Wednesday, June 17, 2015

New York Mets 2015 Team Breakdown

 Projected Division Finish

1.              Washington Nationals
2.              Miami Marlins
3.              New York Mets
4.              Atlanta Braves
5.              Philadelphia Phillies

New York Mets

2014 Finish:              79-83 (Tied for Second in NL East)

Projected Batting Order                                             My Batting Order

RF        Curtis Granderson                                        CF        Juan Lagares
3B       David Wright                                                 2B       Daniel Murphy
1B       Lucas Duda                                                    3B       David Wright
LF        Michael Cuddyer                                           1B       Lucas Duda
2B       Daniel Murphy                                              LF        Michael Cuddyer
C          Travis d’Arnaud                                            RF        Curtis Granderson
CF        Juan Lagares                                                  C          Travis d’Arnaud
SS        Wilmer Flores                                                SS        Wilmer Flores

Projected Starting Rotation/Closer

RHP                 Matt Harvey
RHP                 Jacob deGrom
RHP                 Bartolo Colon
LHP                 Jonathon Niese
RHP                 Dillon Gee
CLOSER          Jeurys Familia

The Mets are in a similar position to the Marlins.  Both teams are up and coming. Both teams have good long-term outlooks.  They also have similar expectations.  By that I mean, that if you are a fan of one of these teams you tend to think they are ready to compete now and the re-build fell behind schedule.  If you aren’t a fan of one of these teams, you realize that they seem to be right on track in terms of being a contender and should be ready soon, perhaps even a wildcard threat this year.  But you also know that they are not one of the top teams in the league at this point.  The Mets are in a tough spot.  They have witnessed the rest of their division deal with some success (Atlanta’s long run of division championships, Philly’s shorter but more recent run and Washington’s current emergence as a division power).  Even the Marlins at least have a few World Series titles in the recent past (1997, 2003), while the Mets haven’t won one since 1986.  The Mets also haven’t been to the playoffs since 2006 and haven’t had a winning season since 2008.  Add to that the issues the Wilpons had with Bernie Madoff and the Mets becoming a mid market salary club with big market expectations and it’s clear that this franchise is ready for some good news.  So while it is likely too early for Mets fans to think they are ready to be a serious contender, you can understand why they want to believe they are.  The good news is they got off to a good start and look to have a bright future ahead of them.


The Mets offense struggled last year.  They ranked near the bottom half of the league in every single major offensive category, looking especially thin in the Hits category, with the third fewest.  What’s more troubling, is that this offense doesn’t look to be much better this year.  They added Michael Cuddyer to play left field, and he should help some.  But he’s 34 years old and moving to a park that stifles offense.  Outside of that, the Mets are pretty much going with the same crew banking on renewed health from David Wright and continued growth from the rest of the team.  That’s not the surest bet for success.

David Wright continues to be the focal point for this offense.  But at 32, the former All Star is constantly injured and hasn’t played at an All Star level since 2012.  He played well in 2013, but only in 112 games as injury shortened that season.  In fact, Wright has missed 144 games due to injury since 2011, which almost amounts to a full season.  He’s only played in 8 games this year after heading to the DL with a back injury.  He’s been diagnosed with spinal stenosis, which means no one knows when he’ll get better and how long he’ll be out.  Knowing his injury history, I didn’t expect much from him.  Last year he hit only 269 with 8 HR and 43 RBI.  In past seasons when he hasn’t been a power threat, he’s tried to steal more bases to make up for it.  But after going 8 for 13 on the bases last year, I suspect that won’t be an option for him anymore.  I had him at 270 with 10 HR, 55 RBI and 5 SB in 115 games.  Even those low totals look like a stretch now.

With Wright’s injury, a lot more will be needed from the newest acquisition, Michael Cuddyer.  From the beginning, the Mets planned on having Cuddyer be the cleanup man.  I think he’s better suited to hit 5th or 2nd.  I have him hitting 5th in my lineup, but with the injuries the Mets have dealt with, they have used a number of different lineups and Cuddyer has responded admirably filling in all over.  The former batting champ expected to see his numbers drop moving from Coors Field (one of the best offensive parks in baseball) to Citi Field (one of the worst, even with the fences brought in).  I was thinking he’d hit 280 with around 12-15 HR in 120 games.  That seems to be a good estimation based on what he’s done so far this year as he is one of the few Mets acquitting himself well at the plate.

First baseman Lucas Duda had a great season last year ranking third in the NL with 30 HR.  He also chipped in 92 RBI and a 349 OBP.  His 253 AVG is perfectly acceptable as a slugger.  He’s put the whole Duda vs. Ike Davis debate in the past and looks to be one of the few bright spots on the offense this year. I don’t think he’s a number three hitter, as the Mets decided he was to start the season.  Terry Collins fiddled with the lineup a lot since then and Duda is back hitting 4th or 5th, both good spots for him on this team.  If he can hit 30 HR in last year’s Citi Field, there is a thought he could hit more this year.  But now that he’s a more established threat, pitchers may deal with him more carefully.  I’ll put him down for 250 with 30 HR and 90 RBI again.

After the heart of the order, the rest of the offense is up in the air.  Curtis Granderson started the year leading off.  He makes a better 2, 5 or 6 hitter in my opinion.  And with Daniel Murphy around, I love him in the 6th spot.  But, like most the other Mets, he’s moved up and down the batting order a lot to try to offset the injures.  He’s no longer a 40 home run hitter at his age and playing in any park that isn’t the new Yankee stadium.  Last year he struggled hitting 227 with only 20 HR and 66 RBI.  I think he’s more of a 25-30 HR guy, though his AVG should come up.  Granderson’s issue is that he’s so streaky, which makes him a poor leadoff candidate.  He can work a walk, but he’s not an elite on base guy.  I’ll put him down to hit in the middle of the order and perhaps go 250 (career 256), 28/80.  That’s not bad at all.  He could also chip in 10 SB.

I mentioned Daniel Murphy as an ideal number 2 hitter.  And I stand by it.  One of the most underrated second baseman in the game, Murphy is third among all second baseman in hits since 2012.   He had another strong season last year hitting 283 with 9 HR, 57 RBI, 79 R and 13 SB.  He’s not an elite hitter and does nothing great.  For that reason, a lot of New Yorkers aren’t a big fan of his.  But he gets tons of hits, has an above average OBP (career 333 to go with a 289 career AVG) and can be a double digit HR/SB guy.  I liked him for 290 with 11 HR, 14 SB, 60 RBI and 75 R.  But an injury has recently sent him to the DL.  The good news is he shouldn’t be there long and if he keeps playing like he has been, all those totals are within reach with a possibility for more.

