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MLB POWER POLL – 2014 PRESEASON

This powerpoll is mostly based on starting pitching. I believe starting pitching is the most important aspect to building a winning baseball team. While these rankings will reflect how I feel the team is doing overall, I’ll focus mainly on the pitching side within the comments themselves, specifically the starters. Batting and relief pitching will be mentioned but mostly as a reflection of the starting pitching. For example, did the the offense provide enough run support? Did the bullpen protect a lead?

RANK TEAM COMMENTS
#1 Hands down the best rotation in baseball. Justin Verlander wasn’t his usual great self in 2013 so the Tigers could actually get better! They did lose Doug Fister to Washington but Fister was the #5 starter for all intents & purposes behind Verlander, Scherzer, Sanchez & Porcello. Drew Smyly replaces Fister in the rotation and has shown the ability to miss quite a few bats. It’s extremely hard to believe Detroit came up short last season losing to Boston in the ALCS. It’ll be hard to believe again if the Tigers somehow miss another opportunity.
#2 Like Detroit, I thought it amazing that the Dodgers somehow missed an opportunity to get to the World Series. They were unbelievably hot last season at time and boasted the best pitcher on the planet in Clayton Kershaw, but LA lost to St. Louis in the NLCS ending a promising season just short. The Dodgers aren’t without warning signs to start the season. Clayton Kershaw & Josh Beckett are already on the DL and both are likely to miss a month. Newcomer Dan Haren is a great pick up especially being used in the back end of a rotation. He’ll have to hold it down with Greinke & Ryu until Kershaw returns.
#3 A great story for the Cardinals ended just short last season with a loss to Boston for a World Series title. Michael Wacha emerged as a filthy front end starter behind #1 starter Adam Wainwright. Wainwright is a true ace throwing 240+IP last season! Shelby Miller & Lance Lynn are a year older while Jaime Garcia & Joe Kelly should hold down the #5 spot at times in 2014. It was really hard to distinguish between St. Louis & Los Angeles as both do seem like the cream of the NL crop. The Cardinals don’t have the injury concerns LA does at the moment, but they’ll start just behind the Dodgers to begin the season.
#4 Tons of hype surrounding the Nationals front line starting rotation of Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmerman. I think we are all waiting for the trio to put it all together for a huge year. Last year Zimmerman was 19-9 while Gio Gonzalez had a mostly healthy season. Strasburg dealt with some injuries so we’ll see if all 3 can make it work. The Nationals now have Doug Fister as their #4 starter but he’s injured to start the season. Tanner Roark & Taylor Jordan will hold down the #5 spot. This is an excellent & youthful rotation. It will be interesting if as a whole they can make a big leap in ’14.
#5 The Rays always seem to be near the top when you are talking about starting pitching or overall team ability! The 2014 season should be exciting for Tampa Bay as they have room for marked improvement. Nobody on the projected rotation threw more than 187IP last season and only Jeremy Hellickson made 30+ starts although Hellickson didn’t average 6IP per start driving his IP/GS down. David Price, Alex Cobb, Matt Moore, Chris Archer & Jake Odorizzi could really breakout as a unit this season. Hellickson starts the year on the DL and could miss the first 2 months of the season.
#6 The defending World Champions, Boston is actually somewhat interesting to look at. Jon Lester is a great starter but he’s not as filthy as a #1 as a lot of aces are around the major leagues. Jake Peavy & John Lackey should be integral parts of the rotation but both have injury histories and both are getting up there in years. Felix Doubront has never pitched a complete season and while Clay Buchholz looked unbeatable last season, he also has injury issues to deal with. This is a solid rotation with championship experience but it could crumble pretty fast if Father Time or injuries crop up all at once.
#7 This seems high heading into the season but why wouldn’t Philadelphia be this high? Their front-3 starters (Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels & AJ Burnett) are arguably the best front-3 starters in all of the majors. Even if you think Philly will have problems scoring runs or if you believe the bullpen will be shaky, these 3 pitchers have such nasty stuff that they don’t need a ton of runs to be effective. When you are only looking at one aspect of a team game, rankings can get a little bit out of hand, but I’m keeping the Phillies this high to start the season because the front 3 are so good. Let them prove me wrong.
