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Friday, March 30, 2007

Playoff and Award Predictions


AL MVP: Vladimer Guerrero (Should lead the Angels to the playoffs with a huge year, even w/limited protection)
AL Cy Young: Johan Santana (Still the best and will dominate again in '07)
Rookie of the Year: Daisuke Matsuzaka (He has looked as good as advertised this spring)
Manager of the Year: Mike Scioscia ( Has his work cut out for him creating a lineup around Vlad)
Comeback Player: Sammy Sosa (If this spring is any idication, Sosa is in for big things in '07)


NL MVP: Carlos Beltran ( Now in his 3rd year in NY, look for Beltran to have a career year)
NL Cy Young: Roy Oswalt ( Should be a 20 game winner this year with that lineup)
Rookie of the Year: Troy Tulowitzki (Should break onto the scene with a big year in '07)
Manager of the Year: Willie Randonlph ( Many feel he should have won it last year)
Comeback Player: Armondo Benitez ( Should save more games this year than last 2 combined)

Tigers over Red Sox
Yankees over Angels

ALCS: Tigers over Yankees

Mets over Dodgers
Phillies over Cardinals

NLCS: Mets over Phillies

WORLD SERIES: Tigers over Mets (6 games)

The Giants Baseball Blog

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

NL West Preview

1st Place, Los Angeles Dodgers
CF Juan Pierre
SS Rafael Furcal

1B Nomar Garciapara
2B Jeff Kent
LF Luis Gonzalez
C Russel Martin
RF Andre Eithier
3B Wilson Betimet

RHP Jason Schmidt
RHP Derek Lowe
RHP Brad Penny
LHP Randy Wolfe
RHP Chad Billingsly
SU: Jonathen Broxten
Closer: Takashi Saito

As much as it pains me to do so, I have to pick the Dodgers to win the west at this point. I think they have the most complete team overall in the division. Their bullpen is the best in the division as well. Their top of the order is as good as any in the game, and as long as they keep Nomar and Kent healthy they are going to score more than enough runs to win games. If Jason Schmidt pitches like the pre-2005 version of himself then the Dodgers could be the best in the NL.

2nd Place, San Francisco Giants
CF Dave Roberts
SS Omar Vizquel

LF Barry Bonds
2B Ray Durham
1B Rich Aurillia/Ryan Klesko
RF Randy Winn
C Bengie Molina
3B Pedro Feliz

LHP Barry Zito
RHP Matt Cain
LHP Noah Lowry
RHP Matt Morris
RHP Russ Ortiz
SU: Steve Kline
Closer: Armondo Benitez

The Giants are a better team by having a healthy Armondo Benitez in their bullpen even though he isn't a fan favorite in San Francisco. I think Benitez is primed for another 40+ save season with this being his contract year and his health looking well. If Matt Morris and Noah Lowry have seasons like they did in '05 rather than '06, the Giants will win the division, but those are big question marks because neither have been very impressive this spring. Zito and Cain are going to lead this rotation into the next decade. Their lineup is just about as old as it has been the past couple years, but they do have some unique weapons that they haven't had in San Francisco for years. Roberts should be a nice spark plug at the top of the order, and a healthy Barry Bonds looks primed for one more big season. Look for Ryan Klesko to have a big comeback season and be mentioned in the NL Comeback player of the year discussion.

3rd Place, Arizona Diamondbacks
LF Eric Byrnes
2B Orlando Hudson
1B Connor Jackson
3B Chad Tracy
RF Carlos Quentin

SS Stephen Drew
CF Chris Young/Jeff DaVannon
C Chris Snieder

RHP Brandon Webb
LHP Randy Johnson
RHP Livan Hernandez
LHP Doug Davis
RHP Enrique Gonzalez
SU: Juan Cruz
Closer: Jose Valverde

The new look D-backs will be sporting a brand new uniforms in 2007 and they should also make some noise in the NL West as well. Randy Johnson will be better than he was in New York now comfortably back in Arizona. Doug Davis could have easily won 15 games last year if it weren't for the terrible Brewers' bullpen. They have the most exciting young lineup in the division with Carlos Quentin, Connor Jackson and Stephen Drew paired with young veterans like Byrnes and Tracy. The Diamondbacks are a year away from being serious contenders again in the NL.

