2015 Season Previews: Los Angeles Dodgers

Over the next several weeks, The Baseball Haven will be creating season previews for all 30 MLB teams. You’ll find their projected records (based on PECOTA records from Baseball Prospectus, as of 2/15/2015), each team’s top three players (based on Steamer WAR projections from FanGraphs), and some valuable notes on each team, including likely bounce-back candidates, potential breakout players or fantasy sleepers, as well as a look back at offseason transactions which led to each team’s projections. Stop back frequently to see where your favorite team ranks!

Los Angeles Dodgers

Courtesy: rumorsandrants.com

Courtesy: rumorsandrants.com

2015 Projected Record: 97-65 (1st in NL West, 1st in MLB)

Manager: Don Mattingly (354-293 in four seasons with the Dodgers)

Top Three Players: LHP Clayton Kershaw (4.9), OF Yasiel Puig (4.9), 1B Adrian Gonzalez (3.3)

Bounce-back Player: LHP Brett Anderson

Despite making all of 62 appearances (51 starts) since the start of the 2010 season, Anderson was able to secure a one-year, $10 million deal from the Dodgers. It speaks volumes to how much talent Los Angeles still feels the 27-year-old left-hander possesses. Anderson did have Tommy John surgery back in 2011, but all of his injuries since then have been back, ankle, or finger related (broken right ankle and a finger broken by a pitch). The injuries and recovery times have been enormous, but he showed in Colorado last season (2.91 ERA in his 43.1), though it was just eight starts, that he still has something, and Dodger Stadium could be friendly to him. He just needs to stay on the mound, which has been the same response on Anderson for years.

Pederson could be an offensive force as early as this season Courtesy: lockerdome.com

Pederson could be an offensive force as early as this season
Courtesy: lockerdome.com

Fantasy Player to Watch: OF Joc Pederson

Pederson was an offensive monster in the minors, but he struggled in his brief trial in 2014, posting a .143/.351/.143 line in 38 plate appearances. He has shown this spring, however, the same type of ability he showed in the minors, posting a .367/.397/.750 line over 63 plate appearances, including six bombs. After dealing Matt Kemp, Pederson appears to have very little competition in center, as Andre Ethier and Chris Heisey are the players who could push him back to the minors if he struggles. Pederson, however, doesn’t look like he is going to. Even in his brief trial last season, Pederson wasn’t overmatched, as his plate discipline will allow him to be a difficult out. With the offensive force around him in the order, Pederson can ease into the production that he is going to be capable of in the future, but he’ll still be quite productive in 2015. Expect a .270/.340/.475 line from the Rookie of the Year favorite.

Offseason Overview: The Dodgers may have lost SS Hanley Ramirez to the Red Sox, but they quickly found a replacement by acquiring Jimmy Rollins from the Phillies for a couple of pitching prospects. Dee Gordon was moved to Miami for Andrew Heaney, who didn’t have time to put on a Dodger cap before he was flipped to the Angels for Gordon’s replacement, Howie Kendrick. They also added Joel Peralta from Tampa Bay to strengthen the bullpen. The Dodgers didn’t just make trades, as they opened up their endless bank account to sign RHP Brandon McCarthy (four-years, $48 million), Anderson (one-year, $10 million), and Tommy John rehabbing RHP Brandon Beachy (one-year, $2.75 million, $3 million 2016 team option with incentives). The Dodgers continue to reload and spend money, putting out the best team that money can buy, stealing that title from the New York Yankees, who used to take so much more heat for the same type of activity.

The Verdict: The Dodgers are a fantastic group. They have the best pitcher of our generation, Clayton Kershaw, with the best number two pitcher in baseball, Zack Greinke. They have a top ten talent, Yasiel Puig, who has become a superstar and one of the faces of the sport that so desperately needed one. Adrian Gonzalez continues to quietly produce Hall of Fame numbers, while the team has a budding young star in Pederson. If they get production out of OF Carl Crawford and SS Jimmy Rollins as they continue to get older, this team would be the best team in baseball, and that’s with the issues that they have in their rotation. I love Brandon McCarthy, but – can he stay healthy? Hyun-jin Ryu is on the shelf with shoulder soreness already, so Juan Nicasio appears to be filling the No.5 spot in the rotation, which is horrifying considering that he was just as awful away from Colorado as he was in Coors Field. With McCarthy, Anderson, and Ryu’s reliability in question and Nicasio being Nicasio, the rotation is only guaranteed to be strong two out of every five days. With the offense behind them, can anyone be plugged in and allow the Dodgers to be successful? Maybe. I still think the Dodgers will win 90 games, but they aren’t the top overall team in baseball.

2015 Season Previews: Washington Nationals

Over the next several weeks, The Baseball Haven will be creating season previews for all 30 MLB teams. You’ll find their projected records (based on PECOTA records from Baseball Prospectus, as of 2/15/2015), each team’s top three players (based on Steamer WAR projections from FanGraphs), and some valuable notes on each team, including likely bounce-back candidates, potential breakout players or fantasy sleepers, as well as a look back at offseason transactions which led to each team’s projections. Stop back frequently to see where your favorite team ranks!

