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Sunday, March 30, 2008

Playoff and Award Predictions

AMERICAN LEAGUE AWARDS
AL MVP: Miguel Cabrera, Det.(First year in Detroit's potent lineup should yield huge numbers and a trip to the postseason)
AL Cy Young: Justin Verlander, Det. (Has improved over the last 2 years and could win 22 this year with that lineup behind him)
Rookie of the Year: Evan Longoria, Tam. (Will be called upon early in the season, and should be a full time starter after that)
Manager of the Year: John McClaren, Sea. ( Seattle is poised to break out with a big year this year and McClaren will be pushing all the buttons)
Comeback Player: Francisco Liriaino, Min. (After missing all of the '07 season recovering from TJ surgery, he should return to form in '08)

NATIONAL LEAGUE AWARDS
NL MVP: David Wright, NYM ( Look for his 4th full season to be his best yet: .320, 40-30 with 120+ rbi)
NL Cy Young: Johan Santana, NY (After winning 2 AL Cy Young awards, he figures to start collecting a few in the NL)
Rookie of the Year: Kosuke Fukudome, Chi. (31-year old Japanese import should have a solid year hitting in the middle of the Chicago Cubs lineup)
Manager of the Year: Joe Torre, LA (Could very well lead the Dodgers to the best record in the NL with all that pitching and young offense)
Comeback Player: Pedro Martinez, NY (If this spring is any indication, it looks like Martinez has found a second baseball life)

PLAYOFFS:

AMERICAN LEAGUE
ALDS:

Tigers over Mariners
Red Sox over Indians

ALCS:
Tigers over Red Sox

NATIONAL LEAGUE
NLDS:

Dodgers over Phillies
Mets over Cubs

NLCS: Dodgers over Mets

WORLD SERIES: Tigers over Dodgers (7 games)
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Friday, March 28, 2008

National League West Preview

1st Place, Los Angeles Dodgers
Lineup:
SS Rafael Furcal
LF Andre Eithier/Juan Pierre
RF Matt Kemp
2B Jeff Kent
CF Andruw Jones
C Russel Martin
1B James Loney
3B Nomar Garciapara/Andy LaRoche

Rotation:
RHP Brad Penny
RHP Derrick Lowe
RHP Chad Billingsly
RHP Hiroki Kuroda
RHP Esteban Loazia
SU: Jonathon Broxton
CL: Takashi Saito

DL: RHP Jason Schmidt (at least July)

As much as it pains me to do so, It's hard not to pick the Dodgers to win the NL West this season. They have an excellent blend of productive veterans, and youngsters on the rise. Even if Jeff Kent and Nomar Garciapara cannot stay healthy all year, the Dodgers have a ton of talent who could come up and take those positions from them. Andre Either and Matt Kemp have already put Juan Pierre and his 11 million dollar-a-year salary on the bench. Their pitching has the same depth as Chad Billingsly proved last year that he's ready and capable. The Dodgers also have young lefty Clayton Kershaw waiting in the wings. If Jason Schmidt can come back healthy by mid-season, it would be like adding another ace to an already strong rotation. The bullpen looks solid again lead by Saito and Broxton. They have too much talent and depth not to win this division.

2nd Place, Arizona Diamondbacks
Lineup:
CF Chris Young
2B Orlando Hudson
LF Eric Byrnes
1B Conner Jackson
3B Mark Reynolds
C Chris Snyder
SS Stephen Drew
RF Justin Upton

Rotation:
RHP Brandon Webb
RHP Danny Haren
LHP Randy Johnson
RHP Micah Owings
LHP Doug Davis/Edgar Gonzalez
SU: Tony Pena
CL: Brandon Lyon

The Diamondbacks are another team that has a wealth of young talent. They are still a little too young in their everyday lineup to beat out the Dodgers for the division, but they are pretty close. They lost a couple solid pieces of last years division winning team as Tony Clark and Jose Valverde both left the team this winter but did land ace number 2 in Dan Haren. I'm not sure they covered Valverde's spot in the bullpen. They are hoping Brandon Lyon can become the closer he was supposed to be a few years ago, but most baseball people think Tony Pena is better suited for the role. Webb and Haren provide a great 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation and I like Davis and Owings, but Randy Johnson shouldn't be counted on to do much and he hasn't really proved anything this spring. They still have one of the better rotations and lineups in the league so they should be among a handful of teams battling it out for a wild card birth.

3rd Place, Colorado Rockies
Lineup:
CF Willy Taveras
SS Troy Tulowitzki
1B Todd Helton
LF Matt Holliday
3B Garret Atkins
RF Brad Hawpe
C Yorvit Torrealba
2B Jayson Nix

Rotation:
LHP Jeff Francis
RHP Aaron Cook
LHP Franklin Morales
RHP Ubaldo Jimenez
LHP Mark Redman
SU: Brian Fuentes
CL: Manny Corpas

The Rockies surprised the baseball world last year with their late season surge to the World Series. It is going to be awfully tough for them to repeat in a very good division. The young Rockies' lineup and their strong bullpen lead them to the Series last season and will be what carries them this year. If Morales and Jimenez develop and can give the Rockies 30 starts apiece, then the Rockies will be right there with the Dodgers and D-Backs. Matt Holliday is an MVP candidate and Garret Atkins and Brad Hawpe are two of the more underrated hitters in the game. I am also anxious to see what Tulowitzki does in his second full big league season. They certainly have the pieces in place to be contenders for years to come, but this year the division is a little too tough.

