2010 Preview: New York Mets

Predicted 2010 NL East Finish: 4th

Lineup:

  1. Reyes ss
  2. Castillo 2b
  3. Wright 3b
  4. Bay lf
  5. Francoeur rf
  6. Jacobs 1b
  7. Pagan cf
  8. Barajas c

Rotation:

  1. Santana (LH)
  2. Maine
  3. Pelfrey
  4. Perez (LH)
  5. Nieve

Bench:

  • Blanco c
  • Cora if
  • Tatis ut
  • Matthews Jr. of
  • Catalanotto 1b/of

Bullpen:

  • Figueroa
  • Igarashi
  • Parnell
  • Escobar
  • Feliciano (LH)
  • Green
  • Rodriguez (closer)

DL:

  • Beltran cf

Catcher: Here’s a crowded group. Josh Thole is the catcher of the future and has already had success in limited time in the Bigs, so why did the Mets feel the need to bring four below-average catchers to camp? Henry Blanco is a defensive whiz and has a cannon for an arm so that addition makes sense. Coste is old and didn’t hit well last year, but he was given a spot on the 40-man roster. Rod Barajas was given a Major League deal and the starting job after posting a .226 AVG and a .258 OBP in 125 games. His 19 homers and 71 RBIs were solid but the younger and cheaper Omir Santos could definitely do that with the same playing time. Instead of improving their catching situation, they blocked prospects in a division they aren’t going to win.

Infield: David Wright is a great third baseman who will be made even better with a full season from shortstop Jose Reyes. Reyes can be a five-tool threat that needs to rebound for the Mets to even approach .500 this year. Luis Castillo had a .387 OBP in a bad lineup and will score more runs with Jason Bay around. First base will be a problem again this year. Daniel Murphy has options left and will be sent down if Mike Jacobs wins the job. Fernando Tatis will get at-bats there as well while the Mets wait for prospect Ike Davis to be Major League ready.

Outfield: The Mets signed Jason Bay to bring some power to the lineup and he did just that with the Red Sox in 2009 (36 homers and 119 RBIs). Francoeur did much better after being traded to the Mets. He needs to produce or the team will let him go in favor of prospect Fernando Martinez. With Carlos Beltran out to start the year, Angel Pagan and Gary Matthews Jr. will battle for time in center field. Matthews is coming off one of his worst years as a pro and Pagan is coming off his best. Either way, the lineup will look much better when Beltran is healthy.

Rotation: After Johan Santana the rotation is one of the worst in baseball. John Maine and Mike Pelfrey each took a step backwards during the ’09 campaign. Oliver Perez took his big contract and pitched in 14 games with a dismal 6.82 ERA. The problem for the Mets is that these guys aren’t even facing any legitimate competition. Kelvim Escobar has started but was signed with the intention to use him in relief. Pat Misch is a lefty that is out of options and did OK in 26 games last year. Fernando Nieve is intriguing because he is also out of options and displayed a 2.95 ERA in 8 games with the Mets last year. Jon Niese is another competitor for the rotation.

Bullpen: This will be the strong point for the team in 2010. Ryota Igarashi is battling for the setup role after a solid career in Japan. Sean Green may be the favorite for the setup spot after 79 strong innings in 2009. Pedro Feliciano has been a reliable lefty specialist and is not a health concern, which is hard to say for most of these guys. Bobby Parnell brings excitement to the bullpen and a full season in a consistent role could help his progression. K-Rod came back down to earth after inking a huge deal last off-season but he is still a great closer.

2010: 2009 was a lost season after all of the injuries to many of their game-changers. Santana and Reyes seem to be good to go but their health won’t be enough to make the Mets contenders in a deep division. Mets management has been long-scrutinized and this past off-season won’t make that go away. The team missed out on targets John Lackey, Bengie Molina, and Orlando Hudson. GM Omar Minaya seemingly forgot about upgrading the horrible rotation. The team is not built for the dimensions of their stadium and that’s not going to help. It will be a long 2010 for Mets fans during which guys like Luis Castillo, Rod Barajas, Jeff Francoeur, Mike Jacobs, Oliver Perez, John Maine, and some relievers will all be let go one way or another.

