Archive for April, 2012
My American League predictions were a bit “predictable” but not so much with the National League which is bound to have a few surprises along the way.
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
1) Philadelphia Phillies- Everybody is making a huge deal about how the Phillies are going to be without Ryan Howard and Chase Utley for a long time. Well, last year Utley missed a lot of time and Howard was a platoon player. Their 3 aces will cover up much of the offensive woes until both players come back. They still have Hunter Pence, Shane Victorino and Jimmy Rollins, not exactly murderers row, but enough offense to get you by when Halladay, Lee and Hamels are pitching shutouts. Could they get another solid season from Vance Worley? Sure. Same goes for Joe Blanton. They have a top 5 closer in Jonathon Papelbon and another live arm in Antonio Bastardo in the back of the pen. They will lose more games than they did last year but they will be fine over the long haul.
2) Washington Nationals- They are the trendy pick to make the leap to the playoffs this year and I am all in on the Nats. Stephen Strasburg will finally be able to show that he is already a true ace. Jordan Zimmerman is already a legit number 2 and Gio Gonzalez, Edwin Jackson and Ross Dewiler round out a very good rotation. All 5 of these guys could have ERA’s under 4 as a whole. Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Morse make a formidable middle of the order and the offense could be a whole lot better if Jayson Werth decides to show up this year. Oh yeah, and that Harper guy should be up by July to play center field. Clippard and Storen in the bullpen is great. This team is going to contend.
3) Atlanta Braves- The Braves are basically the same team from 2011 except at shortstop, which is a marginal change anyways. Jason Heyward is going to go above and beyond his 2010 season and is just too talented to struggle again. The rest of the lineup is pretty solid with Brian McCann, Freddie Freeman, Dan Uggla and Michael Bourn. Although, I don’t expect much from future Hall of Famer Chipper Jones in his farewell tour. The reason why I have the Braves in 3rd is because of the question marks in their rotation. On paper, it is great. But Tim Hudson is beginning the season on the DL and you have to be scared about Tommy Hanson’s shoulder. Mike Minor and Jair Jurrjens are solid but top prospect Julio Teheran does not seem ready just yet to succeed in the majors. The bullpen is absolutely terrific and I see the Braves contending but slipping up towards the end of the season.
4) Florida Marlins- All this hype, and I have them in 4th place and mainly because of health reasons. We all know Jose Reyes will hit the DL at least once this season and could take a slight step back after a red hot season now that he has his new contract. Josh Johnson is just not reliable. He is as dominant as it gets when right, but to bank on him for 200 innings is foolish. Mark Buehrle is slightly above average at this point but nothing special. Heath Bell “bolsters” an average bullpen when in reality he is declining. Two bright spots will be Hanley Ramirez’ return to stardom and Giancarlo Stanton’s rise to stardom. But i just do not see a team that is going to get over the hump this season.
5) New York Mets- My beloved Amazin’s. Everyone is picking them as the 5th place team and for good reason. But I do not think they will be as bad as everyone thinks. I personally think Ike Davis is going to be a star and combining him with David Wright in the middle of the order is a nice combination. Lucas Duda is poised to break out and Daniel Murphy finally has a position. Johan Santana will probably never be an “ace” again but he is still above average at this point. Same goes with Jon Niese and RA Dickey. Mike Pelfrey and Dillon Gee will get smacked around though and the bullpen is going to be god awful. Jason Bay is finished and there are going to be a few automatic outs in the lineup. Not hideous, but bad. I can see them winning 75 games if they have a good year.
NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL
1) Cincinnati Reds- You have to love the boldness of GM Walt Jocketty, basically trading excess to get a future (and probably present) ace in Mat Latos to anchor the rotation. Joey Votto is now locked up and that will get rid of all those distractions. Hes an MVP candidate and will make a terrific combination on the right side of the infield with All-Star Brandon Phillips. Jay Bruce has shown that he is an above average offensive player as well. Devin Mesoraco is now the primary catcher and will provide some pop. The rest of the rotation is average but in a weak division, that will do just fine. The Reds aren’t going to run away with the division but they are the most well rounded. Its going to be a great race.