4th Place, San Diego Padres
LF Termell Sledge
2B Marcus Giles
RF Brian Giles
1B Adrian Gonzalez

CF Mike Cameron
C Josh Bard
3B Kevin Kouzamanoff

SS Kahlil Green

RHP Jake Peavy
RHP Chris Young
RHP Greg Maddux
RHP Clay Hensley
RHP Mike Thompson
SU: Scott Linebrink
Closer: Trevor Hoffman

The Pads still have a good pen lead by Hoffman and Linebrink, and their rotation should be good enough to hold up, but their lineup lost some players this winter and they never really replaced them. Dave Roberts, Mike Piazza and Josh Barfield where 3 of the top offensive performers for the Padres in '06. Josh Bard will be ok as the full-time catcher, but the Pads are going to miss Piazza's big right-handed bat. Sledge for Roberts is a huge downgrade at the leadoff spot. Jake Peavy has to get his era back below 4 if this team is going to have any chance at competing in this division.

5th Place, Colorodo Rockies

CF Willy Taveras
2B Kaz Matsui

3B Garrett Atkins
LF Matt Holliday
1B Todd Helton
RF Brad Hawpe
SS Troy Tulowitzki
C Chris Ianetta

RHP Aaron Cook
LHP Jeff Francis
RHP Rodrigo Lopez
RHP Jason Hirsch
RHP Byun-Hyun Kim
SU: LaTroy Hawkins
Closer: Brain Fuentes

The Rockies stand where they have for about the last 8 years, not nearly good enough to compete, even in one of the more open divisions in baseball. Their middle of the order is second to none in the division, but as always, their pitching will be a mess. They lost their best starter over the last couple years in Jason Jennings. Rodrigo Lopez could give up 50 home runs this season pitching 1/2 his games at Coors Field. Brain Fuentes is a solid closer and should be used as trade bait to get a few young starting pitchers in there.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Sunday, March 25, 2007

NL Central Preview

1st Place, St. Louis Cardinals
SS David Eckstein

LF Chris Duncan
CF Jim Edmonds
1B Albert Pujols
3B Scott Rolen
RF Juan Encarnacion
2B Adam Kennedy
C Yadier Molina

RHP Chris Carpentar
RHP Anthony Reyes
RHP Kip Wells
RHP Adam Wainright
RHP Ryan Franklin
Closer: Jason Isringhausen

The reigning world champs are going to have to out-slug everybody else again this year with all their questions regarding their pitching. Carpentar, Reyes and Wainright should be solid, but Wells and Franklin will leave a lot to be desired. Jason Isringhausen has to be healthy or else Wainright goes back to the pen and the rotation gets even weaker. If Carpentar goes down for any length of time the Cards are in trouble. The best thing they have going for them is their weak division.

2nd Place, Houston Astros
CF Chris Burke
2B Craig Biggio
1B Lance Berkman

LF Carlos Lee
3B Morgan Ensberg
RF Luke Scott/Jason Lane
SS Adam Everett
C Brad Ausmus

RHP Roy Oswalt
RHP Jason Jennings
RHP Woody Williams
RHP Fenrnando Nieve
LHP Wendy Rodriguez
Closer: Brad Lidge

If Lidge rebounds, Clemens joins the team in June, and Brandon Backe makes it back this season and can contribute, the Astros will jump ahead of the Cards and win this division. Those are a lot of question marks, but they are very realistic possibilities. Adding Carlos Lee allows them to be able to match up offensively with the Cardinals, it will come down to who has the better pitching. Oswalt should once again battle for a cy young award.

3rd Place, Millwauke Brewers
2B Rickie Weeks
SS J.J. Hardy
CF Bill Hall
1B Prince Fielder
LF Geoff Jenkins
3B Corey Koskie
C Johnny Estrada
RF Corey Hart

RHP Ben Sheets
LHP Chris Capuano
RHP Jeff Suppan
RHP Dave Bush
RHP Claudio Vargas
Closer: Francisco Cordero

The Brew Crew should once again be average in 2007. Their front end of their rotation is solid with Capuano and Sheets, but they overpaid to get a mediocre pitcher in Jeff Suppan. The lineup should be good enough to put up some runs, but they are going to miss the big anchor in the middle, Carlos Lee. Rickie Weeks is going to breakout and have an all-star year. This will be an Alfonso Soriano type with better defense.

4th Place, Chicago Cubs
RF Alfonso Soriano

3B Mark DeRosa
1B Derek Lee

3B Aramis Ramirez
CF Jacque Jones
C Michael Barrett
LF Matt Murton/Cliff Floyd
SS Ronny Cedeno

RHP Carlos Zambrano
LHP Ted Lilly
RHP Jason Marquis
LHP Shawn Hill
RHP Mark Prior/Wade Miller
Closer: Ryan Dempster

The Cubs hope that the addition of Soriano will help jump start them after a few off-years, but the most important thing they need is health in their pitching staff. If they can get anything out of Prior and Wood this year it would be a plus. The Cubs got desperate for starting pithing this winter and blew close to 70 million dollars on 2 average pitchers (Ted Lilly and Jason Marquis). I also have my doubts about Dempster as a closer.

