2015 Season Previews: New York Mets

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!

New York Mets

Courtesy: MLB.com
Courtesy: MLB.com

2015 Projected Record: 82-80 (2nd in NL East, 13th in MLB)

Manager: Terry Collins (304-344 in four seasons with New York, 748-778 in ten seasons overall)

Top Three Players: 3B David Wright (3.6), C Travis d’Arnaud (2.9), RHP Matt Harvey (2.7)

Bounce-back Player: RHP Matt Harvey

This is the easiest guess possible for this spot. After missing all of the 2014 season, Harvey’s return will be the highlight of a long season in New York. After losing Wheeler to the same injury, the outlook just won’t be the same. With an innings limit after coming back from his surgery, even if the Mets were to have a strong season, there wouldn’t be any way that Harvey could carry them through any playoff appearance. Still, if Harvey is the same pitcher that he was prior to his absence, he’s quite capable of battling Clayton Kershaw for the NL Cy Young award.

Flores had the tools at one point - he still does! Courtesy: metsminors.net
Flores had the tools at one point – he still does!
Courtesy: metsminors.net

Fantasy Player to Watch: RHP Zack Wheeler (out for season after Tommy John surgery)…SO: SS Wilmer Flores

With Wheeler out, there weren’t many options here for New York. Between d’Arnaud and Flores, I’m leaning Flores on the Mets’ fantasy player to watch. A 6’3″, 205 pound shortstop who has a knack for contact could play well in Citi Field, even if he is providing less than stellar range up-the-middle defensively. At one time, Flores was projected to be an offensive monster, likely moving to right field and becoming a huge producer. Unfortunately, he hasn’t had consistent opportunities. At just 23, this could become a do or die year for Flores, and you should take a flier on him due to his size, minor league production, and untapped potential as a player capable of a big season.

Offseason Overview: What do you do when you finish 79-83? You sign a 36-year-old outfielder and hope that your ace returning from Tommy John doesn’t have any setbacks, of course! Welcome to the life of the New York Mets! Unfortunately, even with Matt Harvey coming back, the club lost potential breakout performer Zack Wheeler to the same injury. Now, the Mets will hope that Dillon Gee can fill the void at the back-end of the rotation, while ageless wonder Bartolo Colon and budding star Jacob deGrom fill out the top of the rotation with Harvey. While Cuddyer will be an upgrade in right, allowing Curtis Granderson to slide to left while ridding the Mets of last year’s Eric Young, Jr. and Chris Young platoon, his age and the fact that he isn’t hitting in Coor’s will likely bring his numbers back down to earth.

The Verdict: The Mets are hoping for the best. Even if they win 82 games, they’re going to be looking so high up at Washington that half of the team would end up on the disabled list with neck injuries. Between David Wright’s back and Colon and Cuddyer’s age, the Mets will keep Aflac in business. We will continue to see amazing defense out of Juan Lagares in center, but there comes a time when the bat needs to be as useful as the glove. If New York gets some production out of Flores and catcher Travis d’Arnaud, the whole “age factor” may not be as bastardizing. With Harvey back, things will look a little brighter, especially if he maintains the stuff that he had prior to his injury. If the Mets were to win 80 games with this group, they should extend the entire front office. There are just too many injury issues to count on this team to reach the 80-win plateau.

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2015 Season Previews: Chicago Cubs

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!

Chicago Cubs

Courtesy: MLB.com
Courtesy: MLB.com

2015 Projected Record: 82-80 (2nd in NL Central, 14th in MLB)

Manager: Joe Maddon (1st season with Chicago, 781-729 in 11 seasons overall)

Top Three Players: 1B Anthony Rizzo (4.7), LHP Jon Lester (3.6), RHP Jake Arrieta (2.6)

Bounce-back Player: LHP Travis Wood

Wood posted an atrocious 5.03 ERA and 1.53 WHIP over 31 starts and 173.2 innings in 2014. He saw an increase in his walks (3.94 per nine) and a decrease in runners left on base (66.5 percent), both of which were career worsts. In addition to those numbers, Wood saw his strikeouts per nine reach career-high levels (7.57) and his home run per fly ball stayed below the league average (8.8 percent), so it wasn’t all bad; however, the highly inflated .320 BABIP, which was much higher than the career .278 BABIP. Wood doesn’t allow many home runs, he manages to keep the ball down (though, not at elite levels with a 33.2 percent ground ball rate), and he is entering his age-28 season, the supposed prime of his career, with only 738 major league innings on his arm. With a rapidly improving roster behind him and Jon Lester as a mentor, Wood is capable of an enormous, undervalued, and overlooked season.

