Tag Archives: Paul Goldschmidt

2016 Season Preview: Division Winners

Ah, Spring. There’s something special in the air this time of year. It’s that deceivingly warm April sunshine—pleasant for now, but you know better than to not pack a jacket. It’s the freshly-mowed grass that just smells like hope. Hope for a new baseball season, a fresh start, and for the 29 teams that aren’t defending World Series champions, hope that maybe, just maybe, this could be the year.

But the most beautiful thing about this time of year are the picks. It’s preseason prediction week, and this is when the claws come out. Everyone’s got an opinion about which teams will over- or under-perform this year, and thanks to the wonder of the internet, we get to read every last one of them.

As you read about the teams which I expect to excel in 2016, please note that my picks are probably wrong—just like yours, as well as the rest of the predictions out there. Let’s face it: no one can ever predict this sport. An unexpected contender will emerge from obscurity and make the playoffs. Expected 100-win teams will plummet, and start eyeing next year’s early draft picks. The real beauty is in the unknown, and that’s why we watch.

National League Wildcard: Diamondbacks over Cardinals

The Diamondbacks are the tailgating drivers in the rearview mirrors of the usual NL West contenders—obnoxious, and closer than they appear.

A somewhat under-the-radar breakout season by A.J. Pollock last year should’ve removed any doubts about these guys being for real, as he and perennial MVP candidate Paul Goldschmidt look to terrorize the league all the way to a playoff spot. New additions Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller give them a very formidable rotation—don’t be surprised if the D’backs hang around for a while this Postseason.

The Cardinals find a way every year. They’ll withstand the departures of Jason Heyward and John Lackey with the help of a new infusion of youth—Kolten Wong, Carlos Martínez and Randal Grichuk are now the core of this team, and will be for several years to come.

With the veteran guidance of Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright, count on the Redbirds to be around come October, but they’ll need some luck if they want to advance.

American League Wildcard: Rays over Royals

The Rays finished a distant fourth in the AL East last year, but in a division that is pretty much up for grabs, they have a good shot.

They’re built on the defensive wizardry of Kevin Kiermaier, and a very strong pitching staff whose 3.74 ERA ranked fourth in the AL last year. Keep an eye out for the long-awaited return of pitcher Matt Moore, and a potential breakout season for fellow lefty Drew “seriously, that’s all we got for David Price?” Smyly, who since joining the Rays in Mid-2014 has quietly posted a sub-1.00 WHIP in 114.1 innings.

The defending champion Royals will be tough to oust in the Postseason, but I’ll take Rays ace Chris Archer any day in a winner-take-all Wildcard match.

National League Division Series: Nationals over Diamondbacks

There’s no reason to think the Nationals, who were NL East favorites across the board a year ago, should be any less so in 2016.

When ace Max Scherzer is on his game, he’s the most unhittable pitcher in baseball. Anthony Rendon will be looking to bounce back from an injury-plagued 2015, and his .412 spring batting average is an indication that he’s planning on starting the new season strong.

New manager Dusty Baker is a proven winner in October, and he should be able to guide his new club to a first-round Postseason series victory.

National League Division Series: Giants over Cubs

The Giants’ mix of established veterans, boosted by the signing of free agent pitchers Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija, will make them a very well-balanced team.

People know about Buster Posey, but the real MVP of this ball club might be Joe Panik. With only 42 strikeouts last season, his ability to put the ball in play is the key to the Giants’ offense.

The Cubs put the nation on notice last year that these kids are truly ready for the big stage, with an NLCS appearance that capped a very successful season. Despite the playoff run being cut short, that experience will only make them more of a force.

Expect Kris Bryant to build on his Rookie of the Year campaign, and for Jake Arrieta to silence the critics by showing that last year’s Cy Young season was no fluke.

The Giants are the favorites in this series, because the Cubs’ youth has been shown to be volatile in the Postseason. But a Bumgarner/Arrieta matchup in Game 1 will be one for the ages.

American League Division Series: Indians over Rays

The Indians finished 2015 just a game above .500, but that doesn’t tell the whole story: they ended the season on a 32-21 run, much of which was keyed by the performance of rookie shortstop Francisco Lindor, who was called up midseason. Now, with Lindor leading the charge, the Indians are one of the strongest teams in the league, both offensively and defensively. Jason Kipnis, who also started to find his groove in the middle of last season, will also be a major contributor, along with Michael Brantley, who will be on the Disabled List to start the season, but should return in early May.

