2010 Preview: Chicago Cubs

Projected 2010 NL Central Finish: 2nd

Lineup:

  1. Theriot ss
  2. Fukudome rf
  3. Lee 1b
  4. Ramirez 3b
  5. Byrd cf
  6. Soriano lf
  7. Fontenot 2b
  8. Soto c

Rotation:

  1. Zambrano
  2. Dempster
  3. Wells
  4. Silva
  5. Gorzelanny (LH)

Bench:

  • Hill c
  • Baker if
  • Tracy cif
  • Nady 1b/of
  • Colvin of

Bullpen:

  • Parisi
  • Samardzija
  • Marshall (LH)
  • Berg
  • Caridad
  • Grabow (LH)
  • Marmol (closer)

DL:

  • Lilly sp (LH)
  • Guzman rp

2010 Preview: Chicago White Sox

Projected 2010 AL Central Finish: 2nd

Lineup:

  1. Pierre lf
  2. Beckham 2b
  3. Quentin rf
  4. Konerko 1b
  5. Teahen 3b
  6. Rios cf
  7. Pierzynski c
  8. Jones dh
  9. Ramirez ss

Rotation:

  1. Buerhle (LH)
  2. Peavy
  3. Danks (LH)
  4. Floyd
  5. Garcia

Bench:

  • Castro c
  • Vizquel if
  • Nix if
  • Kotsay 1b/of

Bullpen:

  • Santos
  • Williams (LH)
  • Pena
  • Linebrink
  • Putz
  • Thorton (LH)
  • Jenks (closer)

Catcher: A.J. Pierzynski isn’t going to win any popularity contests away from the south side, but they love him in White Sox territory. Pierzynski will play in 130 games, get into a couple scuffles, and come up with some clutch hits. It is his contract year so he will have a bit more motivation to produce as the White Sox ponder re-signing him after 2010 or eventually going with prospect Tyler Flowers.

Infield: Alexei Ramirez will look to rebound from a frustrating ’09 and Gordon Beckham will be his double-play partner. Beckham played third base for the Sox last season but Mark Teahen was brought in to man the hot corner. Teahen and Konerko are fairly consistent at the plate but neither are great middle of the lineup hitters. Dayan Viciedo is a top prospect at the corners and will most likely take over one of those spots in 2011.  

Outfield: This is an interesting group. Juan Pierre moves back into an everyday role and will set the table. Alex Rios’ poor play in Toronto got him traded to Chicago mid-season and he hit .199 with his new team. Rios is costing the Sox a ton of money and needs to at least get back to his ’07 form to be worth it. Carlos Quentin came out of nowhere in ’08 to drive in 100 runs in only 130 games. Foot injuries kept him off the field for long stretches of time last year and the White Sox need his power in order to compete in the division. Andruw Jones will battle Mark Kotsay for time in the outfield and at DH.

Rotation: This is one of the strongest groups in baseball. If Peavy can stay healthy, there’s no reason he shouldn’t get 15+ wins. Lefty Mark Buerhle will get his 30 starts while fellow southpaw John Danks will continue to progress in only his 4th Major League season. Gavin Floyd has been either good or bad, with very little grey area in between. A good showing from Floyd will take pressure off Freddy Garcia. Jhonny Nunez will pitch in the Bigs at some point this season as well.

Bullpen: Despite frequent trade rumors, Jenks will be back to close for the Sox in 2010. As for setup men, the Sox have a competitive advantage over many teams. On the other side of town, for example, the Cubs will be relying on youngsters Esmailin Caridad, Jeff Stevens, and Jeff Samardzija to pitch a lot of important innings. The White Sox, on the other hand, will have veteran righties Scott Linebrink, Tony Pena, and newcomer J.J. Putz along with hard throwing lefty Matt Thorton. One of the final spots could go to Sergio Santos who is another hard thrower.

2010: The White Sox have a strong pitching staff but their offense will hold them back. The lineup has a bunch of guys who will hit like Mark Teahen- including Mr. Teahen himself! By that, I mean they have a lot of guys who will hit 15 homers, drive in 60 and hit .260. That isn’t a dynamic lineup. Gordon Beckham is a very good player but will have a lot of pressure to repeat his rookie success. The White Sox will beat out the Tigers in the race for second place but Ozzie Guillen’s team will not make the playoffs.

