12. Los Angeles Angels – The team with a once in a generation talent doesn’t really have too many supporting players around him to make a dominant team. They have the worst farm system in the MLB and I can’t see them making anymore trades; so no reinforcements are coming, this is the team they’ll have all season. After Trout the two best hitters on this team are Albert Pujols, a first ballot hall of fame career but with his best years behind him, and Kole Calhoun, only an above average hitter and a name spelling nightmare. This team doesn’t have any depth and I have trouble seeing anyone on the current lineup breaking out or improving too much on their previous year, but the rotation is where I see the most room for growth. Garrett Richards wasn’t 100% percent last year and he was worth double the WAR just the year prior, I still see ace potential in him. Andrew Heaney has the pedigree and showed enough promise last year that it wouldn’t surprise me to see him as a top of the rotation starter soon. Jumble together the rest of the potential starters the Angels have available and I see something resembling a strong rotation. It should help that they have one of the best defensive shortstops now in Simmons. Mike Trout hasn’t been talented enough to carry this team to the playoffs every year, but he should be good enough to carry them within shooting distance, again. If he ever got injured this team would be in hell.
11. Cleveland Indians – This is the best rotation in the AL, but I don’t know where they’ll get run support from. Corey Kluber had 16 losses last season despite pitching on par with his 2014 Cy Young self, it had everything to do with run support. This team reminds me of the 2015 Mets and that team made it to the World Series; Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, and Danny Salazar are better, healthier, and more experienced than what deGrom, Harvey, and Syndergaard were at the start of 2015. Trevor Bauer has the pedigree and if he can hover his BB/9 closer to 3 then this team will have four very dominant pitching members. Cleveland hasn’t had a rotation this good since Wild Thing donned his signature glasses. Francisco Lindor surprised many with his offensive prowess, but his minor league track record suggests he may not be as good of a hitter as he demonstrated; still at the very least his defense is top notch and an upgrade to what the Indians had over the past few seasons. Their stud outfielder Michael Brantley is still recovering from shoulder surgery and a speedy recovery will be essential to this teams success. I’m still unsure if Carlos Santana is an elite hitter or not, but he’ll have to hit better this year to justify this ranking. One hitting prospect making an impact similar to Lindor last year isn’t too much of a stretch, and I know this team’s rotation can keep them afloat until that happens or Brantley is fully recovered. The Brandon Moss experiment is over and the team doesn’t have to rely on Bourne or Swisher dragging them down anymore. Am I putting too much stock in starting pitching? Maybe, but if I didn’t then I wouldn’t have believed in the Mets so much last year.
10. Boston Red Sox – There is no team more frustrating to rank than the Boston Red Sox. In 2013 they go from one of the worst teams in baseball to winning an emotional World Series championship. Then they go straight back to bottom of the AL East the following year. Then they go out and sign two of the biggest free agents in baseball, only to come in dead last again. ESPN ranks Boston at the top of the AL East every year, but I’m still trying to figure out where the Red Sox are going to get 15 more wins from. Some of their youngest players, Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts, led the team in WAR last year, and I know they are both young and improving, but I am not going to project even more wins from those two just yet. New pitchers Craig Kimbrel and David Price combined for around 8 WAR last year, so assuming they can reproduce that again we’re still short about 7 wins. It’s David Ortiz’s swan song year, but I’m not expecting any extra sentimental boost in his abilities. I can see gradual improvements from young players Eduardo Rodriguez, Blake Swihart, and Rusney Castillo, so I’ll lowball and add ~2 wins right there. The key for this team to add wins needs to come from last years big contracted players Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval, who were both worth negative WAR. Hanley was worth ~4 WAR during his injury plagued years with the Dodgers just 2 seasons ago and now he’ll be asked to play a much less demanding defensive position in first base this year. It shouldn’t be tough for Hanley to help his team in a positive way; Kung Fu Panda on the other hand… he was worth ~2.5 two seasons ago on the Giants, but his debut for this team couldn’t have gone any worse. Also yet again, it seems like Pablo Sandoval reported to spring training overweight, this happens every year! I like the rest of this team and I don’t want to say the fate of this team rests on chubby hands of a man who needs to learn self restraint, but Boston sure has some wicked clam chowder and Pablo most likely owns a big spoon. I think this team will do fine even without his contributions, but wow, they didn’t learn anything from that dreadful Carl Crawford signing.
