Happy Opening Day to all of the baseball fans out there! I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t still emotionally hungover from last years Blue Jays playoff run. Every baseball moment from the “Bat Flip Heard Around the World” has been a complete blur, as was the subsequent offseason. Yet all of that is past us. Every team has a clean slate, and anything can happen.
American League East
2015 Record: 81-81 (3rd AL East)
O/U Wins in 2016: 78 Wins • Push
X-Factor: Chris Tillman • SP
Potential Breakout Player: Dylan Bundy • RHP
Futures Report: Hunter Harvey • RHP
2016 Final Standing: 4th AL East
Boston Red Sox
2015 Record: 78-84 (5th AL East)
O/U Wins in 2016: 87 Wins • Over
X-Factor: Clay Buchholz • SP
Potential Breakout Player: Jackie Bradley Jr. • OF
Futures Report: Yoan Moancada • 2B
2016 Final Standing: 2nd AL East
New York Yankees
2015 Record: 87-75 • (2nd AL East)
O/U Wins in 2016: 85 Wins • Under
X-Factor: Nathan Eovaldi • SP
Potential Breakout Player: Luis Severino • SP
Futures Report: Jorge Mateo • SS
2016 Final Standing: 3rd AL East
Tampa Bay Rays
2015 Record: 80-82 • (4th AL East)
O/U Wins in 2016: 82 Wins • Under
X-Factor: Corey Dickerson • OF
Potential Breakout Player: Jake Odorizzi • SP
Futures Report: Blake Snell • LHP
2016 Final Standing: 4th AL East
Toronto Blue Jays
2015 Record: 93-69 • (1st AL East)
O/U Wins in 2016: 87 Wins • Over
X-Factor: Troy Tulowitzki • SS
Potential Breakout Player: Aaron Sanchez • SP
Futures Report: Anthony Alford • OF
2016 Final Standing: 1st AL East
American League Central
Chicago White Sox
2015 Record: 76-86 • (4th AL Central)
O/U Wins in 2016: 82 Wins • Under
X-Factor: Todd Frazier • 3B
Potential Breakout Player: Carlos Rodon • SP
Futures Report: Carson Fullmer • RHP
2016 Final Standing: 4th AL Central
2015 Record: 81-80 • (3rd AL Central)
O/U Wins in 2016: 87 Wins • Under
X-Factor: Michael Brantley • OF
Potential Breakout Player: Tyler Naquin • OF
Futures Report: Bradley Zimmer • OF
2016 Final Standing: 2nd AL Central
2015 Record: 74-87 • (5th AL Central)
O/U Wins in 2016: 82.5 Wins • Under
X-Factor: Justin Verlander • SP
Potential Breakout Player: Daniel Norris • SP
Futures Report: Michael Fulmer • RHP
2016 Final Standing: 5th AL Central
Kansas City Royals
2015 Record: 95-67 • (1st AL Central)
O/U Wins in 2016: 84.5 Wins • Over
X-Factor: Lorenzo Cain • OF
Potential Breakout Player: Danny Duffy • SP
Futures Report: Raul Adalberto Mondesi • 2B/SS
2016 Final Standing: 1st AL Central
2015 Record: 83-79 • (3rd AL Central)
O/U Wins in 2016: 80 Wins • Over
X-Factor: Miguel Sano • 3B
Potential Breakout Player: Byron Buxton • OF
Futures Report: Jose Berrios • RHP
2016 Final Standing: 3rd AL Central
American League West
2015 Record: 86-76 • (2nd AL West)
O/U Wins in 2016: 87.5 Wins • Over
X-Factor: Carlos Correa • SS
Potential Breakout Player: Ken Giles • RP
Futures Report: Alex Bergman • SS
2016 Final Standing: 1st AL West
Los Angeles Angels
2015 Record: 85-77 • (3rd AL West)
O/U Wins in 2016: 79.5 Wins • Under
X-Factor: Albert Pujols • 1B/DH
Potential Breakout Player: Andrew Heaney • SP
Futures Report: Taylor Ward • C
2016 Final Standing: 4th AL West
2015 Record: 68-94 • (5th AL West)
O/U Wins in 2016: 76 Wins • Under
X-Factor: Sonny Gray • SP
Potential Breakout Player: Kendall Graveman • SP
