Archive for March, 2016

N.L. East 2016 Prediction

Posted: March 29, 2016 in Uncategorized

First:  New York.

Pitching:  As long as injury remains a stranger, the entire staff is a dream.  Choose from Matt Harvey or Jacob deGrom or Noah Snydergaard as the number one starter.  Steven Matz will be blessed as the next great Mets starter during 2016.  Zach Wheeler returns sometime in July.  A perfect second-half boost.  Bartolo Colon is 100 years old and logged almost 200 innings pitched last year.  Jeurys Familia had a great 2015.  2016 will be equally impressive.  Hansel Robles or Antonio Bastardo should throw the eighth inning, not Addison Reed.  In fact, Erik Goeddel and Sean Gilmartin should receive more appearances and innings than Mr. Reed.  Jeremy Blevins and Logan Verrett complete a deep bullpen.  Oh yeah, Josh Edgin returns in May.  Life is tough in Queens.

Offense:  A stout offensive trio is found in Michael Conforto, Yoenis Cespedes (his agent should receive an award for the contract accepted by the Mets.  All that is missing is Mets administration agreeing to load and unload Mr. Cespedes’ dishwasher) and Curtis Granderson.  Alejandro De Aza waits for at bats.  David Wright is old and brittle.  Well, old for a 33 year old.  Lucas Duda received at bats and produced.  Look for even better numbers in 2016.  Why Matt Reynolds is not christened the starting shortstop over Asdrubal Cabrera and Wilton Flores (will these two ever embrace the idea of a walk?) is a mystery.  Neil Walker takes over second.  Travis d’Anaud handles the catching.

Players in the system who can help:  Dilson Herrera (2b, assuming he does not make the team after spring training), Gavin Cecchini (ss, though reduce the errors), Jayce Boyd (lf) and Paul Sewald (relief).

Second:  Miami.

Pitching:  Wei-Yin Chen and Jose Fernandez lead a solid group of starters.  Adam Conley should be the #3 guy.  Tom Koehler and Jarred Cosart complete the first five.  The bullpen will miss Carter Capps.  Who sets up A.J. Ramos?  Given Mr. Capps absence, David Phelps and Edwin Jackson are included in the bullpen shuffle.  Bryan Morris and Mike Dunn are part of an unimpressive collection of relievers less Mr. Ramos (who is very good).  The bullpen is the Marlins weak link.

Offense:  A fine young outfield in need of one adjustment . . . shifting Christian Yelich to center and sitting Marcell Ozuna on the bench.  Derek Dietrick in left and the ever impressive Giancarlo Stanton in right provide plenty of offense.  Justin Bour and Martin Prado (32 and the old man of the infield) handle the corners while the Marlins hope for another stellar year from both Dee Gordon and Adeiny Hechavarria.  J.T. Realmuto will get the bulk of the games behind the plate less the occasional appearance from future manager, Jeff Mathis.

Players in the system who can help:  Nick Wittgren (relief), Greg Nappo (relief) and Brian Ellington (relief).  Those of you wondering, yes, the Fish have the best relief development in MLB.  Given the shallowness of the Marlins’ bullpen, these guys should get a long look this year.

Third:  Washington.

Pitching:  Max Scherzer, less his win total, had a solid 2015.  Will the Nationals finally allow Stephen Strasburg a second opportunity to pitch 200 innings or better?  This upcoming season will be Mr. Strasburg’s fifth full year of baseball.  Dare he approach his 2014 innings total of 215?  Gio Gonzalez slipped in 2015.  Tanner Roark and Joe Ross bring up the rear.  Jonathan Papelbon provided one of my favorite moments in 2015 when he smacked Bryce Harper.  Here’s hoping for a repeat.  Felipe Rivero is waiting for Mr. Papelbon’s departure so that he may assume the closer role.  Shawn Kelly and Yusmeiro Petit provide a hint of bullpen depth.  Blake Treinen, Aaron Barrett and Oliver Perez are average.

Offense:  I am not a Bryce Harper fan.  Color me biased.  Sure, he had a fine season last year, but I don’t care.  Why Jayson Werth starts in left or anywhere for any team is a mystery.  Clint Robinson will replace Mr. Werth as the season progresses.  Ben Revere should have a solid 2016.  Wilson Ramos threw out 24 of 54 baserunners in 2015.  Impressive.  Ryan Zimmerman hasn’t enjoyed a full season since 2013.  Anthony Rendon, Danny Espinosa and the vastly overpaid Daniel Murphy complete the infield.

Players in the system who can help:  Trea Turner (ss) and Wilmer Diffo (ss.  Watch out, Mr. Turner).

Fourth:  Philadelphia.

Pitching.  Ouch.  Aaron Nola should be the #1 starter followed by Jerad Eickhoff.  Why?  Because the rest of the starters are a collective yawn.  In no particular order Jeremy Hellickson, Charlie Morton, Vince Velasquez and Brett Oberholtzer do not impress.  These guys will keep the bullpen far too busy.  Sadly, the bullpen resembles the starters.  Hector Neris, Jeanmar Gomez and Dalier Hinojosa need to be sorted into closer, eighth inning and seventh inning roles.  Any team featuring Ernesto Frieri and Edward Mujica are in dire need of restructuring the relief corps development from rookie ball forward.

Offense:  Odubel Herrera in center has a bright future.  Why is Peter Bourjus in right field?  He is a defensive disaster awaiting disassembly.  First to third will be a common theme for opposing baserunners with balls rolling into right field.  Tyler Goeddel probably replaces Mr. Bourjus by mid-May.  Cody Asche in left is hopefully more productive than Cody Asche at third base.  Ryan Howard’s swan song is 2016.  Time to retire.  Maikel Franco is as talented as Odubel Herrera.  Same goes for Cesar Hernandez.  Andres Blanco should take the shortstop job from Freddy Galvis.  Cameron Rupp, during his short time in the Bigs, has tossed 27 of 73 baserunners.

