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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

2010 NFL Draft Rd 1

For the last couple of seasons I've joined the madness and created my own mock draft.  It's fun but it also gets old looking and hearing about everyone else's mocks. Gladly we'll all know the results for the entire draft in just a few days.

  1. St. Louis - Sam Bradford QB - Oklahoma - His college career was great. His pro day was great. The only real concern here is his shoulder but his added bulk should reduce the likelihood of the injury reoccurring. Quarterback is the most important position on the field and with the release of Marc Bulger there's an opening.
  2. Detroit -  Ndmamukong Suh DT - Nebraska - The Lions go for best talent available which works out because they need a makeover on the defensive line.  Recent rumors have been speculating they could go tackle here but that's not going to happen.
  3. Tampa Bay - Gerald McCoy DT - Oklahoma - Possibly the worst team in the league last year, Tampa needs everything. McCoy would be the undisputed number one tackle in most draft's and some believe he is the best in this draft. Once selected he'll remind fans of Warren Sapp.
  4. Washington - Russell Okung OT - Oklahoma St. - Mike Shanahan wants to win now and he proved that was his intention by trading for QB Donovan McNabb.  Okung is the pick to help shore up the weakest link on the offense.  
  5. Kansas City - Brian Bulaga OT - Iowa - Kansas City likely wants to trade out of this spot but with such a deep draft I'm doubtful one occurs.  Eric Berry is the best player available at this point but the Chiefs are desperate for help on the offensive line. Bulaga is a safe pick and can start from day one.
  6. Seattle - Trent Williams OT - Oklahoma - There are many who believe Williams is an elite talent but can he play left tackle (ask Sam Bradford how that worked out)?  Seattle will attempt to find out as Walter Jones is going to retire.
  7. Cleveland - Eric Berry S - Tennessee - Cleveland fans should be ecstatic.  With this selection Cleveland will have nearly completed the overhaul of their secondary this offeseason. Berry reminds many of Ed Reed and we all know how good he is.
  8. Oakland - Mike Iupati OG - Idaho - Al Davis has his own agenda.  If Iupati is really #1 on their board look for the Raiders to try and trade back to #15 or so.  I don't like projecting trades so Iupati's the pick at #8.
  9. Buffalo - Anthony Davis OT - Rutgers - I don't think Buffalo takes Jimmy Clausen because they are dead set on taking the best OT available.  Davis has huge upside but also has some character issues. Buffalo's dealt with those before.
  10. Jacksonville - Jimmy Clausen QB - Notre Dame - Yes, Jacksonville has been saying all along they need a pass rush but they also need a franchise QB. David Garrard is nice and all but he's not a top 5 QB.
  11. Denver - Rolando McClain ILB - Alabama - Denver needs pieces for their 3-4 defense linebacker was clearly an issue last season. McClain is a tackling machine who excels in a 3-4.
  12. Miami - Derrick Morgan OLB - Georgia Tech - A week ago this pick was Dez Bryant but the Brandon Marshall trade temporarily alleviates that need.  Instead look for Parcells to stick to his gut and draft defense with the first pick.  Miami needs OLB to replace the departed Joey Porter and Jayson Taylor.  There will be a transition period since Morgan was a DE in college but in a couple of years he'll be a good one.
  13. San Francisco - Joe Haden CB - Florida - SF's secondary was pretty bad last year. Nate Clements has apparently lost a step and a move to FS is possible. Joe Haden is clearly the best corner in the draft.
  14. Seattle - CJ Spiller RB - Clemson - Seattle's second draft pick is a doozy.  Think Chris Johnson is good? Spiller is a similar runner with similar speed but will also make a huge impact on special teams. 
  15. NY Giants - Earl Thomas S - Texas - The Giants really wanted a LB here but McClain is the only one worth a first round pick. Instead they go with the second best safety prospect. Thomas provides insurance for Kenny Phillips but also is a very good cover guy.
  16. Tennessee - Jason Pierre-Paul DE - South Florida - JPP is an athletic freak but only played one year of DI ball making him a project for NFL coaching.  I'm not a believer but scouts love him and the Titans need more pass rush.
