Arizona is already suffering from the loss of one of its top players, with the news that A.J. Pollock will miss at least three months of the season with a broken elbow and could be lost for the entire year. Pollock’s combination of defense and offense is incredibly difficult to replace and illustrative of the Diamondbacks’ razor thin margin for error. Arizona made some splashy additions this off-season, but the team’s roster is not deep beyond its stars. Underperformance from those front-line players or serious injuries will destroy any World Series hopes for the Diamondbacks.
2 of 30Harry How/Getty Images
Atlanta Braves: Too much youth
Atlanta’s rebuilding effort has amassed an impressive collection of prospects and young talent, particularly former No. 1 pick Dansby Swanson. But as part of that strategy, the Braves have more or less passed on fielding a major league team for 2016, opting instead to fill the roster with past-their-prime veterans and career minor leaguers. Atlanta’s focus never was on this season; instead, it’s on getting that group of youngsters ready for 2017 and beyond.
3 of 30Rob Carr/Getty Images
Baltimore Orioles: Not enough pitching
There’s no question that the Orioles’ lineup can hit, especially for power. There’s also no question that Baltimore’s rotation will be giving up plenty of hits of its own. The starting five of Ubaldo Jimenez, Chris Tillman, Yovani Gallardo, Vance Worley and Mike Wright (for now) is a group without an ace, and one likely to struggle to give the O’s consistent innings. Worse, that quintet will tax the Orioles’ bullpen, creating a chain reaction where tired relievers fail to hold onto the rare leads they’re given. Without reinforcements, the Orioles’ rotation is likely to be the weakest link in Baltimore’s title hopes.
4 of 30Michael Ivins/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images
Boston Red Sox: No support for David Price
Last year’s Red Sox rotation was one of baseball’s worst, with Clay Buchholz, Rick Porcello, Joe Kelly and company routinely putting Boston in early holes that the lineup couldn’t overcome. David Price gives the Red Sox the No. 1 they were missing all last year, but the team made no other rotation additions, instead hoping that the aforementioned Buchholz/Porcello/Kelly group could bounce back. That’s a risky bet, and if it doesn’t pay off, it’s hard to see Boston going very far, even with Price.
5 of 30Jim Mone/AP
Chicago White Sox: The middle infield
Chicago got next to nothing from its middle infield last year: Collectively, White Sox shortstops posted a meager .631 OPS, and their second basemen were the worst in the league with a .580 mark. It’d be impossible not to improve on those numbers, but Jimmy Rollins and Brett Lawrie aren’t good bets to do anything more than be average. The White Sox need more from those positions to be true contenders.
6 of 30Jeff Haynes
Chicago Cubs: Baseball’s toughest division
Reminder: Last year’s Cubs team, arguably the best the franchise has fielded in a decade, still finished third in the NL Central (albeit with 97 wins). There’s little reason to bet against this year’s Cubs, who spent the off-season bolstering a roster that reached the NLCS, but Chicago’s road back to the postseason won’t be easy thanks to the presence of the Cardinals and Pirates in their division. That three-way fight can have only one winner, and should the Cubs fall short, they’ll once again have to try their luck in the one-game wild-card playoff, where anything can and does happen.
7 of 30Gary Landers/AP
Cincinnati Reds: Rebuild in full effect
Another NL team that decided to punt on 2016 in hopes of future contention, the Reds don’t have a chance at a title unless the rest of the NL Central up and vanishes. Not that Cincinnati doesn’t have some good pieces already in place, particularly with Eugenio Suarez at third base, Devin Mesoraco behind the plate and Joey Votto at first base, as well as Raisel Igelsias in the rotation. But the Reds have no plans to make a World Series run this season, and it shows in the roster construction.
8 of 30Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire
Cleveland Indians: Not enough offense
Cleveland has three ace-level starters atop the rotation in Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar, but the lineup can’t boast that same depth. Michael Brantley is a legitimate MVP candidate, but he’ll be starting the year late due to off-season shoulder surgery. Francisco Lindor came close to the AL Rookie of the Year award last year and should hit, but beyond him, the Indians need bounceback seasons from a number of veterans, particularly Mike Napoli and Carlos Santana. And that still may not be enough to make up for an outfield that, beyond Brantley, is one of the game’s weakest offensively.
