- What does every National League team look like through the eyes of a big league scout? We've got you covered.
Opening Day is finally here, so brush up by reading about every team from behind enemy lines. Opposing scouts took the time to size up every NL team for us, and here is what they concluded.
Their ace is gonna be Julio Teheran for now. Not for long. He’s been throwing well down here. He’s a veteran who knows what he wants to do. ... The No. 2 guy is Mike Foltynewicz. He has thrown very well. He has good velocity—93, 94—and a good curveball. It’s all about command with him. His stuff is there. If he can put together some command on his offspeed, he’s got a chance to be a frontline guy. Is that gonna happen? Maybe not. … Everyone is saying Brandon McCarthy has the yips. He’s thrown well so far, but it’s spring training and he knows he’s in the rotation, so there’s no pressure. It might resurface once the season starts. His biggest problem is himself. He fights himself. This is a big year for him. If he has a good year, he can make some money. The talent is there. … Their whole rotation is full of this. If they all come together, they’ve got a pretty top-shelf rotation. They all throw hard and they all have usable breaking stuff. A couple will figure it out, a couple won’t, but we don’t know which ones. … Arodys Vizcaino is a decent closer. He’s a pretty talented guy. He throws hard and his breaking stuff’s O.K. He’s the guy that, when they’re contenders, they’re gonna want to do a little better than him, but he’s fine for now. He’s still a but for me.
Tyler Flowers will be the frontline guy because he’s got some power. They’re pretty fortunate for a building team: They have two great veteran catchers with him and Kurt Suzuki, who handles pitchers as well as anybody. ... Freddie Freeman is a very good defender and he can really hit. He goes the other way as good as anybody. … People are really excited about Ozzie Albies. His energy level is great. He’s an All-Star in the making. He makes good contact and he can run, and he really plays hard. … It’s a good thing, too, because so much was made of Dansby Swanson when he came to the big leagues. He’s O.K., but he hasn’t made any offensive strides at all. I don’t know if it’s strength or pitch selectivity, but something’s missing. He’ll get better, but will he ever be an elite shortstop? I don’t think he will. … Johan Camargo has had a good spring. He can hit and he’s a good defender. Everyone keeps saying he’s a place-setter, but I think he’s better than that. He’s got a little more power than people thought. He’s maturing as a player and it’s really helping him. … Ender Inciarte has improved so much over the years. I’m so happy for him. He and Nick Markakis are two of the most accurate arms in the big leagues. … By the second half of the year, Atlanta’s outfield is gonna be one of the most productive in the big leagues. If I’m the Braves, I don’t start the year with Ronald Acuña. Save the year of arbitration. This kid’s got great power, he’s got great bat speed, he can throw, he can run. He’s a five-tool player. It’s just maturity. As he starts recognizing what pitchers are trying to do with him, he’ll get better and better. His ceiling is All-Star. As soon as they reach the point they don’t have to pay him another year, you bring him up that day and put him there forever. … They’re getting better. The upside for this club would be a winning season. If everything went right, maybe they even contend for the second wild card. Next year this time, you’re talking about a contender.
With where they are, Lewis Brinson is a starter. You throw him out there, and let him learn. He’s proven in Triple-A that he can put some numbers up. The tool package is there. He does a little bit everything. … Derek Dietrich will be in left. He’s sneaky good. He can beat you with the long ball. He puts together good at-bats. He doesn’t run, but he has pop. Give him a chance to play everyday, and he’ll put up decent numbers. … Cameron Maybin will be the right fielder. You want to give (Magneuris) Sierra a least a half year in the minors. He’s a long-term option. It doesn’t hurt him to give him a little more seasoning. … Justin Bour is not a bad hitter. It’s more than just power. For some reason, he’s not as sexy in the industry yet. He was a late bloomer, will be 30. I don’t know if a whole lot of teams are batting. The OPS rolls out there pretty decent. … Starlin Castro is probably the No. 3 or 4, but it will depend on who’s pitching. He’s only 27. He’s still a kid. He played in a great ballpark in New York, but he’s maturing as a hitter and as a player. He wants to play good, because he wants to go to a playoff team and get back in the hunt. He’ll play second. J.T. Riddle will play short. Riddle is not a Gold Glover, but he’s a solid baseball player. It’s a left-handed bat that can provide a little bit of punch. … J.T. Realmuto is the golden piece that they have right now. Age, service time, he’s the big ask. He’s holding everything up. They're waiting to hit one out of the park in a trade.
[Dan] Straily has to be the number one, until [Sandy] Alcantara arrives. Jose Ureña is improving so far. The arrow is pointing up. He seems to be maturing, understanding what it takes to fill the strike zone. That’s a positive. ... [Ordisamer] Depsaigne is making a good play for the rotation. [Justin] Nicolino has thrown well. He’s ticked up a bit in velocity. I’d like to say that Adam Conley could be in the rotation over [Dillon] Peters, but Peters’ stuff is pretty good when he's in the zone. But like Ureña, he can struggle throwing strikes. But it’s big league stuff. They would love to give him another crack at it. Originally I was thinking [Adam] Conley, but I’m not sure. [Brad] Ziegler is going to close. [Kyle] Barraclough is a big strikeout guy. He had a good year. He’s a high strikeout high walk guy. He’s unreliable. They think he’s the closer of the future. … I don’t think it’ll be as bad as everybody thinks. It’s not going to be great, believe me.
