman: 44, eta 2017
Riley Pint: 51, eta 2019
German Marquez: 73, eta 2017
Raimel Tapia: 90, eta 2017

The Colorado Rockies have an uphill battle if they hope to compete for a playoff spot this year. They’re coming off of a 75 win season without much offseason addition. They signed Ian Desmond to allegedly play 1B, even though a good chunk of his value comes from being able to play SS and, after last year, CF. Yet, even though they have a young shortstop in Trevor Story and valuable centerfielder in Charlie Blackmon, they went ahead and signed Ian Desmond. I figured that was a sign that Blackmon was going to be traded for something, but that never came to fruition.

The Rockies are pretty mediocre on all fronts. They have some exciting talent to keep tabs on but too many holes to be a real contender. DJ LeMahieu just put up the best batting average in the National League and 4.2 WAR. Trevor Story burst onto the scene last year with something like 1000 home runs in his first month of pro ball. Nolan Arenado is a perennial contender for best 3B in the league. Desmond should provide some value at 1B. Their outfield is solid with Carlos Gonzalez in right and Blackmon at center. All of these guys have some value but none of them are really stars outside of Arenado. Past these, they have a leftfielder with 240 career plate appearances and no value at catcher.

The pitching staff of the Rockies is pretty interesting, though. None of their starting rotation has more than around 2 full years of MLB experience (if any at all!). This could lead to a lot of variance. Maybe they’ll be average guys, maybe they’ll be stars, maybe they’ll be scrubs. Pitching in the mile high city, they’ll probably struggle. Last year, their best pitcher Jon Gray put up an impressive 3.7 WAR but that was fueled by a 3.60 FIP that actually corresponded to a 4.61 ERA. Gotta love the “Coors Effect.” For their bullpen, they signed Greg Holland to a deal this year on the hopes that he can bounce back to his 2014 and prior form. He’s coming off of 0 innings pitched in 2016 and is 31, but the deal seems pretty low risk for the possible upside he could provide. I’m calling Greg Holland now as comeback player of the year.

Overall, I don’t think the Rockies will be able to crack the post season. The Dodgers and Giants are too tough to contend in the division and the Mets, Cardinals, and probably Giants will be all tough to beat out for the wild card. It could definitely happen though! The future is bright for the Rockies, too. They have at least a top 10 farm system, so more may still be to come for them.

-chmiel

*** Arizona Diamondbacks ***

It surely can’t be a good thing when one of the most exciting things your team did in the off season was unveiling EIGHT different uniform options for the season (granted some of them look really cool.) The Diamondbacks talent, much like their jerseys, span a large spectrum ranging from top tier in all of baseball down to something that looks like it could be cool but in practice, it’s not all that great. While their players show some promise and they seem like a team that could potentially have a pretty fun and maybe successful season, they are going to have to rely heavily on top performers if they want a chance to make it this season.

To begin, let’s look at the cool stylish uniforms. Paul Goldschmidt is projected for 4.8 zWAR and a 142 OPS+ putting him once again in the elite tier of first basemen. Follow that up with A.J. Pollock, projected 3.5 zWAR, and you have the starts of a great team! What’s more, Jake Lamb is no slouch either and helps solidify this great start. And that is where things kinda just stop. With Ketel Marte and Brandon Drury being anything less than stellar, and a gaping hole at the catcher position, the rest of the Diamondbacks lineup falls off fast. Now this can be approached two ways. You could say that is a very good start and since the issues are so easy to identify, they are easy to fix. Or you could say relying on a few great players, one of whom is coming of a major injury and only 12 games last season to be risky. I fall more in the second camp but perhaps the uglier uniforms will get an upgrade and everything will look solid.

On the pitching side of things, we have some interesting uniforms, starting off with the old throwback jersey that is pretty cool but maybe doesn’t hold up the same way anymore in Zack Greinke. While last year wasn’t a disaster for him by any means, it was not exactly what you’d expect out of the former AL Cy Young winner. He posted his lowest war in ten seasons, his stakeouts dipped a bit, and ERA took a sharp upturn. Of course it is hard to come off the season he had just had with the Dodgers and not regress a little bit. Outside of Greinke. Robbie Ray is all you really have left that slightly dazzles. The rest of their pitching staff leaves something wanting. Perhaps this season, Shelby Miller can also rebound after a dismal performance. All in all, the Diamondbacks rotation is looking weaker than their uniform rotation and Greinke likely cannot carry them on his back.

