2015 MLB Season Preview · NL West

Chase Field

Arizona Diamondbacks

Home Field: Chase Field

2014: 64 – 98 · 5th NL West

O/U in 2015: 72.5 Wins · Under

What We Love:

  • Paul Goldschmidt. Runner up for the NL MVP in 2014, Goldy was limited to a mere 109 games in 2014, thanks to a fractured left hand, but he still was able to hit .300/19/69 with a .938 OPS in 406 AB. With the 2015 season having the potential to be a very long and dismal one, Goldy could be one of the (few) bright spots in the desert this season.
  • Power in the middle of the lineup. The duo of Goldschmidt and Trumbo have the power between them to hit a combined 70+ HR this season. That number could, and will go up when offseason addition, Yasmani Tomas, makes his debut in a D-Backs jersey.
  • Quantity of Starting Pitching. The D-Backs will begin the season with a starting rotation of: Josh Collmenter, Jeremy Hellickson, Archie Bradley, Rubby De La Rosa and Chase Anderson. They also have Daniel Hudson, Allen Webster, Robbie Ray and Randall Delgado on the 40 man roster, all of whom can, and have started in their career. Meanwhile starters Patrick Corbin and Bronson Arroyo will open the season on the DL.
  • Archie Bradley’s upside. D-Backs top prospect could have a big impact after an impressive showing in the Arizona Fall League and Spring Training.
  • Tuffy Gosewich’s name. Throwback to the days when players were named Pud and Nap.

What We Hate:

  • Catching situation. After trading incumbent catcher, Miguel Montero, to the Cubs in the offseason, the D-Backs will head into the 2015 season with the duo of Tuffy Gosewich and Jordan Pacheco splitting duties behind the dish. For their careers, Gosewich and Pacheco have played a combined 382 games in 8 combined seasons, with Pacheco (322 games) being the more experienced of the two. The D-Backs also have Oscar Hernandez in the minors, as well as veteran catcher, Gerald Laird. Laird was signed to a minor league deal in the offseason, but he will neither help nor harm this dearth of catching talent.
  • Quality of Starting Pitching. Jeremy Hellickson has been average at best since winning the AL Rookie of the Year back in 2011 and will need to rebound from elbow surgery that cut his 2014 short. Josh Collmenter would be a mid rotation guy in the majority of other ML teams and highly touted pitching prospect, Archie Bradley, will be pitching in his first full season. In addition to Bradley, the rest of the rotation (De La Rosa and Anderson) are also pitching in their first full seasons in the majors. The other starters, who are opening the season in the minors (Delgado, Webster and Ray), also lack an abundance of major league experience. In addition to the inexperience, the D-Backs rotation has also been shrouded in questions about their durability. As mentioned above, Patrick Corbin and Bronson Arroyo will open the season on the DL, while Jeremy Hellickson will attempt to rebound from bone chip removal surgery on his pitching elbow. Daniel Hudson has also spent considerable time on the DL during his career.
  • The Yasmany Tomas 3B experience. The D-Backs were hoping that their big free agent signing would be able 3B decent enough to allow his bat to be in their everyday lineup. That did not work as expected. Tomas looked lost at the hot corner during Spring Training and was sent to AAA to open the season to refine his defensive positioning. It was recently announced that Tomas will now primarily play RF at AAA.

Impact Player: 1B Paul Goldschmidt

Potential Breakout Candidate: SP Archie Bradley

Potential Bust Candidate: SP Jeremy Hellickson

Top Prospect: Archie Bradley · SP · MLB ETA: 2015

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

Augie Ojeda

Irrelevant Throwback Player: IF Augie Ojeda (2007-10)

Six Degrees of (Octavio) Dotel: Aaron Hill and Dotel were briefly teammates back in Toronto in 2011, before both were shipped out of town in separate trades.