On the pitching side, don’t count out Carlos Carrasco for Cy Young consideration, whose 10.6 K/9 last year ranked third in the American League.

This will be an excellent series if you like good defense, but the Indians are just a bit more of a well-rounded ball club.

American League Division Series: Rangers over Yankees

The Rangers won the AL West last year thanks in part to the midseason acquisition of Cole Hamels, who solidified the rotation, the main weak spot of the team. Now he’s back for another year, and Yu Darvish, who should still be considered one of the best strikeout pitchers in the game, will rejoin the rotation this summer.

If their offense, which was never a problem, can hold up, the Rangers will have a very formidable Postseason squad.

The Yankees squeezed a lot of value out of aging veterans last year, and you have to wonder how much they realistically have left.

But what they’re expected to lose from the old guys, they’ll make up for with young talent. 22-year-old Luis Severino will be one of the kids on whom the Yankees pin their playoff hopes. 27-year-old Michael Pineda should be hitting his prime years, and, one would hope, his full potential. And maybe, just maybe, a change of scenery is all Starlin Castro (still just 26!) needed to regain his All-Star form.

National League Championship Series: Giants over Nationals

The Giants get to face their old manager, and the Nats get to face their old center fielder. I foresee a well-fought series in a rematch of the 2014 NLDS, but the Giants have been here before, and will prevail.

American League Championship Series: Indians over Rangers

The Indians have the edge in terms of pitching and defense, which is what wins in October.

World Series: Indians over Giants

A rematch of the 1954 Series, which the Indians are probably still sore about losing?

Juan Uribe trying to win his third ring with as many different teams?

Carlos Santana playing the National Anthem AND playing in the game? (Okay, it’s two different guys, but still)

This series will have it all, and will probably go the full seven games. I’m giving it to the Indians, who deserve to see an end to that nagging championship drought.

My only question is whether they’ll bring back Coach Lou Brown for an on-field ceremony—or hell, even let him manage the series. It’s what the world needs.

2016 MLB Positional Rankings

Each year, I like to do an MLB-wide player ranking by position. It’s a breakdown of what I expect to be each player’s total contribution to his team in the coming season. It takes into account offense, defense, baserunning—the overall game. For the sabermetrically-inclined, I suppose you could say this is how I expect the players to rank in total WAR for 2016. The only reason they’re grouped by position is that they’re easier to compare that way. For instance, I couldn’t definitively say who was better between Giancarlo Stanton and Addison Russell, because I wouldn’t know how to quantify the importance of position, and the defense-for-offense tradeoff. But I can compare Stanton to other outfielders, and Russell to other shortstops.

Comments are welcome, of course, but please keep in mind that there is a fair amount of speculation included in the following rankings. The best players of 2015 won’t be the same as the best players of 2016, because that isn’t how baseball works.

We’ll start with the top five catchers in 2016:

  1. Buster Posey, Giants
  2. Salvador Pérez, Royals
  3. Matt Wieters, Orioles
  4. Jonathan Lucroy, Brewers
  5. Francisco Cervelli, Pirates

Posey is the indisputable favorite here. His 6.1 bWAR last year was far and away the best of any full-time catcher in the majors. He put up his usual strong offensive numbers, while putting the world on notice to his improving defensive skills: he was recognized as a Gold Glove finalist for the first time in his career. But Wieters is the one to watch. After being limited to just 101 games over the past two seasons due to Tommy John surgery, he accepted the Orioles’ one-year qualifying offer in a bid to re-establish his value as an elite backstop. If he comes back strong with 20-homer power and his usual cannon of an arm, expect to hear his name a lot this year.

Honorable mention: Russell Martin, Travis d’Arnaud, Brian McCann

Top five first basemen in 2016:

  1. Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks
  2. Joey Votto, Reds
  3. Anthony Rizzo, Cubs
  4. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
  5. Chris Davis, Orioles

As ridiculous of a notion as it is that Paul Goldschmidt might still be underrated, that’s exactly the case. At least the league recognizes he’s the greatest hitter in the game right now: pitchers showed him respect last season to the tune of 29 intentional walks. Add his Gold Glove defense to that, and you can understand why he’ll be at the top of the MVP discussion for many years to come.

