Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Baltimore Orioles 2015 Team Breakdown

Baltimore Orioles

2014 Finish:              96-66 (First Place)

Projected Batting Order

LF        Alejandro de Aza
SS        J.J. Hardy
CF        Adam Jones
1B       Chris Davis
DH       Steve Pearce
C          Matt Wieters
3B       Manny Machado
RF        Travis Snider
2B       Jonathan Schoop

Projected Starting Rotation/Closer

RHP                 Chris Tillman
LHP                 Wei Yen Chen
RHP                 Miguel Gonzalez
RHP                 Bud Norris
RHP                 Ubaldo Jiminez
CLOSER          Zach Britton

The Orioles have turned things around.  After missing the playoffs for 14 straight seasons, the Orioles made it to October baseball in back-to-back seasons and won the division last year for the first time in 17 years.  They have a core group of very good players and are now dealing with expectations to perform.  But this team lost two very valuable pieces in Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz this offseason.  They didn’t add anyone of consequence and will have to try to keep pace with the powerful Blue Jays and re-tooled Red Sox in what now looks to be a three team division race.


The Orioles are a slugging offense.  They hit 256 HR as a team, 1st in the league.  They did most of their damage with the longball ranking first in HRs but only 6th in runs.  They are a team that swings for the fences come hell or high water.  But losing Nelson Cruz really and Nick Markakis will certainly hurt this offense.  And what makes Baltimore fans frustrated is the fact that owner Peter Angelos chose to not replace either with a marquee free agent or make any trades to improve the team.  The whispers of his skinflint nature returned after falling quiet for two years.  And Baltimore fans are remembering why they never liked their owner in the first place.

Center fielder Adam Jones is the Orioles’ best hitter and a greatly underrated player, even this far into his career.  One of the most durable players in the game, Jones played in 159 games last year hitting 281 with 29 HR, 96 RBI and 88 R.  Despite his speed, he’s never stolen more than 16 bags in a season with only 7 last year.  But he’s still a 5-tool player who can hit for AVG and power.  A lot of people don’t like his low OBP numbers, but that is truly nitpicking with a player this great.  He’s a career 279 hitter with a great track record for staying healthy and performing.  I’m thinking 285 with 25 HR, 95 RBI and 80 R with maybe 10 SB.

If the Orioles are going to have another strong year, then they will need first baseman Chris Davis to have a bounce back season.  After his 2013 career year where he hit 286 with 53 HR and 138 RBI, he fell back to earth with a 196 AVG, 26 HR and 72 RBI.  The HR and RBI totals aren’t bad, especially when you figure that he only played in 127 games due to a suspension for taking Adderall without a special dispensation from the league.  Baltimore is hoping that being able to take his medicine again will help him return to his 2013 levels.  But that’s the only time he’s ever played nearly that well.  However, he was so good in 2013 that it seems unlikely that that year could be an outlier.  We’ll see.  I bet he splits the difference.  I see him hitting around 250 (career 253) with 25-30 HRs and 85+ RBI.  Those are great numbers, but not close to his 2013 production.

Steve Pearce emerged last year to have a Davis-like season out of nowhere in 2014.  In 8 seasons, he never hit more than 4 HRs.  Then he slugged 21 last year while hitting 293.  I don’t know what they put in the water there but apparently it turns average players with around 10 years of experience into offensive powerhouses.  I truly don’t know what to expect from him this season.  He may hit 280, he may hit 220.  He could hit 25 HR or 8.  I think he’s all or nothing.  The Orioles think he’ll hit 20+ HR again and plan for him to hit 5th.  I think he’ll hit 12-15 HRs with maybe a 240 AVG.

Last season, Alejandro de Aza was a fourth outfielder that played good baseball for the Orioles in the playoffs.  This year, he will be the starting left fielder and leadoff man.  Such is baseball in Baltimore.  De Aza isn’t a bad player, but he hasn’t proven that he can be a starting caliber player in the majors over his career.  He’s had some good years (281 in 131 games for the White Sox in 2012) but has had his best years playing a part-time role, similar to last year when he hit 293 off the bench for the Orioles as opposed to only 243 starting for the White Sox.  He’s got speed (back-to-back 20 steal seasons in 2012 and 2013) and some pop (17 HR in 2013).  I don’t think he’ll be a bust and think he’s young enough that he can develop that last little bit to be a solid starter.  But they are asking a lot and he may struggle initially.  I see him as a 265 hitter with 20+ SB and 80+ R if fully healthy.

I put shortstop J.J. Hardy in the number 2 hole.  A lot of managers like guys with pop hitting second because the theory is that player will see a lot of fastballs with the leadoff man on base.  Power hitters can turn fastballs into home runs.  Other managers like to put good AVG guys in the 2 hole because they can give you good ABs, move runners over or act like a leadoff man if the number 1 hitter fails to get on base.  At different times in his career, J.J. Hardy has been both of those guys.  After hitting 20+ HRs for three straight years, Hardy only hit 9 in 2014.  However he spent a large chunk of last season hitting around 280, about 20 points higher than his career norm.  Injury and a late season swoon dropped him down to 268, but the question is, what will Hardy be this year?  I think he returns to what he has been over his career:  a 260 hitter with 20-25 HR power.  He’s started the year on the DL, but assuming he comes back on time he could still hit 20 HR and drive in 70.

