American League East 2016 Prediction

Posted: March 3, 2016 in Uncategorized

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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