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2010 Preview: Milwaukee Brewers

Projected 2010 NL Central Finish: 3rd

Lineup:

  1. Gomez cf
  2. Hart rf
  3. Braun lf
  4. Fielder 1b
  5. Weeks 2b
  6. McGehee 3b
  7. Zaun c
  8. Escobar ss

Rotation:

  1. Gallardo
  2. Wolf (LH)
  3. Davis (LH)
  4. Suppan
  5. Parra (LH)

Bench:

  • Kottaras c
  • Counsell if
  • Inglett ut
  • Edmonds of
  • Gerut of

Bullpen:

  • Bush
  • Villanueva
  • Vargas
  • Stetter (LH)
  • Coffey
  • Hawkins
  • Hoffman (closer)

Catcher: Greg Zaun’s addition will give the Brewers an upgrade at the plate over light-hitting departure, Jason Kendall. It was believed that Kendall did a good job of handling the pitching staff, but they finished 2009 with the worst starting pitching ERA in the league. Basically, the level of play from Brewers’ catchers has nowhere to go but up. George Kottaras is the early favorite to win the backup job but Angel Salome will get a look. Jonathan Lucroy is in camp but won’t make the opening day roster.

Infield: Prince is Prince, and he will be the same masher that we have come to expect. Rickie Weeks got off to a hot start that carried the team through April, only to get injured and miss the majority of the season. If he can display that same power (9 homeruns in 37 games), the Brewers will have a bat that could potentially protect Fielder from so many intentional walks. Alcides Escobar had a great showing in winter ball and he hopes to convert that into big league success. He won’t be a power hitter but will eventually hit for consistent average. Casey McGehee and Craig Counsell will split at-bats at third base, but a lack of production could open the door for Mat Gamel to take over.

Outfield: Corey Hart won his arbitration case and the Brewers may still entertain trade offers for the lanky right fielder (‘lanky’ was the only word that came to mind). Carlos Gomez was acquired in the J.J. Hardy trade and he will bring excitement to the top of the order. His speed is an important asset to have in front of Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder. If his OBP struggles continue, Weeks or even Escobar could be tried in the leadoff spot. Jim Edmonds proved he wasn’t done two years ago with the Cubs and he will be the primary pinch hitter for the Crew. If he does as well as he did in ’08, a Corey Hart trade could throw Edmonds into the five spot of the lineup.

Rotation: This is by far the weakest spot on the team but a healthy year from Gallardo would take a lot of pressure off the rest of the bunch. Yovani has quality stuff and Wolf has been dependable in recent years. Davis will make his 30 starts, but the question with him is: “Will he hit 80 mph on the radar gun?” Doubtful. Jeff Suppan could honestly be on the way out even though he has such an expensive contract. Would you rather pay $13M to have his ERA continue to rise for you, or for another team? The options for the 5th starter spot don’t get much better. Manny Parra has the early advantage because he is a lefty who is out of options but he had a 6.36 ERA. Others include Dave Bush (6.38 ERA), Kameron Loe (didn’t pitch in the Majors last year), Chris Capuano (hasn’t pitched in the Bigs since 2007), and John Halama (hasn’t pitched in the Show since 2006 when his ERA was 6.14)…

Bullpen: The back-end of the bullpen should be pretty solid this year. Trevor Hoffman is still steady in the closer role and LaTroy Hawkins had a 2.13 ERA and 11 saves over 65 games last year. Todd Coffey was an extremely valuable pickup for Milwaukee and just plain looks like a Brewer (can’t hurt). Mitch Stetter and his sweeping delivery set a club record with 15 consecutive outs by the strikeout. David Riske is rehabbing from an injury that cost him all but one inning of 2009. Others battling for spots in the pen include Carlos Villanueva and Claudio Vargas. The Chris’s (Smith and Narveson) each have legimate shots at making the team after productive 2009 seasons. Scott Schoeneweis could make the team as another lefty but isn’t there at least a moral obligation to field a team that won’t let up 16 runs a game? Schoeneweis’ 7.13 ERA might be where Ken Macha draws the line.  