Another player starting the year on the DL is catcher Matt Wieters.  He’s never become the star the Orioles hoped he’d be when they drafted him first overall, but he’s become a very good catcher.  He only played in 28 games last year before needing Tommy John surgery and missing the rest of the season.  The year before he hit 22 HR, but that came with a 235 AVG.  Over his career he’s a 257 hitter who averages around 20 HR a year.  That’s not bad for a catcher.  When you add in his great defense, you have a very valuable player.  He may not be back until mid-May, which will affect his numbers.  Put him down for 245 with 15 HR and 65 RBI in limited duty.

Highly touted Manny Machado will man third base this year, but has to find a way to stay healthy.  The Orioles can’t afford many more injuries and Machado has been injury prone his whole career.  I have him hitting 7th, which seems like a safe place until he can prove he can stay healthy and hit to his potential.  I like Machado, but think he is way overrated.  While he’s flashed some power, some good contact ability and a ton of great defense, he hasn’t stayed healthy and had that huge season.  He hit 283 in 2013 with 14 HR and 71 RBI.  He played in 156 games that year.  The year before was only 51 and last year was only 82, though he was very good in his half a season hitting 278 with 12 HR.  It’s a risk to assume he can stay healthy and that his numbers will stay at that level over a full year.  He could hit 20 HR.  Or he could hit 12.  He hasn’t had the rigors of a full season which include not only a lot of games, but pitchers getting film on you and forcing you to make in-season adjustments.  He hasn’t proved to me he can do that yet.  I think he will play 130-145 games this year with a 270 AVG and 16 HR.  If he does it early and moves up the in the lineup he could drive in 75, but 65 is a better estimate for me. 

With their outfield lacking depth, the Orioles signed Travis Snider to play right.  Snider never lived up to his potential with Toronto and was a platoon player in Pittsburgh.  While Baltimore is a better place to hit than Pittsburgh, it’s not as good as Toronto.  Perhaps his familiarity with the pitchers plus his experience will give him a leg up, but I think he won’t breakout and ever be the player we thought he could be.  He hit 13 HR in 140 games last year.  I think he can hit more in Camden Yards, though his AVG may drop.  Think 250 with 16 HR.

The last spot in the lineup will go to Jonathan Schoop.  Schoop’s been around Baltimore a while in a platoon role, never having a starting job to himself.  Last year, he hit 16 HR in 137 games and did enough to become the starter, relegating Ryan Flaherty to a backup role.  He only hit 209, but the 16 HR in Baltimore is the focus as this team likes to swing for the fences.  I think he could hit 15-18 starting a full slate of games, but that will come with another sub 220 AVG. 

The backups on this team are actually really interesting.  I mentioned Ryan Flaherty who is a serviceable player backing up second base.  But the Orioles also have Delmon Young on their bench to take some DH ABs and fill in for the corner outfielders in a pinch (has to be a big pinch…he’s terrible in the field).  Young hit 302 in 83 games last year with 7 HR.  The Orioles also took a chance on Everth Cabrera who is trying to latch on with another team after the PED suspension and his struggles in San Diego where he hit 232 in 90 games last year.  If not for his great speed (18 SB in that shortened time) and the fact that he plays short, he wouldn’t be worth the risk.  But with Hardy on the DL, Cabrera will get some solid playing time to start the year and maybe get into a groove.  If the second base platoon falters or Machado gets hurt again, having a guy with 50+ SB potential on the bench is a luxury.  As it is, he’s the best pinch runner in the game.  And he provides another leadoff option.  And both of the catchers the Orioles carry in addition to Wieters (Caleb Joseph, the current starter and Ryan Lavarnaway) are more than capable backups.  The Orioles do boast some offensive depth.

This offense has an all-or-nothing approach at the plate.  They have a ton of power, but only a few hitters who can hit for solid AVG (Jones, Machado, de Aza).  While this approach has worked for them in the past, it is risky and prone to be streaky.  Add to that the strength of today’s pitching, and you can see this team struggling to score runs.  I love the power.  I like the depth.  I love Adam Jones.  But I just think they will go through some very pronounced dry spells, which will hurt them over a long season.

The defense on this team should be pretty solid.  The outfield looks especially stout with Adam Jones, possibly the best defensive center fielder in the game, Alejandro de Aza, a former center fielder playing left and Snider, a solid defender in right.  They will miss Markakis and his Gold Glove in right, but Snider isn’t bad.  Pearce is expected to play some right, which isn’t good and Young may get some time there too if his bat is hot, which is even worse from a defensive standpoint.  J.J. Hardy is a Gold Glover at short and Manny Machado is just as good at third.  The second base platoon is pretty average and Chris Davis is pretty decent at first, if perhaps too aggressive due to his relatively recent switch from third.  Matt Wieters is excellent behind the plate, Joseph has a great arm and Lavarnaway is above average.  Everth Cabrera is good at short and could be great at third or second.  This defense isn’t the best, but it’s well above average.  It could potentially be good. 


As a pitching staff, the Orioles are the exact opposite of their offense.  They don’t have any stars and don’t rely on the strikeout, which is kind of the pitching equivalent of the home run.  Instead, they have a number of quality players and hope their depth produces solid results.  It did last year as they had the third best ERA in the league at 3.43 and were in the top half of most of the other categories, minus BBs and Ks.  They only led the league in one category and that was Saves.  They have their primary closer back this year, but will have to deal with the loss of a great lefty in Andrew Miller who bolted for the Yankees in free agency.

