Monday, May 25, 2015

2015 National League Predictions

This post is a mirror image of my last post on the AL, which you can read here.  In that post, I wrapped up my final thoughts on the AL for the 2015 season.  While I started my team breakdowns before the season, life slowed me down and I’m behind.  Since an important part of my breakdowns are predictions, I decided to open my NL breakdowns with this post, even though it’s not my “final” thoughts, as it was for the AL.  I’ll call these my initial thoughts and then publish all my breakdowns based on this post. 

We are already well into the season so my predictions need to come ASAP if people are to buy them.  But, as you’ll see, I made my predictions at the beginning of the year and haven’t changed them.  I just haven’t posted them yet.  So I’ll post them now, even if they are way off, and then later in the year I’ll make some adjustments. 

Okay, without further ado, here are my national league predictions for the 2015 season.

NL Standings:

NL East

Washington Nationals

Miami Marlins

New York Mets

Atlanta Braves

Philadelphia Phillies

NL Central

St. Louis Cardinals

Cincinnati Reds

Pittsburgh Pirates

Milwaukee Brewers

Chicago Cubs

NL West

Los Angeles Dodgers

San Diego Padres

San Francisco Giants

Arizona Diamondbacks

Colorado Rockies

Okay so those are my projected PRESEASON standings from before the year began.  I don’t have any other proof, other than the fact that there are some picks I wish I could undo. 

The Nats got off to a slow start, but are back on track in the East.  It’s the Marlins that are the biggest disappointment to me, though I have never had any trust in the owner or system in Miami.  For that reason I’m not overly surprised, but I can honestly say I thought they’d be better.  It’s not too late, but they are on a really rough run right now.

In the Central, the Cubs are playing a little better than I thought.  The Brewers are far worse than I thought.  The Cards are where I expected them to be.  And the Reds and Pirates are playing worse than I expected, but still similarly matched, just lower in the standings than I thought.

In the West, the Dodgers are where I expected them to be.  The Giants and Diamondbacks are far better than I thought and the Padres aren’t playing like I thought they could.   I didn’t think the Padres would be great, but better than they are currently playing, especially considering how well Justin Upton is hitting.  I guess I correctly pegged the Rockies, hot April aside.

I haven’t made any changes to my standings and won’t make any adjustments to my playoff picks at this time.  Those are posted below:

NL Playoffs

NL East Winner:                     Washington Nationals

NL Central Winner:                 St. Louis Cardinals

NL West Winner:                    Los Angeles Dodgers

First Wildcard:                       San Diego Padres

Second Wildcard:                    Cincinnati Reds

Wildcard Round:                     Reds over Padres

NLDS 1:                                   Nationals over Reds

NLDS 2:                                   Cardinals over Dodgers

NLCS:                                      Nationals over Cardinals

NL Champ:                              Washington Nationals

So those are my playoff predictions.  I like the Nationals a lot this year, and feel better about them now that they have rebounded from their sluggish start.  They have the best team on paper (in my opinion) and the pitching to win playoff series.  The Cardinals and Dodgers should be solid as well, but I just think the Nationals are too good to be beaten.

I can say the Reds and Padres aren’t playing as well as I thought, but other than that the rest of my playoff picks look good to this point.  But we are still very early in the season.  So we’ll have to see how it plays out.  In my AL Post, I picked the Kansas City Royals to return to the World Series.  In my predictions, I have them meeting the Nationals.  How do I see that playing out?

World Series:                          Nationals over Royals in 6

World Series Champ:              Washington Nationals

I am bullish on the Nats this year, even though they are a division rival of my team.  They seem to be on track now and with that starting staff and offense, I just can’t see them running into many sustained periods of losing. 

NL Awards

NL MVP:                                 Giancarlo Stanton

NL Cy Young:                          Johnny Cueto

NL Manager of the Year:        Matt Williams

With Stanton, I figured he’d have another great year, but finally have the team around him to give him support.  It’s hard to win an MVP if teams continuously pitch around you.  With the addition of Prado and Morse, I thought Stanton might get more pitches to hit.  Morse has struggled, but Prado has not.  However, he’s hitting in front of Stanton and behind the very impressive Dee Gordon.  So the protection is Marcell Ozuna, the struggling Morse and then Yelich.  It’s not bad.  But it’s not the support I imagined.  The other guy I considered was Paul Goldschmidt, who I think should have won over McCutchen a few years ago (compare their numbers in 2013, you’ll see what I mean).  But I didn’t pick Goldy because of his supporting cast.  At this point, it seems that Stanton is the one missing the supporting cast.  He has good HR/RBI numbers, but it often pitched around in RBI situations and his AVG isn’t’ anywhere near where he wants it to be.

For the Cy Young, it’s easy to just jot down Kershaw’s number every year.  I almost did this year, but figured eventually the West had to figure out something against him, even if just for a few months.  If that were to happen, perhaps it would hurt his numbers enough for another great pitcher, like Cueto or Wainwright to take the mantle.  Cueto was great last year and is pitching in a contract year.  While I liked Wainwright and also considered Scherzer (new guy in a new league that hasn’t seen him much and playing in a weak division), I settled on Cueto because we know he’s great, he has been for a while and is playing for a team that I thought would be playoff bound.  Also, if he pitches well enough he’ll start the All Star game in his home stadium, and that cache may give him an edge at the end of the year when we vote for awards.  Seeing Kershaw’s early struggles, I am lucky I made this call.   But I could have gone with Wainwright and been way off.  I love Cueto, his stuff and his makeup.  But if the Reds don’t make the playoffs, he may be overlooked at awards time.

