3/4 Season Power Rankings

With just over three-quarters of the season in the books, it’s time to produce our last power rankings of the 2016 season, included are each team’s DailyMLB preseason ranks.

  1. Chicago Cubs (Preseason rank: 3)
  2. Washington Nationals (6)
  3. Cleveland Indians (5)
  4. Texas Rangers (8)
  5. Toronto Blue Jays (2)
  6. San Francisco Giants (7)
  7. Boston Red Sox (19)
  8. Los Angeles Dodgers (11)
  9. St. Louis Cardinals (1)
  10. Baltimore Orioles (13)
  11. Seattle Mariners (15)
  12. Houston Astros (16)
  13. Miami Marlins (14)
  14. Detroit Tigers (9)
  15. New York Mets (4)
  16. Pittsburgh Pirates (18)
  17. Kansas City Royals (10)
  18. New York Yankees (17)
  19. Colorado Rockies (22)
  20. Philadelphia Phillies (30)
  21. Chicago White Sox (20)
  22. Oakland Athletics (21)
  23. Tampa Bay Rays (25)
  24. Milwaukee Brewers (27)
  25. Los Angeles Angels (24)
  26. San Diego Padres (23)
  27. Cincinnati Reds (29)
  28. Arizona Diamondbacks (12)
  29. Minnesota Twins (26)
  30. Atlanta Braves (28)

Overall, we had a very successful preseason rankings with how the teams actually have ended up to this point.  In terms of rising or falling from the initial rankings, the biggest disappointment this year are the Arizona Diamondbacks with the biggest surprise being the Boston Red Sox (one of our only brutal mistakes during prediction season).  Most every other team is within just a few spots of where we had them, which is an incredible feat considering all the variables that baseball brings.

All Star Break Power Rankings

Time to check in on our power rankings as it stands at the All Star break.

1.) San Francisco Giants
2.) Washington Nationals
3.) Texas Rangers
4.) Chicago Cubs
5.) Cleveland Indians
6.) Baltimore Orioles
7.) Boston Red Sox
8.) Los Angeles Dodgers
9.) Toronto Blue Jays
10.) Houston Astros
11.) Miami Marlins
12.) New York Mets
13.) St. Louis Cardinals
14.) Detroit Tigers
15.) Pittsburgh Pirates
16.) Seattle Mariners
17.) Kansas City Royals
18.) Chicago White Sox
19.) New York Yankees
20.) Colorado Rockies
21.) Philadelphia Phillies
22.) Arizona Diamondbacks
23.) Oakland Athletics
24.) Milwaukee Brewers
25.) San Diego Padres
26.) Los Angeles Angels
27.) Tampa Bay Rays
28.) Minnesota Twins
29.) Cincinnati Reds
30.) Atlanta Braves

Quarter Season Power Rankings

Now that we’ve reached the quarter-pole in the baseball season, it’s time for updated power rankings.  Below is the current ranking with the number of spots moved up or down from the preseason rankings in parenthesis.

Among the biggest climbers are the Phillies (up from number 30 to 9) and the Red Sox and White Sox both moving into the top 5.

The biggest fall belongs to the Toronto Blue Jays going all the way from number 2 to 19.

The bottom of the list looks familiar as the Angels, Brewers, Padres, Reds, Twins and Braves were all expected to play poorly this season.

  1. Chicago Cubs (↑2)
  2. Washington Nationals (↑4)
  3. Baltimore Orioles (↑10)
  4. Boston Red Sox (↑15)
  5. Chicago White Sox (↑15)
  6. San Francisco Giants (↑1)
  7. Cleveland Indians (↓2)
  8. Seattle Mariners (↑7)
  9. Philadelphia Phillies (↑21)
  10. New York Mets (↓6)
  11. Texas Rangers (↓3)
  12. Pittsburgh Pirates (↑6)
  13. St. Louis Cardinals (↓12)
  14. Los Angeles Dodgers (↓3)
  15. Miami Marlins (↓1)
  16. Kansas City Royals (↓6)
  17. Tampa Bay Rays (↑8)
  18. Colorado Rockies (↑4)
  19. Toronto Blue Jays (↓17)
  20. Detroit Tigers (↓11)
  21. Oakland Athletics (no change)
  22. Arizona Diamondbacks (↓10)
  23. New York Yankees (↓6)
  24. Houston Astros (↓8)
  25. Los Angeles Angels (↓1)
  26. Milwaukee Brewers (↑1)
  27. San Diego Padres (↓4)
  28. Cincinnati Reds (↑1)
  29. Minnesota Twins (↓3)
  30. Atlanta Braves (↓2)

 

Top 5 Bullpens – 2016

The last in the Top 5 series for 2016 – bullpens. No position has a higher rate of variance than relievers, however, there are some highly notable relief corps as it stands today.