So where does that leave the Diamondbacks? Well they still have some cool uniforms that they can choose from (ok I’ll be done now.) They are an extremely top heavy team with a lot of obvious cracks in the foundation. Those cracks need to be patched up real quick if they want to hold up Paul Goldschmidt and they better hope A.J. Pollock comes back this season ready to dazzle once more.

-stocky

NL EAST

*** Philadelphia Phillies ***

Where we Left Them: If you had only watched baseball until about 2010, you would’ve thought the Philadelphia Phillies were a perennial power and would continue to be for years. They had one of the best hitters in the game in Ryan Howard, along with Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and at least one ace at all times, it seemed, whether that was Halladay, Hamels or someone else. Fast forward a few years, and the Phillies finished 4th in the NL East with a record of 71-91. Turns out sustaining success is much harder than experiencing it for a few fleeting years. But have hope Phils fans! The team finally committed, at least partially, to a rebuild and has acquired some interesting young talent that started to show its stuff last year. Don’t freak out when I say this because I think the Phillies are still a few years away, but the 2014 Cubs went 73-89 before becoming NLDS champs in 2015 and World Series champs next year. Odubel Herrera had a great season in center field, Cesar Hernandez looked like MLB ready infielder, Maikel Franco may have the most potential of the bunch, and Jerad Eickhoff , Jeremy Hellickson and Aaron Nola headlined a solid and improving rotation. Oh, and none of those players are over 30 (Hellickson is the only one older than 26). Get used to these names, Phils fans. The era of trading every player with value is over and it’s time to start looking at the current season instead of the future. It’s a fun time. Buckle up.

Where we Find Them:

New Faces: The Phillies have started the slow transition from acquiring future assets to acquiring present-day value. They followed that strategy in their acquisition of reliever Pat Neshek. Neshek is nothing special, but a competent reliever is important on a mediocre team. You don’t want to let the games you have a chance at winning slip away.

The Phils also acquired Left Fielder Howie Kendrick from the Dodgers. He may only be league-average (if that), but a veteran presence at a position of need can be invaluable to a growing team. Hopefully he can provide some clubhouse leadership, if nothing else. They also acquired Michael Saunders to help fill out the outfield. He’s slightly better than Kendrick, but still not someone the Phillies are hoping for major contributions from. The bullpen was further bolstered in December with the signing of Joaquin Benoit. Another good, not great, bullpen arm, Beniot has been in the league for 16 years and will provide a steady presence on the mound. With so many young players whose value is unknown, it can be nice for a manager to have a few known commodities.

Philadelphia continued their busy offseason by trading for starter Clay Buchholz. He will help fortify the back of the rotation as an unexciting veteran arm. Most of these moves aren’t sexy, but the Phillies know they aren’t ready to compete with the Dodgers and Cubs of the world. These are the kinds of moves a rebuilding team should be making (looking at you Atlanta and Oakland). These veterans will help the team remain competitive, while the young players struggle or continue cooking in the oven at AAA.

Departures:

There were no major departures for the team in the offseason, another sign that this team is ready to turn towards competing instead of tanking.

What to Expect: It can be hard to project a young team. Sometimes players will blossom into superstars early, like Trout and Bryant, sometimes they’ll flounder like Buxton, and sometimes you’ll get something between the two like Bryce Harper. The Phillies have 3-4 intriguing, young position players and 3 young starters. I don’t think any of them are about to become Kris Bryant, but the Royals just rode a team of good, not great, players to a World Series in 2015. It can happen. But not yet for this team. You have to expect some of these young guys to experience some growing pains, and even if they don’t, there still isn’t enough talent here to compete with the Mets or Nats in the division. It’s starting to be exciting to watch Phillies baseball again, but, as a fan, you should still be concerned with individual growth over team wins. Take joy in watching Franco, Hernandez and Herrera learn the game and blossom, while the young staff learns how to navigate a major league lineup. Your time may come, but it isn’t quite here yet.

