Thursday, February 28, 2013

30 Teams in 30 Days: Kansas City Royals

At least Kansas City held the All-Star festivities last year? Mark Trumbo hit some serious dingers during Home Run Derby. The Derby is my favorite part of All-Star Weekend. So much fun to watch as a fan, especially someone like Trumbo who's got some legit power. Love to see Paul Goldschmidt in it this year. Anyway, the Royals have put some effort into fielding a quality pitching staff, bringing in James Shield and Wade Davis from Tampa, retaining a solid Jeremy Guthrie and getting Ervin Santana via trade. Better than 1-4 last year if Santana shows some consistency. Let's take a look at the Royals:

Starting Lineup
LF Alex Gordon
SS Alcides Escobar
1B Eric Hosmer
DH Billy Butler
3B Mike Moustakas
C   Salvidor Perez
RF Jeff Francoeur
CF Lorenzo Cain
2B Chris Getz

This lineup in terms of order can vary differently from what I am projecting, so let's break down the players. Gordon finally has figured it all out and while he's not a leadoff type, he does well there. Escobar finally came through with the bat; his speed makes him perfect at the top of the lineup (I would prefer him 1, Cain 2, Gordon 3). Hosmer must rebound, period. Glad I did not take him last year. Butler finally has added power to his game: he's an all-around elite hitter. Moustakas had an awful second half, if he holds it up, he's a 30 HR guy. He's only 24, so I like what he could do. Perez is the most underrated offensive catcher in the game: the dude flat out hits. I also believe in Frenchy a little: he seems committed to proving to people that trading Wil Myers was worth it. Cain is talented: unfortunately, his injury ruined what could have been a nice season. Getz sucks, but hopefully Johnny Giavotella edges him out. I think this offense might put it all together this year: watch out.

Starting Rotation
SP James Shields
SP Jeremy Guthrie
SP Wade Davis
SP Ervin Santana
SP Bruce Chen

Some have questioned whether Shields is a staff ace. Let me ask you this: is he a top 30 pitcher? Yes. Which = ace. Shields is better in domes, yes, but he goes to a division of pitchers parks from a hitters park division, which is big. I think Guthrie pitches like he did in KC: his track record is closer to that than the last year. Davis should transfer back to the rotation just fine. I am worried about Santana and Chen. I do believe Santana will be out to prove doubters wrong and I will feel better about this rotation when Felipe Paulino comes back: he was fantastic before getting hurt and having TJS. At least there is depth and in terms of performance and injury history, it's better than Cleveland and CWS, which gives them the slight edge.

CL Greg Holland
SU Aaron Crow
SU Tim Collins
SU Kelvin Herrera
SU Luis Coleman
SU Everett Teaford

This bullpen, at least Holland - Herrera are much more talented than you think. Holland will blossom into the next great closer. Crow's a very good set-up man. Collins is short, but he gets you out (93 K's in 69.2 innings) and Herrera was great last year. An underrated pen for sure.

The rotation gives KC the edge over Cleveland and Chicago. I think this team will surprise and push to 85 wins. They won't overtake Detroit, but they'll look to a brighter future.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

30 Teams in 30 Days: Cleveland Indians

Chris Antonetti is second to Alex Anthropoulos for GM of the 2012/13 offseason. Nice job. He stole Michael Bourn away from the Mets to play CF. He got Drew Stubbs, Trevor Bauer, Bryan Shaw and Matt Albers for 1 year of Shin-Soo Choo, Tony Sipp and two back-up INFs. Not bad. Oh yeah, and he signed Nick Swisher, Brett Myers and Mark Reynolds. Yeah, that's a solid offseason. So, let's get right to the Indians....

Starting Lineup
CF Michael Bourn
SS Asdrubal Cabrera
2B Jason Kipnis
C   Carlos Santana
1B Nick Swisher
DH Mark Reynolds
LF Michael Brantley
3B Lonnie Chisenhall
RF Drew Stubbs

I'll be honest: I think this lineup can do some serious damage. Bourn will steal 40 bases and provide some great defense. This outfield can be arguably the best defensively in the league. Cabrera, Santana and Swish are all switch hitters who work the count and take walks. If there is a concern about this lineup, its that they will strike out a ton. Michael Brantley will probably be the only hitter who does not strikeout 100 times this year: he actually had more BB's than K's last year. Not to mention, he's one of the more underrated players in the league. I also believe that Kipnis and Chisenhall can break out this year (keep an eye on Chisenhall at third). Stubbs' K rate hurts his value, but he's a serious 30/30 threat if he gets it all together. Not to mention, Rule 5 draftee Chris McGuiness and Mike Aviles are good hitters too: Aviles can be a daily super-sub. An underrated lineup for sure.

Starting Rotation
SP Justin Masterson
SP Ubaldo Jimenez
SP Brett Myers
SP Zach McAllister
SP Carlos Carrasco

But, Justin, where's Trevor Bauer? I'm glad you asked. We'll get to him. This rotation's success depends on Masterson's return to 2011 form. He says he's corrected the flaw which plagued his 2012 season; he's talented enough to pitch like his 2011 form and I think he can get back to a mid 3's ERA. Ubaldo is a lost cause. He is also one of these guys who can suddenly put it all together, too. If he can cut his ERA to around 4.00, the Indians will probably be ecstatic. I love the Myers signing: he's a solid veteran at an affordable price. McAllister looks like he might have put it all together to be a solid #4 starter (nice job, there Brian Cashman. Austin Kearns was really worth it!). Now, on to Bauer. I think it'll be wise to start him in AAA. It won't hurt, and he was bad in the majors last year. Give Carrasco a chance to succeed and then bring Bauer up if he stinks. This rotation worries me production wise, but if they put it together, watch out.

CL Chris Perez
SU Vinnie Pestano
SU Matt Albers
SU Bryan Shaw
SU Joe Smith
SU Blake Wood

On names, this isn't inspiring, but let's look deeper. Perez can be inconsistent some times, but he usually gets it done. Pestano is one of the best set-up men in the bigs. Albers put together a really good year last year and Shaw has emerged as a solid set-up man. Smith and Wood have also been solid relievers, too. Perez might be the weakest member here, which lowers the Indians projections.

I think this team can really surprise, since the lineup's depth can mask some of the starting pitching problems. I am tentatively putting them 3rd, around 84 wins, but if they surprise and break out, I'm referencing this post as proof that I thought they could. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

30 Teams in 30 Days: Chicago White Sox

Let me be clear before I do this preview: I had a really tough time deciding who will finish 2-4 in the AL Central. I believe the difference between these teams (Chicago, Cleveland and KC) will be minimal in terms of W-L; around 5 games or so. I don't believe any of these teams will make the playoffs, so it's more of who will finish better than last year. Anyway, shout-outs to contributors Joe Longley and Donny Finkle for the help. With that, we look at the President's favorite team: the White Sox. The Sox have been a part of the new managerial craze: former players with no managerial experience, via former Sock Robin Ventura. The White Sox did better than expected last year and kept most of the team intact: only dropping AJ Pierzynski and Kevin Youkilis for Tyler Flowers and Jeff Keppinger. Let's take a look:

Starting Lineup
CF Alejandro De Aza
2B Jeff Keppinger
1B Paul Konerko
DH Adam Dunn
RF Alex Rios
LF Dayan Viciedo
SS Alexei Ramirez
C   Tyler Flowers
2B Gordon Beckham

ESPN has De Aza ranked incredibly high for what he is - a one year wonder. Don't believe it until he does it again. Defensively, yes, he's capable, but offensively, don't buy it yet. Keppinger is solid in the 2 hole: he's an underrated hitter and a great signing by the Sox. 3-5 should not be any worries. Konerko can still get it done and is very close to 450 HR's career-wise (hopefully he hangs around for 500). Dunn hits HRs, gets on base, strikes out. Rios has settled back to form for the Sox, he's solid too. Viciedo can be the X Factor. He's talented but his BB/K rate is awful: only hurts his average and OBP. I don't like the bottom of the lineup too much right now. Ramirez has declined each of the last 3 years. Flowers needs to step it up and prove himself as the top prospect he was and Beckham's awful. Just awful. But, 1-6 is capable of getting it done.

Starting Rotation
SP Chris Sale
SP Jake Peavy
SP John Danks
SP Gavin Floyd
SP Jose Quintana

This is my biggest worry about this team: the rotation. The White Sox have a terrible farm system, one of the bottom 5 in the league, which means if someone goes down, they're screwed. What might also hurt? Corrections for Sale and Quintana, i.e. they're worse than last year. I think Sale's talent is too good to produce a down year. He should be better after a full season starting. Peavy was great in a season healthy and productive, but his track record prevents me from expecting another healthy season. Danks went down last year and Floyd did not produce a ton of innings. Quintana's a flash in the pan as far as I'm concerned. I'm worried here because a team can't escape poor SPs (see the Rockies).

CL Addison Reed
SU Matt Thornton
SU Jesse Crain
SU Matt Lindstrom
SU Dylan Axelrod
SU Nate Jones

Here I feel a little better. I think Reed takes a step towards being a dominant closer. He struggled at home (odd) and after the AS break. I think he shaves almost 2 runs off his ERA, being around 3. Lindstrom was a fantastic signing: he's really underrated. Thornton can close: he's a solid 8th inning man. Crain has been fantastic in Chicago: a 2.54 ERA in Chicago and the best K rates of his career. Axelrod and Jones add young arms. Pretty solid depth here, which helps.

I'm predicting 4th. Like I said, it's going to be very close between these 2-4 teams. Not a horrible 4th, more of a 78-80 win 4th. This division should be fun to watch.

Monday, February 25, 2013

30 Teams in 30 Days: Detroit Tigers

I'm still trying to figure out how I want to place teams 2-4 in the AL Central, so I'm gonna do the team which I will almost guarantee will win the AL Central to make my life a bit easier for today. I've had a busy last 4 days, so I took the night off. Anyway, tmi. So, the Detroit Tigers made the playoffs again by adding some guy named Prince Fielder in the off-season and Anibal Sanchez during it. They have some guy who's also named Justin who pitches for them...he's somewhat okay from what I hear. Not to mention they're ADDING a bat they didn't acquire in Victor Martinez. This team should be fun to watch. Let's take a look at Detroit Rock City....

Starting Lineup
CF Austin Jackson
RF Torii Hunter
3B Miguel Cabrera
1B Prince Fielder
DH Victor Martinez
SS Jhonny Peralta
LF Andy Dirks
C   Alex Avila
2B Omar Infante

Infante's batting last. And he's no scrub. He's got a solid bat: he could bat 2nd too. There's a lot to like here. Jackson improved his BB/K rate, which helped not only his average, which will help his SBs but his power. Torii Hunter is still a productive player, especially between Jackson & Cabrera. No worries with Cabrera and Fielder. Martinez comes back from a torn ACL and he looks good according to reports. Peralta should be better surrounded by V-Mart and Dirks. I believe Dirks wins the LF job for now. Avila needs to bounce back a little. This lineup is stacked with a good bench, too. No worries here.

Starting Rotation
SP Justin Verlander
SP Doug Fister
SP Anibal Sanchez
SP Max Scherzer
SP Rick Porcello

That Verlander guy's pretty good. I like the Sanchez/Infante trade: Sanchez is a very good #3 starter. I think Fister would be great between Verlander and Sanchez: he's a vastly different pitcher. Scherzer found some consistency in the second half with a 2.69 ERA and as always, lots of K's. I wouldn't be surprised if Drew Smyly wins the #5 job: he's a lefty and probably more talented than Porcello. I saw a trade proposal by writers/bloggers: Rick Porcello for Jim Johnson of Baltimore. I think that's a fantastic idea, and with that, we go to the bullpen.

