Sunday, February 19, 2012

MLB Season Preview

-What an Off Season it was for Major League Baseball. The St. Louis Cardinals fresh off their 11th World Series in Club History. Only a few months later "The Machine"Albert Pujols left in Free Agency for the Halos in Los Angeles. He wasn't the only big time Free Agent to leave as C.J Wilson left the Texas Rangers to join Pujols in Los Angeles, and Prince Fielder left the Brew City to join Miguel Cabrera in Motor City. With all the big additions and subtractions made across the MLB this year, we will be in for another lively year of baseball.

Legends in Heaven:
Bob Forsch (1950-2011)
Andy Musser (1937-2012)
Gary Carter (1954-2012)

Matty Alou (1938-2011)

NL West:
If the Giants want to get back to the World Series, they
will have to hope Buster Posey can come back and make an impact
*1.) San Francisco Giants: (92-70)
2011 Record: (86-76) 2nd in NL West
Team Preview: 
-The 2010 World Series Champions struggled in 2011 both with injuries and on offense. The 2010 Rookie of the Year Buster Posey broke his leg in a plate collision early in the season that left a controversy among everyone in baseball. Their slugger from last year Aubrey Huff fell flat as did the rest of the Giants Offense. As a result of the
putrid offense, many fantastic performances by Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, and Madison Bumgarner were wasted. Now in 2012 the Giants will have a healthy Buster Posey, a top hitting 3B in Pablo Sandoval, and new additions in the OF with Melky Cabrera (.305 BA, 18 HR's 87 RBI's in 2011) and Angel Pagan can provide a serviceable offense. If the Giants offense can manage to rank in the middle of the pack in the National League, they could be contenders for the NL.

*2.) Arizona Diamondbacks: (90-72)
     2011 Record: (94-68) 1st in NL West
Team Preview:
-The Diamondbacks were the surprise team in the National League in 2011. Led by Cy Young finalist Ian Kennedy and All Star OF Justin Upton, the Diamondbacks rolled through the NL West in route to a 94 win season and their first playoff trip since 2007. Many things went right for the Diamondbacks, including their bullpen stepping up and the front of their rotation having big years. As the Diamondbacks prepare for the 2012 season there will be a larger target on their backs, and it will be on the rotation to repeat their performance from last year. One thing is for sure, the Diamondbacks will once again be in contention for the National League.

3.) Los Angeles Dodgers:  (84-78)
     2011 Record: (82-79) 3rd in NL West
Team Preview:
-The Dodgers were for the longest time always near the top of the NL West and making the Giants-Dodgers Rivalry ever so greater as both teams competed for the NL West Crown. However in the past few years there coming in at the bottom of the division and not competing. In 2011 the storyline was the McCourts, and the dynamic duo of Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw. Matt Kemp had a career year hitting 39 HR's while driving in 126 RBI's, and Ace Clayton Kershaw walked away with the NL Cy Young Award. As the Dodgers enter Spring Training they will be looking for a return to the promise land. Even though I don't think they are close enough yet, they are finally putting the pieces back in place.

4.) Colorado Rockies: (80-82)
     2011 Record: (73-89) 4th in NL West
Team Preview:
-The Rockies entered the 2011 season looking as a legitimate threat to compete for the NL West. Ubaldo Jimenez was coming off an impressive year and they had high hopes for Jorge De La Rosa. Unfortunately for the Rockies, very few things went right. De La Rosa had Tommy John Surgery early in the year, Ubaldo fell short of expectations and was shipped to Cleveland for top prospects. The Rockies spent the off season adding more bats across the lineup. The additions of Michael Cuddyer and Marco Scutaro will help solid the Rockies hitting. How well the Rockies will do, comes down to how De La Rosa, Chacin and the rest of the rotation fare.

5.) San Diego Padres (67-95)
     2011 Season: (71-91) 5th in NL West
Team Preview:
-The Padres were the biggest surprise in 2010. They came 1 game behind the World Series Champion Giants, and they were still a very young squad. However when they traded Adrian Gonzalez their team took a big hit. Their offense lacked any punch last year and because of it they only reached 71 Wins, and that was after they traded Heath Bell and Mike Adams. Now as the Padres head into 2012 they traded their Staff Ace Mat Latos for more prospects and up and comers. Needless to say it is going be a rebuilding year for the Padres, and they would be lucky to crack 70 Wins.