4th Place, San Diego Padres
Lineup:
RF Brian Giles
CF Jim Edmonds
3B Kevin Kouzmanoff
1B Adrian Gonzalez
SS Kahlil Green
LF Scott Hairston
C Josh Baird
2B Tadhito Iguchi

Rotation:
RHP Jake Peavey
RHP Chris Young
RHP Greg Maddux
LHP Randy Wolf
RHP Justin Germano
SU: Heath Bell
CL: Trevor Hoffman

The Padres could have really improved this winter had they decided to spend a little bit of money. They added Randy Wolf and Jim Edmonds to a team that needs a lot more than just those two. I would rather have Mike Cameron in center over Edmonds at this point in his career and even with the 25-game suspension, they should have brought him back. They also had a chance to get some legit right handed power in their for the first time in a while with Andruw Jones but they passed. They have young Chase Headley waiting in the wings and he looks like he could be a premier power hitter at the big league level. Their rotation looks decent with the addition of Wolfe but right now, they don't have near enough offensive fire power to keep up with the Dodgers, D-Backs and Rockies.

5th Place, San Francisco Giants
Lineup:
LF Dave Roberts
2B Ray Durham
RF Randy Winn
C Bengie Molina
CF Aaron Rowand
1B Rich Aurilia
3B Jose Castillo
SS Omar Vizquel

Rotation:
LHP Barry Zito
RHP Matt Cain
LHP Noah Lowry (out till May)
RHP Tim Lincecum
RHP Kevin Corriea/Jonathan Sanchez
SU: Tyler Walker
CL: Brian Wilson

The Giants are without Barry Bonds for the first time in 15 years and it definitely shows in their offense. The Giants should be among the worst offensive teams in the league this season, and although they have strong starting pitching, and an up and coming bullpen, their offense and defense will have them battling to avoid a 100 loss season. It would be nice to get a rebound season out of Barry Zito, but he has looked bad this spring. Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum are bright young arms that will carry the rotation for years to come. Noah Lowry can't seem to stay healthy for an entire year and his 2008 season will once again be cut short due to arm issues as he isn't expected to join the rotation until May. I like the makings of the young bullpen lead by Brian Wilson. Merkin Valdez should make the squad and could be a darkhourse as a closer/set-up man if Wilson or Walker struggle. It's going to be a long season in the city by the bay, but it should be interesting to see which of their young players ( Fred Lewis, Nate Schierholtz, Eugenio Velez, Dan Ortmeier, Rajai Davis etc.) can actually play at this level.
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Monday, March 24, 2008

National League Central Preview

1st Place, Chicago Cubs
Lineup:

SS Ryan Theriot
LF Alfonso Soriano
1B Derrick Lee
3B Aramis Ramirez
RF Kasuke Fukudome
2B Mark DeRosa
C Geovany Soto
CF Felix Pie

Rotation:

RHP Carlos Zambrano
LHP Ted Lilly
RHP Ryan Dempster
LHP Rich Hill
RHP Jason Marquis
SU: Carlos Marmol
CL: Kerry Wood

The Cubs brought over Kasuke Fukudome from Japan this winter to help solidify the middle of their order. It's still tough to tell what kind of power numbers he will put up in America, but he should be around .300 providing speed and solid defense. If Derrick Lee rebounds this year and can stay healthy, the Cubs should score plenty of runs. I like Theriot and Soriano at the top of the lineup. While their offense may not have quite the weapons that a few of the other division contenders do, they have the best pitching. Carlos Zambrano and Rich Hill haven't even hit their prime yet and both are among the better starters in the NL already. Lilly is very steady in the 2 spot. It will be interesting to see how Dempster makes his return to the rotation, but the Cubs are banking on 30 starts from him. If Dempster doesn't work out, they have Sean Marshall waiting in the wings. Their bullpen is finally settled and could be for a while as Kerry Wood takes over the closers role with Carlos Marmol and Bob Howry setting him up.

2nd Place, Cincinnati Reds

Lineup:

CF Corey Patterson
SS Jeff Keppinger/Alex Gonzalez
RF Ken Griffey Jr.
LF Adam Dunn
2B Brandon Phillips
3B Edwin Encarnacion
1B Joey Votto/Scott Hatteberg
C David Ross

Rotation:
RHP Aaron Harang
RHP Bronson Arroyo
RHP Johnny Cueto
RHP Edison Voloquez
RHP Homer Bailey
SU: David Weathers
CL: Francisco Cordero

I think the Reds are primed to surprise people this year. With all that young talent in the lineup and rotation, I will actually be surprised if they aren't challenging the Cubs for the division in September. The second half of their starting rotation is very raw and that is the only thing that will be holding them back this year. Their lineup is going to score plenty of runs with veterans Adam Dunn, Ken Griffey and Brandon Phillips anchoring the middle of the order and youngsters like, Joey Votto and Jay Bruce all looking to break onto the scene in '08. The Reds have so many hitters that they don't have room for them all which is why Bruce will start the year in AAA. Their bullpen should be the strongest it's been in years with the addition of Francisco Cordero which moves Dave Weathers into his more comfortable set-up role. I also like their young middle relievers, Jared Burton and Jeremy Affeldt, getting the ball to Weathers and Cordero. If they need an arm or two at the deadline, they have the trading chips to make moves. Things are definitely on the up in Cincinnati.

3rd Place, Milwaukee Brewers
Lineup:
2B Rickie Weeks
SS J.J. Hardy
LF Ryan Braun
1B Prince Fielder
RF Corey Hart
3B Billy Hall
CF Mike Cameron/Tony Gwynn Jr.
C Jason Kendal

Rotation:
RHP Ben Sheets
RHP Jeff Suppan
RHP Yovani Gollardo
RHP Dave Bush
RHP Carlos Villanueva
SU: Derrick Turnbow
CL: Eric Gagne

The Brewers should be in the wild card mix as well as the NL Central race this season. The have some question marks regarding their pitching, but their offense could be the best in the National League. Rickie Weeks should rebound and be the lead-off hitter he's been touted to be this season. They have a very deep, young lineup that doesn't really give you a break until you get to Jason Kendal down in the 8th spot and even he can be a tough out when he's on. Their pitching is a whole different story. Ben Sheets is still answering health questions after injuries only allowed him 24 starts last season. Jeff Suppan is a nice veteran presence to have on the staff as a number 4 starter, but asking him to be a number 2 is probably a reach. I like Gallardo and Villanueva, but I don't think their starting pitching will hold up against the Cubbies. Their bullpen isn't in much better shape. Eric Gagne hasn't been healthy this spring and it's still uncertain if he will be healthy to start the season. If Gagne and Sheets can stay healthy all year long, the Brewers should make some noise.

