By Tony DeMarco – Tony is a long time baseball writer and offers more 2016 MLB Baseball Predictions here at Vegas Pro Insiders Daily, where he will be one of our baseball experts.
2015 record/finish: 86-76, 2nd place
Recent history: After three absolutely bottoming-out seasons of 56, 55 and 51 wins, it got a bit better in 2014 (70 wins), before the 2015 breakout and wildcard spot. There’s more room to the upside here.
Front office/manager recap: GM Jeff Luhnow has engineered this rebuild since 2012, and will see it through. AJ Hinch, the right man for one of the most analytics-oriented teams in the game, has three more guaranteed seasons.
Payroll change: From $82 million in 2015 to $96 million in 2016
Key arrivals: RHP Ken Giles, RHP Doug Fister
Key departures: LHP Scott Kazmir, 1B Chris Carter, LHP Oliver Perez, RHP Chad Qualls
Relievers: Closer: RHP Ken Giles; Setup men: RHP Luke Gregerson, RHP Will Harris; Middle relievers: LHP Tony Sipp, RHP Pat Neshek, RHP Josh Fields, LHP Wandy Rodriguez
Regulars: 2B Jose Altuve, RF George Springer, SS Carlos Correa, LF Colby Rasmus, CF Carlos Gomez, DH Preston Tucker, 3B Luis Valbuena, 1B Tyler White, C Jason Castro
Role players: C Erik Kratz, 1B/3B Matt Duffy, IF Marwin Gonzalez, OF Jake Marisnick // DH Evan Gattis (DL), C Max Stassi (DL)
Rookies of impact: 1B AJ Reed, 3B Colin Moran
2015 run differential: +111 (729 scored, 618 allowed). This projects to a 93-69 record, or seven games better than the Astros’ mark.
Run production: This offense could explode. Keep in mind that Correa played only 99 big-league games last season, Gomez played only 41 games with the Astros, and injuries limited Springer to 102 games. Full seasons from those three plus MVP candidate Altuve will make for a potent top half of the lineup. Gomez and Rasmus are in contract years, and Gattis returns by mid-late April. Top corner-infield prospects Reed and Moran could take over at some point, and Gonzalez is an underrated role player.
(Roster Resource.com projections: 18th BA, 6th OPS, 10th Runs, 3rd HR, 1st SB)
Run prevention: McCullers’ iffy status puts a damper on this rotation, but he could be back by May 1. Fiers is a bit underrated, and there could be another mid-season acquisition such as Kazmir last year. There is some expectation of a bounceback of sorts from Fister. Giles gives them a closer who can miss more bats, but Sipp and Harris will have trouble matching their sub-2.00 ERAs again.
(Roster Resource.com projections: 4th Wins, 5th ERA, 4th QS, 14th BB, 9th K)
Risers: Correa, Springer, Giles
Regressers: Sipp, Harris
Contract years: Rasmus, Gomez, Feldman, Fister, Valbuena, Castro, Neshek (2017 club option),
Vegas says: OU 86 wins
Predicted record/finish: 92-70, 1st place. OVER the total.
2015 record/finish: 88-74, 1st place
Front office/manager recap: Jon Daniels has been on the job since 2006, and just signed a three-year extension that takes him through 2018. After winning the AL West in his first season, Jeff Banister got another year added on, and he’ll be paid through 2018, with a 2019 option.
Payroll change: From $141 million in 2015 to $156 million in 2016.
Key arrivals: OF Ian Desmond, C Bryan Holaday, RHP Tom Wilhelmsen, RHP AJ Griffin
Key departures: OF Leonys Martin, RHP Yovani Gallardo, 1B/DH Mike Napoli
Rotation: LHP Cole Hamels, LHP Derek Holland, RHP Colby Lewis, LHP Martin Perez, RHP AJ Griffin // RHP Yu Darvish (DL)
Relievers: Closer: RHP Shawn Tolleson; Setup men: RHP Keone Kela, RHP Sam Dyson; Middle relievers: RHP Tom Wilhelmsen, LHP Jacob Diekman, RHP Tony Barnette, LHP Andrew Faulkner // RHP Tanner Scheppers (DL)
Regulars: CF Delino DeShields, 2B Rougned Odor, RF Shin-Soo Choo, 3B Adrian Beltre, DH Prince Fielder, LF Ian Desmond, 1B Mitch Moreland, SS Elvis Andrus, C Robinson Chirinos
Role players: C Bryan Holaday, IF Hanser Alberto, OF Justin Ruggiano, OF Ryan Rua // C Chris Gimenez (DL), OF Josh Hamilton (DL)
Rookies of impact: Three of the game’s top 20-or-so prospects are waiting in the wings — 3B/OF Joey Gallo and OFs Nomar Mazara and Lewis Brinson. And don’t forget about Jurickson Profar.
