National League East
Baseball Prospectus Projected Record: 76-86
The Braves are searching for resurrection seasons and breakout seasons. Veterans such as Bartolo Colon, R.A. Dickey, Jaime Garcia, Matt Kemp, Nick Markakis, and Brandon Phillips comprise a critical part of this team. Bartolo Colon has been a very solid pitcher for the New York Mets the last few years, but given that he is 43 years old questions about his longevity still rise. R.A. Dickey is a long way from his Cy Young winning form after posting a 4.46 ERA last season, with Jaime Garcia also struggling last year after his injury troubles in previous years. Kemp has fallen a long way from his days of being in the MVP conversation but was impressive down the stretch as he had a .855 OPS in 56 games with the Braves, the same can be said for Markakis who had a .811 OPS in the second half of the season. Brandon Phillips is a sure handed as they come at second base, but his offense will be a question mark.
Brandon Phillips can be a mentor to break out candidate Dansby Swanson, the number 1 pick in the 2015 draft, who had a .302 batting average in 32 games with the Braves last year. He is a top candidate for the National League Rookie of the Year. Other young players who could contribute to their season are Mauricio Cabrera, Ozzie Albies, and Sean Newcomb. Cabrera is a hard throwing reliever whose biggest question mark is his location, Albies is a top tier middle infield candidate who may be stuck in a logjam behind Swanson and Phillips, and Newcomb is a left handed starting pitcher who also struggles when it comes to finding the strike zone.
The Braves will be counting on Freddie Freeman and Julio Tehran to lead the team. Freddie Freeman will certainly bat in the 3 spot, expected to carry the offense after his 6.5 WAR season last year. Tehran will lead the pitching staff, as a pitcher who is on an extremely team friendly contract who has all the good to be an ace. He took a no hitter into the eighth inning last year against the Pirates and will hope to do complete one this year. The bullpen will look fairly similar to last year on the back end with Jim Johnson and Arodys Vizcaino.
This will likely be a fairly inconsistent team whose ceiling is competing for a wild card spot but will likely be a team trying out youngsters in September as there are too many question marks surrounding the team. However, they have the pure talent to give any team a run for its money on any given day.
Baseball Prospectus Projected Record: 77-85
The Marlins are still recovering from Jose Fernandez’s tragic passing in a boat accident at the end of last season. This has an off the field impact felt around the league but also an on field impact for the Marlins who lose a legitimate ace with a 2.58 career ERA and the 2013 National League Rookie of the Year. If Fernandez’s numbers are removed from last season, the Marlins had a 4.7 rotation ERA good for 11th in the National League, only ahead of four teams. The Marlins have brought in Dan Straily and Edinson Volquez to join Wei-Yin Chen, Adan Conley, and Tom Koehler but these are not the best moves. Straily had a career 4.6 ERA going into last season before having a 3.76 ERA last year. However, he led the National League in home runs allowed. Volquez had an ERA north of 5 last year and led the American League in runs allowed.
The Marlins have assembled a strong bullpen so that they won’t need to get as much out of each starter. A.J. Ramos, David Phelps, and Kyle Barraclough were all outstanding last year each posting an ERA under 3 out of the bullpen. The Marlins also brought in Brad Ziegler, who has age concerns, but given that he’s posted a combined 2.05 ERA the last two years it seems a worthy gamble. Junichi Tazawa has a lot of talent and was also brought in to add bullpen depth.
One area the Marlins do not lack talent is their offense, and more specifically their outfield. They have one of the best outfield trios in all of baseball between Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna, and Giancarlo Stanton. Yelich is one of the best hitters in all of baseball, posting the 7th best WAR amongst position players in the NL last year. Ozuna is certainly a below average hitter, hitting .226 after May 29th last year but is an elite defender with a lot of potential at the plate as he hit .344 until May 29th. Stanton is known as one of the best power hitters in the MLB but has had trouble staying healthy. Along the infield Adeiny Hechavarria is a great defender, Justin Bour has extreme pure power, and Dee Gordon is one of the best contact hitters in baseball with the speed to steal bases at will. Not to mention J.T. Realmuto who hit .303 as a catcher last year and Martin Prado, one of the most consistent players in baseball, who will join the team after recovering from a hamstring injury.
While the pitching staff reminds people of the Yankees in the beginning of last year, the offense has a lot of talent and this team should compete for a Wild Card spot, with the potential to win one if they are able to get solid seasons out of their starters.
New York Mets
Baseball Prospectus Projected Record: 89-73
The Mets are almost the exact same team as the one that won a wild card spot last year. Now, everybody knows about the Mets pitching: Noah Syndergaard, Jacob DeGrom, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, and Zach Wheeler. The young guns who were supposed to be one of the most dominant starting rotations in the league. It is too good to be true as all of them except for Syndergaard has undergone Tommy John surgery and have all dealt with injury troubles that forced them all not to pitch the whole year last year. Wheeler’s role is not determined yet as he will have an innings limit around 120 innings, so may start in the minor or the bullpen with Seth Lugo or Robert Gsellman taking the fifth starter spot. Pitching coach Dan Warthen has stated that he doesn’t expect Harvey’s fastball to be back to normal until the end of May. The health of these pitchers is something the Mets are hoping for.
The Mets bullpen will likely take a hit if/when Jeurys Familia’s suspension comes down from Robert Manfred and Addison Reed will likely take over the closing duties in the time being. Lefty Jerry Blevins will be the lefty specialist out of the pen with relievers like Hansel Robles, who has a career 10 K/9, will be expected to bridge the innings between the starter and the back of the pen.
As the Mets have assembled this outstanding pitching staff, they have attempted to build an offense to support them. The key man is Yoenis Cespedes who posted a .884 OPS last season and will be expected to carry the offense. The Mets have a glut of talent in the outfield which will likely lead to a lot of frustration for Michael Conforto. Cespedes, Curtis Granderson, and Jay Bruce will probably play the most with Juan Lagares acting as the defensive specialist and right handed replacement for Granderson and Bruce. The Mets will be hoping for a better performance from Bruce this after he had a .685 OPS with the team last year despite having a career OPS of .785. Conforto, who hit .422 in Triple A last year is certainly an MLB level talent who simply does not have a spot. Along the infield, don’t expect to see a lot of David Wright. The Mets will be hoping Neil Walker can stay healthy as he showed new found power with the team last year until he got hurt. Don’t be surprised to see T.J. Rivera get a lot of playing time off of the bench after hitting .333 in 105 at bats last season.
If their Neil Walker and the pitchers stay healthy, and Jay Bruce resurrects himself the Mets will be a team to be reckoned with, resembling the one that made the late stretch run in 2015 propelling them to the World Series. However, it is more probable that the Mets challenge the Nationals for the division and compete in the Wild Card race.