And the Manager of the Year was the toughest.  When you are given a great roster, people often don’t give you credit.  They figure the only thing that can derail a good roster is the manager, so if the team struggles, it’s the manager’s fault.  If they don’t, then any success is expected and not often given the credit it is due.  But we have seen good teams on paper struggle to overcome expectations and stay focused for a full year.  If the Nats play as well as I think they will, I think that will be because Matt Williams kept them focused and playing hard for the full season.  For that reason, I thought that Williams would be a good choice.  I also considered Don Mattingly, Bud Black and Mike Matheny.  But if the Nationals do indeed have the best record in the league, I don’t see how you can’t give Williams this award.  And I happen to think they will achieve all the greatness so many predict of them.  So I’ll stand by this pick for now.

Ok that’s it.  The NL breakdowns are coming soon, staring with the NL East, and my World Series pick, the Washington Nationals.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Final Thoughts on the 2015 American League Season

As we are well into the season, I thought I’d quickly put up my final thoughts on the Junior Circuit for this year.  I can promise you that I haven’t changed picks.  I’ve made my picks for both leagues already and won’t change them while I finish the breakdowns.  You can look back to the date when I started and see that is true.  It’ll be harder to by that for the NL, which is why I’m going to start with this post from an NL perspective before I go through that league.  So, without further ado, here are my final thoughts on what to expect in the AL in 2015.

AL Standings:


Boston Red Sox

Toronto Blue Jays

Baltimore Orioles

Tampa Bay Rays

New York Yankees


Kansas City Royals

Detroit Tigers

Chicago White Sox

Cleveland Indians

Minnesota Twins


Seattle Mariners

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Oakland Athletics

Texas Rangers

Houston Astros

See now you know I haven’t changed my picks, because there are some I’m really regretting right now.  The AL East (which was the last division I did btw) looks completely different than I expected.  And the Mariners are a bit of a disappointment.  Again, this is just what I thought would happen, not what I necessarily wanted to happen.  But, with that in mind, here’s how I see the playoffs playing out.

AL Playoffs:

AL East Winner:                     Boston Red Sox

AL Central Winner:                 Kansas City Royals

AL West Winner:                    Seattle Mariners

First Wildcard:                       Los Angeles Angels

Second Wildcard:                    Toronto Blue Jays

Wildcard Round:                     Angels over the Blue Jays

ALDS 1:                                   Angels over Red Sox

ALDS 2:                                   Royals over Mariners

ALCS:                                       Royals over Angels

AL Champ:                              Kansas City Royals

At this point, I really only feel good about one of my picks, maybe two.  It’s not too late for the rest, but it’ll be a long road back for some of them.  I’m very surprised that Seattle is struggling in the way that they are.  They were so close to the playoffs last year and adding Nelson Cruz looked so good on paper.  I’m surprised by the Blue Jays and Red Sox as well, but I understand their struggles.  Their pitching is suspect, but I thought the offense would be enough.  I was half right as Toronto has the best offense I the league, but the worst pitching.  I won’t change my picks yet because that isn’t what this post is about.  I think some of my picks will bounce back, but not all of them.

AL Award Winners

AL MVP:                                  Mike Trout

AL Cy Young:                         David Price

AL Manager of the Year:      Lloyd McClendon

It’s hard not to pick Mike Trout to win the MVP at this point.  He should have 3 already.  I love Price’s stuff and the fact that he’s in a performance year.  He also plays for a great team with some weak teams at the bottom of his division.  Frankly, the whole league isn’t overly strong.  McClendon won my award on the basis that Seattle won the division.  That isn’t looking likely now, but maybe they’ll come back. 

Very impressed with the Astros to start the year.  Also the Rays.  Disappointed in the A’s.  Thought they’d be better.  And I’ve already covered how surprised and disappointed the Red Sox, Blue Jays and Mariners have made me.  That’s all for now.  I’ll open the NL with a corresponding post soon.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Tampa Bay Rays 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

Tampa Bay Rays

2014 Finish:              77-85 (Fourth Place)

Projected Batting Order                                             My Batting Order

CF        Kevin Kiermaier                                            LF        Desmond Jennings
RF        Steven Sousa                                                 DH       David DeJesus
SS        Asdrubal Cabrera                                         SS        Asdrubal Cabrera
3B       Evan Longoria                                               3B       Evan Longoria
LF        Desmond Jennings                                        C          John Jaso
C          John Jaso                                                        1B       James Loney
1B       James Loney                                                  RF        Steven Sousa
DH       David DeJesus                                               2B       Logan Forsythe
2B       Logan Forsythe                                              CF        Kevin Kiermaier

Projected Starting Rotation/Closer

RHP                 Chris Archer
RHP                 Nathan Karns
RHP                 Jake Odorizzi
RHP                 Matt Andriese
LHP                 Drew Smyly
CLOSER          Jake McGee

The Rays are always on the verge of re-building due to their financial limitations.  They seem to be in a re-building mode right now, but still have some young, quality players on their squad and hope it won’t take too long to be good again.  With their pitching, I think they could be competitive this year though I suspect they will not really be in contention for the playoffs this season.  Losing Joe Maddon and Andrew Friedman hurts as that manager/GM combo found the magic touch for making this financially strapped team competitive in the highest priced division in baseball.  Its frustrating for Rays fans because this division has never looked more winnable, and now it looks like the Rays are taking a step back.  Also, their once vaunted farm system looks thinner than it has in years.  We’ll have to see how the Rays do without their old brain trust, but most of the other front office/development staff is still in place and nobody develops players, especially pitchers, better than Tampa Bay.  And as long as they have pitching, they will be competitive.


