Friday, April 3, 2009

Quick MLB Preview

Is it ok if I'm already kind of bored with the Final Four. I don't find anything compelling. UNC is lame. Michigan State is boring. Villanova is infuriating. I guess UCONN is ok. So I'll pick UCONN over UNC in the final. See? Boring. If you really want some hoop talk, check out this thread over at the Gopher Hole where I'm having a "discussion" about Stephen Curry.

Instead, I'll do a quick little preview of MLB this year, since the season kicks off on Sunday:




NATIONAL LEAGUE:

NL EAST
1. Phillies - A very good offense bolstered by one of the best pitchers in the game and my boyfriend, Cole Hamels. Blanton or Myers need to come up big, and not having JC Romero for the first 50 games will sting. Look for rookie J.A. Happ to make his mark.
2. NY Mets - No, JJ Putz and K-Rod won't be saviors, but they will help quite a bit. Where they can't help is the rotation, which is very shaky after Johan and also includes Livan. No way can I pick a team to win their division when Livan is involved.
3. Marlins - I don't know who the GM is in Florida, but he's quietly assembled some real talent. They have a very good, young rotation with Nolasco, Johnson, Sanchez, Miller, and Volstad, and the best offensive double-play combo in baseball with Hanley Ramirez and Dan Uggla. The future is bright, with 1B Gaby Sanchez about to make a splash, at least until they trade all their stars again.
4. Braves - In general, it seems people are high on the Braves to return to prominence this year, but I don't see it. A patchwork top of the rotation (Lowe & Vazquez) and much after them. Rookie pitcher Tommy Hanson could be good this year, but may be a year away.
5. Nationals - Expansion is awesome. SP Jordan Zimmerman is a glimmer of hope. At least they have Adam Dunn now, who is entertaining to watch if nothing else.

NL Central
1. Cubs. Chicago have a very good rotation this year, almost identical to last year's, and upgraded their offense by bringing in OBP Monster Milton Bradley. If he can stay healthy and out of trouble he'll score a ton of runs with the guys behind him. Closer is a question mark with newly acquired Kevin Gregg beating out Carlos Marmol.
2. Reds - Another young team I'm enamored with, an offense Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, Jay Bruce, and Edwin Encarnacion (and maybe Chris Dickerson if he's ready) can score some runs. They also have a solid rotation mix of vets (Arroyo and Harang) and youngsters (Cueto and Volquez - maybe Homer Bailey). I expect them to surprise.
3. Brewers - If Gallardo is over his injuries, it's a huge shot in the arm for the Brew Crew. Their offense is very good, but without Sabathia and Sheets the pitching sucks (Jeff Suppan!) and I don't know if you can trust Hoffman to close anymore.
4. Cardinals - An even worse starting rotation lives in St. Louis, and that's even if you guess Chris Carpenter can return to form after an injury - if he doesn't, forget it. Pujols and a handful of good outfielders are all they have.
5. Astros - It's a tough division to call, and really the teams could fall in any order after the Cubs, but someone had to be picked for fifth and I am going with the Astros. They're old, their infield is terrible, and their rotation is empty behind Oswalt.
6. Pirates - The good news for Houston is they don't have to worry about finishing in last. Pittsburgh has that rare ability to not only fail to find promising prospects, but to rarely develop them to their full potential when they do turn one up.

NL West
1. Diamondbacks - An exciting young offense, headed by a guy I expect to make a big leap in OF Justin Upton, two of the best pitchers in the game in Dan Haren and Brandon Webb, and a possible rookie-of-the-year candidate in pitcher Max Scherzer have me excited for Arizona this year.
2. Dodgers - The late signings of Manny Ramirez and Orlando Hudson help immensely and have made LA a popular pick to win their division, but there are too many question marks for me. How good are Kemp, Ethier, and Loney? Is Chad Billingsley really an ace? Can Jonathan Broxton be a shut-down closer? Just too many questions, although it wouldn't surprise me if they win the whole thing, either.
3. Giants - Almost a default third place pick, because the final three teams in this division are all pretty awful. San Fran gets third because of a decent rotation, highlighted by a couple of studs in Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain and the signing of Randy Johnson. The offense has youngster Pablo Sandoval and that's about it.
4. Rockies - Well, they have a somewhat promising lineup with youngsters Tulowitzi, Ian Stewart, Chris Iannetta, and possibly Carlos Gonzalez who came over in the Holliday deal. The pitching is brutally bad.
5. Padres - They have Jake Peavy and Chris Young. End positives. Seriously, their starting double-play combination this year is likely to be David Eckstein and Luis Rodriguez (yes, that L-Rod). Wow.


