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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2015 MLB Season Preview · NL East

Turner Field

Atlanta Braves

Home Field: Turner Field

2014: 79 – 83 · 2nd NL East

O/U in 2015: 73.5 Wins · Over

What We Love:

  • Depth of Starting Rotation. Braves start the season with a rotation consisting of: RHP Julio Teheran, LHP Alex Wood, RHP Shelby Miller, LHP Eric Stults and RHP Trevor Cahill. The Braves also have LHP Manny Banuelos and RHP Mike Foltynewicz in AAA, LHP Mike Minor on the DL, and a trio of top pitching prospects on the farm (Max Fried, Matt Wisler and Lucas Sims).
  • Andrelton Simmons making glove in the field. Simmons has won the NL Gold Glove at SS in both of his two full seasons in MLB. Here are a “few” of his web gems from last season: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m38fxtOA6Tk
  • Freddie Freeman at 1B. One of the few bright spots to look forward to in Atlanta this season.
  • John Smoltz getting the call to join Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and manager, Bobby Cox, in Cooperstown.

What We Hate:

  • Lackluster offense. Offseason house cleaning may have turned Atlanta into a contender for worst offense in baseball.
  • Being Nick Markakis. I wonder if Markakis was aware of the Braves plans to rebuild when he inked his 4yr/$44mil contract in the offseason. Speaking of…
  • Nick Markakis contract. Why make a point of shedding payroll and getting out from under “bad contracts,” just to dole out (potentially) another bad contract? Doesn’t make sense during (apparent) rebuild phase.
  • No more Craig Kimbrel closing games. Latest name to be shipped out of town. Takes his 90.7 SV% with him to San Diego.

Impact Player: 1B Freddie Freeman

Potential Breakout Candidate: LHP Alex Wood

Potential Bust Candidate: OF Nick Markakis

Top Prospect: Jose Peraza · 2B · MLB ETA: 2015

MLB.com Top 30 Prospects: http://m.mlb.com/prospects/2015?list=atl

Damian Moss

Irrelevant Throwback Player: LHP Damian Moss (2001-02)

Six Degrees of (Octavio) Dotel: The Braves were one of two teams that Dotel pitched for in 2007; the Royals being the other.

Final Prediction: 4th NL East.

Marlins Park

Miami Marlins

Home Field: Marlins Park

2014: 77 – 85 · 4th NL East

O/U in 2015: 81.5 · Over

What We Love:

  • Gio Stanton. Current Monster of Mash will be a fixture in Miami for the foreseeable future after inking the biggest contract in MLB history this past offseason. The Marlins slugger will make $325 million over the next 13 seasons to punish pitchers mistakes. If you like to see a ball get smashed, than Stanton at bats should be considered MUST WATCH TV.
  • Offseason acquisitions. The Marlins used their depth of pitching to bring in SP Mat Latos, SP Dan Haren, 2B Dee Gordon and 3B Martin Prado via trade. They also added the big bat of Mike Morse through free agency.
  • Christian Yelich’s toolbox. In 2015, the 23yr old Yelich hit .284/9/53 and added 21 SB in 144 games, it was his first full season with the Marlins; he also added a Gold Glove.
  • The return of Jose Fernandez. The 2013 NL Rookie of the Year missed the majority of 2014 following Tommy John surgery. The 22 year old, and his FILTHY pitching arsenal, should be back around the All Star Break.
  • Adeiny Hechavarria’s Glove. Not AS GOOD as Andrelton Simmons’ but also not that far off.

What We Hate:

  • Bullpen behind Cishek. Not a whole lot of depth here. Former All Star reliever, Aaron Crow, was brought in via trade from the Royals in exchange for another reliever, Brian Flynn. Unfortunately for the Fish, the newly acquired Crow will miss the entire 2015 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
  • Jarred Cosart’s (apparent) betting. The Marlins pitcher was investigated by MLB officials and fined by the Marlins in relation to gambling on sports other than baseball. Not only does it look bad on Cosart, but it also comes in the same year that Pete Rose is seeking reinstatement to MLB from new commissioner, Rob Manfred.
  • Jeffrey Loria. No reason needed.

Impact Player: RF Giancarlo Stanton

Potential Breakout Candidate: LF Christian Yelich

Potential Bust Candidate: SP Mat Latos

Top Prospect: Tyler Kolek · RHP · MLB ETA: 2018

MLB.com Top 30 Prospects: http://m.mlb.com/prospects/2015?list=mia

Luis Castillo

Irrelevant Throwback Player: 2B Luis Castillo (1997-2005)

Six Degrees of (Octavio) Dotel: The veteran Dotel was a member of the Blue Jays bullpen during Henderson Alvarez’s rookie season in 2011.

Final Prediction: 2nd NL East

Atlanta Braves v New York Mets

New York Mets

Home Field: Citi Field

2014: 79 – 83 · 3rd NL East

O/U in 2015: 81 Wins · Over

What We Love:

  • Matt Harvey’s return. The Mets ace missed all of 2014 after undergoing Tommy John at the end of the 2013 season. Harvey was one of the breakout stars of 2013 and, barring any setbacks, he should return back to his 2013 form. May be on a Strasburg-esque innings limit this season.
  • Future of starting rotation. Mets fans have already seen the trio of Harvey, Zack Wheeler and Jacob deGrom graduate to the bigs. Up next, RHP Noah Syndergaard, LHP Steven Matz and RHP Rafael Montero.
  • David Wright and Michael Cuddyer’s bromance. The two played baseball in the same town as kids. The older Cuddyer, was drafted in the 1st round (9th overall) out of high school in 1997.Wright, who is four years younger than Cuddyer, modelled his game after Cuddyer’s style of play.
  • Any Bartolo Colon start. Not because of his pitching, but because you know Colon will get a chance to bat and (maybe) run the bases.