As is usually the case, the Rays struggled offensively in 2014.  They hit 247 as a team and ranked near the bottom half of the league in AVG, hits, HR and SB.  Most telling, they tanked dead last in R.  If you can’t score, it’s hard to win.  The offense doesn’t look much more intimidating this year.

The cornerstone of this offense is Evan Longoria.  He’s struggled with injuries at times, but has tried to put that behind him with 160 games played in 2013 and a full 162 last year.  But that doesn’t mean he was healthy.  He dealt with nagging injuries all year and refused to sit, realizing that without him this offense has nobody pitchers are afraid of.  The tradeoff was one of his worst seasons in the majors:  253, 22 HR, 91 RBI, 83 R and 5 SB.  Those aren’t bad numbers at all, but it’s not what he is accustomed to.  He holds himself to a higher standard and has to carry this offense, which means they need more.  And while the HR, RBI and R numbers look good, he still had a career low 724 OPS.  I’ll say this about Longoria, I never have thought of him as an elite offensive performer.  He’s never hit 300, hasn’t driven in more than 100 runs since 2010 and has only reached double-digit stolen bases once.  That being said, he can do a lot of things well and generally hits 20+ HR when he’s healthy.  That’s a quality offensive player.  Put him down for another season of being pitched around which will result is lesser numbers.  I’m thinking 260 with 20+ HR, 80+ RBI and 70+ R.  Not bad at all, but not enough to carry an offense..

The Rays signed Asdrubal Cabrera to play short and take some of the offensive load off of Longoria.  He split his time between the Indians and Nationals last year and played both short and second.  He popped 14 HR, stole 10 bases and hit 241 overall.  For a middle infielder, that’s good, but I don’t know if it will really provide much incentive to pitch to Longoria.  He’s a career 267 hitter who has hit 14 or more HR the last four years.  I think he will be a good player for Tampa Bay, but don’t think he’s really a game-changer.  Put him down for an AVG around 250 with double digit HR, 70+ RBI and 60+ R.  Toss in 8-10 SB as well.

I think one of the keys to the Rays offense is going to be Desmond Jennings.  He has never lived up to his potential, but has skills.  The problem is, he doesn’t seem to play to his skills.  He’s a speedy guy, but has a career 248 AVG and 327 OBP.  He’s got some pop, but doesn’t play in a park that is conducive to power hitting.  Right now, he’s hitting 5th or 6th in the middle of the lineup because he wants to hit for power.  That’s a mistake.  They have to turn him into a leadoff hitter if they want to be successful.  Hitting in the middle of the order limits his greatest asset, his speed.  Last year he stole a career low 15 bases.  I’d put him in the leadoff hole and make him work it out since this is likely a lost year.  I don’t think it will happen though.  I’m thinking 245 with 10 HR, 18 SB and about 50 RBI, not at all what the Rays need from him.

After those three players, there is really no one else that will have a major impact on offense.  First baseman James Loney is a quality player, but has never become the power hitter many hoped he would.  He’s generally good for 270 with an OBP around 400, 15 HR and 10 SB.  That’s good, but not what you are generally looking for from a first baseman.  Additionally, he is currently on the DL so the Rays are trying to get by without him to start the season.

Catcher John Jaso has some legitimate pop.  He hit 9 HR in only 307 ABs last year with Oakland.  He goes from one pitcher’s park to another in Tampa, but if he hit in Oakland, the hope is he will hit in Tampa.  He’s a career 259 hitter, but hit over 264 the last three seasons.  When Jaso returns from the DL, he will be the primary catcher and get extra ABs in the DH spot to put his bat in the lineup.  The Rays hope he turns into a 15-20 HR guy, but there’s no guarantee.  I’m thinking 15 is likely his ceiling with an AVG around 265 as he will have to make adjustments the more he plays.  If his stay on the DL stretches on those numbers could take hit.

David DeJesus is one of the only veterans left on the team this year.  He is technically a fourth outfielder, but I think he’ll find his way into some extra playing time as either a DH or the guy who gets into the field to allow others to DH.  He is a quality, left-handed bench player with a career 278 AVG and a little pop left in his bat.  He plays good defense, runs well despite his age and has a professional approach at the plate.  He won’t reach double digit HRs or steals anymore, but he can chip in 5+ of both while hitting around 270 with an OBP north of 350.