Final Prediction: 5th NL West

Coors Field

Colorado Rockies

Home Field: Coors Field

2014: 66 – 96 · 4th NL West

O/U in 2015: 70.5 · Over

What We Love:

  • The Dynamic Duo of Cargo and Tulo. When healthy, these two are tops at their respective positions and among the best players in the game today. In fact, there are few teams that can offer the production that the Rockies get out of these two. It should be interesting to follow what happens with these two over the course of the season, as they are also two of the best trade chips in the game.
  • Trio of young starters. 2014 rookie, Tyler Matzek, will be joined in the rotation by one of the Rockies top pitching prospects, Eddie Butler. Meanwhile in AAA, 2nd overall pick in 2013 and top pitching prospect, Jon Gray, should be up in Colorado at some point this season.
  • Batting order could be sneaky good. The Rockies order for Opening Week: CF Charlie Blackmon, RF Carlos Gonzalez, SS Troy Tulowitzki, 1B Justin Morneau, 3B Nolan Arenado, LF Chris Dickerson, 2B DJ LeMahieu and C Nick Hundley.

What We Hate:

  • Durability of Cargo and Tulo. Sure they are among the game’s elite players, but they are also among the game’s most injury prone. Both Cargo and Tulo have spent lengthy trips on the DL FOUR times in their careers. Seeing as both players play a very physical, all out style of play, it’s hard not to believe that that DL number is only going to rise.
  • End of an Era? There is also the possibility that both of the Rockies talented, but oft-injured stars get traded at some point this season. Although this could be a good thing for the long term future of the Rockies, it also could go South quickly if the Rockies fail to trade the stars before their value diminishes.

Impact Player: SS Troy Tulowitzki

Potential Breakout Candidate: SP Tyler Matzek

Potential Bust Candidate: 1B Justin Morneau

Top Prospect: Jon Gray · LHP · MLB ETA: 2015

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

Jose Jiminez

Irrelevant Throwback Player: SP Jose Jiminez (2000-03)

Six Degrees of (Octavio) Dotel: Dotel had a cup of tea with the Rockies back in 2010 and was unspectacular at best. He pitched 5.1 innings over 8 games, posted an ERA of 5.06 and walked 4 batters to 6 strikeouts. The Rockies were also one of three teams that the right hander pitched for in 2010.

Final Prediction: 5th NL West

Dodger Stadium

Los Angeles Dodgers

Home Field: Dodger Stadium

2014: 94 – 68 · 1st NL West

O/U in 2015: 91.5 Wins · Over

What We Love:

  • Batting Order. The Dodgers should throw out an everyday lineup that is among the best in MLB. It should look something like this: SS Jimmy Rollins, LF Carl Crawford, RF Yasiel Puig, 1B Adrian Gonzalez, 2B Howie Kendrick, 3B Juan Uribe, C Yasmani Grandal and CF Joc Pederson. They also have OF Andre Ethier, IF Justin Turner and C A.J Ellis on the pine.
  • Top of the rotation. The trio of LHP Clayton Kershaw, RHP Zack Greinke and LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu give the Dodgers one of the best top of the rotations in MLB. Both Kershaw and Greinke are former Cy Young winners and perennial candidates for the award. Ryu is no slouch in his own regard, and has been one of the better LHP since coming to North America in 2013.
  • Addition of Andrew Friedman to the front office. Friedman, who built the Rays into a perennial contender, is considered one of the brightest minds in the game.

What We Hate:

  • Back of rotation. Sure the top three are beyond impressive, but the bottom two leave something to be desired. The 4th and 5th rotation spots belong to oft-injured starters Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson. Both pitchers have missed considerable amount of time during their career due to injuries, and there is no reason not to believe that a DL stint or two is in the cards for this season.
  • Bullpen woes. Closer Kenley Jensen is out until at least May and setup man, Brandon League, could be done for the entire season. The Dodgers will lean on Joel Peralta and JP Howell to get them through until Jensen is back throwing smoke in the 9th.

Impact Player: SP Clayton Kershaw

Potential Breakout Candidate: OF Joc Pederson

Potential Bust Candidate: LHP Brett Anderson

Top Prospect: Corey Seager · SS · MLB: 2015

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

Yhency Brazoban

Irrelevant Throwback Player: P Yhency Brazoban (2004-08)

Six Degrees of (Octavio) Dotel: Dotel pitched 18.2 innings in 19 games for the Dodgers back in 2010. The Dodgers were one of three teams that Dotel played for in 2010.

