Tag Archives: Red Sox

3rd Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: Arizona Diamondbacks

Up next in our preview of all 30 MLB teams leading up to the start of the 2017 season is the NL West, with the Arizona Diamondbacks, who came in fourth place last season, up first for the division

After a disappointing season in 2016 when they failed to win 70 games, the Diamondbacks hope to live up to the expectations people had for them last year in 2017. To achieve that, they made one major move this winter, a trade with the Mariners. In the deal, the Diamondbacks acquired SS Ketel Marte and SP Taijuan Walker in exchange for a package highlighted by SS Jean Segura, who the Diamondbacks traded for last offseason. Marte is in a competition with Nick Ahmed and Chris Owings for the starting shortstop job and Walker will slot in near the top of the rotation, behind ace Zack Greinke. The team also signed C Jeff Mathis and RP Fernando Rodney and claimed OF Jeremy Hazelbaker off waivers from the Cardinals, though he likely will just provide depth in the outfield rather than be an everyday starter, at least to begin the season.

The Diamondbacks finished tied for seventh in Major League Baseball with a .261 batting average last season but their 190 home runs put them around the middle of the pack, as did their .752 OPS. Among their best hitters was perennial all-star 1B Paul Goldschmidt, who hit .297 with 24 home runs and a .899 OPS (10th best in the National League); his WAR was 4.8. While those are good numbers, they were down significantly from his 2015 performance that earned him a second-place finish in NL MVP voting that season. OF Yasmany Tomas led the team with 31 home runs while hitting .272 for a .820 OPS. 3B Jake Lamb showed power, hitting 29 home runs to go along with a .249 average. Ahmed played in 90 games, hitting just .218 with 4 home runs. As for his competition for the starting job at the position, Owings went .277 with 5 home runs in 119 games and Marte hit .259 with 1 home run in 119 games with the Mariners.

The pitching staff posted a MLB-worst 5.09 ERA, but their 1,518 strikeouts finished in the top half of the majors. The bullpen recorded the fourth-fewest saves in MLB with 31. Greinke did not perform to the level people expected him to after signing a nine-figure contract with the Diamondbacks in free agency last winter. He put up a 4.37 ERA — his worst since posting a 5.80 mark back in 2005, his second season in the league — and struck out 134 batters in 158.2 innings over 26 starts. And it pretty much goes down from there for the rest of the rotation, with the possible exception of SP Robbie Ray, who had 218 strikeouts — tied for the ninth-most in the majors — in 174.1 innings, but that went with a poor 4.90 ERA. SP Shelby Miller, who the D-backs traded top prospect Dansby Swanson for last season, started just 20 games because he was sent down to the minors during the season as a result of putting up a 6.15 ERA with just 70 strikeouts in 101 innings. Walker made 25 starts with Seattle, compiling a 4.22 ERA with 119 strikeouts in 134.1 innings. Things weren’t much better in the bullpen. RP Brad Ziegler led the team with 18 saves. He posted a 2.82 ERA with 27 strikeouts in 38.1 innings before being traded to the Red Sox in July. Other than him, the relievers didn’t pitch well, with many of them posting ERAs above 4.00 and 5.00. Splitting time between the Padres and Marlins last season, Rodney went 25-for-28 in save opportunities while posting a 3.44 ERA with 74 strikeouts in 65.1 innings.

One reason to be optimistic about the Diamondbacks’ 2017 season is injuries were one reason why they underperformed last season, with OFs A.J. Pollock and David Peralta limited to 12 and 48 games, respectively. While they both could be ready to play on Opening Day, or shortly after, Tomas strained his oblique earlier this month and doesn’t have a timetable for a return, which means his status for Opening Day is in question. If the outfielders can stay healthy and on the field for the bulk of the season, it would provide a boost to the offense and take some of the pressure off of Goldschmidt to carry the team.

Walker should help improve the team’s pitching, but Greinke and Miller need to pitch better to keep the Diamondbacks in the games that they start. If Ray can lower his ERA, he could become a top pitcher with his ability to strike out hitters. Although his ERA was higher than you’d like to see from a closer, Rodney’s other numbers were pretty good so he will improve the bullpen if he can have another season like that, but he recently turned 40 so that could be asking a lot out of the veteran.