2010: This is an important year for the organization as the team is in the middle of a division that isn’t too far out of reach. The offense will be solid and the pitching can’t be as poor as it was last year, right? The Brewers have a knack for keeping the games close and the Prince Fielder/Ryan Braun combination is special. Randy Wolf and Doug Davis are improvements but Manny Parra and Jeff Suppan really need to step it up for the Brewers to contend in 2010. It will be an interesting year in Milwaukee but the team will ultimately miss out on the playoffs.

2010 Preview: Cleveland Indians

Projected AL Central Finish: 5th

Lineup:

1.                     Sizemore cf

2.                     Cabrera ss

3.                     Choo rf

4.                     Peralta 3b

5.                     Hafner dh

6.                     Branyan 1b

7.                     LaPorta lf

8.                     Valbuena 2b

9.                     Marson c

Rotation:

1.                     Westbrook

2.                     Carmona

3.                     Huff (LH)

4.                     Masterson

5.                     Laffey (LH)

Bench:

·                       Redmond c

·                       Rodriguez if

·                       Marte cif

·                       Crowe of

Bullpen:

·                       Wright

·                       Lewis

·                       Sipp (LH)

·                       R. Perez (LH)

·                       Smith

·                       C. Perez

·                       Wood (closer)

Catcher: Lou Marson will be the opening day catcher but he will need a very strong showing to hold the majority of playing time throughout the whole season. Carlos Santana is the switch-hitting catcher that the Indians see as a future Victor Martinez. Santana’s bat is ready for the Show but he will work on his game-calling skills in the minors. Veteran Mike Redmond was signed to mentor the young catchers during spring training.

Infield: Today the Indians signed Russell Branyan to play first base. He will get most of the playing time but Matt LaPorta will also get time there as he is their first baseman of the future. Luis Valbuena sufficed as their second baseman and will likely get the job again. On the other hand, prospect Jason Donald is not far from being the Tribe’s second baseman. Asdrubal Cabrera stepped up as their starting shortstop and hit .308 while scoring 81 runs in 131 games. Jhonny Peralta had a healthy season but struggled to get onbase and only hit 11 home runs.

Outfield: Grady Sizemore looks to bounce back this year, on and off the field. Grady missed a considerable portion of the season and returned to hit only .248. The Indians need him to hit the ball well given his power and speed. Sizemore also did a poor job in the stolen base category as he was thrown out 8 times with only 13 successful steals. Shin-Soo Choo was the lone bright spot on this roster last season. He played in 156 games and almost reached the .400 OBP level (finished at .394). He’s a run producer and displayed great base-stealing skills, succeeding 21 out of 23 tries. Matt LaPorta is the favorite to start in left but Michael Brantley and Trevor Crowe are other young guys looking for at-bats.

Rotation: Jake Westbrook hopes to have a full campaign for the first time since 2006 when he won 15 games. His veteran presence in the clubhouse could be very helpful for the young rotation. A strong first half could make him the next Indians’ starter to be dealt at the deadline (C.C. Sabathia in 2008 and Cliff Lee 2009). Fausto Carmona was allowed to make 24 starts despite a season ERA of 6.32. David Huff led the team in wins as a rookie. Justin Masterson will get a full season as starter which could stabilize his numbers. Aaron Laffey, Carlos Carrasco, and Anthony Reyes are young hurlers in hopes of winning the 5th spot. Jeremy Sowers and Mitch Talbot will also battle for the last spot in the rotation but both are out of options. 

Bullpen: Tony Sipp and Joe Smith impressed out of the bullpen last year. Jensen Lewis failed to repeat his success of ’07 and ’08. Kerry Wood did fine but not great in his first year with a team not named the “Cubs.” Wood may get traded at the deadline to a contender which would create an opportunity for Chris Perez to take over in the closer role. For any hopes of contention the AL Central, the Indians need lefty reliever Rafael Perez to return to form. He will have many late-game appearances against lefty sluggers Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Jason Kubel, Jim Thome, Johnny Damon, Rick Ankiel, and so on.

