Baseball has sprung in the warmer regions of our land, even while those of us in the north continue to face days of snow, fog and bitterness. For eons, writers have written about how the onset of spring training is a signifier of the coming change of seasons. It is that, and so much more.

Ordinarily, the middle of February is also the time when the offseason work each team has done starts to feel tangible. Hot prospects hit camp in hopes of accelerating their progress. New faces report to new places and put on unfamiliar colors for the first time. Countless veterans report in “the best shape of their life.” This year — that of the never-ending free-agent stalemate — feels different, with so many impactful Scott Boras clients still waiting out a slowly thawing market.

Editor’s Picks


  • The most important player to watch this spring on all 30 teams

    From a former superstar at a crossroads to an ace on the mend, you won’t have to wait until Opening Day to see if these guys are ready to shine.


  • The odds must be crazy: Early Vegas over/unders have these five teams all wrong

    Bryce Harper’s Nats are overrated. The Rangers are overachievers. Wanna bet? Here are some preseason win projections that are a bit … off.


  • Verlander: Path to title goes through Houston

    Astros ace Justin Verlander says the path to the World Series goes through Houston after an MLB Network host called the Yankees the American League favorite.

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This edition of the stock watch was supposed to be the summation of each team’s hot stove activity. The baselines we established back in our first offseason edition would be compared to the current projections, and we’d see how things have popped during the long weeks since the Houston Astros finished off their first championship season. Instead, with so many wins still dangling in limbo, we’re left to make another incremental measurement. Thus we’ll see how teams have moved since our last edition. We’ll do the overall offseason assessment just before Opening Day.

The projections from my system (called MLBPET) and the accompanying Monte Carlo-style simulations are a little more exact this time around in that I’ve done my detailed depth charts of the winter, which include things like incorporating all non-roster invitees that could end up breaking camp with a team. As you’d expect, the effect of most of these small tweaks is marginal. Still, some clown-sized shoes have dropped, such as Yu Darvish’s addition to the Cubs, so the numbers have evolved.

Comments for each team mostly center around what I see as the most glaring problems on each roster. Teams are simply ranked from best projected record to worst, as we want to take a snapshot of how teams look as camps open, but before the likes of Jake Arrieta, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas have found homes.

Baseball is back!

The superteams

Houston Astros

Pre-spring training win projection: 101.6

Change in win projection from January forecast: 2.4 (Rank: 6)

Playoff probability: 97 percent | Championship probability: 24.2 percent

Repeating in baseball is an arduous task, and it has been a long time since we have had a repeat champion. The last one was the 2000 Yankees, who completed a three-peat with a World Series win over the Mets. The 17-year gap without a repeat World Series winner is the longest we’ve ever had — that is, unless you count the 4.53-billion-year drought snapped when the Cubs became the first back-to-back Series winner in 1908. While we might have said the same thing about last year’s Cubs, on paper, it’s hard to imagine a team in better position to pull off the feat than this year’s Astros.

In MLBPET, the Astros enter the spring with the top-ranked group of position players and the top-ranked group of pitchers. That’s a pretty good combination. Thus, to identify a “most glaring problem” is indeed a relative task. Bullpen depth? Most teams have a need for that, and the Astros have all season to sort out the back of their bullpen. The easiest solution is status quo. In other words, if Ken Giles can bounce back from the rough end to his 2017 season, Houston will be fine. Better than fine.

Cleveland Indians

Pre-spring training win projection: 99.0

Change in win projection from January forecast: 1.4 (Rank: 9)

Playoff probability: 96 percent | Championship probability: 14.6 percent

The Indians will be good. They lost some key bullpen arms and longtime core member Carlos Santana, but Cleveland returns a deep and powerful starting rotation. The Indians still have the superduo of Andrew Miller and Cody Allen to lock down games, perhaps for one final season. They have one of the game’s brightest young talents in Francisco Lindor.

Yet … it feels like the Indians are embarking on a slow fade, at least in relation to the thoroughbreds around them. Cleveland is so far ahead of the competition in the AL Central that it would perhaps be more shocking for them to miss the playoffs than any of the elite teams. Yet the thing that really seemed to set Cleveland’s postseason profile apart has dulled; the erosion of bullpen depth has left the relief staff, on paper, behind the Yankees, Dodgers and Astros.