The Diamondbacks are better than they were last year, but how much better their record ends up being largely lies with the starting pitching. Greinke returning to form will be key to their success and ability to compete with the likes of the Dodgers and Giants in the division. I’m not convinced they’re as good as those teams, but it should at least be closer than it was last season.

Be sure to check back every day around 12pm Eastern for another team preview, see them all here, and follow me on Twitter for a link to each new post when it’s posted.

Source: http://www.dbacks.comhttp://www.baseball-reference.com

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3rd Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: Chicago White Sox

The AL Central teams are up next in our monthlong series previewing all 30 MLB teams leading up to the start of the 2017 season, with the Chicago White Sox, who came in fourth place in the division last season, up first.

The White Sox are clearly looking toward the future, having traded one of the best pitchers in Major League Baseball and one of the team’s best hitters this offseason. The team traded SP Chris Sale to the Red Sox for a package of four players highlighted by 3B Yoan Moncada, then a day later traded OF Adam Eaton to the Nationals in exchange for SP Lucas Giolito and two other players. Moncada and Giolito are the players acquired in those deals who are closest to being in the majors, but neither is guaranteed to end up with a roster spot when the season starts. The team signed SP Derek Holland, who will likely slot into the bottom of the rotation while SP Jose Quintana is the definitive No. 1 starter with Sale in Boston. 1B Jose Abreu and 3B Todd Frazier will lead the offensive attack for the White Sox. The offense will be without 2B Brett Lawrie, who the White Sox released in March after one season with the team.

The White Sox finished in the top half of MLB last season with a .257 average, but their 168 home runs were the ninth fewest in the majors. The team’s .727 OPS also finished in the bottom 10 of the league. Abreu was the team’s best hitter overall, hitting .293 with 25 home runs and a .820 OPS. Frazier led the team in home runs with a career-high 40  — eighth-most in the majors — but that went with a career-low .225 average, 30 points lower than what he hit in 2015. Frazier finished the season with a .767 OPS. OF Melky Cabrera hit. 296 with 14 home runs.

The pitchers posted a 4.10 ERA, which placed them near the middle of the league. They finished the season with a below-average 1,270 strikeouts, and the bullpen ended up with 43 saves, which was right on the MLB average. Quintana led the starting rotation with a 3.20 ERA. He also struck out 181 batters in 208 innings in 32 starts. Young SP Carlos Rodon started 28 games and put up decent numbers, a 4.04 ERA and 168 strikeouts in 165 innings. SP Miguel Gonzalez put up a 3.73 ERA. With the Rangers last year, Holland pitched in 22 games — 20 starts — with a 4.95 ERA and 67 strikeouts in 107.1 innings. RP David Robertson saved 37 games in 44 opportunities, to go along with a 3.47 ERA and 75 strikeouts in 62. 1 innings. RP Nate Jones had a good season in a setup role, throwing 70.2 innings with a 2.29 ERA and 80 strikeouts.

There’s a lot of youth in the White Sox lineup this season, with the likes of SS Tim Anderson and C Omar Narvaez expected to get the starting jobs at their positions coming out of spring training. OF Charlie Tilson was also on track to land a starting job, but a recent foot injury will likely prevent that from happening. Abreu and Frazier are likely going to have to carry the team offensively as the young players adapt to major-league pitching. Quintana is a viable ace, but without Sale there’s not a strong No. 2 to slot in behind him. Rodon could eventually be that guy, but he has been pretty inconsistent in his first two seasons in the league. He’ll have to step up if he wants to be that guy to put up good numbers behind Quintana in the rotation. Robertson and Jones should be able to keep a lead when they get one handed to them, if they continue to pitch like they did last year.

Being in the same division as the Twins could be the only thing that saves the White Sox from being a last-place team this year. After trading away Sale and Eaton, the White Sox are clearly going to take a step backwards this season and are probably looking at 70-75 wins after winning 78 games in 2016. It’s a period of rebuilding for the White Sox that is probably going to take at least another couple of years, so White Sox fans should expect sub-.500 teams for the foreseeable future.

Be sure to check back every day around 12pm Eastern for another team preview, see them all here, and follow me on Twitter for a link to each new post when it’s posted.

Source: http://www.whitesox.comhttp://www.baseball-reference.com

 

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3rd Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: Milwaukee Brewers

Our look at the NL Central teams, part of our continuing series previewing all 30 MLB teams leading up to the start of the 2017 season, continues with the Milwaukee Brewers, who finished in fourth place in the division last season.

