In every sport, many fans and experts have different opinions on how they rate individual players and teams. Sometimes those players or teams could be higher overrated or much unappreciated and not get as much attention as they should deserve. With baseball season right around the corner, I thought it would be interesting to look at what teams around the league seem overrated and underrated entering the 2018 season.
Top three underrated teams in baseball
Arizona Diamondbacks 93-69 in 2017, finished 2nd in the NL West with 1st NL Wildcard
Even though they lost a couple of their key hitters from last season, I still think the Diamondbacks are a very solid all-around team who has the potential to reach the playoffs for the second straight season.
Even with the departures of J.D. Martinez to the Boston Red Sox and Brandon Drury to the New York Yankees, the Diamondbacks still have a solid core to their starting lineup thanks to Paul Goldschmidt and A.J. Pollock. At age 30, Goldschmidt is still in the conversation for the best first baseman in baseball and Pollock still has the ability to do some damage even though he hasn’t played in more than 112 games in each of the past couple years.
The Diamondbacks also have the necessary pieces around those two main guys to put up a good amount of runs each night to keep themselves in games. They have a power hitting third baseman in Jake Lamb who is more than capable of hitting at least 20 home runs in a season and a few solid line drive, on base type hitters with Chris Owings and David Peralta. Also, with the acquisition of veteran outfielder, Steve Souza Jr. from the Tampa Bay Rays, their lineup has more than enough depth to average about 4-5 runs per game, especially playing their home games in the hitter friendly Chase Field.
As for their pitching, they have a solid 1-2 punch at the top of their rotation with veteran Zack Greinke who has won at least 10 games in each season since 2007 and lefty Robbie Ray burst on the scene with 15 wins and a 2.89 ERA last season. So each of these guys are more than capable of giving their team a good chance to win each time they take to the mound.
Their back end of the rotation is a little bit shaky and their bullpen is a question mark heading into the 2018 season, especially in the middle innings, but despite that, the Diamondbacks have more than enough pieces in their starting lineup to put up enough runs to compete each game. Expect the Diamondbacks to be towards the top of the league in runs scored during the 2018 season. Coming off of a season where they finished in 2nd place in the very tough NL West and got eliminated in the NLDS by the division rival Los Angeles Dodgers, I think the Diamondbacks will be feisty and competitive once again in 2018 and be in the playoff conversation going into late September.
- Los Angeles Angels 80-82 in 2017, finished 2nd in the AL West
Ever since the Angels called up their top prospect, Mike Trout during the 2011 season, he has developed to become the best all-around player in baseball (in my opinion). However, the Angels have only reached the playoffs once since Trout’s call-up, mainly due to ownership’s failure of giving him the necessary pieces around him to succeed.
However, during the 2018 MLB offseason, the Angels made plenty of moves to help solidify the depth in their starting lineup. After trading with the Detroit Tigers for veteran outfielder, Justin Upton last August, they retained him by giving him a five year extension. They also made another trade with the Tigers to acquire veteran second baseman, Ian Kinsler and signed free agent shortstop, Zack Cozart who spent his first seven big league seasons with the Cincinnati Reds. So Trout now has plenty of solid hitters around him in the lineup who are capable of getting on base and driving in runs, which could lead to some more runs scored for the Angels this season who had the third worst team batting average in 2017.
Trout missed plenty of time last season due to a torn ligament in his thumb, but despite being without their best player for 48 games last season, the Angels were still in the wildcard hunt going into September last year. So now that Trout will be entering the 2018 season healthy and now has some solid protection around him in the lineup, I expect the Angels to take that next step and have a big year offensively.
As for their pitching, I don’t expect it to be great but I certainly expect it to be better than what it was last year. They signed the Japanese Phenom, Shohei Ohtani and two of their bright young arms, Garrett Richards and Andrew Heaney are both coming off of an injury plagued 2017 season. Richards had only made six starts in each of the past two seasons and Heaney has not made more than five starts in a season since 2015. So keeping those two guys healthy will be key for the Angels success in 2018 along with how Ohtani adjusts to from Japan to the MLB.
If their pitching is about average and keeps their team ERA around 4.00 and stay healthy, with that solid lineup they now have, I expect the Angels to win at least 85 games in the 2018 season and to get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2014. Many experts around baseball seem to be counting out the Angels this upcoming season and have them finishing in third place in the AL West, behind the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners, but I see them being a playoff caliber team if things go right for them in 2018.