Fantasy Preview: 3rd Base

This is quite possibly the deepest class when it comes to star production. A-Rod still leads the pack but there are some young franchise players who have the talent to be perrenial All-Stars. There will be plenty of production to go around and waiting to grab a third baseman in later rounds shouldn’t hurt you too badly.

The Elite:

  1. Alex Rodriguez NYY- Rodriguez missed time at the beginning of the year and still had 30 HRs and 100 RBIs. He’s a slugger with a lifetime .390 OBP and can still steal some bases.  
  2. Evan Longoria TB- His first full season in the Bigs led to 33 HRs and 113 RBIs. Longo scored 100 runs and hit 44 doubles, despite lots of strikeouts.
  3. Pablo Sandoval SF- The Kung Fu Panda will again challenge for a batting title. His power will continue to grow and he doesn’t strikeout. Sandoval just needs the guys in front of him to get on-base.

In the running: David Wright NYM, Ryan Zimmerman WAS, Mark Reynolds ARI

Sleepers:

  1. Miguel Tejada BAL- Miggy’s power isn’t what it once was, but he is still gets his extra base hits and comes through in the clutch. Tejada will be batting next to guys like Brian Roberts, Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, Matt Weiters… You get the idea. He will qualify for third base shortly after opening day.
  2. Aramis Ramirez CHC- When A-Ram is healthy, he is a top 5 third baseman. In only 82 games last season, Ramirez drove in 65 and hit 15 HR. His OBP has risen in each of the last three years to a career-high .389 last season.
  3. Kevin Kouzmanoff OAK- Kouzmanoff is not a superstar, but he’s a solid RBI hitter. He was over-shadowed by Adrian Gonzalez in San Diego but now moves on to Oakland. Kouz has had 80 RBIs in each of the last two years and could improve his HR totals now that he’s away from PETCO Park.

Caution:

  1. David Wright NYM- Wright could very easily move back up to “The Elite” category but here’s why I moved him down to the “Caution” level. A move to Citi Field and injuries to the rest of the lineup helped bring his HRs down by 23 and his RBIs down by 52. That’s a lot. As far as I know, the Mets are still going to play half their games in Citi Field and Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran are already missing time. 
  2. Adrian Beltre BOS- In 449 at-bast, Beltre failed to reach double-digits in homeruns. His RBIs were down to 44. Will a change of scenery help him rebound or will he continue his decline?
  3. Chipper Jones ATL- Chipper played in his most games since 2003 but failed to reach 20 HRs for the first time in his career (besides 1993 when he played in 8 games). Jones will put up a good AVG and OBP but for the second year in a row he had decreases in runs, hits, doubles, HRs, RBIs, and SLG.

Fantasy Preview: Shortstop

Hanley Ramirez is far above all other competition in the shortstop category. Troy Tulowitzki is the only other shortstop that should go in the first round. After these two, the competition falls back on some solid veterans and guys like Marco Scutaro, Jason Bartlett, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Erick Aybar who are looking to prove that 2009 wasn’t just a fluke.

The Elite:

  1. Hanley Ramirez FLA- Hanley played in 150 games for the 4th consecutive year and had a .400 OBP for the 2nd consecutive year. He’s an all-around player who got to 100 RBIs for the first time in ’09 as he thrived in the 3 spot of the lineup.
  2. Troy Tulowitzki COL- Besides Hanley, Tulo may be the only shortstop to have 100 runs and 100 RBIs in 2010. Tulowitzki had a career high 32 homers last season along with career highs in triples and steals.
  3. Derek Jeter NYY- This guy is the model of consistency as he continues to put up All-Star numbers. If he can play like last season (107 runs, 18 HR, 30 steals, .406 OBP, etc.), he could be more valuable to fantasy owners than Tulowitzki. Also, Jeter is playing in a contract year which could motivate him even more.

In the running: Rafael Furcal LAD, Yunel Escobar ATL, Jason Bartlett TB

Sleepers:

  1. J.J. Hardy MIN- After being demoted to AAA by the Brewers last season, Hardy enters 2010 with something to prove. Hardy also moves into a great lineup which will benefit his run production. Hardy has the ability to hit 25 home runs.
  2. Alexei Ramirez CHW- Alexei had a down year after very rough start to ’09. He eventually came out of that slump but his power numbers were way down from his rookie year. The good news is that he still increased his OBP and is being mentored by Omar Vizquel this spring.
  3. Elvis Andrus TEX- Andrus won the 2009 AL ROY honors after playing a steady shortstop in Texas. His numbers weren’t astounding but they were better than expected. Andrus is worth taking a chance on with a late pick as his speed leads to runs and steals.