NL Central:
The Reds made the big move by getting Mat Latos,
but will it be enough to win the Central Crown.
*1.) Cincinnati Reds: (90-72)
      2011 Season: (79-83) 3rd in NL Central
Team Preview: 
-The Reds have always been a team that relies on their incredible offense, in one of the most hitter friendly parks in the Bigs. After making the playoffs in 2010 the Reds fell back to earth and their pitching was the big weakness. Walt Jocketty went out in the off season and traded for Matos Latos and Sean Marshall. Both moves will provide the Reds with more experienced, talented Pitchers then they have had in a long time. If Mat Latos can put up similar numbers to what he did in San Diego, the Reds will win the NL Central.

2.) Milwaukee Brewers: (89-77)
     2011 Season: (96-66) 1st in NL Central
Team Preview:
-The Brew Crew made it back to the Playoffs for the first time since 2008 last year thanks to their balance between pitching and hitting. The trio in the rotation of Zach Greinke, Yovanni Gallarado, and Shaun Marcum helped the Brewers make the necessary push in the Central. Then with 2011 MVP Ryan Braun, hitting alongside Prince Fielder and Rickie Weeks, it was a 6 man monster that was nearly unstoppable. That won't be the case this year because even though the Pitching Staff remains the same, Prince Fielder left for Detroit in Free Agency. The Brewers did catch a break however when Ryan braun won his 50 game suspension appeal on a technicality. The Brewers have a swell rounded team but they may fall just short of the Reds, and the playoffs

3.) St. Louis Cardinals:  (87-75)
     2011 Season: (90-72) 2nd in NL Central
Team Preview: 
-The Cardinals are Defending World Series Champions, but all that momentum was drained when Albert Pujols bolted for Los Angeles. Now that Pujols is gone the Cardinals Lineup takes a significant hit. The absence at the Cleanup spot will be felt, but the Cardinals will hope Carlos Beltran and a healthy Matt Holliday can fill some of the void. The good news for the Cardinals, they get Ace Adam Wainwright back who missed all of 2011. The addition of Wainwright back will help keep the Cardinals in contention, but there is no way to make up for the loss of Pujols.

4.) Pittsburgh Pirates (73-89)
     2011 Season: (72-90) 4th in NL Central
Team Preview:
-For the past 19 years the Pittsburgh Pirates have been unable to punch their ticket into the playoffs, intact in the past 19 years they have failed to hit .500. In 2011 the Pirates made big strides going from 57 Wins in 2010 to 72 Wins in 2011. As the Pirates young prospects come up to the Majors and develop the future will start to get brighter for the franchise. But because of their lack of pitching, and reliability across the lineup they still are a far shot from contention in 2012, and for the 20th Year in a row will fall short of a .500 Record and the Playoffs.

5.) Chicago Cubs: (67-95)
    2011 Season: (71-91) 5th in NL Central
Team Preview:
--Heading into 2011 the Cubs felt like they could be contenders in the National League Central after signing Carlos Pena, and trading for Matt Garza. The high expectations were never met as the Cubs could never get hot, en route to a 91 Loss season. Now the attention has shifted in Chicago, Pena is gone, Sean Marshall was traded, and the Cubs are diligently working on finding a suitable prospect package for Garza. As the Cubbies look down the 2012 road they are focused on developing their young guys (Anthony Rizzo and Brett Jackson) and seeing more improvement from SS Starlin Castro. Fans shouldn't have very high hopes for their team this year but there will be some young guys to keep an eye on as the season progresses.

6.) Houston Astros:  (59-103)
     2011 Season: (56-106) 6th in NL Central
Team Preview:
-The Astros have one more year of mediocrity in the National League before they get to make their move to the American League in 2013. There are very few bright spots on this Astros team, and the developing farm system they have doesn't have any close MLB Ready Future Stars. For the Astros 2012 will be another rebuilding year, and their last chance to trade Carlos Lee for anything substantial. The Astros will be in competition for the No.1 Pick but that is all, although there will be a little improvement from last year.

