MLB Preview

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The Major League Baseball season is just around the corner here (because I forgot about this and didn’t post it BEFORE the games started ).  Time for an MLB preview?  Sure, why not?

American League

AL East

  1. New York Yankees
  2. Boston Red Sox
  3. Toronto Blue Jays
  4. Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays
  5. Baltimore Orioles

5 Questions

  • Yankees:  Will the old guys still hit?  If they can, there’s no way they aren’t the early favorites to win the World Series with the new and improved pitching staff.  The Sabathia-Pineda 1-2 punch could be dominant.
  • Red Sox:  Can they put last season’s epic collapse behind them?  That’s the big thing with this team.  They have the talent – Gonzalez is one of the best hitters in the league and Lester-Beckett are two guys everyone wants at the top of their rotation – but if they aren’t there mentally none of that matters.
  • Blue Jays:  Is there any way they can compete with the Yanks, Sox and Rays?  They could surprise people…if their young pitching takes a step forward this year.  If not, they’ll be middle-of-the-pack like they were last year.  I love Joey Bats, though.  Hope he hits 60 homers.
  • Devil Rays:  Can they do it again?  The (Devil) Rays give hope to small market fans everywhere.  They’ve done it the right way – building through the draft, their farm system – and have been extremely successful.  If this Jennings kid can play all season like he did when he was called up last season, they’ll make the playoffs again and challenge for the AL Pennant.
  • Orioles:  How many of their players will be traded, and who will they be?  My guess?  Adam Jones first and foremost.  Everything I read about him nowadays is that he hasn’t developed into what everyone thought he’d be.  It’s not that he’s bad, he’s just not someone that you can build a franchise around – which is what I think the Orioles thought they were getting.  Markakis will be shipped out, too.  None of the vets are safe, really.

AL Central

  1. Detroit Tigers
  2. Cleveland Indians
  3. Kansas City Royals
  4. Minnesota Twins
  5. Chicago White Sox

5 Questions

  • Tigers:  Can they slug their way to a championship?  Having Cabrera and Fielder hitting after one another is absolutely terrifying.  As long as the guys ahead of them get on base, they could both go over 120 RBIs this season.  That’ll be the key, too, because Verlander’s good…but there’s a drastic drop off after him (and he’ll never be able to duplicate the unbelievable year he had last season).
  • Indians:  Which Ubaldo will show up this season?  If it’s the one that won 19 games, had a 2.88 ERA and started the All Star game in 2010, then he’s a true ace that can win 18-20 games.  If it’s the Ubaldo that had a 4.68 ERA and  10 wins last season…well…he’s not.
  • Royals:  What’s this Eric Hosmer kid all about?  Everything I read about Hosmer says he has “superstar” written all over him – the capability to hit .300, swat 25+ HRs and knock in 100+ RBIs.  In 128 games last season with KC, the 22-year-old went for .334/19/78, so I’d say the .300/25/100 estimate is right on the money…if not a bit underwhelming.  He’ll start everyday at first this season.
  • Twins:  What’s up with Mauer and Morneau?  If they can stay healthy, the Twins can contend for the Wild Card.  Thing is, they haven’t both played a whole season since 2009.  Mauer seems fragile and Morneau can’t shake the concussion issues.  Both have enormous contracts, too, so if they can’t play and produce at the level they’re being paid, Minnesota is in trouble for a long time.
  • White Sox:  Fire sale for Chicago?  They can’t compete with Detroit and they’re an aging team for the most part.  Do they trade Konerko to a contender at the deadline?  Do they do the same with Adam Dunn if he bounces back from his horrendous 2011 campaign?  Danks/Peavy/Floyd are a pretty good 1-2-3 in the rotation, though.

AL West

  1. Anaheim Angels
  2. Texas Rangers
  3. Seattle Mariners
  4. Oakland A’s

5 Questions

  • Angels:  Does the addition of Albert bring home a ring?  He’s the big prize.  The best baseball player of this generation, really – power, average, clutch hitting, even his fielding at first is better than just about everyone else at the position…he brings it all.  He’s going to be playing 1/2 his games in a field that has smaller dimensions than Busch Stadium, so he could be a legitimate 40 HR threat again.  At least for the next couple of years.  Don’t sleep on CJ Wilson, either.  Weaver/Haren/Wilson/Santana could be the best top 4 in the league (sorry, Philly…actually, no I’m not).
  • Rangers:  Yu who?  Haha…see what I did there?  Losing CJ Wilson could be a huge blow to Texas…unless Yu turns out to be their savior.  It’ll be interesting to see how his skills in Japan (18-6, 1.44 ERA, 0.83 WHIP) translate to the majors.
  • Mariners:  Will Jesus Montero’s power be sucked up by spacious Safeco Field?  The Mariners gave up a TON of talent in Michael Pineda (3.74 ERA, 173 strikeouts last year) to get him, so they better hope the park won’t suck the life out of his bat.  There’s no question that it’s more of a pitchers’ park than anything, so I guess we’ll see.
  • A’s:  How will Yoenis Cespedes do?  Signing guys like Cespedes (a Cuban defector) is a huge gamble.  It’s one the A’s can make, though, because…who else do they have that can hit the ball?  He could be an All Star…he could also be a bust.  I’ll go with the former.

