Sure the baseball season has officially, but heck since the season is six months and 162 games long, I think we should be OK. The Stack is here with the 2016 MLB season preview that hopefully you demand so let’s get right to it and preview the 2016 MLB season for today, Thursday, April 7th:
2016 MLB preview
It’s an even year. So the San Francisco Giants are in line to win the World Series since they have won the World Series every other year since 2010. So we can just cut the preview short right? No? OK, let’s take a look at where some free agents landed before really diving into the AL and NL.
There were a few notable players that signed in unexpected places during free agency. Zach Greinke shocked just about everyone when he signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks. A six-year $206.5 million contract. Wow! The Diamondbacks weren’t done in free agency, trading for Atlanta’s Shelby Miller to really bolster their starting pitching staff. Some pretty big expectations in the desert this year.
Sticking with pitchers, to replace Greinke the Los Angeles Dodgers signed Scott Kazmir from Houston. Certainly won’t replace Greinke, but the Dodgers had to do something. The Chicago Cubs signed John Lackey, taking him away from the rival St. Louis Cardinals. The Cubs roster is already loaded with great pitchers. Looks like the rich get richer. The Cardinals then went out and signed Mike Leake who was with the Giants. In return, the Giants went out and signed Jeff Samardzija. They also lost Ryan Vogelsong to the Pittsburgh Pirates. See how the dominos all fall? The price was right in Boston for David Price as he signed a seven-year $217 million deal with the Red Sox. That was a surprise move to a degree, but given that Dave Dombroski is now the GM in Boston and he knew Price from their time in Detroit, it makes sense. There were of course many other pitching moves made in free agency and those were just the starting pitchers. Lots of relief pitchers and bullpen guys are with new teams, perhaps most notably Aroldis Chapman who is now with the New York Yankees who completed a deal with the Cincinnati Reds.
First baseman Pedro Alvarez is no longer a Pirate, but he didn’t leave the region, signing a one year deal with the Baltimore Orioles. Could be a big loss for the Pirates. The World Series champion Kansas City Royals saw Ben Zobrist leave for the Chicago Cubs (who doesn’t want to be a Cub this season?) signing a four-year $56 million deal. That is a pretty nice acquisition. In terms of shortstops, Ian Desmond is a Texas Ranger, leaving the Washington Nationals and Asdrubal Cabrera is now a New York Met, leaving the Tampa Bay Rays. Third baseman David Freese signed with the Pirates after being the Los Angeles Angels last season. And no catchers jump off the page except that Jarrod Saltalamacchia (Tigers) and Geovany Soto (Angels) are with new teams.
Yoenis Cespedes had quite a few suiters, but alas he is back with the New York Mets, signing a three-year $75 million deal. Seeing some of his shenanigans in spring training, you just hope that his play is worth more than the headache he can sometimes be. Alex Gordon re-signed with the Royals and Justin Upton got paid big time by the Tigers who made a surprise splash by signing Upton to a six-year $132.75 million deal. There was a report out there that Dexter Fowler was signing with the Orioles, but he went back to the Cubs. Again who doesn’t want to be a Cub this season? Perhaps a sneaky good signing was the Giants who went and signed Denard Span away from the Nationals for three-years $31 million. Oh and those Cubs I keep mentioning? They signed Jason Heyward away from the rival Cardinals for eight years and $184 million. Who doesn’t want to be a Cub?! Now onto the division previews…
Like pretty much the rest of the AL, the AL East is wide open. You can make an argument for just about every team as to why they can win the division. The NL has the best teams and also the worst teams. The AL has everything else. The Tampa Bay Rays are young. They have some tremendous talent like with pitchers Chris Archer and Alex Cobb and of course third baseman Even Longoria, but I don’t know if they will have the offensive firepower to consistently score runs this season.
Baltimore doesn’t do anything too flashy, they are just a grind it out, hardworking team and their manager Buck Showalter expects nothing different. I think they are actually the sneakiest team in this division. Pedro Alvarez, signing him from the Pirates I think is a very good deal. Manny Machado is a good player. Mark Trumbo is underrated. Adam Jones may be a little outspoken, but he is a heck of player. This team could be sneaky good this year or they could be just average or bad. Yes, great analysis by The Stack on this one.
Boston was a huge disappointment last year. Huge! They also have a “huge” problem this year, at least for now, with Pablo Sandoval not starting due to his weight problems. That’s only $17 million riding the pine. The big acquisition in free agency was David Price. He alone though cannot save this pitching staff. Clay Buchholz is going to have to have a big year this year too. There is talent on this team, but there are a lot of pricey individuals that need to step up day after day. I don’t expect that from this team.
That leads us to Toronto and New York. Toronto got Price for the playoff run last year and now he isn’t there, but their offense will be pretty tough to stop. You have the bat flipping Jose Bautista and Troy Tulowitzki. This team will score runs in bunches, but good pitching can stop good hitting more often than the other way around. The Yankees have taken a page out of the Royals book and bolstered their bullpen. Aroldis Chapman acquired from the Reds, Andrew Miller, this bullpen will be feared. Just need six innings from their starters and they’ll be good. Alex Rodriguez is approaching 700 homeruns. If Mark Teixeira can come back fully healthy, this team will win the east.
