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 AL team for us and here is what they concluded.
They finished last in the division last year and made no notable moves other than add Andrew Cashner. You do the math. Buck Showalter will show up and they will play hard every day and he will do as much as he can with what he has. But even Buck's magic can't save this team. For starters, a solid bullpen has been the bread and butter of teams that Buck has gotten to the postseason, but with Zach Britton out until June, the unit could really struggle. And with this rotation, they’re going to have to turn to them early and often ... Kevin Gausman has No. 1–type stuff—the only problem is that that stuff shows up once every five starts. At this point everyone should accept that he’ll never be a top-end starter ... We haven’t seen the 99- to 100-mph fastball from Dylan Bundy since his arm injuries, but he’s really learned how to pitch. He gives them hope, but beyond that, it’s a mess.
This is still a dangerous team offensively. Jonathan Schoop’s newfound patience has made him a borderline star, he just keeps better every year. He's gotten patient, senses what pitchers are going to do with him ... With him and with Manny Machado at short, this is one of the best middle infields in the league. What was behind [Machado] moving over from third? He was a $30 million player at third; now he’s a $35 million player at short. Enough said. But if Manny gets off to a bad start offensively, now all of the sudden he starts pressing, because there's no protection in the lineup. Things could snowball. But he might be a better shortstop than Tim Beckham, because he's that gifted defensively ... Adam Jones is still a plus defender in center, but he’s starting to wear and tear, just like Chris Davis, who made a great adjustment midway through his  contract year, signed the $161 million deal, and then went right back to his same broken approach. That contract is a disaster; it’s one of the reasons why this team is trending downward.
Boston Red Sox
Their pitching’s gonna determine whether they play in the World Series or not. …Chris Sale is a Cy Young guy, but he tends to wear down a little bit over the course of a season. They have to handle him properly, give him rest, let him skip a turn. … Their biggest problem is screwing David Price’s head on correctly. He may be too smart for his own good. Just go out and pitch, David. Just let it go. When he goes to the bullpen, he’s fine, because he doesn’t think. … The third guy is Rick Porcello, but which Porcello is gonna show up? The guy who won a Cy Young or the guy who sh-t all over himself last year? Probably somewhere in the middle. … Drew Pomeranz is a good guy, but he’s got tightness. That’s a concern. … Of course, in Boston’s case it doesn’t matter a great deal, because talk about a power bullpen. Craig Kimbrel struck out half the guys he faced last year. That’s an insane stat. … And he doesn’t even have the best fastball on the club! That’s Joe Kelly. There’s something missing with him. His stuff is too good to do what he does. He can blow two guys away and then give a nice fat fastball to the third guy and he hits it over the fence. … They’re counting on Carson Smith to come back this year. Tyler Thornburg’s a little guy, but he throws hard. If those two guys come back healthy, Boston’s gonna have a lockdown bullpen. They can just go shorter and bullpen it like Tito did in Cleveland.
Xander Bogaerts is a great kid. He’s really a good player. He’s got a chance to be better. He’s a great defender, he’s a good person, he’s got the whole package for me. It’s just a matter of learning from the other players around him. … Rafael Devers has a lot of work to do defensively, but he’s got a quick bat. He’s got some power. Once he learns how to use that wall, he’ll be even better. He needs to work on his hands defensively, though. He’s gonna see a lot of missiles that way, in that division. … This is the best outfield in the league. Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. are as good defenders as there are, and Andrew Benintendi’s a good athlete. That wall position is easy to play once you learn the angles off the wall. … They’ll have to play J.D. Martinez out there a little bit, but if Mike Greenwell can play leftfield in Boston, so can Martinez. The problem J.D. has is he gets hurt. He’s a great hitter, but they really should just take his glove away from him.