Can that be fixed in the spring? Probably not. The group of impact free-agent relievers has been thoroughly picked over. The Indians will try to piece together the middle innings from within, with possible help from the rotation depth. If Cleveland’s bullpen comes together as in recent seasons, it’ll be a gradual emergence, not a spring flash. If the pen does become a problem, then that’s an area to target via the trade market during the season.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Pre-spring training win projection: 97.4

Change in win projection from January forecast: minus-1.4 (Rank: 20)

Playoff probability: 92 percent | Championship probability: 15.2 percent

After an unsexy offseason that mostly consisted of steering clear of the luxury-tax threshold, it’s not hard to find Dodgers fans commenting on the internet who are irate by what they see as an overly passive approach. After all, L.A. has now gone 30 seasons without a title and last autumn fell one game short of ending that drought.

Here’s the thing: The Dodgers are so deep that even after losing Darvish and Brandon Morrow, they are still very much a part of baseball’s top tier. That top tier is more crowded than usual because of the current cluster of superteams, and that’s likely the root of any fan dissatisfaction. The Dodgers are loaded. So are the Cubs, Astros, Yankees, Indians and Nationals. Status quo feels inadequate.

The Dodgers’ biggest issue is really just needing to stave off a sense of stagnation. This core, or most of it, has now won five straight NL West titles but still managed to lose its last postseason game each season. But that’s a mild worry because this is not an old team.

The antidote to complacency is youth, and the Dodgers have plenty of that. Corey Seager is in his early 20s and still getting better. Cody Bellinger will be entering his first full big-league season. Walker Buehler is poised to boost the deep L.A. pitching staff. Alex Verdugo will be vying for a regular role in the outfield. L.A. will be fine. Better than fine.

New York Yankees

Pre-spring training win projection: 94.6

Change in win projection from January forecast: 0.5 (Rank: 13)

Playoff probability: 85 percent | Championship probability: 9.5 percent

The Yankees are the most flawed superteam, if there can be such a thing. While the overall projection is dynamite, New York still has a couple of obvious holes, something you can’t really say about the other elite clubs. The Yankees rank 27th in projected WAR at second base, and 27th at third base.

New York looks to be going young at those spots, and it wouldn’t be the first time an on-paper hole was perceived strictly because the solutions lacked a reliable track record. To be sure, the upside offered by giving regular playing time to Gleyber Torres at some point this season probably trumps any stopgap addition the Yankees could make right now.

However, does the same hold true for fellow young infielders Ronald Torreyes and Miguel Andujar? That’s a tougher sell. The Yankees don’t need another splashy addition to be a contender. They are a contender, but the competition in this tier is vicious. Whether it’s Mike Moustakas or Eduardo Nunez, New York stands to benefit more from one more impact addition than the other top contenders. Tax line be damned.

Chicago Cubs

Pre-spring training win projection: 94.2

Change in win projection from January forecast: minus-1.8 (Rank: 22)

Playoff probability: 85 percent | Championship probability: 10.9 percent

It has been an impressive offseason for the Cubs. They lost two rotation stalwarts in Arrieta and John Lackey, as well as closer Wade Davis. They managed to fill those holes without trading from their position-player depth and without killing their long-term payroll outlook. Chicago once again will field one of baseball’s deepest, most talented and most balanced rosters.

If there is one area of “concern,” it’s rotation depth. The top six, including swingman Mike Montgomery, can go toe-to-toe with anyone. If they can get through the season with those six pitchers while keeping them sharp for October, that’s great. But teams generally need more starters than that, and right now, the depth chart includes the likes of Eddie Butler and Luke Farrell.

There are young possible options such as Adbert Alzolay and Jen-Ho Tseng, but you’d still like to see the Cubs improve their redundancy in this area. Wednesday’s signing of injury-plagued righty Shae Simmons helps. But another low-cost reclamation-type starter — think Chris Tillman or Ubaldo Jimenez — would be a good idea.

