The original intent was to do all 25 spots, but I rapidly discovered that roster construction is an inconsistent creature. Hell, the Rockies aren't even going with five starting pitchers, so the chances of me being able to compare some team's third catcher against another side's second backup infielder, in any meaningful fashion, was close to none. Bench and bullpen guys will have widely differing roles, and also potentially see significantly different amounts of playing time, so I decided just to stick with the starting eight, the rotation and the closer, since everyone had those. Er, except for that Colorado thing.
At each position, I ranked the players from best to worst. This is my entirely subjective opinion (translation: don't argue): I tried to remain somewhat objective, but these will inevitably be colored, as much by familiarity as anything. I still do not know what a Ross Stripling is, and suspect the announcement on April 1st that he will be the Los Angeles Dodgers' fifth starter, is actually the media pulling a collective Sidd Finch. Generally, ratings are based mostly on what the players did last season. Worth bearing in mind though, and we'll see, that not all positions are equal. The #1 starting pitchers, for example, include three of the best in the majors. The left-fielders? Not so much.
|Arizona||Colorado||Los Angeles||San Diego||San Francisco|
|SP#1||Greinke||De La Rosa||Kershaw||Ross||Bumgarner|
|SP#4||De La Rosa||Lyles||Wood||Pomeranz||Peavy|
Let's take a look at each team, and highlight the strengths and weaknesses.
Strengths: First base, back of the rotation
Weaknesses: Second base, left-field
The saving grace for the Diamondbacks is that thee is plenty of potential upside at most of the sports where they are weak. While no-one expects Jean Segura to hit near .500, as he did in spring training, he seems to be enjoying the change of scenery. He wouldn't be the first player at the position to do so: remember how Aaron Hill hit, immediately before and after arriving from Toronto? [Yes, Hill sucked at the end, but from 2011-13 he was far and away the best hitter at the position in the NL] With A.J. Pollock - who'd have been the #1 CF, naturally - gone, Arizona certainly needs that upside, from Socrates Brito, Segura and Yasmany Tomas in particular.
Strengths: Third base, outfield
Weaknesses: Pitching. This is my unsurprised face.
The problems for the Rockies will be as always: Coors Field. And not just Coors, but how this hurts the team on the road, where in the past six seasons Colorado has an average record of 30-51. Indeed, in their 23-year history, they have one winning road record (41-40 in 2009). This year doesn't look likely to change, with a rotation which has potential down the road - just not for 2016. Nolan Arenado put up video-game numbers in spring, batting .542, but the team is now without the services of Troy Tulowitzki. Even the arrival of Gerardo Parra, perhaps the best of a distinctly underwhelming batch of divisional left-fielders, probably won't be enough to save them.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Strengths: Solid infield, top ace
Weaknesses: Health, Puig
They're the reigning division champions, but trying to four-peat could be their toughest challenge yet, as they appear to have taken a step back this winter. Losing Greinke hurt, especially given a litany of injuries to their rotation, resulting in the inclusion of a starter who has never pitched above Double-A. $234 million doesn't go far these days, it appears. They also have an underperforming Cuban outfielder - except, theirs appears to come with a side-dish of questionable attitude. However, that's a strong infield, and there are few if any better aces than Clayton Kershaw. Much may depend on how Kenta Maeda makes the transition from NPB to MLB.
Strengths: Er... Nice climate? Mid-rotation is solid, I guess
Weaknesses: Is there a plan here?
After the failure that was 2015, where San Diego went from contenders to nobodies, the lack of significant moves this winter was puzzling. Sure, they traded Craig Kimbrel, but didn't move significantly to replace the production of Justin Upton or Ian Kennedy. I guess they are rebuilding, as the top prospects obtained from Boston for Kimbrel shows - but hanging onto the likes of James Shields doesn't appear to fit that mode either. Meanwhile, they'll be paying Matt Kemp $18.25 million this year. That's over nine million per arthritic hip. So much black on the chart here, these Padres must be from the Benedictine order. [Ah, only AZ SnakePit brings you monastic robe humor!]
Strengths: Rock-solid right up the middle
Weaknesses: Jeff Samardzija
The Giants have a recent tradition of starting pitchers who fall apart shortly after getting the big bucks. Barry Zito ($126 million, ERA+ 87). Matt Cain (2013-15, $61 million, ERA+ 79). Tim Lincecum (2012-15, $75 million, ERA+ 74). I'm thinking Samardzija will be the next: ERA near five, FIP at a career high since becoming a starter and a K-rate of only 6.9 per nine do not scream five year, $90 million to me. But apparently did to the Giants. Otherwise though, this is a solid bunch that don't have many vulnerabilities. From Posey through the middle-infield to Span, they may be the best in baseball. This being an even year can't do any harm.