With baseball season upon us, Big League Stew is in full preview mode. We’re doing previews of each team and we’re examining some of the biggest questions heading into 2017. Today: A roundtable discussion about which team could flop in 2017.
Nothing in sports may hurt more than having what you think is a good team only to see it flop once the season starts. Right, Arizona Diamondbacks? When offseason hype is followed by falling off a cliff, well, that’s enough to make even the most loyal sports fan drown in frustration.
As our MLB season preview series continues ahead of opening day, we’re talking about teams that could disappoint in 2017. It’s the opposite of our surprise teams discussion, although you’ll notice that one team made both lists. You never know where a baseball season will take you, right?
TORONTO BLUE JAYS
It really feels like the Blue Jays just barely held on last season. And in the offseason, they didn’t get markedly better. They managed to keep Jose Bautista, but they lost Edwin Encarnacion. That’s tough. This isn’t to say that the Jays are bad, but they don’t seem quite as solid as they did a year ago. It feels like this season could easily turn into a disappointment, with the team failing to make the postseason because they just couldn’t fit all the pieces together. (Liz Roscher)
[Elsewhere: Our picks for the surprise teams of 2017]
TAMPA BAY RAYS
The projection systems love the Rays again. Baseball Prospectus thinks they will win 85 games while FanGraphs predicts them at 83. According to both outlets, Tampa Bay should be in contention for the second wild-card spot. Those projections are mainly based on the team’s young, promising pitching staff combined with its strong defense. The problem here is that young pitchers will break your heart and team defense is one of the hardest things to project. If the Rays fail in either area even slightly, they are going to finish under .500. There’s just not enough hitting here to carry them if anything goes wrong. Baseball Prospectus may have them finishing second in the division this year, but I can’t see them getting out of the cellar in a tough AL East. (Chris Cwik)
As much as I’d like to see Jerry Dipoto and his crazy offseason full of deals end the longest postseason drought in baseball, I look at the Mariners and see a team where too much can go wrong. It’s already started. Drew Smyly is ailing a bit. Their projected starter at first base, Dan Vogelbach, was surprisingly sent to Triple-A to start the season. There are a lot of moving parts with the Mariners. Yes, Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz are going to hit. Beyond that, you have to wonder if Jean Segura can avoid a big dose of regression, if Felix Hernandez can turn things around, if that rotation — which depends so much on Smyly, Yovani Gallardo and James Paxton — can look decent enough if King Felix has indeed lost some of his gusto. So while the Mariners could be the sleeper of the AL West, they could just as easily be the team that ends up closer to .500 than the postseason. (Mike Oz)
It’s now or never for Detroit, and I get the feeling this team won’t have enough to make a serious push. Cleveland’s too good to come back to the pack in the division, and we’re already seeing Detroit’s core break down with J.D. Martinez set to miss April and Miguel Cabrera dealing with back issues. If they’re not a factor come July, then the door’s open for some notable trades and a truly disappointing season. (Mark Townsend)
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