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.
So the first month of baseball is technically over, but because the season started so late the first month hasn’t really finished yet. I looked into some players off to great starts to the season and I used fangraphs for all the stats mentioned in my post.
Nelson Cruz – Well it’s official, I was dead wrong on Cruz. Seattle is where hitters go to die! Cano couldn’t even get to 15 HRs last year and Cruz moving from the hitter friendly Camden Yards to Safeco was supposed to reduce his power, not increase it! He’s hitting fly balls 14% more than last year and his ground ball rate is down by 8%, so the spike in HRs makes sense. Those rates usually don’t stabilize until ~170 PAs and he’s only half way to that mark. His HR/FB is high, but if he can keep generating this many FBs then he might even eclipse last years 40 HRs…he only needs 30 more to go. His walk and strikeout rates look right around career average and he’s swinging a little less outside the strike zone while increasing his contact rate. His age, injury history, and home park gave me concern going into the season, but the stats show there’s little to dislike.
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.
12. New York Yankees
I really like Brett Gardner. He visited a kid in the hospital one time and the kids asked him to hit a HR for him. Gardner probably panicked for a second, but he agreed (what is he going to do, say no?) and if you know anything about Gardner then you know he isn’t the best HR hitter. But that night he got an inside the park HR, he didn’t look up at the 3rd base coach, he was sprinting home. He was doing it for the kids. Gardner just doesn’t seem like a typical Yankee does he? No power and homegrown, but at least he’s a lefty…not that he takes too much of an advantage of the short RF porch. So I’m glad the Yankees extended Gardner this offseason…and signed 2 other OFs. This OF is pretty good, let me just look at this infield…sweet Jesus it’s terrible. When Derek Jeter isn’t even your most injury risk player, see glass man Brain Roberts and not starting the season because already injured Teixeira, well let’s just say Kelly Johnson is starting to look like the rock this team needs, which isn’t reassuring anyone. The Brian McCain signing makes sense, but this is a guy who took years to figure out that maybe using contact lenses/getting lasik surgery could help him see a ball and hit it better. He even played catcher…at least he’s not as blind as Mark Reynolds. They desperately needed Tanaka, and got him. So their 2 best pitchers this year will probably both be Japanese. CC Sabathia got a whole lot skinnier, but he’s been getting a whole lot worse too. Maybe more weight equals better pitcher. Bartolo Colon knows what’s up, he’s even come into spring training overweight…I smell a Cy Young. He smell’s NY city pizza. Just the fact that Arod isn’t on this team makes me think the Yankee club house will be a whole lot better.
“You guys told me older players>younger players! What am I doing on the bench?!”