CL Bruce Rondon
SU Al Alburquerque
SU Joaquin Benoit
SU Phil Coke
SU Octavio Dotel
SU Brayan Villarreal

So, if you're not familiar with Bruce Rondon, I'm here to help. He's a top relief prospect: he throws HARD. I mean 100 MPH AVG. fastball. The problem? He's barely pitched at AA, which brings me to the Porcello/Johnson trade. Jim Johnson saved 51 games for Baltimore, who needs starting pitching. I would rather go with Octavio Dotel or really anyone in the pen over Rondon. They're all capable of closing. Dotel's got over 100 saves to his career. The bullpen is good, so hopefully Manager Jim Leyland goes with a veteran.

This team is clearly the best in the AL Central. There's weak spots in each part, but small enough where other teams cannot catch up. Your AL Central winners, folks.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Granderson Out 10 Weeks

Reports from the Yankees beat writers indicate that LF Curtis Granderson will be out for 10 weeks after fracturing his arm. He was hit by a pitch from JA Happ of the Blue Jays in his first at-bat of the Spring. Huge blow. Huge. I really do not know how the Yankees will play this one out. You have to think that they'll explore some trade options from teams with plenty of OF depth as the internal options are murky at best. I would not be surprised if internal options Ronnie Mustelier, Zolio Almonte and Melky Mesa get a hard look. This hurts, bad.

30 Teams in 30 Days: Minnesota Twins

So far on 30 Teams in 30 Days, we have examined the whole NL and the AL West. You can scroll up and down the posts list on the side to see any of those 20 teams, so we are getting close to the finish line. Today we begin the AL Central and the Target Field Twins. The Twins were involved in two trades, removing two OF starters in Denard Span and Ben Revere for pitching help in Vance Worley, Alex Meyer and Trevor May; at least GM Terry Ryan got a nice return for them. So, the Twins finished last, and I am expecting such a finish again, though I think they'll break 70 wins this year. Let's take a look....

Starting Lineup
CF Darin Mastroianni
2B Jamey Carroll
C   Joe Mauer
1B Justin Morneau
LF Josh Willingham
DH Ryan Doumit
3B Trevor Plouffe
RF Chris Parmelee
SS Pedro Florimon

This lineup isn't as bad as most fifth place teams, so let's break it down. Mastroianni is very much in the mold of Span and Revere: he's great defensively and really fast. In part time, Mastroianni stole over 20 bases last year. He's probably just a place holder for Aaron Hicks, yes, but he's a sleeper for 40 SB's. Carroll is Carroll: an all contact, no power, all grit. Now, 3-6 can be very good. Mauer's healthy and put up a nice season last year. Morneau, even more so, is finally healthy and in a contract year. Would it surprise me if Parmelee just replaces him in 2014? No, not at all, but pressure's on to produce. The Willinghammer had a career high in games played and HR's and RBI: he's undervalued in fantasy. I like Doumit a lot: check out my piece on him here - Plouffe had surprising power, but be careful with him and Parmelee producing. Florimon's just a body to fill the spot. I think this lineup can surprise, but be careful - tread lightly.

Starting Rotation
SP Vance Worley
SP Scott Diamond
SP Kevin Correia
SP Mike Pelfrey
SP Kyle Gibson

Last year's rotation was god awful. A-w-f-u-l. It's a little better, but at least young talent is on the way. The Vanimal (Worley) will probably start opening day. He's only 25 and has 2 years under his belt. He'll be even better in Minnesota. Diamond was a nice surprise but his K rate has me skeptical of long-term success. Correia and Pelfrey are veteran bodies. Pelf did well before getting hurt and Correia should be alright for eating innings. I think Gibson has a nice shot of making the rotation: he was their top prospect before Tommy John surgery. He's healthy and a better option than the rest. Better, but not quite there.

CL Glen Perkins
SU Jared Burton
SU Alex Burnett
SU Brian Duensing
SU Casey Fien

Perkins really turned his career around. A bust as a starter, he moved to the pen and established himself as a quality closer. He and Jared Burton are a very underrated 8-9th inning duo. The rest leave a little to be desired. Burnett doesn't strike out anybody and Fien is a candidate to not repeat last year's success. Duensing belongs in the pen. The other spots are up for grabs in my view. Not a great pen, but Perkins and Burton help a lot.

Sorry Twins fans, it's 5th place again. The team is not as bad as it was but Terry Ryan needs 2 more years to fix it. Around 70-72 wins, here.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

2013 NBA Trade deadline winners and losers from each trade

Hey guys, haven't been able to post in a while. I figured I would share my opinion on all of the underwhelming trades that went down Wednesday night and concluded Thursday at 3 P.M. It was not a deadline to be remembered, that is for sure. But lots of young players were traded that a lot of us don't know too much about so it will be interesting to revisit this trade deadline in a few years and really see who came out on top. Let's jump right in.

Phoenix Suns acquire:  Marcus Morris
Houston Rockets acquire: 2nd round pick

In the first deal to be completed this week late Wednesday night (said to be part of a 3 team deal, but later specified as 2 team deal), the Suns added 2011-12' lottery pick Marcus Morris from the Rockets for a mere 2nd round pick. The Suns win this deal for many reasons. First, they give up a 2nd round pick and acquired a 23 youngster who was drafted in the lottery 2 seasons ago. Second, Morris is an improving stretch 4 that Phoenix could use and comes with an inexpensive contract. Third, Markieff Morris, 2011-12' lottery pick, is reunited with his brother, Marcus, on the same team since they both played basketball at the University of Kansas. Both are still young and full of potential, so maybe reuniting the brothers helps both play a lot better. Not sure if they got Marcus just so Markieff would be happy, but both 2nd year players have a ton of good basketball left. And at the price they got Marcus, it is a steal even if Morris doesn't develop.

Houston Rockets acquire: Thomas Robinson, Francisco Garcia and Tyler Honeycutt
Sacramento Kings acquire: Patrick Patterson, Cole Aldrich and Toney Douglas

I think both sides acquired nice players that fit each system better, but the fact that the Kings traded away (read gave up on) Robinson, the 5th overall pick in this years draft is repulsive. He was drafted that high for an extreme motor and ability to dominate the boards. Despite playing worse than you'd expect from the 5th overall pick, Robinson had not been getting much playing time. With Houston, I expect his minutes and production to go up given that Houston's only great big is Omer Asik, a center. Patrick Patterson is not a terrible return but it is evident that Robinson has immense potential whereas Patterson does not. The other two, Aldrich and Douglas, are so so players still trying to find their niche. Aldrich, when on, is an excellent defender and shot blocker. Douglas has potential to be a good scorer on offense but lacks good defensive instincts. Garcia is a solid role player Houston could use as he provides solid defense and he can guard 3 positions. Honeycutt is a project, with no real potential so he acts as a throw in/extra body. Overall, if I'm Houston, I feel good having landed a top 5 pick rookie for players who were expendable to my team. Sacramento should feel  bad they gave up on a player they really didn't give a chance to and really did not net much in return.

Memphis Grizzlies acquire: Dexter Pittman and 2nd round pick
Miami Heat Acquire: Rights to Ricky Sanchez

The Heat, who have wanted to open up a roster spot for a while, give away Pittman, someone they didn't need, and a 2nd rounder for a guy they will likely never see play in the NBA. Pittman never played in Miami and likely won't see much time in Memphis either as he really isn't a great NBA player. He is undersized for his position and needs some conditioning work. Sanchez, selected in the 2nd round of the 2005 NBA draft, has not been to the NBA yet and many people around the NBA noted that Sanchez has no intention on coming to the NBA anytime soon. He is only 25, so there is still time but a lot of people sound certain that he will never come to the NBA. His rights have been traded 4 times already and this is a roster dump trade where the Grizzlies net a 2nd rounder and take Pittman off the Heat's hands. There isn't really a winner here, but I expect the Heat to sign someone who will be better value than Pittman and help them try and win back to back NBA titles. So I guess we will give this one to the Heat. And if Sanchez does somehow end up playing in NBA and for Heat, this deal is a steal.

Toronto Raptors acquire: Sebastian Telfair
Phoenix Suns acquire: Hamed Haddadi and a 2nd round pick

Another trade without any real importance behind it. The Raptors wanted another pg to play behind Kyle Lowry after dealing Jose Calderon to the Pistons in the deal that netted them Rudy Gay. The Suns didn't want Telfair and so they add Haddadi, big man with no real impact and a 2nd rounder. Kind of a boring deal but since Toronto netted an OK point guard that they needed, they win by default. The deal opens up more playing time for Kendall Marshall, but not much since he plays behind Starter Goran Dragic.

Golden State Warriors acquire: future draft considerations from Hawks and Sixers
Philadelphia 76ers acquire: Charles Jenkins
Atlanta Hawks acquire: Jeremy Tyler

These were two separate deals executed by the Warriors that I decided to bunch into one because the Warriors agreed to both these trades to dump salary because at the time they were over the luxury tax. By dealing both Jenkins and Tyler (both 2nd year players with minimal upside), Golden State was able to get under the luxury tax and save themselves more money. The future draft considerations will likely be 2nd round picks. I don't see Tyler becoming an impact player but Jenkins has slightly more potential and could be a useful backup to Jrue Holiday in Philly. No losers, everyone wins.

Dallas Mavericks acquire: Anthony Morrow
Atlanta Hawks acquire: Dahntay Jones

Atlanta gets a solid player in Jones, who can play good defense and is an overall team guy. Dallas gets Morrow, who Atlanta had signed as a free agent this summer, who is a terrific perimeter shooter. Morrow is 4 years younger (27 vs 31) and his shooting ability is a commodity they wanted to add. Atlanta saves money by completing this trade and Dallas adds a win or two as Morrow should be a much more efficient offensive player than what Jones was. Both teams win.

Charlotte Bobcats acquire: Josh McRoberts
Orlando Magic acquire: Hakim Warrick

These trades are starting to get ugly. But they get a little better towards the end. Of the two, I'm taking McRoberts, who is younger and more effective. McRoberts costs more, which saves Orlando money but adding McRoberts over Warrick makes Charlotte a slightly better team. His rebounding and shot blocking are great assets and he'll play well next to Byron Mullens and Biyambo. Warrick, I believe, was already released by Orlando. Orlando saves money, Charlotte gets slightly better. Both win.

Oklahoma City Thunder acquire: Ronnie Brewer
New York Knicks acquire: 2nd round pick

The Knicks clear up a roster spot, save some money and add a 2nd rounder. The Thunder add a veteran defender who is good at his job. Brewer can score some but is primarily used for his defense. Good addition to a Thunder team aspiring to be champions this year. Knicks save money and used the roster spot on Kenyon Martin. Thunder win slightly as the Brewer addition could be bigger than most expect.