The Brewers are coming off of two straight fourth-place finishes in which they finished more than 30 games back of the division champs. They had a fairly quiet offseason, with the most impactful move possibly being adding RP Neftali Feliz to serve as their closer. The team also made a trade that sent RP Tyler Thornburg to the Red Sox in exchange for a package highlighted by 3B Travis Shaw. The team also traded for C Jett Bandy, who is essentially replacing C Jonathan Lucroy, who the Brewers traded to the Rangers at the trade deadline last season. OF Ryan Braun continues to be a veteran presence on a largely inexperienced team.

The Brewers struggled offensively in 2016, with their .244 team average ending up as the fourth-worst in Major League Baseball. They were better with their power, hitting 194 home runs, which was higher than the MLB average of 187, which helped them finish around the middle of the league with a .729 OPS; 41 of those home runs were hit by 1B Chris Carter, who is now with the Yankees. Braun had his best season since 2012 at the plate, hitting .305 — 10th in the National League — with 30 home runs and a .903 OPS, which was ninth-best in the NL. SS Jonathan Villar, who is sliding over to second base this season, hit .285 with 19 home runs, but his biggest value came on the bases, collecting a MLB-best 62 steals, which helped him earn a 3.9 WAR. With the Red Sox last season, Shaw hit .242 with 16 home runs.

The pitching staff finished a bit better than league average with a 4.08 ERA, but the pitchers had the third-fewest strikeouts in the majors with 1,175, and the bullpen recorded an above-average 46 saves. SP Junior Guerra led the staff with a 2.81 ERA and 100 strikeouts in 121.2 innings. SP Jimmy Nelson led the team in strikeouts with 140 in 179.1 innings while posting a 4.62 ERA. SP Zach Davies had a 3.97 ERA and 135 strikeouts in 163.1 innings. RP Jeremy Jeffress recorded 27 saves with a 2.22 ERA and 35 strikeouts in 44.2 innings over 47 games. With the Pirates, Feliz struck out 61 batters in 53.2 innings to go along with a 3.52 ERA.

Going from Lucroy to Bandy, who hit .234 in limited playing time with the Angels last year, is a significant offensive downgrade at the catcher position, but putting Shaw in at third in place of Aaron Hill should provide the team with more power at the hot corner, but probably not enough to make up for Lucroy’s lost production. Braun is likely a key to how successful the offense will be in 2017. He had somewhat of a rebirth at the plate last season and the team needs him to repeat his performance this season to have any chance of a good offense in 2017, but it would hurt the team if Braun regresses toward the numbers he had been putting up in the 2013-2015 time frame because the team counts on him to be its leader at the plate.

The pitching staff lacks a true ace, with Guerra slotted into the No. 1 spot. He pitched well last year in his rookie season, so if he can pitch to a sub-3.00 ERA again in 2017 he could earn that “ace” label, but I need to see him do it again before believing it. Davies is going to have to see a significant improvement this season to solidify the No. 2 position in the rotation because posting a nearly-4.00 ERA doesn’t cut it in the NL. Veteran SP Matt Garza sits at the backend of the rotation, but don’t expect him to last there all season. He is coming off of two mediocre seasons and will likely wind up in the bullpen at some point, giving way to a another pitcher to get a chance to start — probably Chase Anderson, who made 30 starts last season but currently is listed sixth on the starting-pitching depth chart. Feliz is coming off of the two worst seasons of his career so he may not last the full season as the closer, but there’s no young prospect behind him in the bullpen waiting for the opportunity to replace him.

While the Cubs and Cardinals are at the top of the division, the Brewers will again be battling with the Reds to avoid finishing in the basement in the NL Central. They just don’t have enough talent to win enough games to be competitive. If they’re lucky, they may win 70-75 games, but that may even be a little on the high side of expectations.

Let me know your thoughts by commenting below. And be sure to subscribe, check back every day around 12pm Eastern for another team preview, see them all here, and follow me on Twitter for a link to each new post when it’s posted.

Source: http://www.brewers.comhttp://www.baseball-reference.com

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3rd Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: Toronto Blue Jays

Our AL East team previews, part of previewing all 30 MLB teams leading up to the start of the 2017 season, conclude with a look at the Toronto Blue Jays, who came in third place in the division last season.