Baseball Prospectus Projected Record: 73-89
The Phillies are not a team to be slept on. While they are built to win in 1-3 years they made many positive moves this offseason including acquiring Clay Buchholz, Howie Kendrick, and Michael Sauders. Buchholz joins a young and talented starting rotation with Jared Eickhoff, Jeremy Hellickson, Vince Velasquez, and Aaron Nola. Eickhoff and Hellickson both turned in respectable seasons last year with 3.65 and 3.71 ERAs respectively as Hellickson appears to have revived his career in Philadelphia. Last season, Velasquez had a complete game shutout with 16 strikeouts against the Padres and had a better K/9 than Clayton Kershaw. Nola has shown the ability to be a pitcher at the top of the rotation but is currently working his way back from a UCL sprain, the same ligament that requires Tommy John if torn.
The Phillies bullpen is anchored by Jeanmar Gomez who had 37 saves last year. Along with maintaining Hector Neris, the Phillies acquired Joaquin Benoit and Pat Neshek to help solidify the bullpen. Benoit posted a 2.81 ERA last season and will look to be the set-up man while Neris and his 2.58 ERA will likely take the seventh inning role. The Phillies bullpen itself is average and isn’t something that the team can count on from a day to day basis.
Offensively the Phillies have three big bats that they will rely on. Maikel Franco is one of the best third basemen in the game, Odubel Herrera, with a new five year extension is an elite defender who is solid with his bat (.286 BA last year), and Tommy Joseph, Ryan Howard’s replacement, who hit who hit 21 home runs in 107 games. These three are going to have to carry the load offensively as there is not much other talent around them yet. Kendrick and Sauders are two average outfielders who will not do anything special to help the team. However, the Phillies farm system is stock full of prospects who could be called up towards the end of the year or next season. These are names such as J.P. Crawford, Nick Williams, Jorge Alfaro, and Mickey Moniak.
The Phillies will likely be out of the running for the playoffs early this year but have a lot of talent under control for a potential breakout season in 2018.
Baseball Prospectus Projected Record: 88-74
The defending division champs are back and just as strong as last year. They may have lost Mark Melancon but they picked up Adam Eaton. Pitching is not a question when it comes to the Nationals as they return the exact same starting rotation that carried them to the playoffs last year. Their pitching staff as a whole had the second best ERA in major league baseball and the third best batting average against. Led by Max Scherzer, two time Cy Young award winner, the rotation is complete all the way though. The Nationals will certainly be hoping for a complete, healthy season for Stephen Strausburg which they didn’t get last year and they still won the division. Strausburg has a career 1.094 WHIP and posted an insane 11.2 K/9 last year as a starting pitcher.
The bullpen lacks one truly elite pitcher but closer Shawn Kelley is on the cusp of being elite after a season with a 2.64 ERA and 12.4 K/9. Given the spectacular starters that the Nationals are able to trot out, their bullpen is more than adequate for the job that they will be asked to do. With Blake Treinen acting as the set-up man and Oliver Perez being brought in to get the lefties out they are a solid but not special bunch. Look out for the Nationals to potentially acquire another reliever around the trade deadline like they did with Mark Melancon last season.
Offensively the Nationals have no holes and will be extremely dangerous is Bryce Harper can rebound to his 2015 form when he had a 9.9 WAR and won the National League MVP. Trea Turner and newly acquired Adam Eaton will be on base a lot as both had OBPs greater than .360. Turner can fly and will cause havoc on the bases. Expect a regression from Daniel Murphy, similar to the one seen in the second half of the season after he looked like he had a real chance at batting .400 for the season. An under the radar acquisition that will truly help the Nationals is that of Adam Lind. Lind provides a power bat off of the bench to pinch hit or DH in American League games. His .462 career slugging percentage is a testament to that.
Dusty Baker’s squad is armed and ready with eyes on the World Series trophy after being eliminated by the Dodgers in the first round last year. They should certainly make the playoffs and have the talent to make a World Series run.
National League Central
After ending a 108 year World Series drought, the Cubs are back and looking to repeat as champions. They suffered two major losses this offseason, Dexter Fowler to division rival Cardinals and Aroldis Chapman to the Yankees. Fowler helped the Cubs lead the NL in WAR by center fielders but they don’t have him this year. He will likely be replaced by a Jon Jay/Albert Almora platoon. Almora provides a defensive replacement and a full season out of Kyle Schwarber should help mitigate the offensive loss. The youth of the Cubs roster with Wilson Conreras, Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, and Javier Baez, all of whom are 25 years old or younger, should help as they will improve their game. However, there is no doubting the fact that Fowler is a loss. This offense that was 3rd in the MLB last year in terms of runs scored will be boosted by the development of young stars and a full season out of Schwarber who has an OPS of .831 and 16 home runs in 71 career games. Not to mention if Jason Heyward can hit better than he did last year (.230 BA).
Chapman will certainly be a loss to the bullpen however the Cubs only had him after the trade deadline last year and have acquired Wade Davis to replace him. Davis was arguably the best reliever in baseball in 2014 and 2015 with ERAs of 1 and .94 respectively before a “high” ERA of 1.87 last year. He suffered from some elbow injuries and is hoping to rebound back in that dominant form that he had before last season. The Cubs also have elite relievers in Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop, and closer of the future Carl Edwards Jr. Pitching wise, the questions fall along the starting rotation.
Last season, the Cubs pitching staff as a whole lead the MLB in ERA and was truly dominant. However, they thrived off of having five elite starters and lost Jason Hammel this offseason with no clear replacement. Possible replacements are Brett Anderson and Mike Montgomery. Anderson has had a lot of injury trouble over the course of his career but has demonstrated a lot of talent and will do a serviceable job. Montgomery has been much better out of the bullpen during his career but can fill in the rotation if needed. Expect Anderson to start as the fifth starter behind Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks, Jon Lester, and John Lackey with Montgomery in the bullpen, ready if needed.
The Cubs will likely win the division, making a run at the best record in baseball and are serious World Series contenders.
Baseball Prospectus Projected Record: 74-88
The Reds have told the entire world they are rebuilding. They have traded almost all of their players of value out to teams and will not contend this season. Offensively they still have franchise player Joey Votto who they are almost certainly looking to trade. He can provide a lot of value to any team in the near future but will be heavy on the books in the long term as he is due 157 million dollars through 2024 so in order to trade him the Reds will probably have to throw in a lot of cash. Left fielder Adam Duvall has somewhat of a breakout season last year and will look to continue that success again. Billy Hamilton will once again be a terror on the bases after stealing 56+ bases over each of the past three seasons.
The starters are led by Brandon Finnegan, Scott Feldman, and Anthony DeSclafani. Finnegan is a 23 year old with a career 3.81 ERA who is certainly looking to improve his numbers this year with a breakout season. Feldman is a prime trade deadline candidate, maybe to a team like the Cubs who need one more starter, and will do a solid job as a starter. DeSclafani will also be hoping for a breakout season, like Chris Archer in 2015, after seeing a steady decrease in his ERA every season.