Christian Vázquez is a defensive guy. He’s very good. He cares. He works hard. I like him a lot. I hate to call him Yadi, but he is pretty close because of the care he puts into it. … Sandy León is a great guy. Pitchers love to throw to him, but he can’t hit at all. … Mitch Moreland’s gonna play a lot of first base because he can defend. … They’ll milk Hanley Ramírez as long as they can tolerate him. Hanley wants his at bats to kick in money for next year. Boston doesn’t want that, so that should be interesting. Hanley’s a disaster defensively, but if he gets off to a good start, he’ll be the everyday first baseman for a long time. … They’re saying April, but I don’t think Dustin Pedroia is gonna be back until June. He’s always worked his ass off, which works out great when you’re young, but I don’t know if he can come back that quick. … Eduardo Nuñez will play second until Pedroia gets back. He has a good mentality for being a bench player. He’s one of their best signings of the offseason. … What people forget with all the hoopla about the Yankees is this team won 93 games with no power. And then they added J.D. Martinez. … There’s no reason to think the Red Sox are gonna take second seat behind the Yankees. It’s crazy—the AL has four playoff teams right now.
New York Yankees
Aaron Boone is a very lucky man, inheriting a good team that got even better over the winter. This team has every chance to be playing very late into October. They have a deep lineup and bench, probably best deepest bullpen in baseball, have a really good chemistry blending the young guys with the veterans. It's just a great mix.
I would never want to pitch against this team—they've got the obvious firepower, but beyond the obvious guys, they're just deep. Start with how Didi Gregorious took the next step to the impact column. For Aaron Hicks, the lightbulb went off last year, he's a tough out now. Greg Bird looked like he finally got his rhythm going in the playoffs, he could be in that 30 home run range—his swing is a perfect fit in Yankee Stadium. ... Those New York beat writers this spring, looking at something to nitpick about this team, they're like "Who's going to play second or third?" Who gives a sh-t? With all the talent on this team at the other positions, it almost doesn't matter ... It’s a real thing, new guys coming into New York and putting too much pressure on themselves. I've seen it where a guy puts too much pressure on himself—gets off to a bad start and all of the sudden the New York press piles on. But it’s not going to be the case with Giancarlo Stanton because he doesn’t need to be the guy. They got a superstar who wants to win a championship really badly ... Aaron Judge has eight-foot-long arms so his swing gets long, but after struggling in the second half he proved in September that he can make adjustments ...The light bulb went off forGregorius. He felt he had to be a star in Arizona and is comfortable in New York.
This is the best bullpen in baseball. Dellin Betances and Dave Robertson could close on any club, so even if Aroldis Chapman goes down, they’re still in good shape. With that unit, you just need five, six good innings from your starters, and they’ll get that on most nights ... Looking at the rotation, if you get the healthy Masahiro Tanaka for 28–30 starts to go with Luis Severino and Sonny Gray settling in and being in NY, with Jordan Montgomery—that's a great mix. Gray will be even better this year—he was meant to pitch on a big stage like New York. Montgomery has a high arm angle, a big overhand curveball, and he pitches inside with his fastball: You look at him and you see Andy Pettitte ... Credit to this organization: It stuck to a plan—trading veterans for prospects—and it’s going to be reaping the rewards for a while now. This is a mid-90s win team, that will easily separate themselves from Boston. For Boone this should be easy—his biggest headache will be the New York beat writers.
Tampa Bay Rays
They’re trying a four-man rotation. It’s probably gonna be a two-man rotation by the trade deadline. … Blake Snell has had a great spring. He’s commanding his fastball to both sides and commanding his breaking ball. He’s got a chance to be an All-Star. He’s made real strides. … Jacob Faria has been up and down this spring, but he pitched pretty well last year. He doesn’t have great stuff, but he commands what he has and has a good changeup. He’ll win double digits for them. … Nate Eovaldi is so frustrating. If his team gives him five runs, he’ll give up five. If his team gives him one, he’ll give up two. He makes no adjustments. Will the light ever come on? Maybe. Some guys figure it out late. Most guys don’t. … I don’t think the four-man is a good idea. Matt Andriese will be the guy most of the time. He’s a fifth/swing starter. That’s what he is and that’s where he’s gonna pitch. They’re doing it because they have to generate interest in this team. This team is boring to watch. … They have Alex Colome. For now. He’s a trade piece in July if he’s pitching well. He’s an O.K. closer—not great, not Kimbrel or Jansen, but a B closer. For this club, it’s not gonna matter anyway, cause they’re not gonna have that many leads. … Their best arm is José Alvarado, the Venezuelan kid. He’s got a great arm. Whether he can harness it is another question. He’s a hard thrower—97, 98—with a slider at 82 and an average changeup. He’s young, but he’s a strikeout-plus-an-inning guy. As the season goes on, you’re gonna see more and more of him.