9 of 30Ross D. Franklin/AP
Colorado Rockies: Pitching as always
Offense will never be a problem for the Rockies, who have Carlos Gonzalez and Nolan Arenado and rookie slugging shortstop Trevor Story in a dangerous lineup. But the pitching seems like the annual reason to bet against Colorado finishing above .500, much less contending. There are some intriguing young pitchers in the Rockies’ system: Chad Bettis, Jon Gray, Eddie Butler, Tyler Matzek. But those hurlers must first conquer the pitcher-shredding gauntlet that is Coors Field, and the odds are heavily against them.
10 of 30Leon Halip/Getty Images
Detroit Tigers: Age
Miguel Cabrera is 33. Ian Kinsler is 34. Victor Martinez is 37. Justin Verlander is 33. Those are four key players for Detroit, and all four are well past 30 years old—and in the case of Cabrera and Martinez, increasingly injury prone. The likes of Justin Upton and J.D. Martinez, both 28, should help keep the Tigers’ offense afloat even as its veterans decline, but Detroit needs a youth infusion to have a realistic World Series shot.
11 of 30Wilfredo Lee/AP
Miami Marlins: Too much competition in the NL East
Pity the Marlins, who would be a dark-horse playoff contender if not for the fact that they’re the third-best team in a two-team division. With the Mets and Nationals both ahead of them in the NL East, Miami’s best hope for the postseason is the wild card—something complicated by the fact that the NL Central and West have five playoff-caliber teams between them. Of course, that assumes that Jose Fernandez and Giancarlo Stanton can stay healthy long enough to keep the Marlins above .500—or that owner Jeffrey Loria doesn’t blow the team up before the All-Star break.
12 of 30John Raoux/AP
Houston Astros: Pitching depth
Any rotation that starts with defending AL Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel can’t be bad. Houston’s problem is that there isn’t much in the starting five beyond the bearded lefty. Collin McHugh, Scott Feldman, Mike Fiers and Doug Fister is far from an imposing quartet, and even with impressive sophomore Lance McCullers replacing one of those four when he’s back from a shoulder strain, the weight will fall on Keuchel to be an ace each and every time out; if he can’t, then the Astros’ playoff hopes will be sunk.
13 of 30Orlin Wagner/AP
Kansas City Royals: Starting rotation
Yes, the Royals won the World Series last year despite a starting rotation that gave the team a miserable 4.34 ERA and just 5 ⅔ innings per start. Kansas City’s terrific young offense and even better bullpen saved the day last season, but can they do it again this year? They’ll have to; the Royals made no notable additions to that rotation, replacing Johnny Cueto with Ian Kennedy (4.28 ERA in 2015) and putting their faith in the likes of Chris Young and Kris Medlen. The last two years have shown that it’s folly to pick against the Royals, but a rotation that weak makes a second straight title feel like a fool’s bet.
14 of 30Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
Los Angeles Angels: Mike Trout can’t play every position
Trout is the best player in baseball, but he’s only one man. He can’t fill Los Angeles’ holes in leftfield or at second base or behind the plate, and he can’t provide the back-of-the-rotation help the Angels need to keep pace with the Astros and Rangers in the AL West. Trout gives Los Angeles a terrific headstart, but the Angels don’t have the tools to capitalize on that.
15 of 30Ross D. Franklin/AP
Los Angeles Dodgers: Starting rotation holes
Clayton Kershaw is still the best pitcher on earth, but the Dodgers are putting their trust in a motley collection of injury-prone and untested arms behind him. Already, Los Angeles has lost Brett Anderson for the first half of the season, and the team’s fifth starter spot is more or less an open audition. The Dodgers have super prospect Julio Urias working his way to the majors and will get Anderson and Brandon McCarthy back eventually, but until then, they need the likes of Scott Kazmir and Kenta Maeda to ward off injury and stay productive—a big risk that may blow up in their face.
