What a great time to be a fan of the Cubs! (Getty Images)
We finally got to the final part of the review of the teams, where we’ll talk about the most-steepest teams of Major League Baseball. These four teams are the main contenders for the victory in the World Series.
If for some reason you missed our previous previews, you can read the links: Shadow Strike, Wild West, Against The World, To Find a Way, Trust The Process. Part I, Trust The Process. Part II.
The Boston Red Sox
Last season: 93-69
The forecast of analytical systems for the season: 91-71
Manager: John Farrell
Key performers: Muki Batts, Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Portcello, Dustin Pedroia, Xander Bogartz.
The best prospectuses: Rafael Devers, Jay Grum, Bobby Dalbak, Ronnie Raudes.
Last season, Boston finally managed to get out of the steep pique, in which the team was in the previous two seasons. Rick Portcello became one of the most unexpected winners of the Sai Yang award in history, and Muki Bats claimed MVP. In addition, Andrew Benetendi made a very successful debut. In general, the season of 2016 could be called successful for the Red Sox.
The president of Boston’s baseball operations, Dave Dombrowski, did not stop there and decided to add several missing elements to the team. The first of these was the Ace Chris Sale, who will make one of the best trio of starters in baseball with David Price and Rick Portcello. The price for Sayle was great, but the real ays, which is this player is the piece and the most valuable product in baseball and is exactly worth the set of brochures that Boston gave him.
Sharing Chris Sale can bring Boston to a new level. (Getty Images)
Another important addition to the team was the set-up reveler Tyler Thornburg, who spent a strong last season in Milwaukee. He will compose with Craig Kimball a pair of revelers in 8-9 innings, which should not be much inferior to any of the main competitors.
After his successful debut in Major League Baseball, Andrew Benitendi’s quotes took off to the skies and it is he who is currently called the best prospect in baseball. This is one of the most prepared for the top league prospectuses in my mind, and he immediately should be a big factor for Boston this season and make up with Muki Bates and Jackie Bradley, perhaps the best outfield in baseball. In his professional career, he has more extra-base hits than strikeouts, which already speaks volumes.
David Price scared all Boston fans with the news of an elbow injury that could even lead to Tommy John surgery and would most likely put an end to Red Sox ambitions this season. But he was lucky, and Price will miss only the start of the season, hoping to return to service by summer or even earlier. Do not escape the injury and Drew Pomeranz, who was supposed to stabilize the middle of the rotation of Boston. Unfortunately, this talented pitcher throughout his career is tormented by various injuries and his being in the infirmary is not a surprise.
John Farrell will be enlisted by Eduardo Rodriguez and Kyle Kendrick, whom Dave Dombrowski brilliantly signed in the offseason. Kendrick was one of the best pitchers during the spring training sessions and will rightfully take a place in the rotation at the start of the season.
The only question that is not fully resolved is the position of the hitman’s disigneyte, which, with the completion of his career, David Ortiz, will become Henley Ramirez’s fiefdom. Ramirez could not become a quality defender at the first base, which led to his shift to the position of the DX. Most likely in the future, he will share time with Pablo Sandoval, as soon as he is superseded from the third base by the super-prospect Rafael Devers, who is no longer so far from Major League Baseball.
Sandoval was one of the most pleasant surprises of spring for all people associated with Boston. He worked on his form in the off-season, and appeared in a new look for himself, not a rotten steak. John Farrell noted that as a result of this, not only his bit game, but also the defense improved.
The skinny Pablo Sandoval looks something like this. (Getty Images)
He will start the season with a starter at third base and will try not to be again a minus player, as in the previous two seasons. In the 2015 season, he managed to “bring” the team minus two wins for 126 games in the lineup, and last year it was even worse, with a -0.2 WAR in just 3 games in the lineup, and then broke down before the end of the season. Any positive contribution from Sandoval will be calculated as a success.
Another player Red Sox, from which you can wait for heroes – Xander Bogartz. By the middle of the season, his name was often mentioned as a candidate for the title of the most valuable AL baseball player, but blurred August and September somewhat spoiled the impression of a wonderful season. Nevertheless, Bogartz progressed in every season in Major League Baseball and despite the fact that it will be for him the fourth full season, he will play it at the age of only 24 years. This player has just a huge potential.
The Red Sox have one of the most powerful lineups in all Major League Baseball, which includes a wealth of young and talented players, as well as veteran experiences from Dustin Pedrooy, David Price and other experienced players. This makes Boston a formidable contender for any league team, and especially for Cleveland, with whom the Red Sox predicts a fight for victory in the AL.
Early injuries to Price and Portcello somewhat reduce the team’s predicted results for the regular season, but once they get in shape, Boston will appear to be a real monster.
Forecast: 93-69. First place in the division of AL East.
Last season: 94-67
Forecast of analytical systems for the season: 91-71
Manager: Terry Francon
Key performers: Edwin Encarnacion, Cory Cluber, Carlos Carrasco, Francisco Lindor, Michael Brantley.