Futures Report: Franklin Barreto • SS
2016 Final Standing: 5th AL West
2015 Record: 76-86 • (4th AL West)
O/U Wins in 2016: 82.5 Wins • Under
X-Factor: Kyle Seager • 3B
Potential Breakout Player: Taijuan Walker • SP
Futures Report: Alex Jackson • OF
2016 Final Standing: 3rd AL West
2015 Record: 88-74 • (1st AL West)
O/U Wins in 2016: 82.5 Wins • Over
X-Factor: Yu Darvish • SP
Potential Breakout Player: Roughned Odor • 2B
Futures Report: Joey Gallo • 3B
2016 Final Standing: 2nd AL West
American League MVP
- Troy Tulowitzki • SS • Toronto Blue Jays
- Carlos Correa • SS • Houston Astros
- Mookie Betts • OF • Boston Red Sox
American League Cy Young
- Chris Sale • LHP • Chicago White Sox
- Cole Hamels • LHP • Texas Rangers
- Chris Archer • RHP • Tampa Bay Rays
American League Rookie of the Year
- Byron Buxton • OF • Minnesota Twins
- Joey Gallo • 3B • Texas Rangers
- Blake Snell • SP • Tampa Bay Rays
Home Ballpark: Target Field
2014 Finish: 70 – 92 · 5th AL Central
Over/Under Wins in 2015: 68.5 · Under
What We Love:
- The (Very) Bright Future: Remember the days when the Twins were the dominant force in the AL Central? From 2000-10, the Twins captured the division six times. They were arguably, along with the A’s, one of the best teams to not make a World Series appearance during the 2000’s. Those days seem as distant as the days of Kirby Puckett manning CF at the old Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. In the past few seasons, the Twins franchise has been more synonymous with losing than it has been with winning, as it has had four straight seasons with 90 losses or more. This isn’t the first time that the Twins have suffered through four straight 90+ loss seasons, the last time it happened (1997-2000) was right before they went off on their decade run of success. And it looks like the Twins days of losing could be coming to an end sooner rather than later. The Twins have one of the deepest farm systems in MLB (ranked 2nd by ESPN’s Keith Law) and have two of the biggest prospects in the game in OF Byron Buxton and 3B/SS Miguel Sano. Buxton, who was drafted 2nd overall in 2012, is the epitome of a five tool player and has an absolute, limitless ceiling. One report said that, “his ceiling is Willie Mays, while his floor is Torii Hunter.” Not a bad scouting report at all. The Twins won’t rush Bux, but his toolbox might force their hands earlier than they would like. Sano, on the other hand, seems like he has been a top prospect since he signed as an International Free Agent back in 2009. Sano could have been poised to start the 2015 campaign in Minnesota if it wasn’t for missing the entire 2014 season following Tommy John surgery. At a listed 6’4, 260, Sano has some of the biggest power in the minors and 40 HR in the future wouldn’t be a stretch. Behind the duo of Bux and Sano, the Twins also have highly touted pitching prospects Alex Meyer, Jose Berrios and Kohl Stewart, as well as Dee Gordon’s little brother, Nick, who is a SS prospect.
- Brian Dozier’s combo of power and speed at 2B. Dozier has the skill set to become the best player to man the keystone position in the Twin Cities since the days of Chuck Knoblauch.
- Paul Molitor getting his first MLB manager position with his hometown Twins.
