Real live baseball is here. Spring training games are starting this week throughout camp in Florida and Arizona.
That means manager and GMs are evaluating their lineups and rotations, which players will fill the final spots on the 25-man roster and which players need more seasoning in the minors.
In the Athlon Sports 2016 Baseball Preview, we’ve already done some of the homework. We asked scouts throughout MLB to give us their candid thoughts on teams and players for 2016.
These scouting reports and more are available in this year’s Athlon Baseball Preview, available on newsstands everywhere and on Amazon.
“I think they’re going to struggle again. Just too many holes in that lineup. You love Jose Abreu, but why would you ever pitch to him? Brett Lawrie’s a bull in a china shop; he just can’t stay on the field. Alex Avila is a pro, but he’s had health issues and he’s been in decline. Avisail Garcia may not be the player they thought he would be in Detroit; he’s gotten heavier. You love Chris Sale and David Robertson on that staff, and keep a close eye on Carlos Rodon. I like his poise, aggressiveness and ability to throw strikes. He got much, much better as the season went along. He could really have a big year for them. John Danks’ velocity is on the decline, and his best pitch is the changeup; when it gets closer in velocity to (his fastball), it’s less effective.”
“I can’t see Cleveland knocking off Kansas City, but I also can’t see them dropping lower than third place. Everybody wonders if they’ll trade those pitchers; as a rival scout, believe me, I’d love it if they did. Our guys hate facing this team. They’ve got great velocity, and even a guy like Trevor Bauer, who doesn’t have great command, still has dominant stuff. Carlos Carrasco made a huge jump last year. And Corey Kluber got no run support, but he can still throw a no-hitter any time out. Their defense improved a lot as the year went on. Lonnie Chisenhall plays right field very well, and Francisco Lindor has very good range and instincts at shortstop. He can run and make contact, and he’ll be an impact player for a long time. Giovanny Urshela is legit in the field, but I don’t know if he’ll hit enough to be an everyday corner infielder. They have three big, reliable bats in Michael Brantley, Jason Kipnis and Carlos Santana, but Brantley’s health is a big key.”
“I don’t know if they got good enough, but they got better this winter. They’re dangerous. That lineup is scary. You just don’t get any breathing room. The Victor Martinez injury hurt them last year because he’s such a good hitter. Miguel Cabrera and J.D. Martinez are two of the best in the game, and Ian Kinsler’s a pest. Cameron Maybin got back on track with Atlanta last year; he’s gone from star to bust to a guy who looks like he can play a long time. He can hit the ball over the fence, steal a base and run a ball down for you. I liked the Jordan Zimmermann signing a lot, and their bullpen moves will make a big difference. Mark Lowe’s slider has gotten a lot better, and he’ll be good in front of Francisco Rodriguez, who just continues to evolve. He’s lost a lot of velocity, but that changeup is so great. Whatever it takes, he’s been able to adjust to it.”
“They’re a deserving champion, built with patience and a purpose. Their bullpen strikes fear into any other team, and they’ll be great again, even with Greg Holland injured and Ryan Madson off to Oakland. Wade Davis was unhittable in the postseason; everything he throws is filthy. He made a seamless jump to the closer role. Their hitters don’t strike out, and it really rattles opposing pitchers and gets them off their game plan, because they never face a lineup like this. Eric Hosmer is a solid, All-Star player — even though he’s never actually been on an All-Star team — and Lorenzo Cain is a superstar in center. Alcides Escobar is very much underrated; he jump-starts that team. They won’t miss Johnny Cueto, who was too inconsistent down the stretch, but they need Yordano Ventura to settle down. His immaturity really showed at times, and he hasn’t really become the pitcher his stuff says he should be.”
“Paul Molitor was an unbelievable fit for that club. He sees so much — pitchers tipping, matchups to exploit, ways to get an extra 90 feet — and he passes that stuff on to the players. They have a lot of choices in the rotation, not just fourth and fifth starters, so they gave themselves a chance every night. Watch out for Tyler Duffey. He throws variations of his curveball that give it different velocities, angles, shapes and sizes. Hitters don’t like him. Nobody ever wants to sit breaking ball, but if you look fastball from him and try to adjust off-speed, he eats you up. With Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano, they might have the three best arms you’ll find in any outfield. And Sano is going to be a household name — he’s a bomber who takes really good at-bats. Byung Ho Park is a big wild card, but he’s got a chance to be at least an average everyday DH, with maybe 25 home runs. He reminds me of Mike Napoli.”