The best prospectuses: Bradley Zimmer, Francisco Mejia, Triston McKenzie, Bobby Bradley, Brady Aiken.
For many, Cleveland’s success last season was a huge surprise. The team was in a few innings from a victory in the World Series, even without injured stars – Carlos Carrasco, Michael Brantley and Danny Salazar. All this speaks about the strength of the team, its manager and the quality work of the leadership.
It is the management work of Indians that impressed me almost more than everyone in the league. Last season was the product of a series of right decisions that gave the chance to fight for the championship not the richest team. Cleveland could afford to give one of the best avenues in the Yankees in exchange for Andrew Miller and at the same time keep a fantastically talented prospectus farm that will feed the main team in the following seasons.
The admirable management work allowed Indians to have resources for Andrew Miller’s trading. (Getty Images)
Cleveland knows how to draft, who to draft and, most importantly, how to develop their prospectuses, which gives them a huge advantage in the form of young and cheap homegrown players.
One of the factors of success were profitable renewals of contracts with their players. Corey Kluber, Jason Kipnis, Carlos Santana, Carlos Carrasco, Ian Gomez, Michael Brentley, and now Jose Ramirez were ahead of schedule extended by the club on favorable terms. This makes players realize that if you play well, the franchise will thank you, give them a chance to grow together and achieve success, which contributes to the excellent atmosphere in the team and raises the players’ motivation to a new level.
It is worth noting and manager Terry Francon, who is another key to the success of this team. Francon is famous for his ability to establish a soulful and friendly atmosphere in the team, skillfully leads the players and maintains the moral status of each team member at a high level.
But besides that, last season he made a real revolution in baseball with an extremely logical, but a novelty technique for using revelers. The team’s best reveler, Andrew Miller, is not used as a traditional clowner, but comes out in those innings where the position of his team is the most critical. Whether it’s the seventh inning and loaded bases, the eighth and the heart of the beating rival line or another situation – Francon does not wait for the weaker reverters to merge the game, but to release Miller. This seriously affected the already increased price of the revelers on the market, and it definitely changed baseball.
Lack of depth in rotation can be a problem for Cleveland if the traumatic Carrasco and Salazar will start to break again, but the fact that Indians without it reached the seventh World Series match should calm the fans of the team. If these two starters are healthy before the playoffs, then Cleveland can be the main favorite to win.
Where the team definitely has problems, so it’s in the outfielder. Star Michael Brantley almost did not play last season and his return automatically takes the team to a new level. Lonnie Chisenhall will miss the start of the season, but Indians have good options in the form of veteran Austin Jackson and young Tyler Nakuinn. Debut by the middle of the season is expected from the top prospect Bradley Zimmer, who has a mind-blowing bunch of athleticism, power and protection and will immediately become an improvement over Nakuinn in centerfilm.
Michael Brantley’s task will be as rarely as possible to watch the game from the side. (Getty Images)
Cleveland’s infield, led by one of the best shortstops in baseball, Francisco Lindor, must drag Indians forward, and the breakthrough of Jose Ramirez only strengthens the already strong position of this team. Prospect catcher Francisco Mejia can make his debut this season and further increase the team’s potential. In the last season, Mejia was marked by a 50-match series with at least one hit in the lower leagues, becoming the first prospect since 1963, to which this achievement was subdued. In addition, he is also a strong defender.
Cleveland is one of the healthiest organizations in baseball in terms of doing business. The success of the team in the development of youth and the conclusion of profitable contracts with it allowed Indians to sign an expensive Edwin Encarnacsion, which may become the missing element of the champion puzzle, because the team was very lacking in the playoffs of a stable and powerful bat in the middle of the line.
Now they have everything to go after the championship and try to break the longest series without victories in professional American sports. The main thing is to stay healthy.
Forecast: 94-68. The first place in the AL Center
Last season: 103-58
Forecast of analytical systems for the season: 94-68
Manager: Joe Maddon
Key performers: Chris Bryant, John Lester, Anthony Rizzo, Jake Arrieta, Addison Russell.
The best prospectuses: Iloy Jimenez, Ian Happ, Dylan Ciz, Jamer Candelario, José Albertos, Oscar De La Cruz.
Another team with fantastic management is the winners of last season from Chicago. It can not be a coincidence that it was these two teams with intelligent management who came together in a stubborn duel in the World Series, but the Cubs objectively had great potential and were stronger in the course of the regular season, which makes their title undoubtedly deserved.
The American public appreciates the Cubs management so highly that the architect of the success of the team – Tao Epstein was named the best leader in the world by the publication of Fortune Magazine. To this Epstein modestly remarked that it is strange to call him the best leader, because he can not even teach his dog not to foul at home. But despite his modesty Epstein deservedly considered one of the best leaders not only in the current Major League Baseball, but possibly in the history of the league.
Epstein is the chief architect of the Cubs dynasty. (Getty Images)
How good is the composition of the Cubs … The worst thing for rivals is when the team that only won 103 games, has not even come close to its maximum potential. There is much to grow Chris Bryant, Addison Russell is able to add on the beat, Javier Baez and did not reveal all his opportunities, and missed the season Kyle Schwerber and debut catcher Wilson Contreras have the greatest potential. Not to mention the fact that the Cubs have an ultra-talented outfielder, Iloy Jimenez, who has the best potential power in the lower leagues.
