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2010 Shortstop Rankings and Projections

March 27, 2010
Player BA HR RBI Runs SB
1. Hanley Ramirez 0.322 28 109 107 29
2. Troy Tulowitzki 0.293 34 103 100 19
3. Jimmy Rollins 0.273 24 79 112 37
4. Derek Jeter 0.321 16 68 103 24
5. Jose Reyes 0.287 10 58 94 30
6. Miguel Tejada 0.289 14 87 82 4
7. Alexei Ramirez 0.282 20 74 82 17
8. Yunel Escobar 0.296 16 81 85 4
9. Orlando Cabrera 0.282 10 72 94 15
10. Rafael Furcal 0.287 7 53 103 21
11. Ryan Theriot 0.291 6 51 94 25
12. Jason Bartlett 0.303 10 58 86 29
13. Stephen Drew 0.272 15 70 82 6
14. Elvis Andrus 0.271 5 41 83 36
15. Marco Scutaro 0.273 10 71 83 10
16. Jhonny Peralta 0.266 15 84 71 2
17. Alcides Escobar 0.288 6 64 81 23
18. JJ Hardy 0.273 18 72 75 2
19. Erick Aybar 0.301 4 49 72 13
20. Ian Desmond 0.274 10 52 70 19

Third Basemen Rankings and 2010 Projections

March 23, 2010
Player BA HR RBI Runs SB
1. Alex Rodriguez 0.308 41 132 100 19
2. Evan Longoria 0.292 37 122 104 10
3. David Wright 0.302 21 106 109 25
4. Kevin Youkilis 0.308 30 109 97 6
5. Ryan Zimmerman 0.301 29 99 105 1
6. Pablo Sandoval 0.334 29 92 83 6
7. Mark Reynolds 0.263 38 100 94 15
8. Aramis Ramirez 0.306 26 102 89 2
9. Micheal Young 0.304 19 86 93 11
10. Chone Figgins  0.301 3 49 112 46
11. Jorge Cantu 0.282 19 98 76 2
12. Gorden Beckham 0.285 21 84 79 13
13. Chipper Jones 0.298 20 89 84 2
14. Casey Blake 0.277 19 84 78 3
15. Ian Stewart 0.248 32 86 81 8
16. Mark DeRosa 0.278 21 81 79 2
17. Kevin Kouzmanoff 0.261 20 91 72 0
18. Adrian Beltre 0.269 21 80 75 14
19. Andy LaRoche 0.274 19 82 73 6
20. Casey McGehee 0.284 17 76 72 2

NL East Preview

March 22, 2010

1. Philadelphia Phillies  92-70 (2010 projected record)

2009 Review

Despite down years from several of their key players including Jimmy Rollins, Brad Lidge and Cole Hamels, the Phillies were able to win their third straight East title on the way to their second pennant in as many years.  The Phillies used a combination of solid pitching and defense and an offense that led the NL in runs scored, home runs and slugging percentage.  A mid-season trade for 2008 AL Cy Young winner Cliff Lee helped push the Phils into the playoffs where Lee dominated almost leading them to their second straight world series title.

2010 Preview

Lee left by way of a winter trade and all G.M. Ruben Amaro jr. did to replace him was add who many believe to be the best pitcher in baseball, Roy Halladay.  Amaro then turned around and signed Halladay to a contract extension that could keep him in Philly through 2014.  Philly also added 2007 Gold Glove winner Placido Polanco to replace third baseman Pedro Feliz.  Polanco will also provide a consistent bat to the back end of the lineup.  The rest of the roster pretty much remains intact for the up-coming season.  The roster will look much the same as it did last year and should be primed for yet another deep run in October.

Projected Line-up

  1. Jimmy Rollins  SS
  2. Shane Victorino  CF
  3. Chase Utley  2B
  4. Ryan Howard  1B
  5. Jayson Werth  RF
  6. Raul Ibanez  LF
  7. Placido Polanco  3B
  8. Carlos Ruiz  C

Outside of the Polanco for Feliz swap not much will change here for a club that finished at or near the top of most major hitting categories in the National League.  Rollins looks to rebound after his batting average dropped to .250 last year.  Rollins also had a career low On-Base Percentage and will look to improve that number to lighten some of the pressure on Victorino and Utley.  Utley and Howard remain one of the better 3-4 hitters in the game and provide the rest of this line-up the protection and opportunity to put up big numbers again this year.  Catcher Carlos Ruiz took another step forward offensively last year and Raul Ibanez and Jason Werth are very capable vets coming off career years.  The line-up can get a little left handed but switch hitters Rollins and Victorino make it difficult on opposing managers to set up their bullpen.  There really is no easy out 1-8 in this line-up and barring injury the offense should continue to terrorize National League pitchers and set the tone for this baseball team.

Rotation

  1. Roy Halladay
  2. Cole Hamels
  3. Joe Blanton
  4. J.A. Happ
  5. Jamey Moyer/Kyle Kendrick

The Phils switched Lee out in favor of Roy Halladay and kept the rest of the rotation intact.  Halladay is a workhorse who will lead a staff that prides its self on working deep into games.  Hamels looks to rebound after his numbers regressed across the board.  If he gets back to pitching like he did in the 08′ playoffs the Phillies will have two legit aces at the top of their rotation.  Blanton has average stuff and isn’t overpowering but is consistent and can give the team lots of innings.  Happ broke into the majors last year with a splash finishing second in the N.L. Rookie of the Year standings.  It is unlikely he will repeat his 2.93 ERA and 12-4 record but he should stabilize the back half of the rotation.  Jamey Moyer will attempt to come back for his 24th season and I’m sure Kyle Kendrick and the Phillies hope it’s his last.  Average numbers and highs in the lower 80 mph range have made him into an expensive question mark at the end of their rotation.  The back end of the group won’t light the world on fire but they will keep them alive enough to win the East.

Bullpen

Brad Lidge not only lost his job last year it looked like he lost his mind.  Head games had him blowing saves last year just as they have in the past and the Phillies have to ask the question whether it will happen again.  Everyone says Lidge is ok and time will tell, luckily, Philly has a closer in waiting with Ryan Madson.  Either way the Phillies score enough runs to walk away from anyone else in the division.  J.C. Romero and Chad Durbin will be asked a lot of if Lidge struggles this year and it would be the only thing that ruins the 10′ season for the Philly Phanatic who loves to be ridiculous at the end of games.

Fantasy

Utley and Howard are no-brainers and Jimmy Rollins should be.  Expect a major rebound year out of Jimmy and similar production out of Werth and Ibanez (he won’t hit 34 dingers again though).  Ruiz becomes a solid catcher fantasy play if he get 450 ABs (he should) and consider him a deep sleeper in leagues (very deep, if Ruiz is your last hope you did something wrong earlier because I’m not sure you can win a single fantasy league without the catching services of Mauer, McCann, Martinez or Martin, in fact, just draft a catcher that has a last name starting with M and you should be ok…)

2. Atlanta Braves  89-73

2009 Review

The Braves surprised lots of people last year by running the wildcard race down to the last week in 09′.  They ran out of stream in the last couple weeks, as “transition” teams often do.  Caught in between a year where several young player were brought up and where several veterans were brought in to fill the gap before their top prospects are ready, they played somewhere in between for Bobby Cox who now says 10′ will be his last year.

2010 Preview

Bobby Cox’s last season should not disappoint Atlanta fans this year.  If Atlanta gets one last solid year out of Chipper Jones the Braves will be a tough team to beat this year.  They play solid defense to go along with a pitching staff that ranked 3rd in the league last year in ERA.  If the offense improves even a little bit from last year it’s not hard to see this team playing deep into October.

Projected Line-up

  1. Nate McLouth  CF
  2. Martin Prado  2B
  3. Chipper Jones  3B
  4. Brian McCann  C
  5. Troy Glaus  1B
  6. Matt Diaz  RF
  7. Yunel Escobar  SS
  8. Melky Cabrera  LF

The heart of the lineup and success of the team will hang on two former all star third baseman in Chipper Jones and Troy Glaus.  Chipper’s numbers dropped across the board last year and he looks to rebound to take some of the offensive pressure on McCann.  Glaus missed most of the year in 09′ with shoulder and back injuries (a reoccurring theme with Glaus).  Once considered the top offensive corner infield forces the Braves are hoping for just a little bit of what once was to help score enough to keep the teams solid pitching always out in front.  Melkey Cabrera came over from the Yankee’s in the Javier Vazquez trade and will have him and Matt Diaz hold the fort down in the outfield until the team’s top prospect Jason Heyward is ready for an everyday job.