- Being the focal point for one of the (pound for pound) best baseball movie montages in cinema history: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZShTLOpQlTg
What We Hate:
- Overpaying For (Mediocre) Starting Pitching: In 2013, Mike Pelfrey signed a 1yr/$4mil deal with the Twins in the hopes of re-establishing his value following Tommy John surgery. Pelfrey would go on to have the worst season of his career; posting a 5-13 record with a 5.18 ERA in 25 starts. Astoundingly, the Twins not only resigned him, but they also gave him a raise and an additional year on his contract (2yrs/$11mil). Pelfrey rewarded the Twins with an 0-3 record and an ERA of 7.99 in 5 starts, before undergoing season ending surgery on his elbow, groin and shoulder. Aside from Pelfrey, the Twins are also committed to three more years of Ricky Nolasco at $12 million per year. Nolasco, was one of the free agent pitchers, Phil Hughes being the other, brought in during the 2013 offseason to help make the Twins more competitive. But while Hughes enjoyed success in his first year in Minnesota, Nolasco struggled to a 6-12 record with a 5.38 ERA in 27 starts. The Twins will need more out of Nolasco in 2015, not only so they can be somewhat competitive, but also to make him more attractive as a potential trade chip at the deadline. Although not nearly as mediocre as the likes of Pelfrey and Nolasco, the Twins did overpay for four years of Ervin Santana, as they inked the RHP to a 4yr/$55mil contract in the offseason. Not sure why the Twins would shell out money to bring in another mid rotation starter.
- The Twins taking the title of “Worst Offensive Team” from the Padres.
- The remaining 4yrs/$92 million dollars left on Joe Mauer’s contract.
- The fans who believe that the Twins would be better without Joe Mauer.
- Not seeing the familiar face of Ron Gardenhire in the Twins dugout. Gardenhire was the Twins manager from 2002 to 2014.
Player to Watch: SP Alex Meyer. It’s not every day that a 6’9 giant stumbles down from his beanstalk, picks up a baseball over a basketball, and learns how to throw it with control. But that is the case with Twins top pitching prospect, Alex Meyer. Meyer, who was acquired from the Nationals for Denard Span in the 2012 offseason, uses his immense frame and arsenal to generate high amounts of both strikeouts and groundballs. The hard throwing Meyer also marks a change in the Twins usual preference of soft tossing, finesse pitchers. The Twins are in dire need of an impact arm that can anchor their rotation. In Meyer, they may have found that.
Top Pitching Prospect: Jose Berrios · RHP · MLB ETA: 2015
Top Positional Prospect: Byron Buxton · OF · MLB ETA: 2016
Top 30 Prospects (MLB.com): http://m.mlb.com/prospects/2015?list=min
Final Prediction: 5th AL Central
Kansas City Royals
Home Ballpark: Kauffman Stadium
2014 Finish: 89-72 · 2nd AL Central
Over/Under Wins in 2015: 83 · Push/Under
What We Love:
- Gold Glove Defense: With an above average defender manning every defensive position on the field, the Royals may very well have the best defense in MLB. The 2014 season saw the trio of Eric Hosmer, Salvador Perez and Alex Gordon win back to back Gold Gloves at their respective positions; for Alex Gordon it was his 4th in a row. In fact, if it wasn’t for J.J Hardy’s glove in Baltimore, the Royals could very well have had a fourth Gold Glover in the fold, as SS Alcides Escobar has been an exceptional defender these past few seasons. The Royals also have the glove (and wheels) of OF Jarrod Dyson waiting on the bench. Dyson’s speed allows him to patrol the spacious outfield of Kauffman with relative ease. The Royals love being able to move Cain to RF to allow for Dyson’s glove and wheels to roam freely in CF.
- The K.C Bullpen: Not too sure if you were aware of this or not, but the Royals bullpen may have played a small role in their 2014 success. The power armed trio of closer, Greg Holland, and setup men, Wade Davis and Kelvin Herrera, combined for a 1.27 ERA over 204 innings pitched and helped the Royals to a MLB best 65-4 record when leading after six innings. Behind those three, the Royals have a duo of righties, Jason Frasor and Luke Hochevar, and a lefty, Brian Flynn, who was brought over from the Marlins and will replace the injured Tim Collins (Tommy John). Meanwhile, postseason revelation, Brandon Finnegan, is slated to open the season AAA Omaha, as he gets stretched out to start. The K.C bullpen is SO deep that there was talk in the offseason that the Royals were entertaining offers on Holland, who had just won the Mariano Rivera Award for being the best reliever in MLB.
- Thievery on the base paths: 153 stolen bases led the MLB
- The low risk/high reward signing of SP Kris Medlen (2 yrs/$8.5 mil) which, if healthy, could be an ABSOLUTE steal of a deal.
- Yordano Ventura’s Pedro-esque arsenal.
- Kauffman Stadium’s waterfalls.
