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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

NL Central Preview

1. St. Louis Cardinals *Division Winner
Lineup:
SS David Eckstein
2B Junior Spivey
1B Albert Pujols
CF Jim Edmonds
3B Scott Rolen
RF Juan Encarnacion
RF Larry Bigbie
C Yadier Molina

Rotation:
RHP Chris Carpentar
LHP Mark Mulder
RHP Jeff Suppan
RHP Jason Marques
RHP Sidney Ponson
Closer: Jason Isringausen

The Cards lost a lot this off-season, but they still have a strong enough pitching staff and a good enough middle-of-the-order that they should hold off the Astros. Carpentar is one of the best pitchers in the game and Mulder is one of the winningest lefties in the game today. Besides maybe Barry Bonds, there is no scarier hitter in the game than Albert Pujols. Look for the Cards' to be front runners in the Alfonso Soriano sweepstakes when there becomes one. If they get him, look out.

2. Houston Astros *Wild Card Winners
Lineup:
CF Willy Taveras
2B Craig Biggio
1B Lance Berkman
3B Morgan Ensberg
RF Preston Wilson
LF Jason Lane
SS Adam Everett
C Brad Ausmus

Rotation:
RHP Roy Oswalt
LHP Andy Pettite
RHP Brandon Backe
LHP Wendy Rodriguiz
RHP Ezequiel Astacio
Closer: Brad Lidge

The Astros upgraded their offense by adding Wilson, but their rotation needs the Rocket Roger Clemens very badly. After Oswalt and Pettite, things get pretty shakey. I like Backe, but he is a 4 or 5, not a 3. Still, their offense and their great bullpen should be enough to carry them to the playoffs one way or the other. If Clemens plays, they would probably become instant division favorites.

3. Chicago Cubs
Lineup:
CF Juan Pierre
2B Todd Walker
1B Derek Lee
3B Aramis Ramirez
RF Jaque Jones
C Michael Barett
RF Matt Murton
SS Ronny Cedeno

Rotation:
RHP Carlos Zambrano
RHP Mark Prior*
RHP Greg Maddux
LHP Glendon Rusch
RHP Jerome Williams
Closer: Ryan Dempster
*will miss opening day

The Cubs will undoubtedy battle injury problems in their rotation all season long. Prior is already going to miss the beggining of the year and it's anyones guess as to when and if Kerry Wood will pitch this season. The Cubs did upgrade their offense by adding Juan Pierre, but they still don't have a very good bullpen. If they get some good luck and their rotation can stay pretty healthy, they could compete for a wild card spot.

4. Millwaukee Brewers
Lineup:
CF Brady Clark
2B Rickie Weeks
1B Prince Fielder
LF Carlos Lee
RF Geoff Jenkins
3B Corey Koskie
SS Bill Hall/J.J. Hardy
C Damian Miller

Rotation:
RHP Ben Sheets
LHP Doug Davis
LHP Chris Capuano
RHP Tomo Ohka
RHP Dave Bush
Closer: Derrick Turnbow

The Millwaukee Brewers have a chance to be pretty darn good. They have a few young pieces in Weeks, Fielder. Their first 3 in their rotation look rock solid, but there are question marks after that. Turnbow was lights out in his first season as closer, and Carlos Lee, the Brew Crew's lone all-star, has the tools to be an MVP candidate in that park.

5. Pittsburg Pirates
Lineup:
CF Chris Duffy
SS Jack Wilson
1B Sean Casey
LF Jason Bay
RF Jeromy Burnitz
3B Joe Randa
2B Jose Castillo
C Ryan Doumit

Staff:
LHP Zach Duke
LHP Oliver Perez
RHP Kip Wells
LHP Paul Maholm
RHP Victor Santos
Closer: Mike Gonzalez

Like the Brewers, the Pirates can be a team that wins 10-15 games. I like the additions of Casey, Burnitz and Randa. That young staff lead by Zach Duke has a chance to be a great one.
After grabbing up a few former Reds, the Pirates should probably finish ahead of them.