What We Hate:

  • Zack Wheeler’s torn UCL. Just as the Mets get Matt Harvey back from Tommy John, they lose the 24yr old Wheeler to the same injury.
  • Josh Edgin’s torn UCL. An already weak looking bullpen lost their top LH option before the start of the season.
  • Travis d’Arnaud’s durability. Offensive minded catcher has struggled with injuries throughout his professional career.
  • David Wright’s durability. The face of the franchise as missed (large) parts out of 3 of the last 4 seasons. Mets will need him on the field and in the lineup if they want to finish above .500 in 2015.

Impact Player: SP Matt Harvey

Potential Breakout Candidate: C Travis d’Arnaud

Potential Bust Candidate: OF Michael Cuddyer

Top Prospect: Noah Syndergaard · RHP · MLB: 2015

benny agbayani

Irrelevant Throwback Player: OF Benny Agbayani (1998-2001)

Six Degrees of (Octavio) Dotel: The Mets were the first, of thirteen teams, that Dotel played for. They signed him as a 20yr old international free agent in 1993 and he made his MLB debut for them in 1999.

Final Prediction: 3rd NL East

Citizens Bank Park

Philadelphia Phillies

Home Field: Citizens Bank Park

2014: 73 – 89 · 5th NL East

O/U in 2015: 67 Wins · Over

What We Love:

  • Cole Hamels. Still one of the top pitchers, and southpaws, in the game today. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Hamels get traded as some point throughout the season (Boston anyone?) but until that day comes, he will remain one of the few bright spots on the Phillies roster.
  • Backend of Bullpen. If the Phillies manage to get a lead early on, the trio of Jonathan Papelbon, RHP Ken Giles and LHP Jake Diekman could slam the door shut from the 7th inning on. But that is a big IF.
  • Ben Revere’s wheels. Revere had a breakout year in 2014, hitting for a .306 average and stealing 49 bags in 151 games; he also accounted for 71 runs.
  • Chase Utley playing 155 games last season. A very bright spot for the oft-injured All Star.
  • The Mike Schmidt era throwback jerseys.

What We Hate:

  • Reuben Amaro Jr’s. Phillies GM unwillingness to commit to a rebuild has left them with more untradeable contracts (Cliff Lee, Ryan Howard, Utley, and Papelbon) than valuable trade pieces. Let’s hope that he doesn’t make the same mistake when it comes to Cole Hamels’ long term future.
  • Cliff Lee’s future. Former Cy Young winner faces an uncertain future as he attempts to comeback from a torn flexor tendon in his elbow.
  • Ryan Howard’s remaining contract. Making $25mil through 2016. Club has a $23mil option in 2017 or will face a $10mil buyout. That $10mil buyout looks like a steal to get out from under this contract.

Impact Player: SP Cole Hamels

Potential Breakout Candidate: RP Ken Giles

Potential Bust Candidate: 2B Chase Utley

Top Prospect: J.P Crawford · SS · MLB: 2016

rheal cormier

Irrelevant Throwback Player: P Rheal Cormier (2001-06)

Six Degrees of (Octavio) Dotel: Was teammates with Phillies OF Jeff Francoeur when the two were members of the Braves back in 2007.

Final Prediction: 5th NL East

Nationals Park

Washington Nationals

Home Field: Nationals Park

2014: 96 – 66 · 1st NL East

O/U in 2015: 93 Wins · Over

What We Love:

  • That Pitching Rotation. RHP Max Scherzer, RHP Stephen Strasburg, RHP Jordan Zimmerman, LHP Gio Gonzalez and RHP Doug Fister. When Doug Fister is your 5th starter, you know your team has a loaded starting rotation. Nationals also have 15 game winner, Tanner Roark, working as the long man in the bullpen.
  • Bryce Harper’s ridiculous combo of bat speed and power. If he can stay healthy, Harper could be one of the big breakouts of 2015.
  • Anthony Rendon’s continuing emergence as an elite 3B. Although fans will have to wait for his 2015 debut as he is currently on the DL.
  • Ryan Zimmerman no longer being a defensive liability at 3B.
  • Betting on Honest Abe in the Presidents race. His 264 wins, since the race begin in 2006, have him miles ahead of George Washington (188) in 2nd

What We Hate:

  • Durability Concerns. Ryan Zimmerman, Anthony Rendon, Bryce Harper, Denard Span, Jayson Werth, Stephen Strasburg, Casey Janssen and Wilson Ramos have all spent time on the Disabled List during their career. In fact, Rendon, Werth, Span and Janssen will (all) open the season on the DL.
  • Weak bullpen. Trading Tyler Clippard to the A’s didn’t help either.
  • Poor post season performers. Unceremoniously bounced in two NLDS appearances.
  • Imagining this team playing in Montreal

Impact Player: RHP Max Scherzer

Potential Breakout Candidate: OF Bryce Harper

Potential Bust Candidate: 1B Ryan Zimmerman

Top Prospect: RHP Lucas Giolito · RHP · MLB ETA: 2016

MLB.com Top 30 Prospects: http://m.mlb.com/prospects/2015?list=was

Elijah Dukes

Irrelevant Throwback Player: OF Elijah Dukes (2008-10)

Six Degrees of (Octavio) Dotel: Free agent acquisition, Casey Janssen, pitched in the Toronto Blue Jays bullpen with the well travelled Dotel back in 2011.

Final Prediction: 1st NL East

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