5. Houston Astros
The Astros bullpen lost some big games late last season so they gave up a huge haul of talent to the Phillies in exchange for Ken Giles to (hopefully) correct the issue. The acquisition slides incumbents Luke Gregerson (who might argue otherwise) and Pat Neshek into more familiar roles and allows Will Harris to continue his development in less strenuous situations.

4. Pittsburgh Pirates
Quietly, the Pirates boast two of the best relievers in Mark Melancon and Tony Watson. Behind them are a solid supporting cast ready to step in when they get the call.

3. Baltimore Orioles
Similar to the Pirates, the O’s sport top relievers in Zach Britton and Darren O’Day. They get the edge here due to the rest of the pen looking slightly better with the breakouts of Brian Matusz and Brad Brach, another former Padres farmhand now succeeding for another club.

2. New York Yankees
Any bullpen that has arguably the three best relievers in baseball has to make the list. The only reason they aren’t number one are the unknowns behind Chapman, Miller and Betances.

1. Kansas City Royals
Even without Greg Holland, the KC pen remains strong and must be handily outdone to lose their hold on the top spot.

Honorable mentions: New York Mets, Miami Marlins, St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants, Toronto Blue Jays, Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians, Los Angeles Angels, Oakland Athletics

Top 5 Lineups – 2016

Lineups are a tricky code to crack in that they often morph over the course of a season from injuries, promotions/demotions, slumps, etc. That said, here are the Top 5 lineups with projected batting orders as we head into the new season.

5. Houston Astros
Although we predicted a regression for the 2016 version of the Astros as a whole, the offense still has the potential to prove a strong-suit with many players still in their 20’s.

Jose Altuve
Carlos Gomez
Carlos Correa
George Springer
Colby Rasmus
Luis Valbuena
Evan Gattis
Jon Singleton
Jason Castro

4. San Francisco Giants
This one may be surprising to some but then you go look at what they did in 2015 and you’d be even more surprised. A top offense last year, despite a shortage of home runs, the Giants find themselves on the list thanks in large part to their lengthy and interchangeable lineup.

Denard Span
Joe Panik
Buster Posey
Brandon Crawford
Hunter Pence
Brandon Belt
Matt Duffy
Andres Pagan

3. Chicago Cubs
What the front office has done is ridiculous. From the draft (Bryant, Schwarber, Baez), to international signings (Soler) to trades (Rizzo, Montero, Russell) and free agency (Heyward, Zobrist), the Cubs have covered all bases (pun intended) to create a behemoth of an offense. Hell, Kyle Schwarber broke a windshield on the first day of spring. An omen of a long curse broken? We’ll see…

Ben Zobrist
Jason Heyward
Anthony Rizzo
Kris Bryant
Kyle Schwarber
Jorge Soler
Miguel Montero
Addison Russell

2. Detroit Tigers
Last season the Tigers raked and that was with a hobbling Miguel Cabrera and before they signed Justin Upton this January. They’ve also added nice complementary players and JD Martinez has proven that he’s not a one-good-year player. Factor in natural progression upwards for Nick Castellanos and James McCann and you have the recipe for Detroit to put up some large numbers.

Ian Kinsler
Justin Upton
Miguel Cabrera
JD Martinez
Victor Martinez
Nick Castellanos
James McCann
Cameron Maybin/Anthony Gose
Jose Iglesias

1. Toronto Blue Jays
Toronto led the world in offense last year and there’s no reason they can’t do it again. Nothing further, your honor.

Kevin Pillar
Josh Donaldson
Jose Bautista
Edwin Encarnacion
Troy Tulowitzki
Russell Martin
Michael Saunders
Chris Colabello
Ryan Goins/Devon Travis

Honorable mentions: New York Mets (surprisingly strong), Washington Nationals (need bouncebacks from too many guys), Miami Marlins (Giancarlo, anyone?), St. Louis Cardinals (won’t miss Heyward as much as you think), Pittsburgh Pirates (like the Mets, surprisingly strong), Colorado Rockies (could see a few of these guys gone mid-season), Los Angeles Dodgers (very productive 2015), Baltimore Orioles (Jones, Davis, Machado – there’s 100 homers), Chicago White Sox (nice offseason additions), Cleveland Indians (potential is there), Texas Rangers (healthy Prince still mashes)

Top 5 Starting Rotations – 2016

This is always a fun and eye-opening experience to try to narrow down the 5 best of anything out of MLB’s 30 clubs.  We’ve seen super rotations in the past (Atlanta Braves of the mid-90’s, Philadelphia Phillies of 2011) and there are a few on the list below that have the potential to be historically great.