National League

AL East

  1. Philadelphia Phillies
  2. Atlanta Braves
  3. Miami Marlins
  4. Washington Nationals
  5. New York Mets

5 Questions

  • Phillies:  Can they hit enough?  It’s incredible that the problem for this team could actually be the hitting – seeing how far Howard, Utley and Rollins have fallen in just a few short years is almost sad.  Almost.  This is Philadelphia I’m talking about, ya know.  If Vance Worley is as good as he was last season (11-3, 3.01 ERA) the Phils sport, at the very least, the second best top 4 in the bigs.  It’s probably the best…but I hate Philly, so suck it.
  • Braves:  Will Jason Heyward bounce back?  Seems like forever ago that the big kid from Georgia hit a HR in his first big league at bat.  He struggled mightily last season (.227, 14 HR, 42 RBI) but if he can bounce back the Braves will be so much better offensively.  Especially with the revelation of Freddie Freeman at first last season (.282, 21 HR, 72 RBI) and McCann doing his thing.  If the offense comes together and the pitching (which should be REALLY good again this year) is what the Braves pitching (seemingly) always is…they’ll surprise a lot of people.
  • Marlins:  Will all that money spent equal a winning team?  New uniforms.  New ballpark.  New players.  The first two won’t matter as much as the last one – if Reyes, Bell and Buerhle produce…the fish will be contenders in one of the best divisions in baseball.  Hanley Ramirez’s move to 3B will also be something to watch.  He could be one of the best over there – his arm and range are both plus attributes – but if he pouts because he’s no longer a SS, well…will anyone be surprised if he pouts because he’s no longer a SS?
  • Nationals:  When will Bryce Harper hit the bigs?  He’s 19-years-old and can rake.  At least we think.  He didn’t set the world on fire in AA (.256, 3 HR, 13 RBI in 37 games) last season, so he’ll start in AAA to see how he progresses.  If he hits, he’ll be in the majors by June or July.  If he doesn’t?  You might still see him up at the end of the season, just so the Nats can get a feel on how he’s progressing.  It’ll be interesting to see how this unfolds.
  • Mets:  Will they keep David Wright?  They already lost Jose Reyes this past offseason, losing the other franchise guy would be an enormous blow to the Mets.  He’s such a good fielder…and still really good at the plate (and only 29-years-old).  He’s the cornerstone, and always was.  Unless they can get the farm from a contender with a ton of minor league talent, trading Wright would just cripple the franchise.

AL Central

  1. Cincinnati Reds
  2. Pittsburgh Pirates
  3. Milwaukee Brewers
  4. St. Louis Cardinals
  5. Houston Astros
  6. Chicago Cubs

5 Questions

  • Reds:  Will we get the ’10 Reds…or the ’11 Reds?  The ’10 version of the Cincinnati Reds won 91 games and had a +105 run differential whereas the ’11 version of the team won just 79 and had a +15 differential.  Pitching is going to be key for them; they traded big time 1B prospect Yonder Alonso to San Diego for big righty Matt Latos to be their staff ace (he won 9 games, with a 3.47 ERA and 185 strikeouts in 194.1 innings).  So if he pitches well in Cincy  (Great American Ballpark is a launching pad compared to the pitcher-friendly PETCO), he and Johnny Cueto could be a nice 1-2 punch at the top of their staff.  Offense won’t be a problem.
  • Pirates:  Can they end the streak?  For 24 of the 28 years I’ve been alive, the Pirates have finished with less-than-.5oo record.  19 of those have happened in a row, leading up until this season.  They had a storybook first half in 2011 and fell apart after Jerry Meals decided he wanted to go home at the end of a 19 inning game.  Things fell apart after that blown call – call it a coincidence, if you want…I won’t – and the Bucs ended up losing 90 games.  They have Eric Bedard (who is talented, but injury prone) and AJ Burnett (when he comes back from his broken face) anchoring what could be a surprising pitching staff (don’t sleep on Charlie Morton…I believe; James MacDonald and Jeff Karstens could be really good, too).  If McCutchen, Tabata, Walker and Pedro hit…look out, folks.  The streak will be broken.  Please hit the ball, Pedro…
  • Brewers:  Can Ryan Braun stop being a douche?  Answer:  Nope.
  • Cardinals:  How do you replace Albert?  You can’t, really.  But bringing in Carlos Beltran could help lessen the sting…as long as he stays healthy.  But we’re talking about a guy that played 81 and 64 games in ’09 and ’10, respectively (he did play in 142 last year), so it’s certainly not a given.
  • Astros:  Will they be able to unload Carlos Lee?  He’s really the only vet left on a roster of kids.  Maybe the better question would be:  Who will be the Astro that wins the Rookie of the Year award?  Because they’ll play a bunch of them.
  • Cubs:  What’s going to happen, here?  They have a bunch of terrible contracts on that roster – Soriano and Marmol immediately come to mind – so what’s Theo going to do with those guys?  He’ll probably have to ride out the Soriano contract (that’s how bad it is) but if he can get a couple of arms for Marmol at the deadline, he’ll probably do that.

