Tag: Preview/Prediction

Predicting New York Yankees Depth Charts a Month Ahead of Spring Training

The New York Yankees remain a team in flux, heading into spring training with a roster that could contend—or fall short of the playoffs for the fourth time in the past five years.

Veterans like Brian McCann (traded) and Mark Teixeira (retired) are gone, replaced by youngsters who are big on upside—but light on experience. That could lead to some growing pains in 2017, but it’s a pain that general manager Brian Cashman believes fans are ready to endure.

“(The fans are) willing to walk through that (the ups and downs) with you as long as they have some legitimate players they can really grow with,” he recently told Mike Mazzeo of the New York Daily News. “We’re really now in a better position to provide a group of talent where hopefully some will really be part of the next championship core.”

Some of those players will be competing for a spot on the 25-man roster this spring. Others still need more minor league seasoning before they can officially join the fray. How will things shake out when it’s said and done?

Let’s take a look.

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MLB Trade Splashes Contenders Should Make Before Spring Training

Be very, very quiet. We’re hunting wabbits general managers—at least any who might still be awake.

If we didn’t know any better, we’d think there was a freeze on transactions. For baseball’s rumor mill has come to a screeching halt, and there’s no reason to be optimistic that things will pick up soon.

While most contenders have already done their heavy lifting and can head into spring training confident in their rosters, a handful of World Series hopefuls still have work left. With pitchers and catchers set to report to camp in a matter of weeks, not months, the glory of spring training will soon be upon us. 

What follows is a look at some splashy, impactful trades that a handful of contenders should try to pull off before then. Some of these deals have made the rounds as rumor or speculation. Others have not and are the result of our baseball-starved minds having far too much free time.

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Predicting Boston Red Sox Depth Charts a Month Ahead of Spring Training

The Boston Red Sox will roll into spring training with one of the best rosters in the league.

That was assured when they went on a shopping spree during the winter meetings. They added lefty ace Chris Sale, slick-fielding first baseman Mitch Moreland and shutdown reliever Tyler Thornburg to a roster that produced 93 wins and an American League East title in 2016. 

Before the Red Sox can get going on 2017, they need to narrow down the favorites for their 25-man roster and which players will be on the waiting list to get on it should any spots open up.

With that in mind, let’s run through the names Red Sox fans should really know and which ones they should also know.

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Predicting Chicago Cubs Depth Charts a Month Ahead of Spring Training

For the first time since the 1909 season, the Chicago Cubs will carry the enormous target that comes with being the defending World Series champions.

There’s no shortage of talent returning for the upcoming season, and they will undoubtedly be among the favorites to win it all once again in 2017.

However, there are still some roster questions that need to be answered.

Dexter Fowler, Aroldis Chapman, Jason Hammel, Travis Wood, Chris Coghlan and Trevor Cahill are all key free agents from last year’s squad, while David Ross rode off into the sunset in retirement and Jorge Soler was shipped to the Kansas City Royals in a winter meetings trade.

That leaves the club with some important depth-chart decisions to make this spring as they prepare for the upcoming season.

Ahead is an early look at how said depth chart might unfold, including projected starters at each position, the “next man up” should injury strike, further depth options at each position and an overview of the prospects that are poised to make an impact in 2017.

Think of this as a state of the franchise roughly one month from the start of spring training.

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San Francisco Giants’ Top Free-Agent, Trade Targets Post-New Year

Signing All-Star closer Mark Melancon to a four-year, $62 million deal was a necessary move for the San Francisco Giants, but it was one that has seemingly limited the team’s ability to improve the roster elsewhere.

“I don’t think there’s anything more to ask of ownership,” general manager Bobby Evans said, per John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle. “It’s more what I can do with what we have.”

That’s understandable for a team with one of the game’s highest payrolls, but if the Giants are going to put an end to Los Angeles’ run of four consecutive National League West crowns, they’re going to have to plug holes in left field and at third base.

What follows is a look at five players, both free agents and trade acquisitions, that the Giants could reasonably target to fill those holes—assuming that ownership is willing to stretch the budget just a bit more than it already has.

