In a baseball age dominated by sabermetrics and statistics, I am admittedly a stat geek. In reality, statistics are an incredible tool that can tell us more than we can see on the field. Iâ€™ve embraced this idea and use statistics pretty frequently whenever writing my baseball articles. However, I thought it would be interesting to try and write this preview without using too many confusing number-based stats. So while I have kept certain stats in mind when putting this preview together, I’ve done my best to try and leave most of the numbers out of the actual article. Play Ball!
Lucas Mayer’s 2011 MLB Preivew:
Many will look at this division and immediately hand it over to the Phillies. That sounds about right. The only thing I see stopping the Phils is the injury bug, which does not seem to be a problem issue currently. Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels and Joe Blanton are a simply ridiculous collection of starting pitchers. Philadelphia has four starters who all have a shot at winning the Cy Young: Unbelievable. Losing Jayson Werth hurts, but Ryan Howard and Chase Utley will be able to pick up the slack. The lineup remains almost perfectly balanced and more can be expected this year from Jimmy Rollins who will bounce back if healthy. Carlos Ruiz has proven he is a great catcher who handles the staff well and comes up clutch. Shane Victorino should be diving all around the outfield and continue to be the spirit of the team. There are a couple of question marks in the bullpen, but if Brad Lidge and Ryan Madson can be effective, there should not be too many problems.
The Braves will pose a threat as Jason Heyward enters his sophomore season and rookie Freddie Freeman will make an impact taking over first base. Those two should form a dangerous tandem for years to come. The health of Chipper Jones is always an issue, but that should be offset by the 30 home runs from Dan Uggla. Atlanta has a solid rotation anchored by Tim Hudson whose health issues seem to finally be behind him. Derek Lowe, Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson will help give Atlanta a formidable rotation which will be overlooked all season thanks to the Phillies. Atlanta may also have concerns with youth in their bullpen. Craig Kimbrel looks to take over at closer and has been impressive, but he has only pitched in 21 games. The Braves may need Scott Linebrink and George Sherrill to find the fountain of youth and add some veteran depth in the relief corps.
The Marlins are another young team that has good talent, but not good enough to topple the Braves or Phillies. Hanley Ramirez is still one of the best players in baseball and has Mike Stanton to count on for twenty plus home runs. Chris Coghlan will look to return to his rookie year form and Gaby Sanchez will continue to improve and become one of the most underrated first basemen in the NL. Josh Johnson is one of the best starters in baseball, but the rest of the rotation has some question marks. Ricky Nolasco has not figured it out and Javier Vazquez can have a good or a bad year. Similar to the Braves, there are a lot of question marks with the Marlins bullpen. Leo Nunez has nasty stuff, but the top dogs in the NL East may be able to scrape together a few late inning comebacks against Florida.
The Nationals look pretty good offensively with Jayson Werth in right field and Ryan Zimmerman at third providing a dangerous punch in the middle of the order. If Nyjer Morgan and Ian Desmond can improve their on-base percentage, the Nationals line up becomes very dangerous. Pudge Rodriguez comes back for another season catching a staff that is the problem in Washington. Livan Hernandez had a great bounce back season in 2010, but should not be relied on to anchor a major league rotation anymore. Similarly, Jason Marquis would not be a number two for most teams. The rest of the rotation is filled with below average talent and question marks. Drew Storen, who is Stephen Strasburg in reliever form, will turn into one of the best young closers in baseball. There are lots of other young arms in the bullpen like Sean Burnett and Tyler Clippard who have shown talent and may be better than most expect. Unfortunately, Washington is going nowhere fast mostly due to the starting rotation.
The Mets are a mess. Their ownership situation and scandal involving Bernie Madoff is a distraction to a team that is not in a good place. David Wright is as hard working as they come and will once again have a great season at third base. Carlos Beltran can not be trusted to be healthy and may have to move out of center field, but Jose Reyes should be able to get back into form. He is also a health concern though. The Jason Bay signing will be looked at as a bust; Bay will continue struggling in spacious Citi Field. Johan Santana will start the year on the disabled list and the rest of the rotation will struggle to pick up the slack. Mike Pelfrey has great composure but has shown inconsistencies in his career. Maybe knuckle-baller R.A. Dickey can have another great season and be the savior. K-rod is not the same closer he once was and does not have much help in the bullpen. Taylore Buchholz can be relied on if heâ€™s healthy. Iâ€™m not even going to get started on Oliver Perez. A huge payroll will lead to the Mets trying to trade overpaid veterans at the deadline.
