One player who needs to step up for each AL West squad in 2017

Underperforming aces highlight two teams’ biggest needs heading into the new season.


The AL West was a very competitive division in 2016, with the Texas Rangers turning in the American League’s best record and the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners just missing out on wildcard spots.

The division race should be tight again in 2017, but for that to happen, several key players are going to have to step up.

If the Los Angeles Angels and Oakland A’s want to take the next step toward playoff spots, they’ll also need better performances from important players. Continue reading “One player who needs to step up for each AL West squad in 2017”

One player who needs to step up for each NL Central squad in 2017

These five players need to improve upon their 2016 stats if their teams are going to be successful.

Now that spring training is underway, teams are finally starting to get a sense of what their rosters will look like heading into the 2017 season.

As strengths and weaknesses start to appear and players suffer through the various aches and pains associated with playing baseball every day again, it’s important for teams to use this time to come up with backup plans in case of injury or ineffectiveness.

As teams in the NL Central chase the defending World Series-champion Chicago Cubs, they’ll need some players who struggled last year to step up in a big way.

On the flip side, the Cubs have areas where they need to get more production, too, if they want to have a chance to repeat. Continue reading “One player who needs to step up for each NL Central squad in 2017”

Alex Gordon and one player who needs to step up for each AL Central squad in 2017

The division could produce a World Series contender or two if some key players have big years.

The AL Central saw the Cleveland Indians advance to the World Series, only to lose Game 7 to the Chicago Cubs in excruciating fashion.

However, the Indians are poised to compete for another American League pennant in 2017 and the remaining four clubs will try their best to make the AL Central the most competitive division in baseball.

If these five players put together good seasons, the AL Central will be one of the most exciting divisions to watch this year: Continue reading “Alex Gordon and one player who needs to step up for each AL Central squad in 2017”

Giancarlo Stanton and one player who needs to step up for each NL East team in 2017

Four of the division’s five teams need a slugger to live up to his potential this season.

The New York Mets and Washington Nationals have been the class of the NL East for a few years now, but the division’s other three teams are on the rise.

However, if the Mets and Nats get better production from a key position player in 2017, they should be able to hold off their challengers for at least one more year.

On the other hand, if the Braves, Phillies or Marlins get a few big-time performances this year, there could be a changing of the guard in the division by the end of the season. Continue reading “Giancarlo Stanton and one player who needs to step up for each NL East team in 2017”

One player who needs to step up for each AL East team in 2017

Pitchers highlight the biggest area of concern for the powerful division heading into this season.

Even though the AL East was one of the most competitive divisions in baseball in 2016, with three teams (Boston, Toronto and Baltimore) making the playoffs, not everything went according to plan.

Each squad had at least one player that massively underperformed, hampering that team’s ability to compete for a World Series title.

For every team but the Red Sox, a starting pitcher was the major problem, but Boston enters 2017 needing a certain hefty position player to step up. Continue reading “One player who needs to step up for each AL East team in 2017”

The perfect free agent for each AL East team

One move each team should make before the 2017 season starts.

Spring training will be here before we know it, but there’s still a lot of work for AL East teams to do before the 2017 season kicks off.

Plenty of free agents are still out there waiting for new squads, and in the arms race that is the AL East, teams that stand still get left behind.

Therefore, it’s time to take a quick look at one remaining free agent who each team should sign before pitchers and catchers report in a few weeks:

New York Yankees: Jason Hammel

This could be the year the Yankees can no longer trot CC Sabathia out to the mound every five days, and the team’s rotation depth isn’t that great to begin with.

Adding Hammel to the mix would be a smart, economical move for the Yankees, who need some proven talent behind some young guys who will be relied upon for innings this season.

Boston Red Sox: Travis Wood

The Red Sox have already done a lot of work on their roster this offseason, adding important pieces like Chris Sale and Mitch Moreland to the mix.

However, bullpen depth is always an area teams need to improve and Travis Wood fits Boston’s needs perfectly.

The lefty is a shutdown reliever who can also be extended into a starting role as needed. With an iffy rotation behind Rick Porcello, Sale and David Price, the Red Sox should invest in Wood as a backup plan in case one of their other starters doesn’t work out.

Baltimore Orioles: Pedro Alvarez

If the Orioles aren’t willing to pony up the dough required to re-sign slugger Mark Trumbo, perhaps they should look to another in-house candidate to replace him.

