17. San Diego Padres
I can’t remember the last time the Padres were relevant, they’ve sort of always just been there. Anchorman 2 brought back the original cast, added a bunch other funny actors, and featured an even bigger brawl scene, but it still was just okay. This is what the Padres are doing, except they were never as good as Anchorman and they’re hoping that bringing in quality ingredients to their mediocre stew will make them better. Have I made enough arbitrary analogies? What the Padres are doing feels different than when Miami and Toronto failed to buy better teams, but maybe that’s because those two franchises pretty much bought the same cast of players. James Shields in Petco should help a team that relies on glass ace Andrew Cashner, remember when the Cashner for Rizzo trade felt like the Padres won? A year makes a ton of difference. Tyson Ross broke out, but he throws sliders over 40%, has over a 3 BB/9, and I feel like Petco hides his mistakes. Maybe the overuse of sliders doesn’t wreck his arm, but I like Ian Kennedy more than him this year. Justin Upton and Matt Kemp are good enough players to have elite numbers in expansive Petco Park, but their defense won’t exactly be good. I still think Wil Myers is going to be a star, but I’m uneasy about him in CF. The Padres infield is not good. Jedd Gyorko is the most interesting name in the infield and he needs to bounce back from last year to justify playing time. New acquisition Will Middlebrooks couldn’t do much in Fenway, Petco won’t do him any favors. This team wasn’t good last year, sporting the last place in almost every hitting category, yet still managed to win 77 games! They’re definitely better than last year and their division still has 2 very weak teams, I expect better than mediocre this year.
16. Cincinnati Reds
A lot of things went wrong for the Reds. Most notably Joey Votto’s presence was sorely missed, can he teach teammates Phillips, Bruce, Hamilton, and Cozart how to get on base?! Brandon Phillip’s production fell off a cliff and Jay Bruce turning the magical age 27 actually had a negative WAR. The thing about Bruce was that he raised his walk percentage up before landing on the DL, then lost it. He stole more bases, but his SLG was 100 points lower than average. Votto, Phillips, and Bruce bouncing back would help this team enormously and I obviously feel like they will with this ranking. Alfredo Simon and Mat Latos are gone, but if Tony Cingrani can cut down on his walks, he almost had a 5 BB/9!, and Homer Bailey pitches the whole year, then this staff will still need a 5th starter…I mean Alfredo Simon came out of nowhere last year. Did they give up trying to make Chapman a starter? Maybe hey should try that again. Johnny Cueto seems to defy sabermetrics every year, but anyone who’s seen him pitch knows he’s an ace. He just needs to stay healthy. Todd Frazier broke out, he stood next to Derek Jeter as a kid, when you’re that close to greatness some of it rubs off on you. Billy Hamilton looked great before the All Star break, but fell down to earth during the second half, but his stellar defense and likely improvement this year makes me like the kid. The Reds have a ton of good pieces and I’m pretty high on them, but they’re in a tough division and there’s a lot of things that need to happen for them to be great.
15. Chicago White Sox
I can see a lot of things going right for this team, but I can also see a lot of things going wrong for them. Chris Sale is the best pitcher in baseball that no one talks about, if he were on the other Sox team we’d never hear the end of him. Signing flyball pitcher Jeff Sarmardzija could backfire on them in that ballpark, but they needed to sign another pitcher. Jose Quintana quietly put up solid numbers, but behind him the rotation doesn’t really have anyone that stands out. This bullpen was dreadful and even after signing David Robertson I’m still keeping my expectations low. Can anyone tell me the last time an expensive closer signing worked out? I’m drawing a blank here. Jose Abreu had 29 HRs at the All Star break, but after that he only had 7. I wouldn’t be too worried because his OBP rose to .435, making Joey Votto jealous. Outside of Abreu that infield is weak. There’s Alexi Ramirez and…not really anyone. Adam Laroche added a needed bat to a team who’s game plan is having Jose Abreu hit the rest of the team in. Adam Eaton is great at getting on base, but he’s also great at getting injured. Hopefully Melky Cabrera plays like he did last year and not the year before when he was awful. Avisail Garcia seems to have the most potential of the bunch. Having two studs in Jose Abreu and Chris Sale could carry them far, but if they fail to perform I don’t see too much depth here.
14. Boston Red Sox
This team is counting on a 37 year old to carry this offense…wait that’s Tom Brady. David Ortiz is 39 and he’s not as handsome as Brady, so clearly he won’t be good this year. Dustin Pedroia looks like he’s aging really fast, his body is telling let Jose Altuve carry the flame for mini 2B, retire to the Shire. The Red Sox signed Hanely Ramirez and then shoved him into their crowded OF…they do know he’s a SS right? I feel like the Red Sox regretted trading him all those years ago and made it their mission to get him back, no matter the cost. But why sign Hanley and Sandoval? Slot one of the guys at 3B and then sign a SP with the money that they saved. They have no pitching! They have a handful of #3 guys on their team and they’re already favorites for midseason trade rumors on Cole Hamels. They’re counting on bounce backs from everyone of their SPs and their ceilings aren’t even that high. Rick Porcello is alright, but now he has to be their best pitcher in the AL East. I don’t think there would be nearly as much hype for Mookie Betts if he didn’t play in Boston or if his name wasn’t Mookie, what a baseball name. He did great during his short call up, but he only played 52 games! ESPN is already projecting him to lead the Red Sox in WAR and I’m just hoping he gets everyday playing time, don’t overhype the kid! Xander Boegarts did everything to not impress me last season, but people still expect a huge turn around. Rusney Castillo is a huge wildcard, but he’s 5’8… did they want a Cuban Pedroia? How much are they expecting from a 5’8 power hitter?! This team has Jackie Bradley Jr., Shane Victorino, and Allen Craig just chilling on the bench, well they have depth if anyone goes down. I wanted to rank the team lower but the potential offense looks solid and the team has depth, just not in the rotation.