2010: The front office is entering a new regime- new GM, new president, new manager. The team has traded away major pieces over the last two years and Cleveland fans should expect the same this year. Jhonny Peralta, Travis Hafner and Jake Westbrook don’t have much value right now but could be put on the block for salary relief and a minimal return. The big question is whether or not the Tribe will trade Grady Sizemore. Either way, Manny Acta will have a difficult first season in Cleveland while trying to balance playing time between young prospects and stop-gaps, culminating in a last place finish.    

2010 Preview: Pittsburgh Pirates

Projected NL Central Finish: 6th

Lineup:

  1. A. McCutcheon cf
  2. Iwamura 2b
  3. Jones 1b
  4. Milledge lf
  5. Doumit c
  6. LaRoche 3b
  7. Church rf
  8. Cedeno ss

Rotation:

  1. Duke (LH)
  2. Maholm (LH)
  3. Ohlendorf
  4. D. McCutcheon
  5. Hart

Bench:

  • Jaramillo c
  • Vazquez if
  • Crosby if
  • Young ut
  • Moss of

Bullpen:

  • Veal (LH)
  • Donnelly
  • Lopez (LH)
  • Jackson
  • Carrasco
  • Hanrahan
  • Dotel (closer)

Catcher: Ryan Doumit was mentioned in trade rumors over the last few months of the season but the Pirates ultimately decided to keep their switch-hitting catcher. The Pirates need to keep Doumit on the field for him to realize his potential as he’s never played in more than 116 games. If Doumit struggles, expect Pittsburgh to let him go in favor of prospect Jeff Clement.

Infield: Akinori Iwamura was traded for to inject a good two hitter into a lineup that has disappointed for years. His good bat and ability to get onbase should lead to more runs overall. Andy LaRoche got a full season under his belt in 2009 and didn’t do too bad. The Pirates need more homers from LaRoche who will be looking over his shoulder as Pedro Alvarez gets closer to the Bigs. Garrett Jones got onbase at a .372 clip during his rookie season and hit 21 home runs in only 82 games. Jones could also see time in the outfield. Ronny Cedeno and Bobby Crosby will battle for the job at short in what could be the last chance for either player to get a starting job.

Outfield: The outfield is extremely talented with Andrew McCutcheon and Lastings Milledge. McCutcheon will be a super star in the near future and Milledge hopes to find consistency in Pittsburgh. Ryan Church is the early favorite to play right as he has been able to hit at every stop throughout his career. Brandon Moss will fight for playing time but he failed to improve with the increased playing time in 2009. Brandon Jones, Jose Tabata, and Rule 5 pick John Raynor will get a chance this spring as well.

Rotation: The Bucs have a couple lefties at the top of their rotation in Paul Maholm and Zach Duke. Maholm and Duke both need a breakout season. Ross Ohlendorf was the surprise of the group last year and he had a sub-4.00 ERA. Daniel McCutcheon should get a chance to start for a full season in 2010. Charlie Morton, Kevin Hart, Brad Lincoln and Tim Alderson are all young pitchers who will get a shot at the 5th spot.

Bullpen: D.J. Carrasco was told he will have a shot at the rotation but I believe he will ultimately end up in the bullpen where is very valuable. Brendan Donnelly had a great 1.78 ERA for the Marlins last season. Javier Lopez did terrible last year but had previously pitched well for the Red Sox. Steven Jackson and Joel Hanrahan may be the only hold-overs from last year’s bullpen. Octavio Dotel will win the closer job but will probably get traded to a contender at the deadline.

2010: The Pirates enter the spring with quantity but not much quality. The good news for Pirates fans are the young stars who are emerging or soon will. Andrew McCutcheon has already reached the Show and Pedro Alvarez will join him at some point this season. Pitching will be the most glaring problem. This season will be another of the Pirates’ decade-long rebuilding process.  

