Enemy Lines: MLB scouts provide insight and analysis on all 30 teams
- 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.
Boston Red Sox
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.
Chicago White Sox
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.
Kansas City Royals
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.
Los Angeles Angels
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.
Los Angeles Dodgers
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.
New York Mets
Yoenis Céspedes is so strong and such a good mistake hitter.... José Reyes still has good hands and plenty of arm.... [Hitting coach] Kevin Long got Curtis Granderson back into taking the ball the other way.... Last year Jay Bruce's timing was off. He was giving away at bats. He'll bounce back.... A healthy Lucas Duda could be a potent bat at the bottom of the order.... Travis d'Arnaud has been kind of a bust. A lot of it is due to injuries. He's shown flashes but it seems like he has amnesia and can't remember the adjustments he has made.... Wilmer Flores is still a good infield option, even at shortstop for a day. I feel bad for him—had he been given an opportunity to play every day, he might've become a pretty good hitter.... Michael Conforto got rushed to the big leagues, and his holes were discovered. He's not there yet.... The odds have to be against David Wright getting healthy. I admire that he wants to keep trying.... Noah Syndergaard is scary good. There's a good cockiness too.... Last year Jacob deGrom started to feel something in his elbow, but this spring he was throwing free and easy.... Matt Harvey is an enigma. But last year his stuff was nowhere near what it is now.... Steven Matz has a chance to be a No. 2 starter.... Robert Gsellman's stuff is crisper. He used to pick Bartolo Colón's brain, and that has helped.... Jeurys Familia's stuff wasn't as good late in the season. He has been ridden hard. Fernando Salas or Addison Reed could fill in for him.
New York Yankees
There are a lot of pieces here to look forward to.... Gary Sánchez has learned to use the whole field. He's really matured as a hitter.... Greg Bird can be an offensive star. He doesn't have massive power, but Yankee Stadium is going to be beneficial for a young lefthanded hitter.... If Starlin Castro and Didi Gregorius can play consistently with one another, this is going to be a very competitive team. Both are a little streaky.... Jacoby Ellsbury has really regressed, and with his injury history, Aaron Hicks could replace him.... Aaron Judge has incredible raw power. They'll put him at the bottom of the order and tell him, "The season doesn't rely on you." ... Matt Holliday will be a good mentor for these kids. I think he'll still produce too.... If Masahiro Tanaka is over his injury, he's a top-end guy. He's got a wipeout split that's basically unhittable when there are two strikes.... For two or three innings Michael Pineda can look like a No. 1 starter, but he just seems to lack focus. He's still pitching like he's 20.... If the lightbulb comes on, Luis Severino is lights out. He's 96–100 mph, with a quality slider.... With the training Aroldis Chapman has done, he's taken his ability to a whole other level. And they won't have to extend him because they have a solid bullpen.... Dellin Betances's curveball is unhittable. Couple that with a 96–98 mph fastball and that's a tough at bat.... Shortstop Gleyber Torres will probably spend another year in the minors, but he's going to be a really impactful major league player.
People are really discounting this team. They could compete in this division because of their pitching depth, plus depth in their lineup. All the guys seem to be playing with a chip on their shoulder.... The million-dollar question is how healthy is Sonny Gray? He's out again, with a lat strain... They hit on Kendall Graveman when they got him in the Josh Donaldson trade. He's got power stuff, a live 94–96-mph fastball. Last year, once he figured out how to throw the ball at the middle of the plate and let it sink away, he pitched like an ace.... Jharel Cotton has charisma, a feel for pitching and keeps guys off-balance. He can touch 93–94 and he'll throw anything at you.... Khris Davis has the type of power where anything he can touch, he can hit out. But pitchers will pay more attention to him this year.... Ryon Healy is like Donaldson five years ago. He's an especially good hitter of breaking balls and did a lot of damage on secondary stuff that people thought he couldn't handle.... Jed Lowrie can hit, but sometimes he looks like a telephone pole out there. He's got one-step range, and he just came off foot surgery. Don't be surprised if Joey Wendle's at second at some point.... Marcus Semien doesn't have the hands to be a plus defender, but he's the kind of guy you want your daughter to marry, so I understand why they've been patient with him. Plus he's a 20–30 home run guy who can turn on a 97-mph fastball.... The A's don't believe in giving out the c for captain, but Stephen Vogt is the guy who'd have it. He commands that staff, commands respect from every person on the roster.