- Kansas City BBQ over the other main types of BBQ (Texas, Memphis and North Carolina).
What We Hate:
- Odds of Replicating 2014 Success: Anyone who predicted the run the Royals had in 2014 is either a prophet, or a liar. The Royals came out of (seemingly) nowhere last season to make both the playoffs and the World Series; ending their 29 year old playoff drought in the process. Unfortunately for the Royals, while other teams in the AL Central went out and added depth to their roster, the Royals were more concerned in replacing the pieces they had lost. Gone from the 2014 AL Pennant winners are the likes of SP “Mediocre Game” James Shields, OF Nori Aoki and DH Billy “Country Breakfast” Butler. Replacing them will be a trio of free agent signed in the offseason: SP Edinson Volquez, DH Kendrys Morales and OF Alex Rios. Those additions, while decent replacements for the departed, are a slight downgrade and come with more question marks. Can Volquez make the transition from NL to AL? How many at bats will the oft-injured Morales get? And, which Alex Rios did the Royals get? The biggest issue for the Royals though this season will be just competing in, what could be, a very tough AL Central.
- Not a whole lot of power in the lineup. Additions of Alex Rios and Kendrys Morales won’t be huge difference makers in a lineup that hit an MLB low 95 HR in 2014.
- Lack of catching depth (Erik Kratz and Francisco Pena) could result in an eventual breakdown of Sal Perez.
- Ability to draw walks – lead the MLB in fewest walks (380) in 2014.
- Waiting for Mike Moustakas to (ever) have a breakout season.
Player to Watch: SP Danny Duffy. The Royals have been waiting for Duffy to enjoy a breakthrough season since he made 20 starts for them in 2011. Unfortunately for Duffy and the Royals, the left hander has been plagued with durability issues. He was sidetracked by Tommy John surgery in 2012 and struggled with oblique and shoulder injuries down the stretch last season. If he remains healthy though, you can expect Duffy to build on an impressive 2014 that saw him make 25 starts, post a 9-12 record with a 2.53 ERA and strikeout 113 batters over 149.1 innings. A double digit win total is definitely in the cards for 2015, especially with the Royals looking to increase his workload to the 180-200 inning mark.
Top Pitching Prospect: Sean Manaea · LHP · MLB ETA: 2016
Top Positional Prospect: Raul Adalberto Mondesi · SS · MLB ETA: 2017
Top 30 Prospects (MLB.com): http://m.mlb.com/prospects/2015?list=kc
Final Prediction: 4th AL Central
Home Ballpark: Comerica Park.
2014 Finish: 90-72 · 1st AL Central.
Over/Under Wins in 2015: 86.5 · Under
What We Love:
- The Man They Call Miggy: What is not to like about a guy who plays in 159 games, hits for a .313 average with 25 HR and 109 RBI, and is considered to have an “off” year? Even despite getting off to a slow start and being hobbled by an ankle injury, Miguel Cabrera enjoyed his 11th straight season driving in 100+ RBI. Entering his 32nd year, Cabrera is still one of the top players in the game today and with his move to back to 1B last season, and ability to DH, he should continue to play at a high level for the foreseeable future. And that is great news for the Tigers, who will need Cabrera to continue his MVP style of play if they have any hope of holding off the Indians and White Sox for the AL Central title. Not to mention they’ll need/want him to stay healthy and productive as they are paying him a small fortune ($240 million) over the next eight seasons.
- Best front office in the game: Owner Mike Illitch and GM Dave Dombrowski.
- Manager Brad Ausmus’ 90 win rookie campaign.
- Anibal Sanchez rebounding from a subpar 2014 season.
- Potential DP combo of Jose Iglesias and Ian Kinsler.
What We Hate:
- Verlander’s Arm and Velocity Woes: In 2009, Justin Verlander’s average fastball speed was 95.6 mph, the second best in MLB. In 2014, his average fastball was down to 92.6 mph, which had him outside of the top 25 qualified pitchers in MLB. It’s not uncommon for a pitcher to lose a few ticks off of his heater as he ages, but to seemingly fall apart overnight is another thing. Verlander’s 2014 was his worst statistical season since 2008, in fact, both seasons are extremely similar:
2008: 33 GS · 201 IP · 11-17 W/L · 4.84 ERA · 108 ER · 163 K · 1.40 WHIP
2014: 32 GS · 206 IP · 15-13 W/L · 4.54 ERA · 104 ER · 159 K · 1.40 WHIP
Verlander was also the American League leader in Earned Runs in 2014; finishing 2nd behind A.J Burnett for the overall MLB lead.
