9. Toronto Blue Jays
I’m sorry. I want to rate them as the best team in the AL, but they’re the Blue Jays. As sure as Canadian maple syrup will be deliciously sticky this team will disappoint. Last year the Red Sox and Rays were neutered, the Yankee pitchers were dropping like flies, the Orioles lost “star” players Wieters and Machado, and this Jays team still blew it. I’ll give them one more chance though. Edwin Encarnacion is capable of hitting 16 HRs in a month and he’s reliably productive even through injuries. I could almost say the exact same thing about Bautista except his defense is better, he never earned a lovable error based nickname. Dickey isn’t the Cy Young guy he was in Queens, but him and Buehrle are reliable innings eaters. Shorty Marcus Stroman impressed last year, apparently Doc Halladay taught him a sinker and he was unhittable after that. Drew Hutcherson looks like a promising young flamethrower in the icy city of Toronto. This offense is nasty, they were in the top 5 in most offensive categories last year and now they added Josh Donaldson and Russell Martin, if everyone stays relatively healthy, they should be the best offense in the league. How did the Blue Jays not win the Donaldson trade again? “So you’re telling me you guys only want Brett Lawrie and a handful of our midlevel prospects?” Moneyball failed here. Jose Reyes is still toiling around as one of the best SS in the league, offensively at least, but 2B and the OF outside of Bautista are weaknesses. Good thing they signed oft injured Michael Saunders… Yeah this team is good, please don’t blow this Canada.
8. Detroit Tigers
They have one more good year in them. They have no farm system, so when they fall they’re going to fall hard. Victor Martinez is already injured, the team is hopeful that he won’t miss anytime, but I wouldn’t bet on a 36 year old former catcher recovering quickly. Ian Kinsler played great last year, but the chances of Kinsler having back to back injury free seasons is impossible. Miggy is still one of the best hitters in the game, but even he’s starting to show decline. JD Martinez was cut by the Astros, somehow, and came to Detroit a new man. His BABIP was unsustainably high last year, but even he should be productive in this line up. Justin Verlander has declined each season, but the team has David Price to anchor the staff. He had a few bombs in Detroit, but the defense is better this year with Jose Iglesias manning short and the AL Central isn’t tougher than what Price has grown accustomed to in the AL East. Cespedes adds another bat to the lineup, but losing Porcello will hurt their rotation depth. They don’t need Verlander to have a great year, but they do need him to pitch better than he has. Outside of Cespedes and Miggy the offense seems doomed to regress. This team looks just strong enough to beat the other teams in its division even if they have to fight through injuries, but I’m sure the bullpen will continue to blow games.
7. Seattle Mariners
They have 2 great pitchers in King Felix and Iwakuma with some intriguing talented pitchers to complement them. I like James Paxton a whole lot, but I expect post hype pitcher Taijuan Walker to make the bigger impact, they just need to stay healthy this year. They have the best offensive 2B in Cano who I don’t blame for finally hustling out of the sinking Empire State, the Yankees look to be pretty mediocre for a while. Despite a lackluster start to last season Kyle Seager proved himself to be one of the better 3B in the league. Nelson Cruz has proved he can swing a bat pretty well, but moving the rainy state will be tougher than sunny Camden Yards. It’s not like Cano’s power disappeared when he moved here…or most hitters decline coming here. I think Austin Jackson is better than the player he showed us last year and he only just turned 28. Outside of the players I mentioned there isn’t too much to like. Mike Zunio quietly hit 22 HRs last year and Dustin Ackley was okay. This team has a few star players and a bunch of mediocre ones. It could be good enough to win the division.
6. LA Angels
I liked the Angels last year, but didn’t like their pitching. Then they pulled Garret Richards and Matt Shoemaker out of their asses and their pitching problems were solved. Richards could be ready to go by opening day after undergoing knee surgery, it’s not ideal, but it’s better than an arm injury. Shoemaker was a relief pitcher turned starter out of desperation and turned out great. I have no idea if he’ll be able to keep that up. Josh Hamilton is up there with Ryan Howard for worst contracts in baseball, he should have stayed in Texas, but he should be better this year. Albert Pujols was good last year, but the Angels will probably regret paying him for a lifetime. Having the best hitter in Trout certainly isn’t a negative. They just reloaded on pitching with top prospect Andrew Heaney and all it cost them was Howie Kendrick, that swap could end up being a steal for them for years to come. They had one of the best run differentials in baseball last season and it was because their offense was on fire. I think Kole Calhoun should be solid again this year. Albert Pujols, David Freese, Josh Hamilton, and CJ Wilson…it’s like they want to recreate the 2011 World Series on one team. I think the bullpen will still be a problem, but should better than last year if Street stays healthy. This team should win the AL West.
5. Pittsburgh Pirates
They lost star catcher Russell Martin to free agency, which is going to hurt, but they signed Korean SS Jung Ho Kang, which could work out for them. They lost Edinson Volquez, but gained AJ Burnett, so a wash in talent there. I think this team will be better than last year because I believe the players on this team are going to improve. Starling Marte struggled from injuries and was sent down to the minors to correct poor plate discipline tendencies, yet he still managed 13 HRs and 30 SBs. He had over a 400 OBP in the second half as well. Gregory Polanco lost all the hype after his arrival, but his numbers look fine and I think he’ll improve this year. The OF is the best in baseball and Andrew McCutchen is a great player to build a team around. Honestly with the talent level of these players we could be looking at 2 McCutchen clones joining McCutchen in the OF. Gerrit Cole has all the talent to take the next step forward, a full year from him and he might actually try striking out more batters. Francisco Liriano walks way too many people, but a good K rate and GB% allows him to put up elite numbers on this defensive shift happy Pirates team. If he could cut his BB rate by just one point he’s an ace on this team again. Utility man wonder Josh Harrison will probably regress heavily in batting average, but he’s in his prime and improved after the All Star break, so maybe he’s legit. Neil Walker is a decent bat and I expect Pedro Alveraz to bounce back, his plate discipline improved, it’s just his power disappeared for reasons I can’t see. I like this team, but it’s a tough division and the Cardinals looks tough to beat again.
