Thursday, December 31, 2015

16 to Watch in 2016

All eyes will be on Big Papi next year (Monstah Mash)
With 2016 just around the corner, here are 16 players you should be watching next year:

In his final season and still one of the best hitters in baseball, Big Papi should give us a victory lap to remember.

How will the 34 year-old Cardinals ace hold up after missing most of last season with an Achilles injury? He only pitched out of the bullpen after coming back late last year, but St. Louis is counting on him to be a frontline starter.

Rodriguez returned from a year-long suspension to post one of his best seasons in years, He dropped off sharply in the second half, batting just .191/.300/.377 after August 1st, causing doubt as to whether he can repeat that performance at age 40. Health permitting, however, he should become the fourth player to surpass 700 long balls.

Can't wait to see what the A-Rod clone (Mariners version) does in his first full season. He's only 21.

Will Wrigley Field help him realize his power potential? Probably not, but perhaps a second 20-homer season (and his first since 2012) is in the cards.

One of the game's premier talents with Milwaukee the last few years, Gomez was an absolute disaster after getting traded to Houston last summer. 2016 is a contract year for the 30 year-old, so expect him to right the ship.

We know he can play a mean center field, but we still don't know if he can hit major league pitching. JBJ is entering his fourth season and turns 26 in April, so he's running out of chances to prove himself.

How will going from from one of baseball's pitching-friendliest venues to one of its hitting-friendliest affect the 32 year-old? Let's just say I don't see any more Cy Youngs in his future.

As great as Bryant was last year, he didn't come close to touching his 40-homer ceiling. We'll see what adjustments he makes as a sophomore, or if his strikeout problem (199 K's last year--most in the NL) drags him down some.

Pederson had a terrific first half but fell apart after the All-Star break. Did the league figure him out, or was it merely pitchers adjusting to the talented rookie? The Dodgers are hoping for more consistency from their 24 year-old center fielder in 2016.

Still waiting to see what the former AL Rookie of the Year can do in a full schedule, as he has averaged just 78 games per year over his first three. Now 25, he should be entering his prime.

You're not not going to watch Bryce Harper.

Just a few years ago he looked like the next Mike Trout, but his injury-married 2015 marked a huge step back for him. His Hanley Ramirez-esque attitude problems are a huge issue, but that can be overlooked if he finally puts it all together.

Can he come close to replicating last year's power outburst? As long as he plays half his games in Coors Field, he has a chance.

Boston played considerably better after cancer forced Farrell from the dugout, leaving one to wonder whether he's contributing to the team's consecutive last place finishes. Farrell's under contract through 2017, but should the Sox sputter again he'll likely be out of a job by season's end.

16. The Yankees Bullpen
With Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller, and now Aroldis Chapman waiting for teams at the end of games, will the Yankees lose any games they're leading after the sixth inning? New York is still a flawed team, but its relief corps should be the best in baseball.

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