2017’s Potentially Most Improved Teams

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Updated: December 30, 2016

We are still a few months from the 2017 season and there are still moves to be made, but with most of the big chips off of the table we thought we would take a look at a few teams that are currently projected to make big leaps in 2017.

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For this project we used FanGraphs’ Projected Standings page which takes current ZiPS projections for 2017 and translates individual player WAR into team projections. When PECOTA projections come out in the new year we will take a look back at this topic.

As of now there are currently 12 teams projected to win more games than they did last season. A funny thing you will notice is there are only two 2016 playoff teams on this list and only three “good” teams. The rest of the list is made up by 2016’s cellar dwellers who couldn’t possibly see things go that bad again.

2016 2017 Projected Full Season
Team W L W L +/-
Twins 59 103 75 87 +16
Rays 68 94 82 80 +14
Angels 74 88 85 77 +11
Diamondbacks 69 93 78 84 +9
Athletics 69 93 78 84 +9
Braves 68 93 76 86 +8
Astros 84 78 90 72 +6
Pirates 78 83 83 79 +5
Dodgers 91 71 95 67 +4
Rockies 75 87 78 84 +3
Giants 87 75 88 74 +1
Marlins 79 82 80 82 +1

 

Right off the bat you have the Minnesota Twins as the top team, but this number should be going down soon as they are likely to be moving star second baseman Brian Dozier. That’s a 3 WAR player so they will be knocked down. Even so, this is an optimistic prediction after a disastrous 2016. A big bounce back year is expected from Miguel Sano who let just about everyone down last season. The signing of Jason Castro is expected to improve the pitching staff as he is one of the best pitch framers out there and Kurt Suzuki was not. Throw in full seasons of Byron Buxton, Max Kepler and Jose Berrios and it’s easy to see this team improving on 59 wins because 59 wins is terrible and not that hard to improve on.

Next up is the Tampa Bay Rays. The projection systems loved them last season with some picking them to win the AL East, but that just didn’t work out that way as they really struggled. The offense wasn’t the problem with big years from Evan Longoria, Logan Forsythe and Kevin Kiermaier and the pitching was disappointing but solid. The problem with this team was luck. They had bad injury luck and their Pythagorean record still had them at 77-85. With some better health and a bounce back from Chris Archer this one is not hard to envision.

The biggest shock on this list has to be the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim who are projected for 85 wins which would put them in Wild Card competition. They were 74-88 last season, but their Pythagorean record had them at 80-82. That being said, even with the best player alive in Mike Trout it’s hard to see this team’s path to contention. The projections see big years from starters, Garrett Richards, Matt Shoemaker and Tyler Skaggs which is definitely a possibility, but feels like a risk considering their injury concerns.

Skaggs pitched only 49 2/3 innings last season after missing all of 2015 and Richards tried to avoid Tommy John surgery by having a stem-cell treatment. Throw in Shoemaker who just had a career high 160 IP last season and it’s easy to see where injuries can happen and harder to see where everything goes right.

The offense feels middle of road after Trout with Albert Pujols about to turn 37, Kole Calhoun and CJ Cron as the only other legit hitters. Some might say that offseason acquisition Cameron Maybin is in for a big season, but his .315/.383/.415 line last season was padded by an outrageous .383 batting average on balls in play. Considering his career BABIP is .313 that feels unsustainable to say the least.

My other worry with this team is that this division is absolutely stacked. The Rangers will be good again, the Mariners will be good again and Houston looks like one of the best teams in the league. They are also on this list with +6 wins over last season which should put them as the clear favorite in the AL West. The Angels will always be dangerous with Trout, but I just don’t see them as the second best team in this division.

I’d put the Diamondbacks, Athletics and Braves all in that “it can only get better” category as it’s hard to do that bad year after year. The Pirates should be taking a step forward again this year, again on the outskirts of Wild Card contention, as last year feels more like an outlier than anything.

The only other truly interesting team on this list is the Los Angeles Dodgers who won 91 games last year and are projected to win 95 in 2017. A full season of Rich Hill and Julio Urias, a (hopefully) healthy season of Clayton Kershaw and a steady offense have the Dodgers once again as a big favorite. The crazy thing about this projection is they still don’t really have a second baseman. What if they trade for Brian Dozier as they have been rumored to do? They should jump up another couple of wins and find themselves as the team to beat in 2017. The rich getting richer definitely applies here.

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  1. Pingback: 2017’s Potentially Most Disappointing Teams - Baseball Bryan

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