Washington Nationals

Courtesy: MLB.com

Courtesy: MLB.com

2015 Projected Record: 92-70 (1st in NL East, 2nd in MLB)

Manager: Matt Williams (96-66 in one season with Washington)

Top Three Players: 2B/3B Anthony Rendon (5.1), OF Bryce Harper (4.2), RHP Max Scherzer (4.0)

Bounce-back Player: 1B Ryan Zimmerman

Shoulder woes have slowed Zimmerman in the same way that they did Scott Rolen, but the Nationals have moved Zimmerman to first, where he won’t have to make as many throws. The end result should be a healthier, productive season; although, a thigh and fractured finger were the primary injuries that allow Zimmerman to play in only 61 games last season. This will the the 11th season in a Nationals uniform for Zimmerman, and this is his age-30 season. Don’t consider him washed up. He is locked in at .280/.350/.480 with about 25 home runs and 85 RBI in a dynamic lineup.

Harper isn't going to make anyone wait for an eruption this season. Courtesy: CSNWashington.com

Harper isn’t going to make anyone wait for an eruption this season.
Courtesy: CSNWashington.com

Fantasy Player to Watch: OF Bryce Harper

Duh, right? At 22, Harper is ready to continue his assault on opposing pitchers, but THIS is the year that he reaches 30 home runs and stays healthy. What is he capable of when he stays on the field and has Anthony Rendon, Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth, Wilson Ramos, and Ian Desmond on the field with him? This is a dangerous lineup and Harper has the potential to be the most productive player in that lineup. This is the year that he starts heading towards that ceiling, closing in on a .300/.400/.500 line, while increasing his power output as he becomes more physically mature.

Offseason Overview: When you have five very good starting pitchers and you’ve won 96 games, what do you really need to do to improve? Well, sign the best free agent pitcher on the market to a seven-year, $210 million deal, which is what they did when signed RHP Max Scherzer. The move pushed Tanner Roark (15-10 with a 2.85 ERA and 1.09 WHIP in 31 starts) to the bullpen, while making LHP Ross Detwiler expendable, as he was shipped to Texas for a couple of prospects. The Nationals didn’t need to do much to improve their team, but they still made a huge splash and got better.

The Verdict: A healthy Zimmerman and Werth will help the Nationals to 100 wins, but it will be Harper, Rendon, Desmond, and the pitching that will get them to 95 wins. This is the best team in baseball, regardless of PECOTA projections. The pitching is elite and they have Roark ready in a swing role and A.J. Cole ready in Triple-A. With Lucas Giolito and Joe Ross likely to start the year in Double-A, they are far off from making an impact, either. Michael Taylor, a powerful, speedster, will be taking over center for the first several weeks with Denard Span on the shelf. The Nationals are very good, and this is the year that they put it all together.

2015 Season Previews: Los Angeles Angels

Over the next several weeks, The Baseball Haven will be creating season previews for all 30 MLB teams. You’ll find their projected records (based on PECOTA records from Baseball Prospectus, as of 2/15/2015), each team’s top three players (based on Steamer WAR projections from FanGraphs), and some valuable notes on each team, including likely bounce-back candidates, potential breakout players or fantasy sleepers, as well as a look back at offseason transactions which led to each team’s projections. Stop back frequently to see where your favorite team ranks!

Los Angeles Angels

Courtesy: MLB.com

Courtesy: MLB.com

2015 Projected Record: 90-72 (1st in AL West, 3rd in MLB)

Manager: Mike Scioscia (1,331-1099 in 15 seasons with the Angels)

Top Three Players: OF Mike Trout (8.6), OF Kole Calhoun, SS Erick Aybar (3.0)

Bounce-back Player: 3B David Freese

Freese is entering his age-32 season and has only had one “really good” season, which was 2012. It’s fair to wonder what he actually is, as he appears to be more of a 25 double, 10 home run, 60 RBI-guy than the 25 double, 20 home run, 80 RBI-guy that he was a few years back. Still, Freese has an excellent lineup around him, so he should see plenty of fastballs and be capable of a rebound, but what the ceiling of that rebound is…that’s the big question. A healthy Freese should get to 15 home runs and 75 RBI this season.

Is Calhoun capable of more than what he showed in 2014?  Courtesy: Zimbio.com

Is Calhoun capable of more than what he showed in 2014?
Courtesy: Zimbio.com

Fantasy Player to Watch: OF Kole Calhoun

In just 127 games, Calhoun reached 31 doubles and 17 home runs. Given an entire season of at-bats and entering his age-27 season, Calhoun may be capable of more. With Josh Hamilton‘s status for the season still uncertain, he may even move into a larger, run-producing role. Everyone drools over the opportunity to have Mike Trout on their team, but Calhoun isn’t chopped liver as far as Angels in the outfield.