5th Place, Cincinnati Reds
RF Ryan Freel
1B Scott Hatteberg

CF Ken Griffey Jr.
LF Adam Dunn
3B Edwin Encarnacion
C David Ross
2B Brandon Phillips
SS Alex Gonzalez

RHP Bronson Arroyo
RHP Aaron Harang
LHP Eric Milton
RHP Kyle Lohse
RHP Matt Belisle
Closer: Mike Stanton

The Reds will always be a high powered offensive team in the ballpark they play so their question is always about pitching. They are actually entering the year with all of the same rotation they ended last year with so they could be on the right track. Their bullpen is still a mess as it looks like it will once again be closer by committee for Jerry Narron.

6th Place, Pittsburgh Pirates
CF Chris Duffy
SS Jack Wilson

3B Freddy Sanchez
1b Adam LaRoche
LF Jason Bay
RF Xavier Nady
C Ronny Paulino
2B Jose Castillo

LHP Zach Duke
RHP Ian Snell
LHP Paul Maholm
LHP Tom Gorzelanny
RHP Shawn Chacon
Closer: Salmon Torres

The Pirates are on their way up, although they still have a long way to go. They made some moves to improve their offense this winter, and their young starting rotation has another year under it's belt so they should be better than they were in '06. They lost their best reliever in Mike Gonzalez, but I think it was a good move for them in the long run. Sanchez-LaRoche-Bay should provide a young, dynamic 3-4-5 trio in Pittsburgh for years.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Friday, March 23, 2007

NL East Preview

1st Place, New York Mets

SS Jose Reyes
C Paul LoDuca
CF Carlos Beltran
3B David Wright
1B Carlos Delgado
LF Moises Alou
RF Shawn Green
2B Jose Valentin

LHP Tom Glavine
RHP Orlando Hernandez
RHP John Maine
LHP Oliver Perez
LHP Dave Williams
Closer: Billy Wagner

The Mets Lineup should be better this year if Moises Alou gives them 120+ games. Jose Reyes could break out and have a20 home run/ 80 stolen base season. There bullpen should be a strength as well, especially when Guillermo Mota returns from suspension, only question with them is their starting pitching. If they can hang in until Pedro Martinez returns in August, they should be OK. They will have some heat on them in the best division in the NL.

2nd Place, Philadelphia Phillies *NL Wild Card Winner
SS Jimmy Rollins
RF Shane Victorino
2B Chase Utely
1B Ryan Howard
LF Pat Burrell
3B Wes Helms
CF Aaron Rowand
C Rod Barajas

RHP Brett Myers
LHP Cole Hamells
RHP Freddy Garcia
LHP Jamie Moyer
RHP Adam Eaton/Jon Lieber
Closer: Tom Gordon

The Phillies have a good enough team to make a solid playoff run as is, but they can really make some noise this year if they can improve their bullpen by trading Jon Lieber. Their Lineup has two potential MVP candidates in Howard and Rollins, and some young staff leaders in Hamells and Myers. If Tom Gordon can stay healthy, they will challenge the Mets for first.

3rd Place, Atlanta Braves
2B Martin Produ
SS Edgar Renteria
3B Chipper Jones
CF Andruw Jones
C Brain McCann
RF Jeff Franceur
LF Ryan Langerhans
1B Craig Wilson

RHP John Smoltz
RHP Tim Hudson
LHP Mike Hampton
LHP Chuck James
RHP Kyle Davies
Closer: Bob Wickman

The Braves upgraded their biggest weakness from last year, their bullpen. Rafeal Soriano and Mike Gonzalez make thier bullpen a strength but it costed them. They may have payed a little too much attention there. The loss of Adam LaRoche and Marcus Giles are going to hurt this offense. Their starting rotation is getting old and has injury issues.

4th Place, Florida Marlins
SS Hanley Ramirez
2B Dan Ugla
3B Miguel Cabrera
1B Mike Jacobs
LF Josh Willingham
RF Jeremy Hermedia
C Miguel Olivo
CF Alex Sanchez

LHP Dontrel Willis
LHP Scott Olson
RHP Annibal Sanchez
RHP Josh Johnson
RHP Ricky Nolasco/Sergio Mitre
Closer:Tayler Tankersly

If the Marlins had a legit bullpen and closer, they'd easily go right above the Braves and maybe even the Phillies. I love their young lineup and starting pitching. They have proved time and time again that they can win with young talent. Dontrel Willis will rebound and have an all-star season. If they were in the NL West or Central, they'd battle for the division tittle.