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MLB Trade Ideas Based on Offseason Week 10 News, Rumors and Speculation

Unlike the rest of the baseball universe, MLB‘s rumor mill doesn’t get time off to partake in New Year’s Eve festivities. There are no parties or concerts; no hanging out in New York’s Time Square to watch former pop sensations suffer embarrassing “technical difficulties.”

While the first week of a New Year is too early to proclaim that MLB teams still looking to improve their rosters are facing difficulties of their own in that regard, the clock has officially begun to tick. With just over six weeks before pitchers and catchers report to spring training, time is not on their side.

As luck would have it, there are still a slew of notable names who remain available on the free-agent market and some clubs that remain open for business on the trade front. The opportunity to improve remains alive. What follows is a look at four trades that would help teams do just that.

Keep in mind these proposed deals are only ideas and speculation. Unless otherwise noted, there’s no indication any of them have been discussed.

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New Year’s Resolutions for All 30 MLB Teams in 2017

If baseball is America’s favorite pastime, the country’s second favorite is making New Year’s resolutions—and breaking them. Doing so might result in some extra pounds in the spring or more clutter in the garage, but typically, it’s nothing that’s going to impact our 2017 negatively.

The same can’t be said for each of Major League Baseball’s 30 teams.

Some of these resolutions revolve around adding (or subtracting) pieces to a team’s roster. Others have to do with ensuring a team can keep its best player—or players—around for the foreseeable future. There are even a few that have nothing to do with the on-field action.

But one thing is for sure: Not following through on these resolutions will have consequences, some that resonate well past the upcoming season.

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Fact or Fiction on All of Week 9’s Hottest MLB Free-Agency, Trade Rumors

Fact—New Year’s Eve is fast approaching. Fiction—all of MLB‘s big-name free agents who remain unsigned will find new homes before the ball drops.

As you’d expect, having so many notable players still in search of employment has led to increased activity in the rumor mill. Now that Edwin Encarnacion has come off the board, some of those players who were seemingly in holding patterns are finally seeing significant interest from multiple suitors.

Free agents aren’t the only ones receiving attention, though, as the trade market remains active with plenty of speculation surrounding a pair of the American League Central’s best.

Will Minnesota Twins second baseman Brian Dozier or Chicago White Sox pitcher Jose Quintana be traded? Will Matt Wieters wind up spending the 2017 season close to where he played his college ball? Where will the “Party at Napoli’s” break out next?

We’ll hit on all that and more in this week’s edition of “Fact or Fiction.”

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MLB Trade Rumors: Latest Buzz on Brian Dozier, Jed Lowrie, More

Major League Baseball’s hot stove has cooled off in the aftermath of the winter meetings, but there’s still some buzz circulating the rumor mill as the calendar gets set to flip to 2017. 

Minnesota Twins second baseman Brian Dozier has emerged as a legitimate trade candidate following a sensational 2016 season, and he’s not the only infielder who could be available. 

Then there’s the Tampa Bay Rays’ Drew Smyly, who has continued to generate interest from teams in need of quality starting pitchers to round out their rotations. 

So as the rumblings get louder, here’s a rundown of the latest rumors from across MLB


Multiple Teams Showing Interest in Dozier

With so many big names off the market, all eyes are on Dozier and the Twins for the time being. And as it turns out, Minnesota may be more motivated to deal him than initially believed. 

According to 1500 ESPN’s Darren Wolfson, the Los Angeles Dodgers are “still very much in it” when it comes to the chase for Dozier. Wolfson added the St. Louis Cardinals are also “very much in it,” while the Washington Nationals and San Francisco Giants “remain in dialogue.” 

Interest in Dozier, of course, is not a surprise. 

The 29-year-old put together a stellar 2016 campaign that saw him bat a career-best .268, smash 42 home runs and notch 99 RBI. Those 42 dingers were the most all-time by an American League second baseman, per CBSSports.com’s Mike Axisa, and they evidently made several National League contenders take notice.

Chief among that group is the Cardinals, who represent a logical landing spot for the 2015 All-Star.  