Offseason Overview: The Angels added a solid young starter by acquiring LHP Andrew Heaney from the Dodgers for 2B Howie Kendrick, who was set for free agency after the 2015 season. Heaney doesn’t have top-of-the-rotation stuff, but he could be a nice mid-rotation option for a number of years, and the Angels aren’t known for developing talent, so it was a nice get. To fill the void at second, the Angels acquired Josh Rutledge from the Rockies and Johnny Giavotella from the Royals. Neither are offensive forces, but they’re solid defenders and with Trout and Pujols around, the pressure isn’t on them to produce. If Hamilton misses significant time due to his possible drug suspension, Grant Green, Colin Cowgill, or Matt Joyce, acquired from the Rays in December, could step into larger roles or a platoon situation.

The Verdict: Josh Hamilton’s suspension could be a huge issue for the Angels, and I’m betting against PECOTA on this one. The Mariners and the Athletics are in a better position to take the AL West. The Angels have plenty of talent, including the best player in baseball, but Mike Trout can’t carry an entire 25-man roster (this isn’t the NBA) and the Hamilton questions, the Pujols aging issue, and the lack of consistency from the remainder of the lineup leaves me thinking that this is an 83 to 85 win team. While that isn’t awful, it won’t be enough in 2015.

Season Previews: St. Louis Cardinals

Over the next several weeks, The Baseball Haven will be creating season previews for all 30 MLB teams. You’ll find their projected records (based on PECOTA records from Baseball Prospectus, as of 2/15/2015), each team’s top three players (based on Steamer WAR projections from FanGraphs), and some valuable notes on each team, including likely bounce-back candidates, potential breakout players or fantasy sleepers, as well as a look back at offseason transactions which led to each team’s projections. Stop back frequently to see where your favorite team ranks!

St. Louis Cardinals

Courtesy: MLB.com

Courtesy: MLB.com

2015 Projected Record: 88-74 (1st in NL Central, 4th in MLB)

Manager: Mike Matheny (275-211 in three seasons with St. Louis)

Top Three Players: OF Jason Heyward (4.9), C Yadier Molina (3.8), 3B Matt Carpenter (3.6)

Bounce-back Player: 3B Matt Carpenter

After a breakout 2013, Carpenter slipped a little in 2014, watching his OPS fall from .873 to .750, aided by the drop in his BABIP from .359 to .318. Carpenter was still quite valuable, leading the NL in walks, which helped his on-base percentage get to .375, and he was able to score 99 runs. With a lot of improving talent around him, the 29-year-old Carpenter is ready to get back to the production levels of 2013, scoring 110 or more runs and 40 or more doubles.

Can Heyward get back on track using the "Cardinal Way"? Courtesy: stltoday.com

Can Heyward get back on track using the “Cardinal Way”?
Courtesy: stltoday.com

Fantasy Player to Watch: OF Jason Heyward

Heyward is entering his age-25 season and he already has five full seasons under his belt. He’s set to become a free agent after the 2015 season, and a huge season would lead to a huge contract. He hasn’t had a very consistent career, as his most productive overall season was his rookie year, 2010. He can provide well above-average defense, but at 6’5″, 245 pounds, you’d expect more than 11 home runs, last season’s career-low total. Maybe the Cardinals can rework his swing and get some of the power back, allowing Heyward to get back to his natural, beautiful swing that made him such a force earlier in his career. There’s a lot of money riding on Heyward’s ability to do more with his bat; however, in the current market, he’ll still get nine figures.

Offseason Overview: The Cardinals got Heyward and RHP Jordan Walden from the Braves for a couple of young arms, RHP Tyrell Jenkins and RHP Shelby Miller. While the deal hurt the Cardinals rotation depth, they needed to replace the potential production in right field after the tragic loss of Oscar Taveras. Although they’ll have Heyward for just one season, he has the potential to be the best player the Cardinals have had since Albert Pujols‘ heyday. Still, with Michael Wacha, Jaime Garcia, John Lackey, and Adam Wainwright having injury issues in the past, it’s fair to wonder if dealing pitching was worth the potential lack of rotation depth. The Cardinals will continue to trust their “way”, though, so the next man up will be expected to produce. There wasn’t much action this winter in St. Louis, unless someone really wants to hear about the Mark Reynolds, Carlos Villanueva, and Matt Belisle signings.

The Verdict: Well, it’s another season and the Cardinals are still the favorites – at least based on PECOTA. You’ll likely see big seasons from Heyward, Carpenter, first baseman Matt Adams, and second baseman Kolten Wong, who is going to breakout worse than a 13-year-old boy who sips Mountain Dew all day. The Cardinals success will lie in the health of the pitching staff. They have Marco Gonzales lined up as their No. 6 starter and Garcia, if his shoulder stays connected, but Wainwright and Lackey have a lot of innings on their reconstructed elbows, and they need to see consistency out of Carlos Martinez to stay competitive. The Cubs are improved and the Pirates should be the favorites for the division. The Cardinals will win more than 85 games, but this could be the first seasons they miss the playoffs since 2010 – unless things go right, which they usually do.