Rotation

  1. Derek Lowe
  2. Jair Jurrjens
  3. Tommy Hanson
  4. Tim Hudson
  5. Kenshin Kawakami

The rotation, while all right handed, is balanced nicely with young talent and savvy veterans with experience winning baseball games.  Derrick Lowe hopes to rebound after posting his highest ERA and WHIP totals since 04′.  Jurrjens and Hanson were exceptional last year and should continue to post solid numbers as budding stars.  Hudson brings solid numbers and control to the mound when healthy and is hoping to put the injury bug behind him this year.  Kawakami is a solid #5 arm and completes a very good Atlanta rotation.

Bullpen

Billy Wagner was signed in the off-season to help stabilize the ninth inning after the Braves blew 36% of their save opportunities last year.  The once dominating closer Wagner is not the triple digit flame-thrower he once was and sticking with a reoccurring theme with the 10’ Braves they will look to recapture a little bit of his former self.  In case Wagner falters Atlanta also brought Takashi Saito over from Boston.  Saito also has closing experience and looks to lock down the eighth for Wagner.  The rest of the pen looks for more consistency this year but if the Braves have a weakness it’s here.

Fantasy

The only lock in the everyday lineup is C Brian McCann.  He will be a top 3 catcher once again this year posting above average HR, Avg., and RBI totals.  The rest of the lineup doesn’t do enough in the 5 major hitting categories for you to rely heavily on them.  The wildcard is 3B Chipper Jones.  An improved and healthy year from Jones will increase the value of the entire Braves line-up.  Keep an eye on Jason Heyward during the early months.  The outfielder has a good speed and power blend and is another future fantasy stud in Atlanta.  His time may be a year or so away but you won’t want to be caught sleeping on this kid.  Pitching is the key to this team’s success as it will be your fantasy teams.  Look for Tommy Hanson to hit 200 innings this year and be among the league leaders in K’s this season with very good ERA and WHIP numbers.  Don’t expect another 2.60 ERA out of Jurrjens in 2010.  He should be solid again but the K totals are not enough to overbid this year.  If healthy look for Wagner to pitch well in his 9th inning role and should produce 30-35 saves with solid ERA and K totals.

3.  Florida Marlins 87-75

2009 Review

The Florida Marlins continued to cut payroll again in 09’ yet continued to stay competitive with a slew of young homegrown players performing well last year.  With Hanley Ramirez leading this young team and finishing second in the NL MVP race the Marlins were able to win 87 games and finish runners-up to the Phillies.  The offense and the pitching were solid for much of the year but the Marlins ranked 26th in fielding percentage.  Rookie Chris Coghlan was named NL Rookie of the Year and Florida debuted a handful of promising youngsters they hope to build the future around.

2010 Preview

While the always cost-cutting Marlins didn’t add much to their roster in the off-season, they are looking forward to an improvement in 10’.  Florida trimmed some fat from the roster including Nick Johnson, Jeremy Hermida and Matt Lindstrom.  This should open the door to promising rookies like First Baseman Gaby Sanchez and Outfielder Cameron Maybin. Two players who have perform well in the minor leagues, their transition to the big leagues could ultimately decide the fate of this team.  Leo Nunez took over for Lindstrom last year and performed well in the closers role.  He’s young and throws hard the marlins look for big seasons from him and the rest of the pitching staff to have a chance in the competitive NL East.

Projected Line-up

  1. Chris Coghlan  LF
  2. Dan Uggla  2B
  3. Hanley Ramirez  SS
  4. Jorge Cantu  3B
  5. Cody Ross  RF
  6. Gaby Sanchez  1B
  7. Cameron Maybin  CF
  8. John Baker  C

The top five from this lineup all return from a team that finished 3rd in the NL in batting last year.  Hanley Ramirez has turn into one of the best hitters in baseball.  He can hit for average and power and blends in some real speed on the bases.  The rest of the team feeds off his presence.  If Coghlan and Uggla bring their high OBP to the table again this year, Ramirez and Cantu will have lots of chances with runners in scoring position.  The wild cards are Sanchez and Maybin.  The Marlins are banking that the numbers these two put up in the minor will translate to the majors this year.  It’s a gamble that has worked out in the past for them and is vital to the team’s success.  If they falter, look for more chances from utility man who played four different positions last year.  He brings speed and a glove to the lineup but little else.  Veteran Wes Helms returns to backup first and third base as well as provide leadership and strong pinch-hitting to a team short on both.

Rotation

  1.  Josh Johnson
  2. Ricky Nolasco
  3. Anibal Sanchez
  4. Sean West
  5. Chris Volstad/Rick VanderHurk/Andrew Miller

Johnson was signed to a contract extension this off-season after posting one of the best pitching seasons in Marlins history.  His first full season after Tommy John surgery was spectacular posting a 15-5 record with 191 strikeouts and a 3.23 ERA.  Healthy and confident Johnson hopes to lead a young and promising staff this year.  Nolasco really struggled last year before a brief trip to minors set his head and mechanics straight.  He returned to post solid numbers and looks to build off his second half momentum.  Sanchez has been good when healthy but he has failed to log even 100 innings in each of the past 3 seasons.  Sean West should benefit from any and all experience.  West was called up after only 12 AA starts last year and while the results were not terrible, there is room for improvement that should come with more experience.  A three way battle for the 5th rotation spot (and 3rd if Sanchez is hurt or inconsistent coming back) is between Chris Volstad, Rick VanderHurk and Andrew Miller.  All young and at one point promising prospects Florida’s success this year will depend on one or two of these guys making the jump to be a reliable pitcher every 5th day.

Bullpen

When Lindstrom went down with an injury mid-season the Marlins were in search of someone to pick up the slack. Enter Leo Nunez.  Nunez converted 24 of 28 save opportunities and stabilized the back end of a very young bullpen.  Nunez will lead those guys again this year with a pretty balanced pen that features 3 left handed pitchers.  Repeating strong seasons from last year will be key for Brian Sanches, Renyel Pinto and Dan Meyer as they look to again make Florida’s relief pitching a strength in 10’.

Fantasy

Hanley Ramirez is a five tool talent that has blossomed into one of the top 3 hitters in the league.  He should be drafted anywhere in the top 3 of your draft and hope he steals a couple more bases this year.  His move to the 3 hole last year improved his RBI totals dramatically and those numbers should only improve as he becomes more comfortable in that spot.  Uggla remains a top power option at 2B with decent RBI and runs scored numbers.  The batting average will kill you and his strikeouts (averaged 165 past three seasons) take away some of his run producing.  Cantu was a nice surprise last year as he drove in 100 runs at the 3B position.  His 16 HRs and 69 runs scored however were not exactly what you look for out of your corner infielders.   The bottom part of the lineup is iffy so don’t expect a huge uptick in runs.  The home run totals should rebound a bit into the 20-25 range though while he brings a solid .290 avg. to the table.  Not worth a top pick but you could do worse if you look around late in your draft and your team is without a third baseman.  Coghlan had a great season for the Marlins, his avg. and runs scored were solid but he offered little else to fantasy owners.  Power and speed are the name of the game in the outfield and Coghlan is only average in both.  It will be tough for him to hit .320+ again but with 600+ at bats this year expect the run totals to be there and watch for sudden outbursts in speed or power.  Josh Johnson looks to solidify his name amongst the top 10 starting pitchers in the league providing solid splits in wins, ERA, WHIP, and K’s.  Nunez should be good for saves again but not worth a very high pick.  Closers often come with lots of risk as the job comes with a very high turnover.  Nolasco is a prime comeback option as his final 09’ numbers did him little justice to the type of fantasy player he has become.  His K ratio went up last year and his wins stayed on par from his breakout 08’ campaign, trends that bode well for a much improved 2010 from Nolasco and warrant a pick just a couple rounds behind Johnson.

4. New York Mets  81-81

2009 Review

The Mets opened Citi Field in 09’ with a thud.  Plagued by injuries to several of their key run producers (Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, Jose Reyes), or down years from much of their pitching staff (Johan Santana, Oliver Perez), the Mets managed to win only 70 games last year with a payroll that reached almost 150 million.  With much of the lineup missing the Mets were out homered 81-49 at Citi Field, troubling numbers from a team that used to hit the ball with authority.   Santana was ok by his standards last season before being shut down to have surgery to remove bone spurs in his elbow.  Even single season saves recorded holder Francisco Rodriguez, who was signed to a huge multi-year deal, had what is being called his worst season as a major leaguer.  The perfect storm of injuries and poor performance left Mets fans leaving their brand new stadium with a sour taste.