AMERICAN LEAGUE

AL East
1. Rays - A full season from Longoria, a breakout year from Upton (believe it) and adding David Price to an already good rotation? They might be even better this year.
2. Red Sox - Say what you want about Manny, but Jason Bay isn't nearly as good. With Ortiz seemingly on the decline, the offense doesn't have nearly as much pop as the last few years. Good young players and excellent pitching insures they will be in the playoff picture, but I don't think they are nearly as good as the Rays.
3. Yankees - A-Rod is still one of the best players in the game and Texeira can hit, but behind them it's all old and declining (Jeter, Posada, Damon, Matsui) or young and unproven. With a very old and injury prone rotation, this team won't even come close to the postseason.
4. Blue Jays - Not a horrible team, with some good offensive prospects including ROY candidate OF Travis Snider, Toronto could threaten to overtake the Yankees if their rotation of people I've barely heard of behind Halladay (thanks to injuries to Shawn Marcum and Dustin McGowan) can pull it together.
5. Orioles. Adam Jones is good, and Matt Wieters is supposed to be the next Joe Mauer, but with more power. That's all.

AL CENTRAL
1. Twins - As the Monkees said, "I'm a believer." Of course, this assumes Mauer and Baker come back quickly. The pitching and defense should be very good, as long as they can score some runs.
2. Indians - I very much like what they've done, adding some small, key pieces, and I don't think Cliff Lee's season last year was a fluke. If either Hafner comes back strong or Matt LaPorta can be Evan Longoria, they could overtake the Twins.
3. White Sox - Chicago still has plenty of pop, although most of it is old, and their rotation is the same thing we've seen for years. Question marks in the outfield (DeWayne Wise) and infield (Josh Fields and Chris Getz) keep them in third.
4. Royals - Added some nice pieces in Juan Cruz, Mike Jacobs, and Coco Crisp without losing much. If hitters Billy Butler and Alex Gordon and the young pitching staff live up to their potential, the Royals could finish even higher. Joakim Soria is quietly one of the best closers in baseball.
5. Tigers - I'm still not exactly sure what happened here, but with Detroit neglecting to give Jim Leyland an extension I'm not sure what exactly they are trying to do. Their offense should be good again, but with Bonderman hurt their pitching sucks once again, all the way down to the bullpen. Rick Porcello could be a star someday, but he's no savior this year.

AL WEST
1. Angels - because someone has to win. The Angels have the only decent pitching rotation in the division, even with Lackey and Santana starting the season on the DL, and are bringing in promising rook Nick Adenhart. There offense should be good enough to replace Texeira, especially if Kendry Morales is as good as promised.
2. Texas - As usual, the Rangers bring an excellent offense and horrible pitching to the table. This year is more of the same.
3. Mariners - Completely dysfunctional, Seattle at least has Felix Hernandez and Erik Bedard. Their best prospect, DH/C Jeff Clement who would probably hit fourth for them, is starting the season in AAA for some unfathomable reason.
4. Athletics - Bringing in Giambi and Holliday will probably not be enough to get the worst offense in baseball last year up to competitive shape, especially since they're pulling Holliday away from Coors so his numbers are sure to go down. With no good starters (Duchscherer is hurt) and an unproven closer, they're screwed.

AL Champ: Rays
AL Rookie of the Year: Travis Snider, TOR
AL MVP: BJ Upton, TB
AL Cy Young: Francisco Liriano

NL Champ: Diamondbacks
NL Rookie of the Year: Tommy Hanson, ATL
NL MVP: David Wright, NYM
NL Cy Young: Dan Haren, ARI

World Series: Rays over D-Backs


So there you go. Now I'm off to Chicago for the weekend, no computer in hand, so I'll talk at you on Monday.