Posted on: April 1, 2009 9:43 pm
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Posted on: February 16, 2009 7:09 pm
Edited on: February 17, 2009 1:05 pm
While most Orioles fans are probably disappointed with the teams offseason movement, I like what GM Andy MacPhail is doing. MacPhail realized long ago that the current makeup of the team could not win him ballgames, let alone the AL East. He decided to firesale the team, starting with Erick Bedard and Miguel Tejada. These two deals brought the Orioles some much needed depth in a farm system that was ravaged dry. MacPhail continued that firesale this offseason by trading away Ramon Hernandez to Reds for Ryan Freel. While Freel won't do much for the team other than be a backup, the move has now cleared an opening for Matt Wieters to eventually take over as the everday catcher. In addition, MacPhail made some under the radar moves with the Cubs acquiring both Felix Pie and Rich Hill for spare parts. Both of these players have struggled at the big league level, but they both are considered to have high upside. This team is slowing progressing forward, and even though they didn't get Mark Teixeira this offseason, the team remains committed to winning longterm. Such is evidenced by MacPhail's moves since he arrived at Baltimore. O's fans can at least enjoy Nick Markakis for another 6 seasons as he signed an extension this offseason.
The Orioles lineup is just average at best, but they probably have the best outfield defense in the league with Pie, Jones, and Markakis. Roberts is a good place setter to start things off, but there are questions as to whether or not Mora will be as effective as he was a season ago. Nick Markakis is probably the most underrated outfielder in the league and should once again be the focal point for this teams offense. Huff is a decent enough hitter in the four hole, but his defense is a liability if the team plans on playing him at first base. That could change though if Ty Wigginton beats out Luke Scott for a starting job. The bottom half of the Orioles lineup is pretty weak. Jones has the potential to be good, but we're still waiting on him to breakout. The same can be said for Pie. Izturis likely won't be of any value on offense, while Greg Zaun could be replaced in the lineup by Matt Wieters at any time.
Aside from Wigginton, the bench is pretty weak. Quiroz doesn't figure to keep his spot on the team for the entire season, while Gomez is a sub-par bench player that has bounced from team to team in the past years. Freel will be the teams 5th outfielder, only because when Luke Scott isn't DHing, the team is likely to put him in the lineup first. However, it's still possible that Freel could backup the infielders at some point as well as he can play multiple positions.
The last three spots listed here are still up for competition, but those three seem to inside edge heading into camp. Jeremy Guthrie has been the Orioles workhorse for the past two seasons and will continue to be so as the team enters 2009. There have been mixed scouting reports on Uehara (pictured at the top of this blog). Some say he could be as effective as Hiroki Kuroda was last season for the Dodgers, while others don't think he'll cut it as a starting pitcher in the league. I guess we'll find out who was right during the season. Rich Hill has tremendous upside if he can find his stuff again and Henrickson and Liz should just be stopgaps for the young arms like Tillman and Patton that the Orioles will have waiting to be called up.
The bullpen is now better than it was a year ago, simply because the Orioles are getting Chris Ray back from Tommy John Surgery. The injury kept Ray out all of last season. Many still speculate that Ray, who closed for Baltimore before Sherrill, will eventually overtake Sherrill as the teams closer, but that still remains to be seen. I personally think Matt Albers would serve the Rays better in the rotation instead of Liz, but apparently the team doesn't share my same feelings. Meanwhile, it remains to be seen if Jamie Walker can turn his miserable 2008 season around and get back to where he was 2 years ago.
Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects:
Spring Position Battles:
Catcher - Matt Wieters vs. Greg Zaun
Boston Red Sox
It wasn't a big offseason for the Red Sox, but it wasn't really a bad one either. GM Theo Epstein took advantage of a slowing market by signing some undervalued players in Brad Penny, Takashi Saito, John Smoltz, and Rocco Baldelli. Each of the players mentioned had injury problems last season which kept them out of many games, but if they fully recover, they can be very effective. As for the departures, the team really didn't lose anything useful. Sure, Epstein traded Crisp away to the Royals for bullpen depth, but he adequately was able to replace his production. Schilling and Timlin havn't been anything useful in over a year, while Bartolo Colon would have been had he not swung for the fences during interleague play.