Players in the system who could help:  Brock Stassi (1b), Angelo Mora (2b), J.P. Crawford (ss), Roman Quinn (cf), Reiner Roibal (starting pitching), Mark Leiter (starting pitching) and Jimmy Cordero (relief).

Fifth:  Atlanta.

Pitching:  Julio Teheran and Jhoulys Chacin should be one-two.  After those two, close your eyes.  Bud Norris, Matt Wisler, Mike Foltynewicz and Williams Perez are a collective crash. Arodys Vizcaino and Jason Grilli battle for the closer spot (and de facto eighth inning appearances).  Alexi Ogando offers a third man in the ‘pen.  The remainder of the men who sit and wait are, well, um, not of major league quality.  I was polite.

Offense:  Michael Bourn and Kelly Johnson platoon in left.  Ender Inciarte was under the radar in 2015.  But, then again, he plays for Atlanta.  Nick Markakis rues the day he left Baltimore.  Adonis Garcia, Erick Aybar and Jace Peterson hopefully improve on their respective 2015 numbers.  Freddie Freeman is the Paul Goldschmidt of the East (however, Paul now has teammates who can play.  Freddie, not so much).  A.J. Pierzynski (39 and catching in Atlanta.  The heat.  The humidity.  Yuck) and Tyler Flowers will split the catching duties so neither passes out during a game.

Players in the system who could help:  Everyday position development is barren.  Ryan Weber (starting pitching).

N.L. Central 2016 Prediction

Posted: March 22, 2016 in Uncategorized

First:  Chicago.  I despise  agreeing with the masses, but the Cubs are the team to beat in the Central in 2016.  Goats beware.

Pitching:  Jake Arrieta found himself and success in 2016.  Jon Lester, John Lackey, Kyle Hendricks and Jason Hammel are an impressive group of starters.  Hector Rondon will be followed by Travis Wood (a convincing bullpen conversion in ’15), Pedro Strop, Justin Grimm and another 2015 convert to the ‘pen, Clayton Richard.  A quality bullpen.

Offense:  Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant (no forced AAA appearance in April this season) will crush the ball this year.  Justin Hayward is overpaid and very average.  Dexter Fowler covers a lot of grass in center.  Kyle Schwarber and Addison Russell had offensively similar years in 2015.  Both need to cut down on strikeouts and invite a base on balls to enter their daily life.  Ben Zobrist brings stability and flexibility.  Jorge Soler will wait for one of the outfielders to falter.  Miguel Montero and the ancient David Ross handle the catching duties.

Players in the system who could help:  Wilson Contreras (c) and Billy McKinney (rf).

Second:  Pittsburgh.

Pitching:  I’m choosing the Pirates over the Cardinals due to a leap of faith in starting pitching and the first four guys (or should I say last four guys) in the bullpen.  Gerrit Cole is entering the territory of exceptional.  Francisco Liriano gets better with each passing season.  Candidly, my leap of faith rests with the last three of the rotation:  Jon Niese, Jeff Locke and Ryan Vogelsong.  If these three can end the season with eras sandwiched between 3.50-3.75 and whips south of 1.35, the Pirates take the wild card.  If not, third place.  The bullpen’s success centers on Mark Melancon (what a 2015!), Tony Watson (see Mark Melancon), Jared Hughes and Arquimedes Caminero.

Offense:  As impressive as Starling Marte, Andrew McCuthen and Gregory Polanco (room to improve) were in 2015, this year will be better.  Production galore awaits.  Francisco Cervelli was one of the better offensive catchers last year.  Jung Ho Kang enjoyed a pleasant introduction at third.  If Jordy Mercer and Josh Harrison handle the middle without substantial injury and a combination of John Jaso, Michael Morse and David Freese (time for a new position)  effectively share first base, the Pirates give the Cubs a run for their money.

Players in the system who can help:  Josh Bell (1b), Max Moroff (2b), Dan Gamache (3b), Adam Frazier (ss) Willy Garcia (lf), Nick Kingham (starting pitching), Steven Brault (starting pitching) and Tyler Glasnow (starting pitching).  Yes, the Pirates have the best player development in the N.L. having earned a 3.6 (maximum of 4.0) in my winter review of the 2015 season.

Third:  St. Louis.

Pitching:  Adam Wainwright returns.  34 and not getting any younger.  Jaime Garcia has not thrown more than `129.2 ip in a season dating back to 2012.  Michael Wacha, Mike Leake and Carlos Martinez complete the starting rotation.  Trevor Rosenthal handles the ninth.  Does Seung Hwan Oh throw the eighth?  Probably.  Kevin Siegrist, Tyler Lyons and Jordan Walden should receive more appearances than Seth Maness and Jonathan Broxton.

Offense:  Brandon Moss at first or a declining Matt Adams?  Tough choice regarding a lack of choice.  Jhonny Peralta is out until late June or early July.  Matt Carpenter and Kolten Wong need to supply the hits.  Yadier Molina had non-Yadier seasons in ’14 and ’15.  Matt Holiday hopes to play 130 games.  Randal Grichuk (323 ab) and Stephen Piscotty (233 ab) need to prove their true ability during a full season.  Tommy Pham waits for the same chance.

Players in the system who can help:  Aldemys Diaz (ss), Jeremy Hazelbaker (rf) and Tim Cooney (starting pitching).

Fourth:  Milwaukee.   This was tough.  Both the Brewers and Cincinnati Reds are awful.  The Brewers are less awful.  Congratulations.

