2017 MLB Season Preview- American League East

MLB: MAR 14 Spring Training - Phillies at Orioles

Baltimore Orioles

2016 Record: 89-73 • 3rd AL East

O/U on Wins: 84.5 • Under

Moving In: C Wellington Castillo • P Vidal Nuno • OF Seth Smith

Moving Out: C Matt Wieters • DH Pedro Alvarez • UT Steve Pearce • P Vance Worley • P Yovanni Gallardo • P Tommy Hunter

Key Player(s) in 2017: P Kevin Gausman and P Dylan Bundy. The pitching starved O’s will need both former first round picks to be both healthy and consistent in order to compete for a playoff spot. If both can give solid contributions than the O’s could definitely challenge for top spot in the East. Gausman set career highs in 2016 by making 30 starts, throwing 179.2 innings and punching out 174 batters, all despite beginning the season on the DL with tendinitis in his shoulder. Entering his fifth season, the O’s will look for Gausman to pick up where he left off in the second half of 2016 (8-6/3.10 ERA) and continue to strive toward unlocking his true potential.

Potential Breakout: P Dylan Bundy. The former 3rd overall pick has battled injuries throughout his short career but if he can stay healthy, Bundy could finally reach the potential that the O’s and baseball fans have been waiting for. Early indications show that Bundy will not have an innings limit imposed on him this season which could either mean a new career high in starts and innings pitched or a possible breakdown.

Top Prospect: C Chance Sisco • Age: 22 • MLB ETA: 2017

First Round Draft Miss: 3B Billy Rowell over Pitchers Tim Lincecum and Max Scherzer.

Fantasy Stud: 3B Manny Machado. 2016 Stats: .294/.876/37/96/6.7 WAR in 640 AB

Money’s Man Crush: Machado’s skill set. A perennial MVP candidate with Gold Glove defense.

2017 Prediction: 3rd AL East

red-sox-dance

Boston Red Sox

2016 Record: 93-69 • 1st AL East

O/U on Wins: 90.5 • Over

Moving In: P Chris Sale • P Tyler Thornburg • 1B Mitch Moreland • OF Junior Lake • 2B Josh Rutledge

Moving Out: DH David Ortiz • 2B Yoan Moncada • 1B/3B Travis Shaw • P Clay Buchholz • P Junichi Tazawa • P Koji Uehara • C Ryan Hanigan • IF Aaron Hill • P Michael Kopech

Key Player(s) in 2017: 3B Pablo Sandoval and P Tyler Thornburg. A slimmer and healthier Panda will look to make good on his 5yrs/$95 mil contract after a dismal 2015 and injury derailed 2016. If Sandoval regains his approach at the plate, he could give the Red Sox another weapon in an already loaded lineup. As for Thornburg, the Red Sox traded for him to (hopefully) be their 8th inning set up man. Last year, the Red Sox used Junichi Tazawa, Brad Ziegler, Robbie Ross, Matt Barnes and Joe Kelly in that role, all to mixed or negative reviews.

Potential Breakout: OF Andrew Benitendi. The newest member of the Killer B outfield has rocketed up the depth chart since being drafted 7th overall in 2015. Benitendi got his feet wet in 2016 and showed some glimpses of what he’s capable of. It wouldn’t be surprising at all to see him become a 20/20 player at the MLB level. Benitendi is currently considered one of, if not the favourite to win Rookie of the Year in the American League.

Top Prospect: 3B Rafael Devers • Age: 20 • MLB ETA: 2018

First Round Draft Miss: Kolbrin Vitek (20) over Christian Yelich (23) in 2010

Fantasy Stud: Mookie Betts • 2016 Stats: .318/.897/31/113/9.6 WAR in 672AB

Money’s Man Crush: The Killer B’s (Betts, Benitendi, Bradley Jr) in the OF. Although as a Blue Jays fan, just saying that kills me.

