Bryce Harper is a player who makes baseball cheerful. (Getty Images)

This time we will talk about the teams, which in our opinion will be the second echelon of the contenders, but some of which, with a lucky combination of circumstances, quite possible not only to get into the playoffs, but also to take home the title.

If for some reason you missed our previous previews, you can read the links on the links: Wild West, Against The World, To Find a Way, Trust The Process. Part I, Trust The Process. Part II.

Toronto Blue Jays

Last season: 89-73

Forecast of analytical systems for the season: 86-76

Manager: John Gibbons

Josh Donaldson, Aaron Sanchez, Marcus Stroman, José Bautista, Kevin Pillar.

Josh Donaldson, Aaron Sanchez, Marcus Stroman, José Bautista, Kevin Pillar

Key performers:

Best Prospects: Vladimir Garrero Jr., Sean Reed-Fowley, Anthony Allford, Rowdy Tellz.

Hot bit and unexpectedly qualitative pitching allowed last year not only to leave Toronto in the playoffs, but also to fly the first round without noticing the Texas Rangers. True, the team then waited for a cold shower in the form of Cleveland Indians and Andrew Miller …

The Blue Jays have a very solid foundation, which can allow them to claim the same result this season. Josh Donaldson is one of the best baseball players in the world, and besides he is devilishly stable. Over the past four seasons, he has never dropped below the 6.6 WAR bar, played at least 155 games, and in two seasons in Canada he recruited an average of 39 home runs and 122 rubles. He must again qualify for MVP, if something happens to Mike Trout.

Josh Donaldson is one of the best and most stable players in Major League Baseball. (Getty Images)

The key to his success is that this player considers his philosophy of playing on the beat and the technique of impact changed for her. Donaldson was never the top prospect, but his focus on kicking the ball into the air and kicking the ball before the kick (the so-called “kick kicks”) not only made him a superstar, but also created a real revolution in Major League Baseball.

Previously it was believed that the most correct thing is to hit the ball in the ground, but the success of Josh Donaldson and JD Martinez make the other Major League Baseball players try to beat the ball more and more in the air. This is also related to the development of the Statcast technology, which gives us more and more information about the angles of beating the ball of the most successful players in Major League Baseball.

With the departure of Edwin Encarnacion to Cleveland, Toronto needs a stronger season from Jose Bautista and Troy Tulovicki than they demonstrated last year. Last season, Bautista held a failed season on the bat, which added to his already weak defense. Its percentage of the strikeouts increased, which led to a decrease in power and a reduction in the betting of the powerhouse, even with an increase in the BABIP (energy game in the game) compared to 2015.

All this leads to the conclusion that Bau can hardly expect improvement in results unless he can again improve the situation with the strikeouts. Given that he is already 36 years old, the chances of further deterioration of the results are higher than the sudden resurgence of the former Bautista. But Jose is motivated by the next contract season, which, however, did not help him in 2016.

Kennes Moralez was signed to the place of Encarnacsion, which is a qualitative replacement for the departed star, but is clearly not with him and is close at the same level. The best solution to this problem would be to transfer Bautista to the position of the hitman’s defignite and sign a better defender to the right field, but Toronto’s management chose a different path.

The main problem with the bits of the Blue Jays is still the unevenness of their composition. Behind Donaldson, Tulo, Bautista and Morales, people like Justin Smoke and Melvin Upton will go out on the bat. Upton though looked great in games for the Padres, but his level of play on the bat did not withstand any criticism after moving north. If the stars of Toronto, together with Encarnacion often enough to achieve results, then with his departure is not such a strong top of the line may not be enough.

The health and age of the main players can become another problem. Bautista is 36 years old, Russell Martin is 34 years old, Kendris Morales and Steven Pearce are almost 34, Troy Toulowicki is 32 years old, and Josh Donaldson is 31. All of these players are key to Toronto, and with any injury or drop in results on the field, Which will not be an equivalent substitute for them. This is a very expected development of the events for the age players, and despite the fact that in the line of hitters the Blue Jays there are no young and promising players other than the traumatic Devon Travis.

Jose Bautista should leave last season behind. (Getty Images)

The main hope of Toronto’s management will be connected with the starting rotation, where young Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman can add. Stable Jay Ey Happ and starting at O’Panning Day Marko Estrada are ideal mid-rotation players, and will complement Francisco Liriano, who once again blossomed after trading in Toronto and reuniting with catcher Russell Martin.

But the further depth causes fears, because if it happens with one of these players, then Matt Latos, the unconvincing Mike Bolsinger or not rising above AA Conner Green, will have to leave the field. Complementing the picture is not the strongest bullpen, where John Gibbons will be forced to rely on services at times unstable Roberto Ozuna, veteran Jason Grilli and not the most experienced Joseph Biagini.

Compared to any other contender for the victory of the season, even second place, Toronto has the least talented team, not the most impressive depth and one of the most age-old compositions of players in the field in all Major League Baseball. And this is not a recipe for reliability and confidence in their success in the season of 2017, only if suddenly Bautista does not find herself the same, and the pitchers will not stay healthy and the existing young team will not make a serious step forward.