2) Milwaukee Brewers- Pitching, Pitching, Pitching. Milwaukee has one of the best rotations in the National League with Zack Greinke, Yovanni Gallardo, Shaun Marcum and Randy Wolf. Yes the Brewers did lose Prince Fielder. But they did not lose defending MVP Ryan Braun for 50 games. Adding Aramis Ramirez will kill them defensively at third base, but he is going to add a serious power threat in the middle of the lineup. Add Rickie Weeks to that combo and the Brewers have a formidable middle of the order. Corey Hart is not a bad complimentary piece either and we will see how the once top prospect Mat Gamel handles first base. This team may not win the division again, but they arent going away.
3) St. Louis Cardinals- The defending World Series champions will not make the playoffs this year. Chris Carpenter’s health has to be a major concern and even if Adam Wainwright is tremendous, he is going to have a likely innings limit and will be treated cautiously. Matt Holliday is a staple in the middle of the lineup but questions will remain about Carlos Beltran’s knees and if Lance Berkman can “do it again”. They lost a sure thing in Albert Pujols and replaced him with a possible All-Star bat but a possible injury risk. Carpenter at 100% would make me think differently but pitching wins championships, and divisons. There is just too much health risk on this team, and I didn’t even mention Rafael Furcal.
4) Chicago Cubs- Theo Epstein is in the midst of a major rebuilding process and the Cubs are going to struggle yet again. There are a few bright spots in top, young shortstop Starlin Castro and Matt Garza coming off a quiet, but dominant year. But other than that, there is not much to like about this Cubs team. Brett Jackson may eventually take over in center field and it will be interesting to see how he fares. But the Cubs need to strip the dead wood off this team before they can move forward. Alfonso Soriano’s only value to his game at this point in his career is his power. The Cubs will rebound quicker than other rebuilding projects because of their finances, but this is just going to be a transition year.
5) Pittsburgh Pirates- Two decades in a row with a record below .500. Absolutely atrocious. Although I have to say the Pirates are moving in the right direction after extending their franchise player Andrew McCutchen. But other than him, this roster is just trash. This is going to be another season of misery for Pirates fans. But the future looks bright with some top young players in the farm system that should be ready in the next year or two. And the Pirates should have another top draft pick this season as well. They are finally turning things around, but it has just not reached the majors yet.
6) Houston Astros- This team is just absolutely hideous. If they manage to not lose 100 games, view it as an accomplishment. This roster is so bare due to a complete rebuild from the ground up. There are a few solid pieces in the farm system but none that will have any great impact this season besides maybe George Springer. It is going to be a long time before this organization is good again and a team should be embarrassed if they lose a series to them.
NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST
1) Colorado Rockies- Nobody is picking the Rockies to win the division but sometimes you just have a hunch about something. I love the offense this season with arguably the best 1-2 punch in the National League with Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez. People forget that the Rockies added Michael Cuddyer too who will serve as a solid middle-third bat in the lineup. This is the year that Dexter Fowler finally breaks out after a solid season in 2011. They also stole Marco Scutaro from the Red Sox who is a solid average regular. If top prospect Nolan Arenado reaches the majors sometime this year, the offense is going to be very good. This rotation can be pretty good as well with Jhoulys Chacin, Drew Pomeranz, Jeremy Guthrie and Juan Nicasio coming back from injury. The Rockies will also be getting Jorge de la Rosa back sometime during the season to bolster the rotation even more. The Rockies are going to be sneaky good and I predict that they will eek out the division in the final week of the season.
2) Arizona Diamondbacks- After a surprise last year, the D’Backs are here to stay will secure a Wild Card spot in 2012. Justin Upton is emerging as one of the best players in the National League and will be in the MVP race this season. You have to love the D’Backs potential rotation in the next coming months with Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson, Trevor Cahill making a solid #1-3 with top pitching prospects Trevor Bauer and Tyler Skaggs on the cusp of the big leagues. The only real concern with Arizona is their lack of offense besides Upton. They have some nice pieces around him including Miguel Montero, Chris Young and Ryan Roberts. But they need another bat if they are going to make some noise.
3) San Francisco Giants- The Giants lineup was absolutely terrible last season and they went out and traded for Melky Cabrera. They are going to have the same problem scoring runs this year even though they will have Buster Posey and Brandon Belt for a full season. Their offense will be a bit better but not enough to get them into the playoffs. Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner rival the Phillies for best rotation in the National League and could be scary in a playoff series, but they have to get there first. San Francisco will be in the playoff hunt, but their failure to address the offense will be their downfall again.