2015 run differential: +18 (751 scored; 733 allowed)
Run production: There is a lot to like about this lineup, as usually is the case with Rangers’ teams in hitter-friendly Globe Life Park. There’s more upside in Odor, 22; Chirinos is healthy again after injuries limited him to 78 games in 2015. Elvis Andrus has reached his age-27 year. If Rule 5 pickup DeShields can build on an unexpectedly strong rookie season, and Beltre has one more healthy season in him, this group will be among the AL leaders in runs scored.
Run prevention: Expect Hamels’ ERA to jump a bit in his first full AL season. Darvish is expected back mid-to-late May, which would be about 14 months after Tommy John surgery. Perez’s first full season post-Tommy John surgery also will be his first full big-league season. Expect him to improve. And keeping with the theme, Griffin snuck into the fifth spot, two-plus years after — you guessed it — Tommy John surgery. The pen has five solid options, but what roles they end of filling is to be determined.
Risers: Odor, Perez, Dyson
Contract years: Beltre, Desmond, Lewis, Moreland, Holland (2017 club option),
Vegas says: OU 86 wins
Predicted record/finish: 85-78, 2nd place. It’s hard to project a division-title repeat here, but a wildcard spot is possible if the rotation questions are answered.
2015 record/finish: 76-86, 4th place
Recent history: The Jack Zduriencik era ended last August after nearly seven seasons. The M’s finished above .500 in only two of those seasons, and peaked at 87 wins in 2014.
Front office/manager recap: New GM Jerry Dipoto gets another shot sans manager conflict (see Angels, Los Angeles), as confidante Scott Servais becomes the latest catcher-turned-manager without any managerial experience. It’s hard to find another roster that has undergone a bigger off-season transformation than this one.
Payroll change: From $124 million in 2015 to $135 million in 2016
Key arrivals: SP Wade Miley, 1B Adam Lind, OF Nori Aoki, RP Joaquin Benoit, RP Steve Cishek, SP Nathan Karns, C Chris Iannetta, 1B Dae-Ho Lee
Key departures: OF Mark Trumbo, SP Roenis Elias, RP Carson Smith, IF/OF Brad Miller, 1B Logan Morrison
Rotation: RHP Felix Hernandez, RHP Hisashi Iwakuma, LHP Wade Miley, RHP Taijuan Walker, RHP Nathan Karns
Relievers: Closer: RHP Steve Cishek; Setup men: RHP Joaquin Benoit, RHP Tony Zych; Middle relievers: RHP Joel Peralta, LHP Mike Montgomery, RHP Nick Vincent, LHP Vidal Nuno // LHP Charlie Furbush (DL), RHP Evan Scribner (DL), RHP Ryan Cook (DL)
Regulars: LF Nori Aoki, SS Ketel Marte, 2B Robinson Cano, DH Nelson Cruz, 3B Kyle Seager, 1B Adam Lind, RF Seth Smith, C Chris Iannetta, CF Leonys Martin
Role players: C Steve Clevenger, 1B Dae-Ho Lee, IF Luis Sardinas, OF Franklin Gutierrez
Rookies of impact: OF Boog Powell, RHP Jonathan Aro
2015 run differential: -70 (656 scored; 726 allowed) <Pythag: 74-88>
Run production: Nobody expected a .302 average, .936 OPS and 44 home runs from Cruz last year, and it’s unlikely he’ll approach those numbers again. But the Iannetta/Clevenger time share will out-produce the failed Mike Zunino experiment. Ditto Lind over Morrison at first base. Aoki brings better OBP to a lineup that badly needs it. This group also should strike out less, and there is more overall speed.