Denard Span will DH more than he plays leftfield because Mallex Smith has such big speed. … One thing this club can do is go get it in the outfield. Kevin Kiermaier is one of the best defensive centerfielders in game. He’s got great instincts and great range. He’s a Gold Glover and he’s got a chance to win a couple more. He’s as good as Byron Buxton, but Buxton’s got all the flash and hype. … C.J. Cron is a steelworker playing first base. He’s a big power guy with a big, long swing. He’s an adequate defender, sort of a Lucas Duda type. He can hit the ball over the fence. ... When he came up, I thought Adeiny Hechavarria was gonna win a Gold Glove or two, he was that good. Now I don’t think he will. He got careless. He’d make careless mistakes and he still makes them, but he can still be a pretty top-shelf defender. Every team would like to have him defensively except the Angels. … Matt Duffy has had a lot of injury problems. They’re easing him back. They think he’s gonna be O.K. … Their best-stocked position is catcher. Wilson Ramos is a good hitter, now that he got his eyes fixed. He’s good receiver. He can throw people out. He should be one of their team leaders. ... Kevin Cash does a very good job running a game and they’ve got a lot of guys that play hard. They’ll win some games they shouldn’t because everyone will play hard and Cash will keep them moving in the right direction. … They’re in huge trouble. Instead of drawing 5,000 a game, they’re gonna draw 2,500 and make even less money. They’re gonna live on revenue sharing. It’s a horrible situation. And it’s by design—that’s the worst part. They chose this route. They chose to be bad.
Toronto Blue Jays
They could be in the wild card hunt, but I could also see them as a 90-loss team and big sellers at the deadline ... This is obviously an older team, transitioning into what exactly? I'm not sure what direction they're going in. As for this year, there's good veteran talent but lots of health issues. I thought they did a good job getting better without spending much money. different, veteran talent but lots of health issues. They weren't sexy, but adding Randall Grichuk and Curtis Granderson were very good moves and they're much better defensively with those two guys to go with a stud defensive centerfielder in Kevin Pillar ... I think we can say now that Troy Tulowitzki will never come back to becoming the player he was. ... Josh Donaldson is an MVP candidate when he's healthy, but given his age and the way this game is trending, he's going to be in for a rude awakening in the market. I see a team giving him a big three year deal but nothing more than that. Those Pujols and Jayson Werth type deals are long gone ... Justin Smoak is a classic case of a guy needing at bats to figure it out. He's figured it out and a legit middle of the order guy now.
Aaron Sanchez is healthy and primed for a good season, but beyond that the rotation is terrifying. Marcus Stroman is a little guy with major torque in his delivery; his shoulder issues are frightening ... They gave up a lot to make their playoff runs a few years ago, and now the lack of depth is going to hurt them. It's going to get worse before it gets better ... The toughest thing is that they play in the AL East. The best case is maybe approaching .500, losing 90 games , if they get off to a bad start, I would entertain moving Donaldson, transition and rebuild.
Chicago White Sox
I think it’s gonna be a rough year for those guys, but they’re headed in the right direction. … They’re gonna need to carry an extra pitcher because the younger guys are still learning how to pitch. … There’s gonna be some growing pains with Yoan Moncada. He’s got a little hand hitch in his swing, which really affects his timing. He’s been really bad on offspeed pitches this spring. Some of that’s timing and some is just seeing major league pitching. It’s gonna take some time for him to make adjustments. He probably starts the year with the major league team, but if he starts to struggle, I could see him going back to Charlotte. Long term he’s still a good prospect, but right now he needs to make some adjustments. … Tim Anderson has big potential. He’s still developing at the major league level. He was always an aggressive early-count swinger. He can hit for average and steal bases, but he needs to work on his strike-zone discipline. He’s got a chance to be a core guy for them. … José Abreu came in in good shape. He’s a consistent 30–home run, 100-RBI guy and he’s fine defensively. He’s definitely become the leader of this team. He doesn’t walk a lot, but that’s partly because he doesn’t have many people hitting around him. Having Avisaíl García hitting behind him helps a little bit. … Eloy Jiménez carries himself like a big leaguer. He’s got presence. He’s got a chance to be really good. He’s big, so there can be a little length to his swing, but he has big-time power. There’s huge upside with this kid. He really just needs to play.
