Spare Change – Opening Day Hot Takes

Happy Opening Day!! Hard to believe that for the first time since 1909, the Cubs begin the season as the reigning World Series Champs. Will they be able to repeat or will they suffer from the dreaded World Series hangover? We’ll find out after 162 glorious games and Playoffs. Until then, sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride that is the Major League Baseball season.

 

The Little Things to Look Forward to in 2017

  • Clayton Kershaw’s curve
  • Maddy Bumgarner’s intensity
  • Marco Estrada’s change up
  • Noah Syndergaard’s fastball slider combo
  • Kevin Gausman’s splitter
  • Stephen Wright’s knuckler
  • Everything Yu Darvish’s throws
  • Yadier Molina’s game calling
  • Kris Bryant’s smile
  • Kevin Kiermaier’s eyes and glove
  • Manny Machado’s resemblance to Ariana Grande
  • Yoenis Cespedes’ arm
  • Andrelton Simmons’ glove
  • Everything and anything related to Mike Trout (http://bit.ly/2nP7rgJ)
  • Maddy Bumgarner and Jake Arrieta at the dish
  • A full year of Dansby Swanson, Andrew Benitendi and Hunter Renfroe
  • Anthony Rizzo navigating the walls in foul territory
  • The unintentional comedy that is the double play duo of Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve
  • Dylan Bundy becoming what we thought he’d be – *In Dennis Green voice*
  • Bartolo still doing his thing (in the NL no less – moar #bartolobombs)
  • Donno barehanding slow rollers up the line
  • Everything Adrian Beltre
  • Bonus coverage of West coast games
  • Miguel Cabrera’s oppo hits
  • Buck Martinez wheeze-laughing at his own jokes
  • Pictures of Jake Arrieta in a onesie
  • The fact that Ichiro is still playing
  • The Mets rotation
  • Increasing in-game broadcast use of StatsCast powered by Amazon
  • Jackie Robinson Day
  • Pink bats and accessories for Mother’s day
  • Blue bats and accessories for Father’s day

Things That Will Surely Test My Patience in 2017

  • Justin Smoak vs. A breaking pitch
  • Kevin Pillar v. Plate discipline
  • John Gibbons v. a challenge
  • Hearing about Scott Boras now that he represents Sanchez
  • Another fully year of Mike Wilner and his smarmy demeanor
  • Edwin walking the parrot at Progressive Field
  • The moniker “Believeland” *wretches*
  • Cubs fans turning from lovable losers into pretentious pricks a la Red Sox fans post 2004
  • Buck Showalter standing on the steps of the dugout and dragging out a (potential) challenge
  • Having to hear about how great the Baby Bombers are, and how rejuvenated the Yanks farm system is
  • Ditto goes for the Red Sox
  • Televised games from the Trop
  • Another year of Longo rotting in Tampa
  • Baseball in Tampa but not in Montreal
  • Rougned Odor’s face
  • The annual sewer backup at the Oakland Co.
  • No More Papi
  • No Jose or Yordano
  • No more soothing voice of Vin Scully

 

Seventh Inning Stretch – Top 7 Players at Each Position

Top 7 Catcher

Texas Rangers v Baltimore Orioles

American League

  1. Jonathan Lucroy
  2. Gary Sanchez
  3. Sal Perez
  4. Wellington Castillo
  5. Stephen Vogt
  6. Wilson Ramos
  7. Russell Martin

 

posey

National League

  1. Buster Posey
  2. Yasmani Grandal
  3. Wilson Contreras
  4. Matt Wieters
  5. J.T Realmuto
  6. Yadier Molina
  7. Francisco Cervelli

 

Top 7 First Basemen

 

Minnesota Twins v Detroit Tigers

 

American League

  1. Miguel Cabrera
  2. Edwin Encarnacion
  3. Chris Davis
  4. Eric Hosmer
  5. Hanley Ramirez
  6. Jose Abreu
  7. Albert Pujols

 

Paul Goldschmidt

 

National League

  1. Paul Goldschmidt
  2. Anthony Rizzo
  3. Joey Votto
  4. Freddie Freeman
  5. Brandon Belt
  6. Matt Carpenter
  7. Adrian Gonzalez

 

Top 7 Second Basemen

 

cano.jpg

 

American League

  1. Robinson Cano
  2. Jason Kipnis
  3. Brian Dozier
  4. Ian Kinsler
  5. Dustin Pedroia
  6. Jonathan Schoop
  7. Devon Travis

 

javier baez

 

National League

  1. Javier Baez
  2. Daniel Murphy
  3. DJ LeMehieu
  4. Dee Gordon
  5. Logan Forsythe
  6. Jose Peraza
  7. Joe Panik

 

Top 7 Third Basemen

 

MLB: MAR 14 Spring Training - Phillies at Orioles

 

American League

  1. Manny Machado
  2. Josh Donaldson
  3. Evan Longoria
  4. Adrian Beltre
  5. Miguel Sano
  6. Todd Frazier
  7. Kyle Seager

 

nolan-arenado

 

National League

  1. Nolan Arenado
  2. Kris Bryant
  3. Justin Turner
  4. Anthony Rendon
  5. Jake Lamb
  6. Maikel Franco
  7. Eduardo Nunez

 

Top 7 Shortstops

 

xman

 

American League

  1. Xander Bogaerts
  2. Francisco Lindor
  3. Troy Tulowitzki
  4. Didi Gregorious
  5. Andrelton Simmons
  6. Jean Segura
  7. Tim Anderson

 

seager

 

National League

  1. Corey Seager
  2. Trea Turner
  3. Addison Russell
  4. Brandon Crawford
  5. Dansby Swanson
  6. Aldames Diaz
  7. Jonathan Villar

 

Top 7 Left Fielders

 

 

brantley

 

American League

  1. Michael Brantley
  2. Khris Davis
  3. Justin Upton
  4. Nomar Mazara
  5. Brett Gardner
  6. Alex Gordon
  7. Andrew Benitendi

 

USP MLB: MIAMI MARLINS AT NEW YORK METS S BBN USA NY

 

National League

  1. Yoenis Cespedes
  2. Gregory Polanco
  3. Kyle Schwarber
  4. Ryan Braun
  5. Marcell Ozuna
  6. David Dahl
  7. David Peralta

 

 

Top 7 Center Fielders

 

mike-trout

 

American League

  1. Mike Trout
  2. George Springer
  3. Jackie Bradley JR.
  4. Kevin Kiermier
  5. Adam Jones
  6. Lorenzo Cain
  7. Jacoby Ellsbury

 

Starling-Marte-2.jpg

 

National League

  1. Starling Marte
  2. Christian Yelich
  3. Dexter Fowler
  4. AJ Pollock
  5. Joc Pederson
  6. Adam Eaton
  7. Odubal Herrera

 

 

Top 7 Right Fielders

 

MLB: Boston Red Sox at New York Yankees

 

American League

  1. Mookie Betts
  2. Nelson Cruz
  3. JD Martinez
  4. Jose Bautista
  5. Kole Calhoun
  6. Josh Reddick
  7. Shin Soo Choo

 

Bryce Harper

 

National League

  1. Bryce Harper
  2. Giancarlo Stanton
  3. Andrew McCutcheon
  4. Carlos Gonzalez
  5. Stephen Piscotty
  6. Jason Heyward
  7. Hunter Pence

 

Top 7 Right-Handed Pitchers

 

kluber.JPG

 

American League

  1. Corey Kluber
  2. Carlos Carrasco
  3. Yu Darvish
  4. Felix Hernandez
  5. Rick Porcello
  6. Aaron Sanchez
  7. Justin Verlander

 

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Washington Nationals

 

National League

  1. Max Scherzer
  2. Noah Syndergaard
  3. Johnny Cueto
  4. Stephen Strasburg
  5. Jacob deGrom
  6. Carlos Martinez
  7. Gerrit Cole

 

 

Top 7 Left-Handed Pitchers

 

sale

 

American League

  1. Chris Sale
  2. Jose Quintana
  3. David Price
  4. JA Happ
  5. Danny Duffy
  6. Drew Smyly
  7. Sean Manaea

 

kershaw

 

National League

  1. Clayton Kershaw
  2. Madison Bumgarner
  3. Jon Lester
  4. Robbie Ray
  5. Julio Urias
  6. Stephen Matz
  7. Rich Hill

 

Top 7 Closing Pitchers

 

Britton

 

American League

  1. Zach Britton
  2. Andrew Miller
  3. Craig Kimbel
  4. Aroldis Chapman
  5. Roberto Osuna
  6. Sean Doolittle
  7. David Robertson

 

jansen.jpg

 

National League

  1. Kenley Jansen
  2. Wade Davis
  3. Mark Melancon
  4. Seung-hwan Oh
  5. Jeurys Familla
  6. Fernando Rodney
  7. Tony Watson

 

KB

 

The Kris Bryant All-Stars: The All Man Pretty Team or The All Good Face Team

  • C: Buster Posey • San Francisco Giants
  • 1B: Chris Davis • Baltimore Orioles
  • 2B: Javier Baez • Chicago Cubs
  • 3B: Kris Bryant • Chicago Cubs
  • SS: Dansby Swanson • Atlanta Braves
  • OF: Kevin Kiermaier • Tampa Bay Rays
  • OF: Mike Trout • Anaheim Angels
  • OF: Giancarlo Stanton • Miami Marlins
  • RHP: Jake Arrieta • Chicago Cubs
  • LHP: Cole Hamels • Texas Rangers
  • CP: David Robertson • Chicago White Sox

 

– $

 

2017 MLB Season Predictions and Storylines 

 

Final Standing Predictions

American League East

  1. Boston Red Sox
  2. Toronto Blue Jays
  3. Baltimore Orioles
  4. New York Yankees
  5. Tampa Bay Rays

American League Central

  1. Cleveland Indians
  2. Kansas City Royals
  3. Detroit Tigers
  4. Minnesota Twins
  5. Chicago White Sox

American League West

  1. Houston Astros
  2. Seattle Mariners
  3. Texas Rangers
  4. Oakland Athletics
  5. Los Angeles Angels

 