(Roster Resource.com projections: 7th BA, 8th OPS, 19th Runs, 11th HR, 19th SB)
Run prevention: This rotation has a chance to be very good. Iwakuma made only 20 starts last season, Walker is a good bet to improve on a 4.56 ERA, and James Paxton provides depth. There was no more-ineffective closer last season than Fernando Rodney, but Cishek needs a bounceback. The rest of the bullpen also has been rebuilt, and there’s nobody like Carson Smith in tow, so Dipoto’s acumen for judging reliever talent will be put to the test. Injuries also temporarily have cut into bullpen depth.
(Roster Resource.com projections: 17th Wins, 17th ERA, 12th QS, 10th BB, 14th K)
Risers: Walker, Karns, Marte
Contract years: Lind, Benoit, Aoki (option), Iannetta (option), Smith (option)
Vegas says: OU 83 wins
Predicted record/finish: 84-78, 3rd place. This team clearly should be better than the Zduriencik-Lloyd McClendon-led group of a year ago. But a lot of things will have to come together to sneak into a wildcard spot.
LOS ANGELES ANGELS
2015 record/finish: 85-77, 3rd place
Recent history: Since their 2002-09 run of six playoff appearances, there has been precious little to show for all the money owner Arte Moreno has shelled out: One division title before getting swept by the Royals in a 2014 LDS.
Front office/manager recap: Forget titles and roles, this is Mike Scioscia’s show. He can make life miserable (with Moreno’s tacit approval) for anybody who challenges his reign, as former GM Jerry Dipoto discovered. Scioscia has three more guaranteed seasons at $6 million per. New GM Billy Eppler signed a four-year deal last October.
Payroll change: From $146 million in 2015 to $167 million in 2016.
Key arrivals: SS Andrelton Simmons, 3B Yunel Escobar, C Geovany Soto, OF Daniel Nava
Key departures: 3B David Freese, C Chris Iannetta, RHP Trevor Gott
Rotation: RHP Garrett Richards, LHP Andrew Heaney, RHP Jered Weaver, LHP Hector Santiago, RHP Matt Shoemaker // LHP Tyler Skaggs (DL), LHP CJ Wilson (DL)
Relievers: Closer: Huston Street; Setup men: RHP Joe Smith, RHP Fernando Salas; Middle relievers: RHP Cory Rasmus, LHP Jose Alvarez, RHP Mike Morin, RHP Cam Bedrosian
Regulars: 3B Yunel Escobar, LF Daniel Nava, CF Mike Trout, DH Albert Pujols, RF Kole Calhoun, 1B CJ Cron, SS Andrelton Simmons, C Carlos Perez, 2B Johnny Giavotella
Role players: C Geovany Soto, 1B/OF Ji-Man Choi, IF/OF Cliff Pennington, OF Craig Gentry
Rookies of impact: Nothing much here: IF Kaleb Cowart, LHP Nate Smith
2015 run differential: -14 (661 scored; 675 allowed). Just how did they finish eight games over .500 with this run differential? Very strange indeed. That doesn’t bode well for 2016.
Run production: Don’t be surprised if you hear more about wasting Trout’s best-player-in-the-game status as this season unfolds. Escobar and a LF platoon of Nava and Craig Gentry are the new table setters. Pujols is limited to DH-ing early, and while his power remains, his days as a near-.300 hitter are gone. He still is owed $164 million through 2021, by the way. And, they’re still paying Josh Hamilton about $24 million per through next season. Cron is the likeliest offensive breakout candidate, and there still is some hope for upside in Simmons’ bat.
(Roster Resource.com projections: 10th BA, 17th OPS, 23rd Runs, 15th HR, 27th SB)
Run prevention: The contracts of Weaver and Wilson will come off the books after this season, but in the meantime, the former will pitch despite minor neck/spine damage, and the latter may not pitch much at all. That leaves it to Heaney to emerge, Santiago to bounce back from a bad second half, and Shoemaker to bounce back from a bad full season. The back four in the bullpen returns intact after a strong 2015, but will be heavily relied upon again. That’s never a good thing in back-to-back seasons, and they’re one Huston Street DL stint away from being iffy. You may have heard that Simmons and Trout are Gold Glovers.