The bullpen is anchored by Raisel Iglesias and Michael Lorenzen. The two young guns will look to carry a depleted bullpen who has seen its best pieces traded out over the past few years. Drew Storen will also be looking for a bounce back year as he tries to use this one year deal to prove himself to other major league teams so he can get a big pay day next offseason.
Do not except to Reds to be very competitive, and in this loaded division they will be at the bottom of the pack.
Baseball Prospectus Projected Record: 78-84
Watch out for the Brewers … in 2018. The Brewers have a young up and coming roster with an older pitching staff. The Brewers offense hinges on former MVP Ryan Braun who had a .903 OPS last season and will be in the middle of the order again. He probably would’ve been traded like Prince Fielder, Carlos Gomez, and Jonathan Lucroy had he not had a huge contract but while they have him the Brewers can use his skills for their benefit. The Brewers also signed Eric Thames to play first base, he was playing in Korea last year where he hit 40 home runs. Jonathan Villar and Orlando Arcia will act as the middle infield duo for years to come as they both have top tier talent and speed. Villar stole 62 bases last year and will look to do the same this year. Travis Shaw will likely be a large part of the offense for the next few years as well. The Brewers also have a fair number of prospects in their farm system that are expected to make the big leagues this year to contribute to the team.
Junior Guerrera and Matt Garza will be expected to lead the staff, both of whom are trade candidates this year as they are on the wrong side of thirty. Guerrera’s story is a great one as it took him a long time to reach the big leagues but has performed well recently with a 1.126 WHIP last season. Garza has been there and will try to be a role model for young gun Zach Davies. Davies had a WHIP of 1.249 last year and a 3.55 strikeout to walk ratio last year. He has great command of the strike zone and a wicked change-up and wants a breakout season.
In the bullpen, the Brewers have been trading a lot of their good relievers (Francisco Rodriguez, Tyeler Thornburg, Jeremy Jeffress, and Will Smith) so they are left with old veterans such as Neftali Feliz and Joba Chamberlin who they will be hoping for good seasons out of. Fortunately, they have three pitching prospects who may make the majors this year that can help out. These are Josh Hader, Brandon Woodruff, and Jorge Lopez.
The Brewers need to upgrade their pitching staff if they truly want to be an elite team and probably will not compete this year although they could be on the bubble of a wild card run. In 2018 the Brewers will be another powerhouse in this stacked division.
Baseball Prospectus Projected Record: 82-80
Andrew McCutchen, last spotted in the 2015 season. Andrew McCutchen had three years finishing in the top 5 for MVP voting before struggling last year and turning in an OPS of .766 and his first OPS+ under 121 (103) of his career. His total WAR from 2012-2015 was only topped by Mike Trout and Clayton Kershaw. There is no doubting that in order to have a successful season in a division like the NL Central the Bucs need a bounce back season from McCutchen to do so. Thankfully, after bottoming out in July his weighted runs created rose steadily for the rest of the season. McCutchen is in the middle of a talented lineup who can get on base and hit for power around him. Outfield mates Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco are huge offensive threats as well as Josh Harrison who has done it all for many years now. Jung Ho Kang returned from injury last season and finished the year with a .867 OPS. This team is ready to rock on offense and would just like to see their big man contribute to the team.
Ray Searage has done wonders over the past years, turning seemingly below average pitchers into valuable contributors for the Pirates. Gerrit Cole will look to rebound to his 2015 form when he had a 1.091 WHIP. The former UCLA player has lead the Pirates pitching staff for two years now and will try to be the ace they need again. Former star prospect Jameson Taillon will showed a lot of promise last year with a 1.115 WHIP and 3.38 ERA in 104 innings last year. He will try to fulfill his potential this season. Ivan Nova split time between the Yankees and Pirates last year and was reborn in Pittsburgh. His WHIP dropped from 1.356 to 1.098 and ERA went from 4.9 to 3.06. He became an elite pitcher and the Pirates want more of that this season.
The Pirates are going to be relying on a lot of bounce back seasons as they try to reach the 98 win performance level of 2015. Except them to be a strong Wild Card Candidate.
St. Louis Cardinals
Baseball Prospectus Projected Record: 78-84
The Cardinals won 86 games last year despite having a subpar defense and they have fixed that with plans to play Johnny Peralta at third base, Kolten Wong at second, and newly acquired Dexter Fowler in center. The offense is relatively unchanged from the one that was fourth in the MLB last year in runs scored. They have added Dexter Fowler at the top of the order and will be hoping for good seasons from Peralta who underwent thumb surgery and Wong who has been inconsistent at the plate. Jedd Gyorko hit 30 home runs in 400 at bats last year, single handedly winning some games against the Padres, his old team, and will be counted on not to regress this season. However, given that he projects in a bench role with the glut of talent the Cardinals boast it shouldn’t be the biggest deal if he does not do so.
The Cardinals are also gifted with great starting pitching. Keep in mind that they also traded Jaime Garcia this off season and lost Alex Reyes to Tommy John surgery. Carlos Martinez is a legitimate ace who can dominate any time he takes the mound. Then there are the three veterans, Adan Wainwright, Lance Lynn, and Mike Leake. Wainwright had an up and down season last year but was able to be dominant at times, Lynn is notorious for getting off to great starts to every season and then regressing a little every year, and Mike Leake is a solid pitcher with a 1.277 career WHIP. None of these guys are special pitchers who will dominate every time they pitch, but they will be solid every time out and have the potential to dominate. Michael Wacha had a down year last season and will look to rebound to the form that led him to a 17-7 record in 2015.
The Cardinals had a lock down bullpen last year anchored by Seung-hwan Oh who had a stellar .916 WHIP last season. They have actually improved their bullpen with the addition of Brett Cecil from the Blue Jays. How Trevor Rosenthal is treated this season will be interesting. There are rumors saying that his role will be expanded and be similar to that of Andrew Miller in the playoffs last year where he will be pitching more innings at a time to carry the bullpen.
The Cardinals have one of the most talented offenses in baseball, a solid starting rotation, and an elite bullpen. The Cardinals will look to top their 86 win total and make the playoffs this year, likely as a Wild Card because the Cubs have a strong hold on the division.
