2017 Deep Fried Bets Baseball Preview
Welcome baseball fans to the 2017 Deep Fried Bets MLB season preview! This is your one stop shop for all of your baseball needs for the upcoming season. Over the past few weeks I’ve been hard at work coming up with 2017 team projections, taking a look at each player expected to contribute in 2017 for each team in the majors, and ranking each facet of the game by league. In the end, I came up with a total team score for each major league team. We’re going to give you a team by team preview, with a new team each day. On top of my projections and predictions, we’re going to be getting insight from reporters for each major league club for some insight from the guys who know each team best!
As I mentioned above, I’ve focused on every single player that’s expected to make an impact in 2017 to try and get an overall team score for each major league club. I’m not quite ready to give away my winning formula yet, but I can tell you that I’ve focused on projected lineups, projected benches, projected starting rotations, projected bullpens, defenses and managers. I end with an average offensive score, average defensive score, average pitching score, and a manager score which inclusively gives me my team total. This is probably the most work I’ve ever put into anything at DFB so hopefully all this hard work pays off and we’ll have a great team by team preview for 2017!
We’ll also take a look at the win totals for each team for the year and see if I think they’ll fall on the over or under side of that. We’ll use these numbers from Sports Insight to do the projections: https://www.sportsinsights.com/blog/2017-mlb-win-totals/.
I’m going to go in reverse order of standings of each division and do a different team each day. Then at the end of each division I’ll give you my final standings for 2017 for that division. At the end of it all, I’ll give you my playoff teams and World Champion!
I know that there are still a few guys that could move before Opening Day, but I feel right now as of writing this for the most part these are the teams you’re going to see!
Next up, we've got the New York Yankees!
New York Yankees
2016 84-78 (4th Place AL East)
We’re back from our hiatus to preview the New York Yankees. We’ll be joined shortly by Christian Kouroupakis from Elite Sports NY to get his take on the 2017 Bronx Bombers.
The Yankees did a whole hell of a lot to improve their farm system in 2016, but still finished with a winning record. They’ll rely on more youth in 2017, but that might not be such a bad thing.
Gary Sanchez was the breakout star in 2016 and he figures to be a huge factor in the Yankees offense in 2017 as well. Even with Sanchez though, my projections don’t love the Yankees offense in 2017 as I’ve currently got them 13th in the American League. I’ve got their projected lineup as my 14th overall but their bench helps them out a little as I have them as my 9th ranked unit. These could be dead wrong though if Sanchez continues to produce like he did last year and some of the other younger guys come up and make a huge impact.
The Yankees re-signed Aroldis Chapman this offseason to add to a bullpen that will continue to be great in 2017. I’ve got their bullpen as my 7th ranked unit in the AL; that may sound a little low, but the AL is stacked when it comes to relief pitching.
My projections may be a little higher on the Yanks rotation than most as I’ve currently got them as my 8th best unit headed into 2017. All in all, the Yankees pitching staff checks in as my 6th best squad in the AL.
The defense projects to be a little below league average in New York this year as they are my 10th rated defense headed into the season. However, World Series winning manager Joe Girardi will help the Yankees final score out a bit.
Let’s check in with Christian Kouroupakis to see how confident he is about the 2017 Yankees.
What are the Yankees expectations for Greg Bird and Aaron Judge this year?
"Usually, expectations are high with this organization, but this is a different kind of year for the Yankees. With Greg Bird, the brass is first looking to see if he can make it to opening day healthy. That comes first. Now, he’s off to a great start in spring training and that rust we saw in the Arizona Fall League (.215 BA, 1 HR, 17 G) has died down and we’re getting a peek at the Greg Bird we saw back in 2015. If he’s healthy, the expectation is that he’d bring a power presence back to the first base position. In 2016, Yankee first basemen hit just .222 (third-worst in MLB), hit 23 home runs (seventh-worst in MLB), maintained an OPS of .659 (second-worst in MLB) and sported a -1.4 WAR (third-worst in MLB). Bird, who was on a 38-homer pace in 2015, will certainly bump the Yanks up in those rankings if he’s healthy."