The Orioles really don’t have a bona fide ace.  Chris Tillman is their number 1 starter and he is very good, but not great.  Last year he went 13-6 with a 3.34 ERA.  He tossed 207 IP and kept runners off base with a 238 BAA and 1.23 WHIP, both solid, but not really strong numbers.  Tillman isn’t a strikeout guy.  But with back-to-back 200 IP seasons of sub 4 ERA baseball, he is a very solid pitcher and the man the Orioles trust the most on the hill.  If healthy, I like him to get his third straight 200 IP season with a winning record, 12-14 Wins and an ERA around 3.50.

Japanese lefty Wei Yen Chen returns for his fourth season in Baltimore.  Over his first two seasons, he was dependable, giving the Orioles good innings and an ERA around 4.  But he had his best season last year going 16-6 with a career best 3.54 ERA.  I don’t know what his new mindset was, but where I saw the most improvement was in his BB totals.  He pounds the strike zone and will give up a fair number of hits.  But last year, he didn’t compound that by walking guys as well.  His 1.23 WHIP was fairly average, but an improvement for him.  He’s not a big strikeout guy and depends on good defense to help him strand runners.  That being said, I think he will regress a bit because you can’t consistently strand that many men.  Being on a good team will get you some extra wins, but I think he’s a 12 Win pitcher with a 3.75 ERA this year.

The rest of the starting rotation is made up of Miguel Gonzalez, Bud Norris and Ubaldo Jiminez.  Gonzalez is a solid middle of the rotation guy with a possibility to be more than that if he can learn to make better use of his good stuff.  But as a 30-year old he hasn’t figured it out yet.  In 26 starts last year, he was 10-9 with a 3.23 ERA.  But the Orioles are only cautiously optimistic as his peripheral numbers (1.30 WHIP, 255 BAA) are subpar and there is concern he will regress a bit.  I’d put his ceiling at 10 Wins with an ERA around 4.

Bud Norris is a solid veteran, well suited for his number 4 starter role.  He went 15-8 last year with a 3.65 ERA.  He is an above average pitcher who limits base runners and eats innings.  The goal is 200 IP from him with a sub 4 ERA.  I think he can meet those expectations and turn in another 12 Wins with an ERA around 3.75.

Ubaldo Jiminez is the question mark.  He’s been great in his career.  He’s also been awful.  Last year he went 6-9 with a 4.81 ERA in 22 starts and 3 relief appearances.  That’s not good, but what makes it worse is that it happened in the first season of his new 5-year, $50 million deal.  He was worse in the second half of last year with an ERA just under 6.  The Orioles made him fight for his job in Spring Training, but he edged out Kevin Gausman for the final starting spot.  I have no idea what to expect from him.  While he was solid in Cleveland in 2013, he has been bad more often than he’s been good.  I think he’ll produce another losing record with an ERA between 4 and 5.  I have no idea where though.  If he’s bad enough, expect young Kevin Gausman, who is rapidly improving, to take over his starting spot.

Until he does, he will be the long reliever and provide some depth in a bullpen that still looks strong, despite the loss of Andrew Miller.  Zach Britton has really embraced his role as closer and went 37 for 41 in Save opportunities last year.  That came with an excellent 1.65 ERA, 0.90 WHIP and 178 BAA.  I think in a full year he could have 40-50 Saves with an ERA around 2.

Britton is a failed starter that has remade himself has a reliever.  That is a theme to Baltimore’s bullpen.  Brian Matusz and Tommy Hunter are also guys who couldn’t cut it as starters but are playing well as relievers.  Gausman will be a starter at some point, but is playing well right now as a long reliever and spot starter.  Darren O’Day is a very good setup man in his own right and the Orioles feel like they have a very strong bullpen.  I agree

This pitching staff won’t scare anyone.  But I like what they have to offer.  They have a number of quality starters and some depth in the bullpen.  While they may not have an ace to carry the load, they have at least 3 pitchers with the ability to throw 200+ competitive innings and then a deep bullpen to help keep the O’s in games beyond that.  They won’t win any awards on the mound, but they should help the Orioles nab some wins, which is really what it’s all about.


I like the Orioles this year.  I liked them last year too.  The problem is, they aren’t as good this year as they were last year.  Losing Markakis, Cruz and Miller is a lot.  Having to also deal with injuries to Hardy and Wieters compounds those losses.  While the Orioles should still be good, I think the moves the Jays and Sox have made make them just as good, if not better. 