2015 Season Previews: Boston Red Sox

Over the next several weeks, The Baseball Haven will be creating season previews for all 30 MLB teams. You’ll find their projected records (based on PECOTA records from Baseball Prospectus, as of 2/15/2015), each team’s top three players (based on Steamer WAR projections from FanGraphs), and some valuable notes on each team, including likely bounce-back candidates, potential breakout players or fantasy sleepers, as well as a look back at offseason transactions which led to each team’s projections. Stop back frequently to see where your favorite team ranks! 

Boston Red Sox

Courtesy: MLB.com

Courtesy: MLB.com

2015 Projected Record: 87-75 (1st in AL East, 5th in MLB)

Manager: John Farrell (168-156 in two seasons with Boston, 322-326 in four seasons overall)

Top Three Players: 2B Dustin Pedroia (4.8), 3B Pablo Sandoval (3.8), OF Hanley Ramirez (3.6)

Bounce-back Player: SS Xander Bogaerts

Bogaerts will be the epitome of a post-hype sleeper after having watched him crash and burn during his age-21 season in 2014. It seems unreal that we hold players to such high expectations today – even Mike Trout hit just .220/.281/.390 in his first 135 plate appearances at the tender age of 19. Still, the Boston shortstop is someone to lookout for as we turn the page to the 2015 season. The positives: he still had 28 doubles, 12 home runs, walked in 6.6 percent of his plate appearances, and wasn’t benched to make room for Hanley Ramirez. The negatives: He hit just .153/.198/.221 over 254 plate appearances from June 1 through August 31. After finishing the season with a .313/.317/.490 in September, so, perhaps, that is a sign of things to come? Get back on board with Bogaerts.

Betts is a sure bet for your fantasy team Courtesy: Boston.com

Betts is a sure bet for your fantasy team
Courtesy: Boston.com

Fantasy Player to Watch: INF/OF Mookie Betts

Andrew McCutchen, Hanley Ramirez, and Derek Jeter…those are the recent comparisons that Betts received in a recent article, which is enough to stop most fans in their tracks and mock whoever said it, but those comparisons came from the mouths of veterans David Ortiz, Shane Victorino, and Hanley Ramirez, himself. Betts is an extremely athletic, versatile player, who will break camp and find a way to get 500 plate appearances while playing all over the field, but mostly center field. He may be listed at just 5’9″, 155 pounds, but he could eclipse 10 bombs and 30 stolen bases for the next several seasons, while showing impressive plate discipline. After playing in 52 games in his age-21 season and posting an .812 OPS over 213 plate appearances, he’ll establish himself as a “must-own” in fantasy leagues in his first full season in 2015.

Offseason Overview: The Red Sox were busy filling up their rotation in trades, acquiring Wade Miley from Arizona (for Rubby De La Rosa and Allan Webster) and Rick Porcello from Detroit (for Yoenis Cespedes). Beyond the offseason trades, Ben Cherington and company opened the checkbook, signing Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval through free agency, while continuing in the pursuit of international free agents by dropping $31.5 million (plus an additional $31.5 million in fines) on 19-year-old Cuban sensation Yoan Moncada. While Moncada will head to the minors, it will only be a matter of time before he makes an impact, as he’ll head to High-A to start his career. He joins fellow Cuban Rusney Castillo, who signed a seven-year, $72.5 million deal, within the Boston organization.

The Verdict: After dealing Jon Lester to Oakland and being unable to come up with a deal with Philadelphia for Cole Hamels, the Red Sox head into the 2015 season with a group of mid-rotation arms in one of the toughest divisions in baseball. Clay Buchholz isn’t what you’d call an “ace”, even if you’re dumb enough to think that he can duplicate the 16 starts he had in 2013. If he stays healthy, a big “if” since Boston should be ecstatic to get 30 starts and 190 innings out of him, he’ll just be serviceable. Miley can give Boston innings, but the 3.94 ERA and 1.36 WHIP show that he may have issues missing bats and keeping base runners at bay when you consider those numbers came while pitching in the NL West, where Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego’s stadiums kill baseballs – he likely won’t be so lucky facing New York, Toronto, and Baltimore’s sluggers. Porcello could be very good with a strong defense behind him, but, with this pitching staff, the Red Sox are going to need to outscore their opponents…something they should be able to do thanks to their collection of talented bats. This team is extremely deep offensively, but the pitching is the key here. Boston should win 90 to 93 game, but they’ll need a lot of luck out of that rotation. For that reason, I see Johnny Cueto in the Boston rotation, leading them to the title down the stretch.

