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Friday, April 29, 2011

2011 MLB Predictions: NL Central

Unimpressed with his Matrix moves, Chapman fires a fastball at Keanu's head.
It wasn't until the funeral when he learned it's just a movie.

The National League Central has been the home to mediocrity in recent seasons.  In each of the past two seasons a whopping 91 wins has won the division while four teams failed to win at least half their games. I'm not certain that will continue this season but I am certain the bottom two teams in this division will challenge each other for the first pick in next year's amateur draft.

Let's get to it:

Milwaukee Brewers
Best Player: Prince Fielder
Best Pitcher: Zack Greinke 
Biggest off-season move:  Trading for Zack Greinke was the type of "all-in" move fans get excited about. This may be the team's best chance for a while.
Biggest off-season loss: By trading Alcides Escobar, the Brewers are now stuck with Yunieksy Betancourt at SS.
Biggest Questions:
1. Will Prince Fielder be re-signed? It seems unlikely the Brewers will be able to retain their best player after this season so the team needs to win it all.
2. Will Zack Greinke rebound? A goofy injury suffered while playing pick-up basketball will keep Greinke sidelined for a bit, but Greinke should be great once he makes it back.
3. Can the bullpen hold enough leads? This is not a good 'pen but when that's your biggest weakness it's not a bad one to have.
Expectations: This team is assembled to make the playoffs and with Fielder and Braun they should make some noise once they get there.
Opening day lineup:
1. Weeks 2B
2. Gomez CF
3. Braun LF
4. Fielder 1B
5. McGehee 3B
6. Kotsay RF
7. Betancourt SS
8. Nieves C
SP Yovani Gallardo

2011 NFL Draft Thoughts: Round 1

It finally happened! Since I don't have TV I was relegated to watching the NFL Network's live coverage streaming over the internet. What I would have given to trade for ESPN and Jon Gruden's insight! Instead I was listening to Michael Irvin shout over Mike Mayock while Steve Mariucci and Marshall Faulk made jokes with each other. At least I got about a half hour of Tom Waddle.

Anyway here's some moves I really liked:
  1. Cleveland Browns trading the sixth pick for Atlanta's 1st & 4th rounders in 2011 and 2012 plus their second rounder in 2011. Wow. Good job, Holmgren!
  2. The Saints moving back into the first round to grab the BPA and their new franchise running back. They only gave up their second rounder this year and their first rounder next year - which we can assume will be a late pick since they'll likely make the playoffs.
  3. Cam Newton going #1 overall so the Bills didn't pick him.
  4.  The top four teams from last season in my mind (Bal, Pit, NYJ, GB) all getting great value late.  There' s a reason these teams have been competitive in the past and will remain competitive in the future.
Here's some things that have left me perplexed:
  1. Atlanta couldn't find a trade partner closer to ten? I understand the need for another WR but moving up 21 spots costs a lot and they still paid too much.
  2. Why did the Bears want to trade up 3 spots? Supposedly they got the guy they wanted in the end, but did they really think Baltimore, KC, and New Orleans would draft an offensive lineman? Maybe they just wanted to make the Ravens look bad by having their pick expire. Point noted.
  3. Da'Quan Bowers (I have him rated #7 overall) falling completely out of the first round. Teams must be really scared of his medical records on his knees.  
  4. The run on QB's. Gabbert falling to ten isn't a big deal but Locker and Ponder both being gone by pick 12? These teams better be sold on them or else some GMs are going to lose their jobs. 
As we head into round two here's who I think are the top 10 available players:
  1. Da'Quan Bowers DE - Top 10 talent has scared teams off with shaky medical records
  2.  Stephen Paea DT - I was hoping Buffalo would go Peterson then Paea or QB in the second round (not Andy Dalton, please!)
  3. Akeem Ayers LB - Good pass rusher, decent in coverage, but questionable angles towards ball carriers has lowered his perceived value
  4. Aaron Williams CB/FS - Had a rough senior year but he's loaded with talent
  5. Kyle Rudolph TE - Could be another great do-everything tight end
  6. Brooks Reed DE - Another quality pass rusher who likely slipped due to run on QBs
  7. Stefen Wisniewski OG/C - Strong, tough interior lineman who can really run block
  8. Marvin Austin DT - Super quick but teams aren't impressed with his work ethic
  9. Michael Leshoure RB - Similar to Mendenhall but smaller. 
  10. Ryan Williams RB - Teams who passed on a RB in round 1 (Miami) could get a potential Pro-Bowl back here.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

2011 MLB Predictions: NL West

What Lincecum (right) fails to realize is he just lost in the first round of the World Series of Beard. 
Brian Wilson (left) would go on to win both championships last November.