New York Mets
If the rotation is healthy, they’re a World Series contender. There’s not much of a gap between them and the Nationals ... I’m not saying he’s ever going to come all the way back, but Matt Harvey has shown flashes; his velocity was ticking back up in the mid-90s, and it seems to a lot of people that he’s straightened things out. Issues have popped up and everyone read about them last year in the tabloids. It seems to me like he's straightened a lot of that out and has something to prove. We're not mind readers, we don't know what's going on in his head, but what we've seen so far this spring is something that can help that club. He needs to find his release point in his breaking ball—and stay out of the tabloids. If he’s three-fourths of what he was, that’s good enough in a rotation with Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom ... As for Syndergaard, what is there to say? He's Thor—he brings it. As far as I'm concerned he's in the realm of Scherzer and Strasburg ... With all the big lefty hitters in the division, Steven Matz needs to solidify his place in the rotation to balance out all the righthanders.
As Yoenis Cespedes goes, so goes this offense. If it's the good Cespedes, watch out... Look, Adrián González is a pro, but the ceiling for him is being a good platoon player ... With David Wright out, Todd Frazier has quickly emerged as the veteran leader; he instantly becomes a favorite in every clubhouse he steps inside. Now, if he can hit above .250, they’ll like him even more ... Jay Bruce clearly wasn’t comfortable with the New York media, but the dynamic got better through the year. He said he didn't want to go there originally. He's a very solid veteran hitter in the lineup...But Brandon Nimmo is the really intriguing guy in the outfield. He swung the bat really really well this spring. He's the wild card. The former first-rounder has always been a gap-to-gap guy, but now he’s flashing some power. He has upside. This is a sneaky-good offense to go with that pitching staff....Last year you had three teams tanking in the division. But this year Philadelphia is better, Atlanta is better, so it won't be easy. But you can't sleep on this club at all.
This team is like looking at a puzzle and seeing promising pieces but wondering how they all fits together ... [Former managers] Ryne Sandberg and Pete Mackanin got all their gray hairs from watching Maikel Franco and Odubel Herrera. A few years ago we were putting Franco in the category of Arenado, Bryant and Machado at third base. Now he’s not even in the same universe. His body isn’t in nearly as good shape as when he first came up, and he’s lost all patience at the plate. He's up there guessing. Herrera is just so streaky—one night he gives away four at bats, the next he goes 4-for-4. He does some bizarre sh-t that makes you scratch your head. ... Those two guys are key, but I’m losing hope. … Carlos Santana was an upgrade for them, for sure, but I didn't understand that move with Rhys Hoskins, being a better first baseman than leftfielder. Moving a guy like that to the outfield, it's not ideal. I thought he was a solid defender at first base. Hoskins as a corner player was approaching a possible All-Star guy: a .285-.300 hitter who drove in a bunch of runs. Now they have to play Santana at first base. I wouldn't have spent that $60 million on a first baseman.
Aaron Nola is on the cusp of becoming an elite starter. After that, they’re in trouble in the rotation ... Vince Velasquez is the wild card. If he’s healthy, he’s a top of the rotation guy, but based on his track record, there’s no reason to believe he can make it through the season. Mark Leiter Jr. reminds me of his dad: He knows how to pitch, and as bad as these guys are, he’ll pitch his way into the rotation this year ... [New manager] Gabe Kapler is progressive, and it’s a friendlier vibe: There’s dancing in the clubhouse, and the bench looks like a college football sideline. But I don't know if those guys need them to be their friend or kick them in the a--; people are anxious to see what happens there—it could all work, or it could be a disaster. … They have a lot of really good young arms at the lower level. I see them winning more than they did last year but I don't see them knocking on the door. Bigger picture, I see a lot of great pieces here. I just don't know if I'll ever see a championship caliber club.
If they're healthy, this is the best team in the NL. They've been knocking at the door, and they're right there. They're as talented as any team out there. But the window is closing. Now's the time for this team ... I love this offense, starting with the speed at the top of the lineup. Every time I see Trea Turner, I just can't believe they got him from San Diego—Steven Souza, whom they dealt away, is a pretty good player, but Turner is a perennial All-Star. When Adam Eaton comes back, the speed in the lineup will really make this offense the most explosive in the league ... I'm a big Bryce Harper fan. A lot of people don't like him because of the huge ego; great players have huge egos. He's driven to be a Hall of Fame player, It's clear Harper wants to be first $40 million guy. He's figured out controlled violence at the plate—how aggressively he swings at the plate—but on the bases and outfield he puts himself in harm's way, way too often. They have to tell him to back off a bit, because the only thing between him and the $40 million is health... Anthony Rendon never panics; he's got some power and a terrific approach at the plate. He should be a star. He just happens to be a third baseman in a league that has two other guys that are superstars. He's underappreciated.