The Brewers did some great work on their rotation and it will give them a shot to win one of the closest divisions in baseball. Look for Zach Greinke to love pitching in the NL Central and return to Cy Young form atop the Brewers rotation. Yovani Gallardo should be even better now that he can share the load and Randy Wolf is always better when heâ€™s at the lower end of a rotation. Shaun Marcum could be a force as he was already pitching well in the hitter heavy AL East. The devastation Prince Fielder will unleash in a contract year is plain scary; There is potential for a 50 homer 150 RBI season. Ryan Braun is everything anyone could ask for in a franchise player; he leads the team on the field, at the plate, and everywhere in between. Corey Hart broke out last season and can make the middle of the order one of the best in the NL if he continues to progress. John Axford stepped up into the 9th inning role and has two former closers, LaTroy Hawkins and Takashi Saito, to help him shut down the late innings. This team has all the pieces.
Reds fans have known how good Joey Votto is for four years; now everyone knows. Jay Bruce made significant strides in average and OBP while his already impressive power will only get better. Brandon Phillips seems to be on the cusp of an All-Star season on defense and offense. Scott Rolen had a big season and is a key veteran presence, but he could easily be an injury away from spending summers at home. The reds have a youthful rotation headed by Johnny Cueto and Edinson Volquez who both could end up looking like top of the rotation pitchers, but that is no sure thing. Bronson Arroyo is a steadying presence in Cincinnati while youngster Mike Leake will try to find his first half form and fight for a spot against another budding star in Travis Wood. Francisco Cordero has been one of the most reliable closers over the last seven years. Flame throwing sensation Aroldis Chapman will make the late innings very tough for opponents. After a couple of solid season from Nick Masset, the Reds bullpen looks to be in god shape.
The Cubs made the perfect choice in giving the opening rotation spot to a stabilizing presence in veteran Ryan Dempster. Expect Matt Garza to enjoy the scenery change to the NL, but do not count on Carlos Silva to repeat last seasons early success. The big question mark will be Carlos Zambrano; will he be a top of the rotation performer or clubhouse cancer? No one knows. Aramis Ramirez is a major key to the offense and after struggling in 2010 look for him to get back to the form of the six previous seasons. Carlos Pena will never be a .300 hitter, but Cubs fans will take .250 if he can smack 35 homers with help from the Friendly Confines. Itâ€™s hard to believe how impressive Starlin Castro was in his rookie year; he is one of the best young shortstops in baseball. At least Alfonso Soriano will not have to swing and miss at the ungodly slider of closer Carlos Marmol. The argument can be made that Marmol has the best pure stuff in the MLB. The return of Kerry Wood and veteran Sean Marshall will help an otherwise shaky bullpen.
St. Louis lost one of four players they could not succeed without when Adam Wainwright went down to Tommy John Surgery. A ton of pressure will now be on injury prone Chris Carpenter who threw his most inning since 2005 last year. Jaime Garcia was spectacular in his rookie season, but he is not ready to handle Wainwrights position as a stopper. Jake Westbrook and Kyle Lohse seemed fine at the back end with Wainwright, but now it just looks like the Cardinals have holes in their rotation. Albert Pujols will not be effected by his upcoming free agent drama and will continue on his path to being the greatest player in baseball history. Matt Holliday is another All Star, but do not expect the same from Lance Berkman who was already sliding and now will have to play the outfield again.The St. Louis lineup seems to be pretty weak; donâ€™t count on Ryan Theriot or Skip Schumaker to be saviors for the Cardinals. The St. Louis bullpen has Ryan Franklin closing down games, and Kyle McCllelan setting up which is a pretty good late inning duo. The problem for the rest of the bullpen could be the pressure to help offset Wainwrightâ€™s innings; There will be a lot of pressure on the pen to help offset his loss.