2015 Season Previews: Seattle Mariners

Over the next several weeks, The Baseball Haven will be creating season previews for all 30 MLB teams. You’ll find their projected records (based on PECOTA records from Baseball Prospectus, as of 2/15/2015), each team’s top three players (based on Steamer WAR projections from FanGraphs), and some valuable notes on each team, including likely bounce-back candidates, potential breakout players or fantasy sleepers, as well as a look back at offseason transactions which led to each team’s projections. Stop back frequently to see where your favorite team ranks!

Seattle Mariners

Courtesy: MLB.com

Courtesy: MLB.com

2015 Projected Record: 87-75 (2nd in AL West, 6th in MLB)

Manager: Lloyd McClendon (87-75 in one season with Seattle, 423-521 in six seasons overall)

Top Three Players: 2B Robinson Cano (5.1), RHP Felix Hernandez (4.7), 3B Kyle Seager (4.1)

Bounce-back Player: LHP James Paxton

Paxton missed 102 games last season with a shoulder strain, but, upon returning, he was lights out, posting a 3.19 ERA and 1.31 WHIP over 62 innings and 11 starts, including the stinker in Toronto on 9/22 (2.2 IP, 9 R, 8 ER). He had the same injury that Reds RHP Johnny Cueto had in 2013, but Cueto came back to toss a career-high 243.2 innings in 2014 – so, this shouldn’t hold Paxton back from taking off again. Still, he has made only 17 starts in his brief career, and he’ll rebound from his injury-plaged 2014 and become the No.2 option behind Felix Hernandez in the Mariners’ rotation.

Zunino is much better than that .199 average, and you'll LOVE the power. Courtesy: mlbtraderumors.com

Zunino is much better than that .199 average, and you’ll LOVE the power.
Courtesy: mlbtraderumors.com

Fantasy Player to Watch: C Mike Zunino

Zunino should have most people’s eyes already thanks to his 22 home runs in 2014, but many will be terrified of his .199/.254/.404 line and 33.2 percent strikeout rate. Once upon a time, there was a guy who hit. 227 with 24 home runs and 56 RBI…that was the 2012-version of Mike Napoli, and, though Napoli took a few more pitches than Zunino has in his brief career, we need to remember that this kid will still be just 24 on Opening Day. Zunino is slick with the glove behind the plate and can mash, so he’ll carve out a nice, long career. Get on board and watch him improve as he gains more big league experience.

Offseason Overview: The Mariners had their third winning season since 2004 last year, and they had very little to do to keep things intact for another run, but they did make a few changes. The signed Nelson Cruz, fresh off of his 40-homer outburst in Baltimore, to fill their DH spot with a much-needed, right-handed power hitter. Seattle acquired Seth Smith from San Diego for power-armed, results-deficient Brandon Maurer, and they signed Rickie Weeks to become a super-utility type of player, likely to see a lot of outfield at-bats for the Mariners. The rotation added depth when J.A. Happ was acquired from Toronto for OF Michael Saunders. Several solid moves to improve the roster and the quality of depth, as Seattle tries to get over the hump and make their first World Series in franchise history.

The Verdict: Seattle made some smart decisions this winter. They gave Cruz a four-year, $57 million deal, which could be a gamble given his age (34 on Opening Day), but he was the top offensive talent available on the free agent market for the team’s need. He’ll fit in nicely with Kyle Seager and Robinson Cano in the middle of the order. The rotation is still strong, as Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma provide All-Star level production while young arms like Paxton and Taijuan Walker round out the rotation with Happ (if he didn’t pitch himself out of a rotation spot). The Mariners are primed to strike, especially with a Josh Hamilton-less Angels club that has far more question marks than Seattle does heading into the season. While PECOTA was generous with a duplication of the 2014 record, it wasn’t generous enough. Seattle will win 90 or more games in 2015.

2015 Season Previews: Tampa Bay Rays

Over the next several weeks, The Baseball Haven will be creating season previews for all 30 MLB teams. You’ll find their projected records (based on PECOTA records from Baseball Prospectus, as of 2/15/2015), each team’s top three players (based on Steamer WAR projections from FanGraphs), and some valuable notes on each team, including likely bounce-back candidates, potential breakout players or fantasy sleepers, as well as a look back at offseason transactions which led to each team’s projections. Stop back frequently to see where your favorite team ranks! 

Tampa Bay Rays

Courtesy: MLB.com

Courtesy: MLB.com

2015 Projected Record: 86-76 (2nd in AL East, 7th in MLB)

Manager: Kevin Cash (1st season with Tampa Bay, no prior experience)

Top Three Players: 3B Evan Longoria (5.3), RHP Alex Cobb (3.0), OF Desmond Jennings (2.8)

Bounce-back Player: 3B Evan Longoria

Longoria is a star. For some reason, he continues to be overlooked when people talk about the best third basemen in baseball. Perhaps it is because he has played for the Rays for seven seasons. He’s entering his age-29 season and he’s coming off of his worst career season, a career-worst .724 OPS. He slipped a little defensively, as well, seeing his range factor fall below league average for the first time in his career. Perhaps he was playing hurt, perhaps he is just aging, but Longoria will be asked to fill a major role in 2015, a role that he is familiar with. He will be the biggest bat in the Rays lineup, and, even with a lot of talented players around him, he must improve upon his 2014 season. We will look back at last season as an outlier to his incredible career, as he rebounds to post a .270/.350/.500 season.