4) Los Angeles Dodgers- Even though I have the Dodgers in 4th place this year, they will not be as bad as it looks. They have 2 absolute studs to build around in defending Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw and All-Star Matt Kemp. Andre Ethier and Chad Billingsley make nice compliments in the lineup and rotation but there is just not enough fire power in either part of the game for the Dodgers to make a playoff push. The new ownership will help them going forward and they will be much better in the coming years, but not in 2012.
5) San Diego Padres- The future looks bright for the Padres with a great farm system with plenty of nice players coming up the pipeline. But this team is just so thin on the 25 man roster and it is going to show this season. Cameron Maybin is a nice player to move around after finally fulfilling some expectations and Cory Luebke has flown under the radar as a solid starter. But other than that this team is almost as bare as the Astros. There should be no coincidence though, as the Padres have the lowest payroll in the league. Another long year in San Diego.
1) Troy Tulowitzki- The best shortstop in baseball is about to have his best season yet for Colorado when he heads them to the playoffs. This guy does it all; hit for power, hit for average, get on base, steal a few bases, all while playing gold glove defense at shortstop. This guy is going to explode this year in Coors Field. He’s only 26 years old and is just entering his prime. A .300/.375/.550 line with 30+ HR’s, 110 RBI, 100 runs with 15 steals and another Gold Glove Award will do for him this year.
2) Justin Upton- By this time next year, we all might be anointing Justin Upton as the best outfielder in the entire league. he was in the MVP race last year and will be in it again this year. Like Tulowitzki, Upton is a 5 tool player that brings everything to the table and is an ideal player to build around. Another monster 35 HR season with 100+ RBI, 40 doubles, 20 steals with a batting average that will hover around .300. Both Upton and Tulowitzki are the two of best young players in the game but the difference will be the narrative of Tulowitzki carrying the underdog Rockies to the division title.
3) Joey Votto- Now that Votto has his contract, he can just focus on crushing the NL Central this year. You can make the case that Votto has now become the best all-around first baseman in the league. The extra base hit machine is a shoe-in for at least a .300 batting average and an elite wOBA and OBP above .400. 30 HR’s and 110 RBI are easily attainable for Votto to go along with his gold glove first base defense. Votto may slip on some ballots simply due to the fact that he already has an MVP award on his resume.
Cy Young Award Ballot
1) Zack Greinke- Greinke’s ordinary statistics do not tell the whole tale about how good he really was last season. He led the league in xFIP and his peripherals indicate that he was very unlucky. In a contract year, Greinke is going to eat up the poor NL Central. He is going to throw 220 innings, winning at least 18 games while striking out over 200 batters. An ERA and xFIP well under 3.00 to go along with those counting numbers as well. Greinke is still only 28 and is going to pitch his way to a mega contract in the offseason.
2) Clayton Kershaw- Sandy Koufax Jr. was absolutely unhittable last year and there is no reason that he will not continue his dominance. Its hard to believe the best young pitcher in the game is just 24 years of age. It helps too that Kershaw pitches in Dodger Stadium and will face the atrocious Padres and Giants lineups a few times times each. He is already a very durable starter that is going to give the Dodgers 200 + innings with 200+ K’s and an ERA of 3.00 and probably lower. He lowered his walk rate significantly last year and his WHIP was under 1.00. Kershaw may regress a tiny bit, but only because last year was so phenomenal, not because he is not the real deal.
3) Mat Latos- Maybe a surprising name to some people but Latos is an ace in the making. After a slow start to last year due to injury he was locked in and just continued from where he left off in 2010 when he dominated. Latos’ splits show that he is not a product of PetCo Park and was just as good on the road as he was at home. Now playing in the mediocre NL Central, he is going to feast on the bottom 3 teams in the division. I am predicting 18 wins, 200+ K’s and an ERA hovering around 3.00. When we look back on the trade years from now, the Reds will be winners because they got a true ace in the deal.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
1) Drew Pomeranz- The main piece in the Ubaldo Jimenez trade has a spot secured in the Rockies rotation. He is a big, durable starter with a plus fastball and tremendous 12-6 curveball. Pomeranz had a great spring and has the stuff and make-up to be a top of the rotation pitcher in Colorado in the near future. I may be the only person out there that thinks the Rockies are a good team but they will score plenty of runs for him. If Pomeranz stays in the rotation for the entire season, he already has the ability to win 10+ games. Beginning the season in the majors will allow him to rack up his counting numbers, an advantage that pitchers in the minors don’t have. He is going to strike his fair share of batters out.