Caution:

  1. Jose Reyes NYM- Reyes was recently sent back to New York to have a possible thyroid condition checked out. He is also coming back from leg injuries. Reyes’ needs to prove his health before fantasy owners should risk an early pick on him.  
  2. Ryan Theriot CHC- Theriot is consistent (but not great) as far as batting average, runs, and steals. Fantasy owners should not expect a repeat of his power numbers from 2009. Theriot’s production could be hindered by a transition to second base if shortstop prospect Starlin Castro proves to be Major League ready early in the season.
  3. Edgar Renteria SF- Renteria displayed rather steady production between 1999 and 2007 before taking a step backwards in 2008 and hitting a wall in 2009. In 460 at-bats in ’09, Renteria only managed 5 HR and a career-low .250 AVG.

Fantasy Preview: 2nd Base

The elite guys in this category are not as plentiful spots like first and third base. Many of the middle tier second basemen provide virtually the same offensive output. If you’re unable to land one of the few elite guys at this position, waiting until later in the draft and going for a sleeper may be the best route.

The Elite:

  1. Chase Utley PHI- Utley has been the best second baseman in Major League Baseball since his first full season in 2005 when he had 105 RBIs. Last year he had career highs in walks and stolen bases while still hitting 31 homers.
  2. Robinson Cano NYY- Cano doesn’t get much attention with the presence of A-Rod, Tex, and Jeter in the same lineup, which is part of the reason he is so under-rated. After a down 2008, Cano bounced back to his usual form while scoring 103 times and hitting a career high 25 home runs. Yankee stadium boosts his power production and fantasy owners can take advantage of that.
  3. Ian Kinsler TEX- Kinsler did not play as well as most expected in 2009 but still had career highs in HR, RBIs, and stolen bases. The emergence of Julio Borbon in the leadoff spot will give Kinsler the chance to drive in even more runs. Kinsler is hindered because he has yet to put together a completely healthy season.
  • In the running: Aaron Hill TOR, Brian Roberts BAL, Gordon Beckham CHW (Beckham will qualify for second base shortly after Opening Day)

Sleepers:

  1. Orlando Hudson MIN- Many forget that Hudson was an All-Star for the Dodgers last season before injuries derailed his second half. Signing with the Twins enhanced his fantasy value as he will be hitting in front of Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Jason Kubel.
  2. Rickie Weeks MIL- Rickie carried the Brewers in the month of April last season. Before he got hurt, Weeks was on pace to absolutely shatter his career highs in home runs and RBIs.
  3. Martin Prado ATL- With Kelly Johnson now in Arizona, Martin Prado will get the full-time duty at second base in Atlanta. Prado has always been able to get onbase but last year he added gap power to his game.

Caution:

  1. Freddy Sanchez SF- Many people still remember Sanchez for his NL batting title in 2006. He still hits for a fine average but has regressed in all aspects of run production every year since 2006.
  2. Alberto Callaspo KC- Callaspo is in a rough situation. His fantasy numbers were great last year but his dreadful defense has his starting spot in jeopardy. Callaspo could still be a good pick if he beats out Chris Getz during spring training, but, as of right now, that’s a big ‘if’.
  3. Skip Schumaker STL- The addition of Felipe Lopez will help the team win games but will also hurt the fantasy values of Skip Schumaker, David Freese, and Julio Lugo (if he had any to begin). Lopez will play all over but his best position is second base where he will get the starts against tough lefties. Schumaker is still a solid player, but the platoon situation is something to consider before your fantasy draft.

Fantasy Preview: 1st Base

Spring training games have already started which means Opening Day is close. Another season that is currently getting under-way is Fantasy Baseball. Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll write up my position-by-position preview to help prepare you for the pursuit of the ever important bragging rights. First on the list are the first basemen, led by superstar Albert Pujols. 