6. Cincinatti Reds
Lineup:
LF Ryan Freel
SS Felipe Lopez
CF Ken Griffey Jr.
1B Adam Dunne
RF Austin Kearns
2B Rich Aurillia
3B Edwin Encarnacion
C. Javier Valentin

Rotation:
RHP Aaron Harang
LHP Eric Milton
RHP Paul Wilson
LHP Brandon Claussen
LHP Dave Williams
Closer: David Weathers

The Reds recently gave Willy Mo Pena to the Red Sox for nothing. They could have asked for a starting pitceher to help them out (Clement?). The Reds still will have a potent offense, but their weak rotation and even weaker bullpen will keep them in the cellar.

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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Wright wins 5th Starters Job

It's been a while since I posted strictly about the Giants, partly because of my preview through the rest of baseball, and partly because there just hasn't been a whole lot of news out of Scottsdale. Barry Bonds is on fire, batting close to .700 with 4 jacks and a handfull of RBI's. He has had a little setback with an inflamed elbow, but the Giants don't believe it to be serious and he should be ready to roll April 3rd in San Diego when the curtin unveils on the '06 MLB season. Also, Jamey Wright has beaten out Kevin Corriea and Brad Hennessey to win the 5th starters job. Wright has allowed only 2 earned runs in 14+ innings and the 31 year-old has earned his way onto the staff, which is the way it should have been. People feared that Wright would be granted a roster spot over a younger, better player due to his experience, but so far this spring, he has showed that maybe things can be different for him outside of Coors Field. As i've said before, he can be no worse than Brett Tomko, and he was the Giants #2 last season. If Wright can stay healthy and effective all year, I can easily see him winning 13+ games with an era below 4.50, and that would be more than exceptable from the 5th guy. Todd Greene has also been named to the opening day roster, which was really no surprise. Elizeir Alfonzo has outhit Greene this spring, but Greene has the experience that the Giants tout so much, plus he really is the only right-handed bat off the bench that can change a game with one swing of the bat.

The Giants roster is starting to shape up the way I thought it would. There is still a small race for the final bullpen spot. So far Armondo Benitez, Tim Worrell, Steve Kline, Tyler Walker, Jeff Fassero and Scott Munter have assured themselves spots, leaving one spot left if the Giants choose to go with 12 pitchers out of the gate as expected. Jack Tacshner, Jeremy Accardo and Kevin Corriea are all duking it out for that final pitching spot. Corriea looks to have the inside track as Accardo is slated to close in Fresno to begin with and Taschner will probably join him because the Giants are already carrying two lefties. However, the Giants may not be done with roster moves before the season begins. Todd Linden has long expressed his desire to play at the major league level consistantly. With Jason Ellison recently beating him out to win the 5th outfield spot, rumors have been flying that Brian Sabean is looking for takers on Linden. The only name I've heard mentioned are the Angels who are in the search for a left-handed outfielder. Linden wouldn't likely bring much, but there is a chance another major league reliever could be out there and the Angels have a surplus of relievers. Kevin Gregg, Estaben Yan or Brendan Donelly would all immensly help out the Giants Pen, but I would look for Linden to bring no more than a low-level prospect.
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NL East Preview

1. Atlanta Braves *Division Winners
Lineup:
2BMarcus Giles
SS Edgar Renteria
3B Chipper Jones
CF Andrew Jones
RF Jeff Franceur
1B Adam LaRoche
C. Brian McCann
LF. Ryan Langerhans/Kelly Johnson

Rotation:
RHP Tim Hudson
RHP John Smoltz
RHP John Thompson
RHP Jorge Sosa
LHP Horacio Ramirez/Mike Hampton
Closer: Chris Reitsma

Very close call here, but I have to roll with the Braves after the display they put on last seaosn. Bobby Cox is brilliant at bringing up youngsters and getting them to succeed quickley. The only problem with the Braves is their bullpen. Reitsma did ok at times last season as the stopper, but the pen is a little weaker overall this year. It's going to be interesting to see how well Giles adapts to the leadoff spot.