  17. San Francisco - Maurkice Pouncey C - The 49ers have several key pieces in place as they look to get back to the playoffs.  Their interior line, though, is severely lacking.  Pouncey may be the best interior lineman in the draft so the pick fits.
  18. Pittsburgh - Kyle Wilson CB - Boise St. - Pittsburgh missed the playoffs last season in large part to their poor passing defense. Wilson is a sound tackler and good defender who - with the return of Polamalu - will help solve this issue.
  19. Atlanta - Sean Weatherspoon OLB - Missouri - The Falcons linebackers are both aging and devoid of playmakers. Weatherspoon fits the scheme and will make big plays. Makes sense to me.
  20. Houston - Dan Williams DT - Tennessee - Williams can also play NT in a 3-4 but Houston has been looking for help on their defensive line.  This huge space eater will help the run defense and can also help collapse the pocket when Peyton Manning comes to town.
  21. Cincinnati - Jermaine Gresham TE - Oklahoma - This pick makes a lot of sense and at the same time I have a hard time seeing it happening.  Cincinnati almost never uses the tight end as a receiving option but the Bengals really struggled passing the ball last season. Gresham is a lot like Antonio Gates so I think the Bengals will find a way to incorporate him into the offense.
  22. New England - Jerry Hughes OLB - TCU - Hughes super quick off the line allowing him to excel in getting to the quarterback. The Pats biggest weakness last year was the pass rush. 
  23. Green Bay - Bruce Campbell OT - Maryland - The latest draft buzz has the Packers selecting a running back here but they can find a good one in round two.  Instead I think they'll address the tackle position so Aaron Rodgers isn't running for his life on half of his snaps.
  24. Philadelphia - Brandon Graham DE - Michigan - The Eagles look to add depth to their pass rush though the secondary is still an issue. Graham is valued as a top 15 pick for many but I can't picture him playing OLB for a 3-4 defense. The Eagles run a 4-3 so he'll fit in nicely.
  25. Baltimore - Jared Odrick DT - Penn St. - Baltimore's entire defense is getting up there in age so getting some premium talent in the draft seems important.  Odrick could start for many teams from the get go but he'll get to intern behind Trevor Pryce for a year or so.
  26. Arizona - Sergio Kindle OLB - Texas - Arizona will look to improve their pass rush also as they already lost an OLB during free agency.  Kindle showed in college he can get to the quarterback though there may be a transition period as he learns how to drop into coverage.
  27. Dallas - Dez Bryant WR - Oklahoma St. - Bryant is far and away the best WR in this draft.  Miami and Denver seemed like possible destinations but the Dolphins recently acquired Brandon Marshall and I have the Broncos taking Rolando McClain in this mock.  Several character issues don't help Bryant's case any.  Jerry Jones doesn't care about that so he'll happily take Bryant to replace the oh-so-popular Roy Williams.
  28. San Diego - Ryan Mathews RB - Fresno St. - Tomlinson is gone and I'm not sure the Chargers believe Darren Sproles can be a featured back.  Plus, he's a free agent at the end of the season. Mathews is tough and would be a good compliment to Sproles in San Diego's offense.
  29. NY Jets - Taylor Mays S - USC - Rex Ryan wants tough guys and Mays is just that. Sure he has his limitations in coverage but he's a big hitter and has cornerback speed.
  30. Minnesota - Kareem Jackson CB - Alabama - Minnesota lacks depth in the secondary and last year their performance was nothing to brag about. Jackson is a solid cover guy who fits well in the Cover-2 scheme.
  31. Indianapolis - Rodger Saffold OT - Indiana - Several mocks have the Colts going with Saffold here and I agree.  Manning is a great player but even he needs a running game to be effective. Last year's line didn't allow that to happen which may be why the Colts weren't champions. Saffold is the fourth or fifth best tackle prospect so the Colts will snag him here instead of waiting a round to grab another.
  32. New Orleans - Brian Price DT - UCLA - The Saints go best player available here and get a nice talent at DT.  Playing in the NFC South means going against several good running backs. Price is a good fit for a team needing help in this area.
I fully expect to miss 75% of my picks but this is my best guess.