Oklahoma City Thunder acquire: $2.2 million trade exception and rights to Georgios Printezis
Portland Trailblazers acquire: Eric Maynor

The Blazers add Maynor, a player a lot of teams coveted due to his IQ, defense and ability to shoot the basketball. I love Maynor as well, he is a solid player. He was stuck behind Westbrook in OKC and will again be stuck behind a better pg in Damian Lillard in POR. It is still a good addition no doubt. The Thunder save money and get the trade exception which they can use at any time to make any deal easier. Georgios Printezis has seen his rights traded 4 times already and he is not likely to join the Thunder any time soon. I really like the addition of Maynor and thought the Thunder could still keep Maynor even after acquiring Brewer. They decided to let him go and it will be the Blazers who benefit most from this trade. Blazers win.

Boston Celtics acquire: Jordan Crawford
Washington Wizards acquire: Leandro Barbosa and Jason Collins

The Wizards dump Crawford, who didn't get along with the coaching staff or management, and the Celtics add another scorer to their already crowded backcourt. Washington rids themselves of a player who didn't want to be there while saving themselves money. Boston adds a young guard who can shoot and pass but they do so at no expense since Barbosa is out for the year with an ACL tear and Collins was barely used anyway. Crawford will share the backcourt with Avery Bradley, Courtney Lee and Jason Terry. Terry and Lee have been underwhelming so far this season so perhaps a minor shakeup is what the Celtics need. Washington likely won't keep either Collins or Barbosa after this season. They simply save cash and rid themselves of a troubling player. Boston wins.

Milwaukee Bucks acquire: JJ Redick, Gustavo Ayon and Ish Smith
Orlando Magic acquire: Tobias Harris, Beno Udrih and Doron Lamb

I like this trade for both sides. Milwaukee wanted more shooting and they got it in Redick. He will be a valuable player off the bench and by adding Ayon, an underrated big man, they also add needed size. Ish Smith is an ok point guard and will not threaten Brandon Jennings at the point. Orlando continues to build for the future, adding both Lamb and Harris. Udrih is a veteran pg and will likely get some minutes behind Jameer Nelson. Lamb is a sg and rookie out of Kentucky, where he won a national title. Lamb is a supreme shooter and should have a long career as a great perimeter sharpshooter. He has great size for his position, is just 21 and should provide some solid D as well. Harris, the 19th overall selection in the 2011-12' draft, could end up easily being the best player in this deal and was a real get for Orlando. The 2nd year player out of Tennessee is a mix between a SF and PF but will likely turn into a very good scoring SF. Harris can shoot well from 3, the free throw line, midrange. He is a solid rebounder at 6'8" and a solid athlete. He is the player to watch from this deal going forward. The Magic weren't going to keep Redick so landing Lamb and Harris for him was awesome. Magic win.

Comment below and let me know what you think.
And follow me on twitter @jaym12391

30 Teams in 30 Days: Oakland Athletics

Billy Beane confuses me. A lot. He was drafted by the Mets in 1980 in the first round, as an OF. The other two OF drafted by the Mets in the first round that year? Darryl Strawberry (he turned out alright) and John Gibbons. Well, at least Beane and Gibbons have had good careers managing rosters. As a GM, he confused me even more this offseason. He trades for OF Chris Young by giving Arizona Cliff Pennington. Fine, but the A's already have 3 established OF in Cespedes, Crisp and Reddick. They had a nice 1B platoon in Moss/Carter and now are going with Moss full time, likely. Carter was traded for Jed Lowrie, who may or may not start somewhere. He also traded for C/DH John Jaso. He kept the pitching intact, allowing Brandon McCarthy to leave. Let's take a look:

Starting Lineup
CF Coco Crisp
3B Jed Lowrie
RF Josh Reddick
LF Yoenis Cespedes
1B Brandon Moss
DH Chris Young
C    John Jaso
2B Grant Green
SS Hiroyuki Nakajima

I'm getting a little creative here, so let's break this down. This lineup can also change DRASTICALLY day-to-day. The outfield is probably not changing: Crisp is the clear and best option to lead off, Reddick established himself as a power threat and plays a Gold Glove RF and Cespedes looks like he's going to be worth the contract. Moss is likely the 1B/5 hitter daily. Young should probably get into the lineup, mostly at DH, likely. Lowrie is a better player than Josh Donaldson at third, and I can also see Lowrie playing second base and Donaldson at third. I like Grant Green because he can flat out hit: he's one of these 'doesn't have a position' guys. Jaso is a better hitter than Norris but Norris looks like he can develop. Nakajima is an unknown: he can be like Ichiro or Kaz Matsui. Ugh. Not to mention, Daric Barton, Seth Smith, Scott Sizemore, Jemile Weeks, Adam Rosales and prospect Michael Choice in the OF are looking for time. I'm just glad I'm not Bob Melvin.

Starting Rotation
SP Brett Anderson
SP Jarrod Parker
SP Tommy Milone
SP AJ Griffin
SP Dan Straily

So Bartolo Colon will likely take a rotation spot once he's off the restricted list, probably Straily, but this rotation is talented. Really talented. Brett Anderson's finally healthy, but label me skeptical that he'll make it through the year. Parker and Milone were very good last year. Griffin was fantastic in 15 starts and Straily came out of nowhere (he was a 24th round pick!) and is a strikeout machine. I love this rotation.

CL Grant Balfour
SU Ryan Cook
SU Jerry Blevins
LR Travis Blackley
SU Jordan Noberto
SU Sean Doolittle
SU Pat Neshek

Oh, and not to mention, Chris Resop and Evan Scribner, also likely bullpen candidates. Not big on names outside of Balfour and Neshek, but they're productive. Cook has future closer label all over him and made the All-Star team. Loaded, and with depth.

I love the depth Billy Beane assembled for this team, which is why I give them the AL West. The rotation and bullpen are very talented and the lineup at least offers a ton of options. This team can be scary good.

Friday, February 22, 2013

30 Teams in 30 Days: Los Angeles Angels

Of Anaheim of Orange County of California of the United States of America of North America of Western Hemisphere of Earth of the Galaxy. Long name. Well, Jerry DiPoto struck his magic (hopefully) as General Manager. He did make a splash again: signing Josh Hamilton, Ryan Madson, Joe Blanton, Sean Burnett and trading for Jason Vargas and Tommy Hanson. Gone are Dan Haren, Jordan Walden, Kendrys Morales and Torii Hunter. DiPoto's making his mark on this team's roster, now after two tumultuous off-seasons, it's time to see if it all blends together or gets stuck in the rocks in left field. Let's see:

Starting Lineup
LF Mike Trout
SS Erick Aybar
1B Albert Pujols
RF Josh Hamilton
DH Mark Trumbo
2B Howie Kendrick
3B Alberto Callaspo
C   Chris Iannetta
CF Peter Bourjos

Good god, that's a scary defensive outfield. Oh, and offensively. Trout is not human. He's a machine. Aybar gets the nod in the 2 hole because he's a switch hitter, though Kendrick is a better fit there. The addition of Hamilton should only make Pujols even scarier. I love moving Trumbo to DH because, well, he's not a good fielder. The Angels will win 5 more games just having Bourjos and Hamilton playing every game. Callaspo is a better hitter than given credit for and he never strikes out. Iannetta should hopefully settle in and not get hurt this year. No more Hank Conger than needed, please. It stunk seeing Bourjos get benched because he's no slouch with the bat: he hit .271 with 12 HRs in 2011 for basically a speed guy. He needs to be a better, more prolific base stealer, though. This lineup is scary good IF they stay healthy (Iannetta, Hamilton) and productive (Trumbo).

Starting Rotation
SP Jered Weaver
SP CJ Wilson
SP Jason Vargas
SP Tommy Hanson
SP Joe Blanton

Here's where I have an issue. Nobody is doubting Weaver and most people should not be worried about Wilson's poor second half. It's the rest. Vargas has been solid as a starter in Seattle but his home/away differential is substantial (2.74 to 4.78) - is he a product of SAFECO? Surely having Trout/Bourjos/Hamilton running down baseballs helps, but label me skeptical. Hanson can't pitch into games: be barely got into the 6th inning last year. The Tappan Zee Bridge is in better shape than his shoulder. Joe Blanton last had an ERA under 4 when I was in high school: I'm about to graduate college. Why not just try Garrett Richards and Brad Mills? They're young, cheaper and Morales/Walden could have brought a bigger package back. I'm worried. There is talent, but it can go bad quickly.

CL Ryan Madson
SU Ernesto Frieri
SU Sean Burnett
SU Scott Downs
SU Kevin Jepsen
LR Garrett Richards

So Madson is coming off of Tommy John surgery, but he's a proven commodity as any. I'm not sure if he'll be ready by Opening Day, but at least Frieri can close (what a steal he was by DiPoto). Like the Burnett signing to pair him with Downs. The other 2-3 spots can be up for grabs but Jepsen and Richards look likely, and maybe Jerome Williams too. As awful as this pen has been in recent history, DiPoto has made it over well.

I'm worried about the rotation. But, something tells me the pen and the lineup can mask it. I still like Oakland more but I'm pretty sure DiPoto is a ninja and he'll find someone to fix it. Otherwise, Manager Mike Scioscia is out, but I wouldn't be worried. I'm saying 2nd place and possibly a Wild Card birth.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

30 Teams in 30 Days: Texas Rangers

Does every team in Texas have to have some kind of "outlaw" related team name? Rangers, Cowboys...I'm sure the list can go on. The Rangers got booted from the playoffs in a very disappointing fashion by getting knocked out in the one game Wild Card play-in. Fun to watch as a fan from other teams, but as a fan of a team in that position, nerve-wracking. Nonetheless, there have been a few changes in the roster this year. Josh Hamilton is gone and either Leonys Martin or Craig Gentry are in CF. AJ Pierzynski is in at catcher and Lance Berkman at DH. Uberprospects Martin, Mike Olt and Jurickson Profar are ready for prime-time roles. The pitching staff has its work cut out for them. Let's take a look at the Rangers....

Starting Lineup
2B Ian Kinsler
SS Elvis Andrus
DH Lance Berkman
3B Adrian Beltre
RF Nelson Cruz
LF David Murphy
C   AJ Pierzynski
1B Mitch Moreland
CF Leonys Martin

I get Manager Ron Washington's point to lead off with Kinsler, as he's an on-base machine and can steal bases, but he's a perfect #2 and Andrus' skill set makes him a leadoff hitter. Andrus is fast, doesn't hit for power and steals bases. I would flip them, but he's the manager for a reason. I say Berkman gets the 3 hole because of his reputation and even in his late 30s, he's just a better hitter than Murphy. Beltre and Cruz take 4-5 and should lead the team in HR's. I'm a big Murphy fan, more than others - he's a solid, all-around player who is finally the undisputed LF. The Red Sox really screwed that deal up, huh? (Murphy & Kason Gabbard for Eric Gagne - Texas got that one, right?). Pierzynski should be fine in the 7 hole. I personally don't like Moreland, but hopefully Olt replaces him soon. I had Martin as a fantasy sleeper, so I put him in the lineup or Gentry, but don't be surprised if Gentry starts. I see this offense having a down year while they figure out how to replace Hamilton.

Starting Rotation
SP Yu Darvish
SP Matt Harrison
SP Derek Holland
SP Alexi Ogando
SP Martin Perez

The Rangers gave Harrison a long term deal - he, Holland and Darvish are locked up for years. Holland was really disappointing last year, probably due to his awful mustache. Harrison might get the opening day to split Darvish between the lefties. Ogando is back in the rotation, as is top prospect Martin Perez. I'm interested to see what happens when Colby Lewis gets back and what they do with Neftali Feliz in 2014. I feel like the Rangers have no plan with these young guys. Who's starting and who's staying in the pen? Make a decision! I'm not too sure what to expect out of this rotation. Tread lightly.