National League West
Baseball Prospectus Projected Record: 78-84
Last year, a lot of people though the Diamondbacks would be really challengers to the Dodgers and Giants in the division after acquiring Zach Greinke and Shelby Miller in the offseason. Both pitchers underperformed and star center fielder A.J. Pollock was injured before the season started. After the disappointing season, new leadership was brought in as Mike Hazen will be the next general manager. He comes from the Red Sox and will bring a much more analytics based view of baseball to the organization. Defensively the Diamondbacks were horrid last year. The only real changes are a Chris Ianetta/Jeff Mathis tandem at catcher and a full season out of Pollock in center field. They will have to hope that Greinke, Miller, and Patrick Corbin can return to their former forms. If their pitching rotation fulfills its potential they will be in very good shape. Not to mention Taijuan Walker, the twenty four year old has shown a lot of potential over his four years in the majors. However, the Diamondbacks have not changed their pitching coach so they will have to hope that there will still be a rebound for these pitchers. Greinke signed a huge 6 year 206.5 Million dollar contract before last season and the Diamondbacks need him to lead the staff even if he doesn’t get back to his 1.66 ERA form.
The offense scored the fifth most runs in the National League last year and shouldn’t veer far from that mark again. With Paul Goldschmidt and his career .924 OPS carrying the offense again, they should function well. The offense hinges on Goldschmidt but nobody on the team is terrible with the bat and they shouldn’t have any major holes. Nobody is an easy out, and all at least have power to hit the ball out of the park even in their big ballpark.
However, the bullpen is a little weak outside of Fernando Rodney which piles on to the pitching staff questions. Rodney had a 10.2 K/9 and should be solid out of the bullpen again. With their pitching staff questions the Diamondbacks will likely struggle to compete again, which is unfortunate as they are wasting the golden years of Goldschmidt and Pollock.
Baseball Prospectus Projected Record: 76-86
The Rockies are dark horse team this year. Coors Field is known for being a ballpark where teams score run, but now the Rockies have a team that will score both in Coors Field and away from home. Charlie Blackmon is a legitimate leadoff hitter coming off of a season with an OBP of .381 good for fifth in baseball last year. One of the four people he fell behind was his teammate D.J. LeMahieu who led the league with a remarkable .416 OBP. These two will set the table for the big boys, Nolan Arenado, Carlos Gonzalez, Ian Desmond, David Dahl, and Trevor Story. That’s not even mentioned Mark Reynolds off the bench. Nolan Arenado is one of the best third basemen in the game, and is extremely talented defensively. Gonzalez is and has been one of the most consistent hitters in all of baseball while Desmond is coming off of an all-star season for the Texas Rangers, however his athleticism will be slightly wasted at first base defensively. Both Dahl and Story showed a lot of ability last year in their time in the majors with OPSs of .859 and .909 respectively. This offense will torture opposing teams at Coors Field and has the ability to do the same when on the road.
The Rockies pitching staff has not been great historically but with two young pitchers poised for breakout seasons. Jon Gray and Tyler Anderson both had WHIPs below 1.3 last season and are going to be expected to lead this staff this year. Chad Bettis is a little bit older but after a respectable season will be somebody that the young guys can look up to once he returns in the summer after fighting his battle with cancer. Tyler Chatwood is also 27 years old but does a serviceable job and should lock down a spot. 22 year old German Marquez has had a solid spring training and will be battling for one of the starting spots. Jeff Hoffman, who was acquired in the Troy Tulowitzki trade, has a lot of talent but not much experience may push to join the rotation at some point this season.
The bullpen is one of the most expensive parts of this Rockies team with a lot of pitcher who have been elite at some point in their career and will be expected to lock it down for this rotation. Adam Ottavino didn’t pitch very much last year but when he did had a .926 WHIP. The innings will be filled in by Greg Holland, who was a part of the Royals bullpen when they won the World Series and could act as the closer, Jake McGee, and Mike Dunn. These are household names and the Rockies hope their investment pays off.
The Rockies should be a Wild Card candidate and could even push for the division title if the Dodgers or Giants slip up.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Baseball Prospectus Projected Record: 97-65
Last year the Dodgers were able to make the playoffs without a full season from cyborg Clayton Kershaw. With a healthy Kershaw (.725 WHIP when pitching last year) this team looks like it could be a title contender. It all starts with Clayton Kershaw who over the last 6 years has gone 100-37 with a 2.06 ERA. The favorite for the NL Cy Young award will be joined by fellow lefties Rich Hill and Julio Urias. Rich Hill will be 37 next year but is also coming off of a season where he had a .997 WHIP and carries ace potential. Julio Urias is a top prospect who got off to a rough start last season but had a 1.34 ERA in his last eight starts and will be looking to carry that momentum into this year. He may not start off with the big league team but expect an impact to be made when he joins the club. Kenta Maeda will also be in his second year in the MLB after a career in Japan. He started off the season pitching very well and then tailed off, but he has the ability to dominate games.
In the bullpen the Dodgers were able to retain closer Kenley Jansen who is one of the premier closers in baseball. He threw three perfect innings against the Cubs in the NLCS and has shown the ability to go multiple innings in the playoffs, much like Andrew Miller did for the Indians last year. Pedro Baez and former Giants closer Sergio Romo will be the main set up guys for Jansen. The back end of the bullpen will not be blowing very many leads this year.
Offensively the first name that comes to mind is Corey Seager who finished third in the MVP voting last year despite being a rookie. Justin Turner is back at the hot corner for the Dodgers and he has had some good seasons for the Dodgers (.856 OPS with the Dodgers). Adrian Gonzalez provides a veteran presence and acts as a mentor for a lot of the younger players. During last season’s playoffs, Gonzalez was seen telling Yasiel Puig how to approach Aroldis Chapman and Gonzalez later got a hit that inning. Puig is just 26 and is a dynamic player who has the ability to take over a game while his outfield mate Joc Pederson has incredible command of the strike zone and a lot of raw power.
The Dodgers will be legitimate title contenders this year if their pitching staff can remain healthy and offense produces enough runs.
San Diego Padres
Baseball Prospectus Projected Record: 70-92
The Padres were tied for baseball’s worst record last year and they shouldn’t look very different this year. However, they have three very exciting players that will be fun to watch for Padres fans. Reliever Carter Capps is coming off of Tommy John surgery but has a 100 mile per hour fastball and a unique delivery that can give hitters plenty of trouble picking the ball up. In 2015 Capps had a .806 WHIP and 16.8K/9 in 31 innings. He is as talented as pitchers come and hopefully will be able to revive himself in Petco Park. He provides the majority of the excitement out of the bullpen.
Offensively there are Wil Myers and Hunter Renfroe. Myers hit 28 home runs last year and posted a .797 OPS. Myers was a top prospect for a long time and finally started to come into himself last year. Renfroe is much more intriguing as he boasted a .371 BA and 1.189 OPS last season albeit in 35 at bats. There will naturally be a regression as he gets more at bats but this is a player with a .907 OPS at the Triple-A level who has mashed in the minors and will look to translate that into the majors. Refroe is a decent rookie of the year candidate who could make a lot of noise this season especially if he starts the season the way he finished last year.