Your life depends on it, who do you want starting a game? It's Max Scherzer. I take him over Kershaw because you can lock him in for 200 innings. I'm happy when I'm at a Max Scherzer game because I know I'm seeing an ultimate competitor out there—and I know I'm going to get out of there in about two hours. But Stephen Strasburg is not far behind. His NLDS start against the Cubs last year could have been a turning point for him—him going out there and seeing that you don't have to be at 110% to dominate. They have two legitimate aces out there ... The big question is whether the offense and bullpen are good enough to make up for the rotation spots? I think it is: Tanner Roark is underrated. They have three guys who have closed elsewhere but I would rather them be eight inning guys. The bullpen is deep—they have three guys who have closed elsewhere. But if there’s a proven closer available at the deadline, they should make a move; you can’t have enough relief help in October. Sean Doolittle is a shut-down reliever—but I also think he’s best as a setup man. If they want to lock up a World Series, they may need to go out and get a closer ... But if they're healthy I rank them the best team in the NL.
They’re the class of the division, but there’s not a lot of depth in the minor leagues. It’s short on upper-level pitching. Just like in 2016, they’re gonna need their starters to stay healthy. If they’re gonna try to acquire a pitcher at the deadline, there’s not much to trade. … Kris Bryant is so consistent. He plays hard. His routines are great. It’s everything you want in a player. He’s got his life together on and off the field. It’s hard to say anything bad about his game. It’s not the prettiest swing, but he’s big and he’s got leverage and repeats it pretty well. He runs hard down the line. He works. You look at him like, this guy’s never leaving Chicago. … Anthony Rizzo is one of the best first basemen in the league. He feels like he can make any throw. He’s got a great arm, a great release, great hands, great instincts. One thing with him is he stands right on top of the plate. He’s daring you to pitch inside and he takes the outer half away from a lot of pitchers, but I wonder when he’s gonna move off the plate. He gets pitched in a ton and gets hit a lot. I’m surprised he hasn’t been hurt more. … Willson Contreras loves to throw, loves to show off his arm. With his backpick ability, you gotta be aware of this guy. They didn’t think his bat was gonna hold up! His bat’s really come on later. This guy just took off when he went behind the plate. … You’ve heard a lot about Kyle Schwarber’s trimmed down body. He does look better—he’s not skinny, but he’s definitely moving better. Everybody talks about how bad he is in the outfield. For me, there’s some limitations range-wise, but he tracks the ball pretty well and he’s got an average arm. He’s not bad in leftfield. He’s not above average, but people talk about him being a liability. I don’t see it that way. He’s looked good this spring, driving balls to left-centerfield. I expect a big year from him. … Javy Báez is probably the most gifted player defensively I’ve seen. There’s nobody better at second. As a pitcher, you love to have him behind you. You always hope he’s gonna have better plate discipline. You can get frustrated with him. Man, if he just cut his swing down and got a two-strike approach—but it looks like he’s decided, That’s not me. I’m gonna go up there and swing for the fences. If he ever had a little more plate discipline, he’d be an MVP candidate.
Addison Russell is an above-average defender and he’s got some power. He’s an upright hitter, so there’s holes down and away. They’ve incorporated a leg kick to try to get him to use his lower half more and tap into his power. … I really like Ian Happ. He’s gonna be their every-day centerfielder. He’s a switch-hitter with more power from the left side. He’s not above average in center, but he’s not gonna kill them. … Jason Heyward’s not the player he used to be. He used to be a guy that could drive the ball to left-centerfield. It’s weird—he’s young, has a great body, he’s athletic. He just got stiff. He used to be able to use his hands. Now it’s a stiff, rotational swing. It’s really weird, what happened to him. I think this is who he is now. He gets really good jumps and he’s got a strong arm, so he’s an above-average rightfielder, but I’m sure they’d like to have that contract over again. I think he’s a guy that gradually gets his at bats decreased. He’s a good teammate, though; he hasn’t pouted or sulked. … Kyle Hendricks’s velocity was down last year. He’s back in the upper 80s, which is huge for him. His best pitch is the changeup, which sits 80, and last year his fastball and changeup got too close together. … Jon Lester is not the guy he used to be with the Red Sox, but he still has good stuff. He can flat-out pitch. As long as he stays healthy, he’ll be O.K. … Yu Darvish was definitely tipping pitches in the World Series. It’s not a huge deal going forward. There’s a lot of guys tipping out there. It’s just a matter of having the right guys to notice. It should be very easy to fix. Obviously nobody had it before the World Series, because he was great in the NLCS. He’s got tremendous stuff. I thought it was a great signing.
