21.Minnesota Twins – Well this team came out of nowhere last year and I think we can thank skipper Paul Molitor for that, but with the improvements that the Tigers and White Sox made I think this team got pushed back to the bottom of a tough division. Phil Hughes actually matched his record setting low walks issued with 16, but his K rate fell off in a Hughe way… hopefully he can rekindle some of his 2014 efficiency again. Joe Mauer hasn’t been good since he lost his bromantic partner Justin Morneau, but clearly it’s all his fault the Twins suck now because of his big contract and it has nothing to do with his concussion like symptoms. In the year of the rookie Twin fans have to be a little disappointed and cautiously optimistic about Byron Buxton, who couldn’t figure out major league pitching at all and struck out in almost a 3rd of his at bats. I know Mike Trout struggled initially, but Buxton struggled with a 31% K rate and his stats look much worse than Trouts ever did. Maybe I’m setting the bar too high, but I expect great things from Buxton. Speaking of rookie studs, Miguel Sano smashed 18 HRs during his rookie year yet still somehow managed a K rate worse than Buxton’s at a whopping 35%. Those HRs though, real sexy, and he had some of the best hard contact in the majors. The Twins still have a ton of talent waiting to be called up, but for now they’re in an awkward phase of having veteran players fading out of their prime and young guys not quite ready to pick up that mantle. And they’ve lost ace Mike Pelfry, they have no chance this year.
20. Miami Marlins – This team should be a lot better with a healthy Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Fernandez, but it probably doesn’t help that the Marlins were already “shopping” one of them. Dee Gordon actually improved and was one of the best players at his position, I felt like one of the few Dee supporters last preseason so I’m pretty happy for him. I can’t believe Donny Baseball came to the Marlins, the Miami manager position can’t be too coveted, and my only conclusion is that he’s looking for retirement homes and became accustomed to a certain level of comfort living in LA weather. The no shave policy enacted by Donny came as a, and I quote, “real bummer” for Christian Yelich who just started puberty; onlookers around his neighborhood spotted 3 whole facial hairs on Yelich’s chin. If it came as a surprise that the Marlins signed Wei Yin Chen to a 5 year 80 million dollar deal, it’s okay, I didn’t realize until I wrote this either. With an actual manager this team may be able to compete in the weak NL East, the outfield is one of the better ones and now the pitching staff is pretty solid as well. Yeah, the Marlins could be okay this year.
19. Chicago White Sox – What I like about the White Sox is that they are genuinely trying to make moves to compete, but when I look at this team I don’t see too much depth. Jose Abreu and Chris Sale are both studs, but they both played well last year and this team still stunk. Adam Eaton was always a player I liked and he made great strides last year to improve, and even then this team stunk. So let’s look at where this team can improve. Third overall pick Carlos Rodon finished the year strong and if he can keep those walks down in his sophomore year, Kershaw was able to do it his second year, then he’ll make a powerful #2 behind Chris Sale. They brought in Todd Frazier who should help this lineup as long as he avoids the HR Derby. I can’t see Brett Lawrie improving, I just don’t think he’s good; however, I can see Melky Cabrera, Avisail Garcia, and Adam LaRoche all improving this year. Besides Rodon, Sale, and Quitana someone else in the rotation needs to be serviceable and it probably won’t be John Danks. I can see this team doing well, but there are too many things that need to go right and so many things that could go wrong. I fear they’re wasting away Sale and Abreu’s prime years. This team has always been the Chicago team out of the spotlight, and even with all the moves they’ve made, everyone will continue to focus on the Cubs. I don’t think that will be changing anytime soon.
18. Arizona Diamondbacks – It doesn’t matter that they decimated their farm system, they’re in win now mode. Adding a bunch of players through free agency worked so well for another forgotten NL West team last year looking to become relevant that it’s bound to be just as effective. Goldschmidt is one of the best players in baseball and AJ Pollock looks to play the role of Scotty Pippin to his MJ, but outside of those two the rest of the team falls short and unlike basketball, baseball needs a full team to win. Grienke, Miller, and a healthy Corbin make for a compelling rotation, but switching teams always comes with an adjustment period and both imported pitchers are moving from pitching friendly environments to a very hitter friendly one. The infield outside of Goldschmidt is…young and still unproven. I feel like Jean Segura and John Lamb were pretty solid for a couple months, maybe they can replicate that agin. Yasmany Tomás may be competing with Kyle Schwarber for the “I wish the NL had a DH position” award, but his glove will have to play and his bat needs to improve to offset his defense. I’m not falling for it again, every year a team tries to buy their way into contention, and even though this team looks better than the Padres of last year when they made a splash in the offseason, I’m not falling for the same mistake again.