"With Aaron Judge, they expect him to drop the hammer and help the Yankees become the “Bronx Bombers” again. Since 2000, the Yankees have hit over 200 total home runs in 13 seasons. In all 13 of these seasons, the Yankees clinched the postseason. In the four sub-200 home run seasons (’08, ’13, ’14 and ’16), they did not. 2016 marked just the third year since 2009 that no Yankee reached the 30 home run plateau. The other seasons? 2014 and 2013. What do all three years have in common? The Yankees did not reach the playoffs. It’s how they’ve done it for years: hit bombs, pop champagne. ZiPS is calling for 30 home runs and 83 RBIs which would not only have led the 2016 team, but that home run total would make Judge the first Yankees’ right fielder to hit 30 or more since Gary Sheffield hit 34 dingers in 2005 (Yankees record: 95-67). The player to do it before Sheffield? Reggie Jackson back in 1980 (Yankees record: 103-59). Sorry to bore you with power outage stat, but overall the Yankees are expecting adjustments to be made, a lot of strikeouts and a whole lot of power -- something that they desperately need."
The bullpen looks to be really strong again this season; how do you think the rotation will stack up?
"People don’t like that they don’t know, and the uncertainty of the rotation is what people are scared of. It has the potential to be great, but also the potential to be the reason why the Yankees don’t reach the ALDS for the first time since 2012. I love Severino (if his changeup is here to stay, expect big things from this kid) and Cessa to grab those last two spots in the rotation, but don’t expect the starting five out of the gate to remain together for the entirety of the season. Remember, the 2016 team had 22 starts made by guys who weren’t on the roster to begin the year. But how will it stack up? Man, who knows? I see it being similar to last year: Solid year by Tanaka, a respectable performance by CC, the same-old Michael Pineda and youngsters filling the void. Just expect a lot of guys to be rotated in and out of the rotation until some stability is found."
- How soon, if at all, do you expect to see guys like Torres and Frazier in the Bronx?
"Torres will start in Double-A, but his AFL MVP performance, IQ and Spring Training showcase had Brian Cashman say that call-ups from Trenton to the Bronx aren’t far-fetched. I’d put my money on 2018, but injuries happen and if Gleyber Torres is obliterating Double-A ball like he’s clearly capable of doing, then don’t be shocked to see his major league debut in 2017."
"Clint Frazier has an MLB ETA of 2017, but the Yankees, like they wanted from Aaron Judge, want to see Red Thunder tear Triple-A apart before his major league promotion. He’s got the raw talent, bat speed and personality the fan base is drooling over, but his .228/.278/.396 slash line with a 29.7 strikeout percentage in 25 games with the RailRiders a year ago hints that we’re still waiting for it to come together. If is toolset translates to results, you’ll see his debut in 2017."
Are there any veterans in your eyes that the Yankees could move for a few more younger pieces?
"It depends on where the Yankees sit at the trade deadline. If Holliday is tearing it up and the Yankees are in fourth place, why not cash in on it? Same for Carter, Gardner and Headley. The latter two have been swirled around rumors for what seems like ages and Carter’s 3.5 million would be picked up EASILY by a contender."
In the end, do you see the Yanks as serious contenders in 2017 or still a year or two away?
"No one should take the Yankees as serious contenders in 2017. Sorry, but their 6-1 start to spring training doesn’t change that. But, they have the potential to shock the baseball world just like they did during the second half last year. The team that traded away their best hitter and two best relievers went 32-26 including a near-perfect August that brought them from within one game of a postseason spot. They added Chapman back, will get Bird back, Sanchez for a full season and other small components that could lead to a successful season. The fact that Cashman put together a team with immense upside should be commended, but Yankees’ fans have to take 2017 for what it is: assessing young talent. They CAN win, but patience is key. You’re going to see some growing pains."
I tend to agree with Christian that the Yankees won’t be a threat to win the American League in 2017. I have them rated as my 10th overall club in the AL headed into the season.
Vegas has New York’s win total at 83.5. Last year, the 10th place team in the American League had an 81-81 record. I think something like that is pretty close to where the Yankees will finish this year, so I have them going under 83.5 wins this season.
I think New York will actually finish a few wins under that 81-81 mark I mentioned above. I’ve got the Yankees finishing with a 78-84 record. I think they’ll try and move a few more guys midseason as they start looking forward to next year and beyond.
Tampa Bay Rays
2016 Record 68-94 (5th AL East)
Tonight we’re taking a trip to Tampa to see how the Rays look for the 2017 season, and we’ll be joined shortly by Danny Russell from D Rays Bay to get his take on this year's Rays.
The 2017 Rays should look somewhat similar to the 2016 Rays, although they did lose key contributers in Logan Forsythe and Drew Smyly. However, I think they’ll fare a little better on the diamond than they did in 2016.
The pitching staff should bounce back a bit this year. I currently have them rated as my 8th best staff in the American League. I’ve actually got their rotation as my 5th best coming into 2017, however their bullpen grades out as my 12th rated unit. I think with big years from some of their younger guys, such as Blake Snell, they could jump up even higher than 8th.