13. San Francisco Giants
3 even years and 3 times World Series champs! That’s amazing, but it’s an odd year so there’s no way they can win this year! The Giants had Madison Bumgarner throw over 260 innings last year and I’m expecting repercussions. After Bumgarner this rotation isn’t that good. Tim Hudson will be turning 40 and Ryan Vogelsong will be turning 38, both could retire and no one would bat an eye, but now the Giants are counting on them for another year. Matt Cain feels like he’s 18 again, but this is the same team that told us Kung Fu Panda was in the best shape of his life every year, if the reports were true then he’d have lost 500 lbs over the course of his career with the team. Tim Lincecum can’t pitch anymore and Jake Peavy has only been good pitching in the NL West. I mean here’s there now, but he’s just not that good anymore. If Bumgarner got injured this team is in huge trouble. Panda is gone, but he was only really good in the playoffs anyway, so it’s not a devastating loss in season. Hunter Pence and Buster Posey are still great players to revolve a team around. Brandon Belt belted 9 HRs in the first couple weeks showcasing his best Barry Bonds impersonation, but then he got injured, this team may need to rely on him to carry their offense. Joe Panik has an awesome name, just throwing that out there. Aoki signed with the Giants because he likes to bathe in the blood of his enemies. The Giants have lost a stud SP after their previous World Series victories, Madison Bumgarner could be next! The agreement with the baseball devil was 3 rings for 3 arms! I can’t be dropping the defending World Series champs on a silly superstition can I? Yes, that’s exactly what I’m doing.
12. New York Mets
I wrote extensively about the Mets here. I’m hopeful on their playoff chances, but they’re probably going to need a few lucky breaks.
11. Chicago Cubs
I hate rating teams low because there’s always a team no one believes in that outperforms everyone’s expectations, but the Cubs are the exact opposite of that. If Epstein brings the Cubs a ring then he’ll go down as the curse breaker. They have an amazing farm system, everyone’s going to be a star! Or not, who knows! Wil Myers was a star in the making, now he’s shipped off to the Padres for some prospects and Steven Souza. The Royals used to be the team with an amazing farm system, but they only lost in the World Series. What the Cubs do have with them now is a pretty legit starting rotation, Epstein did this by buying low on pitchers from the AL East and bringing them to the cozy NL Central…it’s so simple, why didn’t anyone else think of this? Jake Arrieta looked amazing last year and I’m sure Lester will be great this year, but put the clocks back just one more year and these 2 aces weren’t even good. Arrieta was terrible in 2013 and Boston didn’t even want to resign Lester until they couldn’t afford him anymore. Poor Jason Hammel had to go from the AL East to the Rockies and then back to the AL East before finding success on the Cubs, and then he was shipped off again! I think striking out is going to be a major problem for these guys. Javier Baez strikes out a million times, Jorge Soler looked great, but he’s had issues with injuries in the past and he strikes out a bunch too. Even super prospect Kris Bryant has K issues in the minors. I was skeptical on Rizzo last year because he couldn’t hit lefties at all, and now he destroys them. His strike out and walk rates remained the same, he just hit everything a lot better. I thought they stole Miguel Montero from the Diamondbacks, but he’s a slight injury risk. They also got a great leadoff man in Dexter Fowler for players they didn’t even want, stop giving the Cubs good trades other teams! Their bullpen still sucks and they’re counting on too many young players on their offense. The Cubs being bad is a tradition, call me a pessimist, but I kind of want them to be bad still, it’s the only century old tradition we have left.
10. Cleveland Indians
Corey Kluber is a beast, so that helps. They need some production from Swisher and Bourne. Brandon Moss outside of O.co Coliseum sounds like he should only improve, but maybe he was only a good hitter because Billy Beane whispered in his ear every night. Danny Salazar and Trevor Bauer can turn out to be amazing pitchers, but they need to learn how to go deeper into games. The key pitcher here is Carlos Carrasco. He was okay before the All Star break, but was as good as the Klubot after. If he’s closer to his second half numbers then the Tribe have two aces. Michael Brantley probably had a career year last year, but Jason Kipnis and Carlos Santana bounce backs should offset his decline in production. How much they can reclaim their 2013 production and how good Brantley can be will determine if this team can beat the Tigers in the AL Central. Their defense is still pretty dreadful, but maybe the spotty defense helped motivate the pitchers to elite strike out levels. They lost Asdrubal Cabrera, but that’s not really a big loss with the eventual promotion of SS prospect Francisco Lindor. Lonnie Chisenhall and Yan Gomes are solid players round off a team that doesn’t really have any glaring weaknesses.