2017 MLB Season Preview – American League West

jose-altuve-mlb-houston-astros-kansas-city-royals-2-850x560.jpg

 

Houston Astros

2016 Record:84-78  • 3rd AL West

O/U on Wins: 87.5 • Over

Moving In: DH Carlos Beltran • C Brian McCann • RF Josh Reddick • P Charlie Morton • OF Nori Aoki

Moving Out: C Jason Castro • 3B Luis Valbuena • OF Colby Rasmus • P Doug Fister • P Pat Neshek

Key Player(s) in 2017: P Dallas Keuchel. Saying that the 2015 AL Cy Young winner had a down year would be an understatement. Keuchel went from 20-8/2.48/1.01/216 in 232 innings to 9-12/4.55/1.29/144 in 168 innings in 2016. Yes, Keuchel did struggle with injuries throughout the season but when he was healthy, he struggled with his command and ended up surrendering more hits, walks and HR than his previous season. While the ‘stros did bolster their lineup in the offseason, they did not address a rotation that is one or two injuries away from a big problem. In order to become the clear cut favourite in the AL West, the Astros will need Keuchel to return to his 2015 form.

Potential Breakout: P Joe Musgrove. A supplemental first round pick (46) by the Blue Jays in 2011, Musgrove was acquired by the Astros in the J.A Happ trade. Since then, Musgrove has shot through the Astros minor leagues and made his MLB debut in 2016. In 10 starts last season, Musgrove went (4-4/4.06/1.21/55 in 62 innings. Musgrove will open the season in competition with Mike Fiers for the 5th spot in the rotation. If he does not claim it, look for him to either go to the bullpen or be the first call up from AAA if an injury occurs.

Top Prospect: P Frances Martes • Age: 21  • MLB ETA: 2017

First Round Draft Miss: Jiovanni Mier (21st) over Mike Trout (25th) in 2009.

Fantasy Stud: Jose Altuve • 2016 Stats: .338/.928/24/96/7.7 WAR in 640 AB

Money’s Man Crush: In all honesty, what is not to love about the Astros? They play in one of the sexier ballparks in MLB. They have some of, if not the best throwback jerseys in the majors. And they’re loaded with an absolute embarrassing amount of young, talented players. It’s hard to pick whom to swoon over more when you have the likes of SS Carlos Correa, 2B Jose Altuve, RF George Springer, 3B Alex Bregman, P Lance McCullers, and that is just a sample smattering of the studs that the ‘stros possess.

2017 Prediction: 1st AL West.

 

mike-trout

 

Los Angeles Angels

2016 Record: 74-88 • 4th AL West

O/U on Wins: 76.5 • Under

Moving In: 2B Danny Espinosa • OF Cameron Maybin • OF Ben Revere • P Jesse Chavez • P Andrew Bailey • 3B Luis Valbuena

Moving Out: P Jered Weaver • P CJ Wilson •P Jhoulys Chacin • P Tim Lincecum • C Jett Bandy • SS Gregario Petit

Key Player(s) in 2017: P Garrett Richards. After a breakout season in 2014 was cut short by a torn knee ligament, Richards once again had a season interrupted because of a torn ligament. In 2016, he made 6 starts before being diagnosed with a torn UCL. Although he required Tommy John surgery, Richards opted against the surgery, instead going with rehab and biometric injections similar to Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP). Although it will take a miracle short of Joseph Gordon Levitt seeing actual angels for the LA Angels to make the playoffs or even compete for them for that matter, Richards’ return and progress from injury could be a bright spot for the Angels that is not named Mike Trout.

Potential Breakout: P Tyler Skaggs. Skaggs is currently in his second stint with the Angels. He was originally drafted by them in the first round of 2009 and then traded to the Diamondbacks in a package for Dan Haren in 2010, before being reacquired in a three team trade in 2013. However his 2nd debut for the Angels was cut short by Tommy John surgery which also kept him out for all of 2015. In 2016, Skaggs made 10 starts for the Angels, he went (3-4/4.17/1.49/50 in 49.2 innings. Skaggs did average a K/9 over 9 but also had a BB/9 of 4.2 in his limited action. With the Angels lacking depth on the mound and barring any setbacks or further injuries, you can expect Skaggs to set a new career high in starts since he made 18 in 2014.

Top Prospect: OF Jahmi Jones • Age: 19 • MLB ETA: 2019

First Round Draft Miss: 3B Kaleb Cowart (18th) over OF Christian Yelich (24th), Aaron Sanchez (34th) and Noah Syndergaard (38th) in 2010.

