Sunday, March 31, 2013

MLB Preview / N.L. East


The Washington Nationals were my "Dark Horse" last season, and even though lots of felt that they were going to step in the right direction with their excellent drafts the last few years, no one thought it would be that much of a leap forward. The Atlanta Braves finished only four games back with 94 wins, and lost their wild card game against the new "5th team" added Cardinals (88 wins) -- I'm still on the fence about the whole extra wild card team added, I think it takes a little out of the wild card race -- but then again, a few friends noted, that's why winning the division should be these teams' priorities (good point!). The Philadelphia Phillies looked dead in the water with all their injuries, before 2012 I noted they were starting to show cracks in the pavement -- but by the end of the season, they actually made a run at the 5th wild card spot & showed that they are not done yet! Then there is the New York Mets (poor David Wright) and the constant joke that is the Miami Marlins.

Things are looking UPTONS for Atlanta in 2013.


First off, I will mention for those that may not know, I am a Detroit Tigers and Atlanta Braves fan -- so as a Braves fan, I would like to express to other Braves fans (and the people making those shirts) to quit making excuses for the "bad call" against the Cardinals in the do-or-die wildcard game! Yes, overall I think it was a bad call, but the three errors & messy defense didn't help (the errors is what cost the Braves the game)!

Now onto the 2013 Atlanta forecast, and we will start with the Upton brothers. The Braves made noise this off-season by signing B.J. Upton & then acquiring Justin Upton via trade from Arizona. The B.J. Upton move was a questionable one, due to the somewhat pricey contract for a guy who overall has underachieved during his career -- a guy who has been questioned about his desire to play; hopefully with Justin's addition & their competitiveness with each other, will bring out the best in both. B.J. is actually coming off a career high of 28 HR's, as Justin (not counting his 2007 partial) is coming off a career low .785 OPS. I expect big things out of Jason Heyward in 2013, he is coming off career highs in HR's (27) & RBI's (82) during his third season, while stealing 21 bases to become the first Braves player since Andruw Jones (2000) to accomplish 20/20; he is only 23! Dan Uggla's streak of 5 seasons with at least 30 HR's ended last season, hitting only 19 -- the big concern is his two weak back-to-back season batting averages of .233 & .220! On the opposite side of the second base bag will be shortstop Andrelton Simmons, who will be the lead-off man after the departures of Bourn & Prado -- did well during the World Baseball Classic, which could be good momentum entering the season. Freddie Freeman is coming off back-to-back seasons of 20+ HR's & .790 + OPS's, is only going to get better. Catcher Brian McCann dealt with injuries in 2012, and suffered his worst season of his career, despite hitting at least 20 HR's for the 6th time in 7 seasons; veteran Gerald Laird was signed in the off-season & will start in April as McCann recovers from shoulder surgery. Juan Francisco has showed pop from the hot corner (9 HR's in 192 AB's), but needs to hit better of righties.

Kris Medlen finished the 2012, possibly as the hottest pitcher in all of baseball -- posting a 9-0 record & 0.97 ERA during the last two months of the season! Dependable & consistent veteran pitcher Tim Hudson follows Medlen in the #2 spot in the rotation; Hudson still won 16 games with a 3.62 ERA, while dealing with an assortment of injuries last season. Where consistency has been a trend for Hudson, it certainly has not been one for Paul Maholm; Maholm must have been excruciating to watch for Pittsburgh fans, every once in awhile it clicks for him -- a good sign might also be this, he has now back-to-back seasons of lower WHIPs (1.29 & 1.22) compared to his career WHIP (1.40). Braves fans got to be excited in Mike Minor's second-half of 7-4, 2.21 ERA during his last 15 starts. The fifth spot of the rotation will be an interesting one to watch -- The team traded away Randall Delgado to Arizona to help bring in Justin Upton, Brandon Beachy returns from Tommy John surgery in the second-half of 2013, and then there is the huge potential in 22-year-old Julio Teheren; Teheren dominated Triple-A in 2011 with a 15-3 record & 2.55 ERA (1.18 WHIP), but had a frustrating 2012 in the minors & big leagues -- has a lively fastball & put-away changeup! If the Braves can have Maholm stay on his current path (the last two seasons) & find some solidarity in the 5th spot of the rotation, the Braves could have one of the few absolute best rotations in all the majors -- if the two spots are shaky, it could definitely be the difference of post-season or going home early.

Craig Kimbrel is coming off one of best relief seasons in MLB history, 42 Saves, 1.01 ERA, 0.65 WHIP & 116 K's in 62.2 innings -- He's 24 & he has 89 career saves! Jonny Venters suffered an off-season, which he had career highs in ERA (3.22) & WHIP (1.52) with a two-week stint on the DL, if healthy, he should return to his previous two seasons where he had ERA's of 1.84 & 1.95, and WHIP's of 1.20 & 1.09 -- He has become won of the premiere setup men in the game, now with 79 holds the past three seasons. Eric O'Flaherty was the Mariners' trash turning out to be the Braves' gold -- Highest ERA as a Brave was 3.04 during 2009, the last two seasons he's logged 60 holds, with a remarkable 0.98 ERA in 73.2 innings in 2011 & 1.73 ERA last season. I totally dig the move in acquiring Jordan Walden from the Angels in exchange for Tommy Hanson, the Braves have an abundance of potential talent in the rotation & added another consistent, excellent arm to make the Braves now the best bullpen in all of baseball possibly (there is probably not a better four than Kimbrel, Venters, O'Flaherty & Walden at least). Cory Gearrin and  Luis Avilan posted really good numbers in brief playing time during 2012.

Best Move: Landing Justin Upton & reliever Jordan Walden were really good moves for Atlanta.

Worst Move: Possibly B.J. Upton in the long run, he's always been a bit of an underachiever and I question letting Michael Bourn go, when he's a legit leadoff man -- sure B.J. has slightly better OPS's & power, but Bourn adds more steals (not to mention proper attitude), and Atlanta had enough power.

Best Possible Outcome: They have the potential to win the N.L. Pennant, but it's a tough league, not to mention.. tough division, with Washington & Philadelphia.

Worst Possible Outcome: I only see this season, going as bad as third place -- I can't see this team placing lower than the Mets & Marlins. Missing the playoffs would be a bit of a disappointment, but not the end of the world, since the Braves are still climbing, the Braves in two seasons may become the team to beat in all of baseball, if team continues it's current trend.

Stanton might be irked that I accidentally left him off of the recent "BoS Top 10".


How quickly things can change in just a year, not that this is anything new to the very few Marlins fans out there, that are barely clinging on -- this is the same Marlins franchise that didn't wait for 1997 World Championship Parade to finish, when they started tearing the team apart and selling it's parts! In fact, I'm personally sick of what this franchise and the owner is doing to baseball, and will predict that it wouldn't surprise me to see the Marlins out of Miami in ten years (definitely in 15-20 years!) -- I just don't see how any of this pays off in the long run. The Ozzie Guillen (with his Fidel Castro comments) experiment is gone, and now we enter the Mike Redmond era -- Plus is it any coincidence that Ozzie's last two teams have replaced him with quiet mannered managers? Now if Fox Baseball takes a hint & doesn't add Ozzie as an announcer to the post-season, everything would be gravy!

The Marlins are lead by Giancarlo (Mike) Stanton, who is still only 23, he is coming off the best year of his career in which he batted .290, hit 37 Home Runs & drove in 87 ribbies, along with his average, his OBP & OPS has been going up every season -- his OPS topped off at .969 for the 2012 season! How strange are the times when the Marlins are thinking about placing Justin Ruggiano as the possible cleanup hitter, following Pierre, Polanco & Stanton in the lineup? Prior to 2012, Ruggiano's highest season OPS was .673, then again he also had a career high 105 at-bats that season; during 2012 he got a bit more playing time and was impressive during his 288 AB's in which he batted .313, 13 HR & 36 RBI, and a mind-boggling .909 OPS -- it's mind-boggling, because we are talking about Ruggiano here (plus he's 30 years-old already)!
It's safe to say that Placido Polanco has not played this bad since his rookie year in 1998, all of his numbers are reflective of that -- I expect a bit of a rebound, if he stays healthy; in the meanwhile he brings veteran leadership to the club. Last time, Juan Pierre joined the Marlins, he helped lead the Marlins to their 2nd World Championship, that definitely won't be the case... like Polanco, he will be a good mentor for the youth movement; Pierre is a career .297 hitter, with a .346 OBP & 591 career steals at age 35. Casey Kotchman, a solid fielder will anchor first base, Marlins are hoping he would at least lift that .280 OBP he had with Cleveland last season -- otherwise he will continue his trend of being a one-year rental. Donovan Solano surprised many after Infante got traded to Detroit & is slated to be the double-play partner with shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, who now has much more of a clear path, now that he's out of Toronto -- Adeiny brings stellar defense to the table. Rob Brantly will get his shot at the team's opening day catcher -- What?! Not Jeff Mathis and his career .198 batting average? I'm shocked.

Ricky Nolasco will be the "ace" of the Marlins' staff, but can you really call a guy an ace when he has a lifetime 4.49 ERA? His WHIP's of 1.37 & 1.40 the last two years also should be a concern as well. Henderson Alvarez will be the #2 (if you want to call him that), he had a 9-14 record, 4.85 ERA & 1.44 WHIP in Toronto last season. Kevin Slowey who missed all of 2012 is projected to be the third starter. Nate Eovaldi, was the big part acquired in the Hanley Ramirez trade last season, he is 23 and has some potential, he struggled in his 12 starts for Miami, 3-7 with a 4.30 ERA (1.51 WHIP). Wade LeBlanc will be in the #5 spot, he was used as a spot starter/mostly reliever in 2012, out of the bunch he had the best ERA last season (3.67). Jacob Turner has the biggest potential (Tiger fans will regret the Sanchez trade in the long run), he posted promising numbers for the Marlins in 2012: A 3.38 ERA, 0.98 WHIP & 29 K's with 9 BB's during 42.2 innings (7 starts) -- but struggled during spring training (not making the opening day roster), but I question why not just put him in a rotation that's loaded with WHIPs of 1.44 or so, seriously? He's only going to get better, if you give him the chance.

