30. San Diego Padres
Fangraphs projected 2017 record: 65-97
(USA Today Photo/Jake Roth)
The Padres big 2016 offseason acquisition? Jered Weaver! He was blowing his fastball by hitters at 83 mph last season. Oh, and his FIP? An astounding 5.62. The scariest part is he may actually be a mainstay in the Padres rotation. Jarred Cosart is probably the best option they’ve got, and that’s only because he was good two years ago. Hopefully for Padres fans, 2017 will be a year for prospects Manuel Margot and Hunter Renfroe to blossom, while Wil Myers provides a glimmer of excitement. This will be a forgettable season in San Diego.
29. Cincinnati Reds
Fangraphs projected 2017 record: 70-92
(Getty Images/Joe Robbins)
The Reds pitching staff had the third worst team ERA in 2016 and walked the most hitters in baseball. Alfredo Simon was dreadful in his return to the team, registering a 7.13 FIP in 58 ⅔ innings, and their ace was Dan Straily. To improve the pitching staff, the Reds front office made two (somewhat) notable moves, signing Drew Storen and Scott Feldman. After showing significant improvement with Seattle in the second half last season, Storen will likely strengthen the Reds bullpen. Scott Feldman will start on Opening Day.
Billy Hamilton and new starting second baseman Jose Peraza will provide some excitement atop the lineup with their game changing speed, and Joey Votto will likely continue to drive in runs and get on base at an absurdly high clip. The offense will likely take a hit, though, after Jay Bruce’s midseason departure and Brandon Phillips’ trade to the Braves. Let’s see if Adam Duvall can build on his breakout year as the Reds continue to rebuild at an unusually slow pace.
28. Philadelphia Phillies
Fangraphs projected 2017 record: 71-91
(AP Photo, Derik Hamilton)
The Phillies have a trio of young right handers (Vince Velasquez, Aaron Nola and Jerad Eickhoff) who all showed promise in 2016. Aaron Nola, the most exciting of the bunch, posted a 4.78 ERA, significantly underperforming his FIP of 3.08. Velasquez, Nola and Eickhoff will be led by Jeremy Hellickson, who unexpectedly chose to return on a qualifying offer.
Philadelphia has a few exciting bats as well. Maikel Franco (25 home runs), Odubel Herrera (.361 OBP) and Cesar Hernandez (.371 OBP) all had excellent years in 2016. Shortstop J.P. Crawford, Philadelphia’s top prospect, is nearing the big leagues, too. 2017 probably won’t be a breakout year for the Phillies, but they’re getting more competitive and should contend relatively soon.
27. Minnesota Twins
Fangraphs projected 2017 record: 74-88
(Star Tribune Photo, Richard Tsong-Taatarii)
The Twins’ rebuilding years are beginning to pay off. After finishing with the worst record in baseball last year, they’re poised to take steps forward in 2017. Miguel Sano and Max Kepler look like legit, power hitting prospects, Byron Buxton flashed all five tools in his second big league stint, and Jose Berrios looks ready to stick in the big league rotation. Minnesota will also add to their great young talent pool with the number one overall pick in the 2017 Draft. The Twins will be an exciting team to watch this year with their young power hitters. Plus, it’s always enjoyable watching undersized power hitting second basemen Brian Dozier launch balls into the upper deck.
26. Milwaukee Brewers
Fangraphs projected 2017 record: 69-93
(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
The Brewers don’t have anything special going on in 2017.
They’re struggling to trade their aging all-star Ryan Braun, who’s expendable at this point; the Brew Crew won’t be winning anytime soon. Their best player last year, Jonathan Villar turned down a contract extension in hopes of getting more money after 2017, and their franchise catcher, Jonathan Lucroy, is gone to Texas. They have one promising young pitcher in the 2017 rotation in Zach Davies, and 2016 surprise Junior Guerra, who’s already 32 years old, will start on opening day. Get ready for a meaningless year, Milwaukee.