4th Place, Houston Astros
Lineup:

RF Hunter Pence
2B Kazuo Matsui
1B Lance Berkman
LF Carlos Lee
SS Miguel Tejeda
3B Ty Wiggington
C J.R. Towles
CF Michael Bourn

Rotation:
RHP Roy Oswalt
LHP Wandy Rodriguez
RHP Brandon Backe
RHP Woody Williams
RHP Shawn Chacon
SU: Doug Brocail
CL: Jose Valverde

The Astros undoubtedly have the offense to keep up with any team in this division, and any team in major league baseball for that matter. They could hit 250+ home runs as a team this season if they stay healthy. Not only do they have power, but they get on base and have 3 or 4 guys who should steal 20+ bases. If only their pitching had the same kind of quality. Instead of giving Carlos Lee 100 million dollars last winter, it would have been in the Astros' best interest to invest that money in pitching to surround Roy Oswalt. Wandy Rodriguez has come on to be a serviceable left handed starter, but outside of him and Oswalt, the Astros are paper thin in the rotation. Their bullpen isn't much better. Jose Valverde is a quality young closer, but the Astros have no clear set-up man or any real structure to their bullpen outside of Valverde. Even with the offensive fire power, it should be a long year in Houston.

5th Place, Pittsburgh Pirates

Lineup:

CF Nate McClouth
SS Jack Wilson
2B Freddy Sanchez
LF Jason Bay
1B Andy LaRoche
RF Xavier Nady
3B Jose Bautista
C Ronny Paulino

Rotation:
RHP Ian Snell
LHP Tom Gorzelanny
LHP Paul Maholm
RHP Matt Morris
LHP Zack Duke
SU: Damaso Marte
CL: Matt Capps

The Pirates look like they have a young rotation in place that could be there for years. Snell, Gorzelanny, Maholm and Duke are all 27 years of age or younger and all have proven themselves to some degree at the major league level. The Pirates are hoping this is the year they can all stay healthy and grow together. Their lineup won't allow them to compete with the better teams in this division, but they still have some talent there. I would expect bounce back years from Jason Bay and Andy LaRoche and Freddy Sanchez is one of the most underrated hitters in the game (when healthy) so they will score some runs, but not enough. Their bullpen is still a work in progress but they believe they have found their closer of the future in Matt Capps. The Pirates, like the Reds, are certainly on their way up, but it may take another year or two for them to be legit contenders.

6th Place, St. Louis Cardinals
Lineup:
RF Skip Schumaker
2B Adam Kennedy
1B Albert Pujols
CF Rick Ankiel
3B Troy Glaus
LF Chris Duncan
C Yadier Molina
SS Ceaser Izturis

Rotation:
RHP Adam Wainwright
RHP Todd Wellemeyer
RHP Brad Thompson
RHP Anthony Reyes
RHP Kyle Lohse/Braden Looper
SU: Russ Springer
CL: Jason Isringhousen

DL: RHP Chris Carpentar (September)
DL: RHP Joel Piniero (early May)

It's tough to pick a team lead by Albert Pujoles and Tony LaRussa to finish last, but the Cardinals pitching is in such bad shape that it will take a small miracle for them to even finish at .500 this season. Not to mention Pujols is hurting and could cut his season short to have surgery on his arm in order to be ready for spring training in 2009. I like Adam Waiwright and they have some other young quality arms, but they aren't ready to win any divisions.
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Saturday, March 22, 2008

National League East Preview

1st Place, New York Mets
Lineup:
SS Jose Reyes
2B Louis Castillo
3B David Wright
CF Carlos Beltran
1B Carlos Delgado
LF Moises Alou
RF Ryan Church
C Brian Schnieder

Rotation:
LHP Johan Santana
RHP Pedro Martinez
RHP John Maine
LHP Oliver Perez
RHP Orlando Hernandez
SU: Aaron Heilman
CL: Billy Wagner

The Mets' acquisition of Johan Santana, the games best starting pitcher, should finally put them over the hump in the National League. They have 3 legit MVP candidates in their everyday lineup and their starting pitching has looked incredibly strong this spring. Pedro Martinez looks healthy and ready to go and he and Santana should form a nice 1-2 punch. Jose Reyes took a small step back last season after a great '06 campaign. I'm expecting him to have his best year yet hitting over .300 with 20 home runs and 70 stolen bases at the top of that lineup. Their outfield surrounding Carlos Beltran is their only question mark heading into the season. Moises Alou is hurt and going to start the year on the DL which has prompted a few "Barry Bonds to the Mets" whispers which Omar Minya will not completely rule out. Kenny Lofton is another guy to keep an eye on for the Mets if they don't get health/production out of their corner outfield spots when the season starts. Their bullpen should be as good as last years and maybe better if Duaner Sanchez comes back strong. If they aren't in the NLCS come October, they will have either gotten bitten hard by the injury bug, or they will have flat out choked.


2nd Place, Philadelphia Phillies
Lineup:
SS Jimmy Rollins
CF Shane Victorino
2B Chase Utley
1B Ryan Howard
LF Pat Burrell
RF Geoff Jenkins
3B Pedro Feliz
C Carlos Ruiz

Rotation:
RHP Brett Myers
LHP Cole Hamels
RHP Kyle Kendrick
LHP Jamie Moyer
RHP Adam Eaton
SU: Tom Gordon
CL: Brad Lidge

The Phillies could be real good, but it's going to depend on the health of their bullpen. Brad Lidge and Tom Gordon are very important to this bullpen, but Gordon hasn't been healthy for about a year and a half while Brad Lidge is recovering from knee surgery and hasn't been the lights out closer he was in 2005. If they get consistent relief help, the Phillies should win the NL wild card. Their rotation gets a lift by the return of ace Brett Myers as he and Cole Hamels should rival the Mets' 1-2 punch of Santana and Martinez. Kyle Kendrick looks solid and Jamie Moyer is still effective and has a ton of knowledge to share at age 45. I love their balanced lineup and they have a well above average defensive squad. Look for Shane Victorino to further develop into one of the premier base stealer's in the league while Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley make their annual trip to the all-star game in July.

