Our minor league team of writers led by Jason Hunt are taking a look at where some of the top prospects in the game are scheduled to start the 2016 season. Below are links to the leagues they have covered to date:
Minor League Preview: Pacific Coast League
Minor League Preview: International League
Moving on Up: Robert Stephenson
Francisco Lindor batting third in the Indians lineup
With outfielder Michael Brantley starting the season on the disabled list, manager Terry Francona has elected to bat shortstop Francisco Lindor in the third spot in the Indians lineup. I am not sure what this says more about, the Indian's lineup or Lindor's chances of improving on his 2015 season. I think it says more about how bad the Indians lineup is this season. Let's take a look:
That lineup is going to struggle to score runs this season, even when Brantley returns. I think at some point this season, assuming the Indians rotation and defense can keep them in the wild card hunt, they will have to make a trade involving either one of their top starting pitchers, or one of their top prospects, including Bradley Zimmer or Clint Frazier.
Robinson Cano hitting long balls
Last season, Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano struggled in the first half of the season, hitting just .251 with 6 home runs and 30 RBI, leading many to question whether he could hit in the new ball park and whether age was catching up to him. Neither was the case, as he rebounded in a big way in the second half, hitting .331 with 15 home runs, 44 runs scored and 49 RBI in 305 plate appearances.
Cano has started the 2016 season off on the right foot thus far, as he gone yard in each of his first two games. Cano is hitting third, and he, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager form a solid middle of the Mariners lineup. ZiPS projects him to hit 17 home runs with 70+ runs scored and RBI, but that might be a little light in the power stats. Could we see Cano hit 25+ home runs in 2016?
Many in the game feel that Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts is on the cusp of becoming a superstar, and the fantasy industry recognized his potential this offseason, ranking him among the top fantasy outfielders for 2016. Betts started the year off right on Tuesday, going 2-5 with a home run and 2 RBI in the Red Sox 6-2 win over the Indians. He is coming off a season where he hit .291 with 18 home runs, 92 runs scored, 77 RBI and 21 stolen bases, so he has the potential to put up a 20 home run, 20 stolen base season with 90-100 runs scored, 80+ RBI and a .290-.300 batting average in a full season of plate appearances.
Mets starter Noah Syndergaard was the recipient of plenty of love from the fantasy industry this offseason, and he showed us that the love was deserving with his performance on Tuesday. Syndergaard shut out the Royals on 3 hits, a walk and 9 strikeouts over 6 innings in the Mets 3-0 win. Syndergaard needed 92 pitches to get through his six innings, inducing 7 ground ball outs and a whopping 18 swinging strikes. There is a chance he could be the best starter in the Mets rotation this season.
Amid some talk that there is something wrong with Mets third baseman David Wright after his Opening Night performance at the plate and in the field, Wright responded by going 1-3 with two walks and two stolen bases in the Mets win yesterday. If you own Wright, I would expect him to play about 100-110 games this season, and anything more than that is just icing on the cake. That said, I wouldn't read too much into the two stolen bases yesterday, as he stole them with Royals starter Chris Young on the mound. Young is 6'10" and is very slow to the plate, so Wright was just taking advantage of a pitcher who gives up plenty of stolen bases. Nothing more.
Rockies rookie shortstop Trevor Story is doing his best to make Rockies fans forget about Troy Tulowitzki. After hitting two home runs in his first game of the season, both off of Zack Greinke, Story took Diamondbacks starter Shelby Miller deep again last night. I nominated Story in the Tout Wars NL auction a few weeks ago thinking his price would reach double digits. As the bidding got to $6, I couldn't let him go for that price, so I bid $7 and soon after heard the auctioneer say "Story at $7, going once, twice.......and sold!" I was shocked no one else bid him up higher, but I guess some in the room felt that either he wouldn't win the shortstop job out of spring training, or that Jose Reyes would eventually take the job away from him. At this point, the MLB Commissioner's office is reviewing the case, and we should hear how long Reyes will be suspended for in the coming days.
The Dodgers offseason was a bit weird as they traded for closer Aroldis Chapman, only to back out of the trade after it was reported that he was involved in a domestic dispute with his girlfriend where gun shots were fired. They also signed starter Hisashi Iwakuma to a deal only to back out due to his medicals. They responded by signing Japanese starter Kenta Maeda and free agent starter Scott Kazmir soon after. Many were skeptical with the Maeda signing and reports that he has had some issues with his elbow. Others were skeptical with Kazmir after his poor second half and reports that his fastball had lost a few MPH in spring training. Kazmir silenced his skeptics with his performance last night, as he shut out the Padres on just one hit, no walks and 5 strikeouts over 6 innings in the Dodgers 3-0 win last night. He gave way to the Dodgers bullpen of Pedro Baez, Chris Hatcher and Kenley Jansen, who proceeded to strike out six of the ten batters they faced.
Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler had a big night at the plate in Miami last night, going 3-6 with a home run, 2 runs scored and 4 RBI in the Tigers 8-7 win over the Marlins. Kinsler was picked off first base and thrown out stealing, so all was not good for him last night, but one would only know that by reading the box score.
The Tigers signed free agent closer Francisco Rodriguez to provide some stability and experience to the back of their bullpen this season. Well, KRod did what most Tigers closer do by blowing a 3 run lead in the ninth inning last night, leading many Tigers fans to rant on Twitter last night, and I can't blame them. KRod joins Jose Valverde and Joe Nathan in a long list of closers who have raised the blood pressure of many a Tigers fan.
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