The 2019 MLB season is a month away and Spring training is upon us. Now is the best chance to see how each team looks entering the season. The Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston Red Sox, Houston Astros, Cleveland Indians, New York Yankees and Milwaukee Brewers are all favorites to go far this October. But who are the most underrated teams entering the season? Here is who will be under the radar and can make some noise this coming season
Tampa Bay Rays
Tampa won 90 games last year in a competitive AL East. They also have the reigning Cy Young winner in Blake Snell and added the underrated Charlie Morton to a two-year deal. Tampa has changed the ways teams look at their pitching rotations as they have implemented bullpenning. Tampa no longer relies on having five starters. Except for Blake Snell, most of the Tampa starters no longer go five innings. Instead, the pitchers throw a few innings each. This allows for teams to never get a great look at each pitcher.
If Tampa’s pitching can replicate the success they had with this then a wild-card spot might be in sight. Adding Charlie Morton allows for the team to have another accomplished starter who can go deep into games, allowing Tampa to rest their bullpen more often.
Tampa also added Avisail Garcia on a two-year contract. Garcia had a career year in 2017 when he hit .330 and 18 home runs with the Chicago White Sox. He struggled in 2018, and Tampa is hoping he can bounce back. Garcia adds another slugger the team was missing. Austin Meadows is another player to keep an eye on. He was the main acquisition in the Chris Archer trade. Meadows slashed .287/.325/.786 in his first year in the pros while with Pittsburgh and Tampa. Meadows will patrol right field and will be a valuable player while he expands on his rookie season.
Tampa can catch many by surprise this season if they can avoid serious injuries and replicate their bullpenning experiment.
The Twins reached the playoffs in 2017 for the first time since 2010. They disappointed last season as they regressed. Minnesota wasn’t fazed by their struggles and rebounded with a successful offseason. The front office added Nelson Cruz, C.J. Chron, Marwin Gonzalez and Jonathan Schoop.
Cruz is an accomplished slugger who will be an upgrade at DH. He has hit 37 or more home runs every season since 2014. His number took a dip in 2018 compared to 2017, but he still brings game-changing power to the plate.
In order to get back to October, the team needs to have bounce-back seasons from Miguel Sano, Jonathan Schoop and Byron Buxton. Buxton and Sano are in make it or break it seasons as they are on the verge of falling out of the league. Each had very successful seasons in 2017, but both were liabilities in 2018. Buxton battled injuries while Sano ended up spending time in the minors.
Schoop had a career year in 2017 as he hit .293, with 32 home runs, with a .841 OPS, and a WAR of 5.1.
Jose Berrios is a great break out candidate. He owns electric stuff and was able to build on his 2017 season. Last year the 24-year-old went 12-11 with a 3.84 ERA, 202 strikeouts, and a WAR of 3.9. According to Odds Shark, Berrios is tied for the eleventh best odds to win the AL Cy Young. He is ahead of former winner Rick Porcello.
Minnesota can return to wildcard retention if their core can rebound from their personal struggles. More steady improvement from Jose Berrios doesn’t hurt.
New York Mets
The New York Mets finished fourth in the NL East last season. Jacob deGrom won the Cy Young despite only winning 10 games. New GM Brodie Van Wagenen decided to go all in instead of rebuilding. He started off by implementing a blockbuster trade for elite closer Edwin Diaz and veteran Robinson Cano. He followed this up by signing Wilson Ramos, Justin Wilson, Jed Lowrie and Jeurys Familia.
The Mets have one of the best pitching rotations in the game and added bullpen depth. New York also added offensive depth to a team that struggled to score runs last season. New York’s offense can now help deGrom win more games, and having Diaz in the ninth will allow for the team to win many games they lost a season before.
The Mets are flying under the radar in the NL East compared to the Washington Nationals, Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies. Having healthy seasons from Noah Syndergaard and once he returns, Yoenis Cespedes will go a long way to the Mets having a chance to compete in a very competitive NL East.
Cincinnati Reds, Oakland Athletics, San Diego Padres, Pittsburgh Pirates.
Feature Image From MLB.com.
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