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.
“I’m not buying it. Paul Goldschmidt and Zack Greinke and A.J. Pollock are awesome — we know that. But Shelby Miller is wildly overrated, certainly not worth what they gave up. He’s not much of a strikeout guy, and he walks more than you would expect from an elite starting pitcher. He has the pedigree and he’s putting it together, but I wouldn’t expect him to get much better than he was last year, and I actually think his value is negated by the loss of Ender Inciarte. Now they’ll use Yasmany Tomas every day in right field, and his defense is just so bad that his offense has to be really great to justify his spot in the lineup — and it isn’t. He’s got a bad approach up there, but he’s getting so much money that he’ll get every chance to succeed. Their defense is really good, especially up the middle with Nick Ahmed and Chris Owings, but a subtle factor might be the loss of Andy Green, who left to manage the Padres. He ran their defense and always positioned them really well.”
“I won’t be optimistic on these guys until they get some starters that catch your attention. Jon Gray’s got a really good arm, and he has a chance to be something. But the big question is how much he has to throttle back to be effective. Maybe he’s got a chance to be a No. 3. There’s just really no ceiling anywhere. On his best day, Jorge De La Rosa is a 3. There’s nothing close to an ace. They’ll score, but I think you could put any nine guys in that ballpark 81 times a year, and they’ll score. In any other ballpark, DJ LeMahieu is probably not even a starter, but at Coors, he’s an All-Star. The big exception is Nolan Arenado. He does everything well. He’s maybe the best defender I’ve ever seen in my life. I didn’t scout Brooks Robinson, but I can’t imagine anybody being able to make the plays he can make. He turns doubles into double plays faster than you can blink.”
“When you get past all the noise, the Dodgers are still the best team in this division, by a good amount. They still have the ace in Clayton Kershaw and a lot of solid options behind him. They’ve done a terrific job of adding depth, and they’ve got guys who can play a lot of positions, like the old Tampa Bay teams Andrew Friedman had. It’s not just Chase Utley at second; it’s guys like Enrique Hernandez. And there’s the usual depth they have in the outfield. I’m not giving up on Joc Pederson, either. He’s a flawed player, but a good one. He’s going to frustrate you with the strikeouts, so he’s easy to pick on. But he knows the strike zone, he’s got power and he’s a plus defender. Corey Seager has a great approach, phenomenal tools, and he’s hit at every level. Having him all season will help them a lot.”
“It seems like they took their shot last year, and now they’re doing some re-tooling. If they keep James Shields, Tyson Ross and Andrew Cashner, they have a chance to be respectable. I liked Wil Myers when he first came up, with the Rays, but you just never know with wrist injuries. You always have doubts after that — no snap. Matt Kemp is always the wild card there. He could be anything. It wouldn’t surprise me if he has a really good year, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he hits .250 with 18 meaningless home runs. He’s definitely not a leader. One guy I really like there is Brandon Maurer, who should be their closer. His slider is filthy out of the pen, and he throws 97 to 101 in short stints. But when he starts, there’s a real drop-off in the quality of his stuff, and he’s just another guy.”
“I expect them to get good things out of Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto. I think last year was an aberration for both of them, and San Francisco is the perfect environment — a big ballpark and an organization that always gets the most out of its pitchers. People criticize Brandon Belt, but I don’t know why. He hits for some power, but a lot of it is doubles. He’s not going to hit 30 homers there, but as a .270/.280 guy who’s one of the best defensive first basemen in baseball, that’s very good. You love Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford and Hunter Pence, of course, and Matt Duffy really came out of nowhere. It’s shocking what he’s done, considering his minor league record, but he may be one of those rare guys who is actually better at the major league level. I still think these guys are well behind the Dodgers, but it’s an even year, and we know what happens then.”
These scouting reports and more are available in this year’s Athlon Baseball Preview, available on newsstands everywhere and on Amazon.