Solid lineup until you get down to the bottom three in the order. It will be interesting to see how much Jacoby Ellsbury develops this season and whether or not Kevin Youkilis can keep the type of power production that he did a year ago. Looking at the bottom three in the order though, Lowell is coming off of surgery, so there is no telling how well he will be able to perform while Lowrie and Varitek don't really offer the team much at their respected positions. Lowrie was still a below average shortstop last year hitting the ball and his range at the position was downright terrible. Then again, the fact that he's an upgrade over Julio Lugo is pretty sad. Meanwhile, Varitek has had two poor seasons in the past three years and many people, including myself, thought the Red Sox were stupid to bring him back.
Bard remains a good backup catcher as long as they don't make him catch Wakefield. Even if he does, there is a strong possibility Wakefield might get thrown in the bullpen if John Smoltz comes back healthy in June. Wilkerson only figures to be on the bench at the start of the season as his spot will likely be taken away by Mark Kotsay, who just underwent surgery and is likely out for the first two months of the year. However, when fully healthy, a bench of Bard, Lugo, Baldelli, and Kotsay may be one of the best in the league.
Beckett remains one of the top starters in the American League, despote having a down year last season. It was good to finally see Jon Lester reach his potential, as he hadn't done it in any season prior. As for Matsuzaka, his numbers are wierd. The walks are alarming, but since no one gets hits off of him, the era has stayed low and he won quite a bit of games last year. If hitters start to figure him out, then Boston has to watch out as Matsuzaka has the potential to get lit up on any given night with his wildness. Penny should be decent coming off of shoulder surgery, but even if he struggles, the Sox can alway turn to either Clay Buchholz or Michael Bowden in AAA. John Smoltz should be back to the team by midseason and was looking really good at drills in spring training. Wakefield still remains a reliable starter, though depending on health of others, could get bumped from the rotation once Smoltz returns.
The bullpen is looking revamped with the additions of Saito and Ramirez. Saito has been one of the most effective pitchers in the league since coming over from Japan, but struggled after coming off the DL at the end of last season forcing the Dodgers to non-tender him. Meanwhile, Ramirez had a good season for the Royals last year, but struggled the year prior. He's just another arm that the Sox can throw out on any given night and expect to be effective.
Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects:
Spring Position Battles:
New York Yankees
The Yankees took advantage of a poor economy and snagged up the best three players on the free agent market in CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Mark Teixeira. Sabathia takes the ace role, which was vacated when Mike Mussina decided to retire. Meanwhile adding Burnett makes the teams staff a lot better while it takes away a number two pitcher from a rival opponent. By signing Teixeira, the Yankees found their new first basemen of the future after 7 years of Jason Giambi occupying that spot. Nick Swisher, who was acquired for Jeff Marquez and Wilson Betemit in the early stages of the offseason, still could be moved. Otherwise, it's likely that he might spend 2009 as a bench player. As for the departures, the Yankees are losing a little offense by allowing Abreu and Giambi to walk, but they are now a much better defensive team and if injuries don't come in to play as bad as they did a year ago, the team should have a much higher run differential. Carl Pavano was useless in his time in New York, while Rasner wasn't needed. As much as Yankee fans hated Betemit, he is actually looking like a better bench option now as the Yankees only added Angel Berroa in the offseason.
It's a fresh start for the Yankees....somewhat. They have most of their key players recovered from injury and a new superstar in the lineup. However, they also have a cleanup hitter that doesn't react well to pressure coming off a steroid filled offseason. It remains to be seen just how good Alex Rodriguez will be for the Yankees this year. I think he should eventually be fine as A-rod handled the situatoin the appropriate way, but you just never know. It also remains to be seen what if the health of older players such as Jorge Posada, Hideki Matsui, and Johnny Damon will continue to hold up. This team is the best team in the league "on paper," but they need to translate that into a playoff berth. If Joe Girardi doesn't make the playoffs this year, I think he should be gone. He has all the talent and resources he needs to have a winning ballclub. Just keep this locker room in order and get the job done.