9. LA Dodgers – Zach Grienke led the team in WAR last year and now he plays for a division rival, but I believe that any rotation with Clayton Kershaw is a strong rotation. Maybe the team isn’t reminiscent of the 2001 Diamondbacks anymore, but they have a lot of players that can improve on last year. Joc Pederson was a tale of two halves and needs to figure out how to make adjustments; I think Joc’s talented enough to do so, but people have already moved onto super rookie Corey Seager, Joc is old news. Corey is the younger brother to Kyle Seager and so far I think every younger brother has out performed their older brother, so I expect this trend to continue with him. There were nagging injuries that kept Yasiel Puig out for half the year, I doubt he peaked during his first two seasons. They have an intriguing lefty heavy rotation, but it seems half of their staff is recovering from injuries or made of glass. How many innings will Scott Kazmir get? I’m not sure Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson will come back and Ryu is already having some shoulder issues. I’m sure Kenta Maeda will be solid, but this team will need a bounceback from Alex Wood and some of their younger starters to continue to hold the mantle. They have a good mix of veterans and younger players and I don’t know what to expect from new skipper Dave Roberts, but he has a good team to work with.
8. Washington Nationals – If I had to choose any manager that would be a potential downgrade to Matt Williams, Dusty Baker would have been on that short list. He was gathering dust in the retirement home before he got the call from the Nationals. Harper reached his “potential” and won the MVP last year, but outside of Max Scherzer the rest of the team disappointed. Ian Desmond seemed doomed for a poor season during the opening game against the Mets when he cost Scherzer his debut, and now the Nationals will turn to promising young shortstop Trea Turner. Now that Zimmermann is gone, Zimmerman can use the power of the Zimmermen and have a good season. This rotation should be strong again with Stephen Strasburg acting as a healthy #2 in a contract year. Joe Ross looked very impressive in his short stint in the majors and Tanner Roark gets another chance in the rotation, he’s one year removed from a ~5 WAR season. With a little bit of good fortune Anthony Rendon should stay healthier this year, he’s better than what he put on the field last year, and is a year removed from being this team’s best player. They had a lot of clubhouse issues last year and Papelbon is still on the team, which shouldn’t help team chemistry. The NL East should be a two team division this year bar a surprise run from the Marlins, they have a player just as good as Trout with a much better supporting cast, Dusty just needs to keep some sort of control on the team.
7. Toronto Blue Jays – It took trading for superstars David Price and Troy Tulowitzki for the Blue Jays to find their rhythm last season, and from that point on they were dominant. A healthy Marcus Stroman is probably better than 2 months of David Price, but losing Price will hurt this team. This is the last year they’ll be able to hold onto both Bautista and Encarnacion, but with Donaldson and Tulowitzki this team has four elite hitters in the middle of the order. Kevin Pillar is a good defensive centerfieler and even if his bat doesn’t develop he’s still valuable to the team. Devon Travis is still recovering from an injury but it should be interesting to see him healthy in this lineup. Ryan Goins should perform admirably in his place and will still play when Tulowitzki eventually gets injured. JA Happ is an intriguing player, he dipped into the magic of Ray Searage and it’s still a mystery when or if he’ll ever turn back into a pumpkin. Russell Martin has enjoyed his return to his homeland, and this team has a lot of interesting options at starting pitching mixed with veterans. I still can’t really believe in this team if only because they’re the Blue Jays and it’s odd seeing them as a strong team. The AL East race is sure to be competitive this year.
6. Houston Astros – From laughing stock to powerhouse, the Philadelphia 76ers dream of a turnaround this effective. A full year of Carlos Correa should bring with him a legitimate AL MVP case threat and more young Alex Rodriguez comparisons. They should have a healthier George Springer, despite never playing a healthy season in the majors his past injuries seem like flukes, he should improve as he matures. Carlos Gomez’s injury scared off the Mets front office last year, but he should be refreshed for 2016 and he’s only 30 years old. He averaged ~6.5 WAR just two seasons ago, the Astros bought him low last year and this is the year it should pay off. They traded for Ken Giles to boost their bullpen, they have a decently strong rotation behind Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel, they have plenty of depth at every position, and they still have one of the strongest farm systems in the league. The only real weakness is first base, where Jonathan Singleton took two steps back last year, but they have exciting rookie AJ Reed as a potential replacement. There’s a lot to like about this team and they probably haven’t even reached their full potential yet.
5. New York Mets – Whether it’s coming to spring training in a different luxury car every other day or cantering onto the field horseback or buying a 7,000 hog only to make him a sandwich, Yoenis Cespedes is the superstar the Mets sports media has craved. The Mets somehow got their guy, paying only what they wanted to pay. Last year the Nationals had an unbelievable rotation, but fell short of expectations. This year the Mets have all the hype going into the year with an unbelievably strong rotation and they’re all homegrown expect for the anchor, Bartolo Colon. He’s the last remaining player in the league to have played for the Expos, crazy to think he’s even better now. The Mets are basically bringing back everyone from last year minus playoff legend Daniel Murphy. Losing him doesn’t hurt the Mets too much, but I will miss his goofy antics. I wish Cuddyer could still remain with the team in some capacity and I wish all the best for Jonathan Niese, but I don’t think this team is worse without them. A full year of Conforto will be exciting, as the outfield is a surprising strong point for the Mets outside of CF defensive play. I’d rather have Wilmer Flores as the everyday shortstop instead of Asdrúbal Cabrera, but I’m not going to cry over it. The Mets had a storybook season last year, the one draw back potentially being they may have overworked their young arms, but this year they should be even better.
