Archive for March, 2015

Miami

Ramble:  Dee Gordon and Mike Morse make for a better right side of the infield.

Outfield:  Giancarlo Stanton in right, Marcell Ozuna in center and Christian  Yelich in left.  Not bad.  Ichiro Suzuki offers batting tips while playing an inning or two in the outfield.

Infield:  Mike Morse and Dee Gordon join Martin Prado and Adeiny Hechavarria.  Utility guys will feature Donovan Solano, Jeff Baker and Derek Dietrich.

Catching:  Granted, anytime Jarod Saltalamacchia is your starting catcher, I’m concerned, but the veteran Jeff Mathis is ready for extended service if required, thus providing above average defense and enhancing the confidence of his pitchers.  Jarod, not so much.  J.T. Realmuto should be part of the cast.  Frankly, Jarod should be dealt.

Starting Pitching:  Not as good as the Nats, but who is?  Jose Fernandez, Mat Latos (talk less, pitch more), Jarred Cosart, Dan Haren, Tom Koehler and Henderson Alvarez individually and collectively need to hit the magic 5 1/3 to 6 inning mark on a regular basis if the Fish are to make a playoff run.  The starters have the ability to carry their teammates.

Relief:  Steve Cishek will close.  Mike Dunn and A.J. Ramos form the real talent in the bullpen.  Bryan Morris, Aaron Crow and Preston Claiborne hope to join them.

AAA/AA Help:  Justin Bour (1b), Carter Capps (relief), Greg Nappo (relief) and Matt Ramsay (relief).

Prediction:  First by a scale over the Nationals.

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Washington

Ramble:  Signing Max Scherzer made a good staff better.  The mavens calling for the trade of any starter in light of the Max signing (pun intended), are out of their individual minds.  Too much pitching does not exist.  Keep all.

Outfield:  I’ve never been a Bryce Harper fan.  Nothing has changed.  Mike Trout, he ain’t.  Denard Span in center and Jayson Werth (moving to left?  Why?) form a top-notch defensive outfield.  Nate McClouth and Kevin “I’ll Play Anywhere” Frandsen take the late innings.

Infield:  Ryan Zimmerman moves to first while Anthony Rendon plays the other corner.  Yunel Escobar (running out of chances.  Traded twice during the winter is never a good sign) and Ian Desmond are up the middle.  Frandsen backs first and third when not in the outfield and Danny Espinosa backs the middle.

Catching:  Wilson Ramos and either Jose Lobaton or Sandy Leon back him.  A lackluster trio.

Starting Pitching:  As deep as the Giants, and that is high praise.  Max Scherzer, Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez form an impressive starting five, and, yet Tanner Roark deserves starts as well.

Relief:  Drew Storen hopes to build on 2014’s result.  Casey Janssen, Aaron Barrett, Matt Thornton, Jerry Blevins, Xavier Cedeno and Craig Stammen are rather pedestrian and do not equate with the Marlins bullpen.

AAA/AA Help:  The majority of their talent is entering AA this year, thus nobody of note until 2016.

Prediction:  Second in the East, but any Fish slip means first, but any Nats slip means third behind the Mets (you read those words correctly).  And the position guys need to reduce their strikeouts.

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New York

Ramble:  While I despise the EE, these guys, even in light of 1986 (yeah, I’m that old), I have grown to love.  Having exposed my favoritism towards the real NYC team, they did nothing over the winter to help themselves.

Outfield:  Curtis Grandson in right continues to shine a light on bad defensive placement.  Curtis has no arm strength, thus begging the question, why is he in right?  Using Daniel Murphy as a cutoff to enhance arm strength is, um, dodgy.  Michael Cuddyer in left and Juan Lagares in center make for a fast outfield with little arm power.  Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Matt van Dekker offer competition especially in case Granderson has another ’14.

Infield:  Lucas Duda receiving at bats will continue to improve.  David Wright needs to put together a year worthy of his salary.  Daniel Murphy is a top five N.L. second baseman.  Wilmer Flores must prove he is an everyday shortstop.  Ruben Tejada and Eric Campbell get the bulk of the jack-of-all-trades duty.

Catching:  The long praised Travis d’Anaud claims the starting catching spot.  Anthony Recker backs him.