AL West

  1. San Francisco Giants
  2. Arizona Diamondbacks
  3. Los Angeles Dodgers
  4. Colorado Rockies
  5. San Diego Padres

5 Questions

  • Giants:  Will Posey be the same player?  Broken legs can kill catchers and hitters.  Posey is both.  If he can be the same guy he was in 2010 when he won the AL Rookie of the Year and led the Giants to their first World Series Championship since 1954, he’ll be a much needed addition to a lineup that struggled to put runs on the board without him.  Melky Cabrera could be an underrated pickup for them, too (.305, 18 HRs, 87 RBIs, 20 SB last season).  Lincecum and Cain are really, really good.
  • D-Backs:  How good will Justin Upton be?  My guess?  Really, really f*cking good.  He had a breakout year last season (.289, 31 HRs, 88 RBIs) and his ceiling even higher than that.  Legitimate 40/120 guy.  It’ll be really interesting to see what he does as an encore to last year.
  • Dodgers:  Can Kemp go 50/50?  He said he was going to.  I don’t think he will, 50 HRs is a really tough thing to do in baseball in this day and age (only five 50 HR seasons since 2006, no one hit 50 last year) and 50 SB isn’t much easier (21 50 SB seasons since 2006 – Kemp stole 40 last year).  If anyone on the planet has the pure, raw talent to do something like that…it’s Matt Kemp, though.  So I won’t completely count him out.  It is very unlikely to happen, though.
  • Rockies:  Will Jamie Moyer’s arm fall off?  One of the coolest stories of spring training was 49-year-old Jamie Moyer making the Rockies starting rotation.  Moyer missed the entire 2011 season after having Tommy John surgery…and he made the Rockies’ starting rotation.  At 49-years-old.  Not sure whether to marvel at his longevity or be terrified at what’s going to happen to the Rockies’ pitching staff.  Troy Tulowitzski is pretty good, though.
  • Padres:  What’s this Yonder Alonso all about?  He played 47 games for the Cincinnati Reds in 2011, and looked like he could be something special (.330, 5 HRs, 15 RBIs).  He could be Adrian Gonzalez II for the Pads, he’s got that kind of talent.  I’m guessing he hits .300 with 20 HRs and 75 RBIs this year in PETCO.  It could be really fun to watch him develop…so somewhere down the line the Red Sox can trade for him.

Playoffs

American League

Wild Card:  Texas Rangers over Boston Red Sox

Divisional Round:  Detroit Tigers over Texas Rangers / Anaheim Angels over New York Yankees

ALCS:  Anaheim Angels over Detroit Tigers

National League

Wild Card:  Atlanta Braves over Arizona Diamondbacks

Divisional Round:  Cincinnati Reds over San Francisco Giants / Atlanta Braves over Philadelphia Phillies

NLCS:  Cincinnati Reds over Atlanta Braves

World Series

Anaheim Angels over Cincinnati Reds

Other Notes

  • Albert hits 40 HRs, knocks in 130 runs, wins AL MVP
  • Jon Lester wins the Cy Young
  • Jose “Joey Bats” Bautista hits 50+ HRs
  • Fielder/Cabrera combine for 95 HRs and 275 RBIs.
  • Justin Upton hits 35 HRs, knocks in 120 runs, wins NL MVP
  • Roy Halladay wins 20 games, Cy Young award
  • Andrew McCutchen goes for 30 HRs, 30 SBs and 90 RBIs.
  • Ryan Braun sucks.
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