When it comes to the plate, I have the Rays as my 12th overall squad in the AL. Being as how these are the Rays we’re talking about, I’m sure they will out-do those projections at the plate. As far as projected lineup, I’ve got them ranked last, but their bench is actually my top rated unit in the American League so that brings them up a notch overall.
When it comes to defense, my system loves the Rays, and I’ve got them rated as my top defense in the league. Pitching and defense will again be key in Tampa Bay. It will be interesting to see if they have enough to keep up.
Let’s check in with Danny Russell to see how he thinks 2017 will play out.
- What do you expect out of the pitching staff in 2017? Do you see a big bounce back year out of Chris Archer?
"Wins and Losses are one of the last metrics I use to evaluate a player, so I don't believe much of a bounceback will be needed. His strikeout and walk rates were right where you wanted them last season, and he really settled down in the second half with a mere 5% walk rate and 3.29 FIP. Archer was plagued by some longballs in a very uncharacteristic way in 2016 that I believe can be sorted out through some better sequencing."
- Who are some rookies and younger guys the Rays are really counting on in 2017?
"The roster has fairly experienced players this year, but the Rays have serious talent in the minors that has finally pushed its way to Triple-A in 2017: Willy Adames, Ryne Stanek, Daniel Robertson, Casey Gillaspie, Jake Bauers, Jaime Schultz, Jake Faria, and the newly acquired Jose De Leon and Mallex Smith will be knocking on the door all season. I expect a lot of headaches for the Rays coming from their promotion opportunities."
- Do you think the lineup can score enough runs to keep up in the AL East?
"The Rays are built on pitching and defense. They need to win more one run games in 2017 to make their post season dreams a reality, and I don't see why that can't happen. The division is loaded with talent, but when everyone is strong that creates parity."
- Do you think the Rays will cash in some of their young pitching for a premier bat at any point this year?
"It really depends on what the minors dictate for the major league roster. The Rays will be more likely to ship out veterans to clear space than go for the big one, but if the team is putting up a 2010 like season (it's been a while since they felt like World Series contenders) I could see a big DH or bullpen acquisition in the cards. They have the depth."
- Finally, what are your overall expectations headed into the season?
"I expect a much improved bullpen to help anchor the Rays post season hopes throughout the year. Alex Colome was one of the five best closers in baseball last season, and the team has several high leverage arms available in Brad Boxberger, Shawn Tolleson, Tommy Hunter, Danny Farquhar, and Xavier Cedeno, as well as some flame throwing rookies with 97+ fastballs in Ryne Stanek, Jaime Schultz, and Jose Alvarado. It could be a fun year."
All in all, I’ve got the Rays as my 9th best overall team in the American League. Last year, the Yankees were 9th place and they finished at 84-78. Vegas has the Rays win total set between 75.5 and 78.5, depending on where you get it.
If you can find 75.5 anywhere I definitely like the over in that scenario, however it gets a little trickier at 78.5. Like I said I project them out at 9th but they play in a really tough division which could cost them some games. I’ll say, in the end, they sneak by 78 and finish over 78.5.
It may take until the last day of the season to hit that over of 78.5, but they’ll get there. I like the Rays to finish 79-83 in 2017.
2016 Record: 94-67 (1st AL Central)
Now it’s time for the favorite, Cleveland Indians, where expectations are sky high in 2017. We’ll be joined by Paul Hoynes from Cleveland.com to help us break down the Tribe and see how he sees the 2017 season playing out.
As you can probably recall the Indians made it to the 10th inning of Game 7 of the World Series before their season finally ended at the hands of the Chicago Cubs.
All the Indians have done since then is return a few all stars from injury and add another perennial all star in slugger Edwin Encarnacion; no big deal. I also think they’ve got the non-Mike Trout division 2017 AL MVP on their team as well (more on that later).
So as you can tell there’s a lot to like about Cleveland in 2017. My projections noticed that real quick. When the Indians are at the plate, I’ve got them as the 3rd best club in the American League. I’ve got their projected lineup third in the AL and their bench second in the AL.
When it comes to pitching, I think the Tribe has the best overall pitching squad in the American League. Their rotation grades out as my third best and their bullpen grades out as my American League best. Those two combined were enough to lock them in as the top pitching club in the AL.
Having Tito at the helm certainly helps them out, too. The only main category I don’t have them in my top three in is defense. I think they’re a league average defensive squad as my projections have them 8th in the AL in that category.
