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5 MLB Teams That Could Be Real Contenders – Or Real Pretenders In 2017

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Each year we are enlightened to a few surprises in the MLB we were not expecting.  This year there are 5 teams that seem could flip either way based on the talent coming to fruition.

We tried to pick a club for each Division here, but simply couldn’t come out with a AL Central team.

Tampa Bay Rays:

With Alex Cobb potentially coming back healthy to the rotation that features Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi already. the Rays will have decent chuckers to start this campaign.

Add Blake Snell, Matt Andriese and recently acquired Jose DeLeon (who should contribute quality innings this campaign and all of a sudden this club doesn’t look too shabby for depth.

The Relief Core is also solid if Brad Boxberger can reclaim his form, and see a similar year for Alex Colome.

Evan Longoria,  and Brad Miller both put forth 30 HR seasons in 2016, and Matt Duffy may prove to be a decent Batting Average guy at Shortstop now.

The Rays Outfield will feature Kevin keirmaier, Mallex Smith, Corey Dickerson and Steven Souza, while one of those guys may also see some time at Designated Hitter.

Wilson Ramos was in heavy NL MVP consideration in the 2st half off 2016 - .330.382/.546 - with 14 HRs and 48 RBI for his 1st 68 Games Played before he slowed down a bit in the 2nd half before tearing his ACL (for the 2nd time of his Carrer) in the last weekend of the regualr season

Wilson Ramos was in heavy NL MVP consideration in the 2st half off 2016 – .330.382/.546 – with 14 HRs and 48 RBI for his 1st 68 Games Played before he slowed down a bit in the 2nd half – ultimately tearing his ACL (for the 2nd time of his Career) in the last weekend of the regular season.  Ramos should be back by Memorial Day, and could see some time at DH/1B and Catcher

Wilson Ramos while starting the year hurt, had an incredibly productive 2016, and should help this offense when he does return.

Kevin Cash could see his club be a thorn in the side of all AL East competitors, and it would not be unheard of for this team to register in the mid 80’s for victories, which should land them in a race for a Wild Card.

Both Toronto and Baltimore took part in the AL Wild Card Game in 2016, and the two are pretty much the same on paper for their collective rosters to begin the 2017 year.  New York is a little worse to start 2017 than 2016, and Boston is about the same as well.

With saying this, if this pitching doesn’t rebound at all, this squad could struggle early and then decide to cash in on the assets of he club before they become too expensive like Reliever Alex Colome, along with Cobb and Odorizzi.  Heck, even Archer may be on the trade block with a bad start.

LA Angels

In their 1st 60 games of the season, the Halo's effectively miss the Indians and Red Sox on the docket, and only have to play 3 games versus the Tigers as well. Yes, they play a huge chunk of their games vs the AL West, but they have improved against all of the clubs as of right now. Mike Scioscia's squad gets to play 4 games at Tampa - and 4 games vs the Twins, 3 vs Toronto and Atlanta at home, with 3 at Kc and Miami. The club are slated to host the Braves for 3 games. Did I mention they play the A's 10 times in their 1st 60 contests as well? I could see them with 34 or 36 wins at the 60 game mark In an exhausting stretch from Apr 3, to May 15, the team also plays 43 games in 46 nights, with 20 of them at home, but that is a great itinerary to kick off the campaign.

In their 1st 60 games of the season, the Halo’s effectively miss the Indians and Red Sox on the docket, and only have to play 3 games versus the Tigers as well. Yes, they play a huge chunk of their games vs the AL West, but they have improved against all of the clubs as of right now. Mike Scioscia’s squad gets to play 4 games at Tampa – and 4 games vs the Twins, 3 vs Toronto and Atlanta at home, with 3 at KC and Miami. The club are slated to host the Braves for 3 games. Did I mention they play the A’s 10 times in their 1st 60 contests as well? I could see them with 34 or 36 wins at the 60 game mark In an exhausting stretch from Apr 3, to May 15, the team also plays 43 games in 46 nights, with 20 of them at home, but that is a great itinerary to kick off the campaign.

I really like the moves that Billy Eppler has done while not hurting the team’s financial outlook beyond this year.

Acquisitions included Cameron Maybin, Luis Valbuena, Danny Espinosa, Ben Revere, Martin Maldonado and Jesse Chavez.  The overall theory is that this will be the best defensive club in the Majors up the middle based on that.

They will need to be good considering the Starting Rotation has a lot of question marks.  Matt Shoemaker and Garrett Richards both are capable of being #1 and 2’s respectively.

Ricky Nolasco pitched a lot better once he became a Halo too.

Maybin, who 3 Slashed .315/.381/.418 last year with the Tigers, and will almost double what production the Angles have received from the LF position in the last 2 campaigns.  Maybin also scored 65 Runs in 93 Games Played.

Mike Trout is due for one of those legendary seasons upcoming, and Kole Calhoun is an awesome top of the order player.