2) Trevor Bauer- One of the most major league ready pitchers to come out of the draft, Trevor Bauer will be up in Arizona sooner rather than later. Bauer has a unique delivery for a small framed pitcher but his stuff is tremendous and projects to be a #1 or #2 in the future. He is going to get his chance this season in Arizona as Josh Collmentor and Joe Saunders won’t hold him back. Expect lots of strikeouts and a good amount of wins if he is called up early enough.
3) Yonder Alonso- Alonso will get his chance to play first base every day and get his 500+ at-bats. His bat is above average with power and he is in the plans to be in the middle of the Padres lineup for a long time. But in a terrible lineup and in the worst hitters park in the league, it will be tough for Alonso to get his counting stats up that voters consider.
COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Johan Santana- Santana hasn’t pitched in a major league game since September, 2010. This Spring he has looked very good at times despite a slight dip in velocity. He may never be a Cy Young Award candidate ever again but Santana still has the command and off speed stuff to be an above average pitcher. His change-up is still one of the best in the game and he is implementing the slider more and more. Despite a possible innings cap, expect double digit wins with an ERA well under 4.00 and decent strikeout totals. Santana still has something left in him.
MORE BOLD PREDICTIONS FOR EACH TEAM
-Vance Worley gives the Phillies another solid 30 starts with a sub-4 ERA
-Brandon Beachy strikes out 200 batters
-Jordan Zimmerman: 190 IP, 16 W, 170 K’s, 3.20 ERA
-Mark Buehrle has his worst season in his career with an ERA well above 4.00
-The Mets win 75 or more games
-Jay Bruce goes 30 HR and 100 RBI with an All-Star appearance
-Mat Gamel: .275, 20 HR, 80 RBI at first base
-Rafael Furcal, Carlos Beltran and Lance Berkman all miss 30 games or more with injuries
-Starlin Castro finishes the season with a higher WAR than Jose Reyes
-AJ Burnett wins 12 games with an ERA around 4.00, 170 K’s
-Astros do not sweep one series all year
-Dexter Fowler is an All-Star
-Trevor Bauer and Tyler Skaggs win more games combined than Josh Collmentor and Joe Saunders
-Madison Bumgarner gets the most Cy Young votes on the Giants staff
-Kenley Jansen finishes the year with the most K’s amongst relief pitchers
-Luke Gregerson gets traded at the deadline after a terrific first half of the season
Thank the lord that baseball is back as of tomorrow! Predicting what will happen during the season is one of the most fun things to do before actual games begin. Its been a long offseason and a long Spring. As we know from last year, anything can happen during the MLB season. I will now give my predictions for my: Division Standings, Top 3 MVP Ballot, Top 3 Cy Young Award Ballot, Top 3 Rookie Of The Year Award, Comeback Player Of The Year, and lastly, 1 Bold Prediction for each club. Feel free to disagree, I know you will. Here we go…….
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
1) Tampa Bay Rays- I absolutely LOVE this team this year and am so excited to watch them pitch. First off, their pitching is outstanding. James Shields and David Price are both legitimate aces and Price still has not even hit his ceiling yet. Jeremy Hellickson may have overachieved in his rookie season but that does not mean he has hit his peak either. He will improve his K/9 despite a hit in ERA. Still a solid 3 in the rotation for now. And lets be honest, Matt Moore is an absolute stud. I do not expect a Cy Young this year, but he is going to hold his own. Evan Longoria is just entering his prime, Carlos Pena is back, Ben Zobrist is one of the most underrated players in the league, BJ Upton is on a walk year and Desmond Jennings is going to break out. They will find pieces to work for the bullpen too. Its going to be close, but this is the best Rays roster they have had probably ever.
2) New York Yankees- Many people have them winning the division but I see them taking a slight step back from 2011. Their offense is still terrific but I expect a bit of regression from Curtis Granderson and Derek Jeter. Mark Teixeira is still a terrific first baseman but has had a declining OPS for the past 5 seasons. Alex Rodriguez will still be productive but he has to stay healthy as well. Robinson Cano is now THE guy in the lineup and Nick Swisher is on a walk year. This team is still going to score many runs. CC Sabathia will be himself and Hiroki Kuroda is going to be a solid #2-3. However, after that, the rotation is up in the air. How will Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes, Freddy Garcia hold up? Michael Pineda’s spring is a concern and I think he will be fine long term but his contributions in 2012 may be marginal. Their bullpen is still damn good though. Guaranteed 90 wins and probably more.