5th Place, Washington Nationals
2B Felipe Lopez

SS Christian Guzman
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Nick Johnson
RF Austin Kearns
C Brian Schnieder
LF Ryan Church
CF Nook Logan/Alex Escobar

RHP John Patterson
RHP Jerome Williams
RHP Tim Redding
RHP Jon Hanarahan
RHP Shawn Hill
Closer: Chad Cordero

Ryan Zimmerman is a rising star, but outside of that, the Nats don't have much going for them. Their starting rotation is still very much in the air. The only guaranteed starter on the team is John Patterson. Their bullpen lead by Chad Cordero is their one and only semi- strength.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

AL West Preview

1st Place, Los Angeles Angels
CF Gary Mathews Jr.

3B Chone Figgens
RF Vladimir Guerrero
LF Garret Anderson

DH Shea Hillenbrand
1B Casey Kotchman
2B Howie Kendrick
SS Orlando Cabrera
C Mike Napoli

RHP John Lackey
RHP Jered Weaver
RHP Ervin Santana
RHP Kelvim Escobar
RHP Bartolo Colon
Closer: Francisco Rodriguez

The Angels offense lost one of their best run producers in Juan Rivera, but they do have a surplus of young hitters, so one of them are bound to step up and fill his void. Getting a solid rebound season from Bartolo Colon would give a deep rotation even more strength. Their bullpen is just as strong as it's been in the last 10 years. I wouldn't be surprised to see John Lackey, Ervin Santana and Jered Weaver all breakout with 18-20 win seasons.

2nd Place, Oakland Athletics
C Jason Kendal
CF Mark Kotsay
RF Milton Bradley
LF Nick Swisher
3B Eric Chavez
DH Mike Piazza
1B Dan Johnson
SS Bobby Crosby

2B Mark Ellis

RHP Rich Harden
RHP Dan Haren
RHP Estaben Loaiza
RHP Joe Blanton
RHP Kirk Sarloos
Closer: Huston Street

The A's took a major hit this offseason losing their leader and staff ace Barry Zito, but if Rich Harden is healthy, he should take over and do just fine as the staff leader. The swap of Pizza for Frank Thomas at the DH position is basically a wash. I believe Piazza will return to his 30 home run form without the burden of catching everyday. Eric Chavez has to find his stroke this year if the A's want to challenge the Angels.

3rd Place, Texas Rangers
CF Kenny Lofton

DH Frank Catalanatto
SS Michael Young
1B Mark Teixeira
3B Hank Blalock
2B Ian Kinsler
LF Brad Wilkerson
C Gerald Laird
RF Nelson Cruz

RHP Kevin Millwood
RHP Vicente Padilla
RHP Brandon McCarthy
RHP Robinson Tejada
RHP Josh Rupe
Closer: Eric Gagne

I like top of Texas' rotation with Millwood and Padilla, but they are still relying on unproven starters to make up 3/5 of their starting rotation. Their bullpen should be a strength if Gagne is healthy. I like the addition of Kenny Lofton to the top of the lineup. Micheal Young and Ian Kinsler should make up an incredible double play combo (offensively and defensively) for years to come. Hank Blalock needs to get his average up for this offense to be hitting on all cylinders.

4th Place, Seattle Mariners
CF Ichiro Suzuki

DH Jose Vidro
3B Adrian Beltre
LF Raul Ibanez

1B Richie Sexson
RF Jose Guillen
C Kenji Johjima
2B Jose Lopez
SS Yunienski Betancourt

RHP Felix Hernandez
LHP Jarod Washburn
RHP Miguel Batista
LHP Horacio Ramirez
RHP Cha Seung Baek

Felix Hernandez took a step back after busting onto the scene with dominance in '05. He has to rebound and become the leader of an otherwise mediocre staff. I like the makings of the Mariners bullpen. J.J. Putz should finally let Mariner fans forget about Kazuhiro Sasaki. The lineup should be good enough to compete, but there starting rotation will keep them form competing with the A's and Angels.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Monday, March 19, 2007

AL Central Preview

1st Place: Detroit Tigers
CF Curtis Granderson
SS Carlos Guillen
DH Gary Sheffield
RF Magglio Ordonez
C Ivan Rodriguez
1B Sean Casey
2B Placido Polanco
LF Craig Monroe
3B Brandon Inge

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

The Tigers have the best pitching staff in the division and their offense will be better than last years' with a healthy Gary Sheffield. Nate Robertson is one of the more underrated starters in the game and Mike Maroth could be a #3 on most staffs in the majors. Todd Jones will start the year as the closer, but I think it's only a matter of time before Joel Zumaya and his 100 mph fastball are manning the 9th inning for the Tigers. There only big weakness is their lack of speed on the bases. They aren't going to be able to keep Marcus Thames on the bench too long.