Nobody else on this team is proven to be a performer at the big league level.  Kevin Kiermaier has plenty of talent in center field.  He hit 263 with 10 HR and 5 SB last year in 108 games.  For a youngster, that’s very good.  He’s got to work on his approach on the bases as he was caught almost as many times as he was safe (4 CS….5 for 9 overall).  All young guys have to make adjustments and mature, but I think he’s got a bright future with a decent OBP for a rookie (315) and not an over abundance of Ks (71 in 33 AB).  His second season may feature some growing pains, but with a starting job and more ABs, 12-15 HR seems legitimate with another 8-10 SB.  And if has the ability to make adjustments quickly, he could do more.  He’s off to a hot start right now.

So is right fielder Steven Souza.  He’s got even less experience than Kiermaier playing in only 21 games before this year.  You really cant’ put any expectations on anyone with that little experience but he’s already surpassed his HR and SB totals from last year.  After a slow first week, he’s playing better and a lot of people think he can have a big year.  If so, that’s great, but the Rays are just hoping he gets some experience and can prove to be a valuable addition to their future.

Logan Forsythe will likely get the lion’s share of the time at second base.  He’s got plenty of experience, but has not proven himself to be more than a platoon player to this point.  I don’t expect much from him, an AVG around 220 and maybe a handful of HRs.  If Tim Beckham or Ryan Brett can distinguish themselves in some way (and Beckham is starting to), he may lose playing time.  He’s nothing more than a stopgap at this point.

Rene Rivera is the backup catcher, who will get more playing time than most other backups.  Jaso is out right now, but also will get a lot of DH time, allowing Rivera to catch more.  He’s been a capable backup a long time with great defensive ratings.  But last year he hit 11 HR in 103 games so there is hope he can produce more with more playing time. 

This offense won’t score a lot of runs.  There are only two legitimate threats on this team in Evan Longoria and Asdrubal Cabrera.  But Cabrera is only above average and while Longoria is good, he’s not great.  Loney and Jennings are good players but neither has lived up to their potential.  There is youth on this team, but they aren’t proven players yet and this year they will likely feature a lot of growing pains.  So if the Rays are going to win ball games, they will be low scoring ones.

The defense looks like it should be okay.  James Loney is great at first and Evan Longoria is above average at third.  Cabrera is bad at short, but Forsythe is fine at second.  Beckham is good at short, despite his lack of experience and Brett looks like he’ll be a good offensive piece.  Desmond Jennings is much better in left than in center.  Souza is fantastic in right.  And Kiermaier is at least average in center, but I think he’s better and being a young player he will continue to improve.  Jaso is fine behind the plate and Rivera is great.  DeJesus is good in either corner outfield spot and can still play center in a pinch.  This defense won’t win any awards, but they have talent and depth.


As always, the Rays were carried by their pitching staff last year.  That being said, they weren’t quite as good as they have been in the recent past and threw in the towel halfway through the year and let their best pitcher, David Price go.  They were 6th in the league with a 3.56 ERA.  They gave up a lot of BBs, but were second in the league in both Ks and WHIP because they are a staff of young guys with great stuff.  They will be a little shorthanded this year and will definitely miss David Price.  That being said, they should still be the best pitching staff in the division.

The Rays have let David Price and James Shields go over the last few seasons.  They also will deal with the loss of Matt Moore (for the majority of the year), Alex Cobb, Alex Colome, Jake McGee and Drew Smyly who have all started the year on the DL. 

With all the injuries, Chris Archer starts the year as the ace.  He’s got the stuff to be a true ace and had a good season last year.  He went 10-9 with a 3.33 ERA last season.  He’s not a huge strikeout guy, but may grow into one with 173 Ks in 194 IP.  He’s still young and making adjustments as his 1.28 WHIP and 243 BAA were fairly pedestrian.  But he’s got great stuff and should be a quality starter on this team for years.  Think another 10 Wins, even with the limited offense behind him.  200 IP is a possibility with 180+ Ks and an ERA around 3.20.

Jake Odorizzi is one of the many highly touted young arms for Tampa Bay.  Added in the James Shields deal, Odirizzi got his most major league action last season with 31 starts.  He went 11-13 with a 4.13 ERA.  His WHIP was a little higher than the MLB average and his BAA right around it.  Most impressive was his 174 Ks in 168 IP.  He’s still young and has a lot to learn.  But he has great stuff and is well on his way.  I’m putting him down for double-digit wins, though perhaps another losing record.  Expect that ERA to dip below 4 and with 180 IP we could see 200 Ks.

The rest of the starting rotation is currently made up of fill-in pieces.  Drew Smyly and Alex Cobb will certainly return to the starting rotation when healthy and Alex Colome would like to join them, but he’ll have to outpitch all three of the guys currently on the staff.  Matt Moore would also like to be back this year, but if the Rays are struggling, I don’t see the point in rushing him back.

Until then Nathan Karns will get some starts.  Coming into 2015, he’s got only 5 to his name.  Last year, he made 2 starts going 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA.  He’s got as many Ks as IP and had a sparkling 0.92 WHIP and 163 BAA.  Why the high ERA with those numbers?  He gives up a lot of HR and more walks than he should.  If he can avoid that he could be a solid starter.   But if not, he won’t keep his job as the Rays get their original starters healthy again.

Matt Andriese is another fill-in.  He’s got 1 start and 1 relief appearance to his name.  I have no idea what he’ll do, but he’s another young guy with pretty good stuff that should become a major leaguer at some point.  It’s happened sooner than many thought, but he will only keep his job if he’s successful.

