Our Cactus League coverage continues in now sunny and warm Arizona, having taken a look at four more teams in person and offering opinions on what we knew and what we are seeing.
Listed below are projections and MLB odds for each team for divisions, the league they play in, World Series considerations if applicable and season win totals. Let’s get to it.
Milwaukee Brewers (3rd in NL Central and 7th-worst NL odds) O/U 84
Last spring in the desert, we saw Milwaukee had more talent on the field than they were given credit for going into the season and they improved by 13 wins to 86-76. With largely the same everyday cast returning, the Brewers are seeking improvement from their talented young players and hoping veterans like Ryan Braun, Travis Shaw and Eric Thames can add more run production. When most teams see a large improvement, it is usually because of pitching and the Brew Crew was 9th in overall ERA and had a baseball-best 54 saves. No sure Milwaukee can duplicate that feat, but they are worth consideration for OVER in win total.
Cleveland Indians (1st in AL Central, 3rd-best AL odds and 4th for World Series) O/U 94
Because Cleveland had a disappointing post-season, they are easy to forget about. However, that is not a good idea if you are making MLB picks this season because to ignore a club coming off a 102-win season with most of their main resources still in place, well that’s crazy. Consider the Indians were in the Top 6 in baseball in runs scored, ERA and fielding percentage and good luck trying to manufacture a weakness. The only possible weakness is playing in the AL Central, where only Minnesota can possibly push the Tribe. The win total is large, but the talent and schedule are in place for the OVER and a return to the World Series is very possible.
Chicago White Sox (3rd in AL Central, 13th-best AL odds) O/U 69
The White Sox made a brilliant move two years ago by rebuilding while the Cubs were on the assent. This eliminated any comparisons and they could quietly go about trying to emulate what the North Siders had done by building from the ground up. For Chicago to beat this year’s win total, they will need more clutch hits with runners on base to move up from 23rd in runs scored. That will require more from Jose Abreu, Avisail Garcia and Tim Anderson because the starting pitching is deplorable. The Pale Hose ‘ace’ is 36-year old James Shields, who had an ERA over 7.00 for a good part of the season before a good close took him down to 5.23. The rest of the pitchers are youngsters. Last year’s 67 wins look correct.
Oakland Athletics (5th in AL West, 12th-best AL odds) O/U 75
The A’s offense is part of what’s wrong with baseball. They were 24th in batting average and 4th in home runs. Instead of all or nothing swings at the plate, maybe putting the ball in play could result in finishing better than 17th in runs scored and have them move up in the standings. This lack of dish discipline hurts worse when you have the worst fielding team in the sport, thus, skipper Bob Melvin has made that a priority this spring. Oakland’s everyday batting order gives them a chance to climb closer to .500, but the pitching staff would have to really improve and that does not appear that will occur.
Cactus League Observations – Corey Kluber was very sharp in his three innings of work, striking out five and allowing just one run for Cleveland. Shortstop Francisco Lindor had two hits and looked ready to start the season. Though it’s Arizona, got the impression Lorenzo Cain is going to have a big year moving from the spacious Kauffman Stadium to Miller Park bandbox, now as a Brewer. Yovani Gallardo is on the Brewers roster and he gave up three runs on four hits and had three walks and looks like his career is over. The White Sox and A’s ended up playing to a 9-9 tie, as both teams had no pitching and there were five errors committed. This definitely looked like two teams heading toward losing seasons.