“The Cardinals spent big to sign Dexter Fowler, and they were linked to Justin Turner before he agreed to re-sign with Los Angeles, so it’s not [surprising] to hear they’re in on Dozier,” Axisa wrote. “St. Louis clearly wants another middle-of-the-order power bat and Dozier qualifies.”

Regardless of which team comes out on top in the chase for Dozier, one thing is clear: The Twins are intent on maximizing return value for the rising star before he becomes an unrestricted free agent following the 2018 season. 


A’s Making Lowrie Available? 

The Oakland A’s don’t appear thrilled with their situation at second base in the short term, and executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane has disclosed as much.

“It’s a concern,” Beane said, per CSN Bay Area’s Joe Stiglich. “Long term, I think we feel like we have some options that probably aren’t quite ready yet. I think we prefer not to rush those options.”

And while Jed Lowrie has proved his worth in the past, it seems the A’s could look to ship him out of the Bay Area if they’re able to show teams he has recovered fully from August’s left foot surgery. 

“It’s believed they’ve at least gauged trade interest for him this winter, though his physical status could make it tougher to pull off a deal,” Stiglich wrote. “He’s in the final season of a three-year deal that will pay him $6.5 million in 2017.”

Dealing Lowrie over the offseason may not be particularly easy since interested parties will want evidence he’s able to stay healthy once he returns to the diamond, but this is a situation worth monitoring as the spring approaches. 


Mariners Still Chasing Smyly

Seattle Mariners starting pitchers ranked fourth in the American League with a 4.25 ERA last season, but the team’s front office isn’t content just yet. 

According to the Seattle TimesRyan Divish, “A baseball source said the Mariners tried to work a deal for Rays lefty Drew Smyly during the winter meetings.”

Divish added the following regarding Tampa Bay’s motivations behind a potential deal involving Smyly: “Tampa seems more inclined to part with Smyly since he’s projected to make $6.8 million in his third year of arbitration and is a free agent after the 2018 season.”

It remains unclear what the Mariners would part with to try and pry Smyly from the Rays, but there’s no denying he’d be a quality pickup for a franchise looking to make its first postseason appearance since 2001. 

The 27-year-old southpaw owns a 3.74 lifetime ERA, and his mark of 8.7 strikeouts per nine innings would bolster the back end of a Mariners rotation that already boasts Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma and James Paxton. 


Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com

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Early 2017 MLB Playoff Team Projections If the Offseason Ended Today

Next year will soon be here, but the 2017 Major League Baseball playoffs are so far off that they might as well be in a whole ‘nother year. You might be thinking it’s too soon to go there.

Or is it?

The 2016-17 offseason still has some boxes to check, including homes for free agents like Mark Trumbo and Jose Bautista. But most of the big names on the open market have already found homes. There have been some blockbuster trades as well.

We thus know where most key pieces fit, making it safe to pretend like the offseason is over and call some early shots for the 2017 postseason. Let’s cut this introduction and get on with it.


American League

AL East Champions: Boston Red Sox

With most of a 93-win team carrying over from 2016 to 2017, the Red Sox didn’t need to do anything big this offseason to be the team to beat in the 2017 AL East race.

Instead, they went all-in.

Minor moves for first baseman Mitch Moreland and reliever Tyler Thornburg rounded out the team’s depth. The blockbuster trade for lefty ace Chris Sale, meanwhile, was the Red Sox’s upside move. They now have a starting rotation headlined by him and Cy Young winners Rick Porcello and David Price. 

Of course, the Red Sox have a David Ortiz-sized hole in their lineup after Big Papi’s retirement. But Sale’s arrival should mean they won’t need as much offense in 2017.

And even if they do, their lineup should be up to the challenge. Moreland‘s arrival will keep Hanley Ramirez fresh at designated hitter, and there’s all sorts of upside in the Red Sox’s young Killer B’s: Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Andrew Benintendi.

Elsewhere in the AL East, it’s hard to tell who’s supposed to be Boston’s primary challenger. The Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles are missing key pieces from the 2016 rosters. The New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays are teams in transition.