Pitching:  Starting pitching is woeful.  Wily Peralta cannot be the Brewers’ #1 starter.  I’m going with the following three becoming the #1, #2 and #3 starters as the season progresses:  Taylor Jungmann, Chase Anderson and Jimmy Nelson.  Matt Garza hopes to last the entire season.  What saves the Brewers is their bullpen.  No pun intended.  Saves the Brewers . . . Fine.  Don’t laugh.  Anyway, Milwaukee’s ‘pen is highly underrated and unappreciated.  Sure, a closer has yet to be identified for the 2016 season, but Will Smith, Jeremy Jeffress, Michael Blazek, Corey Kneel and Tyler Thornburg offer a deep and talented group from which a closer will be found.  These guys will be busy April forward.

Offense:  Ryan Braun and Jonathan Lucroy provide the bulk of the hits.  Jonathan Villar shows promise at short.  Chris Carter will offer 20/80 as well as an obp south of .300.  Same obp registers for Scooter Gennett and Aaron Hill.  Kirk Nieuwenhuis in center will enjoy all the at-bats he’s ever dreamed of.  If Keon Broxton can hit the cutoff man quicker than Domingo Santana or Rymer Liriano, Keon wins the right field job.  As the year wears on, do the Brewers move Mr. Lucroy to first base or elsewhere so Brewers’ fans can enjoy the dynamic arm of Martin Maldonado throwing out baserunners?

Players in the system who can help:  Orlando Arcia (ss) and Kyle Wren (lf).

Fifth:  Cincinnati.

Pitching:  Gonna be a long 162 games for the Reds.  Homer Bailey had 2 starts last year and 23 in 2014.  He is the #1 starter?  Anthony DeSclafani and Alfredo Simon don’t offer much following Mr. Bailey.  Neither does John Lamb.  Raisel Iglesias and Brandon Finnegan should move to the front of the rotation as soon as possible.  The Reds do not have a closer.  The Reds have J.J. Hoover and Jumbo Diaz in the bullpen.  They are looking for help. Lots of help.

Offense:  The outfield is a mess.  Jay Bruce had consecutive bad years in ’14 and ’15.  Billy Hamilton hates to walk.  And does his awful obp prove the point.  Adam Duvall and Jake Cave share left field because Jesse Winker needs another year of development.  The infield is probably Eugenio Suarez at third, Zack Cozart at short and the long suffering Brandon Phillips and Joey Votto on the right side wondering “Why are we here?”  Ramon Cabrera should start at catcher.

Players in the system who can help:  The aforementioned Jesse Winker (lf), Alex Blandino (ss) and Zach Weiss (relief).

N.L. West 2016 Prediction

Posted: March 16, 2016 in Uncategorized

First:  Arizona.

Pitching:  Signing Zach Greinke makes all the difference.  Sure, the money is insane, unwarranted and reeking of bad counsel, but Mr. Greinke can pitch.  By the way, so can Shelby Miller and Pat Corbin.  Robbie Ray and Rubby De La Rosa complete an impressive starting five.  Brad Ziegler, a stiff desert wind would send Mr. Ziegler a good ten feet in the opposite direction, is a fine closer who is looking for more save opportunities.  And he will receive his wish.  Tyler Clippard is another quality addition to the pitching staff.  Leading to his eighth inning appearances will be Randall Delgado.  Daniel Hudson, the promising Silvino Bracho and Josh Collmenter form a group of relievers as solid as the starters.

Offense:  Perhaps greater America will hear of Paul Goldschmidt in 2016.  A marvelous ball player.  Across the diamond is Jake Lamb who is poised for a break out 2016.  Get those at bats, Mr. Lamb.  Acquiring Jean Segura from Milwaukee was well done.  Chris Owings can field, though he cannot hit.  In the outfield, we find lots of youngsters.  A.J. Pollock roams center and can hit.  David Peralta in right has as much potential as Mr. Pollock.  Yasmany Tomas likely plays left.  Behind the plate is Wellington Castillo who will be subbed by Tuffy Gosewisch.  Undoubtedly, the catching combo with the coolest names in all of MLB.

Players in the system who could help:  Brandon Drury (3b), Zach Borenstein (lf) and Socrates Brito (rf and assuming he does not make the Snakes out of spring training).  Pitching help is a couple of years away.  Thus, those signings.

Second:  San Francisco.

Pitching:  Almost as impressive as the Snakes, but not quite.  Next to Zach Greinke and Clayton Kershaw, Madison Bumgarner is the best starter in the West.  Without him, the Giants are a third place team.  Johnny Cueto is usually a #1 starter, but not with the Giants which is a great reality for the Giants.  Jeff Samardzija, Jake Peavy and Chris Heston complete a solid staff.  Matt Cain is the odd starter out.  The bullpen shines with Santiago Casilla, Sergio Romo, Javier Lopez (getting better with age), George Kontos, Hunter Strickland and Josh Osich.  This bullpen is the best in the West.

Offense:  More punch than most realize.  Granted, the outfield is not stocked with 35/90 guys, but Angel Pagan, Denard Span and Hunter Pence form a defensive gem of an outfield.  If any of the three slip, Gregor Blanco is looking for a chance.  The punch lies with the infielders.  Matt Duffy, Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt offer long ball results.  Buster Posey is the final part of the Giants punch.  Joe Panik had an impressive last year.  Kelly Tomlinson, much as Gregor Blanco, is looking for at bats.

Players in the system who can help:  Jarrett Parker (lf and assuming he does not make the team at the end of spring training) and Michael Broadway (relief).

Third:  Los Angeles.  A note about this franchise.  The owners are bastards.  Why am I denied the third consecutive year the opportunity to enjoy Vin Scully broadcasting tv games?  Dodger owners are greedy sons of bitches.  I hope all of you are plagued by flat tires, disappointing dental news and and hair loss.

Pitching:  Clayton Kershaw begins and ends the conversation about L.A.’s starting pitching.  Scott Kazmir as the #2 guy is indicative of a team bound for a disappointing season.  Brett Anderson is injured.  Hyun-Jin Ryu hasn’t pitched in a long time.  Alex Wood must step into his potential.  Mike Bolsinger makes the fifth guy.  Thankfully, the bullpen is full of talent.  Kenley Jansen had a marvelous 2015.  Chris Hatcher, J.P. Howell, Pedro Baez and Luis Avilan will receive many a call in 2016.