Erasmo Ramirez has the most experience of the fill-in guys from his time in Seattle.  But he was a subpar pitcher in one of the best pitching environments in baseball.  Last year he was 1-6 with a 5.26 ERA and lost his starting job.  They’d love to see the Ramirez of 2012 who had a 3.36 ERA in 8 starts and 8 relief appearances.  But with his AVG, WHIP and BAA rising each season, the Rays aren’t expecting much.  He will almost certainly go to the bullpen or to the minors when Cobb and Smyly return.

Cobb has been great in his short career.  His last two seasons were his best as he pitched to a sub 3 ERA and won double-digit games both years with good winning records.  His career WHIP and BAA are both better than the league average.  I think he’ll be productive upon his return, but don’t know how long he’ll be out so I have no idea what his numbers will be.

Smyly is in a similar spot, but may have a higher ceiling.  He’s always been a good pitcher in Detroit, but Tampa is a better place to pitch and that coaching staff made him better, turning him into more of a strikeout guy.  He’s 43-19 in 114 career starts with a 3.26 ERA.  That’s great, but if he becomes a better strikeout guy he could be elite.  I love his future and think he could turn into a 200 K guy.  His numbers for this year are cloudy because I don’t know how long he’ll be out.

This starting staff could be great.  Until it’s fully healthy however, they are just average with a lot of unproven commodities.  Luckily, they have a strong bullpen to support them even with closer Jake McGee on the DL.  Until he returns, Brad Boxberger has been closing and should be a solid option in that role.  Boxberger is coming off a season where he had 18 Holds and a 2.37 ERA in 63 games.  He struck out 104 in 64 IP.  While he doesn’t have a lot of closing experience, he’s got the stuff to be successful for a short time, if not longer.  When McGee returns, he will setup and has proven he can be great in that role.

Kevin Jepsen and Ernesto Frieri are veteran arms with good stuff in the Rays pen.  Frieri even has closing experience, although he’s been better as a setup man.  They complement the other arms in the pen, many of which are young.  When the starting rotation gets back to full strength, the bullpen may get an upgrade with some of the fill-in starters moving to relief roles.  McGee was a very good closer last year with 19 Saves and 14 Holds after taking over the job part way through the season.  He struck out 90 in 71 IP and had a 0.90 WHIP and sparkling 189 BAA.  I can’t estimate his numbers because I don’t know how long he’ll be out.  But I have no doubt he’ll be successful after he returns and settles back in to his role.

This pitching staff is very strong.  However, it’s not as good as it has been in recent years.   They are trying to overcome the loss of David Price and all the injuries on the staff.  They will keep the Rays in a lot of games and get them some wins in spite of their offense.  While they may be the best pitching staff in the division, they aren’t as good as they have been in the past and likely aren’t good enough to carry this team to the playoffs. 


The Rays are in a tough spot.  They have always had small windows for success and impossible financial constraints.  However, there was always a trust in Friedman and Maddon that things would be ok.  Losing those two hurts.  In addition, the Rays lost Price, Ben Zobrist, Matt Joyce and Wil Myers in the last year.  I didn’t like this offense in the past and like it less now.  They will win some games and be in all of them.  But at the end of the day, I don’t think they score enough to win a serious number of games and don’t see them threatening to be a playoff team.

I’ll say 72 Wins and a fourth place finish in the division.  They will not factor in the playoff hunt.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

New York Yankees 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

New York Yankees

2014 Finish:              84-78 (Second Place)

Projected Batting Order                                             My Batting Order

CF        Jacoby Ellsbury                                             LF        Brett Gardner
LF        Brett Gardner                                                            RF        Carlos Beltran
RF        Carlos Beltran                                                CF        Jacoby Ellsbury
1B       Mark Teixeira                                                            1B       Mark Teixeira
C          Brian McCann                                                            C          Brian McCann
3B       Chase Headley                                               DH       Alex Rodriguez
DH       Alex Rodriguez                                              3B       Chase Headley
2B       Stephen Drew                                               2B       Stephen Drew
SS        Didi Gregorius                                               SS        Didi Gregorious

Projected Starting Rotation/Closer

RHP                 Masahiro Tanaka
LHP                 C.C. Sabathia
RHP                 Michael Pineda
RHP                 Nathan Eovaldi
RHP                 Adam Warren
CLOSER          Dellin Betances