2010 Preview

Reyes and Beltran will unlikely be ready for the beginning of the year which could mean a slow start to 10’ might be in the mix.  The team signed Jason Bay in the off-season to help boost an offense that ranked 25th in runs scored and dead last in home runs last year.  Nothing was done to bolster a starting rotation that really struggled at times last year.  Inexperienced and erratic outside of Santana, the Mets bring back the same rotation that couldn’t get the job done consistently last year.  Citi Field has been dubbed a pitchers park thanks to last year’s power outage from the Mets lineup, and the staff will have to learn to take advantage of that if they look to improve this season.  If the team can stay afloat for the first month when Reyes and Beltran get back they might be able to put a lineup out there to keep them in games.  I big improvement however is needed from the pitching staff or it could get ugly again this year in New York.

 Projected Line-up

  1. Jose Reyes  SS
  2. Luis Castillo  2B
  3. David Wright  3B
  4. Carlos Beltran  CF
  5. Jason Bay  LF
  6. Jeff Francoeur  RF
  7. Daniel Murphy  1B
  8. Omir Santos  C

Reyes and Beltran will miss some time before the regular season starts so the lineup will likely include SS Alex Cora, CF Angel Pagan and/or OF Gary Mathews Jr.  How the Mets deal without their lead-off and clean-up hitters will likely set the table for the rest of the year.  The power went missing last year so the Mets went out and Grabbed slugger Jason Bay who hit 36 HRs for Boston last year.  They also will hope David Wright regains his power stroke after hitting just 10 dingers last year (Wright averaged 29 HRs per year 05’-08’).  Health will be the biggest question mark as New York can boast one of the better line-ups in the NL when all the starters play.  Francoeur came over mid-season from Atlanta and the change of scenery did him well as he hit .311 with the Mets.  He won’t hit .300 again and he strikes out way too much but he should provide a decent stroke with RBI chances behind Bay and Beltran.  Omir Santos is young catcher who should improve offensively this season after hitting .260 in 280 at-bats last year in his first extended playing time in the big leagues.  Bench will be tested early and we may see how thin they are behind their starters.

Rotation

  1. Johan Santana
  2. John Maine
  3. Oliver Perez
  4. Mike Pelfrey
  5. Jon Niese

Johan leads a rotation that was all over the place last season.  Santana looks to return to form after a season in which his numbers fell off across the board.  He was eventually shut down to have minor surgery and the Mets will need him to lead this rotation not only on the field but off as the Mets look for several of their young pitchers to improve.  John Maine looks to stay healthy after two seasons of arm problems.  He has the ability to hold down the 2 spot on the rotation but he has to prove he can stay on the field first.  Oliver Perez has frustrated the Mets since signing a contract extension in 2009.  Always erratic, Perez completely lost it last year posting terrible ERA (6.82) and WHIP numbers (1.92) leading to only 14 starts and 3 wins.  Perez holds the key to the Mets season.  If he turns it around and starts looking like the lefty who won 15 games in 07’, the Mets have a chance to compete.  If not, they will spend all year looking for consistency from the 3-5 spots in the rotation.  Pelfrey was a highly touted prospect coming up and has had some success but he must turn the corner or his time in New York will be short.  Jon Niese and Fernando Nieve will compete for the fifth spot in the rotation.  Both bring similar talent to the table but Nieve may have more future in the pen.

Bullpen

Closer Francisco Rodriguez stumbled to the finish line last year, the Mets hope that wasn’t the start of a downward trend.  Kelvim Escobar was signed as a free agent after he missed most of last year recovering from shoulder injuries.  A former All-Star starting pitcher for the Angels the Mets will move him to the pen and hope the reduced workload will help Escobar regain his form.  Also signed was Japanese import Ryota Igarashi.  His splits were solid in Japan and should help stabilize an inconsistent and always changing bullpen.  This might be a weak point for the Mets in 2010 as there is just too many question marks to expect much consistency.

Fantasy

 The roster is full of questions about injuries and inconsistency and that’s not a good sign for fantasy owners seeking Mets players.  Johan Santana remains a solid fantasy option at starting pitcher.  He isn’t going to be the best pitching option on the board anymore but still worthy of top 10 pitcher ranking.  Beltran and Reyes are generally the best fantasy options offensively but injuries have put their season numbers in doubt.    Both still should be drafted but don’t be the one to gamble for full recoveries.  Jason Bay’s success this year may hinge on Reyes and Beltran coming back to full strength, if that happens look for the entire lineup to produce, if not, all could struggle to put up numbers fantasy owners have become accustom to.  John Maine and Oliver Perez become sleepers if they put injuries and inconsistency behind them but are too risky to draft.  Closely monitoring their seasons could pay off if they go undrafted as free agents.  K-Rod (Francisco Rodriguez) has suddenly become a less then sure thing.  ERA and WHIP have been on the rise for two years and his K rate has been dropping, he also posted a horrible 6.75 earned run average after the all-star break last year.  Fantasy owners should be cautious as K-Rod is trending in the wrong way, dangerous for closers.

5. Washington Nationals  63-99

2009 Review

The record didn’t show it but the Nationals made some progress last season.  The offense improved top to bottom as they picked up a lead-off man in Nyjer Morgan mid-season and Ryan Zimmerman made strides in becoming a cornerstone franchise player.  Adam Dunn loved hitting behind Zimmerman and the Nats started improving with Morgan at the top before he broke his hand in August and spent the rest of the year on the DL.  Pitching was a huge problem as they struggled to find starters who could pitch deep into games.

2010 Preview

Washington was actually relatively aggressive (for the Nats) this off-season.  They signed C Ivan Rodriguez, closer Matt Capps, and 15 game winner Jason Marquis as free agents to help provide stability and leadership to a young Washington pitching staff.  The NL East is likely to be competitive again this year and the additions won’t be enough to put Washington in the mix but they should help.   Another key addition was the signing perhaps the most hyped #1 draft pick ever in Stephen Strasburg, the Flame-throwing starting pitching out of San Diego State.  Many wondered if the Nationals would be able to get a deal done to sign him, and it came down to the final minutes of the deadline, but they were able to work it out to the tune of a record setting $15.1 million.  Strasburg was just sent to AA but don’t look for him to be there long, his spring has shown the potential he has and it will be tough for Washington to keep him down there long.

Projected Line-up

  1. Nyjer Morgan  CF
  2. Adam Kennedy  2B
  3. Ryan Zimmerman  3B
  4. Adam Dunn  1B
  5. Josh Willingham  LF
  6. Ivan Rodriguez  C
  7. Elijah Dukes  RF
  8. Ian Desmond  SS

The offensive numbers are on the rise in Washington with a solid middle of the order forming the last two years.  Zimmerman and Dunn combined for 71 HRs and 209 RBI in 09’ and it would not surprise to see the numbers improve this year.  Morgan should provide a solid lead-off man with good on-base numbers.  Morgan and Kennedy give the Nationals impressive speed at the top of the line-up and the potential to score a lot of runs this year.  Pudge Rodriguez was brought in to help the pitching staff and assist in the development of promising young catcher Jesus Flores.  He won’t play every day but anything he brings will be a bonus to the team.  Dukes has underachieved throughout his young career and his position on the roster will be tentative.  Rookie Ian Desmond has been off to a great spring and will likely be given a chance to start everyday at shortstop.  He has hit at every level in the Minors and looks to build on his solid finish in the majors last year (.280 avg., 4 HRs 82 at-bats).  The bench is weak and thin lead by Christian Guzman who can play at short or second, provide a little insurance if Desmond struggles early.

Rotation

  1. John Lannan
  2. Jason Marquis
  3. Garrett Mock
  4. Craig Stammen
  5. Ross Detwiler

Ugh, where to begin… John Lannan has been relatively consistent in posting decent sub 4.00 ERA numbers the past two season.  Marquis comes over from Colorado after making the postseason for the 10th time in 10 years, an odd and surprising streak almost certainly to end.  He overachieved a little bit last year and it would shocking to see him win 15 games again but it was not a terrible pick-up for the pitching challenged Nationals.  Mock, Stammen, and Detwiler will have to make major strides this season for Washington to make any noise this year.  The best candidate for improvement in Garrett Mock who has posted decent minor- league numbers in his career.  Jordan Zimmermann was one of their top pitching prospects last year and showed flashes, however he will miss most of the season recovering from Tommy John surgery.  There will be plenty of competition for the final two rotation spots as Sharon Martis and Scott Olsen will challenge for roster spots although spring training has been ugly for most early this year.

