Over the course of the next week, GoatSports will be ranking and previewing each team around Major League Baseball highlighted in four separate sections. If there is a Major League season to pay attention to, this is the one, with parity around the league at an all-time high and young stars taking over the landscape.
After last October’s drama and legendary performances from a handful of individuals, as well as the Kansas City Royals Cinderella run through the postseason and came just a base-hit away from winning the World Series, I can’t remember the last time I’ve welcomed Spring Training and baseball collectively with open arms this much.
And my team is on track to have one of the most depressing season’s in the last decade, but you’ll know about that when we get there.
The storylines coming into places like Jupiter, Florida and Phoenix, Arizona for Spring Training are always abundant with hope and optimism. Each year new teams emerge and since it’s an odd year, the San Francisco Giants will be taking the season off (They only win the World Series on even years: 2010, 2012, 2014) and aside from the obvious favorites, clubs who have been living in the cellar of the MLB have now arisen to contention. Teams like the Cubs, Blue Jays, Mariners, Padres, White Sox and Marlins have positioned themselves well to turn some heads this coming season and possibly become the next Kansas City and shock everyone with a deep playoff run.
Also another thing to keep an eye on for this season and for coming ones, the analytics age. Major League Baseball more so than any other professional sports league, has become infatuated with new stats and ways of judging how good a player and his value, than in baseball. Part of it is because stats and baseball have been a happily married couple for more than a century, but today more so than ever before. It’s no coincidence that the majority of baseball’s best teams for this coming season (as well as in the past decade or so) are the ones who pour more money into advanced statistics, highlighted by this ESPN the Magazine article.
So we start off our MLB preview with the bottom half, and you’ll find that many of these teams have fallen from their once dominant reign on their division and MLB overall, most highlighted by #30.
Note: All projected records via Baseball Prospectus and are subject to change due to injury and other variables during in Spring Training.
30. Philadelphia Phillies: 2014 record: 73-89
2015 projected Record: 69-93
From 2007-2011 the Phillies were arguably the best team in baseball. Five-time NL East Champions, two World Series appearances, winning in 2008 over Tampa Bay Rays. The core of those teams, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Jayson Werth is either on different teams (Werth, Rollins) or their careers are reaching the end of the line. Howard and Utley have suffered a various string of injuries over the past four years and the once most dominant pitching staff of Roy Holliday, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels has been reconstructed. This is going to be a long rebuilding process, very long.
Unlike their hometown counterpart in the Philadelphia 76ers, who are in the forefront of the analytics age in professional sports, the Phillies are dead last. With prospects who haven’t lived up to their potential to help ease the transition process in Philly; hopefully their two brightest ones, SS J.P. Crawford and RP Aaron Nola turn into future cornerstones for the a franchise that needs a complete overhaul of in the near future if they don’t want to be in the bottom half for the rest of the decade and beyond.
29. Arizona Diamondbacks: 2014 record: 64-98
2015 projected record: 74-88
The D-Backs are still a few years away from any thought of contention, but they’re plenty of reasons to be optimistic. Paul Goldschmidt is arguably the best 1st basemen in the Bigs, even after missing a chunk of the season a year ago. He’s a power hitter that can also hit for average (.302 in 2013 with 36 HR and 125 RBI /.300 with 19 HR 69 RBI in 109 games a year ago) Also they lost pure power hitter OF Mark Trumbo to injury as well, both are back and healthy for 2015.
Still, they’re plenty of holes in the lineup and in the field. Most of all, their pitching staff is projected to be one of the worst in baseball. Expect youngster Archie Bradley to get a solid amount of starts for a roation that needs youth and potential. It also doesn’t help one of the best teams in baseball (Dodgers) and the defending champs (Giants) are in their division, but Arizona should improve (I don’t think by 10 wins, although.)
28. Minnesota Twins: 2014 record: 70-92
2015 projected record: 71-91
There is nothing too flashy with this roster, mainly because what takes the field opening day will have plenty of new faces come September. 2B Brian Dozier is one of the best second basemen in the league coming into 2015 after a breakout season a year ago. RF Oswaldo Aricia also is developing into a middle of the lineup OF with power to show for it, one of three OF to hit more than 20 HR’s and was under 23 years old (Mike Trout was another guy on the list) but after that, Minnesota’s lineup is lacking which mean look out for Bryon Buxton, a guy that many believe has MVP potential. On the other hand, Joe Mauer just isn’t what he used to be, a damn shame considering he was widely considered as one of the best hitters in baseball for a five year stretch.