Offense:  The outfield is loaded with whiners and loafers.  Andre Ethier will bitch and  moan about playing time.  Carl Crawford will sulk upon inevitable injury (remember how good he was in Tampa?).  Yasiel Puig is elsehwere bound by 7/31/16.  I don’t care how good a year he has up to that date.  Most of his teammates despise him.  Think Ted Cruz at a republican softball game.  Joc Pederson is a candidate for return to AAA if he does not lose the long ball addiction at the cost of his overall offensive peformance.  Scott Van Slyke  is the most productive outfielder, but he hardly plays.  Adrian Gonzalez has another stellar year.  The Dodgers were fortunate to lure Howie Kendrick for a return year.  Justin Turner earned a well deserved start at third base this year.  Corey Seager must endure an entire season of N.L. pitching, then I will believe the mavens praise.  Enrique Hernandez is a brewing talent.  Chase Utley will practice sliding.

Players in the system who can help:  Lots of talent at the A+ level entering AA in 2016.  However the distance from AA to MLB is considerable.  Austin Barnes (c), Jharel Cotton (starting pitching), Julio Urias (starting pitching) and Juan Gonzalez (relief).

Fourth:  San Diego.  A distant fourth.

Pitching:  Tyson Ross and James Shields make for a nice one-two, but then not much follows.  I’m out of patience with Andrew Cashner.  Drew Pomeranz should leave the ‘pen and join the starters.  Colin Rea and Brandon Maurer (survivor of a Seattle Mariners upbringing) have potential, but need time to develop.  The bullpen is awful.  Once a Padres specialty, now a grimace.  Kevin Quackenbush was the only consistent reliever in 2015 who returns in 2016.  Nick Vincent was inconsistent.  Signing Fernando Rodney is the equivalent of announcing “I got nothing!” in the ninth inning.  Give Michael Dimock and Jay Jackson a chance.  The result could be no worse than Crooked Hat entering the game.

Offense:  If Jon Jay returns to form, if Melvin “Don’t Call Me B.J” Upton has an obp above .325 and if Wil Myers is healthy and becomes a decent first baseman, maybe Pads fans have reason to cheer.  If not, this team is a day at the beach without sun block.  Matt Kemp is probably trade bait come late July.  Same with Derek Norris.  However, with Christian Bethancourt and Austin Hedges waiting in the wings (both have tremendous arms and toss rates), any Norris deal is good for the future.  Yangervis Solarte had a respectable 2015 at third base.  Alexei Ramirez will weigh his standard less than 160 pounds by the end of August and flutter into the San Diego Bay.  Second base belongs to Cory Spangenberg for good or bad.

Players in the system who can help:  The aforementioned closing duo of Michael Dimock and Jay Jackson, Rocky Gale (c.  In case the Padres want another cannon behind the plate), Hector Gomez (ss), Alex Dickerson (lf) and Travis Jankowski (cf).  Candidly, the last two mentioned probably become starters in the outfield on 8/1/16.

Fifth:  Colorado.

Pitching:  Jorge De La Rosa is the Rockies #1 guy.  No offense to Mr. De La Rosa, but he’s a four or five guy on most other teams.  The interchangeable and ineffective group of Chad Bettis, Jordan Lyles, Tyler Chatwood, Chris Rusin and David Hale follow.  Shuffle and deal.  The order does not matter.  The bullpen does have some strength.  Jake McGee or Jairo Diaz should close and/or pitch the eighth.  Jason Motte, Chad Qualls and Justin Miller are respectable.

Offense:  At least the Rockies can hit.  Nolan Arenado and DJ LaMahieu are a great two to build an offense around.  Carlos Gonzalez still plows a long ball.  Charlie Blackmon and Gerardo Parra are the next best in the line up.  Ben Paulson and Mark Reynolds share first base.  Maybe they combine for 35 dingers.  Jose Reyes needs to take care of his non-baseball issue.  Nick Hundley actually had a productive offensive year in 2015.  Who knew?

Players in the  system who can help:  Christian Adames (ss.  Assuming he is sent to AAA when spring training ends) and Carlos Estevez (relief).  The Rockies have talent that is years away.  Most of their better prospects were in A+ and A ball during 2015.

First:  Houston.  The Astros aren’t sliding or slipping.

Pitching:  Starting pitching is young and loaded.  Loaded.  Dallas Keuchel, Collin McHugh, Lance McCullers and Scott Feldman are impressive and more.  Adding Doug Fister makes for a miserable four-game series versus whomever.  The ‘pen is in a bit of a mess.  Who closes?  Ken Giles or Luke Gregerson?  Tony Sipp and Will Harris are solid.  Josh Fields and Pat Neshek complete a very impressive bullpen less the closer contest.

Offense:  Jose Altuve, Evan Gattis (home run or a great swinging strike out), Carlos Correa (yeah, he’s that good), George Springer and Luis Valbuena form a productive core of offense.  Colby Rasmus and Carlos Gomez, while lacking standing at the plate, run down their fair share of fly balls and line drives.  Jon Singleton either sticks in Houston or is banished to AAA during 2016.  Jake Marisnick hopes for at bats.  Jason Castro probably backs up Max Stassi since Max throws out baserunners.

Players in the system who could help:  Alfredo Gonzalez (c), A.J. Reed (1b), Matt Duffy (3b), Colin Moran (3b), Tony Kemp (lf), Domingo Santana (rf), Jon Kemmer (rf), Joseph Musgrove (starting pitching) and James Hoyt (relief).  Yes, investing in scouting, signing and development pays off over time.

Second:  Oakland.