I see a good energy with this group of kids. They're going to move toward .500 and continue growing.... Maikel Franco has incredible raw power. He needs to stop getting himself out. Pitchers get him to chase balls out of the zone.... Freddy Galvis is a solid defender, but when you're taking the same swing 1–2 that you're taking 3–1, you're going to make outs.... Odubel Herrera is a very, very solid hitter. He has speed, he's got some power, he can steal some bases.... Howie Kendrick should have an impact, a veteran who's willing to take some pitches.... I see a lot of holes in Aaron Altherr's swing. He's vulnerable to breaking balls.... I love Roman Quinn. He's one of my favorite guys. His makeup is off the charts, his strength, his athleticism. The sky is the limit.... [Shortstop prospect] J.P. Crawford needs to stop reading about how good he is and start working to show everyone how good he is. He has to become more disciplined.... Aaron Nola's got a well-above-average curveball. His fastball is average, but he has tremendous feel for making a big pitch when he needs to.... Jerad Eickhoff is one of the more underrated pitchers in the game.... It's nice to know you've got that veteran guy—Jeremy Hellickson—who's going to get into the seventh inning.... Clay Buchholz is going to win 11 or 12 games. He lets Jake Thompson go to Triple A and figure stuff out.... Jeanmar Gómez has just average stuff. He would be better off in the seventh or eighth inning, and let Joaquín Benoit take over the closer's role.
There's a good chance they're the third club in the division. If they're a playoff team, they're on the outer edge.... The rotation is pretty iffy. They're counting on Gerrit Cole to be the ace. I don't know if he is. When he had Russell Martin behind the plate, he was very good. Martin's gone, and I don't think Cole connects well with Francisco Cervelli.... The starter who has stood out is Tyler Glasnow. He has the best stuff on the staff; this spring he's been as good an arm as there is in Florida. The question is, Can he throw enough strikes? ... Chad Kuhl will be in the rotation somewhere. His stuff's not great, but he knows what he's doing.... Iván Nova's in a battle for the five hole, but he may be better than that.... This is a very solid defensive club in the outfield—Gregory Polanco, Starling Marte. Andrew McCutchen has played well in rightfield. He's swung the bat better. Getting him out of center is a good move, but he is getting old. He's just not a premier outfielder like he was.... They're going to need Josh Bell, because you're not going to October with John Jaso as your first baseman. But Bell had left-knee surgery and hasn't been out there this spring.... Somebody else is going to have to get in there offensively other than the outfielders. David Freese is solid. Jordy Mercer is an average starting shortstop on a decent team, but he's no All-Star.... Juan Nicasio is a key figure. If he has to go in the rotation, he can. If he's a reliever, he can give you multiple innings.... The bullpen is pretty good. Tony Watson hasn't been sharp, but I'm not worried. Daniel Hudson's a solid setup guy.
San Diego Padres
Whoo-eeeee. Well. There's going to be a lot of growing pains. They have a chance to lose 100 games, absolutely.... They're gonna build around four core players. Manuel Margot, he's a special player, both defensively and offensively, with occasional power. He can be a table setter.... Hunter Renfroe's probably got some of the best raw power of any kid coming into the game. People are going to enjoy watching him play rightfield.... Wil Myers is coming into his own, learning how to play first. When you can swing the bat, they'll find a place for you.... Austin Hedges is one of the better catch-and-throw guys in the league. This kid is capable of hitting 25 to 30 homers, and I expect him to have a big year.... Clayton Richard is their best starter, but he fits in the middle of the rotation for any other team. He's not going to blow anybody away.... Jered Weaver? He was pitching at 84 and 85 mph last year, and he's the No. 2. And Jhoulys Chacin? Basically they've got some retreads.... I don't like to say this about other teams, but this is probably the worst rotation in baseball. I'd like to put some whipped cream and cherries on it if I could, but I just cannot do it.... Look at the bullpen. They've got Brandon Maurer as their closer. He may be able to do a decent job, but I don't know how many opportunities he'll get.... They've got Carter Capps off the scrap heap—a guy who had Tommy John—and they don't know if he's going to be ready. All the others are no-name guys other than Kevin Quackenbush.... They're even training their backup catcher—Christian Bethancourt—to be a pitcher.