James Shields is gonna be their Opening Day starter, but in reality he’s a fifth starter. He used to have an over-the-top delivery and he changed the arm slot to 3/4 last year. It gave him a little more deception. He used to have a plus-plus fastball and a plus changeup. He just doesn’t have the same stuff. The biggest talk of camp is how he’s taken on the role of mentoring guys like Michael Kopech and Lucas Giolito. He seems to enjoy that role. … Miguel González is a No. 5 starter too. They’re just trying to plug some holes until Kopech and some of the other guys are ready. … I like Reynaldo López. He has potential to be a No. 3 on a good team. He has a big fastball—95 to 99—and a good curveball. … With all the hype around Giolito, you thought you were gonna see a No. 1 or 2, but at best he can be a No. 3. He’s a big kid—6’ 6”, 248—but it’s not a big fastball. He’s gotta learn how to control his body better to throw better strikes. … Carlos Rodon could be a trade piece if he comes back and he’s healthy. … I love Nate Jones. He’s got great stuff. But he’s always hurt. It’s just a matter of, Can he pitch back-to-back days? Is he gonna hold up? He’s been fine in camp, but there’s a history there.
Last year was a disappointing end to a great season. Pound for pound, they were the best team in baseball. I think they're the team to beat in the AL Central again, and I'd throw them right up there with the Astros and Yankees as far as the favorites in the AL. It'll be interesting to see how they handle the loss of Mickey Callaway. He was very instrumental in getting the most out of the pitchers.
I don't think there's a pitcher in baseball who sequences his pitches as well as Corey Kluber. He can get you out multiple ways on multiple sides of the plate. He can run his two-seam fastball off the middle of the plate into a righthanded hitter and can do the same thing on the other side of the plate with his cutter, and it looks like the same pitch up until 10 feet of home plate. … You're starting to see Carlos Carrasco grow into his confidence. This guy has got some of the best stuff in baseball—power fastball, plus slider, plus splitter. He's probably No. 1 on most staffs across the game. … Trevor Bauer's been a hard one for me. He's always had electric stuff. He's like the chef who's constantly tinkering with his recipes. I wouldn't be surprised if he takes another jump this year. He's a mad scientist of sorts with the slow-motion cameras and Driveline and technology. This guy's at the forefront of that in our industry. … Danny Salazar's stuff, you see the electricity of the fastball and slider, the splitter is at times unhittable. But he's already behind in spring training this year. I would not be surprised if he is the guy who goes to the bullpen and fills Bryan Shaw's spot. … Josh Tomlin is one of my favorite guys to watch pitch because he's a true pitcher. He stands out there like he's got the best stuff in baseball. He pitches up with his fastball to set up his curveball. He does a good job of sequencing his pitches. He's a bulldog. … Mike Clevinger is an easy guy to throw into a bullpen role because of the way the delivery works. But if you watch the pitches, this guy is more of a pitcher than you give him credit for. He's got a plus curveball, plus velocity on his fastball. … I've never been a huge fan of Cody Allen, and he's proven me wrong every year. He does a really good job of pitching up in the zone with his fastball that sets up a plus curveball. He's dependable. … Andrew Miller is probably the most valuable reliever in baseball because of his versatility. The trust factor of knowing you have that weapon in the bullpen is huge. His ability to throw his slider for strikes at will is his calling card.
