- What's wrong with David Price in Boston? Is Trea Turner actually the Nationals' best player? And can Kris Bryant actually get better?
This story appears in the March 27, 2017 issue of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. Subscribe to the magazine by clicking here.
Each of the 30 major league teams will begin the season next week feeling hopeful, but that optimism hides certain truths that those inside the game already know about what is in store in 2017. As part of its annual MLB preview issue, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED asked scouts to offer their honest—and anonymous—assessment of every club. Among the topics discussed: Did Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward actually fix his swing? Which member of the Yankees' youth movement is most ready for a starring role? And is Corey Seager going to struggle to build on his amazing rookie season for the Dodgers?
There seems to be good energy under Torey Lovullo.... I expect Zack Greinke to continue to be a mainstay in the rotation.... Shelby Miller has been filthy, up to 99 mph, with a nasty slider. His mechanics got away from him last year.... Taijuan Walker has huge stuff, but he's been searching in his delivery. I think he'll help, but is he a front-of-the-rotation guy? No.... Patrick Corbin's stuff doesn't seem quite as crisp. He's a fringy command guy, so he's had to learn to be more creative.... The time is now for Archie Bradley. He doesn't have the stuff he had when he came out of high school. He's throwing a two-seamer more, which is helping his command.... The biggest concern is the bullpen. It's tough to count on Fernando Rodney.... Jake Barrett is nursing a shoulder injury, and he's their setup guy.... Jared Miller has been surprising. He's a 6'7" guy with deception.... A.J. Pollock looks healthy. His timing isn't great. But in BP, the ball is jumping off his bat.... Paul Goldschmidt has looked good. His power was down last year, but he's the heart and soul of the lineup. He'll be fine.... Brandon Drury is coming off a big year, and I don't expect him to slow down.... Defense could be a problem: Jake Lamb's range is fringy at third; in leftfield Yasmany Tomás is adequate at best.... [Shortstop] Ketel Marté has shown flashes. He's got great actions on defense, but the bat has a ways to go.... I'm not sold that this cast of characters is capable of much more than 75 wins. I wouldn't be surprised if at the deadline they started to dismantle things a bit.
They'll be moving into a new ballpark, and unlike last year's team, they'll be watchable, maybe even interesting. But a contender? No.... Matt Kemp's getting out of the Hollywood scene and coming to Atlanta, where he can just focus on baseball, is a great thing for him. He'll never get back to MVP caliber, but he still has one or two All-Star seasons in him.... Ender Inciarte is one of the more underrated players. He does everything well, including Gold Glove defense, and he's just entering his prime.... Nick Markakis sets up the whole lineup. He's finally healthy, and he could still earn his contract, but his defense is holding him back from being a valuable player.... Dansby Swanson is a true grinder, plays plus defense and plays hard and seems wise beyond his years. His offensive numbers won't be eye-popping, but he'll be a mainstay for years to come.... Brandon Phillips is a guy who took advantage of the ballpark in Cincinnati to put up big numbers. But he's trending downward.... Julio Teheran is never going to be your Verlander-type ace; his stuff is not that good. But I always like seeing total power guys learn how to pitch, and he's done that.... Old horses Bartolo Colón and R.A. Dickey will give them decent innings, and the team can save the young starters.... John Hart did it in Cleveland, was patient with the development process as he took a bad team and made it competitive. The Braves will be in the hunt, but young-stud arms like Kolby Allard, Touki Toussaint and Ian Anderson are at least two years away.
