Tag Archives: STL Cardinals

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: Kansas City Royals

The next AL Central team in our monthlong series previewing all 30 MLB teams leading up to the start of the 2017 season is the Kansas City Royals, who came in third place in the division last season.

A season after winning the World Series, the Royals took a step back last season, finishing third in the division with a .500 record. The biggest story of the offseason for the Royals is the death of SP Yordano Ventura, who was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic on Jan. 22.

Back on the field, the team made a number of trades this offseason, but many of them were minor. The one that should have the biggest impact on the team was trading RP Wade Davis to the Cubs in exchange for OF Jorge Soler. Another trade acquisition who should be on the major-league roster at the start of the season is SP Nathan Karns, who came over from the Mariners in exchange for OF Jarrod Dyson. The team also signed DH Brandon Moss and SP Jason Hammel in free agency. They will likely slide into the roles vacated by DH Kendrys Morales and SP Edinson Volquez, who both left in free agency. Overall, none of the players they added or lost this offseason should have a major impact on the Royals in 2017. The Royals got a scare when C Salvador Perez was involved in a home-plate collision in the World Baseball Classic — with backup C Drew Butera — but it appears he escaped significant injury and should be ready for Opening Day.

The Royals finished in the top 10 in Major League Baseball with a .261 batting average, but their 147 home runs were the fourth-fewest in the majors and the fewest in the American League — and 30 of those home runs left the team when Morales signed with the Blue Jays. The squad’s .712 OPS also ranked as the fifth-lowest in MLB. 1B Eric Hosmer hit .266 with 25 home runs and a .761 OPS, while Perez hit .247 with 22 home runs and a .725 OPS. OF Alex Gordon added 17 home runs in 128 games and rookie 2B Whit Merrifield hit .283 in 81 games after being called up from the minors. OFs Lorenzo Cain and Paulo Orlando also hit for a decent averages — .287 and .302, respectively. With the Cubs, Soler hit .238 with 12 home runs in just 86 games, and Moss hit 28 home runs, but just a .225 average, in 128 games with the Cardinals.

The pitching staff posted a 4.21 ERA, which ranked in the bottom half of the majors, as did their 1,287 strikeouts. The team finished with 41 saves — two fewer than the MLB average — 27 of which were recorded by Davis. SP Ian Kennedy posted a 3.68 ERA with 184 strikeouts in 195.2 innings and SP Danny Duffy struck out 188 batters in 179.2 innings to go along with his 3.51 ERA. With the Cubs, Hammel started 30 games, posting a 3.83 ERA with 144 strikeouts in 166.2 innings. Karns started 15 of his 22 games with the Mariners last season but put up a disappointing 5.15 ERA — significantly below his 3.67 ERA from 2015 — but struck out 101 in 94.1 innings. In the bullpen, RP Kelvin Herrera — who is expected to take over the closer’s role this year with Davis in Chicago — went 12-for-15 in save chances with a 2.75 ERA and 86 strikeouts in 72 innings.

Perez escaping an injury in that collision with Butera is important for the Royals because he is an even bigger part of the team’s offense this season with Morales gone. While Moss has power to make up for some of Morales’ lost home runs, he does not hit for a high average and is a feast-or-famine type of guy. Soler will need to step things up this year to help out the offense after a regression in nearly 25 points of batting average from 2015 to 2016. One guy who will help improve the offense is 3B Mike Moustakas, whose season finished in May when he suffered an ACL tear that required season-ending surgery. If he can come back and produce numbers similar to 2015 — when he hit .284 with 22 home runs — he will settle nicely into the middle of the lineup.

There are definite questions about the quality of the starting rotation with Duffy expected to serve as the No. 1 with Kennedy behind him. Those pitchers are more middle-of-the-rotation guys so the Royals having to rely on them as their top starters doesn’t bode well for the season. Herrera should have the stuff to do well in his first full season as a closer, but the question is how often he will have a lead given to him to be able to close out games.