Whether any of them live up to those expectations this season remains to be seen, but imagining what could be is half the fun.

5. Chicago Cubs
No matter the team that found their way into this spot, all the pieces would have to come together to be the fifth best rotation. In the case of the Cubs, they need Jake Arrieta to remain lights out, John Lackey to continue bucking the aging curve and the fourth and fifth spots to step up. That said, the Cubs ranked first in many pitching categories at the end of last season and still have enough to hold off the rest of the pack.

4. Tampa Bay Rays
The pitching factory that is the Tampa Bay Rays enters the list at number four largely due to the fact that they appear to be entering spring training healthy with the exception of Alex Cobb. While they may not be the most well-known names out there, they get the job done… very well. And, top prospect Blake Snell isn’t too far off from joining the rotation. The only question is, will they keep them all?

3. Cleveland Indians
Top 10 in WHIP and FIP and the leaders is K/9 from a year ago, the Indians return all four of their top starters, Trevor Bauer’s inconsistencies included. Playing in Cleveland, they may fly under the radar in some circles, but they’ll prove to be a force in 2016.

2. New York Mets
Hear me out. This may be a mistake, but the Mets find themselves the second best rotation for two reasons: the team in the one spot is really good, too, and the Mets have a young staff that went deep into the postseason in 2015. This spot may just be a temporary holding place until Zack Wheeler returns mid-season.

1. St. Louis Cardinals
Don’t believe me? Go look for yourself. Both Michael Wacha and Carlos Martinez should be even better with another year under their belts, Mike Leake has been a model of consistency and Jaime Garcia hopes to return for a full, healthy season. Oh, and their ace Adam Wainwright returns this year, too. Even if one of these guys goes down, they have the depth to plug the hole waiting in Triple-A.

Honorable mentions: Washington Nationals (Strasburg poised for big contract year), San Diego Padres (will they hold onto the top 3?), San Francisco Giants (love the additions; suddenly find themselves with nice depth), Los Angeles Dodgers (any rotation with Kershaw would be in consideration; nice pieces added behind him), Detroit Tigers (need Justin Verlander to be Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez to stay healthy), Seattle Mariners (need Taijuan Walker and James Paxton to establish themselves), Chicago White Sox (too thin after the top three lefties), Houston Astros (decline possible?)

Spring Training Power Rankings

Before all of the injuries and roster shake-ups, here are how the teams enter spring training:

  1. St. Louis Cardinals
  2. Toronto Blue Jays
  3. Chicago Cubs
  4. New York Mets
  5. Cleveland Indians
  6. Washington Nationals
  7. San Francisco Giants
  8. Texas Rangers
  9. Detroit Tigers
  10. Kansas City Royals
  11. Los Angeles Dodgers
  12. Arizona Diamondbacks
  13. Baltimore Orioles
  14. Miami Marlins
  15. Seattle Mariners
  16. Houston Astros
  17. New York Yankees
  18. Pittsburgh Pirates
  19. Boston Red Sox
  20. Chicago White Sox
  21. Oakland Athletics
  22. Colorado Rockies
  23. San Diego Padres
  24. Los Angeles Angels
  25. Tampa Bay Rays
  26. Minnesota Twins
  27. Milwaukee Brewers
  28. Atlanta Braves
  29. Cincinnati Reds
  30. Philadelphia Phillies

 

 

Standings, Playoff and Awards Predictions

Much like the Power Rankings in the following post, these predictions are made as teams are assembled today.  Naturally, factors like injuries, trades and free agent signings can push a team in either direction but we make our predictions proudly and stand by them – mostly.

With that, I feel the least confident and would happily be swayed (with a strong counter-argument) in my decision on the American League East.  That division is so wide-open and close that any of the five teams could take it down.

Going in, my assumption was that the Orioles were an automatic fourth or fifth place team, however, after breaking down each roster, it appears they could easily contend.  It will all come down to that starting rotation – Gallardo or not.  Boston and New York have too many question marks and Tampa could trade any of their starters at any time.

A year ago, I was the only predictor I saw that had the Texas Rangers anywhere near the top of the division/Power Rankings and they proved me correct, winning the division in 2015.  This year’s surprise team is the Cleveland Indians with the Royals finishing second.  On paper, nothing jumps out about Kansas City, however, they are fielding largely the same team that won it all last year, so I can’t knock them all the way down to a third or fourth place team just yet.