3) Boston Red Sox- This team is so talented but just full of question marks. Adrian Gonzalez, Jon Lester, David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia are staples. But health is just the main concern. How will Kevin Youkilis hold up? What will Clay Buchholz be this season? Will Andrew Bailey even step on the mound? WTF is wrong with Carl Crawford? Josh Beckett is a classic case of a hot and cold and I expect a bit of a regression for Jacoby Ellsbury (still All-Star though). What will Daniel Bard bring to the rotation? If everything breaks right for the Red Sox, (Crawford rebound, good team health, Bard transition) this team has the talent to win 100 games. But when was the last time a team caught every break? This team is going to contend but I don’t expect them to be world beaters that they were for a span of 3 months last year.
4) Toronto Blue Jays- This is another transition and growth year for the Jays but I absolutely love their team going forward. Jose Bautista and Brett Lawrie look to make a great duo in the middle of the order. Ricky Romero is coming off his best season and still has some room to grow. Kyle Drabek looks terrific this Spring and I expect Henderson Alvarez to be sneaky good this season. THey have the roster to compete in the NL, but still not the AL. Their farm system is tremendous and there are more re-enforcements on the way including top prospect Travis d’Arnaud, and a slew of pitchers. Toronto has money burning a whole in Alex Anthopoulos’ pocket and they could be players next offseason. I expect more wins than losses this season but still not enough to contend. Next year they could make some real noise. Still going to be a fun team to watch.
5) Baltimore Orioles- After falling flat on their faces last year, I expect the same for the O’s this season. Matt Wieters is still going to be a star and Dylan Bundy and Manny Machado are slowly cooking in the minor leagues. But other than that, there is not much to like about this team. Adam Jones may finally take a big step forward this year, but he is going to be a free agent after 2013. Brian Matusz’ returning velocity is also a positive sign. But until ownership changes, this team is going to be in last place. Brian Roberts may be finished and Nick Markakis has been a disappointment for a few years now.
AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL
1) Detroit Tigers- After signing Prince Fielder, this team has basically wrapped up the division before they even play a game. Miguel Cabrera is arguably the best hitter in the game right now and they have a top 5 pitcher in Justin Verlander (hes still not the best though). Their rotation beyond Verlander is strong with Doug Fister (who I love) and Max Scherzer capable of being a competent #2 and #3. I expect Rick Porcello to do a bit better this year as well. Top pitching prospect Jacob Turner may be able to make an impact this season as well when he gets healthy. I don’t like the bullpen as much as other people but it is good enough to get the job done. This team is going to score plenty of runs and pitch very well. They might have hideous infield defense with Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera at the corners but that is besides the point. They are going to beat up on the weak AL Central.
2) Kansas City Royals- Any baseball fan has to be rooting for the Royals this season. They have a future (and present) monster at 1st base in Eric Hosmer and many other terrific complimentary pieces. Billy Butler and Alex Gordon will make nice middle of the order bats and Mike Moustakas showed in August and September that his bat is the real deal. I am excited to see if Lorenzo Cain can produce at the plate after a terrific spring as well. The Royals have a few studs in the minors waiting for the call up that can contribute some time this season in Wil Myers and Mike Montgomery. Their bullpen will still be great despite losing Joakim Soria for the season. The only weakness is their rotation, which will only improve after prospects are graduated and given time to develop. This team is going to win 80 games in 2012, but they are still a season away and an arm away from competing.
3) Minnesota Twins- Third place in this division is not saying much but the Twins will have a healthy Joe Mauer this season and a hopefully healthy Justin Morneau. I expect Francisco Liriano to have a great, bounce back season after a tremendous 2010 and disappointing 2011. But other than that, the Twins just have a bunch of average players, a mediocre rotation and weak bullpen. This team will lose more games than win but will still be slightly competitive in a poor division. Not much help coming from the farm either for at least a few years and a few things will have to break just right for this team to even win 81 games.