Pedro Alvarez also spent the 2016 season with Baltimore, where he slugged 22 home runs and drove in 49 runs while hitting .249.

With a need for a DH and occasional sub for Chris Davis at first base, the Orioles need a guy like Alvarez on the roster before the 2017 season begins.

Toronto Blue Jays: Jose Bautista

The Blue Jays accomplished their perfect free-agent signing on Tuesday by agreeing to a one-year, $18 million deal with slugger Jose Bautista, who has been the face of the Toronto franchise since 2009.

The new deal could be worth up to $60 million, but the second and third years of the contract are mutual options.

Tampa Bay Rays: Mike Napoli

The Rays have an opening at first base and DH, and Napoli would be a perfect fit for that spot.

The veteran would provide excellent leadership and a winning mindset for a team that has suffered through a couple of down years.

Plus, after hitting 34 homers and driving in 101 runs for the Cleveland Indians last year, he still has a lot of value to add with his powerful bat, too.

The perfect free agent for every NL East squad

Each of the five squads have holes they should address this offseason.

As the free agency process continues to drag on this offseason, many valuable players are still looking for new homes.

There’s not much urgency from teams or players at the moment, though, as both sides will explore all options before the end of the month when spring-training preparations begin.

However, there are still holes each team in the league needs to fill and we’ll take a look at which free agent best suits each team’s needs.

Here’s a look at one free agent each National League East team should take a flier on this offseason:

New York Mets: Jake Peavy

The Mets lost Bartolo Colon to the Braves this offseason, which was probably a year sooner than they wanted to lose the veteran starter.

New York needs one more year before another young crop of pitchers (featuring Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo, among others) is ready to contribute in a serious way, so adding another veteran should be a priority.

Peavy fits that bill and would likely accept a one-year deal for a chance to contribute to a contending club like the Mets. The ex-San Francisco Giant struggled his way to a 5.54 ERA last season, but could benefit from a change of scenery and one more chance to go for a third World Series title.

Washington Nationals: Greg Holland

The Nationals have turned over their closer job to Shawn Kelley, who handled the role admirably during Jonathan Papelbon’s implosion.

However, he’s only recorded seven career saves, all last season, so the Nats may want to add some insurance in case the 32-year-old righty struggles.

Greg Holland, coming off a missed season because of Tommy John surgery, is a great candidate for a bounce-back year and could be a fantastic setup man if Kelley manages to hold on to the closer job all season.

But, if Kelley struggles, Holland and his 145 career saves will be there to fill in.

Philadelphia Phillies: Jerry Blevins

For some reason, the Phillies signed 39-year-old Joaquin Benoit and 36-year-old Pat Neshek to their bullpen this offseason.

For a team that’s a couple of years away from serious contention, those signings don’t make sense. The two former closers will likely be used in different roles as Philadelphia continues to roll with Jeanmar Gomez as its closer.

However, the bullpen could still use some work. Currently, unproven rookie Joely Rodriguez, who appeared in only 12 games last season, is the only lefty in the Phillies’ pen.

Therefore, a guy like Blevins makes sense for the team. At 33 years old, the lefty reliever could hang around long enough to contribute when the Phillies are ready to contend and could be a good mentor for Rodriguez.

Atlanta Braves: Matt Wieters

If the Braves are serious about opening their new ballpark with an improved squad, landing Wieters, who is the best catcher on the market, would be a good move.

Wieters has been most recently linked to the Los Angeles Angels, but there is seemingly still time for the Braves to make a run at the longtime Oriole.

Though the 30-year-old has struggled to stay healthy in recent years, he hit 17 home runs and had 66 RBI for the O’s in 2016, so he’s got plenty of pop left in his bat and is a better option than Tyler Flowers.

Miami Marlins: Tyson Ross

Following the tragic loss of Jose Fernandez, the Marlins need to scrap together a pitching rotation heading into 2017.

Obviously, there’s no replacing the charismatic and talented Fernandez, but adding Tyson Ross would help the team on the field.

The Marlins will have plenty of competition, though, to sign the 29-year-old righty, as rumors have linked as many as 20 teams to the former All-Star.

Still, making an offer to Ross wouldn’t hurt. If he signs, Miami could make some noise in the division in 2017.