Starting Pitching:  Granted, injury is a part of the game, but the injury this staff has endured is absolutely ridiculous.  Matt Harvey returns while Zack Wheeler departs.  Can’t win for trying.  Jacob deGrom, Jon Niese and Dillon Gee must pitch well if the Mets are to challenge the Marlins and Nationals.  Bartolo “Fat Man” Colon handles the fifth spot.  Anything higher will expose dwindling velocity by the end of April.

Relief:  A proposed battle between Jenrry Mejia and Bobby Parnell for the ninth inning that I don’t buy (Parnell should not be considered for the spot).  Jenrry had a horrible whip that needs to come down in ’15.  Jeurys Familia, Josh Edgin and Vic Black form an above average core.  Erik Goeddel, Dario Alvarez and Sean Gilmartin need to be as good as Familia, Edgin and Black.

AAA/AA Help:  Juan Centeno (c), Dilson Herrera (2b), Matt Reynolds (ss) and Chase Bradford (relief.  May I offer Mr. Bradford as closer in waiting).

Prediction:  Most likely finishing third which gives hope for those traveling to Queens.  But, if the Mets are the healthy team (for once) and the Marlins and Nationals take a key hit, the Mets finish second.

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Atlanta

Ramble:  Lots of people leaving, lots of people arriving.  A very active winter.  Sadly, the Braves did not improve.

Outfield:  Eric Young, Jr. and Nick Markakis join Melvin “Don’t Call Me B.J.” Upton in the outfield.  Jonny Gomes brings the right attitude with suspect defensive skills.  Jonny turned many a standard fly ball into circus time in Fenway.  Zolio Almonte and Eury Perez should get some time during the late innings.

Infield:  Freddie Freeman, Alberto Callaspo, Chris Johnson and Andrelton Simmons form an average infield that will hopefully hit.  Well, Freddie will hit, no doubt.  As for the utility guys, I’m guessing Kelly Johnson and Phil Gosselin pressed by Elmer Reyes.

Catching:  The more time John Buck and Christian Bethancourt spend catching the less time Aj Pierzynski spends catching.  A quality scenario.

Starting Pitching:  Julio Theran, Mike Minor and Eric Stults form an effective core.  Alex Wood and Shelby Miller most likely round out the rest of the starters.  Wandy Rodriguez hopes to find his former self.  Doing so would help the Braves immensely.

Relief:  Craig Kimbrel, while a top 5 N.L. closer, won’t receive a lot of save opportunities this year.  Jason Grilli can sub if Kimbrel is injured. Otherwise, he’s a quality eighth inning guy.  Jim Johnsson, James Russell, Josh Outman (a applicable last name given his profession) Mike Kohn and Luis Avilan will receive more appearances than the coaching staff desires.

AAA/AA Help:  Jose Peralta (2b, and the reason Tyler Pastornicky and Tommy La Stella are no longer with the organization), Cedric Hunter (of), Greg Ross (starter) and Shae Simmons (relief, though injured).

Prediction:  Second to last in the N.L. East.  Average baseball in a sweaty environment leads to plunging attendance.

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Philadelphia

Ramble:  This is a bad organization.  They do very little well.  All decisions are suspect.  Fan rebellion awaits.

Outfield:  Poor Ben Revere (a good ball player) suffers through another year with Darin Ruf and Domonic Brown on either side.  Grady Sizemore gets another resurrection shot.  Jordan Danks eventually gets most of the Sunday work.

Infield:  The declining Ryan Howard at first, ever-injured Chase Utley at second, Cody Asche at third and Freddy Galvis at short.  Something says a lack of confidence.  Cesar Hernandez and Maikel Franco serves as the utility men

Catching:  One of the few (only?) bright spots in Philly is Carlos Ruiz (a fine catcher).  Cameron Rupp backs him.

Starting Pitching:  Cliff Lee probably doesn’t pitch effectively given his injury.  Cole Hammels waits for the end of July to find a new home with a playoff team.  Jerome Williams (I have a soft spot for Jerome.  He is a true believer who did years in the minors before the Angels finally gave him a chance) and his pink glove will get lots of innings.  Aaron Harang hopefully pitches well.  Any team that signs Chad Billingsley and Kevin Slowey is in a world of hurt.