Yunel Escobar has hit .314 and .304 in his last 2 years, and also provided solid On Base marks at .375/.355 respectively.

C.J. Cron is going to split time with Luis Valbuena at First Base as well.

Jefry Marte also provides another great bench player, with 15 HRs and 44 RBI in just 88 Games in 2016.

Having these guys as backup options for the First Base Position sure beats the guys the fans have had to digest the last few years : (Ji-Man Choi, Efren Navarro, Marc Krauss), along with other futile bench players like Taylor Featherston, Grant Green, Daniel Nava, David Murphy, Matt Joyce,Dan Robertson and Collin Cowgill.

All of those aforementioned bench guys hit horribly for Mike Scioscia, with all of them bringing forth below the ‘Mendoza Line” production.

This club has a chance to be much improved on offense and defense.  The success may still hinge if Albert Pujols can remain productive in 2017, after coming back from yet another foot surgery.

The Al West doesn’t feature a lot of ace pitchers to stop them either.  So beating teams with stellar defense and timely hitting may prove to be a great formula in the Division.

I think Los Angeles could win anywhere from 74 – 88 Games, and that is why we placed them right in the middle of that line with about 82 victories.

Miami Marlins

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The tragedy of Jose Fernandez may prevent the club from competing in 2017, however the lineup and Bullpen are completely deep – with lots of production.

If Miami can keep Giancarlo Stanton on the field for 140 – 150 Games, he may have that 45 – 50 HR campaign.

Christian Yelich is capable of winning a Batting Title, and also being in MVP conversations.

Marcell Ozuna could be a 30 HR, 100 RBI guy.

Justin Bour had 15 HRs and 51 RBI in exactly a half season worth of AB.

Dee Gordon battled his PED suspension, and still managed 33 SB in 78 GP.

Martin Prado and J.T. Realmuto both carried out impressive OPS+ of 110.

The “Fish” should have the best offense in the NL East.

Among the players coming in for the Pitching Staff are:

Edinson Volquez, SP

Dan Straily, SP

Brad Ziegler, RP

Junichi Tazawa, RP

Jeff Locke, RP

While the 5 guys are good for depth on the Staff, it will still hurt to not have any top of the line Starters in the fold.

Wei-Yin Chen and Adam Conley will have to pick it up to another level.

The Marlins are still better than the Phillies and the Braves, and one could argue that neither the Nationals or Mets are better than they were in 2016 right now.

Miami could be in that 74 – 87 win territory.  It all will depend on health.  Full years of Stanton and Gordon are paramount.

Colorado Rockies

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This offense is the best it has been since the 2007 World Series club.

Nolan Arenado may be the 2nd best overall player in the game to Mike Trout this very minute

Look for a monster year for Carlos Gonzalez, who is on the last year of his contract.

Trevor Story clubbed 27 HRs and 72 RBI in 97 GP.  Extrapolate that over a full season.

Ian Desmond should hit .280 – .290 with about 25 – 30 HRs in that home park.

DJ LeMahieu is the reigning NL Batting Champion.

Charlie Blackmon won the CF Silver Slugger in the NL – with a .933 OPS and 111 Runs last year.

David Dahl is an impressive young OF as well.

No wonder it doesn’t matter that the team doesn’t have a great hitting Catcher.

The Pitching Staff has plenty of young studs who miss bats, and the team has spent a boatload of cash on the Relief Core.

While I don’t believe the Rockies will challenge for the NL West, I think they could charge towards a Wild Card slot.

Pittsburgh Pirates

The Bucs made 3 straight Wild Card Games from 2013 – 2015, before last year’s atrocity happened.

This Outfield is still perhaps the best in the league all around if Andrew McCutchen bounces back.

The problem is the Infield doesn’t have enough pop to make up the lineup construction.  Still they all can hit a little, and bring forth the type of “Moneyball” to win games.

Gerrit Cole could emerge as a Cy Young candidate.  The young starters Jameson Taillon and Tyler Glasnow still have that word ‘potential’ and Ivan Nova may have caught the Ray Searage magic.

Again, the Pirates do get to pounce on the Brewers and Reds 38 times per year.

So, I could see the Pirates fighting with the Cardinals, Giants and Mets/Nationals for a Wild Card spot, or if the season goes awry, I could see them trading anything not nailed down, including Andrew McCutchen.

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*** The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of mlbreports.com and their partners***

A Big thanks goes out to our chief writer Hunter Stokes for preparing today’s feature post.

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About hunterstokes21

I Played NCAA Baseball at Liberty University in the 90's with Sid Bream's kid Sheldon. Once Hit a Home Run by hitting a hot air balloon that was coming over 2nd base (It was agreed that if a balloon was hit before game by the umpires and coaches - even though they were setting up in LF/CF Bleachers). I believe in the "Church Of Baseball". Come in for worship anytime.

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