It’s been a rough spring so far for Billy Hamilton. He’s not swinging the bat that great. They’re trying to get him to work on his bunting. They want to get him on base more and take advantage of his speed. He frustrates you—he’s such a good defensive player, he’s got such a great arm, but there’s not a lot of strength there.. … What I’m hearing is they’re gonna go with four outfielders and just rotate them. Jesse Winker will occasionally get a blow against lefthanded pitching. He’s a lefthanded hitter and he’s gotta learn how to hit against lefthanded pitching. As he gets more mature, hopefully he can tap into his power. … I think Scott Schebler’s breakout year last year was real. He had good numbers on the road. Plus he’s cheap, so they’ve got a good one there. … Adam Duvall has good power. He was much better versus lefthanded pitching last year. He’s got a pretty aggressive approach and a good feel for the barrel. … I really like Eugenio Suárez. He came up as a shortstop, so he’s very good defensively at third. He has a good arm and good range and good hands. He should hit behind Joey Votto and protect him a little bit. … Scooter Gennett is a launch-angle guy. He definitely takes advantage of the ballpark. He had a great year last year, but I’d be surprised if he does that again. … Tucker Barnhart is a Gold Glover. Pitchers like throwing to him. There are some limitations with the bat, but what he brings defensively more than makes up for that—his throwing, his blocking. And with a young pitching staff, that stuff matters more. … Votto has had a slow spring, but you never worry about him. He’s working on seeing the ball. He doesn’t have the same electric bat speed you saw in the past, but he’s still the best hitter in the game. He should’ve won the MVP last year. … José Peraza is not the ideal shortstop. He lacks some arm strength and ability to range. Ideally he’d be a second baseman or a really good super-utility guy. That’s why they’ve got Nick Senzel playing shortstop in the minors. For me he’s got the body type and range of a third baseman, but they’re gonna give it a shot.
Their No. 1, Luis Castillo, really came on the scene last year. It was just a matter of getting an opportunity. It’s an 80 fastball—mid- to upper 90s and he’s got movement. It’s a tough fastball to square up, plus the changeup and a power sinker. He’s got a chance to develop into a top-of-the-rotation guy, with the stuff he has. The one thing that’s gonna take him to the next level is command. He’s shown he’s not scared; he went from Double A to the big leagues. … Anthony DeSclafani’s velo is down a little bit. I’m not real worried right now. Guys go through dead arm occasionally during spring training. If everything comes together, he would be a No. 4 starter for a good team. … I saw Homer Bailey early in spring and I was pleasantly surprised. It wasn’t the big fastball he had, but it was 92 to 94 and he threw some good sliders. I’m not saying he’s gonna make 32 starts, but I think he’s got a chance to pitch in the middle of a rotation. … Raisel Iglesias has a huge fastball, 97 to 99, and he’s cheap, so come second half when teams are looking for power arms, he’s an interesting piece. At the same time, he’s a guy you want to hold onto. … One guy who has had a really good camp has been Amir Garrett. He always had a high ceiling. He fought some injuries last year, but he has three plus pitches from the left side. The issue has been repeating his delivery. I know it’s spring training, but it’s really encouraging to see what he’s done. He’s been opening some eyes.
They’re young and there’s ability there, but there’s history with most of these guys of injuries. It’s, Can they stay healthy and can they carry their stuff through the season? It’s a lot of ifs. … There aren’t a lot of middle-class teams in baseball, but they’re one. … I could see them in the first half being close, but they’re gonna have to monitor innings and I think they’ll fall off. They’re headed in the right direction, though.
Last year, they surprised themselves being in the position they were in. You look at the team on paper, and I don't see any reason why they shouldn't be better than they were last year. But they need another guy to go toward the front of their rotation. That's the finishing piece for this team to make them a legitimate playoff contender.
Manny Piña is a good leader of the staff. He holds his own with the bat, and he'll never be an elite hitter, but he's a dependable defender back there—plenty good enough to be an everyday guy. … The league adjusted to Eric Thames, and in a perfect world, you would platoon him with a righthanded bat. Thames kills righthanded pitching but really struggles against lefthanded pitching. … The concern with Ryan Braun is the amount of time he spent on the DL last year. If he gets everyday at-bats, he's still a 25-plus home run a year guy. He doesn’t have the same bat speed, but the thing he does better than 95% of guys in the big leagues is he really stays on pitches. He's still got strength and power…. Jonathan Villar has made a conscious effort to get better at second base this offseason. I would not be surprised if he bounces back. He has an average major league bat with below-average power, but you can carry that at second base with their team. … Orlando Arcia is a high-ceiling guy who had a very good offensive year. He has all the tools to be a solid major league shortstop. … I think you're going to see a pretty close repeat of what Travis Shaw did last year. This guy's got the talent to be an everyday player. I don't see any reason why he'd fall off. … Domingo Santana was a guy who adjusted his launch angle and got more underneath the ball, and that obviously showed in the power production. He's turned into an everyday guy. Apples to apples, they want this guy to play every day over Braun. But I don't think there's a lot of takers on Braun, so Santana becomes a viable guy for whatever young controlled starter might be out there. He's a perfect trade piece for that. … Lorenzo Cain was a great signing. He's a cornerstone in centerfield, and I think he's a very good player. He's a plus major league centerfielder. … Christian Yelich was a difference-maker trade. To get that bat and defensive ability—and his clubhouse makeup is well above average. To plug this guy into the lineup has them going in a major positive direction.