Washington Nationals

Pre-spring training win projection: 93.1

Change in win projection from January forecast: minus-1.0 (Rank: 19)

Playoff probability: 84 percent | Championship probability: 8.2 percent

The Nationals are similar to the Yankees in that they could really help their projection with a couple of key additions. Keep in mind that, hey, it’s not my money, but dealing for Miami’s J.T. Realmuto would save Washington fans from hoping for a miracle bounce-back season behind the plate from either Matt Wieters or Miguel Montero. And signing Arrieta would push the Washington staff near the top of the best rotations in the majors, where the Indians reside. Did I mention that competition among the superteams is fierce?

The not-quite-elite

Boston Red Sox

Pre-spring training win projection: 90.9

Change in win projection from January forecast: minus-0.1 (Rank: 16)

Playoff probability: 72 percent | Championship probability: 5.3 percent

Boston needs a big bat. J.D. Martinez is a free agent. The Red Sox are already over the tax threshold but have lots of money coming off the books the next couple of years. Why is this so difficult?

St. Louis Cardinals

Pre-spring training win projection: 88.6

Change in win projection from January forecast: minus-1.6 (Rank: 21)

Playoff probability: 63 percent | Championship probability: 3.6 percent

The Cardinals’ starting rotation could be dominant, especially if they get some production from Alex Reyes this season. All they need to push the Cubs is for the lab experiment they’re running with their bullpen to pay off. What could go wrong? Yeah … maybe a late signing of Greg Holland would be a good idea.

Chasing the wild card

Arizona Diamondbacks

Pre-spring training win projection: 84.8

Change in win projection from January forecast: 3.1 (Rank: 4)

Playoff probability: 43 percent | Championship probability: 1.5 percent

Speaking of power rotations, Arizona’s starting staff ranks fifth in WAR according to MLBPET’s forecast, and my spreadsheets don’t even know about the humidor. However, Arizona ranks dead last in projected WAR in left field. J.D. Martinez is a free agent. Arizona might be on a budget, but why is this so difficult? As it is, the D-backs are well positioned for another wild-card run.

New York Mets

Pre-spring training win projection: 84.0

Change in win projection from January forecast: 0.8 (Rank: 12)

Playoff probability: 40 percent | Championship probability: 1.5 percent

The Mets have gone out and re-signed just about every player they have ever had. I’m not sure, but I think New York may have even accidentally signed Ed Kranepool. He’s 73, but it couldn’t hurt to give Adrian Gonzalez a little competition. Anyway, the big if remains in effect: pitcher health. At least the Mets have made changes that could make such a reality possible.

If Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard stay healthy, Matt Harvey actually has the velocity that his agent says he has rediscovered, and the rotation depth holds up, New York will be in the thick of the wild-card race. They could project better at first base, second base, shortstop, etc., but at least there are options with upside at those spots.

Los Angeles Angels

Pre-spring training win projection: 83.9

Change in win projection from January forecast: minus-4.8 (Rank: 29)

Playoff probability: 36 percent | Championship probability: 1.1 percent

The Angels are a spendy outfit, so it seems like a run at Arrieta, Alex Cobb or Lance Lynn would make sense. The rotation projects to rank 19th in WAR. The problem is it’s hard to tell where that WAR will come from beyond Shohei Ohtani, who, we remind you, hasn’t yet pitched in the big leagues.

If the Angels are healthier than they’ve been the past couple of years, then there probably are enough arms to get through the season. I’d like to see one more reliable source of innings. If anything, it might take some of the heat off Ohtani. It’s hard enough for a newcomer to establish himself as a staff ace. But, of course, Ohtani has also tasked himself with becoming the next Babe Ruth or Martin Dihigo, and that’s a heavy load.

Minnesota Twins

Pre-spring training win projection: 83.3

Change in win projection from January forecast: minus-1.0 (Rank: 18)

Playoff probability: 31 percent | Championship probability: 0.7 percent

Need a starter. Sign a starter. The Twins have admitted the former, yet have not done the latter despite being involved in every starter-related rumor whispered this winter. There is a real opportunity here for the Twins to make a return to the wild-card game, and the payroll right now barely clears the $100 million mark. Sorry, but the Minneapolis-St. Paul market isn’t that small. Not every dollar spent has to be superefficient.