With the established players set, the Mets are hoping a young trio of hitters can continue to grow at the plate and help out offensively.  Juan Lagares is known more for his glove in center field, but got some chances to leadoff last year.  He acquitted himself fairly well hitting 281 with 13 SB and a 321 OBP in 116 games.  There was some hesitation to hand the leadoff duties to him to start this year, but I think he is the best option in that spot.  He will definitely have some growing pains with only 237 career games under his belt to start this year.  But if you are committed to him, you may as well see if he can start learning now and perhaps be a solid to good leadoff man in the near future.  I see him struggling, but learning.  Think 260 with 5 HR, 20 SB and 65 R.  He’s on pace to reach those totals now.  While they aren’t great, they are acceptable for a hitter with his experience.

Travis d’Arnaud struggled in the first half of last season, before coming on strong after a demotion to Triple A.  He hit 180 before being sent down and then 272 once he came back.  He also slugged 13 HRs to lead all NL rookies last season.  He has a bright future ahead of him, though he’s not much more than an average hitter at this point.  I figured 270 would be another good estimate for him with perhaps 12-15 HR.  But he is on pace to hit far better than that in the AVG department, though perhaps a little behind in the power department.  Just like Lagares, d’Arnaud is a guy who is still learning the major leagues and needs time to develop and be better for the future.

The last piece of this offense is Wilmer Flores.  Flores has played second and third in the minors, but was asked to take over shortstop this year.  His bat has gotten him to the majors.  But it’s not an elite bat by any means.  Add to that the fact that he is playing out of position in one of the toughest positions in baseball, and I see this experiment failing.  There is no question he can hit.  We know that, even with his limited experience at the major league level.  But I think too much is being asked of him.  I would bury him in the 8th spot and hope this playing out of position doesn’t hurt his development.  He can run into double-digit homers, but if he pushes his AVG will plummet.  I figured him to struggle to the tune of 230 with 12 HR and 40 RBI.  He’s actually played much better than I thought he would so far this year and think he should surpass all those totals, even if he continues to struggle at short.

That’s the starting lineup.  On the bench, the Mets have John Mayberry Jr., who excels at hitting lefties and can play either outfield corner.  Anthony Recker was the original backup catcher, but has been displaced by prospect Kevin Plawecki.   The only other established major leaguer on the bench is Ruben Tejada, who has struggled in his chances to be a major league shortstop to this point.  With Wright hurt, he’ll get more chances to play, but I don’t expect much from him.  This bench is not deep or experienced.  Even healthy, this lineup was going to struggle to score runs.  Without their top guys, things look grim.  Luckily they got off to an incredibly hot start.  But unless they have another one in them, I see them sinking in the standings quickly.

The defense on this club isn’t great.  Behind the plate, d’Arnaud does a good job framing pitches but needs to work on blocking balls in the dirt and throwing out runners.  He’s young and still learning so he likely will be better, but this year won’t be the year he wins a gold glove.  The backups aren’t much better defensively and neither has a proven bat.  Duda isn’t terrible at first, but he’s below average.  Daniel Murphy has worked hard to become a good second baseman.  He’s gotten a lot better.  But he’s still below average.  Flores is not a shortstop and lacks the skills to play the position.  He is currently 3rd in the league with 10 Errors and has shown abysmal range.  Michael Cuddyer is fine in left, but lacks range.  David Wright is no longer a Gold Glover, and many metrics had him as a suspect Gold Glover in his youth.  That being said, he’s an average to above average defensive third baseman at this point, though he’s always injured so he’s played very little.  Granderson is fine in right, but lacks an arm.  Lagares is the only plus defender on the whole team and luckily is probably the best defensive center fielder in the league.  Mayberry Jr. is an upgrade in left and a downgrade in right.  No one else on the bench is a proven commodity.  So while this offense struggles, they can’t save it with great defense, because they will likely be a subpar defensive team.


The Mets have a fantastic group of young arms.  And they hope that they will be the group that leads them back into relevancy and beyond in the near future.  However last year their pitching took a hit as Matt Harvey was recovering from Tommy John surgery.  This year, before the season even began, Zach Wheeler went down with the same injury.  So while they get Harvey back, they lose Wheeler.  But there is depth and experience on this pitching staff, even without Wheeler, so there is no reason to believe the Mets can’t continue to pitch near the 3.49 mark they reached last year, good enough for 6th in the league.  However it’s important to remember that while the Mets pitching staff looks good, it is not yet elite.  While the Mets were third in the league in Ks, they were third to last in BBs allowed.  These pitchers are talented, but most are young and still learning.

They are hoping Matt Harvey can re-capture his ace status.  While many in NY are sure he can, the fact is, it isn’t a foregone conclusion.  We all remember how great he was in 2013, going 9-5 with a 2.27 ERA in 26 starts.  He struck out 191 in 178 IP and held hitters to a 209 BAA while sporting a 0.93 WHIP.  Those are incredible totals.  But he missed all of last year trying to rehab from his Tommy John, so we can’t just assume he will be as good.  In fact, it’s usually the second year back from Tommy John that a pitcher regains his top form.  Now he’s still got the talent and stuff to be very good, even if he’s not at his best.  But I think this will be a bridge year to a much stronger season in 2016.  My preseason predictions for him were 12-15 Wins, a 3.30 ERA and 200 Ks in 180 IP.  I also thought that at the end of the year, if the Mets were out of it, he might get some additional time off to perhaps only make 30 starts.  He’s on track to reach those totals this year and could do better.

Last year’s Rookie of the Year Jacob deGrom is the de facto number 2 starter now.  Even with his inexperience, the Mets love sending him out there.  He’s got incredible strikeout stuff as evidenced by his 144 Ks last year in 140 IP.  He also pitched to a 2.69 ERA while going 9-6 in 22 starts.  That being said, he has only 22 starts under his belt.  You would expect hitters to get a book on him, and then force him to make adjustments.  That’s something all young players struggle with.  I expect him to struggle a bit this year, but only in comparison to his great season in 2014.  I think he too can win 12-15 games with an ERA under 3.50 and perhaps 200 Ks in 180+ IP.  He’s got a phenomenal 4-pitch arsenal and great swing and miss stuff to keep him successful.  Based on his strong numbers right now, my predictions are looking like they are too low.