What ultimately derails the Twins this season is their lack of pitching after Phil Hughes, it has been awhile since the Twins had a dominant staff, something you would think be a top priority especially in one of the most pitcher friendly ballparks. Also, the AL Central will be a beast of a division, with the improvement of the White Sox and arguably the third best team went all the way to the World Series last season.
27. Colorado Rockies: 2014 Record: 66-96
2015 projected record: 71-91
The Rockies don’t lack talent. In fact, since their first World Series appearance in 2007, it seemed like we would be seeing more of them come October. Troy Tulowitzki has every tool imaginable to be the best shortstop in the league, some may even say he still is regardless the fact the poor guy can’t stay healthy, as with the rest of the Rockies roster for that matter. OF Carlos Gonzalez has played in 180 of 324 games in last two seasons ( Tulo: 217 out of 324) injuries have plagued them more than any other roster in the league.
But again, all the talent and potential to be a surprise Wild Card threat. A youthful rotation that starts with Tyler Matzek and Jon Gray could formulate into a top 1-2 duo. 3B Nolan Arendo hit .287 with 18 HR and 61 RBI in 111 games a season ago, he will be a main cog in the lineup along with Tulo and Gonzalez. Of course, IF they stay healthy.
26. Atlanta Braves: 2014 record: 79-83
2015 projected record: 73-89
Atlanta has an entire pitching staff that are currently 27 years-old or younger. Ace Julio Teheran will lead that pack coming off a strong season where he posted a 2.89 ERA with a WHIP of 1.08 in 221 innings, per the Atlanta Braves website. They are highly regarded as one of the best in the NL and will most certainly will be in 2015. Why are they projected to be so bad this season? Their lineup outside of All-Star 1B Freddie Freeman, the Braves will likely be ranked thirty in the majority of hitting categories this season, it doesn’t look good.
25. Milwaukee Brewers: 2014 record: 82-80
2015 projected record: 80-82
The Brewers were the hottest team in baseball to start the year last season, with a 10-2 record, (best since ’87) the ‘Brew-Crew’ looked like a surprise NL team to watch out for. Then injuries hit, depth became an issue and Milwaukee fell into the abyss. This offseason they traded their “ace” of the past few season, Yovani Gallarado away to Texas for three prospects in return. The majority of the 82-win team from a year ago is back but the NL Central has another team on the rise in Chicago which will make the Brewers chances of progressing less likely. In the mean time, Carlos Gomez has been an absolute statistical monster the past two seasons.
24. Texas Rangers: 2014 record: 67-95
2015 projected record: 82-80
Last season’s 67-win disaster was in many ways a fluke for the Rangers after ruling the AL for the four previous years. Farm system hero 3B Joey Gallo fills a major power void (to aid a healthy Prince Fielder) in the Rangers lineup, as he rocked 40 home runs in Double-A for the second consecutive season.
Also look out for 2B Rougned Odor who has all the tools to be an All-Star second basemen for the Rangers. The addition of Gallarado from Milwaukee completes a deep rotation IF they stay healthy. Yu Darvish and Derek Holland only started 27 games, combined and now Darvish is out for this season once again. The potential for a much better season is there, but as we have already seen with Darvish, is the health?
23. Houston Astros: 2014 record: 70-92
2015 projected record: 77-85
You could call them the 76ers of Major League Baseball, but the Houston Astros are already farther along then the “Hinkie experiment” in Philadelphia. The addition of 3B Luis Valbuena went unnoticed but a solid pick up for a team in need of some veteran bats in their lineup. 2B Jose Altuve has quietly become one of the best all-around infielders in baseball over the last two seasons, with 225 Hits, a .341 avg. and 56 stolen bases in 2014. Houston also is flooded with a young and potentially prominent staff with the likes of Dallas Keuchel, Collin McHugh and Dan Straily. But if they’re is one can’t miss player on this up-and-coming team, look no further than LF George Springer.
Confirmed: That ball is still traveling.
Coming up next: The teams who will hover in the .500 range preview.