The starters can be classified as older pitchers who are past their prime. Names like Jhoulys Chacin, Jared Weaver, Clayton Richard, and Trevor Cahill. All of these guys have succeeded in the past but do not still have it. There is an idea that the Padres could take their starters and have them each go 3-4 innings at a time and pitch two starters a game so that they do not have to deal with any players the third time through the order as players tend to be accustomed to the pitchers both as they get older and see more of them on a given day.
Do not expect the Padres to be very competitive this season.
San Francisco Giants
Baseball Prospectus Projected Record: 88-74
The Giants even year World Series magic ran out last year as they couldn’t get past the eventual World Series Champion Cubs. Offensively this team is anchored by Buster Posey who unfortunately also plays catcher the most physically and mentally taxing position on the diamond which effects his hitting. His OPS slipped below .800 for the first time in five seasons last year as he saw a loss of power but he should be expected to return back to normal this year. Brandon Crawford morphed himself into one of the best shortstops in all of baseball, both offensively and defensively, with a career year last year hitting .275 and will look to carry that hitting momentum into another season after helping Team USA win the World Baseball Classic. First baseman Brandon Belt had an OPS of .868 last year and will be a key cog in the offense this year. The Giants also have Hunter Pence who can never be counted out because of his hard working mentality and ability to grind out at bats.
Pitching starts with Madison Bumgarnder and Johnny Cueto. Two Cy Young candidates on the same roster is something hard to come by and the Giants are quite lucky. Bumgarner is mostly known for his playoff heroics but he carries a 2.99 career ERA and is dominant whenever he takes the mound. Cueto was 18-5 in his decisions last year and always gives the Giants a good chance to win. Both of them have WHIPs that are below 1.1 and are always a threat to throw a shutout. Matt Moore was once one of the most highly touted prospects in all of baseball and has the talent to be a great pitcher as he showed in Game 4 of the NLDS against the Cubs when he allowed one earned run over eight innings of work.
Behind these starters is a solid bullpen, but a bullpen that struggled last year. Sergio Romo is gone and in comes Mark Melancon, a closer who has had a WHIP below 1 for four years in a row. He makes the back of the bullpen solid so there won’t be any more collapses like the aforementioned Game 4. Hunter Strickland and Will Smith will be the primary set up men for Melancon bridging the gap from the starters to the ninth inning. George Kontos, who boasted a 1.163 WHIP last season, will probably be the fourth reliever that gets a lot of work in this bullpen.
The Giants are a very talented team who may contend with the Dodgers in the division but will likely be a Wild Card team again. However due to a lack of depth, injuries could derail this team into a disappointing season.
American League East
Baseball Prospectus Projected Record: 74-88
This Orioles team won 89 games last year despite having the worst starting pitching of all playoff teams with a 4.72 ERA. Not much has changed along the rotation from last year and the rest shouldn’t be different. This unsustainable way of winning will likely catch up with Buck Showalter’s team even if they can maintain their AL leading 3.4 bullpen ERA. Kevin Gausman led the staff last year with his 3.61 ERA but only had a 9-12 record. Chris Tillman helped Gausman carry the staff with a 3.77 ERA until he got injured towards the end of the season. However, set backs have meant that Tillman may not be ready for opening day and could miss part of the season. Not to mention Yovani Gallardo was traded to the Mariners this offseason and his loss has shortened the depth in the starting rotation so Showalter has less options to go to if somebody is struggling. The rotation needs to step up as the offense lost a few key pieces.
Catcher Matt Wieters, and utility man Steve Pearce were both lost this offseason in free agency and a trade respectively. Wieters will be a big loss but will be replaced by Welington Castillo who’s biggest concern is consistency even though he has the talent to be special. The Orioles also brought in Seth Smith who carries a .792 career OPS and should be a large contributor offensively but is a defensive liability. Days when Pedro Alvarez plays DH, and Trumbo and Smith are in the corner outfield spots the outfield defense will be significantly weak outside of Adam Jones. Adam Jones has been a model of consistency who had an OPS over .767 every year after 2008 until last year when he missed that mark but still played almost every day and maintained an OBP of .310. Jones along with star third baseman Manny Machado will be vital to this offense. Machado has MVP potential if he can stay healthy after two seasons with an OPS above .860 and finishing in the top 5 in the MVP voting. Mark Trumbo is back after a season where he hit 47 home runs and will be a major power threat with Chris Davis (38 home runs last year).
The offense will need to score in droves in order to get a lead to the bullpen who will lock it down more often than not. Guys like Donnie Hart and Darren O’Day will be key pieces in the bullpen to get the ball to Zach Britton. Britton finished fourth in the AL Cy Young voting, as a reliever, last year with many people convinced he should have won as he had a 0.54 ERA and .836 WHIP, marking his third straight season with a WHIP under 1. The Orioles are one of the more talented teams in a baseball with a great manager but the starting pitching questions are too big to ignore.
Boston Red Sox.
Baseball Prospectus Projected Record: 87-75
The Red Sox made news this off season after trading for strikeout machine Chris Sale to bolster an already strong pitching staff. A case could be made for any of three pitchers to be the leader of the staff. Sale, Rick Porcello and David Price all have Cy Young dreams and possibilities. Sale has struck out 26 batters and only walked two so far during Grapefruit league play (3/26/17). Porcello won the Cy Young award and will be coming off of the best year of his career with a 1.009 WHIP. Price is a five time All Star and a former Cy Young winner himself and can dominate anytime out. Eduardo Rodriguez could be a strong contributor after two straight years with a WHIP under 1.3. The Red Sox should be fine from a pitching perspective and with three strong starters they will be fine in the playoffs.
The bullpen is anchored by five-time All-Star Craig Kimbrel and his 256 career saves. In his 6 full seasons in the MLB he has never had a WHIP above 1.1. Over the offseason the Sox also acquired reliever Tyler Thornburg from the Brewers after he had a .94 WHIP and averaged 12.1 strikeouts per 9 innings last season. Thornburg beefs up this solid bullpen and will add stability to the late innings.
The offense of the Red Sox is something to behold. Even after losing David Ortiz they are one of the most potent offenses in baseball as Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Xander Bogaerts will all have upped their games from last season and will help carry this offense to success. The big story is rookie of the year candidate that rounds out the outfield in Andrew Benintendi will get a full season in the majors after posting an .835 OPS in 105 at bats last season. He has seemingly improved as through March 27th he has a .980 OPS in spring training and will try to maintain that number during the season.
The Red Sox are a complete team and one of the most talented teams in baseball and certainly have World Series potential.
New York Yankees
Baseball Prospectus Projected Record: 81-81
The Yankees are Gary Sanchez’s team. After ripping 20 home runs in 201 at bats last year and posting a 1.032 OPS big things are going to be expected from him. He legitimately carried the Yankees offense while in the big leagues and put them on the verge of a playoff berth. Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury have locked down the left and center field spots in the outfield leaving Aaron Judge and Aaron Hicks in a battle for right. Hicks has had more time in the majors but Judge has shown a significant amount of power while in the bigs (10 Home Runs in 15 hits). At first base is another emerging stud in Greg Bird after he hit for a .871 OPS in 157 at bats in 2015 before a right shoulder injury cause him to miss the entire 2016 season.