Veteran lefty Jon Niese is back for another season.  Not at all a flashy player, Niese is often overlooked, even by the Mets faithful.  But he’s a good, underrated pitcher who can eat innings and win games.  He went 9-11 last year with a 3.40 ERA in 30 starts and 187 IP.  He’s not a strikeout guy and has fairly pedestrian secondary numbers (1.27 WHIP, 268 BAA).  But even though he puts runners on, he limits damage and keeps his team in games.  He’s never going to win a Cy Young, but he’s a quality mid-rotation piece.  I’m thinking another 180 IP from him and double-digit wins with an ERA around 3.80.

Bartolo Colon continues to defy all pitching logic.  He’s a 42 year old, overweight starter with a 90 MPH fastball that he throws all the time.  He locates it well and it has some movement, but I think calling it a sinker is disingenuous.  His arm is hanging onto his shoulder by a stem cell and his at bats are humorous.  There is no reason he should be successful as a pitcher.  And yet at the time of this writing, he is tied for the league lead in Wins.  But despite that, he is not an ace caliber pitcher.  We have learned that Wins are somewhat random and the Colon’s secondary numbers greatly support that finding.  But he’s still a quality pitcher and can obviously help his team win games.  Last year, he went 15-13 with a 4.09 ERA.  He logged 202 IP and pitched to a 1.23 WHIP.  All those numbers are fairly average except for the Win and IP totals.  If you stay healthy and throw a lot of innings, even an average pitcher can win ballgames.  And that’s the secret to Colon’s success.  He also avoids walks nicely and doesn’t beat himself.  He’ll give up hits and runs, but not a ton.  And he can stay in games long enough to win.  I like him for another 200 IP this year with perhaps 12 Wins and an ERA around 4.25.

With Zach Wheeler gone, the Mets had to move everyone up in the rotation. The Mets planned to start the season with veteran Dillon Gee as the 5th starter.  Gee has been a fairly average pitcher over his 4+ seasons in the bigs.  He has an ERA around 4 and produces a record close to 500.  His best season was in 2013, when he went 12-11 with a 3.62 ERA in 199 IP.  However, he was never more than a spot holder for this team.  I figured he’d hold the 5th spot for half the year and win 6-8 games (losing another 6-8) with an ERA around 4.  However, I suspected that the Mets would eventually move him to the bullpen in favor of Noah Syndergaard.  That move already happened and now Gee is the long man and occasional spot starter.

The move happened earlier than many others and I thought it would.  It happened because Syndergaard was so good in Triple A that the Mets thought he could boost the team at the major league level.  The Mets have dealt with a lot of injuries, but were actually pretty healthy on the mound.  So bringing Syndergaard up meant a demotion for Gee, who wasn’t happy about it.  But all are doing their jobs and this is a “light” 6 man rotation.  That means that while there are 6 starters, the 6th starter is not guaranteed a chance to start when his turn comes up.  However, that will make it easier for the Mets to limit Matt Harvey’s innings and deal with any injuries that do arise.  I thought Syndergaard would only pitch 2-2 ½ months and maybe get 5 Wins with an ERA around 3.50.  But now that he’s with the big club in June, those numbers could be a lot better.

That’s the starting rotation.  And it’s pretty good.  While it’s not the best, it is deep and has youth and proven commodities.  It is definitely a position of strength for the Mets.  And that’s good news for New York, because their bullpen is a completely different story. 

It started with Bobby Parnell being out.  He’s actually re-joined the team, but was gone for over a year and just recently got his first Save.  Because of that, Jenrry Mejia was tabbed to be the new closer, but ended up being suspended due to a positive drug test for PEDs.  Jeurys Familia was then given the job and has done well thus far. But now the Mets are dealing with injuries to Buddy Carlyle, Jerry Blevins, Josh Edgin, Erik Goeddel and Rafael Montero.  So the bullpen is chock full of unproven commodities as their initial wave of arms was devastated by injuries.  There are still talented arms in the bullpen, but the Mets can’t continue to lose relief arms if they hope to stay in the division race.

This pitching staff is pretty good.  The starters are very good and the closer is solid.  But the bridge between them is weak and untested.  That will put more pressure on the starters to perform, but luckily the Mets are very deep in their starting rotation and can hopefully deal with the pressure and any injuries down the stretch.  This team will be competitive day in and day out.  But with this offense, that doesn’t necessarily mean wins.


The Mets are expecting a lot from themselves this year.  The Mets fan base is expecting even more.  But other baseball people have tempered their expectations for this team.  The Mets have had a bright future for a while.  That is still the case.  But we may not be quite there yet.

They have a very good starting staff.  Very good, not great.  It’s important to point that out because on paper, the Nationals look better and both the Braves and Marlins look to be very similarly talented, if perhaps a step behind.  Even if they had the best rotation in the division, they likely have only the third best offense.  That could be enough, but it’s not a sure thing.  And with this limited offense, all it takes is an off night for a starter for them to be dead in the water.  And the Nationals have 5 arms capable of neutralizing this offense, the Braves have 3, the Marlins have 1 or 2 and the Phillies have 1. 

The Mets are not a sure bet this year and for that reason I had them finishing third in the division with 82 Wins.  I think this could be the year they get over 500, but don’t see them being a serious threat for a wildcard spot.