 

The MVP: Maikel Franco

The Ace: Jerad Eickhoff

The Breakout Candidate: Maikel Franco

The Step-Back Candidate: Cesar Hernandez

The Record: 79-83

The Finish: 4th in the NL East

-eric

*** Atlanta Braves ***

Things Steven Should Know About This Team

Here’s a game I just invented. It’s called History Has Proven You Racist. Here are the rules. First, you think of something that doesn’t cause qualms. Everyone has to agree that the suggested noun, phrase, or object is not, as of the present day, considered racist or misogynistic or discriminatory in any way; you should be able to say the phrase loud and proud at any gathering. For example, you could say “the Atlanta Braves.” If everyone agrees that the phrase is not considered problematic, it is written down. Continue for five rounds, writing down each suggestion that passes the vote. Then, bury your suggestions. 20 years later, dig up the results. Vote with the original players of the game (if any are deceased please vote at their grave site) whether the each suggestion is now considered discriminatory in any way. For each “yo dawg this is kinda iffy” vote, you gain a point. Most points wins. [braves tomahawk chant]. Has History Proven You Racist? The phrase that’s sweeping the nation and prompting elected officials to call for “bans on tallboy consumption at cemeteries.” Also the Braves are building a new publicly funded stadium, which is like the worst thing that keeps happening in every sports league

Meme Players:

SP Bartolo “Powell Comma Space” Colon

SP RA “lil’” Dickey

3B Dansby “It Takes Two To Make A Thing Go Right” Swanson

Predictions:

The Braves aren’t trying to be good this year. Using my Prediction Engine (brain) I predict they’ll be bad at being bad. The rebuild goes swimmingly, but too swimmingly. If the Braves actually had a capable rotation, they would have made the playoffs, but instead they’ll decide to employ two 40 year olds who are literally indestructible and thus they won’t be able to contrive a Sandovalian excuse to rejigger the lineup. 70-92.

-ted

*** New York Mets ***

When you have the best pitching in baseball, you tend to perform quite well, even without an all-star batting lineup. The Mets last year posted an 18.3 WAR from their starting rotation. The Mets never appeared to have a weak point in their pitching staff, all the way from Noah Syndergaard one of the most dominant starters in baseball to Jeurys Familia who has solidified himself as a rock steady closer. However, when your strength lies in your pitching, you may open yourself up to issues as natural regressions tend to occur.

With the loss of everyone’s favorite pitcher they love to watch bat in Bartolo Colon as well as the inevitable uncertainty of what happens to the team that’s best at anything in the league, it is uncertain if the Mets can continue to dominate from the mound. While unlikely they will regress too far (let’s face it, Thor isn’t suddenly stop being amazing) any dip could greatly impact the Mets ability to be competitive again this season. Considering they lost in the wild card and appear to have not done too much to increase their competitiveness, a chink in their pitching armor could be devastating.

Of course, the Mets are not only their pitching staff. With Yoenis Cespedes returning to potentially lead Mets batters in WAR, this offense has the ability to get dynamic. And they will need to be for all of the reasons listed above. While Cespedes is a sure thing, it falls to players like Jay Bruce to step up and get the Mets some much needed wins as their playoff hopes are not great. If Bruce could simply bump his WAR from 0.9 to a 1.9, perhaps that one game will get the Mets that playoff spot. Of course, this all comes down to how they handle Bruce and weather he will continue to start regularly.

The Mets have one last shot to win now. While unlikely they will win it all given how much better other teams seem to be positioned, they need to make go of it. First step is finding that extra one to two extra wins out of your players. My money would be on their pitching defying odds and not regressing too much, but even with that, they desperately need someone in the field to step up and bring home some wins.

-stocky

*** Miami Marlins *** (mono)

They’re a team. Giancarlo Stanton is on the team, and he is their most flaunted player — when he hits the ball! He has the lowest BA of the 2017 lineup (projected). His BA for the 2016 season is .240. And career is .266. These are respectable numbers. However, could this tell us that his skill as a baseball player is overrated due to his insane power?? Course not. Giancarlo Stanton’s exit velocity averages just under 100mph while the league average doesn’t even reach 90mph.This man deserves recognition for his god-like biomechanics. WABAMO! A 500ft+ homer!!