Houston will have the fantastic curve-ball of Wandy Rodriguez atop the rotation although he would set into a number two position for most contenders. Brett Myers had the best year of his career last year; donâ€™t count on a repeat performance. On the other hand, J.A. Happ is a an underrated young lefty who has shown composure and will eventually be a top of the rotation pitcher. Thatâ€™s all that is worth mentioning for the Astros rotation which will need a few more quality pitchers before they can contend again. You get the feeling that when Carlos Lee cares he can hit .300 with 30 homers and 100 RBIs and when he doesnâ€™t things start to fall apart; itâ€™s hard to care on a bad team. Hunter Pence has basically turned into the face of the team and had a really good 2010 season. He still has a lot of room to improve and could surprise people with one of the better seasons from the NL outfield. The middle infield is pretty weak with Clint Barmes and Bill Hall while Brett Wallace is a work in progress at first base. The bullpen is anchored by Brandon Lyon who is by no means dominant. The rest of the relievers for the most part have not proven to be reliable; donâ€™t expect Jeff Fulchino or Mark Melancon to save the day.
The Pirates will unfortunately make it 19 consecutive losing seasons. Andrew McCutchen is pretty much the lone bright spot. Everyone has been talking about the center fielderâ€™s potential and after two solid seasons he could find his place as a five tool star. Lyle Overbay is past his prime if he ever had one and Pedro Alvarez only showed power in his first year at third base. Neil Walker put together a solid season for a second basemen and Garret Jones has some promise in right field. This offense is a mess. Luckily for them the poor pitching should overshadow the poor hitting. Unproven and often shaky James McDonald is near the top of the rotation. Paul Maholm gives innings and thatâ€™s about it while Kevn Correia has not been good since 2007. Evan Meek has shown he can be a dominant reliever while Joel Hanrahan is just decent. The rest of the bullpen similar to the team as a whole; either unproven or not very good.
The Giants rotation may be one of the few that comes close to the Phillies. Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain may be the best power pitching duo since Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson for the Diamondbacks. Jonathan Sanchez seems to be figuring it out and has the stuff to be a force. Madison Bumgarner has proven he can compete in the majors and the young gun will only improve. Brian Wilson is not only the quirkiest player in baseball, but also one of the most dominating closers. Sergio Romo and Javier Lopez are reliable in the bullpen and Jeremy Affeldt should be able best last season. If the Giants are unable to repeat their 2010 success it will be due to the offense which is not strong. Aubrey Huff had an incredible season, but a repeat of those numbers cannot be expected. After his playoff heroics there will be a lot of pressure on the shoulders of Cody Ross. Also, Mark DeRosa is a question mark coming back from injury but should be serviceable. The key will be the continued success of Buster Posey who looks like one of the best young hitters in the league. Pablo Sandoval has lost about 30 pounds; if he can get back on track the entire lineup in San Francisco becomes infinitely more dangerous.
(Wild Card) The Dodgers floundered in the second half of last season and seem to have a new mentality under first time manager Don Mattingly. Los Angeles has an impressive starting five with Clayton Kershaw at the top making a case as one of the best left handers in the NL. Chad Billingsley has the stuff and has had success, but must get over the mental hump and move to the elite level. Ted Lilly, Hiroki Kuroda, and Jon Garland should help give the Dodgers a quality start for a majority of their games. Jonathan Broxton had a major set back after the All Star break, but is being trusted to resume his role as an All-Star closer. Hong-Chih Kuo put together one of the best seasons ever for a reliever and the addition of Matt Guerrier will help solidify the back end of the bullpen. The Dodgers need players who have shown impressive skill to step up on offense. Matt Kemp has MVP talent, but his work ethic has been questioned. Andre Ethier was on a triple crown pace before injuring a pinky and Rafael Furcal can still be a force, but injuries are always a concern. James Loney is a very good hitter, but will need to add power or his time in LA may be running out. The ability of Casey Blake, Juan Uribe, and reserve Jamey Carroll to all play multiple positions will help LA. The platoon of Marcus Thames and Jay Gibbons in left field is concerning.