Fantasy Stud: OF Mike Trout • 2016 Stats: .315/.991/29/100/10.6 WAR in 549 AB

Money’s Man Crush: Nothing else needs to be said besides the name, Mike Trout.

2017 Prediction: 5th AL West

 

sonny-gray

 

Oakland A’s

2016 Record: 69-93 • 5th AL West

O/U on Wins: 66.5 • Over

Moving In: OF Rajai Davis • UT Trevor Plouffe • OF Matt Joyce • 1B/OF Chris Parmalee• OF Jaff Decker

Moving Out: UT Danny Valencia • P Ross Detwiler • OF Sam Fuld

Key Player(s) in 2017: P Sonny Gray. The A’s righty went from being an All Star and finishing 3rd in AL Cy Young voting in 2015 to a minus WAR pitcher in 2016. Although Gray was limited to just 117 innings last season because of injury, his 11 losses, 5.69 ERA and 1.50 WHIP are all new career highs (or lows). Gray was also more susceptible to the long ball, with a HR/9 of 1.4 over a paltry .7 the year before. Batters were also making more frequent and better contact off Gray, as he set a new career high in H/9 with 10.4. The A’s will need Gray to have a big bounce back season if they have any aspirations of competing to even break .500. A rebound season would also be beneficial to Gray’s trade value if and when the A’s start taking calls. You know Billy Beane won’t hesitate to make a deal for Gray if the right one comes along.

Potential Breakout: P Sean Manaea. The key piece that the A’s received from the Royals in exchange for Ben Zobrist in 2015, Manaea made his MLB debut in 2016 and looked very impressive. Manaea posted a stat line of 7-9/3.86/1.19/124 in 144 innings and had a WAR of 2.7. The continuing emergence of Manaea could make the thought of trading Sonny Gray that more enticing, especially if the A’s stumble out of the gate. On the flip, if the A’s do have a surprising season, you can bank on Manaea to be a vital contributor to the cause.

Top Prospect: SS/2B Franklin Barreto • Age: 21 • MLB ETA: 2017

First Round Draft Miss: P James Simmons (21) over Rick Porcello (27) in 2007.

Fantasy Stud: Khris Davis  2016 Stats: .247/.831/42/102/2.8 WAR in 555 AB

Money’s Man Crush: I will tell you what it isn’t, it’s sure as hell not that archaic cesspool of a ballpark that the A’s play in. Luckily for the fans, the A’s have some of the sweetest throwback jerseys in MLB which gives them something to take their mind off the fact that the sewage system could backup at anytime. As far as which throwback is best, you can’t go wrong with any version from 1967-1976 or the late 80’s-early 90’s.

2017 Prediction: 4th AL West

 

Felix Hernandez.jpg

 

Seattle Mariners

2016 Record: 86-76 •2nd AL West

O/U on Wins: 85.5 • Over

Moving In: SS Jean Segura • UT Danny Valencia • P Drew Smyly • C Carlos Ruiz • P Mark Rzepcynski • P Casey Fien • P Chris Heston • P Shae Simmons

Moving Out: P Taijuan Walker • SS Ketel Marte • 1B Adam Lind • P Nate Karns • OF Nori Aoki • P Vidal Nuno • P Zack Lee

Key Player(s) in 2017: C Mike Zunino. Despite bringing in veteran backstop, Carlos Ruiz, in the offseason, the starting catching position is really Zunino’s to lose. With the dreaded word “bust” starting to float around more and more, this could be a make or break year for the former 3rd overall pick in 2012. Entering his 5th season, Zunino will need to improve his offensive production if he has any hopes of being the starting C for the entire season. Through four seasons, Zunino has produced a career stat line of .196/.632/50/133/1.8 WAR in 350 G. With the Mariners having division title and playoff ambitions, they will need production out of their C position. They will not have time to sit around and wait on Zunino.

Potential Breakout: P James Paxton. Every season it seems that Paxton is poised for a big breakout. He will rattle off a series of great starts before getting bit by the injury bug and hitting the shelves for an extended period of time. When he is healthy, Paxton shows signs of being one of the better young southpaws in the game. Unfortunately for him and the Mariners, his inability to remain on the field has prevented him from reaching his full potential. With Taijuan Walker’s departure, Paxton will be leaned on a little more this season, especially with the Mariners hopes for October baseball.

