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’re just getting started. They won’t regress, and in fact I think they’re going to be even better. Think about it: They’ll have Carlos Correa and Lance McCullers from the start this year, and you have to assume they’ll have a healthy George Springer the whole way, too. Those are three high-impact players right there, and let’s not forget Carlos Gomez, who came in at the trading deadline last year. So there’s good reason to think their position players will be as good or better than what we just saw. Dallas Keuchel is a top-15 starter in the majors, although you have to expect him to have a worse year, since he can’t do better than 2015. I also worry about the back end of the rotation, with Mike Fiers and Scott Feldman, but McCullers is awesome, and he’ll have a big impact with Collin McHugh on the front end. Ken Giles was a smart pick-up for the bullpen; he’s a top-20 reliever in this game, no doubt.”
“They are top-heavy, kind of a stars-and-scrubs team. But when you have Mike Trout in his prime, Albert Pujols with something left, Andrelton Simmons and Garrett Richards, you’ve got a pretty good start. After Richards, there’s not a lot to like in that rotation. Jered Weaver had his worst year last season, and you wonder when it’s all gone for him. Andrew Heaney’s interesting, but the rest of the group leaves a lot to be desired. At least they know Simmons will help them at shortstop, and he still has offensive upside. He’ll also help Yunel Escobar, a solid player whose defensive positioning was a problem in Washington. With Simmons next to him, he’ll be able to play the line a little bit more, and that plays to his strength. He doesn’t have a lot of range, but he’s very sure-handed.”
“They’re in a really weird middle ground — clearly not rebuilding, but also clearly the fifth-best team in this division. They really should try to retool and focus on assets for 2017, but they haven’t done that. Sonny Gray’s slider has come along great and he really works well down in the zone, which you don’t always see from a guy his size. But unless they hit on everyone this year, I really think they should trade him and rebuild. He’s by far their biggest asset in a trade. For now, though, they’ve added some money by bringing back Jed Lowrie and signing Ryan Madson and John Axford for the bullpen — most likely as trade pieces in July. They do have a folk hero in Billy Burns: He can’t hit a home run, but he’s got blazing speed and he puts the ball in play, he bunts and runs through walls. He’s a fun player with a limited upside, like this team.”
“Jerry Dipoto has really put his stamp on this organization. He’s made a lot of changes in the scouting department and on the international side. But he’s in a tough spot, because I don’t think he had the best canvas. With (Robinson) Cano and Felix (Hernandez), the direction of the team was already set: He has to win now. He’s definitely prioritized defense with the moves for Leonys Martin and Nori Aoki, and by bringing back Franklin Gutierrez. Adam Lind has power and a short-term commitment, so that’s a move that made sense. As good as Carson Smith was in that bullpen, Wade Miley has more value as a starter on a very good contract. I still think Taijuan Walker could be a No. 2 or 3, but I’m less excited about James Paxton. He’s had issues with his health and command, and he’s more of a back-end guy for me.”
“They’re built to win now, with Adrian Beltre being such a great player — still — and having one more year left. Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish are terrific at the front of that staff, and I don’t think people realize how good that bullpen is, with Shawn Tolleson, Sam Dyson and Jake Diekman. Everyone knows Shin-Soo Choo is overpaid, but that’s OK; his 2014 season was the aberration, and 2015 was more of who he is: 20-home run power, and he gets on base all the time. Rougned Odor is a special player. Very few position players who get to the majors at 20 don’t become above-average big leaguers. Actually, they usually become superstars or Hall of Famers. He was already average to slightly above average last year, at 21, and I expect him to be even better at 22, like Joey Gallo. Gallo shouldn’t worry about the strikeouts. He could be a high-impact guy really soon.”