Ichiro Suzuki has a lot of hits and I’m scared to write down, in the premier website, exactly how many he had due to controversy (more or less than Pete Rose). Regardless, he made contact a lot! He is the 30th in the 3000 hit club.

 

Marcell Ozuna. I don’t know, I had him on my fantasy team once and I tried trading him twice but neither teams accepted the trade. I kept starting him, though, because he kept putting up some alright numbers. That’s pretty much the jist of the Marlins team. They’re good and mostly young and they may get you fantasy points more than other guys!

The Marlins are in their third year with Dee Gordon. within the first year with him, he hit 205 baseballs into the field (615 AB). Having him lead off with those hits and stolen bases (30SB-2016 58SB-2015) will set up some higher scoring games for the Marlins, and in my opinion, is.

 

Their rotation doesn’t seem to provide the extra bit of strength lacking in their batting. The rotation includes pitchers with almost all of them having an ERA over 4 (also a WHIP around 1.35 for those who trash on ERA). Defensively, the marlins have seemed to be performing well under average. Dan straily has been their most consistent pitcher putting up about 1 strikeout for every inning pitched, but even with those numbers, Straily is no superhero leading the marlins to victory.

 

They birthed a superfan:

@marlins_man on twitter is a bigger account than Marlin’s actual twitter account (72.4K followers!). Laurence Leavy, The account owner,  is a “ubiquitous superfan” according to USA today. He is famous for his placement in major sporting events like the World Series, Super Bowl, NBA Finals, Kentucky Derby, College World Series and other events. You’ve probably seen him! During the 2015 MLB season, he’s gone to 148 games. He’s spent about 300 days per year traveling. How does he afford it? He owns a law firm in Miami. But why does he do it? He states he loves the energy of big sporting events. Leavy says he has an addiction to the rush, and he sits close because, originally, he couldn’t see too well and had to sit close, but he then got so addicted to the closeness that even after eye surgery, he sat close. ***Pure awful sentence; not editing it***

-tommy john

*** Washington Nationals ***

Nationals – 88-74 (69 Nice)

Something interesting about the Nationals is that they control only 6 hitters projected to be worth more than 1 win – to compare, the Brewers and Padres have 4 each. This is a very stars and scrubs lineup, but the stars are much bigger stars than the Brewers and Padres “star” players.

STARS: BRYCE! Is 2015 real? 2016? Probably the middle! Which is why fangraphs projects him to have a 147 wRC+ and be worth 5.4 WAR – he’s a really really good player! Don’t expect Barry Bonds 2.0 but be happy with your MVP-caliber player (who is merely well-above average in his down years).

Anthony Rendon is a typical good-when-healthy kind of player, and he’s been both in 2 of the last 3 years. He’s also a little hard to notice, because he is a star player by virtue of being pretty good at everything, but not necessarily great at anything – think Mike Trout-lite (He’s just the best at everything, making his sum one of the best of all time).

Trea Turner – The projections think the power and babip will both come back slightly, but he has the speed to run a good babip and stretch some singles into doubles. He should be above average hitter, runner, and fielder. All-rounder similar to rendon, with star potential.

I think we can all agree now that Daniel Murphy is for real. After a 2015 NLCS that was stupid and unfair because HE SHOULDN’T BE ALLOWED TO HIT FOR THAT MUCH POWER 2016 proved that it wasn’t a fluke, and he actually managed to develop huge power. This makes his 2.7 WAR projection seem very low – power hitters who never strike out are rare and amazing. Even if his defense should stick him at first base instead of second, you know who is a first baseman who homers a lot and never strikes out? Anthony Rizzo. You know who is one of the best 1b in baseball because of this skillset? Anthony Rizzo. The Nationals secretly have Anthony Rizzo playing 2b. I was considering doing one of those “Player A/Player B guess who is who” things, but it’s pretty obvious, because Rizzo doesn’t strike out for a slugger, and Murphy doesn’t strike out relative to all baseball players. Still, the numbers end up being extremely similar due to Rizzo’s propensity to draw walks.

