Your Monday Morning Power Rankings

34 Comments

It’s the last Power Rankings of the season. In some ways it’s rather pointless, what with the season being effectively over for the majority of teams. To what end power, if there is no manner in which to exert it?  An interesting ettickal question.

Indeed, I was just gonna not do a Power Rankings. But then I realized I had a legitimate reason to not make Philly number one, and I figured that would cheese off a bunch of ya, so why not?

1. Yankees: Winning most of the games they’re supposed to win, worrying more about whether marginal dudes will make the postseason roster than they’re worrying about the big existential questions that vex a team at this time of year. Yeah, I think that earns them the number one slot.

2. Phillies: I mean sure, on some level this is unfair inasmuch as, if you put a gun to my head, I still say that Philly has the best shot of anyone once the playoffs start. But sorry guys. You don’t lose eight in a row and not suffer some sort of Power Rankings penalty for it.

3. Rangers: Quietly rolling. It’s amazing how little anyone talks about these guys.

4. Diamondbacks: Everyone’s going to call them the Cinderella story of the playoffs, but they haven’t really fit that mold. They’ve carried themselves like a team that knows it belongs. Never going on bad skids, not relying on unsustainable streaks.  Just doing their work. I think they could cause a lot of trouble for whoever they face in the first round.

5. Tigers: I predict there will be 15 stories written in the next five days asking whether the Tigers “peaked too soon” with their hot streak in early September. I think that kind of thing is hogwash. They have the best pitcher in the AL, one of the best hitters and no glaring weaknesses. They’re fine, even if they’re not as hot right now as they were a couple of weeks ago.

6. Brewers:  They haven’t played a team with a winning record since September 11th, so you have to wonder if they’re honed as sharply as they could be.

7. Cardinals: They’re not yet in playoff position, but they still have a hell of a lot more mojo working than that team in Atlanta they’re chasing. And finishing the season with three in Houston? You couldn’t have set that up any better.

8. Rays: Three against the Yankees to close it out. If they make it, they will have freakin’ earned it.

9. Braves: Three against the Phillies to close it out. Call me crazy, but I’m not exactly optimistic.

10. Red Sox: Three against the Orioles to close it out. AHHHHHH!!!! PANIC!!! YYEEEAAAAHGGGGG!!!

11. Angels: Still technically alive, but they need a miracle. And I don’t know if you’ve looked around much lately, bub, but miracles don’t come easy these days.

Those out of the playoff conversation simply get a ranking this week. Sorry, but there are only so many ways you can say that their season is over, and I’ve been doing that for several weeks now.

12. Giants

13. Dodgers

14. Blue Jays

15. Indians

16. Nationals

17. Reds 

18. White Sox

19. Mets

20. Athletics

21. Rockies

22. Marlins

23. Pirates

24. Royals

25. Cubs

26. Padres

27. Orioles

28. Mariners

29. Twins

30. Astros

2017 Preview: Minnesota Twins

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Minnesota Twins.

Which iteration of the Twins will we get in 2017? The second-place contenders of 2015, blazing their way through the standings with 83 wins and a handful of hot prospects? The burnouts of 2016, flopping to the bottom of the division with 103 losses and a lineup held in place by Brian Dozier and, well, Brian Dozier? Or something in between?

Finishing dead last has its perks, namely a first-round draft pick and the feeling that things can’t be quite as bad as they were the year before. Unfortunately for the Twins, the only major preparation they made for the 2017 season came in the form of a front office shakeup. Derek Falvey assumed control of the club in October, bringing GM Thad Levine into the fold in November as the club assumed a more analytics-friendly approach toward the rebuilding movement.

When it came to roster revisions, however, there wasn’t much moving or shaking this winter. Third baseman Trevor Plouffe, catcher Kurt Suzuki and left-handers Tommy Milone and Pat Dean vacated their spots on the roster. Falvey avoided some of the bigger bats and bullpen arms in free agency and opted to sign backstop Jason Castro and journeyman reliever Ryan Vogelsong instead.

By and large, the core of the Twins’ roster remained the same. Center fielder Byron Buxton, infielder/outfielder Michael Sano and right-hander Jose Berrios still form the nucleus of the club’s top prospects. Middle infielder Brian Dozier will also return in 2017, though he appears to be on borrowed time with the Twins after putting up monster numbers in the second half of 2016. Ervin Santana will head the rotation again, accompanied by fellow veterans Hector Santiago, Kyle Gibson and Phil Hughes, while right-handed relievers Brandon Kintzler, Ryan Pressly and Matt Belisle and rehabbing lefty Glen Perkins attempt to prevent another bullpen collapse in 2017.