Pitching:  Sonny Gray builds on a great introduction.  Jesse Hahn is not far behind.  Chris Bassitt, Jarrod Parker (healthy at last?) and Kendall Graveman complete a worthy starting staff.  Sean Doolittle is the closer.  Ryan Madson and Liam Hendriks make for more than manageable eighth and seventh innings.  Fernando Rodriguez (an impressive 2015) is looking for opportunity.  Why the A’s signed Marc Rzepcznski and Jon Axford is a mystery. Bring up the kids.

Offense:  Josh Reddick, Billy Butler (I admit to a pathetic 2015, but Country Breakfast will bounce back), Danny Valencia, Stephen Vogt and Billy Burns offer varied offense.  Why Billy Beane traded for Khris Davis is a head scratcher.  Khris is a the antithesis of Billy’s obp emphasis.  Marcus Semien and Jed Lowrie make a fine up the middle defense.  Yonder Alonso, while never realizing his power potential in San Diego, but then again, Petco is where fly balls go to die, does possess gap power.  Mark Canha, Chris Coghlan and Josh Phegley wait for at bats.  Any team with Sam Fuld is to be admired.  Coco Crisp is preparing to exit.

Players in the system who could help:  Rangel Ravelo (1b), Colin Walsh (2b), Chad Pinder (ss, but reduce the errors), Jake Smolinski (lf), Ryan Dull (relief) and Brendan McCurry (relief).

Third:  Anaheim (as long stated on these pages, I refuse the ridiculous official name of this franchise.  Sorry, Arte).

Pitching:  The only reason I’m choosing the Angels over the Rangers is their pitching.  Garrett Richards is the real deal.  A number one starter.  Jered Weaver is a master of illusion.  Any starting pitcher who delivers off-speed stuff in the low 70s and lives to tell the tale is astonishing.  C.J. Wilson will never be worth the money spent, but if he can get through the fifth inning, the Angels have a chance.  Here’s what is impressive.  We have yet to discuss Andrew Heaney, Matt Shoemaker, Hector Santiago, Nick Tropeano and the healing Tyler Skaggs (he could be as good as Mr. Richards).  A deep group of starters.  As for the bullpen, Huston Street, Joe Smith and Fernando Salas are a fantastic three inning combo.  Jose Alavarez is waiting for more innings.

Offense:  Albert Pujols is not completely healed.  His foot continues to bother him.  He should dh full-time if his ego allows.  Mike Trout is a first ballot Hall of Famer.  I live in Southern California, thus have the April through early October treat of watching him play.  And, no, I’m not an Angels fan.  Daniel Nava will get all the at bats he dreamed of as a Red Sox while  playing left field and first base for the Angels.  Kole Calhoun had a very good 2015 in right field.  I’m not buying the notion that the Angels are stronger up the middle with Johnny Giovotella and Andrelton Simmons at second and short.  Yunel Escobar seems more comfortable at third than short given a fine 2015.  C.J. Cron should play more first base than dh if the Angels want any offensive production out Mr. Pujols.  Carlos Perez and Geovany Soto form an impressive defensive combo, but once Jett Bandy is deemed ready, Mr. Soto leaves Anaheim in favor of Mr. Bandy because Mr. Bandy can hit.

Players in the system who could help:  The worthy majority of 2-9 guys are entering AA this year.  Any call up from Salt Lake City is for a brief appearance.  Michael Brady (starting pitching) and Cory Rasmus (relief).

Fourth:  Texas.

Pitching:  Most of the Rangers fortune settles on Yu Darvish having a successful return from T.J. surgery.  Mid-May is the proposed time of returning to the mound.  We shall see. Cole Hamels, Colby Lewis (getting better with age), the promising Chi Chi Gonzalez and Derek Holland complete the starters.  Yet, one well placed injury lands the starting staff in considerable trouble.  Shawn Tolleson closes followed by Sam Dyson, Keone Kela, Tim Wilhelmsen and Sam Freeman.  A worthy set of ‘pen mates.

Offense:  A lot of deep ball talent with Prince Fielder, Adrian Beltre, Shin-Soo Choo and Mitch Moreland.  Getting on base is Delino DeShields and Rougned Odor.  If Ian Desmond (the Rangers paid far too much for his services) and Elvis Andrus can get on base close to a third of their at-bats, the Rangers may battle for a wild card spot.  Robinson Chirinos and Chris Gimenez likely share the catching duties.  Josh Hamilton awaits a fateful 2016.  He either finds his lost baseball self or disappears.

Players in the system who could help:  Might be a couple of years before substantial 2-9 assistance is available.  No starter or reliever stands out in either AAA or AA.

Fifth:  Seattle.  Most likely the worst team in the A.L.

Pitching:  Felix Hernandez is a loyal soul.  All that talent stuck with a dysfunctional organization.  Hisahi Iwakuma is a worthy partner of Mr. Hernandez when healthy.  Wade Miley had a decent second half with the Red Sox in ’15.  Taijuan Walker improves each year.  Nathan Karns had a respectable 2015.  A group that is better than advertised.  Now for the bullpen.  A mess.  Either Joaquin Benoit or Tony Zych (who traveled from AA to the Bigs in 2015) is the default closer.  Frankly, not a lot of candidates exist.  Charlie Furbush is the last of the effective relievers.  Vidal Nuno and Evan Scribner pitch the early innings.

Offense:  Thin.  Adam Lind, Ketel Marte and Kyle Seager provide the 2016 highlights.  If Robinson Cano watches Mr. Marte perhaps Mr.Cano rekindles his fire for the game.  Franklin Guiterrez most likely takes either left field from Nori Aoki or center from Leonys Martin.  Seth Smith remains in right.  Chris Iannetta and Steve Clevenger do not hit or throw out baserunners to any notable degree.  Perhaps Mike Zunino is the better choice behind the plate.  With enough at-bats, Jesus Montero might generate some production at the dh spot.  Hopefully Seattle fans enjoy many a sunny day as they watch a cloudy 2016 season.