National League 

National League East 

  1. Washington Nationals
  2. New York Mets
  3. Atlanta Braves
  4. Miami Marlins
  5. Philadelphia Phillies

National League Central

  1. Chicago Cubs
  2. Pittsburgh Pirates
  3. St Louis Cardinals
  4. Milwaukee Brewers
  5. Cincinnati Reds

National League West

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers
  2. San Francisco Giants
  3. Arizona Diamondbacks
  4. Colorado Rockies
  5. San Diego Padres

 

MLB Award Predictions

 

MLB: Boston Red Sox at New York Yankees

 

American League MVP:

  1. Mookie Betts • OF • Boston Red Sox
  2. Manny Machado • 3B • Baltimore Orioles
  3. Mike Trout • OF • Los Angeles Angels

 

nolan-arenado

 

National League MVP:

  1. Nolan Arenado • 3B • Colorado Rockies
  2. Bryce Harper • OF • Washington Nationals
  3. Kris Bryant • 3B • Chicago Cubs

 

carlos-carrasco-

 

American League Cy Young:

  1. Carlos Carrasco • RHP • Cleveland Indians
  2. Chris Sale • LHP • Boston Red Sox
  3. Corey Kluber • RHP • Cleveland Indians

 

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Washington Nationals

 

National League Cy Young:

  1. Max Scherzer • RHP • Washington Nationals
  2. Clayton Kershaw • LHP • Los Angeles Dodgers
  3. Jake Arrieta • RHP • Chicago Cubs

 

Benintendi1280_lhsi39qt_h8gf3kr6

 

American League Rookie of the Year:

  1. Andrew Benitendi • OF • Boston Red Sox
  2. Yoan Moncada • 2B • Chicago White Sox
  3. Jharel Cotton • P • Oakland Athletics

 

dansby swanson

 

National League Rookie of the Year:

  1. Dansby Swanson • SS • Atlanta Braves
  2. Hunter Renfroe • OF • San Diego Padres
  3. Jose Peraza • 2B • Cincinnati Reds

AL Comeback Player of the Year:

  1. Pablo Sandoval • 3B • Boston Red Sox

NL Comeback Player of the Year:

  1. Greg Holland • P • Colorado Rockies

 

Storylines to Follow Throughout the Season

 

vin

 

 

No More Vin. This will be the first year since 1950 (67 seasons) that you won’t be able to hear the “voice of baseball.” The Dodgers will now be called by the voice of Joe Davis, who will have some help along the way from the likes of Orel Hershiser and Nomar Garciaparra. The loss of Scully’s iconic voice and one man booth is unparalleled. It’s like a little bit of the game itself retired. Imagine if hot dogs were no longer sold at stadiums or if they stopped piping “Take me out to the Ballgame” during the 7th inning stretch. One of the last living ties to the golden age of baseball, besides his voice and canter, it’s his knowledge that will be missed most.

 

manfred

 

New Rule Changes for 2017. New to the rules this season will be the “No pitch” intentional walk. Managers will now signal the umpire that they want to issue a walk and the player will simply take his base. There will also be new guidelines for reviewing a play. Managers now have 30 seconds to decide whether or not to challenge and the umpires have a two minute limit on reviewing before issuing their decision. Personally, I believe that eliminating the ability to call someone from the dugout phone and have them decide whether or not to challenge, would be a better change but I guess this is a step in the right direction. In addition to those two rules, there will no longer be allowed the use of marking instruments or marking of fields themselves for defensive positioning (think the Dodgers and their laser pointers last season). And lastly, there will be an expansion of the balk rule(s). Pitchers can no longer take a second step toward home with either foot or otherwise reset their pivot foot in their delivery. This could cause Padres reliever, Carter Capps, a lot of headaches and balks. In all honesty, all of these changes seem pretty petty to me. Why not do something of substance like eliminating the ability to dress and field upwards of 40 players during the pennant race in September? Or how about how many times an inning/AB a catcher or player can visit the pitcher? Wouldn’t that speed up the proverbial “pace of play” a lot more than having a manager signal to the ump that they’re going to issue an intentional walk?

 

Cubs

 

Start of a Dynasty at Wrigley? Their young core is signed or controllable through 2020. Their ownership has deep enough pockets to retain not only their own upcoming free agents (Arrieta and Rizzo) but also has the financial flexibility to go after other teams top free agents; although the current Jason Heyward experiment might curtail that. If the Cubs do opt to go the trade route in order to add a piece or two, their farm system is cast enough to allow them to target high profile trade candidates; rental or otherwise. What I am trying to say is that they can easily do what they want.

 

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Detroit Tigers

 

End of a Dynasty at Kauffman? World Series losers in 2014 and winners in 2015 but is the end of the Royal dynasty in sight? With OF Lorenzo Cain, 1B Eric Hosmer and 3B Mike Moustakas set to be free agents at seasons end there is a (very) good chance that all three of them have new teams in 2018. What could further signal the end of the Royals is that in the quest of their World Series title, they unloaded a fair amount of their farm system. The depleted minors means that their are few clear cut candidates able to step into the everyday lineup.

 

baby bombers.jpg

 

Full Year of the Baby Bombers in the Bronx. The first wave made their mark in 2016 with the arrival of C Gary Sanchez, OF Aaron Judge and 1B/OF Tyler Austin. 2017 could see those names joined by the likes of newly acquired top prospects, OF Clint Frazier and SS Gleyber Torres. If the Yanks can get any semblance of a decent rotation, this could be (one of) the surprise teams of 2017. At the same time, there is no sense of urgency or rush for the Yanks to compete; well besides their rabid fan base and media outlets. It is completely plausible for the Yankees to be sellers at the deadline again and further improve their DEEP DEEP farm system.

 

moncada.0

 

Rise of the Rebuilds. Rapid rebuilds in Chicago and Atlanta could see them contending for a playoff spot sooner rather than later. The Braves have taken a few years to retool their roster with the mindset of being ready to compete once they move into their new home. Well that’s this season and they’re not far off. In fact, I believe that given a few breaks and perhaps a move or two, they could make some noise this season. The White Sox on the other hand are new to the rebuild game but have made a few moves that could impact their roster as soon as this year. By acquiring 2B Yoan Moncada and P Lucas Giolito in separate trades, the White Six added two pieces that could feasibly start the year in Chicago. They could be joined by the likes of Michael Kopech and Reynaldo Lopez by next year.

 

BP.jpg

 

Coming Soon to a Rebuild Near You. With the trade of Brandon Phillips are the Reds signaling that they are open for business? Was Brandon Phillips merely the first domino to fall? Even with his hefty contract, will the Reds try and trade Votto? What about the other veterans like Homer Bailey, Zack Cosart and Devin Mesoroco? You can bet that any team looking to improve their roster throughout the season will be placing a call to Cincinnati first. One place that could be an intriguing seller if they opt to go the rebuild route will be Detroit. With the death of owner Mike Ilitch the Tigers front office might (finally) have the green light to start offloading their veterans. You can bet that any first half struggles will be followed by the firing of Brad Ausmus and the FOR SALE sign being put on the front of Comerica Park.

 

dipoto

 

Moves For the Mariners. To date, GM Jerry Dipoto has made more trades than any other GM. His 16 trades since the end of the 2016 season has completely revamped the Mariners roster but will it be enough to fend off the Rangers and Astros, and get the Mariners back in the playoffs? Mariners have the talent on the roster to have an extremely high performance ceiling. However, that same roster also has an incredibly low performance floor too. The Mariners will need consistent production from their core of veterans (Cano, Nelly Cruz, Seager and the King), as well as a breakout or two in order to get back to October baseball. And that’s not even mentioning their rotation which, on paper, could be among the best in the bigs. That being said, it is also an injury or dismal performance away from being among the worst in MLB.

 

mets5.jpg

 

Who Has the Best Rotation in the Majors? Take your pick. Is it the Mets (Harvey, deGrom, Syndergaard, Wheeler and Matz)? Giants (Bumgarner, Cueto, Samardzjia, Cain and Moore)? Nationals (Scherzer, Strasburg, Gonzalez, Ross, Roark)? Red Sox (Price, Sale, Porcello, Rodriguez and Pomeranz)? Indians (Kluber, Carrasco, Salazar, Bauer and Tomlin? Blue Jays (Sanchez, Happ, Estrada, Stroman and Liriano)?

 

rip

 

Heavy Hearts in Miami and K.C. The loss of both Jose Fernandez last September and Yordano Ventura in the offseason have their respective teams playing in their honour for the 2017 season. How those teams respond is anybody’s guess. It could give them extra motivation in an emotional form or it could have the complete opposite effect. One thing that is for sure is that both losses will definitely be felt on the field. How each team manages to deal with that aspect could be the difference between possible postseason baseball or being out of it by the trade deadline.

 

Bold Predictions

Note: These are a combination of outlandish predictions from myself and frequent contributor and longtime friend, GP.