Steve Cishek will open the Marlins' season as the team's closer, he had a 2.69 ERA with 15 saves after the Marlins got tired of Heath Bell's inconsistency. Jon Rauch is the team's setup man, he has not posted an ERA lower than 3.12 in the last seven years, he could be the closer if Cishek stumbles. Mike Dunn has strikeout power with 147 K's in 130 career innings, but he also has a career WHIP of 1.54 (really bad for bullpen stuff), his best season was in 2011 (3.43 ERA & 1.30 WHIP in 63 IP). From 2004 through 2009, Chad Qualls was a consistent bullpen force for the Astros & D-Backs -- from 2010 on he's been an absolute mess (not to mention 6 teams, the last three seasons)! A.J. Ramos might be the darkhorse as the club's future closer, he has posted excellent numbers in the minors & has looked good this spring.

Best Move: Hiring Mike Redmond as the manager, he had a really good reputation in the Toronto organization, he's a recognizable face to the few Marlins fans that remember him as a player. You can also guarantee, no Fidel Castro remarks coming as well.

Worst Move: 2012 Season in it's entirety, no real losses in the off-season, yet no real additions.

Best Possible Outcome: Fourth place, if the youth clicks & shows promise -- the Mets are capable of making a mess of things. Players might be excited to make a name for themselves, when there's no pressure & everyone expects the team to be a joke -- the Marlins have surprised in the past during these rebuilding processes, showing improvement quicker than expected.

Worst Possible Outcome: Nothing is expected of their starting pitching, unless Ricky Nolasco pitches like his lone good season of 2008 & Justin Turner takes advantage of his opportunity in 2013 -- even so, opponents are going to run around the bases as if it's a Merry-Go Round. Last place as expected, and fans continuing to avoid the new stadium as if it's carrying the Black Plague.

David Wright won't have much to smile about in a long 2013.


Do you get the feeling that David Wright feels like he's on a deserted island? or if he is the island on the Mets that is surrounded by a million question marks? Welcome, it's another season of Mets baseball! David Wright is coming off his best season since 1998, and will try to lead the Mets once again, where to? Who knows?

The supporting cast of misfits begins with Ike Davis coming off a career low batting average (.227), despite a career high 32 HR's -- there is question, if injuries was a reason for his sluggish start to last season, the Mets would love to see the 2010 version of Davis in 2013. The second baseman Daniel Murphy, is being paid for his bat, certainly not his glove; yet posted a career low OPS (.735) during 2012, the good news is he's a career .292 hitter in 1,601 career at-bats. To round out the infield, is the 23-year-old shortstop Ruben Tejada, he virtually has no power, 2 career HR's in almost two seasons of actual play, with decent average (.271) & gets on base (.336) which will generate some runs, if the Mets' bats can get him in. Omar Quintanilla will be depended on to backup Tejada possibly. Marlon Byrd (age 35) will get a shot at starting in right, after his 2012 disaster of a season, he seemed to have peeked between the 2007 & 2010 seasons; in which he posted a OPS as high as .842 in 2008, while hitting a career high 20 HR's in 2009 (both for the Rangers). When you first glance at CF- Kirk Nieuwenhuis' profile pics for fantasy baseball, he looks like a blonde, shaggy Lenny Dykstra -- let's don't get confused, he's anything but; he shows he's got a some pop with 7 HR's in 282 rookie at-bats, but had an average .316 on-base percentage (Definitely, no Dykstra!). Lucas Duda got Mets fans excited after his 2011 season, and then dropped in pretty-much every category drastically in 2012. Sure his HR's (by 5) went up & he got 7 more RBI -- but his strikeouts more than doubled! John Buck has only batted .213, since his All-Star appearance in 2010.

Jonathan Niese quietly put together a pretty good season for the Mets in 2012, of course no one really noticed outside of New York; 13-9, 3.40 ERA & 1.17 WHIP, while striking out 155 in 190.1 innings -- plus he's only 26. Johan Santana is the ace, when he's healthy, those are the key words; missing all of 2011 & pitched in only 117 innings for a lousy record of 6-9, 4.85 ERA -- in fact the last time he pitched over 200 innings was during his 2008 campaign. The Mets signed Shaun Marcum, back in January, hoping they see more of the healthy, consistent Marcum that appeared between 2008-2011. Dillon Gee has a career 4.06 ERA & 1.31 WHIP, he showed signs of progress until a blood clot in his right shoulder derailed his season in 2012. The Mets can get excited about Matt Harvey, who sported a low WHIP & fine ERA of 2.73 during 10 starts at the end of the season -- he also posted 70 K's in 59.1 innings. Jeremy Hefner and Aaron Laffey will serve as spot starters or part of the rotation, depending on injuries -- which these are the Mets & you can count on that.

The closer role seems to fit Bobby Parnell, who had 7 Saves with a 2.49 ERA last season, he is also coming off a promising spring that will keep him in his role. Frank Francisco, the former closer, had the worst season of his MLB career with a 5.53 ERA during 42.1 innings. It's amazing to me that ancient LaTroy Hawkins managed to play until age 40, despite a career ERA of 4.45! Brandon Lyon was signed as an insurance policy in case Parnell & Francisco fails, has 79 career Saves -- had one of his better seasons with a 3.10 ERA & 1.25 WHIP, with 63 K's & 20 BB's in 61 innings with Houston & Toronto during 2012.
Scott Atchinson had his best season at age 37, he posted a 1.58 ERA & 0.99 WHIP (his previous lows was a 3.26 ERA & 1.20 WHIP) during 51.1 innings for Boston. Young Robert Carson & Josh Edgin will get some playing time in 2013.

Utley, Rollins & Howard are hoping to return Phillies to the glory days.


What a whirlwind of a season for Phillie fans, for a long time they appeared dead in the water, and then late in the season, they were suddenly alive in the wild card hunt, until fading off. The teams fortunes have faded from it's 2008 World Championship & being the most feared team in Baseball entering 2009 (think Sports Illustrated cover - MLB Preview) with that ridiculous rotation that never quite lived up to the hype. The injuries mounted up (Utley, Howard & Polanco) to name a few, while the team started showing cracks in a group that basically owned the division from 2007-2011. Players such as Jimmy Rollins, have already made comments to the press & are making it a mission to show that they are still the team to beat in 2013. I respect that attitude & motivation, but if you can't keep your team on the field, it's going to be difficult to watch it all play out.

Ryan Howard finished strong with 46 RBI's in his last 47 games, his .216 avg, .295 OBP & .718 OPS's may be career lows (only had 260 AB's)-- but was obviously effected by the gruesome injury he was still recovering from. I expect Howard to be in the running for Comeback Player of the Year in 2013, and at least get back towards 500 season at-bats; he has a career .364 OBP & .915 OPS -- but has shown troubling signs against lefties of late. Chase Utley has logged only 301 games over the past three seasons due to troublesome knees & like Howard is starting to slip against lefties; and if you compare his last three years during his peak three years from 2007-2009, there is a stark difference -- Phils will be happy with somewhere in the middle of all that. The topic of trends continues with Jimmy Rollins, between 2004 and 2008, Rollins batted no lower than .277 & no higher than .296; during the stretch since 2009, Rollins has batted no higher than .268 & had a career .296 on-base percentage during 2009 (His OPS's & WAR's are noticeably lower as well) -- the good news? He posted 23 HR's, the most since his 2007 MVP season. I love the addition of Micheal Young, despite his obvious power decline (which is expected when you are 36) in HR's & OPS -- but he has consistently been healthy (The Phils need healthy) & is a career .301 hitter who gets on base nearly 35% of the time, he'll play at the hot corner. Kevin Frandsen will backup Young & most likely Utley, he posted his best numbers of his career in brief appearances last season. The outfield is a bit of a mess, trying to figure out who's going to be their everyday starters, gone are the days of Victorino & Werth! Note to John Mayberry, Jr. -- your time is running out, posted only a .301 OBP & 46 RBI's during 441 at-bats, while his OPS slipped from .854 to .696; he needs to show the flashes he has shown up through 2011, but with other possible outfielders such as Nix & Ruf emerging, playing time is no longer a guarantee. Dominic Brown will start in RF, he had a wonderful spring & will try to keep the momentum going by the time Delmon Young returns from the D.L. in which he'll likely play LF. It'll be interesting to see which Delmon Young, the Phillie fans will get. Darin Ruf won the Double-A Eastern League MVP Award in 2012 with his 1.028 OPS, he topped that OPS with a 1.078 during his 33 MLB at-bats, that included a .333 AVG, 3 HR's & 10 RBI. Layne Nix batted .347 during his first 17 games of the season, before injuries started to surface. Ben Revere is most likely the CF, who stole 79 bases the last two seasons while batting .278. Behind the plate will be "Chooch", Carlos Ruiz, who had a career year; .325, 16 HR, 68 RBI & .935 OPS during 372 at-bats last season.

After dominating stuff the four previous seasons, Roy Halladay hit the walls in 2012, logging only 156 innings & 25 starts; his ERA (4.49) ballooned two plus points, while he duplicated his walks totals to previous healthy years -- yet his 1.22 WHIP is really nothing to frown at, considering he was going through injuries; overall I believe he will rebound to his usual self, than against the injury bug seems to be infectious in Philly. Cliff Lee's six victories are one of those weird things, that make you shake your head & say "WHAT"?, in fact according to a source on ESPN, of all the 379 cases in MLB history in which a pitcher managed at least 200 K's, 3.25 (or lower) ERA & 1.25 WHIP -- no pitcher had fewer wins than Lee's six. He has been a consistent force since winning the A.L. Cy Young in 2008. Cole Hamels is slated to be the # 3 starter, most teams would die for this situation, to have three legitimate aces for your top 3 spots in the rotation; posted a career high with 216 strikeouts & has a career 3.34 ERA. I like the pickup of John Lannan, this guy at one time was a stable starter in the Nats' rotation -- his career 1.42 WHIP is a bit of a concern, to add to the fact he'll be in hitters-friendly Citizens Bank Park. I personally believe if Kyle Kendrick can be kept in the rotation full-time, instead of all the bouncing back to bullpen & spot starting, that he would benefit more from it; his last two seasons are his best WAR years & his WHIP is considerably lower during these years compared from 2008 to 2010.