Name HR BB% K% ISO BABIP AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
Daniel Murphy 25 6.00 9.80 0.249 0.348 0.347 0.390 0.595 0.408 156
Anthony Rizzo 32 10.90 16.00 0.252 0.309 0.292 0.385 0.544 0.391 145

 

Adam Eaton is an exciting addition – He’d always seemed like a zero-power dude who walks enough and doesn’t strike out, making him a decent leadoff option but overall unexciting bat, but then in 2015 he somewhat flipped the script. He’s hit 14 homers each of the last 2 years which isn’t necessarily a Daniel Murphy-level power explosion, but helps make him less reliant on high BABIP to be an above-average hitter. Moving from center to right may have done weird things in single-season defensive numbers, which in turn may have done weird stuff to his WAR totals but I’ll definitely take the over on his 2.6 win projection; he’s been worth 3.1, 3.7, 6.0 war in the last 3 years, in that order. If there’s any trend to see there, he’s improving and we should expect him to be Mike Trout in 2017.

Max Scherzer just won the Cy Young Award, as he’s taken the step from being a guy with great strikeout numbers but also hard contact allowed to an elite contact manager. His only blemish is that as an extreme fly-ball pitcher, he can be prone to bursts of homers making his overall numbers look ugly, but don’t be fooled. He is one of the best pitchers in all of baseball, and may very well be behind only Clayton Kershaw.

Stephen Strasburg is somehow viewed as a bit of a disappointment, despite being worth 3+ WAR every year for the past 5 years. Well, I know why he’s viewed as a disappointment. He almost never pitches a full season because he’s always injured, and his FIP-based WAR will overrate him compared to RA9-WAR because he’s consistently underperformed his FIP, in part because he gets demonstrably worse with runners on base. Fine, he could be better, but he’s still a great pitcher and a great #2 for the Nationals to have.

They also have a very strong back 3 in Gonzalez, Ross, and Roark. Tanner Roark was so bad in college that he was cut by my Alma Mater, the University of Illinois, but now they try to claim him as a succesful Alum. He’s pretty much the only one (Though Tyler Jay was drafted in the 1st round of the 2015 draft, so maybe he’ll be the new claim to fame). These pitchers are all good and relatively interesting, but not so interesting that I’ll spend any more time talking about them.

Scrubs:

The corpses of Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman will be playing left field and first base. These are usually considered the easiest positions to find competent batters for, but the Nationals are just going to run out these old zombies. Whatever, it’s Mike Rizzo’s decision to make, not mine.

Divisional Chances: Very good! They look like they should be better than the Mets, and the other 3 teams in the division are all in various states of “we’re kind of trying to be competitive but maybe shouldn’t be and/or are questionably run” so they shouldn’t put up a huge fight.

Watchability: 8/10 – They should be a good team, and it’s always fun to watch Bryce Harper. May-may.

– tom

NL CENTRAL

***Milwaukee Brewers***

Brewers – 67-95 (-139)

The Brewers don’t look likely to be much better at the major league level than the Padres. 2014 was their last remotely-competitive year, and 2017 does not look like it will buck the trend.

Worth watching: They may not project to be very good, but there is quite a bit worth watching! Brewers have accumulated a ton of interesting prospects, and Ryan Braun may still secretly be a superstar.

Ryan Braun was worth 3.2 WAR in 2016, and in 2017 is projected for just 1.7. He’s not an MVP-caliber player anymore, but he can still rake. Great exit velocity and great plate discipline – that’s how you build a star hitter. Steroid concerns aside, the dude hits, and I’ll take the over on 1.7 WAR.

I’ll continue to pronounce his name like the river in London whether or not he wants me to – that’s right, I’m talking about Eric Thames. He’s projected for the most WAR and best wRC+ of position players among Brewers hitters (only 2.3 and 124, respectively, so don’t get too excited) because he hit like Barry Bonds in Korea! He produced OPS figures of 1.288 in 2015 and 1.101 in 2016. He may have struggled in his initial MLB career but he always mashed in minors and mashed in Korea, and the numbers suggest he can be quite good.