Forecast: 83-79. Third place in the AL East.

The San Francisco Giants

Last season: 87-75

The forecast of analytical systems for the season: 87-75

Manager: Bruce Boshi

Key performers: Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, Brandon Crawford.

The best prospectuses: Tyler Bidey, Brian Raynolds, Chris Shaw, Heath Quinn.

Last season, the Giants managed to get into the playoffs largely due to the work of management in the offseason, which made the successful signing of Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samarjou. In the end, Cueto last year was one of the best starters in NL and spent the best season in his career.

But all of San Francisco’s hopes were shattered by the failing play of the bullpen, whose insolvency cost the team winning in the division and became the key to defeat in the series against the Cubs. In the fourth game of the series against Chicago, Matt Moore perfectly worked 8 innings just to see how the Rivers missed four wounds in the last inning and merged the game they won.

To rectify the situation, the Giants left Santiago Casillia and Sergio Romo, and also signed one of the best clusers on the market – Mark Melankon. The problem with the bullpen still does not go away, because people like George Contos and Derek Lowe are not the best options for 7-8 innings, but at least for the ninth inning can now not be particularly worried.

Mark Melankon should bring the necessary stability in the endings of games. (Getty Images)

Starting rotation The Giants will be the strength of the team and this season, which will be helped by the best catcher in baseball – Buster Posey, who is a rare backstop, combining a strong bat, hand, pitchers and leadership qualities. The expected progress from Matt Moore should compensate for the regression of Johnny Cueto, from which to expect the second consecutive career season will be too naive.

Matt Kane, who will retain his place in it only because of a big contract, is the one who questions the most questions. This will be his last chance to prove himself, and if he continues to play in the same vein as the previous few seasons, he will soon be transferred to the bullpen, and in his place will come Ty Blach, who looks more powerful pitcher at the moment.

Another advantage of the Giants is the infield, which claims to be the best in the league. There are no obvious superstars like other contenders, but Brandon Crawford, Joe Panic, Brandon Balt and Eduardo Nunzez are very high-level players, each of whom must bring the team from 2 to 4 WAR. Strong pitching, infield and, at least a minimal increase in the reliability of the bullpen, can make them a serious contender.

But where San Francisco has obvious problems, it’s in the outfielder. If suddenly Hunter Pence will again miss the games, then the outfield Giants will risk being one of the worst in the league, as the aging centerfinder Denard Span and the combination of Jarrett Parker and Mack Williamson in the left field will not cause positive emotions even among the most optimistic people in the world. It is from the level of the game Penza and his health will depend very much this season.

The health of Hunter Pens is an important factor for the possible success of the Giants. (Getty Images)

In general, the Giants should take an active part in the NL playoff race, which promises to become very hot and stubborn, and where any exchange can reverse its outcome. But at the moment, the Giants have less potential with a similar overall level of teams with Pittsburgh, and just a less cool roaster than the Mets and Netshenzes, with no advantage in depth, and especially in avenues that are practically absent from San Francisco.

Forecast: 86-76. Second place in the NL West.

The New York Mets

Last season: 87-75

Forecast of analytical systems for the season: 86-76

Manager: Terry Collins

Key performers: Noah Sindegaard, Yoenis Cespedes, Stephen Mats, Jacob DeGrom

The best prospectuses: Amed Rosario, Dominic Smith, Justin Dunn, Thomas Schapooky, Desmond Lindsay

Last season, the Mets ended with a defeat in a Wild Card match against the Giants. But 2016 was the step back, which must have happened to the team with an extremely young rotation. It is young and powerful throwing pitchers are very prone to injury, and last season, injuries tormented virtually all young stars Mets.

However, the New York Mets fulfilled their main task for the offseason, having managed to retain as part of Yoenis Cespedes, who is a key player for this team. The recovery of Jacob DeGrom and Zach Wheeler, as well as the extra time for the restoration of Matt Harvey, must create a miracle for the team, which won last season 86 games with all the problems. The Mets should be better this season even with the injury of Stephen Mats, who will miss the start of the season.

New York must especially not notice the absence of Matz because of the presence of another young talent – Robert Gselman, who for 44 inning in the starting lineup of the Mets in 2016 showed an ERA of 2.42 points, which is not his level, but the FIP indicator in 2.63 points and xFIP at 3.38 (these two indicators are more in-depth analogues of the ERA, which among other improved measures of the pitcher estimate take into account the neutral level of protection of the team and the ballpark), indicate that its real level is not far from it.

Robert Gselman is like Jake DeGrom not only in appearance. (Getty Images)

In addition, the Mets have simply an amazing depth of rotation, which has many quality options. For example, pitchers of the Seth Lugo, Gselman / Wheeler caliber (one of them would have been in the bullpen without injury to Matz) and Rafael Montero would not have been in the last places in the rotation of many Major League Baseball teams.

Bullpen is also not a weak spot, even considering the disqualification of the clerk Jarisa Surname for the first 15 games. Addison Reed had already been a cloaker for the Chicago White Sox and Arizona Diamondbacks for more than one season, and will quietly replace the Surname, and the rest of New Yorkers have a powerful arsenal and ability to make strikeouts, which is critical for the reverb in modern Major League Baseball.