The Royals are a long way away from the team that won the World Series two years ago and are likely still around a .500 team like they were last year. The offense shouldn’t be bad, but the starting pitching will be the team’s downfall without a true ace on the staff. They’re still probably the third-best team in the division behind the Indians and Tigers and will miss the playoffs for a second straight 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.royals.comhttp://www.baseball-reference.com

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3rd Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: St. Louis Cardinals

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, concludes with the St. Louis Cardinals, who came in second place in the division last season.

The Cardinals’ biggest acquisition of the winter to help in their pursuit of catching the defending World Series champion Cubs in the division was a former Cub, signing OF Dexter Fowler to a five-year contract. He’ll be joining OFs Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty. The infield will once again by led by veteran C Yadier Molina and 1B Matt Carpenter, who missed the World Baseball Classic and some spring training action with tightness in his lower back. SP Adam Wainwright still sits atop the starting rotation, while RP Seung-hwan Oh handles closing duties out of the bullpen. Among the losses the Cardinals experienced this winter were SP Jaime Garcia, who they traded to the Braves, and OF Matt Holliday, who signed with the Yankees. The team will also be without SP Alex Reyes, who underwent Tommy John surgery in February that will result in him missing the 2017 season and potentially cause him to miss the start of the 2018 campaign.

Last year’s team hit .255, which matched the MLB average, and hit 225 home runs — the most in the National League and second-most in the majors — with a .767 OPS that was fifth in the majors. Piscotty had one of the best overall seasons among the Cardinals’ hitters last season, hitting .273 with 22 home runs and a .800 OPS, while Grichuk hit 24 home runs in 132 games to go along with a .240 average and .769 OPS. SS Aledmys Diaz hit .300 with 17 home runs and a .879 OPS in 111 games, and Carpenter hit .271 with 21 home runs and a .885 OPS in 129 games. Jedd Gyorko, who is expected to provide depth filling in around the infield, led the team with 30 home runs last season, which just missed making the top 10 in the NL, to go along with a .243 average. Molina played in 147 games, which is a lot for a catcher, and hit .307 with 8 home runs.

The pitching staff finished in the top half of the majors with a 4.08 ERA, but the team’s 1,290 strikeouts was below the league average. The bullpen recorded just 38 saves, the eighth-fewest in the majors and fewer than six closers had individually. SP Carlos Martinez led the starters with a 3.04 ERA and 174 strikeouts in 195.1 innings over 31 starts. Coming off an injury that limited him to four starts in 2015, Wainwright was able to start 33 games but didn’t put up good numbers; his 4.62 ERA was the worst of his career and his 161 strikeouts were the fewest since 2008, when he made only 20 starts. SP Michael Wacha also put up a career-worst 5.09 ERA and struck out 114 batters in 138 innings over 24 starts (27 games overall). In his first season in the majors after playing in Japan, Oh made 76 appearances, saving 19 games in 23 opportunities, to go along with a 1.92 ERA and 103 strikeouts in 79.2 innings.

The Cardinals have a good-enough offense to win games, but it’s their starting pitching that could limit their success this season. The offense could take a step back from last year, though, with Holliday gone and Carpenter dealing with the back issues that could cause problems if it continues into the regular season. Wainwright has a history of pitching well, but he’s now 35 and on the backside of his career, so his down year in 2016 is likely part of the natural decline as a pitcher gets older. If he can’t return to form with the way he pitched earlier in his career, someone like Wacha will have to step up to make up for some of the production lost with Wainwright.

The Cardinals are a good team but are disadvantaged by being in the same division as the Cubs, who are likely still the best team in the majors. The Cardinals are clearly the second-best team in the NL Central and should win enough games to get one of the National League’s wild cards, but they likely won’t be able to keep up with the Cubs unless the Cubs are hampered by injuries during the season.

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.stlouiscardinals.comhttp://www.baseball-reference.com

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3rd Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: Pittsburgh Pirates

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 Pittsburgh Pirates, who finished in third place in the division last season.