16 of 30Jeff Chiu/AP
Milwaukee Brewers: Trades over titles
Despite an extensive off-season teardown, there are still some solid veteran pieces on the Brewers: Ryan Braun, Jonathan Lucroy, Aaron Hill. But they won’t be around for long if general manager David Stearns has anything to do about it. Milwaukee’s veterans will be Brewers only until another team comes calling, at which point they’ll be dealt for more pieces to continue Milwaukee’s rebuild. A 2016 World Series simply isn’t part of the Brewers’ plan, and neither are the experienced players who could make that happen.
17 of 30Patrick Semansky/AP
Minnesota Twins: Rotation
Last year, Minnesota made a surprise playoff run, only to be done in by a rotation that posted a dismal 4.14 ERA and struck out just 654 batters, the second-lowest mark in the AL. Expect that to be the case again this year, as the Twins’ starting options run from the thoroughly uninspiring (Ervin Santana, Phil Hughes) to the downright depressing (Ricky Nolasco).
18 of 30Colin E. Braley/AP
New York Mets: Offensive defense
The Mets have arguably the game’s best rotation and a lineup that’s above average. But where New York falls flat is in the field, with subpar defense around the diamond. That’s particularly true up the middle, with Asdrubal Cabrera as a lackluster option at shortstop and with Yoenis Cespedes playing out of position in centerfield. That weak defense could end up undermining that fantastic rotation, too: Balls that get put in play against the Mets are more likely than not to find grass instead of a glove.
19 of 30Frank Franklin II/AP
New York Yankees: Age
Only two Yankees in the starting lineup, Starlin Castro and Didi Gregorius, are under 30 years old, and three regulars are 36 or older: Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran and Alex Rodriguez. Those hitters can still produce, but their advanced age makes it less likely that they will make it through a full season intact and productive. The Yankees can’t afford poor performances or long stretches of injury for its older hitters.
20 of 30Ben Margot/AP
Oakland Athletics: Too many question marks
As always, the A’s have built a team that could be special if every low-cost risk and small free-agent gamble pays off in big fashion. But Oakland won just 68 games last year with a similar approach, and this year’s team doesn’t inspire much additional hope. A limited payroll will always force Billy Beane and company to try to win on the margins, and in a tough division, the A’s simply don’t have enough stability or superstars to compete.
21 of 30Chris Szagola/AP
Philadelphia Phillies: Not enough talent—by design
Like the Braves, the Phillies aren’t focusing on 2016. Last season’s rebuild continued into the off-season, with the team ditching closer Ken Giles and committing to a from-the-ground-up restructure. As a result, the Phillies have some intriguing young names, but they’re not ready to lead a contention effort, and that’s certainly true of the roster’s uninspiring combo of washed-up veterans and minor league-level fill-ins.
22 of 30Leon Halip/Getty Images
Pittsburgh Pirates: Rotation question marks
At some point, Ray Searage’s magic will stop working. The Pirates’ pitching coach has salvaged the careers of virtually every broken down pitcher who has come to Pittsburgh, but this year’s rotation may be too tough a fix. Gerrit Cole is an ace, and Francisco Liriano is as solid a No. 2 as they get, but the rest of that group—Jon Niese, Juan Nicasio and Jeff Locke—is a shaky and uninspiring trio. Top prospects Tyler Glasnow and Jameson Taillon could make a second-half impact, but until they do, Searage will have to keep the back half of the rotation producing above expectations.
23 of 30Lenny Ignelzi/AP
San Diego Padres: Too many roster holes
Consider this year’s Padres to be a lesson in what happens when you roster build on the fly: If things don’t go right, you’re suddenly left with a lot of spare parts that don’t fit together. The infield is a hastily assembled mess with a third baseman (Yangervis Solarte) who can’t field and a first baseman (Wil Myers) who is an outfielder by trade. Rightfielder Matt Kemp has seen his skills erode with injury; leftfield belongs to the perennially disappointing Melvin Upton. Then there’s the rotation, which is filled out by untested rookies. San Diego simply doesn’t have enough above-average players to build a contending roster yet.
