March 2009


Baseball picksMarch 30, 2009

MLB Picks 2009 – AL West

MLB Picks 2009 – American League West 

AL WEST

LOS ANGELES ANGELS
LAST YEAR: 100-62

OUTLOOK
The Angels will be without Fransisco Rodriguez this season at the back of the pen, and that will cost them some games. They also couldn’t hold onto the coveted big bat in the lineup in Mark Teixeira, who went the free-agent route to the Yankees. The Angels pitching remains solid, and picking up Brian Fuentes gives them a proven closer to try and replace Fransisco Rodriguez. The lineup is aging and if the pitching doesn’t stay healthy, the Angels may drop some, but still have enough to win the AL West, as they won it by 21 games last year.

ON THE RISE: HANK CONGER C – He could find his way to Anaheim before the season is out.

OAKLAND
LAST YEAR: 75-86

OUTLOOK
The A’s let go of Joe Blanton and Rich Harden before the trade deadline last year, and fell off rapidly because of it. The question for the A’s is can their young pitching prospects, namely Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson lift the team into contention? They gave the lineup a boost by adding Jason Giambi, and Matt Holliday. The A’s have some big arms in the bullpen, even after dealing Houston Street, and Joey Devine may be their closer before the season is out. If there is a team that can be somewhat Tampa Bay-like, it is the A’s, but a lot would have to happen to make a run at the Angels.

ON THE RISE: BRETT ANDERSON LHP & TREVOR CAHILL RHP: Both will likely be in Oakland before the season gets too long, and both have the potential to make an immediate impact.

SEATTLE
LAST YEAR: 61-101

OUTLOOK
After losing 101 games, one would think there is no way to go but up for the Mariners, but that isn’t a guarantee. The offense lost their top dog in Raul Ibanez, who is now with the Phillies. The one up side is their starting pitching. Felix Hernandez, at just 22, will be their No. 1 starter. Eric Bedard off an injury-riddled ’08, should be much more effective this season, and when healthy, is one of the top lefthanders in the game. Brandon Morrow showed signs last year he can pitch, and Ryan Rowland Smith pitched to a 2.56 ERA in the last seven weeks of the season. Add in Eric Heilman, and Jarrod Washburn, and the Marners’ pitching isn’t so bad. The M’s will miss J.J. Putz closing games, and Sean Green eating innings in between, and this could surface as a major problem. The M’s are going to struggle to score runs, as the lineup that had a .318 on base percentage last year, looks even weaker.

ON THE RISE: JEFF CLEMENT C – Not the best defensive catcher, but he could be the
M’s DH out of spring training.

TEXAS
LAST YEAR: 79-83

OUTLOOK
The Rangers’ second-place finish in the AL West last year was the first time they finished above third in almost a decade. The Rangers certainly have the bats to matchup with any offense in the AL, what they need is some pitchers to step up and have career, or brekout years to bridge the gap between themselves and the Angels. They ranked dead last a year ago, with a 5.51 ERA. Kevin Millwood is capeable and so is Victor Padilla, and they both have to have big years for Texas to even have a shot. They also need Brandon McCarthy to be healthy, and Scott Feldman to get better. The pen needs Joaquin Benoit healthy again. C.J Wilson suffered through ’08 and finally had surgery will have to be effective as well. Lots of question marks, and how many of those that have positive answers, will serve the fate of the Rangers.

ON THE RISE: DEREK HOLLAND LHP – Hard thrower that could find his way into the Rangers’ rotation before the All-Star break.

PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
1. LOS ANGELES
2. TEXAS
3. OAKLAND
4. SEATTLE

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Baseball picksMarch 28, 2009

MLB Picks 2009 – AL Central

MLB Picks 2009 – American League Previews

AL CENTRAL
 

CHICAGO WHITE SOX
LAST YEAR: 89-74

OUTLOOK
The White Sox were in a dog-fight with the Minnesota Twins that went to a playoff showdown, and the White Sox prevailed. GM Kenny Williams said good-bye to Joe Crede, and Orlando Cabrera, and dealt Javier Vasquez, so the White Sox will try to do it again with a more youthful team. The staff will be good if the innings, and wins delivered by Danks, and Floyd hold form, or improve. They contributed 29 wins, and over 400 innings. Mark Buerhle will have to be Mark Buerhle, if he drops off, the White Sox are in trouble. The rest of the staff is a guessing game. Contreras is out til June or July with an achillies injury, and Bartolo Colon could be just about anything. The rest depends on youth. The middle of the line-up Dye,Thome, and Konerko could be boom or bust, but it better be boom, or the White Sox will be in trouble. Jenks is the first White Sox pitcher to record 30+ saves 3 years in a row, so the 9th inning is secure. This team can get to 90 wins if everything goes right, but if it doesn’t they could be out of it by the 4th of July.
 