Smyly will have Rays fans smiling...once he's healthy Courtesy: sportstalkflorida.com

Smyly will have Rays fans smiling…once he’s healthy
Courtesy: sportstalkflorida.com

Fantasy Player to Watch: LHP Drew Smyly

Smyly, acquired in the David Price trade last season, has battled some shoulder soreness this spring, which is always a scary, wearisome injury. He is coming along and will likely have his first start in mid-to-late April, likely missing the first two weeks of the season – if everything breaks right. In seven starts with the Rays last season, Smyly posted a 1.70 ERA and 0.76 WHIP, numbers that he will not duplicate over an entire season, but numbers that show why Smyly and his health are worth monitoring. Over his career, Smyly has a 3.55 ERA and 1.20 WHIP over 43 starts and 241 innings. At 26, he is quite capable of becoming one of the top starters in the American League, joining Alex Cobb, when he is healthy, as well above-average starters.

Offseason Overview: The Rays appeared to give up on Wil Myers, but they got some value out of him, even with his huge struggles, acquiring OF Steven Souza, a late-blooming prospect from the Nationals, and a bit of depth (Travis Ott, Burch Smith, Rene Rivera, and Jake Bauers) to their roster and to a system, which, suddenly, isn’t drafting and producing prospects at the rate that it used to. The Rays did the same type of deal when they sent Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar to Oakland for John Jaso and prospects (Boog Powell and Daniel Robertson). Even with new leadership, after Andrew Friedman left for the Dodgers, the Rays continue on with their cost-saving, intelligent ways. The Rays wrapped up their offseason by signing Asdrubal Cabrera, who appears to be the starting shortstop, even after proving to be below-average at the position the last several seasons in Cleveland, prior to being traded to Washington last season; however, at just 29 and on a one-year deal, it was a smart investment. The best move of the offseason by the Rays may have been the recent buy-low deal that brought their injury-ravaged rotation Erasmo Ramirez, a pitcher with great stuff and inconsistent results and opportunities in Seattle, for LHP Mike Montgomery, a flamed out piece of the James Shields trade with Kansas City.

The Verdict: Even with Ben Zobrist and Wil Myers gone, the Rays have a very solid roster. Nick Franklin, acquired in the David Price deal, or Tim Beckham could fill the Zobrist role, as both can handle shortstop and second base, though they won’t have the same type of offensive production. Jaso will fill the DH role, providing solid power and on-base skills, while Kevin Kiermaier provides elite defensive ability as the center fielder. If they don’t deal David DeJesus prior to Opening Day, he looks like the fourth outfielder, which is a nice option for the club to have. The biggest issue will be their rotation. Cobb and Smyly will miss the first couple of weeks due to injuries they suffered in camp, while Matt Moore may come back from Tommy John surgery by July. Jake Odorizzi made huge strides last season and Chris Archer is underrated, despite his 3.28 ERA and 1.22 WHIP over the last two seasons. If they can survive the first couple of weeks with their pitching staff decimated, the Rays will make the playoffs for the fifth time in eight seasons, and, for some reason, they will continue to be overlooked by those who cover the sport. 88-90 wins for a very undervalued, under-appreciated team.

2015 Season Previews: San Diego Padres

Over the next several weeks, The Baseball Haven will be creating season previews for all 30 MLB teams. You’ll find their projected records (based on PECOTA records from Baseball Prospectus, as of 2/15/2015), each team’s top three players (based on Steamer WAR projections from FanGraphs), and some valuable notes on each team, including likely bounce-back candidates, potential breakout players or fantasy sleepers, as well as a look back at offseason transactions which led to each team’s projections. Stop back frequently to see where your favorite team ranks! 

San Diego Padres

Courtesy: MLB.com

Courtesy: MLB.com

2015 Projected Record: 84-78 (2nd in NL West, 8th in MLB)

Manager: Bud Black (617-680 in eight seasons with San Diego)

Top Three Players: OF Justin Upton (2.8), RHP James Shields (2.6), C Derek Norris (2.2)

Bounce-back Player: OF Matt Kemp

Entering his age-30 season, Kemp gets a fresh start away from Los Angeles, ready to prove that he is close to the elite producer that he was in 2011 and 2012 than the injury-plagued financial burden that he was in 2013. You can’t really argue that he was valueless in 2014, having watched his .309/.365/.606 second half eruption, which included 17 doubles and 17 home runs. If Kemp is the player that we saw down the stretch, the acquisition was a steal, even with the monies owed to the slugger.