2nd: Chicago White Sox
CF Scott Podsednik
2B Tadihito Iguchi
1B Jim Thome
1B Paul Konerko
RF Jermaine Dye
C A.J. Pierzynski
3B Joe Crede
CF Brian Anderson
SS Juan Uribe

RHP Jon Garland
RHP Jose Contraras
LHP Mark Buehrle
RHP Javier Vazquez
RHP Gavin Floyd
Closer: Bobby Jenks

The White Sox need their starting rotation to step it up if they are going to win 90+ games for the 3rd straight year and make the playoffs. They have one of the best offenses in the AL which gives their starters some breathing room, but they don't have a clear cut ace and all of their starters are coming off average to below average seasons. After Bobby Jenks, their bullpen is still up in the air.

3rd: Cleveland Indians
CF Grady Sizemore
2B Josh Barfield
DH Travis Halfner
C Victor Martinez
1B Casey Blake
3B Andy Marte
LF David Delucci
RF Trot Nixon
SS Johnny Peralta

LHP CC Sabathia
LHP Jeremy Sowers
LHP Jake Westbrook
LHP Cliff Lee
RHP Paul Byrd
Closer: Joe Borowski

The Indians should be much improved in 2007 and I think they should be in the AL Central race all year, but this division is too tough for them to finish any higher than 3rd. They have some young studs in their lineup like Grady Sizemore and Travis Halfner who should be MVP candidates. They still have some major question marks defensively and in their bullpen.

4th: Minnesota Twins
2B Luis Castillo

3B Nick Punto
C Joe Mauer

1B Justin Morneau
RF Michael Cuddyer

CF Tori Hunter
DH Jason Kubel

LF Rondell White

SS Jason Bartlet

LHP Johan Santana
RHP Matt Garza
RHP Boof Bonser
RHP Carlos Silvia
LHP Glen Perkins
Closer: Joe Nathan

The Twins have the best starting pitcher and the best closer in the game. They also have the 2006 AL MVP, but even with Santana, their starting rotation is not good enough to compete with the better teams in this division. It still wouldn't surprise me to see them within 5 or 6 games of a playoff spot at the end of the year. Their great bullpen could prevail and carry keep them in the race, but unless they find another Francisco Liriano or someone to shoulder the load with Santana, they won't win 90 games.

5th: Kansas City Royals
CF David DeJesus
2B Mark Grudzielanek

RF Mark Teahan
DH Mike Sweeney
3B Alex Gordon
LF Emil Brown
1b Ryan Shealy
C Jason LaRue
SS Angel Berroa

RHP Gil Meche
LHP Odalis Perez
RHP Luke Hudson
LHP Jorge De La Rosa
RHP Zack Grienke
Closer: Octavio Dotel

The Royals actually have a talented young lineup, Ryan Shealy and Alex Gordon should be future stars. However, their starting rotation will continue being a weakness. Gil Meche wasn't the answer, they over payed an average pitcher with the hope he can come in and help turn this staff around. Mistakes like that are what keeps KC at the bottom of the pack year after year.

The Giants Baseball Blog

Friday, March 16, 2007

2007 AL East Preview

Over the next few posts, I will doing a small breakdown of each division ranking each team in the order I think they will finish. I am going to start with the AL East:

1. New York Yankees *Division Winners
CF Johnny Damon
SS Derek Jeter
RF Bob Abreu
3B Alex Rodriguez
LF Hideki Matsui
DH Jason Giambi
2B Robinson Cano
C Jorge Posada
1B Doug Mienkewicz

RHP Mike Mussina
LHP Andy Pettite
RHP Chin-Ming Wang
LHP Kei Igawa
RHP Carl Pavano
Closer: Mariano Riviera

The Yankees are getting older, and I have a lot of questions regarding their starting rotation, but as long as Mariano Rivera is healthy and throwing well, the Yanks are going to be tough. If Pettite and Pavano pitch like they are capable of, they will run away with this division. Keep an eye on the young outfielder Melky Cabrera, he started coming on strong at the end of last year and if he continues to grow the Yanks' are going to have to start him somewhere.

2. Boston Red Sox *AL Wild Card Winner
2B Julio Lugo
1B Kevin Youkalis
DH David Ortiz
LF Manny Ramirez
RF J.D. Drew
C Jason Varitek
3B Mike Lowell
CF Cocoa Crisp
2B Alex Cora

RHP Curt Shilling
RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka
RHP Josh Beckett
RHP Jonathon Pappelbon
RHP Tim Wakefield
Closer: Joel Pineiro

If the Red Sox starting pitching is healthy all year and Dice-K is the real deal, they will have the best rotation in baseball. I am excited to see how Papelbon makes the adjustment to starting full time again. The lineup has a lot of power, but they lack speed. The real question for them will be how the bullpen will shape up. Pineiro is slated to start the year as the closer but something tells me that won't last too long.