Ugh. Aside from Nick Swisher, this is probably the worst bench in baseball. I don't know how a team can spend so much money on three players and then ignore going after someone to fill the void on the bench. Berroa, Gardner, and Molina all suck, but at least Gardner and Molina are good defensive players. Perhaps the Yankees should take a flyer on Mark Grudzielanek, Ray Durham, or Adam Kennedy. I'm sure all could be had for minimum contracts.
From the looks of it, it looks as if Sabathia and Burnett are already best friends. These two are going to be counted on to carry the team on its back for most of 2009. Meanwhile, the Yankees should benefit greatly from getting a healthy Chien-Ming Wang and a full season of Joba Chamberlain. Personally, I think the Yankees would have been better off going with Phil Hughes in the 5th spot in the rotation rather than Pettitte, but I guess now Hughes will be the first option when A.J. Burnett a Yankee pitcher goes on the disabled list.
ESPN analysts John Kruk and Buck Showalter thought the Yankees would have been better off having Joba Chamberlain in the bullpen, but I'm not so sure I agree with that. In my opinion, your most effective pitchers should be pitching the most innings possible. The team still has Mariano Rivera closing games out for them, so it's not as if the Yankees don't have anyone in their pen. Bruney should still be effective in the right handed setup role, but I have my doubts about Marte. The rest had pretty good seasons a year ago, while I'm wondering what the Yankees plans are for Ian Kennedy. I put him in the long relief role as it would probably take multiple injuries for the team to even consider using him as a starter. Plus, I figured the Yankees would go with 4 bench players and 7 relievers.
Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects:
Centerfield - Brett Gardner vs. Melky Cabrera
Tampa Bay Rays
Burrell is a significant upgrade to Cliff Floyd in the lineup and David Price should fill in fine for the departed Edwin Jackson. I'm not too fond of any of the other moves the Rays made this offseason and I still think the team underrates what Eric Hinske's bat did for them a year ago, but I guess they'll find that out on their own. 2009 should be another learning year for the Rays. They had a bunch of success in 2008, but it remains to be seen whether or not they can repeat that same success. Many other teams in the division have now had a chance to make changes and get scouting reports on this young team and given the competition they face in their division, I think another playoff berth is unlikely, though I do think they will finish well above .500. However, I wouldn't mind if the small market Rays proved me wrong. GM Andrew Friedman has a great base here in Tampa and a team that is likely to stay competitive for a long while.
When Evan Longoria is projected to be your 6th hitter in the batting order, you know you have a good young lineup. The addition of Burrell at DH makes this team quite a bit better offensively. It remains to be seen if B.J. Upton can take the power he displayed in the postseason last year and put it into effect in the regular season. Meanwhlie, Carl Crawford is looking to bounce back after one of his worst seasons as a pro.
Jaso is a friend of mine from high school, so I'm really hoping he makes the team. Baseball America has him listed as the Rays prospect with the most plate discipline and he's been really good in the minors thus far. He was called up in September of last season as insurance and went 2 for 10 in mostly pinch hit situations. However, he is a better hitter than Shawn Riggans and is also athletic enough to play the outfield or first base if asked to. Meanwhlie, Willy and Ben Zobrist figure to be the key backups once again in the infield for the Rays, whlie Matt Joyce sohuld be battling Gabe Gross for the starting spot in right field. I imagine Kapler will remain a backup, but he's been solid since returning from Japan.
Should be pretty difficult facing the Rays on any given night. The Rays have quality starters all throughout their rotation and are backing them up with quality starters waiting for their chance in the minor leagues. I'm most interested in seeing how the young David Price will develop. The past few years, young pitchers (such as Phil Hughes, Homer Bailey, Ian Kennedy, and Clay Buchholz) have been overhyped because of their minor league success. Will Price be the first one to break the trend? He certainly is the front runner for the American League Rookie of the Year Award and after his brilliant postseason performance, people will be expecting a lot from the young rookie.
This bullpen scares me. And not in a good way. Percival was inneffective for much of last year while Wheeler and Howell had their best season in years. I'm not confident anyone on the Rays bullpen can keep the same success they had a year ago. It's too bad Chad Bradford got hurt, because he was the one stable part of this bullpen. If the Rays are looking for the same October goal they had a season ago, they will need to upgrade this bullpen quite a bit. I believe Niemann will be forced to be a reliever unless he's traded as I think he's out of options and I imagine David Price will win the 5th starter competition. Perhaps he can bring some stability.
Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects:
Spring Position Battles:
Toronto Blue Jays
Well....There's really not much to say about the Blue Jays offseason. GM J.P. Ricciardi did nothing but sign a bunch of below average players to minor league contracts. The team remained complacent and did not make one significant signing.
Marco Scutaro leading off? Somehow I think that's going to change. Perhaps Hill will eventually take over the role. The Jays basically feature the same offense as they had a year ago. The only difference is that Travis Snider, the teams top prospect, should see regular at bats at either left field or designated hitter.
The bench is weak. Barrett is a good backup, but the others don't offer much more. I really don't know what to say when it comes to the Blue Jays bench, because their offseason offers nothing to talk about.
Looking at the rotation, the Blue Jays still have a Cy Young caliber pitcher in Roy Halladay, but it drops off quite a bit after that. Shaun Marcum is out for the year, while Dustin McGowan will be out for the first few months. The Jays are going to have spring position battles for their final few spots in the rotation and it remains to be seen whether or not Brett Cecil (the teams top pitching prospect) will be allowed to win a spot outright.
The good news for the Jays is that their bullpen is the exact same as it was a year ago. The Jays had the best bullpen era in 2008 and every single member should be healthy for the start of the year.
Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects:
Spring Position Battles:
Designated Hitter - Kevin Millar vs. Travis Snider
Sorry Blue Jays fans for not giving you more, but blame your GM.
Posted on: February 9, 2009 1:45 am
Tampa Bay traded away Edwin Jackson to the Tigers this offseason to make room for David Price as the 5th starter in the Rays rotation. Price is projected to be an ace by most scouts and has excellent stuff and features a very good fastball and slider. He was the number one pick by the Rays in 2007 and excelled through all three levels of the minors last season and into the pros late in the year. Price was one of the Rays postseason heroes last season as he pitched the final inning of game 7 against the Boston Red Sox to advance the Rays to their first ever World Series appearance. The kid seems poised and ready to take on major league hitters and it will be fun watching what he can do with his first full season in the majors. One of the main reasons the Rangers wanted Michael Young to make the transition from shortstop to third base was because of the young Elvis Andrus sitting in the teams farm system. Andrus was first acquired by the Rangers as part of the package the Braves sent to Texas for first basemen Mark Teixeira . He has limited power, but shows excellent bat speed along with quickness along the basepaths. Andrus is a defensive minded shortstop that could give the Rangers a legitimate leadoff hitter at the top of their lineup. He reminds me a lot of a younger Jose Reyes. Andrus will be given every opportunity to win the Rangers starting shortstop job out of spring training, but in case he still needs time in the minors, the Rangers added Omar Vizquel as a stopgap. It should be noted that Andrus has never played at AAA. Pure talent. There hasn't been a catcher I was this excited about since Joe Mauer came up for his rookie season with the Twins . Wieters was Baseball America's minor league player of the year last season and very well could be the best prospect in baseball. The 2007 first round pick of the Orioles, Wieters dominated single-A ball hitting .345/.448/.576 with 15 homers and 40 in just 230 at bats. He then was called up to double-A where he hit .365/.460/.625. That's crazy. Wieters is expected to be the Orioles starter at some point this season. The question is....when? The team brought in Greg Zaun to be the veteran catcher to help ease Wieters into the big leagues, but it remains to be seen whether or not Wieters will break camp with the team. Snider advanced through all three levels of the minors last season and was the youngest player in the majors when he was called up in September of last season. He is only going to be 21 years of age to begin next season and is likely to be the Blue Jays everyday designated hitter as the teams outfield is already set with Adam Lind , Vernon Wells , and Alex Rios . Snider has a great bat and he figures to have 25 home run power in the big leagues. Snider is prone to strike out quite a bit and he doesn't have that great of plate discipline. If it can be developed, he can become a very good baseball player. LaPorta was the top prospect that the Indians acquired from the Brewers for CC Sabathia . While in Milwaukees discipline, LaPorta was known as an extremely patient hitter that would hit for high average and have decent pop. However, after he was traded to the Indians, LaPorta started to struggle. After hitting .288/.402/.576 with 20 homeruns in Milwaukee's farm system, LaPorta hit .233/.299/.350 with 2 homeruns in 17 games. LaPorta was so bad in the Venezuelan Winter League, he was sent home. However, LaPorta is a great talent and he should be able to turn it around. I doubtt LaPorta will start the year in the Indians outfield, but he could be be up within a couple months.