4. San Francisco Giants – It’s an even year, let’s save everyone the trouble and crown the Giants the World Series champs. Chris Heston throws a no hitter and now doesn’t even have a rotation spot coming into the year, I don’t believe Peavy and Cain are better than him. They signed two pitchers coming off poor years and outside of Cardinals Devil magic and Ray Searage, even year Giant magic should resolve all of their issues and they will reform to their peak selves. They have a solid overall team with no glaring weaknesses with a healthier Hunter Pence back. Bumgarner and Buster are still in their prime and will continue with elite consistency. Are they called the Killer B’s at all? Could Brandon Crawford be apart of that nickname. I honestly believe Joe Panik and Brandon Crawford had career years last year, but they should still be plus options at their positions. There’s no way Crawford’s power carries over next year. Matt Duffy surprised everyone last year and honestly I’m surprised I don’t hate the Giants as much as I hate the Cardinals when they keep calling up random prospects and they excel. San Francisco traded in their NFL team’s wins for their NBA team, but at least every year fans can have confidence knowing their MLB team will always be competitive.
3. Kansas City Royals – I will never underestimate this team again and they’ll be bringing back almost a carbon copy roster of the team that won the World Series, I blame Lorde making them relevant again. Their rotation doesn’t impress me, but it was good enough to get to the World Series and out pitch one of the best rotations in the league! Can you tell I’m a Mets fan by how I compare and make references to them in every team blurb yet?! Their defense helps this staff as fly balls go to die and Yordano Ventura may be immature, but he was lights out over his final eight starts of the season. I guess RF is weak, I’m not really sure who will be playing there for them, but it’ll probably be a platoon. Their bullpen didn’t skip a beat despite losing Greg Holland to injuries and it should carry over for them this year. I remember when Lorenzo Cain batting 3rd was a questionable move during their first playoff run, but then the next year he was their best player. Omar Infante is an all star in my eyes, let’s start voting him into the All-Star game right now. The Royals look to add another year to their dynasty.
2. Pittsburgh Pirates – Hopefully this team doesn’t end up in the wildcard game again, but with the way the Cubs look they seem doomed to return. Their outfield is still the best in baseball and it feels like the two corner outfielders are still improving their game. A healthy Andrew McCutchen should always be in consideration for the NL MVP. They lost AJ Burnett and their firstbase situation is weak, but this team is very similar to the team on the field last year. They don’t have the best rotation depth behind Cole and Liriano, but they do have the best pitching coach and a couple guys in the minor leagues that can make an impact. Those players probably won’t be called up until the summer because of their frugal owner, but it hasn’t stopped them from making the playoffs in the past. It feels like Pittsburgh trades with the NY baseball teams all the time, and with the success of Cervelli and Burnett I hope Niese follows a similar path. Their infield is weak, especially if Jung Ho Kang isn’t 100%, the slide that took him out was just as dirty as Chase Utely’s World Series slide and I’m glad MLB has changed the rules concerning the fact. This team won 98 games last year and didn’t even place first in the division, but I have a feeling that this team will be better than last year. This team deserves more than one game in the playoffs, but they’ll have a tough time getting past their division rival juggernauts.
1. Chicago Cubs – Well this team is stacked. It feels like every free agent wants to be on the Cubs when they finally break the curse. If there’s a weakness to this team I’m not seeing it, but if I nitpick I guess Lester could work on picking off a player? Kyle Schwarber is a terrible defensive left fielder, but outside him they have above average or great defense at every position! Many of their players strike out a lot, but many of their hitters are still young and adjusting. Arrieta has a lot of innings on his arm from last year and he showed fatigue in the playoffs, but he also won the Cy Young last year. I thought they had no back up SP in case of an injury before I forgot they traded for Adam Warren. Is their bullpen weak? It certainly isn’t one of their strong points, but it’s no where near a liability. Offensively this is one of the best teams in baseball and their starting pitching is led by two very good pitchers. Maybe John Lackey can’t repeat on his numbers last year, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see Hammel and Kendricks improve. Super rookie Addison Russell will bat 9th because he’s their worst hitter, outside the pitcher, but a player as talented as him usually bats atop the order in most lineups. I liked Anthony Rizzo before seeing this unique interview, but now I think he’s just boring. Jorge Soler and Javier Baez are on their bench! Back to the Future II got the year wrong, this team is talented, young, and has a ton of depth and even if everything goes wrong it’s still tough seeing this team winning less than 90 games. Just two years ago I had this team ranked 30th on my MLB rankings, a lot can change in two years. I’m going to miss the curse, but it’s only a matter of time until this team wins a World Series, it is impossible for them to screw things up at this point. (Hopefully this jinxed them; long live the curse of the Billy Goat!)