  • Jose Bautista wins the AL Home Run Title. Thanks the chip on his shoulder during his acceptance speech.
  • White Sox trade Jose Quintana at the deadline to the Astros.
  • Not finished, the White Sox find a taker for David Robertson, and his replacement, Nate Jones, emerges as one of the top closers in the AL by season’s end.
  • One of the surprise teams within reach of a playoff spot (Kansas City, New York Yankees, Oakland, Seattle, Atlanta, Colorado) will land the big fish available at the trade deadline (Sonny Gray, Chris Archer, etc…).
  • Nomar Mazara leads the Rangers offense with 35+ homers and 100+ RBI.
  • Kevin Kiermaier develops some pop, hitting 25 homers, stealing 25 bags, and becoming a first time All Star, but gets beaten out in GG balloting by Kevin Pillar.
  • Miguel Sano hits 40 homers for the Twins, but it’s not enough to keep Paul Molitor from being the first AL Manager fired.
  • Led by one of the American League’s best pitching staffs and a powerful offense, the Mariners end their playoff hiatus, sneaking in as a wildcard entry.
  • Another brilliant season from Mike Trout is not enough to keep the Angels out of the AL West basement, resulting in Mike Scioscia’s lengthy tenure drawing to a close in Anaheim
  • Trea Turner. NL All Star and MLB Stolen Base Champ
  • Rockies trade Carlos Gonzalez to the Cardinals at the deadline.
  • Despite Rockies missing the playoffs, Nolan Arenado wins the first NL MVP of his career. He also adds his 5th Gold Glove in as many years.
  • New arrival, Clay Buchholz, is a surprise top 5 finisher in the NL ERA title chase
  • The Pirates send two outfielders to the All Star Game, neither of whom is Cutch.
  • DJ Lemahieu repeats as NL batting champ, wins another GG, and finally begins to get national media attention/love.

and perhaps the boldest one…

  • Jedd Gyorko comes out of nowhere to lead the NL in home runs (hit 30 last year in 438 PAs, or 1 HR/14 every 6 PA vs NL leader Arenado 1 HR/17 PA)

 

– $

 

2017 Season Preview – National League West

greinke

 

Arizona Diamondbacks

2016 Record: 69-93 • 4th NL West

O/U on Wins: 78.5 • Over

Moving In: P Taijuan Walker • P Fernando Rodney • SS Ketel Marte • C Jeff Mathis • C Chris Iannetta

Moving Out: SS Jean Segura • C Wellington Castillo • P Daniel Hudson • P Rubby de la Rosa • C Tuffy Gosewich • OF Rickie Weekes

Key Player(s) in 2017: Pitchers Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller. Both Greinke and Miller were brought into the fold for the 2016 season with one goal in mind: postseason baseball. That did not pan out though. Greinke, who was signed to a 6yr/$205.5mil contract in the 2015 offseason, saw his ERA balloon from an unrealistic 1.66 in 2015 to a 4.37 last year. Although he did win 13 games in his Arizona debut, he also saw both his BB/9 and H/9 increase too. To make matters worse, Greinke was also sidelined with an oblique injury for six weeks. Another thing to watch for this season will be Greinke’s fastball velocity which has apparently been down so far in Spring Training. If Greinke is 100% or close to and hasn’t seen a Jered Weaver-esque drop in velocity, a return to his dominant self should be a very realistic scenario.

Even with Greinke’s struggles, the Diamondbacks have to be pleased with his results in comparison to their other big offseason acquisition, Shelby Miller. Miller was atrocious in his first season in the desert. In 20 starts the right-hander went 3-12/6.15/1.67/70/-0.7 WAR in 101 innings pitched; hitting a low point with a demotion to AAA. Besides the awful stats and poor play, the proverbial salt in the wounds is that the Diamondbacks traded SS Dansby Swanson, OF Ender Inciarte and P Aaron Blair (a top pitching prospect) to Atlanta to acquire Miller. Both Swanson and Inciarte look like building blocks for the new look Braves while Miller looks like he took a step back in his progression. If the Diamondbacks have any thoughts or ambitions of catching the Giants, let alone the Dodgers, they will need significant bounce back campaigns from these two.

Potential Breakout: P Archie Bradley. The former top prospect got called up to the show in May and never looked back. Although he struggled for the first half after his call-up, Bradley turned it around in the second half and had a strong finish. In 26 starts, Bradley went 8-9/5.02/1.56/143 in 141 innings pitched. With the Diamondbacks bringing in Taijuan Walker via trade and former first round pick, Braeden Shipley, waiting in the wings, there is no guarantee that Bradley will start the season in the rotation or even in the majors. Besides the two names mentioned above, Bradley will also need to compete against veterans Patrick Corbin and Shelby Miller, who will get all the chances available to stick in the rotation after poor 2016’s; not to mention the likes of top prospect, Anthony Banda too. Bradley definitely has the stuff to pitch at the MLB level but he will need to have better control of said stuff in order to succeed at it. A strong showing in Spring Training could give him a shot at making the rotation out of camp, but he will need to cut down on both his H/9 (9.8) and BB/9 (4.3) in order to do so.

Top Prospect: P Anthony Banda• Age: 23 • MLB ETA: 2017

First Round Draft Miss: P Barret Loux (6th) over Matt Harvey (7th) in 2010

Fantasy Stud: Paul Goldschmidt • 2016 Stats: .297/.899/24/95/4.8 WAR in 579 AB

Money’s Man Crush: Paul Goldschmidt. 6’3, 222 lbs, perennial All Star, Silver Slugger and Gold Glove recipient, the ability to launch moonshots, oh ya, and he can swipe bases. Goldy could legitimately be a 30/30 guy as he is more than capable of hitting over 30 ding dangs a season, and he nabbed 32 bags last season. For his career, Goldy now has 99 stolen bases in 779 games and has only been caught 23 times.

2017 Prediction: •3rd NL West

 

nolan-arenado

 

Colorado Rockies

2016 Record: 75-87 • 3rd NL West

O/U on Wins: 79.5 • Under

Moving In: UT Ian Desmond • P Greg Holland • P Mike Dunn • UT Alexi Amarista

Moving Out: P Boone Logan • C Nick Hundley • P Jorge de la Rosa

Key Player(s) in 2017: P Jon Gray. The former 3rd overall pick in 2013 had an above average season in his first full year. The big right-hander made 29 starts and went 10-10/4.61/1.26/185/2.3 WAR in 161 innings, he even garnered some votes for Rookie of theYear; finishing 6th. If Gray could somehow manage to cut down on his amount of BB/9 (3.2), H/9( 8.8), and long balls (18 in 2016), he could make quite the statement this season. Now that’s easier said than done when you play half your games at Coors. With Chad Bettis cancer sadly returning, Gray could become the de facto ace of this upstart Rockies team. The fate of the Rockies post season goals could hinge on the progression of Gray and how he pitches this season.

Potential Breakout: P Jeff Hoffman. Acquired in deal for Troy Tulowitzki. Made MLB debut in 2016 and went winless in 6 starts. Managed a 4.88/1.72/22 in 31 innings. Will need to cut down on H/9 (10.6) and BB/9 (4.9) if he wants to stick in the Rockies rotation but with their need for pitching, he will get every opportunity too. The question will be how much of a leash will he have in regards to poor outings; not to mention a possible innings limit. The Rockies can ill afford Hoffman to struggle while trying to remain in contention for a playoff spot, but you don’t want to shatter his confidence by demoting him too soon. That being said, a breakout from Hoffman could help the Rockies achieve their goal of competing for a postseason spot.

Top Prospect: SS/2B Brendan Rogers • Age: 20 • MLB ETA: 2018

First Round Draft Miss: P Greg Reynolds (2nd) over 3B Evan Longoria in 2006

Fantasy Stud: 3B Nolan Arenado • 2016 Stats: .294/.932/41/133/6.5 WAR in 618 AB

Money’s Man Crush: 3B Nolan Arenado. (Arguably) the best 3B in baseball both at the dish and in the field. In the field, Arenado has played 4 seasons and won 4 straight Gold Gloves. Meanwhile at the plate he has had back to back 40+ HR/130+ RBI  and is a .285 hitter in 2152 career AB.

2017 Prediction: 4th NL West

 

kershaw

 

Los Angeles Dodgers

2016 Record: 91-71 • 1st NL West

O/U on Wins: 91.5 • Over

Moving In: 2B Logan Forsythe

Moving Out: OF Josh Reddick • 2B Howie Kendrick • C Carlos Ruiz • P Joe Blanton • P Brett Anderson • P JP Howell • P Jesse Chavez • P Chase de Jong • P Jose de Leon

Key Player(s) in 2017: OF Yasiel Puig. Which version of Puig will show up for the Dodgers in 2016? Will it be the one who broke out in 2013 at a clip of .319/925/19/42 and finished 2nd in Rookie of the Year voting? Or will it be the one who limped through 2016 to a .263/.740/11/45 line and was demoted to AAA at one point? It’s no secret that the Dodgers actively shopped Puig over the offseason but found nothing worth moving him for. Puig is still young enough (26 at seasons end) and talented enough to easily turn around. Rumour has it that Puig isn’t the most mature of players and that could be (one of) the reasons for his poor play. If he is committed to baseball as he said he is upon his recall from AAA then there should be no questions about who will be the Dodgers everyday RF. His talent alone should keep him from sitting on the bench but his attitude and maturity might have other ideas.

Potential Breakout: P Julio Urias. The Dodgers top pitching prospect debuted in 2016 and appeared in 18 games, making 15 starts. In those starts Urias went 5-2/3.39/1.46/84 in 77 innings pitched. The 20 year old lefty easily has the stuff and confidence to start the year in the Dodgers rotation but a surplus of veteran starting pitchers could force him to start the season in the minors. If and when he does make it into the Dodgers starting rotation, Urias will most likely be subjected to some form of an innings limit. Even with some form of innings cap imposed, Urias’ impact could give the Dodgers the push they need to make an appearance in the World Series.

Top Prospect: 1B/OF Cody Bellinger • Age: 21 • MLB ETA: 2017

First Round Draft Miss: P Chris Reed (16) over P Sonny Gray (18) in 2011.

Fantasy Stud: P Clayton Kershaw • 2016 Stats: 12/1.69/.72/172/5.9 WAR in 149 IP

Money’s Man Crush: Clayton Kershaw based on stuff alone – that curveball. *sprays Febreeze.*

2017 Prediction: 1st NL West

 

wil-myers

 

San Diego Padres

2016 Record: 68-94 • 5th NL West

O/U on Wins: 64.5 • Over

Moving In: P Jered Weaver • P Jhoulys Chacin • P Clayton Richard • P Trevor Cahill •P Zach Lee

Moving Out: P Tyson Ross • C Derek Norris • OF Jon Jay • UT Alexi Amarista

Key Player(s) in 2017: P Luis Perdomo and OF Travis Jankowski. Both players enjoyed breakout seasons in 2016 and will need to prove that it wasn’t an anomaly or fluke. The play of Jankowski, a former supplemental first round pick (44th) in 2012, was one of the few bright spots in San Diego last season. Used predominantly as a lead off hitter for the Padres, Jankowski performed admirably, hitting .245/.646/2/12, swiping 30 bags and scoring 53 runs. He should get first crack at both the starting LF job and the lead-off position in 2017, and if he can replicate or improve his numbers from the season before, he’ll give the Padres lineup a homegrown table setter for their future.