Instead of writing a preview of the National League Central we'll skip it and head to the West. The Central has six teams and will take a bit longer so I'll save it for last. In the West you've got the defending champions as well as some of the best players in baseball. Let's take a look.

Colorado Rockies
Best Player: Troy Tulowitzki is not only the best SS in baseball but possibly the best player in the National League.
Best Pitcher: Ubaldo Jimenez had 16 wins at the All-Star break last year.
Biggest off-season move:  Adding Ty Wigginton who can play each infield position may pay dividends.
Biggest off-season loss: Clint Barmes was a solid middle infielder.
Biggest Questions:
1. Is the rotation good enough to make the playoffs?  The rotation has questions, yes, but if Jason Hammel and Jorge de la Rosa are healthy they'll be just fine.
2. Was Carlos Gonzalez a fluke last year? Oakland gave up on him because they viewed him as an all-tools guy who couldn't put it together. I think those tools have translated into success.
3. What happens when Todd Helton gets hurt again? Helton's back issues are no secret but he's done better lately at staying in the lineup. Regardless, Colorado should have ample infield depth with Jose Lopez, Ty Wigginton, and Ian Stewart.
Expectations: This is a playoff caliber team and anything short of the playoffs will put pressure on everyone in the organization to get back to the level Colorado was at in 2008.
Opening day lineup:
1. Fowler CF
2. Smith RF
3. Gonzalez RF
4. Tulowitzki SS
5. Helton 1B
6. Wigginton 3B
7. Lopez 2B
8. Iannetta C
SP Ubaldo Jimenez

Monday, April 18, 2011

2011 MLB Predictions: NL East

 David Wright believes his Lord Helmet can save him from the Schwartz as well as concussions.

Now it's time for the NL East.  The Phillies seem to be the champion on paper but let's take a deeper look.

Philadelphia Phillies
Best Player: Chase Utley but we don't know how long he'll be out. After Utley it's probably Ryan Howard.
Best Pitcher: Roy Halladay is the obvious answer here.
Biggest off-season move:  Adding Cliff Lee shocked everyone.
Biggest off-season loss: Jayson Werth was the team's third best hitter and was a good defensive outfielder.
Biggest Questions:
1. When will Chase Utley return? No one is certain if he'll be back in May or if it will be at the All-Star break. The Phillies may not need him to make the playoffs but winning the World Series will be an uphill climb without him.
2. How good is the rotation? Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, and Roy Oswalt are four of the top twenty five pitchers in baseball. If no injuries beset the staff the offense won't need to be nearly as powerful as it has been in recent seasons.
3. Is Dominic Brown ready to be an impact player?  The Phillies don't need the rookie to be an all-star but with Utley hurt and Werth gone there is a void on offense.  Brown was the top hitting prospect last season but many scouts worry the team is too left-handed with him in the lineup.
Expectations: This is a World Series contender.  Anything short of reaching the Series will likely be seen as a disappointment.
Opening day lineup:
1. Victorino CF
2. Polanco 3B
3. Rollins SS
4. Howard 1B
5. Ibanez LF
6. Francisco RF
7. Ruiz C
8. Valdez 2B
SP Roy Halladay

Thursday, April 14, 2011

2011 MLB Predictions: AL West

Hamilton looks up after attempting to set the record for highest infield pop-fly.

