Wednesday, March 28, 2012

2012 MLB Preview: Kansas City Royals

The Royals have been touted as having one of the deepest farm systems in all of baseball. Last year, we caught a glimpse of what that system has to offer, with Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas. I think the Royals are going to be the surprise of the American League, although their starting pitching is not good enough.

The Royals, however, should have no issues scoring runs. Alex Gordon finally became the player many expected him to be in 2011, and should continue his success in 2012. The name to watch for the Royals is Eric Hosmer. Hosmer hit .293 with 19 bombs as a rookie, and 25-30 HR's is not out of the question. Billy Butler is one of the most consistent hitters in the game, usually hitting around .290 with 90 RBI's. The Royals will turn over CF to Lorenzo Cain, who was acquired in the Zack Grienke deal. He showed some pop in AAA last year, but is more known for his speed. The Royals are also going with a Chris Getz, Yunikesky Betancourt platoon at second. Yikes! The Royals will be without young catcher Salvador Perez early on, and Brayan Pena should get most of the starts behind the plate. Here is the Royals projected lineup:

LF: Alex Gordon
CF: Lorenzo Cain
1B: Eric Hosmer
DH: Billy Butler
RF: Jeff Francoeur
3B: Mike Moustakas
 C:  Brayan Pena
2B: Chris Getz/Yuni Betancourt
SS: Alcides Escobar

The Royals are going to go with journeyman Bruce Chen to lead their rotation. Chen is nothing special, but he has been decent for Kansas City the last 2 seasons. Former #1 overall pick Luke Hochevar is next in line, and the Royals will need him to step up his game. Jonathan Sanchez could be a difference maker in the rotation, but he will need to stay healthy.

The bullpen was dealt a devastating blow, with Joakim Soria needing Tommy John surgery. He will miss all of 2012. In his place, the Royals do have Jonathan Broxton, as well as Greg Holland to step in to the closers role. Here is how I project the Royals rotation.

SP: Bruce Chen
SP: Luke Hochevar
SP: Jonathan Sanchez
SP: Luis Mendoza
SP: Danny Duffy

The Royals are probably another year away from being a serious contender. That being said, I do expect big things from some of their young players. The Royals will not make the playoffs in 2012, but they will be a fun team to watch.

My prediction: 83-79, 2nd in AL Central.

2012 MLB Preview: Cleveland Indians

The Indians were one of the biggest surprises in all of baseball last year, leading the AL Central early in the season, only to fade at the end. The Indians finished with an unspectacular 80-82, although they were in the chase until the Tigers caught fire at the end of the year. The Indians bought at the deadline last season, and could contend in 2012, but they will need to catch some breaks in order to make a playoff run.

The Indians resigned Grady Sizemore, in hopes that he could be the franchise cornerstone he once was. However, Sizemore was injured early in Spring Training, and will start the year on the DL. Michael Brantley, who was part of the C.C. Sabathia deal, will slide into center, and the leadoff spot. Brantley had flashes of brilliance in 2011, but ultimately put an underwhelming OBP of .318. Asdurbal Cabrera blossomed into a star in 2012, hitting 25 bombs, and he plays outstanding defense. The team also needs Shin-Soo Choo to bounce back after a 2011 season that featured nagging injuries and a DUI. Carlos Santana is on the verge of becoming a star, and Jason Kipnis is a name to watch out for in 2012. Here is their projected lineup:

CF: Michael Brantley
SS: Asdrubal Cabrera
RF: Shin-Soo Choo
C:  Carlos Santana
DH: Travis Hafner
2B: Jason Kipnis
LF: Shelley Duncan
1B: Casey Kotchman
3B: Jack Hannahan

The Indians rotation has the potential to be great. Justin Masterson blossomed into a star, and should be on the hill for the Tribe on Opening Day. The team payed an awful lot to acquire Ubaldo Jimenez, and ultimately, I believe the team will regret the deal. Jimenez had an ERA of 5.10 in 11 starts for the Indians in 2011. Josh Tomlin and Derek Lowe should give the team decent innings in the middle.

The Tribe will open up the season with closer Chris Perez on the shelf. The team could turn to Vinnie Pestano, who did a nice job in 2011. Joe Smith also had a nice year as a setup guy. Here is what the Indians rotation should look like:

SP: Justin Masterson
SP: Ubaldo Jimenez
SP: Josh Tomlin
SP: Derek Lowe
SP: Kevin Slowey

The Indians have some intriguing players, but they will fall short in 2012. The team could contend, especially if Kipnis and top prospect Lonnie Chisenhall deliver. Grady Sizemore also needs to be healthy for the team to have any shot. The team's staff could get a post if, and when the artist formerly known as Fausto Carmona is able to pitch again.

My Prediction: 80-82, 3rd in AL Central

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

2012 MLB Preview: Minnesota Twins

The Twins were once the class of the AL Central, winning 6 division titles in 9 years. Then they opened up Target Field, and their two best players became injury prone, and their farm system stopped producing impact players. The team has a payroll approaching $100 million, but it seems unlikely that they will contend in 2012.

The lineup starts with Denard Span, who can be an effective hitter; however he suffered a concussion in June, and had only 284 at-bats. Ben Revere stole 34 bases as a rookie, but has no power, as he had 14 extra base hits in 450 at-bats. The team needs Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau to return to past glory; but they have major injury concerns. I like the pickup of Josh Willingham, but Target Field might damper his home run potential. Ryan Doumit was also a big-time bargain on the free agent market. Here is how I project their lineup.