Final Prediction: 1st NL West

At&t Park

San Francisco Giants

Home Field: AT&T Park

2014: 88 – 74 · 2nd NL West

O/U in 2015: 85.5 Wins · Under

What We Love:

  • Madison Bumgarner. You may have heard of Bumgarner after his near legendary post season pitching performance in 2014. Postseason success aside, Bumgarner is a legitimate ace, one of the best southpaws in the game today and only 25 years old. If injuries don’t derail it, we could be looking at a future Hall of Famer.
  • Buster Posey. Arguably the best catcher in the game today, Posey has three World Series rings, two All Star appearances, two Silver Sluggers and an MVP to his credit, all before the age of 28.
  • Bruce Bochy’s Bag of Post Season Fairy Dust. The Giants manager had it bequeathed to him when Tony LaRussa retired from the dugout.
  • AT&T Park. Pound for pound the most beautiful ballpark in the game.
  • The cream coloured, Willie Mays era jerseys.

What We Hate:

  • Durability of starting rotation. Maddy Bumgarner is the only member of the rotation to have not spent time on the DL during his career. Tim Hudson, Ryan Vogelsong and Jake Peavy have all spent considerable time on the DL. And in the case of Matt Cain, there is no guarantees that he ever returns to the form that made him a 3x All Star.
  • Loss of the Panda. After fan favourite, Pablo Sandoval, left for Boston via free agency, the Giants decided to sign Casey McGehee to replace the departed Panda. McGehee enjoyed a comeback season in his return to MLB, after spending a year in Japan, but there is as likely to replicate his 2014 success as he is to return to the player who was out of the majors as recently as two seasons ago. What makes it worse is that the Giants have practically no depth at 3B (Joaquin Arias?) behind McGehee.
  • Post season success in even number years. The Giants have appeared in four World Series since 2001 (2002, 2010, 2012 and 2014). After losing to the Angels in 2002, they manage to win it all in their next three trips.

Impact Player: SP Madison Bumgarner

Potential Breakout Candidate: 2B Joe Panik

Potential Bust Candidate: 3B Casey McGehee

Top Prospect: Kyle Crick · RHP · MLB: 2016

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

Jesse Foppert

Irrelevant Throwback Player: P Jesse Foppert (2003-05)

Six Degrees of (Octavio) Dotel: Tim Hudson and Dotel were teammates on the Braves in 2007.

Final Prediction: 3rd NL West

Petco Park

San Diego Padres

Home Field: Petco Park

2014: 77 – 85 · 3rd NL West

O/U in 2015: 84.5 Wins · Over

What We Love:

  • A.J Preller’s Shopping Spree. The new Padres GM wasted no time in showing MLB that he intended on turning the Padres into contenders over night. Acting like he was playing an elite version of MLB the Show, Preller added the likes of: Justin Upton, Matt Kemp, Wil Myers, Will Middlebrooks, Derek Norris and James Shields, this past offseason. Not content with those moves, Preller than acquired All Star closer Craig Kimbrel and the Upton formerly known as B.J from the Braves on MLB’s Opening Night. Amazingly, Preller managed to make all of these additions without having to completely deplete his farm system.
  • The Bullpen. It was already suppose to be an area of strength heading into the season, but the last minute addition of Craig Kimbrel, now makes this one of the deepest pens in MLB. Kimbrel will be joined in the pen by hard throwing setup men, Joaquin Benoit and Kevin Quackenbush. While the rest of the bullpen will be rounded out by Dale Thayer, Nick Vincent, Shawn Kelley and Brandon Maurer. Aside from shutting the door on the opposition, the depth of their bullpen could allow GM A.J Preller and the Padres to use it as potential trade bait.
  • The Padres being the FINAL winner of the Wil Myers/James Shield trade.
  • The Tony Gwynn era brown jerseys.
  • The Friar mascot.

What We Hate:

  • Durability concerns in the rotation. Aside from medium sized game James, the rest of the Padres starting rotation have all spent time on the DL during their career. Andrew Cashner and Brandon Morrow both offer tremendous upsides and near unhittable stuff when they are healthy, unfortunately for the duo (mainly Morrow) their durability has held them back from making great leaps in pitching dominance. It looks like the durability issues have started early as the Padres placed starter, Ian Kennedy, on the DL last week.
  • Inexperience at SS. The Padres released Everth Cabrera and his off the field issues during the offseason and will turn to Alexi Amarista to take over the SS position.
  • Who is leading off in this lineup? Sure the Padres revamped (nearly) every area of their roster and lineup, but the one area they failed to address was finding a leadoff hitter.