2010 Preview: San Diego Padres

Projected NL West Finish: 5th

Lineup:

  1. Gwynn Jr. cf
  2. Eckstein 2b
  3. Gonzalez 1b
  4. Blanks lf
  5. Headley 3b
  6. Venable rf
  7. Hundley c
  8. Cabrera ss

Rotation:

  1. Correia
  2. Young
  3. Latos
  4. Richard (LH)
  5. Garland

Bench:

  • Torrealba c
  • Stairs 1b
  • Salazar if
  • Hairston Jr. ut
  • Hairston of

Bullpen:

  • Gallagher
  • LeBlanc (LH)
  • Mujica
  • Thatcher (LH)
  • Gregerson
  • Adams
  • Bell (closer)

Catcher: Nick Hundley struggled last year while starting about half of the Padre’s games at catcher. He did improve his OBP by a good amount from his rookie year and San Diego hopes he keeps improving. Yorvit Torrealba created a solid presence with the pitchers in Colorado but lost his power at the plate last year. He will still battle Hundley for at-bats, especially early in the year.

Infield: The infield appears set as of right now. Adrian Gonzalez is an All-Star at first base and will anchor the lineup. The new GM, Jed Hoyer, will have to decide whether or not he wants to trade A-Gon and enter the rebuilding phase. David Eckstein will have to hold off utility man Jerry Hairston Jr. at second base. Everth Cabrera proved his worth after being selected in the Rule 5 Draft last off-season. His bat is still a work in progress. Chase Headley returns to third after the Padres traded Kevin Kouzmanoff to the A’s. The Padres will need a much better season from the switch hitter to compete in the NL West this year.

Outfield: The Kouzmanoff trade brought in a couple of outfielders. Aaron Cunningham is a prospect who will have a chance to make the team out of spring training but will probably get more time at AAA. Scott Hairston will take his second tour in San Diego in less than a year. He can play all around the outfield and has displayed power potential his six year career. Hairston could end up being the right-handed counterpart to lefties Tony Gwynn Jr. and Will Venable. Kyle Blanks showed that he is ready for the Bigs after putting up an .868 OPS in 54 games as one of the younger guys in the league. Blanks will ultimately end up at first base.

Rotation: Kevin Correia was the iron man of the rotation, pitching 198 good innings. Chris Young needs to regain form after putting up a 5.21 ERA in only 14 starts. Jon Garland will put up his usual double digit win totals and make 30 starts. After these guys, the Padres have plenty of young and exciting options. Mat Latos will soon be a mid to top of the rotation pitcher. Clayton Richard and Aaron Poreda are a couple of young lefties acquired from Chicago in the Jake Peavy trade. Tim Stauffer quietly pitched to a 3.58 ERA in 14 starts and he is out of options which may force the Padres to keep him on the Opening Day roster. Wade LeBlanc is another inspiring lefty but the abundance of starters could force him into the bullpen if the Padres want him on the staff.

Bullpen: Heath Bell is the closer again but a slow start would almost force the Friars to trade him. There’s no reason to have a valuable closer on a team that is borderline rebuilding. The rest of the bullpen is under-rated. Mike Adams had a .73 ERA in 37 relief innings. Thatcher had a 2.80 ERA in 45 innings. Luke Gregerson had a 3.24 ERA in 75 innings. Edward Mujica pitched to an ERA below 4 in 67 total appearances. The rest of the bullpen could very well be made up of those who don’t crack the rotation.

2010: The Padres are coming off a very strong second half in 2009. The team will have solid pitching as they have come to expect in San Diego, however, their offense is lacking. Gwynn and Eckstein absolutely have to get onbase to let Gonzalez drive them in. Blanks, Headley and Venable are rather young in experience and will face a lot of pressure to produce runs. The Padres are in an extremely competitive division where the Rockies and Dodgers are both playoff teams and the Giants are right there. It will be tough for so many pitchers to repeat their success of ’09 and the Padres will ultimately trade Gonzalez and Bell before the season ends.