Yonder Alonso is a big name and a hyped prospect. They're banking on him to fill a void, and I don't think they're necessarily going to get a total replacement for Carlos Santana. He's got some home run ability. … I would expect Jason Kipnis to bounce back. He's the type of guy who thrives with a chip on his shoulder, so this'll be a challenge for him, and I expect him to rise to it. It'll be interesting if they stick with Kipnis at second base and if he's a possible everyday leftfielder. … I can't say enough good things about Francisco Lindor. He's one of the more exciting players in the big leagues to watch. I didn't think he'd have the type of home run production he had last year, and it looks like he added some more muscle this year, so I'm excited to see if that increases the power even more. … Jose Ramirez is not only a good hitter in the zone, but also a surprisingly good hitter on bad pitches. He's got tremendous feel for the barrel. He's a tough out, a competitive at-bat. He's surprisingly agile and quick. And he's a plus defender at either second or third base. … A healthy Michael Brantley is probably one of the better leftfielders in all of baseball. The big question mark for me is the health and how that plays out and how the body holds up. I wouldn't be surprised, if Alonso gets off to a bad start, they move Brantley to first base to minimize the amount of running he has to do. … Bradley Zimmer covers so much ground, similar to Dexter Fowler with the long legs and long strides. He's got the instincts to play centerfield and a plus arm. He's got surprisingly huge opposite-field power. When this guy learns to stay up the middle and let his strength play, that's when he's going to start driving the ball to all fields. He has a chance to be an All-Star in center. … Edwin Encarnacion's bat speed is down a tick, but he's done a really good job of becoming a more mature hitter. He did a good job of not expanding the zone as frequently. … Francisco Mejia has elite feel for the barrel. It's very impressive. He's always going to hit. There are a lot of similarities to Gary Sanchez. He has every tool in the world to be a very good catcher. The biggest question for me is does he really want to catch.
Ron Gardenhire brings stability, patience. He’s old school. He’ll teach them, but they’re not going to be good. ... Miguel Cabrera is in better shape. So far, though, just not the same bat speed, not the same thump. I haven’t seen what was always there before. … I think [Nick] Castellanos is going to take a step up. He’s your next big barrel guy there. … You’ll have Victor Martinez back, he was hurt a lot of the year. He still gives you a quality at- bat, he gets you walks. Golly, other than that, it’s tough. … [Jeimer] Candelario is going to be at third. He’s going to be a good player and will surprise some people. He brings some energy to the game. He’s got some pop. He’ll be a solid defender. … [Dixon] Machado is a nice little player. … [Mikie] Mahtook and [Leonys] Martin are in a battle for center. Martin’s a better center fielder. They could put Mahtook in right, too.
I don’t think [Michael] Fulmer is an ace. He’s a nice piece to have, but I don’t think he’s Carlos Martinez. … It was just a bad year for Jordan Zimmermann. He’ll have a nice season. If he’s mechanically off just a little bit, his ball gets flat and he elevates in the zone. He likes to be up in the zone, but if he’s off a bit, then he gets hit. He just got out of whack last year. … Mike Fiers can pitch. I would say Fiers and probably [Matt]Boyd will round out the rotation. … That fifth spot, it’s up for grabs. Could be [Daniel] Norris or [Francisco] Liriano. They recently stretched Alex Wilson out, he threw three innings and 60 pitches. I don’t see any other reason why they would do that unless they’re making him a starter. He’s usually a one or two inning guy. If Wilson moves in the rotation, guys like Liriano, if they’re not hands down better than what you have, you don’t want that contract. They could be thinking, if Wilson works out, we got another piece to trade.
Shane Greene will be the closer I think it’s the right role. Joe Jimenez is probably the closer of the future. I would put him in a set up role. By Golly, the rest of them, it’s like a tryout camp. On a club like this, they’ll pick up guys off waivers
Kansas City Royals
I don't think the near future is bright for them. They're going to have some big holes, and they're going to plug them with utility-type players. Their offense has been putrid out here. It's going to be a long year.