Can Middlebrooks makde enough contact to have value? Courtesy: Getty Images

Can Middlebrooks makde enough contact to have value?
Courtesy: Getty Images

Fantasy Player to Watch: 3B Will Middlebrooks

Another addition, Middlebrooks, 26, looks to rebuild his value as he heads into the arbitration process next winter. After a powerful debut in 2012, Middlebrooks appeared to lose something, or, at least, gain a giant hole in his swing. The strikeout rate jumped to 29.9 percent in 2014, leading the Red Sox to move Xander Bogaerts to third and remove the once-promising prospect from an everyday role, which likely would have happened even if he didn’t miss nearly three months after having a finger broken by a pitch. A fresh start, a new organization, and an opportunity – those things will go a long way in allowing Middlebrooks to figure things out. Even with a tough offensive environment, Middlebrooks should have solid value, even if it comes with a .240 average, due to the power potential.

Offseason Overview: The Padres hired A.J. Preller to become their GM last August, and in his first offseason at the helm, ownership opened up the wallet like never before, allowing the 37-year-old Cornell graduate to piece together an immediate competitor. Preller traded for an entire outfield, acquiring Justin Upton, Matt Kemp, and Wil Myers to patrol spacious Petco Park. He added Middlebrooks at third through a deal with Boston, got a slugging catcher in Derek Norris for a solid young pitcher in Jesse Hahn in a deal with Oakland, and then signed their rotation horse when he added James Shields. Preller’s only competition for most active general manager was likely Oakland’s Billy Beane, and both of them improved their teams by taking huge risks.

The Verdict: The Padres immediately became competitors, but we will have to wait and see whether the addition of all of the right-handed power will increase the club’s ability to score runs. They have plenty of talent on the roster, and that is before we even get to the starting rotation. Shields will be the ace, but the remaining group of Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross, and Ian Kennedy is a gifted compilation of powerful arms that are capable of missing a lot of bats. While so many wondered what the defense would be like with Myers in center field, with the extreme strikeout potential from the rotation, it dulls that worry a bit. The Padres are very likely to compete for a wild card spot, as, even with the huge additions, they still fall slightly short of the Dodgers in the NL West. PECOTA saw the team improving substantially from their 77 wins last season to 84 in 2015, and I can see them getting to 88 wins, as well.

2015 Season Previews: Oakland Athletics

Over the next several weeks, The Baseball Haven will be creating season previews for all 30 MLB teams. You’ll find their projected records (based on PECOTA records from Baseball Prospectus, as of 2/15/2015), each team’s top three players (based on Steamer WAR projections from FanGraphs), and some valuable notes on each team, including likely bounce-back candidates, potential breakout players or fantasy sleepers, as well as a look back at offseason transactions which led to each team’s projections. Stop back frequently to see where your favorite team ranks!

Oakland Athletics

Courtesy: MLB.com

Courtesy: MLB.com

2015 Projected Record: 83-79 (3rd in AL West, 10th in MLB)

Manager: Bob Melvin (325-260 in four seasons with Oakland, 818-768 in 11 seasons overall)

Top Three Players: SS Ben Zobrist (4.3), 3B Brett Lawrie (3.7), C Stephen Vogt (2.8)

Bounce-back Player: OF Josh Reddick

After having a breakout 2012, when he hit 32 home runs in his age-25 season, Reddick has battled injuries the last two seasons. In 2013, it was his right wrist and in 2014 it was his right knee, and he’s already dealt with an oblique injury this spring. It would be easy to turn and run from him considering his laundry list of injuries, but Reddick is quite capable of the type of numbers that he had in 2012. He may have lost Josh Donaldson and Yoenis Cespedes since this time last year, but the A’s have an interesting compilation of versatile talent. Reddick won’t boost any fantasy leagues with his batting average, but the power is huge and with offense down, Reddick is a nice, overlooked power source.

Hahn will be a solid contributor in Oakland Courtesy: sfgate.com

Hahn will be a solid contributor in Oakland
Courtesy: sfgate.com

Fantasy Player to Watch: RHP Jesse Hahn

A sixth round pick in 2010 by the Rays out of the collegiate baseball hotbed that is the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (aka Virginia Tech), Hahn moved quickly before reaching the majors with the Padres last season, tossing all of 163.1 innings in the minors prior to logging 73.1 in San Diego. Hahn was acquired from the Friars for Derek Norris, one of the flurry of moves by busy beaver Billy Beane. Though he had Tommy John surgery in August of 2010, he has remained free and clear of injuries since then, while demonstrating the ability to miss bats with his 8.6 K:9 last season in the majors. Hahn will start the second game of the season for the A’s, and he, like many before him, will post very impressive numbers in the pitcher-friendly confines of Oakland Coliseum.

Offseason Overview: Busy, busy Billy Beane spent another offseason making moves to remake his ballclub, raising eyebrows by dealing an MVP candidate before erasing all of the question marks and leaving his players and fans excited for another season of contention. Gone from last season’s roster are Jon Lester and Jason Hammel (via free agency), and Josh Donaldson, Jeff Samardzija, and Brandon Moss (via trade). Those spots have been filled by Hahn, Lawrie, Zobrist, Marcus Semien, and Kendall Graveman, all acquired through trades, and Billy Butler, signed through free agency. There isn’t a rebuild mode in Beane’s vocabulary, as he found unique ways to acquire useful talent to reload his roster.

