As was the case in 2016, the 2017 season ushered in a class of rookies that offered anything from momentary excitement to the start of a potentially elite career. Rookies are always fun to talk about, but players entering their sophomore season already have a major league sample size for us to get way too excited over or way too down on.

We covered the American League edition yesterday, so let’s take a look at a handful of National League players who are heading into their second year.

Corey Seager, SS — Los Angeles Dodgers
It must be tough playing in the shadow of your brother. This could apply to either Kyle or Corey as the former suits up for another underrated, all-star caliber year while the latter is fresh off a Rookie of the Year win and a third-place finish in the National League’s Most Valuable Player voting. Seager was able to prove he could handle the defensive responsibilities of playing shortstop while only being the best offensive shortstop by wRC+ in baseball last year. His 137 mark placed him 15th in all of baseball.

While projecting another season around or in excess of 7.5 fWAR is difficult, the sky appears to be the limit for the 22-year-old. He should be able to maintain his healthy .308/.365/.512 slash line and may even be able to add to his 26 home runs. Seager will be a key cog in the Dodgers’ quest for the World Series as he looks to further establish himself among baseball’s very best.

Trea Turner, SS/CF — Washington Nationals
Depending on what you’ve read, Turner’s name is ready to be etched into a 2017 MVP trophy. Without much exaggeration, there’s certainly a case to be made. The 23-year-old debuted in 2015 with 44 plate appearances, but didn’t really come onto the scene untill June of last year. In 324 plate appearances, Turner posted a .342/.370/.567 slash line with a 147 wRC+. He added 13 home runs and picked up an impressive 33 steals all while playing an unfamiliar position in the outfield. And doing so well.

The Nationals made room at shortstop, his natural position, by dealing the incumbent Danny Espinosa this offseason. His tools played well enough in the outfield but should allow him to shine in the infield. His batting average last year was inflated some by his BABIP, but he shouldn’t have a problem falling in the .300 range with the potential for 30-to-40 steals. His power surge upon arrival in Washington was unprecedented based on his minor league numbers, so the jury’s out on whether or not it’s real. Even without elite power, he has all the makings of a a perennial All-Star. Not bad for a player that was ‘to be named later.’

Trevor Story, SS — Colorado Rockies
If Gary Sanchez was the second-half story among rookies, Trevor was the first-half story. Hitting ten home runs in April will make anyone front-page news and it welcomed the shortstop into the mainstream baseball audience. He held that place until he suffered a broken thumb in August that cost him the remainder of his season. Story’s season ended with a .272/.341/.567 slash line and a 120 wRC+. His 27 home runs had him tied for second among all shortstops and tops in the National League.

The concern for Story heading into 2017 would have to be whether or not the effects of the hand injury still linger. We have seen many cases where hitter’s struggle to regain their power or it takes longer than anticipated. Like others mentioned in this series, Story struck out a lot last year — 31.3 percent — and will need to continue working on his approach and discipline. All in all, the 24-year-old is a well-rounded player that should continue to shine. The sky is literally the limit for the home run totals he can produce given his home park of Coors Field.

Ryan Schimpf, 2B — San Diego Padres
Schimpf would probably be considered the odd one out among the 2016 class of rookies. Why? Because most rookies aren’t 28-year-old and for the few who are, there isn’t much confidence in the potential of a lengthy major league career. But after Schimpf was called up by the team in June, he put UP a .217/.336/.533 slash line with a 129 wRC+ in 330 plate appearances. His overall offensive numbers are boosted by his 20 home runs and remove some concern about the Mendoza-like batting average. The left-hander also paired a 31.8 percent strikeout rate with a 12.7 percent walk rate.

Age and pedigree are the obvious knocks against Schimpf so only time will tell what type of player he can become. The power is legitimate though and he doesn’t hit many ground balls, which creates an intriguing offensive profile. He isn’t terribly adept on the defensive side of the ball but can hold his own. The key for 2017 will likely be whether or not he can improve his consistently and avoid too many prolonged slumps. He looks like he can at least be an average player at second or third, and for a rebuilding club, that’s a plus.

Jon Gray, SP — Colorado Rockies
The presence of Story and Nolan Arenado in a loaded lineup isn’t the only reason many feel Colorado could be a sleeper team in the National League this year. The pitching could actually be good, too. Gray, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2013 draft showed well in nine starts back in 2015. In 2016 he made a name for himself. In 29 starts, 168.0 innings pitched, Gray posted a 4.61 ERA and a 3.60 FIP. The FIP is what has people excited since pitching at Coors Field will do a number on anyone’s ERA and Gray managed to have some success there. The right-hander also posted 9.91 strikeouts and 3.16 walks per nine innings pitched.

The first challenge for the 25-year-old will of course be his home park. But he also had some struggles on the road that pushed the ERA and FIP numbers upwards.His command could be a little better, too, but overall Gray has a solid batch of offerings that he commands well enough to be successful. He will be counted on to be more consistent atop the Rockies’ rotation and will need to take another step forward if the Rockies are to compete into September in a top-heavy National League West division.

Kenta Maeda, SP — Los Angeles Dodgers
It’s often fascinating to see how a foreign player performs in their first year pitching in North America. Maeda was a particularly interesting case given the contract he signed with the Dodgers: eight years, $24 million guaranteed, and a mountain of achievable incentives that could push the deal’s value towards nine figures in all. For a season in which the Dodgers’ rotation was devastated with injuries, Maeda was a bright spot making all 32 of his starts and throwing 175 and 2/3 innings. He posted a solid 3.48 ERA that was backed-up by a 3.58 FIP. He struck out more than a batter per inning and kept the walks around 2.5 per nine.

Perhaps the best news for the Dodgers was that the 28-year-old was able to stay healthy all season. This was a concern among many of his potential suitors last winter. Maeda has shown that he can pitch like a No. 2 or 3 starter and presumably still has a little more in the tank while he’s on the right side of 30. Whiffs and weak ground balls fuelled Maeda’s success in 2016 and should take place again this season. He may not become an ace, especially on a team with Clayton Kershaw, but he’s poised to join the tier of very good pitchers in the game today.…

It’s been an extraordinary time for young players in Major League Baseball the past several years. The old guard of David Ortiz and Derek Jeter, among others, has passed on the torch to a collection of meteoric young talent including the likes of Mike Trout, Manny Machado, Bryce Harper, and Kris Bryant, to name a few.

Last season was aptly titled “The Year of the Rookie” and inspired this author to peek into the outlook for a handful of those players heading into their sophomore season. You can read the American League edition here and the National League edition here.

I’m going to steal from last year’s post to remind you that, per MLB’s rules, a player remains a rookie until they exceed 130 plate appearances as a position player, 50 innings pitched as a pitcher, or 45 days active on a 25-man roster. Time spent on the disabled list or when rosters expand in September do not count towards these days.

Without further ado, let’s chat about some AL sophomores.