Salvador Perez is a big, durable-framed guy. He's still plenty quick to get rid of the ball with good accuracy. It's probably not the elite level he once was, but he's still one of the better catchers in the game. Offensively, he's looked like he's made a concerted effort to stay on pitches and go the other way. Maybe the batting average isn't going to be real good, but he's going to be an offensive threat. … Lucas Duda on a playoff-caliber team is not really the answer to anybody's hopes or dreams. He's a good platoon-type player you can hit against righthanded pitching more so than an everyday capacity. … Whit Merrifield has a very simple setup and approach at the plate. He uses all fields. He's got good bat speed and knows what he's doing in the box. The glove is okay, it's serviceable at second base. The value is in the bat. He seems like a complete hitter. … The shortstop defense alone takes Alcides Escobar into an everyday player. He's done nothing with the bat, though. … Mike Moustakas has average range and average hands at third base with a plus arm. The presence he gives to their team is not something to discount. He's a good average hitter with plus home run production, aggressive at the plate and doesn't walk much. The power is real, and I see him being a threat in the lineup. … Jon Jay is Steady Eddie in centerfield. He's not a plus runner, but the instincts make up for it. … Jorge Soler is a teaser-type talent. He's got all sorts of tools that you like, but it never really comes together for him. … It looked like there was a lot of guess-hitting during Alex Gordon's at-bats, where he was late to velocity. It looked like he was sitting on certain pitches, hoping to guess right. There's not much to get excited about on the offensive side. Not a lot of quickness there.
Danny Duffy was sharp in his outing out here. He threw four pitches, curveball was average, slider had late depth, his changeup was the best pitch he had. The concern for me is he's never given you close to 200 innings, and you're asking him to take on a higher workload if he's gonna be the front of the rotation. … Ian Kennedy is going to rely on his command. The stuff is just okay. He's going to get hit if he makes mistakes in the middle of the zone. He's probably a good fifth starter, okay fourth starter in a decent rotation. … Jason Hammel, you can pretty much carbon copy what I said about Kennedy. He's going to live and die with how he can sink the ball. … Jake Junis is a generic righthanded starter, almost a revolving door No. 5 starter that every team has. … Kelvin Herrera's velocity right now is 96–99, so the arm strength is back. It looked like he was working on his curveball a little more out here, which gives him something softer. Everything he throws is hard and firm, so if he can incorporate the curveball, just to show the hitter something soft, that'll be a weapon for him. ... Their bullpen is full of arms you'd like to have in Triple A as insurance. There's not anybody there who makes me go, "This guy is going to be a good setup guy." They don't really have any solid depth to their 'pen whatsoever.
Last year was a bit of a magical year for them. ... Lance Lynn was a great signing. He's a bit underrated, but he gets the job done. They really needed him to could compete for a wild card. Jake Odorizzi really helps upgrade the rotation. Those are two good arms there. Jose Berrios could rise to be a legit No. 2 starter and be really good. Something clicked for him. I saw him before the WBC pitch last year, and he was really bad down here. What he did in the WBC really lifted his confidence. ... Kyle Gibson has kind of struggled with arm injuries; his arm strength is back, and he could be a little bit of a surprise... In the bullpen, they did a nice job signing Addison Reed and Fernando Rodney. Rodney is still throwing 92, 93 and has the swing-and-miss change up. If he does falter, Reed could step in and take up a lot of slack.
Logan Morrison was a really good singing; it gets Joe Mauer off his feet, the two of them can split DH and 1B, and it will be good for both guys - they can get good production from both guys.... I would be concerned with Miguel Sano. He was dealing with stuff off the field, and now coming off the injury, he looks like Mo Vaughn at the end of his career playing at first base. His a-- looks huge. He's not moving well at first base. Maybe he's got sh-t going on in his head, but he just physically doesn't look good at all ... It will be a good defensive outfield, Byron Buxton has impact defensive ability, and now he's showing you flashes of impactful offensive ability. You started hearing Willie Mays comparisons last season, and you know what? They weren’t totally crazy: He’s got every tool out there, and he’s putting it all together. He and Billy Hamilton need to have a footrace to see who’s the fastest guy in the game.
A lot of guys had career years last season—but to think there's a drop-off coming is delusional. The scary thing? You go down the roster, and there are guys who will be better this year ... Alex Bregman broke out in the second half, and hitting in front of guys like Carlos Correa, he's going to get a ton of fastballs to feast on ... George Springer continued to improve in hitting for contact and started to hit for more power. You add the defense he brings, he's an MVP candidate. ... Catcher is an area they will need to address: Brian McCann is trending downward—the days of him starting 100 games are over—and backup Max Stassi is not an answer. ... Jose Altuve is just flat out good, so he’s fine. But I can’t see them falling off. Springer made adjustments to make himself better. He still struck out a lot, but dynamic defense. And they’ve got enough guys where they can move pieces like Josh Reddick, Derek Fisher and Jake Marisnick.