4. Baltimore Orioles
Buck Showalter just knows how to get things done. I mean this is the team that lost Matt Weiters and Manny Machado for good chunks of the season, had Chris Davis regress fantastically, instantly regretted signing Ubaldo, and still make it to the playoffs with 96 wins. Their pitching stunk too. Well those players are back, but they lost star DH Nelson Cruz and reliable Nark Markakis. Which is honestly not that much though. Their pitching will be better if Kevin Guasman breaks out or Ubaldo Jiminez can remember how to pitch again. Zach Britton’s transition to closer has been smooth and Chris Tillman keeps putting up great yet forgettable numbers by beating his FIP. Star prospect Dylan Bundy had a year to recover from Tommy John surgery so he could potentially make a midseason impact. Team leader Matt Wieters also recovered from Tommy John, I’m assuming position players recover a lot quicker than pitchers, so he’ll be fine. Having the steady production of Adam Jones helps, but without Markakis they’ll be forced to start Travis Snider as an everyday player. I couldn’t really explain how they were doing so well last year, but they didn’t lose too much and this year cornerstone players Machado and Weiters should be healthy. This is a team that gets underestimated every year, but maybe it’s finally time to acknowledge they’re one of the best.
3. St. Louis Cardinals
They’ll be good this year because they’re always good! Do I even need to go into more detail? Adam Wainwright was in the Cy Young race before semi imploding in the 2nd half, and he still had a 3.24 ERA. I suspect fatigue from the previous year and losing Yadier Molina for a little bit influenced his decline, but he should be fine this year. They got Jason Heyward and his glove alone will be an asset to this team. Adam Wainwright also came from the Braves and look how that worked out. If he doesn’t break out and become a MVP candidate then I’m done believing in Cardinals magic. Kolten Wong will probably take another step forward and the rest of the team looks unfairly above average, this is the team that made Jhonny Peralta good again! Matt Adams gave up power to beat the shift, but then gave up halfway through the season to get respectable power numbers. Watching Trevor Rosenthal pitch is mildly infuriating and can cause panic attacks. With Molina as his catcher he should be lights out every game! I’m worried about Michael Wacha’s injury, but I don’t know what to expect from him. Carlos Martinez should finally get a shot at the rotation, but I’m expecting this team to win their division, and it’s going to be a tough division.
2. LA Dodgers
I have 5 AL teams listed in my “top” teams, but my top 3 teams are all in the NL. I don’t think Brett Anderson has ever pitched a full season ever, if only the Dodgers had a top pitching prospect that’s MLB ready to take his spot when he gets injured… I guess Howie Kendrick is alright. Brandon McCarthy was a great undervalued pitcher before he went to the Yankees, but now he may be a little overrated. I mean he couldn’t pitch well in the NL West during his time on the Diamondbacks and he’s very injury prone too. Luckily the top of the rotation is amazing. Joc Pederson is the Opening Day starter because the Guggenheims don’t care about money. Him and Puig combine to make an exciting young OF. Outside of those two the rest of the team is pretty old. Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford are aging better than I expected in the California weather and getting defensive wiz Yasmani Grandal should somehow make this rotation even better, which is scary. They still have Alex Guerrero , the player who got his ear bitten off in the minors, in case either Uribe or Rollins gets injured. This team looks to be one of the best in the MLB.
1. Washington Nationals
I ranked them #1 last year and they got better. Mad Max signed with the Nationals, allowing them to finally have a solid starting rotation… Tanner Roark had 15 wins and a 2.85 ERA last year and now doesn’t have a spot. This team won’t be able to remain the same for long, Strasburg and Zimmermann are on their way out. Gonzalez sometimes has the talent to be the best pitcher on the team, but at times looks like a guy who shouldn’t be pitching. They lost Tyler Clippard, but their bullpen still has Drew Storen. Bryce Harper had a fluke thumb injury sliding into 3rd base, sliding head first probably isn’t the best idea, but maybe if a certain manager didn’t bench him for not hustling the previous game…he still has all the talent to take the next step, but even if he doesn’t this team is still plenty talented. I liked Anthony Rendon going into last season and he could be better this year. I think the SBs come down, but everything else looks great. Ian Desmond has 3 consecutive 20/20 campaigns, and still bats 6th or 7th for this team. Denard Span, aka Ben Revere’s former Twin twin brother, got sent to the luckier NL East team and looks good atop the order. Ryan Zimmerman isn’t playing 3B anymore and should be less of a liability at 1B, he isn’t the leader of the team anymore but his bat should be better this year. Jayson Werth went to prison for speeding, but the man with the glorious beard rock hammered his way out and should be good for the season. This pitching staff is really unfair and honestly anyone could be a manager of this team and get 90 wins. 100 wins isn’t impossible.