Impact Player: OF Justin Upton

Potential Breakout Candidate: OF Wil Myers

Potential Bust Candidate: OF Matt Kemp

Top Prospect: Hunter Renfroe · OF · MLB ETA: 2016

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

Sean Burroughs

Irrelevant Throwback Player: 3B Sean Burroughs (2002-05)

Six Degrees of Octavio Dotel: Brandon Morrow and Octavio Dotel were teammates as Blue Jays, back in 2011.

Final Prediction: 2nd NL West

– $

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Hot Stove Season Wrap Up – Vol. 1

opening day1

With the countdown to pitchers and catchers reporting now being under a month (February 18th) and one of the biggest free agents finally landing his record breaking deal (Max Scherzer), I would say that now is better than ever to take a look back at the always fun and exciting Hot Stove Season.

Most Surprising Free Agent Signing:

Chicago Cubs Introduce Jon Lester

It’s hard to imagine in an offseason that saw the Red Sox land not one but two marquee free agents (Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez) that we would be discussing a more surprising signing, but here we are. Although not made by the Red Sox per se, the biggest free agent splash did involve two of their former employees. The signing of Jon Lester by the Chicago Cubs has to be the most surprising move because of what it signifies for the game; the Cubs are ready to contend again.

Since Theo Epstein took over as President of the Cubs back in October 2011, he has done a great job of trading away everyday players for prospects, all while filling the Cubs minor leagues with high draft picks and international free agents. And now it looks like those moves are poised to pay off perhaps as soon as 2015. With top prospects Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Addison Russell and Jorge Soler looking to crack the everyday lineup and join offensive threats like Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro, the Cubs could be a team on the rise this season.

The Lester signing shows that the Cubs know that they are close and are now willing to be spenders opposed to sellers. More so, the Cubs are not afraid to gamble and spend on the big name free agents, opposed to picking up place holders and temporary solutions to long term problems. Realistically, the Cubs are probably still at least one season away from truly challenging for a Wild Card berth, let alone the NL Central. But the Lester signing now offers the Cubs a legitimate ace to anchor their rotation and allow them to be competitive while they wait for the fruits of their farm system to pay off.

Let’s be honest here, baseball is ALWAYS more fun and interesting when the Cubbies are good.

Most Surprising Trade:

wil myers1

As fun as it is to see the big name free agents changing teams and landing their proverbial paydays, the real joy of the Hot Stove season are the trades. There are few things that amuse this guy more than imagining a bunch of MLB GM’s tossing around hypothetical trades at the Winter Meetings like it’s a rotisserie league. And that’s exactly what happened this offseason.

Since Maddy Bumgarner led the Giants to (another) World Series title, we have seen the likes of Shelby Miller, Jeff Samardzjia, Mat Latos, Rick Porcello, Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, Yoenis Cespedes, Evan Gattis, Howie Kendrick, Dee Gordon, Jimmy Rollins, Brandon Moss, Matt Kemp and Josh Donaldson all get moved to new cities. And yet none of those moves were as shocking as the three team deal that saw the Padres land Wil Myers from the Rays. The actual deal looked like this:

Padres: OF Wil Myers (Rays), C Ryan Hanigan (Rays), P Jose Castillo (Rays) and P Gerardo Reyes (Rays)

Rays: OF Steven Souza (Nationals), P Burch Smith (Padres), 1B Jake Bauers (Padres), P Travis Ott (Nationals) and C Rene Rivera (Padres)

Nationals: SS Trea Turner (Pardes) and P Joe Ross (Padres)

This trade is shocking for a few reasons. The biggest reason is the fact that the Rays were willing to move Wil Myers in the first place.

Sure the kid had a down year in 2014 (.222/6/35 in 325 AB compared to .293/13/53 in 335 AB in 2013) but for the Rays to give up on someone who wont be 25 until the end of the 2015 season just for one bad season is completely absurd. I would argue that 2014 was probably the first time in his entire playing career (amateur or pro) that Myers struggled as badly as he did, and rather than see how he would rebound in 2015, the Rays were more willing to give up on him.