2017 Prediction: 1st AL East

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New York Yankees

2016 Record: 84-78 • 4th AL East

O/U on Wins: 83.5 • Under

Moving In: P Aroldis Chapman • 1B/0F Matt Holliday • 1B Chris Carter • UT Reuben Tejada • P Jon Niese

Moving Out: C Brian McCann • 1B Mark Teixera • P Nathan Eovaldi • DH Billy Butler • 0F Dustin Ackley

Key Player(s) in 2017: P Luis Severino. The Yankees will need Severino to pitch like his 2015 self, where he showed glimpses of dominance over the 2016 version that didn’t earn a W as a starter, if they have any hope of making the playoffs for the first time in 5 seasons. Severino will also need to impress in the rotation in order to stay a starter long term. Despite being committed to him for a whole season as a starter, the Yanks may eventually move him to the pen if he continues to struggle with consistency.

Potential Breakout: OF Aaron Judge. the 6’7 Judge is equipped with both a cannon for an arm, and light tower power, but he’ll need to change his approach at the plate and cut down on the strikeouts in order to make an impact in 2017. If he can do that, there is a good chance he could challenge for the Rookie of the Year.

Top Prospect: OF Clint Frazier • Age: 22 • MLB ETA: 2018

First Round Draft Miss: SS Cito Culver (32) over Pitchers Aaron Sanchez (34) and Noah Syndergaard (38) in 2010.

Fantasy Stud: C Gary Sanchez. 2016 Stats: .299/1.032/20/42/3.0 WAR in 201 AB

Money’s Man Crush: The bright future of the Baby Bombers (Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge, Clint Frazier and Gleybar Torres). See above comment in regards to the anguish it causes me to write that.

2017 Prediction: 4th AL East

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Tampa Bay Rays

2016 Record: 68-94 • 5th AL East

O/U on Wins: 75.5 • Over

Moving In: C Wilson Ramos • 0F Colby Rasmus • P Cory Rasmus • P Nathan Eovaldi • OF Mallex Smith • P Jose De Leon

Moving Out: 2B Logan Forsythe • SS Alexi Ramirez • P Kevin Jepsen • 1B/0F Richie Shaffer

Key Player(s) in 2017: P Chris Archer. Archer posted his worst season in his career in 2015 when he went 9-19, with the only bright spot being that he punched-out 233 batters. It’s really a no brainer here to say that any Rays success will hinge on Archer’s performance. He the de facto ace, as well as being a veteran and leader in the locker room. The Rays obviously still believe in him as they were reluctant to part with him via trade in the offseason despite having more than one offer on the table.

Potential Breakout: P Blake Snell. The 2015 Rays minor leaguer of the year had some decent success in his debut. Snell made 19 starts and went 6-8 with a 3.54 ERA and 1.61 WHIP while adding 98 strikeouts in 89 innings in 2016.Snell will need to cut down on both the walks and hits if he is to continue get success in the MLB. It should be interesting to see how he adapts now that teams have had more exposure and tape on him.

Top Prospect: SS Willy Adames • Age: 21 • MLB ETA: 2018

First Round Draft Miss: SS Tim Beckham (1) over 1B Pedro Alvarez (2), 1B Eric Hosmer (3) and C Buster Posey (5) in 2008.

Fantasy Stud: 3B Evan Longoria. 2016 Stats: .273/.840/36/98/3.8 WAR in 633 AB

Money’s Man Crush: Kevin Kiermaier. Not sure what to love more, his glove in CF, his wheels on the base path or those eyes.

2017 Prediction: 5th AL East

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Toronto Blue Jays:

2016 Record: 89-73 • 2nd AL East

O/U on Wins: 86.5 • Over

Moving In: DH Kendrys Morales • UT Steve Pearce • P JP Howell • P Joe Smith • C Jared Saltalamacchia • P Mat Latos • P Brett Oberholtzer • P TJ House • P Lucas Farrell • C Juan Graterol

Moving Out: 1B Edwin Encarnacion • OF Michael Saunders • P Brett Cecil • P Joaquin Benoit • P RA Dickey • P Scott Feldman • C Dioner Navarro

Key Player(s) in 2017: 2B Devon Travis. Snake bitten or injury prone, these are the two terms that have been floating around Devon Travis since he saw his (impressive) 2015 debut ended after a month with a shoulder injury. Despite returning to play in 101 games in 2016, Travis was still nagged by his shoulder injury as well as having his post season cut short with an injury to his knee. When healthy, Travis has proven to be one of the better, young 2B in the game. He plays average to above average defense at 2B and has excelled at the plate. The Blue Jays will need Travis to play in as many games as possible in order to keep all glove, no bat, Ryan Goins out of the lineup.