Players in the system who could help:  Chris Taylor (ss.  A few more at-bats at AAA would help), Dario Pizzano (lf), Edwin Diaz (starting pitching) and Matt Anderson (relief).

 

Time to dethrone Kansas City.

First:  Detroit.

Pitching:  The ever admirable and effective Justin Verlander will rebound from a less than Verlander 2015.  Jordan Zimmermann makes for a substantial one-two punch.  Daniel Norris has a bright future and prospered under Detroit guidance as contrasted to his struggles in Toronto when called to the Bigs.  If Anibal Sanchez can pitch anywhere near 200 innings, the Detroit starting staff would receive a great gift.  However, any injury of more than a 21-day d.l. stay will bury this group of starters.  Frankie Rodriguez is a wise addition to the closer role.  Mark Lowe throwing the eighth gives the Tigers a degree of late inning comfort most squads dream of.  The Wilsons, Alex and Justin, had an impressive 2015.  Drew VerHagen threw well, though limited innings.  Blaine Hardy completes the bullpen members worth entering a game post-fifth inning.

Offense:  The ever ready Miguel Cabrera is looking for company.  Sure, Victor Martinez posts steady offensive numbers, but Mr. Martinez suffers from good year/bad year dating back to 2009.  J.D. Martinez (an outstanding 2015), Ian Kinsler, Nick Castellanos (see J.D. Martinez), Jose Iglesias (becoming one of the better A.L. shortstops) and the newly arrived Justin Upton provide a great deal of power.  James McCann behind the plate completes the lineup.  One drawback is the injury to Cameron Maybin, but between Anthony Gose and Tyler Collins, the Tigers should not suffer too long while waiting for Mr. Maybin’s return.

Players in the system who could help:  Wynton Bernard (cf, and do not rush this guy.  Give him most of 2016 in AAA), Xavier Avery (cf), Dean Green (1b) and Jeff Ferrell (relief).

Second:  Cleveland.  A very close second.

Pitching:  An impressive group of starters.  Mavens are quick to point to Corey Kluber, but I find the continued development of Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar to be key to the Indians success in 2016.  Josh Tomlin also posted eye-catching numbers.  Cody Anderson beats Trevor Bauer for the fifth spot.  A better group of starters than the Tigers, no doubt, but the bullpen cannot lay claim to the same praise.  Cody Allen closing follows a jumble of would be eighth inning men:  Bryan Shaw, Zach McAllister and Jeff Manship (my favorite for the eighth inning role).  Then the men who sit in chairs and wait become thin gruel.

Offense:  Old Man Juan Uribe and almost as Old Man Mike Napoli join a group of guys entering their late 20s.  A prime mix.  Francisco Lindor (nowhere near his late 20s) is a shortstop to watch.  Jason Kipnis had a topnotch 2015.  Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez are the best defensive catching duo in the A.L. Central.  Plus, they keep Carlos Santana at the dh spot where he can concentrate on hitting.  As for the outfield, Abraham Almonte’s suspension is easily overcome by rotating Rajai Davis and Joey Butler in center.  Michael Brantley has become the best left fielder in the A.L.  Lonnie Chisenhall in right will hopefully avoid Cleveland’s version of Hanley Ramirez in left.  Granted, Mr. Chisenhall has a work ethic, but 95% of his games played have occurred at third base.  Third to right is a great difference, but to the Indians’ credit, Mr. Chisenhall auditioned for 51 games in right during 2015.

Players in the system who could help:  James Aguilar (1b) rides to the rescue if Mike Napoli continues to swing at letter high fastballs, Jose Ramirez (2b), Tyler Naquin (cf.  Frankly, why not now given Mr. Almonte’s suspension?) and Adam Pluto (starting pitching).

Third:  Kansas City.

Pitching:  Any team that lists Ian Kennedy as their #3 starter is hurting and regressing.  Sure, Edinson Volquez and Yorando Ventura remain, but the Kennedy signing reeks of panic.  Danny Duffy and Chris Young complete an average starting rotation.  The bullpen is superb.  Wade Davis has another spectacular season in 2016 (there is a risky prediction).  Kelvin Herrera, Luke Hochevar and Joakim Soria highlight the best bullpen in the A.L. Central.

Offense:  Any outfield featuring Jarrod Dyson as their starting right fielder is akin to a team featuring Ian Kennedy as a #3 starter.  My point is made.  Alex Gordon is now a rich man and continues to play left.  He is vastly overrated as an offensive player.   Lorenzo Cain continues to improve with each passing season.  Eric Hosmer does the same.  Mike Moustakas made a great leap forward in 2015.  Alcides Escobar, while a superb shortstop, is woeful with a bat in his hands.  Same goes with the aging Omar Infante.  Christian Colon should become the starting second baseman.  Kendrys Morales had a fine 2015 and should show no change in 2016.  Salvador Perez is a defensive catcher supreme, throws out his fair share of runners, but strikes out a bit much while swinging for the long ball.

Players in the system who could help:  Parker Morin (c), Balbino Fuenmayor (1b), Angel Franco (2b), Reymond Fuentes (lf), Brett Eibner (lf), Jose Martinez (rf), John Lamb (starting pitching), Andy Ferguson (starting pitching) and Michael Mariot (relief).

Fourth:  Chicago.

Pitching:  Chris Sale leads a so-so starting staff.   Frankly, Jose Quintana may well out pitch Mr. Sale this year and earn the #1 spot.  Erik Johnson should be the #3 guy.  Mat Latos will bitch and moan if he doesn’t get at least 30 starts.  John Danks and Carlos Rodon bring up the rear.  David Robertson will make the most of limited save opportunities.  Nate Jones needs to appear much more than 2015.  The rest of the bullpen resembles the Baltimore starting staff:  Eras around 4 and whips around 1.4.  Gonna be long year for White Sox fans.