3rd Place, Atlanta Braves
Lineup:

SS Yunel Escobar
2B Kelly Johnson
3B Chipper Jones
1B Mark Teixiera
C Brian McCann
RF Jeff Franceur
CF Mark Kotsay
LF Matt Diaz

Rotation:
RHP John Smoltz
RHP Tim Hudson
LHP Tom Glavine
LHP Mike Hampton
RHP Jair Jurjjens
SU: Peter Moylan
CL: Rafael Soriano

The Braves brought back Tom Glavine to end his career in Atlanta and they're hoping he has one more 200 inning season left in him. Mike Hampton and John Smoltz need to give the Braves 180+ innings each this year for the Braves to be in the mix, which is asking a lot out of them. Their starting rotation is a little too thin to compete with the likes of the Mets and Phillies, but it's tough to ever count out Bobby Cox's bunch. Their lineup looks like it has the makings to be a force for years. Yunel Escobar, Kelly Johnson, Jeff Franceur, Mark Teixeira and Brian McCann are all proven factors and all are on the right side of 30. I think Rafael Soriano will become one of the better closers in the game this year as he finally has the job all to himself. If only they had a healthy Chuck James and one more solid, healthy starting pitcher, they could really have something. As they stand now though, they don't have the arms to be the last team standing in a very tough division.

4th Place, Florida Marlins

Lineup:

CF Cameron Maybin
2B Dan Uggla
SS Hanley Ramirez
RF Jeremy Hermida
LF Josh Willingham
1B Mike Jacobs
3B Jorge Cantu
C Matt Treanor

Rotation:
LHP Andrew Miller
LHP Mark Hendrickson
RHP Ricky Nolasco
LHP Scott Olson
RHP Rick VandenHurk
SU: Matt Lindstrom
CL: Kevin Gregg

The Marlins have a better lineup than people are giving them credit for, even without Miguel Cabrera anchoring down the middle. Jeremy Hermida should break out this season if he can stay healthy and he should help Hanley Ramirez and Dan Uggla carry the weight offensively. Cameron Maybin will start the year in center where the Marlins are discussing perhaps leading him off. He has a shot to win NL rookie of the year as he'll likely see a ton of at bats in front of or behind Uggla, Ramirez and Hermida. If only their rotation were healthy. Josh Johnson, Sergio Mitre and Anibal Sanchez, who would probably be #1,#2 and #3 in the starting rotation, won't be available to help until around June. Their bullpen is also a work in progress. Kevin Gregg will close and although he surprised in 2007 with a nice year, I don't think he's the closer the Marlins envision in their future. Matt Lindstrom and Taylor Tankersley are also intriguing arms to keep an eye on.

5th Place, Washington Nationals
Lineup:

2B Felipe Lopez
SS Christian Guzman
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Nick Johnson
RF Austin Kearns
CF Lastings Milledge
LF Willy Mo Pena/Elijah Dukes
C Paul LoDuca

Rotation:
RHP Shawn Hill
RHP Jason Bergman
LHP Matt Chico
RHP Tim Redding
LHP Odalis Perez
SU: Jon Rauch
CL: Chris Cordero

The Nationals should be better than they were a year ago. Their rotation is still un-settled, but they are starting to put together a young, potent lineup. Ryan Zimmerman should finally have some help this season with a healthy Nick Johnson as well as youngsters Lastings Milledge and Willy Mo Pena protecting him. Milledge has 20-20 potential right now and Pena could hit 40 bombs if he ever gets 500 at-bats. Elijah Dukes, Willie Harris, Dmitri Young and Johnny Estrada provide the Nats with one of the deepest benches in the National league. Chris Cordero is one of the more under-rated closers in baseball as he has been nothing but steady since taking over that role for the Nats. They have a few young pitching pieces that could develop (Chico, Hill, Bergman) but they aren't ready this year to compete with the better teams in this division. Still, the young talent should make it an interesting year in Washington as they open their new ballpark.
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Thursday, March 20, 2008

American League West Preview

1st Place, Seattle Mariners
Lineup:
RF Ichiro
DH Jose Vidro
3B Adrian Beltre
LF Raul Ibanez
1B Richie Sexson
CF Brad Wilkerson
C Kenji Johjima
SS Yuneski Betancourt
2B Jose Lopez

Rotation:
LHP Erik Bedard
RHP Felix Hernandez
RHP Miguel Bautista
LHP Jarrod Washburn
RHP Carlos Silva
SU: Brandon Morrow
CL: J.J. Putz

I really like the Mariners coming into this year. Anytime you have a fifth starter that won 13 games the previous season (Silva), you know you got some pitching. They made the Erik Bedard deal thinking that this is their time to win and they should be right. Their bullpen features one of the best closers in the game in J.J. Putz. I don't think they can overtake the current Angels' squad to win the division, but playing in a weak AL West will only boost their wild card chances. I'm just not sold on their overall lineup yet. Richie Sexson has to be more of the 30 hr-100 rbi type than the 20-60 type he was last year. Also they would love to see Brad Wilkerson and Jose Vidro to revert back to their Montreal Expo form. Young outfielder Wladimer Balentin is waiting in the wings and he's shown this spring that he's ready to play. The M's should certainly be better than average and should win 95+ games in a weak division.

