Baseball picksApril 1, 2006

2006 MLB Baseball Preview

2006 MLB Preview
Major League Baseball Betting Primer

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The days are getting longer, spring is here and more athletes are gathered in Arizona and Florida than usual. This can only mean one thing… baseball season is just around the corner. There have been many moves in this off-season and that will surely translate into an interesting 162 game season.

The question around the Big Apple is, "Will the Yanks play the Mets in the World Series this year?" Meanwhile, folks on the west coast are asking "How many teams in the national league will have winning records?" The Giants wonder if Bonds can finish a whole season; and even if he does, how productive will he be? And the National's are wondering if maybe they should have asked Soriano about LF before trading for him.

Clearly everyone's questions for the entire baseball season cannot be answered in the preseason, though I'll try lay a solid foundation for you to build your winning picks upon this season.

Projected team standings with preseason power rankings in [brackets]:

AL East:
1. N.Y. Yankees (95-67) [3]
2. Boston Red Sox (87-75) [4]
3. Toronto Blue Jays (86-76) [13]
4. Baltimore Orioles (72-90) [20]
5. Tampa Bay Devil (69-93) [21]

AL Central:
1. Chicago White Sox (95-67) [1]
2. Cleveland Indians (90-72) [5]
3. Minnesota Twins (81-81) [17]
4. Detroit Tigers (72-90) [25]
5. Kansas City Royals (65-97) [29]

AL West:
1. Oakland A’s (93-69) [6]
2. L. A. Angels (89-73) [8]
3. Texas Rangers (82-80) [10]
4. Seattle Mariners (73-89) [26]

NL East:
1. N. Y. Mets (95-67) [7]
2. Atlanta Braves (92-70) [11]
3. Philadelphia Phillies (84-78) [12]
4. Washington Nationals (77-85) [23]
5. Florida Marlins (63-99) [30]

NL Central:
1. St. Louis Cardinals (90-72) [2]
2. Milwaukee Brewers (89-73) [14]
3. Houston Astros (83-79) [16]
4. Chicago Cubs (82-80) [18]
5. Pittsburgh Pirates (74-88) [21]
6. Cincinnati Reds (73-89) [24]

NL West:
1. L. A. Dodgers (89-73) [13]
2. San Francisco Giants (85-77) [15]
3. San Diego Padres (79-83) [19]
4. Arizona Diamondbacks (76-85) [27]
5. Colorado Rockies (71-91) [28]

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Looking to come out on top this year:

Atlanta Braves:
Have you ever watched the Braves play a season and thought, "They won't be winning it this year" and somehow by the end of the season, they are the NL East champs? If so, you aren't alone. A team that has won 14 consecutive divisional titles is sure to have its share of skeptical observers. Though an area where everyone should focus is the way this team knows how to win as the season comes to a close. They have the will-power needed in clutch games to win the big games. With a pitching staff lead by Smoltz and Hudson and Andrew Jones still showing off his big bat, look for this ball club to get 90+ wins and move to the post season.

Chicago White Sox:
They have one of the best rotations in the league, a solid group of big-time hitters in their lineup and they have done nothing but fill a few holes in the off-season (namely the addition of J. Thome). While we don't see anyone reaching 100 wins in 2006 as this team nearly did in 2005, it is hard to argue against their chance to repeat as champs entering into such a wide-open season. They have arguably the best offensive and defensive balance heading into the 2006 season and arguably the most legitimate chance of winning it all this year. Granted, everything went close to perfect for them last year, but with Thome added, they can afford a little bad luck. If they suffer a lot of bad luck, look for the Indians to take this division.

N.Y. Yankees:
Johnny Damon is a Yankee. Yes, that sounds strange, but it's true. This could be the single best signing of any team in baseball in the off-season. Look for Damon to join the team who has won the AL East every year since 1998 and help them win it here in 2006. Damon will now be starting in the leadoff spot and batting ahead of Derek Jeter. That will be followed by Alex Rodriguez, Gary Sheffield, a healthy Jason Giambi, Hideki Matsui and 2005 rookie of the year candidate Robinson Cano. That is not the AL all-star teams lineup, those players are actually all on the Yankees. Clearly they have the offensive power to go far in 2006. They added Shawn Chacon to join Randy Johnson and Mike Mussiana in their rotation, and they have one of the best closers in the league. The Johnny Damon addition may be all they need to win it all this year.

Oakland A's:
The Athletics are a very established franchise known for their quality pitching and drafting of pitching prospects. For such reasons, their offensive stats have been sub-par the past few years so they looked to add the big bat of Frank Thomas in the off-season. He is added to their lineup with the 2004 AL Rookie of the year winner in Bobby Crosby as well as Eric Chavez, Milton Bradley and Jason Kendall. After improving on the offensive end, they don't really have any other areas needing instant improvement. They have a quality defense and pitchers filled with talent. Their pitching is lead by Rich Harden and their bullpen has the 2005 rookie of the year winner in Huston Street with just under 30 saves last year. If they can pull all of this talent together and play as a team the whole season, they now have a contending team.

St. Louis Cardinals:
While the Cards let more players go than expected, they are keeping the 2005 Cy Young Winner (Carpenter) happy, their gold glove 3rd baseman (Rolen) should be fully recovered at the start of this season and Isringhausen is still one of the best closers in the NL. Jim Edmonds hopes his numbers rebound after the slight drop-off last season as he continues to make wonderful plays in center field. All of these players are centered around their triple crown threat and possible NL MVP, Albert Pujols. If their bats can nearly as hot as they were before the Rolen injury, look for them to be a contender as the season ends.