Coming off two straight ALCS appearances, both ending in losses, the Blue Jays are looking to take the next step and make it to their first World Series since winning back-to-back titles in 1992-93. Perhaps their biggest free-agent signing toward achieving that goal was re-signing one of their own players in inking OF Jose Bautista to a new deal in free agency. The team also signed veteran DH Kendrys Morales, who is essentially replacing 1B/DH Edwin Encarnacion, who signed with the Indians in January. The team also lost OF Michael Saunders, who signed with the Phillies. Other than those changes, the roster looks pretty similar to what it was last season, with 2015 American League MVP Josh Donaldson manning third base, SS Troy Tulowitzki up the middle of the infield and SP Aaron Sanchez leading the starting rotation.

The Blue Jays ranked in the bottom 10 in Major League Baseball with a .248 batting average in 2016, but they hit the fourth most home runs, with 221, which helped finish in the top 10 with a .755 OPS. That home run total was helped in part by Encarnacion, whose 42 home runs led the team. Donaldson had the next highest homer total on the squad, with 37 to go along with a .284 batting average and .953 OPS; his 7.4 WAR was the fifth-best in the majors. Bautista had a below-average year last season, hitting 22 home runs with a .234 average and .817 OPS. 2B Devon Travis led the team with a .300 average to go along with 11 home runs on the season, while Tulowitzki smashed 24 homers. With the Royals last season, Morales hit .263 with 30 home runs.

The pitching staff posted a 3.78 ERA, which ranked as No. 6 in the league, but was near the league average with 1,314 strikeouts. The bullpen matched the MLB average with 43 saves, 36 of them from young RP Roberto Osuna, who had a 2.68 ERA with 82 strikeouts in 74 innings. In his first full season as a starter, Sanchez posted a 3.00 ERA and notched 161 strikeouts in 192 innings en route to a 15-2 record in 30 starts. SP Marcus Stroman, who was coming off a 2015 season in which an injury limited him to just four appearances, didn’t meet expectations coming back from the injury. He posted a 4.37 ERA and struck out 166 batters in 204 innings over 32 starts. SP J.A. Happ had a surprisingly strong season, becoming a 20-game winner for the first time in his career as he pitched to a 3.18 ERA with 163 strikeouts in 195 innings.

Losing Encarnacion and his 42 home runs is a blow to the offense, but Morales will make up the slack for most of those, and if Bautista can return to his 25-30+ home run totals he would also help the Blue Jays make up for those lost home runs, but at 36 years old 20-25 home runs may be the new normal for him as he gets older. On the mound, Stroman needs to bounce back from his subpar 2016 to help give the team a good 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation because Happ likely can’t be counted on to repeat the success he had last season as he will likely regress back toward his 3.98 career ERA. Slotting in toward the back of the rotation is SP Francisco Liriano, who has been too inconsistent in his career to be relied upon as a strong option in the rotation. Outside of Osuna, the bullpen consists of mainly mediocre relievers who have had moderate success in the majors.

The offense should continue to do well at the plate this season, but the pitching staff has some concerns. Even if Stroman is able to bounce back this year, which I expect him to, I don’t trust the rotation beyond him and Sanchez. I think the team is going to have to trade for starting pitching before the deadline to solidify the middle of the rotation to have a real shot to compete in an AL East that will likely be led by the Red Sox, with the Orioles and Yankees also looking to contend for the playoffs. Likewise, a lack of quality depth in the bullpen will cause problems for the Blue Jays if Osuna suffers an injury during the season. I still think the Blue Jays have a shot at securing a wild card in the American League, but questions on the mound should concern the team.

Be sure to check back every day around 12pm Eastern for another team preview, see them all here, and follow me on Twitter for a link to each new post when it’s posted.

Source: http://www.bluejays.comhttp://www.baseball-reference.com

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3rd Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: Tampa Bay Rays

Our previews of the AL East teams, part of our look at all 30 MLB teams leading up to the start of the 2017 season, continue with the Tampa Bay Rays, who finished in last place in the division last season.