24 of 30Eric Risberg/AP
San Francisco Giants: Not enough help for Bumgarner
Like their rivals in Los Angeles, the Giants are blessed with one of baseball’s best pitchers—and stuck with a rotation that doesn’t match him. Madison Bumgarner gives San Francisco a qualified ace atop the starting five, but the rest of the group is questionable at best. Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija both struggled through rough 2015 seasons, and whether either of Matt Cain or Jake Peavy can make it through an entire year healthy and effective is anyone’s guess. The Giants’ lineup is strong enough to make up for the occasional disaster start, but at least three of those four non-Bumgarner pitchers need to be league average or better for this even year to end with a title.
25 of 30Ted S. Warren/AP
Seattle Mariners: Too shaky a bullpen
New Seattle general manager Jerry Dipoto has done everything he can to turn over a Mariners roster that disappointed last season, mostly by reworking the lineup and adding some starters to the rotation. But the bullpen remains a sore spot. The closer, Steve Cishek, is coming off a season in which he lost that same job in Miami and struggled with St. Louis. Lead setup men Joel Peralta and Joaquin Benoit are 40 and 38 years old, respectively. Tony Zych and Nick Vincent have upside, but there’s no sure thing in Seattle, which will make for some unpleasant late innings and keep the Mariners from their first ever World Series title.
26 of 30David Banks/Getty Images
St. Louis Cardinals: Uneven lineup
Betting against the Cardinals to miss the playoffs is like betting against the sun to rise. But in baseball’s toughest division, St. Louis needs to be borderline perfect, and its lineup may not be up to the task. The Cardinals have a hole at shortstop and could use some help at first base, and the team as a whole is susceptible to lefthanders. Veterans like Matt Holliday and Yadier Molina, meanwhile, look to be on their last legs. The Cardinals will still win and will contend, but it’s hard to see St. Louis having enough offense to out-hit its opposition.
27 of 30Nick Wass/AP
Tampa Bay Rays: Too weak an offense
Few teams can boast a rotation with as much potential as Tampa’s, but the Rays’ lineup doesn’t inspire much envy. Low in power and lacking upside, Tampa managed just three runs per game last year, and with the Rays failing to make any major off-season additions to the starting nine beyond Corey Dickerson, don’t expect that number to tick up much higher. Expect lots of low-scoring baseball in Tampa this year, and expect the Rays to be on the short side of that ledger more often than not.
28 of 30Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
Texas Rangers: Bullpen
Texas’ bullpen ERA of 4.12 last season was 24th in baseball, and the unit as a whole was below average in strikeouts and walks. But the Rangers opted not to add to that group this off-season despite its underwhelming performance. Instead, Jeff Banister will continue to entrust leads to Shawn Tolleson, Sam Dyson, Jake Diekman and Keone Kela—not the worst group in the majors, but certainly not one that should fill Rangers fans with much confidence.
29 of 30Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images
Toronto Blue Jays: Starting rotation depth
Last year, the Blue Jays had David Price to help them snap a 22-year postseason drought and get to within two wins of the World Series. This season, Price is gone, and in his place, Toronto will have to rely on a rotation without a guaranteed ace. Marcus Stroman has the stuff, but at 25 and with little big-league experience, he may not be ready to lead the rotation. The rest of the starting five, meanwhile, lacks upside (R.A. Dickey) and consistency (J.A. Happ, Marco Estrada and second-year player Aaron Sanchez).
30 of 30Lynne Sladky/AP
Washington Nationals: Not enough youth
It feels weird to suggest that a team led by 22-year-old Bryce Harper is long in the tooth, but beyond the reigning NL MVP and third baseman Anthony Rendon, the Nationals are lacking in youth. Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman and Daniel Murphy are all on the wrong side of 30 (and the first two are decidedly injury prone), and the team is counting on all three to be integral parts of a lineup that produced in fits and starts last season, even with Harper. If that trio can’t turn back time and produce, Washington will have a hard time finding its way into the playoffs.
You May Like
Sign Up for our Newsletter
Don't get stuck on the sidelines! Sign up to get exclusives, daily highlights, analysis and more—delivered right to your inbox!