- Colorado Rockies 87-75 in 2017, finished 3rd in the NL West with the 2nd NL Wildcard
After having a very solid 2017 season and reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2009, it is time to give the Colorado Rockies some respect because this team has something special in the making. Even though they lost to the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NL Wildcard game last season, I believe they will take the next step in 2018 and compete with the Dodgers, Giants, and Diamondbacks for first place in the NL West.
It is no secret that the Rockies heavily favor offensively by playing their home games in the hitter friendly Coors Field, but I believe that if you have them play their home games in a much more pitchers friendly ballpark, I still think their offense will put up top tier numbers. Their lineup is LOADED with solid consistent hitters that is headlined by third baseman, Nolan Arenado, and centerfielder, Charlie Blackmon.
They also have the necessary pieces around those two stars in the lineup to put up plenty of runs per game such as power threats of Trevor Story and Carlos Gonzalez, and consistent line drive bats with D.J. LeMahieu, Ian Desmond, and Gerardo Parra. So with this lineup, don’t be surprised if the Rockies are in the top five for total runs scored for the 2018 season.
As for their pitching, it is certainly a tough task playing half of the games in the mile high stadium, but last year the Rockies have proved to have some solid young arms who had some success pitching at Coors Field such as Jon Gray, Kyle Freeland, and Tyler Anderson. So their rotation is young and developing and they completely revamped their bullpen to put themselves in the conversation for the best bullpen in the league.
During the offseason, they acquired arguably the best closer in the big leagues as they signed Wade Davis to a record making three year deal, and signed consistent right hander, Bryan Shaw from the Cleveland Indians. They also still have a pair of veteran fireballing lefties in Mike Dunn and Jake McGee, so their bullpen heading into 2018 is at an elite level as all four of these guys are high level strikeout guys.
So put together that potentially lethal bullpen with that high powered offense and the young developing rotation, it is time to give the Colorado Rockies the respect they deserve as I can see them potentially dethroning the Los Angeles Dodgers for first place in the NL West in 2018.
Top three overrated teams in baseball
- Seattle Mariners 78-84 in 2017
I know it is very hard to call a team that hasn’t even made the playoffs in 16 years overrated, but I am for the Seattle Mariners entering the 2018 season. It seems like the past few years, many baseball fans and experts expect the Mariners to break their playoff drought, but it never happens despite some of the talent they have had on their roster the past few seasons.
Ever since the Mariners signed veteran second baseman, Robinson Cano to a 10 year deal prior to the 2014 season, the expectation was that Cano would produce and that Seattle will break its long playoff drought. Cano has produced each year in Seattle, the problem has been the Mariners as a team has consistently underachieved as they have finished higher than 3rd place in the AL West only once since the 2007 season.
Sure they made a couple of nice trades this offseason by acquiring the speed demon Dee Gordon from the Miami Marlins and power hitting infielder Ryon Healy from the Oakland Athletics, but right now the core of this Mariners team is starting to hit the decline stage of their careers. Cano is now 35, long time ace Felix Hernandez will be 32 in early April and has posted ERAs well above 3.50 in each of his past three seasons, and long-time power hitter Nelson Cruz will turn 38 in July. So with Seattle’s three main guys from the past few seasons getting well into their 30s, the time is ticking for the Mariners to have some success with these guys.
Sure the acquisitions of Gordon and Healy could make the Mariners a better team, but I still don’t see the Mariners breaking their playoff drought just yet as their bullpen really lacks depth and with the long time ace Hernandez hitting the decline, they really don’t have a true stopper in their rotation right now. Veteran left hander, James Paxton has a resurrecting year last season at age 29 with a 12-5 record and an ERA of 2.98, but it is uncertain if he will be on that level once again in 2018.
The Mariners just simply still have too many holes on this team and will likely finish in 3rd place in the AL West this season, behind the defending champion Houston Astros and the resurgent Los Angeles Angels. I wouldn’t consider this team overrated, but because many fans and experts have had high expectations for them the past few seasons and once again in 2018, I am putting the Mariners on my top three list of most overrated teams entering the season.
- St. Louis Cardinals 83-79 in 2017
Sure the St. Louis Cardinals have seemed to be the class of the National League throughout history as they have won 11 championships and are always in contention just about every year, despite what players they put out there on a nightly basis. But I believe that the Cardinals are an overrated team entering the 2018 season because their main competitors in the NL Central made some big splashes in the offseason while the Cardinals didn’t do much other than the trade to acquire veteran outfielder, Marcell Ozuna from the Miami Marlins.