2. New York Mets
Lineup:
SS Jose Reyes
CF Carlos Beltran
1B Carlos Delgado
3B David Wright
LF Cliff Floyd
C Paul LoDuca
RF Xavier Nady
2B Kaz Matsui

Rotation:
RHP Pedro Martinez
LHP Tom Glavine
RHP Steve Trachsel
RHP Victor Zambrano
RHP Aaron Heilman
Closer: Billy Wagner

Their lineup has improved and their pen has gone from one of the weakest in the game, to the strongest in the East. Their rotation is a question mark. They have power in numbers, but they are getting pretty old, only Pedro scares me at this point.

3. Philadelphia Phillies
Lineup:
SS Jimmy Rollins
CF Aaron Rowand
2B Chase Utley
RF Bobby Abreu
LF Pat Burrell
1B Ryan Howard
3B David Bell
C Mike Liebrethal

Rotation:
RHP Jon Lieber
RHP Brett Myers
RHP Corey Lidle
RHP Ryan Franklin
RHP Gavin Floyd
Closer: Tom Gordon

Philly's pitching has took a tremendous hit with the lose of Billy Wagner, and Vicente Padilla is heads and shoulders above Ryan Franklin. Still, the Phillies potent lineup should keep them in games and in the NL East race until late August.

4. Washington Nationals
Lineup:
LF Ryan Church
2B Jose Vidro
1B Nick Johnson
LF Alfonso Soriano
3B Ryan Zimmerman
RF Michael Tucker
C Brian Schnieder
SS Christian Guzman

Rotation:
RHP Livan Hernandez
RHP John Patterson
RHP Ramon Ortiz
RHP Brian Lawrence
RHP Tony Armas Jr.
Closer: Chad Cordero

Even with the loss of Esteban Loazia and Hector Carrasco, I really like the Nat's pitching staff. Hernandez and Patterson have the ability to eat up 500 innings in a season, and Ortiz, Lawrence and Armas all have potential to be very solid starters. The problem with the Nats, is they lost Vinny Castilla, Brad Wilkerson, Preston Wilson and Jose Guillen (injury) and the top player they added (Soriano) won't agree to play anywhere but 2nd base. It could be a very interesting April in DC to see how that saga unfolds. They will likely be forced to deal him and get about half of his value in return.

5. Florida Marlins
Lineup:
CF Eric Reed
LF Chris Aguila
RF Jeremy Hermedia
3B Miguel Cabrera
1B Mike Jacobs
C Josh Willingham
SS Hanley Ramirez
2B Pokey Reese

Rotation:
LHP Dontrelle Willis
RHP Josh Johnson
LHP Jason Vargas
RHP Sergio Mitre
RHP Brian Moheler
Closer: Joe Borowski

The Marlins have gone through yet another fire sale, leaving them with triple A castoffs and young 20 year-old prospects to fill their roster. They still have two of the brightest youngsters in the game in Willis and Cabrera, and a few up-and-coming can't miss studs like Ramirez, Willingham, and Hermedia, but this Marlin team will need to a few years of seasoning before they are contenders again.

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Monday, March 20, 2006

AL West Preview

1.Oakland Athletics * Division Winners
Lineup:
C Jason Kendall
CF Mark Kotsay
RF Milton Bradley
3B Eric Chavez
C Bobby Crosby
1B Dan Johnson
DH Frank Thomas
2B Mark Ellis
LF Nick Swisher

Rotation:
LHP Barry Zito
RHP Rich Harden
RHP Estaban Loazia
RHP Danny Haren
RHP Joe Blanton
Closer: Houston Street

The Al West looks to be a very tough division with every team (besides the Angels) improving in the offseason. The A's look to have the deepest overall squad with a tremendously strong pitching staff. The A's need to get a full season out of Milton Bradley and Rich Harden, but this is the most talented A's team since the days of Giambi, Damon and Isringhousen.