3. Toronto Blue Jays
LF Reed Johnson
RF Alex Rios
CF Vernon Wells
DH Frank Thomas
3B Troy Glaus
1B Lyle Overbay
C Greg Zaun
2B Aaron Hill
SS Royce Clayton

RHP Roy Halliday
RHP A.J. Burnett
LHP Gustavo Chacin
RHP John Thompson
RHP Shawn Marcum
Closer: B.J. Ryan

The Blue Jays added more offense this winter going out and getting Frank Thomas to be their full time DH. They didn't address their biggest need which is starting pitching. They let one of their better arms go in Ted Lilly and didn't really replace him. Their bullpen is strong enough with B.J. Ryan closing out games, but this rotation is still thin and fragile.

4. Baltimore Orioles
2B Brian Roberts
3B Melvin Mora
RF Nick Markakis
SS Miguel Tejada
1B Aubrey Huff
C Ramon Hernandez
DH Jay Gibbons
LF Jay Payton
CF Corey Patterson

LHP Erik Bedard
RHP Daniel Cabrera
RHP Kris Benson
RHP Jaret Wright
LHP Adam Loewen
Closer: Chris Ray

The Orioles have had the same issue for the last 10 years and they wonder why they continue to struggle. Their pitching is weak and instead of devoting offseasons to re-shape their starting rotation, they are always more concentrated on going out and getting more offense. They should have spent the Huff and Payton money on another good starter. Chris Ray is one of the better young closers in the game.

5. Tampa Bay Devil Rays
CF Rocco Baldelli
2B Jorge Cantu
LF Carl Crawford
1B Ty Wiggington
DH Jonny Gomes
RF Delmon Young
3B Akinori Iwamura
C Dioner Navarro
SS Ben Zobrist

LHP Scott Kazmir
RHP James Shields
LHP Casey Fossum
RHP Jae Seo
RHP J.P. Howell
Closer: Seth McClung

The Devil Rays continue to shuttle great offensive from the minors to Tampa, but they haven't had the same success with the pitchers. Delmon Young, B.J. Upton should break onto the scene and make there marks this year. The Devil Rays should have a fun offensive squad to watch, but when they are in the field, things are not pretty.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Spring Training Notes

Most of the talk regarding the Giants this spring has been about Barry Bonds and the teams' new ace Barry Zito, but the guys who are really making the headlines are the three young outfielders who have been tearing the cover off the ball. Two guys who seem to have been in the Giants' system for ever, Todd Linden and Jason Ellison, are finally emerging as two major league level hitters. Ellison leads the team in hitting this spring with a .609 average(14-23), and a team high 9 RBI's and 11 runs. Linden has been almost as hot, going 14-31 with a home run and 7 RBI's. Bruce Bochy said earlier in the spring that he had plans for Todd Linden, hinting that there was going to be room on the 25-man roster for Linden but if Ellison ends the spring hitting around .500, it's going to be extremely tough not to carry that bat north. Another guy who has emerged into the mix is Freddy Lewis. Lewis is the least likely guy to make the team out of the three, but he has broken out this spring with a .300 average and 8 RBI's so far. Lewis is very intriguing, he has the most speed out of any other outfielder on the 40-man roster, and it looks like his power and plate discipline are finally coming around and catching up with his legs. Lewis isn't going to make the team out of spring training unless Linden and Ellison go down before opening day, but he will be one of the first players called upon if the team is down an outfielder.

On the pitching front, it has been a week of mixed results for the Giants. Tim Lincecum showed his first glimpse of brilliance Sunday going 3 shutout innings, walking none, and striking out 4 Brewers. After the outing, Bochy informed everyone that Lincecum's most likely destination come April is in Fresno as a starting pitcher, which I think is the right move. It's way easier to make the transition from starting pitcher to reliever if the Giants decide to go that route with Lincecum. The same optimism isn't quite there for right now for Matt Morris. He had another horrible outing Monday giving up 7 runs (4 earned) on 7 hits in 2 innings of work raising his spring era to 16.20. I have faith that Morris will rebound from last year and figure it out by April, but I am starting to worry. I know the general consensus is that spring training doesn't matter a whole lot but it would be nice if this guy to put together a few good outings before the season starts. After the year he had last year and the way the spring has gone so far, even a veteran like Matt Morris needs to come out of spring with some good vibes.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Benitez Debuts