Gary Sanchez, C — New York Yankees
There are major league debuts, and then there are historic anecdotes. What Sanchez did in two months with the Yankees last season would be the latter. In just 229 plate appearances, the slugger posted a .299/.376/.657 slash line with a 171 wRC+ and 20 home runs. While the 60 home run pace may be unrealistic this coming year, the power displayed within the .358 ISO he posted was very present. The dude simply can hit.

Sanchez is slated to begin the year occupying the No. 2 spot for the Yankees and will be a key cog in their lineup. There’s some concern about how the 24-year-old will hold up over the course of an entire big league season. The simple wear and tear of catching being one part with the other being his strikeout rate of 25 percent in last year’s sample. Especially since we are likely to see last year’s 10.5 percent walk rate drop some as major league pitchers get familiar with the slugger. The slash line may not be as impressive over a full season, but there are plenty of reasons to expect big things from the catcher going forward.

Tyler Naquin, OF — Cleveland Indians
The Indians center fielder presents an interesting case in 2017. He had a great offensive performance posting a .296/.372/.514 slash line with a 135 wRC+ and showed unexpected power with 14 home runs in 365 plate appearances. But he accomplished all that with an unsustainable .411 BABIP and a 30.7 percent strikeout rate. The BABIP will certainly come down some, which is fine. Hitting .300 is a lot more difficult than it used to be, after all. But the spike in strikeouts from his minor league years is concerning.

The left-hander was used primarily in a platoon role last year, but figures to play a full-time role this year. He actually fared well against same-handed pitching in the small sample and can be trusted to hold his own going forward. The former first round pick should build off the Indians’ World Series run as he enters his age-26 season. It’s possible Naquin has double-digit steals in him and given his tools, a season with ten-plus steals and home runs would look very nice. Cutting down on the strikeouts could be a key success factor in the coming year.

Tim Anderson, SS — Chicago White Sox
Chicago saw their first-round pick in the 2013 draft debut this past summer. With a game based on speed and defence and enough of a hit tool to get by, Anderson posted a .283/.306/.432 slash line in 431 plate appearances. His 95 wRC+ was below average for the position, but with solid defence and plus speed, that package can create a lengthy major league career. The 23-year-old only stole ten bases in the majors this past season but managed to swipe 49 in 2015 at Double-A.

The White Sox certainly believe Anderson has room to blossom as they rewarded him with a new six-year contact worth $25 million. This types of deals are relatively low-risk for the club and offer players the ability to focus more on developing their game instead of securing their new contract. On paper that’s the case, anyways. Still, there’s a good chance the security helps the right-hander as he establishes his place on the next good White Sox team. Finding a way to get on-base more often will make up for a potential decline in batting average as the league adjusts to Anderson.

Alex Bregman, 3B — Houston Astros
As hard as it is for any player to go through a 2-for-38 slump, the start of one’s career is as inopportune a time as any. Still, Bregman finished the season strong and over 217 plate appearances in the majors he authored a .264/.313/.478 slash line. His 112 wRC+ last year is a strong starting point for the well-rounded hitter. Most reports out there consider him to show polish beyond his years. With the pressure to perform as a top prospect, the slump could’ve sunk Bregman’s season. But it didn’t. That says a lot more about his maturation process than any cliche could.

The second overall pick in the 2015 draft comes loaded with pedigree and barely had time to unpack a suitcase at three of the four minor league levels he’s visited. He has a home in Minute Maid Park for 2017 and is slated to hit in the No. 2 hole for the Astros. Though the presence of Carlos Correa will keep Bregman out of his natural shortstop position, this five-tool stud has plenty of success awaiting him.

Michael Fulmer, SP — Detroit Tigers
What’s one way to keep a competitive window open? Trading an expiring contract for an impact player, which is exactly what Detroit did when they sent Yoenis Cespedes to the New York Mets at the 2015 trade deadline. Fulmer started 26 games for the Tigers in 2016 and posted an 11-6 record with a 3.06 ERA and a 3.76 FIP. In 159 innings pitched he posted 7.47 strikeouts and 2.38 walks per nine innings. The right-hander was named the American League Rookie of the Year, beating out Sanchez’ historic season.

The development of Fulmer’s changeup played a large role in his success, mixing it with a very good fastball and slider. He may have had some BABIP luck last year and his FIP suggests a worse performance than his ERA, but there’s reason to believe he could be even better in 2017. The challenge will be the grinding march towards 200 innings. Once Fulmer added the changeup to his arsenal in a more prominent way, things began to take off last year. And this time around he’ll have a whole season of it.

Edwin Diaz, RP — Seattle Mariners
Less than a year ago the right-hander was starting games at the Double-A level. A few months later he was debuting in the big leagues as a reliever. Now, he finds himself on the shortlist of top closers in the American League, if not all of baseball. It’s been a whirlwind for Diaz but he remained steady and was a key cog in the second half for the M’s. Combining an otherworldly 15.33 strikeout-per-nine with a 2.61 walks-per nine over 51 and 1/3 big league innings, Diaz managed a 1.9 fWAR season. His 2.04 FIP suggests his 2.79 ERA was better than it appeared.

While he was used aggressively last year, and may have shown some wear towards the end of the season, Diaz is positioned well for success. Combining a whiff-generating slider with a 97 mile-per-hour fastball is his recipe for success — and it works great — but Diaz found himself with a .337 BABIP and 14.7 percent home run rate. Improving in those two areas certainly could push the right-hander into the very elite. With a little experience and confidence in his back pocket, that shouldn’t be a problem.…

With Opening Day upon us, I’ve once again stepped into the quagmire of preseason predictions. Unlike last year, I’ve penned two pieces. One strictly dedicated to the Seattle Mariners with another focusing on MLB in general. As I did last year, I’ll publish a follow-up post after the season.

Let’s start with my MLB prognostications, which are offbeat in some cases. I figure you can get standard postseason and individual award predictions elsewhere. Hence, my alternative approach.

Rangers Regress

Texas has two consecutive AL West division titles and a superb core comprised of co-aces Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish, future Hall of Famer Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus, Rougned Odor, and Jonathan Lucroy. Still, I see them regressing in 2017.

As noted during our Rangers’ hot stove review, the club recorded the best winning percentage (.766) in one-run games in the modern era of baseball last year. This unlikely success obscured their meager +8 run-differential, which is more representative of a .500 team than one with 95 wins.

 

Yes, I’m saying the Rangers were lucky. Their good fortune won’t repeat in 2017, especially with no significant upgrades made to last season’s roster.

The only notable position player added was Mike Napoli. Newcomers Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross potentially could improve a rotation that was inconsistent behind Darvish, Hamels, and Martin Perez. However, both open the season on the DL.

It’s possible general manager Jon Daniels executes a splashy in-season deal to improve his club. But, parting with a considerable bounty of prospects to land Hamels and Lucroy in consecutive seasons leaves Texas with fewer trade chips.