Injuries are the only thing that worry me slightly when it comes to the Tribe. I know they suffered a few key injuries last year but they still managed to get to the World Series and almost win it. I’m banking on a big return from Brantley which could be risky, and I’m equating for Salazar and Corrasco returning to form as well. As long as they don’t have catastrophic injury issues, I think they’ll be just fine.
Let’s get to our chat with Paul Hoynes to get his take on the upcoming season:
- On paper, the Indians should be the best in the division; how do you see that effecting these guys, if at all?
"I think they should be the best team in the division. The Twins and White Sox are rebuilding. The Royals and Detroit should challenge the Tribe, but the Royals have so many key players approaching FA at the end of the season I believe if they hit a slump in midseason they could start trading people. They also have to be reeling from the death of Yordano Ventura. The Tigers are talented, but older. They keep saying they want to get younger and more streamlined, but it's hard to move the big contracts they have."
"I think the Indians have the right manager, Terry Francona, to help them handle the expectations facing them in 2017. In that regard, however, Napoli will be missed."
- What's the latest on Michael Brantley's health? When can we expect to see him on the field?
"Big questions about Brantley. Indians say he won't play in exhibitions until at least mid to late March, if then. They're being very careful with his shoulder. They really don't know when he's going to be able to play."
- How do you think Francona will use Miller early in the year? Do you see more of a shift to the playoff usage if they're in a tight race down the stretch?
"Tito said he'll continue to use Miller in a troubleshooting role, while Cody Allen closes. But it's clear Francona doesn't believe he can use Miller as aggressively as he used him in the postseason. The problem is Miller is pitching in the WBC, so they can't really prepare him like they'd like to do following a season of heavy duty use."
"They'd like to ease him into the exhibition seasons by having him avoid Cactus League game until early March. But when he joins Team USA, he's going to be going full go."
- Who are some of the younger guys we might not know about that you think could make an impact this season?
"If the Indians need some help in the rotation a guy like Ryan Merritt, who started Game 5 of the ALCS, could help. So could Cody Anderson, who pitched through injuries last season. If the Indians need help in the outfield and dip into the farm system, we could get a look at No.1 pick Bradley Zimmer or Greg Allen. Yandy Diaz, who hit like crazy last season at AA, AAA and winter ball, could help out as a bat off the bench. Erik Gonzalez, a talented SS, is being groomed as a super utility man and could make the club out of spring training."
- Do you foresee any World Series hangover from this group or will they be motivated by not reaching their ultimate goal?
"I think they're definitely motivated. I'm not sure it's as strong as the Royals were in 2015 after 2014, but all teams are different. I think there is a feeling on the team that they reached Game 7 of the WS and didn't have two starters, their LF (Brantley) or their starting catcher (Yan Gomes). There is just a really good vibe on the team right now. The front office stepped up with the signings of Encarnacion and Boone Logan. If Brantley can come back and be 85 to 90 percent of the player that he was, this is going to be a dangerous lineup."
I tend to agree with Paul that I think the Indians are in for big things in 2017. Vegas currently has their O/U at 93.5, so they can see a finish similar to last year’s 94-67 record.
The three division winners in the American League last year all finished with at least 93 wins. I think the Indians will take home the Central this year so I see that as their floor. They play in a really weak division which they should clean up in so the top AL record is definitely in play here. The Rangers had the top overall record last year at 95-67. Spoiler alert; I think this Indians' team is a lot better than that Rangers' club.
When it’s all said and done, I think the 2017 Cleveland Indians finish comfortably over 93.5 wins. How comfortable you might ask?
This team tops the 100 win mark and finishes with an overall record of 102-60.
2016 Record: 86-75 (2nd place AL Central)
Tonight we’ve got the Detroit Tigers, and I have to be honest, I’m still a bit confused as to what they actually did this offseason. They’re basically returning the same squad as last year, with most of their key veterans another year older.
Apparently the Tigers beat writers hate Deep Fried Bets so we won’t have anyone joining us to break down Detroit. If any of the writers that I sent questions to get back with me I promise I'll post the interview!
When most of your best players are on the wrong side of 30 that might not be the best strategy. The Tigers were involved in all kinds of rumors in the offseason but nothing really came to fruition. Now let’s see how my projections think they’ll stack up in 2017.
Offensively I think the Tigers will still be a pretty solid club as I’ve currently got them slotted 5th in the AL, so scoring runs shouldn't be a problem for them. I’ve still got faith in Miggy and I think we’ll see a bit of a bounce back from Upton. Depending on what happens in center they could be even better, or slightly worse. Currently I’ve got their projected lineup as my 4th best in the American League.
