Clearing The Bases
Well all of the fantasy rankings have been completed, it’s time to talk about real life baseball. There will be very little fantasy talk in this column as I will be making predictions on how the divisions will end. Predictions are never all that easy and in some cases completely useless once the season begins and injuries occur, but still, they are fun to make and I’m not afraid to put mine in print. If you’re looking for the American League, that has already been posted with Detroit my pick to represent them in the World Series.
1. Washington Nationals: This starting pitching staff, actually the entire staff, is just scary. We all know how good Stephen Strasburg can be, but Gio Gonzalez isn’t to far behind, and Jordan Zimmerman would be at least a good #2 on most teams and you follow them up with Dan Haren and Ross Detwiler, wow. Back end is pretty good also with Tyler Clippard, Drew Storen, and Rafael Soriano to close games out. You don’t want to fall behind this team. It’s not like this team can’t score runs either, OF Bryce Harper is an MVP candidate and very few teams can match the power their IF has with Adam LaRoche, Danny Espinosa, Ian Desmond, and Ryan Zimmerman.
2. Atlanta Braves: Where as the Nationals have a great hitting IF, the Braves can say the same about their OF. Jason Heyward is a really good hitter that could make the jump to superstar level. They signed B.J. Upton to add a power/speed combo but might have to deal with his less than perfect attitude from time to time but perhaps they looked to solve that problem with the trade for his brother Justin. A trade that was highway robbery in my mind. They do lose future Hall of Famer Chipper Jones to retirement and C Brian McCann may not be the same all year due to off-season shoulder surgery, but they are still a top team. Julio Teheran finally lands a spot in the starting rotation, now we get to see if he will live up to the hype.
3. Philadelphia Phillies: Quite a few people seem to be overlooking the Phillies. I know SP Roy Halladay looks terrible this spring but have to believe he still has something left. We know Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels will do the job, but more importantly, this team should hit. First baseman Ryan Howard looks completely recovered from his Achilles injury and Chase Utley looks good as well. This team will score runs. OF Dominick Brown has looked good this spring as well. I do worry about all the lefthanders this team has in their lineup, they really need 3B Michael Young to be able to hit so as to break them up.
4. New York Mets: The Mets should be real thankful the Marlins are in their division. Not much to really like on this team. Third Baseman David Wright is a great player and 1B Ike Davis could have a big year but other than I’m not sure what the Mets expect to get out of their offense. Pitching isn’t much better. Best they can hope for is that when Johan Santana comes off the DL he can prove himself to still be a decent SP and therefore have some trade value. I do like their youngsters, Matt Harvey has already proven he can be a #1 or #2 at the big league level and Zack Wheeler could be the other. Travis D’Arnaud should be up at catcher in early June also.
5. Miami Marlins: Well if you think the Mets are bad, just take a look at the Marlins. Outfielder Giancarlo Stanton has to be wondering when he will be traded out of town, lord knows everyone else was. Outfielder Christian Yelich could be a fun player to watch if/when he ever gets called up.
1. Cincinnati Reds: Another team that is loaded with talent. We all know they can hit with 1B Joey Votto, 2b Brandon Phillips, and OFs Jay Bruce and Sin-Soo Choo, just not so sure they can catch it with no true CF on their roster. Bruce and Choo could have a miserable time trying to track down fly balls in the outfield, but then again, anything hit in the air in the Great American Small Park seems to find the seats anyway. Johnny Cueto and Mat Latos give them a 1-2 punch that can match up with anyone although they lack the depth of the Nationals. Moving Aroldis Chapman to the bullpen may be the wrong thing in the long run, (starting pitchers are just more valuable than closers), but how many innings would he have been able to throw this season as a starter?