Monday, April 12, 2010

NL Statues

With the official opening of the Twins new stadium in Minneapolis today, ESPN did their diligence in talking about all the neat features that will help to make it unique.  Along the way they showed a statue of Rod Carew (in his batting stance) outside and mentioned why he was deserving of such an honor.  This got me thinking about each team's statues and how they choose not only the player but the pose. Too often it seems the player is just standing with a bat. Why not depict the player in a way that causes fans to reminisce about the old days? Below I've done my best attempt to determine two statues for each team and the pose they should be framed in.  Click on the link for each player to view my ideas.

Craig Biggio - Took the term "scrappy" to a whole new level. Biggio spent his entire career with Houston playing C, 2b, and CF.  Is the all-time leader in most hit by pitches while also collecting more than 3000 base hits.
Jeff Bagwell - One of the great power hitters of his era but was also a sound base runner and good defender. Also had perhaps the most unique batting stance of anyone not named Craig Counsell.

Hank Aaron - The all time home run king for thirty years also ranks third all time in hits.  The perfect pose is him hitting his 715th career homer.
Warren Spahn - The winningest lefty ever was famous for his high leg kick.

Robin Yount - Here is his current statue. I think the standard t-ball pose is better because it portrays who Yount was: a quiet, modest player who showed up to work everyday. Won an MVP at two different positions and collected over 3000 hits while spending his entire career in Milwaukee.
Rollie Fingers - A lot of people may claim Paul Molitor should go here. Generally I agree--BUT Molitor is now most remembered for his brief stints with Toronto and Minnesota at the end of his career. I choose Fingers who won an MVP in Milwaukee in the early '80's and along with Yount can really rock a mustache.

Rogers Hornsby - A real difficult guy to get along with, Hornsby hit over .400 three times with power. His spot is in jeopardy as long as that Pujols guy stays in town.
Ozzie Smith - The Wizard is in my opinion the greatest defensive player of all time. Good to see the poeple in St. Louis got it right.

Ernie Banks - Few people realize how good he was early in his career. Won two MVPs and hit 512 career home runs.
Sammy Sosa - Yeah, it's easy to make fun of him. But remember how beloved he was while he was hitting 60 home runs?  The Sammy hop and his sprint to right field were his trademarks.

Randy Johnson & Curt Schilling - These two flamethrowers not only finished 1-2 in the N.L. Cy Young voting but shared World Series MVP honors.

Jackie Robinson - Seriously, how could it not be Jackie? While his legacy will live forever and he was a great player, I think this statue needs to be an action shot which is why I chose his steal of home in the 1955 World Series.
Sandy Koufax - I wanted to put Roy Campanella here but more people idolized Koufax.  In this image you can see his knee graze the ground as he throws his trademark curveball.

Willie Mays - The "Say Hey Kid" hit 660 home runs in his career but may be best remembered for his catch in the 1954 World Series. Often referred to as the greatest catch of all time, that was really only half the play as he then spun and threw without looking to second to get a double play.
Barry Bonds - His performance from 1999-2001 is just ridiculous.  Also went 40-40 once, won MVP Awards, and is the all time home run king.

Jeff Conine - The only player to win both World Series with the Marlins. Also was the 1995 All-Star game MVP.
Hanley Ramirez - Ramirez is unquestionably the greatest Marlin ever. Too bad his teams are unquestionably mediocre.

Dwight Gooden - Even his drug and alcohol problems don't cloud the memory of 1985 when 20 year old Doc had one of the greatest seasons ever. He had a moment of brilliance late in his career with the Yankees when he threw a no-hitter. Everyone always rooted for him to succeed.
Mike Piazza - For all the knocks he took about his game, it's hard to argue against him being considered the greatest hitting catcher of all time.  He had a unique batting stance but unlike the link I've posted, I think the Mets would prefer he wear a Met uniform in his statue.