Predicted AL East Standings
New York Yankees
Toronto Blue Jays
Boston Red Sox
Tampa Bay Rays
More so than the East, you can make a strong argument for every team in the AL Central that they can win the division. I didn’t take the Kansas City Royals last year, thinking their World Series appearance from the year before was a mirage and that they couldn’t win again. Boy was I wrong. We were wrong. The Royals thanks in large part to their bullpen was tremendous all season long and completed the comebacks when they needed to, got the hits when they needed and made big pitch after big pitch in route to the World Series win over the New York Mets. Not about to make that same mistake again, right or wrong though part of me feels like I may be a year late getting to the party. They have lot some pieces like Ben Zobrist, but their bullpen remains great and Edinson Volquez and Yordano Ventura can anchor that starting rotation. They have the bats to score runs and should win this division.
The Royals won’t be without competition though. Detroit looked like they would be in rebuilding mode for a couple of years, but that plan was scrapped it looks like with the acquisitions of pitcher Jordan Zimmermann from the Washington Nationals and outfielder Justin Upton from the San Diego Padres. These pieces will certainly help the Tigers, but they appear to have other holes, but are more than capable of winning this division, especially if Justin Verlander can pitch very well.
The Cleveland Indians have a dynamite pitching staff with Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar. The question with this team is going to be the hitting and if they can score enough runs. Not sure that they can. They are definitely a team to watch though. Minnesota has just the opposite question. The Twins appear stacked with lots of offensive talent and Byron Buxton could be the next big thing for baseball. He was a tad underwhelming last year. We will see. The true wild card on this team is Byung Ho Park, whom the Twins got from South Korea. The Twins starting pitching staff though is not great. Can Ervin Santana rebound from a season that saw an 80 game suspension and an up-and-down performance after that. If the pitching staff can come around, the Twins can make the playoffs. They may be a year away though. As for the Chicago White Sox, I already had my doubts about them, but the Adam LaRoche situation is a cloud that I think hovers over this team for at least part of the season and they won’t be able to recover. Chris Sale is a great pitcher though and can win the AL Cy Young.
Predicted AL Central Standings
Kansas City Royals
Chicago White Sox
Two teams really surprised people in the AL West last year, at least on the positive side. The Houston Astros surprised in route to making the playoffs. Remember when Sports Illustrated picked them as the World Series champions in 2017 a couple years back? There was good reason to think that. This team’s stardom is with their youth and between Jose Altuve and pitchers like Dallas Keuchel, this team will be dominant this year. The Texas Rangers also shocked a lot of people last year by winning the AL West. I don’t think they find repeat success this year. Cole Hamels will anchor the starting staff and there are some good hitters like Elvis Andrus and Prince Fielder if he can stay healthy. There is reason for optimism if you’re a Rangers fan, I just don’t buy that they can find their way back to the playoffs this year.
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim of Orange County of California of the United States of America of the Earth of the Milky Way Galaxy were pretty disappointing last year. Are they wasting Mike Trout? No, but this could be the last year of manager Mike Sciosia with the Angels if they don’t find a way to make it back to the playoffs. Albert Pujols isn’t going to save the day. Jered Weaver needs a big-time year. The trade to land shortstop Andrelton Simmons is a good move. He is a phenomenal defensive shortstop and will save a ton of runs. The Angels will certainly need that.
Speaking of disappointments, a lot of people (myself included) jumped on the Seattle Mariners bandwagon last year and were thoroughly burned. Nelson Cruz was good, but for all the money the Mariners paid him, he needed to be better. This year the hopefully the young guys the Mariners have step up and give King Felix a chance at the postseason. Definitely think it’s possible. As for the Oakland A’s, aren’t they still kind of rebuilding? Don’t get me wrong, Sonny Gray is outstanding, but I don’t see any reason to think they will win the west this year.
Predicted AL West Standings
Los Angeles Angels
Wild card game
Cleveland Indians vs. Toronto Blue Jays (Mariners and Orioles and maybe even the Twins just miss out)
Houston Astros vs. Kansas City Royals
Everyone and their dog it seemed like had the Washington Nationals winning the NL East a bunch of us (myself included) had the Nationals wining the World Series. Another NL East team had something else in mind and that was the New York Mets. The Mets have such a great young pitching staff. Their starting rotation, one through five is thee best in baseball between Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz and even Bartolo Colon. Yoenis Cespedes is back to provide some help knocking in runs, but his antics and gaffs in the field may prove costly. The Nationals will be a different team to watch this year under manager Dusty Baker. Maybe his management style is just thing this team needs. Bryce Harper is likely the NL MVP and can Stephen Strasburg pitch all season long? If the answer is yes, the Nationals will find themselves back in the playoffs so long as Jonathan Papelbon doesn’t choke anyone. They have a very strong team.