Soler is just as good and capable of better than Bryant in 2015
Soler is just as good and capable of better than Bryant in 2015

Fantasy Player to Watch: OF Jorge Soler

All eyes will be on Kris Bryant whenever he is promoted from Triple-A, especially after his monstrous Spring Training, but Soler deserves just as much focus. The 6’4″ Cuban right fielder has a powerful swing and a solid approach at the plate. While he may never hit .300, he is more than capable of producing an on-base percentage over .370 in his first full season, as the 23-year-old sets himself up for tremendous opportunities to succeed. The biggest issue for Soler has been his inability to stay healthy, as the 2014 gave him the most plate appearances of his brief career when he reached 333 plate appearances over four levels, including 97 with Chicago. While everyone jumps at Bryant, do yourself a favor and grab Soler, who, if healthy, is likely to outproduce Bryant due to starting at the major league level on Day One.

Offseason Overview: The Cubs made several additions this winter. They added OF Dexter Fowler in a deal with Houston, 2B Tommy La Stella in a deal with Atlanta, re-signed RHP Jason Hammel, bought low on former All-Star catcher Miguel Montero, and, of course, made the huge splash in free agency by signing LHP Jon Lester. The Cubs made simple additions to improve their roster, teaming up the veterans with the superb group of young talent on hand. Now, Chicago has a more than capable leadoff hitter in Fowler (career .366 OBP) to set the stage for SS Starlin Castro, 1B Anthony Rizzo, Soler, and Montero in the meat of the order, with more help on the way if/when Bryant and Javier Baez are ready in the next month or so. Oh yeah…they got one of the best managers in baseball, as well.

The Verdict: To jump from 76-86 to 82-80 doesn’t seem like a big deal, but that would put the club in 2nd place in the division (based on PECOTA projections). This team is capable of a few more games than that, especially if they have consistency out of Rizzo, Castro, Fowler, and Soler. With utility-man Arismendy Alcantara filling a Ben Zobrist role, the Cubs have enough depth on the major league roster and within their system to overcome some injuries. Additionally, they have the talent to improve at mid-season, as 2014 MLB Draft pick Kyle Schwarber could be a highly-coveted bat at the deadline. This may not be the year, but the Cubs are on the rise, and they’ll be on the rise for the next several years.

Season Previews: Miami Marlins

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! 

Miami Marlins

Courtesy: MLB.com
Courtesy: MLB.com

2015 Projected Record: 81-81 (3rd in NL East, 17th in MLB)

Manager: Mike Redmond (139-185 in two seasons with Miami)

Top Three Players: OF Giancarlo Stanton (5.9), OF Christian Yelich (3.2), OF Marcell Ozuna (3.2)

Bounce-back Player: OF Giancarlo Stanton

It isn’t every day that a player has his face hit by a 90 mile-per-hour to the face, breaking bones and teeth, while in the middle of an MVP-caliber season. That, unfortunately, is what happened to Stanton last season, yet, he managed to finish the season with career-highs in home runs, RBI, runs, and walks, while earning his second All-Star appearance and first Silver Slugger in his age-24 season. While some may be weary of the massive slugger due to the psychological impact that his injury may have on his future abilities, he is in this spot because what Stanton was doing last season was the tip of the iceberg. While Stanton has had issues staying healthy over his career, the injury last season was of the “freak” variety, and, as the Marlins begin to piece together a formidable roster, Stanton’s opportunities to continue his climb to superstardom will increase, as will his ability to maintain and exceed his incredible 2014 numbers.

Now protected with a faceguard, can Stanton be even better? Courtesy: ESPN.com
Now protected with a faceguard, can Stanton be even better?
Courtesy: ESPN.com

Fantasy Player to Watch: 1B Justin Bour

An injury to an outfielder or to Mike Morse could pave the way for Bour to finally get an extended look at first base. At 26, he is hardly a prospect, but he has been quite productive throughout his minor league career after being drafted in the 25th round in 2009. Bour got his first taste of the majors in 2014, posting a .284/.361/.365 line over 83 plate appearances, while posting a .279/.351/.460 line over 2,742 career minor league plate appearances. The Marlins do have quite a bit of depth (Ichiro Suzuki, Reed Johnson, and Jeff Baker will be on their bench), but it wouldn’t be all that surprising if the 6’4″, 250 pounder was called upon at some point in 2015.

