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.
“They’ve never really found that No. 1 guy, and their window to win is closing. Chris Tillman’s not the answer; he’s very erratic, never seems to put together a nice, long string of solid starts. Ubaldo Jimenez frustrates you, as always. Kevin Gausman has the arm to be a solid No. 2, but his command needs to be better, or high pitch counts will always be a problem. They do have things you like — Matt Wieters is back and should be healthy all season, Manny Machado is outstanding, J.J. Hardy is very good, and Adam Jones is an absolute star. Zach Britton is one of the best closers out there, with that power sinker, and Darren O’Day is one of the best setup guys in baseball. Jonathan Schoop is a little big to be playing second base, but I like his bat speed. Mark Trumbo is a big swing-and-miss guy who fits best at DH.”
“They signed David Price when they hired Dave Dombrowski, and it’s understandable. They overpaid for him and Craig Kimbrel, but it’s what they had to do, and they didn’t take anything away from their major league team to get them. They’re the best team in that division, for me, but they still need a guy to start Game 2 of a playoff series. They’re going to get more from Pablo Sandoval — they can’t get much worse — and while Hanley Ramirez will probably be a poor first baseman, he’s going to bring value with his bat. Rusney Castillo doesn’t have to be a great player, like Mookie Betts already is, and Chris Young is a good fourth outfielder who can play half the time, if needed. They can expect their young core — Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Blake Swihart and Jackie Bradley Jr. — to keep getting better, and Dustin Pedroia is still an All-Star-caliber second baseman. After a long offseason, I expect him to be healthy and productive again.”
“I’m surprised they won as many games as they did with all the health issues in that rotation. Their bullpen was great, and I’m shocked they let go of two big pieces in Adam Warren and Justin Wilson. I know Warren solved second base for them by bringing in Starlin Castro, but he was an important guy for them. Dellin Betances is a big, strong guy with great stuff, but they’ve worked him so hard the last couple of years, you wonder about the cumulative effect of so many innings and high-stress situations. The guy they need to get ironed out is Jacoby Ellsbury. He’s really had a hard time coming back from injuries, but he’s a major catalyst and they need him badly. When he and Brett Gardner are doing their thing at the top of the order, it makes things so much easier for A-Rod, Mark Teixeira, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran. Didi Gregorius stabilized after the first six weeks of last season, swinging the bat better and playing very steady defense. He’s going to be fine.”
“The reality is that they probably won’t compete, but their pitching still gives them a chance. Chris Archer’s awesome, Jake Odorizzi is good, and if Matt Moore and Drew Smyly are healthy, that’s a rotation that gives them a chance every night. And then they should get Alex Cobb back in the second half. A lot of it will come down to position players like Brad Miller, Steven Souza and Desmond Jennings. These guys could establish themselves as above-average, everyday big league players, but they’ve also failed a little bit, so you don’t really know. They can count on Evan Longoria — he’s durable, has a good approach and is still a very good defender — and Kevin Kiermaier does it all in center. Their catchers — Rene Rivera, Curt Casali and Hank Conger — are in that Jose Molina mold. They’ll make good pitchers look even better by getting a lot of called strikes, but they won’t hit. If they’re in it in July, that’s a position they could look to upgrade.”
“They lost David Price, but I’m still very bullish on the Blue Jays. They’ll just go and outslug everyone again. Their window is closing, because Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion can be free agents after this year, but adding Troy Tulowitzki was huge, and Russell Martin is a real pro. He and Josh Donaldson brought a different swagger to that team last year, a real edge they didn’t have before. If you want to know why Donaldson succeeds with that high leg kick, stand on the side and just watch his head. It looks like he has a ton of moving parts, but that head stays very still; he’s controlling his body and staying in a really balanced position. Bautista’s the same way. I like Roberto Osuna better as a starter than a reliever; he repeats his delivery and commands the strike zone. Aaron Sanchez, stuff-wise, plays better in the back of the bullpen.”