NL East:
*1.) Philadelphia Phillies: (98-64)
     2011 Season: (102-60) 1st in NL East
Team Preview:
-It was another outstanding year for the fans in Philadelphia last year. They came in first in the National League with 102 wins and established themselves as the favorites to win it all. Their post season run was cut short quickly as they got eliminated in the first round by the Cardinals. To make matters worse, Slugging 1B Ryan howard tore his ACL on the final out and is still in the process of recovering, as he will be out for the first few weeks of the MLB Season. The Phillies made one big move in the off season, bringing in Jonathan Papelbon to be the dominant closer they had lacked since Brad Lidge was healthy. In 2012 the Phillies will realize regular season success means little if you don't win the last game of the season, and you can bet they will be hungry to achieve that final victory.

If Jose Reyes can stay healthy, a duo of Hanley and Jose could
lead the Marlins back to the playoffs.
*2.) Miami Marlins: (89-73)
 2011 Season: (72-90) 5th in NL East
Team Preview:
-New Ballpark, New Stars, New Name that pretty much sums up what the Miami Marlins off season invalid. The team finished their brand new stadium and made the name switch to the Miami Marlins (previously Florida Marlins). If those weren't big enough changes they went out and spent the big bucks to bring in Super Star SS Jose Reyes, SP Mark Buehrle and All Star Closer Heath Bell. 3 Big additions that will bring major changes to the team we have seen on the field in previous years. What it will come down to for the Marlins is if Ace Josh Johnson and SS Jose Reyes can stay healthy, but if all goes well the Marlins will be back in the playoffs.

3.) Atlanta Braves: (86-76)
      2011 Season: (89-73) 2nd in NL East
Team Preview:
-The Braves were so close to the final Wild Card spot in 2011. Instead they tripped over their own feet right before the finish line and saw the Cardinals go sprinting through the finish all the way to the World Series Crown. As the Braves hit the restart button in 2012 they will be craving the sweeten air of playoff baseball. Every key component from the 2011 season will be back and that includes Rookie of the year Closer Craig Kimbrel. Kimbrel led the league in Saves and also led all Closers in K's. The questions about Kimbrel and fellow set up man Jonny Venters durability in 2012 are legitimate, but the young arms both appear strong and ready for another heavy workload. The key thing for the Braves will be staying healthy, and getting production from young RF Jason Heyward who had little impact in na injury plagued disappointment of a sophomore season. 

4.) Washington Nationals: (84-78)
      2011 Season: (80-81) 3rd in NL East
Team Preview:
-The Nationals are prove to every down on their luck team, that with enough No.1 picks and developing prospects, rebuilding can work. The Nationals spent most of 2011 without Stephen Strasburg, and had to rely upon Jordan Zimmerman and others to carry their team. Meanwhile, Ryan Zimmerman dealt with injuries all year and the team just couldn't field a healthy lineup. Now as D.C looks to 2012 their new rotation looks legitimate with Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmerman, and Edwin Jackson forming a young quartet the Nationals fans will love. When the game gets close Drew Storen can be trusted int he 9th to close things down. A strong pitching staff combined with a balanced lineup that could include top prospect Bryce Harper means a dangerous team in the Nations capital, and one that could contend in the East.
5.) New York Mets: (60-102)
     2011 Season: (77-85) 4th in NL East
Team Preview:
-The Mets won 77 games last season, and that was with a healthy Jose Reyes, Angel Pagan and a weaker NL East. The Mets subtracted in the off season swapping Pagan for Andres Torres, and watching Reyes depart to Miami in Free Agency. The 2012 season will be an eye sore for Mets fans and the city of New York. David Murphy is likely to be traded by the Trade Deadline, Johan Santana is coming off an elbow injury, and the rest of the team either can't hit or play defense consistently, just to make things worse the other 4 NL East teams made improvements in the off season and will be better then before. Fortunately, the Mets have two young SP's in the way, but don't expect to see any make their debuts in 2012.