Many see the AL East as a place where 4 teams could possibly win.  If you leave the tri-state area, most others see this as a three-team race (don’t kid yourself NY).  While I like the Orioles and think they will be in the race, I just think having that streaky all-or-nothing offense will come back to bite them.  I’m giving them 89 Wins and see them finishing third in a tight division.  However that won’t be enough to secure the O’s a spot in the playoffs.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Toronto Blue Jays 2015 Team Breakdown

Projected Division Finish

1.              Boston Red Sox
2.              Toronto Blue Jays
3.              Baltimore Orioles
4.              Tampa Bay Rays
5.              New York Yankees

Toronto Blue Jays

2014 Finish:              83-79 (Third Place)

Projected Batting Order

SS        Jose Reyes
C          Russell Martin
RF        Jose Bautista
DH       Edwin Encarnacion
3B       Josh Donaldson
1B       Justin Smoak
LF        Kevin Pillar
CF        Dalton Pompey
2B       Devon Travis

Projected Starting Rotation/Closer

RHP                 Drew Hutchinson
RHP                 R.A. Dickey
LHP                 Mark Buehrle
LHP                 Daniel Norris
RHP                 Aaron Sanchez
CLOSER          Brett Cecil

The Blue Jays are trying to take that final step.  I have liked their makeup for a while, but they have been unable to take full advantage of their talent.  A few years ago it was injuries.  Last year, it was ineffectiveness, especially on the mound.  The Blue Jays have a potent offense and it got more potent this offseason with the addition of Josh Donaldson.  However, if the Blue Jays want to make some noise in the wide-open AL East, they have to get better on the mound.  And with them not adding any arms, its clear the Blue Jays will try to make a go of it with the arms they already have, which is certainly a risk.


The Blue Jays have a phenomenal offense.  Last year they hit 259 as a team (tied for third in the league) and ranked in the top 4 in hits, runs and were second with 177 HR.  Their home park helps with that, but the rest is their sluggers.  They have two of the best home run hitters in baseball in Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion.  They added Josh Donaldson this offseason to give them the best middle of the order in baseball.

Jose Bautista is the leader of this club and has been one of the best players in baseball over the last few years despite missing a lot of games over 2012 and 2013.  But he stayed on the field last year and showed what he was capable of when fully healthy.  He hit 286 with 35 HR, 103 RBI, 101 R and a 403 OBP off the strength of 104 BBs.  He is a phenomenal hitter with a slugger’s mentality but much better batting AVG.  He is one of the most dependable hitters in the game and one of my favorite players.  I think he is a lock for 270+ with 30+ HR and 100 RBI/R.  Perhaps more if he’s fully healthy and with the offense he has behind him.

Edwin Encarnacion is the cleanup man hitting behind Bautista.  He made adjustments since joining the Blue Jays in 2010 and immediately became a power hitter.  He’s hit 112 HR since 2012, tied for second in the league behind Miguel Cabrera.  Last year he hit 268 with 34 HR and 98 RBI.  He did all that in only 128 games.  He, too, has become a reliable slugger with the ability to get on base and hit for solid AVG.  I like him for 265+ with 30+ HR and 100+ RBI/R as well.  Both Bautista and Encarnacion could flirt with 40 HR and 130 RBI this year.

New third baseman Josh Donaldson makes up the third part of this monster middle of the lineup.  He’ll hit 5th and take his powerful swing to a much better ballpark for his makeup.  In Oakland, a hitter’s graveyard, he hit 255 with 29 HR and 98 RBI.  The year before he hit 301 with 24 HR and 93 RBI.  The AVG is variable and you wonder where it will end up.  But the power is legit.  I think hitting in Toronto will enable him to see that AVG climb to match his HR output.  Put him down for 260+ with 25+ HR and 90+ RBI.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he also makes it to 30 HR and 100 RBI, though 80+ R is a better estimate for the number 5 hitter.  And there is no question that these three make up the most potent 3-4-5 combo in baseball.

That group will be trying to drive in the top of the order, which isn’t quite as formidable but is still solid.  Jose Reyes is the leadoff hitter at short.  He has lost a step from his All Star days with the Mets, but is still very fast and has great contact skills.  Similar to Bautista, the issue for Reyes is health.  Last year he improved and made it into 140 games, but still missed time.  When he was on the field, he was productive at the plate hitting 287 with 30 SB and 94 R.  I don’t think he’ll ever steal 40 bags again.  And his 328 OBP was lower than the Jays would like.  If he can stay healthy, I think he can have another season around 285 with 25-30 SB and over 100 R.  But there is already chatter about him heading to the DL after getting hurt a few days ago.

The other major addition to the Jays this year will hit second and be the primary catcher.  Russell Martin was added in a big free agent deal after his phenomenal year in Pittsburgh.  He hit 290 with 11 HR and a 402 OBP.  But he is really prized for his defense and clubhouse character.  While I wouldn’t chase that AVG on a 32-year old catcher with a lot of innings on his legs, I do think he can reach double-digit homers again. But as much as I like this signing, I don’t think his offense will stay at its current level.  I’ll put him down for 255 with 14 HR, 68 RBI and 60 R.  His real value comes on defense.

The rest of the offense isn’t as frightening.  The Jays are trotting out three youngsters and two veterans who will share the DH duties.  Dioner Navarro was the starting catcher last season but will get most of his ABs as a DH now.  He is currently the backup catcher, but there is a possibility that Josh Thole will get recalled from Triple A to catch knuckleballer R.A. Dickey if Martin and Navarro can’t handle the job.  Navarro initially requested a trade, but seems happier knowing that he will be the backup catcher and get a fair number of appearances as the DH.  He played well last year hitting 274 with 12 HR and 69 RBI.  His power plays in that park and the AVG was a welcome surprise.  I think he can get 400 ABs this season and hit over 260 with 8-10 HR in limited action.