Another bright spot for the Padres last year was rookie right-hander, Luis Perdomo. He begin the season in the bullpen but moved into the rotation during the season and made 20 starts. In those 20 starts, Perdomo went 9-10/5.71/1.59/105 in 146.2 innings. Although he is a ground ball inducing pitcher (GB% of 59%), Perdomo still struggled to miss hitters bats as he had a H/9 of 11.5. Perdomo won’t necessarily rack up the strikeouts (6.4 K/9) but he will need to find other ways of getting batters out in order to see his ERA and WHIP come down to more respectable levels.

Potential Breakout: OF Hunter Renfroe. The 13th overall pick in 2013 made a BIG first impression as a September call-up in 2016. Though he only appeared in 11 games, Renfroe absolutely tore the cover off the ball in that limited sample size. He went .371/1.189/4/14 and added 3 doubles in a meager 35 AB. Although its completely unrealistic to expect him to match those numbers over a 162 game season (.371/1.189/59/206), what would be realistic would to see him compete with the likes of Dansby Swanson for NL Rookie of the Year. The continuing emergence of Renfroe will give the Padres a trio of OF (Wil Myers, Renfroe and Jankowski) with an extremely high ceiling; and that’s not even factoring in Manny Margot.

Top Prospect: OF Manuel Margot • Age: 22 • MLB ETA: 2017

First Round Draft Miss: OF Donovan Tate (3rd) over P Zack Wheeler (6th) in 2009.

Fantasy Stud: OF Wil Myers  2016 Stats: .259/.797/28/94/3.2 WAR in 599 AB

Money’s Man Crush: The Padres have a few sexy throwbacks that they could use. Unfortunately they have dedcided to abandon their mustard yellow, Gaylrd Perry era jerseys for the upcoming season. Here’s hoping that they replace them with the (almost) equally as sexy, Robbie Alomar era, brown and orange jerseys.Oh, and Wil Myers isn’t too shabby of an option either.

2017 Prediction: 5th NL West

 

giants

 

San Francisco Giants

2016 Record: 87-75 • 2nd NL West

O/U on Wins: 87.5 • Over

Moving In: P Mark Melancon • SS Jimmy Rollins • P David Hernandez

Moving Out: P Chris Heston • P Sergio Romo • P Jake Peavy • P Javier Lopez • OF Angel Pagan

Key Player(s) in 2017: P Mark Melancon. Once a staple of their championship runs, the Giants bullpen was woeful, with no clear cut closer to put out late inning fires. The Giants addressed that issue in the offseason by inking one pf the marquee free agents, P Mark Melancon, to a 4yr/$62 mil contract. Melancon has been one of the better closers in the National League since taking over the Pirates closer role in 2013. Splittingi time between the Pirates and the Nationals in 2016, the three time All Star went 2-2/1.64/.90/47 SV in 71.1 innings; he also finished a career high 67 games. Although there is little doubt that Melancon will prove to be worth the investment, the Giants front office decided to spend their budget by going after Melancon instead of a lesser name which would’ve allowed them to address their need for a LF. Any early stumbles or faltering by Melancon will likely bring out the naysayers and armchair GM’s who will be quick to point out the above.

Potential Breakout: OF Mac Williamson or OF Jarrett Parker. With the Giants allotting the majority of their offseason budget to bringing in Mark Melancon they failed to address a glaring hole in LF. To start the season, the Giants will most likely use a platoon of the right handed hitting, Mac Williamson and the left handed hitting, Jarrett Parker. Although neither is what you would call a “household name,” what they lack in name recognition they make up for in being a bargain for the cash strapped Giants. Williamson, a former 3rd round pick by the Giants in 2013, played in 54 games in 2016 and hit .223/.726/6/15 in 112 AB. Parker, on the other hand, is a former 2nd round pick by the Giants in 2010, and hit .267/.865/11/28 in 176 AB. Look for Parker to get the majority of playing time out of Spring Training as he is both a left handed hitter and has shown the better ability to hit for power, something the power starved Giants (3rd fewest HR in MLB in 2016) are hurting for

Top Prospect: P Tyler Beede • Age: 23 • MLB ETA: 2017

First Round Draft Miss: P Chris Stratton (20th) over P Marcus Stroman (22) in 2012

Fantasy Stud: C Buster Posey • 2016 Stats: .288/.796/14/80/4.7 WAR in 539 AB

Money’s Man Crush: Pitching battery of Maddy Bumgarner and Buster Posey. Both are (arguably) the best players at their respective position and as batterymates, no other team can match these two.

2017 Prediction: 2nd NL West

– $

2017 Season Preview – National League Central

bryant

 

Chicago Cubs

2016 Record: 103-58 • 1st NL Central

O/U on Wins: 95.5 • Over

Moving In: P Wade Davis • OF Jon Jay • P Koji Uehara • P Brian Duensing

Moving Out: OF Dexter Fowler • P Aroldis Chapman • P Jason Hammel • P Travis Wood • P Joe Smith • OF Jorge Soler • C David Ross • UT Chris Coghlan • P Travis Cahill

Key Player(s) in 2017: P Jake Arrieta. The 2015 Cy Young winner had another remarkable season in 2016. The Cubs ace went 18-8/3.10/1.08/190/4.2 WAR in 197 innings pitched. Despite those numbers, Arrieta did see an increase in his ERA (3.10 from 1.77 in 2015) and in BB/9 (3.5 from 1.9 in 2015); as well as setting a new career high in walks (76) and wild pitches (16). The emergence of Kyle Hendricks in 2016 helped ease the load off of Arrieta and should give the Cubs a dynamic 1-2 punch heading into 2017. With Arrieta’s contract up at seasons end and the possibility of him hitting the open market in 2018, the Cubs should be looking to negotiate an extension before that happens. Despite their loaded lineup and relatively deep farm system, their pitching depth is shockingly sparse and an injury or two in the rotation could be devastating. Personally, I cannot see the deep pockets of the Cubs ownership NOT opening up their wallets to sign Arrieta to an extension. And that’s said knowing that they have to re-sign Anthony Rizzo too.

Potential Breakout: OF Kyle Schwarber. The C/LF made his MLB debut in 2015 and got into 69 games before the season’s end. In those games, Schwarber hit .246/.842/16/43/1.2 WAR in 232 AB. He was expected to be an integral part to the Cubs heading into 2016 but only managed to get into 2 regular season contests before a collision in the OF left him with torn ligaments in his knee. Despite being sidelined for the next 169 games, Schwarber made it back into the Cubs lineup just in time for the World Series which was good news for the Cubs. In the World Series, Schwarber raked at a clip of .412/.972 and added 2 RBI as the Cubs DH and pinch hitter. Even though he was drafted as a catcher and has spent a considerable amount of time behind the dish during his (brief) professional career, Schwarber’s future might be exclusively as a full time LF; and that’s despite his questionable OF defense. Both his knee injury and the Cubs need(s), as well as having two legit starting C on their roster as it is, could keep him permanently entrenched in LF for the foreseeable future.

Top Prospect: OF Eloy Jimenez • Age: 20 • MLB ETA: 2019

First Round Draft Miss: 3B Josh Vitters (3rd) over C Matt Wieters (5th) in 2007.

Fantasy Stud: 3B Kris Bryant • 2016 Stats: .292/.939/39/102/7.7 WAR in 603 AB

Money’s Man Crush: Everything about Kris Bryant. His bat, his glove, his ability to play multiple positions, his smile, the way he looks like he will tell you “not to worry, everything will be alright.” Really stung to learn that the Blue Jays had drafted him out of high school in the 18th round of the 2010 MLB Draft but he refused to sign, choosing to honour his commitment to the University of San Diego.

2017 Prediction: 1st NL Central

 

votto.jpg

 

Cincinnati Reds

2016 Record:68-94 • 5th NL Central

O/U on Wins: 73.5 • Under

Moving In: OF Desmond Jennings • P Scott Feldman • OF Arismandy Alcantara • 1B/3B Richie Shaffer • OF Gabriel Guerrero • P Tyrell Jenkins

Moving Out: P Alfredo Simon • P Ross Ohlendorff • P John Lamb

Key Player(s) in 2017: OF Billy Hamilton. Blistering speed, superb defense, and as of 2016, finally showing some patience at the plate. Everybody in baseball knows that Hamilton can run like the wind, unfortunately for both him and the Reds, his inability to get on base regularly all but made his speed a moot point. The old adage of “you can’t steal first base” definitely applied to Hamilton going into 2016 but 4th year CF proved us wrong. Hamilton had a solid year for the Reds, hitting for .260/.664/3/17 and 58 SB; his OBP of .321 was also a career high and the first time in his career that he had broken the.300 plateau. Hamilton needs to prove that he can maintain his newly found plate discipline and continue to get on base more regularly in order to remain part of the Reds rebuild. If he falters and goes back to his free swinging ways, he could easily find himself on the trade block.

Potential Breakout: 2B Jose Peraza. Appeared to be roadblocked behind Brandon Phillips and Zack Cosart but the trade of Phillips means that Peraza will open the season as the Reds starting 2B. Peraza played in only 72 games but made it count when he was in the lineup. Hit for .324/.762/3/25 and added 21 SB in 241 AB. Sample size OBP of .352 shows that he can be selective at the plate, but his K/BB ratio of 33/7 shows that he does have some free swinging in him. If he is able to keep that in check, Peraza could be one of the few bright spots in Cincinnati this season.

Top Prospect: 3B Nick Senzel • Age: 21 • MLB ETA: 2018

First Round Draft Miss: P Nick Travieso (14th) over P Lucas Giolito (16th) in 2012

Fantasy Stud: 1B Joey Votto • 2016 Stats: .326/.985/29/97/4.0 WAR in 556 AB

Money’s Man Crush: Joey Votto. The consummate professional and perennial recipient of the Tip O’Neil award (best Canadian ballplayer). Even though Votto is getting up their in age (33 at this season’s end) there have been no signs of seeing a slow down or regression. The only thing not to love is his contract, but I am sure that there would be no shortage of suitors if the Reds were to make him available.