Remember all those people that were freaking out about Jonathan Papelbon's "disaster" of a 2010 season? Yeah, I remember that too... how silly! Considering that 2010 (which he still had 37 Saves) was really his only smudge on his career so far, he has been his consistent usual self, with 257 career saves at age 32 -- now if we can only do something about his WWE celebration antics when he closes a game out. Mike Adams should have no problem at Citizens Bank Ballpark since he did pretty good in hitter-friendly Arlington -- he is one of the best setup men in all of baseball, and will continue to be that for the Phils. The Phillies will be in business if they get the 2011 edition of Antonio Bastardo, he'll certainly bring the heat with his 196 K's in 152.1 innings. Michael Stutes returns in 2013, after a 2012 was basically wiped out due to a shoulder injury -- showed lots of promise in 2011. Phillippe Aumont, a prospect actually acquired from the Mariners for Cliff Lee, had 14 K's & 9 BB's in 14.2 innings, he just needs to manage his control. The Phillies also have a young left-handed specialist in Jeremy Horst, posted a 1.15 ERA & 1.12 WHIP in 31.1 innings.

Breaking the down the Phillies in the N.L. East, was tough considering that injuries will most likely play a factor in the lineup for the most part -- their experienced rotation is better than Atlanta's young rotation, full of potential. The bullpen is not as strong as Atlanta's, but has the potential to be just as good. The edge would have to go to the young Braves lineup, who will likely be able to field a team, in which with Philadelphia (and it's injuries) will be fielding many different lineups throughout the season.

Best Move: Mike Adams and Michael Young, two guys with playoff experience that will be added to a bundle of playoff experiences.

Worst Move: Not adding some meat to that outfield

Best Possible Outcome: N.L. East Champs that will open the door for more possibilities for post-season success that could lead a return to the top.

Worst Possible Outcome: Third Place, the Mets & Marlins are on a far different level that of Washington, Philly & Atlanta. Even with all the injuries in the world can't have the Phillies doing worse than those two!

Nationals' Treasures: Bryce Harper & Stephen Strasburg.


The Nationals went from darkhorse to division champs overnight, and now that they reached the top of the division; the combination of their youth led by phenoms Bryce Harper & Stephen Strasburg, and a skipper with a world of experience in Davey Johnson, the Nationals are the unquestionable favorites in the N.L. East. They added pieces to the lineup & rotation in the off-season that will only improve the team's chances.

The sky is the limit for Bryce Harper, he posted an impressive .817 OPS at age 19, and has accomplished things before many Hall of Famers have done by his age. He batted .270 with 20 HR's & 18 steals, while having a .340 OBP -- Johnson is the perfect manager for this kid. Ian Desmond proved to have the best season among shortstops in 2012, while batting .292, 25 HR's & 73 RBI's (all career highs); Desmond also stole 21 bases. Danny Espinoza's power numbers slipped just a tad bit, from 21 HR's to 17 HR's, while his OPS dipped to .717 from .737, he doesn't appear a guy who will ever hit for average (.239 career hitter). Ryan Zimmerman is still the team captain, and still knocked in 25 HR's & 95 RBI's while dealing with injuries at age 28. For Adam LaRoche, 2012 was definitely his best season since 2006, in which he hit a career high 33 HR's & matched his previous career high of 100 RBI; he won a Silver Slugger & Gold Glove as well. Jayson Werth may not be putting up the numbers he had in Philadelphia, but that doesn't mean he's not making an impact -- he is also dealing with recovering from a wrist fracture. I love the move of the Nats acquiring Denard Span from Minnesota, giving the team a much-needed, true leadoff hitter. Kurt Suzuki will likely start the season behind the plate as young Wilson Ramos (only 25) is nursing back his ACL; they both should get some quality time. The Nats have good pieces on the bench, which is not a surprise considering who's managing this ballclub; they have Tyler Moore (10 HR's in only 156 AB's), valuable Roger Bernadina (.291 AVG & .777 OPS in 227 AB's) who brings good glove, 2012 pinch-hit extraordinaire Chad Tracy & infield depth Steve Lombardozzi.

Stephen Strasburg came back with a vengeance in 2012, for his first "full" season (depending on who you ask) with a 15-6 record, 3.16 ERA & 197 K's in 159.1 innings -- before the controversial shutdown, that didn't allow him to enjoy his post-season cake, he very much deserved! Gio Gonzalez is another ace type, who also was a fantasy stud with a 21-8 record, 2.89 ERA & 207 K's in 199.1 innings. I think adding Dan Haren is going to be a huge move, besides his dismal 2010 half with Arizona, Haren's successful 2008 & 2009 seasons in the National League seem to reflect he should stay there. Jordan Zimmermann pitched an excellent 2012 season, in which he went 12-8, 2.94 ERA & 1.17 WHIP, while striking out 153 batters; plus I just want to point out, he's only 26 years-old. Ross Detwiler finishes off the top 5, being arguably one of the best #5 starters in all of baseball -- 3.40 ERA & 1.22 WHIP & 105 K's in 164.1 innings.

Rafael Soriano has been handed the closer job, with a somewhat pricey contract -- he saved 42 games to fill in as Mariano Rivera's replacement in New York. Drew Storen was the closer at season's end, with 4 saves, and was doing pretty good for his half-season (first half, he was injured) until Game 5 of the NLDS. Tyler Clippard returns for his natural setup role, where he seems to excel, he started the 2012 season as the closer, in which he finished the season with 32 Saves; while having 393 K's & 1.15 WHIP during 349.2 career innings. Craig Stammen is coming off 88.1 innings of solid relief, the Nats would love to see if he can repeat last season's performance, he had a 6-1 record, 2.34 ERA, 1.20 WHIP & 87 K's; his career ERA is 4.25 though. Ryan Mattheus has a career ERA of 2.84 & 1.19 WHIP during 98.1 innings. Former starter, former Pirate Zach Duke was pretty solid during his 13.2 innings of relief in 2012.

Best Move: Dan Haren was a great addition, but I feel Denard Span was the better move of the two -- got to see a lot of Span, the last few years for Minnesota (being a Tigers fan) & there's a lot to like in what he brings to this lineup.

Worst Move: Possibly trading away Michael Morse away, but they brought in a few prospects -- plus Morse is one of those late bloomers that lasts only a few years, so the Nats might know something that we don't -- with the way the organization has been pulling off one good move after another, it's hard to argue with their recent track record.

Best Possibilities: A World Championship, it's there for them to make a serious run -- I feel they are not only the team to beat in this division, but in the entire National League.

Worse Possibilities: The youth hit the wall, and over-confidence leads to the team underachieving -- missing the playoffs & finishing as bad as third place, I just don't see Davey Johnson allowing that to happen though.

1. Washington Nationals
2. Atlanta Braves*
3. Philadelphia Phillies
4. New York Mets
5. Miami Marlins

* - Wild Card Team

NEXT: The National League Central

Friday, March 29, 2013

Random Thoughts on Baseball

Is Mr. Met reaching for a knife?!
  • Hack Wilson, that walking keg, was a centerfielder? He looks more like a Leftfielder at best, I'm still amazed that someone didn't just place him at first base -- he's built like one, heck what am I saying? He's built like a tank!
  • Does anyone know what U.L. stands for in U.L. Washington's name? No, seriously? Even Baseball simply has it as U.L. -- Is it like L.L. Cool J (Ladies Love Cool James)? Is it possibly Universe Loves Washington? Hmmm... Maybe we'll never know.
  • Window shopping on E-Bay, when I spotted that someone posted the "1968 Amazing Mets, only for $32 (Free Shipping)" --- I don't know about you, but I felt the 1969 Mets were pretty amazing too (wink!). Not sure if this is the same guy who posted the American League Brooklyn Dodgers for sale as well. Plus $32 for one team, I don't care what team it is, not worth it, when I can buy an entire season or GTOP or something more cool with that much dough!
  • Every time you see Mr.Met, don't you get the vibe he's hiding something? I do, I think there's something behind that crazy smile on his face -- I feel like he might be the Dexter of mascots, and that maybe he randomly kills off Mets fans that stop believing.
  • Word to the wise, never combine your love for APBA Baseball and your love for Chocolate-covered Raspberry-filled Doughnuts -- I'll put it this way, poor Scott Brosius & Tino Martinez of the 98' Yankees got a little Raspberry on their uniforms! Plus all I can think about is Dark Helmet (Rick Moranis) from the movie Spaceballs, saying "There's only one man who would dare give me the Raspberry: Lone Starr!"
Rick Moranis' Dark Helmet of Spaceballs -- hates Raspberry!

Well those are a few random thoughts for now, that's what I love about baseball, there is always something to comment on -- and things that I have often thought about. 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

"The BoS Ten" - Top Ten Keepers

New Kids on the Block: Mike Trout & Bryce Harper.

I wanted to make this list with more in depth reasons why I feel these top 10 guys are the guys you want to definitely draft at the top in a keeper's league, keepers leagues when it comes down to Fantasy Baseball or APBA Baseball.

The BoS (Boys of Summer) - Top Ten

1. Mike Trout - OF (Angels)

There should be absolutely no reason, that this stud is avoided if you have the #1 overall pick, sure there is a few guys you can make an argument for (I guess) -- but if you have the top pick, you MUST draft this guy, or you'll be kicking yourself every time you play the guy who does have him. This kid can do it all, and I feel he will be the next member of the 40/40 club.

2. Ryan Braun - OF (Brewers)

Showed he can still carry big stats without the presence of Prince Fielder in the lineup, his career OPS is .942, while his career low OPS is .866 (2010). He only missed 100 RBI's once (97 during his 113 game rookie season) & is only age 29, with plenty more to do! Oh did I mention he has a lifetime batting average of .313?! To put it in perspective, his career OPS & batting average is slightly lower than Cabrera's.

3. Miguel Cabrera - 1B (Tigers)

Mr. Triple Crown may not have the best glove among the bunch, but he has been consistent force in all three Triple Crown categories since he broke in full time back in 2004. He has nine consecutive 100+ RBI seasons, since being full time, he has only missed 30 HR's once (2006 with 26 HR's) -- the guy can do it, one thing that may go unnoticed that he's a doubles machine (45, 48 & 40 -- the last three years) and he's only drawn 100 BB's once (even though he has a lifetime .395 on-base percentage), should pitchers consider intentionally walking him more? Can they even do that with the current Tigers lineup?!