Conceivably, Daniels could become a seller — if his club unexpectedly nosedives. Free agents after the season include Darvish, Lucroy, Napoli, and Carlos Gomez. Moreover, Hamels’ contract expires after 2018. Any of these players would be appealing to desperate buyers in July.

With the Mariners and Houston Astros making large offseason strides, the path to the postseason will pass through Houston and Seattle in 2017 — not Arlington.

Rockies roll

Colorado should notch their first winning season since 2010 thanks to an arsenal of young starters and a veteran bullpen.

A review of the adjusted earned run average (ERA+) for the Rockies’ top starters illustrates why their beleaguered fans should be optimistic. For those unfamiliar with ERA+, it’s a normalized version of ERA accounting for external factors — such as the spacious dimensions of Coors Field and elevation of the Mile High City.

Last season, 31 NL starters with 100-plus innings had an ERA+ above the league-average mark of 100. Four were Rockies — Tyler Anderson (138), Tyler Chatwood (126), Jon Gray (106), and Chad Bettis (102). The only other club with as many pitchers on the list were the Chicago Cubs.

 

Unfortunately, Bettis starts the season on the DL while he continues his cancer treatment. To counter his absence, the club will turn to youngsters German Marquez, Antonio Senzatela, and Kyle Freeland to round out the rotation.

All three are 23-or-under with Marquez being the number-73 overall prospect in MLB. The Rockies also have Jeff Hoffman — number-44 overall prospect — beginning the season with Class-AAA Albuquerque.

To support his young and improving staff, general manager Jeff Bridich amassed a group of high-leverage relievers. Bridich signed former Kansas City Royals closer Greg Holland and former Miami Marlins set-up man Mike Dunn to go with holdovers Adam Ottavino, Jake McGee, and Carlos Estevez.

As with any bullpen, reliever volatility is always in play. Additionally, Holland missed 2016 due to Tommy John surgery; a procedure Ottavino and McGee have also undergone. Still, the Rockies relief corps has the potential to be dominant and propel the club back to relevance.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention the offense. Colorado’s run-production will be prolific once again. Not a tough call. They’ve led the NL in runs scored since 2014.

Should Rockies fans plan on a championship parade in November? Probably not. Nevertheless, their team will be a force in the NL this season.

Cubbies miss century mark

If you haven’t heard, the Cubs won their first Fall Classic in over a century last year. It was sort of a big deal. They also won 103 games during the regular season.

 

While Chicago may reach the World Series again, they won’t surpass the 100-win mark again.

Recent history doesn’t favor clubs reaching 100 wins in consecutive seasons. In the last decade, four other teams have eclipsed the 100-win mark — none repeated the following year.

Perhaps, the Cubs will break that pattern. They have a young, resilient cadre of talented position players. Having said that, their rotation isn’t as young leaving it susceptible to regression and a hangover from pitching an extra month.

I expect the North Siders to battle the St. Louis Cardinals for the NL Central division crown and eventually prevailing. But, they’ll fall short of 100 wins.

Cleveland rocks again

The Indians were just one win away from their first World Series title since 1948. Then, they dropped three consecutive games to the Cubs. Despite their heart-wrenching collapse, the Tribe is positioned to play late into October again.

 

Unlike their World Series rivals, Cleveland has two quality rotation arms that didn’t pitch until early November — Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar. Both were late season injury losses and are ready to rejoin Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, and Josh Tomlin to round out a formidable rotation.

Offensively, general manager Mike Chernoff added Edwin Encarnacion to his already potent lineup. The 34-year-old provides another power bat to an offense that scored the second most runs in the AL.

Things could be even rosier, if Michael Brantley returns to form after missing most of last year due to a shoulder injury. While it’s too early to forecast Brantley’s impact, the former all-star and Silver Slugger winner appears healthy and ready to contribute.

Even without a Brantley comeback, I like the Indians’ chances of winning the AL pennant.

McCutch is clutch again

Most fans are aware of the struggles Andrew McCutchen endured last year and the widespread reports the Pittsburgh Pirates were actively shopping him during the offseason. Regardless, he’s still a Pirate and primed to bounce back.

Why the confidence in a McCutchen revival?

He’s a proven performer still in his peak years with no known chronic physical conditions. Moreover, breaking down the right-handed hitter’s season into thirds illustrates he was trending upwards during the last 50-plus games of 2016.

Andrew McCutchen 2017 Splits
Split PA HR% BB% SO% BA OBP SLG
Apr-May 227 4.0% 10.1% 22.9% .257 .339 .455
Jun-Jul 204 2.9% 5.9% 27.0% .223 .279 .356
Aug-Oct 244 3.7% 13.9% 14.8% .284 .381 .471
Career 5179 3.4% 11.8% 17.8% .292 .381 .487

 

It’s worth noting McCutchen wasn’t exactly horrible last year. Yes, his .766 OPS was about 100 points below his career norm, but it was nearly 20 points above league-average for center fielders. Essentially, he was closer to being average than a superstar.

Although I’m predicting a McCutchen comeback, there are reasons to monitor the former first round draft choice’s performance. Since 2014, he ranks last in defensive runs saved (DRS) among center fielders. That’s why the Bucs moved him to right field this spring.

Additionally, McCutchen’s base running hasn’t been yielding positive results. Based on either standard stats or sabermetrics, he’s been trending negatively. Stolen base success has plummeted, so has his documented ability to take the extra base during the last three seasons.

Perhaps, McCutchen’s legs aren’t the lethal weapons they once were. But, the 30-year-old is still capable of providing value as a corner outfielder.

 

Unfortunately for Pirates fans, I suspect McCutchen will be wearing a different team’s uniform by August. If he has a great first half, the organization will likely capitalize on the deadline trade value of the eight-year veteran.

Even if he’s just average again, Pittsburgh is likely to move the former MVP and his relatively affordable $14.75 million option for 2018.

Sad, but true.

Father Time Arrives in Toronto

Last season, the Mariners had the oldest collection of position players (30.4 years). The New York Yankees (30) and the Blue Jays (30) were a close second. Since then, the Mariners and Yankees have gotten younger. The same isn’t true about the Jays. I believe they’ll pay a price for it.

 

Most of Toronto’s regular players — Josh Donaldson (31), Jose Bautista (36), Kendrys Morales (33), Troy Tulowitzki (32), Russell Martin (34), and Justin Smoak (30) are on the wrong side of 30. The only exceptions are Devon Travis (26), Kevin Pillar (28), and Ezequiel Carrera (30 in June).

The same applies for the Jays’ projected bench with Jarrod Saltalamacchia (31), Steve Pearce (34), Darwin Barney (31), and Melvin Upton Jr. (32) expected to provide backup.

Does this mean Toronto won’t compete?

Absolutely not. The Blue Jays are loaded with great offensive players and have a strong rotation. However, their postseason outlook is vulnerable to age-related regression and injury.