2017 Prediction: 5th NL Central

 

villar

 

Milwaukee Brewers

2016 Record: 73-89 • 4th NL Central

O/U on Wins: 72.5 • Over

Moving In: 1B Eric Thames • 1B/3B Travis Shaw • C Jett Bandy • P Tommy Milone • 2B Eric Sogard • IF Ivan de Jesus

Moving Out: P Tyler Thornburg • 1B Chris Carter • C Martin Maldanado • P Blaine Boyer

Key Player(s) in 2017: 1B Eric Thames. The former Blue Jays farmhand and Mariner took his trade to Korea once he stopped receiving interest from MLB teams. Luckily for Thames, a move to the KBO might have been the best thing to have happened to his career. In three seasons in Korea, Thames hit for an average stat line of .348/41/127 and even had a 40/40 season in 2015. Sure, playing in the KBO makes those numbers as inflated as Thames’ muscles (seriously though, dude is JACKED!) but that didn’t stop the Brewers from signing him to a 3yr/$16 mil deal to play 1B. The question will be which Thames do the Brewers get? Will it be the dude who straight uo mashed in the far East? Or will it be the guy who .250/.727/21/62 and was a minus WAR player in 633 MLB AB?

Potential Breakout: OF Keon Broxton. The 26yr old OF got into 75 games in 2016 and posted a respectable stat line of .242/.784/9/19/23 SB/2.1 WAR in 207 AB. Broxton was acquired from the Pirates in the 2015 offseason and is looking to establish himself as an everyday player with the Brew Crew in 2017. The (continuing) emergence of Broxton should give the Brewers a solid OF trio as he’ll team up with Domingo Santana and Ryan Braun, and if Braun does in fact get moved, he will be replaced by another young OF prospect in Lewis Brinson.

Top Prospect: OF Lewis Brinson • Age: 22 • MLB ETA: 2017

First Round Draft Miss: P Dylan Covey (14th) over anyone who would sign a contract in 2010.

Fantasy Stud: SS Jonathan Villar • 2016 Stats: .285/.826/19/63/3.9 WAR in 598 AB

Money’s Man Crush: 1980’s powder blue and yellow jersey’s with the MB glove logo. I’d rank the throwback Brewers logo as the best in the (current) MLB over the now defunct Expos.

2017 Prediction: 4th NL Central

 

pirates

 

Pittsburgh Pirates

2016 Record: 78-83 • 3rd NL Central

O/U on Wins: 85.5 • Over

Moving In: P Daniel Hudson

Moving Out: UT Sean Rodriguez • OF Matt Joyce • P Jeff Locke • P Nefateli Feliz • P Ryan Vogelsong

Key Player(s) in 2017: OF Andrew McCutchen. From 2011 to 2015 the man known simply as “Cutch” was a 5x All Star, 4x Silver Slugger winner, won an NL MVP, finished 3rd twice, 5th once and added one Gold Glove. His average stat line in those five seasons was: .302/.905/25/90/6.4 WAR in 572 AB. But in 2016 all that changed and for the first time in his career, Cutch was a minus WAR player. Injuries were not to blame as he played in 153 games but only put up a meager .256/.766/24/79 in 598 AB. McCutchen’s performance was so alarming that the Pirates actually fielded trade offers for him throughout the offseason. As if that wasn’t enough of a shock, the Pirates asked the former Gold Glove winner to shift from his usual position in CF to RF because of a poor defensive showing in 2016. Although the Pirates are saying the right things, it would be hard for them to justify re-signing him once his contract is up at the end of this season, especially if he has another down season. That being said he does have a team option for 2018 that could see him in Pittsburgh for a swan song or until he is surpassed by top prospect, Austin Meadows.

Potential Breakout: P Jameson Taillon. The former 2nd overall pick in 2010 finally made his MLB debut in 2016 and didn’t disappoint. Taillon made 18 starts in his rookie season and went 5-4/3.38/1.12/85/2.3 WAR in 104 innings. Throughout his career the only thing that has slowed down the hulking right hander has been issues with his durability. If those issues are behind him, Taillon should easily pair up with Gerrit Cole to give the Bucs a solid 1-2 punch atop their rotation. The Pirates will need all their arms to contribute if they have any hope with competing against the Cardinals, let alone the Cubs, for a potential playoff position.

Top Prospect: P Tyler Glasnow • Age:23  • MLB ETA: 2017

First Round Draft Miss: P Daniel Moskos (4th) over C Matt Wieters (5th) in 2007

Fantasy Stud: Starling Marte • 2016 Stats: .311/.818/9/46/47 SB/4.9 WAR in 489 AB

Money’s Man Crush: PNC Park. Hands down the most beautiful park in MLB; although im sure Giants fans will disagree. The whole experience of a weekend game in Pittsburgh is worth the pilgrimage to Pennsylvania. Best view is anywhere in the upper deck behind home or along the 3rd base line. That way you get an incredible vantage point of the Pittsburgh skyline and the Roberto Clemente Bridge; the game being pretty much takes a backseat to the view. The Pirates vintage 70’s and early 90’s throwbacks are pretty decent too.

2017 Prediction: 2nd NL Central

 

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St. Louis Cardinals

2016 Record: 86-76 • 2nd NL Central

O/U on Wins: 87.5 • Under

Moving In: OF Dexter Fowler •P Brett Cecil

Moving Out: 1B/OF Matt Holliday • P Jaime Garcia • 1B/OF Brandon Moss • P Jordan Walden •P Seth Manness

Key Player(s) in 2017: Pitchers Michael Wacha and Trevor Rosenthal. Both players mentioned here are integral parts to any World Series aspirations that the Cardinals might have. They were both All Stars in 2015 and had complete production drop offs in 2016. If it wasn’t for Seung-hwan Oh’s terrific debut (6-3/1.92/.92/103/19 SV in 79.2 innings) the Cardinals would be looking at a closer by committee. That’s because their usual everyday closer (Rosenthal) looked completely lost in 2015. Rosenthal went 2-4/4.46/1.91/56:29 K:BB/14 SV in 40 innings. The biggest reason for his struggles was his lack of control, as Rosenthal set new career highs in BB/9 (6.5) and H/9 (10.7). He will need to regain both his control and his confidence if he hopes to be a key part of the Cardinals bullpen; let alone try to win his closer’s job back. Wacha on the other hand went from 17-7/3.38/1.21/153/3 WAR in 181.1 innings to 7-7/5.09/1.48/114/-0.4 WAR in 138 innings. One reason for his struggles could be attributed to a nagging shoulder injury that has bothered him throughout his career and flared up during 2016. The Cardinals will need Wacha to stay healthy and pitch like he can as their pitching depth is already set to be tested with young, flamethrower, Alex Reyes, out for the season with Tommy John.

Potential Breakout: P Luke Weaver. Originally this spot was going to center on another Cardinals pitching prospect, Alex Reyes. Unfortunately for both Reyes and the Cardinals, Reyes suffered a torn UCL early in spring training and has undergone Tommy John surgery. This is where Weaver enters the picture. In theory, he could fill the tole that was suppose to be Reyes’ and either compete for a spot in the rotation, be a swing man out of the pen or be the first call up from AAA if needed. It’s not like Weaver has come out of nowhere either. He’s a former first round pick (27th in 2014) and enters the season as the Cardinals number two prospect behind only Alex Reyes. Although he may not make the opening day roster, I’d say there is a solid chance that he’ll be up with rhe Cardinals before the all star break.

Top Prospect: P Alex Reyes • Age: 22 • MLB ETA: 2018

First Round Draft Miss: P Chris Lambert (18th) over P Glen Perkins (22) P Phil Hughes (23) in 2004

Fantasy Stud: P Carlos Martinez • 2016 Stats: 16/3.04/1.22/174/5.9 WAR in 196 IP

Money’s Man Crush: The St. Louis organization. Pound for pound the most well ran farm system and team in the game. Well besides the occasional “rogue”scout.

2017 Prediction: 3rd NL Central

– $

2017 MLB Season Preview – National League East

dansby-swanson

 

Atlanta Braves

2016 Record: 68-93 • 5th NL East

O/U on Wins: 71.5 • Over

Moving In: P Bartolo Colon • P R.A Dickey • UT Sean Rodriguez • 2B Brandon Phillips • P Jaime Garcia • C Tuffy Gosewich

Moving Out: C AJ Pierzynski

Key Player(s) in 2017: OF Ender Inciarte. Acquired in the heist of Dansby Swanson. Hit .291/.732/3/29/16 SB/3.8 WAR in 522 AB in 2016 and was rewarded by the Braves with a 5yr/$30.5 mil contract in the offseason. Despite only entering his 4th MLB season, the rebuilding Braves will look to Inciarte to be a bridge between their veteran players and their influx of youthful talent. Could also be a contender for breakout candidate.

Potential Breakout: SS Dansby Swanson. A full year of LT. Dans will be a treat for not only Braves fans but for all baseball fans. Definition of what scouts refer to as the “good face.” Starting SS on both the Braves, as well as the Kris Bryant All Stars (Overly Handsome MLB’ers). Swanson made his debut in August and put the rest of the baseball world on notice. In just 122 AB, he hit .302/.803/3/17 and added 3 steals. Although the expectations might be through the roof, the Braves will need to be patient with their stud SS if he does stumble out of the gate. Swanson isn’t going to hit for a high power numbers but his quick hands and bat speed should result in a relatively high average (.270-.290) and produce somewhere in the neighbourhood of 15 HR on an annual basis.

Top Prospect: Ozzie Albies • Age: 2B/SS • MLB ETA: 2017

First Round Draft Miss: P Sean Gilmartin (28) over 2B Joe Panik (29) in 2011

Fantasy Stud: 1B Freddie Freeman • 2016 Stats: .302/.968/34/91/6.5 WAR in 589 AB

Money’s Man Crush: Dansby Swanson #swoon. Definite contender to wrestle the title of “Most Handsome Player in Baseball,” away from the likes of Kris Bryant and Kevin Kiermaier.