As for the pitching, I think that could be a bit of a different story. When Fulmer and Verlander are on the mound I think they’ll be fine; however, that’s only 2 out of every 5 starts presuming they don’t miss any. I’m not at all in love with the back end of their rotation and as a whole I’ve got their rotation slotted 12th in the American League. As we’ve come to expect with the Tigers, the bullpen isn’t doing them any favors either. My projections have the Tigers' bullpen ranked last in the AL. All in all, my projections rated the Tigers pitching staff 14th in the league, ahead of only the Twins. I know that seems harsh for a team with two front end starters, but I’m thinking Verlander falls off a little bit from last year and like I said the back end of the rotation is pretty rough. They better hope the offense is even better than I projected.
The current O/U on the Tigers is set at around 83.5, and I’m not so sure they get there. I really do like the offense and as I said I think they’ll be fine when Verlander and Fulmer start. However, outside of that I’m not sold on this squad. I think they’ll have their moments and there will be some games where you think they could do some damage, but I ultimately think they go under 83.5 wins.
As I’ve said the past few days, I don’t think this division is very good outside of Cleveland and I think it will show in overall records. It’s been since 2014 since a division didn’t have multiple 80 game winners but I really think that’s something we could see in the AL Central in 2017.
I hate to do it but I don’t see a huge win total here either. I think we’ll see around 80 wins for the Tigers in 2017 and they might try and finally offload some of their older guys midseason. I’ll go with 80-82 as my final prediction.
Kansas City Royals
2016 Record: 81-81 (3rd AL Central)
Next up, we’ve got the Kansas City Royals, and we’ll be joined shortly by Max Rieper from Royals Review to get his take on the 2017 Royals.
After two years of reaching the Fall Classic the Royals took a step back in 2016 and missed the postseason altogether. They’ll be looking to get back in 2017, but the direction of the franchise is kind of up in the air at this point. A lot of big name guys are in the last years of their deal for the Royals so how they start will go a long way towards whether they rebuild or go for one more championship.
The Royals traded away veteran closer Wade Davis to the Cubs in exchange for Jorge Soler; they also signed a few starting pitchers but no real home runs this offseason. The bullpen was a calling card when KC took home the title in 2015, but it will be interesting to see how dominant they are without Davis this year.
I’ve got the pitching staff towards the bottom of the AL ranked 12th; I’ve got their rotation and bullpen both 12th as well so at least there’s some consistency there. They signed a couple of veterans who could step up in the rotation and 'pen to bring them closer to league average but with the unfortunate passing of Yordana Ventura this offseason I don’t see them getting much higher than that.
I don’t see the bats being any better this year for the Royals as I’ve currently got their offense rated 14th in the league right above the White Sox. I’m just not sold on them being able to score as many runs as they’d like to.
The defense is still a calling card, and I’ve given Ned Yost a favorable grade as well seeing as how he’s a World Series Champion. However, they’re going to have to step it up considerably from my projections if they want to make it back to October.
Now let’s check in with Max Rieper to see what he has to say about the Royals heading into 2017.
- First off, who are some of the younger guys we might not know about yet that the Royals are looking to make an impact this year?
"The Royals have become an older team, but they will likely need a few younger players to step up if they hope to contend past 2017, when many core players are eligible for free agency. One player with such promise is left-handed pitcher Matt Strahm. Strahm was a non-prospect a few years ago, but has steadily improved his velocity and put up good numbers in the minor leagues. Last year he was called up to the big leagues in August to help out in the bullpen and was lights out, posting a 1.23 ERA in 22 innings. The club still sees him as a starter long-term, but he will likely spend most of the year in the Royals bullpen. With Greg Holland and Wade Davis gone, the Royals are missing some of their pieces of the dominant bullpen that helped them win two pennants. Strahm will have to continue to be a lights-out reliever for the Royals to continue to win with their formula of shutdown relievers late in the game."
- Do you see the team making any more moves before opening day?
"The Royals could probably use more bullpen depth, but after adding Jason Hammel and Travis Wood in the last few weeks, they are likely tapped out on spending money. There may be a desire to bring back reliever Luke Hochevar on a minor league deal. Hochevar had his season ended prematurely last year with thoracic outlet syndrome surgery, and the word is he hasn't recovered as quickly as he would have liked. When healthy, he is a very solid reliever, but he has had some injury problems the last few years, including Tommy John surgery. He has been a part of the organization since 2006 and is very good friends with left fielder Alex Gordon so a reunion would not be surprising."
