The Team Projections and You (National League)

Hello and welcome to the second half of this exercise, in which I do some of the work and you also do some of the work. Here’s a link to the first part, going over the American League. I think this is all pretty simple to understand. I’ll probably also do something like this again just before the season, when rosters are complete and we have more information in general, but we can still learn something from this, which asks you about the present situations, presently. And maybe any kinks experienced through these posts will be smoothed out by the time we re-visit in March. Are you ready to vote in 15 polls? Or, are you ready to vote in up to 15 polls?

Information’s based on the Steamer projections and the team depth charts. While free agents are still available, and while players will still get traded, this is asking about the roster situations right now, and not what you anticipate the roster situations to be by the end of spring training. Thank you all for your participation!

In, again, alphabetical order:

Braves

Reasons for optimism

The Braves seem to believe that Nick Markakis is actually a pretty good defender, so perhaps he’s actually a pretty good defender. Freddie Freeman is basically a star, and Andrelton Simmons is basically a different kind of star, and the pitching picture looks stronger if Shelby Miller actually did figure something out down the stretch last season. Mike Minor’s just a year removed from being excellent.

Reasons for pessimism

The starting outfield right now is Markakis, Evan Gattis, and B.J. Upton. Alberto Callaspo might be a starter. Jace Peterson might be a starter. The rotation drops off fast, and the holes in the lineup are evident. The Braves deny that they’re totally rebuilding, and no one really needs to totally rebuild anymore, but boy do the Braves seem not on the verge of anything particularly good.

Brewers

Reasons for optimism

As quiet as the Brewers have been, remember how long they were in or near first place just a season ago. Don’t confuse inactivity for a lack of competitiveness. Carlos Gomez is tremendous, Jonathan Lucroy is tremendous, and Ryan Braun has the ability to be tremendous when he has full use of his hands. The rotation is competent all the way through, so on the 25-man level, the ingredients are present for a playoff team.

Reasons for pessimism

This isn’t the deepest team, and Braun’s wRC+ has dropped three seasons in a row. Yovani Gallardo’s strikeouts keep dropping, and Matt Garza’s own K-BB% has been taking steps back. Wily Peralta serves up homers. Kyle Lohse has posted consecutive worse-than-average FIPs. Do you want Mike Fiers to be the best one? Mike Fiers might be the best one.

Cardinals

Reasons for optimism

There’s someone pretty good seemingly everywhere. What’s the question mark on the position-player side — Kolten Wong? Last year, Wong was a two-win player in 113 games. The big question mark in the rotation is Carlos Martinez, who has obvious talent, and even if Martinez ultimately can’t cut it for 160 innings or so, there’s organizational depth in place to make a move back to the bullpen easily feasible.

Reasons for pessimism

In a lot of areas, the Cardinals keep getting older. It’s not clear how much longer Adam Wainwright will be great. Same goes for Yadier Molina and Matt Holliday. If Jason Heyward’s power keeps going in the opposite direction from the one expected, maybe he won’t be the impact player the Cardinals thought they were acquiring.

Cubs

Reasons for optimism

Here’s a team to dream on. There are prospects almost everywhere, big-league-ready prospects, and who has more sudden breakout potential than really super talented prospects? The rotation’s not a weakness, with Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta at the front, and the position players are incredibly intriguing even before you fold in the Kris Bryant factor. The Cubs are upside. Maybe not totally rationally, but people don’t always have to be rational.

Reasons for pessimism

As fun as it is to dream on big-time prospects, that also makes it easy to overrate them. Right now the Cubs have a pretty weak outfield. Meanwhile, Javier Baez has obvious bust potential, and Miguel Montero hasn’t hit for a few years, and what if Starlin Castro gets in one of his moods? You also have to wonder about almost everyone in the rotation behind Lester. Even though Arrieta was great, what if that was simply a career year, the perfect blend of all circumstances?

Diamondbacks

Reasons for optimism

Everyone who’s made it to the major leagues has done so because that individual has exceptional talent. These are all among the thousand or so best baseball players in the world. With that in mind, the difference between the best players and the worst players in the major leagues is actually surprisingly small. They’re all amazing. You’re just observing a slice of the very most amazing. The Diamondbacks, to be honest, are composed exclusively of amazing baseball players. There is nothing incorrect about that sentence.

Reasons for pessimism

The main guy to dream on is Archie Bradley. Last year Bradley finished with 75 strikeouts and 49 walks. Our projections don’t yet include Yasmany Tomas, but even if they did, there are no guarantees Tomas is any better than Dayan Viciedo, and Dayan Viciedo is bad. (Although he is, removed from context, an amazingly skilled baseball player! Wow!)

Dodgers

Reasons for optimism

In a world in which Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson both stay mostly healthy, this starting rotation would be basically unfair. They’ll also benefit from an improved defensive outfield, and instead of worrying about a weak middle infield, now there are Howie Kendrick and Jimmy Rollins. The Dodgers did everything. Everything is done. The Dodgers are essentially finished, and boy, the Dodgers look great.