I will admit there is something deliciously satisfying in picking the Yankees to finish in last place.  That being said, I truly believe this projection is well deserved.  I live in New York.  It is a great place to live filled with smart, open-minded people.  But when it comes to sports, New Yorkers are some of the most close-minded and least informed people I know.  Maybe they are so open-minded and intelligent on the important things in life that they need a break when it comes to sports.  I have spent over a year touring the country for work and spent a lot of time visiting family or working in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Florida, South Carolina, Maryland, Tennessee, Massachusetts and California.  I have a better than average understanding of the national sports scene and of fan attitudes in those areas.  And I can tell you without a doubt that I’ve never spent time in a place where fans were less realistic than in New York.  Perhaps they aren’t to blame.  You see less baseball here than just about any where else in the country that isn’t effected by blackouts.  It makes no sense, because there are more sports fans of other teams living in New York than anywhere else in the country.  But you can pretty much only watch the Yankees and Mets.  The local ESPN affiliate cannot show New York games due to the contract local cable companies have with SNY and the Yes Network.  However, whenever they have the option to show a New York game or something else, they choose the New York game.  Essentially that means they choose to be blacked out for 3 hours instead of showing another game from another region.  The local Fox affiliate doesn’t show afternoon baseball as often as they usually do.  On the Sunday of this writing, there were baseball games on all over the country on Fox, MLB Network, ESPN, ESPN 2 and local sports channels.  In New York, we had TV reruns on Fox, drag racing on ESPN, boat racing on ESPN 2 and MLB Network was blacked out.  The only baseball options were the Mets in the late afternoon and the Yankees re-run of the previous evening’s game since the Yanks were on Sunday Night Baseball.  There was live baseball all day, and we got 1 game until Sunday night.  I don’t know if it’s a ploy to get more people to root for New York sports teams but it’s frustrating and asinine.  Even in other big cities (LA, Chicago, D.C.) this doesn’t happen.  There may be other issues with blackouts and local teams not being on TV in those markets, but they never choose to not show baseball from other markets.  So the biggest, most well connected city in the world offers you fewer sports than just about anywhere else. (It happens with football too).

So when Yankees fans are convinced they are going to be the best team in baseball, perhaps it’s because they don’t realize there are 29 other teams in the game, most of which look like they’ll be better.  After a great run of 5 World Series titles and 17 postseason appearances in 18 years their style of management caught up to them.  Having a lot of money keeps you competitive for short periods.  But eventually other teams will catch you because they draft and develop well.  The Yankees are the worst at drafting and developing players.  And with more teams willing to spend a lot of money, the Yankees are finding themselves ignored this year when it comes to playoff discussions.  (But if you live in the Tri-State area, you’d think they are the odds-on favorites to win it all). 

Last year’s team was 84-78 and finished in second place.  But with a negative 31 run differential, they were clearly not the second best team in that division and were statistically one of the luckiest teams in baseball.  They are another year older and look a little worse this season than they did last year.  If they want to be relevant, they have to have great years from Teixeira, Beltran and McCann as well as another good year from Ellsbury and Gardner.  But they have too many holes, too many questions and too many years to be considered a threat this season.


This offense looks old.  They have limited speed and power and terrible athleticism.  Re-signing Chase Headley was a must.  Adding Garrett Jones gives them a good bat off the bench and some insurance at first and DH.  Retaining Chris Young was also big to provide insurance in right for Carlos Beltran.  As much they may hate it, getting Alex Rodriguez back will be a boost to this team.  But those new faces alone won’t be enough to help this offense improve.  The Bronx Bombers hit 245 last year, in the lower half of the league despite the little league dimensions of the New Yankee stadium.  They were third to last in runs scored and hits and were shockingly only an average home run hitting team.  They did rank third in SB, primarily due to Ellsbury and Gardner, their best offensive players.

Jacoby Ellsbury is probably their best hitter.  A lot of locals don’t like him because he is overpaid.  But considering everyone on the roster is overpaid I don’t know why you’d pick a bone with one of the few hitters who produced.  The Yankees like him leading off and there is no question he is the best leadoff option on the club.  But he’s also one of the better middle of the order bats on the team.  And since Brett Gardner is a good leadoff man too, I like Ellsbury hitting third because of his HR and RBI potential.  He hit 271 last year with 16 HR, 70 RBI, 39 SB and 71 R.  He had a 328 OBP.  He will succeed wherever he hits.  But considering his power potential (remember he hit 32 HR in 2011), I’d hit him third.  Overall, I see him as a 280 hitter with 15 HR and 30 SB.  If he’s leading off he scores 85+ R.  If he’s hitting third he drives in 80+ runs. 

At this point, I think you can argue that Brett Gardner is the second best hitter on the team.  The only starter who is a homegrown product, Gardner got a big deal a few years ago and is as underrated as a Yankee can be (a few years ago they were talking about a Gardner for Cueto deal in NY and Yankees fans couldn’t understand why Cincinnati wouldn’t go for it).  Last season wasn’t his best as he hit a career low (outside of 42 games as a rookie) 256.  But he still stole 21 bags, scored 87 R, had a 327 OBP and hit a career high 17 HR with a career high 58 RBI.  He’s not a power hitter, but that’s what happens when any lefty gets a lot of playing time in the new Yankee stadium.  I like Gardner as a quality role player.  Think 270 with an OBP around 350.  That’s why I like him in the leadoff hole where he could flirt with 90 R.  But hitting second will drop that number to 80 or less.  Think 10 HR and 25 SB with a shot at more if he leads off (he stole 47 and 49 bases in 2010 and 2011).

Mark Teixeira is still a quality player, if not the offensive threat he once was.  He’s had health issues and hasn’t appeared in 150+ games since 2011.  Last year he was healthier and appeared in 123 games.  He hit 22 HR with 62 RBI in that time.  But that came with a 216 AVG.  He’s been transitioning into a one-dimensional hitter since he arrived in New York and it’s been more obvious in recent years.  His AVG has dropped every season he’s been in pinstripes.  While he was initially hitting 30+ HR and driving in 100+ runs, he hasn’t reached either plateau since 2011 (though he was on pace in 2012 with 24 HR and 84 RBI in 123 games).  He still has value as a power hitter and that’s what they count on from him.  Put him down for 220 with 25 HR and 75+ RBI.