4. Justin Verlander - SP (Tigers)

If you look up the word "Workhorse" in a dictionary, you might find a picture of Justin Verlander sitting right next to it -- of course with his intense, serious work face on while delivering a 100+ mph fastball right pass ya! If any player can catch or even pass Nolan Ryan's 7 career no-hitters, it will certainly be this guy -- when he's on, he's on! Posting only a 1.07 WHIP from 2009 to 2012.

5. Robinson Cano - 2B (Yankees)

Very much like Verlander, stepped up to whole different level starting in 2009. Four straight seasons of .300 avg, 25+ HR's, 40+ doubles & .520 slugging percentage with at least 100 runs scored! A career .308 hitter, and if you subtracted his 2005 & 2008 seasons, his career OPS of .854 would be a lot higher! He brings a huge bat which is scarce when it comes down to second basemen, that is one of many reasons why he is in the top five here.

6. Clayton Kershaw - SP (Dodgers)

Maybe, just maybe high -- but an ace is very important for a franchise to go a long way, if you don't have pitching all the bats in the world can only get you so far, the Texas Rangers of the late 1990's can attest to that as well with almost every Colorado Rockies teams since 1993! His career ERA (2.79) and WHIP (1.14) are actually lower than Verlander's, and what he has done the last three seasons have been remarkable; posting a 48-24 record, 2.56 ERA & 689 K's in 665.1 innings! So yes, I would draft him higher than hitters such as Andrew McCutchen & Bryce Harper.

7. Craig Kimbrel - RP (Braves)

What Kimbrel has done in his brief career has been nothing short of impressive! His 2012 season alone, ranks among the best all-time seasons ever by reliever with 42 Saves & a 1.01 ERA, not to mention his ridiculous amount of strikeouts (116 K's in 62.2 IP) & 0.65 WHIP. He cut his 8 blown saves from 2011 more than half, with only 3 last season. He also has good support in the bullpen with Venters, O'Flaherty & Walden to relay the ball to give him the opportunity for saves. Now in a Fantasy Draft this would probably be considered an early pick, but if you are starting a franchise, taking Kimbrel at #7 should not be a stretch; I think back to our computer APBA league, and when one of my buddies drafted Mariano Rivera #2 or #3 overall in 1997, people questioned taking a reliever so early, in the long run... he got the last laugh.

8. Andrew McCutchen - OF (Pirates)

A "Five-Tool Player" who can do it all, he apparently netted the fourth best season ever accumulated in a Fantasy Baseball League with his impressive numbers all across the board. He was second in the N.L. in batting average (.327), 31 HR, 96 RBI, 20 steals, 107 runs, 194 hits & .400 OBP; all combining for a .953 OPS. He has 98 career steals at age 26, and has been cited on wanted to steal more often, so there could be an increase in that department -- he's an excellent fielder & he's capable of being your lead-off man as well, which in most cases now, he's #3 or cleanup. 

9. David Price - SP (Rays)

A career record of 61-31, 3.16 ERA & 1.17 WHIP; he has now posted three straight solid seasons for the Rays, from a fantasy standpoint your only concern would be wins, due to bad run support (Price only netted 12 wins in 2011). Became a first-time 20-game winner in 2012, and has averaged 204 K's the past three seasons. Putting an emphasis on team pitching is another reason that Price is ranked this high, and the fact he's only 27.

10. Bryce Harper - OF (Nationals)

Bryce Harper is one of the rarities, a once-in-a-generation type of ballplayer, love him or hate him, he's not going to go away, and is only going to get better. He has already accomplished things in MLB that present Hall of Fame players hadn't done by Age 20. He posted a rookie season of .270, 22 HR, 59 RBI & 18 steals; a season that logged 26 doubles, 9 triples & .815 OPS, while getting on base 34% of the time -- He is only going to get better!

Matt Kemp, Jered Weaver, Prince Fielder, Justin Upton, Adrian Beltre, Albert Pujols, Joey Votto, Carlos Gonzalez, Josh Hamilton, Stephen Strasburg & Gio Gonzalez.

You could make a strong argument for the guys who all just missed the top 10, it's all about preference -- Josh Hamilton, Carlos Gonzalez & Adrian Beltre are sliding down the list in my opinion, while Matt Kemp could have easily been in the top 10, just missing the 40/40 club in 2011, not to mention was strong in all triple crown categories, but was a bit inconsistent heading into 2011, and missed some time once again due to injuries.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

MLB Preview / A.L. West


Entering the 2012 MLB Season, the Oakland Athletics were not expected to do anything, the A's even took a chance and signed Manny Ramirez, inviting him to Spring Training since the team was lacking offense. The Rangers were coming off back-to-back World Series appearances & were being squared off to defend their division title against the other predicted playoff team in the Los Angeles Angels, after their big signings of Albert Pujols & C.J. Wilson. The Angels and Albert Pujols were slow out of the gates, and the Oakland Athletics looked dead in the water, until showing some life around the All-Star Break, they would start catching life and would make an impressive run to take the division title from the Rangers on the last day. Rookie Mike Trout puts together a historic season, but the Angels fall short of the playoffs, now they have Trout for an entire season. The Mariners didn't do anything, and now have a little extra company with the Houston Astros moving to the American League, and Houston is where we will start...

Houston's new (yet old) look for new league in 2013, got all that?


Okay, I can't resist... but Houston, we have a problem... in fact a bunch of problems going on here. For one thing they have moved to the American League, which will be an adjustment, a good one after a good deal of time I believe, even though I really didn't understand why have both Texas teams in one league (not to mention, same division) or why Milwaukee moved in the first place? It's all a can of worms that with all the variables & reasons, there will likely never be a clear way -- it's done now, anyways... it's going to be an interesting, weird season for the Astros.

We start with their breakout year from Jose Altuve, he is their second baseman & lead-off man in the lineup, he batted .290, 7 HR & 37 RBI's while swiping 33 bases for the Stros. Ronny Cedeno will be Altuve's double-play partner, after trading away Jed Lowrie to Oakland, signing Cedeno to a one-year deal.
It's really weird saying, the Astros signed Designated Hitter Carlos Pena, he has been inconsistent his entire career, especially when it comes down to batting average -- A career .234 hitter who has not hit higher than .227 since his .247 AVG in 2008! He'll likely hit the long-ball though, averaging 32 HRs per 162 games for his career. Justin Maxwell actually led Houston with 18 HR's & was second on the team with 53 ribbies. Chris Carter, acquired from Oakland (with Brad Peacock for Jed Lowrie) will have the ability to show off his power, he had 16 HR's for the Athletics (which Minute Maid Park better suits his power than Oakland's dimensions). J.D. Martinez, who showed promise in 2011, and led the team in RBI in 2012 was sent down to the minors. Brett Wallace needs to capitalize off his improvement last season, showing signs he may be finally turning that corner.

Bud Norris will be the "ace" of the Astros, even though his 4.41 ERA over the last 3 seasons dictates otherwise. Lucas Harrell went 11-11, with a 3.76 ERA as a rookie last season, as Jordan Lyles set career marks as a 21-year-old during 2012. Phillip Humber, might finally find a home at... well home, he's a native Texan, who will get plenty of time and starts for the Astros. The team added Erik Bedard in the off-season, if he can stay healthy and lower his ERA, it will help Houston's causes. The former Indian draft pick, Rockie prospect Alex White (originally acquired in the Ubaldo Jimenez trade) was acquired by Houston with another pitching prospect in exchange for Wilton Lopez; he'll either get a shot at a rotation spot or the bullpen, control issues haunts White. The team also acquired prospect Brad Peacock from Oakland as well, he could possibly start or be in the bullpen mix as well. The closer will be Jose Veras, he has plenty of experience, with 327 games under his belt (only 5 career saves). Josh Fields was the #1 overall pick in the Rule 5 draft, going 4-3, 2.01 ERA & 78 K's in the minors last year. Wesley Wright is projected as the set-up man, who is coming off a career-high 77 relief appearances. The Astros will see plenty of work from Xavier Cedeno and Hector Ambriz, while Fernando Rodriguez and Rhiner Cruz look to fix some issues.

Best Moves: No real big moves, they traded Jed Lowrie & Wilton Lopez that landed three new pitching prospects, a catching prosepct & Chris Carter (who will replace Lowrie's pop). I find it funny that Lowrie who was one of the leaders on the team with 16 HR's & 42 RBI's & J.D. Martinez (who led the team in RBI) are both not on the opening day roster (Martinez sent to minors). Plus, does a uniform change be counted as one of their best moves?

Worst Moves: It's really difficult to do anything worse with what they got, they sold and traded everything they possibly could have in the past few seasons, the Astros will basically be the equivalent of an expansion team.

Best Possible Outcome: Fourth Place, but it won't happen -- the Mariners would have to muck things up really bad this season to finish lower than Houston.

Worst Possible Outcome: Competing for the worst record in MLB history?

Is this Heaven? For most Angels fans, it must certainly feel like that.


The sky is the limit, and the Angels are coming into the 2013 season feeling pretty good, after the bitter taste of failure was left in their mouths by the end of the 2012 season. A sluggish start for Albert Pujols and the team for that matter, led to some amazing finds though -- and a new leader. The franchise player and future is Mike Trout, who will be on a mission to win the Most Valuable Player award, and possibly will flirt with the 40/40 club. He batted .326, 30 HR & 83 RBI, 129 runs & 49 steals in 559 at-bats! Pujols despite his slow start, still managed to hit at least 30 HR's & 100 RBI's (105), he only had 5 RBI's in his first 27 games last season. The Angels added Josh Hamilton to a similar huge contract like Pujols, personally I think Josh Hamilton is depreciating, even though he happened to stay healthy (for the most part) last season, but his K rate started going through the roof; Hamilton still brings a big bat to the lineup regardless with his 43 HR's & 128 RBI, and to sign him away from a tough division rival is always a plus! The team recently got rid of Vernon Wells' ridiculous contract, so however Hamilton & Pujols goes down in Angels' history, their contracts won't sting as much now with Wells gone. Howard Kendrick will bat in the second slot that benefited Torii Hunter's rebound 2012 season this year. I think Mike Trumbo should bounce back from his second-half slide, if so, that will be a dangerous 1-5 in the lineup, while his teammate Erick Aybar finished the season hot. Albert Callaspo's .664 OPS is incredibly weak coming from the hot corner. The team will be rolling with a weak bench.

