Saturday, March 28, 2009

2009 MLB Preview pt. 2



1. Boston Red Sox

1. Jacoby Ellsbury CF
2. Dustin Pedroia 2B
3. David Ortiz DH
4. Kevin Youkilis 1B
5. Jason Bay LF
6. J.D Drew RF
7. Mike Lowell 3B
8. Jason Varitek C
9. Jed Lowrie SS

1. Josh Beckett
2. Jon Lester
3. Daisuke Matsuzaka
4. Brad Penny
5. Tim Wakefield

1. Justin Masterson
2. Hideki Okajima
C. Jonathan Papelbon

Key Player: Jacoby Ellsbury
BBB Off-season Ranking: 1st of 14 in AL
Analysis: Ladies and gentleman, I present to you Major League Baseball's best team in 2009. People seem to be slightly down on the Sox this year (including Boston Sports Guy Bill Simmons) and I am not quite sure why. When I look at this team, I see the closest thing the 2009 season has to perfection. Would you like to hear their POTENTIAL weaknesses? Here goes: Jacoby Ellsbury, End of the rotation guys like Brad Penny and Tim Wakefield. Would you like to hear their almost undeniable strengths? Here goes: everything else. This team is stacked and not just in terms of the talent on the field. Don't get me wrong the on-field talent is excellent as well, but it almost doesn't mean anything if you don't have an organization that is dedicated to winning from the top to the bottom. The Red Sox have that and more. The talent is there, the attitude is there and the intelligence is there. We are talking about a potential 100-win season here as far as I'm concerned.

2. Tampa Bay Rays

1. Akinori Iwamura 2B
2. B.J Upton CF
3. Carlos Pena 1B
4. Evan Longoria 3B
5. Carl Crawford LF
6. Pat Burrell DH
7. Matt Joyce RF
8. Dioner Navarro C
9. Jason Bartlett SS

1. James Shields
2. Scott Kazmir
3. Matt Garza
4. David Price
5. Andy Sonanstine

1. Grant Balfour
2. J.P Howell
C. Dan Wheeler

Key Player: Evan Longoria
BBB Off-season Ranking: 5th of 14 in AL
Analysis: The Rays are almost a different case entirely from the Red Sox. They have just as much talent as the Sawx do, if not more (that was not a typo; the Tampa Bay Rays may actually be more talented than the Boston Red Sox) but the intangibles seem a bit off. The baseball season is a long, tortuous grind and the Rays really squeezed every bit of juice out of last season as they could. They were a young team, unaccustomed to success battling for their very lives every day deep into October. Common baseball sense dictates that they are due for a letdown this year if only because they are emotionally, mentally and physically exhausted. I saw it happen first hand to the 2006 and 2008 Indians. Young teams just have a hard time bouncing back from big seasons like that. So what makes the 2009 Rays different? God, just LOOK at that team! Longoria and Pena could hit 40 homers each. Their line-up is so young, so fast, so athletic and so freaking balanced. And pound for pound, I think they have the best rotation in baseball. The bullpen is a bit of a question mark but bullpens always are. I think the Rays make the playoffs by the very skin of their teeth.

3. New York Yankees

1. Johnny Damon LF
2. Derek Jeter SS
3. Mark Teixeira 1B
4. Alex Rodriguez 3B
5. Hideki Matsui DH
6. Jorge Posada C
7. Xavier Nady RF
8. Robinson Cano 2B
9. Brett Gardner CF

1. CC Sabathia
2. Chien Ming Wang
3. A.J Burnett
4. Andy Pettite
5. Joba Chamberlain

1. Edwar Ramirez
2. Damaso Marte
C. Mariano Rivera

Key Player: A.J Burnett
BBB Off-season Rankings: 3rd of 14 in AL
Analysis: So what does $430 million buy the Yankees? Third place in the division. To be fair, the Yankees are playing in what be the most competitive division of the decade but even with all their talent, they cannot win it. The Yankees may have fixed many of their problems and they may have just as much talent as any team in baseball but they also have more baggage, distractions and pressure than any team in baseball. Assembling baseball teams is a little more complex than paying a player to play a position you don't have filled yet. And when you overpay for that position you take away motivation. Just sweep your eyes over the Yanks line-up real quick. Think very hard about what players on that line-up you would want on your favorite team. Johnny Damon? Too old. Derek Jeter? Not a Shortstop anymore. A-Rod? Injured, insane and overpaid. Jorge Posada? Injured and old. Hideki Matsui? Injured, old and can't play anything other than DH. Brett Gardner? Not a starter. That leaves Robinson Cano, if he can get over himself; Xavier Nady, if you can suffer his poor fielding; and Mark Teixeira if you can afford him and don't mind having an emotionless cyborg in your clubhouse. Sure, their rotation is a lot better this year but it still isn't nearly as good as either the Rays or the Sox and those teams didn't have to pay an arm and a leg for their pitchers. I am also mystified that in their trillion-dollar spending spree, they forgot to pick up another bullpen arm who can achieve an ERA under 5.00. Call me a hater if you want, New York, but I am hard-pressed to believe that the Yankees will be any better than they were last year.