"The team also has a bit of a roster logjam with Cheslor Cuthbert. The 23-year old filled in well for Mike Moustakas at third base last year, but with Moose back from his ACL injury, Cuthbert is out of a position. He is out of options so he cannot return to the minors without clearing waivers, so the club is having him work out at second base, hoping he can make the transition. However, his defense was poor at third base, so a move to second seems unlikely. Instead, he could be dealt for a young pitcher to add to the bullpen mix."
- Which will be stronger in 2017 in your opinion, the pitching staff or the offense?
"Neither has been very strong for the Royals the last few years, even when they were winning pennants. But the Royals may have a better rotation this year, especially with the depth they currently possess. Danny Duffy has shown flashes of being an ace-type pitcher, and Ian Kennedy surprised many by actually living up to his $70 million contract. After that, there is a lot of mediocrity - Jason Hammel, Jason Vargas, Nate Karns, Travis Wood - but it doesn't look like they will be throwing anyone out there that gives them no chance to win - as their fifth starters have done in past years."
"The offense has added some pop with Jorge Soler and Brandon Moss, but this club still lacks a big time power hitter and will likely be near the bottom of the league in home runs once again. Still, with Mike Moustakas back in the lineup, a healthier Lorenzo Cain, and possibly a bounce back season from Alex Gordon, there is a chance the offense could be better than it was last year."
- Do you see the team more likely to make one more October push, or start looking to sell?
"The heart says this team will continue to show the drive and desire to make one more post-season run. But the head says this is still a team with a lot of flaws, that no longer has the dominant speed, defense, and bullpen that could overcome those flaws in years past. They are still fast - but not the fastest in the league as it was in 2015. The defense is still very good - but not overwhelmingly good as it was in 2015. The bullpen is good - but not shutdown great, as it was in 2015. The team is older now and more injury-prone, and the depth doesn't seem to be there to overcome a major injury or two. But who knows, this team has shown a propensity for overcoming pre-season predictions. "
- With the Indians looking like they might have improved on a team that went to the World Series, does that effect the Royals plans at all?
"No, I think Dayton Moore knew he wanted to make one more run with this team while he had Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, and Alcides Escobar under club control. Let's not forget that in 2014, the Tigers seemed like an unbeatable team, and the Royals only finished a game back of them and won a thrilling Wild Card game that spurred a magical post-season run that took them to Game 7 of the World Series."
As of now the latest Vegas futures bet has the Royals win total at 74.5. As of 2/10 the Atlantis still had them at 80.5, but I’m not sure if that’s still available.
As Max mentioned above, in the past the Royals have shown they don’t really give a damn what Vegas thinks but I think this is the year Vegas finally catches up to them. As you might can tell from what I’ve already written I’m not sold on this years Royal's squad; they’ve proved me wrong in the past, but I just don’t see much that I love about them this year.
I think they’ll hover around .500 for a few months then hit a losing skid and realize it’s finally time to sell. I think they’ll go under 74.5 wins and if you can still get 80.5 run as fast as you can to get that ticket. I think this years squad is a lot closer to a 90 loss team than an 80 loss team, and when it’s all said and done I think the Royals will finish around 73-89.
Check back tomorrow as we preview the Detroit Tigers.
Chicago White Sox
2016 Record 78-84 (4th Place AL Central)
Next up in our previews is the Chicago White Sox, and we’ll get some insight from Josh Nelson from the South Side Sox Podcast! The White Sox underwent some major changes this offseason when they traded away Chris Sale and Adam Eaton for prospects on prospects on prospects. Some of those prospects seem to be major league ready, or pretty damn close, so it will be interesting to see when and where they’ll slot in, in 2017.
I still think the White Sox will have a good pitching staff in 2017 despite the loss of Chris Sale. As of now, Jose Quintana is still in place and some of the younger guys should be able to make a leap forward this year. I still like the bullpen too, although who knows if David Robertson will be there come opening day. I’ve got the staff overall as 11th in the AL, but they’re a lot closer to 5th than they are last in the league so they’ve got the potential to be better than I think.
I think the offense, however, will be the White Sox major weakness this season, as I’ve currently got them rated last in the American League. Much of that though can be attributed to unknowns. The South Siders should be counting on a lot of younger guys this year, and if they can step up they may be better than advertised, but I'll have to see it to believe it.
Let’s check in with Josh Nelson to see what he has to say about the upcoming White Sox season.
- What is the latest on Quintana and Robertson; any new rumors to track there?