San Francisco Giants

Pre-spring training win projection: 82.4

Change in win projection from January forecast: 1.9 (Rank: 8)

Playoff probability: 30 percent | Championship probability: 0.8 percent

The Giants still need a legit everyday center fielder and still don’t have the room under the tax line to sign one. San Francisco could also use more help in the bullpen. This franchise can afford to go over the threshold yet again — it’s a high-revenue operation. But given the age of the roster, I still don’t think it’s worth it to do so. If the Giants start well, it’ll take some creative work from Bobby Evans and Brian Sabean to patch the holes for one more playoff push. No team is projected to get fewer WAR from players aged 26 or younger.

Seattle Mariners

Pre-spring training win projection: 82.4

Change in win projection from January forecast: 2.8 (Rank: 5)

Playoff probability: 27 percent | Championship probability: 0.8 percent

With better rotation health, the Mariners could make the wild-card push this year that many thought they’d make last year. Perhaps better rotation health is a low bar — it could hardly be worse. But Seattle has a solid group of position players and a decent bullpen. They are in the mix on paper, thus the M’s are yet another team that stands to gain a lot by grabbing one of the top remaining free-agent starters.

Tampa Bay Rays

Pre-spring training win projection: 81.8

Change in win projection from January forecast: 5.0 (Rank: 3)

Playoff probability: 25 percent | Championship probability: 0.7 percent

The Rays rank 20th in position-player WAR despite having an elite group of defenders. Runs are the problem. Meanwhile, the pitching staff is top 10 in both the rotation and the bullpen, and both groups have depth. A big bat might bring it all together. Why not throw Martinez an absurd bubble contract? No, I’m serious. If not him, what about Moustakas? No, really.

Toronto Blue Jays

Pre-spring training win projection: 78.9

Change in win projection from January forecast: minus-2.5 (Rank: 24)

Playoff probability: 14 percent | Championship probability: 0.3 percent

The Jays will be hoping for a healthy season for Aaron Sanchez and an airtight showing from Roberto Osuna. They’ll keep their fingers crossed that Curtis Granderson has some contact left in his bat and that Justin Smoak won’t be tackled by the regression monster. They’ll hope that Josh Donaldson has a walk year for the ages and that some answers emerge in what looks like a pretty nondescript bullpen behind Osuna. And they’ll hope that all of these things manifest early in the season, or else a difficult teardown may become inevitable.

Milwaukee Brewers

Pre-spring training win projection: 78.2

Change in win projection from January forecast: 7.5 (Rank: 2)

Playoff probability: 14 percent | Championship probability: 0.3 percent

As everyone says, Milwaukee needs to spring for a starter for a rotation that MLBPET sees as the 18th-best group in baseball. The additions of Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich have more than shored up the position-player group. In fact, no team has the same quality and quantity of options in this area as Milwaukee.

Putting together their depth chart is a challenge because there are a lot of players who deserve time, and there is a lot of roster versatility. And the bullpen that GM David Stearns has built looks fabulous on paper, ranking fifth in baseball. As for the rotation, Arrieta or Cobb would be a welcome addition, but let’s not lose sight of the fact that pitching coach Derek Johnson did great work with what looked like a bland group last season.

Colorado Rockies

Pre-spring training win projection: 77.8

Change in win projection from January forecast: minus-0.5 (Rank: 17)

Playoff probability: 14 percent | Championship probability: 0.1 percent

In theory, Colorado’s heavy expenditure in the bullpen area wouldn’t be fully reflected in bottom-line team WAR. Relievers don’t compile big WAR numbers, so the hope would be that the team excels in high-leverage situations. Indeed, Colorado’s relievers rank eighth as a group, so that’s an area of strength. Still, a 78-win baseline and a 14 percent postseason probability is a rough outlook for a team that took a finishing-touch approach to its offseason. More important than the Davis/Bryan Shaw/Jake McGee bullpen living up to their contracts is for solutions to emerge at any corner spot not occupied by Nolan Arenado. The real guys to watch are Ryan McMahon, Raimel Tapia and David Dahl.

Philadelphia Phillies

Pre-spring training win projection: 77.4

Change in win projection from January forecast: 0.1 (Rank: 14)

Playoff probability: 13 percent | Championship probability: 0.2 percent

Including the Phillies, these next three clubs are all generally thought to be members of the bottom tier. But according to MLBPET’s simulations, they look more like part of the large middle class of wild-card chasers. They are also in entirely different situations.

