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 AL Central Finish: 4th
- Podsednik cf
- DeJesus lf
- Butler 1b
- Ankiel rf
- Guillen dh
- Callaspo 2b
- Gordon 3b
- Betancourt ss
- Kendall c
- Pena c
- Aviles if
- Getz if
- Bloomquist ut
- Fields ut
- 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.