Thus far, they have played better than I expected.  But I still don’t think they will make the playoffs, though they may finish second with around 85 Wins.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Miami Marlins 2015 Team Breakdown

Projected Division Finish

1.              Washington Nationals
2.              Miami Marlins
3.              New York Mets
4.              Atlanta Braves
5.              Philadelphia Phillies

Miami Marlins

2014 Finish:              77-85 (Fourth in NL East)

Projected Batting Order

2B       Dee Gordon
LF        Christian Yelich
RF        Giancarlo Stanton
1B       Mike Morse
CF        Marcell Ozuna
3B       Martin Prado
C          Jarrod Saltalamacchia
SS        Adeiny Hechavarria

Projected Starting Rotation/Closer

RHP                 Henderson Alvarez
RHP                 Mat Latos
RHP                 Tom Koehler
RHP                 Dan Haren
RHP                 Jose Fernandez
CLOSER          Steve Cishek

The Marlins have decided the time has come to turn the corner.  They gave Giancarlo Stanton the biggest contract in baseball ($325 million) that locks him up for over 13 years.  (Although it is back loaded and there is an opt out clause in the middle.)  The tradeoff was the Marlins had to show they were committed to winning.  So they made some trades and free agent signings and hope to be a far more competitive team this season.  The question is, do you trust them?  They have done this before in 2012 when they were opening up their new stadium.  They went all in in that offseason then gave up on the plan halfway through the year.  Why is this year different?  Some don’t think it is and believe that at the first sign of weakness, the Marlins will abort their plan to contend. In 2012, they wanted a lot of new fans and ticket sales for their first year in a new ballpark.  But since it was already paid for (by tax payers), there was no incentive to keep spending money.  They’ve committed a ton of cash to Stanton, which keeps them on the hook for 13 years (or perhaps only 6).  I think that may be enough to keep them committed to winning (and therefore spending) for a longer term.  But I wouldn’t be surprised if they still shock everyone and pull the plug early because Jeffrey Loria and his front office lack scruples and are undeserving of trust or fan support.


Last year’s Marlins offense was pretty weak after Giancarlo Stanton.  Even with Stanton, they only ranked 12th out of 15 NL team with 122 HR.  That being said, they were 5th in team batting AVG (253) and added 15 Wins from 2013 to 2014.  Still, they want to improve overall on offense with Stanton constantly being pitched around and seeing themselves ranked near the bottom of the league in R and 13th in SB.  So they added some new names to help this offense be more competitive this year.

This offense is built around Giancarlo Stanton.  He’s an elite power hitter who has proven he can handle being pitched around, can hit for average, play good defense and steal some bags.  He is a complete ball player.  He’s not an elite hitter in terms of average (career 268), but a lot of that has to do with the fact that he gets so much special attention, has no protection in the lineup and plays in a tough home ballpark.  But he excels in the power department.  Last year he hit 288 with 37 HR, 105 RBI, 89 R and 13 SB.  And all that was only in 145 games as his season was cut short after he took a fastball to the face in a late season game against the Brewers.  The hope is, he will have better protection in the lineup this year and have more pitches to hit.  But he’s gotten off to a slow start this season.  My initial projections for him were 275 with 35 HR, 115 RBI, 100 R and 12 SB.  But based on the start he and his team have had, that seems unlikely.  There still isn’t a lot of incentive to pitch to him.  He’ll have to continue to makes adjustments and learn to lay off the high fastball, which he has struggled to do so far.  I know he’s got the talent.  Let’s see if he can make the adjustments necessary to succeed. 

He is joined in the outfield by the talented Christian Yelich.  He hit 284 in 144 games (he wasn’t a rookie since he appeared in 62 games the year before) hitting 284 with 9 HR, 54 RBI, 94 R and 21 SB.  He also sported an impressive 362 OBP far beyond his years.  But he, like many of his teammates, got off to a bad start and has missed some games with injury.  If he heats back up, he’ll hit second, but right now is hitting in the bottom of the lineup.  My initial projections were 270 with 10 HR, 60 RBI, 80 R and 25 SB.  But he’ll really have to pick it up to reach those plateaus.

The third member of this talented outfield is Marcell Ozuna.  Ozuna was the primary protection for Stanton last year.  And he didn’t do a bad job with 23 HR and
85 RBI to go with a 265 AVG.  He’s not the same caliber hitter of Yelich or Stanton with a more limited contact history and a higher strikeout rate.  He is valued for his power and I think he could reach 30 HR this year, if only hit 250.  I’ll say he gets to 28 HR with another 85 RBI.

I mentioned Dee Gordon being added by Miami to be their new second baseman and leadoff man.  He had a breakout season last year with the Dodgers and has gotten off to an incredible start this year.  He never quite caught on in LA for years, but moved to second base last year and had his best season yet.  He hit 289 with 64 SB and 92 R.  The hope is that he can continue to do that in Miami.  A lot of people think he’s a flash in the pan because of his low OBP and weak second half.  I can honestly say I was a little skeptical and therefore put my projections on the lower end of the spectrum.  My thought was 270 with an OBP around 315, 50 SB and 85 R.   But as the NL’s leading hitter at this point, he may soar far beyond those projections. 

Michael Morse and Martin Prado were both added to lock down first and third respectively.  Morse was a member of the World Series winning Giants last year.  He hit 279 in 131 games with 16 HR and 61 RBI.  He was limited at the end of last year and I don’t think he’s the player he used to be.  My projections for him were lower than others:  245, 15 HR and 65 RBI in 120 games.  He’s gotten off to a slow start this year and is currently on the DL.  Injury prone guys tend to stay injured and I think that hurts his bottom line.

Prado is a very good baseball player.  He’s not the kind of guy to hit 320 or slug 20 HR or steal 20 bags.  But he is a great ball player who plays above average defense at multiple positions, is a great clubhouse presence and gives in good ABs every time he’s at the plate.  I think he’s good for 290 with 10 HR, 5 SB and 75+ RBI or R, depending on where he hits in the lineup.  I thought he’d hit 6th, but he’s been hitting second as he’s one of the Marlins leading hitters right now. 

The rest of the lineup includes shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria and a catcher.  The plan going into the season was to have Jarrod Saltalamacchia be the primary man behind the plate.  But even with two thirds of his 3-year, $21 million contract remaining on the books, the Marlins decided that keeping Salty was a mistake.  After another slow start, he was cut and replaced by Jeff Mathis and J.T. Realmuto. At short, Hechavarria had the best season of his young career in 2014.  He hit 276 with 34 RBI and 53 R.  I didn’t expect much from him this year, but he’s actually also off to a hot start.  Since his defense is what matters, any offense he gives is a bonus.  I had him down for 250 with maybe 10 SB and 50 R.  He’s playing better than that now and may soar way past those projections.

That’s the offense.  It’s not great, but it may be the second best in the division after the Nationals.  It’s also not very deep.  They do have a quality fourth outfielder in Ichiro Suzuki.  Donovan Solano lost his starting job at second but can play the position defensively.  And both Jeff Baker and Justin Bour are talented young hitters who can cover first base.  They will need health and good fortune to be successful.  They haven’t had that so far.