The Verdict: Beane will look like a genius when this retooling works out. There isn’t an “if” in that statement because this team is deep and very talented. While the system isn’t loaded with top-notch minor league talent, but you can never count out a random acquisition of prospects when you have the leadership that you do in Oakland. A solid, young rotation, anchored by RHP Sonny Gray, will continue to keep the opposition from scoring, just like their home park. The offense doesn’t have a Mike Trout or Miguel Cabrera to haunt the dreams of pitchers, but it seems like the entire lineup is capable of above average production at their respective positions. Oakland is a playoff-caliber team, capable of several wins better than their PECOTA-projected 83. Look for another contender by the bay again in 2015.

2015 Season Previews: Toronto Blue Jays

Over the next several weeks, The Baseball Haven will be creating season previews for all 30 MLB teams. You’ll find their projected records (based on PECOTA records from Baseball Prospectus, as of 2/15/2015), each team’s top three players (based on Steamer WAR projections from FanGraphs), and some valuable notes on each team, including likely bounce-back candidates, potential breakout players or fantasy sleepers, as well as a look back at offseason transactions which led to each team’s projections. Stop back frequently to see where your favorite team ranks!

Toronto Blue Jays

Courtesy: MLB.com

Courtesy: MLB.com

2015 Projected Record: 83-79 (3rd in AL East, 11th in MLB)

Manager: John Gibbons (462-472 in seven seasons with Toronto)

Top Three Players: 3B Josh Donaldson (5.6), OF Jose Bautista (5.2), C Russell Martin (3.7)

Bounce-back Player: OF Michael Saunders

Saunders has battled injuries throughout his career, but there is quite a bit of unlocked potential within him that could burst out in the tremendous lineup that the Blue Jays possess. Even after having knee surgery in February, Saunders will get enough plate appearances to carve out value. In his native Canada, he could find levels of comfort that he wasn’t able to in Seattle, and at just 28, he has his prime and a solid power/speed combination to become another offensive force in Toronto.

Can the stuff be tamed enough for Sanchez to become a top starter? Courtesy: mlbtraderumors.com

Can the stuff be tamed enough for Sanchez to become a top starter?
Courtesy: mlbtraderumors.com

Fantasy Player to Watch: RHP Marcus Stroman (tore ACL and is out for the 2015 season) – RHP Aaron Sanchez

Sanchez was electric out of the bullpen in 2014, posting a 1.09 ERA and 0.70 WHIP over 33 innings and 24 appearances. He has electric stuff, but the inability to control it, as well as some shoulder issues, have led to a cautious approach from Toronto, but it still wasn’t enough to keep him from making his debut at 21. Now, seemingly locked into a rotation spot, Sanchez will have an opportunity to shine as a starter. It won’t always be pretty, especially with the potential for high walk totals, but he has enough stuff to warrant roster consideration in any and all formats.

Offseason Overview: Possibly the biggest addition a team could have made this winter was signing C Russell Martin, as his pitch framing and ability to produce solid offensive numbers impact the roster tremendously. If you consider the power and punch in the lineup, you’ll see that his true value will lie in his ability to work with the pitching staff. While Josh Thole will likely remain R.A. Dickey‘s personal catcher, Martin could play a huge role in the success and maturation of Opening Day starter Drew Hutchison (23), RHP Aaron Sanchez (21), and LHP Daniel Norris (21). The Jays lost 1B/DH Adam Lind to Milwaukee, they were able to sign former can’t-miss prospect Justin Smoak to an affordable deal, while handing the center field job over to Dalton Pompey after Colby Rasmus left via free agency. Adding Josh Donaldson was a coup to an already incredible offense, and his defense is just as stellar as the bat.

The Verdict: The loss of Marcus Stroman really hurt the rotation. As much as I, personally, wanted Aaron Sanchez to be a starter, he isn’t ready, and he would have been better served in the bullpen until the club knew that he had harnessed his stuff. That isn’t to say that who is around isn’t valuable. Hutchison should come into his own this season, and Dickey and LHP Mark Buehrle are about as sure a bet as you can get to penciling in 200 innings and 32 starts. With Norris and Sanchez as high potential wild cards, the Toronto rotation will certainly be worth monitoring. The offense is outrageously talented. Adding Donaldson to Edwin Encarnacion and Bautista makes the Blue Jays lineup an absolute nightmare for opposing pitchers. The AL East will continue to be a demanding division, but the Jays are heading in the right direction. They have plenty of major league talent and are utilizing their system to acquire more of it, as they did with Donaldson. The 83 wins seem about right, but, with Martin leading the pitching staff, 87 and contending for a wild card spot is within reason.

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