San Francisco Giants
The one thing the team can't afford is an injury in the outfield. Denard Span is a little long in the tooth, and Hunter Pence has been having a hard time staying healthy, though he used to be an iron man. If he gets hurt, they have issues.... They have one of the best double-play combinations in the league in Joe Panik and Brandon Crawford.... Brandon Belt is going to have to step up his game. This is a guy they gave $79 million based on what they expected him to do in the future—well, the future is now.... If Belt gets off to a slow start, don't be surprised if Buster Posey gets a little more time at first. The catching position is such a difficult spot to find a real two-way guy like Posey, and that's why they don't want to move him, but you look at Joe Mauer and can't help but think if they'd moved him to first sooner, it might have extended his career. Posey is one of the best players in the league.... Eduardo Núñez is at third, but knocking on the door is Christian Arroyo. That guy can really swing the bat.... Madison Bumgarner, my gosh, the dude is a horse. There's probably 10 true aces in baseball, and he's definitely one of them.... I love Johnny Cueto. He's not gonna light up the radar gun but he disrupts rhythm, keeps guys off balance, throws anything for strikes anytime. Everyone gets so excited about the 95- to 97-mph fastballs, but you see those guys today and you don't see them tomorrow because they huff and they puff and they blow their arms out. Guys like Cueto can pitch forever.... I'm looking for a big year from Jeff Samardzija.... With Matt Moore you have a nice quartet of starters.
I see the Mariners as the favorites in the division. Their offense is better than the Rangers', and I like their pitching depth. With Jean Segura, Robinson Canó, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager at the top of the order, they'll beat you to death offensively.... Cruz is so consistent. With that uppercut, the rhythm and timing, and the leverage he produces, he can hit 'em out of Yellowstone.... Seager's not quite in the class of Manny Machado, Adrián Beltré or Josh Donaldson but he's the next third baseman you talk about. He can rake.... Mike Zunino handles the staff well. He learned some things in the minors last year and now he's capable of 25 home runs.... People compare Dan Vogelbach with Kyle Schwarber, though Schwarber has a better body and Vogelbach can only play first base. I like the big guy's presence, energy and affection for the game.... They wanted to get more athletic in the outfield. With Jarrod Dyson, Mitch Haniger, Guillermo Heredia and Leonys Martín, all they have out there are athletes—not much power.... Félix Hernández has put on 20 to 25 pounds of good weight. He didn't have the same zip last year. I don't know if he ever really recovered from a calf problem last spring.... James Paxton throws 97 with some effort, with a power breaking ball—unhittable. But we always project a guy like that to have some arm injuries.... Hisashi Iwakuma is going to sink the ball, pitch to contact and get a boatload of ground balls.... They were grooming Edwin Díaz to be a starter, but they turned him into a two-pitch guy and told him to let it go—nasty, filthy stuff.
St. Louis Cardinals
It felt weird with the Cardinals not playing in October. This will be one of those years when St. Louis finds a way to hang in there and keeps chugging along—they'll get in as a wild card.... Last year's team was so sloppy on defense. Dexter Fowler will change that. He's a perfect fit, and he gives them better baserunning.... Randal Grichuk was never meant to be a centerfielder. Now he goes to a corner, and he'll be an asset. He's a big strikeout guy, but he punishes mistakes.... Matt Adams dropped a ton of weight, and now everyone thinks he's going to hit 30 home runs. Calm down. He needs to learn to take more walks.... Aledmys Díaz was a revelation as a rookie. As the guy they hope will hit second, he's a key--and a big wild card. I'd temper my expectations, now that the league has seen him.... Kolten Wong is a mystery. A hyped prospect, the game sped up on him, and he wasn't able to catch up, and they tried him as an outfielder, which was a mistake. He belongs at second. They just need to show they have confidence in him.... Seung-hwan Oh is very deceptive in his delivery. You'd think hitters might catch on. But he's got legitimately nasty stuff. This guy is for real.... Losing Alex Reyes was a big hit, but I still like this rotation. Carlos Martínez is an ace.... Michael Wacha set the world on fire in the 2013 postseason and never recovered from that run. It's come back to haunt them. I think this is the year he gets fully healthy.... Adam Wainwright had his least productive year, but he was still coming back from an Achilles injury. He's not the ace he was before, but his intelligence and aptitude will still take him a long way.
Tampa Bay Rays
Tampa is going to be rough. They're going to have to pitch their brains out.... I love Chris Archer. He has ace stuff.... Alex Cobb is throwing the ball well. It's been a bad stretch for him. He's pitched better than I thought he would this spring coming off the arm injury.... Jake Odorizzi is a good middle-rotation guy. He could be the next guy traded.... They're not going to score any runs. Let's put it this way—they're counting on Colby Rasmus, who hit .200 for Houston.... There are some rings on Evan Longoria's tree, but he had a very good power year. Can he do that again? For this offense, he'd better.... José De Leon is supposedly really good, but when I saw him, he didn't get anybody out. If he is a bust, that's a giveaway trade. Logan Forsythe was a good hitter and a leader.... Kevin Kiermaier is a terrific centerfielder, the energizer bunny of the AL.... Steven Souza has to have a better year. He hit .240, with power. He's going to have to hit .280, with power.... Matt Duffy has to get back to where he was when he came up with the Giants. Playing in Tropicana Field will help.... Rickie Weeks is a decent veteran with a good bat, but when you put him in the field, you're in trouble.... It would be nice if Tim Beckham put it together. Then they could move Brad Miller back to first. Logan Morrison's there for now, but he's not the answer.... The Rays are like a mini-Baltimore, but without the closer and their bullpen is dreadful.... Can this club advance above the five hole in this division? I don't think so.
