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.
“We haven’t seen a team rebuild this aggressively in a long time. They’ve gotten premium guys in trades and added so much pitching to their system that they’re bound to shake out an ace somewhere — although I don’t see a real No. 1 in the group they’ll take out of camp. I like Matt Wisler’s stuff. Mike Foltynewicz has a good arm, but he’s a little bit of a thrower. Manny Banuelos and Williams Perez seem like back-end guys to me. They brought back A.J. Pierzynski to catch, and he really buys into the team concept now; he’ll challenge that young pitching staff. I like Jace Peterson; he’s got limited power, but he’s fine defensively and he sprays the ball to all fields. He’s one of the few regulars they can count on. They’re relying a lot on Hector Olivera, but there’s no learning curve; he’s 31 in April. There’s a lot of age on this team, actually — you can see it in Nick Swisher’s knees and the decline of Michael Bourn. There’s just no protection in that order for Freddie Freeman.”
“I want to like them, but I just don’t think there’s quite enough talent here to take that next step. The Mets and the Nationals are too far ahead, and there’s just not enough here. Jose Fernandez is as good as anybody if he’s healthy, but beyond that I don’t know what you’re dealing with. They’ve got a decent bullpen, but just not enough pieces in that rotation. I do like their lineup, and they’re going to battle you. It will be interesting to see what kind of effect Barry Bonds has; I can’t imagine there’s anybody smarter about hitting. When Giancarlo Stanton is healthy, he’s going to get his. I like Christian Yelich a lot, and Marcell Ozuna is better than we saw last year. The outfield defense is pretty much plus across the board. Adeiny Hechavarria is a really good shortstop; I’ve never seen him do anything that hasn’t been impressive. They made a nice find with Justin Bour last year, and stole Dee Gordon from the Dodgers. It’s a decent young team, and they’ll be competitive. But they’re not there yet.”
“They will have Michael Conforto all season, and he’s going to be a really good player. Neil Walker is a better version of Daniel Murphy — more reliable defensively and similar offensively. David Wright’s spinal stenosis is a big deal. You need to fuse it to resolve it, and that would end his career. They have to be really mindful of that and get him out of there before he tells you he’s sore — or before his bat speed diminishes. If you asked me to pick one of those four starters, I might just take Steven Matz. He’s that good. But you can’t go wrong with Noah Syndergaard or Jacob deGrom, either. Matt Harvey’s stuff is great, but they’ll never be able to keep him long-term, and I think he looked really heavy in the face and the midsection toward the end of the year. That concerns me.”
“They’re doing a good job, aggressively bringing in a lot of talent. Their system looked better last August, after the Cole Hamels deal, than it had in a long time, and then they got a good haul in the Ken Giles trade. With Jeremy Hellickson and Charlie Morton, they added some veterans to eat innings in that rotation, and Aaron Nola’s going to be a good one. He needs to work on his changeup, but he’s a poor man’s Greg Maddux. He throws strikes and keeps hitters off-balance. Maikel Franco and Odubel Herrera are young, aggressive and fearless, which you like to see, but they have a ways to go in developing other position players. Cesar Hernandez can have a nice career as a switch-hitting version of Omar Infante; you can play him anywhere. They still owe Ryan Howard $35 million, but the contract’s over after this season, so they can finally move on.”
“They were really ugly to watch last year — boring and lifeless at times. Matt Williams’ voice didn’t seem to resonate there, so maybe Dusty Baker’s will. I think this might finally be the year Stephen Strasburg does what everybody expects him to do. Stuff-wise, I don’t know if anybody is better in the game. They lost Jordan Zimmermann, but with Max Scherzer, Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Joe Ross and Tanner Roark, that’s a solid rotation. And Lucas Giolito is a stud in the minors. Bryce Harper, what can you say? Only Mike Trout might be better in the game, and Harper’s a year younger. Two years ago their best player was Anthony Rendon, but he can never stay healthy. When he’s out there, he barrels everything, hits everything hard. He’s a .300 hitter with 25-homer power, and there’s not a ton of those guys out there. It just always comes down to health with him.”