The other DH will be Justin Smoak.  He’s been an all or nothing hitter his whole career with Texas and Seattle hitting for power and nothing else.  From 2011 to 2013 he hit 15, 19 and 24 HR respectively.  But his highest AVG in that time was 234.  The hope is he can hit even more HR in a park like the Rogers Centre, but the Jays aren’t counting on him.  He will be in a DH platoon and may nab some playing time at first.  Think 400 AB, 20+ HR and an AVG around 220.

Center field will be manned by youngster Dalton Pompey, left field by youngster Kevin Pillar and second base by rookie Devon Travis.  All have bright futures, but young hitters can struggle.  The Jays are having them hit lower in the lineup until they prove themselves.  Lots of speed potential here, but the rest is a question.  They would love Michael Saunders to come back from injury to take back a starting job because he has power and speed potential.  Danny Valencia and Maicer Izturis provide veteran depth on the infield.

Once again, this offense could be among the best in the league if healthy.  They have a great middle of the order and solid guys at the top.  The one Achilles heel of this team could be depth.  What compounds that is the fact that two of their stars are injury prone.  They don’t have any proven talent at the bottom of the order and the options on the bench are somewhat limited.  But if this team is healthy, the middle of the order should hit enough to cover any other deficiencies the Blue Jays have at the plate.

Unlike most teams with potent offenses, the Blue Jays also have a strong defense.  Many teams sacrifice defense for better offense thinking they can hit enough to cover up for any mistakes in the field.  That is not a problem in Toronto.  This defense can play.  Edwin Encarnacion, a former third baseman, is at least average and some metrics have him pretty good at first.  I like him there and don’t mind his aggressiveness.  Youngster Devon Travis won the second base job partly due to his great defense.  Josh Donaldson is a very good defensive player at third, almost great.  The only subpar defender on the infield is Jose Reyes, who is not what he once was. His reaction time has diminished with age and his arm isn’t as strong as it used to be.  He actually cost the Blue Jays runs in the field last year.  Jose Bautista’s great defense is often overlooked due to his offensive prowess.  We all know his arm is legit (a former third baseman) but he gets great reads and has more than enough speed to cover a huge range in right field.  Pompey and Pillar are good, young defensive players in center and left.  And catcher Russell Marin is great behind the plate.  Valencia can back up first, second and third.  Izturis can back up second, third and short.  When Michael Saunders returns, he can play either corner.  Smoak provides depth at first.  This defense is one of the better ones in the division and the league.


While the Blue Jays feature an elite offense, their pitching staff isn’t as sharp.  That being said, they weren’t bad ranking in the middle of the AL in every major pitching category and featuring a team ERA of 4.  That’s not championship caliber pitching, but with this offense it could be playoff caliber.  The Blue Jays didn’t add any new names on the mound.  They are hoping their young pitchers mature and that is enough to put them over the top.  It’s a risk.  And it’s further complicated by the fact the Toronto lost Marcus Stroman for the season with an ACL injury.

The Blue Jays have a lot in on Drew Hutchinson.  They are counting on the youngster to be their ace despite only 44 starts in his big league career.  Last year he went 11-13 with a 4.48 ERA in 32 starts.  He averaged about one strikeout per inning in 184 IP.  The good news is that he was effective and stood up to a full workload.  He’s got good stuff and keeps the ball down.  The bad news is he’s still learning to pitch and allows too many base runners (60 BB, 245 BAA, 1.26 WHIP).  I think he can be an effective pitcher and has a bright future.  I just think the expectations for him for this season may be too high and he will feel the pressure.  Put me down for 12-15 wins and 200 IP but also 10 losses and an ERA of 4.25 with 185/190 Ks.

R.A. Dickey is returning for his age 40 season.  He went 14-13 with a 3.71 ERA last year and 173 Ks in 215 IP.  The good thing about Dickey is that he can log a lot of innings even at this point in his career and generally is competitive.  A lot of knucklers are former position players who are trying to stay in the bigs.  Dickey has been a pitcher his whole career which allows to him to throw a harder knuckleball and harder fastball than any other knucklers.  He also is able to avoid walks better than others, but all knuckleball pitchers are prone to the base on balls.  I’m expecting 10-12 Wins with an ERA around 4.  Toss in 170+ Ks in 220 IP if healthy.

Veteran Mark Buehrle is back again this year as well.  Dickey and Buehrle are two of the oldest starters in the game, but both are able to pitch effectively.  Buehrle has never thrown hard and his control and ability to pitch to contact have kept him a viable starter for the last few years.  He went 13-10 last year with a 3.39 ERA.  He gives up a ton of hits (287 BAA) but does a great job avoiding walks.  That will keep you employed in the big leagues.  He had some luck on his side when it came to stranding runners, but a lot of that is veteran savvy.  Put him down for 12 Wins, an ERA of 4 and 200 IP.

The rest of the starting rotation is even younger than Hutchinson.  Lefty Daniel Norris has made 5 big league appearances and 1 start to this point in his career.  He struggled in those outings with a 5.40 ERA and 5 BBs in 6.2 IP.  He has to lay off the walks and may struggle this year.  He’ll get better with age and hi stuff is legit, but he’ll have to make a lot of adjustments to even be average this season

The last starting spot belongs to Aaron Sanchez.  Sanchez has a little more experience than Norris, but exactly one less start.  His 24 relief appearances last year are the total of his MLB experience and he was good in his role out of the bullpen.  He pitched to a 1.09 ERA in 33 IP with a 0.70 WHIP and 128 BAA.  Those numbers are very strong, but also represent a limited sample size.  Having him start full time is another risk, but one the Jays have to take with Stroman’s injury.