Pitching wise the Yankees are led Masahiro Tanaka who was outstanding last season with a 1.077 WHIP. After going to alcohol rehab before last season C.C. Sabathia managed somewhat of a bounceback season after a dreadful season where he had a 4.73 ERA and returned with a 3.91 ERA. HE will hope to continue this success and will be vital in order for the Yankees to be able to make a post season push. The Yankees compensate for average to mediocre pitching with one of the best bullpens in baseball.
After trading Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman away at the deadline last season, Chapman has returned to the Bronx to help the Yankees again. Chapman’s triple digit fastball will lock down the ninth inning for the Yankees. Dellin Betances will slide back into the eighth inning role that he is so comfortable in. His career WHIP sits around 1 as he should lock down the eighth inning on most nights with Tyler Clippard in the seventh or giving Betances a rest. While with the Yankees last year Clippard had a 2.49 ERA and will help the Yankees shorten the game.
The Bombers should be able to compete for a Wild Card spot if they get good or average starting pitching on a day to day basis.
Tampa Bay Rays
Baseball Prospectus Projected Record: 84-78
The Rays are a team that could disappoint due to a lack of depth. Evan Longoria has long been the leader of this offense and continued that last year after a .840 OPS last year but is getting old and could be set up for a regression any year. Colby Rasmus will be looking for a bounceback year with the Rays after a disappointing season with the Astros when he accepted their qualifying offer. Center fielder Kevin Kiermaier is one of the most exciting players in all of baseball and potentially the top defensive center fielder in the game after back to back Gold Gloves. He had a .331 OBP last year and can help carry the team offensively by causing havoc on the base paths.
After 37 saves last season Alex Colome will anchor the bullpen with his 1.024 WHIP. The bullpen is nothing special and will definitely not make any real headlines. The starting pitching is also a work in progress but they have two young pitchers who would join the rotation. Jose De Leon will likely be up first as he has a stronger track record. He has impeccable command of the strike zone and three high quality pitches. He didn’t perform very strongly in the majors but should be a solid contributor to the staff. Then there is Brent Honeywell who carries a wide variety of pitches and also maintains strong command of the zone. However, his pitches are not as consistent as he would like them to be and this will mean that it will take him longer to join the big league team.
Many people are high on the Rays this year but don’t expect too much out of them this season.
Toronto Blue Jays
Baseball Prospectus Projected Record: 81-81
The Blue Jays have been a special team for two years but they lost Edwin Encarnacion to the Indians in free agency. The bottom line is that there is no way to replace a .886 OPS and this will prove to be a major loss to such a potent offense. They have attempted to replace him with the addition of Kendrys Morales but he will be 34 this season and coming off of a year when he only it .263. Losing the power in one place is bad enough but after Jose Bautista regressed to a mere 22 home runs last year and may drop again due to father time. The man who will be counted on to carry to offense once again is Josh Donaldson. Donaldson had two straight seasons with an OPS greater than .938 and peaked with .956 last year. He will not fail to carry the offense again but it will not be as deep of a lineup as it has been in the past.
The pitching staff will be led by Marco Estrada after a season where he had a 3.48 ERA. However, the Blue Jays have a breakout candidate in Marcus Stroman who started the championship game of the World Baseball Classic for the United States and pitched brilliantly, Stroman was spectacular over the second half of the season and really improved. He demonstrated a lot of ability and will look to cash in with a complete season.
The bullpen lost Brett Cecil in the offseason and this hurts their depth. Roberto Osuna will continue in his closing duties after a season with a .932 WHIP. However, the Blue Jays seems capable of handling the loss as they have Jason Grilli, Joe Biagni, and J.P. Howell will combine on many nights to get the ball to Osuna.
Defensively the Jays have a gem in center field with Kevin Pillar who led the MLB in defensive runs saved last year but was not awarded a gold glove. However, the corner outfield spots have players who lack a range defensively and will not be able to bail out pitchers very often. Having it all taken into account, the Blue Jays should be on the edge of the Wild Card race.
American League Central
Chicago White Sox
Baseball Prospectus Projected Record: 76-86
In case anybody was wondering the White Sox are rebuilding. They are in one of the most competitive divisions in baseball and have acknowledged that they needed to accumulate talent. This offseason Chris Sale and Adam Eaton were traded away for prospects, in fact the top four prospects in the White Sox organization according to mlb.com. These prospects are Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito, Michael Kopech, and Reynaldo Lopez. They have the White Sox set up for a huge future. Not to mention the fact that there are more players that the Sox can trade before the trading deadline this year. Names such as Jose Quintana, Todd Frazier, David Robertson, and Melky Cabrera are all those of players who are solid veterans and will contribute to any team that is hunting a playoff spot. None of those players will yield the same haul as Sale and Eaton but will certainly add to a quickly growing farm system. The White Sox may have hopes on a model similar to that of their cross town rival, the Cubs, who have been bringing up elite talent out of the their farm system for the last few years which earned them a World Series championship last season.
The big name that the White Sox have who you didn’t see on the list of names to trade is Jose Abreu. Jose Abreu is an elite first baseman with 91 career home runs in three seasons despite regressing every single year. His talent level is extremely high but pitchers seem to have figured him out as his OPS was .964 his rookie season but was .820 last year which is great but not as good as he once had it. Given that the White Sox still have three more years of team control on him, do not expect him to be traded any time soon.
The White Sox will not be competitive this year but after building their farm system will be competitive in a few years.
Baseball Prospectus Projected Record: 82-80
The Cleveland Indians made the World Series missing Michael Brantley, Dany Salazar, and Carlos Carrasco for a large part of the season. This year the trio will return to the diamond along with the newly acquired Edwin Encarnation. This will upgrade the World Series team and make them dangerous. Brantley hit for .890 and .859 OPSs in his two years before last year’s injury. Encarnation is a guy with a .850 career OPS and has raked the last five years for the Blue Jays, providing the Indians with another big bat to drive in guys like Francisco Lindor. Francisco Lindor is the shortstop of the future in Cleveland and is one of the most fun players in all of baseball. He carries a career .356 OBP and .810 OPS along with great defense. Not to mention the fact that he is being pad under a million dollars a year as one of the great bargains across the league. This offense will be able to produce runs at a high rate now for a lights out pitching staff.
The pitching staff has three pure aces in Corey Kluber, and the aforementioned Salazar and Carrasco. In their last full seasons in the big leagues they had WHIPs of 1.056, 1.13 and 1.073, respectively. Each one of them can go out and dominate any game on any given day and will provide the Indians with a good chance to win especially with this improved offense. With Salazar and Carrasco both coming off of injury it is unsure how they will perform but many people anticipate a full return from both of them. Kluber threw a lot of innings in the post season last year and some wonder whether or not he will have a hangover from that but he will likely be fine.