Jered Weaver has now been in the hunt for the A.L. Cy Young Award, the past three seasons. He posted a 20-5 record, 2.81 ERA & 142 K's in 188.2 innings. The Angels hope to be getting what they paid for in C.J. Wilson, blaming bone chips as a cause for his second-half slide; Wilson still posted a 13-10 record & 3.83 ERA, but had a 5.54 ERA during his last 16 starts. Tommy Hanson comes over with the same results in record as Wilson did for 2012, but with a higher 4.48 ERA -- Hanson's health is starting to be a concern, who once (just two seasons) ago had huge potential, maybe that's why the Braves didn't ask for much in return. Joe Blanton & Jason Vargas make up good fourth & fifth starters for the Angels. Garrett Richards will spend 2013 in the bullpen, and a spot starter for the Angels.

Ryan Madson will close games out for the Angels in 2013, who missed the entire 2012 season due to injuries; Madson saved 32 games for the Phillies in 2011. The Angels bullpen needs to step it up, after leading the A.L. with 47 blown saves during the stretch of the last two seasons! Ernesto Frieri, the setup man was virtually untouchable for his first 26 innings after the Angels acquired him from San Diego (Oh did I mention he also had 23 saves for the halos in that short time?). Sean Burnett will be a lefty specialist, who lefties could only hit a weak .211 off of him, while Burnett posted a 2.38 ERA during 57 strong innings for Washington last season. Burnett is also extra insurance for the Scott Downs situation, Downs still managed a 3.11 ERA while suffering through shoulder issues. Kevin Jepsen posted a 3.02 ERA, while striking out 38 & walking 12 in 44.2 innings, who seems to be on the right track back from his knee issues. So the forecast looks like the Angels' bullpen situation may be at it's best in years, we'll have to see how that all translates.

Best Move: Despite a hefty contract, Josh Hamilton was the big fish reeled in -- while sticking it to the Texas Rangers & unloading Vernon Wells' contract!

Worst Move: Some veteran bats on the bench would have helped, especially if something was to happen to one of the big studs (Pujols, Trout or Hamilton). They do have the money to throw around.

Best Possible Outcome: A World Championship of course, nothing short of a playoff birth.

Worst Possible Outcome: Missing the playoffs, which will certainly spell doom for Mike Scioscia. Tensions arose between GM Jerry DiPoto and Scioscia after the rocky start to the 2012 season, which eventually cost Mickey Hatcher (Hitting Coach) his job. Regardless of what happens, expect the Angels to go for Robinson Cano (in a bidding war with Detroit & New York) next! Arte Moreno (owner) will do what it takes to take the Angels to the top.

Party Crashers? Oakland may be even better in 2013.


Expect the possibility of 'Moneyball 2' after one of the most amazing runs in baseball history transpired during the last few months of the 2012 season, making me really curious what those Vegas odds were for the Athletics before the season started. They made the playoffs despite posting a .238 batting average, the lowest for a playoff team since the 1972 Detroit Tigers (who batted .237)! The team will return in 2013 with nearly the entire roster that made their impressive run.

The Athletics' offense really hinges on their solid outfield of Coco Crisp, Yoenis Cespedes & Josh Reddick, who cover a lot of ground, they have some depth with Seth Smith & DH-Chris Young. Young is trying to find his way back from losing his way in Arizona, a change of scenery could be a huge lift for his bat. Brandon Moss finally flashed the talent that his former teams were seeking from him, posting a .291 average, 21 HR's & 52 RBI in only 265 at-bats! He'll have to show the A's that it was no fluke, for Oakland to have a shot at the playoffs again. Jed Lowrie will be a big step up from Josh Donaldson's bat (.289 OBP) & on defense; Lowrie hit 16 HR's in 340 at-bats. Scott Sizemore, who missed the entire 2012 season, will be the second baseman despite a tough spring. Replacing Stephen Drew will be Japanese import Hiroyuki Nakajima, who signed a two-year deal with Oakland; Nakajima hit .302 with four seasons of 20+ Home Runs in Japan, which never guarantees success -- which may make room for Adam Rosales and Eric Sogard. Jemile Weeks, one of the few bright spots in 2011 for Oakland, was a mega disappointment in 2012 (batting only .221 in 444 at-bats)!

The rookie pitchers set a MLB record of 53 pitching victories! Led by former first-rounder, ex-Diamond Back Jarrod Parker, who sported a 13-8 record & 3.47 ERA while striking out 140 in 181.1 innings. The team's ace Brett Anderson returns, looking ready to go with no setbacks so far; he only had 6 starts in 2012, but went 4-2 with a 2.57 ERA with 25 K's in 35 IP. Tommy Milone makes a durable #3 with a 13-10 record & 3.74 ERA in 190+ innings, he should be able to repeat his performance in 2013. Bartolo Colon will return from his 50-game PED suspension, if he struggles he will be replaced by Dan Straily who led the minors with 190 strikeouts, who also posted a 3.89 ERA in 7 starts down the stretch for Oakland. A.J. Griffin on paper had a good rookie year, 7-1, 3.06 ERA, 64 K & 19 BB in 82.1 innings -- but slumped with a 7.21 ERA during last four starts of the season.

Oakland have three solid relievers at the top in closer Grant Balfour (24 SV, 2.53 ERA), Ryan Cook (14 SV, 2.09 ERA) & Sean Doolittle (3.04 ERA, 60 K in 47.1 IP), while adding Chris Resop from Pittsburgh, who is coming off a career-high 73.2 innings, while posting a 3.91 ERA & Travis Blackley who was 6-4, 3.86 ERA & 69 K's in 102.2 innings (15 starts). Pat Neshek in a limited role had a 1.37 ERA in 19.2 innings! Plus lets not forget, lefty Jerry Blevins and his 2.48 ERA, 54 K's, 1.07 WHIP in 65.1 innings.

Best Move: Chris Young could be a good move, if he is to rebound towards his better seasons. Brett Anderson, is not a move, but a full season from him would be a welcoming addition. Versatile Jed Lowrie is a good move as well -- he needs to stay healthy.

Worst Move: No bad moves, Stephen Drew seemed to have anchored everything down at shortstop, it's now up to Nakajima, if not there is plenty of options to bounce around with on the roster.

Best Possible Outcome: The A.L. West title is always possible after last season's success, I think Oakland has even a better team this season -- but I really feel it's the Angels' division in 2013. Wild Card is most likely in this division, the West could support 3 playoff teams in 2013, if the Jays or Rays stumble badly in the A.L. East.

Worst Possible Outcome: Oakland even in recent "down" years, usually don't win less than 76 games... usually floating around the .500 mark, which is pretty impressive (and speaks loudly about their backbone -- pitching) since they are a small market team.

*** Plus one more note, let's just take a moment and give their fans a big standing ovation, these are true fans that believe when no one else believes, they are faithful throughout the season (take note Marlins & Rays fans)!

King Felix can't do it alone, apparently M's abandoned the rotation.


The Mariners enter their first full-season without Ichiro Suzuki, and it's more evident when you look at the roster and wonder who's the leader of this group. Sure, you can give Felix Hernandez that title, but I always feel that the captain should be a position player, a guy that's in the lineup, day-in & day-out. Dustin Ackley is the future, but batted only .226 last year (while dealing with bone spurs); while DH/C- Jesus Montero might also have a chance to become that guy, with his 15 HR's (but he needs to step it up against right-handers!). The Mariners moving in the corner fences may help the offense, but will it really make that much of a difference for the bats of Brendan Ryan (.194), Robert Andino (.211), Mike Carp (.213), Justin Smoak (.217), Alex Liddi (.224) & Casper Wells (.228)? Wells may be the most promising of the group with 10 HR's in 285 at-bats, and that's not saying much when he batted only .195 vs. righties! Andino's addition to the M's is definitely a step up from Munenori Kawasaki. Smoak showed some possible, positive signs in September, but then again... haven't we been down this road before?! Overall, Smoak has been a huge dud. Jason Bay's addition to the M's may be good for both Seattle & Bay, low-market pressure can only help Bay get back to relevance. Mike Morse is the closest thing the lineup has to a star, but is he a leader? The late-career bloomer made a name for himself in Washington, but now returns to Seattle where he never quite took off, and although the fences are moved in at Safeco Field, it's still predicted to be a pitcher-friendly park, which is not good news for people that have Morse on their fantasy baseball team. The Mariners also added veteran Endy Chavez in case Bay or Franklin Gutierrez don't pan out. Kyle Seager was a pleasant surprise and 2012 contributor, who according to scouts is only supposed to get better; Seager batted .259, 20 HR's & 86 RBI during his first full season, and is only 25. The Mariners traded Jason Vargas to the Angels for somewhat comeback player Kendrys Morales, who batted .273, 22 HR & 73 RBI in 484 at-bats -- his OPS was really good the last two months of the season, which is a great sign, plus Morales' addition means less Smoak (which is good)! The problem is Morales has a history of injuries. Raul Ibanez had impressive moments in the playoffs & carried it over into the Spring, this is Ibanez's third stint with Seattle, it would be fitting if he ends his career there as well.

With the additions to the lineup, you have to wonder why they are letting the rotation (which used to keep them in games) go to waste. The only good pitcher they have is Felix Hernandez, who showed some troubling signs by posting a 0-4 record & 6.64 ERA from September 1st onward. They traded Vargas, and then resigned Hisashi Iwakuma to a 2-year, $14 million deal based solely on Iwakuma's second-half of 2012 -- after that, we have a bit of mess! The Mariners have plenty of young arms to choose from in Blake Beavan, Erasmo Ramirez & Hector Noesi; Ramirez posted a 2.86 ERA in September. They also have prospects in the farm system to fill their needs, and may need to come up sooner than later. The M's took a flyer on former Tiger Jeremy Bonderman, whose career had been in the crossroads (actually off the road since 2010); his best season was 2006 in which he helped lead the Tigers to the post-season for the first time since 1987. During 2006, he was second in strikeouts for a right-hander with 202 K's with a career-low ERA of 4.08 (and has a career ERA of 4.89).