2017 Prediction: 3rd NL East

 

yelich

 

Miami Marlins

2016 Record: 79-82 • 3rd NL East

O/U on Wins: 77.5 • Under

Moving In: P Edison Volquez • P Brad Ziegler • P Junichi Tazawa • P Jeff Locke • C AJ Ellis • P Javy Guerra • P Dan Straily

Moving Out: P Mike Dunn • P Andrew Cashner • P Fernando Rodney • C Jeff Mathis • IF Chris Johnson • OF Jeff Francoeur

Key Player(s) in 2017: OF Giancarlo Stanton. Putting Gio here seems to be a no brain decision. The dude is a perennial All Star with 40 HR power who ever garners MVP votes. That being said, the main reason he is here is because we, and the fish, are expecting a big bounce back season from the man formerly known as Mike. Although not known to hit for a high average, his .240 season in 2016 was the lowest of his career. Although his drop-off could be attributed to battling through injuries and not playing at 100%. His 27 HR/74 RBI through 413 AB barely topped his output from 2015 when he managed 279 AB. With the Marlins hoping to compete with the likes of the Nationals, Mets and even the upstart Braves, Stanton will be counted on to regain his form and help lead the Marlins in the search of October baseball.

Potential Breakout: P Adam Conley. Conley had a respectable season in his first full year as a pro. Made 25 starts, went 8-6/3.85/1.40/124 in 133 innings. On the negative side, he did also surrender 8.4 H/9 and 4.2 BB/9. Conley will have to work on improving both his command and location in order to correct those numbers and take the next step. With the loss of Jose Fernandez in a boating accident last September, the Marlins suffered an irreplaceable loss both on the field and in the clubhouse. While no one is expecting Conley to fill that void, a solid year from the 3rd year pro could help ease that loss and enhance the Marlins chances for baseball in October.

Top Prospect:  P Braxton Garrett • Age: 19 • MLB ETA: 2019

First Round Draft Miss: P Chad James (18th) over Shelby Miller (19) in 2009

Fantasy Stud: OF Christian Yelich  • 2016 Stats: .298/.859/21/98/5.3 WAR in 578 AB

Money’s Man Crush: As much as I love Gio and Yelich, the late Jose Fernandez was my boy. It still doesn’t seem real that he’s gone. The kid had absolutely electric stuff to go with an equally electric smile and personality. The bsseball world lost a true gem way too soon. RIP.

2017 Prediction: 4th NL East

 

MLB: World Series-Kansas City Royals at New York Mets

 

New York Mets

2016 Record: 87-75 •2nd NL East

O/U on Wins: 89.5 • Under

Moving In: 

Moving Out: P Bartolo Colon

Key Player(s) in 2017: P Matt Harvey. The man they call the Dark Knight broke out in 2013 with an All Star appearance and 4th place in the NL Cy Young race. However he missed all of 2014 with Tommy John surgery, but returned in 2015 to help lead the Mets to the NL pennent. In 2016, the Dark Knight struggled in before being shut down with surgery to repair Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. Before being shutdown, Harvey had limped through 17 starts to a 4-10/4.86/1.49/76 in 92.2 innings. One has to believe that his injury was partially, if not completely, responsible for his lackluster campaign. The Mets will need Harvey to return to his 2015 version if they intend on besting the Nationals for top spot in the NL East. Besides that, a return to form for Harvey would cement the Mets as having the best rotation in baseball.

Potential Breakout: OF Michael Conforto. Begin the 2016 season with a strong debut but hit a wall and was sent back to the minors. The demotion was more of a move to allow him to continue to play everyday and not sit on the bench at the MLB level. Before being sent down, Conforto had hit .220/.725/12/42/.4 WAR in 304 AB. I know that those stats don’t necessarily jump out at you but they do give an indication that he can perform at the big league level. Despite the fact that the Mets were unable to move either one of Curtis Granderson and Jay Bruce during the offseason, Conforto could easily play himself into a starting role with a strong showing in spring.

Top Prospect: SS Amed Rosario • Age: 21 • MLB ETA: 2017

First Round Draft Miss: P Eddie Kunz (42nd) over 3B Josh Donaldson (48) in 2007

Fantasy Stud: OF Yoenis Cespedes • 2016 Stats: .280/.884/31/86/2.9 WAR in 479 AB

Money’s Man Crush: That startinf rotarion though. Harvey, Syndergaard, deGrom, Matz, and Wheeler. Barring injuries, 2017 could be the first time that the Mets unleash an intact rotation upon the baseball world.

2017 Prediction: 2nd NL East

 

maikel-franco

 

 

Philadelphia Phillies

2016 Record: 71-91  • 4th NL East

O/U on Wins: 72.5 • Over

Moving In: OF Michael Saunders • 2B Howie Kendrick • P Joaquin Benoit • P Clay Buchholz • C Ryan Hanigan • P Pat Neshek • OF Andres Blanco • OF Daniel Nava

Moving Out: P Charlie Morton • 1B/OF Darin Ruf • P Matt Harrison • 1B Ryan Howard • C AJ Ellis • OF Peter Bourjos • OF Cody Asche • P David Hernandez

Key Player(s) in 2017: 3B Maikel Franco. The 24 year old Franco had a respectable first full season in the MLB during the 2016 season. In 581 AB, Franco slashed a line of .255/.733/25/88 and had a WAR of 1.2. The Phillies are in the middle of a full rebuild and, despite being 24, Franco will be viewed as a leader. The Phillies 3B could take a big step dorward in his development if he would take a bit better of an approach at the plate and not necessarily swing for the fences every AB. The Phillies shouldn’t be in a position to make much noise this season but a big season from Franco could result in him being the Phillies representative at the All Star Game.

Potential Breakout: P Vince Velasquez. The centerpiece of the trade that sent closer Ken Giles to Houston, Velasquez made 24 starts in his first full MLB season. In 131 innings, Velasquez went 8-6/4.12/1.33/152 and had a WAR of 1.7. The highlight of Velasquez’s season was his 16 strikeout performance at home against the Padres. Velasquez has the mentality and stuff to become a future ace for the Phillies but he will need to work on his secondary offerings in order to become a more complete pitcher. It is no secret that Velasquez can throw his fastball through a door but his secondary pitches do leave something to desire. It could be the reason that he has had such a hard time getting out of the 6th inning. That would be the 3rd time through the lineup and teams would have had a good look at his stuff. Most talk around Velazquez this spring has been about him working on his curveball. Another bonus could be the reported mentor/protege relationship that appears to be budding between him and the newly acquired, Clay Buchholz. If Velasquez wants to work on his curve, there are few beter teachers out there than Clay and his uncle Charlie.

Top Prospect: SS JP Crawford • Age: 22 • MLB ETA: 2017

First Round Draft Miss: P Joe Savery (19th) over P Rick Porcello (27th) in 2007

Fantasy Stud: 3B Maikel Franco • 2016 Stats: .255/.733/25/88/1.2 WAR in 581 AB

Money’s Man Crush: Young starting trio of Nola, Velasquez and Eichoff. While the Phillies do have some young, exciting positional players coming up the prospect pipeline (SS JP Crawford, OF Mickey Moniak, C Jorge Alfaro), it will be the development and progress of these three arms that dictates how soon the Phillies move from rebuild to postseason goals.

2017 Prediction: 5th NL East

 

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Washington Nationals

 

Washington Nationals

2016 Record: 95-67 • 1st NL East

O/U on Wins: 90.5 • Over

Moving In: OF Adam Eaton • C Derek Norris • C Matt Wieters • 1B Adam Lind • P Joe Blanton

Moving Out: P Mark Melancon • C Wilson Ramos • 2B Danny Espinosa • OF Ben Revere • IF Stephen Drew • P Mark Rzepcynski • P Lucas Giolito • P Reynaldo Lopez

Key Player(s) in 2017: OF Bryce Harper. This is a no brainer. Not only is Harper (Arguably) the best player on the team and biggest offensive threat, but he also has something to prove this year. Harper went from MVP in 2015 to a barely positive WAR player in 2016. In his MVP year, Harper put up an ungodly stat line of .330/1.109/42/99 and was a 9.9 WAR. Last season, he went .243/.814/24/86 with a 1.6 WAR. The only real positive was that he managed to set a new career high with 21 SB. Even though the Nats still managed to win the NL East and make it into the playoffs despite Harper’s woes, they will need him to play like his MVP self if they stand a legitimate chance of making it to the World Series. Harper, who is set to be a free agent in 2018, will also want to rebound to ensure he gets his $500 mil contract. (throws up)

Potential Breakout: SS/CF Trea Turner. The SS turned CF was nothing short of spectacular after his call up post All Star Break in 2016. Turner played in 73 games and produced a stat line of .342/.937/13/40/33 SB/3.5 WAR in only 307 AB. What makes it more impressive is that he did so while playing CF for the first time in his career. Turner should be one of the brighter spots on a Nationals team that is teeming with talent. With the arrival of Adam Eaton and a vacancy at SS, Turner should slide back into his natural position with relatively no issues. If everything aligns and he picks up where he left off, Dr. Trea or All Day Trea, as he is known in these parts, should be one of the bigger breakouts of 2017.

Top Prospect: OF Victor Robles • Age: 19 • MLB ETA: 2018

First Round Draft Miss: OF Chris Marrero (15th) over P Ian Kennedy (21st) in 2006.

Fantasy Stud: P Max Scherzer • 2016 Stats: 20/2.96/.97/284/6.3 WAR in 229 IP

Money’s Man Crush: All day Trea. An easy candidate for 20/20 seasons for the foreseeable future. Plays an above average to good CF despite not being an OF but his true worth to the Nats is as a starting SS.

2017 Prediction: 1st NL East

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2017 MLB Season Preview – American League West

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Houston Astros

2016 Record:84-78  • 3rd AL West

O/U on Wins: 87.5 • Over

Moving In: DH Carlos Beltran • C Brian McCann • RF Josh Reddick • P Charlie Morton • OF Nori Aoki

Moving Out: C Jason Castro • 3B Luis Valbuena • OF Colby Rasmus • P Doug Fister • P Pat Neshek

Key Player(s) in 2017: P Dallas Keuchel. Saying that the 2015 AL Cy Young winner had a down year would be an understatement. Keuchel went from 20-8/2.48/1.01/216 in 232 innings to 9-12/4.55/1.29/144 in 168 innings in 2016. Yes, Keuchel did struggle with injuries throughout the season but when he was healthy, he struggled with his command and ended up surrendering more hits, walks and HR than his previous season. While the ‘stros did bolster their lineup in the offseason, they did not address a rotation that is one or two injuries away from a big problem. In order to become the clear cut favourite in the AL West, the Astros will need Keuchel to return to his 2015 form.