2. Los Angeles Angels
Lineup:
3B Chone Figgins
SS Orlando Cabrera
RF Vlademir Guerrero
LF Garret Anderson
1B Casey Kotchman
CF Darrin Erstad
DH Juan Rivera/Dallas McCpherson
2B Adam Kennedy
C Jose Molina

Rotation:
RHP Bartolo Colon
RHP John Lackey
RHP Kelvim Escobar
RHP Jeff Weaver
RHP Ervin Santana
Closer: Francisco Rodriguiz

The Angels always have one of the best bully's in the league, but their offense has downgraded with the loss of Molina. Their rotation upgraded with the addition of Weaver, but they still lack a lefty. I am a little worried about their lack of power outside of Vlad, but they have a lot of playoff tested veterans and they should be in it all season.

3. Texas Rangers
Lineup:
DH David Dellucci
RF Brad Wilkerson
SS Michael Young
1B Mark Texiera
3B Hank Blalock
LF Kevin Mench
CF Gary Matthews Jr.
C Rod Barajas
2B Ian Kinsler

Rotation:
RHP Kevin Millwood
RHP Adam Eaton
RHP Vicente Padilla
RHP Juan Dominguez
LHP C.J. Wilson
Closer: Francisco Cordero

As always, the Rangers have a potent offense, but their starting pitching is what will need to carry them into the playoffs. It improved marginally this winter with the additions of Millwood, Padilla and Eaton, but they also lost their 2 top starters from last year in Kenny Rodgers and Chris Young.

4. Seattle Mariners
Lineup:
RF Ichiro Suzuki
CF Jeremy Reed
3B Adrian Beltre
1B Richie Sexson
LF Raul Ibanez
DH Carl Everett
C Kenji Johjima
2B Jose Lopez
SS Yuniski Betancourt

Rotation:
LHP Jamie Moyer
RHP Felix Hernandez
LHP Jarrod Washburn
RHP Joel Pineiro
RHP Gil Meche
Closer: Eddie Guardado

The Mariners are a very young team and still maybe a year or 2 away from being back in the running. Hernandez and Pineiro have the potential to lead the staff, but Pieneiro has been inconsistant during his young career. Their lineup looks pretty good, but they need more production from their middle infield.

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Saturday, March 18, 2006

AL Central Preview

1. Chicago White Sox * Division Winners
Lineup:
LF Scott Podsednik
2B Tadhito Iguchi
DH Jim Thome
1B Paul Konerko
RF Jermaine Dye
3B Joe Crede
C A.J. Pierzynski
SS Juan Uribe
CF Brian Anderson

Rotation:
LHP Mark Buerhle
RHPJon Garland
RHP Jose Contraras
RHP Freddy Garcia
RHP Javier Vazquez
Closer: Bobby Jenks

The White Sox have improved on the team that won the 2005 World Series and they look like they are primed to make it deep into the playoffs once again. Jim Thome should return to 40+ home run form to give the White Sox one of the most feared lineups in the league to go along with a power staff.

2. Cleveland Indians
Lineup:
CF Grady Sizemore
LF Jason Michaels
SS Johnny Peralta
DH Travis Halfner
C Victor Martinez
2B Ronnie Belliard
1B Ben Broussard
3B Aaron Boone
RF Casey Blake

Rotation:
LHP C.C. Sabathia
RHP Paul Byrd
LHP Cliff Lee
RHP Jake Westbrook
RHP Jason Johnson
Closer: Bob Wickman

The young Indians have another year under their belt and look to be slightly stronger than the Twins at this point. Halfner is a potential MVP candidate and Sabathia and Lee are two of the top lefties in the league.

3. Minnasotta Twins
Lineup:
LF Shannon Stewart
2B Louie Castillo
C Joe Mauer
DH Rondell White
CF Tori Hunter
1B Justin Morneau
3B Tony Bautista
RF Michael Cuddyer
SS Jason Bartlett

Rotation:
LHP Johan Santana
RHP Brad Radke
RHP Carlos Silva
RHP Kyle Lohse
LHP Francisco Liarano
Closer: Joe Nathan

A lot of the Twins success will lie on how well Liarano does in his rookie season. I just don't see them with enough offense to beat out the Indians or the Chi Sox. Justin Morneau needs to bust out and find his 30+ home run potential.