Offseason Overview: Miami was active over the winter, acquiring RHP Mat Latos from Cincinnati and 2B Dee Gordon from the Dodgers. The speed that Gordon provides, if he continues to get on base, creates quite a bit of diversity within the Marlins’ lineup. In 2014, Miami only received a .236/.303/.344 from their second basemen, so Gordon could provide quite a nice upgrade there. In Latos, the Marlins gained one-year of a pitcher capable of elite production, and a pitcher who is capable of occupying the No.1 spot in the rotation until Jose Fernandez returns from his rehab for Tommy John surgery. While the Marlins gave up some solid, mid-rotation arms (Andrew Heaney and Anthony DeSclafani) to acquire these players, they continue to develop and draft solid talent to build from within. It didn’t stop there, though, as Miami acquired RHP Aaron Crow from the Royals, RHP Dan Haren (in the same deal with Gordon), RHP David Phelps and 3B Martin Prado (both acquired from the Yankees in a deal that sent Nathan Eovaldi and Garret Jones to New York), while signing 1B Mike Morse via free agency to provide additional power, and OF Ichiro Suzuki, OF Tyler Colvin, and INF Scott Sizemore to strengthen the bench. The club promised Stanton that they would build around him when he signed his massive $325 million extension, and it appears that they are holding firm to that promise.

The Verdict: When you have a superstar like Stanton, you build around him. Miami just locked-up OF Christian Yelich to a seven-year extension, and they have additional talent like OF Marcell Ozuna, RHP Henderson Alvarez, RHP and closer Steve Cishek, and hard-throwing RHP Jarred Cosart on-hand. The addition of veterans like Prado and Haren can be a huge influence on a young roster, but these young, core players are talented and experienced enough to know what they are doing. The Marlins will be a contender in the National League East in 2015, and they may be the only team who is capable of giving the Nationals any true competition in the division. Look for this team to be several games better than the .500 PECOTA projection, and look for a run to the Wild Card once Jose Fernandez joins the rotation in mid-to-late June.

2015 Season Previews: Pittsburgh Pirates

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! 

Pittsburgh Pirates

Courtesy: MLB.com
Courtesy: MLB.com

2015 Projected Record: 80-82 (3rd in NL Central, 18th in MLB

Manager: Clint Hurdle (333-315 in four years with Pittsburgh, 867-940 in 12 years overall)

Top Three Players: OF Andrew McCutchen (6.1), OF Starling Marte (3.3), 2B Neil Walker (3.0)

Bounce-back Player: OF Gregory Polanco

After hitting .328/.390/.504 with 29 extra-base hits and 16 stolen bases in 69 games at Triple-A last season, Polanco landed in Pittsburgh to begin his career. The 6’4″, 220 pound outfielder ran like a gazelle, covering the outfield and the base paths with long-legged ease, but was somewhat disappointing in his first shot at the big leagues, posting a .235/.307/.343 triple-slash with 16 extra-base hits and 14 stolen bases over 314 plate appearances. For that reason, Polanco is here, as he is likely to see huge gains, especially considering the fact that he wasn’t over-matched during his time in the majors in 2014, posting an 18.9 percent strikeout rate with a 9.6 percent walk rate. Polanco will be in his age-23 season and it wouldn’t surprise me to see more than 50 extra-base hits and 25 stolen bases out of the lanky, future superstar.

NL Cy Young contender, Cole Courtesy: CBS Sports
NL Cy Young contender, Cole
Courtesy: CBS Sports

Fantasy Player to Watch: RHP Gerrit Cole

Cole struggles with shoulder fatigue in 2014, which is quite worrisome for a pitcher, especially one who was just 23 last season. With an offseason of rest, Cole steps into a season that will catapult him into the elite of the National League, as he’ll become the top starter on the Pirates and one of the top ten pitchers in baseball – barring injury, of course. Cole improved his K:9 to 9.0 from 7.7 in his rookie campaign, and further gains are likely as he continues to grasp and build command of his impressive collection of power pitches. The Pirates are putting Francisco Liriano on the bump for Opening Day, but Cole is the ace of the Pirates rotation, and he’ll make huge strides in 2015 and put himself in the Cy Young conversation.