CL Joe Nathan
SU Jason Frasor
SU Josh Lindblom
SU Tanner Scheppers
SU Michael Kirkman
SU Robbie Ross

I did not include Joakim Soria as he won't be back until the summer time. I would not also be surprised if  Kyle McClellan makes the team or Evan Meek. I like who they brought in as non-roster invitees. I also love the Frasor signing - they got him dirt cheap ($1.5 million). I do not love the relative inexperience of the rest of the bullpen. Lindblom, Scheppers, Kirkman and Ross have less than 3, and mostly 1 full MLB season under their belt. It's risky, which is why I have the Rangers in a disappointing season.

3rd place. Hard to believe, I know. This team has a lot of question marks and big injury histories. It won't be a distant 3rd, as I believe 1-3 in the AL West will be within 5 games of each other.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

30 Teams in 30 Days: Seattle Mariners

I'll give Jack Z some credit: he's trying to help the offense. The fences are moving in as well. Seattle's top prospects are extremely close to the majors: Nick Franklin, Danny Hultzen with James Paxton, Taijuan Walker and Mike Zunino close behind. They got Joe Saunders on an affordable one year deal: he's a solid mid-rotation starter. "The Bartender" Tom Wilhelmsen did really well in the closer's role. Oh, and they give some guy named Felix a lot of money. So, let's see how the Seattle Mariners look for 2013:

Starting Lineup
2B Dustin Ackley
CF Franklin Gutierrez
DH Kendrys Morales
LF Michael Morse
3B Kyle Seager
C   Jesus Montero
RF Michael Saunders
1B Justin Smoak
SS Brendan Ryan

On names, not too bad. The positives: they got Morales and Morse relatively cheap. There's a potential for 60 home runs combined and they both hit for average. Kyle Seager had a really nice year and is a big RBI guy. I think Saunders and Ackley can still develop into consistent 20/20 guys. And the bench has veterans in Jason Bay and Raul Ibanez. The negatives: this lineup could be great or really suck. This lineup will strike out A LOT. Gutierrez stinks. Seriously, give up on him, Seattle. He'll only get hurt in May again anyway. Smoak has been a bust but Manager Eric Wedge is giving him another go. Really nice power potential here but sacrifices on base percentage and lots of K's.

Starting Rotation
SP Felix Hernandez
SP Hisashi Iwakuma
SP Joe Saunders
SP Blake Beavan
SP Erasmo Ramirez

Positives: There's a reason why he's named King Felix. Iwakuma pitched better as a starter (2.65 ERA vs. 4.75 out of the pen). Saunders is Saunders. He'll pitch to a 4 ERA and eat innings. Ramirez is only 22 and has upside. They also have arguably the best trio of pitching prospects in Walker, Hultzen and Paxton. Negatives? Beavan and Hector Noesi were awful. I can strike out more batters than Beavan. Ramirez and Iwakuma can blow up in their face. I predict Hultzen will get the call by about June to replace the awfulness that is Beavan/Noesi. Positive upsides here, though.

CL Tom Wilhelmsen
SU Stephen Pryor
SU Charlie Furbush
SU Ollie Perez
SU Carter Capps
SU Lucas Luetge

The Bartender, as he's called, converted 29 of 35 opportunities, as well as averaged more than a K per inning. What a comeback for a guy who was out of baseball for years. Pryor and Luetge are young and can strike out batters, but Capps is extremely gifted. He averaged the high MPH on his fastball in the league: 99 MPH. Wowzers. Furbush and Perez, converted starters, did really well last year. You definitely do not know this bullpen by name but by production? One of the best in the league.

I'm predicting fourth place. The other teams are just better right now. I like this team's potential a lot, I really do. It just needs 2 more starters, hopefully out of their prospects, to push this team forward.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

30 Teams in 30 Days: Houston Astros

Yikes. That will describe this season for the 'Stros - yikes. In a strange side note, I have noticed that Wikipedia has been putting the bullpen catcher under the coaching staff. Really? As much as that's a great position - making $, travelling with the team but not having to play - is that necessary? Anyway, so the Astros have a new Manager in Bo Porter and a totally revamped roster. Revamped as in nobody recognizable outside of clear face of the franchise Jose Altuve. At least you can measure things in Altuves: Let's take a look....

Starting Lineup
2B Jose Altuve
RF Fernando Martinez
LF JD Martinez
DH Carlos Pena
1B Brett Wallace
CF Justin Maxwell
C   Jason Castro
3B Matt Dominguez
SS Tyler Greene

Yikes again. Altuve's good, at least. This is going to be a rough lineup. The Martinezes are full of 'untapped potential.' I like what JD can do - he really disappointed, though. Pena's just simply a holdover until Jonathan Singleton is ready - I predict he'll be just as awful as last year. Wallace will be given another shot to succeed. Maxwell could be pushed by Rick Ankiel but ultimately just a placeover until George Springer's ready. The bottom of the lineup could be a bit of a surprise, if Castro and Dominguez come through. I like Chris Carter as a 1B/DH against lefties. Stay away from this lineup outside of Altuve....please.

Starting Rotation
SP Lucas Harrell
SP Bud Norris
SP Erik Bedard
SP Jordan Lyles
SP Phil Humber

Lucas Harrell put together a really nice season last year. He's a bright spot. Norris and Bedard have strikeout type stuff but Norris had an inconsistent season and Bedard's never healthy. Lyles and Humber, outside of his perfecto, stunk. At least there is depth: prospect Jarred Cosart, John Ely, Dallas Kuechel, Brad Peacock and Alex White. I'm betting on Ely being a surprise to make the rotation. Stay away from this rotation outside of Harrell....please.

CL Jose Veras
SU Wesley Wright
SU Rhiner Cruz
SU Josh Fields
SU Xavier Cedeno

Yikes thrice. Veras has never closed permanently. Wright had a nice year and I like what Fields can do as a Rule 5 pick - he might be closing relatively soon. Stay away from this bullpen...please.

Rougher than sandpaper. That'll describe this team. I'd take the Yankees AAA team over this....and I think most people would. Easily 100 losses. Return your season tickets, Astros fans. Save yourself the misery.

Monday, February 18, 2013

30 Teams in 30 Days: Los Angeles Dodgers

Money, money, money, money....I'm thinking the Dodgers borrowed the theme song to The Apprentice considering how much money they are spending lately. Literally GM Ned Colletti probably has nearly unlimited money to spend. The Dodgers acquired many pieces last season: HanRam, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Brandon League..though League is awful. Now, in Don Mattingly's last year under contract, he is tasked with making this all work. The Dodgers have a ton of position players, pitchers, all of which need to find their roles. So, let's take a look at the Dodgers..

Starting Lineup
LF Carl Crawford
2B Mark Ellis
CF Matt Kemp
1B Adrian Gonzalez
SS Hanley Ramirez
RF Andre Ethier
3B Luis Cruz
C   AJ Ellis

The question is who is going to lead off. Ellis led off 31 games last season, and hit over .300 when leading off an inning. Yet, Ellis just is not a leadoff type. Crawford should lead off and hopefully return to some form. Kemp - Ethier should be one of the best 3-6 lineups in the league, particularly with moving Ethier down as he gets older. Cruz and Ellis are tough to predict because they're journeymen with one good, albeit really solid, seasons. Cruz has to watch out because the Dodgers have other options: Dee Gordon, Skip Schumaker or if you really want to dig deep, Juan Uribe or Nick Punto. Ellis should watch out for Tim Federowicz who is younger and likely to produce a bit more. It's a matter of this team gelling together, but it's nearly impossible for one of them to not carry the team and be productive.

Starting Rotation
SP Clayton Kershaw
SP Zack Greinke
SP Josh Beckett
SP Hyun-Jin Ryu
SP Chad Billingsley

At least the Dodgers have a ton of rotation depth. We know who are going to be 1-2; they are two of the best in the league. No worries with Kershaw and Greinke. Beckett and Ryu are 3 & 4. Beckett should be more comfortable in the NL West and have a return to form. Ryu's contract earns him the 4 spot. 5 should be held by Billingsley if he is healthy but look at who they can turn to: Chris Capuano, Aaron Harang and Ted Lilly. I'm thinking two of them are going to be traded, but we'll see.

CL Brandon League
SU Kenley Jansen
SU Javy Guerra
SU Ronald Belisario
SU Matt Guerrier
LHS Scott Elbert
SU JP Howell

Think the pen is deep? How about Stephen Fife, Shawn Tolleson, Josh Wall, Kevin Gregg, Mark Lowe and Peter Moylan as depth? Yup. Elbert and Howell are solid lefties. Guerra, Guerrier and Belisario are solid middle relief pitchers. I do not like League (too long to explain) - Jensen's better and hopefully will be closer sooner than later. If one arm doesn't work, just move to another, right?

This Dodgers team has too much depth to not compete. I'm predicting a breakthrough to first place for the LA Dodgers....finally.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

30 Teams in 30 Days: San Francisco Giants

Well, at least one San Francisco team brought home the goods last year. The Giants pulled off quite a run to win their second World Series in 3 years. The 2012 Giants team looked much different than even 2011, adding Angel Pagan, Hunter Pence, Marco Scutaro and George Kontos either during the season or during the offseason. This offseason the Giants thought the best plan was to just keep everything intact: resigning Pagan and Scutaro and letting Brian Wilson and Aubrey Huff go. So, let's take a look and see whether the Giants will repeat as champs:

Starting Lineup
CF Angel Pagan
2B Marco Scutaro
C   Buster Posey
3B Pablo Sandoval
RF Hunter Pence
1B Brandon Belt
LF Gregor Blanco
SS Brandon Crawford

The Giants are relying a lot on Pagan and Scutaro replicating 2012. Pagan stayed healthy (a rarity) and produced a solid season. Scutaro is 37 and got signed to a three year extension: he was a late bloomer to MLB, but a solid vet, but do not expect the same player moving forward. MVP Posey and Sandoval are two of the best in their positions. I expect Pence to bounce back after a sub-par season. Belt should finally settle in at 1B and just go out and play without worrying about demotion or being moved. Blanco and Crawford don't offer much in terms of offense but they can chase down balls: I would not be surprised if Blanco is replaced by prospect Gary Brown relatively soon. This offense has a lot of what-ifs outside of Posey and Sandoval, so be skeptical.

Starting Rotation
SP Matt Cain
SP Madison Baumgarner
SP Tim Lincecum
SP Ryan Vogelsong
SP Barry Zito

At least Zito's contract is up at the end of the year...anyway, Cain and Baumgarner are elite pitchers. No worries with them, and Vogelsong showed his 2011 is not a fluke. I am worried about Lincecum returning to form and Zito replicating his unexpected post season success. Clearly, the Giants plan was to not mess with anything: let's hope it works for three years straight.

CL Sergio Romo
SU Santiago Casilla
SU Jeremy Affeldt
LHS Javier Lopez
SU George Kontos
SU Jose Mijares

Another lock-down bullpen. Romo was fantastic as a closer and Casilla is a great set-up man. Affeldt, Lopez and Mijares are the best group of lefties in the game and trading for Kontos was a great move by GM Brian Sabean (and a crap one by Brian Cashman - really, Cash? Chris Stewart?)