So what is the cause for this sudden drop off? Could it be “dead arm” (which is, hands down the most awesome, old timey name for a legitimate medical condition) aka arm fatigue? That is a pretty plausible scenario, especially given that Verlander has thrown at least 200 innings in every season since 2007. Perhaps it could be attributed to the core-muscle surgery he underwent before the 2014 season. The surgery might not be the culprit when it comes to the diminishing velocity, but it could be the reason why Verlander has started to experience arm issues. If he was unable to use his proper pitching mechanics and drive from his core and legs, that could have forced him to alter his mechanics and put more stress on his shoulder/arm. It could also be the reason why he was unable to locate and have solid command of his secondary pitches (curveball and slider).
In order for the Tigers to return to the Postseason they cannot afford to have another down year from Verlander. Even with David Price and Anibal Sanchez behind him, this is a starting rotation that will be weaker than it has been in years past. The bigger fear for the Tigers, if Verlander can’t return to his old form, is that they will be paying $28 million a season (through 2020) for an average to above average starting pitcher
*Now with all of this being said, there is ABSOLUTELY no reason NOT to believe that Justin Verlander can and will come back from this. He is still (only) 32 years old and is still one of the top tier starting pitchers in the game. Every pitcher eventually loses their fastball; even the greats. It’s what you do to re-shape your game after that happens which separate the good from the great.*
- A Less Than Watertight Bullpen: In the past four seasons, the ERA of the Tigers bullpen has had them ranked 27th, 24th, 18th and 25th respectively in the entire MLB. The bullpen was one of the key contributors to the Tigers being bounced from the playoffs by the Orioles in 2014. What’s astonishing is that while GM Dave Dombrowski made the moves to replace departed starting pitchers Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello, he neglected to address his bullpen in any way. In fact, it is almost exactly the same bullpen returning that was to blame for that dismal 2014 campaign. 40 year old, Joe Nathan, returns as the incumbent closer, a year removed from saving 35 games while posting a 4.81 ERA. Behind Nathan, the Tigers will have a pair of experienced setup men in Joakim Soria and Joba Chamberlain. Soria, who was acquired from the Rangers at last season’s trade deadline, has experience closing games and could replace Nathan if he falters. Even though they didn’t add anyone in the offseason, the Tigers bullpen may get a big mid-season upgrade if and when RHP Bruce Rondon returns from Tommy John Surgery. Rondon, who was viewed as a future closer, struggled in his first MLB performance in 2013 before missing all of last year following Tommy John surgery. The Tigers will take any kind of upgrade they can get and a healthy Rondon would be an immediate upgrade to that bullpen.
- V-Mart’s knees: torn meniscus during offseason workouts could force him to miss Opening Day. Bigger concern for Tigers should be that it’s same knee that forced him to miss all of 2012.
- Attempting to replace Max Scherzer’s and Rick Porcello’s outputs with the likes of Alfredo Simon and Shane Greene.
- Jose Iglesias’ durability.
- Alex Avila’s long term health: the catcher suffered upwards of four concussions in 2014.
- That collective sick feeling that I and every Blue Jays fan will get if Anthony Gose somehow manages to put it all together.
Player to Watch: 3B Nick Castellanos. Playing in his first full MLB season in 2014, Nick Castellanos enjoyed the highs and lows of life in the big leagues. Offensively he had a pretty decent season at the plate, hitting .259/11/66 in 533 AB. However, his defensive game left something to be desired, as he ranked near the bottom of every defensive metric. The reason for him being a defensive liability could be because he has bounced around between multiple positions since being drafted. Originally drafted as a shortstop by the Tigers in the supplemental first round (44th overall) back in 2010, Castellanos was first asked to move to 3B so his bat would not be blocked by Jhonny Peralta. However, when the Tigers signed Prince Fielder to play 1B, Castellanos path to the majors became blocked by Miguel Cabrera, whom had moved across the diamond to accommodate Fielder. With Cabrera at 3B, Castellanos was then asked to ply his trade as a LF; which would only last a season. Following the 2013 season, Fielder was whipped out of the Motor City, Cabrera moved back to 1B, and Castellanos was asked (again) to switch back to 3B. While the Tigers have always known that Castellanos can hit, they’ll need him to make bigger strides defensively. Perhaps now that he has an established position, he’ll be able to fine tune his defensive skills. On the offensive side of things, it wouldn’t be outlandish to believe a 20 HR/75 RBI campaign is possible.