The bullpen is definitely more promising than the rotation, which is good since they are going to probably log many innings. Short in experience, but big potential with youngsters Carter Capps & Stephen Pryor with second-year closer Tom Wilhelmsen lead the group. The M's resigned former starting pitcher Oliver Perez who will be a good veteran to lean on. The pen is southpaw-heavy, leaving plenty of room for a trade down the stretch.

Best Move: Addition of better bats in Mike Morse, Kendrys Morales & Raul Ibanez, teamed up with the possible emergence of Ackley, Montero, and Seager -- will make the lineup better.

Worst Move: Actually was during the 2011 season, in which they traded Doug Fister to the Tigers, for 2012... I would say definitely not addressing the rotation needs.

Best Possible Outcome: Fourth place, I don't see them passing Oakland or Texas. It's a good thing they have Houston to do worse in their division.

Worst Possible Outcome: If they land lower than Houston, than all hell broke loose -- which means they need to fire GM Jack Zduriencik, who I find to be a little too wishy-washy! He is now in year #5 at the helm.

The Rangers will certainly be in the A.L. mix in 2013, led by Adrian Belte.


The Rangers now enter 2013 with even fewer guys that played huge parts in their back-to-back American League Championships of 2010 & 2011; Josh Hamilton, C.J. Wilson & life-long franchise icon Michael Young are all gone. Colby Lewis and Neftali Feliz who played big parts as well, are nursing injuries. Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus, David Murphy, Nelson Cruz & Adrian Beltre all return -- but not without question marks. 

Ian Kinsler will start again at second, coming off a so-so year of .256, 19 HRs & 72 RBI's with 21 steals; while his double-play partner Elvis Andrus had more of a productive season (minus the pop), batting .286, 85 runs & 21 steals with 180 hits. An interesting factor will be the big-time prospect Jurickson Profar, who is knocking on the door -- he'll start the season in Triple-A most likely, but if Texas's season goes south, expect Texas to make some possible moves; Andrus is a free agent after 2014, and will most likely test the market. Kinsler may see some time at first base, to get Profar into the lineup, if Mitch Moreland continues to struggle with injuries & southpaws. Adrian Beltre is coming off back-to-back big years. Nelson Cruz dealt with injuries (.260, 24, 90), and enters a contract year in 2013. The Rangers bring in two notable veterans in catcher A.J. Pierzynski, coming off one of the best years of his career, batting .278, 27 HR's & 77 RBI's; the other is the addition of Lance Berkman, which for Rangers fans would be great if he can do for them what he did for St. Louis in 2011 -- first thing's first, he needs to stay healthy. Mike Olt hit 28 HR's at Double-A, and is one to look out for in 2013.

The rotation will be durable, I think Yu Darvish will break the mold for Asian pitchers, who usually get figured out -- he may be the real deal, so better numbers might be in the forecast. He posted 221 K's in 191.1 innings with a 16-9 record & 3.90 ERA! Matt Harrison is coming off a career year (18 wins), making it now back-to-back productive seasons. Alexi Ogando, I feel is a smart move to put back in the rotation, they should have kept him there in the first place before getting the crazy idea of making Neftali Feliz, a starting pitcher (which cost them big time!); Ogando was a All-Star with a 13-8 record & 3.51 ERA in 169 innings during 2011. Feliz, was one of the best closers in all of baseball, and just like most of these teams (Yankees with Chamberlain & now the Reds with Chapman) they get greedy, and make the flamethrowers starters, and it always costs them one way or another-- Feliz returns mid-season back to the pen, recovering from Tommy John. Derek Holland can never stay consistent, but maybe it's Arlington's ballpark; Holland has a 3.50 ERA & 1.17 WHIP on the road -- compared to a 5.14 ERA & 1.42 WHIP at home, the last two seasons! The Rangers' top pitching prospect Martin Perez (21) was supposed to hold down the 5th spot for Colby Lewis, until injuring his wrist -- Nick Tepesch is slated to take over for now. Lewis, was actually having a better year in 2012 than his breakout year of 2010, with career lows in ERA & WHIP (through 16 starts).

Joe Nathan showed that he is still one of the better closers in the game, bouncing back to the form that left us in 2009 with 37 saves & 2.80 ERA (78 K's in 64.1 IP). Jason Frasor, acquired from Toronto will serve as the primary setup man until former Royal Joakim Soria returns from Tommy John surgery. Soria, was a force in KC from 2007 to 2011, in which he logged 160 Saves. Tanner Scheppers has potential, but needs to tone down the hits, he had a whopping 1.73 WHIP that contributed to his 4.45 ERA in 32.1 innings of work during his rookie year last season. Michael Kirkman was productive (3.82 ERA, 38 K's & 1.16 WHIP in 35.1 IP) last year, can he repeat this over a full 2013 season?

Best Moves: Adding A.J. Pierzynski, who can play an entire season for a catcher, will be a huge plus -- considering how much a mess the catcher position has been for the Rangers.

Worst Moves: It's never easy letting a franchise icon like Michael Young go, I understand the move, it's all still crowded with Jurickson Profar emerging -- but the team will certainly miss his leadership, bat & class.

Best Possible Outcome: They have a shot at the division title, making the playoffs with Neftali Feliz & Joakim Soria returning as legit forces in the bullpen.

Worst Possible Outcome: The team was already aging, and now added more years with Berkman & Pierzynski, the time is now to win a title -- but they were caught once by Oakland, it could certainly happen again!

1. Los Angeles Angels
2. Texas Rangers*
3. Oakland Athletics
4. Seattle Mariners
5. Houston Astros

* - Wild Card Team

NEXT: The National League East

Rupert, Witt Shine in 85' CAL Debut!

Rupert Jones' 1988 Fleer Baseball Card.
Anytime I purchase a new APBA team, I like to have an exhibition game played with my new purchased team. I recently just purchased the 1985 California Angels, a team featuring notable veteran stars with a few Hall of Famers.

In this match-up, I decided they would host the 1960 Pittsburgh Pirates, meaning it's in Anaheim and the DH rule will be in effect for this game. The Pirates normally have Bill Virdon leading off and playing center, instead the backup Gino Cimoli will play center, bumping up the the top 2 hitters, and Clemente moving from his normal #5 spot in that 1960 lineup to #3, Dick Stuart gets the nod at first over Rocky Nelson, and Joe Christopher will play DH.

Normally the Pirates lineup looks like this:
1. Bill Virdon -CF
2. Dick Groat - SS
3. Bob Skinner - LF
4. Dick Stuart /
    Rocky Nelson - 1B
5. Roberto Clemente - RF
6. Smoky Burgess /
    Hal Smith - C
7. Don Hoak - 3B
8. Bill Mazeroski - 2B
9. (Pitcher)

Usually Hoak bats 6th if Burgess is in lineup, with Burgess 7th.
Today it was this:

1. Dick Groat - SS
2. Bob Skinner - LF
3. Roberto Clemente - RF
4. Dick Stuart - 1B
5. Don Hoak - 3B
6. Smoky Burgess - C
7. Bill Mazeroski - 2B
8. Joe Christopher - DH
9. Gino Cimoli - CF

at 85' California Angels

1. Gary Pettis - CF
2. Rod Carew - 1B
3. Brian Downing - LF
4. Reggie Jackson - RF
5. Doug DeCinces - 3B
6. Ruppert Jones - DH
7. Bobby Grich - 2B
8. Bob Boone - C
9. Dick Schofield - SS

A interesting note, before going over the brief action. The Angels' Dick Schofield's father Dick Schofield plays for these 1960 Pirates, he happened to not have played this game. Plus Dick Schofield (Angels) also happens to be Jayson Werth's uncle. Jayson Werth's stepfather played in the Majors as well, in Dennis Werth. So yeah baseball is really linked in that family tree!

The Pirates had Vern Law (B-Z) on the mound against Mike Witt (B-Y).

Bottom of the 2nd, with Reggie Jackson on first from a single, Ruppert Jones hits a 2-run HR, to make it 2-0.

Bottom of the 4th, Ruppert Jones tags another HR off Law, 3-0 after 4 innings.

Bottom of the 6th, with 2 outs... Ruppert Jones steps up to the plate, the Pirates manager yanks Law out for Freddie Green, Green ends up walking Jones.

Bottom of the 7th, Gary Pettis gets a 2-out single, I decide to hit & run with Carew, Pettis steals second. Now a man on second, and Rod Carew singles in Pettis, 4-0.

Bottom of the 8th, with Roy Face on the mound for the Pirates, Doug DeCinces gets a one-out single, which brings up Ruppert Jones, 2-for-2, 2 HR's & a walk drawn... Face delivers....

Are you kidding me?! Rolled a 11... 5.... another 2-run HR!

Ruppert Jones makes it a 3-for-3 game, 3 HR's & 5 RBI as Mike Witt shuts out the Pirates, allowing only 5 hits, striking out six batters!

Ruppert Jones did have 21 HR's in 1985, in only 389 at-bats, he played primarily DH at this point in his career, over the next season & half, he would get his last 25 HR's for his career. He had 147 career HR's, .250 hitter & .746 OPS. Also had 143 career steals during his 11 seasons, including a career high 33 in 1979 for Seattle.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

MLB Preview / A.L. Central


The Detroit Tigers ended up winning the A.L. Central, despite not waking out of their slumber until the last couple of months of the season to catch the Chicago White Sox. White Sox rode their pitching staff in young stud Chris Sale & with Jake Peavy rebounding from injuries for his best season since 2008. The Kansas City Royals, actually finished 3rd, but to most Royals fans -- it's yet another losing season (72 wins), now they've added a pitching staff, maybe their fortunes will change. Manny Acta is out, Terry Francona is in -- for the Cleveland Indians & the Minnesota Twins have now officially hit rock-bottom during the Ron Gardenhire era -- it'll be another long season in 2013 as well.

Chris Sale is all smiles (with Snoop Dogg) after a successful 2012 campaign.