I just have a hard time seeing this team replicate last year. I like the Diamondbacks to push forward because I think they get better and I have the Dodgers winning the division. Sorry Giants fans, its 3rd place this year.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

30 Teams in 30 Days: Arizona Diamondbacks

I'm still wondering why the Diamondbacks don't play their spring training games in their own home stadium, Chase Field. Why not? Same goes to the Marlins and Rays. The Diamondbacks coaching staff would be a great 80s throwback team: Alan Trammell, Kirk Gibson, Don Baylor. They are tasked today with moving a very young but talented D-Backs team forward. Out are star OF Justin Upton, 3B Chris Johnson and SS Stephen Drew. In are SP Brandon McCarthy and lots more. Let's get to the slithering snakes...

Starting Lineup
CF Gerardo Parra
3B Martin Prado
1B Paul Goldschmidt
LF Jason Kubel
C   Miguel Montero
2B Aaron Hill
RF Cody Ross
SS Cliff Pennington

I'm still trying to fathom the Cody Ross signing. It makes no sense, whatsoever. The Diamondbacks were loaded on OF already and have two, not one, two MLB ready OF in Adam Eaton and AJ Pollack. I know Eaton and Pollack aren't power hitters, but Goldschmidt, Kubel, Montero and Hill are good for 100 home runs. Throw in one of them in front of Prado - run making machines. I think Parra gets the call because of his experience since the three skill sets are all essentially the same. I LOVE the Prado acquisition and extension - one of the most underrated players in the league. Goldschmidt is my breakout player of the year. Pennington holds down the fort until Didi Gregorius is ready. I like this lineup (except Pennington - and GM Kevin Towers could have gotten MUCH more for Trevor Bauer). Young and talented.

Starting Pitching
SP Ian Kennedy
SP Brandon McCarthy
SP Trevor Cahill
SP Wade Miley
SP Patrick Corbin

1-4 aren't changing. I don't understand why they went after McCarthy because they are loaded on young starting pitching as well. Nevertheless, Kennedy, the hilarious McCarthy (seriously, follow him on Twitter) and Cahill are solid veterans. Miley nearly won the NL ROY. I'm giving Corbin the 5 spot only due to the Diamondbacks depth chart on their site: Dan Hudson gets his spot back after he gets back during the summer. Randall Delgado and Tyler Skaggs are in the mix as well, but the Diamondbacks are set here, too.

CL JJ Putz
SU David Hernandez
SU Heath Bell
SU Brad Ziegler
LHS Tony Sipp
LR Josh Collmenter
SU Matt Reynolds

This bullpen is solid as well. Putz is a solid closer. Hernandez has been fantastic since coming over from Baltimore. Bell should be a nice reclamation project. Ziegler and Sipp are good middle relievers and Collmenter and Reynolds will hold the middle innings. If Heath Bell gets back on track, this should be a lock down bullpen.

I'm really excited about this Diamondbacks team. It would not surprise me at all if they win the division, but I have them finishing a slight 2nd. A sleeper team - and not just for the Wild Card.

Friday, February 15, 2013

30 Teams in 30 Days: Colorado Rockies

If only this was the 1990s. The Rockies would still have their AA team near my hometown in New Haven, CT. Todd Helton came through, most notably. Ben Petrick had a promising career before injuries came through. Nonetheless, the Rockies have a lot of work that's needed. The humidor theoretically should have helped the pitching staff by keeping balls in the park, but last year's mess might have been the worst pitching staff I've ever seen. They even tried having 4 starters with a few former starters being 'piggy back' relievers who pitched multiple times a week. It's a mess just trying to explain it. Manager Walt Weiss has some work to do. Let's take a look:

Starting Lineup
CF Dexter Fowler
2B Josh Rutledge
LF Carlos Gonzalez
SS Troy Tulowitzki
RF Michael Cuddyer
1B Todd Helton
C   Wilin Rosario
3B Chris Nelson

The Rockies have a talented lineup. Fowler finally put together the season at the plate people expected. Rutledge played well for Tulo. While DJ LeMahieu is talented enough to play second base, Rutledge should end up playing second (and breaks the L/R split). CarGo and Tulo are extremely talented, but Tulo can't stay healthy lately. Cuddyer and Helton are solid vets but Tyler Colvin, in my prediction, will spell one of them full time by the end of the year. Rosario put together a fine rookie season: at 23, he has plenty of great success ahead. Nelson put together a solid 2012 to hold down 3B until Nolan Arenado is up in 2014. This is a talented albeit difficult lineup to consistently stay productive.

Starting Rotation
SP Jhoulys Chacin
SP Jorge de la Rosa
SP Juan Nicasio
SP Jeff Francis
SP Drew Pomeranz

Yikes. The Rockies' rotation had an ERA over 5 last year. A mess, indeed. There are positives: Chacin and Nicasio will be around for full seasons, as will de la Rosa. Chacin is definitely their best pitcher and Nicasio is very solid. De la Rosa needs to show some resemblance to his old form. Francis is finished as a solid pitcher. Pomeranz and Christian Friedrich have some upside still, but must adjust to Colorado. Too many things have to happen for this rotation to succeed, but it CANNOT be worse than last year's disaster.

CL Rafael Betancourt
SU Matt Belisle
SU Rex Brothers
SU Wilton Lopez
SU Adam Ottavino
SU Josh Outman

At least the bullpen's back end was relatively decent. This is still a weaker bullpen in not only the NL West but in baseball. Belisle, Brothers and Lopez are better collectively than Betancourt, but Betancourt held his own in the closers role. Adding Lopez was a nice move. Ottavino and Outman are still weak spots.

I have the Rockies finishing last in 5th, slightly behind the Padres. I have a difficult time believing the rotation will be successful. If they pull through, at least things are looking up.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

30 Teams in 30 Days: San Diego Padres

Florio Fact: Everth Cabrera led the NL in stolen bases. Betcha didn't know that, huh? Today we examine the San Diego Padres. I was going to do the Padres eventually, but I decided to do them first in the NL West because my professor, who is a Padres fan for some reason, begged me to. (I'm kidding about the beg part, but he is a Padres fan - he's from the San Diego area, so its okay). The NL West is a tricky division: its one of those divisions which one of the bad teams can sneak up in the second half of the year and push for the division title. I'm gonna say that whoever wins the West is the only team which makes the post season. Unfortunately, the Padres will not be making the post season this year. Now, the team is in better shape for long-term success. Padres GM Josh Byrnes, and predecessor Jed Hoyer assembled a great group of youngsters who have immense potential. Unfortunately, there are too many holes for a run this year. Let's take a look....

Starting Lineup
SS Everth Cabrera
CF Cameron Maybin
3B Chase Headley
LF Carlos Quentin
1B Yonder Alonso
2B Jedd Gyorko
RF Will Venable
C   Nick Hundley

Cabrera and Maybin are not on base machines, but they share one common trait: they're fast. In order to keep their spots in the lineup, they need to up their batting averages. I have a tough time believing that Headley will replicate his 2012 season, but he had a monster second half. A healthy Quentin and a years worth of seasoning (and more power production) from Alonso will help. Gyorko wins the 2B job from Logan Forsythe. Forsythe did nothing to lose it, but Gyorko can hit. There's a reason the Padres moved him there. Venable put together a halfway decent 2012 season and Hundley catches until Yasmani Grandal returns from suspension. I'm calling this lineup "untapped potential." Can hit, but needs to show it.

Starting Rotation
SP Clayton Richard
SP Edinson Volquez
SP Jason Marquis
SP Eric Stults
SP Freddy Garcia

As of right now, I'm predicting this is the rotation. Richard and Volquez are solid veterans. They eat innings, and can give you a combined ERA around 4. The veterans 3-5 are just place keepers, particularly until Cory Luebke gets back - and Andrew Cashner won't be out long, either. Hopefully they give the youngsters a chance instead because I'm liking the 2014 rotation much better:

SP Clayton Richard
SP Edinson Volquez
SP Cory Luebke
SP Andrew Cashner
SP Casey Kelly

CL Huston Street
SU Luke Gregerson
SU Dale Thayer
SU Brad Boxberger
LHS Joe Thatcher

I'm going to guess that Manager Bud Black will leave a lot of open competition for a few bullpen spots, but these 5 are near guarantees. No worries with Street or Gregerson and Thayer did well as well. Boxberger did well in coming over in the Latos trade and Thatcher is the LHS. Bullpens around the league are pretty solid: this one is too.

I'm predicting a 4th place finish for the Padres. It's not so much that the team is bad, the other teams outside of Colorado are better. If the pitching staff comes through in 2014, the Padres are a big sleeper pick, but 2013 offers more of the last two seasons: rebuilding in mediocrity. Expect around 75 wins for this team.

Weird Baseball Injuries

We will be keeping track of weird baseball injuries at Florio Facts. Here are the goods for 2013 so far:

  • Carl Pavano: Ruptured his spleen shoving snow in his driveway. Somehow, quite fitting for Carl Pavano.
  • Joel Peralta: Hurt his neck getting out of his Camaro because he stopped for sandwiches. According to HardballTalk, he was able to acquire such sandwiches. Takes the cake so far.
  • Michael Ynoa: Dude's got Chicken Pox.
  • Andrew Cashner: Cut his hand (thumb) on a deer hunting trip. Mainly his friend's fault.
  • Francisco Liriano: Broke his right arm trying to surprise his kids on Christmas by slamming a door. Why? What does this accomplish?
  • Sean Burnett: Hurt his back picking his kid up to put in a shopping cart. Really? How big is the kid?
  • Casey Kotchman: Ran into a pop-up machine in the outfield during drills. Per HardballTalk: "Kotchman was injured when he “tried to get around the machine and grabbed onto it and I guess cut his finger somehow."

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

30 Teams in 30 Days: Cincinnati Reds

Today, we wrap up the NL Central with a preview of the Cincinnati Reds. So, the Reds had a relatively quiet offseason, outside of acquiring Shin-Soo Choo, of course. The acquisition of Choo, moving of super prospect Billy Hamilton to CF (essentially to replace Choo in 2014) and the trade of Didi Gregorius in the Choo trade surely establishes Zack Cozart at shortstop. Aroldis Chapman, flame-throwing lefty, will be moving to the rotation, hopefully to follow CJ Wilson and Chris Sale in productivity. Jonathan Broxton takes over in the closer's role. So, let's take a look at the Big Red Machine

Starting Lineup
CF Shin-Soo Choo
2B Brandon Phillips
1B Joey Votto
LF Ryan Ludwick
RF Jay Bruce
3B Todd Frazier
C   Ryan Hanigan
SS Zack Cozart

Another extremely solid lineup. Choo and Phillips are run-making machines for Votto - Frazier. I'm a little worried about whether Ludwick will put up another big season because he tends to go year on/year off (or good even year/bad odd year) but the protection will help him. I'm also excited to see another years worth of improvement from Frazier and Cozart but they must work on plate discipline...big time. Hanigan and Mesoraco are solid behind the plate. No worries about this lineup scoring runs.

Starting Rotation
SP Johnny Cueto
SP Mat Latos
SP Bronson Arroyo
SP Homer Bailey
SP Aroldis Chapman

Unfortunately for Mike Leake, he probably gets bumped to the bullpen until Arroyo's contract is up at the end of the year, giving this team young but established starters. Cueto finally worked deeper into games and Latos came through with a big second half by literally pitching the same amount of innings in one less game and allowing fewer runs. I'm skeptical of Arroyo putting up another season like last year's since it was his best since moving to Cincy in 2006. Homer Bailey put it together after years of inconsistency - will he hold up? Lots of upside here but it can all fall apart quickly. How will the Chapman experiment work? Time will tell.

