Surprising team – Seattle Mariners
The Mariners have moved the fences in at Safeco Field and acquired numerous power hitters to make sure they don’t have a repeat of last year. The OF is much improved. World Baseball Classic all-star Michael Saunders, Mike Morse, Franklin Gutierrez, Jason Bay and Casper Wells can all contribute at the MLB level. They have an embarrassment of riches. Jesus Montero, Justin Smoak, Dustin Ackley and Kyle Seager all should be much improved. Stephen Pryor and Carter Capps lead a resurgent bullpen, both of whom can hit over 100 MPH on the radar gun. King Felix also has Joe Saunders and Jon Garland for support in the rotation, which should also feature Hisashi Iwakuma, one of the most underrated pitchers in the league. The Mariners, who have been known to throw unreasonable money around each offseason, did the right thing this offseason, and it will lead to a better result on the field and in the standings.
Disappointing team – Texas Rangers
The Rangers won’t be a bad team by any stretch of the imagination, but Jon Daniels did little the team while they lost a bunch of key players. They lost a valuable player at crucial positions, including Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli, Mike Adams, Ryan Dempster and Koji Uehara. They were long rumored to acquire Justin Upton but never pulled the trigger. They reached into the damage good bag and signed Joakin Soria, Lance Berkman and enigma A.J. Pierzynski, but that won’t overcome the tremendous loss of the players listed above. They also are likely to start Jurickson Profar, which I think would be a mistake, as he should be given more time in the minors to develop. With the Angels improving again, and the Athletics on the rise, the Rangers are going to have it tough.
Surprise player – Adam Eaton (Arizona Diamondbacks)
Arguably the best baserunner in the minor leagues last year, with Troutian 119 runs scored, 38 stolen bases and a .381 batting average. He is a career .355 hitter in the minor leagues. The 24-year-old player will be given every chance to succeed at the top of the D-Backs lineup, which is much improved despite the trade of Justin Upton. He is only 5’8” but his tools and his speed make him dynamic. He makes up for his lack of height with his max-effort, heart and soul attitude. My pick for ROY.
Disappointing player – Fernando Rodney (Tampa Bay Rays)
I don’t care if he has a magic plantain, Rodney will not repeat his 2012 performance. If you would have guessed Rodney would have had the lowest ERA from a reliever in MLB history, than you are lying. His BB/9 was 1.8 last year, far off his career 4.4. Tampa Bay has this crazy thing of making crappy players play awesome, but if you are expecting anything similar to Rodney’s 2012, you will be disappointed. Stay. Far. Away.
World Series pick – Cincinnati Reds
The Reds are a very good baseball team. Many people forget that they blew a 2-0 series lead in the NLDS last year. The acquisitions they have made, acquiring Shin-Soo Choo, plus having the regulars Votto, Phillips, Bruce and Hanigan, make this team lethal. Their pitching rotation 1-5 has five guys that can with 15 games each. Their bullpen is the best in baseball, even more so that Aroldis Chapman will close again. This team has all the tools to be great and that should land Dusty Baker his first World Series pennant as a manager.
Surprising team – Cleveland Indians
A new outfield, coupled with a decent starting rotation and a top class manager in Terry Francona, the Indians are poised to make a legitimate run at the AL Central crown. The addition of both Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn to four year deals gives the Indians an outfield that can compete with the best. Add in Michael Brantley and Drew Stubbs and you have one of the best outfields in the game. Their infield, while not flashy is decent, with Lonnie Chisenhall, Mike Aviles, Asdrubal Carbrera, Jason Kipnis and newly signed Mark Reynolds. Ulbaldo Jiminez and Justin Masterson will be expected to carry the rotation, and Chris Perez will be there to close out games on a regular basis. With Francona manning the bench, expect the Indians to put together a full season for the first time since 2007.
Disappointing team – Philadelphia Phillies
It’s hard to pick the Phillies to disappoint considering they haven’t had a losing season since 2002, but this year they disappoint. I’m expecting a season like last where they finished .500, but that falls short of their storied goals. Their outfield, while fast, lacks any significant power. The bulk of their scoring will come from their dynamite infield of Michael Young, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. But questions linger over the health of Utley and Howard still. Their first three starters, Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, are as good as it gets, but Halladay has struggled mightly in spring training, and Lee was poor last year. Even their bullpen looks suspect; Jonathan Paplebon can be lights out at times, but garbage at others. No NL East title for the Phillies this year.
Surprising player – Logan Morrison (Miami Marlins)
It’s highly like that the Marlins suck this year, so what better time for some of their young stars to showcase their talent. While Giancarlo Stanton gets all the attention, Morrison is a player himself. Over his first years he’s a .250 hitter with 36 homers, but he can’t stay healthy. He’s played well this spring and if that translates into the regular season expect Morrison to hit close to 30 homers while driving in a ton of runs.
Disappointing player – Zach Greinke (Los Angeles Dodgers)
That contract, man. That’s a lot of pressure on a guy who deals with social anxiety disorder and depression. $147 million over six years for a pitcher, who while is very good, I don’t consider exceptional. A 91-78 career record and 3.77 ERA aren’t exactly groundbreaking statistics. The Dodgers rotation this year can go as far as eight deep, so it’s not even necessary for Greinke to pitch exceptionally well since Kershaw, Beckett, Ryu and others can pick up the slack. Expectations in Dodger land are higher than they’ve ever been and I’m not sure Greinke lives up either the contract, or the goals which will be nothing short of a World Series win.
World Series pick – Tampa Bay Rays
Yep, that’s right, I’m going for the homer pick. I’m picking my team. I’m not sure we win the division this year as Toronto may nip us to that, but we get a wild card and go the distance this year. The rotation is still one of the best despite losing James Shields, Evan Longoria is back healthy, and for once the Rays have an infield that isn’t made up of minor leaguers. Staying healthy will be the big thing as that’s plagued the Rays the last few years, but if we can, I fully expect us to be lifting that World Series trophy.