Brian McCann predictably became a similar hitter to Teixeira last season.  Any lefty with power sees the short porch in the new Yankee stadium and immediately thinks they can hit 60 HR in a season.  Last year he slugged 23 and drove in 75, but only hit 232.  He’s a career 271 hitter who generally hits around 20 HR.  But he hasn’t reached 270 since 2011 and his highest AVG from that point on was 256.  Again, 20 HR and 75 RBI is valuable, especially from a catcher.  I think he may improve some, but think 250 is his ceiling and doubt he hits more than 25 HR, even in that park (career high 24 HR).  I’m guessing 240 with 22 HR and 68 RBI.

Carlos Beltran was supposed to be a major part of this offense, but his age and injury history have caught up to him.  To be fair, most everyone outside of the Bronx knew the signing was a bad idea.  Last year he hit 233 with 15 HR.  The 15 HR are valuable, but not worth what he’s paid.  They want him to be their number 3-hitter, which is funny.  He’s had roughly 76 knee surgeries, so you can expect him to be injury prone.  This year, I’d be shocked if he reached 120 games.  I really do think he’s going to be a 230 hitter again with perhaps 10 HR, depending on how much time he misses (and he will miss time).

The Yankees added Chase Headley in a trade with the Padres last year.  He was solid and better upon leaving the hitters graveyard in San Diego.  He hit 13 HR between the two clubs, 6 of which came with New York in fewer games.  His 31 HR/115 RBI season of 2012 is certainly an aberration.  I’m putting him down for 260 with 12 HR, 60 RBI and 8 SB.  He’ll be a solid bottom of the order bat, better than most other number 7 hitters.

Stephen Drew and Didi Gregorious were added for defensive purposes.  Drew is manning second and will be great defensively.  But his offense has fallen off a cliff.  Gregorious is much better defensively than Jeter, but that’s not saying much.  Additionally, he didn’t win out the battle with Owings in Arizona last year despite being better defensively.  Neither one will do much at the plate.

The last piece of this puzzle is Alex Rodriguez.  After a crazy ride, A-Rod is back and playing baseball with the Yankees, something many people would have considered impossible last offseason.  He’s served his time, made amends and is back.  Many will never forgive him, and I don’t think they should.  But on this team, he looks like he may be one of the better offensive options.  Even with his full year off, he has a dynamic sort of game and enough natural talent to fall into 270 with double-digit HR.  While he’s no longer the player he used to be, he’s playing good baseball for the Yankees right now and has tied Willie Mays with 660 HR at the time of this writing. What do I think he can do?  I truly have no idea.  But I’m guessing 270 with 12 HR.  Can’t guess what he does in the RBI/R departments because I don’t know where he’ll hit.  But I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s the Yankees best run producer this year.

The bench includes Chris Young and Garrett Jones.  Young proved to be a great bench option for the Yankees last year after the Mets cut him.  He hit 282 in 23 games with 3 HR and 10 RBI.  He’s been hot out of the gate to start 2015.  He can play all three outfield positions and was a former highly touted prospect who isn’t that old.  He may end up taking over right field.  Garrett Jones can be a DH option and backup first baseman.  He’s always been solid, but has never really stuck as a starter for a long time.  He hit 27 HR in 2012 and then 15 HR the last two years with the Pirates and Marlins.  Moving to the new Yankee stadium could help his HR total, but it looks like he won’t play nearly as much.  I’ll call 15 HR again, even in limited time.

This offense looks limited.  It won’t be terrible.  Teixeira and McCann can be good power hitters.  Gardner can get on base.  And Ellsbury can both score and drive in runs.  However the production at second, short and right will likely be subpar.  Headley and A-Rod will be solid, but neither can do enough to pick up the lack of offense from the other three positions.  I think this team will score runs but not as many as they are hoping to score.  And their offense looks to be the fourth best in the division, significantly behind Baltimore, Toronto and Boston.

The defense should be okay.  Teixeira is good at first, though not as good as he used to be.  Drew should be excellent at second and Headley is fine at third.  Gregorious is supposed to be a great defensive shortstop, but many scouts question his range and arm.  He’ll be better than Jeter, but that’s not a high bar.  McCann is solid behind the plate, but doesn’t throw well.  Beltran is a statue in right.  Ellsbury is good in center and Gardner is good in left, but neither have great arms.  A-Rod will play some in the corners, but that’s likely not going to work out well.  Chris Young can cover all three-outfield spots well.  This won’t be the worst defense in baseball, but there are some definite weaknesses in the field.


The biggest area of concern for the Yankees is on the mound.  Their offense looks old and brittle, but it can score runs.  There are holes on defense, but they will make most of the plays.  The pitching staff is a major question mark and looks like it could be the true Achilles Heel for the Yankees woes this season.  Last year, the Yankees pitched to a 3.75 team ERA, which was pretty average.  They were a middle of the road team in hits allowed, but did have the third most Ks and fewest walks.  But that was bolstered by Tanaka’s great first half and Pineda’s great second half.  Neither played a full season.  In addition, that staff has lost Brandon McCarthy, David Phelps and Hiroki Kuroda.  The Yankees have to be better on the mound this year than they were last year to make the playoffs.  And that seems unlikely to happen with the personnel they have.