In a solid playoff rotation, Chase Anderson is a No. 3 starter. What he does a good job of is pitch in the top of the zone with his fastball, which helps his curveball play off of that. He's got good depth to his changeup, so he's got three solid pitches there. But it's not plus command with plus stuff. It's not elite stuff. … Zach Davies is probably a No. 4 starter. The stuff is more of No. 5 starter. He's fearless, attacks hitters. He doesn't strike anybody out but he gets 50% groundballs. His ability to manipulate, his feel for pitches and his mound presence is what gives this guy success. He comes right at guys. But the margin of error there is slim. If you're running him out as your No. 2 starter, I don't have a real warm and fuzzy feeling. ... You hope that Jhoulys Chacin, Wade Miley and Yovani Gallardo can at least give you innings. They are what they are, and they're more fifth starter punching bags. You just hope they can eat innings and preserve your bullpen. … The only reason Corey Knebel would take a step back would be if he incurred any bad luck or got into a rough patch. He's always had really good stuff. Strikes were always an issue, where he threw the ball over the plate but didn't really command it. His curveball is double-plus, and he throws 100 off of that. I don't see any reason why you shouldn't see the same results. … Josh Hader has big velocity from the lefthand side, can run it up to 97, 98 when he needs to. My concern with him is his slider, which gets very lateral at times. It's an average pitch at the major league level. He has some versatility, but does the stuff hold up consistently over the course of the season where he's being called upon in higher leverage roles multiple nights in a row? … Matt Albers was a really good signing for them. He's got a long, loose arm with some natural deception. He's a dependable guy. He's going to come in and throw strikes.
I don’t know where to start with them. They’re not very good. … Jameson Taillon is obviously their ace. He’s gonna have to grow into the role. He’s got good stuff, but he needs to work on command of his offspeed stuff. He gives up too many hits. … We haven’t seen much of Iván Nova. He’s been a back field guy. I don’t know if they’re hiding something or what. … Joe Musgrove is eh. They penciled him into the three-hole hoping he would step forward and take it. Well, he hasn’t. It’s a mess right now. … They’ve got three spots and five guys. Tyler Glasnow’s easily got the best stuff of the five, but he can’t put together a number of pitches in a row. He’ll throw a great snappy fastball then come back with worst hanging breaking ball you ever saw. … Felipe Rivero is a hard-throwing guy with bouts of wildness. He throws 98, but he can’t always harness it. … If Kevin Siegrist can be a lefthanded late-inning reliever, that would be big for them, but he pitched just about every day in St. Louis. I don’t know how much is left in the arm. … One of the interesting guys is Dovydaus Neverauskas. He’s got a good arm, mid-90s, pretty good changeup, pretty good slider. He’s just very inexperienced. The toughest job on the club this year isn’t manager, it’s pitching coach.
Corey Dickerson is gonna hit there. That’s a good park for him. He can play leftfield enough. … They’ve got two good outfielders in Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco who can cover up Dickerson’s range. Those two can get everything. … Marte is a great athlete. I thought he’d have more power than he’s shown. I think he will. … Polanco is a really top-shelf defender. He’s got speed. If those two don’t hit home runs, the Pirates are in trouble. Well, they are anyway. … Josh Harrison is a very good player, but he’s not very happy. He wanted to get traded. He’s a valuable super-utility guy. I’ll be shocked if he spends the whole season there. If he gets off to a good start, he’s a very good trade candidate. … Josh Bell is a DH playing first base. He doesn’t have good hands, doesn’t have good range and doesn’t have good feet around the bag. Other than that, he’s fine! He’s in the lineup to hit the ball over the fence. … Francisco Cervelli is really an offensive catcher. He’s an adequate receiver, but only adequate. Hopefully the fact that Russell Martin is gone has worn off. When he left, the Pittsburgh pitching staff went into a funk. He’s that good defensively and leadership-wise. But Cervelli is a good offensive player and the pitchers look more comfortable with him this year. …
They don’t expect to be good and they’re probably not gonna be. It’s a transition year. The plan is to muddle through this year and not get fired at the end of the year and just hope guys get better.
St. Louis Cardinals
Marcell Ozuna is going to shine. He went through his issues in Florida. Last year he was unbelievable shape and took off. It was another level. He’s a good kid, too. It was a huge year, and in St. Louis, I could see him keeping it up. ... What a year it was for Tommy Pham. It’s been in him. He’s shown that in the past. But he’s never had the opportunity. Quite honestly, the Cards weren’t sure what they had. Is he a guy who could possibly not have as good as year? Yeah, he’d be the choice. … Last year was [Dexter] Fowler’s first year in a new club. There’s an adjustment period. I’ll give him some leeway. His second half was better than his first, which is a better indicator. He’s not a big base stealer anymore, but he's going to draw walks, hit for average, show some pop. … I think the first base battle is open. I’m a big Jedd Gyorko fan. I’d like to see [Matt] Carpenter at first, Gyorko at third, and move guys around. Move Carpenter around, let Jose Martinez play a bit. Martinez had a good year. It wasn’t a fluke. ... Paul DeJong is an aggressive hitter. The year surprised me, though. I’ve seen him in the past, he’s always been good, but everybody’s offensive numbers jumped. It’s tough to convince the guys in the industry that the baseball are all the same. Something’s hanky. DeJong had 38 home runs between big leagues and Triple-A. And he’s not a 38 home run guy.