4. Toronto Blue Jays

1.Aaron Hill 2B
2. Adam Lind LF
3. Alexis Rios RF
4. Vernon Wells CF
5. Lyle Overbay 1B
6. Scott Rolen 3B
7. Travis Snider DH
8. Rod Barajas C
9. John McDonald SS

1. Roy Halladay
2. David Purcey
3. Jesse Litsch
4. Casey Janssen
5. Dustin McGowan

1. Jason Frasor
2. Brian Tallet
C. B.J Ryan

Key Player: Alexis Rios
BBB Off-season Ranking: 11th of 14 in AL
Analysis: Oh boy, does it look ugly in Toronto....and I don't just mean those hideous chrome jerseys. The payroll is getting pretty bloated and what do they have to show for it? Not much. I am at as much of a loss over Alex Rios and Vernon Wells poor performance as the Blue Jays. They do not have a good offense to begin with and Rios and Wells falling off the map only compounds matters. They don't even have their solid rotation to make up for the lack of hitting this year. And for the record: I think their pitching was overrated last year. So what should they do with a bad team,mediocre farm system in an un-winnable division. I am sorry to say it, but I think it time to start this thing over. Ricciardi, you tried hard but it didn't work out. You need to turn this ship around. The core of your team has been misjudged and you do not have a strong foundation to stand on. It is time to blow the thing up.

5. Baltimore Orioles

1. Brian Roberts 2B
2. Melvin Mora 3B
3. Nick Markakis RF
4. Aubrey Huff 1B
5. Adam Jones CF
6. Luke Scott DH
7. Ryan Freel LF
8. Matt Wieters C
9. Cesar Izturis SS

1. Jeremy Guthrie
2. Mark Hendrickson
3. Koji Uehara
4. Radahmes Liz
5. Rich Hill

1. Jim Johnson
2. George Sherrill
C. Chris Ray

Key Player: Koji Uehara
BBB Off-season Ranking: 6th of 14 in AL
Analysis: Speaking of blowing the thing up.... Last year the Orioles finally made the correct decision to rebuild with the hope of contending in a hopefully easier division a few years down the line. I am happy to report that the decision seems to be paying off. I think some of the position players they have in the Bigs are the real deal. Brian Roberts is legit, Adam Jones shows real potential and Matt Wieters is on his way. Then there is Nick Markakis who is the most underrated young player in baseball, but won't be for long. If they had any semblance of a pitching staff, I might even like them to finish 4th or even 3rd this year, but they aren't quite there yet. If they continue to collect a garrison of young pitchers through the draft and develop them well enough, the Orioles could be contenders in as early as two years from now. I am a big Andy MacPhail fan right now. The Blue Jays should pay attention to what he is doing because they will have to rebuild too in a year or two.


1. Cleveland Indians

1. Grady Sizemore CF
2. Mark DeRosa 3B
3. Travis Hafner DH
4. Victor Martinez C
5. Jhonny Peralta SS
6. Shin Soo Choo RF
7. Ryan Garko 1B
8. Ben Francisco LF
9. Asdrubal Cabrera 2B

1. Cliff Lee
2. Fausto Carmona
3. Carl Pavano
4. Scott Lewis
5. Anthony Reyes

1. Jensen Lewis
2. Rafael Perez
C. Kerry Wood

Key Player: Travis Hafner
BBB Off-season Ranking: 2nd of 14 in AL
Analysis: Call me a homer, I don't care. The Indians are the deepest team in a very winnable Central. The line-up is a nice blend of vets and young, core-type guys. Barring a Travis Hafner renaissance, I don't think anyone will hit more than 25 homers in this line-up. But they are built in such a way that grinders like Sizemore (one of baseball's best young players) and DeRosa can produce runs at the top of the line-up. The bullpen has also gone from being a weakness to being as close to a sure thing as a volatile beast like a bullpen can be. The rotation is the biggest question but I truly believe that Cliff Lee will be CLIFF LEE again this year, inspiring and pushing his fellow hurlers to be better. I can't say that Pavano and Aaron Laffey/Lewis as a #4 and #5 doesn't make me nervous though. All in all the Tribe has the talent to contend and the organizational depth to ensure that they continue to contend.