Reasons for pessimism

So, about McCarthy, and about Anderson. Track records are track records, and Joe Wieland isn’t Brandon McCarthy or Brett Anderson. Joc Pederson is an outstanding rookie but he’s also big-league unproven, and the gap between Triple-A and the majors might be the biggest it’s ever been. While Yasmani Grandal is better than A.J. Ellis, an injured Grandal isn’t better than a healthy Ellis, and Grandal seems to have this thing about getting injured sometimes.

Giants

Reasons for optimism

It’s easy to worry about the departure of Pablo Sandoval, but Casey McGehee isn’t actually a bad player, at least judging from recent versions. Few players are more valuable than Buster Posey, and few first basemen are more valuable than a healthy version of Brandon Belt. Don’t forget that Matt Cain is returning to this starting rotation, and this edition of Cain shouldn’t have the health problems of the previous edition of same.

Reasons for pessimism

Not that you can just count on Cain. Not that you can just count on a healthy Belt. It would be easy to understand how McGehee would turn into a problem, and the rotation depth is still Tim Lincecum and Yusmeiro Petit, which doesn’t seem like it’s good enough. The bullpen’s hardly outstanding, and though the Giants might be counting on Hunter Strickland to occupy a more significant role, who could forget October?

Marlins

Reasons for optimism

This is where Giancarlo Stanton is. He plays the outfield with two of his friends, who are less obviously terrific, and then just imagine a rotation where Mat Latos and Jose Fernandez are really and truly healthy. Toss in the possibility of Dee Gordon really having learned something in 2014, and you have the very model of an exciting team. Few elements of these Marlins are dull.

Reasons for pessimism

Latos is projected to be barely better than one of the players the Marlins gave up to get him. Dan Haren might not pitch here at all, and we don’t actually know what Fernandez is going to be, or how soon he’s going to be it. Dee Gordon is an obvious regression candidate, and if he regresses hard enough, the Marlins will have a backup starting in front of other backups.

Mets

Reasons for optimism

When Matt Harvey was last healthy, he was as good as any other pitcher in the whole entire world. He’s healthy now, again, and this should be the year that Noah Syndergaard arrives. Throw in an improving Zack Wheeler and a breakout Jacob deGrom and there’s plenty to hang your hat on. On the position-player side, one hopes that rest and recovery will allow David Wright to return to being a force, and Juan Lagares is perhaps baseball’s best example of a guy who contributes star-level performance while leading with his defense.

Reasons for pessimism

The same concerns that apply to Jose Fernandez apply to Matt Harvey, and Wheeler still has issues with his walks. deGrom might get worse just as fast as he got better, and it’s not like Wright is certain to get back to what he was when he was younger and awesome. If Lagares is the most exciting position player, he’s also a position player who projects to be a below-average hitter. It’s a poor man’s boom-or-bust ballclub. Does that still count as a boom-or-bust ballclub?

Nationals

Reasons for optimism

Perhaps you have seen the Nationals’ roster? Find the bad bit. Except for the one bad bit. Everyone knows about that.

Reasons for pessimism

Among the position players projected to be best, pretty much all of them have had very real and very legitimate injury problems in the not-so-distant past. There’s not a whole lot of depth, so an injury would cause things to drop off fast, and, well, that’s what I’ve got for this section.

Padres

Reasons for optimism

It’s hard not to get swept up by the blur of activity. The Padres, at least, ought to hit. The catcher should hit. The outfield should hit. There are actually too many hitters, which allows for a very strong bench. Imagine this rotation if they can actually stay fairly healthy. Where’s the best landing spot for a pitcher trying to recover past value? San Diego. Say hello to Josh Johnson and Brandon Morrow. The Padres don’t need those pitchers to be healthy, but if they are, this gets a lot better fast.

Reasons for pessimism

Johnson isn’t such a big fan of health. Neither is Morrow. Tyson Ross seems like an injury candidate, given all the sliders he throws, and oh, by the way, Wil Myers wasn’t a good hitter a year ago, and Matt Kemp might be one of the worst defensive outfielders in the game. The defense on this team is not going to be good, and it’s by no means clear the offensive upgrade will be worthwhile. It’ll be interesting to see to what degree the pitchers suffer from the departures of Rene Rivera and Yasmani Grandal.

Phillies

Reasons for optimism

In the grand scheme of things, 2011 was practically yesterday, so would it be so crazy to think the Phillies might play as well as they played yesterday? This is a team with Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, and Chase Utley on it. What’s that? No. No, a baseball team consists of only three players. What do you mean other players?

Reasons for pessimism

The other players. Also, Lee was just hurt, and Utley doesn’t have the most durable track record. Ben Revere stopped being interesting the very moment he hit his first home run. Now he’s not so much a novelty as he is an unimpressive center fielder. Plenty of those around. I shouldn’t be picking on Revere. Relative to a lot of the others, Revere is more than okay.

Pirates

Reasons for optimism

This projection doesn’t even project much from Gregory Polanco, who a year ago looked like one of the most valuable assets in the game. Andrew McCutchen is about as close to as good as Mike Trout as it gets, and Starling Marte is a star player who gets to exist in McCutchen’s giant shadow. The Pirates have done a good job of amassing roster depth, which is one way for a lower-budget team to try to avoid getting hurt by too much adversity.