The defense should be okay.  With Saltalamacchia gone, the defense behind the plate improves.  Mathis is a good defensive catcher; Realmuto is young but getting better.  Baker and Bour are both better than Morse at first, but neither is great.  And while Dee Gordon has great range and is a better second baseman than shortstop, he’s not great at that position either.  Hechavarria and Prado are above average to good at short and third and the defense in the outfield is phenomenal across the board.  Yelich and Stanton are especially good in the corners and Ozuna has an excellent arm in left.  Ichiro can handle either corner off the bench.  This defense is good in the outfield and looks stronger on the left side than the right.  It’s fine, but not very deep.


Many have extolled the Marlins pitching staff.  None more so than the Marlins themselves.  But while they have talent and youth, they haven’t grown into the top-flight staff that Miami thought they would.  That being said, most other people looked at them and said they would be good…eventually.  So, your opinion on this staff is likely tied to your geography.  If you live in South Florida, you may be a little frustrated with the arms on the staff.  If you don’t, you see that there is talent that is already solid and could be good very soon.  Last year was not their time though.  They ranked in the bottom half of the league in team ERA and second to last in hits allowed and Ks.  They were third to last in WHIP.  And they lost their ace to Tommy John surgery early in the year.  To make up for that, the Marlins added some veteran arms to complement the young talent they already have.

Mat Latos was one of the new arms brought in in the offseason.  Latos is an excellent, reliable pitcher with 5 straight seasons of a sub 3.50 ERA.  But after having great success with the Padres and in his first two seasons in Cincinnati, he struggled with injury and was limited to 16 games last year.  It was his first time not to reach 180 innings since his rookie shortened year in 2009.  More troubling were the reports of friction between Latos and the Reds pitching staff, similar to reports that came out after he left San Diego. But I still love his stuff and thought he’d be good.  I put him down for 15+ Wins moving from a terrible pitchers park to a good one.  I also thought he’d turn in 200 IP, 190 Ks and an ERA between 3 and 3.10 moving to the NL East, where the offense is significantly weaker than in the central.  But an early injury and struggles have him far off from those totals.  He’ll have to have a heck of a second half to reach those plateaus.  And he is currently not even on the active roster as he rehabs from knee inflammation.

Dan Haren was another veteran who was brought in as part of the Dee Gordon trade with the Dodgers.  Being from southern California, Haren was unsure he wanted to move to Miami.  But he decided to make the move and play for the Marlins early in spring training.  He’s no longer the ace he used to be, but he’s still a savvy veteran with above average movement on his pitches and excellent location to make up for any losses in velocity.  Moving to the NL East will help his totals.  I saw him as a veteran 5th starter who would take more time off due to his age.  So his counting stats would take a hit, but his ERA would be better.  Taking all that into account, I had him as a 10-12 game winner with a sub 4 ERA.  I also thought it was possible for him to reach 180 IP with 150+ Ks.  However he’s off to a far better start than that.  The risk is that he breaks down a bit later as he’s giving the Fish more innings than expected early on, but overall I think my predictions are attainable for him.

Latos and Haren were the veterans set to join a young returning staff.  Of the remaining pitchers, Henderson Alvarez was set to be the ace with Jose Fernandez still recovering from Tommy John, until at least July or August.  But Alvarez has had a terrible time staying healthy.  To this point, he’s only made 4 starts and is currently serving his second stint on the DL.  That’s extra frustrating for the Marlins because Alvarez was supposed to be such a big part of this team this year.  Last season he went 12-7 in 30 starts with a sparkling 2.65 ERA.  He also chipped in 187 IP and 3 complete game shutouts.  However, injury aside, many people expected a bit of a regression for Alvarez.  His 1.24 WHIP was very average and his 275 BAA was not at all good.  So his struggles this year aren’t overly surprising, though the injury helps explain away part of it.  Even so, I saw him as a guy with a 12 Win ceiling and an ERA closer to 4 than 3.  He throws a lot of innings, but has very few Ks.  That’s usually bad news.  The injury throws off my projections, but I’m not surprised Alvarez is struggling this season. 

Another returning arm is young Tom Koehler.  Koehler had a solid season last year gong 10-10 with a 3.82 ERA.  He also threw 191 IP and improved his numbers across the board from his 23-start season in 2013.  He is young, but has good stuff and is showing improvement.  That’s all you can ask for with young pitchers.  He’s unlikely to ever be great, but he can be above average if he continues to hit his spots and limit damage.  While Alvarez got all the headlines, I see these two as very comparable arms both capable of 10 Win seasons with ERAs under 4, but likely over 3.50.  200 IP would be a great year for either.  I think Koehler is on track to reach those totals.

After those 4, the 5th spot is flexible.  Eventually the Marlins hope Jose Fernandez can return and take over that spot.  However, if the Marlins are out of it, I don’t see the point in rushing him back.  He did go down early last year, but guys are never at their peak when they first return from Tommy John.  Despite that, he is ahead of schedule on his rehab assignment and is shooting for coming back after the All Star break, instead of August.  We’ll see.

Until then, the thought was David Phelps might hold down that spot.  The hope was that he’d pitch well enough that he and Haren could take turns being the 5th starter, thereby resting the veteran but not making him a full time 5th starter.  But with all the injuries, Phelps has been asked to do more. Thus far, the former Yankee has played very well.  That’s not a surprise to me at all  Moving to the NL always helps AL pitchers, especially in this case when you consider the offenses in the AL East (Toronto, Baltimore, Boston) compared to their NL East counterparts (Atlanta, New York Mets, Philadelphia).  In addition, the new Yankee stadium is a terrible place to pitch, especially for a young pitcher.  Also, the Yankees have proven to be terrible at developing young arms.  So getting out of the Bronx and moving to Miami has a myriad of benefits for the young pitcher.  I figured he’d make 25 starts and perhaps get to 10 Wins with an ERA between 3.75 and 4.  Right now he’s playing a little better than that and has stepped up to more responsibilities.

The bullpen was supposed to be strong.  Last year, they were second in the league with over 500 Ks as a group.  But they also made the third most appearances.  Thus far, it looks like all those innings are hurting them in 2015.  Steve Cishek was supposed to be back for his 4th straight season closing, after taking over the job halfway through 2012.  He was always very good in the role, though not flashy.  He has a sidearm delivery of a mid 90s fastball and a hard breaking slider that really got in on lefties.  He had a career high 39 Saves last year with a 3.17 ERA and 84 Ks in 65 IP.  That’s solid, though the ERA was a bit high for a closer.  But he has struggled badly this season and has spent time back at Triple A to work on things.