The Brewers have accumulated various other interesting dudes: Jonathan Villar and Keon Broxton being two of the most interesting. Villar stole 62 bases last year and is projected for 48 in 2017 – people don’t go goo goo for huge stolen base numbers outside of fantasy anymore, but he can add a ton of value on the basepaths. This is why I’d love to see him tried in CF – that kind of speed can be utilized way more effectively in the outfield than at short. Broxton is also fast, but not quite as prolific of a base stealer (23 in around half a season last year, projected for 29) but also has monster power potential. He absolutely CRUSHES the ball. He produced a 94.88 exit velocity in 2016, which was the  6th hardest in MLB with a minimum of 100 balls in play, sandwiched between Miguel Cabrera and Pedro Alvarez. If he can cut down strikeouts, he could be a 20/20 or even 30/30 kind of guy.

Brewers pitchers aren’t quite as interesting, but who doesn’t love Junior Guerra – He’s 32 years old now, but he put up a 2.81 ERA in his rookie 2016! His 4.29 xfip suggest some good fortune, and he is projected for a 4.32 ERA in 2017, but that’s still league average production from someone you essentially got for free.

Divisional chances: Slim. Cubs are the big bad wolf, the Cardinals look primed to bounce back from 2016, and the Pirates look like they might make one last push with McCutchen. Right now I think the Brewers should hope to be better than the Reds.

Excitement: 4/10 – They’re not going to be competitive, but there are a bunch of interesting story lines to watch and see how young dudes develop.

– schwermy

***Saint Louis Cardinals***

Where We Left Them: The Cardinals came into the season a little angry. They had been eliminated by their arch-rival, the Chicago Cubs, the year before in the playoffs and now every single writer was picking the Cubs to win just about every game (for the record they kind of did), even though the Cardinals had won the division the year before. All the talk during Spring Training from that club house was about how much harder it is to actually go out and win, instead of being crowned champion by the media. The Cubs were clearly on the minds of the Cardinals. For the first time in a decade, the Cardinals weren’t the big brother. And then, during the season, it played out almost exactly like the writers had expected. The Cubs dominated the majors, while the Cardinals struggled to remain important. They finished the year 86-76, one game out of a Wild Card birth. Injuries to Lance Lynn (lost for the year to Tommy John) and Yadier Molina (various ailments including a bad thumb) didn’t help, but the team just wasn’t on the same level as the Cubs, no matter how much they passive-aggressively said so. A lackluster defense and poor baserunning were key issues that were never solved.

 

Where We Find Them:

New Faces: Before the 2016 season, the Cubs signed away two players from the Cardinals, Jason Heyward and John Lackey. This winter, the Cardinals returned the favor, signing former Cub Dexter Fowler. Fowler, one of the best lead-off hitters in the game for the past few years, will help the Cardinals create some offense. His defense has improved recently as well, and his clubhouse presence should be beneficial to the team. It didn’t come cheap, but the Cardinals signed a quality player here, and stealing him away from your rivals just makes it that much sweeter.

The Cardinals also signed lefty reliever Brett Cecil. He should help to shore up the bullpen and was highly sought after this winter. He’s not Andrew Miller, but a solid lefty reliever is useful to almost any roster and Cecil’s 3.93 ERA suggests that he is exactly that.

Departures: The departure that will hit the team the hardest isn’t a player that left. It’s pitcher Alex Reyes, who will miss the season to undergo Tommy John Surgery. Only 22, Reyes performed well in his limited time in the majors last year and was expected to take another step forward this coming season. He has all the tools to become an ace for years to come, but Tommy John can derail even the most promising careers. The Cardinals balked at the idea of including him in any Jose Quintana trade talks and Quintana is a top-20 pitcher in the game; that’s how highly the club thinks of him. I hope he makes a full recovery. Young talent is good for the game.

As far as players who actually left, Brandon Moss left to sign with the Royals, Matt Holliday left to sign with the Yankees and Seth Maness, a reliever, left for the Royals as well. Moss and Holliday were big hitting, non-defending old guys, so the loss hurts, but for a team that was looking to improve its defense, it makes a lot of sense. Fowler can help replace some of the offense, even if he won’t hit the missing 48 homers himself. Both of those players will do better in the American League and Cardinals fans shouldn’t mourn their loss, from a baseball perspective anyway.