Relief:  Jonathan “Mean Face” Papelbon heads a bullpen that is shallow, thin and without system assistance.  Good luck to all who emerge from the shadows of the bullpen.  Let’s run with Ken Giles, Jake Diekmann, Mario Hollands, Luis Garcia, Hector Neris and Justin De Fratus.  This group will be exhausted by the end of June.

AAA/AA Help:  None.  Zip.  Zero.  The Phillies are the worst team in baseball in developing talent.  Awful.  Bad.  Pathetic.  They received a rating of 1.2 (out of a possible 4) in my minor league system ratings.

Prediction:  Hmm.  Dead last.  Worst team in baseball.  Why can’t the Yankees be this bad?

 

 

 

 

 

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2015 N.L. Central Preview

Posted: March 19, 2015 in Uncategorized

St. Louis

Ramble:  The Cards keep John Lackey and acquire Jason Hayward and Jordan Walden.  The ship continues to sail forward.

Outfield:  No surprises.  Matt Holiday in left, Jon Jay in center and Jason Heyward in right hoping to fully realize all that ability.  Pete Bourjos gets most of the fourth outfielder time.

Infield:  Matt Adams at first, Kolten Wong (looking for a productive year to secure his spot) at second, Jhonny Peralta at short and Matt Carpenter at third.  Mark Reynolds sees time at the corners.  Pete Kozma subs up the middle.

Catching:  Yadier Molina rebounds nicely from injury.  Tony Cruz backs him, but Ed Easley is waiting.

Starting Pitching.  Adam Wainwright (awesome), Lance Lynn, John Lackey, Michael Wacha (a load of talent) and choose between Jaime Garcia and Marco Gonzales for the last spot.

Relief:  Trevor Rosenthal provides another outstanding year closing for the Cards.  Jordan Walden, Matt Belisle, Randy Choate, Seth Maness, Carlos Martinez and Sam Freeman will get most of the work leading to Rosenthal.

AAA/AA Help:  Ed Easley (c), Cody Stanley (c), Xavier Scruggs (1b), Jacob Wilson (2b) and Thomas Pham (of).

Prediction:  First in the Central.

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Pittsburgh

Ramble:  Russell Martin leaves for Canada.  Yawn.

Outfield:  Maybe the best in baseball.  Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen and Gregory Polanco will roam Pittsburgh for quite a while.  Jose Tabata is probably traded.  And, Pittsburgh’s two best position prospects are also outfielders.  Nice problem.

Infield:  Pedro Alvarez moves to first where he will, hopefully, commit fewer errors.  Josh Harrison takes over at third.  Jordy Mercer and Neil Walker form a serviceable duo up the middle.  Sean Rodriguez and Justin Turner receive Sunday play at second, third and short.  Andrew Lambo offers a non-leaded glove alternative at first if Pedro suffers from glove-itis.

Catching:  Francisco Cervelli attempts to take Martin’s spot.  I’m betting Tony Sanchez gets the back up spot and pushes Cervelli because Elias Diaz is probably a year away.

Starting:  Gerrit Cole, Charlie Morton, Francisco Liriano, AJ Burnett and Vance Worley make an above average rotation, but nowhere near St. Louis.  Jeff Locke and Brandon Crumpton wait.

Relief:  Mark Melancon has another good year, but nobody notices.  Tony Watson, Jared Hughes, Antonio Bastardo and Stolmy Pimentel get the bulk of the pre-Melancon innings.  However, if the Pirates are to keep Cincy and the Cubs at bay, John Holdzkom and Bobby LaFromboise must provide quality innings.

AAA/AA Help:  Keon Broxton (of) and Mel Rojas (of).

Prediction:  Participating in a season long brawl for second.

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Chicago

Ramble:  Signing Jon Lester for far too much money is the obvious oh-ah.  Dexter Fowler, Miguel Montero and David Ross (Lester’s personal catcher) were unspectacular, solid moves.  Same goes with Chris Denorfia joining the outfield group.  Oh, yeah, the manager guy, Joe Maddon, that was a nice move, too.

Outfield:  Why some Cubs’ mavens have soured on Junior Lake is a tad puzzling, though Chris Coghlan clearly was the better player in ’14.  Dexter Fowler wins the center field job.  Jorge Soler, less a bad spring, should land in right.  The aforementioned Denorfia brings the proper attitude sorely needed.

