Spring training games have already started which means Opening Day is close. Another season that is currently getting under-way is Fantasy Baseball. Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll write up my position-by-position preview to help prepare you for the pursuit of the ever important bragging rights. First on the list are the first basemen, led by superstar Albert Pujols.
- Albert Pujols STL- He continues to build on an already legendary career as his HR, RBIs, and SLG have all increased each of the past three years.
- Mark Teixeira NYY- Teixeira impressed in his first year with the Yanks. 100-plus runs and 100-plus RBIs are a near lock with his career .923 OPS.
- Miguel Cabrera DET- The Johnny Damon acquisition should only give Cabrera more chances to drive in runs.
- In the running: Adrian Gonzalez SD, Ryan Howard PHI, Prince Fielder MIL
- James Loney LAD- He is often forgot about due to low HR totals, but in his 4 year career Loney has a .295 AVG and two 90 RBI seasons. If his power comes through, Loney will becom a very valuable player.
- Billy Butler KC- Playing in the spacious Kauffman Stadium doesn’t help his power production, but KC’s lineup is improved and he showed progress last year.
- Adam LaRoche ARI- LaRoche will be available late in the draft and is someone you shouldn’t forget about. He’ll put up his usual 35 doubles, 25 HR, and 85 RBIs.
- Garrett Atkins BAL- Atkins will play first base in Baltimore but has been in a steady decline for three years. He bottomed out in ’09 with 9 HR and a .226 AVG.
- Garrett Jones PIT- Jones came on strong as a rookie and even had some ROY consideration. I expect him to come back down to earth after his stunning .938 OPS in ’09. Jones’ strikeout rate is also unfavorable.
- Lance Berkman HOU- Something must be in the water in Houston as Berkman and Roy Oswalt are already talking retirement. Berkman’s 2009 was below expectations and he seems to have lost his edge at the plate. He won’t be horrible but he is no longer a first tier first baseman.
Projected NL West Finish: 5th
- Gwynn Jr. cf
- Eckstein 2b
- Gonzalez 1b
- Blanks lf
- Headley 3b
- Venable rf
- Hundley c
- Cabrera ss
- Richard (LH)
- Torrealba c
- Stairs 1b
- Salazar if
- Hairston Jr. ut
- Hairston of
- LeBlanc (LH)
- Thatcher (LH)
- 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.
After the Yankees well-known spending spree of a year ago, the Red Sox are doing their best to keep pace. They’ve already acquired outfielders Mike Cameron and Jeremy Hermida, ace pitcher John Lackey, and shortstop Marco Scutaro. The Sox re-upped catchers Jason Varitek and Victor Martinez and knuckle-baller Tim Wakefield. They are nearing a deal to send third basemen Mike Lowell to Texas for catching prospect Max Ramirez.
There has been rumors that Boston is enamored by free agent third basemen Adrian Beltre to fill the third base spot potentially vacated by Lowell but Kevin Youkilis could also fill that spot. The Beltre rumors were moved to the backseat today as the Adrian Gonzalez rumors sped back up and a deal seems very likely, in my opinion. The Red Sox have the prospects to bring Gonzalez in, but do they want to give up that much? A deal would potentially include center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury and/or starter Clay Buchholz along with more prospects. That seems like a good start to me as the Padres would get young major league ready players in return.
But it doesn’t stop there. The Red Sox have notified Jeremy Hermida that he would be traded if Jason Bay was resigned. I’ll assume the same would happen if Matt Holliday were brought in but we’ll stick with Bay for now. The Red Sox are instant AL favorites if they bring in Adrian Gonzalez, not to mention Jason Bay.
A rotation containg three aces (Josh Beckett, John Lackey, Jon Lester) and a solid bullpen may potentially be supported by quite a bit of power:
- Pedroia 2b
- Youkilis 3b
- Gonzalez 1b
- Martinez c
- Ortiz dh
- Bay lf
- Drew rf
- Cameron cf
- Scutaro ss
The frequency and amount of posts should pick back up in 5-7 days as I am focusing on finals during the busiest time of the year for academics.
A recent post on mlbtraderumors.com by Tim Dierkes posed a challenge to the readers: Create the best possible lineup, rotation, and bullpen of this off-season’s trade candidates. So this evening I’ll take my crack at it, again only using players who have a good chance of getting traded this winter.
1. Granderson cf– Detroit seems to be cost cutting, could bring in a haul.
2. Pierre lf– Dodger’s OF is full and getting expensive through arbitration.
3. Bradley rf– You know the story. Will he rebound after another ‘fresh start?’
4. Uggla 2b– Another Marlins cost cutting off-season is very probable.
5. Cust dh– Billy Beane isn’t a huge fan of giving out raises via arbitration.
6. Atkins 1b– Ian Stewart’s emergence has made Atkins expendable.
7. Gamel 3b– The Brewers will try to make a big splash after failing to retain C.C. last year. That splash starts with prospects.
8. Doumit c– Had a rough season and doesn’t seem to fit in with the coaches/management.
9. (Macier, not Cesar) Izturis ss– Erik Aybar’s earned the full-time role at short.
1. Halladay– The new GM knows the Jays won’t compete before his Doc’s deal runs out.
2. Jackson- See ‘Granderson’ above.
3. Kawakami– The Braves don’t have a spot for him in their solid rotation and he’s affordable.
4. Arroyo- Great second half but the Reds are cutting costs and they’ll start with this $13MM.
5. Silva- Will be swapped for another bad contract.
- Tallet LH– May not fit Toronto’s plans and will be getting a slight raise.
- Pinto LH– Talented lefty struggled for the Marlins but is very talented. Will draw interest.
- Casilla RH– Similar to Pinto, though a righty.
- Farnsworth RH- His deal seemed bad from the start. He’s due $5MM.
- Corpas RH- Shedding the $6.5MM he’s due will redirect money towards resigning Betancourt.
- Wheeler RH- Has closed but is better as a setup man. Rays will go cheaper.
- Lindstrom CL- Leo Nunez stole his closer job in-season. Brings intimidation with heater.
As you can see, I don’t think some of the more intriguing picks (Adrian Gonzalez, Felix Hernandez, Carl Crawford, etc.) will get traded this off-season. These types of players are both integral to their team’s success and are rather affordable, not to mention how close each of those teams are to contending in their division. I expect this off-season’s trade market to consist of more cost-adjusting moves and less blockbusters than the headlines would like to suggest.
But they don’t call it the Hot Stove League for nothing as I’m sure there will be some surprising and exciting deals pulled off as the owners’ holiday wishlists grow larger.