This team will live and die with the home run and their bullpen, like last year. You look up micromanage in the dictionary, you'll see a picture of Buck Showalter. But he is ahead of most every manager in the game when it comes to matchups.... Chris Tillman is dinged up a little. He's a great competitor, throws hard enough, commands his breaking stuff. Is he an ace? No, but he pitches like one.... Kevin Gausman's the guy with the stuff, but those LSU kids never really turn the corner.... Dylan Bundy is finally starting to realize his potential.... Ubaldo Jiménez used to be a hard thrower; now he throws 90. He's slowly learning how to pitch.... Their strength is the bullpen. They've got the best reliever in baseball. Zach Britton has a natural sinker that's one of the best pitches I've ever seen.... Jonathan Schoop is a great defender with great range and a great arm. He'll be a perennial All-Star.... Manny Machado's anticipation is great, which is why he can play third base so easily, but he's a natural shortstop. He's Derek Jeter with better range.... Mark Trumbo is a great mistake hitter. That little bitty ballpark is a perfect match for him. They've played him a lot in rightfield during the spring, probably to prove to him that he can't play out there.... Adam Jones is an All-Star. He's a good defender, he can throw, he can run, he can hit.... Welington Castillo is a hitter; Caleb Joseph is a catcher. Chance Sisco will be the guy next year or the year after.... They can't catch Boston, but they've got a shot at a wild card. Not a big shot, but a shot.
Chris Sale's delivery looks terrible, but it always has. That doesn't mean he's not gonna blow out tomorrow, but I'm not afraid of that.... Having Sale is great for Rick Porcello because it takes the heat off him. He commanded his fastball and threw strikes with his curve all year. It doesn't come around often that someone commands two pitches in the zone that well.... I'm not a David Price guy. He's never won big games. His velocity's down and he's having a tough time making the adjustment.... Steven Wright's got the right nature. He knows he's got a trick pitch and he doesn't take himself too seriously.... Craig Kimbrel is one of the best relievers in baseball. He struggled the first part of last year. Is he on the slide? I think he's gonna be O.K. You bring an NL guy into the AL, there are twice as many hitters and you can't just blow people away.... Tyler Thornburg is gonna scuffle early for that same reason.... Sandy León was unbelievable last year. Everything he hit dropped in. I don't know if that'll happen again ... Pablo Sandoval was a million pounds last year—he looked like Archie Bunker—but he lost weight and his feet have always been good. Boston fans will cut him some slack—until he hits .220. Then they'll hate him again.... Boy, this is a good outfield! It's a good group of kids too. It's the best outfield in the AL, mostly because of Mookie Betts. I like everything about him.... Once Andrew Benintendi learns to lift, he'll add a little power.... Blake Swihart has had a nice spring and Christian Vázquez is the best catcher of the three they've got. Some teams don't have any.
I don't think they'll get to 103 wins again. They're still very good, but the pitching went perfectly last year. They had five guys make 29 starts. That never happens, especially with guys in their 30s like Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta and John Lackey.... I think they might go with six starters, at least for some stretches, with Mike Montgomery and Brett Anderson at No. 5 and 6. It's not a bad idea.... I don't think Kyle Hendricks was a fluke. He's a Greg Maddux type, command and control. His margin for error isn't much because he doesn't have power, but everyone else has power in this day and age, so he gives a really different look.... Wade Davis wasn't real sharp at the end of last year, even before he went on the DL. This spring he's been O.K., but his cutter isn't as electric as it used to be.... I heard a lot about Jason Heyward's adjusted approach this spring, lowering his hands, but I haven't seen any results yet.... It's natural to think Kris Bryant will come back to earth, but, boy oh boy, he won MVP during what was supposed to be his sophomore slump. I don't think you'll see a falloff. He's more patient, drives the ball the other way. Shoot, he has it all.... To have the kind of at bats Kyle Schwarber had in the World Series after missing almost the full season—lots of guys have bat speed and power, but he was locked in right away. He could hit .300 with 30 home runs.... Javier Báez is a smart player. On a soft line drive, he won't catch it, on purpose, so he can get a double play. That suggests he'll continue to improve in other areas, like plate discipline.
