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.
30: Milwaukee Brewers– They’re a rebuilding team in a tough division, outside of their “Watch the Game with Your Dog and Eat a Free Dog” promotion and their mascot Hank, they don’t have much to look forward to in the immediate future. They have two established stars in Ryan Braun and Jonathan Lucroy, one with a tarnished reputation and one already packing his bags, and basically no one else. This team looks like the discarded extras of the Astros, when they were bottom of the league. It worked out for Detroit, but for every JD Martinez there’s Nameless Player A we don’t hear of ever again. The pitching staff is lead by Matt Garza, not a good thing to say about a rotation in 2016. Wily Peralta clocks in as one of the hardest throwing hurlers in baseball, but he’s still pretty terrible. It’s not all bad, Scooter Gennet is still one of the coolest names in baseball and their logo is still the best as well; but Miller is a bad beer and so is this team.
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.
Instead of doing the more traditional rain dance, Bautista does the HR dance to help teammates.
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.
I came across this photo and I really liked it. The black and white contrasts, the pitcher and catcher warming up, the ball in the air, how the light seems to be act like a spot light, and the batter waiting, observing it all. It was also fun tracking down what game this was – Ted Williams is the batter, and it’s Boston vs. Sox in old Comiskey Park – but when? Its 2-1 top of the 6th but I couldn’t quite make out the right side of the score board until an eagle-eyed friend pointed out that the last two columns were the #s of the battery mates of each team – Billy Pierce and Sherm Lollar for the White Sox, and Frank Sullivan and Pete Daley for the Red Sox. Then it was easy to find via the Baseball Reference website.
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.
On the left a handsome baseball GM. On the right Brad Pitt. I can’t tell the difference anymore.
30. Philadelphia Phillies
Jimmy Rollin’s 15 year tenure with the Phillies is over, but it’s only the beginning. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Rollins, a grown man, called himself Jimmy when playing for the city of Philly, he was a poet and he know it. Sources tell us he’s officially going by Jim now that he’s a Dodger. The Phillies are in fire sale mode, everyone is on the chopping block but no one wants to negotiate with Amaro Jr. Chase Utley’s still on the team and wants to retire a Phillie, but so did Rollins and he’s already gone. I don’t think too many fans would be sad to see Ryan Howard leave, but his burdensome contract should keep him in the cheesesteak capital for 2 more years at least. Cole Hamels is still a stud, but my gut tells me he won’t be on the team next year. Behind Hamels in the rotation is Cliff Lee. The Phillies tried rushing him back from injury last year to increase his trade value, but it had the opposite effect. I want to say he’ll bounce back, but I never imagined Halladay would disappear as quick as he did, so I’ll remain skeptical. The Phillies then have…Aaron Harang and 2 starters I don’t know. Maybe Dominic Brown finally puts together sustained success, maybe Ryan Howard finally bounces back to his old self, maybe Jonathan Papelbon stops being terrible. The best scenario for this team would be a bolstered farm system and the first overall pick.
I’m worried. 2015 is supposed to be our year. David Wright thinks we’ll be in the playoffs, Sandy Alderson thinks we’ll improve by 10 wins, and people on ESPN are saying the Mets are better than the Yankees. For the past couples seasons this was the year people have been saying the Mets will rise from mediocrity and head to the playoffs, but I’m worried.
Special thanks to contributing writer James Boyce.
In the playoffs I’ll be rooting for the Pirates and the Royals.
Teams Rankings (previous month)
1. Angels (1) – Best overall record.
2. Nationals (4) – Best record in the NL and best record in September at 19-8.
3. Orioles (3) – Top spot in AL East.
4. Dodgers (5) – Top spot in NL West, plus they have Kershaw, though as wonderful as he’s been in the regular season, his post season ERA is 4.23.
5. Cardinals (10) – Top spot in NL Central and fended off…
6. Pirates (14) – an equally hot Pirates team on the last day. Hosting WC game.
7. Tigers (9) – Top spot in AL Central and fended off…
8. Kansas City (6) – an equally hot Royals team on the last day, but back in the playoffs for the first time in 29 years. Hosting WC game.
9. Giants (11) – Visiting the Pirates in WC battle.
10. Athletics (2) – Visiting the Royals in WC battle. Had awful September. Limped into playoffs, holding off Mariners on last day.
Who I want to win the AL
1. Kansas City Royals
2. Oakland Athletics
3. LA Angels
4. Baltimore Orioles
5. Detroit Tigers