The Elite:

  1. Albert Pujols STL- He continues to build on an already legendary career as his HR, RBIs, and SLG have all increased each of the past three years.
  2. Mark Teixeira NYY- Teixeira impressed in his first year with the Yanks. 100-plus runs and 100-plus RBIs are a near lock with his career .923 OPS.
  3. Miguel Cabrera DET- The Johnny Damon acquisition should only give Cabrera more chances to drive in runs.
  • In the running: Adrian Gonzalez SD, Ryan Howard PHI, Prince Fielder MIL

Sleepers:

  1. James Loney LAD- He is often forgot about due to low HR totals, but in his 4 year career Loney has a .295 AVG and two 90 RBI seasons. If his power comes through, Loney will becom a very valuable player.
  2. Billy Butler KC- Playing in the spacious Kauffman Stadium doesn’t help his power production, but KC’s lineup is improved and he showed progress last year.
  3. Adam LaRoche ARI- LaRoche will be available late in the draft and is someone you shouldn’t forget about. He’ll put up his usual 35 doubles, 25 HR, and 85 RBIs.

Caution:

  1. Garrett Atkins BAL- Atkins will play first base in Baltimore but has been in a steady decline for three years. He bottomed out in ’09 with 9 HR and a .226 AVG.
  2. Garrett Jones PIT- Jones came on strong as a rookie and even had some ROY consideration. I expect him to come back down to earth after his stunning .938 OPS in ’09. Jones’ strikeout rate is also unfavorable.
  3. Lance Berkman HOU- Something must be in the water in Houston as Berkman and Roy Oswalt are already talking retirement. Berkman’s 2009 was below expectations and he seems to have lost his edge at the plate. He won’t be horrible but he is no longer a first tier first baseman.  

Like we didn’t see this coming…

It’s only February and the Cubs are already hitting speed bumps. Ted Lilly’s recovery from November surgery was apparently going well, but now he hits a bit of a set-back with illness. Angel Guzman hurt his knee and his shoulder is acting up. The Cubs expect Lilly back on track this weekend and Guzman will take 7-10 days off. These seem like minor issues, but don’t forget who we’re talking about here. The Cubs aren’t a team with the history of getting past speed-bumps (cough… Bartman!… cough). The Cubs are also not lucky enough to get past injuries when the team should’ve already prepared insurance for such instances.

Entering the off-season, GM Jim Hendry and manager Lou Piniella each made it publicly known that acquiring a veteran right hander for the bullpen was a necessity. Pitchers and catchers have reported and the only veteran righty they’ve acquired is Carlos Silva who won’t be competing for a setup role (at least I hope not!). The Cubs have missed out on affordable righties like Matt Capps, Octavio Dotel, Guillermo Mota, LaTroy Hawkins, and Chan Ho Park. The only reasonable options left on the market are Kiko Calero and David Weathers. But let’s be honest, “reasonable” is stretch for these two given Kiko’s questionable health and David’s old-ness. 

The best solution for this dilemma may have to come via trade. The Blue Jays are currently rebuilding so setup man Jason Frasor is probably available. Luke Gregerson has been mentioned as a target as well. A trade offer for Gregerson could start with Mike Fontenot as the Padres don’t have a promising second baseman waiting in the wings. Cubs fans have to hope that Jim Hendry judged the market correctly for once and will make a smart move, but I wouldn’t bet on that.

But at least Hendry found some insurance for Lilly and added depth at the back end of the rotation… Or wait… He didn’t. If things continue to go the Cubs’ way, Lilly’s illness will lead to a sneezing attack that will keep him out of action for a couple months (See Sammy Sosa). Further down the rotation, the Cubs will be relying on at least one of Tom Gorzelanny (5.55 ERA), Jeff Samardzija (7.53 ERA), or good old Carlos Silva (8.60 ERA) to provide crucial innings. In case Hendry is reading this, allow me to let him in on a secret: The lower the ERA, the better… A team with playoff hopes can’t wait for these types of players to figure it out.

In the end, Hendry missed out on many proven winners who could have given the Cubs the depth that’s necessary to win a World Series. Doug Davis and Jon Garland got inexpensive deals and Joel Pineiro didn’t even get the cash he was hoping for this off-season. No, they’re not Cy Youngs, but they are serviceable. Due to the lack of starters left on the market, I expect Hendry to go all-in for Ben Sheets once he proves his health with the A’s. A different option could be a guy like Kevin Correia who should be attainable from the Padres.  

