Tag Archives: Yankees

3rd Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: Houston Astros

The AL West is the final division left in our previews all 30 MLB teams leading up to the start of the 2017 season, beginning with the Houston Astros, who finished in third place in the division last season

The Astros were one of the busiest teams in free agency and the trade market this winter after finishing third in the division and winning two fewer games than in 2015. The focus was on adding hitters to the lineup, including sending a couple minor-leaguers to the Yankees in exchange for C Brian McCann. They also signed veteran OF — and former Astro — Carlos Beltran to a one-year deal, while OF Josh Reddick inked a four-year contract with the team. The Astros also signed OF Norichika Aoki. They join an offense that already had a good, young core with 2B Jose Altuve, SS Carlos Correa and OF George Springer. As far as pitchers, the Astros signed SP Charlie Morton and traded RP Pat Neshek to the Phillies.

The Astros’ .247 batting average was the seventh-lowest in Major League Baseball, but they finished in the top half of the majors with 198 home runs. Their .735 OPS put them in the middle of the pack. Altuve led the way with an American League-best .338 and a career-high 24 home runs — nine more than he hit in 2015 — and a .928 OPS that ranked fifth in the AL. Even though Altuve’s power output increased, his speed didn’t go away as he stole 30 bases, which was tied for the second-most in the AL. His 7.7 WAR was tied for the third-highest in the majors and the best of his career. DH Evan Gattis‘ career-high 32 home runs were the most on the team — and he hit them in 132 games — and he hit .251 with a .826 OPS. Springer hit a career-high 29 home runs, to go along with his .261 average and a .815 OPS. Correa hit .274 with 20 home runs in his first full season in the league. With the Yankees last year, Beltran had one of his best seasons in a while, hitting .295 with 29 home runs, and McCann hit .242 with 20 home runs.

The team’s 4.06 ERA was in the top half of the majors and the pitching staff’s 1,396 strikeouts were tied for the fifth-most in MLB. The bullpen recorded 44 saves, which was one more than the MLB average. After winning the AL Cy Young in 2015, SP Dallas Keuchel posted a disappointing 4.55 ERA last season, with 144 strikeouts in 168 innings. SP Collin McHugh put up a 4.34 ERA with 177 strikeouts in 184.2 innings. SP Lance McCullers did better, with a 3.22 ERA and 106 strikeouts in 81 innings, but he started just 14 games in a season plagued by injuries. There was no set closer in the bullpen, with three relievers each earning between 12 and 15 saves on the season. RP Will Harris put up the best ERA of the three, with a 2.25 ERA and 69 strikeouts in 64 innings. Harris saved 12 games while RPs Ken Giles and Luke Gregerson each recorded 15 saves. Giles struck out 102 in 65.2 innings with a 4.11 ERA, and Gregerson posted a 3.28 ERA with 67 strikeouts in 57.2 innings.

The Astros should have an improved offense this season with some of the hitters they acquired this winter. In addition to their trade and free-agent acquisitions, the Astros should have 1B Yulieski Gurriel and 3B Alex Bregman in the majors for the whole season after they got limited playing time late in the 2016 campaign. If they can perform to the lofty expectations that have been set for them, the offense will be significantly improved. Having McCann behind the plate allows Gattis to spend less time at catcher, which should improve the defense at the position, and play more at designated hitter and in the outfield. With McCann being a veteran catcher, he could also help a rotation with a couple of young pitchers in key roles.

It appears as though McHugh will start the season on the disabled list with a dead arm, which should allow young SP Joe Musgrove to get in the rotation to start the season, which was questionable when spring training began. Musgrove made 10 starts and one relief appearance in the majors last season, posting a 4.06 ERA but as he gains experience he should improve upon that. If he pitches well, he should be able to stick in the rotation when McHugh comes off the DL. The key for the rotation will obviously be Keuchel having a much better season. The team was counting on him to be the ace of the staff last year, which wasn’t the case. He needs to return to his Cy Young form of 2015, that would be a big help to a rotation that struggled in 2016. If McCullers can stay healthy, he can also help the performance of the rotation, as he was the best starter on the team last year but missed much of the season because of injury. Giles should get the first shot at being the closer this year, but if doesn’t perform to expectations, manager A.J. Hinch probably won’t hesitate to put someone else in the role, as he did last season. RP Chris Devenski is someone to watch for who could make some spot starts if needed, as he did last year when he put up good numbers — including a 2.16 ERA — mainly pitching out of the bullpen.

