23. Oakland Athletics
I have no idea how to rank this team. They had the highest run differential in 2014 but only went 29-38 after the half and stumbled into a wildcard game with the miraculous Royals. They probably should have won that game and could very well have went to the World Series, but they didn’t. And now we’re having this conversation. Cespedes, Donaldson, Moss, Norris, Lowrie (the duo of Lawrie and Lowrie were name buddies destined to play together!) and others are gone. The Lester, Samardzija, and Hammel rentals are over, so I doubt their pitching will be as strong this year. I thought the whole point of giving up your best prospects for Samardzija (and Hammel I guess) was because they could keep him for an additional year, but they shipped him to the White Sox for Semien and prospects. The A’s are hoping Kazmir can remain healthy enough to pitch a full season again and Jesse Chavez to not break down like he did last year. Sonny Gray looks like a budding star, but he had some horrendous months and his K/9 regressed. Despite losing a ton of key players, the A’s went out and signed Billy Butler…not even the Royals wanted to resign him. They also acquired Ben Zobrist, and who knows maybe Brett Lawrie breaks out this year, I know I’m rooting for an Ike Davis revival. Ben Zobrist always has a high WAR, but somehow Coco Crisp is their most familiar player…because whenever I think of Coco Crisp I think of franchise center piece and not breakfast cereal. They traded Yunel Escobar for Tyler Clippard and he should work out better in the bullpen than last years Jim Johnson signing. I couldn’t explain how they were doing so well the past few years, but this year seems different. It feels like Billy Beane has been restocking the farm system while still trying to remain fairly competitive, but I don’t think they will be. I can’t begin to understand how Beane thinks, but if the A’s are competitive again this year, I swear he must be cheating somehow.
22. Milwaukee Brewers
So Jonathan Lucroy is injured for 4-6 weeks, and while he’ll probably be ready for Opening Day, I think this could be an ominous sign of things to come. The Brew Crew started off as the hottest team in baseball before collapsing and missing the playoffs. They revived K-Rod’s career, but haven’t resigned him during the offseason. The key player on this team is Ryan Braun. Remember when Tiger Woods fell from grace after he cheated on his wife with all those women and still hasn’t recovered in golf? Well Braun can’t use steroids anymore, pretty much the situation here. I don’t think he’ll ever be a 7 WAR player again, but luckily the Brewers have an elite OF in Carlos Gomez and a promising one in Khris Davis. Carlos Gomez continues to impress on the field and Khris Davis outplayed Chris Davis and could take another step forward this year. Jonathan Lucroy can do it all and when healthy I personally I think he’s just as good as Yadier Molina. Their “ace” is gone, but they have flamethrowers Kyle Lohse and Mike Fiers… Honestly Jimmy Nelson and Wily Peralta look promising, but I wouldn’t say this rotation is good. 37 year old Aramis Ramirez’s OPS has steadily declined every year he’s been with the team and maybe Jean Segura is more of a defensive SS than a dual threat one. This team is so OK for a second I thought Milwaukee was located in Oklahoma…
21. Kansas City Royals
Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas don’t look like perennial All Stars, but they should be better than they were last year. I think that every year though. Salvador Perez is an amazing defensive catcher, but watching him hit in the World Series was painful. Why would any pitcher through him a strike? He swings at everything! That walk off hit against the A’s was a miracle and when he was up against Bumgarner in the World Series I already knew the game was over…I wanted these guys to win so badly too. They lost “Big Game” James Shields, and although he didn’t pitch well in the playoffs he was a reliable innings eater, they’re going to miss him. Yordano Ventura takes over as ace, but I expect this year will be a real test. I love how no one can steal off the guy though. The bullpen is nasty and is probably the best in baseball, but their starting pitching depth is a real weakness and they’ll have to rely on their overworked bullpen again. A great bullpen, an excellent defensive OF, and bunting carried this team far last year, but I don’t think they’ll be able to compete again. They bought low on Alex Rios, but I foresee a forgettable season in KC for him. Lorenzo Cain hit well towards the end of the season, but I’m skeptical it’ll carry over. Losing Billy Butler probably won’t hurt the team, but it will hurt the local economy, those restaurants lost a valuable customer in Country Breakfast. Last year was a magical year, but this feels like the magic has run dry.