Finally, in the AL West I have the Astros missing the playoffs this year.  As history has shown, a team with a sudden surge, has a down year the season after followed by a more sustained string of success.  That is what Houston will face in 2016 before becoming a perennial powerhouse starting in ’17.

There will no doubt be surprises and some obvious choices, but that’s the beauty of baseball as the debates will only just get started.  Let’s jump right in.

National League East
New York Mets (93-69)
Washington Nationals (91-71)
Miami Marlins (86-76)
Atlanta Braves (66-96)
Philadelphia Phillies (61-101)

National League Central
St. Louis Cardinals (96-66)
Chicago Cubs (94-68)
Pittsburgh Pirates (83-79)
Milwaukee Brewers (68-94)
Cincinnati Reds (65-97)

National League West
San Francisco Giants (90-72)
Los Angeles Dodgers (88-74)
Arizona Diamondbacks (87-75)
Colorado Rockies (77-85)
San Diego Padres (74-88)

American League East
Toronto Blue Jays (93-69)
Baltimore Orioles (86-76)
New York Yankees (85-77)
Boston Red Sox (80-82)
Tampa Bay Rays (69-93)

American League Central
Cleveland Indians (92-70)
Kansas City Royals (88-74)
Detroit Tigers (88-74)
Chicago White Sox (81-81)
Minnesota Twins (68-94)

American League West
Texas Rangers (89-73)
Seattle Mariners (85-77)
Houston Astros (84-78)
Oakland A’s (80-82)
Los Angeles Angels (74-88)

Wild Card Games
Cubs def. Nationals
Tigers def. Royals

Division Series
Cubs def. Cardinals
Giants def. Mets

Blue Jays def. Tigers
Indians def. Rangers

Championship Series
Giants def. Cubs
Indians def. Blue Jays

World Series
Indians def. Giants

Awards
NL MVP – Buster Posey, Runner up – Anthony Rizzo, 3rd – Bryce Harper
AL MVP – Josh Donaldson, Runner up – Robinson Cano, 3rd – Justin Upton

NL Cy Young – Madison Bumgarner, Runner up – Jacob deGrom
AL Cy Young – Chris Sale, Runner up – Jordan Zimmermann

NL ROY – Trevor Story, Runner up – Steven Matz
AL ROY – Jose Berrios, Runner up – Joey Gallo

NL Manager – Terry Collins, Runner up – Mike Matheny
AL Manager – Terry Francona, Runner up – Scott Servais

Re-Making The Padres (Again) – 5 Deals That Make A Ton Of Sense

As we wrote last year (here), San Diego Padres GM, AJ Preller, is a madman (or at least he was last offseason). Preller dominated headlines with his bold moves to rebuild a Padres team that under-performed in 2014. Fast-forward to this offseason and Preller’s Padres are coming off a worse record than ’14. Whatever reason his moves didn’t work is up for debate. What is likely, however, is that the Friars will again be in for a busy winter after standing pat at the trade deadline.

Being that Preller may be strapped for cash to add to his current roster, the widely-speculated direction for the team is to sell it’s established pieces and fatten up a farm system that was depleted to bring in many of those veterans. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some moves that would make sense for the Padres and their trading partners.

Cubs Receive
James Shields (RHP)
Tyson Ross (RHP)
Cash Considerations

Padres Receive
Javier Baez (SS/2B)
Billy McKinney (OF)
Pierce Johnson (RHP)
Justin Steele (LHP)

While the Cubs have money to spend in free agency, they also have a huge stable of young players from which they can deal. In Shields, the Cubs get a top of the rotation starter to pair with Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta, making Tyson Ross the best #4 starter in baseball, if you don’t believe he would be ahead of Shields on the depth chart (which some would). San Diego also pitches in money which makes Shields affordable for Chicago and gives the Padres a better return.

Many now believe Javier Baez can stick at shortstop which fills a huge void for the Padres and gives them a potential star for years to come. Add to that, the Cubs’ #2 prospect in McKinney and pitching prospects Pierce Johnson (#7) and Justin Steele (#16).

Mets Receive
Matt Kemp (OF)
Cash Considerations

Padres Receive
Rafael Montero (RHP)
Domonic Smith (1B)

Kemp had a strong second-half for the second straight season and while you’d love to keep his bat in the middle of the order, his inconsistency, big salary and injury history suggest the Padres should eat some of the salary and try to sell high on his post all-star break numbers in 2015.