NL Award Winners:
MVP: Justin Upton RF, ARI (.294 BA 37 HR's 97 RBI's 104 R's 26 SB's)
Cy Young: Tim Lincecum SP, SF: (16-9 2.37 ERA 227 K's)
Comeback POY: Hanley Ramirez 3B, MIA: (.307 BA 26 HR's 78 RBI's 104 R's 34 SB's)
Rookie of the Year:  Yonder Alonso OF, SD (.293 BA 23 HR's 67 RBI's 43 R's)
Manager of the Year: Ozzie Guillen, Miami Marlins

Wildcard Game:
(4) Arizona Diamondbacks vs. (5) Miami Marlins
Marlins Win

National League Division Series
(1) Philadelphia Phillies vs. (5) Miami Marlins
-Phillies in 5
(2) San Francisco Giants  vs. (3) Cincinnati Reds
-Giants in 6

National League Championship Series:
(1) Philadelphia Phillies vs. (2) San Francisco Giants
-Giants in 5

AL West:
*1.) Los Angeles Angels (101-61)
2011 Season: (86-76) 2nd in AL West
Team Preview:
-The Angels went into the off season looking to make a big addition to close the gap between themselves and the Texas Rangers. Now with the signings of Albert Pujols and the Rangers former Ace C.J Wilson they not only closed the cap, they completely leaped past the Rangers. The Angels come into 2012 with a impressive foursome of Jered Weaver, C.J Wilson, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana. Together the 4 will combine for one of the best front 4 in the Majors. We can't forget about their offense though, as the addition of Pujols makes them one of the top in the American League. All together the Angels made titanic additions in the off season and should be one of the favorites in the American League

*2.) Texas Rangers: (90-72)
     2011 Season: (96-66) 1st in AL West
Team Preview:
-The Rangers have accomplished quite a lot in the past 2 years, making back to back World Series appearances but falling short both times. The Rangers have always had a fabulous offense with power spread out across the lineup. Their weakness over the years though has been their rotation, and that took a bigger hit with the departure of C.J Wilson. Now as they press on towards 2012 they will have to rely upon Colby Lewis, Derek Holland and the 25 year old star out of Japan Yu Darvish. The Rangers chicness this year come down to how Darvish can handle major league hitting, and if Derek Holland is ready to take the next step as a No.2 guy, but unfortunately for the Rangers, they have been passed by the Angels, and may have to fight for the AL West.

3.) Seattle Mariners: (72-90)
     2011 Season: (67-95) 4th in AL West
Team Preview:
-For the longest time the Seattle Mariners have been the team that always has pitching but could never back it up with runs. Ace Felix Hernandez continues to shine despite the lack of run support by his teammates, and the Mariners have done a tremendous job drafting and developing young arms. The Mariners ended put racing one of those young arms (Michael Pineda) to get the big, young power bat they needed in Jesus Montero. The Mariners are on a team in the rise, but they are still a year away from being in contention, with a young cast of Montero, Dustin Ackley, Nick Franklin and more will be the talk of the town in a few years.
4.) Oakland Athletics: (68-94)
     2011 Season: (74-88) 3
Team Preview:
-The Athletics once again spent their off season trading away their top young talent (Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill and Andrew Bailey) in return for some of the top prospects in game. Despite all the trades, the biggest move the A's made was the signing of Cuban OF Yoenis Cespedes. Cespedes has all the tools to be an All Star in the OF, it's just a question of how long it will take him to adjust. The bottom line, 2012 will be another rebuilding year in Oakland, but young prospects like Jarrod Parker,  Michael Choice, and Brad Peacock should be in the Majors by September.

With Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder at the Corners
the Tigers have the most powerful duo in the Majors
AL Central:
*1.) Detroit Tigers: (96-66)
     2011 Season: (95-67) 1st in AL Central
Team Preview:
-In 2011 it wasn't Miguel Cabrera who was MVP, it wasn't Victor Martinez either. It was Cy Young and MVP winner Justin Verlander who was the star in Detroit. Verlander tallied a 24-5 record to go along with a 2.4 ERA and 250 K's as he blew away every hitter he faced. The Tigers went far but didn't have the depth in the rotation to make a serious push for a ring. They failed to address that need in the off season but what they did do is replace Victor Martinez (torn ACL) with the big man Prince Fielder. Now that the Tigers have Fielder and Miguel Cabrera together it will give them the best 1-2 punch in the Majors, and that punch may be enough to carry them to a World Series.
2.) Cleveland Indians: (83-79)
     2011 Season: (80-82) 2nd in AL Central
Team Preview:
-Another example of a breakout team in 2011 was the Cleveland Indians. After failing to crack the 70-win plateau the past 2 seasons, the Indians surprised everyone and due to a hot first half start won 82 games. Keep in mind the 82 games were with an injured Shin Soo Choo, Jason Kipnis and they only acquired Ubaldo Jiminez at the Trade Deadline, the team should have higher expectations for 2012. However, their division foe Tigers made strides this off season and the Twins won't be nearly as bad as they were last year. I expect we see a bounce back season from Ubaldo, but only a slight bump in Wins for the city of Cleveland.
3.) Minnesota Twins: (78-84)
     2011 Season: (63-99) 5th in AL Central
Team Preview:
-To call the Twins 2011 season an epic disappointment was an understatement. A team that the previous year won 94 games and captured the Central crown lost 99 games the next year. Everything that could go wrong did for the Twins, Tsuyoshi Nishioka was a bust, Joe Mauer couldn't stay healthy, and Justin Mourneau was dealing with concussions. Meanwhile the starting rotation was bad, the bullpen wasn't much better and the team just couldn't do anything right. Now in 2012 with a healthy Morneau, Mauer and a humbled team, the Twins are in for a bounce back season. The team still doesn't have the pitching to be a playoff contender but they should be close to 80 wins this year
4.) Kansas City Royals: (72-86)
     2011 Season: (71-91) 4th in AL Central
Team Preview:
-The Royals have put together a young duo that fans in Kansas City are going to fall in love with for years to come. 1B Eric Hosmer (.293 BA 19 HR's) and Mike Moustakas are looking like one of the best young corner duos in the game. The Royals also have young OF Lorenzo Cain (acquired in the Greinke traded) ready to take the place of Melky Cabrera in CF. Cabrera was traded to the Giants for LHP Jonathan Sanchez, who struggled in 2011, but just a year before was one of the main reasons the Giants won the World Series. Sanchez brings a talented arm to a Royals rotation that desperately needed one. As the young men continue to mature, and the pitching staff improves the future in Kansas City will get brighter and brighter.
5.) Chicago White Sox: (67-95)
     2011 Season: (79-83) 3rd in AL Central
Team Preview: 
-I am really not sure what to say about the White Sox. While they are in rebuilding mode it is hard to be excited about their farm system. They traded slugger Carlos Quentin to San Diego for two prospects who have been disappointments thus far either in the Majors (Rizzo) or the Minors (Castro) and as they try to trade away players like Paul Konerko, Gavin Floyd, and John Danks the teams 2012 hopes are very bleak. One thing is for sure about the White Sox, the Guillen antics are gone and whether or not that will have a positive or negative impact on the team remains to be seen. When all is said and done though, the White Sox will be found at the bottom of the division.