2. Minnesota Twins

1. Denard Span LF
2. Alexi Casilla 2B
3. Joe Mauer C
4. Justin Morneau 1B
5. Michael Cuddyer RF
6. Joe Crede 3B
7. Jason Kubel DH
8. Carlos Gomez CF
9. Nick Punto SS

1. Scott Baker
2. Francisco Liriano
3. Nick Blackburn
4. Glen Perkins
5. Kevin Slowey

1. Pat Neshek
2. Craig Breslow
C. Joe Nathan

Key Player: Denard Span
BBB Off-season Ranking: 10th of 14 in AL
Analysis: This is a nice, balanced team. But it isn't without its questions. Is Michael Cuddyer still Michael Cuddyer? If not, can Delmon Young and Jason Kubel be legitimate power threats? Is the rotation really as good as it was last year? Will Denard Span's production fall off? The thing of it is, however, even if half of these questions are unfavorable, the Twins will still be in good shape. That's the nice thing about establishing a baseball organization the right way. Win or lose, the team will be hungry and they will play to the best of their abilities. I think the Twinkies fall off a bit from last year. Let's face it: they over-performed and are bound to come back down to Earth. But if Ron Gardenhire keeps the kids focused and playing hard (and he always does) they can grind out a 2nd place finish and maybe even a playoff appearance.

3. Kansas City Royals

1. Coco Crisp CF
2. MikeAviles SS
3. David DeJesus LF
4. Jose Guillen RF
5. Mike Jacobs 1B
6. Billy Butler DH
7. Alex Gordon 3B
8. Miguel Olivo C
9. Alberto Callaspo 2B

1. Gil Meche
2. Zack Greinke
3. Brian Bannister
4. Kyle Davies
5. Luke Hochevar

1. Kyle Farnsworth
2. Juan Cruz
C. Joakim Soria

Key Player: Luke Hochevar
Off-season Ranking: 8th of 14 in AL
Analysis: Here is your trendy Tampa-esque sleeper pick for the 2009 season. I am in agreement with the majority that K.C will take a giant leap forward this year, but I don't think it is a 2nd or 1st in the AL Central type step forward. But it IS a legitimate step forward and not a random aberration like the 2003 Royals (seriously, how random was that?). This line-up is young, fast and balanced. And that is the first step I look at when looking for a potential break-out team (see: Rays, Tampa Bay; Orioles, Baltimore). Finally, Alex Gordon doesn't have to worry about being "the guy" and can just be "Alex Gordon, Thirdbaseman, batting 6th or 7th in line-up." But my enthusiasm kind of tempers off a bit when I look at their rotation. Gil Meche has done the near-impossible and has earned the $55 million he is being paid and can even be called a legitimate Ace. Zack Greinke is dynamite as well. But after that.....meh. I used to be a big Brian Bannister guy, but after last year: who knows? Kyle Davies was probably a mirage and Luke Hochevar has been fairly worthless so far as a big-leaguer. The bullpen looks decent enough but lacks the young, nondescript guys that the prototypical surprise playoff team has. Of course, Joakim Soria is pitching the 9th, so there is always hope. KC will be much better but I don't see them making the playoffs. Although I did have a funny feeling about Tampa Bay last year and ended up picking them third as well, so theirs always a chance...

4. Detroit Tigers

1. Curtis Granderson CF
2. Placido Polanco 2B
3. Miguel Cabrera 1B
4. Magglio Ordonez RF
5. Carlos Guillen LF
6. Gary Sheffield DH
7. Brandon Inge 3B
8. Ramon Santiago SS
9. Gerald Laird C

1. Justin Verlander
2. Armando Galaraga
3. Jeremy Bonderman
4. Edwin Jackson
5. Dontrelle Willis

1. Joel Zumaya
2. Fernando Rodney
C. Brandon Lyon

Key Player: Justin Verlander
BBB Off-season Ranking: 4th of 14 in AL
Analysis: This could be a big uh-oh season for the Tigers. Either they had poor chemistry last season which lead to a flukey failure. Or they severely misjudged the quality of their core and have to start from scratch. I am guessing that the "uh-oh" will come to fruition. This team is starting to look pretty old, pretty overpaid and pretty bad. Everyone in the line-up is out of position and everyone is on the downside of his career aside from Curtis Granderson and Miguel Cabrera. The bullpen still sucks, possibly worse so than last season. The only hope that the Tigers have going into their 2009 is their rotation. I see Verlander bouncing back, Galaraga maintaining excellence and Edwin Jackson establishing himself as a #3 or #4 starter. But Bonderman, Willis and Robertson are all pretty much toast. So the real question becomes: can the ancient, bloated line-up happen into enough runs to help out Verlander/Galaraga/Jackson? I am going to guess: no.