The Giants' bullpen got a nice shot in the arm on Sunday as Armondo Benitez made his first appearance of the spring. Benitez has been on the chopping block all winter, and really has been ever since he put on a Giants' uniform. In his first inning back on the mound since late August, Benitez struck out one and allowed one hit before retiring the side and looked good in the process. This is big news for what has been a pretty disappointing spring thus far for the Giants' bullpen. The only two Giant relievers who are projected to make the opening day roster that currently have an era below 6 are Vinny Chulk and Brian Wilson. As much as Giants' fans despise of him and want him gone, Benitez holds the ticket to this bullpens success. The offense has been heating up as of late, and the starting pitchers, besides Matt Cain, have gotten in at least one decent outing. The area that has lacked so far this spring which also has been the same case for the last 3 years is the bullpen. This isn't at all a surprise to me. I questioned Sabeans' neglecting of bullpen all winter long. He didn't add a single arm from outside the organization to help this same group of relievers from last season. For this reason, Benitez has to be the difference. I know he hasn't been the best teammate in the world, and has gotten under the skin of some fans, but if this guy is in Florida come April, the closers job will be left to Brian Wilson and his career 5.40 era. Giants' fans may be wishing for a healthy Tyler Walker before long. If Benitez continues to stay healthy and throw scoreless innings, he is worth a lot more to the Giants' than Sergio Mitre or whatever other mediocre arm the Marlins will give up.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Offense Starting to Roll

Some of the Giants hitters who started the spring out cold are starting to swing the bats a little better. Rich Aurilia and Randy Winn each had their best day of the spring on Wednesday. They both hit their first home runs of the spring and both had 3 hit games. It's good to see those guys start up because the Giants are going to need good years out of both of them. One of these guys are likely to end up being the 5th place hitter behind Barry Bonds and Ray Durham. The three guys who haven't been able to get into any kind of grove yet are Durham, Omar Vizquel and Bengie Molina. Durham has been the Giant that has been hit hardest by the flu and just hasn't been healthy enough to string together any kind of consistent at bats. He was in the lineup Wednesday hitting cleanup for the first time, a spot which he may man all season, and drove in his first run of the spring. Molina and Vizquel have been healthy and playing but they just haven't been swinging the bat well. Molina went 0-3 on Thursday vs. the Brewers and dropped his spring batting average to .118. Some people questioned the Molina signing but not because of his offense, I expect to see him heat it up before the games start counting for real. With a catcher signing on with a new team and changing leagues, it takes some time to get familiar with the pitchers before they really can concentrate on hitting.

Bruce Bochy reiterated this week, after Barry Zito's second solid performance of the spring and Matt Cain's second bad one, that Zito will be the opening day starter vs. the Padres, April 3rd at AT&T Park. Even if Cain had dominated this spring, it was pretty obvious that the Giants would go with their 126 million dollar man to bring them into the 2007 season. Zito has been as advertised so far this spring, effective without overpowering. In 5 innings pitched, he has only allowed 1 run on 4 hits while striking out 3 batters. Another highly compensated pitcher the Giants have on their roster, Matt Morris, looked good for the first time in while on Wednesday. Morris was the teams number 2 starter going into last season, but this year will probably be in the 4th slot. Wherever he is, he is just as key as the younger guys, he has to be good if the Giants rotation is going to be.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Bonds May Hit Third

Barry Bonds collected his first 2 hits of the spring on Tuesday and he did it hitting from the 3rd spot in the batting order. It was Bonds' first time in the 3 hole since 2002, and according to Bruce Bochy, it may be something that the Giants seriously consider going forward. I found it kind of odd because Bonds' flat out refused to entertain that thought when Felipe Alou suggested it. Maybe there really were terms in Bonds' new contract that is forcing him to be more cooperative with the team. I have mixed feelings about Bonds hitting 3rd. I like the fact that it gets him up in the first inning which causes major trouble for starting pitchers right out of the gate. It would also enable Bonds from leading off the second inning and coming up with the bases empty which he has done too often over the last few years. The thing I don't like about him hitting 3rd is that it moves Ray Durham up to the 4th hole and as much as I enjoyed Durham's turnaround season last year, I don't know if this guy is suited to be a cleanup hitter all season. Bonds is the only legit clean-up hitter on this roster. In a best case scenario, I'd like to see Ryan Klesko crack the lineup on a regular basis and force himself into the 5th spot, Bonds to 4th and Durham to 3rd. If Pedro Feliz continues his poor approach at the plate, I would expect the Giants to use Aurilia at 3rd and Klesko at first. Offensively, this gives the Giants the best lineup, but defensively, Aurilia cannot touch Feliz at the hot corner. Feliz seems like a nice guy and can pick it clean at 3rd base, but I wouldn't mind sacrificing a little defense to save myself the agony of watching him bat 4 times a night.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Giants Start Spring Rolling