They've done a good job of rebuilding. It's tough to get too optimistic about this year, but there's still some thunder in the lineup.... José Abreu looks good, the ball is jumping off his bat.... . Todd Frazier is one of the best third basemen in the game, with plus-plus raw power. He strikes out a bit, but when he's going well, he can carry a club.... Tim Anderson plays out of control a little and makes some careless errors, still, he gives you game-changing speed .... The ball still jumps off Melky Cabrera's bat from time to time, but everything's slowed a little.... Charlie Tilson is a player they really like, but he has a ways to go. He can run, is a plus defender, though he's never really had any power.... If Avisail García can stay in shape, he can hit 20 home runs.... If they keep these guys, the rotation could be pretty good. Carlos Rodon has shown flashes of great ability.... If José Quintana had been on a better team, he would've had 18–20 wins last year ... James Shields and Derek Holland are fourth or fifth starters now, but Holland has the stuff to be better than that. Can he stay healthy? Probably not, no.... Yoan Moncada is one of the top prospects in baseball. He has a chance to hit for average and power, he's a plus-plus runner, and he can really throw. But they need to be patient.... From Washington they got Lucas Giolito, a power arm with all the potential in the world, and Reynaldo López, who's up to 100 mph.... The guy who could pass them both is Dane Dunning. Another big arm is Michael Kopech.... I think they'll be better in 2018, but it's probably the following season when they really establish these guys.
Their starting pitching is really going to be a problem.... I'm concerned whether Brandon Finnegan can throw enough strikes. But he's got a very good breaking ball and enough velocity on his fastball. I think he's legitimate.... Robert Stephenson hasn't made the progress I thought he would. He doesn't have great deception, though he does have decent velocity. Again, it's a matter of throwing strikes.... Raisel Iglesias should be a star. His velocity kicks up a lot when he's in relief.... It's a shame Devin Mesoraco can't stay on the field, because he has the tools to be an All-Star. He's a 30 home-run guy, especially in their park.... Joey Votto's an outstanding hitter. He doesn't strike out, he uses the whole field, he commands the strike zone, and he never chases bad balls. I'm sure they'd like to get rid of his salary, but he's their only real threat.... José Peraza has absolutely no power. You worry that it will be hard for him to reach base consistently. But he's able to steal some bases.... Zack Cozart doesn't wow you with his tools, but he gets hits when you need them. When the ball is hit to him, it's an out. He's a solid, steadying, winning player.... Last year was the first time Adam Duvall got to play every day, and it paid off. He's got a short powerful swing, and he's quick to the ball.... It gets overlooked, but Billy Hamilton can really field. He gets good, accurate jumps, and he's fearless against the fence. If he gets on base around 33% of the time, he could steal 100 bases. His next step is to cut down on the swings and misses.
Unless something goes wrong, they're the favorite to win the division and advance far into the playoffs.... After Clayton Kershaw, Corey Kluber might be the first guy I'd pick if I were putting together a team. The spin on his breaking pitches is unbelievable. He's a cold-hearted killer.... Carlos Carrasco uses his split-finger well, and plays off his fastball and slider.... Trevor Bauer has got all sorts of pitches, but he doesn't throw quite enough strikes.... Danny Salazar throws hard with so much ease. He could be a No. 1 starter at some point.... Cody Allen gets overlooked because of Andrew Miller, but you give him the ball in the ninth and the game is over.... Miller throws near 100 and is as valuable a pitcher as there is.... Edwin Encarnación will hit 40 home runs, and he doesn't strike out. That's a great combination.... Carlos Santana will only get better. His ability to switch-hit with power is really valuable.... Francisco Lindor has a flair for the game, and there's pop in his bat. I expect him to compete for MVP.... I was floored that José Ramírez had the season he did last year, but it was legit. The guys in the clubhouse love him.... Michael Brantley hits both lefties and righties well, and he's got good range. He might get a slow start, though, coming back from the shoulder injury.... On a perfect team Tyler Naquin would be a fourth outfielder, but he can swing the bat.... Bradley Zimmer, an outfielder, is going to be a real good player. I'm not sure he's ready, but he's a 6'5" power guy who can run.