The Phillies are on the way up, and as much as anything, their signing of Santana this winter shows that they know it. As tempting as it might be to throw a contract at a pitcher, Philly would be better off standing pat. There is plenty of room to exceed their forecast because of growth from within — Rhys Hoskins, J.P. Crawford, Maikel Franco, Odubel Herrera, Scott Kingery, et al. If the Phillies appear to be turning the corner faster than anticipated, then the course can be changed during the season.

Either way, expect a fun season from the emerging team in Philly.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Pre-spring training win projection: 76.2

Change in win projection from January forecast: minus-3.8 (Rank: 27)

Playoff probability: 9 percent | Championship probability: 0.1 percent

Despite the trades sending away Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole, enough of a talent base remains to keep the Pirates at least on the periphery of the chase. Of course, that’s essentially why the fan base in Pittsburgh is so annoyed at the team’s ownership at the moment. Not only do the Pirates have talent, but the system is in decent shape as well. It’s not as if Pittsburgh desperately needed to replenish a barren farm system.

Now the Bucs are in a weird position. Even if something happened that convinced Neal Huntington to blow his top and give Arrieta a six-year contract, it would only enrage the fan base even more. Why now!? It’s best that the Pirates lay low for a bit. You’ve still got that terrific stadium, and the Warhol Museum is just around the corner. Their rebuild should be a soft one and relatively short. Not sure you can say the same about the period of antipathy between the team and its fans.

Texas Rangers

Pre-spring training win projection: 76.2

Change in win projection from January forecast: 0.0 (Rank: 15)

Playoff probability: 8 percent | Championship probability: 0.1 percent

The Rangers’ rotation is a tale in wish-casting, though you have to give Jon Daniels credit for his creative thinking when it comes to moving Matt Bush and Mike Minor to the rotation. Matt Moore and Doug Fister have been good before, and perhaps Texas will catch lightning in a bottle with those two. Maybe you could say that about Bartolo Colon as well, but I’m not sure a lightning metaphor is appropriate for him. Any scenario in which Texas contends involves two or three of those pitchers emerging as quality support for Martin Perez and Cole Hamels.

Really, though, this season is more about Texas’ talented, free-swinging group of position players becoming a more consistently productive group. Power is good, and strikeouts don’t carry the stigma they used to. But a little balls-in-play contact can work, too, as the cross-state Astros showed to amazing effect last season.

The enemies of Boras

Oakland Athletics

Pre-spring training win projection: 74.5

Change in win projection from January forecast: 1.3 (Rank: 10)

Playoff probability: 6 percent | Championship probability: zero percent

My Athletics forecast is based on no fewer than 37 above-replacement projections, ranging from Brandon Moss (0.1 WAR) to Matt Chapman (3.4). It’s hard to know what to make of a team like this. But there are a lot of exciting talents to inject some life into the picture. It begins with Chapman and his acrobatics at the hot corner. Matt Olson, Dustin Fowler, Franklin Barreto, Jorge Mateo and Frankie Montas are just some of the rising players that make Oakland a team worth keeping an eye on.

Atlanta Braves

Pre-spring training win projection: 73.9

Change in win projection from January forecast: 2.3 (Rank: 7)

Playoff probability: 7 percent | Championship probability: 0.1 percent

Before running the numbers each month, I look at the Braves and see a team that could be poised for a breakout. The foundation is a great start, featuring one of the game’s best players in Freddie Freeman and one of its best defenders in Ender Inciarte. There is the wizard-like framing game of catcher Tyler Flowers. Then you have all that young, under-27 talent: Ozzie Albies, Dansby Swanson, Luiz Gohara and the game’s top prospect in Ronald Acuna.

Yet, I run the numbers and get … that. I can’t help but conclude that my excitement over the Braves is a year premature. Well, third base is a yawning chasm, at least until Austin Riley is ready. The rotation is thin, at least until Gohara and Kolby Allard and Mike Soroka and Kyle Wright (and others) are ready to go.

In other words, in the areas for which Atlanta does not currently project well, there are exciting solutions just around the corner. Patience will be rewarded.