Texas Rangers
Best Player: Josh Hamilton was last year's MVP.  I think it's safe to say he's the best player on the team.
Best Pitcher: Neftali Feliz. Another team whose best pitcher is a reliever. They toyed with making him a starter in spring training but decided not to fix what's not broken.
Biggest off-season move:  Tired of Michael Young's "defense" in the infield, the Rangers signed Adrian Beltre and his gold glove to man the hot corner.  Young is now the team's utility player and DH.
Biggest off-season loss: When Cliff Lee bolted for Philly, the Rangers lost their only stud starter.
Biggest Questions:
1. Can the rotation hold up well enough for the Rangers to repeat as division champs?  As I stated earlier, Cliff Lee was a big game pitcher for this team.  They hope CJ Wilson wasn't a flash in the pan and that Derek Holland and Scott Feldman can continue to improve.
2. Will Josh Hamilton stay healthy enough to play a full season?  We already know the answer to this question is no as Hamilton broke his arm this week.  Hamilton's only managed to play 135 games one time in his career.
3. Will Michael Young be happy in his new role? I doubt he is but will he keep his mouth shut and produce enough to be around when Texas plays in October? He already voiced his displeasure in the off-season about being replaced but the guy needs to look in the mirror and see he's not the player he was even three seasons ago.
Expectations: Texas' offense should finish in the top three in runs scored in the American League. The bullpen will be decent enough as long as Feliz is used as needed, but the major question is with the starters. I imagine they'll do just fine as Texas makes it back to the playoffs and possibly the World Series.
Opening day lineup:
1. Kinsler 2B
2. Andrus SS
3. Hamilton LF
4. Beltre 3B
5. Young DH
6. Cruz RF
7. Napoli 1B
8. Torrealba C
9. Borbon CF
SP CJ Wilson

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

2011 MLB Predictions: AL Central

When I finish all the previews I'll add a post in which I predict each team's final record as well as individual award winners.

Chicago White Sox
Best Player: Tough one. I think I'd take Dunn though if Beckham plays like he did down the stretch last season he's the pick.
Best Pitcher: Jon Danks - not Buehrle -is the best pitcher on the team. It would be Peavy if he could make more than 12 starts.
Biggest off-season move:  Adam Dunn is the perfect hitter for Cellular One Field.
Biggest off-season loss: Many may disagree but losing Bobby Jenks hurts the bullpen's depth.
Biggest Questions:
1. Can Gordon Beckham rebound? Beckham hit .270/.347/.460 as a rookie but slipped to .252/.317/.378 last year with only 9 home runs. Can improve on his rookie season's performance  and become a superstar or will he just be an average second baseman?
2. The Bullpen.  Gone are Putz and Jenks.  Chris Sale is up to take one spot but can Jesse Crain and Will Ohman be consistent enough to keep Ozzie of their backs?
3. Third base. Brent Morel won the job in spring training but he's no superstar. If he slumps Ozzie will throw Teahen out there and we know how that went last season.
Expectations: This offense is good. Expect lots of base stealing attempts from Pierre, Rios, and possibly Beckham. Expect lots of home runs. Expect good starting pitching. I also expect a division title.
Opening day lineup:
1. Pierre LF
2. Beckham 2B
3. Dunn DH
4. Konerko 1B
5. Rios CF
6. Quentin RF
7. Pierzynski C
8. Ramirez SS
9. Morel 3B
SP Mark Buehrle

Monday, April 11, 2011

MLB Predictions: AL East

Wow, I apologize to my readers for not having posted this prior to the start of the season.  Time has really gotten away from me. I'll do my best to get my predictions up for the season in the next few days. Each year I do a season preview for each team but this year I've decided to amend it a bit in order to make it easier to read and easier for me to compile.

Boston Red Sox
Best Player: Kevin Youkilis is the guy I'd most like to have in real life. Carl Crawford in fantasy.
Best Pitcher: Jon Lester
Best off-season move:  Signing Carl Crawford to a 7 year mega-contract and trading for 1B Adrian Gonzalez tie for the best move.
Biggest off-season loss: Adrian Beltre
Biggest Concerns:
1. Team defense.  Although Adrian Gonzalez is an excellent defensive player, having Youkilis slide back over to 3B where he did not play last season hurts a little bit. Also Crawford is probably wasted in left field 81 times this year due to the Green Monster and Jacoby Ellsbury does not rate well at all in center field.
2. Will Varitek and Saltalamacchia hit?
3. Can Josh Beckett rebound or is he now a back-end of the rotation pitcher?
Expectations: If Boston fails to reach the playoffs heads will roll.  On paper this is the best team in baseball and expectations are that they will reach the World Series.
Opening day lineup:
1. Ellsbury CF
2. Pedroia 2B
3. Crawford LF
4. Youkilis 3B
5. Gonzalez 1B
6. Ortiz DH
7. Cameron RF
8. Saltalamacchia C
9. Scutaro SS
SP Jon Lester