The bullpen also lost some strength when Brad Hand was moved to the starting rotation to help compensate for the injuries the Marlins have suffered in that area.  The bullpen features some other power arms including Mike Dunn, Carter Capps, Bryan Morris and Vin Mazzaro.  But some have struggled and others have been injured.  So this bullpen has been a major factor in Miami’s struggles.  At this early point in the season the Marlins already have 9 blown saves.  Convert those, and this team is 6 games over 500.  You convert half and you are much closer to 500.  So what was once this team’s strength has become a very big weakness.  The good news is that some of these bullpen arms (Rienzo, Capps) are coming back from injury.  And after the starters get healthy, they should get some of those fill in arms back.  The hope for Miami is that the bullpen gets better, but right now they are the main culprit for the rough start.


This team has gotten off to a bad start.  No a terrible start.  They already fired their manager and hired their general manager, who has no professional coaching experience, to take over the top step.  Jeffrey Loria has a lower approval rating in Miami than Fidel Castro.  And this fan base, understandably, has no trust in the Marlins front office.  So that’s all the bad news.

The good news is that they have a lot of young players, including a young pitching staff.  They have locked up one of the best power hitters in baseball and he is a part of what could be the best outfield in baseball in a few years.  And they are playing in a division with only one truly good team.

I really liked this team for this season.  This is a good group of ballplayers.  I picked them to finish second in the division with 88 Wins.  However, I didn’t see this team making the playoffs.

At this point in the season, not making the playoffs seems to be the only thing I got right.  It’s not too late for Miami to turn things around, but they will have to have a heck of a run to get back into the playoff discussion.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Washington Nationals 2015 Team Breakdown

Projected Division Finish

1.              Washington Nationals
2.              Miami Marlins
3.              New York Mets
4.              Atlanta Braves
5.              Philadelphia Phillies

Washington Nationals

2014 Finish:              96-66 (First in NL East)

Projected Batting Order

CF        Denard Span
3B       Anthony Rendon
LF        Jayson Werth
RF        Bryce Harper
SS        Ian Desmond
1B       Ryan Zimmerman
C          Wilson Ramos
2B       Yunel Escobar

Projected Starting Rotation/Closer

RHP                 Max Scherzer
RHP                 Stephen Strasburg
RHP                 Jordan Zimmerman
LHP                 Gio Gonzalez
RHP                 Doug Fister
CLOSER          Drew Storen

The Washington Nationals are considered the team to beat by many this season.  It makes sense when you see a roster chock full of young talent and a deep pitching staff, bolstered by another ace in Max Scherzer.  However, they have been favorites before (the last two years) and haven’t dealt with it well. They were also quickly dismissed from the playoffs last year, failing to live up to their regular season success.  Two years ago they missed the playoffs entirely, despite being heavily favored.  This season, their focus has to be on carrying their success from the regular season into the playoffs.  But overlooking the regular season is a sure path to disaster, and perhaps that contributed to the Nationals slow start.  However, they are back on track now and are currently in first place in the NL East, right where many thought they’d be.


Last year, the offense for the Nats only hit 250, 9th out of the 15 NL teams.  That’s not good at all for a team with championship aspirations.  They did rank 4th in runs, 3rd in HR and in the top half of the league in hits.  They’d love to improve their ability to put the ball in play and also improve their ability to steal some bases (last in 2014).  If that is going to happen, it will be with pretty much the same group adjusting their style of play as they didn’t add any major weapons on the offensive side of the ball this offseason.

The biggest factor in the Nationals improving at the plate is Bryce Harper.  He’s been heavily hyped since he was 16.  That’s tough.  What’s also tough is the fact that he’s been constantly compared to Mike Trout, the best player in baseball.  Remember he’s only 22, younger than the youngest rookie in the MLB this year.  He was a star when he was young and debuted in the majors when he was young.  He always had a massive amount of talent, but it takes more than talent to be a great ballplayer.  The fact is, he was always above average, but with maturity and experience, he is growing into a star.  There are a lot of anti-Harper guys out there.  I’m not actually a huge fan.  But it has nothing to do with his skills, which are undeniable.  He was just treated like an MVP far before he earned that respect.  He also had no business in his first All Star game.  That made people believe he was overrated.  I think overrated is harsh, considering his age.  But overhyped is deserved, even if he’s not to blame.  All that being said, he’s got immense talent.  If he can stay healthy and continue to make adjustments (which he has done since he debuted), he could finally have that monster season.  People have been calling for his MVP season for a while, but I disagreed.  I thought this would be the year.  And he’s been living up to it so far.  Last year he only played in 100 games hitting 273 with 13 HR and 32 RBI.  But he was healthy in the playoffs and was a monster.  There is concern that injury prone players stay injured, but he’s had a lot of fluky injuries.  If fully healthy, I think 300/30 HR and 100 RBI is a legitimate possibility.  He’s the hottest hitter in baseball right now and I think he will have a great year.

One of the many hoping Harper has a huge year is center fielder and leadoff man Denard Span.  Span hit 302 last year and led the NL with 184 hits.  He had a 355 OBP, 31 SB and 94 R playing the role of the perfect leadoff man.  I think this guy is incredibly underrated.  He’s not as fast or as flashy as others, but he does his job supremely well and has for years with a 287 career AVG and 352 career OBP.  He missed the start of the year but has come back and is playing in top form for the Nats.  I think he’ll likely turn in another 290-300 season with an exemplary OBP (in the 340+ range), 25+ SB and 90+ R. 

Veteran Jayson Werth was also expected to play a large role for the Nationals.  In 147 games last year, he hit 292 with 16 HR, 82 RBI, 85 R and 9 SB.  His defense is slipping and he is no longer a great stolen base guy.  But he picks his spots to run well (going 9 for 10 last year) and moved to left field with Harper playing well enough to take over right.  I thought he’d hit 280+ again with 15 HR, 5 SB and 80+ RBI/R.  But I was concerned about him staying healthy.  And sure enough, a wrist injury has knocked him out and will keep him on the DL until August.