After finally finding some success from 2008-2013, the Rays are coming off of three straight seasons of sub-.500 baseball; last season’s 68-94 mark is the team’s worst record since winning 66 games in 2007. Entering 2017, it doesn’t seem like the team will right the ship anytime soon. The biggest free-agent acquisitions this offseason were OF Colby Rasmus and C Wilson Ramos, who is recovering from ACL surgery and won’t be ready to play until sometime in the May to July timeframe, with the date varying by different reports. Among the team’s losses are SP Drew Smyly and 2B Logan Forsythe, who were traded to the Mariners and Dodgers, respectively, for mainly minor-leaguers. In the deals, the Rays did acquire P Jose De Leon, who should get a chance to compete for the fifth slot in the rotation, and OF Mallex Smith, who will provide some depth in the outfield as a backup and spot starter. 3B Evan Longoria remains the one offensive star on the team. Top-of-the-rotation SP Chris Archer is also still with the team despite being mentioned as part of trade speculation this winter.

The Rays’ .243 batting average was the third-worst in Major League Baseball, but they were closer to the middle of the pack with a .733 OPS thanks to their 216 home runs ranking sixth in the majors. Longoria’s .273 batting average led the team’s starters, while his 36 home runs also led the team. He also had a .840 OPS, and his 41 doubles ranked as No. 6 in the American League while his 330 total bases were eighth most in the AL. SS Brad Miller was second on the team with 30 home runs — a vast improvement from the 11 he hit in 2015 — but hit just .243, which was a 15-point drop-off from the year before. OF/DH Corey Dickerson added  another 24 home runs. The team’s 4.20 ERA was just below the MLB-average 4.18 ERA and the team’s 1,357 strikeouts finished in the top 10. The bullpen’s 42 saves put the team near the bottom of the league. Archer had a disappointing year after three strong seasons; he posted a 4.02 ERA but still totaled 233 strikeouts over 201.1 innings that resulted in a 9-19 record in 33 starts. SP Jake Odorizzi put up a 3.69 ERA with 166 strikeouts in 187.2 innings. He made 33 starts and posted a 10-6 record, the only starter to finish the season with double-digit wins and a record above .500. After getting the call-up around midseason, rookie SP Blake Snell made 19 starts and put up decent numbers: a 3.54 ERA with 98 strikeouts in 89 innings. RP Alex Colome led the bullpen with 37 saves to go along with a 1.91 ERA and 71 strikeouts in 57 appearances.

Rasmus could add some more power to the offense — he’s hit a total of 40 home runs in the last two seasons — but he hasn’t hit better than .238 in the last three seasons so he likely won’t help the team’s batting average, which is where they need to see improvement on offense. The concern with pitching lies with Archer, whose ERA last season was about a half-point worse than his career average. And there’s a question if he’ll be even be with the team by the time the season ends in early October. With trade talk surrounding him during the offseason, it seems inevitable that the chatter will pick up again around the time of the non-waiver trade deadline on July 31, but he still has several years left on a team-friendly contract so the Rays could choose to hold on to him. If Odorizzi can maintain the numbers he put up last season and if Snell can keep his performance up for an entire season, they could see an uptick in performance if Archer can get back to the performances he put up from 2013-2015 rather than the lackluster stats he had last season.

The Rays were a last-place team last season, and that’s likely where they’ll finish again this season. As mentioned in previous previews, the AL East is a tough division and the Rays are the worst team in it. The Red Sox are looking to be one of the best teams in the league, and the Blue Jays, Yankees and Orioles all appear to be playoff contenders, leaving the Rays in the basement of the division. They don’t have the hitting to keep up with the strong offenses in the division.

Be sure to check back every day around 12pm Eastern for another team preview, see them all here, and follow me on Twitter for a link to each new post when it’s posted.

Source: http://www.tampabayrays.comhttp://www.baseball-reference.com

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3rd Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: New York Yankees

Our previews of the AL East teams, part of looking at all 30 MLB teams leading up to the start of the 2017 season, continue with the New York Yankees, who finished in fourth place in the division last season.