Top Pitching Prospect: Buck Farmer · RHP · MLB ETA: 2015
Top Positional Prospect: Steven Moya · OF · MLB ETA: 2015
Top 30 Prospects (MLB.com): http://m.mlb.com/prospects/2015?list=det
Final Prediction: 2nd AL Central.
Home Ballpark: Progressive Field
2014 Finish: 85 – 77 · 3rd AL Central
Over/Under Wins in 2015: 81 · Over
What We Love:
- Power Arms and Rotation Depth: With as strong, and deep, of a starting rotation like Cleveland has, it’s no wonder they’ve been receiving so much preseason love and hype to make some BIG noise in the AL Central this season. Heading into 2014, it was the young flame throwing, Danny Salazar, who was garnering all of the preseason hype. By the season’s end, it would be another hard throwing righty that would be getting all of the press (and awards); Corey Kluber. Kluber, who came out of (seemingly) nowhere, went 18-9 with a 2.44 ERA and struck out 269 batters over 235 innings, on his way to edging out King Felix (Hernandez) and capturing the 2014 Cy Young Award. This season, Kluber will be (heavily) relied upon to anchor a starting rotation that has tremendous upside, but is also unproven. Even after optioning the highly talented Salazar to AAA, the Tribe (still) have a duo of hard throwing righties (Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer) that could be poised to take a big “next step” in 2015. Both Carrasco and Bauer, whom were (former) top pitching prospects for other teams before being acquired by the Tribe, set career highs in appearances, starts, innings pitched and strikeouts, in 2014. Behind that trio of righties, the Indians rotation will be rounded out by the combo of LHP T.J House and RHP Zach McAllister. Meanwhile in AAA, the Indians have the aforementioned Danny Salazar, along with RHP Josh Tomlin, waiting in the wings.
- The emergence of Yan Gomes: As a Blue Jays fan, this is a very sore topic to discuss. Let me take you back to the days (2012) when the Blue Jays had too many young catching prospects (like that’s ever a bad thing!) in their farm system and ended up including the versatile Gomes, as a THROW IN nonetheless, in a trade for a pitcher (Esmil Rogers). In the two seasons since that trade, the Blue Jays have seen the likes of JP Arencibia, Josh Thole, Dioner Navarro, Henry Blanco, Mike Nickeas (who?) and now Russell Martin, play at least one game behind the dish for them. Meanwhile, the acquisition and emergence of Gomes as an everyday catcher in Cleveland, has allowed the Tribe to move the versatile Carlos Santana to other positions of offensive need (1B/3B/DH). Besides being an above average game caller and defender, Gomes has also proven that he is no slouch at the plate. In his two seasons in Cleveland, Gomes has hit for a .284 average with 32 HR and 112 RBI in 778 AB. Bat and glove aside, the most underrated aspect about Gomes is that he may be one of the best bargains in baseball, as he is locked up through 2020 on a 6yr/$23 million dollar deal. On behalf of Indians fans around the World… THANK YOU TORONTO!
- Potential of a Francisco Lindor sighting before seasons end.
- The likelihood of a BIG bounce back campaign by 2B Jason Kipnis.
- A full season of SS Jose Ramirez’s glove and wheels.
- Fading out Chief Wahoo for the more culturally sensitive “C” logo.