Potential Breakout: P Marcus Stroman. The Stro show entered 2016 with ace intentions following a remarkable September and post season run in 2015 after returning from ACL surgery. Unfortunately for Stroman, his 2016 was marred by an inconsistent first half that saw him routinely get pounded once the opposing lineup saw him for a 3rd time. Even though he did look to turn a corner post all star break, Stroman will need to cut down on the amount of solid contact that he surrenders. This might be difficult considering that he is a groundball inducing machine. Stroman definitely has the drive and stuff to have a big breakout but he’ll need to keep control of his emotions and remain composed when he does struggle in order to limit the damage.

Top Prospect: 3B Vladmir Guerrero Jr. • Age: 17 • MLB ETA: 2019

First Round Draft Miss: Deck McGuire (10) over C Yasmani Grandal (11) and P Chris Sale (12) in 2010

Fantasy Stud: Josh Donaldson. • 2016 Stats: .284/.953/37/99/7.4 WAR in 577 AB.

Money’s Man Crush: Defense on the left side of the infield featuring perennial Gold Glove threats 3B Josh Donaldson and SS Troy Tulowitzki

2017 Prediction: 2nd AL East

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2015 MLB Season Preview · AL East · Boston Red Sox

Fenway Park

Boston Red Sox

Home Ballpark: Fenway (Pahk) Park

2014 Finish: 5th AL East · (71 – 91)

Over/Under Wins in 2015: 86 · Over

What We Love:

  • Moves, Moves and More Moves: The Red Sox were not shy in throwing the dollars around this offseason. The Sox landed two of the biggest free agents on the market (Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez) and picked up a nice, low risk/high upside, reclamation project (Justin Masterson). Not content with just inking players, the Sox flipped OF Yoenis Cespedes to the Tigers for SP Rick Porcello, then moved pitchers Allen Webster and Rubby de la Rosa to the Diamondbacks in exchange for SP Wade Miley. They even bolstered their (already) deep bench by trading 3B Will Middlebrooks to the Padres for C Ryan Hanigan. Now just because you go out and throw money around and bring players in doesn’t guarantee you a trip to the World Series, or even the playoffs for that matter. But what the Red Sox have done is gone out and strengthened a glaring area of weakness (starting rotation), as well as added a pair of potent bats to their already stacked lineup. Sure there are no guarantees, but it’s hard not to like the Red Sox chances of taking advantage of what looks like a WIDE OPEN AL East. Perhaps there are even more moves to come… paging Cole Hamels.

Panda

  • The farm system that just won’t quit: It really isn’t fair just how LOADED the Red Sox farm system is, especially given the fact that they are (usually) considered a perennial contender. Where most top teams in the MLB have stripped their farm systems bare via the trade market, the Red Sox have stockpiled a considerable number of high ceiling prospects whom can be used as on the field assets or as potential trade bait. Not only do the Sox have “homegrown” players on the cusp of contributing to their everyday lineup in Blake Swihart, Mookie Betts, Henry Owens, Matt Barnes and Jackie Bradley Jr, but they also have managed to lock up two highly touted Cuban players in Rusney Castillo and the 19 year old uber prospect, Yoan Moncada. Remarkably, the Sox system will only continue to get deeper as they are slated to pick 7th overall in the 2015 MLB Amateur Draft.
  • Don’t call it a comeback: Three seasons featuring a variety of hand and wrist surgeries. Two straight seasons of dropping power numbers. So why do we love Dustin Pedroia in 2015? Because he is determined to be back at 100% and if that happens, then you just know that a vintage Dustin Pedroia season is in play for 2015. Even with nagging injuries sapping him off his power, Pedroia still managed to appear in 135 games in 2014, where he contributed .278/7/53 and won a Gold Glove. Big Papi may be the soul of the Red Sox, but Pedroia is the heart of that team. A big year by the 2B could be the difference between a playoff berth and (another) Championship. Remember that whole curse deal??