2nd Place, Los Angeles Angels

Lineup:
3B Chone Figgens
2B Howie Kendrick
CF Torii Hunter
RF Vladimer Guerrero
DH Garret Anderson
LF Gary Matthews Jr.
1B Casey Kotchman
C Mike Napolie
SS Erick Aybar

Rotation:
RHP John Lackey (out till May)
RHP Jared Weaver
RHP Kelvim Escobar (out till May)
RHP Jon Garland
RHP Ervin Santana
SU: Scott Shields
CL: Francisco Rodriguez

The Angels went out and added another outfielder to an already deep outfield this winter. Torri Hunter gives them a great defensive presence in the center and another quality, middle of the order bat. There lineup is the best it's been since the Vlad era began. Not only do they have a ton of power throughout the lineup, they also have 5 guys who could easily steal 20+ bases with Mike Scoscia pushing the buttons. I also like the mixture of youth and veterans they have going on in their everyday lineup. However, their pitching isn't sitting as pretty at the moment. Their top two starters, John Lackey and Kelvim Escobar, aren't expected back until mid-May at the earliest and it could be longer for Escobar. This is why they will finish second. A lot of weight will be put on the shoulders of the staff's youngsters to hold down the fort until the vets come back but I think they should be OK. Their bullpen is always solid and should be a strength again this season.

3rd Place, Texas Rangers
Lineup:
DH Frank Catalanotto
2B Ian Kinsler
SS Micahel Young
3B Hank Blalock
CF Josh Hamilton
RF Milton Bradely
LF Marlon Byrd
1B Ben Broussard
C Jarrod Saltalamacchia

Rotation:
RHP Kevin Millwood
RHP Vicente Padilla
RHP Jason Jennings
LHP Kevin Gabbard
RHP Luis Mendoza
SU: Kazuo Fukumori
CL: C.J. Wilson

DL: RHP Brandon McCarthy

The Rangers look a lot different heading into this season than they did heading into last year. They have a young lineup that isn't built around power as much as in the past. They still need a leadoff hitter and another bat in the middle of their order, but I like some of the young pieces they have in place. Their pitching is always a big question mark and this year is no different. Their top 2 starters (Millwood and Padilla) had good yeas in '06 but then fell off badly in '07. Both will need to pitch up to their capability to even make this rotation halfway decent. If they don't rebound, Texas will be in bad shape. The Rangers are also banking on 25 year old Brandon McCarthy to be back in June to give their rotation another quality arm. Their bullpen is still un-settled but it looks like C.J. Wilson will start off closing with Kazuo Fukumori (who has surprised this spring) setting him up. Keep an eye out for Terrance Metcalf, their top hitting prospect who's bat may be needed right away. Overall though, too many things would have to go right for them to be in the mix come September.

4th Place, Oakland Athletics
Lineup:
RF Travis Buck
2B Mark Ellis
SS Bobby Crosby
DH Jack Cust/Mike Sweeney
3B Eric Chavez
1B Dan Johnson/Daric Barton
LF Emil Brown
CF Ryan Sweeney
C Kurt Suzuki

Rotation:
RHP Rich Harden
RHP Joe Blanton
RHP Chad Gaudin
RHP Justin Duchsherer
LHP Dana Eveland
SU: Alan Embree
CL: Huston Street

Billy Beane dealt away the A's best pitcher and best hitter this winter and it's going to show this season. Although the A's could be down this year, it wouldn't surprise me to see a few of those players they acquired start paying dividends right away. Their lineup will struggle to keep up with the teams in the American League. Out of their starting nine, only Mark Ellis and Jack Cust are coming off respectable seasons in '07. Outside of those 2, things could be changing daily in the Oakland lineup as injuries (Chavez, Crosby) and ineffectiveness have bitten the A's hard in recent years. Huston Street and Rich Harden, if healthy, give fans a glimmer of hope, but a 100 loss season looks like it could be on the horizon in Oakland.
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Monday, March 17, 2008

AL Central Preview

1st Place, Detroit Tigers
Lineup:
CF Curtis Granderson
1B Carlos Guillen
3B Miguel Cabrera
RF Maglio Ordonez
DH Gary Sheffield
SS Edgar Renteria
C Ivan Rodriguez
2B Placido Polanco
LF Jacque Jones/Marcus Thames

Rotation:
RHP Justin Verlander
LHP Kenny Rogers
RHP Jeremy Bonderman
LHP Dontrelle Willis
LHP Nate Robertson
SU: Fernando Rodney
CL: Todd Jones

The Tigers pushed themselves ahead of the rest of the AL Central after the blockbuster deal in December that landed them Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis. Cabrera makes the Tigers offense one of the best (if not the top) offenses in the league. Their pitching has some question marks, but so does every other team in the division. Verlander is solid, but Bonderman and Willis are coming off sub-par years and need to pitch like they're capable of. Getting a full season out of Kenny Rogers should help. The bullpen, led by Todd Jones, is fragile and a little thin at the moment, but the team is expecting Fernando Rodney to start the year healthy, and Joel Zumaya back by mid-season. If that happens, the Tigers will be one of the front runners for the AL Pennant.

2nd Place, Cleveland Indians
Lineup:
CF Grady Sizemore
2B Asrubal Cabrera
DH Travis Hafner
C Victor Martinez
1B Ryan Garko
SS Johnny Peralta
3B Casey Blake
RF Franklyn Guttierrez
LF Ben Francisco

Rotation:
LHP C.C. Sabathia
RHP Fausto Carmona
LHP Jake Westbrook
RHP Paul Byrd
LHP Jeremy Sowers
SU: Rafael Betancourt
CL: Joe Borowski

The Indians return the same starting lineup and pitching staff as last years bunch, minus Kenny Lofton. I'd say their in pretty good shape as last years squad reeled off 96 wins. I think they should have re-signed Lofton for depth in the outfield, but they should be fine without him. Travis Hafner, Victor Martinez and Grady Sizemore are all-star players and all 3 have MVP type talent. The starting rotation looks solid, lead by Sabathia and Carmona. Outside of Betancourt and Rafael Perez (minus last years playoff struggles), I'm not too up on their bullpen, and thats where they may have some problems. With their solid starting pitching, they should be able to score enough runs to keep up with the better offensive teams in the league, but their bullpen may not be able to keep opponents off the board. This should be the year Betancourt takes over the closers job. They have a few youngsters in Asrubal Cabrera, Franklin Guttierrez and Ben Francisco who all could be huge lifts if they can produce offensively. As they stand now, I just can't see them finishing above the loaded Detroit Tigers .