#8 The Braves are going to be running high on young pitching this season. Braves fans should be really excited to see the trio of Julio Teheran, David Hale & Alex Wood all give significant time to starting duties should the injury bug not hurt them. While the Braves should miss the veteran presence of Tim Hudson (off to San Francisco), I think the Gavin Floyd pickup will be a good one for the Braves if he can stay healthy. Unfortunately the Braves are getting hammered by injuries right now. Kris Medlen & Brandon Beachy won’t even play in 2014 while Mike Minor & Floyd are already on the DL.
#9 Cincinnati already had too many starters by a couple so losing Bronson Arroyo shouldn’t hurt them that bad. The Reds also put Aroldis Chapman back in as closer leaving them with Homer Bailey, Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Tony Cingrani & Mike Leake as their starting rotation. The Reds catch a bad break with Latos starting the year on the DL but from #1-#5 the Reds can pitch with anyone. They aren’t quite as good as Philadelphia’s front-3 but they probably won’t be quite as bad as Philadelphia with their offense/bullpen. Getting rid of Dusty was a godsend. Now they just need to hit enough for the starters!
#10 The A’s made an amazing run to win the West last season and how come back this season with an opportunity to do even more damage. They catch a bad break with AJ Griffin starting the season on the DL but the Scott Kazmir pick up was pretty sweet if he can stay healthy & Oakland will hope to get Sonny Gray to emerge as true #1 starter at the front in of their rotation. I’m excited too to see Dan Straily get a lot of work in. Last year at age-24, Straily went 10-8 and showed a pretty good ability to miss bats in the strikezone. Jesse Chavez will also get a chance to get a full year in the rotation. Good group.
#11 Picking up Hudson was a great move in my opinion if he can stay healthy. The Giants should expect him to come in and be a #4 starter which is amazing considering Hudson has been a #1/#2 starter his entire life in Oakland & Atlanta. I wouldn’t sleep on San Francisco by any stretch. They have won 2 of the last 4 World Series with essentially the same rotation. Madison Bumgarner was great last year but Tim Lincecum & Matt Cain could get better in 2014. Throw in Huddy and a rebound year for Ryan Vogelsong and the Giants will once again be World Series threats.
#12 There is no denying the Yankees are battling age issues and CC Sabathia might actually be their worst starter, but the Yankees aren’t as bad off as some people think. Hiroki Kuroda is old but shows no signs of slowing down. Kuroda went 11-13 last season but posted a good ERA. Ivan Nova had a great year last year and Michael Pineda is healthy for the first time in ages. Japanese import Tanaka is compared to a #2 starter and it wasn’t long ago that Pineda was thought to have #1 starter stuff. They need to stay healthy but this rotation is a lot better off than the Yankees haters want you to believe.
#13 The Rangers get hit hard to start the season with Derek Holland & Matt Harrison starting the year on the DL. Holland might miss the first 3 months of the season which means the Ranges could be in for the fateful curse of looking at Joe Saunders for 10-15 starts! EEK! With that said, Yu Darvish is fantastic and I think Tanner Scheppers is going to have a good year transitioning to the starting rotation. Robbie Ross is another guy to look out for making a dent in the rotation and Martin Perez is a year older & wiser. The Rangers are a real threat even with all the injuries they have at the moment.
#14 The Indians are extremely intriguing. I love Justin Masterson at the top of the rotation but Corey Kluber, Danny Salazar & Carlos Carrasco all show swing & miss ability which could really bolster the Indians rotation into one of the very best in baseball if all the players can make a leap. Carrasco is coming back from injury but has front rotation stuff. Kluber & Salazar showed real dominance last season in short stints leaving Zach McAllister as the “soft” tosser who throws in the low-90s! A tick behind Detroit, the Indians made the playoffs last year & could easily dupicate that feat this season if they improve.
#15 The Mariners, like Texas, is already dealing with some injury issues to Taijuan Walker & Hisashi Iwakuma but there is a lot to like here. Obviously Felix Hernandez is one of the best starting pitchers, if not the very best, in the major leagues. Taijuan Walker has considerable upside and don’t forget that Seattle is going to try to break in Erasmo Ramirez, Roenis Elias & James Paxton into the rotation as well. There is tremendous amounts of youth on the team and the offense should get better with the addition of Robinson Cano via free agency. Could be very interesting watching Seattle in 2014.