5. Chicago White Sox

1. Jerry Owens CF
2. Alexei Ramirez SS
3. Carlos Quentin LF
4. Jim Thome DH
5. Jermaine Dye RF
6. Paul Konerko 1B
7. A.J Pierzynski C
8. Josh Fields 3B
9. Chris Getz 2B

1. Mark Buerhle
2. Gavin Floyd
3. John Danks
4. Clayton Richard
5. Bartolo Colon

1. Octavio Dotel
2. Scott Linebrink
C. Bobby Jenks

Key Player: Clayton Richard
BBB Off-season Ranking: 13th of 14 in AL
Analysis: This is my ballsiest pick of the off-season. The White Sox will go from 1st to worst in the AL Central. There is some talent to be had on this team. Carlos Quentin terrifies haunts-me-in-my-nightmares-terrifies me. I don't want my Tribe pitchers having to pitch to a 40-homer threat for the next decade or so. But every one else in that line-up is pretty tame. Kenny and Ozzie wanted to get more athletic. I think they just confused athletic for "worse." They have no one to play CF and no one to lead off. I don't like any of their 2B options and who knows how Ramirez will handle shortstop (although I like him at #2 in their line-up). Thome, Dye and Konerko are all done, they just don't know it yet. And no one from #5-9 in the line-up is close to anything what I would describe as athletic. The bullpen is due to regress (any bullpen relying on Octavio Dotel and Bobby Jenks as sure-things is bound to). The rotation looks half-way decent, however. Gavin Floyd and John Danks are legitimate Major League pitchers and Danks even has Ace-potential. I don't think Mark Buerhle will survive the inevitable purge though. The Sox will take their lumps in 2009 to rise again like a phoenix in 2010.


1. Oakland Athletics

1. Orlando Cabrera SS
2. Travis Buck RF
3. Jason Giambi 1B
4. Matt Holliday LF
5. Jack Cust DH
6. Eric Chavez 3B
7. Kurt Suzuki C
8. Ryan Sweeney CF
9. Mark Ellis 2B

1. Justin Duchserer
2. Dana Eveland
3. Sean Galagher
4. Gio Gonzalez
5. Dallas Braden

1. Joey Devine
2. Santiago Casilla
C. Brad Ziegler

Key Player: Eric Chavez
BBB Off-season Ranking: 7th of 14 in AL
Analysis: Maybe my eyes have been clouded by the fact that I read Moneyball this Winter, but I really like the A's to win the West. I like the line-up and bullpen better than the Angels Teixeira and K-Rod-less line-up and bullpen. Jason Giambi fits so well in Oakland that I am hard-pressed to understand why he ever left....oh GREED, that's right. Jack Cust is thanking his lucky stars that he can continue to DH and will reward the A's with a 30-homer season. How many teams can boast two left-handed hitting 30-homer sluggers with the one of the game's premier RBI men (Matt Holliday) in-between them? Suzuki, Cabrera and Ellis are all proven commodities and can help them win. If they get any sort of production out of Chavez, Buck, Barton and Sweeney, they should be the highest-scoring team in the West. The only area that worries me is the rotation. Duchserer and Eveland are both Ace-material but after them its a whole lot of question marks. Gio Gonzalez looked pretty awful last year and Sean Galagher has never looked particularly good. But if I have one abiding principle on this Earth, it is this: I believe in young pitching. And the A's have plenty of it in the pipeline. It's good enough for me to declare the Athletics the AL West winners.

2. Los Angeles Angels

1. Chone Figgins 3B
2. Bobby Abreu RF
3. Vladimir Guerero DH
4. Torii Hunter CF
5. Juan Rivera LF
6. Kendry Morales 1B
7. Howie Kendrick 2B
8. Mike Napoli C
9. Erick Aybar SS