In the bullpen there will be a full season from Andrew Miller who was very close to being the World Series MVP. In fact he was one win away from being the World Series MVP but the Indians were unable to close the Cubs out. He had an absolutely absurd .686 WHIP last season and was even better with the Indians as it was .5 with the Indians. Cody Allen will still be there closing games out as he has averaged over 11 K/9 for the last four seasons and will continue that this year.
The Indians contract situations put them in a short window to win a World Series but this team is built to get back there and win now.
Baseball Prospectus Projected Record: 79-83
The Tigers fans will start the season probably still annoyed that Justin Verlander didn’t win the Cy Young award last year. Verlander and Michael Fulmer form one of the best tandems at the top of a rotation in all of baseball. Verlander resurrected himself last season and had a 3.04 ERA and a 1.001 WHIP last year. That doesn’t even mention his 254 strikeouts (10 K/9) which confirms that Verlander is back to what he used to be and will probably maintain that this year. Fulmer was acquired in the Yoenis Cespedes trade and won the Rookie of the Year award last year after a fairly dominant season where he posted a 1.119 WHIP. He was outstanding in his first few starts of the year but tailed off towards the end of the year and would like to dominate for a complete season this year. Outside of the two of them there are questions all along the starters. For example, Jordan Zimmerman was great for the first month but while battling neck injuries had an ERA above 6 after April.
The bullpen is certainly a weak point as closer Francisco Rodriguez (K-Rod) will be 34 years old and coming off of a season with a 1.131 WHIP. Many of the people in this bullpen are talented but just don’t have it anymore. Similar things can be said for the offense. Victor Martinez revived himself last season as he was removed from his catching duties but he is still 38 years old. Miguel Cabrera is one of the best hitters of all time with a career .961 OPS and maintained that with a .956 OPS last year and will be counted on to carry the offense once again. Third baseman Nick Castellanos has some breakout potential, even if he broke out a little last year, as his OPS has steadily increased and was a .827 last year but he had to battle injuries. Under the tutelage of Cabrera it is fair to assume that Castellanos could improve even more this year.
The Tigers hitting may not be able to revive all of the older member enough to cover up the poor pitching and this could be a team headed for a fire sale at the trade deadline.
Kansas City Royals
Baseball Prospectus Projected Record: 71-91
This team was the defending World Series champs but put up a poor defense last year. This team is still extremely talented across the board as many of those World Series champions are still on the roster with names such as Kelvin Herrera, Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, Mike Moustakas, Salvador Perez, and Alex Gordon. These guys were household names during the back to back World Series trips that the Royals had. However last year Ned Yost couldn’t help them piece it all together. In the offseason they lost a high quality hitter in Kendrys Morales. However they have replaced him with Brandon Moss and Jorge Soler who can platoon at the DH spot. They had OPSs of .784 and .769 respectively last season and will try to vill the void left by Morales. The other previously stated players will contribute to the Royals season as they have the offensive talent to go back to the playoffs.
Remember, those World Series teams had great bullpens with three great pitcher who could shut down the last three innings of the game any night they were asked to. That isn’t the case this year as Kelvin Herrera is the one truly elite relievers that they have left on the team. He had a .958 WHIP last year and should be fine in the closer role. The Royals will be hoping that veteran Joakim Soria will be able to rebound from his poor season last year and be a serviceable set-up man.
Yordano Ventura passed away this offseason and the Royals signed Jason Hammel to try and replace him. Hammel was solid for the Cubs last year as he had a 3.83 ERA and will definitely do an adequate job starting. He may not ever do something special but will certainly be a solid pitcher. Danny Duffy has ace potential and will likely try to lead the staff this year. After a season with a 1.141 WHIP he will try to be an ace that is respected around the league. He just signed a 5 year 65 million dollar deal so it is clear that the Royals believe in him.
The Royals have the sheer talent to compete in the Wild Card race this year.
Baseball Prospectus Projected Record: 78-84
Yes the Twins have Joe Mauer but Joe Mauer will never return to his MVP form. The Twins are not going to be competitive this year after being the worst team in all of baseball last year. However, the Twins have a bright future ahead of them. However it will take all the right moves. To start, the Twins have two potential studs in Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano. Buxton has had trouble at the major league level in the past but was great in his September call up as he had a .357 OBP which would provide the speedy youngster with many chances to steal bases if he wants to. He has the ability to be a five tool player for the Twins and will be exciting to follow. Sano was a stud in 2015 but struggled last year as he only hit 25 home runs in 495 ABs after 18 in 279 in 2015. He needs to get back to his old form in the coming seasons so that he can help the Twins succeed.
The Twins have a lot of players that could be traded at the trade deadline to acquire prospects so that they can attempt to have farm system that rival or competes with that of the White Sox who should be good during the golden years of Buxton and Sano. These are players like Brian Dozier, Ervin Santana, and Brandon Kintzler. Kintzler in particular will be very valuable to a contender. If the Twins copy what the Brewers have been doing for years they will be able to flip Kintzler to a team who is one reliever away from having a solid bullpen because as we saw with the Indians last post season, relievers are extremely valuable in the playoffs. The Twins will likely not be competitive this year but can use this season to build for the future and develop talent.
American League West
Baseball Prospectus Projected Record: 93-69
The Astros were disappointing last year in part due to a down season from many of their pitchers and that will be compounded with the loss of Doug Fister in the offseason. They will be hoping for a bounceback season out of the 2015 Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel who maintained a 2.48 ERA that season before returning with a 4.55 ERA last season. Keuchel will be a vital part of this team’s success this year because most post season teams have at least one ace who can go out and dominate a game.
The Astros bullpen is relatively average until you reach the ninth inning and Ken Giles. Similar to Keuchel Giles also had a down year last season with the first season his ERA was over 2. He will be hoping to get back to the form he had with the Phillies so that he can lock down the ninth inning of ballgames for the Astros after they traded for him before last season.
For the Astros the main part of their success is their offense carried by all five feet five inches of Jose Altuve. Altuve led the American League with a .338 batting average last season, propelling him to a .928 OPS and finishing third in the MVP voting. He also slugged the highest percentage of his career last year as he saw an injection of power into his game. He will be 27 this year and is still in his prime after a season with a 7.7 WAR. His mate in the middle infield Carlos Correa had a 5.9 WAR last season and will also help to carry the offense. Correa will likely hit in the three spot as he has had back to back seasons with 20 plus home runs. The Astros also have Carlos Beltran who hit 29 home runs last season and will thrive in the designated hitter role. Josh Reddick and his career .747 OPS was brought in during the off season to help the offense.