2010 Preview: Kansas City Royals

Projected AL Central Finish: 4th

Lineup:

  1. Podsednik cf
  2. DeJesus lf
  3. Butler 1b
  4. Ankiel rf
  5. Guillen dh
  6. Callaspo 2b
  7. Gordon 3b
  8. Betancourt ss
  9. Kendall c

Rotation:

  1. Greinke
  2. Meche
  3. Bannister
  4. Davies
  5. Hochevar

Bench:

  • Pena c
  • Aviles if
  • Getz if
  • Bloomquist ut
  • Fields ut

Bullpen:

  • Colon
  • Tejeda
  • Thompson
  • Farnsworth
  • Cruz
  • Soria (closer)

Catcher: Jason Kendall was given a unexpectedly large commitment of $6M over two years. He provides a quiet leadership on the field and may be able to help a young rotation. Switch hitter Brayan Pena will give the team an offensive-minded backup catcher who can spell the aging starter when necessary.

Infield: Billy Butler is the only guarantee in this group. Alberto Callaspo surprised many with his dynamic bat last season but his 17 errors at second base kept him from securing the 2010 job. Chris Getz was brought in to provide plus defense and speed however the addition of Scott Podsednik could limit the need for Getz’s speed and left-handed bat in the lineup. Callaspo has been rumored in many trade talks since the season ended and a trade could create a platoon situation at second base between Getz and Mike Aviles. Aviles lost the starting shortstop job when he injured his elbow last season. Yuniesky Betancourt was traded for in the hopes that he can salvage the talent that made him a starter in Seattle. Alex Gordon is the projected third baseman but he has not been able to perform or stay on the field in his young career. Aviles and Josh Fields could split time with Gordon as well.

Outfield: David DeJesus is the constant in this outfield and should have another productive season. Scott Podsednik’s arrival will give the team a good base runner in front of Billy Butler. Jose Guillen only played in half of the team’s games due to injuries but a move to the DH role should help him stay healthy. Rick Ankiel’s strong arm will be beneficial in Kansas City’s large right field. Brian Anderson was signed to be a solid fourth outfielder but there may not be room for him without a trade or injury.   

Rotation: After Cy Young winner Zach Greinke, the rotation is below average. Gil Meche, Brian Bannister, Kyle Davies and Luke Hochevar all under-performed in ’09. Prospects Aaron Crow and Noel Arguelles probably won’t be ready to pitch in the Bigs in the early going so non-roster invites Bruce Chen, Jorge Campillo and Phillip Humber will have a chance to compete with the returning starters. Kyle Farnsworth will also be trying to make the rotation this spring.

Bullpen: GM Dayton Moore has made a couple of puzzling moves regarding the bullpen in recent years. Ramon Ramirez and Leo Nunez were each traded for returns that are no longer with the team.  The Royals may have to turn to Rule 5 pick Edgar Osuna as their lefty in the pen after not (yet) signing a more notable lefty specialist this off-season. A free agent such as Joe Beimel, Ron Mahay or John Bale could still be brought in to compete for a lefty reliever spot. The bullpen may have a couple surprises this year after many new guys were signed to minor league contracts and given the chance to fight for a spot. The Royals will again have a hard time getting the ball to stellar closer Joakim Soria.

2010: This team has improved over the winter, which is a start. Healthy seasons from Guillen and Gordon would help stabilize the lineup and the competition should only improve the play of their infield. Pitching will be the weakness of the Royals again. Elsewhere in the division, Detroit is questioning the path of rebuilding and Cleveland is already in the process. The Twins and White Sox will be strong again but now is a chance for the Royals to at least gain some respect within the league. The Royals will put up a fight for 3rd place but will ultimately finish 4th in the Central in 2010.