1. John Lackey
2. Joe Saunders
3. Ervin Santana
4. Jered Weaver
5. Dustin Mosely

1. Scot Shields
2. Darren Oliver
C. Brian Fuentes

Key Player: Kendry Morales
BBB Off-season Ranking: 12th of 14 in AL
Analysis: In just one year's time, the Angels line-up went from everything I loved (young, athletic, balanced) to everything I hate (old, power-oriented, focused on righties). It is a shame because the Angels have been one of the most underrated team of the decade. But if they continue down the Juan Rivera, Gary Matthews Jr., Mike Napoli, Kendry Morales path they will be one of the worst of the next decade. To be fair, they can't control the fact that Vladimir Guerro is aging faster than mayonnaise left out of the fridge but they can cultivate young guys to step in and take people's place. And it looks to me that they have severely overestimated their young talent. If they were so high on Kendry Morales, why did they put off giving him a starting job until they were forced to? Why do they continue to sign more outfielders than any team really needs? It's because they don't have any better options. For better or worse, they are stuck with the line-up they have. It hasn't hurt in past seasons, because they have been good but the decline will be seen this year. The rotation will mask some of the bleeding, however. Lackey, Saunders, Santana, Weaver, Escobar is just a dynamite 1-5. Even if Escobar can't bounce back and Jered Weaver starts to resemble his older brother, their starting rotation can be good enough to earn them a playoff berth. That's not to say it will though...

3. Texas Rangers

1. Ian Kinsler 2B
2. David Murphy LF
3. Josh Hamilton CF
4. Michael Young 3B
5. Chris Davis 1B
6. Nelson Cruz RF
7. Hank Blalock DH
8. Taylor Teagarden C
9. Elvis Andrus SS

1. Kevin Millwood
2. Matt Harrison
3. Vincente Padilla
4. Brandon McCarthy
5. Dustin Nippert

1. Joaquin Benoit
2. C.J Wilson
C. Frank Francisco

Key Player: Brandon McCarthy
BBB Off-season Ranking: 9th of 14 in AL
Bottom Line: Here is another trendy pick for the 2009 season. While I understand why some people are excited, I don't think people in the Dallas-Arlington area should be purchasing playoff tickets just yet. True, this is the best line-up the Rangers have had in years. I see no reason why Josh Hamilton shouldn't continue to be MVP worthy. Ian Kinsler is one of the game's best middle infielders and is legitimate leadoff hitter. Michael Young looks good at 3B and looks good as a clean-up hitter. Even the outfield has some promise with guys like Murphy and Cruz. And we've all heard about the Rangers' young Catching ad nauseam. But much like the Orioles, and the Royals to a lesser extent, the Rangers are a team with a good line-up and a bad rotation. Kevin Millwood has been a decent Ace so far but how much longer can he keep it up? Vincente Padilla is okay as a 4th or 5th starter but is frequently expected to a 2nd or 3rd. Matt Harrison looked good last year but Brandon McCarthy did not. And when it comes to young pitchers in that bizarre ballpark, who really knows what to expect? It really wouldn't surprise me if McCarthy and Harrison completely switched roles this year. The bullpen is pretty good and the line-up is excellent but it just isn't there for the taking for the Rangers in 2009.

4. Seattle Mariners

1. Ichiro Suzuki RF
2. Yuniesky Betancourt SS
3. Adrian Beltre 3B
4. Ken Griffey Jr. DH
5. Jose Lopez 2B
6. Russell Branyan 1B
7. Kenji Johjima C
8. Endy Chavez LF
9. Franklin Gutierrez CF

1. Felix Hernandez
2. Erik Bedard
3. Brandon Morrow
4. Ryan Rowland-Smith
5. Carlos Silva

1. Roy Corcoran
2. Mark Lowe
C. Miguel Batista

Key Player: Erik Bedard
BBB Off-season Ranking: 14th of 14 in AL
Analysis: This team is so hopeless that I don't even really want to write about them. I know it is hard to announce a rebuilding phase when your fans overpaid to watch a 100-loss team in a bad economy last year, but the smart baseball move to be rebuild. To a certain extent, the M's are rebuilding but they are just being too damn gentle with it. They shouldn't be getting cute converting relievers like Brandon Morrow and Ryan Rowland-Smith into starters, they SHOULD BE TRADING THEM. TRADE, TRADE, TRADE. SELL, SELL, SELL. It is cute that Ken Griffey Jr. is on this team and I don't mind the Mariners bringing him on a farewell tour but guys like Russell Branyan, Adrian Beltre, Carlos Silva (I know no one would take him though), Miguel Batista, Erik Bedard, Kenji Johjima and Endy Chavez should not be on this team. The line-up will be terrible, the rotation will be terrible, the bullpen will be terrible, the defense will actually be excellent (Betancourt, Lopez, Beltre', Gutierrez, Chavez, Suzuki are all among the best at their position) but the team as a whole will be terrible as a whole. Jack Zduriencik cannot control the fact that this team will lose. 85 games, 95 games, 105 games, 115 games, it doesn't matter, this team will inevitably lose. But what he can control is the payroll. If this is an losing team with no hope, they should not be paying a dime over $60 million to lose. They are currently paying in the neighborhood of $100 million to lose.

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