Honorable mention: Eric Hosmer, Freddie Freeman, Jose Abreu

Top five second basemen in 2016:

  1. José Altuve, Astros
  2. Jason Kipnis, Indians
  3. Dee Gordon, Marlins
  4. Robinson Canó, Mariners
  5. Kolten Wong, Cardinals

Jason Kipnis started to find his way in 2015, batting .318/.391/.481 from May 1st on. One hopes, as the Indians certainly do, that this is the true player that had been touted so highly since his days as a top prospect. But José Altuve still claims the top spot on this list, because he’s firmly established himself as one of the top hitters in the game. He’s virtually a lock for 200 hits, and he even started to find some power last season with 15 long balls. Expect this level of production to continue, as the 25-year old is just now entering his prime.

Honorable Mention: Joe Panik, Ben Zobrist, Logan Forsythe

Top five shortstops in 2016:

  1. Carlos Correa, Astros
  2. Francisco Lindor, Indians
  3. Addison Russell, Cubs
  4. Xander Bogaerts, Red Sox
  5. Brandon Crawford, Giants

An impressive field of youngsters highlights this list, most notably Carlos Correa, who hasn’t even played a full season in the big leagues, yet should still be considered one of the best players in the game right now. With 22 homers in his rookie campaign, his bat is exceptionally mature for a 21-year old. Fellow second-year player Addison Russell, whose defensive game is up there with the best in baseball, should also be fun to watch, as he’s set to assume the shortstop role for a full season with the Cubs.

Honorable Mention: Troy Tulowitzki, Ketel Marté, Andrelton Simmons

Top five third basemen in 2016:

  1. Manny Machado, Orioles
  2. Nolan Arenado, Rockies
  3. Josh Donaldson, Blue Jays
  4. Kris Bryant, Cubs
  5. Jung Ho Kang, Pirates

Manny Machado’s power production exploded in 2015, with 35 home runs, blowing past his previous career high mark of 14. He’s also the only player in baseball to have played all 162 games last season, putting to rest any concerns about him being injury-prone. At this rate, the 23-year old should continue to mash, as well as provide wizard-like glovework for years to come.

Honorable Mention: Matt Duffy, Evan Longoria, Adrian Beltré

Top five left fielders in 2016:

  1. Michael Brantley, Indians
  2. Miguel Sano, Twins
  3. Starling Marté, Pirates
  4. Justin Upton, Tigers
  5. David Peralta, Diamondbacks

Michael Brantley has somewhat quietly been one of the best-hitting outfielders in baseball the past two seasons, with a combined slash line of .319/.382/.494 over that time. As the Indians’ middle-of-the-order hitter, Brantley stands to see even more opportunities as his young teammates mature. Miguel Sano is a guy to watch, as his offensive production should be impressive—but I’d be concerned with how well his defense will hold up in left field.

Honorable Mention: Alex Gordon, Kyle Schwarber, Kevin Pillar

Top five center fielders in 2016:

  1. Mike Trout, Angels
  2. Andrew McCutchen, Pirates
  3. A.J. Pollock, Diamondbacks
  4. Jason Heyward, Cubs
  5. Lorenzo Cain, Royals

No surprise as to who’s number one on this list. The less familiar names include A.J. Pollock, who should be recognized as a perennial MVP candidate after last year’s breakout season. Look for him to build on that 20-homer, 7.4 bWAR campaign. Jason Heyward has been one of the best defensive outfielders for years, but will the move from right to center help—or hurt—his outlook? I’m expecting a few growing pains.

Honorable Mention: Kevin Kiermaier, Carlos Gómez, Byron Buxton

Top five right fielders in 2016:

  1. Bryce Harper, Nationals
  2. Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins
  3. José Bautista, Blue Jays
  4. Kole Calhoun, Angels
  5. Carlos González, Rockies

I still don’t think we’ve seen peak Giancarlo Stanton. If he can play a full season and stay healthy, there’s no reason he couldn’t put up numbers similar to Bryce Harper’s last year. The two of them should really be viewed as equals, but Harper gets the #1 spot since he’s the reigning MVP. Also, I’m obligated to remind you that Carlos González is still only 30 years old and coming off a 40-homer season.