17. Detriot Tigers – I don’t really know what to expect from this team because they were doing relatively well before they decided to give up last year. This is the same team that had Yoenis Cespedes and David Price at the All Star break and then decided to give up on the season. Aging owner Mike Ilitch doesn’t have too much time left before he’s forced to watch his team from the Field of Dreams, so that explains why they signed Upton and Zimmermann. I would say that Upton and Cespedes are about equal in terms of ability, but I’d rather have Price than Zimermann, so I don’t think the Tigers are in a better position this year. Trading those two last year brought in depth, but outside of Daniel Norris I don’t think those pieces will be MLB ready this season. The bullpen for this team has always been a weak point and I have no idea what to expect from Justin Verlander, but they’ll need him to pitch more like he did in the 2nd half last year instead of whatever he’s been dishing out for the past couple years. I blame Kate Upton. Even in a down year Miguel Cabrera was worth 5 WAR, but they’ll need at least one more good year out of Kinsler and Victor Martinez for the offense to carry the load of the mediocre pitching staff. I don’t like the depth of this team as well, and I foolishly believe in another team in the AL Central.
16. Tampa Bay Rays – If I asked you who led the Rays in WAR last year who would you guess? Chris Archer? Evan Longoria? What if I told you he finished among the AL top 5 in WAR according to both fangraphs and baseball reference? Who is Kevin Keirmaier and just how good is his defense? He finished with a higher WAR than Mookie Betts and Anthony Rizzo despite having an OBP lower than .300. Besides their stud center fielder, Steven Souza looks promising and their other corner outfielder acquired through trade, Corey Dickerson, should have had plenty of time to recover from plantar fasciitis. Somehow Logan Forsythe was worth 5 WAR last year and now I’m under the impression that the Rays can produce aging swiss army knife players no problem. The pitching staff lead by Chris Archer is one of the best in the MLB and if I knew Alex Cobb would be 100% healthy for this year instead of returning from Tommy John around August then I would rank this team much higher. This team feels like the most well rounded in all of baseball, but the AL East has so many good teams I don’t know what to expect.
15. New York Yankees – The Yankees are in the business of not being bad, and although they haven’t been 90s and early 2000s dynasty dominant, they’re still real relevant when they really shouldn’t be. They were supposed to be in a rebuilding mode last year, but thanks to Arod’s surprising reign of continued dominance, Tanaka pithing through a torn elbow like it was nothing, and Teixeira’s bounceback, this team made it to the playoffs. Now I don’t think those three will be as good this year as they were last year, but it’s very easy for me to see where this team can improve. I like this rotation, right now there’s 6 potential pitchers, but I like this rotation a lot and think Pineda, Severino, and Eovaldi can all improve. I think Nova is probably a better pitcher than CC at this point, and I’m not sure if CC has worked out his off the field issues yet, but accounting for injuries I’m sure those 6 will make for a pretty solid rotation. I think every year Brett Gardner is glossed over as a solid, but not great player by the media and the fans, but he’s essential to this team’s success. I love the “non-splashy” moves the Yankees made in the offseason, Castro and Chapman (I know he’s suspended for 30 games, but that’s not too bad considering he cost nothing) should make this team better and I love Hicks from the Twins. With a little luck Ellsbury is healthier this year, but it’s easy to see this team being solid yet again.
14. Texas Rangers – Besides the Reds, this was the other team I was unusually high on last year and they proved me right! I don’t think they’ll win the Al West this year though. It was always about health and last year the Rangers were finally sort of healthy. Yu Darvish should be back early in the year to pitch some games, but in the meantime they have Cole Hamels to anchor this staff. There’s a lot to like about this team, Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo finally started producing on their contracts. Ian Desmond doesn’t have to play SS for this team and a year ago he was one of the most consistent hitters in baseball. I think whatever changes Rougned Odor figured out during his stint in the minor leagues stick and he’ll be the best offensive 2nd baseman in the league this year. Beltre is still solid, Elvis is solid albeit signed a to contract he doesn’t deserve, and Mitch Moreland is a solid 1st baseman as well. This team feels very solid overall, but I think they got lucky last year overtaking the Astros and I don’t think the AL will be as weak overall next year. I don’t know if super rookie Jurickson Profar will even be healthy enough to make an impact on this team, but the safe bet would be he’s not for this year either. The pitching staff without Darvish is just okay and there are a lot of aging players on this team. I’ve always had a soft spot for the Rangers after the Nelson Cruz incident in the 2011 World Series, but if that dropped ball proved anything it’s that God doesn’t have a soft spot for them.
13. St Louis Cardinals – The house always wins and the Cardinals never lose, but I’m throwing caution into the wind and ranking the Cardinals “low” here. The best two players on the Cardinals last year according to WAR, Jason Heyward and John Lackey, signed with the Cubs and their pitching staff will not be the same this year. Lance Lynn will not throw a pitch this year, Jamie Garcia is made of glass, and Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha both had arm related injuries that hurt their performances in September and in the playoffs. That doesn’t magically get fixed in 2016. Sure the 34 year old Adam Wainwright is coming back from basically a fluke foot injury and there are no indications that the 36 year old Matt Holiday will miss half of the season again, but unless the Cardinals have access to the fountain of youth, and they very well might, then these two are still injury risks coming into the year. If winning 100 games last year proved anything, it’s that Cardinals devil magic is real. I can’t see them doing that again. In my heart I know the Cardinals can’t be bad, they’ll call up some unknown rookie to replace the injured or underperforming player and he’ll exceed all expectations; but my brain is telling me this is the weakest Cardinals team in a long time and their division rivals are much better than them. So again, I am betting against the house, I’m going against Devil magic, and this is still somehow the lowest I can rank this team.