Offseason Overview: The Pirates brought Liriano back, as well as right-hander A.J. Burnett, strengthening their rotation with arms that have succeeded at PNC Park already. They’ll hope that RHP Charlie Morton can stay healthy and productive and that Vance Worley‘s success in 17 starts (8-4, 2.85 ERA, 1.21 WHIP) can be duplicated, forming a rotation that is capable of carrying the club to the top of the division. The focus of the offseason appeared to be acquiring depth, which Neil Huntington and company did quite well, bringing in super-utility players Sean Rodriguez and Steve Lombardozzi, first baseman/outfielder Corey Hart, and international shortstop signing Jung Ho Kang, who hit a robust .356/.459/.739 with 40 home runs and 117 RBI in 117 games in Korea last season. The loss of Russell Martin will be a huge factor with the pitching staff, but Francisco Cervelli was brought in to cushion the blow. We’ll see if that is enough to keep things balanced for the Pirates, who have made the playoffs the last two seasons after missing out on October fun from 1993 to 2012.

The Verdict: Pittsburgh is loaded with talent. It may seem unreasonable to expect the same type of season out of Josh Harrison that they had in 2014 (.837 OPS, 58 extra-base hits, 18 stolen bases), but they should get more out of 1B Pedro Alvarez (.717 OPS, 18 home runs), while the outfield begins (or continues) to carry the offense, with likely MVP candidate Andrew McCutchen being flanked by Starling Marte and Polanco in the corners – and we haven’t even mentioned 2B Neil Walker, who is one of the most underrated players in baseball. With continued improvement from the youngsters, particularly Cole and Polanco, the Pirates are capable of overcoming the loss of their leader, Martin, and riding the on-hand talent to a 90-win season and an NL Central title.

2015 Season Previews: Milwaukee Brewers

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! 

Milwaukee Brewers

Courtesy: MLB.com
Courtesy: MLB.com

2015 Projected Record: 80-82 (4th in NL Central, 20th in MLB)

Manager: Ron Roenicke (335-313 in four seasons with Milwaukee)

Top Three Players: OF Carlos Gomez (4.4), C Jonathan Lucroy (3.3), OF Ryan Braun 2.5

Bounce-back Player: SS Jean Segura

In the first half of the 2013 season Segura hit .325/.363/.487 with 11 doubles, eight triples, 11 home runs, and 27 stolen bases in 397 plate appearances. Since then, Segura has hit .244/.283/.322 with 23 doubles, eight triples, six home runs, and 37 stolen bases in 783 plate appearances. Who is Jean Segura? Well, in 2014, Segura dealt with personal tragedy, which could have been a leading culprit in his ineptitude. He was always a good contact hitter, but, suddenly, he was posting a .275 BABIP and his entire game fell off – even his defense wasn’t as good in 2014. While it’s fair to wonder what was going on in the second half of 2013, the chances are high that this 25-year-old gets things rolling again, becoming a very valuable shortstop for the Brewers and a favorite of fantasy nerds.

Courtesy: naciondeportiva.com
Courtesy: naciondeportiva.com

Fantasy Player to Watch: RHP Mike Fiers

I loathed Fiers because he almost cost me a title last season. When his fastball smacked Giancarlo Stanton and ended the big slugger’s season, that was the only time that I remember seeing Fiers name in the national sports headlines in 2014. It won’t be the same in 2015. Fiers, 29, posted a 2.13 ERA and 0.88 WHIP over 71.2 innings and 14 games (ten starts), while posting an impressive 9.5 K:9 and 4.47 K:BB. In 2013, Fiers had his forearm broken by a batted ball. Outside of that miserable season, which lasted all of 22.1 major league innings, Fiers is 15-15 with a 3.16 ERA and 1.12 WHIP over his 199.2 innings in 2012 and 2014, striking out 9.5 batters per nine. He may be a late bloomer, he may not have an electric fastball (89.6 mph), but Mike Fiers can pitch. He has a rotation spot locked up, and he is an excellent, cheap target.

Offseason Overview: The Brewers let Mark Reynolds leave via free agency and brought in Adam Lind to man first base. Lind had his most productive season since his impressive 2009, posting an .860 OPS and 141 wRC+ over just 318 plate appearances, and, if healthy (which has been his problem due to back issues), he could be the solid, left-handed bat the Brewers have needed since Prince Fielder left. Milwaukee lost Zach Duke to the White Sox, but they added an impressive lefty of their own in his place, Neal Cotts. They traded their “ace”, Yovani Gallardo, to Texas for some solid young pieces, sliding Fiers and Jimmy Nelson into the rotation to replace the overrated Mexican right-hander, whose inability to miss bats increased while his salary inflated. While there wasn’t a true splash by the Brewers this winter, they have the core of this group together for another couple of seasons, replacing pieces as they go to remain competitive.