 

What to Expect: The Cardinals are in a tough spot. They have a team built with a mix of veterans and young players and have a nice balance between the lineup and the rotation. They’re a solid team, even with the loss of Alex Reyes. But they play in the same division as the Cubs. They’re not going to win the division. That means that they better have the 4th or 5th best record in the NL if they want to make the Wild Card. There simply isn’t a lot of room for error and playing the Cubs 19 times a season doesn’t make that error room larger. The core of Diaz, Peralta, Grichuk and Piscotty will provide solid play for years to come, although none of them but Diaz really have All-Star upside, Carpenter is one of the best infielders in the game, likely sitting in the 1A tier of stars after your Bryant’s and Betts’, and Molina is a great catcher, even if his bat is starting to fade. Add Fowler into the mix and the lineup certainly has potential to score runs. The rotation consists of rising star Carlos Martinez, Fading Star Adam Wainwright and 3 average rotation guys in Mike Leake, Lance Lynn, and Michael Wacha. It’s not the Red Sox rotation, but a lot of teams would love to have a group like that. But it’s just not going to be enough. If the Cubs’ stars are 8’s,9’s, and 10’s, the Cardinals are 5’s,6’s and 7’s. If anything goes wrong, and the Reyes injury certainly counts as something going wrong, this team starts trending towards mediocrity. The porous defense isn’t going to be totally solved by the addition of Fowler and the young players will have to take a step forward to fill in the shoes of the lost sluggers. Cardinals fans would be looking at a team competing for a division title if they were in the NL East. Instead, they better keep an eye on the Wild Card standings. There has been a changing of the guard in the NL Central; better start getting used to it.

 

The MVP: Matt Carpenter

The Ace: Carlos Martinez

The Breakout Candidate: Aledmys Diaz

The Step-Back Candidate: Yadier Molina

The Record: 85-77

The Finish: 2nd in the NL Wild Card, Losers in the NLDS

– eric

*** Pittsburgh Pirates *** (mono)

Over the past couple seasons: getting worse but could get better(?)

 

I don’t see much of a difference this year for the Pirates. For the most part they have the same players, however, the player’s positions have changed this year. One of the big moves by the pirates this year was moving McCutchen, Their top player (well, for most seasons), out of center field and switching him with Marte in right.

McCutchen is a 5 time all star. Although, he didn’t really prove it in the 2016 season with his poor hitting. Maybe this move will wake him up? Who knows! Baseball.

Another missing player is Jung ho Kang. He’s not in the lineup currently because he’s had his THIRD DUI. Pirates have been looking to trade him for some DBacks schmo – Philip Gosselin. He’s actually not bad at all (.285/.331/.385), but at least he doesn’t have as bad a history as Kang.

Ahem. Kang has the same b-day as me – April 5 – but that’s no big deal.

Don’t forget about Gerrit Cole THEIR best pitcher and the one who can get them wins. Cole had to end his season early with an injury – his third of the season: Ribcage in January, right triceps in June, and right elbow in August. He is a brittle man. The year prior, he was fourth in the runnings for NL Cy Young.

 

Austin Meadows – the number 6 prospect in all of MLB has been doing great this offseason thus far. Though it won’t be happening this year, Meadows could be the face that replaces McCutchen in outfield, but why not? Replace a prized player who is approaching free agency and replace him with a top prospect in baseball. For now, he will stay in AAA Indianapolis.


If I was in the office of the Pittsburgh Pirates, I would do work on their lineup. If I learned anything from scoring two of their games/knowing the player’s abilities, they get adequate amounts of hits but never any rallying – actually – quite pathetic amounts of runs off of their hits. If the Pittsburgh Pirates want to succeed like they would’ve done in the 2015 postseason (hadn’t it been for the Cubs to stop them) They need to not be afraid to change up their batting order.