Although they finished six games over .500 last season, the Yankees finished in fourth place in the division for the first time since 1992. They’re in the middle of a youth movement, though, following the retirements of DH Alex Rodriguez and 1B Mark Teixeira. Also gone from the team are veteran OF Carlos Beltran and C Brian McCann — who both went to the Astros, Beltran in free agency and McCann in exchange for a couple of minor-leaguers. One reason the Yankees traded McCann is because one of the first of the young Yankees to come up to the majors back on August 3 was C Gary Sanchez, who got the call-up and performed well at the plate. Sanchez is expected to be joined by a couple more rookies this season, with 1B Greg Bird and OF Aaron Judge looking likely to begin the season as starters at their positions. They’ll be joining veterans like OF Jacoby Ellsbury, 3B Chase Headley, and new Yankee Matt Holliday, who is likely to spend a lot of time as a DH after signing a one-year deal with the team this winter. The other notable free-agent acquisition made by the Yankees this offseason is RP Aroldis Chapman, who is returning to the Bronx after being traded to the Cubs at the trade deadline last season; the closer signed a five-year deal.

The Yankees’ .252 batting average was slightly below the MLB average of .255 and their .720 OPS ranked in the bottom 10 as a result of hitting just 183 home runs, which put them in the bottom half of the majors. After coming up in early August, Sanchez hit .299 with 20 home runs and a 1.032 OPS with a 3.0 WAR. Those 20 home runs were the third most on the team, putting him just two behind team leader Beltran and one behind 2B Starlin Castro. Ellsbury hit .260 with 9 home runs and 20 steals for the year while OF Brett Gardner hit .261 with 7 home runs.

The Yankees’ 4.16 ERA finished barely better than the league average of 4.18, helped by a strong performance by the bullpen. In his 31 games with the Yankees before being traded, Chapman posted a 2.01 ERA with 20 saves and 44 strikeouts in 31.1 innings (including his time in Chicago, he notched 36 saves on the season with a 1.55 ERA and 90 strikeouts in 58 innings). RP Dellin Betances, who got some time in the closer’s role after the team traded both Chapman and RP Andrew Miller, struck out an impressive 126 batters — which led all relievers in the majors — in 73 innings with a 3.08 ERA in 12 saves. The rotation didn’t do as well, beset by injuries and subpar performances. SP Masahiro Tanaka was the best of the bunch, and his numbers aren’t what you want to see from your ace. He posted a 3.07 ERA with 165 strikeouts in 199.2 innings. SP CC Sabathia had one of his best seasons in a while, but that resulted in a 3.91 ERA with 152 strikeouts in 179.2 innings. It just gets worse from there with SP Michael Pineda going 6-12 with a 4.82 ERA in 175.2 innings over 32 starts. Pineda did rack up strikeouts, with 207 of them on the season.

The offense will look pretty different from last season with guys like Sanchez and Bird replacing the likes of Beltran and Teixeira. One problem you have with young hitters is you don’t know how they’ll adjust to major-league pitching. Sanchez did well for the two months he was in the majors last season and if he can replicate that, it will give the Yankees strong production out of a position that doesn’t usually feature a lot of offensive ability. As long as the rookies don’t entirely flame out, the Yankees should at least increase their home run totals this year, and potentially their overall offense. The pitching, however, is a different story. Without acquiring any starting pitching, the rotation is likely to struggle again this season. The best shot at improvement could be with P Luis Severino, who split time between the rotation and bullpen but is expected to be a full-time starter in 2017. Chapman and Betances should be able to anchor the bullpen well this year, whenever they get a lead handed over to them.

The Yankees are in a tough division — as evidenced by a fourth-place finish despite winning 84 games — so, while the team should be improved this season, it’ll be hard to make the playoffs coming out of the division. They’ll likely be fighting with the Red Sox, Orioles and Blue Jays for positioning, but I think the Yankees are — at best — the third-best team in the division, behind Boston and Toronto. Without a strong rotation, I can’t see them winning many more games than they did last year. If they can trade for a top-of-the-rotation guy by the deadline, maybe they’ll compete for a wild card in the American League, but without that I don’t see it happening. Still a year or two away from returning to the postseason.

Be sure to check back every day around 12pm Eastern for another team preview, see them all here, and follow me on Twitter for a link to each new post when it’s posted.

Source: http://www.yankees.comhttp://www.baseball-reference.com

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3rd Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: Boston Red Sox

Our previews of the AL East teams, part of our look at all 30 MLB teams leading up to the start of the 2017 season, continue with the Boston Red Sox, who won the division last season.