The bullpen looks like a stronger crew, but not crazy good either.  Aaron Loup and Marco Estrada have experience and live arms.  Estrada provides some starter insurance and Loup is a closing option.  Brett Cecil is trying to re-make himself as a reliever and was hoping to be the closer coming into the season.  He was pretty good in relief last year, but gave up too many walks and struggled in the spring.  It lost him the closer’s job and he is starting out the year as a setup man.  Miguel Castro is being given the keys to the closer’s role but having a rookie in that role is a real risk.  He’s got the stuff, but having a closer work out his growing pains in the 9th is potentially dangerous. 

This pitching staff is not great.  It has potential to be solid, but I don’t know.  Buehrle and Dickey should be capable innings eaters.  Hutchinson can be a horse as well, but is being asked to do more.  The back of the rotation is a question.  The bullpen has some good arms, but not having a solid closer makes things fuzzy.  If there are any serious injuries, the Jays are in trouble.  This pitching staff won’t be asked to win a lot of 1-0 games.  But they have to be able to hold down the fort in a strong offensive league and great offensive park.  If the Jays make the playoffs, its because everything worked out really well on the mound.


This offense is so good that I think they can overcome a lot of pitching deficiencies.  What helps them out is that the defense on the field should be very strong as well.  Pitching wins championships, but playing in the AL East this year is going to be easier than in years past.  And with this offense, they will be in every game.

I’m putting the Jays down for 92 Wins and second place finish in their division.  I also think they can take home a wildcard spot and break their playoff drought.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Boston Red Sox 2015 Team Breakdown

Projected Division Finish

1.              Boston Red Sox
2.              Toronto Blue Jays
3.              Baltimore Orioles
4.              Tampa Bay Rays
5.              New York Yankees

Boston Red Sox

2014 Finish:              71-91 (Last Place)

Projected Batting Order

CF        Mookie Betts
2B       Dustin Pedroia
LF        Hanley Ramirez
DH       David Ortiz
3B       Pablo Sandoval
1B       Mike Napoli
C          Ryan Hannigan
SS        Xander Bogaerts
RF        Shane Victorino

Projected Starting Rotation/Closer

RHP                 Clay Buchholz
RHP                 Rick Porcello
LHP                 Wade Miley
RHP                 Justin Masterson
RHP                 Joe Kelly
CLOSER          Koji Uehara

The Red Sox have developed a pattern in the AL East.  They go from worst to first to worst.  Following that pattern, the Red Sox should be first again and perhaps win another World Series.  I don’t know if they’ll be that good, but they look to be significantly better now than they were last year.  In addition, their division looks wide open.  The Red Sox weren’t great last year, but they made a ton of moves including signing Pablo Sandoval, Hanley Ramirez and a slew of mid-rotation level starters with the hopes that they can take this division in a year where no one looks to be great. 


The Red Sox have generally been a good offensive team since 2000.  But last year they ranked in the near the bottom of the league in every major offensive category:  AVG, runs, hits, HRs and steals.  If they can’t hit, generally the Sox have no chance.  The good news in Boston is that their offense looks vastly different this year and they think they have the personnel to be an upper echelon team at the plate.

One of the new players brought in was Hanley Ramirez.  Ramirez actually came up in the Red Sox system before he was traded to the Marlins a long time ago.  Since then he’s become an excellent player.  He played shortstop for the Dodgers last year, but the Red Sox are hoping to turn him into a left fielder.  He agreed to play third base for the Marlins in 2012, but that didn’t work well as he was unhappy, played sloppy defense and his offense suffered.  Unfortunately, he is getting bigger so his range at short is pretty bad.  He is more than athletic enough to play left, but that’s not an easy position to play in Fenway with the Green Monster.  What the Red Sox really care about is his offense.  Last year he hit 283 with 13 HR, 71 RBI, 64 R and 14 SB in 128 games.  He’s had trouble staying healthy the last few years and hasn’t played in 150 games since 2009.  But if he can stay healthy he has a chance to be a 30 HR/100 RBI guy with an AVG around 300 and 15-20 SB.  I love him this year and think he’ll reach all those plateaus, even if he only plays in 140 games.

The other major offensive addition was Pablo Sandoval.  Kung Fu Panda signed a huge deal to move to Boston after winning his third World Series with the Giants.  He’s another guy whose defense is questionable.  But it’s really only the range scouts don’t like, and Xander Bogaerts has enough range at short to make up for any shortcomings Sandoval has at third.  He’s become a pretty predictable player, which is something a lot of people highly value.  Especially when he’s predictably good at a shallow position.  He hit 279 last season with 16 HR and 73 RBI.  He’s likely no longer a 300 hitter, but has hit around 280 the last three years.  If he can stay healthy (a decent sized if) moving to Fenway could help up those power numbers and playing in a better lineup should give him more RBI opportunities.  I like him this year to the tune of 290 with 30 HR and 95 RBI. 