CL Jonathan Broxton
SU Jose Arredondo
SU Sam LeCure
SU Logan Ondrusek
SU Sean Marshall
SU Nick Masset
SU Manny Parra

Masset might not be ready at the start of the year and Leake/Alfredo Simon are bullpen candidates as well. This pen is one of the most underrated in the game (and the NL Central has REALLY good bullpens). Broxton should be fine moving forward but Manager Dusty Baker has many options at his disposal if needed.

I'm a little worried about the 3-5 starters producing how expectations want them to, which is why I have them slightly behind St. Louis and competing with Atlanta for the Wild Card spot.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Influence of J.T. Miller and Chris Kreider

Last postseason, it was Chris Kreider who brought a youthful rejuvenation to the New York Rangers and road it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals. Now it's J.T. Miller's time. Miller was brought up a four games ago against the New Jersey Devils. He didn't score but brought life to a team that was reeling. He scored his first two goals the very next game against the Islanders earning himself the "Broadway Hat" which is given to a player after each game, for an outstanding performance. He was put on a line with the captain Ryan Callahan, and Kreider and so far they have made John Torterella look like a genius. They have played cohesively and it looks like a "cowboy" as Torts calls him is just what they needed.

Now, we can't put all of this on Miller, Kreider has been playing well also, with a goal and an assist in only six games after sitting out with an injury. The only way I can put this into prospective is that, it's like when Shane Spencer (for all you baseball fans) came up with the Yankees in 1998 and had an absolute power. Not that the Yankees needed any push that year, but you get the picture. The blueshirts have a 2-1 record since Miller was called and I don't see him going anywhere anytime soon and if the Rangers hold up tonight against Boston, then they will up that record to 3-1. For now, it's nice to see some life out of the boys in blue and if this keeps up they will definitely become a top contender in the east and maybe even for the Stanley Cup.

Follow me on Twitter! @donnyfinkle

30 Teams in 30 Days: St. Louis Cardinals

Baseball players should hope to be drafted by the Cardinals coming out of high school or college. No team is better at developing their own players and competing for a playoff spot year in and year out. Manager Mike Matheny was an interesting hire to say the least, but like usual, the Cardinals were in it but lost to WS Champs the Giants in the NLCS. The Cardinals might have the classiest fan base in the league and like always, a deep farm system and a team which competes year in and year out. Let's take a look:

Starting Lineup
SS Rafael Furcal
RF Carlos Beltran
LF Matt Holliday
1B Allen Craig
3B David Freese
C   Yadier Molina
2B Matt Carpenter
CF Jon Jay

The Cardinals do not have a typical 'leadoff' hitter-type. Jon Jay could fill it in the future once Furcal gets replaced or if he gets hurt again. Furcal's history as a top of the order hitter suits him well here. Beltran gets the #2 slot for now, he and Holliday provide veteran OF bats. Craig and Freese are crucial to the teams success. Freese finally stayed healthy - it's time for Craig to. Both potential 30 HR bats. Yadier Molina is solid all the way around in the 6 hole. I'm giving Carpenter the second base job - his bat is too good to keep out for Daniel Descalso. He will be the #2 hitter in 2014, I predict. A solid lineup through and through. No worries and a solid bench and farm system to work off of.

Starting Rotation
SP Adam Wainwright
SP Jaime Garcia
SP Lance Lynn
SP Jake Westbrook
SP Joe Kelly

Wainwright went back to being Wainwright in the second half of 2012. Jaime Garcia just went backwards. Lance Lynn started off well but fizzled in the second half. Jake Westbrook got hurt. Sounds bad, right? Not to worry. Wainwright is healthy and will return to form. Lynn lost weight and better conditioned himself to start for the whole year. Garcia and Westbrook should be fine as well. The good thing is they have 3 young starters in Kelly, Trevor Rosenthal and Shelby Miller ready to go. Kelly gets the nod after pitching well last year.

CL Jason Motte
SU Mitchell Boggs
LHS Randy Choate
SU Edward Mujica
SU Mark Rzepczynski
SU Fernando Salas
SU Eduardo Sanchez

This is if they carry a deep, 7 man pen. Nothing to worry about here. Motte was solid as a full, first year closer. Choate and Rzepczynski are solid lefties. Boggs, Mujica, Salas and Sanchez are good set-up men.

A solid team through and through. I worry about injuries, though. They'll be neck and neck with the Reds, but I will say the Cardinals slightly squeak out one more win for the division champions.

NY Knicks: Mid Season Report

The Knicks have been wildly inconsistent lately. They're put together a 5 game winning streak against teams like Atlanta, Orlando, Detroit, etc, but then they go out and lose to the Wizards and the Clippers. The Clippers are at least respectable, but the game was not very competitive outside of Melo dropping 40+ and Felton contributing some hard-fought minutes. It's obvious that they can't win every game, but the Knicks shouldn't be dropping games to the Washington Wizards. In fact, last week this blog post might have been titled "The Surging Knicks" or "Hello Melo", but things change quickly.

The Knicks are 32-17 on the year with 1 game left against Toronto before the All-Star Break. Regardless of that game, they will be the #2 seed going into the break. They're 7-3 in their last 10 games and also only 2.5 games behind Miami for the best record in the East. This does not mean they're invincible, however, and they need to step up big time in the 2nd half of the season to establish themselves as a dominant force in the East.

Who Needs to Step Up?

Amar'e Stoudemire - After a few games with 20+ points, Stat looked lost these past few games with outputs of 9 points and 6 rebounds against LA and 11 points and 5 rebounds against Minnesota. Stat needs to strive to be more consistent in the 2nd half of the season, but most important of all he needs to get to 100% health-wise.

J.R. Smith - 6 points against the Clippers?! In a battle of 6th men against Jamal Crawford and that's the output you provide?! Granted, it's just one game but J.R. hasn't scored over 20 points in the past 4 games and he has been struggling from the field a bit. This is not a major area of concern, but Smith can play better then this.

J-Kidd - He's been logging an extreme amount of minutes lately and is also a bit hobbled, but his highest output in terms of points over the last 5 games as been 7 points. The assists have been low as well and he's only shooting 24% from the floor over that same span. Hopefully Shump can take some pressure off Kidd going forward.

Shumpert - Stats aren't as relevant for Iman as of late because he is still trying to find some consistent minutes and get his legs back under him. He's struggled shooting from the floor, but he's not needed as a major scoring threat every night. His presence is valued the most on the defensive end and he was abused by Chris Paul on Sunday. D'ing up Paul is a tough task for anyone in the league but Mike Woodson expected a lot more from Shumpert.

Mid Season Grades

Frontcourt: A- 

The sole reason that they have been successful in this area is due to the star-power of Carmelo Anthony. Chandler has had some big rebound numbers lately, but he isn't defending as well as in past years. The most recent image being Chandler getting abused by the offensive game of Blake Griffin... not including dunks. And then there is the obvious, Amar'e has struggled to find his place in the offense but he has shown signs of his old self at times.

Backcourt: B-

Kidd started off the season on fire, as did the Knicks. Since then, both have cooled off and come down to Earth a bit. The one thing that can be said is the Knicks have been in desperate need of a veteran point guard these past few seasons and Kidd has surely had an impact on getting quality shots in their offensive sets. Felton is a HUGE piece for the Knicks, as they were 20-8 with Raymond in the lineup. The question will be if he can stay healthy going foward.

Defense: C

Defense was a strong suit to start the season and had many people talking about how Melo had changed his attitude on that end of the floor. It is a long season and there are always lapses in concentration, but the Knicks haven't come close to resembling their early-season defense at all lately. Maybe the break will re-energize the Knicks on the defensive end of the floor.

Bench: B-

Players like Copeland and Prigioni were making impacts almost every game at one point and now it seems to be just the Melo show. Bench players fade, but they will prove to be important come playoff time. The grade in this area correlates directly with J.R. Smith, however. The Knicks bench scoring goes as J.R. goes, and the grade reflects directly on his place. Injuries to Rasheed and Camby have made it tough on the bench's output, but if these guys can get ready for the stretch run, they will be fine.

Coaching: A 

Mike Woodson deserves an A for his coaching during the first half of the season. The Knicks weren't perfect, but it can be argued that he has gotten the most out of his players thus far. Sure the Knicks have struggled on defense and at times have been to reliant on Anthony for his scoring, but Woodson has managed the personalities on his roster in a very professional manner. There have been numerous injuries that in past years would have severely effected the Knicks, but this season they are still first in their division and second overall in the East.


Monday, February 11, 2013

30 Teams in 30 Days: Pittsburgh Pirates

Argh, Matey! I need to throw myself in the trash after that horrible intro. Anyway, the Pirates were close to finally ending their streak of 20 straight seasons below .500 - this is going back to the Doug Drabek days. Not Kyle, Doug. Alas, they fell apart in the second half faster than your skin after you turn 50. They are in better shape than they were 8 years ago or so and with pitching reinforcements on the way. So with that, let's take a look at the Pittsburgh Pirates...

Starting Lineup
LF Starling Marte
2B Neil Walker
CF Andrew McCutchen
1B Garrett Jones
3B Pedro Alvarez
C   Russell Martin
RF Whoever the hell gets this job
SS Clint Barmes

Let's break this apart. Marte is not your prototypical leadoff type: he's got a bit more pop and is not the 30-40 SB type. By default, he gets the job. Walker and McCutchen are the best, most consistent hitters on this team. No worries with them. Jones mashes righties and he'll platoon somewhat with Gaby Sanchez. Alvarez is extremely streaky: he can hit .100 for a month, then hit .350 with 10 home runs in another. He finally put it together somewhat last year - hopefully he can hold. Martin solidifies the lineup. Barmes is just a placeholder. RF, in my best guess, is going to be a platoon. Alex Presley or Travis Snider will platoon with Jerry Sands or Jose Tabata. If Pittsburgh is smart, they trade one of them for pitching and the other is the 5th OF. Inconsistent labels this lineup well - there are worse, but there are better.

Starting Rotation
SP AJ Burnett
SP Wandy Rodriguez
SP James McDonald
SP Francisco Liriano (Kyle McPherson)
SP Jeff Karstens

Burnett was solid after moving back to the NL. He and Rodriguez are a solid veteran 1-2 punch, but not exactly Strasburg and Gonzalez. McDonald was fantastic in the first half and awful in the second. He's got the stuff but needs to put it together. I don't buy Liriano at all. Karstens has been a solid pitcher out of the 5 spot. I'm interested to see what Kyle McPherson can do - he's pitched to solid ERAs and K rates in the minors. He does not have the Jameson Tallion or Gerrit Cole notoriety but he can pitch. Give him a shot.

CL Jason Grilli
SU Mark Melancon
SU Tony Watson
SU Jared Hughes
SU Justin Wilson
SU Chris Leroux

The no-name bullpen of effectiveness. I have Grilli as a sleeper closer. Melancon's gotta return to form to be effective. Watson and Hughes were very effective middle relievers. I would also expect Andy Oliver to get a long look for a bullpen spot. At least Manager Clint Hurdle has some options to work with.