If you watch the Pirates play in 2017, you’ll see a team whose core is essentially the same as it was last season. It’s somewhat surprising they didn’t go after any major free agents considering 2016 saw the Pirates win 20 fewer games than they did in 2015. The main change on the diamond is on the defensive side of things, with the outfielders changing positions. Andrew McCutchen is moving to right field, with Starling Marte in center and Gregory Polanco patrolling left field. Other than that 1B Josh Bell, who played 45 games in the big leagues last season, takes over full-time as the team’s starting first baseman. Pitchers Chad Kuhl and Tyler Glasnow, who were on the major-league roster for part of last season, are expected to start the season in Pittsburgh as part of the starting rotation, joining SPs Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon and Ivan Nova.

The Pirates hit .257 as a team, which put them near the middle of Major League Baseball. They didn’t show much power, though, hitting 153 home runs — the fifth-fewest in the majors — to go along with a .734 OPS, which was below the major-league average. After being in the National League MVP discussion in 2015, McCutchen’s offensive production dropped last season, hitting .256 — nearly 40 points under his career average — although his 24 home runs were right on target with his average. McCutchen’s .766 OPS was by far the lowest of his career, nearly 50 points below his previous low. Marte played in 129 games last season and hit a career-best and team-leading .311, but he hit just 9 home runs, the first time since his rookie year — when he played just 47 games — that he failed to reach double digits in home runs. Rounding out the outfield, Polanco hit .258 with a career-high 22 home runs — 13 more than 2015 despite playing in nine fewer games. 3B Jung Ho Kang hit .255 with 21 home runs, and in his limited time in the majors Bell hit .273 with 3 home runs in 128 at-bats.

The Pirates’ 4.21 ERA put them in the bottom half of the majors, as did their 1,232 strikeouts. The bullpen recorded 51 saves, which was the fifth-most in the majors. Cole, who was dealing with an elbow injury for part of the season, started only 21 games  and put up disappointing numbers compared to 2015. In 116 innings, he posted a 3.88 ERA with 98 strikeouts, the first year of his career he finished with fewer than 100. Nova made 11 starts for the team after being traded by the Yankees and was surprisingly effective in those games, recording 52 strikeouts in 64.2 innings with a 3.06 ERA and a 5-2 record. Taillon made 18 starts in the majors, posting a 3.38 ERA with 85 strikeouts in 104 innings. RP Tony Watson spent the bulk of the second half of the season as the Pirates’ closer after the team traded RP Mark Melancon at the deadline. Overall for the season, Watson went 15-for-20 in save opportunities with a 3.06 ERA and 58 strikeouts in 67.2 innings, not up to par with elite closers but not that bad.

The key for the Pirates offense this year will be for McCutchen to get his average back up to the .290 range that he has averaged for his career. He can’t hit .256 again and expect the team to be significantly better because he is the heart of the offense. He needs to hit better this year so the team can put more runs on the scoreboard and have more of a chance to win games. A situation that is hanging over the Pirates is the legal trouble facing Kang, who was arrested in his native South Korea in December after a crash that resulted from him allegedly driving drunk. The team has placed him on the restricted list for now as he has been unable to obtain a visa to travel to America. It is unknown when he’ll get the visa so his availability for the start of the regular season is in doubt, which means 3B David Freese could see more playing time than expected if Kang’s legal troubles linger into April.

Much like McCutchen has to step up his game and return to the performance people have come to expect from him, Cole is in a similar situation as he hopes to lower his ERA from near 4.00 to closer to the 3.00 range. If they want to stay in the rotation all season,Taillon and Kuhl need to prove that they can perform well in the majors if they don’t want to get sent back down to the minors. Although he’s a veteran, Nova similarly needs to prove to the team that the good numbers he put up in less than half a season with the team last year weren’t a fluke because they were significantly better than what he has done for the majority of his career. Continuing with the prove-you’re-legit theme, Watson needs to improve his numbers a bit to solidify himself as a legitimate closer.