Instead of addressing a pitching staff known for injuries (Zambrano, Dempster, Guzman, and possibly Lilly), Hendry decided to go down his usual path of disappointment. On paper the Cubs’ hurlers look great, but when you scratch the surface you see a bullpen lacking experience and starters lining up for their turn on the DL. Unless there are some changes in the near future, Cubs fans could be in store for another season of falling just short. As newest Cub Kevin Millar would say, it’s time for Jim Hendry to “Cowboy Up!”  

2010 Preview: New York Mets

Predicted 2010 NL East Finish: 4th

Lineup:

  1. Reyes ss
  2. Castillo 2b
  3. Wright 3b
  4. Bay lf
  5. Francoeur rf
  6. Jacobs 1b
  7. Pagan cf
  8. Barajas c

Rotation:

  1. Santana (LH)
  2. Maine
  3. Pelfrey
  4. Perez (LH)
  5. Nieve

Bench:

  • Blanco c
  • Cora if
  • Tatis ut
  • Matthews Jr. of
  • Catalanotto 1b/of

Bullpen:

  • Figueroa
  • Igarashi
  • Parnell
  • Escobar
  • Feliciano (LH)
  • Green
  • Rodriguez (closer)

DL:

  • Beltran cf

Catcher: Here’s a crowded group. Josh Thole is the catcher of the future and has already had success in limited time in the Bigs, so why did the Mets feel the need to bring four below-average catchers to camp? Henry Blanco is a defensive whiz and has a cannon for an arm so that addition makes sense. Coste is old and didn’t hit well last year, but he was given a spot on the 40-man roster. Rod Barajas was given a Major League deal and the starting job after posting a .226 AVG and a .258 OBP in 125 games. His 19 homers and 71 RBIs were solid but the younger and cheaper Omir Santos could definitely do that with the same playing time. Instead of improving their catching situation, they blocked prospects in a division they aren’t going to win.

Infield: David Wright is a great third baseman who will be made even better with a full season from shortstop Jose Reyes. Reyes can be a five-tool threat that needs to rebound for the Mets to even approach .500 this year. Luis Castillo had a .387 OBP in a bad lineup and will score more runs with Jason Bay around. First base will be a problem again this year. Daniel Murphy has options left and will be sent down if Mike Jacobs wins the job. Fernando Tatis will get at-bats there as well while the Mets wait for prospect Ike Davis to be Major League ready.

Outfield: The Mets signed Jason Bay to bring some power to the lineup and he did just that with the Red Sox in 2009 (36 homers and 119 RBIs). Francoeur did much better after being traded to the Mets. He needs to produce or the team will let him go in favor of prospect Fernando Martinez. With Carlos Beltran out to start the year, Angel Pagan and Gary Matthews Jr. will battle for time in center field. Matthews is coming off one of his worst years as a pro and Pagan is coming off his best. Either way, the lineup will look much better when Beltran is healthy.

Rotation: After Johan Santana the rotation is one of the worst in baseball. John Maine and Mike Pelfrey each took a step backwards during the ’09 campaign. Oliver Perez took his big contract and pitched in 14 games with a dismal 6.82 ERA. The problem for the Mets is that these guys aren’t even facing any legitimate competition. Kelvim Escobar has started but was signed with the intention to use him in relief. Pat Misch is a lefty that is out of options and did OK in 26 games last year. Fernando Nieve is intriguing because he is also out of options and displayed a 2.95 ERA in 8 games with the Mets last year. Jon Niese is another competitor for the rotation.

Bullpen: This will be the strong point for the team in 2010. Ryota Igarashi is battling for the setup role after a solid career in Japan. Sean Green may be the favorite for the setup spot after 79 strong innings in 2009. Pedro Feliciano has been a reliable lefty specialist and is not a health concern, which is hard to say for most of these guys. Bobby Parnell brings excitement to the bullpen and a full season in a consistent role could help his progression. K-Rod came back down to earth after inking a huge deal last off-season but he is still a great closer.

2010: 2009 was a lost season after all of the injuries to many of their game-changers. Santana and Reyes seem to be good to go but their health won’t be enough to make the Mets contenders in a deep division. Mets management has been long-scrutinized and this past off-season won’t make that go away. The team missed out on targets John Lackey, Bengie Molina, and Orlando Hudson. GM Omar Minaya seemingly forgot about upgrading the horrible rotation. The team is not built for the dimensions of their stadium and that’s not going to help. It will be a long 2010 for Mets fans during which guys like Luis Castillo, Rod Barajas, Jeff Francoeur, Mike Jacobs, Oliver Perez, John Maine, and some relievers will all be let go one way or another.