Colorado comes in after signing multiple young stars to long term contracts. Ubaldo Jimenez might have the toughest fastball to hit in baseball and will be an early candidate for the Cy Young Award. Jorge De La Rosa has great potential, but has not been able to find a ton of success and Aaron Cook has digressed two years in a row partly due to injury. Behind Jimenez there are a lot of question marks in the Rockies rotation. Colorado has a good bullpen anchored by proven closer Huston Street. Former Marlins and Astros closer Matt Lindstrom is a fireballer and Rafael Betancourt can take care of the sixth-seventh inning role. Carlos Gonzalez was born to play baseball and will be an MVP candidate. Troy Tulowitzki helps form a dynamic middle of the order. If speedsters Dexter Fowler and Eric Young can get on base more the Rockies lineup will become more complete and much more dangerous. Todd Helton is really slowing down and his great career with Colorado may be coming to a close.
San Diego almost made the playoffs on young pitching. Mat Latos is the real deal and should have another great season in roomy PETCO Park. The Padres are hoping Clayton Richardâ€™s season was no fluke and that Tim Stauffer can work off an impressive 2010. I want to say there are too many question marks in the rotation and eventually it will fall apart, but I thought that same thing last year and look what happened. Heath Bell is a beast who will shut it down in the 9th inning and set the proper tone in the clubhouse. Luke Gregerson, Mike Adams, and Joe Thatcher might not be big names, but they are good pitchers who know their role in the bullpen and will help San Diego be solid in relief. The Padres lost all their offense when Adrian Gonzalez moved on to Boston. San Diego will hope Brad Hawpe can make a big time comeback and Jason Bartlett can return to 2009 form. Orlando Hudson will bring a great personality and work ethic to the clubhouse, but he is always an injury risk. Cameron Maybin has not been able to put it together in the big leagues, but he is still young and has tons of potential.
The Diamondbacks are looking to Joe Saunders to lead their staff which is not a good start. Daniel Hudson has shown the potential to be great and Ian Kennedy is a solid number three, but that is the best Arizona has to offer in the rotation. The Diamondbacks will need to rely on their bullpen early and often. J.J. Putz is a solid closer when healthy and reproved himself in Chicago last year. The rest of the bullpen is full of guys that can not really be counted on. There will be a lot of pressure on Juan Gutierrez and David Hernandez who probably will not be able to handle the late innings well. The offensive burden will be put on the shoulders of the ultra-talented Justin Upton. Chris Young has gone through stretches as a great center fielder, but can not seem to hit for average or get on base enough. Xavier Nady and Melvin Mora are simple stop gaps until Kevin Towers can rebuild the club properly.
The Red Sox are completely loaded after adding one of the best pure hitters in the game, Adrian Gonzalez, and one of the fastest and most dynamic players in Carl Crawford.The two new Sox will only help increase the production of Bostonâ€™s most important player, Kevin Youkilis, and David Ortiz, who still has gas left in the tank. Jacoby Ellsbury should be healthy and will act as a catalyst while Dustin Pedroia can take some pressure off himself and return to all star form. Josh Beckett can be one of the best pitchers in the AL, but it always comes down to health with him. Jon Lester is go to guy in the starting rotation as he will continue to put up great numbers and eat up a lot of innings. John Lackey had an average year in his transition to Fenway Park, but has proven he is a very good pitcher and should have a solid year. Clay Buchholz is young and has seemingly figured it out. The only thing to complain about when having Dice-K as the number five is his salary. Jonathan Papelbon may have not been as dominant, but look for him to bounce back in what may be the last year for him in Boston. Former White Sox closer Bobby Jenks should thrive in mid-relief alongside the likes of Dan Wheeler and Daniel Bard. The bullpen could be a major issue if Papelbon and Jenks donâ€™t bounce back.
The Yankees starting rotation will just barely hold them out of the playoffs unless they can make something happen through trades, which is very possible. CC Sabathia will continue to give Cy Young type performances, but he can not do it by himself. Phil Hughes seems to have a bright future, but has never pitched 200 innings and only has an ERA under 4.00 once. A.J. Burnett can be counted on….to be very bad or collapse eventually. The last two spots are up for grabs with Freddy Garcia likely to grab one. Andy Pettitte was needed this year more then ever. The back end of the bullpen is by far the best in baseball with the best closer in history, Mariano Rivera, taking care of the 9th while all star closer Rafael Soriano takes care of the eighth. David Robertson and Pedro Feliciano are also great pieces and there is still hope Joba Chamberlain can regain his form now that the starting experiment is over. Per usual, the Yankees have a beastly lineup led by Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano, and Alex Rodriguez. It never hurts to have three possible MVPs in the lineup, not to mention the versatile Curtis Granderson in center field. Russell Martin has not produced in a couple years and has injury issues, but his acquisition will allow Jorge Posada to move to DH which should help the longtime Yankee backstop.