After surprising people with a strong 2015 the Astros failed to live up to high expectations that were set for them last year, but with the additions they’ve made over the last few months I think the Astros are ready to take the next step. After a disappointing third-place finish last year, I think they’ll pass the Rangers to win the AL West this year. The key for them to do that will be to beat the Rangers in their head-to-head matchups because the Astros went 4-15 against their in-state rivals last year, which won’t help them win the division if they have another record like that in 2017.

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

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3rd Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: Cleveland Indians

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 Cleveland Indians, who won the division last season.

The Indians last year came as close as a team can get to winning the World Series without actually getting rings, losing to the Cubs in the 10th inning of Game 7. Getting back for another shot at the Fall Classic is certainly on the radar for the Indians, who are returning the core of their team from last season, minus 1B Mike Napoli. They added to the offense, inking DH Edwin Encarnacion to a three-year deal. It’s not all good news, though, as 2B Jason Kipnis is looking like he’ll start the season on the DL as he deals with a strained rotator cuff that is sidelining him for at least a couple of weeks. In other injury news, OF Michael Brantley is progressing in his recovery from biceps surgery but isn’t a lock to be ready for Opening Day. It’s looking better for SP Carlos Carrasco, who appears to be on-track to start the season in the rotation after missing a chunk of 2016 with injuries.

The Indians’ .262 average was the fifth-highest in Major League Baseball last season, but their 185 home runs put them near the middle of the pack. Their .759 OPS ranked seventh in the majors. 1B Carlos Santana led the team with 34 home runs, hitting .259 with a .865 OPS to go along with the dingers. Rookie OF Tyler Naquin showed some promising signs in 116 games, hitting .296 with 14 home runs while veteran OF Rajai Davis hit .249 with 12 home runs, but he really excelled on the bases, nabbing 43 steals, the most in the American League and fourth-most in the majors. Kipnis hit .275 with 23 home runs last season.

In his 25 starts in 2016, Carrasco posted a 3.32 ERA with 150 strikeouts in 146.1 innings. SP Corey Kluber had a 3.14 ERA with 227 strikeouts in 215 innings — eighth-most in the league in both stats — over 32 starts. SP Trevor Bauer put up a 4.26 ERA with 168 strikeouts in 190 innings, and SP Danny Salazar posted a 3.87 ERA with 161 strikeouts in 137.1 innings. RP Cody Allen went 32-for-35 in save opportunities to go along with a 2.51 ERA and 87 strikeouts in 68 innings, but perhaps the most important member of the bullpen is RP Andrew Miller, who was acquired in a trade with the Yankees at the deadline, who posted a 1.55 ERA with 46 strikeouts in 29 innings with the team (1.45 ERA and 123 strikeouts in 74.1 innings overall in 2016).

Adding Encarnacion — who hit 42 home runs with the Blue Jays last season — gives the Indians a viable replacement for Napoli and provides some depth to deal with the injuries if they start to linger into the season. They have SS Francisco Lindor who provides the team offense at a position that typically lacks it. The Indians also get back C Yan Gomes, whose 2016 was essentially lost to injury. If he’s healthy, he can provide some pop out of another position not knowing for its offense. If Carrasco returns to form coming off his injury, he’ll form a strong 1-2 punch at the top of the Indians’ rotation with Kluber. If someone like Salazar or Bauer can take the next step in their career, the Indians could have formidable starting pitching, with two good relievers in the bullpen to close out games.

Injury concerns aside, the Indians are definitely the class of the AL Central. The injuries to Kipnis and Brantley don’t look like they’ll keep them out for extended periods of time this year and  the sooner they can come back, the more help they’ll give the Indians as they try to fend off the Tigers and Royals to repeat as the division champions. If they make it to the playoffs, they certainly have a better-than-average chance of advancing far again, possibly making it to the World Series for a second straight season — after waiting more than 50 years since their last appearance — perhaps for a rematch with the Cubs.

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.indians.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: 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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