Top Prospect: OF Kyle Lewis • Age: 21 • MLB ETA: 2018

First Round Draft Miss: P Danny Hultzen (2nd) over everyone else (Rendon, Lindor, Baez, Springer, J. Fernandez and S. Gray) in 2011.

Fantasy Stud: 2B Robinson Cano • 2016 Stats: .298/.882/39/103/7.3 WAR in 655 AB

Money’s Man Crush: P Felix Hernandez. Even in the twilight of his career, every start by the King has a chance to be something special. It’s also hard not to love the fan section known as “the Kings Court.”

2017 Prediction: 2nd AL West

 

yu-darvish

 

Texas Rangers

2016 Record: 95-67 • 1st AL West

O/U on Wins: 86.5 • Under

Moving In: 1B Mike Napoli • P Tyson Ross • P Andrew Cashner • P Allen Webster

Moving Out: UT Ian Desmond • DH Carlos Beltran • 1B Mitch Moreland • P Derek Holland • P Colby Lewis

Key Player(s) in 2017: P Yu Darvish. In 2016, Darvish made 17 starts in his return from Tommy John surgery. He went 7-5/3.41/1.12/132 in 100.1 innings, clearly showing very little signs of rust. With both the Astros and the Mariners fortifying their rosters in the offseason, while the Rangers lost key pieces to their 2016 success, a return to dominance for Darvish will be vital for the Rangers to defend their AL West title. 2017 will also be the final one in regards to Darvish’s contract. His performance this season will dictate which kind of deal he will land and perhaps where it will be too. Personally, I doubt that the Rangers will let Darvish get away but I would not be surprised at all to see him test the free agent market and compare offers.

Potential Breakout: 3B Joey Gallo. Signing of Mike Napoli hurts his chances of landing the everyday 1B job. Has worked at making himself more versatile and can also play 3B and LF, as well as DH. Gallo has light tower power but his all or nothing approach at the plate (76 strikeouts in 133 AB for his career) has hindered his offensive progression. At 23 years of age, Gallo is still young enough for the Rangers to be patient with his free swinging ways but for his own production, Gallo will need to drastically cut down on his K’s if he has ambitions of being an everyday DH while he waits for a position to open.

Top Prospect: OF Leody Taveras • Age: OF • MLB ETA: 2020

First Round Draft Miss: OF Jake Skole (15th) over Christian Yelich (23rd) in 2010.

Fantasy Stud: P Cole Hamels • 2016 Stats: 15 W/3.32/1.30/200/4.9 WAR in 200.7 IP

Money’s Man Crush: 3B Adrian Beltre. If you’re a baseball fan and you don’t love Adrian Beltre then we can never be friends.

2017 Prediction: 3rd AL West

– $

Advertisements

2015 MLB Season Preview · AL West · Oakland Athletics

Oakland Coliseum

Oakland Athletics

Home Ballpark: Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum

2014 Finish: 88 – 74 · 2nd AL West

Over/Under Wins in 2015: 82.5 · Under

What We Love:

Starting Pitching Depth: Despite losing three starting pitchers from their 2014 rotation (Jon Lester, Jeff Samardzjia and Jason Hammel) and having one of the more mediocre batting orders in MLB, this is an A’s team that could remain in the postseason picture based on the strength of their pitching staff alone. The 2015 version of the A’s will head into battle with a starting rotation consisting of: RHP Sonny Gray, LHP Jesse Hahn, LHP Scott Kazmir, RHP Kendall Graveman and LHP Drew Pomeranz. Meanwhile 2014 rotation stalwart, RHP Jesse Chavez, will open the season pitching out of the bullpen as a long reliever/spot starter. Sonny Gray is a legitimate ace in the making and looks to build off of a very successful first full season in the big leagues (14-10/3.08 ERA/183 K in 219 IP). Scott Kazmir enjoyed his first season in Oakland, making an All Star appearance and going 15-9 with a 3.55 ERA over 190 innings. Behind those two, the Athletics will lean on trio of youngsters, two of which were brought in via trades in the offseason (Graveman and Hahn) and another, who split duties between the pen and rotation last season (Pomeranz). If any of the young arms falter or if the oft injured Kazmir breaks down, the A’s have LHP Sean Nolin in AAA, and pitchers Jarrod Parker and AJ Griffin returning from Tommy John surgery at some point during the season.