The Rays really could use Matt Garza behind the dynamic lefty David Price, I still do not understand the Garza trade. James Shields has digressed considerably the last two seasons and Jeff Niemann can be relied on for some innings, but is in no way a stopper. Wade Davis and Jeremy Hellickson have shown serious talent as young pitchers and will need to step up big for the Rays. Tampa Bayâ€™s bullpen was completed demolished and had to be rebuilt; it will be a major issue. J.P. Howell is probably the best out of the bunch and will end up getting a good amount of saves. Joel Peralta has really only had one good season out of six. On the bright side, the Rays will surely be favored in any fight with Kyle Farnsworth lurking. Evan Longoria is one of the best players in baseball and will have to carry the load. I think Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon will actually both contribute, but not enough to make a difference. You would like to think that Ben Zobrist will return to 2009 form, but in reality that year may have been the outlier.
The Blue Jays made the right decision in giving a contract to Jose Bautista who may not hit 50 home runs again, but should get at least 30 with his reinvented swing. Toronto will count on Adam Lind and Aaron Hill to continue with their decent power numbers, but both need to work on their average and OBP. Similar issues apply to Travis Snider and imported shortstop Yunel Escobar. Ricky Romero took control of the rotation last year and will end up being one of the better lefties in the AL. Brandon Marrow and Brett Cecil would be ideal back of the rotation pitchers, but will be in the two and three slots for the Blue Jays. Look for big time progress from youngster Kyle Drabek who was a key piece in the Roy Halladay trade. The Jays have a surprisingly good bullpen with Frank Francisco returning to the closer role where he has had success. Former closers Octavio Dotel and Jon Rauch are ready to help handle the late innings, not to mention another good arm in Jason Frasor.
Baltimore has a star in Nick Markakis who will carry the burden and hope that catcher Matt Wieters can live up to the hype and become a star in his sophomore season. Mark Reynolds will bring a whole bunch of home runs (and strikeouts) to Camden Yards along with fellow import Derek Lee who still has some long doubles left in the tank at first base. Brian Roberts seems to be the most consistent Oriole of the last decade and should put up good numbers if healthy. Adam Jones had a big year in center field and Baltimore fans are hoping he can turn into a force. Baltimore has a horrendous rotation led by Jeremy Guthrie who would be a great third starter on a contender. The rest of the rotation is filled with unproven pitchers (Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta) or guys trying to prove their health (Justin Duchscherer). Kevin Gregg will close and had a good year last year, but could easily fall off (he has before). Mike Gonzalez can have shaky control at times, but has shown he can use that formula to succeed. The bullpen as a whole is no better then a little below average and will be overworked constantly because of the poor rotation.
The Twins have no legitimate ace, but Francisco Liriano is back after a great 2010 season and will act as the anchor of the staff. Carl Pavano seems to have figured it out and has left his Yankees stint in the past. Scott Baker and Nick Blackburn can act as innings eaters and Minnesota will hope for them to develop further. Youngster Brian Duensing impressed in his first full season after a good 2009 stint and could be the difference for the Twinsâ€™ staff. Minnesotaâ€™s bullpen is nasty with Joe Nathan, who is a top five closer, returning and fill in Matt Capps ready to take on whatever role necessary. Jose Mijares should take care of the lefties, but there are some questions on who will step up in the sixth inning-type role. Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau will create a powerful middle of the order that the rest of the AL Central will dread facing. Jason Kubel will hit for power without a doubt, but can he get his average and OBP back to 2009 form? Delmon Young really blossomed last season and is on the cusp of stardom. Denard Span can be counted on as a catalyst while Michael Cuddyer will continue his role as veteran leader.
