2016 MLB Preview

Dom Palombo, sports writer

TKC Previews the upcoming MLB season with offseason notes and predictions for all 30 teams.

The Diamondbacks are rewarded for their big moves this winter, the Cubs struggle… to an extent, while the Yankees and Red Sox compete head-to-head for the AL East and much more.

 

Top 10 Offseason Acquisitions:

  1. David Price, Boston Red Sox – 7 years / $217 million
  2. Jason Heyward, Chicago Cubs – 8 years / $184 million
  3. Zack Greinke, Arizona Diamondbacks – 6 years / $206 million (with deferred money)
  4. Jordan Zimmerman, Detroit Tigers – 5 years / $110 million
  5. Shelby Miller, Arizona Diamondbacks – traded for 2015 No. 1 overall pick plus assets
  6. Todd Frazier, Chicago White Sox – traded for assets
  7. Johnny Cueto, San Francisco Giants – 6 years / $130 million
  8. Justin Upton, Detroit Tigers – 6 years / $132.75 million
  9. Andrelton Simmons, Los Angeles Angels – traded for assets
  10. Mike Leake, St. Louis Cardinals – 5 years / $80 million

 

Notable Players to Resign:

  1. Yoenis Cespedes, New York Mets – 3 years / $75 million (player option in 2017)
  2. Alex Gordon, Kansas City Royals – 4 years / $72 million
  3. Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles – 7 years / $161 million ($42 million deferred)

 

Predictions:

National League –

  • West San Francisco Giants continue their even-year dominance (titles in 2010, 2012 and 2014)
  • Central Chicago Cubs take care of Central Division with Molina struggling to stay in the lineup for the St. Louis Cardinals
  • East New York Mets overpower others with their tremendous pitching
  • Wild Card Cardinals will defeat the Diamondbacks and take on the Cubs in a rematch of the 2015 N.L. Divisional Series.
  • N.L. World Series pick Behind a healthy Adam Wainwright and rejuvenated outfield, I’m going with the hometown Cards. They have a good chance to fly under the radar behind a quiet offseason and win it all.

American League –

  • West Astros rebuilding plan continues to pay off with a 2016 division title.
  • Central With improved pitching and outfield, the Tigers could make the playoffs behind a healthy Miguel Cabrera, J.D. Martinez and Justin Upton.
  • East Yankees’ three-man bullpen is a force to be reckoned with this season as New York will hope for a similar impact in their relieving core as Kansas City just a year ago.
  • Wild Card Red Sox beat the Rangers in the one-game-playoff.
  • A.L. World Series pick Astros have the best all-around talent in the American League, I think they can get back to the World Series after 11 years and face a once-rival in St. Louis.

World Series Pick Cardinals over the Astros in 6.

 

Team-by-team Analysis for 2016:

 

NL Central:

1) Chicago Cubs – Playoffs Likely – The Cubs spent a plenty this offseason while adding long-term starpower in Heyward to mature alongside the young roster, and veterans Ben Zobrist and John Lackey to bring World Series championship-pedigree. In a baseball world without salary cap, the risk is paying a large sum of money to two players past their prime, but the potential reward of having their experience on the roster is huge.

2) St. Louis Cardinals – Playoffs Likely – The Cardinals are betting on the players within the organization, specifically Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty, to keep the team at the top of the standings for another season. The pitching staff’s depth and return of Wainwright should keep the Cardinals consistent throughout the season barring any major injuries. A team that can definitely compete in October.

3) Pittsburgh Pirates – Playoffs Maybe – The acquisition of Jon Niese is for the left-handed arm he brings, and the departure of Neil Walker could be a bigger loss in the clubhouse than on the field. They had enough depth in the field to do this move with Starling Marte, Jung Ho Kang, Josh Harrison and Andrew McCutchen. And they helped back up ace Gerrit Cole, who finished fourth in the 2015 Cy Young voting.

4) Milwaukee Brewers – Rebuilding – The team is built around Jonathan Lucroy and Ryan Braun, but little else is special on the major league club. The team was named the number five best farm system by Keith Law of ESPN, but number one by a statistical projection system called KATOH at Fangraphs Chris Mitchell has developed.