2010 Preview: Milwaukee Brewers

Projected 2010 NL Central Finish: 3rd

Lineup:

  1. Gomez cf
  2. Hart rf
  3. Braun lf
  4. Fielder 1b
  5. Weeks 2b
  6. McGehee 3b
  7. Zaun c
  8. Escobar ss

Rotation:

  1. Gallardo
  2. Wolf (LH)
  3. Davis (LH)
  4. Suppan
  5. Parra (LH)

Bench:

  • Kottaras c
  • Counsell if
  • Inglett ut
  • Edmonds of
  • Gerut of

Bullpen:

  • Bush
  • Villanueva
  • Vargas
  • Stetter (LH)
  • Coffey
  • Hawkins
  • Hoffman (closer)

Catcher: Greg Zaun’s addition will give the Brewers an upgrade at the plate over light-hitting departure, Jason Kendall. It was believed that Kendall did a good job of handling the pitching staff, but they finished 2009 with the worst starting pitching ERA in the league. Basically, the level of play from Brewers’ catchers has nowhere to go but up. George Kottaras is the early favorite to win the backup job but Angel Salome will get a look. Jonathan Lucroy is in camp but won’t make the opening day roster.

Infield: Prince is Prince, and he will be the same masher that we have come to expect. Rickie Weeks got off to a hot start that carried the team through April, only to get injured and miss the majority of the season. If he can display that same power (9 homeruns in 37 games), the Brewers will have a bat that could potentially protect Fielder from so many intentional walks. Alcides Escobar had a great showing in winter ball and he hopes to convert that into big league success. He won’t be a power hitter but will eventually hit for consistent average. Casey McGehee and Craig Counsell will split at-bats at third base, but a lack of production could open the door for Mat Gamel to take over.

Outfield: Corey Hart won his arbitration case and the Brewers may still entertain trade offers for the lanky right fielder (‘lanky’ was the only word that came to mind). Carlos Gomez was acquired in the J.J. Hardy trade and he will bring excitement to the top of the order. His speed is an important asset to have in front of Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder. If his OBP struggles continue, Weeks or even Escobar could be tried in the leadoff spot. Jim Edmonds proved he wasn’t done two years ago with the Cubs and he will be the primary pinch hitter for the Crew. If he does as well as he did in ’08, a Corey Hart trade could throw Edmonds into the five spot of the lineup.

Rotation: This is by far the weakest spot on the team but a healthy year from Gallardo would take a lot of pressure off the rest of the bunch. Yovani has quality stuff and Wolf has been dependable in recent years. Davis will make his 30 starts, but the question with him is: “Will he hit 80 mph on the radar gun?” Doubtful. Jeff Suppan could honestly be on the way out even though he has such an expensive contract. Would you rather pay $13M to have his ERA continue to rise for you, or for another team? The options for the 5th starter spot don’t get much better. Manny Parra has the early advantage because he is a lefty who is out of options but he had a 6.36 ERA. Others include Dave Bush (6.38 ERA), Kameron Loe (didn’t pitch in the Majors last year), Chris Capuano (hasn’t pitched in the Bigs since 2007), and John Halama (hasn’t pitched in the Show since 2006 when his ERA was 6.14)…

Bullpen: The back-end of the bullpen should be pretty solid this year. Trevor Hoffman is still steady in the closer role and LaTroy Hawkins had a 2.13 ERA and 11 saves over 65 games last year. Todd Coffey was an extremely valuable pickup for Milwaukee and just plain looks like a Brewer (can’t hurt). Mitch Stetter and his sweeping delivery set a club record with 15 consecutive outs by the strikeout. David Riske is rehabbing from an injury that cost him all but one inning of 2009. Others battling for spots in the pen include Carlos Villanueva and Claudio Vargas. The Chris’s (Smith and Narveson) each have legimate shots at making the team after productive 2009 seasons. Scott Schoeneweis could make the team as another lefty but isn’t there at least a moral obligation to field a team that won’t let up 16 runs a game? Schoeneweis’ 7.13 ERA might be where Ken Macha draws the line.  