(Wild Card) Chicago comes in after adding slugger Adam Dunn which will help beef up the middle of the order alongside Paul Konerko, who seems to only get better with age. Alex Rios seems to have found a home with the White Sox and should have at least a repeat of his solid 2010 campaign. On the other hand, there are questions about Carlos Quentin who seems to be making the transition to pure power hitter only. Alexei Ramirez has put together a couple of good seasons, but he is due to break out and finally live up to his big time potential. Mark Buehrle is not the pitcher he once was, but expect him to have a better season then last year and still be reliable atop the Chicago rotation. John Danks is by far one of the most underrated starters in the AL and will continue to put together all star caliber seasons. Gavin Floyd is a solid third or fourth pitcher who will eat innings and consistently give the team a chance to win opposed to Edwin Jackson who is a gamble every time he takes the mound. The biggest factor in Chicagoâ€™s season may be Jake Peavy, who can be one of the best in the game if heâ€™s healthy. The concern in the bullpen is a lack of a bona fide closer, but Matt Thornton has power stuff as a lefty. Chris Sale is young and has shown promise while Jesse Crain comes over from the Twins to work the middle innings.
Detroit has a good squad and an incredible player in Miguel Cabrera, who happens to have an issue with alcohol. Expect Cabrera to mash like always, but his situation is officially concerning. Victor Martinez seems to have been lost in the shuffle, but he can still hit and should be even better now that he will not be catching so much. When healthy, Magglio Ordonez rakes and will be a force in the Tigers lineup. Brandon Inge and Jhonny Peralta form an average defensive left side of the infield and a pretty weak offensive tandem. The speedster Austin Jackson had a good rookie year and can be a big difference maker if he continues to improve. Justin Verlander is a workhorse that can easily strike fear into hitters with his sizzling fastball. Max Scherzer put together an impressive first year in Detroit while Rick Porcello took a big step backward. Phil Coke and Brad Penny are two big question marks at the back end of the rotation. Jose Valverde, Joaquin Benoit and Joel Zumaya may form the hardest throwing back end of the bullpen in baseball. There are other valuable arms in the pen like Ryan Perry and lefty specialist Daniel Schlereth.
Cleveland has a star in Shin-Soo Choo who seems to be Hideki Matsui when he first went to the Yankees. Asdrubel Cabrera was slowed by injuries, but he will bounce back after proving he has the talent. Carlos Santana has Indians fans excited; his first full season should show wether he will live up to big expectations behind the plate. I would have more faith in a Grady Sizemore comeback if he still was not dealing with knee issues. Orlando Cabrera does not have much time left, but will be a useful stop gap until the Indians find someone better. Travis Hafner has a very bad contract. Fausto Carmonaâ€™s sinker ball found life again after his health improved; he should be on track for another good year. Justin Masterson and Mitch Talbot would be ok in the back of the rotation, but will need to pitch better than that for Cleveland. Chris Perez settled in nicely to the closer role and will have Rafael Perez and Jensin Lewis behind him.
The Royals will be moving up in the division soon with their fantastic farm system and it will be interesting to see how many young players get a shot this year. The rotation is simply horrible for the Royals. Luke Hochevarâ€™s biggest accomplishment is being a high draft pick and Kyle Davies has never shown anything to inspire hope. Jeff Francis was average in Colorado, then he got hurt and now has taken the step down to below average. Joakim Soria is by far the best player on this team and is absolutely lights out in the ninth. The rest of the bullpen is not very experienced or very good for that matter. On a side note; I recently visited the Royals ballpark and it is fantastic (positivity people). Billy Butler is probably the best hitter on the team and there should be no reason he doesnâ€™t put together another good season. Jeff Francoeur comes over to play outfield and Kansas City may be the perfect spot for his career to die. Alcides Escobar and Mike Aviles both have tons of potential on the left side and Alex Gordon has perfected the art of not reaching expectations.
The Rangers come off their best season ever after winning the American League. The loss of Cliff Lee was big, but keep in mind they would have won the division without him. C.J. Wilson was fantastic in his first year as a starter and has the mental toughness to lead the rotation (he also is great on Twitter: @str8edgeracer). Colby Lewis was finally able to put together a solid season and will be an important piece in Texasâ€™ success. Brandon Webb can be one of the best pitchers in baseball if heâ€™s healthy, which is supposedly the case for the first time in two years. Neftali Feliz thrived in the closer role and will anchor a very strong bullpen. Darren Oliver has had much more success in his last five seasons then the first 13 and should continue the trend in Texas. Arthur Rhodes was brought in as another reliable and often dominating bullpen arm alongside submariner Darren Oâ€™Day. Josh Hamiltonâ€™s incredible story will continue after his MVP award which he has the ability and determination to achieve again. Nelson Cruz can not only mash, but has turned into a pretty good hitter as well. Adrian Beltre wonâ€™t produce the gaudy numbers he did in Boston, but will be solid at third base alongside the speedy Elvus Andrus. Michael Young may not be happy as a DH, but he will still produce and be a team player.
