Toronto Blue Jays

2016 Record 89-73 (3rd AL East)

Next up, we're headed North of the Border to check in on the Toronto Blue Jays! We'll be joined shortly by Ian Hunter from Blue Jay Hunter!

The Jays won't look a lot different in 2017 than they did in 2016. They now have a massive hole left by Edwin Encarnacion in the middle of the lineup. They plan to fill that hole with Kendrys Morales; bold move Jays.

The rest of the offense should still be pretty good. Led by Josh Donaldson, I've got the Jays as my 6th rated overall offense in the American League. I've got their projected lineup as my 6th best unit and their bench as my 8th best in the AL.

Although the offense should score plenty of runs in 2017, the pitching staff may be even better than their offensive counterparts. I've got the Jays as my 3rd overall staff in the AL.

Believe it or not, I have Toronto's starting rotation as my top rated rotation heading into 2017! I love the stabilitly they have, and I project some of their younger guys to be even better in 2017.

The Jays project as one of my top AL teams in 2017. 

The Jays project as one of my top AL teams in 2017. 

I have their bullpen as my 11th rated unit in the AL which is why they're ultimately my 3rd rated overall staff and not my top rated. Bullpens definitely matter.

Their defense is my 4th best in the American League (thanks Kevin Pillar) so that will help their final score out as well. I think John Gibbons is about as average as it comes when it comes to a manager so he won't really hurt or help their score.

Let's chat with Ian Hunter to see how he feels about the Jays headed into 2017!

Marcus Stroman made waves earlier this offseason when he said the Blue Jays had the best rotation in baseball. My projections actually agrees with him. What are your thoughts?

"Statistically, the Blue Jays had the best rotation in the American League last year, so I'd expect a little bit of regression from Toronto's starters. Stroman seemed to turn things around in the second half, Sanchez finally broke through as a starter and Happ's adjustments continued to pay off last year. If anything, I believe the Jays rotation as a whole may take a slight step backwards - but guys like Stroman and Liriano could take steps forward, while Happ and Estrada may be regression candidates. Even still, expect the Jays to have a Top 5 rotation in the AL in 2017."

How will the loss of Edwin Encarnacion effect the Jays this year?

"The Blue Jays will sorely miss Encarnacion's 40-plus home run power in the middle of their lineup, but by signing Kendrys Morales (a switch-hitting power bat), the Blue Jays have a little more versatility in the middle of their order. With Morales moving to a hitter-friendly ballpark, he's projected to see a spike in his power numbers."

"If Morales puts forth some decent numbers early on with the Blue Jays, that will help a lot of people forget how the Blue Jays missed out on re-signing Encarnacion."

Are you expecting a bounce back season from Jose Bautista this year or was 2016 an indicator of what we can expect to come now that he's getting older?

"2016 was a bizarre year for Jose Bautista. Despite a few bizarre injuries, he still managed to put up some pretty decent numbers when he was healthy. But those two stints on the disabled list absolutely killed any momentum he had entering free agency. But from what I've seen out of Bautista thus far in Spring Training, he looks to be back to his 2014-2015 self. The man may be 36 years old, but there's still definitely some 40-plus home run potential in his bat."

Who are some prospects the Blue Jays expect to play a big role for them in 2017?

"Rookies are going to be hard-pressed to crack the Opening Day roster for the Blue Jays, but there are still some players to keep an eye on. Rowdy Tellez is the one name which has been bandied about throughout Spring Training - many within the organization have tabbed Tellez as the Jays' most-advanced prospect. I could definitely see Tellez being called up in May or June if Justin Smoak fails to perform as the Blue Jays first baseman."

"This year may also be a make-or-break year for Dalton Pompey, who isn't really a prospect at this point in his career, but has failed to break through at the big league level. Much like with Tellez, there's a path for Pompey to steal a job on the roster; it just may not be right away."

When it's all said and done, how do you see the Jays finishing in 2017?

"It may be overly optimistic, but I believe the Jays should finish second in the division (behind the Boston Red Sox). Similar to last season, the Blue Jays will probably be fighting down the stretch for one of those Wild Card spots."

Ian and I are in agreeance on one thing; we think the Jays will be chasing the Red Sox for most of the season.

Overall, I have the Blue Jays projected as my 3rd best team in the American League in 2017. The Boston Red Sox finished with the third best record in the AL at 93-69 in 2016.

Vegas has the Blue Jays win total set at 84.5. I'm projecting them to finish with the 3rd best record in the AL. That same position finished with 8.5 more wins last year, so it's safe to say I've got the Blue Jays over 84.5 wins.

When it's all said and done, I think this is a 90 win club. I'm projecting the Blue Jays to finish with an overall record of 90-72

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.