The question then becomes who will take Kemp knowing all that and how much money will the Padres have to kick in. The answer is the Mets who need a corner outfielder and would take Kemp as a $15-16 million dollar a year player. You may have heard about their five young, extremely talented starting pitchers, so the Pads may be able to peel the currently-injured Montero away.

Other options for Kemp include: Baltimore Orioles, Houston Astros, Los Angeles Angels, Minnesota Twins, Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers.

Astros Receive
Craig Kimbrel (RHP)

Padres Receive
Mark Appel (RHP)

It’s no secret that the downfall of the Astros in the postseason was its bullpen not being able to hold onto leads. The best closer in baseball (Kimbrel) certainly helps, and Houston’s bullpen in 2015 already included 7 former Padres, so why not one more?

Getting Appel may be off-limits for a few reasons, however, his struggles in the minor leagues may be enough for Astros GM, Jeff Luhnow, to pull the trigger. Imagine what Darren Balsley could do with the former #1 overall pick. If this deal doesn’t go down, an alternate option would be outfielder Preston Tucker and Houston’s #14 prospect Thomas Eshelman.

Rangers Receive
Andrew Cashner (RHP)

Padres Receive
Luke Jackson (RHP)
Andrew Faulkner (LHP)

Heading into his final year before free agency, Cashner is a great mid-rotation starter with top of the rotation upside for a contending team. These two teams have hooked up on notable deals in the past, but this time it’s with Preller’s ties to the Rangers that make it interesting.

Other options for Cashner include: Baltimore Orioles, Houston Astros, Los Angeles Angels, New York Yankees, Pittsburgh Pirates, Seattle Mariners and St. Louis Cardinals.

Mariners Receive
Derek Norris (C)

Padres Receive
James Paxton (LHP) or DJ Peterson (3B/1B)

The (hopeful) emergence of Austin Hedges behind the dish allows San Diego to move Norris and sign a veteran back up catcher to Hedges in free agency. While it may be preferable to continue to ease Hedges into the big leagues for another season, catching is at a premium so holding onto two capable, controllable backstops is more a luxury than a necessity.

With Mike Zunino still in the fold, perhaps this deal is somewhat unlikely. If Norris were to have a second suitor, the Braves or White Sox could be interested.

These deals would make the Padres considerably younger while also freeing up payroll and re-building a rotation with young prospects ready to contribute at the major-league level within a couple years.

Here’s a look at the re-made 2016 Padres’ options.

C – Hedges, Veteran Free Agent
1B – Yonder Alonso, Wil Myers, Will Middlebrooks
2B – Jedd Gyorko, Cory Spangenberg
SS – Baez, Gyorko
3B – Yangervis Solarte, Spangenberg, Middlebrooks
LF – Tucker, Hunter Renfroe
CF – Travis Jankowski, Melvin Upton Jr.
RF – Myers, Rymer Liriano

SP – Ian Kennedy (if he accepts Qualifying Offer), Paxton, Odrisamer Despaigne, Colin Rea, Robbie Erlin, Casey Kelly, Montero (when fully recovered) Free Agent Signees
RP – Joaquin Benoit (another strong trade candidate), Kevin Quackenbush, Brandon Maurer, Marc Rzepczynski, Nick Vincent, Cory Mazzoni, Leonel Campos, Jon Edwards, Frank Garces, Marcos Mateo

Let’s say the Padres continue to pile on, however, and look to free agents. Denard Span and Ian Desmond would be ones to keep an eye on.

No matter the course Preller decides to take, it promises to be another exciting offseason at Petco Park.

Preseason Power Rankings

The 2015 Preseason Power Rankings:

1. Washington Nationals
2. St. Louis Cardinals
3. Boston Red Sox
4. Los Angeles Dodgers
5. Detroit Tigers
6. Pittsburgh Pirates
7. Kansas City Royals
8. Texas Rangers
9. Seattle Mariners
10. Baltimore Orioles
11. San Francisco Giants
12. Miami Marlins
13. San Diego Padres
14. Chicago White Sox
15. Los Angeles Angels
16. New York Yankees
17. Cleveland Indians
18. Milwaukee Brewers
19. New York Mets
20. Tampa Bay Rays
21. Toronto Blue Jays
22. Atlanta Braves
23. Chicago Cubs
24. Houston Astros
25. Cincinnati Reds
26. Oakland Athletics
27. Arizona Diamondbacks
28. Minnesota Twins
29. Colorado Rockies
30. Philadelphia Phillies