Infield:  Anthony Rizzo slowly improves.  If Mike Olt doesn’t make a quick start, Kris Bryant takes over at third.  Starlin Castro is inconsistent at short (and the plate).  The light hitting Javier Baez hoovers under the same light as Mike Olt, for Arismendy Alcantara wants to play everyday.  Tommy La Stella gets more work than he imagined as Mr. Utility.

Catching:  Miguel Montero vastly improves this position for Cubs faithful.  David Ross catches Lester and nobody else (maybe Felix Doubront).  Rafael Lopez does most of the real late-inning catching to give Montero a breather.

Starting Pitching:  Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta and Travis Wood form a first-three good enough to concern the Pirates.  Jason Hammel, Kyle Hendricks, Eric Jokisch, Tsuyoshi Wada and Felix Doubront (last chance to pitch in the bigs) battle for the last two spots.  If Hendricks and Jokisch pitch to expectation, the Cubs may surprise many.

Relief:  Hector Rondon improves as the closer.  Pedro Strop, Neil Ramirez, Blake Parker, Drake Britton, Zac Rosscup, Jason Motte and Brian Schlitter form a much improved bullpen.

AAA/AA Help:  Andrew McKirahan (relief).

Prediction:  The above referenced brawl.  If Pittsburgh’s bullpen blows up, the Cubs take second.  Otherwise the tantalizing close third.

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Cincinnati

Ramble:  Marlon Byrd joins the outfield.  Nice, but not enough

Outfield:  Byrd, the blazing fast Billy Hamilton and Jay Bruce.  Not bad.  Skip Schumaker and Kristopher Negron take most of the late innings.

Infield:  Joey Votto (may health return or the Reds are in immediate trouble) at first, the fun to watch Brandon Phillips at second, Todd Frazier at third and Zack Cozart (overrated) at short.  As to Sunday guys, the Reds have prospects, but none seem to make the list of consideration.

Catching:  Devin Mesoraco (he can hit) and Brayan Pena.

Starting Pitching:  Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake and Homer Bailey are an above average trio.  If Tony Cingrani meets expectations, this is a deep rotation, if not, a tad thin.  Anthony DeSciafani and Dylan Axelrod tussle for the last spot.

Relief:  The flame thrower, Aroldis Chapman, in the ninth.  Burke Badenhop and  Pedro Villarreal offer quality help.  Then relief personnel becomes ineffective.  Choose from Sean Marshal, Manny Para, JJ Hoover, Sam LeCure and you get the idea.

AAA/AA Help:  Neftali Soto (3b), Seth Mejias-Brean (3b) and Kyle Waldrop (of.  The best offensive player in their system).

Prediction:  Shy of Bruce, Votto, Frazier and Mesoraco combining for 110+ home runs, the Reds struggle and settle into fourth place.

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Milwaukee

Ramble:  Here’s hoping.

Outfield:  Khris Davis in left, Carlos Gomez in center with Ryan “Telling the Truth is Hard” Braun in right.  Gerardo Parra should gather a few at bats, as well.

Infield:  Adam Lind at first (not a good sign), Scooter Gennett and Jean Segura handle the middle with youth and promise while Aramis Ramirez handles third until Jason Rogers shows he’s ready to assume the hot corner.  If Lind struggles early, look for Matt Clark to get a chance to stick in the bigs.

Catching:  Jonathan Lucroy (a fine catcher) and Martin Maldonado attempt to make the best of a pedestrian group of starters.

Starting Pitching:  Kyle Lohse followed by a shoulder shrug of Matt Garza, Wiley Peralta, Mike Fiers and Jimmy Nelson (the Brewers number one starting prospect).  If this group struggles, gonna be a long year in Milwaukee.

Relief:  Frankie Rodriguez returns as the closer (Thank goodness.  Otherwise this group goes from below average to awful).  Jonathan Broxton handles the eighth.  Rob Wooten, Will Smith, Neal Cotts, Jim Henderson, Tyler Thornburg and Brandon Kintzler are arbitrarily selected due to a lack of past performance from current contestants.

AAA/AA Help: Tyler Cravy (starter).  The Brewers rated second to last in my player development ratings (only in front of the substantially worse Phillies).

Prediction:  Dead last in the Central.

 

 

San Francisco

Ramble:  Panda leaves.  Mike Morse leaves.  The Giants did not have a lot of power, now they have substantially less.

