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
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
New York Mets
2016 Record: 87-75 •2nd NL East
O/U on Wins: 89.5 • Under
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
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
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