Miami is going to be fun to watch just because we want to see Giancarlo Stanton belt out hopefully over 50 homeruns this year and see how Jose Fernandez pitches this year. Please stay healthy. Dee Gordon will steal a bunch of bases. This is probably Ichiro’s final run. The Marlins can be a playoff team, but they need a lot of things to go right. The Phillies might be slightly better this year. Yay 60 wins? The Braves? They appear to be a dumpster fire.
Predicted NL East Standings
New York Mets
The NL Central may have the best three teams in baseball with the St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates. Now yes, I put St. Louis first in the list, but they are not winning the Central this year. This division has the Cubs’ name written all over it. The pitching with Jake Arietta and Jon Lester is good. I mean Arietta is your reigning NL Cy Young award winner. And the runs that they will produce this year with the likes of Kris Bryant, Jason Heyward, Kyle Schwarber, Dexter Fowler and more. My goodness. How will you shut them down? No offense to the Cardinals, but outside of Adam Wainwright, I don’t see them having a lights out starting staff. Mike Leake is a good pitcher. Michael Wacha is up and down. I’m not all that impressed with their lineup either outside of Matt Holliday and Yadier Molina, but yet all this team does is win. It would be ridiculous to think that they won’t somehow get the deal done.
I love the resurrection of the Pittsburgh Pirates, but I think they take a slight step back this year. They need to figure out that contract situation with Gerrit Cole and get him locked up soon or this may be his last year in the Steel City. He is not happy with his contract and he is a good pitcher. The Pirates need to reward him with a new contract. Losing Pedro Alvarez I think will prove to be costly and no Neil Walker this year? I certainly hope Jung Ho Kang can get off get the DL soon and stay off there. Andrew McCutchen is a star and Starling Marte is great too. I want the Pirates in the playoffs, but I’m just not sure this is going to be the year. I really hope I’m wrong about this. I want the Pirates in over the Cardinals, but the Cardinals have such a great pedigree. It is tough to pick against them and take the Pirates over them or pick the Pirates to make the playoffs. The NL is too stacked.
Milwaukee will think they have a chance through the first month or two maybe and then realize they don’t light a candle to the three teams above and Cincinnati appears to be in rebuilding mode. Have fun with that in this division.
Predicted NL Central Standings
St. Louis Cardinals
Last year the San Diego Padres made a splash in free agency signing a number of high price guys and boosting their payroll roster considerably. It backfired. Miserably. This year, another NL West team is taking a stab at it in the hopes of catching the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers. That would be the Arizona Diamondbacks. They went out and got Zach Greinke. They traded for Shelby Miller. That is a tremendous 1-2 pitching duo and this team needs it. They have the offense already with the star that no one has heard of in Paul Goldschmidt. They just need some pitching to help get them over the top. It isn’t going to be easy in this division and the Diamondbacks have certainly put a lot of pressure on themselves and a target square on their backs, but these are the types of moves that general manager Tony LaRusa needs to make to make the Diamondbacks a contender.
Greinke was with the Los Angeles Dodgers last year. Just about everyone in the baseball world was stunned to see Greinke leave L.A. for Arizona and it left the Dodgers with a pretty sizable gap to fill. I don’t if Scott Kazmir is that missing link. He’s OK, but he’s not Greinke that’s for sure. Andrew Friedman is in the front office and he did a magnificent job building the Tampa Bay Rays. He was methodical and didn’t have as much money to spend on big name free agents like the Dodgers can. It seems like he is taking that approach to a degree with the Dodgers and that isn’t sitting too well with fans. They do have power and flair with guys like Yasiel Puig and Joc Pederson, but I feel a slight regression coming from the Dodgers.
Of course it is 2016 and that means the San Francisco Giants have re-tooled and are ready for another World Series run. They got Johnny Cueto from Kansas City. They still have Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner not to mention Jake Peavy and also Jeff Samardzija. That rotation is filthy. Denard Span is an underrated sign and this lineup should hopefully generate a few more runs than last year. Doesn’t this just feel like it’s San Francisco’s year?
Unfortunately for San Diego and Colorado, they’re both kind of rebuilding and/or just not very good. Going to be a long year for both of these clubs going against the other stacked teams in the west and the NL for that matter, but at least Colorado has this sensational rookie in Trevor Story. He’s fun to watch. Remember, the NL does boast the very best baseball has to offer and also the very worst.
Predicted NL West Standings
San Francisco Giants
Los Angeles Dodgers
San Diego Padres
NL Wild Card
Washington vs. St. Louis (Pittsburgh, Arizona and L.A. just miss out)
NLCS: San Francisco vs. Chicago Cubs
AL Cy Young winner: Chris Sale (Chicago White Sox)
NL Cy Young winner: Jake Arrieta (Chicago Cubs)
AL MVP: Mike Trout (Los Angeles Angels)
NL MVP: Bryce Harper (Washington)
World Series: San Francisco vs. Houston
World Series champion: San Francisco Giants (have to pick them until the pattern ends)
Hopefully everyone enjoys the season. Six months from now the playoffs begin, but a lot, I mean a lot of baseball will be played between now and then.
Coming up Monday: Reaction to top stories in sports from the weekend