Mets Won’t Amaze

I don’t view the team of my youth as better than last season’s version. If that’s true, the Mets won’t make the postseason.

Sure, Matt Harvey returns to a rotation, which already boasts Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom. But, pitching wasn’t the issue last year — they surrendered the third fewest runs in baseball. The Mets’ offense was pedestrian at best — twelfth best at scoring runs in the NL.

 

Much like the Rangers, the Mets’ roster remained relatively stagnant. The team’s signature offseason moves were retaining Yoenis Cespedes and Neil Walker. As in Toronto, age could be a factor too.

Cespedes, Walker, and the remaining key position players —Asdrubal CabreraJose Reyes, Curtis Granderson, and Jay Bruce will be over age-30 by Opening Day. That doesn’t include 34-year-old David Wright, who is still recovering from neck surgery and suffers from spinal stenosis.

How exactly is this roster better than the one that barely reached the wild game last year?

It’s not.

Yankees’ Streak Ends

Last year, I predicted the Yankees would register their twenty-fourth consecutive winning season. It was a close call though — just 84 wins.

The streak ends this year though. As the Bronx Bomber continue to transition to a younger core, there will be growing pains.

Certainly, having 2016 Rookie of the Year finalist Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, and number-45 overall MLB prospect Aaron Judge in their lineup will be beneficial and their bullpen headlined by Aroldis Chapman and Dellin Betances could be dynamic once again.

 

Still, the Yankees’ rotation is likely to derail the club. After ace Masahiro Tanaka, there is C.C. Sabathia — who turns 37 in July — and the inconsistent pair of Michael Pineda and Luis Severino. The number-five rotation spot won’t be determined until mid-April with youngsters Bryan MitchellChad Green, and Jordan Montgomery as candidates.

It’s tough to envision this staff leading the Bombers to a winning year. Assuming management doesn’t succumb to their old ways and trade a boatload of prospects for Jose Quintana, the Yankees will be lucky to reach 81 wins.

Letting pitchers hit continues to be dumb

This one is going to be an annual fixture. I can already hear the naysayers pointing to the excitement surrounding Bartolo Colon hitting a home run at age-43. Yes, it was cool. But, think about it for a moment DH haters — Colon’s bomb was exciting because it was so improbable.

 

Sure, Syndergaard and Madison Bumgarner each hit three homers last year and Adam Wainwright, Patrick Corbin, and Jake Arrieta were over .700 for OPS. That’s five pitchers.

Of the remaining 34 hurlers with at least 50 plate appearances, 30 were under .500-mark. Certainly, the worst bench player is capable of doing better.

Wouldn’t it make sense to use the designated hitter in both leagues?…

The AL West division race looks to be a very competitive affair this season. With that in mind, I thought I’d have some fun by constructing an all-star team solely comprised of players from the division.

As I researched options, the primary criteria for selection was my perception of the player’s 2017 potential and their history. Age also came into play when I found myself splitting hairs.

Without further ado, let’s get started.

1B Mike Napoli — Texas Rangers

 

In the AL West, unproven players or veterans will dominate first base on the wrong side of 30. In one case, both.

Houston manager A.J. Hinch plans to go with Yulieski Gurriel. The 32-year-old Cuban was signed with the Astros as an international free agent last July. He’s never played first base during his 15-year career.

Rookie Dan Vogelbach and Danny Valencia are expected to platoon for the Mariners. The allocation of playing time will be largely dependent on Vogelbach’s acclimation to the big leagues.

Luis Valbuena has been a third baseman in recent years and has just 34 starts at first base since 2015. But, Angels third baseman Yunel Escobar is under contract for one more season. That means Valbuena will likely displace incumbent first basemen C.J. Cron.

The Athletics appear to be leaning towards their own rookie/veteran combo with Yonder Alonso and youngster Ryon Healy.

Having said that, Alonso had the lowest OPS among qualified big league first baseman last season and Healy is expected to see time at third base and designated hitter too.

In the end, I reluctantly settled on Napoli, who’s starting his third stay with the Rangers. Still, it’s plausible James Loney — signed to a minor league deal by Texas– could spend more time at first base.


2B Jose Altuve  — Houston Astros

It was equally challenging picking a second baseman, but for the opposite reason I struggled with first base — quality in the form of Altuve and the Mariners’ Robinson Cano.

Opting for Altuve over Cano won’t impress my neighbors. But the Astros’ second baseman bested his Seattle rival in every offensive category with the exception of home runs and is seven years younger.


SS Andrelton Simmons — Los Angeles Angels

Honestly, when I started to pick a team in my head, I was certain Carlos Correa of the Astros was my shortstop.

In the end though, I tabbed Simmons, who possesses elite defensive skills and is capable of delivering league average-ish offense.

Correa is a far superior hitter, so are Elvis Andrus (Rangers) and Jean Segura (Mariners). But, they can’t match the glove work of the 27-year-old Simmons.


3B Kyle Seager — Seattle Mariners

While I just made fans in the Emerald City happy, folks in Arlington are equally displeased.

Adrian Beltre of the Rangers had a better year than Seager. But, as with my Altuve/Cano conundrum, I went with the younger player in his prime.

Although he’s a future Hall of Famer, Beltre turns 38-years-old in early April.


LF Cameron Maybin — Los Angeles Angels

As with first base, the left field choices weren’t particularly appealing — at least to me.

Initially, Khris Davis of the Athletics came to mind. But, he was Oakland’s designated hitter 53 times last season and may spend more time there this year.

Next, I mulled over Nori Aoki of the Astros. Then, visions of his meandering outfield routes and zany base running brought me to my senses.

Names such as Ryan Rua and Joey Gallo from the Rangers made me think about Aoki again.

Seattle’s Jarrod Dyson was a possibility. But, he’s never played a full season. The 32-year-old made a career-high 337 plate appearances in 2016.

That’s how I got to Maybin.

The tenth overall pick from the 2005 MLB Amateur draft hasn’t logged first-round caliber stats during his decade as big leaguer. Still, he did have a career offensive year with the Detroit Tigers last season.

A center fielder until now, defensive metrics haven’t favored Maybin. In Anaheim, he’s certain to fare better as the Angels’ left fielder.

Besides, Los Angeles has some kid from Jersey patrolling center field. I hear he’s pretty good.


CF  Mike Trout — Los Angeles Angels

Speaking of that kid, I decided Trout was my center fielder before I even came up with the idea for this piece.

Through his first six seasons, the 25-year-old offensive numbers eerily similar to Mickey Mantle and some other ‘Kid’ — Ken Griffey Jr.

Instead of sharing a video highlighting the Millville, New Jersey native’s out-of-this-world talent, I chose one with him falling on his face.

Why? He looks more athletic than many players do when jumping back to his feet. Plus, his gregarious exchange with Altuve afterwards signals a love for the game that endears him — and Altuve — to fans everywhere.

Like that ‘Kid’ in Seattle.