I really want to see Pittsburgh succeed. I do. I cannot put this team above 75-78 wins and 4th place right now. The pitching has to come through to succeed. Let's see how a Rodgriuez/McDonald/McPherson/Cole/Tallion rotation does in 2014.

Michael Bourn signs with the Indians

Wow. Curveball. Scott Boras surprised them all and sent Michael Bourn to the Cleveland Indians. I am just shocked. I would have thought the Indians were set with Brantley/Stubbs/Swisher in the OF. Look at this line-up:

CF Michael Bourn
SS Asdrubal Cabrera
2B Jason Kipnis
C   Carlos Santana
1B Nick Swisher
DH Mark Reynolds
LF Michael Brantley
3B Lonnie Chisenhall
RF Drew Stubbs

This can do some damage if Chisenhall produces and Stubbs doesn't strikeout 200 times. AND, they have Mike Aviles on the bench, too.  Suddenly, Cleveland looks damn good offensively.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

30 Teams in 30 Days: Chicago Cubs

Theo's gonna bring his magic to the North side! Hooray! Well, Theo Epstein inherited a mess which is still in progress. The Cubbies have had a rough go of it since their ill-fated NLCS appearance in 2003 and blamed it all on poor Steve Bartman. Maybe they need to bring back Moises Alou. Anyway, the Cubs are in the midst of a major renovation of the roster. Fortunately, there are some solid youngsters in place, such as middle infielders Starlin Castro and Darwin Barney as well as slugging first baseman Anthony Rizzo. The pitching staff has their own youngster to build around in Jeff Samardzija (and I spelled that without looking at Google to spell check!), but they have their holes. Let's take a look at the Cubbies

Starting Lineup
CF David DeJesus
SS Starlin Castro
1B Anthony Rizzo
LF Alfonso Soriano
RF Nate Schierholtz/Scott Hairston
3B Ian Stewart/Josh Vitters
C   Wellington Castillo
2B Darwin Barney

Now, this could change quite a bit, but here's why I am going with this. I believe that DeJesus wins by default. You could put the RF platoon 2nd, but I think Hairston will bat 5th when he plays and it makes sense to put Castro higher. 3-4 and 6-8 won't change. Vitters and Brett Jackson need more minor league seasoning. This lineup is passable but needs some work and for Jackson and Vitters to grow into the hitters the Cubs expect. This is neither a World Series winning lineup nor a lineup for the future but a "eh, it's alright" lineup.

Starting Rotation
SP Matt Garza
SP Jeff Samardzija
SP Edwin Jackson
SP Scott Feldman
SP Scott Baker

Edwin Jackson's gotta be thrilled to not have to move around to another team. He practically lived out of a set of luggage. I've never (and I mean never) been a Jackson fan, but he'll provide a rotation veteran. Garza will be solid, provided he's healthy. He, Feldman and Baker are clear trade deadline chips with the expectation that Travis Wood, Arodys Vizcaino or Carlos Villaneuva will replace them. At least the Cubs have depth and options: more than they've had in years. If Samardzija can produce over the entire year, he can be deadly. A rotation that is improving will help Chicago long term.

CL Carlos Marmol
SU Kyuji Fujikawa
SU Shawn Camp
SU James Russell
SU Michael Bowden

I believe Wood and Villaneuva will get the other bullpen spots if they don't make the rotation. Camp, Russell and Bowden are all solid middle-relief types, who pitched to mid 3 ERA's or lower. Now, the back end of the pen is where it gets a little messy. The Cubs brought star closer Fujikawa over from Japan and right now he's got the 8th inning role, but I think it's only a matter of time before Marmol implodes again. I would stay away from this bullpen right now until Fujikawa is in at closer.

I can see why President Obama is a White Sox fan. It's gonna be another rough year for Cubs fans. I'm predicting a last place finish with the opportunity to compete with Pittsburgh for 4th. Look to 2014.

Fantasy Sleeper: Greg Holland

Closers are a commodity: they don't require a lot of strength to go after, or in your case, worthy of a high draft pick, and they're a plenty. Every team needs a good closer, or someone else will replace them. In a deep 16 team league, there are enough closers to go around. I would never draft a closer high, even Craig Kimbrel. They're just not worth it. At least a starter can pitch every 5 days on a schedule; a closer might not pitch those 5 days. Anyway, it's beneficial to you to let someone else draft closers high and you make 2 value picks. I discussed Jason Grilli yesterday, today we'll discuss the presumable incoming closer for the Kansas City Royals: Greg Holland. He took over the closer's role in the second half of 2012 and performed well. He's got a great arm and great stats to go with it, so here we go:

Holland's stat lines over the last two seasons:

  • 2011: 5-1/1.80 ERA/60 Innings/37 hits/19 BB's/74 K's/4 Saves
  • 2012: 7-4/2.96 ERA/67 Innings/58 hits/34 BB's/91 K's/16 Saves
Not too shabby. Holland throws hard: very hard. Now, he missed his targets a little more in 2012: his WHIP (essentially the amount of base runners a pitcher allows) went from 0.93 to 1.37. As a closer, 1.37 tends to be too close to struggling or volatility: he should be as close to 1 as possible. If he gets to 1.2 or lower, he'll be closer to the 2011 stat line. He should be closer to a 2.50 ERA if he can accomplish this. His strikeout rate went up by more than a K per inning, as well. Aaron Crow is right behind him if he falters, so you can have a go-to guy for Holland, but he's worth the investment. 

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Fantasy Sleeper: Jason Grilli

GrillCheese49. Pretty cool Twitter handle, huh? Here's another Florio Fact about Jason Grilli - his agent is Gary Sheffield. Yup, THAT Gary Sheffield. Looking at the name 'Jason Grilli' does not inspire much. I remember as a youthful middle schooler Grilli being just some major league filler - a AAAA type who gets called up for a spot start, DFA'd a week later and latches on with another team before going over to Japan. Grilli was a starter then. He had a few decent seasons as a middle reliever in Detroit before disappearing in 2010 with a knee injury and after a poor 2009. Grilli worked his way into the set-up role in Pittsburgh for Joel Hanrahan. Now, Hanrahan is gone and Grilli is now a first time closer at 36 years young. Late bloomer?  So, let's see what Grilli can grill up for you (I had to...)

So, in two years with the Pirates, Grilli put up some very good numbers. Over the last two years, Grilli has produced:

  • 2011: 2.48 ERA, 32.2 Innings, 37 K's to 20 BB's
  • 2012: 2.91 ERA, 58.2 Innings, a whopping 90 k's and 26 BB's
Grilli had a phenomenal strikeout rate last year, averaging 13.8/9. He cut his walk rate to one every 2 innings - not quite elite stuff but not up to Carlos Marmol's level of inaccuracy. Grilli has a handle on the job in Pittsburgh, but is a candidate to be moved at the trade deadline, but since he signed a two year deal, I do expect Pittsburgh to hold on to Grilli until they groom a long-term replacement. He's worth a look at closer, and if you follow my fantasy rules and let someone else overpay for closers, you'll do fine.

30 Teams in 30 Days: Milwaukee Brewers

The Brewers are one of those consistently inconsistent teams which struggles to find an identity. They are not bad enough to not consider them playoff contenders but are not considered to be a team which is in contention every year. The Brew Crew's offense can get it done: there aren't too many weak spots in the Brewers' line-up. Braun, Weeks, Lucroy, Hart and Ramirez are solid. Now the pitching staff...well, we'll get to it. So, let's see how the Brew Crew will fare this year:

Starting Lineup
RF Norichika Aoki
2B Rickie Weeks
LF Ryan Braun
3B Aramis Ramirez
1B Mat Gamel/Corey Hart
C   Jonathan Lucroy
CF Carlos Gomez
SS Jean Segura

Aoki was a pleasant surprise last year: he's a well-balanced hitter with great plate discipline, steals bases, hits for a good average and even a HR or two. 2-6 is one of the best in the league. Weeks had a rough season with the batting average but he can be a table setter after Aoki. Braun and Ramirez don't need an explanation. Hart will bat 5th once he comes back from knee surgery, so Gamel must show he can hack it at the MLB level or suffer the AAAA label. Lucroy is the most underrated offensive catcher (Sleeper!). Gomez and Segura provide speed at the bottom of the lineup and Gomez finally broke through. Solid lineup.

Starting Rotation
SP Yovani Gallardo
SP Marco Estrada
SP Wily Peralta
SP Mike Fiers
SP Mark Rogers

Brewers are going young...very young. Gallardo is an ace without question. The rest of the rotation is all young but inexperienced. Estrada pitched most of the season in the rotation: his first full one. He and Fiers were valuable and unexpected contributors. Fiers, Estrada and Rogers all posted above a strikeout an inning and Peralta is the team's best pitching prospect. Kudos to the Brewers trying all their young starters but this can backfire especially since reinforcements are more young starters. This can either backfire or work out very well. My prediction is that a few of them will struggle somewhat, but for the long term, it's the right move.

CL John Axford
SU Mike Gonzalez
SU Tom Gorzelanny
SU Jim Henderson
SU Burke Badenhop
SU Chris Narveson

The bullpen got an extreme makeover (home edition? Horrible, I know) after a few implosions last year. Only Axford, Henderson and Narveson remain from last year. Badenhop was picked up from Tampa Bay and Gonzalez and Gorzelanny were signed this offseason. This bullpen is in better shape for this season.

So what is likely for the Brewers? Well, this team can be a 70 win team or a 90 win team. The pendulum can swing in many different directions. Unfortunately, this is probably another 3rd place finish around 85 wins: they can most look forward to the 2nd Wild Card.

Friday, February 8, 2013

30 Teams in 30 Days: New York Mets

What would have happened if the Mets hired George Costanza instead of Mr. Wilhelm as head of scouting? George brought a championship to the Yankees as assistant to the travelling secretary, which makes him more than qualified to assemble the Mets' roster. Nevertheless, we live in the real world, with real-life debt problems and a 25 year contract with the retired Bobby Bonilla. The Mets had highs and lows: Johan Santana threw the franchise's first no-hitter. David Wright has been locked in to a long-term deal. Daniel Murphy found a position. Jon Niese got a new nose and a new contract and RA Dickey won the Cy Young which promptly earns a trade to Toronto. So, how will the Mets fare this year?

Starting Line-up (currently, without Michael Bourn)
SS Ruben Tejada
2B Daniel Murphy
3B David Wright
1B Ike Davis
RF Lucas Duda
C   John Buck
CF Kirk Nieuwenhuis
LF Mike Baxter

Line-up with Michael Bourn if he signs
CF Michael Bourn
2B Daniel Murphy
3B David Wright
1B Ike Davis
RF Lucas Duda
C   John Buck
LF Kirk Nieuwenhuis
SS Ruben Tejada

Clearly, the line-up would be better with Bourn at the top: he's a great leadoff hitter who can steal bags and makes the line-up more complete. 2-4 are the heart of the order and Tejada did solid at the plate when he played and the issue is 5-7. Duda struggled after being picked as a breakthrough type but he'll get a chance to play and redeem himself. Buck gets the nod as Travis D'Arnaud (key piece in Dickey trade) gets a few more reps in AAA to make up for injury time lost last year. Nieuwenhuis's plate discipline is porous but solely against righties in a platoon with either Baxter or Marlon Byrd will help. Mets have a nice core but need a few more pieces to compete with Atlanta or Washington.