Without any major additions to the team (and, excepting the departure of Trevor Plouffe, any major subtractions), the Twins will look to their existing cadre of players for significant improvements in 2017. Miguel Sano is expected to take over third base in Plouffe’s absence, which will bring a welcome end to his short-lived and wholly unsuccessful experiment in right field. Brian Dozier, Jorge Polanco and Joe Mauer should round out the infield, with Byung Ho Park and Kennys Vargas currently vying for a spot as the team’s designated hitter.

The lineup is still four or five or six sluggers shy of formidable, but if Dozier can be counted on to repeat his 42-homer, 5.9 fWAR performance from 2016, there will be at least one Twin worth intentionally walking in 2017. Neither Miguel Sano nor Byron Buxton have quite found their footing against big league pitching yet, and another year spent struggling in the majors could mean another year of sub-optimal run production for the team as well. Jason Castro, who grades as an above-average defender behind the plate, is unlikely to provide any additional pop for the Twins at the plate after slashing just .210/.307/.377 through 376 PA with the Astros in 2016.

The pitching department also leaves a little to be desired in light of the league-worst 5.09 ERA they amassed last season. A veteran-heavy rotation could get a boost from the addition of fifth-starter candidate Jose Berrios, who is thought to be the favorite after fellow rotation candidate Trevor May underwent Tommy John surgery earlier this week. Right-hander Tyler Duffey and 23-year-old southpaw Adalberto Mejia are also waiting in the wings. Both have made convincing cases for their inclusion on the pitching staff this spring, but Duffey is coming off of a 6.43 ERA in 2016 and Mejia lacks some of the polish that Berrios offers. Still, stockpiling young pitching depth isn’t a bad thing, and could give the Twins a cushion in the event of injury or collapse down the stretch.

The bullpen outperformed the rotation in 2016, which is saying… something, though maybe not a lot. They still finished the year with a cumulative 4.63 ERA, good for last place among their American League rivals, and delivered just 2.1 fWAR while taking on the fourth-most innings in the league. The standout performer was 28-year-old righty Ryan Pressly, who worked a 3.70 ERA, 2.7 BB/9 and 8.0 SO/9 in 75 1/3 innings last year. In light of Ryan Vogelsong’s recent departure from the club, the Twins will round out their bullpen with left-hander Craig Breslow, who turned in a 4.50 ERA with the Marlins in 2016 and is looking for a bounce-back season of his own after reworking his delivery at age 36.

For now, it looks like Falvey and the Twins’ front office are taking a wait-and-see approach to the coming season, which bodes well for their long-term vision (assuming most of their young prospects pan out) and not so well for their chances of moving up in the division in the next year or so. That could change by the trade deadline if they can secure a worthwhile return for Dozier, though given the rumors of their understandably high asking price, it could take more than a few months to get a deal in place.

Even assuming that all the chips fall in the Twins’ favor in 2017 — prospects start hitting consistently, the rotation solidifies, and Falvey loosens the purse strings enough to net more established contenders — it’s difficult to imagine anything more than a fourth-place finish for the club as they continue to rebuild and regroup. Barring any major improvements on the inconsistent, if occasionally productive, lineup of 2016, another last-place finish feels imminent.

Prediction: Fifth place, AL Central.

Video: Angels use eight pitchers in spring training no-hitter

Getty Images
1 Comment

Who says no-hitters can’t be just as fun when they happen during spring training?

Angels’ right-hander Bud Norris delivered two perfect innings on Friday night, paving the way for an eight-pitcher no-hitter against the Mariners at Tempe Diablo Stadium. Jose Alvarez, Cam Bedrosian, Andrew Bailey, Austin Adams, Drew Gagnon and Justin Anderson each filed a hitless inning of their own, leaving right-hander Abel De Los Santos to close out the ninth inning with just three pitches — and three game-saving plays by the defense.

Of course, it didn’t hurt that the Angels were facing a bevy of Mariners’ backups, rather than their starting lineup. In fact, Seattle’s lineup featured just two starting players — outfielder Leonys Martin and shortstop Jean Segura — while the majority of their everyday position players took on the Royals in a 4-3 win elsewhere in the Cactus League. The Mariners managed to reach base twice, first on catcher interference in the fourth inning, then on a four-pitch walk in the sixth, spoiling the Angels’ chances of turning their combined no-hitter into a combined perfect game.

Still, whether it’s executed in spring training or the regular season, against an All-Star lineup or one comprised of minor leaguers, a no-hitter is a no-hitter. The team’s eight-pitcher effort marked the first spring training no-no the Angels had completed since 1996, when they took on the Giants in a 15-0 showdown. Unfortunately for the 1996 squad, their regular season ended with a 70-91 record, good for last place in the AL West. Perhaps this no-hitter will prove a better omen for the coming season.