You can put this offense up against any in the league. It's going to be dangerous.... When he gets back [from a broken hand], Ian Desmond will bring out-of-the-box thinking, a different dynamic to the team.... Nolan Arenado is as good as there is. The plays he makes on defense, I haven't seen in 30 years. He's continuing to grow offensively, too. He's got a way better two-strike approach than when he came into the league.... Trevor Story has a loud barrel. The power is always going to show up, but there are consistency issues. If you look in the minors, you see the history with strikeouts and errors.... DJ LeMahieu can manipulate the bat well. You could almost put an opposite shift on him. He has the ability to shoot the ball past first. With fastballs, he's content to get his hits to the opposite field. He's also underrated defensively.... Jon Gray is close. He has two top-of-the-scale pitches in his fastball and slider. He was electric at times down the stretch. That 16-strikeout game against the Padres last September was huge. He can grow into an ace.... I saw Tyler Chatwood throw at 91, 93. His secondary stuff isn't overwhelming, but he's got guts.... Jeff Hoffman can grow into a No. 2 type. He'll start, though, as the No. 4 or 5.... Antonio Senzatela is at 94–97, with a power breaking ball. He's pushing Hoffman and Germán Márquez. He was a rising star last year. Now he's a known name.... Adam Ottavino has looked good. He has nasty deception from a low slot. He could close for them.... This team has a chance to make things interesting. It'll probably finish third in the division.
Do these guys have one more run in them? I think so—they're not as good as Cleveland, but I can see a wild-card spot.... The key is Jordan Zimmermann bouncing back and giving them a big season. He tried to pitch with an injured oblique, maybe to justify the big contract, and it caught up with him. I think he'll come back.... Michael Fulmer has legitimate stuff. He reminds me of Zimmermann in that he's always in attack mode with the breaking stuff and is a super aggressive, competitive kid.... That's a formidable top three, with Justin Verlander. It's going to be impossible for him to duplicate what he did last season, but I love that he no longer relies only on the strikeout and knows how to save his bullets. He's made some big adjustments that are going to extend his career.... It's mind-boggling that after all these years, they still haven't figured out their closer situation. I'm sorry, but Frankie Rodríguez isn't going to cut it. Bruce Rondon is their only chance to stabilize the bullpen short of going out and getting a closer. I think Rondon will be closing for them by the All-Star break.... This is a great place for Justin Upton to just relax, learn from Miguel Cabrera and Víctor Martínez and put up big numbers. There's nothing he can do but learn, and there were flashes in the second half of things coming back together for him. He's going to put up big numbers.... This is still a very scary lineup—the veteran hitters know what they're doing. But if one of their old superstars goes down, things will go south in a hurry.
We all thought they were on the cusp of dominating after their playoff breakthrough two years ago, but this team has some big flaws.... I'd be worried about the durability and depth of the staff. Dallas Keuchel is just not a Cy Young-caliber pitcher. He's more the guy we saw last year, allowing a hit per inning, with a four-something ERA. He has never had dominating stuff, and hitters have made adjustments.... Lance McCullers is the guy with the lights-out stuff, but health is a big issue.... They paid a steep price for Ken Giles and he had a rough start, but that was just a hiccup—a guy going from one league to another. His troubles are behind him.... . I like the offense. Yulieski Gurriel is the unknown. He's not a huge power guy, but he can control the bat. But he's also 32, so there's not a ton of upside.... Josh Reddick comes to a hitter-friendly park—he's going to put up some good numbers. He's a bounce-back candidate, for sure.... Alex Bregman is a hard contact guy who puts the barrel on the bat. I love this kid. He's not going to light it up with power, but he'll hit for average. He reminds me of Dustin Pedroia.... Carlos Beltrán, with the leadership he offers to a young team that needs it, is a perfect fit. This is one more reason why Carlos Correa could be the MVP this year.... George Springer is an enigma. The talent is off the charts, but he's also a 180-strikeout guy. If he cuts down on them, he's Mike Cameron—a nice power-speed combination.... Brian McCann's skills are diminishing, but he still has power, and with that short porch in left, he could put up surprising numbers.