"Nothing new on both fronts. The two deals that Rick Hahn has mentioned died at the ownership level is assumed to be about Quintana and Robertson. I don't believe either player will be traded before the season, and we'll be talking about these trade rumors til July. I do believe that both will be moved during the season, but we are still 4-5 months away from actually happening."
- What mindset do you think the organization has heading into 2017? Still looking to compete or looking more to try and trade more pieces?
"The White Sox are rebuilding and still in the beginning stages. Quintana, Robertson, Todd Frazier should be moved during the season. Out of those deals, the White Sox could use more positional players to add in their prospect pipeline. At the moment, maybe 2-3 position players would be on the White Sox Top 10 prospects (Yoan Moncada, Zack Collins, and Luis Basabe)."
- What do you expect out of newcomers like Moncada, Lopez, and Giolito?
"I think we'll see Moncada and Giolito called up in June. My expectations are not extremely high because I think this year is more about both players getting their feet wet in the majors. I would like to see Moncada start more than 50 games this season, and give Giolito at least 12 starts."
"Reynaldo Lopez is set on proving to the White Sox that he is a starter. If he performs well in Charlotte, he could force the White Sox hand and join Giolito on the staff. After cutting John Danks last year in May and eating $15.75 million, there is a precedent that the Sox could do the same to James Shields. Derek Holland is an injury risk and trying to prove he can handle a season's workload, which he hasn't since 2013. Add in a trade with Quintana, and Lopez could pick up several starts this season."
- How do you see the offense shaping up in 2017? Are you expecting any breakout performers?
"If the offense is league average through the months of April and May, I would be surprised. Without Adam Eaton, there is nobody in the lineup that will get on base consistently in front of Jose Abreu and Todd Frazier. I'm assuming Tim Anderson will replace Eaton as the lead-off hitter, and I think he is capable of hitting .290 during the season. The issue is he doesn't walk often, and that will limit how often he is on-base. After Abreu and Frazier, the White Sox have little to no power. I don't see Melky Cabrera, Avisail Garcia, Matt Davidson, Brett Lawrie, whoever is playing in CF to hit more than 20 home runs this season. That is a grave concern playing at Guaranteed Rate Field, but one that the Sox can address later during the rebuild."
- Finally, I know the White Sox brought over a great group of prospects in the Sale and Eaton trades. Do you see any other young guys stepping up this season that were already in place?
"Alec Hansen is on many people's radars, and for a good reason. Hansen is a pitcher who could have been selected first overall, but the University of Oklahoma jerked him around with his innings. Once he joined the White Sox, the player development staff told him that he's a starter with no threat of moving him to the bullpen. He had terrific Rookie ball season and performed well at A ball. I expect him to start the season at Winston-Salem (Advanced A) and continue to pitch well."
"Alex Call and Jameson Fisher were also part of the 2016 draft class, and represent an offensive philosophy change for the White Sox. For the longest of time, the Sox focused on developing position players that had high ceilings but were quite raw. Sometimes they have been successful, like Tim Anderson, but many, many times they have failed. That failure is a big reason why the White Sox are where they are today."
"With Call and Fisher, here are two players who have terrific contact skills (especially Fisher), take their walks, and with Call can steal a few bases."
I tend to agree with Josh that the White Sox don’t have a traditional on base table setter and will struggle to score runs this year.
I think the pitching can keep them in some games but I ultimately don’t think they’ll score enough to win that many games. Vegas has the White Sox with the 2nd fewest wins in the season projections at 68.5. I know that’s a low number but they’ll probably struggle to get many more than that. I think they’ll flirt pretty closely with that number.
In the end, I’ll take under 68.5 wins for the White Sox, but it’ll be pretty close. I probably won't touch this one, but for purposes of this exercise, under is the official pick. I think the White Sox will end up in the neighborhood of 68-94 (I told you it’s going to be close).
2016 Record: 59-103 (5th AL Central)
First up, we’ve got the Minnesota Twins. We spoke with Brandon Warne from Cold Omaha and Today’s Knuckleball to help us break down the 2017 Twins.
As for my analysis, I’ll start by saying I think the Twins will be a lot better in 2017 than 2016 and could surprise some people. I think the offense will be productive, and I currently have them as my 7th rated offense in the American League.
However, I see the pitching as a different story. I’m not very optimistic on their rotation or bullpen this year, and I have them rated last in the AL. I think there are some decent pieces there in Santana and Santiago, but I’m not confident as a whole they’ll be able to get outs as consistently as they’d like. The defense doesn’t expect to be a calling card for the Twins either in 2017, so I think they’ll be relying heavily on their bats this year.