Honorable Mention: Curtis Granderson, J.D. Martinez, Yasiel Puig

Top five starting pitchers in 2016:

  1. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
  2. Chris Archer, Rays
  3. Jake Arrieta, Cubs
  4. Chris Sale, White Sox
  5. Max Scherzer, Nationals

Clayton Kershaw is simply superhuman. With a career-high 11.6 strikeouts per nine innings last year, he’s more unhittable than ever before. Arrieta is the reigning Cy Young winner, but he’ll need to establish himself even more if he has thoughts of dethroning the king. Chris Archer’s strikeout rate has improved each of the last three seasons, and he’s just entering his prime years. Also, look for a bounce-back year from Chris Sale. His 3.41 ERA and .324 BABIP last year were hugely out of character, so expect him to settle back down near his career norms.

Honorable Mention: Zack Greinke, Dallas Keuchel, David Price, José Fernandez, Matt Harvey, Gerrit Cole, Jacob deGrom, Madison Bumgarner, Masahiro Tanaka

Relief pitchers are always a crap shoot, but I’ll take a shot at it:

  1. Aroldis Chapman, Yankees
  2. Jeurys Familia, Mets
  3. Wade Davis, Royals
  4. Ken Giles, Astros
  5. Zach Britton, Orioles

Not much of an explanation needed here. If you can throw 103, you can have the top spot on this list. I’m excited to see the evolution of Ken Giles, but there may be a learning curve as he gets used to his new home ballpark in Houston. Zach Britton is, for the second year running, the best closer no one’s talking about.

Arizona Diamondbacks 2015 Season Preview

This is one of a series of posts in which I will be breaking down every team in baseball. I am by no means a credible source—merely a casual fan who knows a little about baseball and would like to share my observations.

Today we look at the Diamondbacks, a team crippled by so many injuries last year they ended up with the worst record in the Major Leagues. But we all know they’re better than that, right?

Projected Lineup: CF A.J. Pollock, SS Chris Owings, 1B Paul Goldschmidt, RF Mark Trumbo, LF Yasmany Tomas*, 2B Aaron Hill, 3B Jake Lamb, C Tuffy Gosewisch

Projected Rotation: RHP Jeremy Hellickson*, RHP Josh Collmenter, RHP Rubby De La Rosa*, RHP Trevor Cahill, LHP Robbie Ray*

* new additions

The D’backs went to Australia to play the inaugural series of 2014, and it was all downhill from there.

Can we blame last season on jet lag? Maybe there was a baby crying on the flight back from Australia, and none of them got enough sleep?

Whatever the cause of their season-long hangover, it’s in the past. Today, we focus on the present, and where the team stands as we approach the coming season. A season which, quite thankfully for the D’backs, begins in the desert on their home turf.

New general manager Dave Stewart wasted no time in taking his team in a new direction. With a few swift trades this winter, he bolstered the rotation by adding Jeremy Hellickson, Robbie Ray, Rubby De La Rosa, and Allen Webster. Don’t bother going and looking up any of those names—none of them have any real upside. But the idea, presumably, was to add so many mediocre pitchers that at least one of them has to work out.

Once that happens, the D’backs simply have to wait for Patrick Corbin to come back from Tommy John surgery, and they’ll have a pretty formidable rotation.

The offense is centered around Paul Goldschmidt, who missed two months with a broken hand last year, but should be ready to continue his reign of terror on National League pitchers.

The problem is that he doesn’t have a supporting cast. The D’backs had a horrible on-base drought last year; Goldy was the only hitter with an on-base percentage above .330 (minimum 300 plate appearances). If no one before or after Goldy in the lineup can even get on base, you’re not going to score many runs.

Here’s what’s supposed to happen: A.J. Pollock sets the table. Goldy does his thing. Power-hitting Mark Trumbo protects Goldy in the lineup.

But last season, Pollock broke a hand and missed half the season, and Trumbo had a forgettable year in which he was hindered a lot by a foot injury. With those two guys back presumably for full seasons, the D’backs will take a mulligan on last year. And they should have better results, so long as they can get out of the way of those inside pitches.

The D’backs were also the winners of the “Next Cuban Sensation Whose Name Begins with Y” sweepstakes. Yasmany Tomas, who has huge promise because his name also ends with a Y, will bat in the middle of the lineup and play third base as well as some outfield. Tomas supposedly has massive power, so he may also help serve as protection for Goldschmidt. We don’t know much else about him, but one thing’s for sure: he will hit dingers.

