Kirby Puckett

Kirby Puckett

Sunday, April 3, 2016

MLB Preview 2016! AL Edition

It's baseball season. You all know what that means. Let's get started.
Asterisk indicates wildcard prediction.
Toronto Blue Jays
Coming off of a season where they made their first playoff appearance since 1993, the Blue Jays are returning with almost the same roster. David Price is their only major loss going into the season, but their offense will improve with Troy Tulowitzki. Tulo struggled last year after moving across the border, hitting .239/.317/.380 for the Jays. He's just too good of a player to continue being that bad.
New York Yankees
I'm done getting deceived by the Yankees. Every year they put out a roster that looks destined for 72 wins and every year they overachieve. That's why I don't care how unimposing everything about this team looks, I'm still picking them as a wildcard team. As for actual analysis, the Evil Empire doesn't have anyone in their lineup who will keep opposing pitchers up at night but no one who's Drew Butera levels of terrible. If Aaron Hicks gets a shot I could see him having a breakout year, he's going to excel with those short fences. And with the Betances-Miller-Chapman combination in the late innings, as long as their rotation is mediocre, they'll do well.
Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays aren't going to give up many runs, boasting a strong, young rotation led by Chris Archer. Their problem will be scoring runs. Last year, the Rays ranked 25th in the league in runs scored. They have some intriguing prospects on their way, but this is going to be another rebuilding year for the Rays.
Boston Red Sox
Am I missing something here? Why do people think the BoSox are going to be good? They gave David Price way too many years in free agency, and there's just too many holes here. They don't have any starting pitching behind Price, especially if they're relying on Joe Kelly to be anything better than terrible. (The right hander went 10-6 with a 4.82 ERA last year) The rest of the rotation is average at best. On offense, Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Hanley Ramirez, and Pablo Sandoval are all on the decline, Jackie Bradley is going to be 26 years old on April 19 and is a career .213 hitter and Rusney Castillo was a complete disaster last year. Mookie Betts is a reason to be optimistic, but there aren't too many others.
Baltimore Orioles
If there was a baseball version of the Monstars from Space Jam, this would be it. They're big, slow, and I wouldn't be surprised to find out one of them has eaten a person before. Between Chris Davis, Mark Trumbo, and Pedro Alvarez, they're going to hit a lot of homers and strike out a ton. Unfortunately, those guys along with Manny Machado and Adam Jones won't be enough for a team with a rotation that lacks a true number one and was 26th in the league last year in FIP.
Kansas City Royals
The defending champs are coming into 2015 with an almost identical roster to last year, losing only midseason acquisitions Johnny Cueto and Ben Zobrist over the winter. Projection systems hate them again, but that's because they have a very particular brand of baseball that can't be quantified. They play an old school style, concentrating on making contact and advancing runners, the exact thing advanced stats say doesn't work. But it clearly works for them, and their grip on the AL Central seems pretty secure.
Detroit Tigers*
The Tigers reign atop the AL central officially came to a close last year, and it won't get any easier in 2016. They'll improve assuming they have Miguel Cabrera for a full season. He only played in 119 games last year. Justin Upton will also help an aging offense. The pitching staff is decent with the exception of Mike Pelfrey, who I'm guessing the Tigers had never seen pitch before they signed him. Overall, this team is good enough to stay in the race, but this might be their last year.
Chicago White Sox
If you're looking for a potential sleeper playoff team, here it is. Chris Sale has quietly dominated for the last four years, posting a 2.95 ERA since 2012. The combination of acquiring Austin Jackson and being able to move Melky Cabrera to DH will improve a defense that ranked third to last in the league last year in defensive runs saved, and Todd Frazier will create an intimidating middle of the lineup duo with Jose Abreu. Ultimately, I don't think this team has the arms in their rotation behind Sale to make the playoffs, but this is an intriguing team.
Cleveland Indians
Advanced stats and mainstream media guys love the Indians. Last year Sports Illustrated picked them to win the World Series. Several months into the season, when it was clear they weren't as good an they thought, everyone at ESPN refused to admit they were wrong, considering them contenders up until the day they were eliminated. This year it's more of the same, with Cleveland projected to do well despite a mediocre roster.
Minnesota Twins
I'm saving my Twins thoughts for an extended column about them later, so I won't say too much here. Just know that I'm more optimistic than this fifth place prediction implies.
Houston Astros
The Astros are just the Cubs of the American league. They haven't won anything in a really long time but now have a hopeful future with some young, hyped prospects. While Carlos Correa will only continue to get better, I think George Springer is the most important player in Houston this year. In parts of two years in the big leagues, he's shown a rare combination of the ability to get on base along with elite power. Springer's been effective but hampered by injuries the last two years, so this is his big shot to prove he can be productive over a full season.
Texas Rangers*
This is just a really good, well balanced team. You can't poke holes anywhere in there roster because they're just solid all-around. Rougned Odor was very underrated last year, providing some pop from second base, especially in the second half of the season. Also, Joey Gallo could potentially make a pretty good lineup terrifying for pitchers if he's ready this season.
Los Angeles Angels
The Angels have the best player of the of the 2000s, the guy who will likely go on to be the best player for the next 10 to 12 years, and the best defensive shortstop in the game. Their problem is the rest of the roster. Garrett Richards was serviceable last year but nowhere near the Cy Young contender he was in 2014. Andrelton Simmons will help on defense, but he hasn't proven that he can hit and was their only major offseason acquisition. This is just an overall mediocre roster, in danger of wasting Mike Trout.
Seattle Mariners
This is an interesting team. Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager, and Nelson Cruz will all keep opposing pitchers up at night, and Nori Aoki has been one of the most underrated players in the league since he joined, batting .287/.353/.380 in San Francisco last year. This is another sleeper.

Oakland Athletics
Historians will look back on the A's of this era as one of the greatest wasted opportunities in the sport. In 2014 they had Josh Donaldson, Jeff Samardzija, Jon Lester and Sonny Gray and somehow botched it worse than Phil Cuzzi botched the call on Joe Mauer's would-be double in the 2009 playoffs. By Opening Day 2015, Lester had left via free agency, they traded Donaldson to Toronto for peanuts monkeys eat at the circus, Samardzija to the White Sox for poop monkeys fling at each other and poor Gray was stuck as the last decent player in Oakland. Then, just in case they hadn't already made enough stupid moves, they traded their best shortstop prospect, Daniel Robertson to Tampa Bay for Ben Zobrist... who they traded to the Cubs at the trade deadline for considerably less a few months later. Now they're stuck in baseball purgatory, just waiting for enough prospects to come up to improve.
MVP: Mike Trout
I know the national media has a collective man crush on Carlos Correa, but he just hasn't proved that he can play on an MVP level yet. Trout's the best player on the planet, and there don't seem to be too many contenders this year.
Cy Young: Chris Sale
See what I said about Sale in the paragraph about the Sox. He's been a great pitcher for a long time, I picked him last year, it's finally his turn.
Rookie of the Year: Byung Ho Park
ROY is always the toughest category to pick simply because there are so many candidates who we don't even know are going to see time in the big leagues this year. I ultimately chose Park because he's one of the few rookies we know will get an opportunity this year.
NL Coming Tomorrow!

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