RF  Kole Calhoun — Los Angeles Angels

I never expected I’d end up an “all Angels” outfield But, that’s how it worked out.

If George Springer weren’t moving to center field in Houston, he would’ve been my guy. Instead, I chose Calhoun.

Already a strong defender, the 29-year-old put together the best offensive season of his five-year career. Now, “Red Baron” is a key building block for the Angels — along with Trout and Simmons.


Jonathan Lucroy — Texas Rangers

After Trout, this was the easiest pick.

With a hitting catcher becoming rarer with each passing season, the 30-year-old is one of the few backstops with strong offensive and defensive skills.

Lucroy had the highest OPS among all big league catchers and his 3.8 WAR was second only to Buster Posey (4.7) of the San Francisco Giants.


DH Nelson Cruz — Seattle Mariners

Although I’m not thrilled he turns 38 in July, there’s no denying “Boomstick” is a game-changer. Only newly retired David Ortiz was a better designated hitter last year.

Besides, how could I turn my back on a hitter guy who can launch moonshots like the one in the preceding video and compel Dave Sims of ROOT Sports channel his inner Ric Flair?

WOOOOO!


Starter Yu Darvish — Texas Rangers

After missing all of 2015 due to Tommy John surgery, the 30-year-old only pitched 100.1 innings last season. But, he’s still my choice.

Darvish’s teammate — Cole Hamels — could’ve been my pick too. However, I opted for the younger Darvish, who had the best SO/9 (11.84) and second lowest FIP (3.09) in the league.

Seattle’s James Paxton could make me regret not picking him. The southpaw’s 2.80 FIP was second lowest in baseball behind Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers.


Closer Edwin Diaz — Seattle Mariners

There was a great deal of closer volatility in AL West last season. Only Oakland ended the season with the same closer they started the season with — Ryan Madson.

While Madson had a decent year, I went with Diaz — youngest of the closer replacements.

The 22-year-old didn’t become Seattle’s full-time closer until August. Nevertheless, his dynamic performance throughout his rookie campaign made him a “must select” for me. Only Dellin Betances of the New York Yankees had a higher SO/9 than Diaz’s 15.33 rate.

Is it possible the hard-throwing right-hander suffers a sophomore setback? Absolutely. On the other hand, his age and electric stuff make him worth the risk.…

Naturally, the Chicago White Sox shipping Chris Sale to the Boston Red Sox sent shock waves throughout the baseball world. After all, it’s not every day a club sends their ace packing during the offseason.

With the dust now settling, pundits are anointing Boston as the winners of the postseason. They’re also praising Chicago for the haul of prospects they received — infielder Yoan Moncada, outfielder Luis Alexander Basabe, and pitchers Victor Diaz and Michael Kopech. But, are the talking heads right?

Perhaps, Sale will help lead the “Sawx” back to World Series glory. But, that’s not a certainty. At the same time, there are no guarantees that any of the youngsters received by the South Siders will pan out.

Only time will tell.

Since we’ve yet to master time travel at Prospect Insider, we can’t go to the future to see how the Sale deal works out. Instead, I thought it’d be fun to do the next best thing. Look back at previous offseason trades involving aces and reflect about their respective outcomes.

Obviously, reviewing the past won’t help predict the future for Boston and Chicago. But, it could provide perspective, especially after you see the deals I’ve chosen. Some had more layers than others. All were interesting to me.

Johan Santana for Carlos Gomez, Philip HumberKevin Mulvey, Deolis Guerra 
With 17 games remaining, the 2007 New York Mets blew a seven-game division lead and completely missed the postseason. The fallout from this epic collapse included the acquisition of Santana from the Minnesota Twins.

The southpaw certainly didn’t disappoint during his first year with the Mets. Santana was a workhorse leading the National League in starts, innings pitched and earned run average (ERA). Despite his success, his new team — once again — missed the playoffs after being in first place with 17 games remaining.

In fact, the Mets never reached the postseason during Santana’s five seasons in New York. But, he does hold a special distinction — he’s the only Met to throw a no-hitter in the franchise’s 55-season history.

Fans fondly remember the moment, but manager Terry Collins later acknowledged to Phil Taylor of Sports Illustrated that he still harbors regrets for allowing his ace — who missed the previous season due to shoulder surgery — to throw 134 pitches in that game.

Santana was never the same afterwards. He’d make just 10 more starts before being shut down in August. The following Spring Training, he re-injured his shoulder and hasn’t appeared in the majors since.

Gomez never reached his highly touted potential with the Twins and was eventually traded to Milwaukee Brewers for shortstop J.J. Hardy. Minnesota would later flip trade Hardy to the Baltimore Orioles for pitchers Jim Hoey and Brett Jacobson. Neither ever played for the Twins.

The right-handed Humber made just 13 appearances for Minnesota before signing with the Kansas City Royals as a free agent. If Humber’s name sounds familiar to Seattle fans, he threw a perfect game against the Mariners while a member of the 2012 White Sox. Ironically, he played just one more year, ending his career with 97 appearances and a 5.31 ERA.

Mulvey spent little time with Minnesota before dealing him to the Arizona Diamondbacks for pitcher Jon Rauch, who later left via free agency. Guerra never played for the Twins and spent last season with the Los Angeles Angels.

Roy Halladay for Kyle Drabek, Michael Taylor, Travis d’Arnaud
Another team attempting to overcome disappointment were the Philadelphia Phillies, who lost the 2009 World Series and picked up Halladay from the Toronto Blue Jays afterwards.

Halladay immediately impressed by throwing a perfect game during his season in the City of Brotherly. Later that same year, the right-hander pitched a no-hitter during his first career playoff appearance. By doing so, he joined Don Larsen as the only other pitcher to toss a no-hitter in the postseason. Larsen’s effort was a tad better though — a perfect game in the Fall Classic.

Unfortunately, age and injury caught up with Halladay causing him to miss playing time during his last two years in Philadelphia. Ultimately, he’d retire after the 2013 season.

The son of Cy Young Award winner Doug Drabek, Kyle was a first round pick of the Phillies. He never worked out in Toronto and was waived after posting a 5.27 ERA in 30 starts during five big league seasons. Drabek is currently a free agent after spending 2016 in the Diamondbacks organization.

On the same day he was acquired from the Phillies, Taylor was shipped to the Oakland Athletics for prospect Brett Wallace. The following summer, the Jays traded Wallace to the Houston Astros for Anthony Gose. Eventually, the Jays would send the outfielder to the Detroit Tigers for Devon Travis, who’s provided 4.8 wins above replacement in 163 games with Toronto.

I’ll save d’Arnaud for the next segment because he was included in another deal for an ace.

R.A. Dickey, Mike Nickeas, Josh Thole for Noah Syndergaard, Travis d’Arnaud, Wuilmer Becerra, John Buck
This time, the Mets were the ones dealing an ace when they sent Dickey — the reigning 2012 National League Cy Young award winner — to the Blue Jays.

