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
What We Loved:
- A’s vs. Royals. If you’re a fan of the old time, hardnosed style of baseball, then this has become a must watch series. Takeout slides, bean balls, emptying benches and ejections were in ample supply in this 2014 AL Wild Card rematch. Lost in all the hate and animosity was the fact that the Royals were able to stay hot as they took 2 of 3 from the A’s. Make sure you have your PVR’s set on June 26th-28th for the next time these two square off, this time the A’s will have home field advantage.
- Beginning of Brighter Days in the Windy City. Both the Cubs and the White Sox have promoted their teams top prospects, 3B Kris Bryant and LHP Carlos Rodon. Although he struggled in his debut, Bryant has looked rather impressive in the 3 games he has played thus far; he even added a “house league homer” to his short highlight reel. Rodon, on the other hand, is set to join the White Sox early this week and will pitch out of the bullpen to begin his MLB career. The stream of prospects heading to the Windy City will only continue to flow as the Cubs are set to promote (another) top prospect, SS Addison Russell, at some point this week.
- Nelson Cruz is who we thought he was. The Mariners big offseason acquisition is currently hitting .358/8/16 with an ungodly 1.234 OPS for the short season. That includes having a stat line of .500/6/10 this week alone.
- The Braves (current) Big Three. The trio of starters, Julio Teheran (2-0/3.71 ERA), Alex Wood (1-0/3.93 ERA) and Shelby Miller (2-0/1.69 ERA), are easily the Braves biggest strength and have shown that even with a somewhat suspect lineup, the Braves could potentially contend based on their arms alone.
- The return of Garrett Richards. Sure it wasn’t the prettiest of starts (5IP/5 H/4 ER) but at least Garrett Richards is back on a big league mound after undergoing surgery for a torn patellar tendon.
- Adam Jones. The Orioles CF is making an early and strong case for being the best CF in MLB. Jones is currently hitting .438/5/16 with a 1.294 OPS.
- The promotion of OF Yasmany Tomas by the Diamondbacks.
What We Hated:
- Kelvin Herrera headhunting. I am a big fan of that old style of baseball mentioned above. I also believe in the “you hit one of ours, we’ll hit one of yours,” approach in baseball. What I don’t agree with is throwing at a guy’s head. Not only is it a blatant intent to injure, but it could also kill someone, especially when you’re hitting 100mph on the radar gun like Herrera does. If you really want to get “revenge” for an aggressive takeout slide or one of your guys getting plunked, by all means hit one of their batters, but just aim for the ribs or thigh.
- Another DL trip for Derek Holland. The pitching starved Rangers were banking on the veteran left hander to be one of the brighter spots in a bleak rotation, but instead, Holland will spend upwards of the next two months on the DL with (another) shoulder injury. That now makes 9 Rangers currently sitting on the Disabled List.
- Are the Marlins this bad? Off to a 3-10 start and with rumours starting to circulate about the security of Manager Mike Redmond’s job, the Marlins seem far from the team that a lot of people were expecting to make some noise in the National League this season.
- Travis d’Arnaud’s durability. The Mets catcher is headed to the DL again. It’s a shame to see a combo of bad luck and proneness for injury keeping a player of d’Arnaud’s talent out of the lineup on a consistent basis.
- Mets injury woes. David Wright (hamstring), Travis d’Arnaud (Broken Hand) and Jerry Blevins (Fractured Forearm) are all the latest members of the Mets to wind up on the DL. At least this means that we will see one of the Mets top prospects, Kevin Plawecki, make his MLB debut.
- Kris Bryant’s debut. Not that we actually “hate” it, but the highly touted Bryant went 0 for 4 with 3 strikeouts in his MLB debut. Don’t worry… I’m sure it won’t be a trend.
- The Diamondbacks using Yasmany Tomas as a glorified pinch hitter.