4. Detroit Tigers
Lineup:
CF Curtis Granderson
2B Placido Polanco
C Ivan Rodriguiz
RF Magglio Ordonez
SS Carlos Guillen
DH Dmitri Young
1B Chris Shelton
LF Craig Monroe
3B Brandon Inge

Rotation:
LHP Kenny Rodgers
RHP Jeremy Bonderman
LHP Mike Maroth
LHP Nate Robertson
RHP Justin Verlander
Closer: Todd Jones

The Tigers are definetly on the rise. Young Chris Shelton and a healthy Magglio Ordonez should provide the Tigers with some legitimate pop, but as always, they are going to need their young pitching to develop. Verlander was one of the top pitching prospects in the bigs last season.

5. Kansas City Royals
Lineup:
CF David Dejesus
2B Mark Grudzialanek
1B Mike Sweeney
RF Reggie Sanders
LF Emil Brown
SS Angel Berroa
DH Matt Stairs
3B Mark Teahen
C Joe Buck

Rotation:
RHP Scott Elarton
RHP Runleaveys Hernandez
RHP Zack Grienke
LHP Mark Redman
RHP Joe Mays
Closer: Mike McDougal

No way to sugar coat it, the Royals should rival the Rockies as worst teams in baseball this season.


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Thursday, March 16, 2006

AL East Preview

Over the next few posts, I will do a small breakdown of each division reanking each team in the order I think they will finish. I am going to start with the AL East, and end with the NL West in detail.

1. New York Yankees *Divison Winner
Projected Line-up:
CF Johnny Damon
SS Derrick Jeter
3B Alex Rodriguiz
RF Gary Sheffield
LF Hideki Matsui
1B Jason Giambi

C Jorge Posada
2B Robinson Cano
DH Bernie Williams

Rotation:
LHP Randy Johnson

RHP Mike Mussina
RHP Chin Ming Wang

RHP Carl Pavano
RHP Shawn Chacon/
RHP Jaret Wright
Closer: RHP Marino Riveria

I hate to pick them first, but that scary line-up got even better with the addition of Damon. It is going to be a nice 3-way race between the Yanks, Sox and Jays, but I think the Yankees will once again pull out the division tittle. The AL East looks like baseball's premier division this season. Their pitching is a question mark, but Johnson and Mussina have looked great this spring and Pavano should bounce back from injury and contribute more this season.

2. Toronto Blue Jays * Wildcard

Lineup:
LF Frank Catalanotto
SS Russ Adams
CF Vernon Wells
3B Troy Glaus
1B Lyle Overbay
DH Shea Hillenbrand
RF Alex Rios
C Bengie Molina
2B Aaron Hill

RHP Roy Halliday
RHP A.J. Burnett
LHP Gustavo Chacin
RHP Josh Towers
LHP Ted Lilly
CL: LHP B.J. Ryan

One of the top 3 most improved teams in baseball. They are going to have to mesh, but I think they have a solid mix of youngsters and veterans. If they can stay healthy they will be very tough to beat.

3. Boston Red Sox

Lineup:
CF Coco Crisp
2B Mark Loretta
DH David Ortiz
LF Manny Ramirez
C Jason Varitek
3B Mike Lowell
RF Trot Nixon
SS Alex Gonzalez
1B Kevin Youkilis/ J.T. Snow

RHP Curt Shilling
RHP Josh Beckett

RHP Matt Clement
RHP Tim Wakefield
LHP David Wells
CL: RHP Keith Foulke

I have to pick the Jays ahead of the Sox this season due to all they lost. Damon, Renteria and Mueller where a lot to lose. Their line-up looks pretty deep, but they lack a true leadoff hitter and it's tough for teams to win divisions without good leadoff hitters. If they add a leadoff guy during the year (or if Crisp gets his obp up around .360) and Beckett and Shilling can stay healthy, they will be right there with the Jays and Yanks and it could really be anyones ball game.