3rd Place, Chicago White Sox
Lineup:
CF Jerry Owens
SS Orlando Cabrera
LF Nick Swisher
DH Jim Thome
1B Paul Konerko
RF Jemaine Dye
C A.J. Pierzynski
3B Josh Fields
2B Danny Richar

Rotation:
LHP Mark Buerhle
RHP Javier Vazquez
RHP John Danks
RHP Jose Contreras
RHP Gavin Floyd
SU: Scott Linebrink
CL: Bobby Jenks

The White Sox should be in the thick of things in the AL Central all year. Although they don't have a true, proven leadoff hitter, their lineup has plenty of punch and shouldn't have any problem scoring runs. The middle of the order is aging a bit, but can still hit. The additions of Nick Swisher and Orlando Cabrera give the lineup speed and versatility. I'm not sold on their starting rotation just yet. Buerhle and Vazquez should be fine, but after those two, it gets a little shaky. John Danks and Gavin Floyd are playing big roles in the rotation and neither has been successful in the bigs yet. They also could use another solid arm in the rotation in place of Contreras who has been on a steep decline. The bullpen is solid with Jenks and Linebrink closing teams down in the 8th and 9th innings.

4th Place, Minnasotta Twins
Lineup:
CF Carlos Gomez
2B Bredan Harris
C Joe Mauer
1B Justin Morneau
LF Delmon Young
RF Michael Cuddyer
3B Mike Lamb
DH Jason Kubel/Craig Monroe
SS Adam Everett

Rotation:
LHP Francisco Liriano
RHP Livan Hernandez
RHP Scott Baker
RHP Boof Bonser
RHP Kevin Slowey
SU: Pat Neshek
CL: Joe Nathan

The Twins lost their two top players from a year ago (Torii Hunter, Johan Santana) and although they got some good young players in return, it looks like '08 will be a year of transition for the Twins. Their starting staff is loaded with talent as well as a whole bunch of questions. Liriano has to return to his 2006 form and Scott Baker will have to resemble a young Brad Radke if the Twins are going to have any shot in this division this year. Their bullpen is once again one of the better ones in the league with Matt Guerrier, Pat Neshek and Joe Nathan holding down the 7th, 8th and 9th innings. They also have some young talent in their lineup with Delemon Young, Joe Mauer and Carlos Gomez. They have the pieces in place to be good, but it may take a year or two for them to develop.

5th Place, Kansas City Royals
Lineup:
CF David DeJesus
2B Mark Grudzielanek
LF Mark Teahan
3B Alex Gordon
RF Jose Guillen
1B Billy Butler
DH Ross Gload/Joey Gathright
C John Buck
SS Tony Pena

Rotation:
RHP Gil Meche
RHP Brian Bannister
LHP Zack Grienke
RHP Brett Tomko
LHP Jorge De La Rosa/RHP Kyle Davies
SU: Ron Mahay
CL: Joakim Soria

Once again, the Royals have very little hope in the AL Central, but things look to be on the up for Kansas City. All the young talent accumulated over the years is starting to form a decent, young lineup. I think at least one of their youngsters (Mark Teahan, Billy Butler, Alex Gordon) will breakout and have an all-star year this season. They also have Joey Gathright waiting in the wings who if given a full time job could very well steal 75+ bases. Their pitching isn't very good, but they appear to have a set rotation going into the season, which is better than they've had in years past. Meche, Bannister and Grienke are all capable big league arms, and Joakim Soria is one of the bright young closers in the game today.
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Thursday, March 13, 2008

AL East Preview

Every year, at about the middle of March, I break down the divisions in baseball and pick how I think they will finish. As always, I will start in the AL East and finish in the NL West.

1st Place, Boston Red Sox

Lineup:
CF Jacob Ellsbury
2B Dustin Peroia
DH David Ortiz
LF Manny Ramirez
3B Mike Lowell
1B Kevin Youkilis
RF J.D. Drew
C Jason Varitek
SS Julio Lugo

Rotation:

RHP Josh Beckett
RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka
RHP Tim Wakefield
LHP Jon Lester
RHP Bartolo Colon
SU: Hideki Okajiema
CL: Jonathan Papelbon

DL: RHP Curt Schilling

The Red Sox return practically the same exact team that cruised to an easy World Series tittle just five months ago. Their bullpen is second to none in all of baseball and their offense is always going to be among the leagues best. The lineup should be even better than last years' if they can get bounce back seasons from J.D. Drew and Manny Ramirez who both performed way below their career standards last season. Their starting pitching is very solid, but still has some question marks. They need their ace Josh Beckett healthy all season, and are counting on Curt Schilling coming back strong by June. I expect Matsuzaka to be even better his second time around this year with the Sox and possibly contend for the AL Cy Young award. Keep an eye out for top prospect Clay Buckholtz and young lefty Jon Lester as they should strengthen an already deep starting rotation.

2nd Place, Toronto Blue Jays
Lineup:
SS David Eckstein
1B Lyle Overbay
RF Alex Rios
DH Frank Thomas
CF Vernon Wells
3B Scott Rolen
2B Aaron Hill
LF Adam Lind
C Greg Zaun

Rotation:
RHP Roy Halliday
RHP A.J. Burnett
RHP Dustin McGowan
RHP Shawn Marcum
RHP Jesse Litcsh
SU: Jeremy Accardo
CL: B.J. Ryan

If the Blue Jays can stay healthy all year (Scott Rolen, Roy Halliday, B.J. Ryan and A.J. Burnett especially) they should be right there with the Red Sox and Yankees all year long. They have so much talent, but their talent is very fragile. I think the Blue Jays will actually take the next step this year and finish in front of New York for the first time in over a decade. Their lineup is nicely balanced, and they have depth in their bench. I'm expecting a nice rebound from Vernon Wells and watch for Alex Rios to continue to develop as he has over the past 2 seasons. I wouldn't be surprised if both of those names were mentioned at the end of the year regarding AL MVP honors. Also If Adam Lind comes on to be anything like he's touted to be, the Blue Jays will have their outfield set for years to come. An overall healthy year in Toronto could easily put them into the postseason.