Bullpen

Matt Capps looks to lock down the closer job after coming over from the Pirates in the off-season.  Stability at that spot will go a long way to filling out the rest of the pen which could be surprisingly solid.  Brian Bruney also was added for the Yankees this off-season and could combine with an improving Tyler Clippard to provide solid set-up men.  Lefty Sean Burnett was solid and looks to continue moving forward.

Fantasy

Dunn and Ryan Zimmerman bring solid power numbers to the top of their positions and should be top picks again this year.  Dunn batting average is not at the level of Zimmerman’s so at this point the third baseman should be ranked higher.  Morgan brings great speed and good average to the plate and I also see his run totals increasing.  No power and very few RBI opportunities lower his value slightly but he still has solid value in 5×5 leagues.  Desmond provides a solid sleeper pick at shortstops in NL-only leagues.  Don’t expect his minor league numbers right away but you should monitor his progress as the season goes on.  Pitching options are thin in Washington.  Lannan will bring decent ERA numbers but offers little else and nothing in the strikeout department (89 Ks in 208 IP).  Capps might be worth a late round pick but don’t reach for an iffy closer on a team they will struggle to win 65 games.

Al East Preview

March 21, 2010

AL EAST PREVIEW (by Tim Sluga)

 

With the new season mere weeks away the American League East, known for big budgets to go along with the big names that preside over it, is preparing to yet again be the division that boasts the World Champion. Two of the marquee franchises, The New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox both made big plays in the off-season in the baseball equivalent of the cold war. Upstarts, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, hope to turn their young talent and back to back solid seasons, as well as a World Series birth two years ago, into a household name. Perennial bottom feeders, the Baltimore Orioles, hope to use a dearth of young talent and arms to climb the ladder a little bit, and finally, the Toronto Blue Jays most likely will begin their build to the future.

New York Yankees

What is there to say about this team that hasn’t been said? They were 2009 MLB champs amid a torrid line-up that produced a major league best 915 runs, nearly 30 more than any other team in baseball. Mark Texiera and CC Sabathia, the two major free agent acquisitions prior to last season, along with AJ Burnett, added enough firepower to this powerhouse to take it all the way back to where the brass think it belongs, on top.

2010 looks to be more of the same from this team. Gone is the clubhouse leader Johnny Damon, as well as powerful DH Hideki Matsui, two players who factored big into the teams run, though Damon’s power numbers were a slight aberration. In their stead, they acquired Curtis Granderson, a solid defensive center fielder who albeit had a career low in AVG. last season, still plugs up the rest of the offensive stat categories, as well as can steal some bags and has a history of being able to score a lot of runs. They also brought in Nick Johnson, along with his getting on base at a .400 clip, and strike-out machine Javier Vasquez, into their rotation for the second time in his career. Besides maybe Damon’s leadership and the extent of it in a clubhouse with guys like Jeter, Texiera and Yankee staple, Andy Pettitte, there is no reason to think there will be any drop-off by the team this year and they are more than poised at a repeat.

The line-up should yet again be a run producing machine, very similar to last year’s squad.

  1. Curtis Granderson – CF
  2. Derek Jeter- SS
  3. Mark Texiera – 1B
  4. Alex Rodriguez – 3B
  5. Nick Johnson – DH
  6. Robinson Cano – 2B
  7. Nick Swisher – RF
  8. Jorge Posada – C
  9. Brett Gardener – LF

 

In A-Rod, and Granderson, they have two of the top five run scorers in the past three seasons. Power reigns supreme throughout the whole group and there are going to be plenty of guys to be knocked in with a group of guys who have traditionally high on-base numbers. Pitching around anyone here is near impossible since there is really no easy out, except maybe the unproven Gardener, who has not helped his stock with a slow spring training thus far. Still, with what they lost in aging players like Damon and Matsui they more have made up with in the acquisition of the younger impact player Granderson, and oft-injured, but productive Nick Johnson.

Injuries should be a bit of a concern to this team. They do have veteran, Randy Winn, a decent player for the Giants, Mariners and Rays, for more than a decade as a fourth outfield option, but many positions aren’t too deep beyond the starters.

The pitching staff this year also looks very much like last season, at least up top.

CC Sabathia

AJ Burnett

Andy Pettitte

Javier Vasquez

Sabathia, a yearly favorite in the CY-young race, is looking to compound on top of last seasons monster 19 win year. He nearly topped the 200k mark again and didn’t at all collapse under what some thought was over usage the season before when he carried the Brewers through their play-off run. Behind him you have horses AJ Burnett and Javier Vasquez who barring injuries (which Burnett has had problems with earlier in his career) can both log tons of innings, as well as strike-out a lot of batters. The interesting thing is to see if Vasquez, can pitch anywhere near as effectively as he did last season with the Braves, the best of his career finishing with an ERA under 3, as well as a nearly 5 to 1 K/BB ratio.

The biggest question at this point is who will be the fifth starter for this squad. Joba Chamberlin and Phil Hughes have both done little this spring to show they deserve the spot, as well as what has been a couple of strong outings by Sergio Mitre to put himself in the lead.

The bullpen should again benefit from having starters who can go deep regularly, as well as the most effective closer in history still pitching strong as he gets older. There will be some depth in the long relief position, with the losers of the fifth starter battle for sure making it into the pen, and both Hughes and Chamberlin having set-up experience, also in the past. You can include Chad Gaudin, a former starter for the A’s as well as a lock in the pen. Beyond that, like was stated, Rivera is still sitting on that bench waiting to close, and even go two innings if needed. You can’t be more comfortable than that.

The main prospect to keep an eye on is most likely Jesus Montrero, a catching prospect with a big bat that could be ready to step in if either Posada goes down, or his bat goes cold. He’s been hitting well over .300 in the minors, as well as is a deep ball threat, yes; just what this Yankees line-up needs another of. Of anyone who has a chance of coming up this season, he’s the best shot of being an impact player.

For fantasy baseball fans, this team is a goldmine of talent. Where do you start? A-Rod as the best 3rd base option, a career .300 guy who will hit you somewhere in the mid 30’s at least in homeruns, get on base at a near .400 pop, knock in a 100 runs, score at least that many and then for fun steal a couple of bases.

You have just as much productivity without the steals from 1st basemen Mark Texiera. The only thing that affects his value even a little is a pretty deep fantasy first base position.

Granderson, besides scoring a ton of runs, should provide some decent power numbers from the center field position. Also in a league that includes triples he’ll most likely be in the league leaders in that category. The biggest issue with him is to see how he bounces back from the .50 point drop in batting average last season.

On top of that, you have Jeters .300 average and run scoring ability, Posadas power from behind the plate and Cano’s rise into one of the top 2nd basemen, last season hitting .320 with 25 homers and over a hundred runs scored himself.

Let’s not forget pitching. Sabathia and Vasquez should both be 200k threats, with Burnett not far behind. With the run production each of these guys should have double digit wins and with Sabathia you’ll get a WHIP down under 1.20 and one of the leagues top ERA’s. In the pen, you don’t get more solid than Rivera who will, in a “bad” season, get you in the mid 30’s of saves as well as convert most opportunities. He K’s a guy an inning and keeps runners off base for the most part. There aren’t many better options than him.

 

Predicition: 102 – 60

I think they win 100 again. Will that be enough? That remains to be seen with a powerful Boston team. But there’ll be no drop off here, barring a catastrophic injury or two, or a tactical nuclear strike, they should be as good a threat as any to win it all again this year.

Boston Red Sox

 

                2009 for this Red Sox club ended in the bitterest way possible. Swept out of the ALDS by the Los Angeles Angels, the two year removed champs found themselves losing a mid-season lead in their tough division and stumbling into the play-offs. Behind what for the most part was solid pitching, the offense was just not able to give any real support until the deciding game, and they were left with the off-season to try and remedy that situation.

The biggest impact the Red Sox made this past off-season was in acquiring John Lackey, the solid starter formerly of the aforementioned LA Angels. In this move they pretty much assured themselves of having the most complete starting rotation in the majors. They didn’t, however, exactly make a splash on the offensive front. Losing run producing outfielder Jason Bay to the New York Mets, their main free agent acquisitions were streaky veteran Mike Cameron and solid shortstop, Marco Scutaro. They also added declining (or underachieving, whichever you prefer) third baseman, Adrian Beltre, to shore them up defensively, as well as see if there is any pop left in his bat.