4. Baltimore Orioles

Lineup:
2B Brian Roberts
C Ramon Hernandez
3B Melvin Mora
SS Miguel Tejada
DH Javy Lopez
RF Jay Gibbons
1B Jeff Connine
CF Corey Patterson
lF Luis Mattos

RHP Rodrigo Lopez

LHP Erik Bedard

RHP Daniel Cabrera
LHP Bruce Chen
RHP John Maine

CL: RHP Chris Ray

Orioles are not as good as they were last season, but they do have Miguel Tejada and some solid young arms that could carry them to a respectable record.

5. Tampa Bay Devil Rays

Lineup:
SS Julio Lugo
LF Carl Crawford
2B Jorge Cantu
3B Aubrey Huff
DH Johnny Gomes
CF Rocco Baldelli
1B Travis Lee
RF Damon Hollins
C Toby Hall


LHP Scott Kazmir
LHP Mark Hendrickson
RHP Edwin Jackson
LHP Casey Fossum
RHP Seth McClung
CL: Chad Orvella

The Rays are still way too young to compete with the big dogs in the division, but they have a young nucleus that continues to grow. They still have B.J. Upton and Delmon Young waiting in the wings and they will probably be up by mid-season. Kazmir, Orvella and Jackson all have tremendous upside.
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Thursday, March 09, 2006

Giants Start Off Spring 5-3

Here we are, a little over a week into spring training and the World Baseball Classic, and already the first huge Barry Bonds story has broken, before he even made his spring debut thursday. I am so sick of hearing all this stuff and I'm tired of the constant attack on Barry Bonds. There are players that have been caught using steroids and guys who where obvious users that are getting nowhere near the riddiculing that Bonds is getting. I am not going to jump too far into this topic, but notice how all Barry Bonds accusations come from second hand sources. There is nobody who has stepped up and said, "I've seen him do it, first hand." Rafeal Palmeiro was a huge part of this game over the last fifteen years, he tests positive and people forget about it after a few weeks and continue to concentrate on Bonds. Chances are that Barry has taken roids at some point in his carreer, he admitted so, but I am nowhere near ready to attribute Barry Bonds accomplishments to steriods. Enough on that, lets talk some baseball.

The Giants have started off the spring 5-3 without a few of their top players aboard. Moises Alou, Omar Vizquel, Pedro Feliz and Randy Winn are all of representing their respective counrtries in the World Baseball Classic. So far, the young arms have been impressive. Noah Lowrey, Matt Cain and Brad Hennessey have all been bright spots as far as starting pitchers are concerned. Schmidt looked good in his debut as well. Matt Morris's first two starts have been less than impressive. Morris looked pretty wiled against team USA last week and looked even worse giving up 4 runs on Thursday. I am not ready to panic though, Morris has been through many springs like this and I still expect 15 plus wins from him this season with good health, regardless what happens this spring. In the battle for the 5th outfield spot, it looks like Todd Linden is taking an early lead. Linden started off the spring 5-5 with a home run and a couple of RBI's. He has since cooled a little, but is tearing the cover off the ball this spring. Everyone is looking pretty healthy. As I said, Barry made his spring debut thrursday, playing in his first Cactus League game in two years and collecting a hit in two at-bats. Perhaps the most impressive player so far this spring has been Derin McMains. McMains has 3 home runs in only 4 at-bats this spring. I'd have to say that without that terrible Bonds story that surfaced this week, this has almost been a perfect spring as far as the Giants are concerned. Their youngsters are looking solid and are improving, while the vets (for the most part) look healthy and ready to go. Armondo Benitez has been throwing shutout ball all spring (untill thursday) and a full season of Benitez in the pen will make a world of difference for the Giants. Right now I'd have to say that there aren't too many worries in Giants camp.
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