Everything hinges on how the tragic death of pitcher Yordano Ventura affects the team, on and off the field. He had his issues, but he was a great teammate.... Eric Hosmer is MVP caliber, a Triple Crown candidate. Last year, with all the club's injuries, he was trying to carry them, hit three home runs with one swing. His average could jump 65 points.... Lorenzo Cain is still underrated. They're a different team with him in center, and he gets the clutch hit, hits a ball out, hits for average, steals a base.... Alex Gordon looks fine as far as bat speed and in the outfield, but you want someone with a little more power in the corners.... Jorge Soler can be a bit frustrating—not real selective at the plate, takes plays off in the outfield, doesn't always run—but he's got plus-plus raw power to all fields. I could see 25, 30 homers.... Brandon Moss was a great signing. Another 25-home-run guy for a team that hasn't had many.... Danny Duffy can be a No. 1 or No. 2 on any staff. He's like David Price—that kind of stuff from the left side. Actually, Duffy has better secondary pitches.... Jason Hammel and Travis Wood are both quality signings, especially as pitching depth. The problem is the bullpen's not great. Wade Davis and Greg Holland are gone, and the seventh-inning guy—Kelvin Herrera—is now the closer. He'll be fine, but Joakim Soria's not as sharp as he used to be.... This could be the last year in Kansas City for Cain, Hosmer, Alcides Escobar and Mike Moustakas. Having that many guys going into free agency can be tough, but I think they can contend for the AL Central title one more time.
They're better than last year. I think they can get back above .500, but the health of the rotation is the question. The two upgrades they needed to make were second base and leftfield, and they did those.... Danny Espinosa is a true shortstop playing second base. He's got a plus-plus arm and he brings some offense.... Cameron Maybin brings a bit of flair and attitude to Anaheim, which they've been missing, but I don't think he'll hit for the power you'd expect with that long swing.... Mike Trout is a legitimate five-tool guy, but if you notice, he has a pronounced uppercut that you don't see a lot with righthanded hitters. You never see anyone try to bust him up and in, pitch him above the hands, where you might have some success.... I was pleasantly surprised with the numbers Albert Pujols put up last year because basically he was hobbled the whole season. He's still among the top righthanded hitters in the game.... Kole Calhoun is a plus defender with a plus arm, and he gives you great at bats. He's a little more upright with his approach now, trying to tap into more power.... Garrett Richards can be really, really good. But when you've got the delivery he has, throwing across the body so violently, it causes concern. Every time he picks up a ball they'll be holding their breath.... Matt Shoemaker won't light up the radar gun, but he understands how to change speeds and stays away from the middle of the plate.... I like the Martín Maldonado–Carlos Pérez catching tandem, but they'll give you more defense than offense.
The Cubs have the belt, but here we're looking at the No. 1 contender. It was key that Justin Turner and Kenley Jansen re-signed. They keep the main part of a great core.... Turner's the heart and soul of the club, hits in the clutch, quality at bats, good defender at third.... Logan Forsythe, who they got from the Rays, is another throwback type. They've got a ton of smart guys in the front office, but they're not just numbers guys. They understand the impact of character.... Corey Seager actually might regress as a sophomore. If he doesn't, it would be amazing. I think he's a Hall of Fame player. He can do everything.... Yasiel Puig is still a frustrating player to watch. So inconsistent. Then he hits a ball to the right-center gap and glides in for a stand-up triple.... Andrew Toles plays really well in spurts, but I think they'd like to upgrade in left. The answer, sooner or later, could be Cody Bellinger, who is one of the best hitting prospects in the game. He can hit .300 with 25- or 30-homer potential.... Joc Pederson has too many swings and misses. He can drive the ball out to any part of the park but is not consistent enough to be that middle-of-the-lineup guy.... Julio Urías has all the attributes to be a No. 1 starter. He's just 20, but he's already got that natural feel for a changeup that's as good as his breaking ball.... Of course, he's not going to be the No. 1 in L.A. for a long time, if ever, with Clayton Kershaw around. It's scary they played so well when he was hurt last year. That's the kind of depth $250 million can get you. They're the Yankees of the Steinbrenner era.