CF: Denard Span
LF: Ben Revere/Trevor Plouffe
C: Joe Mauer
1B: Justin Morneau
RF: Josh Willingham
DH: Ryan Doumit
3B: Danny Valencia
SS: Jamey Carroll
2B: Alexi Castilla

The Twins rotation does not have that top-of-the-rotation guy, but has a decent collection of mid-level starters. Carl Pavano has turned his career around in Minnesota, but gives up way too many hits(262 in 222 innings). Francisco Liriano has been solid--when he is actually healthy. The same can also be said about Scott Baker. Nick Blackburn and Jason Marquis are very average--at best.

The bullpen is led by Matt Capps, probably one of the least intimidating closers in baseball. Closers are known as power pitchers, however Capps struck out 34 guys in 65.2 innings. Yuck. Glen Perkins is solid, but the bullpen offers little more than that. Here is the Twins projected rotation.

SP: Carl Pavano
SP: Francisco Liriano
SP: Scott Baker
SP: Jason Marquis
SP: Nick Blackburn

Teams with $100 million payrolls should not be rebuilding, but this team seems to be. The Joe Mauer contract looks to be a colossal failure, and the farm system does not have much help on the way. 2012 could be a very rough year in the Twin Cities.

Prediction: 74-88, 4th in AL Central.

Monday, March 26, 2012

2012 MLB Preview: Chicago White Sox

The White Sox seem to have an identity crisis. They made some odd moves that show they are rebuilding--they traded Carlos Quentin to the Padres for prospects, they traded their recently-extender closer in Sergio Santos for another prospect. There were also rumors about the team dealing John Danks, but instead they gave him a huge extension.  The White Sox play in a pretty lousy division(expect for Detroit) but they still are not in a position to contend.

The lineup will start with Alejandro De Aza, who is a bit of a journeyman at age 27, but did put up an OPS of .920 in 171 plate appearances in 2011. The team still has Paul Konerko, who is one of the most underrated sluggers in the game. The lineup has two sluggers that need to have huge comeback seasons. There is no possible way Adam Dunn can be as bad as last year, when he slugged a Rafael Belliard-like .277. Alex Rios was also terrible last year. Here is what the lineup should look like.

CF: Alejandro De Aza
SS: Alexei Ramirez
1B: Paul Konerko
DH: Adam Dunn
CF: Alex Rios
RF: Dayan Viciedo
C:  A.J. Pierzynski
3B: Brent Morel
2B: Gordon Beckham

The rotation is pretty decent on the south side of Chicago, especially with Jake Peavy can stay healthy. John Danks' new contract pays him like an ace(at $13 million) but I feel he is a #3 starter, at best. Gavin Floyd has shown flashes of brilliance, but again, he is another mid-rotation type. Philip Humber was a revelation last year, and the Sox will need him to replicate his 2011 season. Chris Sale makes the transition from the bullpen to the rotation, and is intriguing at the back-end of the rotation.

The bullpen should feature Matt Thorton as the closer, but if he falters, Addison Reed or Jesse Crain should get a look. Here is the Sox projected rotation:

SP: John Danks
SP: Jake Peavy
SP: Gavin Floyd
SP: Philip Humber
SP: Chris Sale

The Sox have a rookie manager in Robin Ventura, and he has his work cut out for him. The Sox do not have much of a shot contending in this division, and I would be shocked to see them break .500.

Prediction: 71-91, 5th in AL Central.

2012 MLB Preview: New York Yankees

The New York Yankees might be the most successful franchise in all of sports. However, they are coming off of a season where they were bounced by Detroit in the Division Series. The Yankees seemed to be short on pitching depth, and fortified their rotation by acquiring Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda. The lineup is just as formidable as ever, with All-Stars sprinkled all over the lineup. The Yankees should have no problems scoring runs, especially if they can get a bounce-back year from Alex Rodriguez. Curtis Granderson swatted 41 HR's last year, and hits second. The team added Raul Ibanez, and he and Andruw Jones will likely platoon at DH. Here is what the Yankees lineup should look like:

SS: Derek Jeter
CF: Curtis Granderson
2B: Robinson Cano
3B: Alex Rodriguez
1B: Mark Teixeira
RF: Nick Swisher
DH: Raul Ibanez/Andruw Jones
C: Russell Martin
LF: Brett Gardner

The Yankees did a good job acquiring pitching in the offseason. Instead of reaching for free agents like C.J. Wilson and Mark Buehrle, the team traded for Pineda, and signed Kuroda to a reasonable contract. Phil Hughes also seems healthy, and would give them a solid #5 starter. The team still has Freddy Garcia, who will open the season in the bullpen.

The pen is still led by the ageless Mariano Rivera. David Robertson and Rafael Soriano will be the main set-up guys for the Yanks. Here is my projected rotation.

SP: C.C. Sabathia
SP: Hiroki Kuroda
SP: Michael Pineda
SP: Ivan Nova
SP: Phil Hughes/Freddy Garcia

Overall, I believe this is the best team in the American League. The lineup could have 7 guys who hit 20 HR's, and the team does have the prospects to pull off a blockbuster trade, if they need another arm. The Yankees are a legitimate title contender.

My prediction: 102-60, 1st in AL East.