What also makes this shocking is the fact that the Rays didn’t even get a good haul in return for Myers. When the Rays landed Myers and prospects from the Royals for James Shields and Wade Davis, the consensus from the MLB world was that the Rays had stolen Myers from the Royals. This year the Royals made it to the Game 7 of the World Series thanks to James Shields and Wade Davis, meanwhile the Rays flipped Wil Myers for essentially Steven Souza, Burch Smith and Rene Rivera. Nothing against those guys, but none of them have the ceiling that Wil Myers has.

wil myers

Even more astounding is the fact that the Nationals got a better return for losing Souza (Turner and Ross) than the Rays got for Myers. I have to assume that if Andrew Friedman was still in charge in Tampa, this is a move that does not get made.

Biggest Winner (Thus Far):

aj prolly

It’s hard not to like the moves made by Ben Cherington and the Red Sox. This offseason alone he has brought in free agents Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez and traded to bring in pitchers Wade Miley and Rick Porcello. The Marlins made a handful of additions (Mat Latos, Dee Gordon, Martin Prado and Mike Morse) in the hopes of capitalizing in a weak NL East. Even the lowly Astros made some nice moves in the hopes of just securing a winnind season (Luke Gregerson, Pat Neshek, Jed Lowrie, Evan Gattis and Dan Straily).

With that being said, the clear cut winner of the offseason has been the San Diego Padres and their new GM, AJ Preller. The Padres have not only been cellar dwellers for the better part of the past decade but they have also been unable to parlay any of their high draft picks into serviceable everyday players, let alone all stars. Because of this, the Padres have fielded one of the worst offensive lineups in recent history. This offseason, Preller looked to change all of that overnight.

Since the middle of December, the Padres have added the likes of Wil Myers, Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, Derek Norris and Will Middlebrooks, while only losing one everyday player (Yasmani Grandal), two high ceiling prospects (Trea Turner and Max Fried) and a handful of fringe prospects and depth players.

kemp_myers_upton_700

What is truly amazing is the fact that the Padres were able to make the above additions without having to part with any of their big three starting pitchers (Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross and Ian Kennedy) or their top prospect, C Austin Hedges. In addition to the above “big” moves, the Padres also added some nice pitching depth with the signings of Brandon Morrow and Josh Johnson, and the addition of Brandon Maurer from Seattle for Seth Smith.

There are no guarantees that the above moves will ensure an NL West crown or even a playoff berth, but it definitely gives the Padres a better chance at making a run for the post season. At worse, they will sure be entertaining to watch.

Biggest Loser (Thus Far):

showalter1

For a minute their it looked like Billy Beane and the A’s were going to be the ones to go home with this title. In the span of a few weeks, the A’s had traded away Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss, Derek Norris and Jeff Samardzijia and only brought in Billy “Country Breakfast” Butler as a replacement; it seemed that the A’s were going into a rebuild. But then Billy Beane did Billy Beane things and flipped prospects and catching depth to the Rays for Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar, then subsequently flipped Escobar to the Nationals for Tyler Clippard. All of a sudden this rebuild went to a retooling and Beane and the A’s no longer were in running for loser of the offseason.

Instead that title has now been handed off to the Baltimore Orioles. It’s funny that in an offseason that saw the Rays lose their coach, GM and one of it’s best players, the Orioles still come out as a bigger loser. To date, the Orioles have lost 2/3 of their everyday outfield (Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis), their everyday catcher (Matt Wieters) is coming off of Tommy John surgery, their promising 3B (Manny Machado) still looks to be suffering from the effects of the knee he tore up in 2013 and Crush Davis is coming off of a dismal season that was marred by an ugly 25 game suspension for PED’s.

What makes things worse is that the Orioles have done nothing to replace their departed outfielders, nor have they addressed issues with their bullpen, rotation and bench. Right now the best available free agent outfielder is Colby Rasmus and after that the list drops off considerably. The Orioles stalling has caused them to miss out on Melky Cabrera, Nori Aoki and Mike Morse; even Torii Hunter would be looking pretty good right about now.

duquette

Another interesting Orioles storyline to follow in the coming weeks will be the future of GM Dan Duquette who has been rumoured to be attached to the Blue Jays Presidency. Duquette is under contract through 2018 and the Jays would have to give the Orioles compensation for hiring Duquette away. The big question though will be whether Orioles owner, Peter Angelos, allows Duquette to leave.

Stay tuned for more Hot Stove season rumblings and rants….

– $