On half the clubs, Carlos Martinez is a legit ace. He should come into his own this year. You need a good bullpen with Michael Wacha and Adam Wainwright. They both need to stay healthy. The stuff for Wainwright is a notch down. But the ability to locate is still there. He just knows when not to make mistakes. He understands what’s going on out there. ... They’re going to be cautious with Luke Weaver, because they’re going to stretch him in innings. They need depth. And I don’t know what Alex Reyes is doing. I would imagine, if they’re in the playoffs, you gear him up to start. They also have Jack Flaherty to help out. ... They’re going to start Miles Mikolas. They might be putting their eggs in the wrong basket. I’m not sure it’s going to pan out. It’s happened where some guys come from Japan and it works out. This pen, I don’t know. They put money into it, they’re banking on it.
[Luke] Gregerson will start out as the closer. He knows how to pitch, still has the good slider, and can throw it anytime. [Brett] Cecil needs to have a better year. They brought him originally to be the close, but I don’t know. [Matt] Bowman is a reliable sinkerballer. [Sam] Tulavla has a really good arm and a good breaking ball. They do a really good job of matching up. … I think they’re a bubble team.
Jarrod Dyson is a quality fourth outfielder, can play all around. Should something happen to A.J, Pollock again, he’s a competent guy to step in there, to play everyday at least for a short stint. The big thing there is Yasmany Tomas. They would love to move him. He’s owed a lot. He’s just not a fit on their roster. He’s one dimensional, just power. He’s a liability defensively. ... With Steven Souza, they’re hoping he can bring what Tomas did offensively. Tomas is the fifth outfielder, and they’d like to use that as a different utility spot, like [Chris] Owings, who can play in and out. … They’re going to miss J.D. Martinez quite significantly. When he came on board, it took them to another level. Souza will help buffer that, but there’s huge production they’re going to miss. ... Their middle infield is starting to sort out. Torrey Lovullo views Owings as a super utility guy, some outfield as well. Right now, it looks like Nick Ahmed will be at shortstop, and Ketel Marte is getting a lot of reps at second. Losing Brandon Drury, they still have depth in the middle. Marte can definitely play second. He’s more of a defense-first type guy. Is he going to be a quality offensive player? That’s tough for me to say. But he can man either of the middle infield positions. Ahmed, for a guy thats high-waisted, I’ve never seen a guy that high waisted who’s that smooth defensively.
Zack Greinke’s pitchability is so special. His stuff has probably ticked back a couple miles per hour. But he’s got a full arsenal. Plus command, his smarts out there, he’s very cerebral. Would you like someone as more of power guy at the top of the rotation? Probably so. … Robbie Ray is a powerful left-handed arm and he’s learned to command the ball. Now he can repeat his delivery and his two plus-plus pitches that are nasty. As long as he repeats his delivery, I don’t see much of a letdown. … I’d be surprised if Patrick Corbin reaches his pre-Tommy John levels. But he’s learned on the fly. If he’s a couple games over .500, with around a 4.00 ERA, that’s what I’d expect out of him. Zach Godley’s curveball, it’s not overpowering. In 2015, he might have used it like 10%. Last year was like 35%. That’s his bread and butter. Some of the guys on the team were comparing him to Lance McCullers, throw the curveball every time. It’s power, though. I saw him the other day and it was 81–84, it’s almost slider velocity, with power bite. … A change of scenery helped Taijuan Walker. He’s a guy that fights himself out there, at times. Consistency is the key. You’re going to see stellar games, and then some duds. The inconsistency is what keeps him from being a top of the rotation guy. He’s got the stuff to be a top guy. Got some moving parts in the delivery. … It’s a solid rotation, for sure. ... I think they’d like Archie Bradley to earn the closer job. It’s between him, Brad Boxberger and Yoshihisa Hirano.I would think they would like Archie to be that guy. They’re going to miss Fernando Rodney, as goofy as he is. ... They might take a slight step back. Not a big regression, but I can’t see them finishing with as many wins as last year.
They probably could have waited for the market to die down and got the bullpen guys a little cheaper. I don’t have a lot of history with Wade Davis or Bryan Shaw, and Jake McGee is a re-sign. But with the way the game is trending, strength in the bullpens, and with their young starters, it was important to get that blueprint. Strengthen the pen to protect the young starters. They have some depth in their starters, too. I liked what they did, probably a little spendier than it needed to be.