Offense:  Jose Abreu will post another fine year with little help.  Speaking of help, Todd Frazier will lend a great attitude in a place sorely needing one.  Brett Lawrie and Jimmy Rollins will spend more time returning to the dugout rather than first base after at bats.  Melky Cabrera plays an uninspired left.  Adam Eaton is one of the best center fielders in the game.  Avisail Garcia hopefully listens to Jose Abreu in 2016.  Alex Avila and Dioner Navarro will handle the catching duties while offering anemic at bats.

Fifth:  Minnesota.

Pitching:  Phil Hughes returns as the #1 starter.  Do I need to continue?  Shame on me.  Anyway, Ervin Santana should actually pitch most of 2016 without taking his 2015 suspension detour.  Tyler Duffey and Kyle Gibson show promise.  More innings will tell.  Tommy Milone and Trevor May get the rest of the starts.  Glen Perkins closes, again.  Glen is unexciting, but generally gets the job done.  Ryan Pressly and Kevin Jepsen are the bright spots in an otherwise average to bad bullpen.

Offense:  Mostly to the younger side, especially in the outfield.  Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano (mavens were a tad excited about Mr. Sano’s average performance.  Then again, he does play for the Twins).  Trevor Plouffe and Brian Dozier offer some pop, but at the expense of woeful obp.  Eduardo Escobar and the local hero Joe Mauer complete the infield.  Kurt Suzuki is entering the twilight of his career.  Thankfully, trading Aaron Hicks for John Murphy was a great move by the Twins.  Mr. Murphy could well be the Twins starting catcher as the  year progresses.  Byong Ho Park is touted as the dh with the free swinging Kennys Vargas waiting for at bats.  The Twins dh could be the least productive in the A.L.

Players in the system who could help:  Max Kepler (1b), James Beseford (3b), Danny Santana (ss), Jose Berrios (starting pitching) and Michael Tonkin (relief).

Time for my annual MLB prediction based on a dash of analysis, a cup of hope and much voodoo.  Nothing beats good science.  We begin with the American League East.

First:  Boston.  Why?  David Price arrives as the missing piece to the starting rotation while Cameron Smith and Craig Kimbrel add notable depth to the bullpen.

Pitching:  Mr. Price followed by Clay Buchholz, Eduardo Rodriguez (do not be surprised to witness Eduardo jump Mr. Buchholz and become the #2 pitcher), Henry Owen, Rick Porcello and Joe Kelly make an above average group of starters.  If Price wins 20 games and any two of the remaining five win 16 to 18 games, this staff becomes the best in the A.L. East.  As for the bullpen, Cameron Smith owns the eighth and Craig Kimbrel closes.  This addition moves Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara down to the sixth and seventh inning slots respectively creating a deep, talented bullpen.  Candidly, any Red Sox starter who leaves the mound after 5 1/3 innings with a lead is most likely looking at a win.  Robbie Ross, Jr. and Heath Hembree will look to improve on last year’s introduction.  Steven Wright is an interesting mix of a little of this and a little of that given his 2015 line of 16 games, 9 starts and 3 games finished.  Plus, his 1.29 whip is worth remembering.

Offense:  David Ortiz begins his exit.  Should be more than a few moments of fun with Big Papi induced fire works as he enters A.L. parks for the final time.  However, what may not be fun is the continued struggle of Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval.  Both were next to awful last year.  Hanley at first base will not be significantly different than his left field effort last year.  Anticipate bonehead defense and lack of memory while holding a glove.  The only good news is, he has less ground to cover.   Pablo arriving more than a dozen pounds heavier than the end of the 2015 season is disappointing.  I can only trust Dave Dombrowski is working the phones to find potential trade partners for Mr. Ramirez and Mr. Sandoval.  Given the possibility that neither of these two return to offensive form in 2016, John Henry must be ready to eat a lot of salary to move one or both for the betterment of the team.  As usual, allow me to issue the annual prayer of health on behalf of Dustin Pedroia.  Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts and Travis Shaw (the real reason why Mr. Ramirez needs to wear a different uniform) form a talented, young core.  Will Jackie Bradely, Jr. continue last year’s improvement or slide into the infamous AAAA player (too good for AAA and not good enough for Boston) category?  I’m betting he continues to improve in Boston.  Rusney Castillo and Chris Young probably split left field.  Catching will become a core component once Christian Vasquez or Blake Swihart win the battle of starter.  Brock Holt begins year II as the most valuable utility player in the A.L.

Returning to the last couple of months in 2015, once John Farrell took a medical leave, the presence of Torey Lovullo running the show was notable.  Team performance on both sides of the game improved dramatically.  If Mr. Farrell falters out of the 2016 gate, Dave Dombrowski must act decisively and remove Mr. Farrell from the dugout in favor of Mr. Lovullo.

Players in the system who could help:  Sam Travis (1b), Marco Hernandez (ss), Brian Johnson (starting pitching), Aaron Wilkerson (starting pitching) and Davan Diaz (bullpen).

Second:  Tampa Bay.

I’m sure many of you are throwing up your hands given Toronto’s exclusion to his point, but we’ll address the Jays in due time.

Pitching:  A superior group of starters.  Chris Archer, Alex Cobb, Jake Odorizzi, Drew Smyly and Erasmo Ramirez all possess whips of less than 1.2 coupled with era ranging from 2.84 to 3.75.  No other group of starters comes close in the A.L. East.  All that incredible pitching backed by an offense with one guy (Evan Longoria) who hit more than 20 homeruns (21) and four guys who struck out more than 100 times.  Imagine how much farther a dash of improved offense will take this club in 2016?  As for the bullpen, Brad Boxberger will close, Xavier Cedeno probably handles the eighth while Alex Colome, Ryan Webb and Steve Geltz conclude the effective members of the guys who sit in chairs and wait.  However, this group does not come close to the Red Sox bullpen.