The Astros will compete with the Rangers for the division title and will also be in the Wild Card race.
Los Angeles Angels
Baseball Prospectus Projected Record: 77-85
The Angels start and end with Mike Trout. He has had five straight season in which he came in first or second in the MVP voting mostly held back by the fact that he is on a bad team that cannot win many games. Last year he had a .441 OBP which is absolutely ridiculous and this helped him to a .991 OPS. With all that hitting prowess he also stole 30 bases last season and is consistently one of the best defensive center fielders in baseball. Outside of Trout there isn’t much offensively. The only other notable name on the roster is Albert Pujols but he has struggled in his later years. Pujols is an all-time great but his contract is killing the Angels. Kole Calhoun and Danny Espinosa will certainly help Trout. Calhoun is a very solid player who hasn’t had an OPS under .730 in the last four years and Espinosa will be serviceable offensively while providing a great glove at second base. In general the Angels should be talented defensively to back up an average pitching staff.
Tyler Skaggs returned last season after missing the 2015 season and had a confusing year with a 1.49 WHIP, the highest of his career, however he had the lowest ERA of his career at 4.17. This would generally say that he is in trouble as eventually the runs will catch up with the walks and hits he is giving up but if he can continue to keep runs off of the board he will be a key piece of this Angels team. Garrett Richards is also one of the most talented starters in all of baseball but is doing a lot of work to try and avoid Tommy John surgery so that is an interesting story to watch this season.
Cam Bedrosian will be closing out games after a season with a 1.091 WHIP and should be able to be a solid closer for the Angels if the starters and middle relievers can get him a lead which didn’t happen as often as the Angels would’ve hoped last season. All in all the Angels will likely fail to make the playoffs as Mike Trout probably has another spectacular season.
Baseball Prospectus Projected Record: 75-87
The A’s are probably best known for their Moneyball strategy from Billy Beane. This offseason he went out and got players, however they all have question marks. He brought in Rajai Davis who became famous after hitting a game tying home run in Game 7 of the World Series off of Aroldis Chapman. However he only had a .693 OPS last season and will be 36 this year. Jed Lowrie may have a career .726 OPS but that number was only .637 last year. Not to mention Matt Joyce who has been one of the most erratic performers over the last two years as he saw his OPS raise .302 points last year and if he can continue that success, it will be important for the A’s. After a year with an OPS of .831 the A;s will be hoping that Khris Davis can repeat that success, which he has done so far in his career to help lead to offense. A big question mark is whether or not he can maintain the power he showed last season when he mashed 42 home runs.
The A’s are blessed with one of the best young pitchers in all of baseball with Sonny Gray. Gray has monumental expectations placed on him last year but failed to come through as he had a 5.69 ERA. The A’s faithful will certainly be hoping he can return to his 2015 form when he had a 2.73 ERA and 1.082 WHIP which would once again make him one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball. Close Ryan Madson disappointed last season after a great season with the Kansas City Royal when he had a WHIP below 1. Beane also brought in Santiago Casilla who will be 36 this year and has had his best seasons behind him. They will be the two main pieces in the bullpen.
The A’s are a team that is counting on too many people to return to old form in their old age to truly be competitive this year.
Baseball Prospectus Projected Record: 86-76
Whenever the Mariners are mentioned the first name that comes to mind is Felix Hernandez. The 2010 Cy Young award winner will be coming off of his worst season since 2007 but will still attempt to lead the staff. Fortunately the Mariners have a young stud in Hisashi Iwakuma who is also coming off of his worst season from a WHIP perspective but also the highest WAR of his career. However he has the talent level to be a dominant pitcher in the major leagues and will do everything in his power to show that he can be the successor to Hernandez this year. It will be critical for these two to have great seasons if the Mariners want to get into the playoffs. They will be getting the ball to a potentially exciting bullpen. There is Steve Cishek whose abnormal delivery will keep fitters at bay but mainly there are three young guns who can make an electric bullpen if they can stay healthy. These pitchers are Edwin Diaz, Shae Simmons, and Tony Zych. Diaz was spectacular last year with 15.3 K/9 and should be mowing down hitters again. Simmons has struggled through injuries but at one point was looking like he would be set-up man for Craig Kimbrel in Atlanta. Him and Zych bring quality sliders and heat to the mound and should be great if they can stay healthy.
Offensively there is a lot to talk about, but there is also a lot of years on the roster. Last season Robinson Cano was spectacular as he ripped 39 home runs on the way to a .882 OPS. Nelson Cruz actually topped Cano’s offensive output last year with 43 home runs and a .915 OPS. These two will be the biggest parts of a dynamic offense. Another big bat that the Mariners acquired is Danny Valencia who has been a very good hitter for the better part of two years and will be very important especially if he gets back to the .864 OPS he carried in 2015. They will be able to drive in Jarrod Dyson who is one of the fastest players in all of baseball when he can get on base. There is still Kyle Seager who will be a strong producer after a season with a .859 OPS, however this was the best season of his career and he may not be able to sustain that success for another year.
If everything goes right for the Mariners they will be a dangerous team, almost like the Orioles with better starting pitching, but more likely they will be in the Wild Card race but will not win it.
Baseball Prospectus Projected Record: 85-77
The Rangers starting pitching has a great tandem at the top in Yu Darvish and Cole Hamels. Darvish has the ability to strike a lot of people out averaging over 10 K/9 every season he has been in the major leagues and can dominate any lineup at any time because of his wide array of pitches. Last year he posted a 1.116 WHIP and will try to carry that through this year if he can get a full season under his belt after the Tommy John surgery that caused him to miss the entire 2015 season and part of last season. Since acquired from the Phillies Cole Hamels has been a model of consistency for the Rangers with a .786 winning percentage with Texas.
The bullpen is surprisingly solid especially with the acquisition of Jeremy Jeffress at the trade deadline of last season. Jeffress who was brought in from the Brewers is not a strikeout dominant pitcher but still has the ability to get outs when needed. Matt Bush is another key reliever after a season with a WHIP under 1. Sam Dyson should start the season in the closer role after saving 38 games last year.
The Rangers offense was good last year and should be great again. They just gave Rougned Odor a five year extension. While he is known for punching Jose Bautista he also has steadily improved his WAR and OPS over the past three years and had a .798 OPS last year. If he can continue this growth he will evolve into one of the best second basemen in baseball. Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus are two really good friends on the left side of the infield and will both be solid offensively. Beltre is a four time all-star and five time gold glove winner coming off of a season with a .879 OPS while Andrus is younger and coming off of a year with a .800 OPS. Both of them will rake for the Rangers this season. They also have Nomar Mazara in right field who is coming off of a strong rookie campaign in which he hit 20 home runs and had a .739 OPS.
The Rangers will be a strong competitor with the Astros in the division and will worst case likely see themselves in the thick of the wild card race.