Reasons for pessimism

It’s tough to lose a Russell Martin. So much of Josh Harrison’s value came from BABIP, and we know how that usually goes. The rotation starts to get shaky behind Gerrit Cole, and those haven’t been the most steady pitchers year to year. Though the Pirates have collected depth, they might ultimately suffer from not getting enough above-average performances.

Reds

Reasons for optimism

This one’s simple. Joey Votto ought to be healthier. Jay Bruce ought to be healthier. Homer Bailey ought to be healthier, and Billy Hamilton ought to be better, and Johnny Cueto keeps beating the hell out of his peripherals. On the surface, the Reds have borderline playoff-caliber talent. They have maybe the best relief pitcher in baseball slamming doors left and right. The issue will be one of keeping the roster as intact as possible for as long as possible.

Reasons for pessimism

The currently-listed starting left fielder is Brennan Boesch. The shortstop just had a 56 wRC+. A roster with injury questions is a roster that can get badly wounded in the blink of an eye, and if Votto or Cueto is forced to miss much time, there’s not enough here. The Reds occupy an extremely difficult position on the longer-term win curve. They’re too talented to tear it apart but they’re too mediocre to run with the big boys. Also they don’t have much money.

Rockies

Reasons for optimism

That thing about Andrew McCutchen is also a thing about Troy Tulowitzki. The healthy Tulowitzki is seriously about as good as Mike Trout. So the Rockies are in a high-risk/high-reward position, where so much depends on the health of their shortstop. Tulowitzki can’t make the Rockies contenders by himself, but as long as he’s on the field, that’s an enormous advantage. To a lesser magnitude, Carlos Gonzalez is like this — when he’s on the field, the Rockies are a lot better. Nolan Arenado, quietly, is a real good third baseman, and the rotation might not be dreadful for a rotation you’d think might be dreadful. Mostly, the Tulowitzki thing.

Reasons for pessimism

The Tulowitzki thing. And the Gonzalez thing. What do you do when your best starter might be Jorge de la Rosa? It’s really hard to pitch well in Colorado, and Colorado has a history of pitching like it. With just a little bit of predictable injury, the Rockies look like a last-place team. How long can you put off injury, really?

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Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.

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Dr. Mantis Tobaggon
Guest
Dr. Mantis Tobaggon

I’m surprised by the results of the Marlins poll. To me, they look like they added a pair of massive regression candidates (Gordon + Latos) and have perhaps the worst infield in baseball.

BaseballGuy
Guest
BaseballGuy

Don’t get the dislike of Gordon. Guy killed it all the way through the minors, then in the majors, outside of a one and a half year adjustment period, has been exactly as expected. Most of his value is on the bases, but he’s a league average hitter, and an OK defender (who could get better because the elite range is there). He’s just entering his age prime. I don’t see much regression there at all.

John C.
Guest
John C.

I’m agnostic on Gordon, although I think his floor is low and his ceiling is pretty high. My questions about the Marlins has to do with the fact that they have less depth than the Nationals, and both of their power bats (Stanton and Morse) have pretty bad injury histories.

Stephen
Guest
Stephen

I just don’t like that Gordon is basically a one dimensional player. He doesn’t bring much in the way of defense.

Joel
Guest
Joel

Gordon started playing baseball later then most (senior year HS). He was a bad short stop by any metric but once he switched to second I saw significant improvement. The second half of last year I thought he was becoming one of the better defensive second basemen in baseball. His offensive skill set is acceptable if he plays a good second base.

Free_AEC
Guest

The Marlins being overrated is an annual event.

Why is that?

Look at the projection for the Cubs.

There is a massive bias in favor of optimism for youth and pessimism for age.

The Marlins will suck. They will again have a losing record. Jeffrey Loria will continue to suck the blood of anyone he can touch and next year the projections for the Marlins will again be fabulously optimistic as Loria covets and traffics in young players like a boy lover traffics in flesh.

Jason B
Guest
Jason B

The Marlins are overrated annually? Whaaaa? By how many wins did they exceed their projections last year? 10? 15?

This team was an unmitigated dumpster fire for years, and last year’s exciting (read: not at all exciting) signings included the barely upright corpses of Casey McGehee and Garrett Jones (read: not young players).

Highlight and google: NO ONE EVER EXPECTS MUCH OF ANYTHING FROM THE MARLINS.

abc
Guest
abc

I can’t wait until “dumpster fire” is no longer used in sports contexts.

Joel
Guest
Joel

I am a huge Cubs fan and love the approach they have taken. Right now they are a .500 ball club, which when you consider they have barely been watchable for the last few years is a huge step up. Sure could they have everything go right and contend this year…..anything is possible….but I will be content with the arrow pointing up and a .500 year.

Baltar
Guest
Baltar

I agree.
The Marlins and Mets fans are way too optimistic about their teams.

Dovif
Guest

So the mets was a 79 win team last year and was a 82 win team by Pythagorean standing. They are a team of young (improving) players and gets a healthy(?) wright and harvey back this season. What do you think their record will be