There’s also a lot of buzz around camp right now about Jake Lamb. Like Tomas, he is a third baseman, and one of the organization’s top prospects. This gives the D’backs somewhat of a position battle, since to the best of my knowledge, a team is not allowed to field two third basemen. Tomas is the exciting Cuban slugger, and although Lamb isn’t Cuban (and therefore isn’t exciting), he has posted some solid numbers through three years in the minors, including a .321/.406/.553 career slash line.

Count on whoever loses this battle to still see significant playing time. Maybe in left field, maybe around the infield, but they’ll be worked in somewhere. They’re both too good to be left sitting on the bench.

With a much deeper lineup, and a rotation of the “eh not terrible” variety, the D’backs can count on something better than a last-place finish.

Projected Finish: 75-87, Fourth place in NL West

Arizona Diamondbacks 2014 Season Preview

This is one of a series of posts in which I will be breaking down every team in the National League. I am by no means a credible source—merely a casual fan who knows a little about baseball and would like to share my observations.

Today we look at the Diamondbacks, whose one-two punch of power hitters Paul Goldschmidt and Mark Trumbo are trying to bring coolness back to “the long ball” in the pitcher’s park that is Chase Field. Chicks in Phoenix should prepare to take notice.

Projected Lineup: CF A.J. Pollock, 3B Martin Prado, 1B Paul Goldschmidt, LF Mark Trumbo, 2B Aaron Hill, RF Gerardo Parra, C Miguel Montero, SS Didi Gregorius

Kirk Gibson’s D’backs are as advertised: scrappy, gritty, and not very good. They’re basically a team full of those “25th man”-type guys who you need to fill out playoff rosters—except that’s the whole team.

Paul Goldschmidt is the lone standout. He’s a beast, and probably the scariest hitter to face in the National League. What’s more, his clutch ability—whether or not you believe in such a thing as “clutch”—is indisputable. In 2013, he hit .348 with runners on base, and .480 in the ninth inning. Not to mention his three walk-off bombs.

Keep an eye on Chris Owings, the young middle infielder who broke into the majors last September after being named the Pacific Coast League MVP. He won’t initially have a position to play out of Spring Training, but if Aaron Hill comes down with an injury, or Didi Gregorius’ struggles at the plate become intolerable, Owings is next in line—and he won’t relinquish that starting spot.

But he’s got a ways to go if he wants to become the most prolific offensive player named Owings in D’backs history—Micah was a stud.

The pitching is another story. The rotation has no front-line starters. With Patrick Corbin likely out for the season with a torn UCL, the rotation appears quite underwhelming. Sure, there’s some potential. Trevor Cahill could return to greatness, being a ground ball specialist with an ever-improving defense behind him. Bronson Arroyo may very well continue the steady dominance that he’s shown the past few years, in spite of his old age. But since so many things have to go right for the D’backs, and because they have no depth to speak of, the faithful in Phoenix should not be holding their breath.

Keep an eye on the young Archie Bradley, though. He’ll begin the year in the minors, but the D’backs will need to make room for him quickly if he continues his pattern of dominating every level of the minor leagues—across High-A and Double-A last year, he posted a 14-5 record with a 1.84 ERA in 152 innings.

And if you thought the starting pitching was bad—let’s talk about the bullpen. They can’t even hold any of the leads that the starters neglect to provide for them. David Hernandez was so erratic last year, he earned a demotion to AAA Reno. Brad Ziegler was an effective closer in the second half, but even Brad himself said, “Everybody knows, in a perfect world, that’s not my role on this team.”

So in an attempt to establish some clear roles at the back end of the ‘pen, the D’backs traded for closer Addison Reed. Reed saved 40 games last year for the White Sox, and to put that into perspective, it should be noted that the White Sox won only 63 games. So Reed becoming Arizona’s closer should be a lock. This will enable Ziegler to return to his role of specialist, and put Oliver Perez nowhere near a save situation. Sounds like a pretty solid plan.

Despite making a few moves over the Winter, the D’backs are still several major pieces away from a division-clinching celebration in their own pool. If I’m General Manager Kevin Towers, my next move would be to get some frickin’ sharks with frickin’ laser beams attached to their heads installed in there.

Projected Finish: 73-89, Fifth place in NL West