AL East:
*1.) New York Yankees (99-63)
     2011 Season: (97-65) 1st in AL East
Team Preview:
-The "Bronx Bombers" have the offense to be a World Series contender with A-Rod, Robinson Cano, Mark Teixera, and Curtis Granderson forming a nightmare for opposing pitchers. But last year their hitting wasn't enough as a rotation of C.C Sabathia and Ivan Nova wasn't enough to take this team back to the World Series. So in the off season the Yankees went out and made 2 instrumental additions to their rotation. First they signed Hiroki Kuroda to serve as the teams No.4 guy. Then just hours later they traded their top prospect Jesus Montero for young RHP Michael Pineda. Pineda showed last year the tools to be a future Ace, but until he develops the curveball he should serve as the Yanks 3rd man in the rotation. A strong rotation, a reliable bullpen, and a lethal offense could be the perfect ingredients for another Yankees title.
*2.) Tampa Bay Rays (95-67)
 2011 Season: (91-71) 2nd in AL East
Team Preview:
-The Rays are another example of what happens when you focus on developing your farm system, and are diligent with scouting. When you look at the Rays to players and prospects like Evan Longoria    (1st Round), Desmond Jennings (10th Round), David Price (1st Round) all in the past 5 years, it is a system that works. The development of prospects has also led to Matt Moore (8th Round) the top prospect in the Majors, and someone who is ready to step into the Rays rotation and contribute immediately. Moore will join an already talented core of James Shields, David Price, and Jeremy Hellickson to create a young rotation that will dominate the AL for years to come. Last year the Rays caught fire late and made a historic comeback to clinch a Wild Card spot on the last pitch of the Regular Season. Now in 2012 the Rays come with a stronger rotation and the return of slugger Carlos Pena to provide an added boost on offense. A stronger, more prepared Rays team will be fun to watch in 2012.
3.) Boston Red Sox: (89-73)
     2011 Season: (90-72) 3rd in AL East
Team Preview:
-The Red Sox were a 1 week collapse away from being in the American League playoffs, making it 2 straight years without a postseason berth. The Red Sox made several changes in the off season letting manager Terry Francona go and bringing in legend Bobby Valentine. With Valentine the Red Sox are hoping for a more strict, disciplined team both on the field and in the clubhouse. The key for the Red Sox however will be how does Carl Crawford bounce back from a disappointing season, and who starts at SS. Both the Rays and Yankees improved in the off season so the pressure will be on the Red Sox players to step up to the plate and give Bean-town another playoff trip.
4.) Toronto Blue Jays: (84-78)
     2011 Season: (81-81) 4th in AL East
Team Preview:
-The Blue Jays may be one of the quietest, most under appreciated teams in baseball. They continue to get 80 wins on a consistent basis. They are led by Jose Bautista who has led the Majors in HR's the past 2 seasons with 97 HR's. They also have two youngsters who also have shown power in 3B Brett Lawrie who at the age of 22 showed a nice power-speed combo late last year, and C J.P Arencibia. Their rotation has 2 main stays in Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow, while the 3rd, 4th and 5th spots are question marks. It will be a stretch for the Blue Jays to compete for a playoff spot this year, but if they can acquire a No.3 guy they could be contenders.

5.) Baltimore Orioles: (76-86)
     2011 Season:(69-93) 5th in AL East
Team Preview:
-The Orioles are the type of team that stays their ground towards the bottom of their division, and 2011 was another instance of that. The teams young stars performed at varying levels with Adam Jones and Matt Weiters having tremendous seasons, but Brian Matsuz never could get going. The 2012 season won't be much different for the Orioles. One thing is for sure though, if the young guys can come together and perform at a high level, in addition to the fine coaching of Buck Showalter could take this team places in the future.

AL Award Winners:
MVP: Miguel Cabrera 3B, DET (.347 BA 34 HR's 112 RBI's 116 R's 1 SB)
Cy Young: Felix Hernandez SP, SEA (16-13 2.39 ERA 231 K's)
Comeback POY: Joe Nathan CP, TEX (47 Saves 3.24 ERA)
Rookie of the Year: Matt Moore SP, TB (13-9 2.98 ERA 189 K's)
Manager of the Year: Jim Leyland, Detroit Tigers

Wildcard Game:
(4) Tampa Bay Rays vs. (5) Texas Rangers
-Rays win

American League Division Series
(1) Los Angeles Angels vs. (4) Tampa Bay Rays
-Angels in 5
(2) New York Yankees vs. (3) Detroit Tigers
-Tigers in 6

American League Championship Series:
(1) Los Angeles Angels vs. (3) Detroit Tigers
-Angels in 7


A 2002 World Series rematch, will the Giants get their revenge
or will the "Rally Monkey" make a comeback.

(1) Los Angeles Angels vs. (2) San Francisco Giants

-Game 1: Giants
-Game 2: Angels
-Game 3: Giants
-Game 4: Angels
-Game 5: Angels
-Game 6: Giants
-Game 7: Giants



  1. Once again, you have outdone yourself! Great job young man! I liked the NL ROY that's pretty insightful! Keep up the great work! I tried to email Mitch Albom on your behalf to get him to read your stuff. He may not, but I'm trying to help get your name out there!