They hope to pick up much of what left with Bay, behind a resurgent Victor Martinez and hoping David Ortiz can repeat the second half of last season. If they can manage to score runs, a very deep core of starters, along with a strong bullpen and dominant closer can give them a clear chance of improving past last years team.

There are a few questions as to how streaky this offense is going to be, but the pieces are in place to be able to score some runs and with consistency be a dominant AL club.

  1. Jacoby Ellsbury – CF
  2. Dustin Pedroia – 2B
  3. Victor Martinez – C
  4. Kevin Youkilis – 1B
  5. David Ortiz – DH
  6. Adrian Beltre – 3B
  7. JD Drew – RF
  8. Mike Cameron – LF
  9. Marco Scutaro – SS

 

Two things must take place with this offense to keep pace with the Yankees. Ortiz has to swing enough of a bat to protect Youkilis, who most likely behind Martinez in the order will be expected to be the biggest run producer. Also, Cameron needs to be less transparent than he was at times while playing with Milwaukee. It seemed that occasionally he’d be mired in slumps negating what kind of power numbers he can possibly put up.

                J.D. Drew, while still productive when he is able to play is going to get pushed a bit, and with young power prospect Josh Reddick and perennial underachiever in Florida, Jeremy Hermida, both having hot springs, there could be some competition in the outfield this season.

                This added depth in the outfield, along with Sox mainstay and former starting catcher Jason Varitek, and veterans Mike Lowell and Bill Hall, keep injuries from being too big of a deal. The amount of depth should also keep players at a higher level, knowing if they struggle this isn’t a team who will have to roll the dice with unproven guys.

                The obvious strength of this ball club is the arms, particularly the starters.

                Jon Lester

                Josh Beckett

                John Lackey

                Daisuke Matsuzaka

                Clay Bucholz

                One through three might be the strongest staff in baseball. Lester, with back to back huge seasons has broken out and looks to be the leader of this rotation. Just coming into his prime, he’s thrown for over 200 innings each of the past two seasons, winning a total of 31 games in the process. Also he was chosen as the game 1 starter in the ALDS series against the Angels. He’s a powerful lefty, who last season turned himself into one of the elite K pitchers in the American League.

                Directly behind him you have Josh Beckett and John Lackey, a pair of righties who keep runners off the base paths and can for the most part be counted on to take the mound every five days. Both are two years removed from their personal best win seasons, yet are nowhere near showing signs of slowing down and leaving teams with no room to relax when playing this club.

                The back end of this rotation is where things get a little tricky. Daisuke Matsuzaka is hoping to be able to bounce back from injury last season, which is keeping him progressing slowly this spring. He’s proven he can win, as well as strike a lot of guys out, however also has shown a propensity to get himself in trouble by letting guys on base, especially with walks. There really wasn’t a point when he pitched last season when he looked very good, so there’ll be some pressure on him to get back to his old form.

                Clay Bucholz should round out everything, though a question mark as to what version of him we’ll see. He did finish last season on a 4-1 mark with a 2.87 ERA, but inconsistency has been the name of the game for him. He’s managed to find his way back to the minors a few times but at 25 the team isn’t too worried…yet.

                The depth of this team also shows in their bullpen. In front of stud closer, Jonathan Papelbon (remember when he wanted to start a few seasons back?) there are Red Sox mainstays Manny Delcarmen and Hideki Okajima. Both have been solid and dependable for the most part. They should get some middle inning help from hard throwing Daniel Bard, who averaged 11.5 k’s per 9 innings last year. Some lefty veteran presence was brought in with specialist Brian Shouse, as well as there being some long relief and possible sixth starter with Tim Wakefield. 

                The Red Sox, much like the Yankees, are a team with very little to look for in the sleeper or prospect department this season. Josh Reddick has swung a hot bat this spring and may be poised to earn himself a roster spot in the bigs right now. Unfortunately, they really don’t need him with the outfield depth and might do better letting him get regular at bats in AAA. If he does get a shot, however, he has the poise and the pop to make this team happy.

                For fantasy purposes, this roster is all over the board. Victor Martinez, who can very easily be a .300/30/100 guy, may be a tad bit unsung at the catcher position with Joe Mauer overshadowing him. He’s a top 2 or 3 round pick, but could possibly get a little overlooked.

                Kevin Youkilis is another guy who is going to put up pretty much the same power numbers, along with walking a lot and should have an on base of near or over .400.

                In Jacoby Ellsbury, you’re going to sacrifice power, but there might not be a better base stealer in the game right now. Without a doubt, He’ll be near the top of total stolen bases this season, and for fun you can hand him a .300 average and 200 hits. He even knocked in 60 runs last season which isn’t a ton, but for a guy with less than ten homeruns and found himself at the top of the order quite a bit, that’s not bad.

                On the pitching front, take your pick. None of these guys are the kind of guys you’ll take in the first couple of rounds, but once Lincecum, Hernandez and Halladay are gone, Lester becomes a much stronger option. He and Beckett are both guys who constitute a strong top fantasy pitcher and will most likely give you double digit wins, 200 or so K’s and ERA’s in the mid to low 3’s. The only thing that keeps Lackey a few rounds behind them is the fact he won’t K very many batters.
                Matsuzaka could be a bit of a sleeper coming off of injury. It remains to be seen how strong he comes back, which could make him slip. This could very well leave him as a late round gem with an 18 win season under his belt two years ago, as well as having k’d 200 batters in the past.

                Papelbon is going to do what Papelbon does. Expect 40 saves, an ERA under 2 and a WHIP near 1. With Joe Nathan injured and not looking like he’ll be around, he should be right up with Broxton and Rivera as the top closing options this season.

Prediciton: 98 – 64

                I just don’t see this team being that much different from last season. They’re a couple of wins better and I think do have enough firepower to make up for Jason Bay’s departure, but, and don’t get me wrong since 98 wins is still impressive, they’re still behind the Yankees. And while the Yankees do have a couple questions, the Red Sox have more and ultimately I think a bit of inconsistency on the offensive end is going to cost them some games. Still the second best team in the AL East, but I think may see some competition for the wild card, possibly from the team below them last season, the Tampa Bay Rays, as well as other improved clubs like Seattle and Texas.

Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays

2009 will be known as the season which brought this team back to earth. In 2008 they came seemingly out of nowhere to win this brutal division and make a run into the World Series, only to get beaten by another team on the rise, the Philadelphia Phillies. They came into the year with high hopes, young but established players like Evan Longoria and BJ Upton looked to spark this team to yet another year battling for the American League crown, alas, it was not to be. A slow start as well as a glut of underperformers kept them under .500 for the first half of the season, and a strong second half wasn’t enough to catch the behemoths in New York and Boston who were too far ahead to be caught as they battled each other.

Coming into 2010, not much has changed with this roster, though down one of their top pitchers, Scott Kazmir, who they dealt to the Angels near the deadline last season, they have added Rafael Soriano, the K machine from the Atlanta Braves to hopefully close games for them this season, shoring up a weak pen. Other than that a lot of the emphasis is going to be again on the younger players keeping this ship afloat, as well as some underachievers from last season stepping up their game, especially pitcher David Price.

                If they start anything like they did last season, to move up prospects from their vaunted farm system, they could be moving guys like powerhouse Carlos Pena and all around, yet oft injured star, Carl Crawford.

                This spring has shown what the team hopes they can count on from its roster the entire season, run production to supplement a sometimes shaky staff.

Based on some of what’s transpired this spring, there may be some changes and tough decisions last minute to how the Rays approach opening day, though as of now it looks like the line-up will be in this ballpark.
                1. Jason Bartlett – SS

                2. Carl Crawford – LF

                3. Evan Longoria – 3B

                4. Carlos Pena – 1B

                5. Ben Zobrist – 2B

                6. BJ Upton – CF

                7. Pat Burrell – DH

                8. Matt Joyce – RF

                9. Dioner Navarro – C

                This team has been pretty much nominated Evan Longoria’s team, though there are some other impact players who help to shape this line-up. Carlos Pena is always a deep threat, who even though limited to fewer than 500 at-bats last season because of injury, went deep 39 times. He’s having a terrible time getting the bat on the ball this spring, however, so it remains to be seen how much stock they put in him and for how long. Pat Burrell, however has seemed to turn over some of his woes and be hitting better than he did last season, at $8 million this season they need to see more production out of him because there won’t be many takers.