Tim Raines - The greatest base stealer of all time (quantity + efficiency) is also the greatest Expo of all time. He should be in Cooperstown but that's a whole other entry.  Definitely should be depicted burning up the basepaths.
Gary Carter - One of the ten greatest catchers of all time, Carter was a blend of both power and defense. He is one of two players enshrined wearing an Expo cap (the other is Andre Dawson).

Tony Gwynn - Won eight batting titles and played his entire career in San Diego. 
Trevor Hoffman - The all-time saves leader was never overpowering but managed to guile his way past hitters with an incredible changeup.  His statue would be sure to feature his famous grip.

Mike Schmidt - Hit 548 home runs, won ten gold gloves, and is the greatest third baseman of all time. His statue is perfect the way it is.
Steve Carlton - Tough not to go with Grover Cleveland Alexander here but Carlton is someone who has a greater legend.  Won four Cy Youngs and in 1972 won 27 games for a Phillies team that only won 59.

Honus Wagner - Wagner is one of the three greatest players ever. An excellent shortstop, baserunner, and hitter, he really took it to Ty Cobb when they faced each other in the 1909 World Series.
Bill Mazeroski - No, he's not the second greatest Pirate ever. But there might not be a greater aura surrounding any former Pirate.  His homer to end the 1960 World Series remains one of the great moments in baseball history.  He might be the greatest defensive second baseman of all time and his pivot on the double play was revolutionary.

Pete Rose - Charlie Hustle is the all-time hit king. Just because he's not eligible for the Hall of Fame doesn't mean he doesn't deserve a statue.
Johnny Bench - He might be the greatest defensive catcher of all time and is arguably the greatest all around catcher.  Won two MVPs for the Big Red Machine.

Larry Walker - Walker won three batting titles in Colorado as well as the 1996 N.L. MVP Award.
Troy Tulowitzki - This might be a stretch as Dante Bichette and Andres Galarraga are both going to be remembered as Rockie greats.  Tulowitzki is just getting started and with his outstanding defense and 30 HR power he'll be around for a long time.

Later this week I'll do the American League.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

MLB Prospect Watch: Catcher

Last season the upper minors were full of potential stars that were nearly ready to take the next step and make their mark in the majors. Andrew McCutcheon is now the headliner of that group though other Colby Rasmus and Dexter Fowler found themselves starting for playoff teams. 

So which position is due to see the next large influx of talent? It's got to be catcher.  When one sees Jason Kendall getting starts everyday in Kansas City and read that Brad Ausmus is miraculously still employed, it's easy to wonder where all the catching talent has been for the past decade.  Well, it's coming.

Carlos Santana - This switch hitting catcher is Cleveland's number one prospect and a top five prospect in all of baseball. He looks like he will develop into being a middle of the order hitter with good power and patience (much like Victor Martinez but better).  His defense, though not bad, could still use some fine tuning which is why Cleveland assigned him to AAA to begin the season.
Prediction for permanent call-up: He'll likely be up by September and will be the starter from there on out.

Buster Posey - I don't know what the Giants are thinking. Posey will never have the power that Santana possesses but his on-base skills are especially unique for a catcher.  He would not be miscast as a top of the lineup hitter and if he were allowed to start on the big league club this season instead of Benji Molina, he'd be one of San Francisco's three best hitters. Alas, Brian Sabean says he needs to work on his "game calling" which most people agree is either overrated or is something he should learn in the majors with the pitchers he'll be working with for years to come.
Prediction for permanent call-up: June 2010

Jesus Montero - Perhaps the only player in all the minor leagues who can claim to have bigger power than Montero is Florida's Michael Stanton.  His on-base skills also appear to be very good meaning he will be an offensive force once called up to the big leagues. The knock on Montero is his defense. He has no range and some scouts have said he needs to work on his throwing though he does have a strong arm.  These things are exacerbated by the fact that he's big-very big- for a catcher (6'4" 225lbs) which leads many scouts to believe he'll be a first baseman or DH.  Jorge Posada won't block him though as he's nearing the end of his career and his defense might actually be worse than Montero's at this point.
Prediction for permanent call-up: This is a tricky one with Teixeira entrenched at first for the next seven years and Posada not ready to hang 'em up yet. I think he'll at least split time at catcher and DH on Opening day of 2011.