5) Cincinnati Reds – Rebuilding – The Reds are in full-rebuild after trading away stars Johnny Cueto and Todd Frazier in August and December 2015, respectively, as they are improving their farm system. Keith Law of ESPN rated their minor-league system at 12th.

 

NL West:

1) San Francisco Giants – Playoffs Likely – Their championship manager, Bruce Bochy, and catcher, Buster Posey, lead the charge in hopes to win another title in an even year. This is solidified by the signing of Johnny Cueto to a hefty contract. Their addition of Jeff Samardzija does a lot of good, as well, and San Francisco is a team to be feared for another year.

2) Arizona Diamondbacks – Playoffs Maybe – The team went with a short-term approach in acquiring Greinke and trading for Shelby Miller while giving up tremendous long-term assets. Their overall depth on the roster is an issue, and though they have Yasmany Tomas and A.J. Pollock in the outfield and Paul Goldschmidt at first base, their other players lack the needed talent to make the postseason.

3) Los Angeles Dodgers – Playoffs Maybe – The loss of Greinke will hurt the team’s depth at starting rotation, and Kershaw will likely have a hard time carrying the pitching staff, but the Dodgers have a good offense to get back into the playoffs.

4) Colorado Rockies – Rebuilding – They have two stars in CarGo (Carlos Gonzalez) and Nolan Arenado, but are limited in depth elsewhere around the field and on their pitching staff. Need time to turnaround the team, and a long-rumoured trade for Gonzalez would help, as well as strengthen their farm system.

5) San Diego Padres – Rebuilding – The team has retooled its 20th ranked farm system following trades, including trading away star closer Craig Kimbrel. After giving up Kimbrel, the Padres lack pitching besides Shields and Ross up front, but have a formidable team in the field led by Matt Kemp and Wil Myers.

 

NL East:

1) New York Mets – Playoffs Likely – The team decided against pursuing Daniel Murphy in free agency and, to fill the hole at second base, acquired Neil Walker in trade. They also resigned Yoenis Cespedes to a lucrative three-year deal, with an opt-out clause after the first year, worth in total $75 million. Their re-load solidifies them as a contender for 2016 and beyond.

2) Washington Nationals – Playoffs Maybe – The loss of starter Jordan Zimmermann is the reason I don’t have the Nats finishing in first. They will have to lean on Max Scherzer in their starting rotation again, but the depth on the field, including reigning N.L. M.V.P. Bryce Harper, will give the Nats more than a fighting chance to come out in first in the N.L. East.

3) Miami Marlins – Playoffs Maybe – The Marlins surprised a lot of people last year staying in N.L. East contention for quite a while. With a healthy Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Fernandez, Miami has the chance to build upon last season. Though, the playoffs are likely out of reach.

4) Atlanta Braves – Rebuilding – The Braves might have had the best offseason of any team in the major leagues, and nothing they did will help them on the field for years to come. They were recently named the No. 1 farm system in the MLB by Keith Law of ESPN. Their acquisition of 2015 No. 1 pick Dansby Swanson and prospects in return for trading stars Andrelton Simmons and Shelby Miller will aid in the rebuild plan. The moves should give Atlanta fans something to look forward to in the next couple years.

5) Philadelphia Phillies – Rebuilding – During the offseason, the Phillies improved their farm system through acquisition of five prospects from the Houston Astros, including 2013 number one overall pick. They also traded Cole Hamels to the Rangers, gaining more assets at the 2015 trade deadline. Ryan Howard’s stint in Philly will likely end at season’s end, as he has a club option for $23 million for 2017. The rebuild is underway and the team is improving, Keith Law recently rated the Phillies with the 6th best farm system in baseball.

 

AL Central:

1) Detroit Tigers – Playoffs Maybe – Newly-signed Jordan Zimmermann and Justin Upton should boost the Tigers back into playoff contention in 2016.