What We Hate:
- The (remaining) Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher Contracts: In the 2012 offseason, the notoriously tight pocketed Indians opened up their chequebooks and signed a pair of big name free agents to four year contracts. CF Michael Bourn was the recipient of a 4 yr/$48 million dollar deal, while 1B/OF Nick Swisher was brought in on a 4 year deal worth $56 million dollars. Now two seasons into those deals and it looks like the Indians wish they had the ability to get a mulligan on those two signings. Both players have struggled with injuries and inconsistent play, and both are still owed a small fortune for the remaining two years of their contracts. Swisher, who has batted .231/30/105 in 909 AB in two seasons, is owed $30 million over the next two seasons ($15 mil per year). While Bourn, who is owed a remaining $27.5 million over the next two seasons, has hit .260/9/78 in 969 AB and has seen his stolen base numbers drastically decline (33 steals in two seasons) thanks to hamstring injuries. Besides getting a poor return on investment, the biggest issue with these two contracts is that it prevents a mid-market team like the Indians from making in-season moves to add depth to a position of need or replace an injured player. Not to mention that it prevents them from going out and splurging on the bigger free agents available. Imagine if the Tribe had the money this offseason to go out and sign one of the big name starting pitchers?
- Besides Cody Allen, bullpen could be trick or treat.
- Potential for some historically bad defensive numbers.
- Sandy Alomar Jr’s inability to find a role as a big league manager.
- Replacing Wesley Snipes with Omar Epps… like we wouldn’t notice.
Player to Watch: SP Trevor Bauer. It seems like it has been a lifetime since Bauer was drafted 3rd overall in 2011 by the Arizona Diamondbacks. Bauer, who was viewed as an extremely polished starter coming out of UCLA, cruised through the minors and wound up making four starts for the Diamondbacks in 2012. What seemed like a very bright future in the desert soon grew into a bitter relationship over Bauer’s unwillingness to alter his workout regime (long toss and stretching over weightlifting). The Diamondbacks viewed Bauer as “uncoachable,” quickly soured on him and flipped him for a 70% return rate (Didi Gregorious). Bauer, who is listed as 6’1, 190, modelled his delivery and mechanics off another lean and wiry starting pitcher, Tim Lincecum. It doesn’t matter who is right or wrong in this argument, what matters is that the Indians absolutely pilfered Bauer from the Diamondbacks. Last season marked Bauer’s first full season in the majors and he enjoyed a bit of an up and down season. Bauer made 26 starts for the Indians, went 5-8 with a 4.18 ERA and struck out 143 batters over 153 innings. Even with his win/loss record and ERA, there was more good than bad for Bauer in 2014 and there is no reason not to expect Bauer to take another big step forward in 2015.
Top Pitching Prospect: Justus Sheffield · LHP · MLB ETA: 2018
Top Positional Prospect: Francisco Lindor · SS · MLB ETA: 2015
Top 30 Prospects (MLB.com): http://m.mlb.com/prospects/2015?list=cle
Final Prediction: 1st AL Central
Chicago White Sox
Home Ballpark: U.S Cellular Field
2014 Finish: 73 – 89 · 4th AL Central
Over/Under Wins in 2015: 82 · Over
What We Love:
- Jose Abreu: Remember when there was talk that the White Sox may have made a mistake by inking Cuban slugger, Jose Abreu, to a 6 yr/$68 million dollar deal without him never having faced an MLB pitcher? That talk was quickly silenced as Abreu smashed 10 HR and drove in 32 RBI, all before the calendar flipped to May. What Abreu did, as a rookie nonetheless, in 2014 was (nearly) historical. By the All Star Break, Abreu was on pace to break both Mark McGwire’s Single Season HR total for a rookie (49) and Ted Williams single season RBI total by a rookie (145). Unfortunately for the record books, Abreu’s power dropped off after the All Star Break (mustered only 6 HR for remainder of season) and he finished the season with a tremendous stat line of .317/36/107 in 556 AB over 145 games. In fact, in the entire history of baseball, only a dozen players have enjoyed a rookie season of 30+ HR and 100+ RBI. Part of the power drop off could be attributed to general wear and tear, as the MLB season being (almost) 40% longer than the Cuban Baseball season. To combat further wear and tear on Abreu, the White Sox picked up 1B Adam LaRoche in the offseason. The signing of LaRoche should allow for Abreu to see more time at DH, and help him refrain from suffering a late season power outage; something the White Sox will need to happen in order for them to battle for a playoff spot in a tough AL Central.