Tampa Bay traded away Edwin Jackson to the Tigers this offseason to make room for David Price as the 5th starter in the Rays rotation. Price is projected to be an ace by most scouts and has excellent stuff and features a very good fastball and slider. He was the number one pick by the Rays in 2007 and excelled through all three levels of the minors last season and into the pros late in the year. Price was one of the Rays postseason heroes last season as he pitched the final inning of game 7 against the Boston Red Sox to advance the Rays to their first ever World Series appearance. The kid seems poised and ready to take on major league hitters and it will be fun watching what he can do with his first full season in the majors.
One of the main reasons the Rangers wanted Michael Young to make the transition from shortstop to third base was because of the young Elvis Andrus sitting in the teams farm system. Andrus was first acquired by the Rangers as part of the package the Braves sent to Texas for first basemen Mark Teixeira . He has limited power, but shows excellent bat speed along with quickness along the basepaths. Andrus is a defensive minded shortstop that could give the Rangers a legitimate leadoff hitter at the top of their lineup. He reminds me a lot of a younger Jose Reyes. Andrus will be given every opportunity to win the Rangers starting shortstop job out of spring training, but in case he still needs time in the minors, the Rangers added Omar Vizquel as a stopgap. It should be noted that Andrus has never played at AAA.
Pure talent. There hasn't been a catcher I was this excited about since Joe Mauer came up for his rookie season with the Twins . Wieters was Baseball America's minor league player of the year last season and very well could be the best prospect in baseball. The 2007 first round pick of the Orioles, Wieters dominated single-A ball hitting .345/.448/.576 with 15 homers and 40 in just 230 at bats. He then was called up to double-A where he hit .365/.460/.625. That's crazy. Wieters is expected to be the Orioles starter at some point this season. The question is....when? The team brought in Greg Zaun to be the veteran catcher to help ease Wieters into the big leagues, but it remains to be seen whether or not Wieters will break camp with the team.
Snider advanced through all three levels of the minors last season and was the youngest player in the majors when he was called up in September of last season. He is only going to be 21 years of age to begin next season and is likely to be the Blue Jays everyday designated hitter as the teams outfield is already set with Adam Lind , Vernon Wells , and Alex Rios . Snider has a great bat and he figures to have 25 home run power in the big leagues. Snider is prone to strike out quite a bit and he doesn't have that great of plate discipline. If it can be developed, he can become a very good baseball player.
LaPorta was the top prospect that the Indians acquired from the Brewers for CC Sabathia . While in Milwaukees discipline, LaPorta was known as an extremely patient hitter that would hit for high average and have decent pop. However, after he was traded to the Indians, LaPorta started to struggle. After hitting .288/.402/.576 with 20 homeruns in Milwaukee's farm system, LaPorta hit .233/.299/.350 with 2 homeruns in 17 games. LaPorta was so bad in the Venezuelan Winter League, he was sent home. However, LaPorta is a great talent and he should be able to turn it around. I doubtt LaPorta will start the year in the Indians outfield, but he could be be up within a couple months.
Posted on: January 20, 2009 1:57 am
It's been a little over a year since I did my last version of winter rankings (the first featured blog on CBS), but now that we are less than a month away from pitchers and catchers reporting, it is time to have a look at where each team stands this season. The offseason has been a long, slow, and drawn out process. Several impact players, including Bobby Abreu and Adam Dunn have yet to sign with a team. It is because of this reason, that I will be continually editing this blog entry as those players sign.
While the Phillies are the defending champions, they have remained rather complacent on the free agent market which begs to question whether or not the team can repeat last years success. Meanwhile, the Yankees have had the biggest offseason of any team, but will a team full of superstars finally get the job done? Also, the Rays were baseballs surprise team of 2008. Can they repeat the success? Who will be the surprise team in 2009?......These questions and more are answered in my latest rankings.