Irrelevant Major Leaguer of the Week:
SP Paul Wilson · 7 yrs · 170 G · 153 GS · 941.2 IP · 40/58 W/L · 619 K · 4.86 ERA · 1.450 WHIP ·
Blue Jays Edition
What We Loved:
- Kevin F*****g Pillar! Dude is playing on a different level. Followed up his highlight reel performance in Baltimore by making what could very well be the catch of the year…
- Devin Travis. Sure Tony the Chain is looking alright in Detroit, but Travis could prove to be a downright steal. All Travis has done since he made the team has played exceptional 2B D and not given away one single at bat. Seriously. Travis works each and every count like he is an 8 year pro. Oh… and he can also hit lead off.
- Josh Donaldson’s bat waking up. The Jays three bagger went 11 for 29 with 3 HR and 7 RBI this past week.
- The Old Breed. Veteran starting pitchers, Buehrle (2-0/3.75 ERA) and Dickey (0-1/3.26 ERA) have proven to be their usual reliable selves, as well as the lone bright spots, in a Blue Jays rotation that currently has a collective ERA of 5.14.
- Liam Hendriks. Never thought I’d heap praise in any kind towards one of the Jay’s “jobbers,” but the Aussie right hander has looked pretty decent in a mop up role out of the pen. Hendricks has seen his fastball velocity rise and has used it to strike out 9 in 5.1 shutout innings thus far.
What We Hated:
- Not being able to have anything nice. First it’s discovered that the oft-injured Jose Reyes could spend some time on the DL with a fractured rib. Then, early bright spot, Devin Travis, wears a fastball in the ribs and is forced to leave the game after sliding back to 1B to avoid a pickoff. Sure it turned out to be just a bone bruise… but still… anytime you have to employ a double play combo of Goins and Tolleson is a lose/lose.
- Blue Jay Killers. The Jays had the privilege of facing not one, but two players, whom flat out OWN the Jays for their careers. First, Desmond Jennings and the Rays came to town and took 3 of 4, including the Home Opener. Dezzy joins the likes of Longo and Carl Crawford as current and former Rays players, who just RAKE against the Jays. With Jennings and the Rays leaving town, the Braves were next to roll into the Dome. With them came the former O and long time Blue Jay killer, Nick Markakais. Sure enough, Markakis and the Braves were able to take 2 of 3 over the weekend. And we’re not even mentioning how the Jays have already faced known Blue Jay murderers, Brett Gardener and Adam Jones, to open the season.
- Dalton Pompey. The young CF has had more struggles than highlights in the young season. Given Kevin Pillar’s ridiculous play to start the season, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Pompey be the one optioned to AAA Buffalo to make room for Saunders once he comes off the DL.
- The Young Guns. The three starting pitchers NOT NAMED Buehrle or Dickey all currently have an ERA sitting North of 6.00.
- Gibby doing his best Dusty Baker. Don’t you just get the feeling that Gibby is just going to grind the young arms of Osuna and Castro right into the Rogers Centre turf? And speaking of that turf…
- The amount of times per broadcast that you have to hear about the new turf. The over/under is set at 10.5 mentions per game; always take the over.
Irrelevant Blue Jay of the Week:
C Alberto Castillo · 132 G · 316 AB · 2 HR · 20 RBI · .206 AVG · .534 OPS
Home Ballpark: Safeco Field
2014 Finish: 87-75 · 3rd AL West
Over/Under Wins in 2015: 85 · Over
What We Love:
Cano and the King: It must be nice to look at your team’s roster and see perennial candidates for the MVP and Cy Young awards. But that is exactly what the Mariners have in the duo of Robinson Cano and (King) Felix Hernandez. In 2014, Hernandez did everything short of sending the BBWAA gift baskets in order to win his second Cy Young. Unfortunately for Hernandez, who went 15-6 with a 2.14 ERA and struck out 248 batters over 236 innings in 2014, he was bested by Indians SP Corey Kluber. This wasn’t the first time that Hernandez finished as the runner up for the Cy, he finished 2nd to Zack Greinke back in 2009, before winning one of his own in 2010. The Mariners were the winner of the 2013 Robinson Cano Free Agent Sweepstakes, when they inked the six-time All Star to a 10yr/$240mil contract, and Cano didn’t disappoint in his Seattle debut. Cano played in 157 games for the Mariners, hitting .314/14/82 with and .836 OPS; good enough for 5th in AL MVP voting. The only negative aspect of Cano’s first season in Seattle was the impact spacious Safeco Field had on his power numbers; his 14 HR and .454 SLG% were the lowest since his 2008 totals. It should also be noted that both Cano and Hernadez are extremely durable, Hernandez hasn’t pitched less than 190 innings since 2006, and Cano hasn’t played less than 157 games since that same year. The Mariners will need both Cano and the King to be their usual elite selves this season if they want to snap that 14 year playoff drought.