                Two players this team needs to stay healthy and play well to compete are speedsters Carl Crawford and BJ Upton. Together, they make one of the most efficient base running tandems in the majors, unfortunately there are situations that could hinder both.

                If the team starts slow this year, with Crawford being a looming free agent with a big payday on the horizon (as well as a favorite of Yankees GM, Brian Cashman) he could find himself in the midst of trade rumors the entire season. A lot of what he’s able to accomplish is going to depend on how he handles that, as well as staying on the field. Last season he did again play 156 games, tied with his career most in 2005, though in 2007 and 2008 he did miss games due to injury.

                Upton is a whole different animal all together. He’s been benched a few times in his career for being lazy or not into games, which doesn’t bode well for young players. Also, he’s found himself in a downward trend in just about all of his categories on offense though his at-bats have gone up. He had a 2007 season that made him one of the most promising up and comers in the bigs but has faltered and last season found himself with a career low average of .247 and an OBP 70 points below his career which is a killer for a guy who is a threat to steal every time he gets on base.

                A big plus this year should be compiling on the emergence of Ben Zobrist last season who couldn’t find a position to play every day. It looks as if he’ll be their full time second baseman and be one of the most prolific offensive players at that position if he can keep with the way he hit last year. Nearly a .300 average, 27 homeruns and 91 RBI made him one of the top offensive players on the team, along with only getting 500 at-bats. His .405 OBP didn’t hurt either, so he’s going to be an essential piece to this team going forward.

                The pitching staff this year is going to need to answer a lot of questions as to how well this team finishes.

                James Shields

                Matt Garza

                David Price

                Jeff Niemann

                Wade Davis

                Always an inning eater, James Shields looks to lead this staff again going into this season. His effectiveness is questionable, however, as he rode a 4.14 ERA into a sub .500 record last year. A 3/1 K/BB ratio plays in his favor, but the question still exists if he’s really a guy who can lead a staff.

                Middle role guys Jeff Niemann and Matt Garza are both riding strong 09 seasons into strong outings this spring. Both pitchers ended last season with ERAs fewer than 4 and in the case of Niemann, finally realizing some of the potential that made him a 4th overall pick in 04.

                Garza is particularly intriguing, he had low run support last season, which is more the cause of his 8-12 record than anything else. By the time this season is in full swing, he could very well be the leader of this staff.

                Two big question marks remain on the young starters, David Price and Wade Davis. Neither has pitched well this spring, and Price seemed to not be able to capitalize on his blazing, albeit short, showing in 07. Price and his lack of experience could still roll over into this season, something this team cannot afford if it wants to play with the big boys of the East. His showing a couple of seasons back may have proved a bit detrimental if he starts again slow this year, having thrust him forward too fast without polishing his game.

                Davis, on the other hand had a few seasons to get ready in the minors before his call-up last year, in which he delivered down the stretch including a complete game, 10K, shut-out against the Orioles. He throws hard, can strike batters out and should have to poise to possibly ascend the staff to where they hope he can be a leader in a couple of seasons. The question is how he is going to fare if they need him to pick up for anyone else who may not live up to their expectations.

                The bullpen hopes to be more consistent this season. The acquisition of power throwing Rafael Soriano, who they are saving from throwing too much along with other Tampa bullpen mainstay, JP Howell, could very well be an impact move at the closer position. After a rocky start sharing the role with Mike Gonzalez for the Braves last season, Soriano eventually took and maintained the closer role. He strikes out well more than 1 batter an inning and could be intimidating to most clubs who are trailing when he makes his appearance.

                Howell, along with Dan Wheeler, Grant Balfour and Jeff Bennett look to keep the rest of the pen stable.

                Tampa, according to Baseball America, has the best farm system in the majors. Sean Rodriguez, Justin Ruggiano and Reid Brignac are all making contributions and playing well this spring. Another strong showing to start the season in AAA will also almost guarantee we see the teams #1 prospect, outfielder Desmond Jennings, on the field sometime this season. Wade Davis is almost sure to make the rotation and Jeremy Hellickson could find himself throwing some innings in the bigs this season.

There are a lot of names to become familiar with, because if this team goes down and starts getting rid of guys, you can bank on these youngsters beginning to gain some experience in the big leagues. Something that will eventually make this team a power in the near future.

                From a fantasy perspective this team offers some interesting depth. Longoria will be the safest pick of the bunch. He’s already a big asset at 3rd base, with 30 homerun power and the ability to knock in as well as score 100 runs. He can improve his stock just a little bit by getting his average up, but his .281 last season was nothing to complain about.

                Ben Zobrist, if he can carry over his numbers from last season, is a solid pick for 2nd base. A repeat of his career best .297 avg, or anywhere in the area, along with adding 25-30 homeruns 90 more RBIs while getting himself on at a .400 clip again, he’s near the top of the list behind perennial top producer at that position, Chase Utley.

                Carl Crawford is again a top outfield choice, covering everything except power, which he’ll still get double digit homers for you. Steals, average and his run scoring ability are his strengths. If you hold off on him, you might be able to get a bargain on fellow teammate BJ Upton, however. You won’t get as many steals but he’ll be among the league leaders and has a ton of upside, it just remains to be seen if it appears again this season.

                As far as pitching goes, look for Soriano to be one of the top drafted closers this season. If he’s not, it’s a mistake. Last season he struck out 102 batters in only 75 IP and kept his WHIP near 1. Give him a chance, this year to close the whole season with JP Howell breathing down his neck, but Soriano given every opportunity to succeed and he should be in the mid 30 to higher save range.

                As far as starting pitchers, I’d say Matt Garza, who if you look has numbers comparable to undeniable Brewer ace, Yovanni Gallardo, could end up being a later round pick and come through huge. Expect him to at the very least flip his 8-12 last season to 12-8, throw in an ERA under 4 and around 200k’s.

Prediction: 82 – 80

                                Yup, I don’t see this as being much better than a .500 team. Everything about them, to me at least says there are too many questions to be answered and too much adversity to overcome this season. I really do like a lot of their younger players, but that’s just the problem, young doesn’t usually equal winning in Major League Baseball like it can in the other big sports. If they find themselves out of it early, there are going to be a lot of guys looking over their shoulder to find out what team they’ll end up with, as well as a lot being asked of an inconsistent pitching staff. They were a good story a couple of seasons ago as well as still loaded with young talent, unfortunately I don’t think that’s going to be enough.

Baltimore Orioles

 

                Not losing 100 games typically isn’t something to consider a victory, but with the second worst ERA in baseball, what has become a perennial non-performer, this Baltimore club should be thankful they somehow kept that stat under triple digits. They did however improve their streak to four straight seasons with 90 or more losses and a perfect losing decade thus far in the books.

                On the other hand, they again were able to seemingly build on some young talent already within the organization. Nick Markakis had yet another solid season, Matt Wieters, the catching “phenom” as he’s played up to be made a strong second half debut and Adam Jones, the big piece of the Erik Bedard trade with Seattle, had a particularly strong first half before injury and fatigue slowed him down.      

                This season looks to be a bit brighter for the club. Veterans Kevin Millwood, Miguel Tejada and new closer, Mike Gonzalez were all added to what looks like to be a pretty young roster to balance their respective positions. All should provide stability and leadership to a club that sorely needs it.

                The established youth hopes to keep improving behind their best young player at this point, Markakis, as well as young pitching prospects, Brian Matusz and Chris Tillman hope to make themselves household names for the club.

                For the first time in nearly a decade, there should be optimism within this franchises club house.

                The line-up, at least as it is now with Roberts going in for tests on his back should look similar to this for opening day.

  1. Brian Roberts – 2B
  2. Adam Jones – CF
  3. Nick Markakis – RF
  4. Luke Scott – DH
  5. Miguel Tejada – 3B
  6. Matt Wieters – C
  7. Lou Montanez – LF
  8. Garrett Atkins – 1B
  9. Cesar Izturis – SS

Up top, depending on how consistent Luke Scott decides to stay, or else how soon power hitting catcher Matt Wieters plays himself up in the batting order, there could be a decent amount of runs scored.

Brian Roberts, though declining in steals, by ten each of the past three seasons, is still able to get on base and has consistently scored 100+ runs. If Adam Jones can keep his left foot healthy and put up numbers in the range of the first half of last season, when healthy, he’ll provide a nice 2-3 punch along with Nick Markakis. Both players could get on base enough themselves to place three players at the top of the order scoring 100 runs apiece.