Outfield:  If you cannot run, don’t play outfield for the Giants.  Nori Aoki, Angel Pagan and Hunter Pence (the most clumsy looking ball player in all of baseball) are wanna-be sprinters.  Gregor Blanco will push Aoki for the left field spot.  Juan Perez is the best outfield prospect in the Giants system and is looking to stick.

Infield:  Casey McGehee takes Sandoval’s spot.  Brandon Crawford and Joe Panik make a good middle.  Brandon Belt hopefully provides punch which the Giants desperately need.

Catching:  Buster Posey and Andrew Susac enjoy their position given who throws to them.

Starting Pitching:  Making a non-playoff case against the Giants is most difficult given Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain, Jake Peavy, Tim Hudson and Tim Lincecum.  Is Ryan Vogelsong the odd man out?  Rich and deep.

Relief:  Santiago Casilla seems to be a foregone conclusion as the closer, but Sergio Romo might feel differently.  A nice problem to have.  Jeremy Affeldt and Javier Lopez (another reason to be left-handed and stick around forever) are the solid old guys.  Hunter Strickland and George Kontos need to be as effective as Jean Machi.

AAA/AA Help:  I’m assuming Andrew Susac makes the team, but Trevor Brown (c) is just as good, Blake Miller (2b), Adam Duvall (3b), Matt Duffy (ss), Clayton Blackburn (starter) and Cody Hall (relief).

Prediction:  The Giants have anemic offense.  Regardless of their starting pitching, they slip to third in the West.

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Arizona

Ramble:  Less the Wade Miley trade for Allen Webster and Rubby De La Rosa, a quiet winter.

Outfield:  Average to above average as the year progresses.  Candidly, Mark Trumbo in right may not be a good fit.  Left field is a better choice as time goes on.  A.J. Pollock in center and David Peralta in left join Trumbo in the “we can hit” march.  Ender Inciarte and Cody Ross get the late innings.

Infield:  Paul Goldschmidt has a banner year in ’15.  Aaron Hill plays another quality year of second base.  Chris Owings continues to improve at short.  Yasmany Tomas at third is a bit of a question.  Jake Lamb and Nick Ahmed serve as capable back-up at third and short.  If either Tomas or Owings suffer a long spell of unproductive at bats, opportunity awaits for both Lamb and Ahmed.

Catching:  Tuffy Gosewisch has a cool name.  We will see if he can catch 130 games or so.  Oscar Hernandez (a better than 40% toss rate in the minors) probably backs him up.  If Oscar can hit a percent better than Tuffy, he starts.

Starting Pitching:  Josh Collmenter, Chase Anderson and Vidal Nuno are the first three.  Jeremy Hellickson, Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster and Trevor Cahill battle for the last two spots.  If either De La Rosa or Webster win 12 to 14 games, then the Miley deal gets rave reviews.

Relief:  Addison Reed handles the ninth.  Brad Ziegler, Oliver Perez, Evan Marshall, Matt Stites, David Hernandez, Matt Reynolds and Robbie Ray are my arbitrary choices to form an average relief corps.

AA/AA Help:  Stevie Rodriguez (c), Brandon Drury (3b), Tom Belza (of) and Mike Freeman (of).  Pitching you say?  Not much is developed.  2104 minor league pitching received a D.  Closers received an F.  Ugly.

Prediction:  A distant fourth in the West.

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Colorado

Ramble:  Nothing.  Absolutely nothing.

Outfield:  A dog fight between Carlos Gonzalez (a healthy 2015 would be swell), Corey Dickerson, Drew Stubbs and Charlie Blackmon.

Infield:  Justin Morneau and Nolan Arenado handle the corners and smash baseballs.  Troy Tulowitzki is hopeful for health.  DJ LeMahieu partners at second.  Rafael Ynoa can play (hit, especially).  Wilin Rosario needs at bats as well.

Catching:  Nick Hundley and Matt McKenry share the duties.  Hundley received a plethora of chance during his San Diego days to earn the tag of starting catcher, but could never quite hold the title.

Starting Pitching:  Jorge De La Rosa, Jordan Lyles (poster child for not rushing starting pitchers through the system.  Thank you, Houston), Kyle Kendrick, Jhoulys Chacin and Tyler Matzek.  This lot is thin.  Thin pitching at a high altitude is a season long disaster.