Their ace is Masahiro Tanaka.  He was excellent last year, certainly better than many (me included) thought he’d be.  But he was shut down early because of a tear in his UCL.  It was a small tear and so they took the rest and rehab approach to fixing it not wanting to see him miss a whole year.  It will likely tear again, but in true Yankee fashion they took the immediate fix route instead of setting themselves up for the future.  It’s worked in the past, but what’s the rush?  They aren’t going to be good this year anyway.  In 20 starts last season, Tanaka went 13-5 with a 2.77 ERA.  He struck out 141 in 136 IP and had a sparkling 1.06 WHIP off the strength of few walks.  But that was a fully healthy Tanaka.  Coming into this year he admitted that he doesn’t have all his velocity and won’t throw as many 4 seam fastballs.  But you need to see the 4 seamer for the split to be effective.  I think it’s a recipe for disaster.  I also think it’s just a matter of time before his elbow tear grows and he can no longer pitch.  I doubt he finishes the season and until he does, he will get hit much harder with his diminished stuff.  Think 12 starts, 4 Wins and an ERA around 4 until he goes down.

Michael Pineda may be the best hope for the Yanks going forward.  In 13 starts last year he was excellent going 5-5 with a 1.89 ERA.  He had a 59:7 K:BB ratio last season and hitters only hit 200 off of him.  I had a conversation with a Yankees fan who said Pineda was a top 10 pitcher in the AL.  I laughed, but admitted he was good.  (For reference, the pitchers I would pick ahead of him: Chris Archer, David Price, Chris Sale, Jeff Samardzjia, Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, Garrett Richards, Sonny Gray, Dallas Keuchel, Felix Hernandez and Hishashi Iwakuma…..not to mention the injured Yu Darvish, Alex Cobb and Matt Moore).  I like Pineda for 12-15 Wins with an ERA around 3.  If he reaches 200 IP, he could have 180 Ks.

C.C. Sabathia is no longer the pitcher he once was.  Injury limited him to 8 starts last season going 3-4 with a 5.28 ERA.  He has been similarly roughed up to start off this year.  He’s getting older, has a ton of innings on his arm and is losing velocity.  Since 2011, his ERA has climbed every year and in his last full season it was 4.78.  The more alarming signs are his WHIP and BAA, which are both terrible.  I think the Yankees best hope for him is that he can be an innings eater, but pitching like he’s currently throwing you don’t want him out there for too many innings.  I expect a losing record, 8 wins and an ERA around 4.50 or higher. 

The Yankees let a lot of guys go last year, and par of the return was Nathan Eovaldi.  Eovaldi was solid for the Marlins last year going 6-14 with a 4.37 ERA.  That’s not good, but he was healthy and threw 199 IP, which makes him valuable to the Yankees.  The year before he had a 3.39 ERA in 18 starts.  He’s still young so the Yankees are hoping he grows into a talented pitcher.  But even in his better seasons, his WHIP and BAA have been below average to bad.  Moving from Miami to the tough pitching dimensions of the new Yankee stadium won’t help him either.  This may be another pitcher flirting with an ERA of 5 and double-digit losses.

With Ivan Nova on the shelf recovering from Tommy John and Chris Capuano making his way back from his own injury, the fifth spot in the rotation goes to Adam Warren.  Warren is a young guy with 3 starts to his name between 2012 and 2013 and then 69 relief appearances last year for the Yankees.  It’s too small of a sample size to be sure what he can do starting, but he was more than solid as a reliever with a 2.97 ERA last year and 23 holds.  His WHIP and BAA were solid, so they’ll see how he does starting.  He has a short leash though as Capuano is likely due back in May and can challenge him for his starting job.  They also know he’s good in the bullpen, which could hurt him in the decision as to who starts.

The bullpen actually looks pretty decent.  Dellin Betances didn’t have the makeup to start, but has turned himself into a great reliever with 135 Ks last year, the most of any reliever since 2010.  They will let him get the first crack at closing.  With his stuff (97 MPH fastball and hard slider) I think he’ll succeed to the tune of 30+ Saves and an ERA around 2.50.  He is supported by a lot of solid arms in Andrew Miller and David Carpenter, not to mention the loser of the last starting spot battle between Capuano and Warren.

This pitching staff was solid last year.  But they got worse in the offseason.  Sabathia is a shell of himself.  Tanaka is a time bomb.  Pineda hasn’t had a full season in the majors since his rookie year.  Eovaldi, Warren and Capuano are question marks.  The bullpen looks solid, but like most bullpens has weaknesses after the top 3 arms.  If they have to pitch too often to make up innings for the struggling starting staff (which seems likely), then things could get ugly.  And with their ballpark and the offenses they have to face, I see things getting ugly fast.


The problem with the Yankees this year is that nothing is good.  The offense isn’t bad, but it’s not good.  The defense is average at best.  The starting rotation isn’t good and looks like it will be bad.  The bullpen isn’t bad, but too many innings will hurt them.  They are old, un-athletic and overpaid.  They have the second worst offense in the division and the worst pitching staff.  That’s a prelude to disaster.  Add to that the pressure of expectations playing in NY, and I think this team crumbles and falls hard.

I’m putting them down for a surprising last place finish and 70 Wins.