Behind them in most likely the fifth spot will be Miquel Tejada, whose power numbers have dropped in the past few seasons in Houston, though has still been able to drive the ball and hit for average. The veteran presence should be able to keep the top of this order productive.

The back end seems to drop off a bit, especially with power hitting youngster, Nolan Reimold, having a dismal spring, setting his spot right now to either be taken by unproven Lou Montanez who is having his second strong spring in a row, but was shelved due to injury once the season started last year, or the disappointment that is Felix Pie.

It’s rounded off by weak hitting, defensive shortstop Cesar Izturis, who next to Tejada will be part of a much improved defensive unit.

The pitching staff could be set for major upheaval on their end.

Kevin Millwood

Jeremy Guthrie

Brian Matusz

Brad Bergesen

Chris Tillman

The team, in the off-season traded 2008 Tommy John surgery participant and big time 2009 disappointment, Chris Ray, for aging but effective starter Kevin Millwood, who they hoped to use to head-up a very young rotation. Young arms like Chris Tillman and Brian Matusz should find themselves part of the rotation to start the season and could very well be joined by fellow youngster Jake Arrieta by the time all is said and done. This is going to leave guys like the mildly surprising Brad Bergersen (who last year complied a solid 7-5 record, with an ERA of 3.43 and WHIP of 1.28, but is not known as overpowering ), as well as one time hope and 2009 Team USA WBC starter, Jeremy Guthrie, on the outside looking in.

Guthrie is particularly intriguing, as last season he saw his numbers decline handily across the board but with a return to his 07-08 form (17-17, 3.66 ERA, 1.22 WHIP over those two season) could give this team a decent 1-2 punch.

With the amount of youth competing to most likely get shots in a team, that well, has no shot, as well as a shot in the arm from an upgraded offense, better results from last season should be expected from this rotation.

The pen, as well found some veteran presence to hopefully shore it up for a few seasons.

Mike Gonzalez was brought in after a decent season with the Braves last year, which should be noted, he did lose his closer role. He did, however post solid ERA and WHIP numbers, as well as carries an impressive strike out rate.

Mid-relief will most likely be the biggest weakness on this club with really no real improvements. Last years failed closer Jim Johnson should be a little more comfortable as a set-up man after blowing up in his closing role at the end of the season. Otherwise, the pen is mainly loaded with guys who have gained experience but haven’t done too much to stand out in their major league careers.

It’s going to be interesting to see as this season plays out as well as how hard the team wants to push their younger talent. Touted prospect, Josh Bell, behind a strong spring will most likely make the jump this summer. His power and ability to get the bat on the ball (especially against lefties) should be an asset, adding at the very least another 20 homers to the line-up. It just remains to be seen whether they decide to let him sit down in AAA long enough to keep him from being arbitration eligible for an extra year. If, or when he comes up, it’s going to be interesting to see if Tejada is moved over back to short, since Bell is a 3rd baseman, or maybe if he’ll take over the DH spot.

                Fantasy players should watch the situation with Roberts bad back play out before plugging him in as a usual top second base pick. There seems to be a little more depth in that position this year, and even if he does show up on opening day a bad back could show up in his power numbers as well as his stolen bases.

                The only real safe pick on this club, though loaded with possible sleepers, would be Markakis. He again should be a solid pick to help build an outfield around with a typical .300/20/100 season. His OBP did drop 50 points last year, but he still was able to score nearly a hundred runs and be productive in all aspects besides steals, and play everyday.

Prediction: 75 – 87

 

                When all is said and done, I think at a minimum this team goes 10 games better this year. It’s asking a lot from the pitching, which looks to be dominated by young arms, but the inclusion of Kevin Millwood to lead them should be the veteran presence that keeps them in check. Their line-up, while can be streaky at times, looks to be a little stronger and is capable of scoring runs. Enough runs that if their starters hold up their end of the deal will negate the weak mid-relief. This isn’t the terrible Baltimore team of the past decade and very well could see themselves on the rise over the next couple of years.

               

 

Toronto Blue Jays

 

                The team blazed out 27-14 record and lead in the tough AL East, only to finish 48-73 after May 18th and 28 games behind the Yankees in the division. Players like Aaron Hill and Adam Lind compiled break out years, as well as getting yet another in a string of CY Young worthy seasons by staff ace Roy Halladay, but it wasn’t enough to overshadow timely injuries, inconsistency and an overall lack of talent, to keep this team from having their worst year since 2004 and most likely closing the window on their competitiveness for the next couple of years. They finished it all off by being swept by the lowly Baltimore club to finish the season.

                The off-season produced, well, basically what the 2009 trade deadline should have produced. Halladay was shipped off to the Philadelphia Phillies for top prospects pitcher Kyle Drabek and catcher Travis D’Arnaud, as well as left fielder Michael Taylor who was immediately flipped to the A’s for infielder Brett Wallace. All three players received are pretty much intended to form part of the nucleus of the future of this club.

                Until then it’s going to be a battle to stay somewhat competitive as well as have what is a decently young team vying to cement certain positions.

                The line-up, for the most part should be very similar to last season. Though, 3B Edwin Encarnacion, due to wrist soreness may end up starting the year on the DL.

  1. Jose Bautista – RF
  2. Aaron Hill – 2B
  3. Adam Lind – DH
  4. Vernon Wells – CF
  5. Edwin Encarnacion – 3B
  6. Lyle Overbay – 1B
  7. Travis Snider – LF
  8. JP Arencibia – C
  9. Alex Gonzalez – SS

 

Too many question marks, they just stand out as you look over this order. Vernon

Wells kept up a string of disappointing years last season and this may be the last that they look on him to be a big contributor. Behind him, awaits what could be another disappointment with the perplexing Edwin Encarnacion, who at times can look like a complete package at the plate, however, most of the time fails miserably.

                Lyle Overbay has been proven and solid, though lost time in a platoon last season.

                09 all-star Aaron Hill broke out in a big way power wise, but has nothing to base that against. His 36 homers last season are 19 more than his previous career best of 17.

                Adam Lind may have the best chance at repeating what he did last year (.305/35/114) as he proved he could be a dangerous hitter in his ascent through the minors.

                JP Arencibia is having a good enough spring he should finally get his shot at starting in the big leagues, and has some solid minor league power numbers to back him up. Other youngster, Travis Snider, showed great promise in AAA, but didn’t quite bring it with him in his major league stints last season. At 22, though, he has time to improve and help this club.

                Pitching should have an interesting look this season, the first without Roy Halladay, for a long time.

                Ricky Romero

                Shaun Marcum

                Brandon Morrow

                Marc Rzepcynski

                Dana Eveland

                The more spring plays out, the more it looks like Romero is going to be throwing for these guys on opening day. He finished last season with a pretty good 13-9 record and there are no signs that he’ll regress this season. The main thing he needs to do is keep runners off base, especially giving walks. His 79 walks last season did nothing to help and he ended with a pretty rough 1.52 WHIP.

                Shaun Marcum, who had a solid 2008 season finishing with a 3.39 ERA and 1.16 WHIP, didn’t make the trip up last season after recovering from Tommy John surgery. If he can find his way back to that kind of productivity, the 1-2 punch on this team won’t be that awful and might give them some kind of hope amid what’s left.

                Injuries and inconsistency are the name of the game for the rest of this rotation. Brandon Morrow, who was serviceable, but never dominant for the Mariners, is looking to finally shore himself up as a major league starter.

                The rotation will most likely be rounded out by journeyman Dana Eveland and former valued prospect, Marc Rzepcynski.

                Depending on how things go this year, Dustin McGowan may also get another run at a spot in the rotation after being derailed by injuries the past few seasons.

                The bullpen doesn’t add much to what little hopes this team has. Kevin Gregg, recently failed closer for the Chicago Cubs has brought his style of giving up the big game winner to the fray and may compete for the closing job with Jason Fraser and Scott Downs, neither of which are really fit to close for any club.

The youth of this club should start coming into focus this season and for the next few. JP Arencibia has already played well enough this spring to earn him the starting catcher role over free agent pick-up John Buck. He may be able to hit for average from the catching position as well as has some definite pop in his bat. He could very well be an offensive leader on this club by the end of the year.

                On the pitching front Ricky Romero might very well lead this staff from the get-go and could possibly be joined later this season by Kyle Drabek for a stint.