20. New York Yankees
I’m surprised how well this team did considering how injured their pitching staff was, I think buying low on Brandon McCarthy, Chris Young, and Chase Headley pushed the team over .500 last year. Whoever’s running that front office knows how to identify undervalued players, giving out huge contracts however… Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia, and *gasp A-Rod are hurting the team with their massive contracts. How good would A-Rod have to be this year to get cheered for at Yankee Stadium? I think he’ll get a standing ovation his last game with the team, a stark difference than Jeter’s. As a troll move Girardi should make him the opening day SS, pulling the pressure off Didi Gregorius, and directing even more hate towards A-Rod. The pitching staff was in shambles last year and looks just as fragile this year. CC Sabathia has too many miles on his arm and probably couldn’t pitch a full year even if the Yankees offered him a billion dollar incentive. I think Michael Pineda is talented enough to become an ace, but his frailty makes me wonder if he’s held together by pine tar. Mashiro Tanaka was amazing before tearing his UCL, but for reasons I can’t comprehend didn’t get Tommy John surgery. It’ll probably cost him another year. I like Nathan Eovaldi, but moving from the NL East to the AL East won’t be easy. I mean this is a team that slotted a zombified Jeter in the 2 hole all year and still had more wins than half the league. Gardner and Ellsbury still make a solid OF and Carlos Beltran can bounce back. Poor Chase Headley left a Padres team that’s finally become competitive for a Yankees team that’s finally not competitive. This team won’t stay healthy but will end around .500 because they can’t afford to do worse.
19. Texas Rangers
Almost everything that could go wrong did go wrong. I think Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo combined for a higher payroll than the entire Houston team, but the Rangers were still the worst team in Texas. Choo played through multiple injures last year and I fully believe he can bounce back to elite OBP levels. Prince Fielder, one of my favorite players, had season ending neck surgery, but should be 100% by Opening Day. Defensive shifts really screwed him over last year, but I heard the new commissioner wants to get rid of those so he should be fine! I’m kidding, but even if he doesn’t return to his elite levels a team with a healthy Fielder is better than one without him. Tanner Scheppers was forced to be the Opening Day starter in 2014, so their staff can’t be worse than last year. Yu Darvish should be healthier and Derek Holland should be back from his unfortunate playing with his dog injury. This team got Yovani Gallardo so they could have 2 pitchers with Y first names, when was the last time that happened? Adrian Beltre was one of the few positives last year and he still has a couple more solid years in him. A healthy Neftali Feliz should improve the bullpen and they still have super prospect Jurickson Profar somewhere. The ballpark hasn’t been a haven for left handed hitters as it once was, but the offense is still solid. I believed the Rangers were a top 10 team last year and they aren’t too much different this year, they can’t be more injured than last year right?
18. Miami Marlins
The OF is stacked. I have no idea why Giancarlo would stay in Miami, then again I’m still confused why he changed his name. Although the 300+ mega deal was enticing, he’s only really getting paid 100+ million for the first 6 years, with management daring him to stay longer in I’m guessing a toxic environment by then. I really can’t see him being a Marlin for life, sorry one Marlins fan. Yelich and Ozuna were great last year and they’re both improving, so yeah, the OF is stacked. The NL East made Henderson Alverez a good pitcher, maybe they don’t need Joe Fernandez to succeed in this division. The team added speedster Dee Gordon coming off a career year and Dan Haren who’d rather retire than pitch for the Marlins. Ouch. I felt like the Dodgers won that trade right up until they shipped Andrew Heaney off 2 minutes later for Howie Kendrick. Dee Gordon seems like a fun dude and was one of the few Dodger players I liked when he was on the team, but SBs may have inflated his price tag, he barely made it to a .300 OBP. If they had a healthy Jose Fernandez I’d rank them much higher. The kid’s amazing and his curve ball looked just as filthy as Kershaw’s. He won’t be back until June at the earliest and if the Marlin’s aren’t competitive he could be out the whole year, which is probably better for him in the long run. They traded for Jared Cosart last season because this team was somehow still in the wildcard race then and I wouldn’t be too surprised if they stayed competitive most of the year, but if they aren’t competitive immediately I can see ownership giving up quickly.