Potential Breakout: P Joe Musgrove. A supplemental first round pick (46) by the Blue Jays in 2011, Musgrove was acquired by the Astros in the J.A Happ trade. Since then, Musgrove has shot through the Astros minor leagues and made his MLB debut in 2016. In 10 starts last season, Musgrove went (4-4/4.06/1.21/55 in 62 innings. Musgrove will open the season in competition with Mike Fiers for the 5th spot in the rotation. If he does not claim it, look for him to either go to the bullpen or be the first call up from AAA if an injury occurs.

Top Prospect: P Frances Martes • Age: 21  • MLB ETA: 2017

First Round Draft Miss: Jiovanni Mier (21st) over Mike Trout (25th) in 2009.

Fantasy Stud: Jose Altuve • 2016 Stats: .338/.928/24/96/7.7 WAR in 640 AB

Money’s Man Crush: In all honesty, what is not to love about the Astros? They play in one of the sexier ballparks in MLB. They have some of, if not the best throwback jerseys in the majors. And they’re loaded with an absolute embarrassing amount of young, talented players. It’s hard to pick whom to swoon over more when you have the likes of SS Carlos Correa, 2B Jose Altuve, RF George Springer, 3B Alex Bregman, P Lance McCullers, and that is just a sample smattering of the studs that the ‘stros possess.

2017 Prediction: 1st AL West.

 

mike-trout

 

Los Angeles Angels

2016 Record: 74-88 • 4th AL West

O/U on Wins: 76.5 • Under

Moving In: 2B Danny Espinosa • OF Cameron Maybin • OF Ben Revere • P Jesse Chavez • P Andrew Bailey • 3B Luis Valbuena

Moving Out: P Jered Weaver • P CJ Wilson •P Jhoulys Chacin • P Tim Lincecum • C Jett Bandy • SS Gregario Petit

Key Player(s) in 2017: P Garrett Richards. After a breakout season in 2014 was cut short by a torn knee ligament, Richards once again had a season interrupted because of a torn ligament. In 2016, he made 6 starts before being diagnosed with a torn UCL. Although he required Tommy John surgery, Richards opted against the surgery, instead going with rehab and biometric injections similar to Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP). Although it will take a miracle short of Joseph Gordon Levitt seeing actual angels for the LA Angels to make the playoffs or even compete for them for that matter, Richards’ return and progress from injury could be a bright spot for the Angels that is not named Mike Trout.

Potential Breakout: P Tyler Skaggs. Skaggs is currently in his second stint with the Angels. He was originally drafted by them in the first round of 2009 and then traded to the Diamondbacks in a package for Dan Haren in 2010, before being reacquired in a three team trade in 2013. However his 2nd debut for the Angels was cut short by Tommy John surgery which also kept him out for all of 2015. In 2016, Skaggs made 10 starts for the Angels, he went (3-4/4.17/1.49/50 in 49.2 innings. Skaggs did average a K/9 over 9 but also had a BB/9 of 4.2 in his limited action. With the Angels lacking depth on the mound and barring any setbacks or further injuries, you can expect Skaggs to set a new career high in starts since he made 18 in 2014.

Top Prospect: OF Jahmi Jones • Age: 19 • MLB ETA: 2019

First Round Draft Miss: 3B Kaleb Cowart (18th) over OF Christian Yelich (24th), Aaron Sanchez (34th) and Noah Syndergaard (38th) in 2010.

Fantasy Stud: OF Mike Trout • 2016 Stats: .315/.991/29/100/10.6 WAR in 549 AB

Money’s Man Crush: Nothing else needs to be said besides the name, Mike Trout.

2017 Prediction: 5th AL West

 

sonny-gray

 

Oakland A’s

2016 Record: 69-93 • 5th AL West

O/U on Wins: 66.5 • Over

Moving In: OF Rajai Davis • UT Trevor Plouffe • OF Matt Joyce • 1B/OF Chris Parmalee• OF Jaff Decker

Moving Out: UT Danny Valencia • P Ross Detwiler • OF Sam Fuld

Key Player(s) in 2017: P Sonny Gray. The A’s righty went from being an All Star and finishing 3rd in AL Cy Young voting in 2015 to a minus WAR pitcher in 2016. Although Gray was limited to just 117 innings last season because of injury, his 11 losses, 5.69 ERA and 1.50 WHIP are all new career highs (or lows). Gray was also more susceptible to the long ball, with a HR/9 of 1.4 over a paltry .7 the year before. Batters were also making more frequent and better contact off Gray, as he set a new career high in H/9 with 10.4. The A’s will need Gray to have a big bounce back season if they have any aspirations of competing to even break .500. A rebound season would also be beneficial to Gray’s trade value if and when the A’s start taking calls. You know Billy Beane won’t hesitate to make a deal for Gray if the right one comes along.

Potential Breakout: P Sean Manaea. The key piece that the A’s received from the Royals in exchange for Ben Zobrist in 2015, Manaea made his MLB debut in 2016 and looked very impressive. Manaea posted a stat line of 7-9/3.86/1.19/124 in 144 innings and had a WAR of 2.7. The continuing emergence of Manaea could make the thought of trading Sonny Gray that more enticing, especially if the A’s stumble out of the gate. On the flip, if the A’s do have a surprising season, you can bank on Manaea to be a vital contributor to the cause.

Top Prospect: SS/2B Franklin Barreto • Age: 21 • MLB ETA: 2017

First Round Draft Miss: P James Simmons (21) over Rick Porcello (27) in 2007.

Fantasy Stud: Khris Davis  2016 Stats: .247/.831/42/102/2.8 WAR in 555 AB

Money’s Man Crush: I will tell you what it isn’t, it’s sure as hell not that archaic cesspool of a ballpark that the A’s play in. Luckily for the fans, the A’s have some of the sweetest throwback jerseys in MLB which gives them something to take their mind off the fact that the sewage system could backup at anytime. As far as which throwback is best, you can’t go wrong with any version from 1967-1976 or the late 80’s-early 90’s.

2017 Prediction: 4th AL West

 

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Seattle Mariners

2016 Record: 86-76 •2nd AL West

O/U on Wins: 85.5 • Over

Moving In: SS Jean Segura • UT Danny Valencia • P Drew Smyly • C Carlos Ruiz • P Mark Rzepcynski • P Casey Fien • P Chris Heston • P Shae Simmons

Moving Out: P Taijuan Walker • SS Ketel Marte • 1B Adam Lind • P Nate Karns • OF Nori Aoki • P Vidal Nuno • P Zack Lee

Key Player(s) in 2017: C Mike Zunino. Despite bringing in veteran backstop, Carlos Ruiz, in the offseason, the starting catching position is really Zunino’s to lose. With the dreaded word “bust” starting to float around more and more, this could be a make or break year for the former 3rd overall pick in 2012. Entering his 5th season, Zunino will need to improve his offensive production if he has any hopes of being the starting C for the entire season. Through four seasons, Zunino has produced a career stat line of .196/.632/50/133/1.8 WAR in 350 G. With the Mariners having division title and playoff ambitions, they will need production out of their C position. They will not have time to sit around and wait on Zunino.

Potential Breakout: P James Paxton. Every season it seems that Paxton is poised for a big breakout. He will rattle off a series of great starts before getting bit by the injury bug and hitting the shelves for an extended period of time. When he is healthy, Paxton shows signs of being one of the better young southpaws in the game. Unfortunately for him and the Mariners, his inability to remain on the field has prevented him from reaching his full potential. With Taijuan Walker’s departure, Paxton will be leaned on a little more this season, especially with the Mariners hopes for October baseball.

Top Prospect: OF Kyle Lewis • Age: 21 • MLB ETA: 2018

First Round Draft Miss: P Danny Hultzen (2nd) over everyone else (Rendon, Lindor, Baez, Springer, J. Fernandez and S. Gray) in 2011.

Fantasy Stud: 2B Robinson Cano • 2016 Stats: .298/.882/39/103/7.3 WAR in 655 AB

Money’s Man Crush: P Felix Hernandez. Even in the twilight of his career, every start by the King has a chance to be something special. It’s also hard not to love the fan section known as “the Kings Court.”

2017 Prediction: 2nd AL West

 

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Texas Rangers

2016 Record: 95-67 • 1st AL West

O/U on Wins: 86.5 • Under

Moving In: 1B Mike Napoli • P Tyson Ross • P Andrew Cashner • P Allen Webster

Moving Out: UT Ian Desmond • DH Carlos Beltran • 1B Mitch Moreland • P Derek Holland • P Colby Lewis

Key Player(s) in 2017: P Yu Darvish. In 2016, Darvish made 17 starts in his return from Tommy John surgery. He went 7-5/3.41/1.12/132 in 100.1 innings, clearly showing very little signs of rust. With both the Astros and the Mariners fortifying their rosters in the offseason, while the Rangers lost key pieces to their 2016 success, a return to dominance for Darvish will be vital for the Rangers to defend their AL West title. 2017 will also be the final one in regards to Darvish’s contract. His performance this season will dictate which kind of deal he will land and perhaps where it will be too. Personally, I doubt that the Rangers will let Darvish get away but I would not be surprised at all to see him test the free agent market and compare offers.

Potential Breakout: 3B Joey Gallo. Signing of Mike Napoli hurts his chances of landing the everyday 1B job. Has worked at making himself more versatile and can also play 3B and LF, as well as DH. Gallo has light tower power but his all or nothing approach at the plate (76 strikeouts in 133 AB for his career) has hindered his offensive progression. At 23 years of age, Gallo is still young enough for the Rangers to be patient with his free swinging ways but for his own production, Gallo will need to drastically cut down on his K’s if he has ambitions of being an everyday DH while he waits for a position to open.

Top Prospect: OF Leody Taveras • Age: OF • MLB ETA: 2020

First Round Draft Miss: OF Jake Skole (15th) over Christian Yelich (23rd) in 2010.