After the death of José Fernández, they're going to have a cloud hanging over them. No organization can just bounce back from that.... The big question is the rotation. Wei-Yin Chen slots as the No. 1 guy, and as bad as he was last year, I think he'll live up to his $80 million contract. It's clear he was trying to pitch through elbow issues last season. He should be solid—but he's just not an ace to slot against the Syndergaards and Strasburgs.... I don't love the addition of Edinson Vólquez. I saw a big drop in stuff and control—he's no more than a fifth starter.... Adam Conley has a higher upside than Tom Koehler. Koehler is a nice grinder, but Conley, if he can command better, could emerge as a very good No. 2.... In the bullpen the rising star is Kyle Barraclough. He's got an above average fastball and a slider that's good when it's on. When he learns how to command the strike zone, he'll be elite.... This offense is going to win a lot of high-scoring games. Dee Gordon isn't an everyday All-Star, but his speed causes havoc, and he's an impact player on defense.... Christian Yelich is a perennial batting-title threat.... Is there something seriously wrong with Giancarlo Stanton? This will be the telling year, if he'll ever be the same player he was before his head injury. I'm convinced he's never going to be more than a .275 guy. If he doesn't hit 50 bombs, how can he be one of the highest-paid players on the planet? ... They need some young arms to develop, or they're about to go through a rough stretch.
They're trying to rebuild, but it's gonna take some time.... They could eventually be as good as any club at short and second. Last year could prove to be Jonathan Villar's best, but he may still put up All-Star numbers. Terrance Gore and Billy Hamilton are probably the two fastest guys in baseball, but Villar could be third.... Orlando Arcia could break out at shortstop. He's got tools—could be a younger Alcides Escobar, maybe even a little better offensively.... Ryan Braun's the same: .300, 25 or 30 home runs. They'd love to trade him, just haven't been able to unload the contract.... They gave Eric Thames $16 million to come back from Korea, where he had some historic seasons. But Korea's not the big leagues. I see a guy who is fooled by off-speed stuff and gets beat inside by a plus fastball.... Up the middle they've got some athletes, no doubt, but this is one of the worst staffs in baseball. Junior Guerra, their No. 1, is probably a 5 on a lot of clubs. Is he built for long-term success, now that he's matching up against aces? ... Neftali Feliz is a shell of what he once was, before he hurt his elbow. His velocity jumped last year a bit, but you want him pitching more in the seventh and eighth.... The Brewers' system? They've stocked. It. Up. Corey Ray has a chance to be a Denard Span type. I like Lewis Brinson, who they got from the Rangers—a Lorenzo Cain type. Josh Hader's got power stuff, power breaking ball, a lefty. He could be the best pitcher on the big league team by the end of the season.... They're not gonna lose 110, but it's going to be a tough year. Lots of positives here for the future, though.
There's a reason all these guys had 5 ERAs last year. The Twins used to have success developing guys who didn't throw hard but could command the fastball. Now they don't throw hard and they have no command.... Ervin Santana's their ace, but he's actually a three.... José Berrios still hasn't turned the corner. I'm unimpressed by his ability to command the fastball.... Glen Perkins hasn't pitched much this spring. If he can't close for them, they're in big trouble. Well, they're in big trouble anyway.... They gave Jason Castro a lot of money to be their front-line guy. They had a good defensive catcher in Kurt Suzuki and let him walk. I would rather have Suzuki than Castro.... Joe Mauer's health is in question, like always. He's an opposite-field hitter now. If there's a man on third, he will get him home, period.... Brian Dozier is a dead high-ball hitter, but even if he hits 30 home runs, they could lose 100 games. They should have moved him.... Minnesota has brought a lot of guys up before they're ready. Byron Buxton is still a dead pull hitter. With his speed, he should be going the other way, he should bunt, and he doesn't.... Miguel Sano can swing the bat, but he's not very good at third. You hope he knocks in more than he lets in.... . They keep touting their outfield—Eddie Rosario, Buxton, Max Kepler. They all have good arms, but in the major leagues your corner outfielders have to be offensive players.... This team has a chance to be the worst in the league.