The Verdict: Milwaukee remains one of those teams that battle and are a nuisance to their counterparts, though they don’t seem to create headlines. They collect talent and find ways to keep it around. Lucroy is one of the top offensive catchers in baseball, Gomez has the best power/speed combo this side of Mike Trout, and Ryan Braun will be improved with the ability to use his thumb in 2015, something he wasn’t able to do for several months in 2014. There are several question marks when it comes to health, but the Brewers may be able to hold onto the lead in the NL Central if they have things go right. A return to form by Braun and Segura, some improvement by Khris Davis and Scooter Gennett, and typical production from Aramis Ramirez, Gomez, and Lucroy, and the offense is scary. A little luck with Jimmy Nelson on the back-end of the rotation and consistency from Matt Garza, Kyle Lohse, Wily Peralta, and Fiers, and they are contenders. They’ll be much better than 4th in the NL Central in 2015.

2015 Season Previews: Cincinnati Reds

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! 

Cincinnati Reds

Courtesy: MLB.com
Courtesy: MLB.com

2015 Projected Record: 79-83 (5th in NL Central, 21st in MLB)

Manager: Bryan Price (76-86 in one season with Cincinnati)

Top Three Players: 1B Joey Votto (4.1), C Devin Mesoraco (2.9), RHP Johnny Cueto (2.7)

Bounce-back Player: 1B Joey Votto

Votto hasn’t been the same player since his 2010 NL MVP, or so it seems. As a native of Cincinnati, all that I hear on talk radio is how Votto isn’t worth the money and he doesn’t swing enough. It is an argument that continues to play out, as Votto continues to walk and get on base, but he also continues to see his home run totals dip. For all of those who thought that last season was so awful, due to his .255 average, they forget that he got on-base at a .390 clip. As long as Votto is patient, fans and fantasy players should be, too. He is the most intelligent hitter to play in MLB since Tony Gwynn, and it is a matter of time before he stays on the field and finds his MVP-caliber stroke again. Those who take a chance on him will, likely, be rewarded. He isn’t going to miss 100 games again. He’s in shape, the Reds were cautious last season because they weren’t competitive, and he instantly reclaims the title as the Reds best player when he suits up on Opening Day.

Can Iglesias take on a major role in his rookie season?  Courtesy: Cincinnati.com
Can Iglesias take on a major role in his rookie season?
Courtesy: Cincinnati.com

Fantasy Player to Watch: RHP Raisel Iglesias

Iglesias is a 24-year-old right-hander from Cuba whom the Reds signed to a seven-year, $27 million deal last June. Despite being just 5’11”, the Reds seem likely to try the youngster as a starting pitcher, though his long-term role may be in the bullpen. Iglesias was a reliever in Cuba and had some pretty miserable statistics based on his control, but he has very good stuff, a four-pitch mix with a sweeping breaking ball that could be a strikeout pitch if he is able to gain some command. The Reds have a couple of things going for them in how they develop Iglesias – they’ve had success with short starters (see Johnny Cueto) and they’ve groomed relief pitchers into successful starters in recent years (see Tony Cingrani and Michael Lorenzen). Iglesias is more likely to open the season in the bullpen than the rotation, but he is certainly someone to watch based on his stuff and the Reds need for a strong set-up man after watching so many crash and burn in the role in 2014.

Offseason Overview: Cincinnati had a busy, yet, somewhat confusing offseason. They needed to trim some payroll after a miserable season that saw attendance drop, so they needed to move some talent to accommodate that need. They dealt RHP Mat Latos and RHP Alfredo Simon, acquiring affordable, young pitching in RHP Anthony DeSclafani and RHP Brandon Crawford, while adding solid depth in the infield by acquiring INF Eugenio Suarez. However, despite the sudden youth movement, the Reds then traded prospect RHP Ben Lively for OF Marlon Byrd. They finished off the winter by signing RHP Burke Badenhop, who had a fantastic season in Boston in 2014, to shore up the spotty bullpen. So…they got a little younger and cheaper, then got a little older by getting Byrd, who is under contract through 2016 and will turn 38 in August. They kept their core together and must assume that they will get more out of Bruce, 2B Brandon Phillips, and Votto in 2015, but they didn’t truly address their rotation, which became quite slim after dealing away 40 percent of the 2014 rotation, only signing LHP Paul Maholm to address the losses.