4) Cleveland Indians- I kept saying that the Indians would fade after a smoking hot start in 2011 and I was right. There are a few bright spots on this team in future star catcher Carlos Santana, Jason Kipnis and Asdrubal Cabrera. I expect a bit of regression from Cabrera this season but he should still be above average offensively. Justin Masterson was a surprise last season but his peripherals indicate he could be due for a regression as well. Lonnie Chisenhall struggled at third and will start the season in the minors and Grady Sizemore is just a walking injury. Not sure what this team will bring to the table this season due to so many question marks. They may end up regretting the Ubaldo Jimenez trade after a terrible spring. If things break their way and a few players step up, this team could take a step forward this year, but if not, they are going to be bad like the second half of last season.
5) Chicago White Sox- This team just has the recipe for disaster this season. The worst farm system by far in the league has zero re-enforcements coming up during the season and the team is full of disappointments and older vets. Paul Konerko is sneaky great and Alexei Ramirez is an underrated shortstop on both offense and defense. But other than that, this team is just average. John Danks and Gavin Floyd are both solid but neither are aces. Jake Peavy’s health will always be in question and will Adam Dunn be absolutely atrocious again? I think Dunn will return to about career norms but that is not enough to put this team into contention. Is Gordon Beckham a bust? This team could turn from bad to awful in the next calendar year.
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST
1) Texas Rangers- The two time defending AL champs have a great chance to be the 3 time defending champs. They lost CJ Wilson and replaced him with Yu Darvish who has looked tremendous this spring. The offense is arguably the best in the league and they are going to score runs with or without Josh Hamilton in the lineup every day. I love Derek Holland this year to take that next step and Colby Lewis and Matt Harrison are pretty decent compliments in the rotation. This team really does not have a major flaw with a great offense, good rotation, and strong bullpen. Could you imagine if Texas added a power hitting first baseman? It is going to be a tight race to the finish but I feel like the Rangers are a much more rounded team and can hit their way out of any problem. They can afford to experiment with Neftali Feliz in the rotation and worst case scenario, they more him back and bolster the bullpen even more.
2) Los Angeles Angels- A very close second place. The Angels have the best rotation in baseball with Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, CJ Wilson and Ervin Santana. Oh yeah, adding Albert Pujols and getting Kendrys Morales back will help a previously mediocre lineup. Howie Kendrick is poised for a true All-Star season and Erick Aybar will make for a solid shortstop both offensively and defensively. Peter Bourjos is a very nice young player as well in center field and Torii Hunter will still provide at least average offensive production. The Angels have the pieces to be a playoff team and are going to be difficult to beat in a 7 game serioes with their pitching. They also have the best prospect in baseball, Mike Trout, waiting in the wings. A shoe-in for a Wild Card spot.
3) Seattle Mariners- Their offense won’t be as anemic as last year but still well below average with the addition of Jesus Montero. Having Dustin Ackley around for a whole season and a healthy Justin Smoak will provide some support. But looking at this team, other than Felix Hernandez they are going to be pretty bad. Any rotation with Kevin Millwood in it is a complete joke. There are some nice young arms waiting in the minor leagues but their impact for this year will be marginal. This team needs more offense before we even talk about them getting back towards .500 ball. With a healthy farm system and solid finances, this team will not wallow in misery for too long, but they are at least 2-3 years away from contenting.
4) Oakland Athletics- Moneyball or not, this team is going to be god awful. They are in the process of blowing up a rebuilding effort that made them a trendy pick to win the AL West just 12 months ago. But Gio Gonzalez and Trevor Cahill are gone and Brett Anderson’s elbow was been consumed by sliders. Who is this teams best offensive player? Jemile Weeks? Yoenis Cespedes will add some power but I am not convinced that he will even hit above .220. A’s fans should look forward to some young players emerge from the farm system this year, Brandon McCarthy’s reinvention, and Brett Anderson’s return from Tommy John. But other than that, theres nothing to get excited about.
1) Evan Longoria- This is his year. After coming back from injury last season he was tremendous. I can’t imagine him hitting anywhere near .240 again. Legit 30+ HR power who will easily drive in 100 runs, score 100 runs and at the least bat .275 with an above average OBP. He is a gold glove defender at the hot corner and is poised to truly elevate his game from talented young player, to super star this season. Longoria is only 26 years old and still has plenty of terrific years left in him. He is “the guy” in the middle of the lineup and is going to carry the Rays on his back to the playoffs this season. His rise to superstardom and the obstacles the Rays face will help him collect this award.