Position Battles- AL

Rosters are starting to take shape as we inch closer to spring training. The trade market has been relatively quiet this off-season and the free agent market is dwindling. Some teams are rather comfortable with their rosters as they currently stand but many spots are still in question. Let’s take a look at the most important position battles for each American League team this spring:

Orioles- LF: The Orioles have put together a stellar offense that also has great depth on the bench. Besides left field, the lineup is set. Felix Pie is only 25 and finally realized some of his potential last season after a rough start to his career in Chicago. He provides great defense in left field and a left-handed bat for the bottom of the order. Nolan Reimold is two years older and made his debut last year. As a rookie, Reimold put up 15 homers and 45 RBIs in only 104 contests. They could form a platoon but Pie may be the early favorite to start more games.

Red Sox- IF: The Red Sox are completely set as far as hitters besides maybe another bench player. The bench is currently made of Jason Varitek, Jed Lowrie, Bill Hall, and Jeremy Hermida. One player who could still find his way onto the team is former starting third baseman, Mike Lowell. The Sox nearly traded Lowell to the Rangers earlier this off-season but his injuries kept the deal from being finalized. Adrian Beltre was signed to play third base. First base is already set with Kevin Youkilis. It seems like the only way for Boston to handle this is to trade Lowell for whatever they can get after he proves his health during spring training.

White Sox- BENCH: After shaking up the lineup earlier this winter, the batting order seems to be set. The White Sox have a veteran bench including Ramon Castro, Omar Vizquel, and Mark Kotsay. Whoever else is on the bench will have a tough time finding at bats. Jayson Nix has a shot at making the team as the primary right handed pinch hitter. Jayson, like his brother Laynce of the Cincinnati Reds, doesn’t hit for a high average but does provide raw power. Brent Lillibridge would give the team more versatility but has disappointed in all phases at the plate during his two years in the pros. Others who will get a look this spring include catcher Tyler Flowers, infielders Jason Botts and Freddie Bynum, and outfielders Brady Clark and Alejandro De Aza.

Indians- C: The Indians have many spots that are not set heading into camp. First base, second base, and left field could potentially have competitions this spring. However, the most important battle this spring in Cleveland’s camp could be that for the job of starting catcher. Lou Marson was brought in when the Indians traded Cliff Lee to Philadelphia. Carlos Santana is another candidate. Santana is one of the game’s top prospects and his switch-hitting skills profile similar to those of former Cleveland catcher, Victor Martinez. Lou Marson has already played at the top level but Santana has a higher ceiling. Mike Redmond was signed to mentor both prospects and help a young pitching staff.

Tigers- LF: The Tigers seem to be set with rookie Austin Jackson in center field. The left field competition will include front runners Clete Thomas and Ryan Raburn along with rookie Wilkin Ramirez. Raburn, who can play all over the field, has had the most success including a strong showing in 2009. The Tigers have also been linked to Johnny Damon this off-season. He would be a nice upgrade at the top of their order because none of the in-house options are ideal for the two spot in the lineup.

Royals- 2B/SS: The Royals have two huge battles this spring and both need to be mentioned here. Alberto Callaspo was a great find last year and spent most of the year around the top of the lineup. He is a very well-rounded hitter with good pop and a good eye. His defense was very poor, however, and that prompted the Royals to acquire Chris Getz in the Mark Teahen trade. Getz is a good defender with more speed than Callaspo. Early in the off-season it didn’t seem to be a log-jam as Callaspo could slide into the DH spot but the Rick Ankiel acquisition moves Jose Guillen to DH. The Royals will have to decide between defense and offense when it comes to their second baseman. The shortstop battle will be just as competitive this year. Yuniesky Betancourt was brought in via trade last summer. That deal left many questioning the front office because Betancourt has been declining in every facet of the game and is under contract through 2011. Mike Aviles was possibly the team MVP in 2008 before injuries derailed his 2009 campaign. The loser of the shortstop competition could very well be traded this spring.

Angels- C: The Angels’ starting catcher will probably be Mike Napoli but expect Jeff Mathis to give him a run for his money. Napoli has more power but his numbers did not go up with the increase in playing time he had last year. Napoli also struggled in the post-season. Mathis is a career .200 hitter but still gets plenty of playing time under Mike Scioscia. Mathis’ great post-season may give him a boost in confidence heading into spring training.