ON THE RISE: TYLER FLOWERS (C) – Major-League power, suspect as a reciever.
 

CLEVELAND
LAST YEAR: 81-81
OUTLOOK
What a disappointment last year was for the Tribe. They had high hopes after a great ’07, but injuries to Carmona, and key bats, stalled any chance of a repeat performance. The lineup will once again be fortified by Hafner, and Martinez after an injury plagued ’08. The loss of Sathathia leaves a big void in the rotation. Can Cliff Lee duplicate his ’08 season or come close? Can Carmona regain his ’07 form, or was that a time deal. Can Carl Pavano stay healthy enough, and be effective in the rotation? Lots of questions, and few answers. The Tribe has the nucleas of potential, but need all of it to come to fruition to contend. If it doesn’t, a repeat of ’08 is likely.

ON THE RISE: DAVID HUFF (LHP) – Has a shot to be in the rotation this year.


DETROIT

LAST YEAR: 74-88
OUTLOOK
When the Tigers added Miguel Cabrara, and Edger Renteria last year, all signs were pointed to a Tiger offense that would produce 1,000 runs. The lineup never came close to living up to that expectation. The pitching was a bust. Dontrelle Willis was supposed to win 15+ games, and young studs, Bonderman, Robertson and Verlander were locks for big years. One of them was sure to win 20+ with the Tiger lineup, but combined they barely won 20, as the trio ended the season with 21 wins. Tigers ERA has gone from 3.84 in ’06, to 4.57 in ’07, to 4.90 last year. The Tigers are in serious trouble unless the pitching regroups and reverts to ’06 form, if not, no matter how many runs the lineup produces, it won’t be enough.

ON THE RISE: RICK PORCELLO (RHP) – Considered a potential ace, might be needed soon!


KANSAS CITY
LAST YEAR: 75-87
OUTLOOK
The Royals 18-8 September allowed them to sneak out of the AL Central basement. Owner David Glass bumped the payroll upward to about $70 million, and the Royals 100 loss season days may be behind them, but can they contend? They used the added payroll to add Mike Jacobs, and Coco Crisp. Kyle Davies seemed to finally reach his potential with a 4-1 2.27 ERA September, and with Gil Meche, and Zach Grienke, the Royals now have 3 reliable starters at the top of the rotation. Add in free agent pickup Horacio Ramierez, and the Royals have more pitching than they have had in quite some time. Joakim Soria is a top notch closer with 42 saves in 45 tries. They also went out and got Kyle Farnsworth who may be better suited for KC, than he was in NY. This team could flirt with .500 or better if all goes well.

ON THE RISE: KILA KA’AIHUE (1B) – Big year after a long wait, could show up before the year is out.


MINNESOTA

LAST YEAR: 88-75
OUTLOOK:
The Twins got to a playoff game, and lost to the White Sox, so their was no post-season. The Twins with limited payroll, have still won four AL Central Titles since 2002, and just missed their 5th last year. Despite the success, they have only won one playoffs series. The pitching staff is young, with the oldest at 27, but effective. If Liriano can make it all the way back after Tommy John surgery 2 years ago, and become an ace, the Twins will be back in the hunt in ’09. The pen is going to be the biggest question mark. They have the back end covered with Joe Nathan, but Pat neshek had Tommy John surgery and will be out. Lots of question marks down there, and it may cost them.

ON THE RISE: ANTHONY SWARZAK (RHP) – The Twins need help in the pen, might make the team this year.
 

PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
1. CHICAGO WHITE SOX
2. CLEVELAND
3. DETROIT
4. KANSAS CITY
5. MINNESOTA

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Baseball picksMarch 26, 2009

MLB Picks 2009 – AL East

MLB PICKS 2009 AMERICAN LEAGUE PREVIEWS

AL EAST

BALTIMORE
LAST YEAR:
68-93

OUTLOOK:
The Orioles have a trend going, and it is not a good one. Since their 2004 win total of just 78, the Orioles have proceeded to lose more games each year, reaching what they hope will be the bottom last year at 68. It marks the 11th consecutive losing season for the Birds, and no doubt this will be number 12. The Orioles did nothing to improve themselves, so it appears they are committed with their young pitchers waiting for them to develop. Outside of Jeremy Guthrie, the O’s have no quality starters. They added Mark Hendrickson (5.07 career ERA), and about all they will get from him is innings. They are hoping their first-ever Japanese signee in Koji Uehara, can produce some innings in wins, as he was an eight-time All-Star in Japan, but he isn’t considered more than a fringe major league prospect. The O’s strength may be in their bullpen, and it looks like they’ll need it. George Sherrill made the All-Star team in his first season as closer, and had 31 for the O’s. They also get Chris Ray back off Tommy John surgery. Jim Johnson proved to be a very good set-up man. The lineup is ok up top and in the middle, but almost dead at the bottom. The O’s will be hard pressed to avoid losing 100 games this season.