3rd Place, New York Yankees
Lineup
LF Jonny Damon
SS Derek Jeter
RF Bobby Abreu
3B Alex Rodriguez
DH Hideki Matsui
2B Robinson Cano
C Jorge Posada
1B Jason Giambi
CF Melky Cabrera

Rotation:
RHP Chin-Ming Wang
LHP Andy Pettite
RHP Phillip Hughes
RHP Mike Mussina
RHP Ian Kennedy
SU: Joba Chamberlain
CL: Mariano Rivera

The Yankees are getting older, and older each year. Outside of Chin-Ming Wang, I'd be surprised if the Yankees 30 starts out of any starter this season. Mussina and Pettite seem to be on their last legs and 2008 could easily be the final season for both. Pettite had a nice season in '07 but will need to stay extremely tough mentally to succeed with the spotlight on him this summer in New York. The Yankees are hoping Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain will breakout this year and provide the team with much needed pitching depth. Like in Boston, the offense will score a lot of runs. I really like Robinson Cano, and Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter still form the best left sided infield (offensively) the game has ever seen, but I don't think the teams pitching is strong enough allow them to win the division or even compete for a wild card birth.

4th Place, Tampa Bay Rays
Lineup:
2B Akinori Iwamura
LF Carl Crawford
CF B.J. Upton
1B Carlos Pena
3B Evan Longoria
RF Jonny Gomes
DH Cliff Floyd
C Dioner Navarro
SS Jason Bartlett

DL: CF Rocco Baldelli

Rotation
LHP Scott Kazmir
LHP James Shields
RHP Matt Garza
RHP Andy Sonnenstine
RHP Edwin Jackson
SU: Al Reyes
CL: Troy Percival

The Rays are always an intriguing team at the start of the season just because of all the potential they have. That lineup consists of 4 guys who could easily be all-stars and it seems like just about every year they pump out a new young star. B.J. Upton broke onto the scene last year and it looks like it will be Evan Longoria's turn this year. Their top player, Carl Crawford, is still looking to have that one breakout season that showcases him as one of the best all-around players in the game. He's realized his speed potential and is one of the better contact hitters in the game, but he has the power to hit 30 home runs a year and hasn't hit more than 18 yet. I like the top of the Rays' rotation a lot with Kazmir, Shields and Garza, but the bottom half needs to contribute something or else it will be another long year in Tampa. Their bullpen is their weak spot this year. It's tough to build a successful bullpen around when you have 39-year old Troy Percival and 38-year old Al Reyes leading the way.

5th Place, Baltimore Orioles
Lineup:
2B Brian Roberts
3B Melvin Mora
RF Nick Markakis
DH Kevin Millar
1B Aubrey Huff
C Ramon Hernadez
CF Adam Jones
LF Luke Scott
SS Luis Hernadez

Rotation:

RHP Jeremy Guthrie
RHP Daniel Cabrera
LHP Adam Loewen
RHP Steve Trachsel
LHP Brian Burris
SU: Jamie Walker
CL: George Sherril

One again, the Orioles have very low expectations, but unlike the Rays, they don't have a lot of young talent that fans can look forward to watching. In all liklyhood, their best player, Brian Roberts, will be dealt by opening day, so their lineup should even be weaker by the time the season starts. Center fielder Adam Jones, obtained in the Erik Bedard trade, should be one guy to keep an eye on. Nick Markakis is also becoming a decent right fielder. The starting pitching is in shambles though after the Bedard trade. Guthrie is a very solid number 3, but in the weak Oriole rotation, he'll be asked to be a number 1. That alone tells you how thin they are in the rotation. The bullpen isn't much better. George Sherrill should be a solid presence for the ninth inning and Jamie Walker isn't bad setting him up, but then things get very unstable.
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Monday, March 10, 2008

Giants' Roster Shaping Up

With about 2 1/2 weeks of Cactus league play left, some of the Giants' roster questions are starting to become more clear, but now they have another one. The biggest uncertainty that faces the Giants as they round out the Cactus league is who will start the season with Noah Lowry's spot in the starting rotation. The Giants rotation is supposed to be the teams strength, but Lowry, their number three starter and their top winner from a year ago had surgery just last Thursday and isn't expected to start the season in the Giants rotation. It looks like Pat Misch may have a leg up on Jonathon Sanchez for the opening at this point, but both guys will have about 3 more starts until anything is determined. Misch continues to have a good spring while Sanchez is still trying to figure out his mechanics. The Lowry injury has also apparently staled whatever conversations the Giants have had with the White Sox about Joe Crede. Brian Sabean was asked about the chances of pursuing Crede after the Lowry injury and he basically said that they have just gotten a lot slimmer.

The Giants bullpen and even their infield situation is starting to play itself out. The bullpen, something I have ripped Sabean about forever, looks like it could actually be serviceable. Eric Threets has been absolutely dominant in his 4 outings this spring, showing improved command without losing anything off of his 98 mph fastball. He just keeps getting stronger with each outing, with his last one ending by striking out the side in order on Sunday. I don't see any reason not to give him a roster spot at this point. The same can be said for Merkin Valdez. He is carrying a 1.80 era through five innings this spring and has been very hard to hit. Their is room for both Threets and Valdez in the bullpen and their isn't going to be a better time than now to see if they both can stick or not.