#16 I think losing AJ Burnett is a big deal especially because he threw last year like a #1/#2 starter. Even with the loss of Burnett, Pittsburgh does return Francisco Liriano & Gerrit Cole. Those two could combine to make a formidable 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation. Wandy Rodriguez is coming off of injury & could do pretty well. Edinson Volquez is a year removed from injury and if he can improve his control, then he’ll be an asset. Charlie Morton is a solid starter and should get a full year in. Morton won’t beat himself and gives Pittsburgh and opportunity to win each time he takes the mound.
#17 Buck Showalter is a helluva manager so it’ll be interesting to see how he does with this rotation. Chris Tillman operated as the team’s #1 starter last year but he’s more of a #2/#3 starter regarding his overall stuff. The Orioles did go out and get Ubaldo Jimenez & Bud Norris, both of whom have unhittable stuff at times. Wei-Yin Chen & Miguel Gonzalez are the other starters. There is something to work with here but as a unit the Orioles walk too many hitters and don’t do a good job of preventing home runs. There is promise here but also a lot of caution it would seem when you look at the stats.
#18 Matt Garza was a great pickup for the Brewers and combined with Yovani Gallardo, could give Milwaukee a fantastic front end of the rotation that should be able to rival any other rotation in the NL Central if those two can remain healthy which isn’t a guarantee. Marco Estrada has also shown some ability to get hitters to swing & miss. The other two starters are Kyle Lohse & Wily Peralta. Neither guy is going to dominate an opposition but Lohse especially finds ways to beat hitters. It doesn’t make a lot of sense in Lohse’s case but he simply refuses to beat himself so he wins with run support. Very intriguing.
#19 Chris Sale is emerging as a truly dominant #1 starter for the White Sox, but the problem on the South Side is that he doesn’t have all that much behind him for Chicago to make a push in the AL Central. Felipe Paulino is coming off injury & he can be decent at time but the other starters (Jose Quintana, John Danks & Erik Johnson) don’t really show the ability to impress anyone by all that much. Outside of Sale nobody is particularly dominant and nobody is particularly young either outside of Sale who was 24 last season. The White Sox need some help because they could be dangerous with Sale at #1.
#20 Sort of interesting. The Padres front 4 pitchers of Andrew Cashner, Ian Kennedy, Josh Johnson & Tyson Ross have shown the ability to miss bats but they have also shown the ability to be injured. Johnson starts the year on the DL while Ross is fairly young. Kennedy has had some injury issues in the past as well. Ross is the most interesting pitcher here but #5 starter Eric Stults is interesting too. As a #5 starter he’s extremely solid showing the ability to stay healthy last season while not beating himself. The Padres are in somewhat of a holding pattern I think but they could make things interesting.
#21 The Mets really suffer with Matt Harvey likely missing the entire 2014 season. Maybe the Mets wouldn’t have challenged Atlanta, Philadelphia or Washington anyway but they certainly can’t without Harvey at the top of the rotation. It’s also foolhardy to think Bartolo Colon is going to replicate his amazing season with Oakland last year. What will be really interesting to watch this season is the development of Zack Wheeler & Jenrry Mejia. If those 2 can take a leap then they can combine with Harvey in 2015 to really give New York an incredible front end rotation. Wait till next year could really apply in Queens!
#22 It’s weird to think of the Angels this low when they make splashy moves like signing Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols and having a SUPERSTAR in Mike Trout, but from a pitching side I’m not seeing it. Jered Weaver battled injuries last season but his xFIP was a terrible 4.31. CJ Wilson went 17-7 but he wasn’t that good with an xFIP of 3.93! Garrett Richards & Hector Santiago aren’t that great with only Tyler Skaggs potentially being a young arm that could be exciting. Maybe Weaver & Wilson regain some of their dominance, but it seems like LA might have a hard time getting anyone out.