Shortstop Ian Desmond is hoping to continue raking in the middle of this talented lineup.  He leads all MLB shortstops in HR and RBI since 2012 and had another great season last year with 24 HR and 91 RBI.  He also had 24 SB, his 4th straight year of at least 20 steals.  The only think he didn’t do was hit for AVG, though 255 is respectable.  His batting AVG has fluctuated over recent years from 269 to 253 then 292, 280 and last year’s 255.  I think he’s closer to a 250 hitter than a 290 one, but think 265 is a good estimate with another 20 HR and 80 RBI.  The 20 SB seem like a lock as well. 

 Third baseman Anthony Rendon was supposed to join Desmond on the left side of the diamond, but has yet to make an appearance this year.  He’s been coming back from a torn MCL, but in his recovery ended up straining his oblique, which put him behind schedule.  They are just starting his new rehab plan and want to be more cautious this time.  Rendon, an MVP candidate last year, is a star on both sides of the ball, hitting 287 in 2014 with 21 HR, 83 RBI, 111 R and 17 SB.  Missing this time will hurt his counting stats, but the hope is he will still be hot when he returns.  I think this layoff may affect him some, even causing a slow start to drop his AVG a bit.  Think 270 with 10 HR, 55 RBI, 8 SB and 60 R in his limited season.

Former third baseman Ryan Zimmerman is moving to first base with the departure of Adam LaRoche and emergence of Rendon.  Zimmerman dealt with injury last year and only played in 61 games.  But he was good in those games hitting 280 with 5 HR and 38 RBI.  He was the Nats first big star and is now one of their key veterans.  I like him this year and think the move to first could keep him healthy.  For a while he was the model of consistency with 20+ HR 6 of 8 seasons and an average of 275+ every year but one.  But he has been hurt a lot and is getting older.  I’ll put him down for 280 (career AVG 284) with 15 HR and 70 RBI. 

Catcher Wilson Ramos has had star potential for a while, but can’t stay healthy.  He has only reached 100 games once, playing in 113 in 2011 (he hit 267 with 15 HR that year).  He’s been building his way back from that point playing in 25 games in 2012, 78 in 2013 and 88 last year.  Hopefully the trend continues because everyone wants to see what he can do in a full season.  In his half season in 2014, he hit 267 with 11 HR and 47 RBI.  That’s not bad at all.  Extrapolated over a full year (88 games is actually a little more than half) he looks like a 20 HR, 90 RBI guy.  Now those estimates are always dangerous and most people never seem to be able to live up to them.  But it’s a good starting point.  If he can stay healthy, I like him to hit 270 with 17 HR and 80 RBI.  That’s excellent production from a catcher and someone hitting so low in your lineup.  It also points to how talented this team is.

The Nats added Yunel Escobar to play second in the offseason.  But with the injury to Rendon, he’s been getting a lot of time at third.  Surprisingly, Escobar has been great.  Seen to be a supremely talented defender since his arrival in the bigs, Escobar has never caught up at the plate, despite his talent.  Additionally, a bad attitude and negative clubhouse presence have hurt him and made people not want to give him a chance.  It’s his own fault so I don’t feel bad for him.  But his skills are apparent and he is off to a hot start this year.  It’s hard to get a feel for what he’ll do.  He had a number of promising seasons in Atlanta and Toronto, before fading at the plate in his time with Tampa Bay.  He’s never been a good base stealer and doesn’t hit for a ton of power, despite his approach at the plate.  His explosion to start this year was truly unexpected and superb.  He’s a career 277 hitter, but hasn’t reached that number since 2011.  He’s never hit more than 14 HR in a season, only reaching double digits twice.  Part of his success this year is that he’s going the other way with the ball and not trying to kill it all the time.  I have no idea if this will continue.  Also, he’s hitting second now, but when Rendon returns he may fall in the batting order.  I would have said 255 with 5 HR.  Now I’ll up it to 275 with 10 HR.  He could also have 60-70 RBI/R, depending on how long Rendon is out.

The backups on this team include Dan Uggla and Danny Espinosa on the infield and the supremely talented youngster Michael Taylor in the outfield.  Taylor is this team’s future center fielder and he is ready to play now.  With Werth out, Taylor should get a lot of playing time, which will give the Naitonals a feel for what he can do on an everyday basis.  If he hits the way many expect him to, Span could be on a new team next year, despite his excellent production.  Espinosa lost his starting job due to his limited bat.  And Uggla has been bouncing around since Atlanta cut him, but is playing well off Washington’s bench.  He’s still got plenty of power and can work a walk.  This is a deep talented team with potential stars in the first 7 spots of the lineup.  There is a reason this team is picked by many to win it all this year.  They will score a ton of runs assuming average to above average health.

The defense may not be as solid.   Zimmerman is a former third baseman at first.  We’ve seen others make the switch.  But despite the fact that third baseman are more athletic generally, it takes about a year to get used to first and be a productive player there.  Zimmerman actually has to learn to be less aggressive and work on taking throws.  While I think he can do it, he won’t be a great first baseman this year, despite having better range than other first sackers.  Escobar would have been a great second baseman.  He’s still a good shortstop.  And now he is doing a nice job at third.  No matter where he ends up on the diamond, he will be good, with a chance to be great at second, which is what he was originally signed to do.  Ian Desmond makes a ton of errors at short.  He’s not at all good defensively.  And Rendon is excellent, but is out for now.  With Escobar covering third, Espinosa is playing some second (fine) and Uggla is getting time as well (bad…but not as bad as people make him out to be).  Span is an excellent center fielder and Harper was great in left.  Harper is moving to right and has the skills to be average to good there.  Werth was terrible in right.  Moving to left was supposed to improve the defense and keep him healthy, but that didn’t work out.  So now Michael Taylor will play left, which he can easily do as he’s a natural center fielder.  Losing Werth hurts, but it makes the outfield defense look great.  Wilson Ramos is fine behind the plate and has a good arm to throw out runners.  Jose Lobaton is even better defensively as his backup.  This isn’t the best defense in the word, but the Nats have options and have spread their defensive liabilities out.  While Desmond is at a premier spot, two great defenders flank him.  They will make errors, but the defense shouldn’t kill them, especially with this team’s offensive potential.