The left side of the Giants infield may also have a completely different look to start the season. Coming into the spring, they had their shortstop in place in Omar Vizquel and there was plenty of talk about Joe Crede joining the Orange and Black to play 3rd. If not Crede at third, then it was going to be Rich Aurilia or Kevin Frandsen, right? Well, Omar Vizquel is out for another month as he recovers from knee surgery, so he isn't going to be there on opening day. As I said earlier, the Lowry injury has all but killed any chances of trading for Joe Crede, so scratch that idea (at least to start the season). The two guys who have been seeing the most playing time in those positions are Eugenio Velez (3B) and Brian Bocock (SS). The 22- year old Bocock has played flawless defense at short this spring and is playing himself onto the 25-man roster. Velez has been the talk of the camp so far as far as young positional talent goes. He hasn't been flawless defensively at third, but he has been the Giants best offensive player this spring and he has certainly put his name in the mix as a candidate to play 3rd base for this team. I still think Bochy will go with either Aurilia or Frandsen there to open the season, but don't be surprised if Velez is getting consistent at-bats as a third basemen by the middle of April.
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Giants Shut Down Lowry

Noah Lowry's recent bout with wildness has had people wondering whether the 27 year old lefty has gone Rick Ankiel, or if he possibly has a serious elbow issue. The Giants are hoping it's neither, but they are shutting him down for a while to hopefully get a grasp on some elbow tendinitis issues that have been bothering him. Lowry had to cut short his 2007 season by a month due to elbow stiffness and Bruce Bochy is wondering if he's fully recovered yet. Anytime there are on going elbow problems, you can't help but thinking of the worst case scenario which is the ligament transplant operation that all pitchers fear, Tommy John Surgery. I'm not saying that I think Lowry will eventually need the surgery, but if he comes back in a few weeks and is still having issues, the question may be raised. Going into the off-season, Lowry was talked about as being the most likely trading chip for the Giants in their search for offense, but other GM's had their questions about his health an effectiveness. Lowry had a good, winning year in '07, but walked as many batters as he struck out (87/87) which had his WHIP up at 1.55. His overall strikeout numbers have gone way down over the last 3 seasons as well, from 177 in 204 innings in '05 down to 87 in 160 innings last season. He hasn't been healthy for a full season since 2005. Again, not saying that I think Lowry is hurt to the point where he'll need to go under the knife, but it certainly wouldn't surprise me.

The White Sox have had scouts at Giants games for days when Jonathon Sanchez and Noah Lowry have pitched, and it's said that they are higher on Sanchez than they are Lowry, even before Lowry's breakdown this spring. I'd hate to see the Giants part with Sanchez for a one year rental in Joe Crede, especially now that Lowry's immediate future is a little unclear. If Lowry isn't able to start the year in the Giants' rotation, it would likely open the door for either Jonathon Sanchez or Pat Misch. The Giants would love to see Sanchez step up and claim the spot, but he has done nothing to prove he deserves it so far this spring. He's given up 6 runs and walked 4 in only 3 innings so far. Misch, on the other hand, has thrown very well this spring as he's only given up 1 hit with 3 strikeouts through 3 innings. If the season started right now, they'd have to give the open spot to Misch, based on how the spring has gone. A less likely possibility would be for them to go out and grab one of the remaining veteran free agent starting pitchers. Eric Milton and Kyle Lohse are two guys still looking for work, and if the Lowry is going to miss significant time, the Giants may want another vet on hand to help out in the rotation.
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Early Spring Analysis

The Giants have looked sloppy through the first week of spring training, but there have been a some bright spots. Eugenio Velez and Freddy Lewis, two guys who are fighting for an opening day roster spot, have absolutely torn up the cactus league thus far. Lewis is leading the Giants with a .500 average, .700 slugging percentage and 4 rbi's through his first 4 games. Velez has been on base seven times, scored 6 runs and stolen 5 bases. Both of these players are out of options so they can no longer be sent to the minor leagues without first clearing waivers. It's a pretty safe bet that neither player would clear waivers, so it would be in the Giants best interest to have them on the team come March 31st in Los Angeles. Lewis has thoroughly outplayed Nate Schierholtz and Rajai Davis so far this spring, and if he keeps it up, it's likely that Schierholtz will start the year in Fresno as he still has an option year left. A couple young players who won't make the team right away but have stood out so far have been John Bowker and Travis Denker. Both are likely to start the year in Fresno, but they have definitely put themselves on the mind of Bruce Bochy and co. could be among the first big league call-ups as soon as someone gets injured or starts struggling. The cool part about having low expectations like the Giants look to have, is that you get to experiment with the younger players and see exactly who can play in the bigs and who doesn't quite belong.

While the Giants offense has been a pleasant surprise through the first games of the spring, the pitching, especially relief, and defense have been very inconsistent. The Giants have made ten errors through the first 4 games, but have also failed to make a lot of fairly routine plays that most big leaguer's make which haven't been counted as errors. Dan Ortmeier has been less than impressive at first base so far this spring, and Kevin Frandsen hasn't looked great at shortstop either. The outfield defense has been solid, but without Omar Vizquel and an MLB caliber defensive third basemen, the Giants infield defense is probably the worst in all of baseball.

As far as the bullpen goes, not many guys have thrown very well yet. Yes, it's still way too early to determine set spots, but if the season started tomorrow, the deserving 7 would be closer Brian Wilson, set-up man Tyler Walker, rh Brad Hennessey, rh Merkin Valdez, lh Steve Kline, lh Jack Taschner, and either lh Eric Threets or rh Vinny Chulk. Pat Misch also impressed in his outing this spring, but I'd rather keep Jonathon Sanchez and Misch starting in Fresno getting consistent work than in the bullpen with the Giants. Hennessey hasn't been very good this spring, but he's proven himself over the last few seasons so I'm not worried about him. Threets was very impressive in his only outing so far, and Merkin Valdez finally looks like he's settling in. I think that Vinny Chulk, Merkin Valdez should be in a battle for a spot, and the Giants shouldn't hesitate to go with Valdez if shows he deserves it. He's another guy who's out of options and likely wouldn't clear waivers without at least 1/3 the league looking to scoop him up.
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________
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