Relief:  The ageless LaTroy Hawkins is chosen by most as closer.  I move for John Axford to assume the title and return LaTroy to an earlier appearance.  As for the remainder of the corps, close your eyes and reach into the nearest hat.  I will go with Boone Logan, Tommy Kahnle, Adam Ottavino, Rex Brothers, Yohan Flande, Jorge Rondon, and Brooks Brown as the primary group.  Sadly, the Rockies groom relievers almost as badly as the Diamondbacks.  Almost.

AAA/AA Help: Cristhian Adames (ss) and Daniel Winkler (starter).

Prediction:  A good year would be to finish in front the Snakes.  We shall see.

An 8 seed?  I love my guys, but we are not worthy of an 8 seed.  Given the start to the Wyoming game (O’Brien misses a layup, Spencer misses a one footer and Shepard air balls a three.  Yuk.) and the resulting loss, we should have been no better than a 10 seed.

Regardless, we will beat St. John’s.  Then, Duke awaits.  Then, the end of our journey through Madness.

As a side note to Fisher and staff, please do not dress the guys in uniforms recently sported by Kansas.  You know, the fashion piece with an apron wrap effect.  Kansas looked like a waitress with bad habits trying too hard for a better tip.

 

Seattle

Ramble:  A relatively quiet winter.  However, the season will be return to splendor for long-suffering Mariners’ fans.

Outfield.  Probably a rotation in left.  Choose from Dustin Ackley (hit in 2015 or move on) or James Jones or Stefen Romero (their best outfield prospect).  Austin Jackson gets center while the former Padre Seth Smith takes right.

Infield:  Logan Morrison at first.  Robinson Cano and Brad Miller handle the middle.  Kyle Seager takes third.  Willy Blooomquist and Rickie Weeks are the utility guys with Chris Taylor waiting for an extended chance.

Catching:  I’m choosing John Hicks in a race for catcher with most of the competition coming from fellow prospect Jesus Sucre.   John Baker will stick around to teach and for the sake of just in case.

DH:  Nelson Cruz (the buy of the year in 2014) continues to annihilate baseballs.

Starting Pitching:  Felix Hernandez leads a formidable rotation.  He, Hisashi Iwakuma and James Paxton are a quality first three.  If Taijuan Walker takes a season long step towards his potential, this is a tough group.

Relief:  Sure, he should be fined millions of dollars for wearing his hat at a weird, half intoxicated angle, but Fernando Rodney is a fine closer.  Danny Farquhar, Yoervis Medina, Tom Wilhelmsen, Carson Smith (much like Walker, the M’s must offer a full year to determine true ability) and Charlie Furbush are an excellent group coming out of the ‘pen.

AAA/AA Help:  Steve Baron (c), Chris Taylor (ss), D.J. Petersen (3b), Tyler Olson (starter), Stephen Kohlscheen (relief) and Mayckol Guaipe (relief).

Prediction:  First in a highly competitive division.

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Houston (stop laughing)

Ramble:  The Astros have been loaded with system talent for two solid years.  The players they scout, draft, sign and develop are good.  This year, for no apparent reason, I choose as the year of the Astros or the Kansas City Royals, II (without the improbable run to the Series).  Acquiring Evan Gattis and Hank Conger make the Astros deep at not only catcher, but first and the dh spot as well.

Outfield:  As for the mavens suggesting Evan Gattis serve as the starting left fielder, I’m not one of those.  Jake Marisnick needs at bats to determine potential.  Robbie Grossman needs the same attention.  Colby Rasmus in center and George Springer in right complete the outfield.

Infield:  Jon Singleton shares more time with Gattis than he might like.  Chris Carter makes an occasional appearance as well.  Jose Altuve (a fine ballplayer) anchors the middle with Jed Lowrie.  Luis Valbuena battles Matt Dominguez for third, though Marwin Gonzalez might be the best choice.

Catching:  Deep.  Jason Castro and Hank Conger strive to gain the starting staff’s confidence with Evan Gattis appearing on the weekend.

DH:  Carter, Gattis and Singleton, i.e., whomever is not playing first base on a given night.