The rotation will be better with a full season from Justin Verlander. He logged a lot of postseason innings, but he looked better than ever this spring. He'll pick up where he left off. ... I think Dallas Keuchel scuffed a bit with his shoulder. But with the addition of Verlander and Cole, it’s going to make Keuchel better. He might be healthy, and less pressure on him. ... They're getting the Gerrit Cole who struggled last year. The velocity is there, but there's clearly some flaw in there that's getting him to elevate the ball, and the move to the AL won't help matters. ... Don't read too much into the bullpen's postseason struggles. Ken Giles was dominant in the second half, and that means more than a few bad playoff outings. ... They're just so deep, with plenty of pieces they can move at the deadline if they need to.
Los Angeles Angels
Shohei Ohtani is interesting. He’s everything that has been advertised. He’s one of the cleanest pitchers that you’ll ever see. The delivery is perfect, his rhythm is impeccable and the ball comes out of the same spot every time. When he leaves the mound in this start, he throws the ball against the wall and then goes back out. ... I know how hard it is to be ready every day, I know those cats are in shape in Japan because of how much harder they train than we do in spring, but this is another level and another league, and I think that’s where he’s going to suffer a little bit with the bat. … I tip my hat to Billy Eppler because he’s not scared to make a move and he didn’t fill the roster with bottom feeders. They had a problem at second, so they got Ian Kinsler. Luis Valbuena was ok over there last year, but they went and got a better everyday guy in Zack Cozart. ... Justin Upton would have been out of his mind tearing up his contract, and he made a sound decision to stay.
They’re going with a six-man rotation and every guy is healthy. Tyler Skaggs and Andrew Heaney are two lefties that have been talked about will get their opportunity. When Garrett Richards is healthy, his stuff is nasty and filthy of anybody’s in the league. They’ll have enough starting pitching. … Why not go sign Greg Holland? Cam Bedrosian and Blake Parker are fine relievers but unproven. … Albert Pujols needs to get on whatever Bartolo Colon is on. He looks lean through the neck and the head and his pants are a little baggy. They didn’t pay him to run, they paid him to hit homers and the ball isn’t jumping off his bat. … Some nights I can’t watch baseball because it’s strikeout, walk, homer. Guys are swinging from their ass instead of going the other way. Mike Scioscia makes people play differently and understands how to play the game. I hope he’s there for the next 15 years because he’s a dying breed. … I think they have a chance to get to the playoffs. If Houston should falter for some reason I could see the Angels challenging them.
The expectation level was pretty high coming into spring because of the early success that Matt Olson and Matt Chapman had last year. They talk about these core kids that have been together for so long. Bruce Maxwell, Chapman, Olson, Chad Pinder, Marcus Semien, who hit 25 homers last year. They're getting confident as the core grows. ... Getting Stephen Piscotty from St. Louis was a good signing to continue building their foundation. … One of the big questions is who is going to play centerfield. Two of the guys people were excited were Jorge Mateo and Dustin Fowler. Fowler injured his knee last year but it doesn’t look like he has a gimp or a limp. If he’s their everyday CF, offensively they have to be excited.
The starting pitching is the big concern. They have a bunch of kids that are trying to prove their in the bigs. It’ll be hard for Kendall Graveman to lose the No. 1 job, Sean Manaea is a strong lefty, but he’s inconsistent. After that, it’s a bunch of no-name guys trying to fill out a rotation. Yusmeiro Petit is going to rack up as many innings as the starters. … Franklin Barreto can really rake. Jed Lowrie had a great year and can contribute to a winning team, but if they struggle they should play Barreto. … We knew [Matt] Olson was strong. When you look at him the swing is unorthodox. He’s so strong in his forearms and wrists that he can flick it through the zone so quickly. … They were talking about putting the C on Matt Chapman’s chest. He’s everything the organization wants to represent what they’re all about. There is still some work with the bat, but he’s in that group of elite defensive third baseman. ... Blake Treinen came to a calmer atmosphere from Washington and he pitched better. I don’t know how many opportunities he’s going to get to close, but there's reason to be hopeful. Liam Hendriks is a power arm who will be good for that bullpen. Santiago Casilla will be the sacrificial lamb when they're getting blown out and there will be times they’ll need somebody to take one for the team.