The Pirates won 78 games last season and I think they’re a little better than that. They’re probably about a .500 team but not much better than that. I think they’re still the third-best team in the division and probably won’t be able to pass the Cardinals to move up to second place in the division behind the Cubs.

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.pirates.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: Chicago Cubs

Our next NL Central team in our continuing series previewing all 30 MLB teams leading up to the start of the 2017 season is the Chicago Cubs, who  won the division last season en route to a World Series title

No matter what the Cubs do this year, it’ll pale in comparison to 2016 when the team finally ended its curse and won the World Series for the first time since 1908 after winning 103 games during the regular season. As they look to repeat as champs, the Cubs have the core of their team returning, including reigning National League MVP Kris Bryant at third base, 1B Anthony Rizzo and World Series MVP Ben Zobrist at second base. The team should get a boost with the return of OF Kyle Schwarber, who only had a few at-bats during the regular season but came up big in the World Series after returning from a season-long injury. SP Jon Lester leads the rotation that also includes SPs Kyle Hendricks and Jake Arrieta. They added RP Wade Davis to the bullpen, acquiring him in a trade for OF Jorge Soler, to close out games. Their most significant losses on offense are OF Dexter Fowler, who signed with the Cardinals as a free agent, and C David Ross, who retired following the season.

Despite winning over 100 games last season, the Cubs offense was just average with a .256 batting average and their 199 home runs ranked 13th in Major League Baseball, but their .772 OPS was third-best in the majors. Bryant led the offense with a .292 average, 39 home runs and a .939 OPS. Bryant’s 7.7 WAR was best in the NL and placed him third in the majors. Rizzo also hit .292 to go along with 32 home runs and a .928 OPS; his 5.7 WAR ranked 10th in the NL. SS Addison Russell hit 21 home runs but had just a .238 average while Zobrist hit .272 with 18 home runs. OF Jason Heyward didn’t perform well in his first year with the team, hitting .230 with just 7 home runs, down from .293 and 13 homers in his final year with the Cardinals in 2015.

Pitching is where the Cubs excelled last season, with a MLB-leading 3.15 ERA and 1,441 strikeouts, which was the third-highest total in the league. The bullpen, however, had only 38 saves — fewer than six closers — putting them near the bottom of the league in that category. Lester had the best overall season on the staff, going 19-5 with a 2.44 ERA and 197 strikeouts in 202.2 inning spread out over 32 starts. Hendricks, however, bested Lester with a 2.13 ERA in 30 starts. He threw 190 innings, striking out 170. In the follow-up to his 2015 Cy Young-winning season, Arrieta took a step backwards but still pitched well; he went 18-8 with a 3.10 ERA and 190 strikeouts in 197.1 innings in 31 starts. RP Hector Rondon made 54 appearances, posting a 3.53 ERA with 58 strikeouts in 51 innings and earned 18 saves before giving way to trade acquisition Aroldis Chapman in the second half of the season. With the Royals last year, Davis pitched in 45 games, saving 27 of them. He put up a 1.87 ERA and had 47 strikeouts in 43.1 innings.

The Cubs look to have another dominant season, with 100 wins not out of the question once again. Adding Schwarber will boost the offense and add to the team’s home-run total while Davis provides a solid backend option in the bullpen with a track record of success as a closer. Hendricks can probably be expected to regress a bit as it would be hard to repeat his performance from last year. Lester’s ERA will probably go up some, as well, as he enters his 33-year-old season. But if the team can get some production from the back of the rotation, as they did out of SP John Lackey last year, the Cubs could have some of the best starting pitching in the majors.

The Cubs’ only real competition in the division is the Cardinals, who are clearly a step below the Cubs, who should cruise to another NL Central title. The question then becomes how far can they get in the postseason. While it won’t be easy to repeat as World Series champs, one thing seems certain: with the group of players the Cubs have — not to mention one of the game’s best managers in Joe Maddon — the team likely won’t be waiting another 108 years to bring the next title home to Wrigleyville.