Charlie Blackmon is pretty special. He’s never satisfied. I wouldn’t put him past him that he could repeat it. He’s getting up there a bit. But he’s got something to prove in a contract year. I expect another big year out of him. … DJ LeMahieu flies under the radar. He’s low key. All his skills play up. The trend with power, launch angle, he’s the opposite. He has tremendous bat control. He’s the best opposite field hitter. If I were playing against him, I’d put an opposite field shift on him. He’s really grown on me. I thought he was going to be an average regular, and he’s proved better than that. … Nolan Arenado flies under the radar a bit because of Colorado. He’s the face of the franchise. They’ve got to find a way to keep him there. He’s an impact player and a leader by example. Unbelievable defense. He amazes me. … Ryan McMahon made an adjustment last year in Double-A. The year before he scuffled. Then he had a serious breakthrough. He’s under the microscope, but he’s gotten off to a good start. He shortened his stroke, got more direct path to the ball. They’re better situated to have McMahon at first and Ian Desmond at left. … Chris Ianetta had a good year last year at catcher. He’s a veteran and good for the youth on their staff. He’s a calming influence, a great game-caller. It was a good addition more intangible-wise than statistic wise. … When you look at Trevor Story’s track record, it’s low average, high power. He sells out for power. His adjustability at the plate is a work in progress. His two strike approach needs work. But he’s got big raw power. He’s a quality defender, not gold-glove, but a good arm. … I don’t see how David Dahl can be a starter. They tried to bring gim back in July, I saw him in Albuquerque in rehab, getting back in game shape, but they had to shut him down again. He needs reps in Triple-A, and hopefully it clicks. He’s playing catch up. … Raimel Tapia plays with his hair on fire. He’s a bench guy now, but he’s an aggressive player on both sides. They need to harness it a little bit. But he’s got tools to be an every day guy. Some sneaky pop, he can use the whole field. High energy. He’s better as a corner outfielder. He’s got upside.
In the future, Jon Gray is a No.1. There’s still some things to work on, with repeating his delivery. But he made big strides last year. Consistency is obviously the thing. He can run off two or three good ones, then a dud, then some average ones. And Ianetta will help him. I think Gray takes another step forward. He’s a solid No. 2 right now, but has a chance to be an ace. He’s a horse. When Chad Bettis came back, understandably the velocity was down. He was getting by on pitching than his stuff. I hope an offseason of strength and conditioning can help him regain his speed, but right now, he’s a middle of the rotation guy. He’s never been a great command guy. He’s their veteran presence, the leader of the staff. … Tyler Anderson is penciled in as the No. 3. Not power stuff, but a lot of deception. Solid secondary stuff. The big question is durability. He’s never been able to throw more than 120 innings in a season. ... German Marquez on stuff alone is a No. 2. He’s definitely ahead of Bettis and Anderson. He really came on at the end of last year. He has a nasty hook. Really started to learn his delivery. I expect him to have a big year.
I think last year is sustainable. They should pass Arizona last year, maybe behind the Dodgers in second. Their lineup is dangerous all the way through. The key is the health of the pitching. But they have some depth there.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Rockies got better, but the Dodgers are still the class of the division. … Clayton Kershaw looks good. He’s the key to the team. They need to get 200 innings from him. The back is an issue—when his command wavers, you never know if it’s because his back is bothering him. But when he’s landing his curveball, he’s just unhittable. … Rich Hill is not a workhorse, but he looks healthy. His velocity is good. He pitches up in the strike zone with his fastball at all different angles and he switches up the arm slot on the curveball, which makes it really tough to hit. … Alex Wood was really good last year. I’m not sure he’s gonna be that good again. There are health and durability questions with him, too. The Dodgers raised his arm slot up a little bit when he got there and he really took off. It gives him better depth to his stuff. … Kenta Maeda’s had a good spring. He’s not a physical guy, so you worry about him, but I’m sure they’ll protect him. He’s not a guy they want throwing 200 innings. He’s worked on his changeup and he’s always had a plus slider. … Hyun-Jin Ryu is in good shape. It’s not a big fastball—86 to 90—but he does a really good job changing speeds and he throws strikes. … I just don’t know about Ross Stripling’s command. I think they like his ability to pitch multiple innings out of the bullpen. His versatility brings a lot of value to that club. … I think we’ll see Walker Buehler this year. He could be like a trade-deadline acquisition when they bring him up, probably to add him to the bullpen down the stretch. He’s got electric stuff, up to 100. He’s got a plus curveball, 20 miles an hour off his fastball. He’s still young, so he’s more a thrower than a pitcher. … Kenley Jansen is the best closer in the game, but there are some concerns. He had a little hamstring thing early on. You just worry about how much he’s been used, pitching multiple innings in the playoffs. They’re being really cautious with him this spring and I expect them to be cautious early in the season. That cutter is still just devastating. … Outside of Jansen, the bullpen’s shaky. They’ve been trying to give Pedro Báez a setup job and he keeps giving it back. He’s so slow. When he comes in, you know it’s gonna be a long night.
