This is one of the harder columns to write. Coming into the year, we have a pretty good idea of who’s gonna be great and who’s gonna suck. What’s tough to figure out, is who will barely make it into the playoffs or who’ll barely miss them.
This is shaping up to be a great season, with lots of drama late in the year. I’m gonna try and figure out who those teams within the drama will be.
My first team is the Miami Marlins. I really wanted to like this team more, but as I research, it’s gonna be really tough for them to get into the postseason. The problem isn’t within their division, like most teams in this column. Truthfully, the division sucks, and it’d take some big time play from the Mets to make it more competitive. Miami won’t challenge Washington for the division, but they’ll be in the thick of a Wild Card race in the NL.
The Marlins have a lot of young talent, who’re blossoming and are in their prime. Giancarlo Stanton got PAID, as his expectations rise. I have no doubt he’ll have another monster year. Their outfield, with Stanton, also features Christian Yelich, who’s very promising and will probably wound up getting underpaid these next couple years.
The Marlins rotation has potential to be really dominate, but injuries and inconsistency might plague them. Young stud Jose Fernandez isn’t expected back till July. That’s a huge blow, as they’ll be missing their ace. They acquired Mat Latos from the Reds, perhaps in panic that Fernandez will miss extended time. Latos is solid, but is a risk, and it entering a contract year. His FIP is decently high, and he’s not a strikeout guy. They can certainly work him a bit, but he’s a six year guy at this point.
Overall, Miami’s pitching is the start of my concerns. This offense and lineup looks very nice, but they prided themselves on the pitching. With a slow start possible, the Marlins could fall behind other teams pretty quickly.
Lots of good divisions fill baseball this year. The Brewers’ division is one of them. Milwaukee’s biggest problem is probably the division. The Cardinals are going to be good again, as they are every year. The Cubs are re-juvanated and seem quite terrifying, though they are the Cubs. So anyone really knows.
Aside from other teams, the Brewers main worry this year is offense. Though they have hitters like Jonathan Lucroy and Ryan Braun, it seems they don’t have enough power. The infield portion of the lineup is where this gap occurs. Milwaukee’s infielders are either poor hitters or gap guys, who hit doubles and singles.
The Brewers might have to rely on base hits to produce their offense, due to the lack of power.
On defense, it’s a different story. The infield is great, full of speedy guys who have excellent hands. Besides Aramis Ramirez, who’s retiring after this year, the infield is very young and has lots of future potential. The outfield is also very good, and, similar to the infield, young.
The Brewers pitching staff all around is great, and is the least of their concerns. Also, with Jonathan Lucroy behind the plate, younger player develop faster. Lucroy is on the Yadier Molina level of catchers. He makes pitchers better.
Milwaukee’s lack of offense is their biggest team issue. The NL Central looks to be quite fascinating yet again, and with the tough division, the Brewers will struggle against some of the loaded pitching staffs in the division.
This next team is a really tough one to write about. And really, it’s quite surprising. It’s the defending World Series Champions: The San Francisco Giants.
This is really tough as a Giants fan, and someone who kinda half-follows baseball would go “Really, you think this team is going to have a hard time?”
I get it. And again, as a Giants fan, it’s tough. But, if you’re knowledgeable, and know what you’re talking about, then you understand.
This, in no way, is a bad team. The Giants were fueled by fantastic pitching last year, and it carried them to the World Series. They open the season with the same starters that got them there. Matt Cain will be back, at some point, this season. I’m a little worried about how he’ll return, and how good he’ll be. The Giants should feel no need to rush him back however.
Overall, San Francisco’s pitching staff is really good. The bullpen was great last year, and they didn’t lose anyone. They’ll be alright.
Where the Giants concerns linger deals with their offseason. Losing Pablo Sandoval is killer. I honestly didn’t think he’d leave, especially after the Word Series win. Even though he’s a tad sketchy on offense, he solidifies third base, and is a vital loss on both sides. The rest of the infield is okay, but is much better when everyone is healthy.
Health also plagues the outfield, where Hunter Pence will be out until at least the start of May. Pence is the only injury back there, but man, he’s huge on both sides of the field, and it’s really just a bummer. Angel Pagan is also a health question, as it seems he’s hurt every year.
San Francisco’s division has improved much so. With San Diego and Los Angeles on top, the Giants are gonna have to play very well to make the playoffs. They’ll be in a bind late in the year, and man, is it unfortunate that I’m saying that.
Shifting to the AL, the Blue Jays sit in kinda an awkward position.
I won’t get into to it too much, as I have a column tomorrow looking at the AL East, and how confusing and unpredictable it may be this season. I don’t see Toronto as the best team in the division, but the possibility that they will make the playoffs is there.
Though the AL Wild Card race looks insane, the Blue Jays have quality pitching, which includes many experienced guys. Toronto’s lineup looks very balanced, and could be quite terrifying.
Again, I’ll have more on this team tomorrow, but there are two very different outcomes possible with the Blue Jays this year.
The AL Central is another tough division to figure out. Detroit and Cleveland seem like the two main front-runners, but say they both have rough seasons. Or, below-projected seasons.
Behind them sits the Kansas City Royals, and if you’re bold, the Chicago White Sox. The White Sox seem to have the higher celling for this year, after making a ton of moves in the offseason. I wrote about them in mid-January, talking about whether their moves made sense or not. In some way, they did, but I’m not totally convinced that the front office knows what they’re doing. It kinda seemed they made a couple “Hey, let’s do this and that, but not do what we really need to moves.” It might work though, I mean, the roster is pretty talented. But, too much has to go right for the White Sox, and too much has to go wrong for the rest of the division.
The Royals, after making a Cinderella-like run to the World Series last year, suffered some big blows in the offseason; losing James Shields bites.
Shields is a dominant force on the mound and has great stuff. His fastball is his go-to pitch, while the nasty changeup is a nice addition to his game. Losing that hurts the Royals. He can go six plus innings every game, and was really the ace for the Royals.
Kansas City has younger guys to replace Shields, but they’re are still developing. The Royals lack depth, especially in the infield. With injury-prone players, that’s not great. Thankfully, the talent in their infield is very good, so with a healthy starting lineup, they’ll be fine.
The Royals main problem might be the division, kinda like the Brewers. It’s gonna be super tough, and it’ll probably leave them out of the playoffs, giving a collapse from Detroit.
The last team I’m looking at in this column is the Oakland A’s. The A’s had a very busy offseason, trading away many what I would call stars and getting back prospects and depth. While it may leave a bad impression on the average fan, the A’s simply built for the future with their moves. In the process of doing that, they got depth back, preventing a similar collapse like last season after the Trade Deadline.
Oakland has a ton of infielders. They’re all good players, but that’s not where Oakland will go wrong. First off, the division is really tough, with Seattle and the Angels looking to have big years. Oakland doesn’t have enough to surpass those teams. The combination of talent isn’t normal, and may not even work. The A’s are gambling on certain guys to have good years, like Billy Butler and Brett Lawrie. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem those guys will deliver, based on projections, injuries, and common sense.
The A’s have a bright future. While this season will likely be a down one, the A’s have a lot to look forward to. Don’t worry, they know what they’re doing. That’s for sure.
More MLB Preview to come…..