AL Central Champions: Cleveland Indians

With the major difference being that they darn near won the World Series, the Cleveland Indians were in a similar position as the Red Sox heading into the winter. They didn’t need to do anything big to carry over as favorites in the AL Central.

Instead, they signed Edwin Encarnacion on a three-year contract last week. With a .912 OPS and 193 home runs since 2012, he’s an easy upgrade over Mike Napoli in the heart of Cleveland’s batting order.

That’s the only upgrade Cleveland needed to make. It had holes elsewhere at the end of 2016, but that was mostly due to injuries that should be healed in 2017.

Michael Brantley will be back in the outfield, and Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar will be back in the starting rotation. That’s three All-Star-caliber players returning to the fold. Having Andrew Miller, acquired at the 2016 trade deadline, back for a full year will also help.

The concern is a possible hangover after playing so deep into the 2016 postseason. Miller and Corey Kluber are most likely to feel it, as manager Terry Francona asked the world of them last October.

On paper, though, the Indians look more than capable of beating last year’s 94 wins. The same can’t be said of any other team in the AL Central. Only the Detroit Tigers can match Cleveland’s star power, and most of their stars are too long in the tooth to count on.


AL West Champions: Houston Astros

Finally, a division trophy that should change hands in 2017. 

The Texas Rangers won the AL West in 2016 but have hemorrhaged more talent than they’ve gained this winter. The Houston Astros have done the opposite, taking an 84-win roster and fitting it with the nuts and bolts it needed.

Houston needed to lengthen out a lineup that relied too heavily on Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, George Springer and Evan Gattis in 2016. So, Josh Reddick and Carlos Beltran were signed on free-agent contracts, and Brian McCann was brought in on a trade.

The Astros will also have former top prospect Alex Bregman and Cuban sensation Yulieski Gurriel in their lineup for the whole year in 2017. After finishing in the middle of the pack in the AL in runs (eighth) and OPS (ninth) in 2016, there’s a good chance the Astros will have an elite offense.

Their starting pitching staff is less of a sure thing. Charlie Morton might not be much of an upgrade over Doug Fister, and the trio of Dallas Keuchel, Collin McHugh and Lance McCullers have performance and durability questions to answer.

However, even more of the same would be good enough. The Astros finished fifth in the AL in ERA in 2016 despite their starting rotation issues. This was in part thanks to a bullpen that was quietly elite.

There could be as many as three other contenders in the AL West in 2017, but none match the legit championship aspirations of the Astros. Sports Illustrated could be right about them after all.


AL Wild Cards: Los Angeles Angels and Texas Rangers

Neither of this year’s two AL wild cards, the Blue Jays and Orioles, are better now than they were before. The same goes for the Yankees and Tigers. The Kansas City Royals are geared up for a last hurrah, but their homegrown core is no longer surrounded by good depth.

This sets up the AL West to be the primary battleground for the 2017 AL wild-card race, with the main combatants being the Rangers, Los Angeles Angels and Seattle Mariners.

The Angels might seem like the odd team out after losing 88 games in 2016. But they’ve put some nice pieces alongside MVP Mike Trout this winter. Corinne Landrey of FanGraphs wrote about how the Angels targeted run prevention by going for Cameron Maybin, Danny Espinosa and Martin Maldonado. They will also be helped by Garrett Richards, Tyler Skaggs and Matt Shoemaker coming back healthy.

The Mariners have a star-studded offense but are lacking depth around it. The Rangers have a depth question in their starting rotation, but they have just the counterbalances for it.

Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish are an excellent one-two punch, and they’ll be backed by a multitalented lineup and a deep bullpen. The Rangers may not win 95 games again, but they won’t fall far enough to miss out on a third straight postseason.


National League

NL East Champions: Washington Nationals

The 2016 NL East race had a chance to be the National League’s best. Instead, the Washington Nationals won it handily over the New York Mets. 

Expect more of the same in 2017.

While the Mets face questions about the health of their rotation and who the heck will play center field, the Nationals have all their big bases covered. The key was acquiring Adam Eaton to play center field, which freed up young phenom Trea Turner to go back to shortstop and set the Nationals up for a dynamic top-of-the-order duo.