The Verdict: Walt Jocketty continues to make deals as the GM in Cincinnati, but he isn’t making the additions necessary to get the team over the hump. After the 2013 season, Dusty Baker was fired, Shin-Soo Choo left via free agency, and the Reds gave Billy Hamilton the center field job – that about sums up their offseason last year. Sure, Jocketty moved payroll and acquired depth, but DeSclafani isn’t going to replace the ability of Latos, and both he and Crawford are better suited for relief roles. Ownership and management is hoping for more of the same out of Todd Frazier and Devin Mesoraco, with improved offensive output from Bruce, Votto, Phillips, and Hamilton. If everything clicks offensively, they may be able to score enough to beat the opposition, but they can only count on Cueto, Mike Leake, and Homer Bailey on three of every five days. Someone will need to come out of nowhere to give the club 60 good starts in the No.4 and No.5 spots in the rotation, and that talent isn’t on hand. It will be a long season in Cincinnati, and their projection by PECOTA, specifically last place in the NL Central, seems perfect.

2015 Season Previews: Chicago White 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! 

Chicago White Sox

Courtesy: MLB.com
Courtesy: MLB.com

2015 Projected Record: 78-84 (3rd in AL Central, 22nd in MLB

Manager: Robin Ventura (221-265 in three seasons with Chicago)

Top Three Players: LHP Chris Sale (4.8), 1B Jose Abreu (4.5), RHP Jeff Samardzija (3.1)

Bounce-back Player: LHP John Danks

It isn’t easy to say that Danks is going to bounce-back, as he hasn’t been a very productive pitcher since winning 15 games in 2010; however, there are signs for people to be positive about Danks. For one thing, Danks was able to pitch 193.1 innings in 2014, less than two years removed from rotator cuff and bicep tendon surgery (which cost him all but nine starts in 2012). The results (4.74 ERA and 1.44 WHIP) weren’t there, but the innings are impressive. Additionally, Danks was able to keep the ball down a bit better, leading to a 1.16 HR:9 IP (1.82 in 2013) and 42.3 percent ground ball rate, neither of which are back to his glory days, but they are trending in the right direction. Danks won’t have the fastball that he once had ever again and he will become more of a changeup artist, but, at the age of 30, he still has time to continue to re-invent himself. Look for another healthy season, with additional improvements across the board – including the wins, as 11 from last season could move to 14 this year with an improved offense.

Carlos Rodon - is he the next Sale?  Courtesy: baseballamerica.com
Carlos Rodon – is he the next Sale?
Courtesy: baseballamerica.com

Fantasy Player to Watch: LHP Carlos Rodon

At one time, the former ace of the N.C. State Wolfpack was the left-handed version of the over-hype drool machine that brought us the “can’t-miss-ace” label that was stuck on Stephen Strasburg and Mark Prior. Today, he still has a lot of helium left in his prospect balloon, but with just a tick off of his fastball, due to collegiate overuse, Rodon’s star doesn’t glow as bright as it once did. Don’t be fooled, though, because this left-hander still possesses enough stuff to be a top-of-the-rotation beast, and, thanks to a Chris Sale foot injury, he will have additional time to shine during spring training in his efforts to make the 25-man roster. Luckily, he only has to keep Hector Noesi from the No.5 spot in order to do that. There will be learning curves, of course, as evidenced by his sexy 13.5 K:9 in 12 innings at AAA that were offset by his 6 BB:9, but Rodon will be an asset for the White Sox, and his time with Chicago should start immediately.

Offseason Overview: The Chicago White Sox were very busy, adding David Robertson as their closer, Jeff Samardzija to complement Sale at the top of the rotation, and Melky Cabrera and Adam LaRoche to strengthen the offense. It was a quick turnaround, adding several key pieces to immediately hop into contention within the AL Central. The front office attacked the weak spots on the roster, didn’t overdo it with a monster, nine-figure contract, and even acquired Samardzija for pennies on the dollar (in prospects) when compared to what Oakland had given up for him months prior. Chicago did an excellent job to quickly improve their roster this winter.

The Verdict: Those intelligent moves from the offseason really improved the White Sox, and they are going to be closer to the Tigers, Indians, and Royals in 2015, than they will be to the Twins. With that being said, Chicago needs production from some pieces who haven’t always been consistent. Danks and Rodon are wild cards in the rotation, and if Noesi is their best option if a long-term injury were to happen, they would be in great trouble. Adam Eaton has another year to get on base, Avisail Garcia has another year to become “Miguel Cabrera” (as he was called his clone while he was with Detroit), and Jose Quintana has another season to become one of the best left-handed starters in baseball. When you consider those existing pieces, in addition to what was mentioned above, the Chicago White Sox will outperform their PECOTA and be contenders in 2015.