We asked Brandon Warne a few questions about the Twins this year to get a better perspective from someone who knows the Twins as well as anyone.
- The offense looks like they may be able to put some runs on the board. Do you see much promise in the pitching staff?
“I see more promise than most, I'd say. I think the addition of Castro will be big for the pitching staff. After all, which starting rotation has more to gain from a good defensive catcher than the one which finished last in ERA last season? Guys like Kyle Gibson and Jose Berrios have a lot to gain from working with an elite receiver, and a full year of Hector Santiago and his weird FIP-beating patterns should help, too. I think it's maybe got a ceiling of ranking at high as 20th in the game. The bullpen has some interesting pieces, and at times last year was really good. I believe it was in July when the 'pen was about 15th in ERA, which is right around what I'd expect for this bunch. That came after guys like Casey Fien and Kevin Jepsen were jettisoned, but before the end of the year tryouts for guys like Pat Light and Alex Wimmers. There's plenty of talent here, and don't sleep on these guys: Ryan Pressly and J.T. Chargois.”
- Are the Twins expecting a huge year from Miguel Sano?
“I think so. He's lost a fair amount of weight this offseason and is finally being handed the third base job full-time, something that probably should have been done from the jump last season. He took a step back last season and will always be a three true outcomes guy (TTO, as far as walk, homer or strike out), but he has the physical tools to be a capable third baseman. He moves well for a big guy and has a rocket for an arm. I don't think a .900 OPS and passable third base defense is out of the question.”
- Who are some of the younger guys that the Twins will be counting on in 2017?
“Berrios - He didn't show much in his first few stints last season, but has an electric arm that, if reeled in, should provide value in the middle of the rotation. Sano - See above. Chargois - This might be the closer-in-waiting. Chargois flashes and upper-90s fastball with a solid slider, and has made strides in his command, which was the only issue that dogged him after arm surgery. Byron Buxton - This kid was phenomenal in September and looks primed to take a leap as a solid player. Even with a low-.700 OPS, he could be a three or four-win player (via fWAR) due to defense and speed. I think this will be a nice year and the real breakout comes in 2018. Max Kepler - For a guy who is a bit of a late bloomer, he has come on strong. In 2013 he was flailing away against lefties in low-A ball. By 2015 he was winning the Southern League MVP award over Orlando Arcia -- an impressive prospect in his own right -- and by midseason last year he was holding down the starting right field job for the Twins. He'll need to work on his approach against lefties, but he shows extremely impressive polish for such a young player. He may never be a star, but he's damn good.”
- Do you see the team as still active looking to make a deal or are they pretty much set? Are there any suitors left for Dozier now that the Dodgers are out?
“Not really. It's been a quiet offseason with the new brain trust -- Derek Falvey and Thad Levine -- because they view the talent on this team as not reflective of a 100-loss bunch. I tend to agree, and so they're going to take this year to evaluate some of the youngsters. It's very hard to compete when young players take a step back together -- as seen in 2016 -- and this year will allow Falvey and Levine to see who they like, who they don't like and also to evaluate manager Paul Molitor, who is a lame-duck manager without a 2018 contract in place. He's managing for his job.”
“As for Dozier, I think the Twins are happy to hold onto him until someone approaches with an offer that suits what his value is at that time. I don't necessarily see that coming along. I thought the Braves made some sense, but Brandon Phillips will pass that torch to Ozzie Albies once he's ready, I suspect. It'll probably take an injury to open up a spot for someone to really want Dozier, which is fine because he has plenty of value to the Twins in the meantime.”
- Finally, what are your overall expectations for 2017?
“I wrote a few weeks ago that I thought this was an 80-win team and ruffled a few feathers. Then, Fangraphs and Baseball Prospectus released their projections and I was right on. It's going to take some smoothing over from vets like Ervin Santana and Dozier, but I think this can be a decent team. Will they threaten Cleveland this year? I don't think so. But is second place in play? I do think so.”
I tend to agree that I think 2nd place is definitely in play for the Twins; outside of the Indians I think this is a wide open division, and a relatively weak one at that.
Vegas has the Twins win total at 70.5 this year and I think they could be looking at the over on that. As I said earlier, I’m not super fond of the pitching staff, but I do think the offense will score enough to keep them in games.
When Santana is on the mound, I think they’ll be a good value team early in the year and you may be able to hit a couple of overs before Vegas adjusts to how good their offense could be.
So for the Twins in 2017, I like the over of 70.5 wins and them to improve on what was a disappointing 2016. I think when it's all said and done you'll see the Twins around 73-89.