- Kyle Seager at the hot corner: Underrated 3B enjoyed a breakout 2014 season and earned his first trip to the All Star game by hitting .268/25/96; he also won his first career Gold Glove.
- Iwakuma being Robin to Felix’s Batman: Only made 28 starts in 2014 due to injury but still won 15 games. He may be one of the more underrated starters in MLB.
- Untapped potential of Taijuan Walker and James Paxton: both pitchers are extremely talented and have immense potential but will need to be more consistent and durable in order to reach that potential.
- Mike Zunino’s receiving skills and game calling: Defensively gifted and did a superb job handling the Mariners pitchers as a rookie, but will need his bat to catch up to his defensive prowess.
- Celebrating the 20th Anniversary of this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fljZ_QilQMQ
What We Hate:
Back of the Rotation: Sure the Mariners have Batman and Robin at the top of the rotation (Hernandez and Iwakuma) but after them, things are a little less certain. The Mariners 2015 rotation will be rounded out by two highly gifted, yet unproven prospects (Paxton and Walker) and a crapshoot southpaw (JA Happ). Taijuan Walker and James Paxton are the Mariners two top pitching prospects, they have an immense amount of potential, a (seemingly) limitless ceiling, and barely any major league experience. Of the two, Paxton has the most experience with 98 innings pitched, while Walker only has 53 innings to his credit. Who knows what to expect from them this season. Speaking of not knowing what to expect, JA Happ was brought in via trade from Toronto. Happ had a decent to mediocre season with the Blue Jays in 2014, going 11-11 with a 4.22 ERA in 26 starts. In his career, Happ has shown flashes of brilliance, but they have usually been spread out between below average starts. With the two unproven youngsters in the rotation, the Mariners will need Happ to perform like he has shown he can. If any of those three struggle, LHP Roenis Elias should be able to slide from the long relief role into the rotation.
- The Nelson Cruz contract: Not only could it be one year too late, but the Mariners haven’t gambled this much on free agent, right-handed power since the Richie Sexson/Adrian Beltre contracts a decade ago.
- Bottom of the lineup: 6 through 9 hitters could leave something to desire from an offensive producing standpoint.
- A 40lb Lighter Jesus Montero: Sure it might help him finally reach the potential that made him a top prospect, but now there is less of a chance of seeing someone throws (another) ice cream sandwich at him.
Player to Watch: OF Dustin Ackley. When the Mariners selected Ackley with the 2nd overall pick back in 2009, they believed they were drafting a player with an advanced offensive bat. Originally drafted as a 2B, Ackley, now an OF, had been experiencing an average to below average start to his major league career; before his mini-breakout in 2014. Last season, Ackley hit .245 with 14 HR and 65 RBI in 143 games, although his .293 OBP did leave something to desire. The Mariners offense will need Ackley to build off of his successes last season as, even with the Nelson Cruz signing, this could be a team that struggles to score.
Top Positional Prospect: Alex Jackson · OF · MLB ETA: 2017
Top Pitching Prospect: Edwin Diaz · RHP · MLB ETA: 2017
Top 30 Prospects (MLB.com): http://m.mlb.com/prospects/2015?list=sea
Final Prediction: 1st AL West