I have DH David Ortiz hitting between the two new arrivals in the cleanup spot.  I’ve heard a lot of talk about having Ortiz hit third and Ramirez fourth but I don’t like it and think it won’t last.  Ortiz can hit third, but he’s a better cleanup man because of his ability to hit with runners on.  Ortiz hit 263 last year with 35 HR and 104 RBI.  I think playing in a better lineup will get him better pitches to hit and he will rebound in AVG while continuing to put up strong power numbers.  Even in his older age, I think he can have a huge year.  Think 285 with 35 HR and 120 RBI.

Those three make up the heart of the lineup.  The team leader will hit right in front of them in the 2 hole.  Dustin Pedroia is hoping to have a bounce back year.  He hit 278 last season, but only produced 7 HR and 6 SB in 12 attempts.  He played through a lot of injuries and still only logged 135 games so part of his issues stemmed from health.  Also, like Ortiz, there was little incentive to give him anything to hit when the rest of the lineup was so weak.   I think he will have a better year, but I think he won’t bounce all the way back.  Put him down for 285 with 12 HR, 70 RBI and 80 R.  But his speed is on the downswing and I doubt he makes it to 10 SB this season.

The Red Sox also feature a glut of outfield talent, even after trading Yoenis Cespedes to Detroit.  Hanley Ramirez was brought in to play left and joins a group that includes Shane Victorino, Allen Craig, Jackie Bradley Jr., Daniel Nava, Cuban prospect Rusney Castillo and last year’s rookie phenom Mookie Betts.  Betts played some second last season, but with Pedroia healthy he competed in the outfield in the spring and won the starting center field job over the more experienced Victorino and Craig and over Castillo, who is being paid like a starter.  But the Red Sox love Betts’ potential and who can blame them.  In 52 games last year, Betts hit 291 with a phenomenal 368 OBP and 21 BBs to 31 Ks, great splits for a rookie.  He also added 5 HR and 7 SB in 10 attempts.  He is a real sparkplug with plate discipline beyond his years.  After his great spring, he was given the leadoff job and I think he will run with it.  Put him down for 275 with a 340 OBP.  Add to that 10 HR, 30 SB and 100 R in a great rookie season.

Beyond the top 5 in the order, there is a lot of depth and experience.  Mike Napoli mans first and will hit 6th.  Napoli hit 248 with 17 HR in 119 games last year.  It was a step back from what he’s done in recent years, but part of that was due to injury.  With all the talent in front of him, I think Napoli will have less pressure to perform and he will play better.  Think 260 with 23 HR and 75 RBI.

I put catcher Ryan Hannigan in the 7th spot.  He’s more of a defensive catcher with experience than an offensive threat, but with a career 256 AVG and 334 OBP, he can give some quality ABs.  Xander Bogaerts hits 8th and is in the starting lineup for his defense.  That being said, he’s shown some good pop in his career thus far with 12 HR last season.  They’d love for him to pull that AVG up some, but really anything he does at the plate is a bonus.  I also have Shane Victorino getting the most playing time in right and hitting 9th.  He’s not the All Star he once was, but he’s got plenty left in the tank.  He only played in 30 games last year, but in 2013 he hit 294 with 21 SB and 15 HR.  While I’d be surprised to see him return to those levels, I think he can hit 270 with 10-15 SB and maybe 10 HR.  If he struggles, Alan Craig and Daniel Nava are waiting to take over.

This offense is talented and deep.  I think they are among the best in the league.  They have a good balance of power and speed and several potentially great hitters who can hit over 300.  I don’t think the Red Sox will have any issues scoring runs.  And with their glut of talent, I think they can weather injuries better than any other club in the league.

Their defense won’t rank as highly.  Mike Napoli is subpar at first.  Dustin Pedroia and Xander Bogaerts are very good up the middle and Sandoval is pretty decent at third, despite terrible range.  Mookie Betts can handle center field, but could use more experience and I’ve heard some questions about his arm.  Hanley Ramirez will probably struggle in left.  Victorino is pretty good in right and Hannigan is solid behind the plate.  There are really only two above average players at their positions, with the potential for two more.  There are lots of options on the bench, but they aren’t much better.  Allen Craig is fine at first, but not great in right.  Daniel Nava is good in left and fine in right.  Brock Holt is talented with the leather and can cover second, third and short.  And David Ortiz may play some first during interleague games.  He’s probably the worst fielding DH in the game.  This defense is not nearly as deep, and the starters aren’t great.  Hopefully their offense is potent enough to overcome any defensive deficiencies. 


While the Boston offense was a below average group across the board, the pitching staff wasn’t much better.  The Red Sox were average or worse in every major pitching category.  They saw a lot of turnover and hope their new group of starters can help right the ship.  But they will be attempting to do it without a true ace.  The hope in Beantown is that they have more depth than any other team and that will help them in the long run.

The Red Sox are hoping Clay Buchholz can step up to be their ace.  He’s showed flashes before, but has been unable to sustain it due to injury and ineffectiveness for periods of time.  Last year is a perfect example:  After going 12-1 in 16 starts with a 1.74 ERA in an injury-shortened 2013 season, Buchholz came out in 2014 and went 8-11 in 28 starts with a hideous 5.34 ERA.  You truly don’t know what pitcher you are getting in Buchholz.  He’s got a 3.89 career ERA, so when you look at it as a whole, he’s been average.  Pitching in that league, that park and that division can be tough.  The safe bet is to say he gets double digit wins with an ERA around 4.  But chances are he’ll either win 15 games with an ERA under 3, or lose 15 games with an ERA over 5.  I truly have no idea what to expect from him.