                Barring injuries, it looks a lot like the 2011 season should be a bigger impact from the farm in season.

On fantasy matters, there are two guys I’d give a good look, with really nothing

else certain enough to waste any time on. Adam Lind should definitely be on the radar as a big producing outfielder. 30 homers should be the expectation on the low end, with an average near .300 and a candidate to score 100 as well as knock in 100 but relying a little bit more on the players around him than what he does.

                Aaron Hill should also be kept under watch depending on where you can draft him. While he has always hit for a pretty good average at second base, he’s come nowhere near those power or RBI numbers. Still, if you’re willing to take risks that can give you big upside, only Chase Utley and Ian Kinsler went deep more than Hill last season at position, as well as him having the same or better average than both and more RBIs. He could pay off big time with a repeat performance. 

Prediction: 69 – 93

               

                Ouch. This season is going to be a rough one for Jay’s fans. The nice thing, at least for some of the younger guys, is that they shouldn’t be expected to do too much. It’s going to be a season to see if some of them can play, as well as breaking down who on this roster can’t. There isn’t really much more to be said about this team other than any finish above last place can be considered a huge success and I think we’ll start getting a better picture of where they’re headed in a year or two.

Second Base Rankings

March 18, 2010
Player BA HR RBI Runs SB
1. Chase Utley 0.301 32 100 119 19
2. Ian Kinsler 0.281 30 85 108 29
3. Brian Roberts 0.293 13 69 117 33
4. Dustin Pedroia 0.31 14 78 120 18
5. Ben Zobrist 0.292 26 95 98 15
6. Robinson Cano 0.312 21 88 97 4
7. Brandon Phillips 0.271 23 96 85 26
8. Aaron Hill 0.288 23 93 95 5
9. Dan Uggla 0.257 32 93 97 3
10. Jose Lopez 0.278 24 94 83 8
11. Rickie Weeks 0.274 22 83 95 20
12. Martin Prado 0.312 10 63 90 3
13. Alberto Callaspo 0.303 9 71 86 3
14. Asdrubal Cabrera 0.287 7 69 83 15
15. Howie Kendrick 0.314 12 83 81 10
16. Placido Polanco 0.299 11 74 92 7
17. Felipe Lopez 0.281 10 67 94 9
18. Orlando Hudson 0.296 8 62 84 10
19. Chris Getz 0.276 4 49 82 36
20. Scott Sizemore 0.278 10 53 79 19

First Baseman Rankings and Projections

March 16, 2010
Player BA HR RBI Runs SB
1. Albert Pujols 0.331 41 119 106 10
2. Ryan Howard 0.27 46 139 101 2
3. Mark Teixeira 0.302 42 131 100 1
4. Prince Fielder 0.288 44 137 99 2
5. Miguel Cabrera 0.322 33 120 94 5
6. Adrian Gonzalez 0.281 39 109 93 0
7. Lance Berkman  0.287 25 95 86 6
8. Derrick Lee 0.308 26 99 93 3
9. Justin Morneau 0.279 31 115 89 0
10. Joey Votto 0.326 28 97 92 6
11. Kendry Morales 0.298 27 103 90 4
12. Billy Butler 0.303 22 103 84 1
13.  James Loney 0.293 14 92 82 7
14. Carlos Pena 0.241 41 104 85 0
15. Chris Davis 0.274 32 93 75 0
16. Paul Konerko 0.265 29 91 76 0
17. Todd Helton 0.312 14 84 79 0
18. Adam LaRoche 0.272 26 86 75 1
19. Nick Johnson 0.298 13 74 92 1
20. Aubrey Huff 0.278 22 89 81 2

Spring Is In The Air (part 2)

March 1, 2010

BE PREPARED!!

This day in age there is no excuses for not being prepared for your draft and season.  Managing a championship fantasy season isn’t an easy task, but with the information available to owners you can put yourself in a better position to do so.  Studying splits, numbers and averages other owners won’t or don’t know about can give you a huge leg up in predicting players ups and downs from season to season or month to month.  Knowing what players historically have been good first half players or slow starters and furious finishers can help you make that mid-season pick up or trade to put your team over the top.  Also, look at numbers behind the numbers.  Everyone can look at a player betting average and tell you whether the player hit well last year or not, but a players BA doesn’t always tell the whole story.  Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP) measures the “luck” factor players encountered during the season by computing a  players batting average when he puts the ball in the field of play.  Knowing this number can be important in determining whether a player had an unlucky year and if its reasonable to expect a rebound or if the player had and extremely high BABIP and we can expect the players numbers to drop slightly.  The average number for hitters is right around the .290 mark, looking for players way above that (Joey Votto .372, David Wright .394 and Chris Couglan .365) or way below that mark (Jermaine Dye .269, Carlos Quentin .223 and Geovany Soto .251) could be the key to finding the next break out performance.

THE SEASON DOESNT END AT THE DRAFT

While the draft is a very important part of the fantasy season, it doesn’t spell the end of your team if you had a poor draft, and conversely, it does not mean you will walk to a title with a strong draft.  The Major League season is every part of 6 months long and during the course of those months, so much can happen to players and teams that forces the fantasy player to be on his toes almost daily.  Watching the free agent lists is the first and most important tool a good fantasy owner must utilize.  Keeping up with players off to hot starts or players taking over for injured regulars, to players finally getting to play full-time, a savvy fantasy player can make several moves during the season to improve his team.  Marking players of special interest before the season and watching their playing time and statistics can pay off huge in the long run.  Watching hyped prospect Tommy Hanson was  a good idea last year as he tore up AAA ball fantasy owners waiting and watching for the Braves to finally call up their stud in waiting were rewarded nicely last year.  Likewise owners who waited for the early season struggles of Ricky Nolasco, Troy Tulowitzki and Lance Berkman were rewarded with discounted prices.  Just as important as waiting and catching the next hot streak or stud rookie can be an owners ability to give up on a lost season from a high draft pick or auction priced player.  Jumping off the bandwagon early of players like Alfonso Soriano, Corey Hart, Jose Reyes, Garrett Atkins and many others probably saved a good deal of owners fantasy seasons.  While its hard to determine which of these players will bounce back and which of them will continue to struggle all season can be difficult, some of the risks can be cut down by using some common sense rationale.  Players at fantasy shallow positions like catcher and shortstop are difficult to give up on early in the season because there simply isn’t many options behind the top of the lists to help put up better numbers at that position.  Starting pitching is always at a premium and while there are always lots of replacement options who can ride weeks to months long hot streaks not watching for struggling players to return or turn it around can cost you big time at the end of the season.  Players who remembered Chris Carpenter had a non throwing arm injury, or watching Nolasco return from the minor leagues were rewarded with very strong second halves.  Players injuring vital body parts to their fantasy strengths should be easier to drop than a player just in a cold spell.  Take Reyes for example.  Speed is the name of his game and with him severely injuring his hamstring (an already dangerous and unpredictable recovery injury) it did not speak well for his return for the 2009 season.  Same goes with pitchers with injures to their pitching arms.  It may be listed as shoulder soreness or elbow weakness, but these are not good signs for pitchers labeled to only be missing a few weeks or months.  Only studs like the Halladays’, Sabathias’ and the Harens’ are worth the wait on mysterious injuries that could linger on.  Also, players who play in deep fantasy positions like outfield and first and third base can be more easily dropped and picked up from the free agent lists.  Your more likely to be able to replace a slumping players stats in the outfield than you are at shortstop or second base.  You are also more likely to retain that player if he hits the waiver wire and can become lost in the sea of players performing at his level or even slightly above.

EXPERIENCE IS KING

While all these tips can be helpful and even lead you to a fantasy championship, it takes time and experience to know when to make the moves and who to move them for.  If your new to the fantasy world my advice would be get into lots of different free leagues with lots of different formats and study what your strengths are and what you may need to improve.  Also, make note of what worked for the teams that won your league. Many sites also offer free mock drafts to help players get a feel for when players are being drafted.  Participating in several of these will give owners a feel of when they need to make a move for the pitching they desire or which sleepers will still be available in round 12.  Knowing these trends will  payoff big time during the draft and may save you from drafting a player too soon or missing out on your chance to get the player you really covet.  Using all the tools at your disposal will give you a competitive advantage over most of the other owners in your league and in turn will provide you with a better overall fantasy experience.

Take these tips with you into the next season and come back in the next days and weeks to look at more in-depth and ranking specific advice for the upcoming season from Fantasy Sports Donkey!