#23 RA Dickey’s introduction to the AL East wasn’t exactly pleasant. He went from winning a Cy Young in 2012 with the Mets to going 14-13 with a 4.21ERA with the Blue Jays! Dickey isn’t horrible but he was never a pitcher that was going to be thought of as a true #1 starter. Maybe a #3 starter but not a #1. Toronto looks to be the worst team in the AL East which means they are better than 40% of the other teams in baseball but keep an eye on Dustin McGowan & Brandon Morrow. They are injuries waiting to happen but if both can make 30 starts each then Toronto’s season looks a lot brighter.
#24 Jose Fernandez emerged as a solid #1 starter last year with lights out stuff that could dominate at any given moment. He’ll only be 21-years old this season so I think he’s a bit far away to say he’s passed through the injury gauntlet unscathed. The Marlins have the youngest rotation in all of baseball with Nathan Eovaldi, Henderson Alvarez, Tom Koehler & Jacob Turner following Fernandez in the rotation. None of them have shown to have particularly dominating stuff so Miami could be waiting for even more youthful pitchers to emerge but I think Turner & Eovaldi will be interesting to watch develop this year.
#25 Ricky Nolasco really had a solid year pitching for the Marlins & Dodgers. I’ve always though Nolasco had really good stuff so him stepping in as the #1 starter for the Twins is a good move by Minnesota. The problem though is that nothing follows him. Kevin Correia isn’t really that good or that young. Phil Hughes went 4-14 last year although when he’s on he can be pretty good. Kyle Gibson & Mike Pelfrey aren’t that great and neither are that young. The Twins have a lot of people coming up in the minor league system so this year might simply be another year towards rebuilding. That’s too bad really.
#26 A lot of people love Kansas City, but I’m not sure I’m buying all that love. Jeremy Guthrie & Bruce Chen simply aren’t good starters and if they are making 35% of the starts from the backend, Kansas City will be hurting. Yordano Ventura has some crazy upside but at this point he’s an inexperienced rookie. I loves James Shields as the #1 starter but Jason Vargas as a #2 starter is a bit suspect. The Royals might have a great offense & great bullpen but from where I’m standing they’ll have to prove a lot through the starting rotation if they want to be considered real contenders in the AL Central.
#27 The Cubs are OK I suppose but they aren’t very young so who knows how much upside they really have. Jeff Samardzija probably isn’t a legitimate #1 starter given his problems with homers & walks although he does miss quite a few bats. Edwin Jackson has no stamina while Jason Hammel battled injuries last season. Travis Wood is OK I suppose but Jake Arrieta is starting the season on the DL which means Carlos Villanueva is bringing up the rear with the starting rotation. The NL is top heavy which makes the bad teams look worse. The Cubs are still overhauling the organization.
#28 Arizona doesn’t have any dominance to the staff whatsoever. Brandon McCarthy & Wade Miley simply aren’t front line starters. Randall Delgado is fairly young but doesn’t show a lot of promise being a dominant pitcher. Bronson Arroyo is 37 years old and while he’s pretty darn good when he’s on, when he’s off opposing hitters light him up. Trevor Cahill has significant issues with his control. Oddly enough this isn’t the worst starting staff in either their own division or in the NL, but at times it certainly looks that way. Arizona is rebuilding the rotation so this year could be a bumpy ride indeed.
#29 The Astros are just bad and there is no way around it. They are trying to use the draft as a way to stockpile talent and hopefully some of that talent will come home to roost sooner rather than later especially on the mound. They picked up Scott Feldman to be their ace although he isn’t really. Everyone else is fairly young. Jarred Cosart, Brett Oberholtzer, Lucas Harrell & Dallas Kuechel make up the rest of the rotation. The starting 5 has the makings of a revolving door trying to mix and match what players might step up and take a spot permanently. Houston is far away but getting a little better.
#30 The Rockies aren’t horrific but they do have some crazy warning signs. Jhouyls Chacin & Jorge De La Rosa have no ability to overpower anyone although at points in their career they have looked pretty good. Chacin starts the year on the DL as does youngster Tyler Chatwood who probably has the most promise of anyone in the starting 5. Brett Anderson dealt with injuries last season and Juan Nicasio just isn’t fantastic. Being in the NL West with LA, SD & SF, it’s hard to imagine being competitive when your rotation is this bleak. The Rockies are in for a tumultuous season unless they can pitch.
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April 10, 2014 - Posted by | Baseball

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