Fantasy Stud: P Cole Hamels • 2016 Stats: 15 W/3.32/1.30/200/4.9 WAR in 200.7 IP

Money’s Man Crush: 3B Adrian Beltre. If you’re a baseball fan and you don’t love Adrian Beltre then we can never be friends.

2017 Prediction: 3rd AL West

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2017 MLB Season Preview – American League Central

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Chicago White Sox

2016 Record: 78-84 • 4th AL Central

O/U on Wins: 73.5 • Under

Moving In: P Derek Holland • 2B Yoan Moncada • P Michael Kopech • P Lucas Giolito • P Reynaldo Lopez • OF Rymer Liriano • RP Giovanni Soto • OF Peter Bourjos

Moving Out: P Chris Sale • OF Adam Eaton •OF Austin Jackson • 1B Justin Morneau • C Alex Avila • P Matt Albers • P Anthony Ranaudo

Key Player(s) in 2017: Carlos Rodon. Departure of Chris Sale and potentially Jose Quintana (at some point) means that Rodon’s progression will need to continue if the White Sox hope to expedite their rebuild. The 2014 2nd overall pick still needs to improve his command, surrender less long balls (23 in 2016),and to further develop his change-up which would give him 2 complimentary pitches to his fastball.

Potential Breakout: Lucas Giolito. Centerpiece of the trade that send OF Adam Eaton to Washington. Former MLB #1 Prospect. Made MLB debut with Washington in 2016 and should start 2017 with White Sox. Projects as front end starter. 6’6 frame, electric stuff (mid 90’s heat and a big ol’ overhand curve). Needs to further develop his command. Averaged close to 3 BB/9 to go along with a K/9 well over 9. Along with Rodon, could help expedite Chicago rebuild and give them two young, controllable arms for the foreseeable future.

Top Prospect: 2B Yoan Moncada • Age: 21 • MLB ETA: 2017

First Round Draft Miss: P Lance Broadway (15th) over Jacoby Elsbury (23rd) in 2005.

Fantasy Stud: Jose Quintana • 2016 Stats: 13/3.20/1.16/181/5.1 WAR in 208 IP

Money’s Man Crush: Newly loaded farm system. Gives the Pale Hose a chance to compete sooner rather than later, as well as a something they haven’t had in a while; a budding farm system.

2017 Prediction: 5th AL Central

 

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Cleveland Indians

2016 Record: 94-67 • 1st AL Central

O/U on Wins: 92.5 • Over

Moving In: 1B Edwin Encarnacion • P Boone Logan • 1B Chris Colabello • C Erik Kratz

Moving Out: 1B Mike Napoli • OF Rajai Davis • P Jeff Manship • OF Coco Crisp

Key Player(s) in 2017: OF Michael Brantley. Massive breakout year in 2014 (.327/.890/20/97/6.8 WAR in 611 AB) where he finished 3rd in the AL MVP voting. Followed that up with another solid season in 2015 (.310/.859/15/84/3.4 WAR in 529 AB). Unfortunately for both Brantley and the Indians, Brantley was sidelined with a shoulder injury for all but 11 games in 2016, including the playoffs. Even without (arguably) their best offensive player the Indians were able to make it to Game 7 of the World Series. If Brantley can come back healthy and play up to his potential, you can can pencil the Indians in as one of, if not the favourite in the American League to make it (back) to the World Series.

Potential Breakout: P Trevor Bauer. Despite related incidents and engaging in flame wars via Twitter, Bauer enjoyed a solid 2016 where he set career highs in wins (12), innings pitched (190), and WHIP (1.31). Even with those improvements, Bauer still has more to offer as far as his potential goes. He will need to continue work on his command and control in order to further his development and see more positive outcomes.

Top Prospect: OF Bradley Zimmer • Age: 24 • MLB ETA: 2017

First Round Draft Miss: 1B Beau Mills (13th) over OF Jason Heyward (14th) and C Devin Mesoroco (15) in 2007.

Fantasy Stud: Andrew Miller • 2016 Stats: 10 W/1.45/.68/123/12 S/3.9 WAR in 74.3 IP

Money’s Man Crush: Francisco Lindor. I say that despite the incessant ball washing that was heaped upon him from the MLB commentators during the 2016 ALCS; as well as his murdering of the Blue Jays during the same series. Hard not to swoon over a switch hitting SS with perennial 20/20 capability (23/19 in 2016). Not to mention that he is pretty decent with the glove too.

2017 Prediction: 1st AL Central

 

Minnesota Twins v Detroit Tigers

 

Detroit Tigers

2016 Record: 86-75 • 2nd AL Central

O/U on Wins: 85.5 • Under

Moving In: C Alex Avila • IF Omar Infante • IF Brendan Ryan • P Edward Mujica • P Daniel Stumpf

Moving Out: C Jared Saltalamacchia • SS Erick Aybar • IF Casey McGehee

Key Player(s) in 2017: P Justin Verlander. The Detroit ace enjoyed a huge “comeback” season in 2016 after posting two straight sub par campaigns. Verlander went 16-8 with a 3.04 ERA in 227.2 innings and added 254 strikeouts, which was good enough for 2nd in Cy Young voting. Verlander’s renaissance season came on the heels of rebuild rumblings in the Motor City and he will need to continue to pitch like the Verlander of old if the Tigers are going to compete in the Central and stave off any rebuild rumours for (at least) another season.

Potential Breakout: Daniel Norris. At this point, people know more about Daniel Norris, the surfing/photographer that lives and travels in a VW Bus during the offseason than they do about Daniel Norris, the southpaw that has shown glimpses of brilliance in a mere 32 MLB starts. While it’s no secret that Norris has the dynamite stuff and smooth mechanics that should enable him to stay in an MLB rotation for years to come, it’s his durability concerns that have caused him to miss out on reaching both his potential as well as making 30 starts in a season. A full, healthy season in 2017 could see Norris set new career highs across the board, not to mention help an aging Tigers team compete against the likes of the Indians and the Royals in the Central.

Top Prospect: Matt Manning • Age: 19 • MLB ETA: 2020

First Round Draft Miss: Kyle Sleeth (5th) over Nick Markakis (7th) in 2003

Fantasy Stud:1B Miguel Cabrera  2016 Stats: .316/.956/38/108/4.9 WAR in 595 AB

Money’s Man Crush: Daniel Norris. Definition of stud both on and off the field. As much as I loved the Blue Jay’s 2015 trade acquisition of David Price, the loss of Norris to Detroit hurt in more than one way. Not only did we lose a young lefty with huge upside but we also lost him to an American League team, and a historic rival of Toronto. For further reading, search “1987 Blue Jays season.”

2017 Prediction: 3rd AL Central

 

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Cleveland Indians

 

Kansas City Royals

2016 Record: 81-81 • 3rd AL Central

O/U on Wins: 80.5 • Over

Moving In: OF Jorge Solar •P Travis Wood • P Jason Hammel • 1B/OF Brandon Moss • P Bobby Parnell

Moving Out: P Wade Davis • DH Kendrys Morales • P Edison Volquez

Key Player(s) in 2017: OF Lorenzo Cain. If it wasn’t for injuries, Lorenzo Cain would’ve (most likely) put up another spectacular season like he had in 2015 when he finished 3rd in AL MVP voting. The Royals will need a big bounce back season from Cain in order to give them a legit shot at competing against the Indians for top spot in the Central. Cain will also want to put up a strong season as he is a free agent at seasons end and could look for a big deal from somebody other than the Royals.

Potential Breakout: OF Jorge Solar. The Royals acquired Solar from the Cubs in exchange for closer Wade Davis. The hope is for Solar to open the season as the everyday RF but that will be up to the play of Solar. During his time in Chicago, Solar showed both moments of brilliance as well as moments of sheer frustration. A breakout year from Solar could make the (possible/eventual) loss of Lorenzo Cain a bit more easier of a pill to swallow.

Top Prospect: Matt Strahm • Age: 25 • MLB ETA: 2017

First Round Draft Miss: Bubba Starling (5th) over everyone else (Rendon, Lindor, Baez, Springer, J. Fernandez, S. Gray) in 2011.

Fantasy Stud: 1B Eric Hosmer • 2016 Stats:

Money’s Man Crush: 1B Eric Hosmer

2017 Prediction: 2nd AL Central

 

Miguel Sano, Brian McCann

 

Minnesota Twins

2016 Record: 59-103 • 5th AL Central

O/U on Wins: 70.5 • Over

Moving In: C Jason Castro • 1B Ben Paulsen • OF JB Schuck

Moving Out: C Kurt Suzuki • UT Trevor Plouffe

Key Player(s) in 2017: OF Byron Buxton. The legend of Bux was already being written long before the Twins took him with the 2nd overall pick in the 2012 MLB Draft. Buxton’s tool set is off the charts. In the field, he’s a plus defender with plus range and a cannon for an arm. At the plate, he has shown some of his power potential but has yet to hit at a consistent clip. His inability to get on base has also rendered his plus speed and base stealing capability essentially moot. While it is sure to be a long year in the Twin Cities, a breakout year from Bux could give the fans at Target something to cheer about. However, another down year could see Buxton starting to look more and more like an Aaron Hicks 2.0 (all glove, no bat) instead of the legendary baseball figure that was being etched out back in his Georgia hometown.

Potential Breakout: P Jose Berrios. Berrios enters the season in competition for the fifth spot in the rotation against Trevor May. While Berrios has the higher ceiling of the two, his dismal debut (3-7/8.02 ERA in 58.1 innings) could give May the inside edge, at least on paper. Berrios will need to drastically improve his command and cut down on the free passes (5.4 BB/9 in 2016). Now I am not trying to be negative in regards to Berrios. I believe that his debut could be a mere bump in what could be a promising career. That promising career could begin as early as this season, it will all depend on Berrios’ approach throughout the season. He should have a rather lengthy leash with the Twins not expected to compete for a playoff spot in 2017.

Top Prospect: Nick Gordon • Age: 21 • MLB ETA: 2018

First Round Draft Miss: 1B Chris Parmelee (20th) over P Ian Kennedy (21st)

Fantasy Stud: 2B Brian Dozier

Money’s Man Crush: 3B Miguel Sano

2017 Prediction: 4th AL Central

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