1. Chicago Cubs
Say all you want about the Cubs playoff misfortunes, but this team is the real deal. Milton Bradley, arguably the games best offensive player last season, joins the Cubs offense that scored the most runs in baseball last year. Couple that with the teams stable pitching staff featuring Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, and Rich Harden and this team should easily run away with the National League Central for the second year in a row. I'm predicting a 100 win season.
2. New York Yankees
While the team has lost both Bobby Abreu and Jason Giambi in free agency, the additions of C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Mark Teixeira more than make up for it. The Yankees now have a well rounded team. They now have one of the best offenses in the league with Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira and the top 3 in their rotation should win them plenty of ballgames. If they can get a full season out of Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes, look out.
3. Tampa Bay Rays
Often times one year wonders like the Rays don't return to the postseason because they remain too complacent in the offseason. However, the Rays managed to land Pat Burrell for a bargain price of 8 million a season to replace Cliff Floyd in the lineup and the teams starting rotation will naturally get better with David Price entering the rotation.
4. Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox had a relatively quiet offseason with minor deals made. The team is still one of the best in the league, but has many questions to answer for 2009. Was Kevin Youkilis' increase in power for real? Can Jason Bay truly fill Manny's shoes in left? Will Mike Lowell, J.D. Drew, Brad Penny, and John Smoltz be healthy and how much can they contribute? The Sox are still a talented teams, but these factors are going to determine whether or not they win baseball's best division.
5. Arizona Diamondbacks
The Diamondbacks had a dissapointing 2008 season finishing 82-80, two games out of first place in the NL West. Despite losing Adam Dunn, Orlando Hudson, and Randy Johnson this offseason the D-backs get my vote of confidence as one of the NL's top teams entering 2009. They have a solid three in the rotation with Brandon Webb, Dan Haren, and Max Scherzer. Meanwhile, I'm counting on the young stars to improve.
6. Cleveland Indians
The Indians lost C.C. Sabathia this season, but it shouldn't affect the team too much as long as Fausto Carmona gets back on track. Cliff Lee's breakout season also helps alleviate that. The team is still without a starting right fielder as Franklin Gutierrez was traded away. Adam Dunn would make more sense than Matt LaPorta as LaPorta has struggled since coming over in the Sabathia deal. The bullpen has gotten a lot better as well with the addition of Kerry Wood and I expect this team to compete.
7. New York Mets
The Mets have been baseball's biggest choke artists over the past two seasons. On paper, they certainly are a much better team than anyone in their division. Whether or not they can finally get the job done, is another question. This team should win 95 games this year, but in order for that to happen, someone on the team will have to step up as a leader. If the team is in contention in August or September, a bullpen of Wagner, Putz, and Roriguez remains the scariest 7-8-9 in the league.
8. Philadelphia Phillies
Not a good offseason for the champs. First, the team overpaid for Raul Ibanez (another lefty) to replace Pat Burrell in the lineup. Second, J.C. Romero has to serve a 50 game suspension for violating the leagues substance abuse policy. Third, No one outside of Cole Hamels scares me in that rotation. And lastly, Carlos Ruiz and Pedro Feliz still have starting jobs in baseball. Uggh....
9. Los Angeles Angels
The gap has certainly closed in on the Angels in the American League West. Without Mark Teixeira, Garrett Anderson, or Francisco Rodriguez, they certainly don't scare teams the way they used to. Brian Fuentes is an adequate replacement for K-Rod, but I can't understand why they didn't just pony up a few extra to keep their star in town. Kendry Morales and Juan Rivera remain questioable replacements and the team will once again rely on Vlad and the starting pitchers to win ballgames.
10. Chicago White Sox
White Sox GM Ken Williams is one GM whose moves I can never understand, but they seem to work out right in the end. The Sox still are without a centerfielder and a second basemen going into next season, and there are questions as to whether Carlos Quentin, Gavin Floyd, and John Danks can repeat their 2008 success. For now though, I'm giving the Sox the benefit of the doubt. I really like the Bartolo Colon signing, as it has the makings of a low risk, high reward type deal.