 

sonny gray

 

Honourable Mentions:

  • The acquisition of the Zorilla: super utilityman, Ben Zobrist, comes over to the A’s after spending nine seasons with the Rays franchise.
  • The possibility of a Pat Venditte sighting: Venditte, who is an ambidextrous pitcher, was signed to a minor league deal in the offseason.
  • The 70’s and 80’s throwback jerseys: Perhaps the best in MLB.

Oakland As throwback

 

What We Hate:

Billy Beane out Billy Beane-ing himself: I want to start out by saying that this is by NO MEANS an attempt to “hate on” the A’s GM; merely a “what was/is he thinking?” piece. Similar to the Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski trading SP Doug Fister to the Nationals for a pair of LHP prospects (Ian Krol and Robbie Ray) and a utilityman (Steve Lombardozzi), sometimes GM’s over think trades/signings and wind up regretting them later.

At last season’s Trade Deadline, Beane and the A’s were the clear cut winner, when they decided to acquire ALL OF the pitching (seriously). In two separate July trades, the A’s acquired RHP Jeff Samardzjia and Jason Hammel from the Cubs in return for a pair of prospects (SS Addison Russell, CF Billy McKinley) and a pitcher (Dan Straily), then they picked up LHP Jon Lester and OF Jonny Gomes from the Red Sox in exchange for OF Yoenis Cespedes. In making those trades, the A’s were banking on making the World Series on the strength of their pitching staff.

Unfortunately what the A’s weren’t expecting was for their offense to completely dry up once they traded Cespedes. The A’s struggled down the stretch, lost the West to the Angels, and were bounced by the Royals in a (memorable) Wild Card game. So clearly, you would believe that Beane would be shopping for offense in the offseason? Nope. It was quite the opposite actually.

After signing free agent 1B/DH Billy Butler in late November, the A’s stunned their fans and players by trading 3B Josh Donaldson to the Blue Jays for 3B Brett Lawrie and a trio of prospects (Nolin, Graveman and Franklin Barretto). Just over a week later, Beane shipped 1B/OF Brandon Moss to the Indians for a prospect (Joe Wendle). For a team that struggled to score, it was a bit of a head scratcher to see the A’s trade their two biggest run producers. Beane wasn’t done there though. The following day after trading Moss, Beane sent Samardzjia to the White Sox for a handful of prospects (Chris Bassist, Marcus Semien and Josh Phegley).

The A’s would then take a week off before making their next deal, this time they sent C Derek Norris to the Padres for a pair of pitching prospects (Hahn and RJ Alvarez). I should also mention that the A’s acquired UTIL Ben Zobrist and SS Yunel Escobar from the Rays for C John Jaso and a pair of prospects (Daniel Robertson and Boog Powell), before flipping Escobar to the Nationals for RP Tyler Clippard.

With that hectic offseason, it has been hard to get a feel for what the A’s are going for this season. Despite the signing of Butler, the trades of Donaldson, Moss and Samardzjia, made it appear that a rebuild was about to take place. Yet the acquisitions of Zobrist and Clippard make it seem that the A’s are at least going to be competitive.

Jason Giambi To Return To Oakland A's Next Season

Honourable Mention: 

  • Lack of power in the lineup: Will anyone hit more than 20 HR in this lineup? Only three players penciled into the starting lineup have had a season of 25+ HR (Billy Butler, Ike Davis and Josh Reddick) and none of them have done it more than once.
  • Everything about the Oakland Coliseum: An aging, decrepit stadium that features the second lowest seating in MLB and a penchant for sewage flooding. Sounds like a great fan experience!
  • Catching depth: The A’s had three catchers on their roster in 2014 (John Jaso, Derek Norris and Stephen Vogt). This season only one of the three remains (Vogt).
  • Coco Crisp’s injured elbow: The 35yr old CF will miss the first two months of the season after reportedly needing surgery on his elbow. Crisp’s injury, adds more offensive woe to a lineup that was already looking to struggle putting up runs.

 

Player to Watch: SP Sonny Gray. Gray had a fantastic first full season in the majors in 2014. The diminutive starter used his mid 90’s fastball and filthy curveball to strikeout 183 batters and notch 14 wins a year ago. Last season, Gray made 33 starts and pitched 219 innings for the Athletics. This season, he is the de facto ace of this pitching staff and could be in line to surpass his numbers from a year ago.

sonny gray1

Top Pitching Prospect: Dillon Overton · LHP · MLB ETA: 2017

Dillon Overton

Top Positional Prospect: Matt Olson · 1B · MLB ETA: 2016

Matt Olson

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

Final Prediction: 3rd AL West

– $