How better to introduce this new blog than with the oldest sporting chestnut there is – a set of pre-season previews and predictions?
We reckon that, since you’re here, you know where to go to for a fulsome projection of farm systems and statistical breakdowns of the bench guys. And whilst we know our wOBas from our WHIPs, we’d rather offer something different So here’s a pithy take on what to watch in this year’s AL, seen through our eyes.
Never nice to start on a negative foot but let’s be frank, the Orioles off-season could happily have played out to a soundtrack of clown theme tunes. Are they signing anyone? Are they retaining their core? Will Mark Trumbo’s lumpen, concrete feet play in right field? What the hell is going on with Hyun-soo Kim?
Until the White Sox stole in late, the sagas of Yovani Gallardo and Dexter Fowler were this winter’s MLB high farce. Matt Wieters, Darren O’Day and Chris Davis did hang around and Gallardo’s arrival makes up for the loss of Wei-Yin Chen. Pedro Alvarez and Trumbo add pop, but you wonder how those two and Davis co-exist. They’ll strike out loads, their bullpen will win a load of close games but the rotation mightn’t keep them in many. A qualified success masquerading as a mess.
Unlikely, yet plausible storyline: Team ERA of 5+ leads to wild card spot.
You will be bored by: beat guys talking up the magic of professional Rich Hall lookalike Buck Showalter.
Boston Red Sox
Is there a more fun nickname in sports than ‘Dealin’ Dave Dombrowski’? Surely not. And the former high-school heart-throb took no time fluttering his magic eyelashes in Beantown this off-season. Best closer in baseball? Yes please. Ace cum great club man? Don’t mind if I do! Farm hand rotation filler for whip bull pen arm and change? Yee haa!
It’s easy to pick the Sox as the ‘winners’ of the off-season, but concerns remain across the whole field with Pablo Sandoval still fat, Rusney Castillo packing all the power of lemon battery and John Farrell being more chin than brain. Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts are outright stars, Blake Swihart and Travis Shaw should step forward and some big geezer is in for a whole garage full of rocking chairs. Worst to, err, better than that… Busy at the deadline.
Unlikely, yet plausible storyline: Joe Kelly, ALCS No.2 starter/Hanley Ramirez MVP contender
You will be bored by: Pablo Sandoval is fat!!!11!!
New York Yankees
A quiet off-season in the Bronx, if dealing for a fire brand Cuban flamethrower accused of firearms charges fits your definition of ‘quiet’. The Yankees bullpen looks terrifying with Aroldis Chapman slotting behind Andrew Miller and Dellin Bettances, but concerns remain over the latter’s late season toil and the flakiness behind them. The rotation is a dog’s breakfast of high ceiling, low IQ hurlers but boosted by the rise of phenom Luis Severino. Bizarrely they’re hoping on a swift return for Nate Eovaldi to bring it some stability.
ARod, Mark Teixeira and Brett Gardner will continue to produce but concerns abound relating to Jacoby Ellsbury’s fitness and Didi Gregorius’ production. A qualified each-way bet for a wild card spot.
Unlikely, yet plausible storyline: Bullpen disintegrates
You will be bored by: ‘Best bullpen evs’
Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays, with their stupid stadium in the middle of a traffic jam, what even are they for? Giving David Ortiz a leg-up to Ted Williams Red Sox home run record! We jest. To many sage evaluators the Rays are the sleeper pick for the AL East, combining as they do supreme defence (Kevin Kiermaier everyone) with a loaded rotation behind loveable douchebag Chris Archer. Alex Cobb’s return around the deadline will give a boost but the Rays may be reliant on Royals’ like line movement to provide run support with a shortage of big bats in the field.
Unlikely, yet plausible storyline: Archer wins the Cy Young on a team below .500.
You will be bored by: When are the Rays moving to Montreal already?
Toronto Blue Jays
How to follow up on the franchise’s first trip to the postseason in 20 years? Part ways with the GM and enter a public contract standoff with franchise face Jose Bautista, that’s how! If new Head of Baseball Ops, Mark Shapiro, was bent on poor PR he hit all the right notes right away. Regardless, his reasoning is sound and the Jays have had a quietly great off-season. JA Happ is no David Price but he’s a viable innings eater to stabilise one of 2015’s most chancy rotations behind the outstanding Marcus Stroman. Drew Storen is a solid bullpen get, but the Jays may miss Ben Revere’s ability to turn solo shots into two run leads in the lead-off spot.
Regardless, the Jays will continue to pound teams to fruit paste and Kevin Pillar will remain a one-man web gem reel all season long. What’s not to love here?
Unlikely, yet plausible storyline: Can anything be less likely than Chris Colabello’s 2015? No. Why bother.
You will be bored by: ‘What would Alex Anthopoulos have done differently, Buster?’