The Giants have looked pretty good through the first weekend of spring training as they have compiled a 3-1 record over their first 4 cactus league games. The new arrivals have all looked comfortable and have contributed nicely so far. Dave Roberts has been the most impressive newcomer, causing problems for opposing teams at the top of the lineup. I would like to see this guy stay healthy for 140+ games, he really could be better than Juan Pierre at 1/2 the price. One of the guys yet to find there rhythm is Rich Aurilia. Aurilia is still looking for his first hit of the spring, but has played well at first base. One of the things I was worried about with Aurilia making the permanent transition to first base was how it would effect him at the plate. It's still early in the spring though and It's not time to worry about anything really besides health. On the health front, the Giants have been pretty well off besides some players suffering from the flu that hit the clubhouse this week. Because of this, the Giants haven't been able to field what they'll consider to be their opening lineup. The spot that looks like will be receiving the most attention is the number 3 hole. Bruce Bochy has said that he plans to have Aurilia be the main guy in the 3 hole, but that looks like the only unsure spot at this point. Ryan Klesko has been hitting the ball well to start the spring, and if it continues to happen, the team must seriously consider on having him go into the season as the starting first basemen. I'm a big Rich Aurilia fan, and I am glad to have him back on the team, but if healthy, I think Klesko will bring more to the table offensively than Aurilia.

One guy who has impressed all viewers this spring has been Todd Linden. Linden is leading the team with a .625 average and is roping the ball all over the yard with authority. The Giants have always had high hopes for Linden, but many people have written him off after a few years of being unable to stick in the big leagues. He is still only 26, a little old for a prospect, but plenty of time to still turn into a good ball player. I think Bruce Bochy is going to be a good manager for Linden. With the Padres, Bochy was very good at playing the hot hand, and dividing at-bats between players. One good example is the way he dealt with Mike Piazza and Josh Bard last season. I barely heard of Josh Bard until last year when him and Piazza combined to give the Padres 31 home runs and 108 RBI's from the catcher position. Bochy does well at putting guys in spots they can succeed at and I expect to see him do the same with Linden. The skipper has also said that Linden will be the teams' center fielder on days that Dave Roberts sits. Jason Ellison has been doing everything he's been asked as well, but it's now no secret that the Giants have plans for Linden and there is only a roster spot for one. Another young Giant who is swinging it well and looking to cement his spot on the roster is Kevin Frandsen. Frandsen hit his first home run of the spring on Sunday and drove in 3 runs. He leads the team in runs this spring.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Ortiz Stars in First Spring Outing

Russ Ortiz made his first appearance back with the Giants a good one as he not only pitched very well in his perfect 3 innings of work, but he also came up with a 2 rbi double in the 4th inning. He struck out 3, and although it's only the spring, this is very good news. Barry Zito also pitched a scoreless inning in his only frame of work to start the game. The offensive star so far (posted in 5th inning) besides Ortiz has been Tomas De La Rosa who hit a solo jack. I never once questioned taking a flier on Ortiz, and if things pan out, the Giants are getting a steal for $380K this season. Ortiz is fighting for the 5th spot in the rotation, but unless he gets injured or something drastic happens, the spot will be his, and Jonathen Sanchez will start the year off in the bullpen. I was glad to hear Bochy say that he plans to use Sanchez in only one role this season, and that role likely being late relief. I think it's crucial to have some continuity within the pitching staff and the everyday lineup, something Felipe Alou didn't stick to, but it appears Bochy will.

Before the Cactus league games started, the Giants' announced that they had signed Matt Cain to a 4 year contract which allows him to avoid arbitration until the day he becomes a free agent. I didn't see the exact financial terms of the deal, but I think he'll get an annual payment of about 1.5 million dollars which is peanuts compared to what even mediocre starters are now commanding on the open market. They did the same type deal with Noah Lowry prior to last season, and probably will do the same thing with Jonathen Sanchez after this year if he performs well in '07. I don't think anybody at this point is doubting Cain's ability or work ethic, so I'm sure it would be tough to find anybody who would disagree with this deal in anyway. This kid is well on his way to becoming one of the premiere pitchers in the game, if he's not there already. The only thing you always worry about with young power pitchers is the chance for injury. Even with Barry Zito on the staff, Matt Cain is still the best pitcher the Giants have and he's only 22. I can't wait to see how this guy has built on his rookie season.
The Giants Baseball Blog