The back to back NL Central division champion, Chicago Cubs got better by signing free agent starting pitcher, Yu Darvish to a 6 year, $126 million deal. The young and rising Milwaukee Brewers also improved themselves by signing veteran center fielder, Lorenzo Cain to a 5 year, $80 million deal and trading with the Miami Marlins to acquire consistent hitting left fielder, Christian Yelich. So after all these moves, I see the Cardinals as a 3rd place team in the NL Central at best in 2018.
The Cardinals lineup lacks some depth outside of Matt Carpenter, Yadier Molina, and the newly acquired Ozuna. The starting rotation lacks depth after Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha as Adam Wainwright has been below average the past couple seasons and it seems like they don’t even know who their fourth and fifth starters are going to be to start the season.
And their bullpen has the potential to be a complete disaster in 2018 as both of their former closers, Trevor Rosenthal and Seung-hwan Oh are no longer with them and Luke Gregerson is expected to be the closer to start the season. Gregerson is a solid veteran relief pitcher who can get the job done but for a closer, he has below average velocity and the Cardinals don’t seem to have much of a backup plan at closer if things don’t work out with Gregerson.
Even though the Cardinals have had seasons where on paper their roster looks average at best and still put together a solid playoff caliber season, I just don’t see it happening in 2018. They lack depth and have too many question marks at just about every other position and with the Cubs and Brewers each drastically improving their rosters during the winter, I would be very surprised if the Cardinals finish the season higher than 3rd place in the NL Central and in playoff contention in late September.
1. Washington Nationals 97-65, back to back NL East Champions
You could make the argument that the Washington Nationals have been the most consistent team in baseball since the start of the 2012 season as they have won four NL East titles and have been above .500 each year in that span. But at the same time, you can make the case that they are the most overrated and underachieving franchise in all of sports the past six years.
Every single year since 2012, the Nationals have had a loaded roster with little to no competition in the NL East as it seems like every year, there are AT LEAST two teams in the division that are in a full rebuild. From 2012-2014, the Atlanta Braves were the only competition for the Nationals as the Phillies, Marlins, and Mets were all in full rebuild mode. The Nationals won the division in 2012 and 2014, while the Braves took it in 2013 with the Nationals completely missing the playoffs.
While in 2015, the Mets rose up from their rebuild and beat out the Nationals for the NL East crown and became the only competition to the Nationals in the division. The Phillies were still in rebuild mode, the Marlins were a mediocre .500 team, and the Braves began their rebuild after seeing some success the previous three years.
In each of the past two seasons, the Mets were once again the only true threats to the Nationals in the NL East, but due to a ridiculous amount of injuries to the Mets roster, the Nationals have won the division in each of the past two seasons. The Mets injuries actually got so bad in 2017, the team that finished in 2nd place in the NL East was the Miami Marlins and they were 77-85.
There is no doubt that the Nationals have a good amount of talent on their roster to be competitive each year, but if you put that team in a division with more competition, say the AL East, I promise you that team would not have had four division titles in six seasons. Also, on top of this NL East being a very weak division talk, what have the Washington Nationals done with those four division titles? They wasted all four of them by getting eliminated in the NLDS in every single one of those years, in 2012, 2014, 2016, and 2017.
And how has their “Phenom” Bryce Harper, fared in the postseason? He has only hit .211 with five home runs, 10 RBIs, a .801 OPS and 23 strikeouts. So the stats show right there that one of baseball’s best has not been able to come up in big spots for the Nationals. So Bryce, how can you ask “Where is my ring?” when you yourself can’t even produce in big spots when you have had an absolutely loaded team around you throughout the past few years?
I do expect the Nationals to win the NL East once again in 2018 as now there are really THREE teams in the division now that are in full rebuild. We all know that the Braves and Phillies have been in rebuild mode for a few years now, but thanks to the Marlins new ownership and their complete firesale throughout the offseason, the Marlins have downgraded themselves from a .500 team to easily the worst team in baseball coming into this season. So once again the Mets are the only competition for the Nationals in the NL East in 2018, which will most likely lead to another cakewalk for the Nationals to win the NL East, but the story will probably end the same, a game 5 NLDS loss in Bryce Harper’s last season with the Nationals.