25. Chicago White Sox
Fangraphs projected 2017 record: 69-93
The White Sox are beginning to rebuild, and it’s happening quickly. This offseason, they traded away their best pitcher, Chris Sale, and their best outfielder, Adam Eaton, who have three and five years of team control, respectively. After trying to win the last couple of years, GM Rick Hahn is tearing the team down in hopes of competing again a few years down the road. In return for Sale and Eaton, the Sox got excellent prospects in Yoan Moncada (#1 on MLB Prospect List), Lucas Giolito (#11 on MLB Prospect List), Michael Kopech (#16 on MLB Prospect List) and Reynaldo Lopez (#46 on MLB Prospect List).
These moves are just the beginning, though, as Chicago still has several big trade chips in first baseman Jose Abreu, third baseman Todd Frazier, outfielder Melky Cabrera, closer David Robertson and starter Jose Quintana. The White Sox will likely deal more players throughout the year as they prepare for the future.
24. Oakland Athletics
Fangraphs projected 2017 record: 79-83
(USA Today Photo/Kyle Terada)
The A’s bullpen looks good, as usual, with names like Sean Doolittle, Santiago Casilla, Ryan Madson, John Axford, etc. The starting rotation will look to bounce back after 2016 saw ace Sonny Gray’s FIP go from 3.45 to 4.67. Sean Manaea did look promising in his first big league stint, though.
Oakland has a good, young third baseman in Ryon Healy, who posted an .861 OPS in 283 big league plate appearances last year. Marcus Semien developed a power stroke, and Khris Davis broke out with 42 home runs. Don’t sleep on Billy Beane.
23. Atlanta Braves
Fangraphs projected 2017 record: 73-89
(USA Today Photo/Daniel Shirley)
The Braves are in an unusual position. They’ve got a lot of young, inexperienced talent, yet they’ve spent a decent part of the offseason acquiring veterans like Brandon Phillips, Bartolo Colon and R.A. Dickey for what seems like an attempt to be respectable. Rather than riding out a tough season with young players, the Braves look as though they could actually be okay. They’re a bit higher on my power rankings than most. I think their lineup isn’t half bad, and their veteran rotation may guide them to a decent record.
22. Arizona Diamondbacks
Fangraphs projected 2017 record: 77-85
(AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
The Diamondbacks are coming off a dismal year in which they won just 69 games. Offseason acquisition Shelby Miller’s FIP ballooned from 3.45 in 2015 to 4.87 in 2016, and free agent, $205 million pitcher Zack Greinke’s went from 2.76 to 4.12. If they can return to form, the Arizona rotation might actually be decent.
A.J. Pollock, arguably the best center fielder in the NL in 2015, is returning from injury after playing only 12 games in 2016. According to Baseball Reference, Pollock was a 7.4 win player in 2015. With a similar performance, the Diamondbacks should expect to win an additional seven games. They’ve also got some solid offensive pieces around Pollock, including Yasmany Tomas, Jake Lamb and obviously, Paul Goldschmidt. Lookout for a solid year from Arizona.
21. Tampa Bay Rays
Fangraphs projected 2017 record: 82-80
(USA Today Photo/Leon Halip)
The Rays are projected to win 82 games, yet they’re number 21 on my power rankings, here’s why: After a 68 win season in 2016, it’s hard to imagine an above .500 finish after trading away two of their best players (Drew Smyly and Logan Forsythe). With that being said, there are definitely a few reasons the Rays may finish close to their projected record.
The Rays were last in MLB in one-run ball games in 2016 at 13-27; that’s extraordinarily bad luck. If the Rays are league average in one-run ball games in 2017, they’ll win a handful more games. Despite losing Drew Smyly, the Rays rotation is still young and has three very promising arms. Chris Archer will likely bounce back after a disappointing 2016; he was fantastic in his World Baseball Classic start. Jake Odorizzi had another solid showing last year, and Blake Snell flew under the radar with a 3.39 FIP after being called up.
The lineup has some solid bats, too, with Kevin Kiermaier, Steven Souza Jr., Corey Dickerson, Brad Miller, who impressed with 30 home runs in 2016, and of course, Evan Longoria. They may be low on my list, but the Rays could be a surprise team in 2017.