Starting Pitching:  Scott Feldman followed by Colin McHugh, Dan Straily, Dallas Keuchel and either Brett Olberholtzer or Brad Peacock.  For a surprising 2015, McHugh, Straily and Keuchel must reach the sixth inning more often than not.

Relief:  This group needs to produce a closer.  Luke Gregerson, Tony Sipp or Chad Qualls rotate through until a winner is found.  The other two become quality 7th and 8th inning guys.  Pat Neshek, Josh Fields, Kevin Chapman, Joe Thatcher and Samuel Deduno battle for appearances.

AAA/AA Help:  Matt Duffy (1b), Joe Sciafani (2b), Colin Moran (3b), Gregorio Petit (ss), Domingo Santana (of) and Thomas Shirley (starter).

Prediction:  A close second, a wild card spot, an advance, then the balloon is burst.  But, fun will be had.

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Angels (see a the Southern California MLB post from 3/3/15)

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Oakland

Ramble:  Lots of people left during the winter.  Not good.

Outfield:  Coco Crisp (did ever a finer name exist?) and Josh Reddick in the corners.  Center is who knows?  I love Sam Fuld as much as the next Fuld-man, but Sam as a starter does nothing for confidence.  Billy Burns was a rush job in 2014.  Perhaps sharing the spot with Fuld may ease him into MLB.  If both those two fold, Craig Gentry waits.

Infield:  Ike Davis (ouch) at first with the occasional appearance by Country Breakfast.  Billy does lessen the sting of so many departed.  Ben Zobrist at second.  Eric Sogard or Marcus Semien at short.  Brett Lawrie at third.

Catching:  Stephen Vogt and Josh Phegley until one of them is hurt, then Luis Exposito finally gets a shot (assuming he’s still with Oakland on a minor league deal).

DH:  The aforementioned Country Breakfast Butler.  Ike Davis and Fuld on occasion.  If Ike tanks, again (re:  His days as a Met), Nate Freiman takes his spot.

Starting Pitching:  Sonny Gray followed by a large dose of unknown.  Scott Kazmir as the #2 starter does for that spot as Sam Fuld does for center.  Jesse Hahn (if he can pitch a quality 200+ innings, the A’s might surprise), Jesse Chavez and the long championed Drew Pomeranz complete the rotation.

Relief:  Thank goodness for Sean Doolittle.  He does a lot (sorry, couldn’t resist).  Ty Cliparrd was a quality addition.  Fernando Abad, Dan Otero, Ryan Cook, Evan Scribner and Eric O’Flaherty will sooth any waters before getting to Doolittle.

AAA/AA Help.  Depends on the plethora of quality A+ kids from ’14, where they land in the A’s system and how they play.

Prediction:  Unless the starting pitching overcomes the anemic hitting, fourth.

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Texas

Ramble:  Acquiring Yovani Gallardo was smart, but a lot more was needed.

Outfield:  Center (Leonys  Martin) and right (Shin-Soo Choo) are set.  Left is a toss-up.  I’m choosing Jake  Smolinski in an upset.  Ryan Ludwick would be a smart inclusion given experience and clubhouse attitude, but Michael Choice is a lot less expensive and the Rangers need to know if he can hit MLB pitching.

Infield:  Adrian Beltre (though Ryan Rua awaits) and Elvis Andrus form a strong left side. Rougned Odor is the next big, can’t-miss guy in Texas.  Remember Mike Olt?  Thought so.  Prince Fielder occupies first.  Mitch Moreland backs him up (dh as well).  Adam Rosales is the other utility guy.

Catching:  Untested.  Tomas Telis is the best of the lot.  Robinson Chirinos and Carlos Corporan offer experience, but little offense.

DH:  Moreland and Ludwick with Fielder once in a while.  If Ludwick doesn’t make the team, look for Michael Choice to get a few at bats.

Starting Pitching:  Derek Holland, Yu Darvish (currently injured, thus a large hole in the Rangers’ rotation), Yovani Gallardo, Colby Lewis and either Ross Detwiler or Nick Tepesh (their best system prospect) form a bleak rotation.  Pray for the relievers, especially the long guys.

Relief:  Neftali Perez closes, but he spent 24 games at AAA last year, so nothing is sure.  Spencer Patton might compete for the closing spot.  Tanner Scheppers, Alex Claudio, Shawn Tolleson, Roman Mendez, Phil Klein and Kyuji Fujikawa are most likely to see too many innings as the starters reality becomes the relief corps’ nightmare.