Twins- 3B: The Twins entered the off-season with holes at second, short, and third. Orlando Hudson will play second and J.J. Hardy was traded for to play short. Nick Punto is the favorite to play third given his great defense and the presence of many other prominent bats to pick up his slack at the plate. If Ron Gardenhire needs another bat, however, Brendan Harris could get some playing time. Others who will get a chance to audition at third base this spring are Matt Tolbert, Luke Hughes, and Danny Valencia. 

Yankees- BENCH: Like many other AL teams, the Yankees’ defense is set. New York’s All-Star lineup is amazing, as usual, but every team needs depth. Juan Miranda is a first baseman that has been blocked by Mark Teixeira after solid play throughout the minors. He will fight for a bench spot with the big league team as a left-handed pinch hitter. Marcus Thames will also compete for a pinch hitting role but he is right-handed. Rule 5 Draftee Jamie Hoffman has a slim chance at making the team as a reserve outfielder and may need an injury to either a starter or to Brett Gardner in order to make the roster. Mike Rivera will compete with Francisco Cervelli for the chance to backup Jorge Posada. 

Athletics- LF/RF: Coco Crisp is the only outfielder that is a lock for a starting position in Oakland’s outfield. Rajai Davis and Ryan Sweeney are the early favorites to start in left field and right field, respectively. Davis finally got consistent playing time and was able to produce runs in many clutch plate appearances last season. Sweeney is best known for plus defense but since arriving in Oakland he also has a .349 OBP. Sweeney still lacks power and speed. Travis Buck enters spring training with a chip on his shoulder after the club brought in Gabe Gross, Michael Taylor, and re-signed Jack Cust. Michael Taylor is one of the top prospect in baseball and many think he is ready for a full-time role in Oakland. 

Mariners- C: Most of Seattle’s lineup will be different from opening day 2009 (catcher, first base, shortstop, third base, and left field). Catcher is the leading question mark entering 2010. Adam Moore is the catcher of the future but the Mariners see now as their best chance to take the division from the Angels. Will they let Moore grow in the midst of a pennant chase? Josh Bard is a veteran that was invited to camp with a chance to make the roster. Bard had two fairly good seasons in 2006 and 2007 but struggled at the plate last year in 90 games. Moore and Bard will battle Eliezer Alfonzo and Rob Johnson for playing time this year but the Mariners should not expect too much offense from this spot in 2010. 

Rays- C: In 2008 Dioner Navarro was an All-Star catcher for the American League Champions. In 2009 Dioner Navarro lost playing time and saw his OBP drop from .349 to .261 while the Rays missed the playoffs. Navarro is still young but the Rays project to again be one of best teams in baseball and need production from the entire lineup to keep pace with Boston and New York. Kelly Shoppach was brought in to compete with Navarro. He is another young catcher who experienced a drop-off in production last year. The Rays hope the competition between the two will spark better play in 2010. 

Rangers- 1B: The Rangers will again have a good offense with players like Ian Kinsler, Michael Young, Vladimir Guerrero, Josh Hamilton, and so on. One spot that isn’t so great is first base. Chris Davis played well as a rookie in 2008 but his ability to get onbase completely fell off the chart last year. The Rangers have their eyes set on the playoffs and tried to acquire Mike Lowell as insurance for first base. Lowell’s nagging injuries didn’t allow the deal to be completed. Justin Smoak is a switch-hitting prospect but is still very young. The Rangers may still look to free agency for a hitter like Russell Branyan, Carlos Delgado, or, longtime Ranger, Hank Blalock.

Blue Jays- LF: The Blue Jays are in rebuilding mode and are looking to stopgaps to fill in all over the field. Utility-man Jose Bautista may end up being the stopgap in left field. He has the ability to hit for power but will not have a high average. Bautista is the favorite but Jeremey Reed is another option along with speedster Joey Gathright. The Jays had a potential five tool left fielder in Michael Taylor but traded him for corner infield prospect, Brett Wallace. Free agents Johnny Damon and Willy Taveras could be brought in to play left and provide top-of-the-order experience as well.