Starting Rotation
SP Johan Santana
SP Shaun Marcum
SP Jon Niese
SP Matt Harvey
SP Dillon Gee

I LOVE the Marcum signing. He's a great fit for the field and one of the most underrated starters in MLB, and if he gets hurt, uber-prospect Zack Wheeler or Jenrry Mejia comes up to replace him. The Mets do have a solid supply of young starting pitching and a full year of Harvey will be beneficial. Gee pitched well before suffering a blood clot and Niese is extremely solid. Santana, I believe was fatigued after the no-hitter and never recovered from it, but a shut-down offseason and regular pitch counts will help. The rotation is in better shape now than in years with help on the way.

CL Frank Francisco
SU Brandon Lyon
SU Bobby Parnell
SU Scott Atchison
SU LaTroy Hawkins

I love the bullpen signings by Sandy Alderson. Lyon will probably replace Francisco at some point at closer. Atchison and Hawkins, along with the back-to-life Pedro Feliciano are all on low risk, high reward minor league deals. Now, the rest of the bullpen will be figured out by Manager Terry Collins but I believe these 5 will be a part of it.

The Mets are better suited for long-term success since Sandy Alderson took over at GM. He's gotten rid of the bad contracts and especially this offseason, make smart free agent signings - and letting Jose Reyes go looks to be the right move. The Dickey trade may have upset fans but for the long-term, Travis D'Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard will pay off. The Mets may be set for the future, but the talent in the rest of the division hurts them now. They won't be awful, but at best, this is a .500 team who likely finishes at slightly below 80 wins and 4th place.

New York Giants Offseason Guide

Disappointing. Pretty much sums up the season. Per usual, the Giants started off well, had a poor second half, and instead of scraping into the playoffs, the Redskins went on a run and put the Giants out of the playoffs. Of course, when the NFL gives you an awful schedule in the second half EVERY year, it's bound to happen. Anyway, the Giants had no excuses for missing the playoffs other than their own fault. They played downright poorly. Change is a coming.

The Giants have made three big cuts already to get under the salary cap: Michael Boley, Chris Canty and Ahmad Bradshaw. We'll get to each. Each has its merits and its detractions, but GM Jerry Reese is one of, if not, the best in the game. So, we're going to examine what the Giants need to do to not only succeed in 2013 but moving forward.

Not much here. Eli still has many good years left in the tank, but Curtis Painter is not a legitimate backup. Keeping David Carr as a backup is a good choice and they should look to drafting a young one in the late rounds to develop.

Running Back
Ahmad Bradshaw was released. As much as Bradshaw has been a key part to the Giants' success in two Super Bowl victories, he has been extremely injury prone. Now, Bradshaw can be brought back on a cheaper deal, so don't count him out yet. Based on statements by Reese, the Giants want to put David Wilson into the starting role. After working out of Coughlin's doghouse, he was fantastic in the return game and as a runner, getting 5 yards a carry. If Wilson and Andre Brown shoulder the load, the Giants must draft another back to put into the return game or sign another back. Henry Hynoski (Hynocerous or I call him Hank the Tank) will be back at Fullback.

Wide Receivers & Tight Ends
The Giants have a priority of extending Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz. They must do so. They're young, talented and bring two different skill sets. Nicks has been banged up, but he plays through injuries. The Giants have plenty of depth at WR if they keep Barden and Hixon. Hixon should be kept and Rueben Randle's role expanded to become a great #3. Martellus Bennett thrived as a starting TE and he must be brought back. Bear Pascoe offers a solid backup. Keeping things intact here is a priority.

Offensive Line
Now, I am an advocate of breaking this up. I know, the Giants allowed the least amount of sacks in the league, but some change is necessary. LT Will Beatty and LG Kevin Boothe are FA's. It is imperative Beatty is brought back: he was the best lineman on the team - he really shined. Boothe on the other hand, I am indifferent about. If there are no other options which are better, Boothe should be brought back. Center David Baas should have been a cap casualty but there are not other centers of high caliber available outside of Brian de la Puente. Chris Snee will start until he retires...or divorces Tom Coughlin's daughter. Then he'll be cut. Otherwise, David Diehl MUST GO. He was the epitome of awful - slow and allowed many sacks. Why he still on the roster, I do not know. Bring back Sean Locklear and give James Brewer a chance to start and draft a tackle.

Defensive Line
What a subpar year. How to improve this line: it's simple. Move Mathias Kiwanuka back to end to replace Osi Umenyiora's role. It might be a smart idea to move Justin Tuck to DT full time, but the Giants need a road-girding, run-stopping DT. Glenn Dorsey has been suggested as a better 4-3 fit DT. Alan Branch would be nice, as would Henry Melton but Melton is going to be paid very well. A run stuffer must go next to a Linval Joseph/Marvin Austin rotation. If Martellus Bennett is brought back, he might bring along brother Michael, a DE from Tampa who could replace Tuck. Michael Johnson from Cincinnati will probably be franchised but pass rush specialist Junior Galette from New Orleans would work too. This line needs a mini-makeover.

This is going to be rough, too. Chase Blackburn and Keith Rivers are FAs. I would advocate bringing back both. Blackburn is not great at any one thing, but he plays hard. No one plays harder than Blackburn on game day. But, there are more athletic linebackers. I would not start Mark Herzlich as some have suggested - he is awful in coverage. Awful. There are not many choices out there for free agents, so the Giants should target one in the draft, maybe even Manti Te'o (kidding). Phillip Wheeler would be a nice fit, as would Dannell Ellerbe, but my guess is the Giants will look at drafting one starter, signing another and going with an internal option like Jacquian Williams in another.

Kenny Phillips and Stevie Brown (RFA) are free agents. Phillips plays well when healthy, but it goes year to year with him. Fortunately, there are a number of quality safeties available: Jairus Byrd, Dashon Goldson, Glover Quin and William Moore. The Giants should retain Phillips and Brown and let other teams pay for those safeties and stick with them along Antrel Rolle. Cornerback, on the other hand, the Giants should get themselves a free agent. Amukamara was solid. Hosley got burned a lot and needs more seasoning. Webster should get cut if he does not agree to a pay cut and demotion. Aqib Talib is talented and the Giants locker room and staff can keep his head on straight, but I am eyeing Cary Williams or Keenan Lewis. Pittsburgh likes to keep their own, so I would expect Lewis to stay there, but Williams came off a solid season as a Super Bowl champ. He's a great fit for the Giants.

Special Teams
No change here with Tynes or Weatherford. A kick returner might be in order if Wilson starts but Randle might be a good fit as he handles put returns already.

The Giants need work defensively and at RT. Jerry Reese has his work cut out for him.

Fantasy Sleeper: The Mess at DH & Ryan Doumit

As I took a look around the American League, I looked back to even when I was young (at 21, it wasn't that far off) and realized how big of a transfer the DH has undergone. The DH used to be just an elite hitter who couldn't play defense, like your Edgar Martinez types, but now it is either the guy who used to play in the field but can't, the injury prone type who barely makes it through 2/3 of the season or most commonly, an off day in the field in some kind of rotation. Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington most famously employs it - the Rangers often use their entire team regularly with only Kinsler, Andrus and Beltre playing just about every day.

If your team has a DH slot, it can be tough to fill outside of the usual suspects - Ortiz, Dunn, V-Mart, Butler and now Trumbo. All great fantasy hitters but every other team cannot guarantee DH slots to one hitter. Essentially, these platoons can be taxing on fantasy owners. Sure Adam Lind and Edwin Encarnacion will play probably daily, but how long is it until they qualify for DH if they split 1B and DH? Can Travis Hafner stay healthy? Seattle and Oakland are an absolute mess which I would stay away from outside of Reddick, Cespedes, Morse and Morales for your OF/1B spots, but luckily for you, Morales probably qualifies at DH. My advice is to stay away from a platoon on a team with enough offense to go around, like in New York until Hafner stays healthy and productive. I debated Chris Carter here, but I'm interested in seeing how Bo Porter will manage at-bats. So, I went with an option who should be playing regularly at either C, 1B or DH (great to have a guy who you can move around) and can still hit - Ryan Doumit. Let's take a look.

Doumit's first year in Minnesota? Actually, it's his best - career highs in plate appearances, home runs, RBI and tied a career high in doubles. His line produced: .275/18 HR/75 RBI, with a .275/.320/.461 and .781 OPS. His walk rate was lower than career norms - hopefully an aberration and not a trend. But take a look at this: Doumit's stat line from this year is nearly exact for a standard Doumit season: .272/18 HR/74 RBI with a .272/.331/.446 and .777 OPS. Scary accurate. So, going out on a limb stating that Doumit can replicate his stats from last year isn't crazy at all. He's great in a UTIL/DH role who can fill in at other positions in case your fantasy teammates get hurt.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

30 Teams in 30 Days: Washington Nationals

The Nationals replaced Jim Riggleman with Davey Johnson in 2011. Since then, the Nationals have been one of the best teams in MLB. They focused on player development and developed most of the roster, particularly uber-prospects Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper. GM Mike Rizzo has been instrumental in building the roster, signing the right free agents and making extremely good trades, bringing in Wilson Ramos, Denard Span and Gio Gonzalez. Now, with Span in hand, the Nationals have found their lead-off hitter. This team has been called the best in baseball and it is easy to see why: they have a solid line-up of both young studs and veterans, a young rotation with high strikeout rates who eat innings and a solid bullpen. They won the NL East for the first time since coming to DC and had the best record in baseball, so let's see if they repeat.

Starting Line-up
CF Denard Span
LF Bryce Harper
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam LaRoche
RF Jayson Werth
SS Ian Desmond
2B Danny Espinosa
C   Wilson Ramos

This is one of the most complete line-ups in the league. Span brings them the legitimate CF/lead-off type the team has been looking for, well, for years. Harper is clearly athletic enough to play CF but is a better fit in LF. The Nationals are expecting big things from Harper who should continue to shine. 3-5 are a great group of solid veterans. Desmond really broke through last year and he should continue to produce as a solid offensive SS. Espinosa provides pop, as does Ramos. The biggest concern is the amount of strikeouts this offense piles up - each guy outside of Span can K 100+ times this year, but this team has great depth with Steve Lombardozzi in the IF and Tyler Moore in the OF.

Starting Rotation
SP Stephen Strasburg
SP Gio Gonzalez
SP Jordan Zimmermann
SP Dan Haren
SP Ross Detwiler

Not much you have to say here. A whole year of Strasburg will be extremely beneficial. He and Gonzalez are perennial Cy Young types. Zimmermann (with 2 N's) was fantastic in a full year after Tommy John surgery. Haren gives them another front-line starter at the back-end convenience. Detwiler will be an underrated #5 - very underrated. A great rotation through and through.

CL Rafael Soriano
SU Drew Storen
SU Tyler Clippard
SU Ryan Mattheus
SU Zach Duke
SU Henry Rodriguez
SU Bill Bray

The team snuck in to sign Soriano, who only enhances bullpen depth. Closers Storen and Clippard move into set-up roles. Mattheus and Rodriguez gives them flame-throwers in the early innings. Duke and I am presuming Bray will be the lefty specialists. Another solid group - I think Atlanta slightly edges them, but it's splitting hairs. This team will be the team to beat in the NL and the playoff experience should only help this young team. Full years of Harper and Strasburg and a healthy Haren will make this team very tough to beat. They win the NL East with a record close to last years and approach 100 wins.