During his stay in Toronto, the knuckleballer was a durable performer, pitching 200-plus innings in three of his four seasons with the club. But, he never repeated the success he enjoyed in the Big Apple. The 42-year-old recently signed with the Atlanta Braves as a free agent.

Thole — Dickey’s long-time personal catcher – is currently looking for a job on the free agent market and Nickeas played in just one game for the Blue Jays before retiring in 2015.

When he burst onto the scene in 2015, Syndergaard lived up to his top prospect billing and helped the Mets reach the World Series during his rookie year. Last season, “Thor” was the club’s ace leading them back to the postseason for a second consecutive year — a feat that’s occurred only once before in franchise history.

Ever since finishing seventh in 2014 Rookie of the Year voting, d’Arnaud has struggled to stay on the field due to injury and inconsistency. To the chagrin of Mets fans, the enigmatic 27-year-old is currently set to be club’s 2017 starting backstop.

Buck played a partial season with New York before the team traded the catcher and Marlon Byrd to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Dilson Herrera and Vic Black. Last summer, the Mets shipped the 22-year-old Herrera a minor leaguer to the Cincinnati Reds for outfielder Jay Bruce.

After pitching for the Mets for two seasons, Black suffered a herniated disk in his neck and spent all of 2015 in the team’s minor league system. He didn’t pitch in professional baseball last season.

The Dickey deal could potentially benefit New York one more time. According to MLB.com, Becerra ranked seventh in the Mets’ system last season. Only 22-years-old and set to play Class-AAA ball next year, Becerra’s saga has yet to unfold.

Cliff Lee for Phillippe Aumont, J.C. Ramirez, Tyson Gillies
After logging an 85-win season during his first year as Seattle Mariners general manager in 2009, Jack Zduriencik wanted to continue his club’s progress. So, he acquired Lee — a former Cy Young award winner — from Philadelphia.

Unfortunately, the Mariners were hopelessly out of contention by the following July. With Lee set to walk as a free agent, Zduriencik shipped the southpaw and reliever Mark Lowe to the Texas Rangers for prospects Justin Smoak, Blake Beavan, Josh Lueke, and Matt Lawson.

Lee’s stay in the Emerald City may have been brief, but he did perform quite well. In 13 starts, he registered a 2.34 ERA and five complete games.

A former first round pick of the Mariners, Aumont was the highest ranked prospect the club received. He appeared in 46 games over four years with the Phillies before his release during the 2015 season. The right-hander retired this past June.

Gillies spent 2016 playing for two independent league teams and has yet to appear in a major league game, while Ramirez has played for several clubs after leaving Philadelphia in 2013, including the Diamondbacks, Mariners, Reds, and now the Angels. The Halos intend to try the 28-year-old as a starter next season, a role he hasn’t filled since 2011 when he was with Class-AAA Reading.

Although the Phillies didn’t get much in return for Lee, they won 97 games in 2010. Ironically, he returned to Philadelphia as a free agent after that season and finished his career with the club in 2014.

On the surface, the Lee trade was a wash for the Mariners. After all, they acquired him from the Phillies for a group of undistinguished players and received the same from Texas. However, the bigger issue from Seattle’s perspective was Zduriencik missing on a prime opportunity to reinvigorate his organization with quality players.

Zack Greinke, Yuniesky Betancourt for Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, Jeremy Jeffress, Jake Odorizzi
At the time of this 2010 deal, the Brew Crew were coming off a 77-win season and committed to contending. With that in mind, they shipped a robust package to Kansas City for Greinke and Betancourt.

Just one year removed from winning a Cy Young award, Greinke helped the Brewers reach the 2011 National League Championship Series during his first season with Milwaukee. Yet, the good times didn’t last.

By late July of the following season, Brewers general manager Doug Melvin found his club mired in fourth place with Greinke set to become a free agent. So, he flipped his right-hander to the Los Angeles Angels in a deadline deal for pitchers Johnny Hellweg and Ariel Pena and current Mariner Jean Segura.

Hellweg and Pena had minimal impact on the Brewers, but Segura was an all-star during his first full season. After struggling during the next two years, the shortstop was traded to Arizona in January for Chase Anderson, Aaron Hill and Isan Diaz.

Hill has since moved on. But, Anderson started 30 games for the Brewers last season and Diaz was an MLB.com top-100 prospect in 2016.

After playing one season in Milwaukee, Betancourt re-signed with the Royals. He’d make two more stops — including one with the Brew Crew — before ending his career in 2015.

The only player who didn’t play a significant role in this deal for Kansas City was Jeffress, who spent part of two seasons with the club before his contract was purchased by Toronto. The remaining players either directly or indirectly contributed to the organization’s greatest success in nearly three decades.

Odorizzi made just two appearances with Kansas City. But, he was part of a trade package that changed the direction of the Royals franchise. The pitcher was sent with Mike Montgomery and Wil Myers to the Tampa Bay Rays for Wade Davis and James Shields.

Known as “Big Game James,” Shields averaged 228 innings pitched during his two-year stay with the Royals and was the club’s ace during their improbable run to the 2014 American League championship.

Davis served as the eighth inning setup man in 2014 and stepped into the closer’s role late in 2015 and was on the mound when Kansas City won their first World Series since 1985. Earlier this week, the Royals sent him to the Chicago Cubs in a swap for outfielder Jorge Soler.

Both Cain and Escobar are still with the Royals. Cain has been one of the top 20 position players during the last three seasons and was the 2014 American League Championship Series Most Valuable Player. The 29-year-old Escobar won the same award the following season and has been the club’s starting shortstop since 2011.

Hopefully, you enjoyed this trip down memory lane. My takeaway from the journey is simple. Previous trades of aces demonstrate why patience should be practiced when crowning winners and losers. That’s a message talking heads should consider before making pronouncements about the Sale deal.…

I typically share this kind of thing on Twitter because it works well in several quick hits, but I saw the tweets Friday noting the asking price for Chicago White Sox left-hander Chris Sale and thought I’d ask for the thoughts of some of those working in front offices.

Here’s what I got from one GM, two assistant general managers and one special assistant.

Do You Believe Chris Sale Will Be Moved This Offseason?

jq1: If I had to bet, no, I think (Jose) Quintana is more likely.
2: It’s really never more likely than not, so I’d say no. But their interest in what they can get for him is real. There’s a chance.
3: Probably not. 50-50 at best. They’re asking for a lot more than most teams can consider parting with. We certainly can’t get involved as much as we think a pitcher like that would help us in a big way.
4. I really think they do end up dealing him. They’re motivted just enough it seems. We’re not going down that road, but they’re looking to do what the Yankees did (bring in a few hauls and retool fast).

Okay, then … what’s it going to take?