11. Detroit Tigers
Don't count out the Tigers. While the Tigers finished last place in the American League Central last season, they were still third in the league in overall offense. Justin Verlander, Kenny Rogers, and Nate Robertson all had their worst seasons as pros. The offense should remain just as good as it was and if Verlander can return to form, the team should be able to compete. Edwin Jackson and Gerald Laird were both nice, under the radar acquisitions by GM Dave Dombrowksi.
12. Los Angeles Dodgers
With this ranking, I'm assuming Manny Ramirez is going to be a Dodger. If it turns out to be different, I will change the ranking accordingly. Dodgers GM Ned Colletti is about to find out what life is likek without Paul DePodesta's players. The losses of Derek Lowe, Brad Penny, and Jeff Kent will affect this team greatly. Unless the Dodgers give have Jason Schmidt go to some miracle worker, I don't know where this team is going to get a rotation that will compete.
13. Minnesota Twins
The Twins offense is their weakness. Both Delmon Young and Carlos Gomez featured low on base percentages last season which isn't helping the team at all. The teams offense really is only as good as Joe Mauer's knees as Justin Morneau can't do everything on his own. However, if the team can get similar production to 2008 from it's young pitchers in the rotation for 2009, this team will always have a chance to compete.
14. Oakland Athletics
The trades of Dan Haren, Joe Blanton, Rich Harden, Nick Swisher, and Mark Kotsay a year ago have paid off. The A's enter 2009 with one of the best minor league systems in the game and an offense that's ready to close the gap in the American League West. The acquisitions of Matt Holliday and Jason Giambi give the A's a ton of power in the 3-6 spots and Eric Chavez is supposed to be fully healthy headed into next year giving the teams young pitching a better chance to win.
15. Milwaukee Brewers
While the Brewers lost both C.C. Sabathia and Ben Sheets this offseason, its not as if they all of a sudden have a bad team. The team didn't have Sabathia for the first half of last year anyway and they've played several seasons with Sheets on the DL multiple times. The offensive remains intact with both Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder leading the way. If Yovanni Gallardo can remain healthy, I'm sure the Brewers can put together a respectable season.
16. St. Louis Cardinals
I really don't know what to think of the Cardinals. I'm not convinced that their pitching staff can hold up all season long, even if Chris Carpenter is fully healthy. Albert Pujols remains the best first basemen in the National League, but he isn't going to get much help. The Khalil Greene trade won't improve the offense that much and who knows if Ryan Ludwick and Rick Ankiel can keep it up with their bats.
17. Atlanta Braves
What a bad offseason for Braves fans. The farm system is depleted. They missed out on both A.J. Burnett and Rafael Furcal and allowed John Smoltz to sign cheaply with the Red Sox. However, this team still remains a dark horse candidate in the NL East. The starting rotation should be pretty good still with Derek Lowe, Jair Jurrjens, Javier Vasquez, and Kenshin Kawakami manning the first four spots. If they can stay in contention until August, Tim Hudson will be on his way back.
18. Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays finished 2008 with a respectable 86-76 record in the American League. However, the team has lost A.J. Burnett in free agency and hasn't made any major additions. Shaun Marcum is out for the season with Tommy John Surgery and Dustin McGowan is out at least for the first month. If they can make it past the first month of the season okay, they might be considered a dark horse candidate in the tough AL East. However, don't expect much.
19. Texas Rangers
The Rangers haven't made any major additions this offseason and have let Milton Bradley walk. 2009 will be an interesting year for the team. It will most likely be the last time we see Kevin Millwood and Vincente Padilla in a Rangers uniform and also could feature the debuts of shortstop Elvis Andrus and pitchers Neftali Feliz and Derek Holland. Also, we'll see Chris Davis mature into a solid power hitter. As always, if this team could pitch, they'd win games, but that's unlikely for 2009.
20. San Francisco Giants
With Noah Lowry coming back from injury and the addition Randy Johnson, the Giants have a pretty deep starting five heading into 2009. However, where will the offense come from? The team does not have a superstar offensive player and the market is drying up quickly. If they can't get their hands on Adam Dunn or Bobby Abreu, they might once again be wasting all that good pitching, Such a shame. Giants fans deserve better.