The number 2 man is Rick Porcello, who they acquired in a trade with Detroit by jettisoning Yoenis Cespedes.  Porcello, a long time number 4 starter with the Tigers, has always been better than people realize.  He went 15-13 last season with a 3.43 ERA.  It was his best year yet, but he still had a fairly average WHIP (1.23) and bad BAA (268).  He did reach 200 IP for the first time, but saw his K-rate drop, which is alarming because it was never that good to begin with.  He’s a groundball pitcher playing in a great hitting league.  I don’t think he’s a number 4 starter but I don’t think he’s a number 2 either.  With the defense the Sox have, he could be in trouble.  Luckily he rarely walks guys and won’t beat himself.  I think he can win 12 games on this team, but perhaps see his ERA climb over 4 again, though probably not to 4.25.

Lefty Wade Miley was added in a trade with the Diamondbacks.  Miley is more of a number 4 starter, but is the number 3 man here.  Miley is a dependable innings eater who struggled last season in a lost year in Arizona.  While Arizona is a tough place to pitch, Fenway is probably tougher, especially when you consider the AL’s offensive prowess.  He went 8-12 with a 4.34 ERA.   His ERA has climbed for three straight years and his WHIP and BAA totals also climbed to highs not seen since his first appearance in the bigs.  He walks too many guys and gives up too many hits.  However, he did strikeout more hitters than ever last season (183) while throwing 201 innings, one less than he did in 2013.  He may struggle in Boston, but if he can keep his team in games he should be a lock for 8 Wins with an ERA around 4.50.

Justin Masterson was signed as a free agent on a one-year deal.  For Masterson, it’s about staying healthy. He was returning from injury and made 25 starts with the Indians and Cardinals.  But he was not as good as he was in 2013 (14-10 with a 3.45 ERA and career high 195 Ks that year).  In fact, he was bad in 19 starts with Cleveland (5.51 ERA) and worse with St. Louis (7.04 ERA in 6 starts and 3 relief appearances).  If he’s fully healthy he may be able to return to being a quality innings eater.  But the Sox are taking a risk here.  If it was more than health issues plaguing Masterson last year, they are in trouble.  The goal is 200 IP of sub 4.50 ERA baseball.  But I think he falls short on both counts, turning in a losing record as well.

The 5th spot goes to Joe Kelly, a former Cardinals prospect.   He was added in a deadline deal with the Cards last season.  He was decent, especially for a young pitcher, going 6-4 in 17 starts overall with a 4.37 ERA in St. Louis and 4.11 ERA in Boston.  He’s better than most other 5th starters and has potential to be more.  What I like is the improvement he showed with Boston after the deal lowering his WHIP and BAA substantially.  He was very good with the Cards in 2013 and the Sox hope he can pitch that way for them.  Experience always helps young pitchers and I think he rises to the occasion and becomes the number 3 or 4 starter with a winning record (10 Wins) and ERA around 3.80.  Not an All Star or anything, but someone they can build with. 

That is the starting rotation and it’s not great.  But the good news is Boston has a great bullpen, especially now with Koji Uehara returning from the DL.

Uehara is the closer and he is very good.  He’s been one of the top closers in the league since he came to Beantown.  But there is come slight concern that he is starting to regress, and at 40 that can happen fast.  He went 26 for 31 in his Save opportunities last year but saw his ERA rise to 2.52 and his Ks drop to 80.  Now, that still puts him in the quality closer discussion, but it’s a far cry from what he did in 2013.  I still think he can be very good, but likely no longer one of the best.  I’m thinking 25 Saves and an ERA around 2.25.

Edward Mujica is around to setup and provide closer insurance.  Mujica is one of many veteran arms in the Boston pen and has some closing experience.  He has 49 career Saves and 37 came in 2013.  He is better as a set up man and that is why he was signed.  He gave up more hits last season than many expected, but I think he can still be a quality setup man and help build the bridge to Uehara. 

The rest of the pen features a good mix of veterans (Tazawa, Ogando, Breslow) and young arms with promise (Varvaro, Workman).  While this starting staff may not be great, this bullpen is more than capable of picking up the slack.

This pitching staff is not ranked near the top of the league.  But within their division, they are probably third behind the Rays and Baltimore.  With their offense they won’t have to win a lot of low scoring games.  Also, I wouldn’t be surprised if this starting rotation gets upgraded mid season.  So while this staff overall is subpar, it’s not bad compared to the rest of the division.


It’s funny.  I don’t think this team, as its constituted right now, is representative of a playoff caliber team.  But, they play in a weak division in a year where the whole AL is wide open.  Here’s what I like:  the offense looks phenomenal.  They are easily in the top 2 of their division, maybe even the best.  They also have the pieces to make a move for a top starter.  And I just don’t believe this team will ride the pitching staff as it’s currently constructed to the playoffs.  They should score more than enough runs to stay competitive with a lot of starters who can eat innings and a bullpen that looks strong.  While no team in this division is great, the Red Sox look to be one of the best in the East. 

I’ll put them down for 94 Wins and the division crown.