2010: This is an important year for the organization as the team is in the middle of a division that isn’t too far out of reach. The offense will be solid and the pitching can’t be as poor as it was last year, right? The Brewers have a knack for keeping the games close and the Prince Fielder/Ryan Braun combination is special. Randy Wolf and Doug Davis are improvements but Manny Parra and Jeff Suppan really need to step it up for the Brewers to contend in 2010. It will be an interesting year in Milwaukee but the team will ultimately miss out on the playoffs.

2010 Preview: Cleveland Indians

Projected AL Central Finish: 5th

Lineup:

1.                     Sizemore cf

2.                     Cabrera ss

3.                     Choo rf

4.                     Peralta 3b

5.                     Hafner dh

6.                     Branyan 1b

7.                     LaPorta lf

8.                     Valbuena 2b

9.                     Marson c

Rotation:

1.                     Westbrook

2.                     Carmona

3.                     Huff (LH)

4.                     Masterson

5.                     Laffey (LH)

Bench:

·                       Redmond c

·                       Rodriguez if

·                       Marte cif

·                       Crowe of

Bullpen:

·                       Wright

·                       Lewis

·                       Sipp (LH)

·                       R. Perez (LH)

·                       Smith

·                       C. Perez

·                       Wood (closer)

Catcher: Lou Marson will be the opening day catcher but he will need a very strong showing to hold the majority of playing time throughout the whole season. Carlos Santana is the switch-hitting catcher that the Indians see as a future Victor Martinez. Santana’s bat is ready for the Show but he will work on his game-calling skills in the minors. Veteran Mike Redmond was signed to mentor the young catchers during spring training.

Infield: Today the Indians signed Russell Branyan to play first base. He will get most of the playing time but Matt LaPorta will also get time there as he is their first baseman of the future. Luis Valbuena sufficed as their second baseman and will likely get the job again. On the other hand, prospect Jason Donald is not far from being the Tribe’s second baseman. Asdrubal Cabrera stepped up as their starting shortstop and hit .308 while scoring 81 runs in 131 games. Jhonny Peralta had a healthy season but struggled to get onbase and only hit 11 home runs.

Outfield: Grady Sizemore looks to bounce back this year, on and off the field. Grady missed a considerable portion of the season and returned to hit only .248. The Indians need him to hit the ball well given his power and speed. Sizemore also did a poor job in the stolen base category as he was thrown out 8 times with only 13 successful steals. Shin-Soo Choo was the lone bright spot on this roster last season. He played in 156 games and almost reached the .400 OBP level (finished at .394). He’s a run producer and displayed great base-stealing skills, succeeding 21 out of 23 tries. Matt LaPorta is the favorite to start in left but Michael Brantley and Trevor Crowe are other young guys looking for at-bats.

Rotation: Jake Westbrook hopes to have a full campaign for the first time since 2006 when he won 15 games. His veteran presence in the clubhouse could be very helpful for the young rotation. A strong first half could make him the next Indians’ starter to be dealt at the deadline (C.C. Sabathia in 2008 and Cliff Lee 2009). Fausto Carmona was allowed to make 24 starts despite a season ERA of 6.32. David Huff led the team in wins as a rookie. Justin Masterson will get a full season as starter which could stabilize his numbers. Aaron Laffey, Carlos Carrasco, and Anthony Reyes are young hurlers in hopes of winning the 5th spot. Jeremy Sowers and Mitch Talbot will also battle for the last spot in the rotation but both are out of options. 

Bullpen: Tony Sipp and Joe Smith impressed out of the bullpen last year. Jensen Lewis failed to repeat his success of ’07 and ’08. Kerry Wood did fine but not great in his first year with a team not named the “Cubs.” Wood may get traded at the deadline to a contender which would create an opportunity for Chris Perez to take over in the closer role. For any hopes of contention the AL Central, the Indians need lefty reliever Rafael Perez to return to form. He will have many late-game appearances against lefty sluggers Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Jason Kubel, Jim Thome, Johnny Damon, Rick Ankiel, and so on.

2010: The front office is entering a new regime- new GM, new president, new manager. The team has traded away major pieces over the last two years and Cleveland fans should expect the same this year. Jhonny Peralta, Travis Hafner and Jake Westbrook don’t have much value right now but could be put on the block for salary relief and a minimal return. The big question is whether or not the Tribe will trade Grady Sizemore. Either way, Manny Acta will have a difficult first season in Cleveland while trying to balance playing time between young prospects and stop-gaps, culminating in a last place finish.    

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