“You got Turner and Eaton [at the top of the lineup], fairly similar style of play,” catcher Derek Norris, another new addition, told Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post. “They’re scrappy, they get on base. They steal bags. They play great defense. That’s kind of what I envision.”

Turner and Eaton will be setting the table for Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy, Anthony Rendon and Jayson Werth. That’s a scary proposition under any circumstances. It’ll be something else entirely if Harper recaptures his MVP form from 2015.

The Nationals are also returning pretty much everyone from a pitching staff that finished second in the NL in ERA in 2016, including staff aces Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg. The one exception is closer Mark Melancon. But new closers pop up all the time, and the Nats have two good in-house options in Shawn Kelley and Blake Treinen.

In all, there are no big reasons to believe the Nationals won’t match or beat their 95 wins from 2016.


NL Central Champions: Chicago Cubs

Sorry to go with such an obvious pick, but…man, the Chicago Cubs are just really good.

When we last saw them, they were winning 103 games in the regular season before snapping a 108-year championship drought with a dramatic comeback in the World Series. That’ll do as far as seasons go, and there was never any real threat of the magic going away this winter.

The Cubs did lose Dexter Fowler from center field and Aroldis Chapman from their closer spot. But Fowler should be replaced in the aggregate, defensively by Albert Almora and offensively by a healthy Kyle Schwarber. To fill Chapman’s shoes, the Cubs traded for Wade Davis, who was baseball’s most dominant reliever in 2014 and 2015.

Otherwise, the gang’s all back for 2017. It’ll still be Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta atop the rotation. It’ll still be Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Ben Zobrist in the heart of the lineup. It’ll still be Addison Russell and Javier Baez turning double plays up the middle. It’ll still be Joe Maddon in the manager’s chair.

Like with Cleveland, there is the possibility of a World Series hangover overtaking the Cubs. But the worst that might do is knock them down from 103 wins to 95 or so, which should still be plenty to win an NL Central race that doesn’t feature another elite team.


NL West Champions: Los Angeles Dodgers

The Los Angeles Dodgers are an incomplete team. They don’t have a second baseman. Their outfield and pitching depth charts are complex math problems.

And yet they’re no worse than the team that won 91 games and a fourth straight NL West title in 2016.

There was a distinct possibility that the Dodgers would get a lot worse. They dodged that bullet by re-signing Justin Turner to play third base and Rich Hill and Kenley Jansen to help anchor their starting rotation and bullpen.

The various holes the Dodgers still have do stand out. But you can also look at them and see plenty to like.

On offense, the core of their lineup is populated by stable veterans Turner, Adrian Gonzalez and Yasmani Grandal and young guns in Corey Seager and Joc Pederson who might still have some untapped upside.

On the mound, Clayton Kershaw and Hill lead a stable of starters that’s as deep as any in the league. Not to be lost in the shuffle is Julio Urias, the 20-year-old lefty who’s ready for the next step.

The San Francisco Giants will give the Dodgers a run in 2017. But theirs is a top-heavy roster wherein the role players alongside the scrubs offer little upside.


NL Wild Cards: San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals

Picking up where we just left off, the Giants should have no trouble nabbing a wild-card berth as a consolation prize.

They’re returning basically the same team that won 87 games in 2016, led by excellent pitching performances by Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto and well-rounded performances from Buster Posey, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford. The difference now is that they have a real closer. Melancon should keep the blown-save problem that plagued the Giants in 2016 at bay in 2017.

After the Giants, it’s the Mets who have the most upside in the 2017 NL wild-card race. But they also have too much downside to be trusted. Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz and Matt Harvey are all coming off surgeries, and they don’t figure to get much help from a lousy defense.

The Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals are the two teams most likely to benefit from the Mets falling short of expectations. The Cardinals don’t have as many potential pitfalls as the Pirates. While there are real questions in Pittsburgh’s pitching staff, the Cardinals answered the one big question they had by stealing Fowler from the Cubs.

At any rate, there are predictions for all 10 playoff teams for the 2017 MLB season. Now we find out if they can withstand 10 months of general baseball craziness.


Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted/linked. 

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