If you told me entering 2012 that the Chicago White Sox was control the division lead for most of the season, I would have told you to go check into rehab, buddy. The White Sox took advantage with their steady rotation led by Sales & Peavy, as the Detroit Tigers sleepwalked through the first-half of the season. Robin Ventura proved to be the right man for the managerial job, when during the off-season it raised many eyebrows, the team hopes they can raise their on-base percentage, which will help their chances to go along their rotation & strong fielding -- two of their team's recent benchmarks.

Chris Sale made the All-Star Game in his first year as a starting pitcher, after converting from relief, as John Danks looks to return to his 2008 form. Jake Peavy was actually 5th in the A.L. in Innings Pitched with 219 last season, his most since 173.2 IP during 2008. Gavin Floyd is looking to have a good year, since he's up for free agency in 2014 -- expect him to be good trade bait for a contender if the White Sox' season goes south. Jose Quintana had a surprising rookie season & projects to be the fourth starter; 6-6, 3.76 ERA in 136.1 innings (81 K's & 42 BB's). Hector Santiago (4-1, 3.33 ERA) could be pushed to the 5th spot, if Dank continues to have problems or Floyd is traded; he started 4 of his 42 games, even notched 4 Saves, he's got good strikeout power with 79 K's in 70.1 innings!

Youngsters Addison Reed (projected to keep the closing job) and Nate Jones seems to have passed Jesse Crain & Matt Thornton on the team's depth chart, personally I think a 4.75 ERA is way too high for a closer in Reed (Think Joe Borowski for Cleveland, 2007). It's good they got a lot of youth going with Sale, Quintana, Santiago, Jones & Reed -- giving Chisox fans hopes for future seasons when it comes to pitching, now on to the weak batting.

The White Sox have seen nothing but a decline in players such as Gordon Beckham and Alexei Ramirez, who both used to bring excitement to their fans. The lineup also features swing-for-the-fences Adam Dunn, who hit 41 HR's -- but is it all worth it when you strikeout 222 times & bat only .204?! Paul Konerko had a hot start, hit .298 & 26 HR's, but cooled off after the All-Star break (his second-half OPS: .771)! The team will also lack a great bat from the catching position with the departure of Pierzynski (who signed with Texas), Tyler Flowers only batted .213 in 136 at-bats, look for Hector Gimenez to get some work as well. Dayan Viciedo hit 25 HRs for his first season as a regular starter, playing in LF.

Best Move: Promoting Kenny Williams to Executive Vice President of the Chicago White Sox, giving Assistant GM Rick Hahn, the GM reigns, in which he has already tried to refresh the farm & add depth to it, after Williams has practically depleted the system since his 2005 World Championship pinnacle. With Hahn, we'll see a more, much-needed youth movement for the White Sox. Another good move, adding Jeff Keppinger, who's been compared to a 'Poor Man's Jeff Kent' by scouts and former teammates, he's a veteran who can play multiple infield positions & will get a shot at full-time. He batted .325 with 9 HR's in 385 at-bats for the Rays in 2012.

Worst Move: Not resigning (or at least trying-to-do-so) A.J. Pierzynski, it would be something else if they had someone more promising behind the plate than Flowers.

Best Possible Outcome: Despite the fact they could have won the division from the favored Tigers last season, and Detroit could under-achieve again during the regular season -- giving the White Sox hope... I feel  like they could finish second with their rotation, defense & bullpen.

Worst Possible Outcome: I just don't see any team besides the Minnesota Twins finishing in the cellar in this division, fourth place at absolute worst, Peavy's arm troubles return, the lineup becomes even more anemic & Gavin Floyd is traded to a contender for some prospects.

Start of a beautiful relationship? Tribe fans are hoping so.


When you first glance at the Indians' lineup, in my opinion there is a lot to like. Some people bashed the move of signing Nick Swisher in the off-season, but I feel that this could be a good move -- one thing he's a Ohio native, the other thing is he consistently hits around 25 HR's & 85 RBI's a season; plus in recent years he has hit above his career average of .256 with seasons of .288, .260 & .272, the last three years, at times with the Yankees when he was on, he could be one of the dangerous men in that lineup, so added him to Cleveland's team is no waste, considering he's definitely a step up from Johnny Damon. Did the Indians pay too much? Yes, it should have been a shorter contract for less per season (Swisher is making $14 million a year). But he's the type of veteran that new Manager Terry Francona wants.

If Drew Stubbs can figure things out at the plate (.213 AVG in 2012), he can be a huge lift to this lineup, there will be a bit of pressure considering that he came in the deal that sent popular Shin-Soo Choo to Cincy. Mark Reynolds, is an intriguing addition to the tribe, the question is which Reynolds will the Tribe get? The one that was clutch for the Orioles down the 2012 stretch (had 15 of his 23 HR's during last two months), or the one that batted .207 with only 7 HR's during the first-half? Still probably a step up from disappointing Matt LaPorta. There is a lot of things I like about gritty, Jason Kipnis, he tied for the team lead in RBI's with Carlos Santana (76 RBI), despite only getting 27 after the All-Star Break. A full season from Lonnie Chisenhall will boost the lineup, and Michael Brantley does all the little things on a consistent basis. Asdrubal Cabrera is probably the lineup's leader, leading all A.L. Shortstops in OPS with a .765 clip, while hitting 16 HR's. Great addition in Micheal Bourn for the lead-off spot, that will give the Indian fans longing for Kenny Lofton some satisfaction!

The rotation, once again will be key to the Indians' success -- the lineup can keep them competitive, but the rotation will have to show more balance and production. I'm starting to wonder if Ubaldo Jimenez may be only suited for the National League, since his career ERA in the A.L. is a whopping 5.32 during 1 1/2 seasons, his career high in the N.L. was the 4.46 during the first-half of 2011; he's now 29, and I'm starting to also wonder if the brief flashes of possible brilliance in 2010, may have been a fluke of sorts. I think at the time of his red-hot start that season, Sports Illustrated was comparing him to Pedro Martinez (DOH!). After Jimenez, we got another frustration in Justin Masterson -- If he can be more consistent and not have too many outings where he is getting bombed, his record and ERA would be a heck of a lot better & the lineup will have a chance to do it's thing. Brett Myers, year-in & year-out, on the most part gets things done, he's a bulldog of sorts, and is durable -- he is slated for #3 spot in the rotation, and can help the Tribe balance things out. Zach McAllister showed promise with 110 K's in 125.1 innings, sporting a 4.24 ERA.

Chris Perez, surprisingly is still the closer after blasting all of upper management during the 2012 season & off-season (probably because the Indians didn't really have another choice). Vinnie Pestano has improved into a pretty good setup man for the Tribe, as Joe Smith & Nick Hagadone will get plenty of work during 2013.

Best Move:  Besides Micheal Bourn in CF, the hiring of Manager Terry Francona, who returns to Cleveland after being a special assistant for the Tribe in 2001 & playing for them as a player in 1988. Terry's father Tito played a good portion of his MLB career for the Indians from 1959 through 1964.

Worst Move: Can't really think of a bad move this season, but all I can still think about is the handful of prospects that were handed over to Colorado for under-achieving Ubaldo Jimenez during the 2011 trade deadline. Plus didn't they also extend his contract?

Best Possible Outcome: Second place definitely, especially now with Francona at the helm. No playoffs, only division winner is getting out of this division alive.

Worst Possible Outcome: Fourth Place, if they fall out of contention, Chris Perez will likely be traded to a contender with possibly one-year signee Brett Myers, many pieces to mix and match. The Indians could get some good quality time at looking what they have on the farm & figuring out a new game plan for 2014, which might not be a bad thing.

Looking to add to their successful run, making that next big step.


The Detroit Tigers have now been to the last two American League Championship Series & won the last one to advance to the World Series -- in which they once again, had to wait (forever!) to play the San Francisco Giants. Sad to say for Tiger fans, the Giants were on a mission and won the World Title. Tigers will get their chances in 2013, with the addition of Torii Hunter to the lineup, who brings a consistent veteran bat that the Tigers could really use near the top of the lineup & the return of Victor Martinez (V-Mart) in the lineup, in which if all goes right, the opposing pitchers will have a hard time also pitching around Prince Fielder. These two additions will finally make this lineup almost flawless.

We all know what Miguel Cabrera can do, he will very likely not repeat a Triple Crown performance, but he will once again bring solid numbers from all three Triple Crown categories as he always had. Personally, I don't know why one of his other feats didn't get enough attention, in the fact that he is one of the very few players ever to reach 300 career HR's before age 30! He turns 30 on April 18th, and has 321 Home Runs, well on pace for 600! Austin Jackson was snubbed for an All-Star appearance in 2012, and in many ways besides Cabrera, was the Tigers' MVP; before 2012 started, I was really tough on Jackson -- that he needed to step up at the plate & quit being such a free-swinger, the man certainly stepped up. I laughed at other Tiger fans, who actually complained about Prince Fielder -- yes... because a .313 average, 30 HR's & 108 RBI are something to sneeze at, apparently. I think Jhonny Peralta's bat will bounce back, it was one of the worst seasons in his career, bouncing back to a average good Peralta season would be huge! His glove is only going to decrease, let's face it.. he's really stretching it as a shortstop. Alex Avila followed up his impressive 2011 season with a dud, but still doing well at getting on base 35% of the time.

Justin Verlander, he's absolutely the best pitcher in all of baseball (and I'm not saying this because he happens to be my favorite player), he brings an element of old-school that the other pitchers (Kershaw, Weaver & Price) contending for that "best pitcher", simply don't have! Max Scherzer, came in second to Verlander's 239 K's with 231 of his own -- plus a 16-7 record & 3.74 ERA. Doug Fister, the #3 starter is in many ways the #2 most dependable pitcher for the Tigers & would be easily a #2 or even #1 on many ballclubs. He had nagging injuries that effected his numbers in 2012, despite a respectable 3.45 ERA. Anibal Sanchez completes the top four slots, he came over in a trade from Florida that said goodbye to prized prospect Jacob Turner. Hopefully the money the Tigers shelled out to keep him in Detroit ($80 million) pays off, he has a lifetime record of 48-51, but then again it really could have hurt Detroit's 2013 & future chances at a title without replacing him as well. The fifth spot is an interesting one, we have starters Rick Porcello & Drew Smyly. Not to sound like a homer here, but I remember watching the draft and was excited when Porcello was drafted in 2007; I have been Porcello's biggest supporter in so many ways, but I now admit, it's time to possibly trade him away for his sake & the team's sake -- as of press time, Porcello was still in the midst of trade rumors, possibly for a reliever. Smyly did surprisingly well, tired down the stretch, and probably should keep him as a starter than a reliever -- he is kind of the Tigers' new version of Zach Miner of a couple years ago, with much more strikeout velocity.