Winning 93 games and the division last season apparently wasn’t enough to appease the Red Sox — maybe they didn’t like getting swept in the ALDS — so they went out and traded four minor leaguers, including 3B Yoan Moncada, to the White Sox for one of the best starting pitchers in the game, five-time all-star Chris Sale. They also traded for RP Tyler Thornburg to help shore up the bullpen and signed 2016 Gold Glove-winning 1B Mitch Moreland to take over at the position, replacing Hanley Ramirez, who slides over to take on the DH role after the retirement of long-time Red Sox DH David Ortiz. With Sale joining the team, SP Clay Buchholz became expendable so the team traded him to the Phillies this winter in exchange for a minor-league infielder.

The Red Sox led MLB with a .282 batting average and .810 OPS last season while their 208 home runs ranked ninth in the majors. Much of that offense came from Ortiz, who hit .315 with 38 home runs, so his absence will be felt by the team. Outside of Ortiz, OF Mookie Betts put up the team’s best offensive numbers; his .318 batting average was the second-highest in the American League and his .897 OPS was eighth in the league. He also hit 31 home runs and ranked second in the league with 214 hits. HIs 9.6 WAR was second-best in the majors. After a disappointing 2015, Ramirez bounced back with a .286 average and .866 OPS to go along with 30 home runs, the second-highest homer total of his career. 2B Dustin Pedroia also improved upon his injury-shortened 2015 campaign with a .318 average, .825 OPS and 15 home runs to go along with a 5.6 WAR. And OF Jackie Bradley Jr. had a career year, hitting .267 with a .835 OPS, 26 home runs and a 5.3 WAR. He ranked third in the AL with 7 triples. OF Andrew Benintendi showed some promising signs in 34 games, hitting .295 with 2 home runs.

The pitching staff also did well for the Red Sox last season, finishing with a 4.00 ERA, eighth-best in the majors. The staff also ranked in the top 10 with 1,362 strikeouts, but the bullpen was closer to the middle of the pack with 43 saves on the season. The team signed SP David Price in the 2015 offseason, expecting him to be the ace of the staff and while he pitched well, he was outperformed by SP Rick Porcello, who took home 2016 AL Cy Young honors in what was by far the best season of his career. He posted a 3.15 ERA with 189 strikeouts in 223 innings on the way to a MLB-best 22-4 record. He had 3 complete games, which was tied for the fifth most in the majors, and finished the year with a 5.0 WAR. Price went 17-9 with a 3.99 ERA, but his other stats suggest that he had a better performance than that. His 230 innings led the majors and his 228 strikeouts placed him seventh in baseball. Knuckleballing SP Steven Wright also put up good numbers in his first full season in the big leagues; he went 13-3 in 24 games with a 3.33 ERA and 127 strikeouts over 156.2 innings. He threw 4 complete games, which was tied for third most in the majors. RP Craig Kimbrel saved 31 games out of the bullpen, posting a 3.40 ERA with 83 strikeouts in 53 innings over 57 appearances.

Adding Sale to a rotation that already includes Price and Porcello makes for a formidable combination. Add in Wright, who can throw a lot of innings as a knuckleballer, and the Red Sox probably have one of the best starting rotations in the game. Price could be a concern, though, as he had to take time off during spring training for a potential elbow issue. After getting a second opinion from Dr. James Andrews, it was determined not to be require surgery at the time, but it could cause him to miss time during the season. The offense has a lot of home runs to make up for with the loss of Ortiz, but Moreland should be able to hit 20-25 and some of the team’s young hitters could increase their power output as they gain more experience at the major-league level. 3B Pablo Sandoval has been playing well this spring and looks to possibly have a resurgence at the plate this season after playing just three games in 2016. With strong starting pitching and an offense that can hit for contact and power, the team should have many leads to hand over to the bullpen. Although he had a bit of a down year in 2016, Kimbrel was one of the game’s top closers for several years and should be able to finish out many of those games when he inherits a lead.

The Red Sox won 93 games and improved their team with the moves they made in the offseason so — even without Ortiz — they are likely the best team in the division. But every team, save for the Rays, should be good so even a slight regression for the Red Sox could lead them to slip in the standings. I still think they’ll win the division, with around 90 wins or so, but they could fall back to second place. They should make the playoffs, even if it’s as a wild card, but the AL East won’t be an easy division to win.

Be sure to check back every day around 12pm Eastern for another team preview, see them all here, and follow me on Twitter for a link to each new post when it’s posted.

Source: http://www.redsox.comhttp://www.baseball-reference.com

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