2) Miguel Cabrera- I cannot believe this guy has not won an MVP yet. He is about as consistent as it gets and is in my opinion, the best pure hitter in baseball today. Sure he’s as mobile as a bowling pin at third base, but Cabrera is an automatic 30 HR, 100 RBI, 100 R, .320 AVG every single season. I think he even surpasses a few of those numbers this year. His .448 OBP last season was truly absurd and he is going to exceed .400 again in that department. As elite of an offensive player as it gets. I just think Longoria beats him because of the weakness in the AL Central and the competition in the AL East. Voters don’t always vote for the best player. Cabrera will get his MVP one day, just not this year.
3) Jose Bautista- What a story this guy is. He backed up 2010 with an even more impressive 2011 campaign and there is no reason to think that he will not repeat his performance this year. Bautista has risen to be the most powerful hitter in the big leagues with fantastic on-base skills to match. You could have made a serious case for him to win MVP last year but voters may have ignored him due to the Jays 4th place finish. That may happen again this year so it is hard to see Bautista winning the award without a truly remarkable offensive performance in 2012. But it is for certain that he will still be a tremendous player this season.
CY YOUNG BALLOT
1) David Price- To the naked eye, David Price seemed to take a step backwards last year from his outstanding 2010 season, but in fact, he had his best season in his young career. That being said, Price now has the experience and skill to become a top 5 pitcher in the entire league. His stuff is off the charts and he has more than held his own in the very competitive AL East. He increased his K/9 rate while cutting down on his BB/9 rate and lowering his WHIP. Don’t let the 12-13 record fool you, Price is going to be tremendous this season. He may be a bit of an odd pick, but would anybody be surprised if this guy wins 20 games this season with a sub-3 ERA and 225 K’s? Because thats what I see Price doing this year, turning his game up a notch. He’s only going to get better.
2) Felix Hernandez- King Felix might just have the most filthy stuff in the entire league. His repertoire is outstanding and he has shown time and time again that he can shut down even the most elite offenses. If Felix has a “typical” season, he is going to be a top 5 pitcher in all of baseball. Its a shame that he has to pitch for that terrible offense that will probably cost him some wins this year but Hernandez will be just fine on the mound. When right, he’s unhittable.
3) Yu Darvish-Yes you’ve read that right. Yu Darvish should not be compared with any other Japanese players who have come to the United States to play in the MLB, because he is better than all of them. Darvish throws so many different pitches and even though he will simplify his repertoire, he still will have so many weapons. Spring Training stats are basically irrelevant, but he has shown that he can dominate. Not the typical Japanese pitcher, he is going to attack hitters and strike a lot of batters out. Playing for Texas will help him out too. He is going to receive some votes and show everyone that he is the real deal.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Note- Even though Darvish is technically a rookie, I do not consider him for this.
1) Jesus Montero- You don’t just casually draw comparisons to Miguel Cabrera. As of right now, it looks like the Mariners are winning the Montero/Pineda trade and Montero is going to get his 500+ at-bats this year. Montero is going to hit in the middle third of the Mariners lineup and is going to rake like he has done in every phase of his professional career. Seattle has found their future #4 big bat. A .280 average with 25 HR’s and 75+ RBI seem pretty attainable, even on a pretty poor team.
2) Matt Moore- I absolutely love Moore. But I am not a member of the group who think he is already the next Sandy Koufax. He is going to dominate some lineups this year with his off the charts stuff that misses bats. But he has to show the ability to locate the fastball and throw his deadly off-speed stuff for strikes. There are going to be a few starts where he gets smacked around too. With a likely innings cap, I do not see the future ace winning the award this season, but he will be in the conversation.
3) Jarrod Parker- The main piece in the Trevor Cahill trade will get his chance to pitch in the big leagues sometime this season due to the rebuilding process in Oakland. At the very least, the stadium should help his numbers quite a bit. I can see Parker being a sneaky candidate this year with hardly any talk about the Athletics. He has the potential to be a top of the rotation pitcher and I think we can expect some impressive performances from Parker this year.
COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Adam Dunn- This guy does not go from a consistent 30 HR, 100 RBI player with 100 BB’s to absolutely atrocious overnight without some freak reason. Not to say that Dunn will completely return to career averages but no player falls off that tremendously in one season. A whole offseason off will have done him some good and his Spring has been encouraging. I expect Dunn to save his reputation this season as a power threat in the middle of the White Sox lineup. A .250 average with 30+ HRs and 85 RBI as a floor for Dunn, with 80+ BB’s.
MORE BOLD PREDICTIONS FOR EACH TEAM
-Carlos Pena hits 30 HR’s and drives in 100 runs
-Carl Crawford will be a 5+ WAR player
-Brett Lawrie has a solid, not great season. Expectations way too high
-Brian Matusz will win 14 games with a sub-4 ERA
-Mariano Rivera will announce that he is retiring at the end of the season
-Doug Fister is yet again, a 5+ WAR pitcher
-Lorenzo Cain steals 30+ bases
-Francisco Liriano will be on some writers Cy Young ballots
-Carlos Santana will finish the season as the best offensive catcher in the league
-Jake Peavy will make 30 starts, win 15+ games and finish with an ERA under 3.50
-Yu Darvish: 18 W, 3.10 ERA, 190 K’s, 200 IP,
-Vernon Wells: .250/.320/.440, 25 HR’s, 80 RBI, screws Mike Trout
-Ichiro has 200 hits and bats well over .300 for the season
-10 Wins for Jarrod Parker
On Monday, the Giants announced that they agreed to a long term extension with starting pitcher Matt Cain. This deal was expected to get done some time during the next few months and Cain landed the biggest deal for a right handed pitcher in MLB history. The extension tacks on an extra 5 years worth 112.5 MM dollars with a vesting option for a 6th year. The 27 year old is coming off of his best season to date and has finally established himself as a bonafide ace after a few seasons of playing sidekick to Tim Lincecum.
This deal looks to be one of the more sounds contracts given to big name pitchers over the past few years that includes market value money. Cain is going to be paid like an ace with a very high annual salary, but the Giants did not completely compromise the future by only giving him a maximum of 6 more years after 2012. Cain will be 28 when the extension kicks in and you have to figure that he still has at least 2-3 seasons of top performance. Cain is extremely durable and is almost guarantee to pitch 200 innings every season. The deal will end when Cain is at the age of 33. He may be in a decline phase at that point in his career, but probably not so much where he becomes completely ineffective (a la Barry Zito). I would expect Cain who is technically in his prime right now to continue to be an ace in the Giants staff for at least another 3 seasons. When he begins to lose a tick or two on his fastball is when concerns should begin for a decline. By the end of the deal, Cain will most likely be paid more than what he is worth, but the majority of mega extensions and free agent contracts end up turning a bit ugly in the final year or two. I think this is a deal that the Giants had to make though, locking up their still young, homegrown pitcher before he walks in free agency.
However, the Matt Cain deal could signal that the Giants front office have decided to keep him over other ace Tim Lincecum. Lincecum will be a free agent after the 2013 season so the Giants still have plenty of time to work out a deal if they want to. But by the time Lincecum hits free agency, he will be 29 years old going on 30 and most likely asking for a deal that exceeds Cain. Lincecum has a much more impressive resume than Cain, winning back-to-back NL Cy Young awards with 4 straight All-Star appearances and 3 years in a row of being the NL Strikeout Champion. Lincecum has certainly been one of the most dominant pitchers in the league through the past decade but by the time he hits free agency, his peak years will most likely be over. While he has had a high peak and could still be very good for a few more seasons after 2013, the Giants would most probably be overpaying for Lincecum’s services in terms of what they receive in production from him.
Even though Lincecum has been injury free throughout his whole career, there still will be questions of durability going forward with his unusual delivery and small frame. Matt Cain projects to be much more durable going forward. Also, with the emergence of Madison Bumgarner, the Giants may be sitting on another young ace who will have to be paid in the next coming years. A terrible hypothetical scenario would be to let Bumgarner potentially walk because they cannot afford him, having so much money tied up in Lincecum and Cain after their peak seasons. There are also Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval and a whole entire team that will need to be paid as well in the future. To tie up 45 MM dollars or more in two starting pitchers could seriously handcuff even a larger market team like the Giants. There are still two more seasons left before the Giants will face this problem so there is still so much that can happen. But I predict that the Giants will end up letting Lincecum walk after his contract is up and instead use that money to extend Madison Bumgarner.