2. St. Louis Cardinals: With the loss of Chris Carpenter (injury) and Kyle Lohse (free agency), the Cards certainly don’t have the depth in the rotation they once had. Perhaps Shelby Miller is ready to become a big time starter, perhaps not. No one really knows what to expect from Jaime Garcia after surgery, to many question marks for me. The offense should be good however if it stays healthy, and if an OF were to get hurt than we will all get to see Oscar Tavares and all of his hype. Not sure why 1B Allen Craig gets so much love? Would like to see him put together a full season before I get all giddy about him.
3. Milwaukee Brewers: This is an interesting team. They should hit, and hit well, assuming MLB commissioner Bud Selig doesn’t go for broke and try to suspend OF Ryan Braun for PED use. Still think if a suspension is coming, it will be after the season but at this point nothing would surprise me. Can OF Carlos Gomez continue his hot 2012? How about Jean Segura? Can he make the fans forget about Zack Greinke, or at least make them believe they got something worthwhile in return? Problem will be the starting pitching staff, it’s just not very deep, not even with the late arrival of Kyle Lohse.
4. Pittsburgh Pirates: The Pirates have flirted with finishing .500 or above the past couple of seasons, but have faltered down the stretch. Will this be the season they hit their mark? I kind of doubt it, and once again it’s because of the pitching staff, just not so much to like there, not yet anyway. Once they call up Gerritt Cole and James Tallion we are talking a completely different ballgame. Take away OF Andrew McCutchen and I’m not all that excited about the offense either.
5. Chicago Cubs: Ahhhh, the lovable Cubbies, they have 1B Anthony Rizzo and SS Starlin Castro, and not much else. This is a team that is in an obvious rebuild. Biggest question for them might be where OF Alfonso Soriano, SP Matt Garza, and RP Carlos Marmol end up after the trade deadline.
1. San Francisco Giants: With the Dodgers injury concerns I felt I had to go with the defending champions to win the division. Yeah SP Tim Lincecum may never be the pitcher he once was (this is why you take the long term contract when it’s offered, and not gamble for the mega deal), but the Giants still have two aces in Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner, and in their ballpark, they just don’t need strikeout artists, just ones that can keep the ball in the park. The offense is solid with no obvious holes besides a lack of power. Catcher Buster Posey is an all world player but one does have to wonder if he will get the Barry Bonds treatment as teams will force someone else in that lineup to beat them.
2. Los Angeles Dodgers: We already know that SS/3B Hanley Ramirez is out until at least May with a thumb injury. What makes this injury even worse is that there is no guarantee that even when HRam returns to the lineup that he will be effective, hand/wrist injuries can be very difficult to come back from without a long period of rest. Throw in the fact that SP Zack Greinke (he who signed the $147 million contract) is already suffering elbow problems, and you don’t have the best of beginnings to the 2013 season. Let’s not forget that OF Matt Kemp is coming back from off-season shoulder surgery and you have a team that should be happy with a wildcard berth.
3. Arizona Diamondbacks: Can’t say how much I disliked what the Dbacks did this off-season. I understand you want a certain type of player but to trade away top talent for .50 cents on the dollar doesn’t make much sense to me. Trevor Bauer may not have much value to Arizona, but he does to other teams, same with Justin Upton, you can’t just give these types of players away. It puts you in the situation you are in now, and okay team, but not a championship caliber one.
4. Colorado Rockies: I probably could’ve/should’ve picked the Rockies to finish last. Outside of SS Troy Tulowitzki (who can never stay healthy) , OF Carlos Gonzalez, and C Wilin Rosario, where exactly is the talent on this team. Been a long time since the days of Larry Walker. At least with the humidor not working as well lately, we should be able to watch plenty of high scoring games in Colorado, especially for the opposition.
5. San Diego Padres: Another team that isn’t going anywhere this season. The loss of 3B Chase Headley to a fractured thumb certainly hurts as this team needs all the offense they can get. They did bring the fences in at PetCo which should help someone like 1B Yonder Alonso, but doubt it really matters this year. Infielder Jedd Gyorko will get an extended look now that Headley is out.
Atlanta and Los Angeles
World Series Representative
Washington (also my pick to win it all)
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