Athlon Sports' 2017 baseball magazine delivers full MLB team previews, fantasy baseball insight, schedules, and predictions for every team. Click here to order your copy today or visit your local newsstand!
The World Baseball Classic is over and spring training is entering the home stretch, which means the 2017 MLB season is just around the corner. Final cuts will soon be made as teams determine their 25-man rosters before breaking camp in Florida and Arizona.
Once again, Athlon Sports’ 2017 Baseball Preview magazine has all 32 teams covered, including some candid analysis from scouts on the teams and specific players. These scouting reports are just part of the content that can be found in this year’s magazine, which is available on newsstands everywhere and online.
“They’re a lot more balanced after acquiring some left-handed hitters. Josh Reddick and Brian McCann will help defensively, too, and Carlos Beltran can’t hurt you too much playing defense in that small left field in Houston. They’ll get a full year from Yulieski Gurriel and Alex Bregman, who can both really hit, but I’d like to see that team use speed more. The bullpen is really strong, but the biggest key to their team is Lance McCullers, because the rotation is still a big question. He has top-of-the-rotation stuff, far better than anybody else on the staff, including Dallas Keuchel. They gave a lot of money to Charlie Morton, and he can be an asset if he can make 25 starts. Chris Devenski was probably the best long reliever in baseball last year, and I’d like to see him get a shot at the rotation as an aggressive control pitcher who throws strikes with all his pitches.”
“Mike Trout has been the best player in the game for four or five years, and there’s nothing he does that surprises you anymore. His arm was just OK when he first came up, but last year he turned it into a real strength. Albert Pujols doesn’t drive the ball like he used to, but he’s still a presence, and he’ll keep getting 25 or 30 homers and driving in 100 for a while. The question with this team is: Will they pitch well enough to move up in the standings? They struggled on the mound last year, and I don’t know how much they’ve improved. The best arm on the staff is Garrett Richards, but I don’t think he can be a No. 1 because he’s been hurt so much. The rest of the rotation is a bunch of 4s and 5s. Their closer, Huston Street, amazes me. He doesn’t have closer stuff, but he might have the best makeup of any player in baseball.”
“Every year they’re rebuilding, and this is just another chapter. Their bullpen is a plus, and they should trade a guy to help the rotation. I liked what I saw from Jharel Cotton, who has excellent arm speed and could be a No. 3. They thought they had a No. 1 in Sonny Gray, who was one of the best pitchers in the league when he broke in. Now you wonder about his stamina. I hate to label a starter as a problem because of his size, but it’s proven time and time again: Little guys usually struggle. Now he’s been injured, and his trade value is way down. Their real issue is lack of offense in the infield, but there’s not a lot of offense in the outfield, either. Khris Davis’ power really played, and Marcus Semien and Ryon Healy have good power, too. But Semien is not a good defender, and there’s just a lot of spare-part kind of guys fighting for spots.”
“They’re good enough on the field to win, but they need to strengthen that rotation*, because Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma are on the decline. Felix is still an ace, but he’s not a top-10 guy anymore, and for years he was top 3. He’s lost some velocity. I’ve always been a believer in James Paxton. He’s never performed for a whole year, but he’s still got all kinds of ceiling. The rotation falls off after that, because they traded Taijuan Walker to buy high on Jean Segura. He had a career year in a hitter’s park in Arizona, and his BABIP was abnormally high, but he reestablished himself last year, and he’ll definitely help them. They really like Dan Vogelbach to platoon with Danny Valencia at first. Vogelbach’s a huge, non-athletic guy, but he’s always hit and drawn walks in the minors, and they’re betting that will translate.”
“Starting pitching is their big question, after Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish. I think Andrew Cashner has a lot to prove, and he was worth the $10 million gamble. They’ve got some great arms in the bullpen, but the best belongs to Matt Bush. You wonder if you can ever trust him, but he should take over the closer job from Sam Dyson because his stuff is better — by a lot. Joey Gallo’s got to learn to lay off the high fastball. That’s where pitchers constantly beat him. Losing Ian Desmond’s a problem, and they’ll miss Mitch Moreland more than you’d think, because he was so good on defense. But having Jonathan Lucroy for a full year is a big plus, and who doesn’t love the left side of that infield, with Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus? They’ve got to get Shin-Soo Choo healthy, but Nomar Mazara should be a stable piece here for a long time.”
*Editor's note: This was written prior to the Mariners acquiring starters Drew Smyly and Yovani Gallardo via separate trades.