New York Yankees v Boston Red Sox

Honourable Mentions:

  • Watching the twilight years of one of the games premiere power hitters – Big Papi.
  • The rifle attached to C Christian Vazquez’s right arm.
  • The return of the Knuckleball to Fenway Park in the form of SP Steven Wright.
  • Boston Fans being forced to cheer for a player named Mookie.
  • Jerry Remy’s attempts at pronouncing Cuban imports Rusney Castillo and Yoan Moncada.

 

 What We Hate:

  • Trick or Treat Starting Rotation: Sure the Red Sox brought in a trio of starting pitchers in the offseason, but what version of those starters will show up? Rick Porcello enjoyed his best season last year (15-13 · 3.43 ERA · 204.2 IP) but his low velocity and lack of a “put away” pitch leaves him susceptible to getting hit (career ERA/WHIP: 4.30/1.36). Wade Miley is basically the same pitcher as Porcello but from the left side, and with a few more strikeouts. Of the three new hurlers, the one with the biggest question marks surrounding them will be Justin Masterson. An All Star in 2013, Masterson infamously turned down a contract extension from the Indians at the end of the 2013 campaign in the hopes of cashing in during free agency after the 2014 season. Wrong. Wrong. Masterson had an absolutely atrocious 2014, which not only saw him demoted from the rotation to the bullpen, but also saw him dealt from Cleveland to St. Louis. Shockingly, there weren’t a whole lot of big dollar, multiyear contracts awaiting him at season’s end, so he signed a 1 year/$9.5 million dollar deal in the hopes of rebuilding his value; a far cry from the supposed $17.5 mil a year he was seeking before 2014. The biggest trick or treat pitcher in the rotation however is, Mr. Clay Buchholz. Talk about flashes of brilliance, here is a look at Clay’s last 5 seasons:

2010: 17-7 · 2.33 ERA · 173.2 IP · 1.20 WHIP · AS

2011: 6-3 · 3.48 ERA · 82.2 IP · 1.29 WHIP

2012: 11-8 · 4.56 ERA · 189.1 IP · 1.33 WHIP

2013: 12-1 · 1.74 ERA · 108.1 IP · 1.03 WHIP · AS

2014: 8-11 · 5.34 ERA · 170.1 IP · 1.39 WHIP

 The two biggest obstacles preventing Buchholz from maintaining a successful career have been injuries and himself (control/confidence). When healthy and on top of his game, Buchholz has the makings of an elite pitcher. However, last year it looked like Buchholz could barely find himself, let alone the strike zone. A healthy and dominant Buchholz could give the Red Sox the ace this rotation sorely needs. If not, I am sure they’ll be in the market for a legit #1; see Hamels, Cole.

clay buchholz

 

Honourable Mention:

  • Barren bullpen and an aging, soft tossing closer.
  • The Panda’s attempts at becoming bigger than the Green Monster.
  • Mike Napoli’s days as an everyday 1B.
  • The thought of giving starting RF job to 34yr old, Shane Victorino, over Mookie Betts.

 

Player to Watch: SP Joe Kelly. A lot of people will probably have one of either Rusney Castillo or Mookie Betts down in this spot and for good reason. I too am a big fan of both players, especially Betts, and believe that they deserve to be on everyone’s “Watch List.” Instead of going with the sexy or obvious pick, I decided to take a look at Joe Kelly. Kelly was a guy who went 10-5 for a Cardinals team that went to the World Series against these very Red Sox back in 2013. Kelly pitched 124 innings for the Cards in 2013, mainly out of the ‘pen, but he did make 15 starts too. The Red Sox acquired Kelly, along with Allen Craig, from the Cardinals in exchange for “Kentucky Fried” John Lackey. Kelly should slot in as the Sox 4th or 5th starter, but he has the stuff that translates more towards a mid rotation arm, opposed to a back of the rotation one.

joe kelly

Top Pitching Prospect:  Henry Owens · LHP · MLB ETA: 2015

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Top Positional Prospect: Yoan Moncada · 2B · MLB ETA: 2017

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

Final Prediction: 1st AL East

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