The Nationals excelled on the mound last year.  It was probably the biggest key to their success, considering the injury issues on their offense.  This starting staff held onto all of their major pieces and added the biggest free agent pitcher on the market:  Max Scherzer.  They look ridiculously good.  The bullpen has been the weak point of this team for the last few years, but they let Rafael Soriano go and signed former Blue Jays closer Casey Janssen.  Janssen will setup and the Nats will turn to former closer Drew Storen to take over the 9th.  Losing Tyler Clippard hurts, but the Nats hope their phenomenal starters will keep the bullpen covered.  Even with their limited bullpen last year, the Nats had the best ERA, WHIP and fewest walks in the league.  With the addition of Scherzer this great pitching staff looks to be even better.

It’s hard to pinpoint an ace on this club.  Three of these pitchers have the stuff and makeup to be aces.  But I’ll start with the new guy, Max Scherzer.  A year after winning the Cy Young Award, Scherzer picked right back up with his dominance going 18-5 with a 3.15 ERA.  He’s been a strikeout pitcher his whole career, but started avoiding walks and limiting hits at an incredible rate in 2012.  He’s been great ever since then.  He threw 220 IP with a 1.18 WHIP and 238 BAA.  Those numbers weren’t nearly as strong as his Cy Young year in 2013, but were still above average.  And with his strikeout ability (career high 252 last year) he gets out of a lot of trouble on his own.  Moving to the NL will only improve his numbers, and he stays on a great team that help him get a lot of wins.  I’m thinking 220 IP, 250 Ks, an ERA under 3.25 and 15-20 Wins.  This guy could win his second Cy Young on this team facing a division filled with weak offenses.

Jordan Zimmerman was arguably the ace of this staff last year, despite being overshadowed by the highly touted Stephen Strasburg.   He went 14-5 last year with a 2.66 ERA.  He’s not the strikeout pitcher that Scherzer or Strasburg are (which is likely why he’s less heralded than the others), but he did have a career high 182 last year and his K total has climbed the last 4 years.  He had fewer wins last year than in 2013, but his ERA and WHIP improved while his BAA actually climbed a bit.  I think he will have another stellar year, especially with the Braves, Mets and Phillies’ offenses looking like they will struggle.  Put him down for 15+ Wins, an ERA around 3 and 175+ Ks, having another great year.  200 Ks and a 2.50 ERA are possibilities if all breaks right, as are 20 Wins.

The third member of this three-headed ace triumvirate is Stephen Strasburg, arguably the most heralded player of the trio.  Since being picked first overall by the Nationals, he has been under constant scrutiny.  He made his debut in 2010, had Tommy John missing most of 2011 and part of 2012 and was back to full strength in 2013.  He’s been great, but the hype on him has been so huge that people feel like he hasn’t lived up to it.  Last year he went 14-11 with a 3.14 ERA.  That’s very good.  He threw 215 IP and had 242 Ks, also great.  He gives up a few more hits than the greats, but less than the average pitcher and with his stuff he gets out of most of his close spots.  But he just hasn’t taken that step to be truly great.  I initially put him down for 12+ Wins, an ERA under 3.50 and over 200 IP and 230 Ks.  But he got off to a terrible start and has now gone to the DL.  So those stat totals will definitely be off, the question is by how much.

Lefty Gio Gonzalez is still around in the back end of the rotation.  He hasn’t been as good as he was in 2012, but he’s still a very solid pitcher and great as a number 4 man.  Last season he only appeared in 27 games going 10-10 with a 3.57 ERA, his highest since 2009.  It was also the first time since 2012 that he failed to reach 190 innings.  But his 3.57 ERA was still very competitive and he had more Ks than IP.  He still has issues with walks, but he’s gotten a little better.  Perhaps he’ll never return to his level of greatness in Oakland or his first year in Washington.  But he’s still a great pitcher with phenomenal strikeout stuff.  Think double-digit wins and, if healthy, 200 IP and Ks.  Add in an ERA under 4 and may have the best 4th starter in baseball.

Doug Fister is their fifth starter, though he’ll probably pitch more than other 5th starters.  He provides depth and having him pitch more to give others a rest is a luxury for this year.  The 6’8 lefty went 16-6 last year with a sparkling 2.41 ERA.  He only made 25 starts, which limited him to 164 IP.  He’s a groundball machine with a penchant for avoiding walks.  As a guy who pitches to contact, he gives up more hits than others, but gets out of his jams because he has a heavy sinker and guys can’t help but hit it on the ground.  Put a good defense behind him, and he should be in good shape.  Washington doesn’t have the best defense, but it’s good enough.  I’m thinking 12 Wins with an ERA around 3.25.  However, those numbers may take a hit with his DL stint.

That’s the starting staff.  It’s probably the best and deepest in the majors.  Even losing one or two guys to injury isn’t a big deal for Washington because all 5 starters are above average and 3 are very good.  With their starting talent and depth, it’s easy to see why they are heavy favorites to win it all.

The bullpen isn’t as strong.  Rafael Soriano struggled last year and was let go after his contract ran out.  To this point, he has not found another team.  Drew Storen took over the closer’s role later in the year and played well going 11 for 14 in Save Opportunities and earning 20 Holds with a 1.12 ERA in 65 games.  Storen was great as a setup man and had success closing in the past.  I’m thinking he can have around 40 Saves this year with a sub 2 ERA.  Both his WHIP and BAA have been stellar in his career and I think that will continue. 

Casey Jansenn is set to be the primary set up man.  Matt Thornton had the job while he was out.  Both are great and Janssen has closing experience.  Tanner Roark is a former starter who was moved to the pen after Scherzer’s signing.  But with the injuries to Strasburg and Fister, Roark is starting again.  So that leaves Storen, Jansenn and Thornton as the sure things in the pen.  After them, there are questions.  If the Nats get the starting pitching and offense they expect, then they can cover for the bullpen deficiencies.  With limited exposure, this team should be fine.  But if the starters struggle or get hurt, then this bullpen may have to appear more often in games and that could be the only Achilles heel for this team.

This pitching staff should be great.  The starters are the best in baseball and they have some good back of the bullpen arms.  They also have depth.  While the bullpen isn’t great, that can be said of many teams.  I love the outlook for the Nationals pitching this year and think they will be very successful. 


Many people think this is the best team in baseball.  I’m inclined to agree.  They will hit better than most and possibly pitch better than anyone.  They also play in a division with two re-building teams and two other teams on the way up, but neither of which is truly great.  I think the Nats are due to have a huge year, despite their slow start.  For me, this is the best team in baseball.

I picked them to win the division with 98 wins before the season began.  I’m sticking with that because I think that is a real possibility, as is a deep postseason run.