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Sleeper Teams:

Boston Red Sox:
Not thought of as a sleeper team last year after their 2004 championship, but after losing Johnny Damon to the Yankees, the stock on this team surely dropped. The media focused only on this movement, but as time went on, they began filling the other holes left in their roster. They did this by adding players such as Coco Crisp, Mike Lowell, Alex Gonzalez, J.T. Snow and Josh Beckett. If this team stays healthy, they will have a legitimate shot of going far in the playoffs. This is a big question though with their older and injury-prone lineup and is another reason the Sox are listed as a sleeper team.

L.A. Dodgers:
The Dodgers had the most players visit the DL last year and somehow they still finished They added Rafael Furcal, Nomar Garciaparra, Bill Mueller and Kenny Loften to a lineup which added J.D. Drew and Jeff Kent last season. They added pitchers such as Brett Tomko, J. Seo to the end of a rotation which already includes Brad Penny, Odalis Perez and Derek Lowe. Oh and one more thing, they have a closer by the name of Eric Gagne. You may know that the Dodgers would put “Game Over" on the big screen as the Dodgers had a 9th inning league lead and Gagne was on his way to the mound. If you did not realize this, you surely would understand why a home stadium may do this for their record-setting 84 consecutive save closer. If this new and improved lineup can give the Dodgers a lead going into the 9th and Gagne's arm is healthy, this could be a deadly team in a very weak division.

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Who wins the awards?

NL MVP — Albert Pujols (Cardinals):
While playing in a new ballpark, look for Pujols to continue his domination. He has been one of the best players in MLB history through his first five seasons and now he is 26 and should be hitting his peek sometime soon. Yes that's right, the best is yet to come from this young slugger. He showed us last season that he can even add a few stolen bases to his stat sheet. Don't expect a huge number of stolen bases, but with a healthy Scott Rolen back in the lineup, here is what you can look forward to seeing from this nears AL MVP: batting around .320, nearly 120 runs scored, more than 40 home runs, almost 120 RBIs and a sprinkle over 10 SBs.

AL MVP — Alex Rodriguez (Yankees)
With all the money he has around him in his lineup, how can one not like the 3rd hitter in a Yankees batting order? As he comes off one of the best years he has ever had, we like him to edge David Ortiz for one simple reason: a fielding 3rd baseman with similar numbers will get the nod over a DH. And with that being said, take a look at what number A-Rod will need to put up in order to achieve this honor: batting around .300, nearly 120 runs scored, more than 40 home runs, over 100 RBIs and somewhere around 15 SBs.

NL Cy Young — Jake Peavy (Padres)
As he is now fully recovered from his rib injury, look for Peavy to hit his stride early and continue building on his last two great seasons. The defense of the Padres' has been improved with the addition of Mike Cameron and that will surely be to Peavy's advantage. Other advantages he has include a pitcher-friendly ballpark and playing in the ‘weak' NL West. If he stays healthy this year, Peavy's numbers will look something like this: 16 wins, over 200 innings pitched and over 200 Ks with an ERA just under 2.90 with a WHIP slightly over 1.00.

AL Cy Young – Johan Santana (Twins)
He is arguably the best pitcher in baseball; a lefty who throws a mid 90's fastball, solid slider and a devastating change up. He is going to keep dominating batters at the play with his 2006 stats: 18 wins, with just over 200 innings pitch and nearly 230 K's, around a 2.90 ERA and WHIP just above the 1.00 mark.

AL Reliever of the Year – Joe Nathan (Twins)
While is ERA wasn't in the same place he liked it to be last season, his other numbers were right around the place you expect them to be. He topped 40 saves for his second straight year and we see him doing just that again this year. The rest of his stats could look something like this: 40-45 saves in about 75 innings pitched, he should be close to 90 K's with a 2.70 ERA and WHIP under 1.10.

NL Rookie of the Year – Prince Fielder (Brewers)
Price may be one of the only Brewers happy to see L. Overbay leaving Milwaukee as he now moves into a starting job at 1st base. With more powerful swing than most people may think, Price has a realistic opportunity to go yard more than 25 times this season.

AL Rookie of the Year – Kenji Johjima (Mariners)
It may not be fair to the rest of the rookies as this MLB rookie has plenty of experience playing professionally in Japan. He is a 30 year old rookie who has faced professional pitchers before some of these rookies could drive a car. A 30 year old who is a golden glove winning catcher and can hit for both power and average.

NL Manager of the Year – Grady Little (Dodgers)
Grady gets to walk into a team who was most the most injured in MLB last season. Surely as long as this does not repeat, the season will be an improvement this year. The Dodgers play in the weakest division (NL West) and all signs point to them sitting on top as the season ends. While there will be a few different reasons they make it to the top of this list, some of the credit, whether it's due or not, will fall to Grady Little's first year managerial skills.

AL Manager of the Year – Ken Macha (Athletics)
As stated above, Oakland's got the tools to make some waves this season. With the addition of Thomas' bat to compliment their pitching, the A's will do well and Macha will reap the benefits.

Good luck to you this baseball season. If you'd like help in making baseball picks this year, sign up for my free picks newsletter.

 

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