The bad news for rivals is the phenomenal form of Yoenis Cespedes, who appeared this spring as a kind of cyborg. He was very physically strong before that, but during the off-season he worked on himself even more and now visually resembles a bodybuilder with the abilities of a baseball player. Cespedes, subject to ideal health, can knock out more than 40 home runs in the season, and his return from centerfield to his natural position as the left fielder will help protect the Mets.

The spring version of Cespedes impresses with its physical form. (Getty Images)

Outfield will be the power of New York, where apart from the Cuban star there is an abundance of quality options in the form of experienced Jay Bruce and Curtis Granderson, as well as young Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo. Do not forget about one of the best defenders of the league in the face of Juan Lagares, which gives even more tactical flexibility to manager Terry Collins.

Surely debut in the main team Mets super prospectus Amed Rosario, who promises to close the position of the shortstop for many years, as well as the first Baysman Dominic Smith, designed to replace Lucas Duda. This depth of composition gives New York a huge advantage over its main competitors in NL from San Francisco and Washington.

If the young Mets relievers can stay relatively healthy for most of the season, this team has the potential to mow with the giants of NL from Los Angeles and Chicago. But, perhaps, New York is still in one season from joining these two teams, and this season will still spend on growing up and stuffing cones. Hit in the playoffs is a plausible scenario.

Forecast: 88-74. Second place in the NL East and getting into the playoffs.

Washington Nationals

Last season: 95-67

The forecast of analytical systems for the season: 91-71

Manager: Dusty Baker

Key performers: Bryce Harper, Max Scherzer, Daniel Murphy, Anthony Rendon, Tre Turner, Stephen Strasburg.

The best prospectuses: Victor Rowblz, Eric Fadde, Juan Soto, AJ Cole

Last season, the Nationals fell victim to the Dodgers, who won the series against Washington in five games. Did not help the metropolitan team and the absence of Stephen Strasbourg, which could lead the outcome of the series in another direction.

It’s not difficult to see why Washington is considered one of the main contenders for victory not only in its division, but also in the World Series. Stars of this team can compete on their strength with absolutely any other team in Major League Baseball, and perhaps they will give them all a head start.

The rich get richer – this phrase is very applicable to the Netshenzes this season. In the offseason, the team was replenished by catcher Matt Withers and outfielder Adam Eaton, who will strengthen the already strong Washington squad. They won 95 games in 2016 even despite the unexpectedly weak season from Bryce Harper, the injury of Stephen Strasburg and the incomplete season in the main part of Tre Turner.

Speedy Tre Turner made his debut very powerful. (Getty Images)

With the departure of Danny Espinoza, Tre Turner will return to his home shortstop position and will be the top of the line with Adam Eaton, which will move Bryce Harper to third place in the lineup of hitters and give him plenty of opportunities to recruit RBI. Daniel Murphy and Anthony Randon complete the phenomenal top of the Washington lineup with contact, power and the ability to hit the bases.

One of the most underrated additions to the team was the first baysman Adam Lind, who will make a payboard (the division of playing time into positions depending on whether the left-handed pitcher is right-handed) with Ryan Zimmermann continuing to take over. Lind is a strong batterer against right-handers and has career targets against them with a 0.287 point powerhouse, 34.7% of hits on the base and OPS at 0.847 points, which is much higher than the average.

Problems can arise with the starting rotation, where Stephen Strasburg’s traumatic character, the annual decline in Gio Gonzalez’s results and the exchange of Adam Eaton cause him to worry. As a result of Eton’s exchange, Washington management gave two important reserve options in the form of the top prospectus of Lucas Jiolito and Raynaldo Lopez, which were to be the first replacement for injured or surrendered starter.


Washington should put candles for the health of Stephen Strasbourg. (Getty Images)

Spare starter will be the weaker avenues of AJ Cole and Austin Wat, and if their level does not suit Dusty Baker, then it may be necessary to force the translation into the basis of the top prospect Eric Fadde. The situation with the players on the bench is even more deplorable. Steven Drew, Wilmer Difo, Chris Haizy and Brian Goodwin are not worth any criticism, and Michael Taylor can offer only protection and play on the bases, but with the results on the bit he has big problems.

Another topic for heated debate was the position of the clauser in the team, where Washington could not sign or exchange an experienced player to replace the departed Mark Melankon. In the beginning, Shaun Kelly was the favorite of the position, followed by Coda Glover, but in the end, Blake Traenen will get the first chance. In any case, all three of these candidates are not the most optimal guys in the position of a clauser for a team that really claims to win the season.

Washington could well be a part of the most important contenders for a victory in a season, but the insufficient depth of structure does not give them such possibility. But this composition should be enough for the victory in the division and exit to the playoffs, provided that there will not be a break all consecutive players Nechenols. Well, healthy Washington in the playoffs – a worthy competitor for the Dodgers and the Cubs.

Forecast: 97-65. Victory in the division of NL East.

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