4: Take those Yankees hauls and double them … that’s what they are asking for. It’s Chris Sale. He’s worth a lot more than a half season of Aroldis Chapman. … Yes, I think they get that kind of package in return if they deal him. But that’s why the chances are low, I think.
3: If you’re the Sox don’t you make sure you get a much better deal than the Rays got (Willy Adames, Drew Smyly) for David Price? I think it starts with most teams’ very best young player, whether that’s a young major leaguer or a prospect.
2: Between you and me, if I am Texas and they (White Sox) ask for (Yohander) Mendez, (Leody() Taveras and (Joey) Gallo, can you say no? If you’re Chicago, can you accept less? It’ll take four guys, two 55s and at least one 60.
1: I’ll put this in Seattle terms; Paxton Zunino and O’Neill may not be enough. The Sox are looking to rob someone of about 30 years of talent. They aren’t trying to trade Sale. They’re not that mad at him.

Which clubs should be all-in?

1: Houston can win it all with Sale in that rotation. St. Louis, L.A. Dodgers, Boston. If I am the Red Sox I’m aggressive here, even if it costs me (Jackie) Bradley or (Andrew) Benetendi and even (Blake) Swihart. They alsop have guys like Rafael Devers and (Michael) Kopech. I imagine they’re wanting Yoan Moncada to be part of their immediate future, but his name gets the Sox in the door in a hurry.
2: Other than Texas? Toronto, Detroit, Houston is ready. How else does St. Louis hang around (with the Cubs in NL Central)?
3: I don’t think any club should go all-out for Sale. There are other options. Work the system, see what happens.
4: The White Sox. Are they so far out of contention that 3-4 smart moves and they are next year’s Cleveland?

After some back and forths, I came to several ‘conclusions’ based on the responses.

1. If Sale is moved it will cost the acquiring club more than it cost Detroit to acquire Price and more than Chapman or Andrew Miller cost last summer.
2. The belief is the White Sox’s asking price will come down, but not all that significantly because they have time to figure out their future with and/or without Sale.
3. More teams can afford Quintana which might make him the first to go.
4. Chicago has had a lot of conversations about Jose Abreu and Adam Eaton, too, despite all the talk being about Sale.
4. The Dodgers, Astros and Red Sox have been the most aggressive on the trade market for starting pitching.
5. Clubs don’t love Sam Travis enough to part with two or more years of a No. 3 or better starter for a package centered around the first base prospect.
6. The Mariners’ best chance at landing a starting pitcher better than a No. 4 is to make multiple deals to acquire more inventory that gets them in the conversations for such starters, perhaps including deals for Nelson Cruz and Leonys Martin. “They’re probably two mid-to-high level talents shy,” said the GM. But that’s just me.”…

Before Opening Day, I decided to take a shot at making preseason predictions for the 2016 season. I had never done so before. But, I thought it’d be fun to give it a try. What would be the harm? After all, by the time October rolls around, who actually remembers what anyone’s preseason picks anyway?

Having said that, I wanted to be different. So, I promised myself that I’d review how I did at the end of the season and share the results with Prospect Insider readers. There was a chance I’d be right on some choices, but the odds were better that I’d be lampooned for my bad picks.

At the risk of ridicule, let’s see how I did.

The King will reign on Opening Day (Wrong)
Nothing like stumbling right out of the gate. Felix Hernandez didn’t rule the day when the Mariners opened the season against the Texas Rangers, but he wasn’t terrible either. Unfortunately, for the King and the team, he struggled with his command walking five in six innings and the defense behind him made several costly miscues.

Felix’s performance that day was a preview of what awaited him. He occasionally flashed his greatness. But, he struggled with his command throughout the season and recorded career highs in home runs and walks allowed per-nine-innings. Moreover, he missed nearly two months with a calf injury.

Is the King’s reign coming to an end in Seattle?

It’d be premature to jump to such a conclusion. But, Hernandez’s difficulties this past season are troubling and could mark the beginning of an inevitable decline. On the other hand, the 30-year-old appears to be healthy and acknowledges he needs to improve his fitness in the offseason, particularly in his lower body.

Perhaps, a new offseason training regimen is all that Felix needs. After all, it takes a player on the wrong side of 30 to remain an elite performer. With that in mind, it’d be prudent for fans and observers to take a wait and see approach before decreeing that the King is dead.

The Mariners will use at least ten starting pitchers (Right)
As I said back in April, this wasn’t a bold prediction. The last club to need just five starters in a season were the 2003 Mariners. In the end, Seattle needed 13 different starters in 2016 — tied for fourth highest in the majors with the Miami Marlins.

The fewest starters used this season were seven by the Toronto Blue Jays. Most of the clubs in front of the Mariners didn’t reach the postseason with the exception of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who used 15 and won their division.

Through the end of May, Seattle needed just five starters and had James Paxton in reserve at Class-AAA Tacoma. It’s no coincidence that the club also had the third best record in the American League on May 31. Unfortunately, for the Mariners, the rotation took a nosedive in June and so did their win-loss record.

The first casualty was Felix, who was lost for two months with a calf injury. Shortly thereafter, Wade Miley went to the disabled list (DL) with a shoulder impingement and his replacement — Adrian Sampson — was lost to injury after just one start.

By the end of the month, the team had traded for Wade LeBlanc as a stopgap measure and used eight starters in June, including Vidal Nuno — summoned into action when Sampson succumbed to injury during pregame warmups. To the chagrin of some, Hisashi Iwakuma was the only starter from the Opening Day roster to make every start.

I don’t think I’d be going out on a limb if I predict that Seattle — and most major league clubs — will need at least 10 starters in 2017.

Boomstick will lose some boom / Fans will blame his decline on playing DH (Wrong x 2)
Nelson Cruz did see his batting average drop 15 points. However, he ranked second in majors in home runs and third in slugging percentage — just as he did in 2015.

And those designated hitter worries?

Boomstick played just 31-percent of his games in the field — down 22 points from 2015 — and didn’t miss a step. He even played in three extra games (155) this past season.

Yep, a big swing and miss by me. There was still plenty of boom left in Cruz’s stick.

The Yankees will have a winning record (Right)
The Bronx Bombers didn’t exactly set the world on fire during a season that saw them become a trading deadline seller for the first time in this millennium. On top of that, they released Alex Rodriguez after an odd farewell game and Mark Teixeira announced he was retiring at the end of the season.

Despite these distractions and sub-par performances by several veterans, the team remained in the wild card hunt until the last week of the season thanks to a strong season by ace Masahiro Tanaka, a bounce back from former ace CC Sabathia and solid production by the “Baby Bombers” — including late-emerging American League Rookie of the Year candidate Gary Sanchez.

Based on the shrewd deadline moves made by GM Brian Cashman and the Yankees’ new influx of young talent, I’ll probably predict that the club that hasn’t had a losing season since 1992 will have another winning campaign in 2017.

The Mets will have a better record than the Yankees (Right)
No other prediction matters as much as this one, at least to me. I grew up a Mets fan and having any dominance over the crosstown rivals brings joy to my heart and ammunition to pepper my Big Apple buddies with.