The Tigers won't have to deal with the roller coaster ride in Jose Valverde as a closer, but as far as I know have yet to label someone as the #1 closer. The Tigers have a few options in rookie Bruce Rondon, lefty Phil Coke (who was impressive during the playoffs), and Joaquin Benoit. There is question marks with whoever the Tigers choose. Rondon has yet to make his MLB debut, and is a bit too wild, even though he throws the heat; his body weight of 275 lbs also makes me wonder if they keep a close eye on that. Making Coke the man, would sacrifice him from being a lefty specialist & helping in a set-up role -- he has the mentality and closer look I like, but he has allowed righties to hit .299 against him for his career. When you look at Benoit's numbers all across the board, he seems like the logical choice as closer, but he's far too valuable to loose him in his set-up role in the 7th & 8th innings, which would put more pressure on the likes of Brayan Villarreal & Al Alburquerque. Closer by committee might best suit the situation, if they don't happen to land a closer via trade.

Best Move: Torii Hunter. Yes, he'll be 38 this summer, but the man still shows good glove, and good bat -- not to mention a .365 OBP that will help this lineup oil out the kinks that the team showed from time to time in 2012.

Worst Move: In time, it could be the pricey resigning of Anibal Sanchez if the Tigers keep falling short for the title in future seasons, the Tigers want nothing less than a World Title.

Best Possible Outcome: A World Championship, they are already contenders and have made two runs the last two seasons, a World Championship would be wonderful for a region that has been effected by economic strife.

Worst Possible Outcome: Not winning the division, which means missing the playoffs. The bullpen is of all things the weakness for the Tigers.

Royals fans: Time to step up, the future is now.


The Kansas City Royals have only experienced one winning season in the last 20 years (2003), and that was a 83 win season under Tony Pena as Manager. This was a once proud franchise that experienced quick and long success from it's inception in 1969. Between 1973 & 1989, the Royals only witnessed  4 losing seasons; one in 1981 in which they still went to the playoffs for winning the 2nd-half A.L. West Division Title at 50-53 overall (30-23, 2nd half). The team will finally add what's been lacking from them since the days of Kevin Appier, a pitching staff.

The Royals traded the early projected favorite for A.L. Rookie of the Year in Will Myers to Tampa Bay, and landed James Shields, giving the Royals a capable ace. Jeremy Guthrie played really well down the stretch for K.C., which the team would like to see that carry over in 2013. The Royals take a $12 million gamble in Ervin Santana in exchange for prospect Brandon Sisk; Santana is a free agent entering 2014 -- personally, I think it's kind of nice to see the organization taking some more risks that could really benefit the team's chances & growth. He's definitely better than his 9-13 record & 5.16 ERA! Wade Davis' move back to the rotation will be interesting to watch, if he can return to his better days in Tampa, he'll pay off for the Royals. Remember when Luke Hochevar was the "ace", not even two years ago? Right there, shows you the improvement... just by the players they put in place; Hochevar was recently demoted to the bullpen which will probably be better for him in the long run, Bruce Chen is the likely 5th spot, who was the team's #1 starter a year ago -- if not the 5th spot will go to Luis Mendoza.

The Royals need Eric Hosmer & Mike Moustakas to revert back to their star potential, any repeat (especially combined) will be worrisome for fans. Billy Butler continues to show why he's the man with the big bat, as Alex Gordon might become lead-off man -- if Hosmer shows he can hold down the #3 slot in the lineup. A 2011 version of Jeff Francoeur would be nice, plus an injury-free Lorenzo Cain as well.

The bullpen should be better in recent years with young arm like Greg Holland, Kelvin Herrera, Tim Collins & Aaron Crow.

The Royals' current situation and team, according to James Shields, reminds him of the Tampa Bay Rays circa 2007; that said, the Royals are at least one year away still, in a division where the Tigers are king, the Indians made some key upgrades, and the White Sox' pitching & defense should keep them competitive. I will say this though, if their youngsters can turn things around or improve dramatically, don't be surprised to see this team make a wild card push.

Best Move: Going after James Shields who shows he can be a mentor for a young staff.

Worst Move: Maybe not going for a Outfielder who can bring a big bat, if Francouer & Cain repeat 2012 -- Alex Gordon will be the only productivity coming out of that outfield. Plus that adds up when you don't have power coming from your double-play combination as well.

Best Possible Outcome: The Royals earn a Wild Card spot, on paper -- no one thought Oakland would go on to do the things they did in 2012, so anything is possible -- but likely a year away.

Worst Possible Outcome: The prospects and young studs get lost in the mix, which will have the upper management second-guessing, some panicking & before we all know it, it's another decade later of futility.

Last Hurrah for this duo? Times They are a-changin' in Minnesota.


The team has now suffered back-to-back seasons of 99 and 96 losses, after winning the A.L. Central six times in nine years; prior to the last two seasons, they had only one coaching staff, now several are gone -- Is Ron Gardenhire next? The owner is not really giving him much to work with here.

Joe Mauer came back stronger in 2012, playing in 147 games & leading the majors with a .416 on-base percentage, the Twins are finally mixing it up with Mauer by keeping him fresh -- giving him some time at first base & as a DH. Maybe in time, he will move totally away from the catcher position; team extended Ryan Doumit's contract another two years, since he brings a good bat & gives Mauer a chance to play elsewhere in the lineup. The Twins are hoping that Justin Morneau's bouts with symptoms suffered from concussions are over, he is entering his last year of his contract this season. Rookie 2B- Brian Dozier has yet to transfer his good hitting in the minors to the majors, while Pedro Florimon will get more playing time as the projected start at shortstop. Trevor Plouffe smacked 24 HR's in 422 at-bats last season, while batting only .235 and providing dismal defense at the hot corner.

The Twins traded Ben Revere, who was to be the heir replacement for the traded Denard Span. The upper management is pretty excited about 2008 first-round draft pick Aaron Hicks, and are showing their confidence in the prospect who made big progress in Double-A. The game plan was to hand the center field responsibilities to Darin Mastroianni, who had 21 steals in 2012; but Hicks had a spectacular spring & will get his trial by fire now. Josh Willingham comes off a career year in 35 HRs & 110 RBI's at age 33, while the RF slot is projected to be Willingham's polar opposite in Chris Parmalee, who batted only .229 with a .671 OPS.

The other morning, I was listening to sports radio when one of the announcers asked his co-anchor if he can name the rotation of the Minnesota Twins -- good question, better one is can you name at least two? The Twins have never had the biggest names for a rotation, but they always had a recognizable rotation, most of the same guys back at least; guys like Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn, Kevin Slowey & Carl Pavano. They acquired Vance Worley from Philadelphia, who showed plenty of success in his young career with a 18-13 career record and 3.50 ERA to go along with it, but is he an ace? He's projected to be their #1 starter. Mike Pelfrey had an injury-plagued 2012, but from 2008 through 2011 he averaged anywhere between 180 - 205 innings; only a career 50-54, 4.50 ERA pitcher though. Another career 4.50 ERA was also added to the staff in Kevin Correia, who showed good veteran leadership with the young arms in Pittsburgh. The Twins were forced to start Cory De Vries, who posted a 4.11 ERA in 87.1 innings, he also loves to give up the long ball (16 HR's allowed). Liam Hendriks, only has a career total of 109 innings, he is the type of pitch-to-contact pitcher that the Twins mold into success -- a career record of 1-10 & 5.71 ERA is a tad-bit scary. Scott Diamond and 2009 first-round draft pick Kyle Gibson are the most promising pitchers for the Twins. Gibson is still recovering from Tommy John surgery and will build up his strength in Triple-A, as Diamond will start the season on the disabled list; Diamond ranked third among all qualifying MLB rookies in ERA (3.54) during 2012, while posting a 12-9 record in 27 starts.

The Twins turned trash into gold last season by revamping the bullpen after Joe Nathan's departure. Jared Burton (2.18 ERA) and Casey Fien (2.06 ERA) were minor-league signees last season, who are back as bullpen regulars in 2013. Glen Perkins, once starter, now closer, posted a 2.56 ERA & 16 Saves, while striking out 78 batters in 70.1 Innings. Brian Duensing keeps bouncing around from rotation and the bullpen, the last few years -- will stay in the bullpen who does better there overall, it's just a bit surprising with their absent rotation that Duensing wasn't given at least a shot at the rotation. The Twins felt comfortable with their new bullpen that they didn't bother resigning Matt Capps.

Best Move: Giving young Aaron Hicks a shot at starting, if all goes wrong or bumpy, there is always a fall-back option in Mastroianni. Also extending Doumit's contract to take load off Mauer.

Worst Move: Maybe not getting a stronger veteran arm in the rotation, and not replacing weak right fielder in Parmalee, maybe a one-year signee with a productive bat.

Best Possible Outcome: Maybe... Maybe... Fourth Place, if all goes wrong for either one of Chicago, Cleveland & Kansas City. Minnesota as long as they have had Gardenhire, have always been known as a team you couldn't count out -- but sometimes things just fade in time.

Worst Possible Outcome: Last Place, which is likely either way. Twins fans may say goodbye to Justin Morneau for possible trade-bait, since he is in his last season.

1. Detroit Tigers
2. Cleveland Indians
3. Chicago White Sox
4. Kansas City Royals
5. Minnesota Twins

The Tigers will be the lone playoff team (wins in the high 80's, 92 at best) from this division, teams 2-4 can easily be shuffled, K.C. is this season's dark horse, Chicago's pitching & defense will keep them competitive, as Cleveland made many moves, but it will be their bats that will carry them with their suspect pitching. Another long year in Minnesota, will Gardenhire & Morneau be there at the end of the season?

NEXT: The American League West
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