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 Central Finish: 6th
- A. McCutcheon cf
- Iwamura 2b
- Jones 1b
- Milledge lf
- Doumit c
- LaRoche 3b
- Church rf
- Cedeno ss
- Duke (LH)
- Maholm (LH)
- D. McCutcheon
- Jaramillo c
- Vazquez if
- Crosby if
- Young ut
- Moss of
- Veal (LH)
- Lopez (LH)
- 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.