When I made this prediction, I assumed the superior starting staff of the Mets would propel the club back to the postseason and help them easily outdistance the Bombers. But, the injury losses of Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Steven Matz proved once again that you can never have enough pitching — the Mets used just one fewer starter (12) than the Mariners.

Whether I’ll be brave enough to make this prediction next season will depend upon the offseason moves made by Cashman and his counterpart in Queens — Sandy Alderson — and the health of those injured Mets starters. For now, I’ll savor the moment.

Minnesota stalls (Right)
Although I expected the Twins to sputter this season, but never expected them to fall off a cliff. My rational for my original prediction was that Minnesota overachieved last season and that their 83-79 record was partially due to luck. They excelled in my least favorite category — batting average with runners in scoring position (RISP) — and no other offensive statistic.

Still, it’s hard to believe that a club with so much young talent would regress to a 103-loss season and the worst record in major league baseball.  With a front office shakeup underway and that bevvy of young talent still at their disposal, the Twins are a club with the potential to quickly turn around their situation.

Fallen Angels (Right)
Although there were valuable young players not named Mike Trout on the 2016 roster — Andrelton Simmons, Kole Calhoun, and C.J. Cron, plus a few promising youngsters — Jett Bandy and Jefry Marte — the Angels fell on hard times, as I suspected they would.

Los Angeles was weighed down by a bloated payroll, which provided little value from its highest paid players.  Albert Pujols, Jered Weaver, and C.J. Wilson — who missed the entire season — combined for .7 wins above replacement (WAR) at a cost of $65 million. Moreover, the club paid $26 million to Josh Hamilton, although he was property of the Texas Rangers and didn’t play all season due to injury.

The drag of these high salaries left first-year GM Billy Eppler with very little payroll or roster flexibility when his team suffered terrible luck with injuries, especially on the pitching staff. Starters lost for all or parts of the season included Wilson, Garrett Richards, Andrew Heaney, Matt Shoemaker, and Tyler Skaggs, plus relievers Huston Street and Cam Bedrosian.

Last season was tough, but the Angels’ 2017 outlook doesn’t look any better, unless the organization undergoes a significant face-lift. Based on ownership’s approach over the last two seasons, that doesn’t appear very likely.

The Diamondbacks won’t take the next step (Right)
Before the team completed Spring Training, the Diamondbacks had already lost center fielder A.J. Pollock to a broken elbow. Things didn’t get much better once the season began.

Arizona didn’t receive much value from starting pitcher Shelby Miller after trading away former number-one overall pick Dansby Swanson and outfielder Ender Inciarte to acquire the right-hander during the offseason. To compound matters, their biggest free agent acquisition — starter Zack Greinke — struggled with consistency and finished the season with shoulder inflammation.

The team has already fired GM Dave Stewart and is exploring a new role within the organization for team president Tony LaRussa. It’ll be interesting to see which direction the new front office goes. This season’s $91 million payroll was the second largest in franchise history. Will the Diamondbacks spend more or opt to clean house and slash salaries?

Letting pitchers hit will continue to be a dumb (Decide for yourself)
I can’t prove this one with statistics and I’m sure a lot of National League fans will disagree with me. But, I’m going to stand my ground regardless. Even after Bartolo Colon hit his epic home run in San Diego earlier this past season. Letting pitcher hit is still dumb.

There’s still hope after the all-star break (Right)
If you’re a Mariners fan, you already know this to be true. After suffering their horrendous June, Seattle managed to keep their heads above water in July until they got healthier in August and caught fire. The club didn’t reach the postseason, but their strong showing in August and September proves teams can turn around their season during the second half.

On the flip side, the San Francisco Giants demonstrated that being on top entering the second half of the season doesn’t necessarily guarantee anything. After having the best win-loss record in baseball in the first half, the Giants went 30-42 and had to scratch their way into the postseason as a wild card.

Some old guy will spout off about something (Wrong)
To the best of my knowledge, no one spouted off like Goose Gossage did about Bryce Harper and seam-heads last winter. Maybe they took my advice to relax. On the other hand, there will be plenty of opportunities for the “get off my lawn” crowd to complain about something between now and Opening Day.

The Mariners bullpen will be better than last year (Right)
The 2016 bullpen was undoubtedly better than last year’s version. Yes, this year’s relief corps entered the season as the club’s weakest link and was exposed during their June collapse. But, they grew stronger as the season progressed when pitchers such as Edwin Diaz, Drew Storen, Dan Altavilla, Evan Scribner were added.

When it counted most, the bullpen proved to be a strength in September and October.

Jerry Dipoto won’t stand pat (Right)
The 48-year-old executive didn’t make any splashy moves prior to the August 1 trading deadline, but he did find ways to keep his club afloat, while improving his roster for 2017 and beyond.

Whether it was adding LeBlanc when the rotation crumbled, transitioning Diaz into a reliever and eventually his closer, or acquiring potential future contributors such as Ariel Miranda, Dan Vogelbach , Paul Blackburn, and Ben Gamel; Dipoto continuously improved his 40-man roster.

The Mariners may not be as active as they were last offseason, but it’s unlikely they’ll stand by idly either. Not as long as JeDi is at the helm.

The Mariners will have a winning record (Right)
Thanks to several factors; the Mariners were able to surpass the 81-win mark for the twelfth time in their 40-year history. Most notably, the offseason moves made by Dipoto combined with the in-season moves I just discussed gave Seattle their best 40-man roster in a decade.

Moreover, with the help of several veterans, the new coaching staff changed the culture of the team. Most importantly, they did something that wasn’t nearly as apparent during the previous regime. They coached and instructed players at the big league level.

The challenge going forward will be avoiding regression and getting over the 90-win mark, which would move the club from the fringe into serious postseason contention.

Finally…Seattle will rejoice when Junior goes to Cooperstown (Right)
Ken Griffey Jr. not only thrilled those in attendance at Safeco Field during the Griffey weekend in early August, but he also proved to be inspirational with his advice to the current group of Mariners to “Keep Fighting.”

Perhaps, in the not too distant future, there will be a Cooperstown moment and similar celebration for Edgar Martinez too. Wouldn’t that be something?

Final Tally
Looking back at my picks was fun, especially since I fared so well — 11 right, 4  wrong, and a “decide for yourself.” Although I could suffer a fate similar to the 2016 Twins and regress next year, I think I’ll take another shot at preseason picks prior to Opening Day.

Until then, I’ll be counting the days until pitchers and catchers report.…

I’m a member of the IBWAA — as is Prospect Insider’s Luke Arkins and Tyler Carmont — and I have fun at the end of the year expressing my opinions in the IBWAA Awards voting.

This year I thought I’d get the fans involved. While I will use my vote on who I truly believe deserves it most, I’d like to hear from baseball fans before I do so.

Starting with the American League MVP and using the poll below, make your vote heard. I’d also love to hear why you chose who you did, so feel free to comment below using your Facebook account.