ON THE RISE:
The Orioles have last year’s minor league Player of the Year in Matt Wieters (catcher). He is a switch-hitter with power, and has an excellent arm. Look for him to join the O’s at some point during the season.
 

BOSTON
LAST YEAR:
95-67

OUTLOOK:
The Red Sox dropped just a bit last season, and pretty much held pat in the off-season. That isn’t so bad, because the Sox return a roster of players capable of winning it all. They have a lot of talent, and the farm system keeps producing players that can step in and get it done. The top of the rotation, if it remains healthy, is as good as any with Beckett, Lester, and Matsuzaka. Innings-eater Tim Wakefield should hold down the No. 4 spot, and they have Clay Buckholz and Justin Masterson as well. They also picked-up a couple of interesting free agent pitchers in John Smoltz and Brad Penny, so the insurance is there if someone goes down. They have rising stars at the top of the lineup with Ellsbury and Pedroia. The biggest question right now is what kind of year will David Ortiz have? The Sox missed his clutch hitting and run production last year, as injuries kept him from getting into a groove. Many feel he has slipped and is on the decline, so this year will help decide the answer to that question. They have a solid pen anchored by Papelbon, and a great setup guy in Okajima. If Smoltz fits in down there somewhere, it can only help.

ON THE RISE:
MICHAEL BOWDEN – (RHP) 9-4 2.33 ERA AA Portland.
 

NEW YORK YANKEES
LAST YEAR:
89-73

OUTLOOK:
The Yankees did not make the postseason last year, and they immediately addressed a lot of their holes. They added C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett to anchor a staff that includes Wang, Chamberlain, and Pettitte. Anytime you start talking about Andy Pettitte as your No. 5 starter, you know you have a deep pitching staff. The Yankees’ bullpen was exceptional last season, despite the fact they threw 543 innings, because the starters couldn’t stick around. That will change with the addition of the two free agents, and also Wang back from injury, which will make the Yankees’ pen even better. The one concern is the fact that C.C. Sabathia threw more pitches last year than anyone in baseball, and AJ Burnett threw the most in the AL. The Yanks also went out and got Mark Texiera who will add a huge bat to the middle of the lineup. Jorge Posada and Hideki Matsui also return from injury-riddled seasons, so the Yanks’ lineup will once again be formidable. The Yankees have to hope that Jeter (at 35-years-old) isn’t an omen waiting to happen as none of the last 56 playoff teams have had a shortstop 35-years-old or more.

ON THE RISE:
AUSTIN JACKSON CF – He will be the next centerfielder in the Bronx.
 

TAMPA BAY
LAST YEAR:
97-65

OUTLOOK:
The Rays went from a 66-win team to a 97-win team over night. Everything they needed to have happen last year, happened. All the prospects improved, they got surprisingly good pitching, and so many players had career years. They also had a bullpen that was one of the worst, suddenly became one of the best. The Rays were the consummate team last year – a 25-man roster where everyone was vital, as they didn’t have a .300 hitter, nor did they have a HR hitter in the top 10 of the league. The Rays cover the field with great defense and don’t beat themselves on the field. The Rays put three players on the All-Star team last year under 25-years-old, so the talent is coming together. The next question is how long can they keep it? There is no genuine ace on the staff but the top three are interchangeable and all quality in Shields, Kazmir, and Garza. The Pickup of Troy Percival gave them the gutsy closer they never had, although ailing knees and back surgery may curtail his ’09 debut. The Rays have a lot of nasty stuff in the pen. They can mix and match, and certainly have a chance to do it all over again, but I think they won’t sneak-up on anyone and will drop off some.

ON THE RISE:
WADE DAVIS (RHP) – He should be in the Rays’ rotation next year.
 

TORONTO
LAST YEAR:
86-76

OUTLOOK:
The Blue Jays are going to struggle to come close to the 86 wins they achieved a season ago. They have to replace over 200 innings from A.J. Burnett, and that is not going to be easy. That puts pressure on Jesse Litsch who will now be the No. 2 starter and subsequently, the staff weakens as you go down as everyone is elevated above their true capacity. The bullpen is the teams strength, but will be taxed heavily with a lot of unproven starters and will probably breakdown in the second half of the season. What happens if the Jays fall early and often? Roy Halladay has two years left on his contract, so would the Blue Jays consider moving him before the trade deadline? He certainly could be a difference maker to an NL team, because it would be unlikely they’d deal him to the Red Sox or Yankees inside the division.

ON THE RISE:
J.P. ARENCIBIA (C) – Blue Jays’ backstop of the near future.
 

PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH:
1. BOSTON
2. NEW YORK
3. TAMPA BAY
4. TORONTO
5. BALTIMORE

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