Looking at the rostrum of Chicago, you do not even know what you can hang on to. The weakest point of the Cubs can be called the centerfield, but the clever combination of a well-beating John Jay and strong defender Albert Almora is not such a problem.
Some problems are with the depth of rotation, where the last place of the starter went to the very traumatic Bratt Anderson. But the presence of Mike Montgomery, as well as the Alder Field Course Eddie Butler, still creates a qualified depth. Butler was previously the top prospect of Colorado Rokis, but, like many other pitchers, could not play in conditions of Denver’s thin air. In the spring he proved himself a completely different player and was one of the best pitchers in the preseason.
The highest results of the rest of the Cubs’ starters have been largely achieved thanks to a strong defense game, as well as a historically low Evererej score when the balls beat against them. This season will give the best answer to whether it was a luck or a combination of protecting the infield and the ability of the Cubs pitchers to produce a weak touch.
The Chicago Cubs are currently in the final stages of becoming the baseball Golden State Warriors. Completely dominant and at the same young members make the Cubs the main candidate for the creation of a baseball dynasty, which will steer in the National League for more than one season. And so far there are absolutely no prerequisites for changing this. Life is perfect for Cubs fans!
Forecast: 105-57. First place in the NL Center
The Los Angeles Dodgers
Last season: 91-71
The forecast of analytical systems for the season: 94-78
Manager: Dave Roberts
Key performers: Clayton Kirshaw, Kent Mayed, Corey Seeger, Justin Turner, Yazmani Grandal.
The best prospectuses: Cody Bellinger, Yadier Alvarez, Alex Verdugo, Willie Calhoun, Walker Buhler.
The Dodgers are the richest team of Major League Baseball and in fact the only team that can match the Chicago Cubs in terms of the strength of the composition, budget and collection of avenues.
The main value of the Dodgers is the Ace Clayton Kirchot, who to the dismay of all the league beters can progress further. Last season, he experimented with a new arm position at the throw he took from Rich Hill. During this experiment, he dropped only 25 fastballs, but the results were striking.
The speed increased by 1.4 mph, the vertical drop by two inches, and the horizontal displacement by six inches compared to its usual fastball. There is no limit to perfection – the motto of one of the best pitchers in the history of baseball!
The very appearance of Clayton Kirshaw leads the betters into terror. (Getty Images)
LA’s starting rotation is the place where the management of this franchise invested enormous finances and efforts to build the dominant unit. This is the only group in baseball, which in its quality and depth exceeds the pitching of the New York Mets, which speaks volumes. The return of Korean starter Hyun-Jin Ryu adds another cool pitcher to the team mid rotation, and the full season of healthy Rich Hill could claim a high place in the vote for Sai Yang.
The Dodgers rotation is so deep that it does not frighten Scott Kazmir’s injury at all, and the ultra-talented Julio Urias will start the season in the AAA, despite the fact that he would have been in the middle of the rotation for 90% of the Major League Baseball teams. Not to mention the fact that Alex Wood, Brock Stewart and Ross Stripling would have appeared in the start of almost all league teams. In general, Los Angeles really lives in terms of starters.
The team’s budget allowed her to keep Kenley Jensen’s cloaker, which was very important given all Dodgers problems with the bullpen. The revelers will not be the strength of the team, even with the addition of Sergio Romo, whose slider is still an effective weapon. But with Grant Dayton’s fantastic debut, perhaps, and will not be such a problem as before. For 26 1/3 of the inning in Major League Baseball this rever had a strikeout rate of 9 innings at 13.33 points, and an ERA of 2.05 points.
The Dodgers budget of 245 million is one of the lowest for this team in recent seasons, but is still head of Major League Baseball. Los Angeles is so rich that it can afford to keep 34 million dollars of Scott Kazmir and André Itier on the injured list, and also to have another 38 million dead money while retaining one of the strongest teams in the league. If we compared the Cubs to the Golden State, then the Dodgers are more like one of the classic teams in soccer, owned by an Arab sheik.
The team’s bat is not too badly rotated. Corey Seeger last season easily won the prize for the best season rookie, and was also one of the contenders for the best player of the season in general. Justin Turner also returns to the club and is one of the most underrated stars in the league, and the arrival of Logan Forsythe’s team closed one of the few problematic positions in the Dodgers at second base.
Corey Seager literally flew into Major League Baseball. (Getty Images)
Another extremely underrated team player is catcher Yazmani Grandal. This player has one of the best skills in MLB to turn balls into strikes, is a leader and is good at handling pitchers, but does not forget and be an effective better.
The Dodgers, although not as young as Chicago, have a tremendous power of composition, and also a depth of pitching, which will allow them to compete against the Cubs for the title of the best team in Major League Baseball.
Forecast: 100-62. First place in the division NL West.