The Angels were the biggest losers of the off season after not making a substantial move then eating the horrible Vernon Wells contract out of desperation. Still, if Anaheim can stay healthy they have a good team and Wells will at least add some power. Torii Hunter continued his solid production as always and Kendry Morales was having a monster season until his unfortunate injury. Bobby Abreu showed his age last season and will have to prove he still has what it takes. Howie Kendrick also digressed, but is still young and has shown he is a naturally gifted hitter. Erik Aybar and Maicer Izturis are both questions marks, but will provide solid defense on the left side. Jered Weaver has become a forgotten ace and could even be a Cy Young sleeper. Dan Haren was not as dominant as usual, but will move back to elite status in his second year with Anaheim. Ervin Santana has shown he can succeed at the big league level, but nothing is guaranteed with him. Joel Pineiro needs to stay healthy and pitch 200 innings while Scott Kazmir must try and regain his lost form. The bullpen is worrisome starting with Fernando Rodney as the new closer. Scott Downs will be a reliable arm and the Angels will have to hope Jason Bulger has a season similar to 2009.
Oakland went against the Billy Beane playbook by being very active in offering big contracts. Most did not pan out, but Hideki Matsui will turn out to be a good signing as 20 homers in Oakland looks like a lot. The move to get David DeJesus was great as he has put up solid season year after year and should be even better with fresh life in Oakland. Kevin Kouzmanhoff, Josh Willingham and Coco Crisp are no all stars, but they will have to suffice on a team that will rely on pitching. Oakland really needs Kurt Suzuki to get back to 2009 form and add a little pop to the lineup. Cliff Pennington has not had a breakout season at shortstop, but the Aâ€™s continue to display faith in him and first basemen Daric Barton. The Athletics may have the best young starting pitching nucleus in baseball led by perfect game thrower Dallas Braden. Trevor Cahill dominated last year firing just under 200 innings with an ERA just under 3.00. Brett Anderson is looking for his success from last year to translate over 200 innings this year while Gio Gonzalez would love for a repeat of his 2010 performance. Donâ€™t forget that veteran Rich Harden is waiting in the wings. Andrew Bailey has been incredible in his first two seasons closing games and will have more help this year. Beane brought in Brian Fuentes and Grant Balfour which will help the Athletics shorten games.
The Mariners have Felix Hernandez and he very well might be the best pitcher in baseball. Jason Vargas had the best year of his career and Seattle will need him to be even better. Erik Bedard still is a great pitcher, but is having issues even reaching the 90 IP mark. The rotation behind King Felix is very shaky. David Aardsma turned himself into a reliable closer over the past two seasons and thereâ€™s no reason he canâ€™t do it again. Brandon League put together his first really good season and will need to keep up the pace with rookies and below average relievers filling out the rest of the pen. Ichiro is an absolute machine and will continue his quest for 3,000 hits despite his late start in the MLB. Franklin Gutierrez lived up to his potential two years ago, but could not in 2010, leaving question marks about his future. Justin Smoak was the prized possession in the Cliff Lee deal and will have the opportunity to prove himself at first base. Chone Figgins really fell of in 2010 and Mariners fans are hoping this is not the second coming of their Adrian Beltre fiasco. Jack Wilson and Brendan Ryan should be expected to make some awesome highlight plays up the middle; thatâ€™s about it.
NL: Phillies over Dodgers Brewers over Giants
Phillies over Brewers
AL: Red Sox over White Sox Twins over Rangers
Red Sox over Twins
World Series: Phillies over Red Sox (Doc with a complete game in Game 7)
Post Season Awards
MVP- Ryan Braun
Cy Young- Clayton Kershaw
Rookie of the Year- Freddie Freeman
Comeback Player of the Year- Pablo Sandoval
MVP- Adrian Gonzalez
Cy Young- Felix Hernandez
Rookie of the Year- Jeremy Hellickson
Comeback Player of the Year- Brandon Webb