If you’re .500 you’d think it was a great year because you’re seeing progress. In order for that to happen there needs to be maturation within the starting rotation. I can’t see them being much better than Texas. They won’t tell you that’s the goal, but not to finish in the cellar would be big for them.
Offensively, it’s hard to get better for them. Their goal in the offseason was to get a little more athletic, [GM Jerry] DiPoto has been putting his stamp on the way he likes to do things, but they need to get better production out of leftfield. Mitch Haniger has a chance to be really good if he’s healthy. Ben Gamel had a really good year but had no power 11 HRs at tops for him. I really like Guillermo Heredia now that he’s healthy. He can hit. … To me everything goes around Felix Hernandez. He didn’t do well last year, the one thing he didn’t do so well last year is that he lost his velocity. He can command his stuff and work both sides, but he seemed to lose that last year and he needs it back. … James Paxton is a true ace. If he’s healthy, he’s a Cy Young-quality lefty, but he’s struggled a bit down here in spring. If he wants to be an ace, you want to see some consistency. … After Felix and Paxton, the rotation is a question. Marco Gonzales from has been really good down in spring training, he’s a soft-tossing lefty who can really pitch. If there are any concerns there the bullpen is solid because they’ve got some flamethrowers down there.
Robinson Cano is always going to hit, I’m not crazy about the way he plays the game, but his swing is so smooth and he makes the game look so easy. ... Nelson Cruz is one of my favorite righthanded hitters in baseball. He's got a classic swing. I've always loved him and you never have to worry about him. ... Dee Gordon brings a whole new element to the top of the lineup. He’ll do fine on the adjustment to centerfield because of his athleticism and he’s got a pretty good arm out there. … Mike Zunino is a real solid receiver and hits for power. He’s come a long way after almost getting cut. … Jean Segura used to be one of my favorite players with the Angels system because he used to play recklessly. Ever since he’s been around Cano he’s been cool like Cano. I’m not big on cool players, but they’re a good combo … I’ll give you two words why Scott Servais is the manager: Jerry Dipoto. If they don’t make the playoffs, heads will roll, but the front office will give Servais every opportunity to fail. … They absolutely need to make the playoffs. It’ll be a dogfight between them and the Angels, I’d give L.A. the edge starting pitching wise.
They’re so one-dimensional offensively. It’s the era of launch angle and exit velocity and everyone in that lineup is going up there looking to do damage except Delino DeShields. … If they’re going to compete, they need Adrian Beltre. He’s the warden over there. … Elvis Andrus is finally turning the corner. I’d love to see him be more consistent and play a little meaner. … Nomar Mazara could be the second coming of Carlos Delgado. It’s his turn to figure the league out, he’s one of the best hitters I saw anywhere last year … I guess Rougned Odor already walked four times in spring training and I don’t think he walked four times all last year. It’s all about his thought process with him. He just needs to swing at strikes, they shouldn’t change his disposition that he’s the baddest cat on the planet. But when you say one-dimensional, put Odor’s picture up there. … Joey Gallo is the poster child for this new era. He’s got the best power in the game but he racks up 200 Ks. With pitching declining in terms of guys being able to attack in quadrants, there are guys that throw and make lots of mistakes, and Gallo will punish those mistakes.
Isn’t it amazing how we always looking at the starting rotation? If you look at Texas, it’s Cole Hamels and what else do we have? Doug Fister? Matt Moore, who really struggled in a pitcher’s ballpark? It won’t surprise me if you end up seeing Tim Lincecum in the rotation. … When Moore loses, it he just can’t find it. It’s too bad because he’s such a tease when he’s on. He’ll have to figure it out in Texas quickly because the ball will be flying out of the yard. … Jeff Banister inherited a pretty good situation, but a guy like Ron Washington is missing. He was a father to a lot of those guy and made anybody feel like they could get better. … They’re going to battling Oakland for cellar. I’m not high on that them at all.