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.
“This is the best team in the division, and maybe in the league. They’re going to score a lot of runs, and their pitching has more depth. I don’t know if Jake Arrieta is going to do that again, but he’s so impressive the way he throws across his body and still gets the ball to the other side of the plate without difficulty. He’s got command, velocity, presence — everything you want in a No. 1 starter. Kyle Schwarber’s bat is a very big plus, but the more he plays left field, the more he gets exposed. And obviously they have concerns about his catching, or he’d be back there. Their bullpen is just OK; they may need to keep adding to it, the way they did last year. But they’ve found some gems, like Justin Grimm, who has great stuff. Jason Heyward’s contract surprised some people, but they just need him to be himself. The young guys and the free agents embrace the challenge of winning here, and I think that matters.”
“They’re in a really tough situation, as an older team with a lot of strikeouts trying to develop young pitchers in an unforgiving park. Joey Votto was at his best last year, or close to it, but it will take time to build a respectable team around him again. Jay Bruce is in decline, left field is an issue, and they need Devin Mesoraco to be healthy behind the plate, especially after losing Brayan Pena as a free agent. Anthony DeSclafani was OK in the rotation, but he’s the only guy they can count on. I do think Brandon Finnegan has a chance; he had good command and aggressiveness as a bullpen guy for the Royals, and he was very impressive in college. Their setup relief is a big problem. I just don’t see a way for them to compete in this division at all.”
“They’re going to compete for the top pick in the draft. They’re one of the worst teams in baseball, but it’s by design, and it’s the right thing to do. I don’t expect Jonathan Lucroy to be there long, and they should move Scooter Gennett, Will Smith and Wily Peralta if they can, too. They’re focusing on what’s below at the minor league level — guys like Orlando Arcia, who will be the shortstop there for a long time. There’s not much hope for that rotation, but I like Zach Davies, and Taylor Jungmann looks like he’s finally figured it out. Ryan Braun is past his prime, no longer an MVP candidate, but he should be an above-average bat for the next few years. It seems like he’ll stay — that’s an ownership issue — but he’s 32 and was never a great defender; he’ll look like an American League player pretty soon.”
“They’re one of the most athletic teams in baseball, and they play together, as a unit, better than almost anybody. Andrew McCutchen’s their only star, and he was still one of the best players in the game last year, even though he wasn’t at his best. I think Starling Marte has a chance to join him as a star, and Jung Ho Kang really asserted himself offensively after a slow start. He was a huge surprise, and they missed him down the stretch. Their bullpen is very solid with Mark Melancon and the rest, and that staff loves pitching to Francisco Cervelli. The rotation is a bit short, but (pitching coach) Ray Searage has had so many success stories now, you don’t doubt him anymore. Their ace, Gerrit Cole, will only get better — he’s got velocity, improved command, a very good breaking ball, and the tenacity and aggressiveness you want from your No. 1 guy.”
“I think the Cubs have passed them in that division. Losing Jason Heyward really hurts, and John Lackey was a quality innings-eater. Now both are with their rivals. Some of their best players are starting to get older, with Jhonny Peralta, Yadier Molina and Matt Holliday. I do like Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk. Piscotty really played well moving from position to position, and I like his power as he continues to develop. Grichuk’s a very good athlete who can play anywhere in the outfield. They got Jedd Gyorko, but he doesn’t help much in the overall picture. I think Adam Wainwright will be fine, but they need another durable starter. Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha wore down last season, and they’ll really miss Lackey and Lance Lynn. They’ve always been so good at developing guys through the minors, and they need to do it again — or this is a team in decline.”