2) Cleveland Indians – Playoffs Maybe – The depth in pitching is intriguing and with Michael Brantley in left field, the future is bright in Cleveland. The Indians could surprise some people this season behind Brantley, Jason Kipnis and Carlos Santana.

3) Kansas City Royals – Playoffs Maybe – Lack of pitching depth following the loss of Cueto in the offseason and prospects in Cueto’s midseason trade will deter the Royals’ chances enough of hoping to repeat as World Series Champions. But the team kept the possibility alive by resigning arguably their best player, Alex Gordon.

4) Chicago White Sox – Playoffs Maybe – The organization’s trade for star third baseman Todd Frazier from the Reds for a relatively low price shows the White Sox true intentions to make some noise in the American League and potentially the playoffs in 2016.

5) Minnesota Twins – Playoffs Not Likely – The Twins are in a cross-roads where they likely won’t make the playoffs or be bad enough to warrant the number one pick in the upcoming draft. The parity in the AL Central is going to be hard to overcome and come out on top from.

 

AL East:

1) New York Yankees – Playoffs Likely – The three-headed monster in their bullpen (Dellin Betances, Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller) is the key to the Yankees season. In addition to the bullpen, the team will need to stay healthy and rely on their veterans (A-Rod, Mark Teixeira, Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury). If they can perform, the Yankees can win the division.

2) Boston Red Sox – Playoffs Likely – David Price, who was signed for seven years, will improve the Red Sox pitching staff, but this season should indicate if he will be enough to carry them. Maybe with David Ortiz in his farewell season, Boston can muster enough will to reach the playoffs for the first time since a 2013 World Series win. But the acquisition of shutdown closer Craig Kimbrel will surely give Boston to lean on late in games.

3) Baltimore Orioles – Playoffs Maybe – The Orioles have a good team on the field led by Manny Machado, Adam Jones and Chris Davis. Their starting pitching has question marks, and will likely determine the team’s fate in 2016.

4) Toronto Blue Jays – Playoffs Maybe – They made it to the A.L. Championship Series last season, but lost their ace for the stretch run in David Price to free agency. They have the 2015 A.L. M.V.P. Josh Donaldson and Troy Tulowitzki on the left side of the infield, and Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Russell Martin providing support around the field. The team is similar to the Orioles and will need help from the starting pitching to identify this team as a playoff team or not.

5) Tampa Bay Rays – Playoffs Not Likely – The team has some good young pitching (Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi and Drew Smyly) and Evan Longoria leading the lineup, but their depth around Longoria is lacking and will likely prohibit the Rays from doing anything significant this season on the field.

 

AL West:

1) Houston Astros – Playoffs Likely – After keeping the team from a year ago largely intact, there are hopes to succeed in the playoffs in 2016 after an early exit last season. They traded for closer Ken Giles from the Phillies to strengthen the back end, and have a star shortstop, Carlos Correa, who will be entering his first full season in the bigs. Along with Correa, the Astros have Carlos Gomez, Colby Rasmus and Jose Altuve, and a top team that is young and hungry for playoff success in 2016.

2) Texas Rangers – Playoffs Maybe – The return of Yu Darvish will cement Texas as a contender because of their pitching and aim to get the team back into the playoffs for a second year in a row.

3) Los Angeles Angels – Playoffs Maybe – Acquisition of Andrelton Simmons and Yunel Escobar to improve the left infield will prove to not be enough to get the top-heavy-with-talent Angles into the playoffs. But when you have the best player in the world, Mike Trout, there’s always a chance.

4) Seattle Mariners – Playoffs Not Likely – Similar to the Twins, the Mariners are in a middle-ground in the MLB, but in a bad way. After signing Robinson Cano for over $200 million and Nelson Cruz for four years, the team is sitting with three stars (including Cano, Cruz and pitcher Felix Hernandez).

5) Oakland Athletics – Playoffs Not Likely – The team is still hurting after giving up 2015 A.L. M.V.P. Josh Donaldson last winter, but should make an improvement from last year’s disappointment. The A’s are still without what’s needed to make the playoffs, but a year-or-two away from potentially getting back into the postseason.