Cole Hamels pitched great in that small ballpark over in Philly. If you can do that, you can pitch anywhere.... Yu Darvish came over from Japan with seven pitches, and they're trying to eliminate some of them because they think this had something to do with his health issues. If he's going to bounce back, this is the year.... Martín Pérez is the biggest question mark in the rotation. He has great feel, but he shows some apprehension, like he doesn't trust his stuff.... [Starter] Tyson Ross was a great signing, even though he's still recovering from surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome. He had been outstanding before that.... Matt Bush has a power fastball and he's got a second chance. I think he's going to eventually be the closer.... Jonathan Lucroy is the best two-way catcher out there. He'll be tremendous for this staff. When they have to run Dillon Gee or A.J. Griffin out there, Lucroy's value goes up even more. If you're a marginal pitcher, catchers like him can make you average.... I don't want Rougned Odor to improve his plate discipline. I know we want guys to control the zone and walk more, but some guys you want up there hacking.... Other than Brooks Robinson, Adrián Beltré is the best third baseman I've ever seen, a first-ballot Hall of Famer. He's got great hands, the cleanest exchange, can throw from all angles.... Nomar Mazara's smooth, sweet swing reminds me of Carlos Delgado's—consistent, no wasted effort. He's going to hit for average and eventually power.... As much as I love Joey Gallo's moonshots, he swings and misses too much.
Toronto Blue Jays
This is a solid lineup with dangerous power, but, boy, are they going to miss Edwin Encarnación. They'll be competitive, but not as strong as they were in 2015 and '16.... Josh Donaldson understands his swing and how to generate power from his lower half....José Bautista just had a down year. He had become much more of a mistake hitter. I expect him to bounce back.... There's something left for Troy Tulowitzki, but it's time to s--- or get off the pot. Last year he looked to me as if he'd become pull crazy and was not trusting his hands.... Devon Travis hits the ball hard and has a chance to hit over .300.... Russell Martin has all the intangibles that are important to a young pitching staff. Even if he doesn't hit, he's worth every penny he gets.... Kevin Pillar is off the charts defensively. He's as good as Kevin Kiermaier or anybody else. If the bat caught up to the defense, he'd be Mike Trout.... Orioles closer Zach Britton's sinker is in another universe, but Aaron Sanchez's is right behind his. It's powerful and has late action in the zone.... Marcus Stroman, I love his confidence and his stuff.... J.A. Happ is deceptive, with average to slightly above average stuff. He's an awful good No. 3 starter.... Marco Estrada has a 75 grade changeup. There's a lot of deception, a lot of swing and miss.... Francisco Liriano is getting his slider over. If he does that, he's got enough fastball to keep guys honest.... Roberto Osuna has power and a power breaking ball. He throws strikes with two well-above-average pitches.
This is one of the only teams that can beat the Cubs, but the window is closing.... Bryce Harper's shoulder bothered him all year, and he got out of rhythm. He's healthy now. A lot of people hate him, but I love him. He has the most controlled violent swing I've ever seen.... The sky is the limit for Trea Turner. He can run and throw, he's got good hands, he's a good hitter.... Adam Eaton is a true centerfielder and top-of-the-order bat.... Daniel Murphy has tremendous ability to get his barrel into the zone, keep it in the zone and hit the ball hard.... Anthony Rendon has a great approach, short and quick to the ball.... The wear and tear Ryan Zimmerman has had on his shoulder and arm—he's just not the same.... Matt Wieters will do a great job managing the staff and the game. That was a good signing.... Max Scherzer might be at the top of my list if I had to win a game and my life depended on it.... Every little ache ends up a DL trip for Stephen Strasburg, but he's still extremely gifted.... I love Tanner Roark. He looks like he could be sitting at the bar from Cheers, but he has four quality pitches.... Gio González can't pitch just on stuff any more. He's got to command better.... Joe Ross has the stuff to be a No. 3 starter.... Hopefully all of Shawn Kelley's save opportunities come with a two-run lead. I like him in the seventh or eighth inning.... I like Koda Glover and Blake Treinen. Either has the stuff to close.... Michael Taylor got to the big leagues too soon and struggled. He lost a lot of confidence.