Chris Taylor really came into his own last year. I think it was for real. He added a leg kick, and some power came out of it, but he’s also a swing-change, launch-angle guy. He brings a ton of energy and plays all over the field. Will he hit 21 home runs again? I don’t know, but he’ll be disruptive on the bases. … Corey Seager’s struggled early on in camp. He’s been slow. There’s a little bit of concern there, with the elbow. When he’s on, he’s an MVP candidate. … Justin Turner’s had a great camp. His body looks really good. It’s funny—he never hit for power in the minor leagues, but he got into the launch angle stuff and he’s got that short swing. I expect another solid year from him. He’s the leader of the team. … Cody Bellinger got exposed a little bit by the Astros in the World Series. It’s a big uppercut path, and when you have a low-ball hitter with an uppercut, you go above it with four-seamers. Houston had a veteran staff that could execute that. So there’s holes in that swing, but I love his instincts and his confidence. … You just never know with Yasiel Puig. You kind of thought he turned the corner last year. He’s been good in spring training. He’s a great athlete and has one of the better arms in the game. He has tools, but he’s hard to trust. When he’s staying in the middle of the field he’s really tough, but he can try to do too much at the plate and get pull-oriented. … It’s tough with Yasmani Grandal and Austin Barnes. They have two every-day catchers. Barnes has such great plate discipline, but he doesn’t frame as well as Grandal. I expect them to start the year splitting the catching time. Barnes is versatile, so they’ll get him some at bats in different spots. He’ll play a little bit of second base. … Logan Forsythe has had a good camp. He came in ready to go. He’s using the field and taking good at bats. He’s a good makeup guy. … You know who has had a great spring? Matt Kemp. He’s had hip issues in the past, but he came in in shape. He’s swung the bat well. Coming into camp they were talking about releasing or trading him, but he looks good. If they want to platoon him and Joc Pederson, they could do that, and have Kiké Hernández replace him late for defense.
San Diego Padres
I love what they’re doing down there. One person you’ve gotta tip your cap to is Logan White. Players are going to get there in the next few years and they’re going to be really tough. ... Eric Hosmer is a baller. He wears his emotions on his sleeves, he plays the game hard and the right way and he’ll take advantage of another team’s weaknesses. And he’s got one of the best faces in the league! He’s got that built-in snarl. They couldn’t have hung their hat on a better guy at this time for where that organization. … The other great thing about bringing in Hosmer is that it takes the pressure off of Wil Myers. He helped start the rebuilding process with, now just let him go out and ball. ... Manuel Margot is the prototypical leadoff hitter. He’s a plus defender, he hits gap-to-gap, he’s got some power, and he creates havoc on the bases. … Hunter Renfroe gives them options. Matt Sczuzr will challenge him because he’s so good at taking walks, but Renfroe is a difference maker with his power. He reminds me of Jethro Beaudine from the Beverly Hillbillies. … The prospects they have are ridiculous. Fernando Tatis Jr. is a star in the making and will be up this year. When he matures, he’ll be in the class of [Carlos] Correa and [Francisco] Lindor. Margot is ready. Franchy Cordero looks great in spring training.
They still don’t have the rotation that you can trust. They’re looking for more command from Dinelson Lamet, it’s just an unknown from him. They’ll need some of the vets to help out. Tyson Ross looks healthy again and it sounds like Chris Young has a chance to make the rotation. Maybe they can ease the pressure off the young guys. … They’re loaded and most of those guys will be ready to contribute soon. … Andy Green is a grinder. He’s had success despite not having a whole lot and that’s why he’s able to relate to the players. You never see any panic in the guy and he’ll go to bat for his players. … Be real about it. It’s a process that they have to trust. .500 is a realistic goal, they won 71 last year, to win 10 more games would be quite an achievement and watch the young players progress. I think the biggest question is when Fernando Tatis will get to the big leagues for them? It’ll be fun watching this organization the next 3–4 years.
San Francisco Giants
This team is hanging onto the past. The run that they had was incredible, but it’s over. Nobody is scared of them anymore and they’re going to need to blow things up over there. ... They don’t have a legit centerfielder. If Austin Jackson is starting there on Opening Day, that’s a problem because that means Steven Duggar isn't working out. … You’d hope Andrew McCutchen plays with a chip on his shoulder, but I’m not sure this is the right park for him. I could see him getting traded at the deadline. And Hunter Pence? I think they’ve milked all the milk they can get out of that breast. ... Evan Longoria can just hit. He’s got a great swing, creates tremendous leverage and got some extension, not afraid to hit the ball the other way, smart hitter. It’s too bad he spent his whole career in Tampa, if he played for a big-market team he’d be a Hall of Fame considered guy. Two-way skills, solid third baseman. They’ve got to be ecstatic to have him. He’s one of the great guys in baseball … I just don't trust their farm system. Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford are the last draft-and-develop guys they have, though I guess Joe Panik is ok. ... They damn near killed Bruce Bochy last year with their terrible defense. Pablo Sandoval? I like the guy but come on.
I have no idea how this pitching staff is going to sort itself out. Madison Bumgarner has got some mileage on him at this point, Johnny Cueto has been injured and looked like he stopped having fun last year, which is so key to his game. Jeff Samardzija was pretty good, but nobody is going to put their reputation on the line and say that he’s better than a No. 3 starter. After that, I guess it’ll be Tyler Beede and Chris Stratton … Now consider there is a lot of concern in that bullpen. Mark Melancon was supposed to be the finishing touch of the bullpen and turned into a huge disappointment. After that it’s guys like Ty Blach, Hunter Strickland, Will Smith and Cory Gearin. These are no-name guys with no real success in the big leagues. You don’t win playoff game because of Tony Watson.
They almost lost 100 last year. San Diego is no longer a cellar type team. What is to make me go out on a limb that say they’ll be better? A healthy Madison Bumgarner? They’re a middle-of-the-pack team at best.