-Tommy John

***Cincinnati Reds***

The only thing the Reds will be competing for this year is the top draft pick next year. They have maybe 4 notable players and a bunch of other guys. At least they have a promising future and a top 10 farm system in the MLB. Joey Votto is always fun to watch. His bat is incredible. He walks as much or more than he strikes out! He either gets the pitches he wants or takes a free base waiting. Then there’s Billy Hamilton in centerfield. Wheels would be such an amazing player if he could hit even a little. He hits around a 0.250 average with no power. But if he can just get on base, he’ll probably just steal his way to 3rd! He’s had over 50 steals in the last 3 seasons. He’s an amazing centerfielder because he’s just so fast. Well there it is. I just discussed all the interesting Reds players! Their pitching staff doesn’t really have much to talk about. The “ace of staff” is probably Anthony DeSclafani, who put up 2.0 WAR last year in 20 starts. He sits in the low 90s and has below average strikeout and above average walk numbers. He’ll be worth something to the team this year, I’m sure.

I keep reading things saying Joey Votto wants to stay in Cincinatti. He seems like a great guy to be a fan of. But if I were on the Reds, I’d really want them to trade him while he still has value to help set up the next generation of the team. However, he has a full no trade clause and is signed through 2023 (with a 2024 team option). By the time the Reds are ready to compete (2019? 2020?) he’ll be around 35 years old. I suppose he could still be valuable to the team by that point, but aging is a tough thing to combat in the MLB.

-chmiel

***Chicago Cubs***

After you win the world series after 108 years, where do you go from there? After you lose your identity of being lovable losers, what are you? For the Cubs, it is time to build a dynasty because let’s face it, when you are rebuilding but suddenly become the best team in baseball out of nowhere, you have to ride that success and young talent for as long as you can. Baez, Bryant, Schwarber, Russel, Contreras, and Szczur are all in pre arbitration until 2018, Hendricks through this year, several players have already been signed to long term contracts, and you have a General Manager who has cemented himself as a man who can get any club a world series.

The Cubs are going to be on a hunt for a couple more titles before their powerhouse of a team becomes too expensive to maintain. They likely can do it too considering they are projected as the number one or two team in basically every projection system (I think, don’t quote me on that but as far as I can tell they are. Ya know what, quote me on it all you want. I’m sure it’s right.) So what is there to talk about when it comes to a powerhouse team with ridiculous young talent who just came off a World Series win? Well, if the Cubs have one issue, it is their possible overabundance of players (what a stupid problem to have. Must be hard to be Cubs fans. Don’t worry, I’m not bitter at all.)

When they Cubs signed Dexter Fowler to one more year last year, they had an outfield that was jam packed full of talent. If Schwarber had not suffered his season long injury, the Cubs would have had more outfielders than they know what to do with. This year, things appear a little less crowded, but crowded none the less. With Schwarber coming back for the World Series and demonstrating he still had a profound ability to hit a baseball despite not getting a lot of time to ease back into things, it makes him most likely a sure thing this year. Full steam ahead, not a lot of reason to worry about him. On top of that, Javier Baez showed a surge in the playoffs (well until the World Series.) Baez posted a .342/7/1 up until the world series and let me tell you, Cubs fans were all about him as he started to surge. He is projected at 1.9 WAR with a wRC+ of 92 according to ZiPS. The question is, if Schwarber comes back what happens to that outfield? Schwarber likely will not be behind the plate as Contreras has shown a lot of promise and seems an easy shoe in at catcher. If he goes to the outfield, what happens with Jon Jay and Ben Zobrist? Do you leave Zobrist in left and deal with Schwarber’s underwhelming defense in center? Do you put Schwarber in left and move Zobrist to second to replace Baez?

Ultimately, all of these guys are so solid, you can plug and place however you’d like. In the end, the Cubs still end up being the best team in baseball without much worry. These little differences in who plays where only changes the icing on the cake. However, it will be interesting to watch a team with so much talent figure out what to do with it all. And given that Joe Maddon tends to over manage his team at times, it could be exciting to watch this all play out. I predict the Cubs make it to another World Series while the country and the city of Chicago get all excited over another World Series appearance from a Chicago Team because one of those definitely hasn’t done that in the past 71 years (again, not bitter.)  

-matt

Image result for cubs win world series

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