Wilson Ramos - Ramos has the unfortunate circumstance of being blocked by not only the best catcher in baseball but likely on of the greatest of all time. He's got a cannon arm and a minor league career line of .293/.342/.434.  A player with these skills is an asset to any team who doesn't have Joe Mauer. Ramos should continue his steady ascent through the minors as long  as he's able to stay healthy. Minnesota assigned him to AAA Rochester to begin the season.
Prediction for permanent call-up: Expect the Twins to trade Ramos at some point before the 2011 season. Where he lands will provide a better idea of when he will be called up.

Tyler Flowers: Flowers is another big catcher whose size once caused scouts to believe he had no future behind the plate.  That changed last year as he proved he was more than capable of blocking the plate although he only threw out 29% of attempted base stealers.  He could be a poor man's version of Montero with not quite as much power but still possessing a good eye at the plate. The White Sox probably think he's ready but want him to start every day justifying their decision to send him to AAA Charlotte to start the season.  Though he'll never be an MVP candidate, he could make a few all-star teams and hit 20-25 home runs each year.  That's quite a projection for someone who's considered the fifth best catching prospect.
Prediction for permanent call-up: Opening day 2011 as the White Sox starting catcher.

Hank Conger - Conger is another switch hitting catcher who has displayed good power in the minors.  It also appears that he is making great improvements in pitch recognition as he more than doubled his walk rate in his promotion to AA last year.  His defense, however, may be his limiting factor. Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus implied that it's bad enough to prevent him from ever becoming a starter. He's also "blessed" with Benji Molina speed.
Prediction for permanent call-up: This depends with what the Angels want to do with their two-headed monster of Jeff Mathis and Mike Napoli.  He will be ready in 2011 to stay in the bigs.

Jason Castro - Castro is another player whose defensive liabilities have many scouts questioning whether or not he'll be able to stay behind the plate. Keith Law believes he has the skills to stay where he is.  His offense is solid but he has no spectacular facet to his game. Of all the players on this list he has the lowest ceiling but after Santana and Montero is also the most likely to be a consistent major leaguer.
Prediction for permanent call-up: Houston has no excuse for keeping him in the minors in 2011. Expect a September cup of coffee and a permanent job starting Opening Day 2011.

This is an impressive list of talent that should be starting to break through as soon as this summer.  Also consider the fact that Brian McCann (26), Jesus Flores (25), Kurt Suzuki (26), and Matt Wieters (24) are still not yet into the prime of their careers and it's easy to see why this position could be loaded for a long time.

Monday, April 5, 2010

2010 MLB predictions

Despite my best efforts, I was unable to complete a team capsule for each team prior to the start of the season.  I'll continue to do team capsules when I have time although they will be abbreviated versions now that the season is upon us.  Instead of waiting until mid May for my predictions, I'll give them now.

Division winners:
AL East - Yankees
AL Central - Twins
AL West - Rangers
Wild Card - Rays

NL East - Phillies
NL Central - Cardinals
NL West - Rockies
Wild Card - Braves

World Series - Yankees over Rockies

AL MVP - Mark Teixeira.  Runners up: Evan Longoria, Grady Sizemore, Joe Mauer, Alex Rodriguez
NL MVP - Albert Pujols. Runners up: Chase Utley, Hanley Ramirez, David Wright, Matt Holliday

AL Cy Young - Felix Hernandez. Runners up: CC Sabathia, Jon Lester, Justin Verlander
NL Cy Young - Roy Halladay. Runners up: Tim Lincecum, Dan Haren, Johan Santana

AL Top Rookies - Brian Matusz, Scott Sizemore, Carlos Santana
NL Top Rookies - Jason Heyward, Stephen Strasburg, Alcides Escobar

AL Breakout Player - Adam Jones
NL Breakout Player - Colby Rasmus

AL Breakout Pitcher - Gavin Floyd or Rick Porcello
NL Breakout Pitcher - Mat Latos