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.cubs.comhttp://www.baseball-reference.com

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3rd Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: Atlanta Braves

Over the course of the next 30 days (or so) I will be previewing all 30 MLB teams, leading up to the start of the 2017 season. The series begins with a preview of the Atlanta Braves, who finished in last place in the NL East last season.

The Braves may be looking to the future by opening a new ballpark this season, but they were looking at the past with their offseason additions by acquiring veteran pitchers. In November, the Braves signed 40-something SPs R.A. Dickey and Bartolo Colon. Then in December, the Braves traded three prospects to the Cardinals in exchange for SP Jaime Garcia, who is coming off of a rare healthy season. That trio will slot into the middle of the rotation, behind SP Julio Teheran at the top of the rotation and a No. 5 role that will likely be determined during spring training. Just days before the start of spring training, the Braves sent a couple of minor leaguers to the Reds in exchange for veteran 2B Brandon Phillips. More exciting for Braves fans is SS Dansby Swanson, a former No. 1 draft pick who the Braves acquired from the Diamondbacks prior to the 2016 season, who should get his first full season in the majors in 2017.

The Braves are in rebuilding mode, coming off a 68-win season and last-place finish a year after winning just 67 games. The Braves’ .255 batting average last season was a slight improvement from 2015 and right on the average among all 30 MLB teams last season. They ranked last in the majors with just 122 home runs on the season and next-to-last with 615 RBI. They also ranked near the bottom of the league in OPS, which all helped lead to a second-worst 649 runs on the season. Their best hitter was 1B Freddie Freeman, who hit .302 with 34 home runs and a .968 OPS that was the third-highest in the National League. His 6.5 WAR also placed him third among all players in the NL. Swanson showed some promising signs in his limited time in the majors, hitting .302 with 3 home runs in 129 at-bats.

Teheran led a starting rotation that was among the worst in the majors. Despite posting a 3.21 ERA over 188 innings, he had his first sub-.500 season with a 7-10 record due in large part to the lack of run support from the Braves’ struggling offense. Teheran’s 1.053 WHIP was the fifth-lowest in the NL and his 4.8 WAR ranked 10th among National League pitchers. None of the team’s other regular starters finished the year with an ERA better than 4.31, with that mark held by SP Mike Foltynewicz, who appears to be the favorite to land the No. 5 spot in the rotation to begin the season. The team’s 39 saves was a few below the MLB average, with RP Jim Johnson leading the team with 20 saves over 65 appearances. His 3.06 ERA was higher than you’d like to see from a closer.

Looking ahead to 2017, the Braves will be relying on Swanson and Phillips — who they traded for to replace 2B Sean Rodriguez, who is expected to miss three to five months after being injured in a car accident — to help their offense have a better season than the production their hitters put up in 2016 because the rest of their lineup is the same as last year and not very inspiring. Likewise with the rotation. Teheran should put up good numbers at the top of the rotation, but the recently acquired starters all have question marks associated with them. Dickey and Colon are both in their 40s and the former is coming off his worst season since 2013. And while Garcia started 30 games last season — just the second time in his seven-year career he made at least 30 starts — he had a career-worst 4.67 ERA and gave up 26 home runs. If he can’t get his ERA closer to the 3.00-3.50 range, that won’t be good for a Braves team that is expecting him to be able to perform well in the middle of the rotation. Johnson had his best season in a while in 2016 but he’s not an elite closer and probably doesn’t have a long leash if he doesn’t get off to a good start in the season because RP Arodys Vizcaino, who saved 10 games in 14 chances last season, is lurking behind him on the depth chart.

With the moves the Braves made this offseason, they are an improved team and should do better than they have the past couple seasons, but that doesn’t mean they’ll compete for the NL East title. The Mets and Nationals are still the cream of the crop of the division and the Braves will likely be fighting with the Phillies for the bottom two spots in the rotation. The Braves are probably about a 75-win team this season. Better than last season but still a year or two away from competing for a playoff spot.

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.

Sources: http://www.atlantabraves.com, http://www.baseball-reference.com

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