Offense:  Mostly a young group.  Steven Souza, Jr., Kevin Kiermaier, Corey Dickerson and Desmond Jennings in the outfield are looking for as many at bats as possible while striking out as little as possible.  The “old men” are Evan Longoria and James Loney at the infield corners.  Logan Forsythe (an off the radar second baseman loaded with talent) and Brad Miller complete the infield.  Richie Shaffer (2015 featured a run from AA to AAA to MLB) is better served with at least half a season in AAA since he is unlikely to unseat Mr. Longoria or Mr. Loney.  Logan Morrison will be a serviceable dh.  Rene Rivera and Hank Conger will likely share the catching spot, though Curt Casali showed similar defensive ability as Mr. Rivera during 2015.  However, none of the three offer any semblance of offense.

Players in the system who could help:  The aforementioned Richie Shaffer, Cameron Seitzer (1b),  Taylor Motter (rf), Taylor Guerrieri (starting pitching) and Brad Schreiber (bullpen).

Third:  Baltimore.

Pitching:  All the same shade.  Chris Tillman, Yovani Gallardo, Ubaldo Jimenez, Miguel Gonzalez and Kevin Gausman (maybe a little less so) are ready to offer eras around 4, whips near 1.35 and a fair amount of innings thrown.  The bullpen is the strength.  Zach Britton, Darren O’Day, Brad Brach, Brian Matusz and the newly arrived Mychal Givens (2015 featured a jump from AA to MLB with no time spent in AAA) create options galore for Buck Showalter and staff.  An impressive ‘pen.

Offense:  The ball shall fly in Camden.  Often, deep and gone.  Mark Trumbo, Chris Davis, Adam Jones, Nolan Reimold, Manny Machado and J.J. Hardy may well combine for 160+ homeruns if health prevails.  This is a team built around Earl Weaver’s Three-Run Home Run mantra.  However, much rain is usually followed by drought.

Players in the system who could help:  Trey Mancini (1b).  Sadly, nobody follows.  The Orioles development of 2-9 players is pathetic.  They finished tied for 10th with a 2.3 rating in my 2015 player development review.  Dylan Bundy (starting pitching), Steve Johnson (bullpen), Oliver Drake (bullpen), Andrew Triggs (bullpen) and Richard Rodriguez (bullpen)  wait patiently for opportunity or trade.

Fourth:  New York.

If not for Joe Girardi, these guys would be one of the worst teams in the A.L.  Mr. Girardi is usually innings ahead of his fellow manager as a game progresses.  Few A.L. managers keep pace with Mr. Girardi.

Pitching:  Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and Luis Severino could form the best starting trio in the A.L., not just the East.  But, then injury seems to raise objection.  Year long objection.  Nathan Eovaldi struggles to realize his potential.  C.C. Sabathia is old, heavy and out of gas by the fifth inning.  He could learn a thing or two from Jered Weaver.  The bullpen hopes for better days with the addition of Aroldis Chapman, but a 30 game suspension puts the month of April and beginning of May in peril.  Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances are formidable in the seventh and eighth innings.  One of the two will need to close at the beginning of the season.  The remainder of the bullpen is suspect.

Offense:  Jacoby Ellsbury is due for a season featuring at least six weeks off.  Due to injury.  Or lack of interest.  I do not anticipate him breaking his tradition of time off during the regular season.  He’ll simply resume his pattern in New York rather than Boston.  Billy Gardner had a fine year, yet no one noticed.  Carlos Beltran is old and one muscle pull away from a 30 day (or longer) stay on the dl.  Chase Headley, Mark Teixeira, the newly acquired and out of position Starlin Castro and Brian McCann all strike out far too often.  Horrible obp.  As much as most of us love to despise Alex Rodriguez, he had a fine year in 2015.  Perhaps 2016 holds a repeat?  Didi Gregourius is looking for consecutive well played seasons.

Players in the system who could help:  Ben Gamel (cf), Chaz Hebert (starting pitching), Caleb Catham (bullpen), Nick Goody (bullpen).  A note:  The Yankees 2-9 development has improved, but most of the talent enters AA this year, thus a couple of years away from actual assistance.

Fifth:  Toronto (gasp!).

Pitching:  Sure, Marcus Stroman had a great four (the number between three and five) starts in 2015, but unless Mr. Stroman wins 20+ games this year, I fail to see how the Jays replace Mark Buehrle’s 15 wins and 198.2 ip.  Also, the matter of David Price posting a 9-1 record in 11 games is another issue.  Marco Estrada has as much potential as Mr. Stroman.  R.A. Dickey had a better 2015 than most people allow, but I doubt this year’s Jays can survive another slow April/May start by Mr. Dickey.  J.A. Happ begins journey number two with Toronto.  Mr. Happ does not generate historical confidence.  Jesse Chavez probably gets enough starts to claim the fifth spot.  The bullpen needs to develop a closer whether Drew Storen (29 saves) or Roberto Osuna (20 saves).  Bullpen by committee does not function.  Dennis Tepera is developing into a top-notch reliever.  Brett Cecil continues to find comfort in the ‘pen as opposed to starting.

Offense:  Michael Saunders in left is indicative of the offensive decline the Jays will experience in 2016.  If Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson and Edwin Encarnacion can approach their 2015 production, Jays fans should rejoice.  Chris Colabello had a career year in 2015 which is unlikely to be repeated.  Troy Tulowitzki struggled after landing in Toronto.  His Colorado year was just fine, so what will 2016 bring?  Ryan Goins and Kevin Pillar are average.  Russell Martin  enjoyed a great defensive 2015 behind the plate (44% toss rate), but this year will find him calling pitches first and attempting to throw out base runners second.

Players in the system who could help:  Assuming Dalton Pompey is the fourth outfielder at the conclusion of spring training, the Jays much like the Yankees have 2-9 talent two years away.  Blake McFarland (relief) and Chad Girodo (relief) are the best bet for pitching assistance.