(Roster Resource.com projections: 16th Wins, 23rd ERA, 14th QS, 18th BB, 21st K)
Risers: Heaney, Cron
Regressers: Weaver, Wilson
Contract years: Weaver, Wilson, Smith, Soto, Salas, Escobar (2017 club option)
Vegas says: OU 82.5 wins
Predicted record/finish: 77-85, 4th place. They missed the wildcard by one game last season, but won’t be close this time. UNDER the total here.
2015 record/finish: 68-94, 5th place
Recent history: The 2015 bottoming out came after three consecutive playoff appearances and season win totals of 88, 96 and 94. But that’s what can happen when you deal away Josh Donaldson, Yoenis Cespedes, Scott Kazmir and Ben Zobrist for prospects.
Front office/manager recap: Executive VP Billy Beane is signed through 2019, and David Forst was promoted to the general manager role in 2016. Manager Bob Melvin also is very secure, as he is signed through 2018.
Payroll change: From $84 million in 2015 to $86 million in 2016
Key arrivals: OF Khris Davis, 1B Yonder Alonso, 2B Jed Lowrie, LHP Rich Hill, RHP Henderson Alvarez, RHP Ryan Madson, RHP John Axford, RHP Liam Hendriks, LHP Marc Rzepczynski
Key departures: IF Brett Lawrie, RHP Jesse Chavez, LHP Drew Pomeranz
Rotation: RHP Sonny Gray, LHP Rich Hill, RHP Chris Bassitt, RHP Kendall Graveman, LHP Felix Doubront
Relievers: Closer: Sean Doolittle; Setup men: RHP Ryan Madson, RHP John Axford; Middle relievers: RHP Liam Hendriks, LHP Marc Rzepczynski, RHP Fernando Rodriguez, RHP Ryan dull
Regulars: CF Billy Burns, 2B Jed Lowrie, RF Josh Reddick, 3B Danny Valencia, C Stephen Vogt, LF Khris Davis, DH Billy Butler, 1B Yonder Alonso, SS Marcus Semien
Role players: C Josh Phegley, 1B/OF Mark Canha, IF/OF Chris Coghlan, OF Coco Crisp // OF Sam Fuld (DL)
Rookies of impact: LHP Sean Manaea, part of the return from Kansas City for Zobrist, should debut late-season. 1B/OF Matt Olson
2015 run differential: -35 (694 scored; 729 allowed) Note: A -35 differential translates to a 77-85 record — or nine games better than the A’s actual record. That bodes well for this season.
Run production: This lineup is a mish-mash collection of Billy Beane acquisitions. Other than Burns, there is little speed. Valencia had a nice breakout, but him hitting cleanup says something. Butler is fading, Alonso never has found much power. Davis won’t like the home ballpark move from Milwaukee. Platoon guys Coghlan and Canha could end up playing bigger roles.
(Roster Resource.com projections: 15th BA, 20th OPS, 22nd Runs, 16th HR, 20th SB)
Run prevention: The rotation looks thin, but keep in mind that Henderson Alvarez is expected back around June 1. Hill’s spring — and granted, it was in Arizona — didn’t exactly evoke memories of his 2015 September re-emergence. Beyond closer Sean Doolittle, who pitched in only 12 games last season, the bullpen has been churned. The cast of veterans will be an improvement over last season.
(Roster Resource.com projections: 23rd W, 19th ERA, 15th QS, 17th BB, 22nd K)
Risers: Burns, Doolittle, Semien
Regressers: Davis, Butler
Contract years: Reddick, Hill, Coghlan, Rzepczynski, Fuld, Crisp (2017 vesting option)
Vegas says: OU 75.5 wins
Predicted record/finish: 76-86, 5th place. There has to be a rebound after last season. But how far? The A’s need to get back to what used to make them great. And we’re not talking Money Ball. We’re talking about developing some homegrown talent along the lines of Mark Mulder, Barry Zito, Tim Hudson and Jason Giambi again.