21. Colorado Rockies
I must be crazy, because I might be the only one that thinks the team trading Matt Holliday will help the Rockies. Huston Street replaces Brian Fuentes as the teams closer and Ryan Spilborghs, Carlos Gonzalez, and Ian Stewart now battle for time in the outfield. The rotation is better with Greg Smith in it and I don't think the offense will be affected. Not in that park at least. Ryan Spilborghs might be the best player no one knows about.
22. Florida Marlins
The Marlins might have finished 84-77 last season, but I'm not a believer in them....yet. The team foolishly traded Scott Olsen and Josh Willingham to the Nationals for nothing important. The Mike Jacobs trade will only be a good deal if Dallas McPherson can take his success from AAA last year and bring it with him to the majors. Also, there are questions as to whether this starting pitching can hold up and whether Jorge Cantu can repeat his 2008 performance.
23. Seattle Mariners
The Mariners didn't get much back in return for J.J. Putz and they haven't done anything significant to improve their lousy offense as well. The team will rely on youngsters to break through this season including Wladimir Balentien and Jeff Clement. Their pitching should keep them in ballgames with Felix Hernandez, Erik Bedard, and Brandon Morrow in the rotation, but if they are out of it early, you can expect the team to start shopping Bedard.
24. Cincinatti Reds
The Reds have a bright future ahead of them with young stars such as Jay Bruce, Edinson Volquez, and Johnny Cueto breaking through last season. Each of these youngsters are expected to continue to develop into solid ballplayers. The question remains as to whether or not this is the year the Reds finally start coming together as a team. They certainly have the foundations, but whether or not they are ready to translate that into a winning ballclub is up in the air.
25. Houston Astros
Ugggh. That's about all I can say about Astros GM Ed Wade. His trade of Brad Lidge for Michael Bourn last season looks worse and worse by the day. While the Astros finished strong last season, it was only because Wade's false sense of hope that they were somehow still in the race last year. Smart GM's would have sold. This team has no farm system and quite frankly, Mike Hampton isn't going to solve their pitching problems.
26. Baltimore Orioles
The bad news? The Orioles aren't going anywhere next season. The good news? Team President Andy MacPhail knows this and is positioning the team to develop for the future. The Felix Pie trade was a great trade for MacPhail and now the Orioles have the best outfield defense in the game. I really look forward to seeing Matt Wieters transition to the big leagues this year as well. The team has no starting pitching to speak of outside of Guthrie, but help is on the way in the minors.
27. San Diego Padres
With Jake Peavy on board, the Padres still have a respectable pitching staff and an offense led by one of the games best first basemen (Adrian Gonzalez). They could compete if things fall right offensively for them, especially considering their division, but that would require Chase Headley to stop swinging blindly and actually develop offensively. The best thing for Padres fans will be to get the sale of the team done as soon as possible.
28. Kansas City Royals
Coco Crisp? Kyle Farnsworth? Willie Bloomquist? Mike Jacobs? The Royals are going nowhere. The team has completely given up on Mark Teahen ever becoming something useful and now fans are growing impatient with both Alex Gordon and Billy Butler. Zach Greinke, Joakim Soria, and Gil Meche are the few bright spots on the Royals for 2009, but it will take another two years for their farm system to catch up and replace the mismanagement of the team under former GM Allan Baird.
29. Washington Nationals
The Scott Olsen and Josh WIllingham trade with Florida was a good one for the Nats, but they need a lot of work. Austin Kearns needs to be benched, but won't because of his contract and GM Jim Bowdens obsession with his former Reds players. The team would be better off with an outfield of Elijah Dukes, Lastings Milledge, and Willingham, but it probably won't happen. Meanwhile, Nick Johnson needs to be healthy for this team to have any chance.
30. Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pirates have done NOTHING this offseason. They enter 2009 without both Jason Bay and Xavier Nady, who they had in the first half of last season. They do get a full season of Andy LaRoche at 3rd base, but this team is going absolutely nowhere and is by far the worst team in baseball heading into 2009.
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Posted on: June 30, 2008 1:40 am
The half way point of the season is here and it's time to grade the performance of each team. How well has your team done this season?
American League East