Cincinnati Reds

Pre-spring training win projection: 72.9

Change in win projection from January forecast: 1.1 (Rank: 11)

Playoff probability: 5 percent | Championship probability: 0.1 percent

Speaking of patience, the Reds’ offseason has pretty much consisted of signing a couple of 30-something righty relievers. It’s an entirely justified approach by GM Dick Williams. The hopes for his team to make a leap in what is probably baseball’s toughest division are entirely dependent on the development of a group of young starters.

Luis Castillo is terrific. There is still hope for injury cases Anthony DeSclafani and Homer Bailey. There is upside to Amir Garrett and Robert Stephenson and Sal Romano and Tyler Mahle and Rookie Davis.

Elsewhere, there is plenty to be optimistic about. We should get a good dose of third baseman Nick Senzel this season. Jesse Winker will be pushing for time in a crowded outfield. Closer Raisel Iglesias is dynamite.

But it all comes down to competent starting pitching, something that has been in scarce supply in Cincinnati the last couple of years.

Baltimore Orioles

Pre-spring training win projection: 69.6

Change in win projection from January forecast: minus-4.5 (Rank: 28)

Playoff probability: 2 percent | Championship probability: zero percent

Some things are hard to understand. For instance, they are opening a Taco Bell in my neighborhood that will serve beer and margaritas. Also, what are the Orioles doing?

With Manny Machado heading into his walk year, if you wanted to load up for one more season, perhaps in hopes of persuading him to stay because of a flood of good vibes, it would be defensible. And perhaps no team had a more glaring area to fix; Baltimore’s 2017 starting rotation was terrible.

Yet the Orioles have done … nothing, which would also be defensible if Baltimore were headed into a rebuild. That does not appear to be the case, and the Orioles open camp with what appears to be three legit big-league starting pitchers, even after Thursday’s reported signing of Andrew Cashner. You’re keeping Manny for this?

San Diego Padres

Pre-spring training win projection: 69.3

Change in win projection from January forecast: minus-2.3 (Rank: 23)

Playoff probability: 2 percent | Championship probability: zero percent

It’s another transitional season for a Padres organization bursting with talent. Not much of it will be ready for this season. The big-league players to watch are Manuel Margot, Austin Hedges, Dinelson Lamet and Luis Perdomo, all of whom are accomplished and young enough to still be around when the coming waves of talent begin to crash ashore.

Chicago White Sox

Pre-spring training win projection: 68.6

Change in win projection from January forecast: 7.8 (Rank: 1)

Playoff probability: 1 percent | Championship probability: zero percent

I don’t expect the White Sox to win many games this season. I also expect to go to a lot of their games this season, and not just because I can see their ballpark from the chair I’m typing in right now. Watching young, talented teams come together is a joy.

Detroit Tigers

Pre-spring training win projection: 67.6

Change in win projection from January forecast: minus-3.0 (Rank: 25)

Playoff probability: 1 percent | Championship probability: zero percent

It’s early in the Detroit rebuild, and the Tigers project to have the league’s worst bullpen. That shouldn’t really matter, but it’s something that bothers me when it comes to young teams. Blowing leads is demoralizing, and Detroit has yet to establish any type of forward momentum. How could they when Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez are still around?

Anyway, the Tigers aren’t that young, yet, at the big-league level. The only under-25 players who should make a significant contribution to the big-league roster this season are third baseman Jeimer Candelario and reliever Joe Jimenez.

Kansas City Royals

Pre-spring training win projection: 64.3

Change in win projection from January forecast: minus-3.1 (Rank: 26)

Playoff probability: zero percent | Championship probability: zero percent

As it stands, the Royals will field the worst group of position players in the majors. It’s not even close. MLBPET has them at a collective 6.7 WAR — less than Mike Trout. San Diego finished last in the majors in position-player WAR in 2017 with 7.3, according to Fangraphs.com. There have been 44 teams during the modern area to have their position players finish below replacement as a group, most recently the 2013 Marlins. K.C. is not one of my sleeper candidates this season.

Miami Marlins

Pre-spring training win projection: 62.9

Change in win projection from January forecast: minus-6.4 (Rank: 30)

Playoff probability: zero percent | Championship probability: zero percent

Thanks to the Royals, the Marlins don’t have the worst projection for both their hitters and pitchers. The hitters rank 29th! If you’re going to tank, you might as well do it right.