- Flurry of Offseason Activity: While everyone in the baseball world was talking about AJ Preller and the moves the San Diego Padres were making, White Sox GM Rick Hahn was having himself quite the nice offseason too. The White Sox signed three high profile free agents (Melky Cabrera, Adam LaRoche and David Robertson), one under the radar signing (Zack Duke) and one high profile trade (Jeff Samardzjia). Cabrera should fit nicely as the team’s two-hitter and help set the table for Jose Abreu, while LaRoche will offer protection in the lineup, and days off for the Cuban slugger. Robertson and Duke were brought in to help the White Sox bullpen refrain from losing another 32 games this season. Meanwhile, the acquisition of the Shark (Samardzjia) gives the Chi Sox a right hander to pitch between their dangerous duo of lefties (Chris Sale and Jose Quintana); perhaps giving the Pale Hose one of, if not the best, front end rotations in the American League. That’s a scary trio to have to run into IF they make it to October… and that is a big IF.
- Everything Adam Eaton does – legit leadoff hitter, fearless defender and now a bargain contract for the next 5 years (5yrs/$23.5 mil).
- Chris Sale being (perhaps) the 2nd best LHP in the game.
- Potential for 2014 top pick, Carlos Rodon, to make an appearance in 2015.
- Avisail Garcia (FINALLY) having a breakout season!
- The Hawk’s HR call, “Stretch. Stretch. You can put it on the booooooaaarrrd… YEEEEEESSSSSSS!” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dY6McvgeHAo
What We Hate:
- Black holes at 2B and C: For someone who was not afraid to open up the chequebook this offseason, it is rather odd that GM Rick Hahn failed to address the pressing need for an everyday 2B and an upgrade behind the plate. When the Sox drafted 2B Gordon Beckham out of the University of Georgia back in the 1st round of the 2008 MLB draft, they believed they had found their 2B of the future. Wrong. After playing parts of five (subpar) seasons in Chicago, Beckham was shipped to the Angels in 2014, before being brought back to Chicago on a 1 year deal in the offseason. Beckham will look to compete with other 2B candidates (Micah Johnson and Carlos Sanchez) for the Opening Day spot; although it looks like Micah Johnson has already grabbed that spot with a torrid Spring Training. As grim as the 2B outlook is, the catching one isn’t much better. Sure Tyler Flowers hit 15 HR and drove in 50 RBI, but he also struck out an incredible 149 times in 407 AB. The C battle will most likely come down to a coin flip between Flowers and the recently acquired, Geovany Soto; with 2014 backup, Adrian Nieto, being the odd man out. I would not be shocked to see either one of, if not both, these positions being addressed as the season wears on.
- Chris Sale’s ankle/foot injury – hopefully it doesn’t rob us of seeing one of the best in the game work his craft.
- The 4 and 5 spots in the starting rotation – some combo of John Danks, Hector Noesi and Erik Johnson will end up here, at least keeping the spot warm until Carlos Rodon is up.
- Potential power output from 3B (Conner Gillespie and Emilio Bonifacio).
- Jeff Samardzia getting paid to be an MLB ace in the offseason – he is a solid #2 at best.
Player to Watch: SP Jose Quintana. Quintana has posted back to back seasons with 30 starts and 200 innings pitched, but he seems to get the short end of the stick when it comes to wins and losses. In his past two campaigns, Quintana has failed to reach double digits in wins, despite having above average numbers in ERA, WHIP and K/BB ratio. Most teams would be blessed to have a LHP with Quintana’s arsenal as their #2; the White Sox have him as their #3. With all the additions the White Sox made in the offseason, especially in solidifying a leaky bullpen, it is not hard to envision Quintana easily winning double digit contests for the first time in his career. In fact, I believe that Quintana could conceivably win 13-15 games… if everything falls into place. Honourable Mention: OF Avisail Garcia.
Top Pitching Prospect: Carlos Rodon · LHP · MLB ETA: 2015
Top Positional Prospect: Tim Anderson · SS · MLB ETA: 2016
Top 30 Prospects (MLB.com): http://m.mlb.com/prospects/2015?list=cws
Final Prediction: 3rd AL Central