AAA/AA Help:  Tomas Telis (c), Doubel Herrera (2b), Ryan Rua (3b), Nomar Mazara (of) and Alec Asher (starter).

Prediction:  Last in the A.L. West.  Perhaps 2015 should be referred to as a transition year.

Cleveland (Because I don’t believe K.C. can or will repeat the 2014 season)

Ramble:  If youth continues to develop, the Indians enjoy a successful 2015.  If.

Outfield:  Brantley (’14 20/97 was top-notch) and Bourn are fleet of foot while Brandon Moss has an above average arm.  Nick Swisher gets the fourth spot when he needs exercise.

Infield:  Carlos Santana at first hopes to develop defensively to the degree Mike Napoli enjoys.  Jason Kipnis is an underrated defensive second baseman (only 6 kicks in 2014).  Jose Ramirez at short hopefully hits enough to stay in Cleveland.  Lonnie Chisenhall (whose offensive production is key to the Indians’ ability to make the playoffs) at third finishes the infield.  Mike Aviles will see a lot of sub time at second, third and short.

Catching:  Yan Gomes will take the majority of the innings.  Carlos Santana will take an occasional squat (in a nice way).  Any injury to these two makes Roberto Perez’s arrival permanent.

DH:  Nick Swisher healthy provides a better line up than Nick Swisher not present.

Starting Pitching:  Cory Kluber and Gavin Floyd are as good as any one-two starter pair in the Central.  Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer and Danny Salazar combining for 36 to 40 wins would make Francona’s year.  Josh Tomlin is the most likely to join the rotation if somebody struggles.

Relief:  Cody Allen is the end of a quality bullpen.  Scott Atchison, Kyle Crockett Nick Hagadone and Bryan Shaw are a very impressive group.

AAA/AA Help:  I’m assuming Perez and Ramirez leave for Cleveland at the end of spring.  Jesus Aguilar (1b), Erk Gonzalez (ss and really good), Tyler Holt (of), Tyler Naquin (of), C.C. Lee (relief) and Enosil Tejada (relief).

Prediction:  First in the Central.

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Detroit

Ramble:  Yoenis Cespedes joining the line up finally takes the sting out of Fielder’s 2014 departure for Texas.  Choosing not  to sign Max Scherzer was a head scratcher, but any team paying that kind of money to any baseball player is idiotic.  Drew Smyly and Rick Porcello leaving is a concern.

Outfield:  Cespedes joins an unproven Anthony Gose and solid J.D. Martinez.  Rajai Davis may become the de-facto center fielder if Gose struggles.  A better outcome is Ezequiel Carrera quickly becomes a major league center fielder.

Infield:  Miguel Cabrera should benefit from Cespedes’ presence in the line-up.  Ian Kinsler continues as one of the better second baseman in the game.  Jose Iglesias will get all the innings he ever dreamed of this year as the starting shortstop.  Nick Castellanos probably starts at third.  Andrew Romine can play all four infield spots.

Catching:  Alex Avila most of the time while James McCann learns the MLB way.  However, sooner rather than later, McCann becomes the starting catcher.

DH:  Victor Martinez received a nice raise.  If he, Cabrera, Cespedes, Kinsler and J.D. Martinez hit to talent, 2015 should be a notable offensive year for the Tigers.

Starting Pitching:  Justin Verlander and David Price followed by Anibal Sanchez.  Not bad.  But, given the departure of Scherzer, Smyly and Porcello, Mr. Sanchez must pitch 200 innings.  More of a concern is getting twenty wins collectively out of the #4 and #5 starters.

Relief:  Al Alburquerque, Joba Chamberlain, Tom Gorzelanny and Joakim Soria make for an improved bullpen leading to Joe Nathan in the ninth.

AAA/AA Help:  Dean Green (1b), Devon Travis (2b), Corey Jones (3b), Eugenio Suarez (ss), Dixon Machado (ss) and Ezequiel Carrera (of).

Prediction:  Second in the Central, but no playoff spot.

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Kansas City

Ramble:  Country Breakfast  and James Shields leave.  Alex Rios, Kendrys Morales and Edinson Volquez arrive.  While Butler will be missed, Rios and Morales will provide more offense.  Edinson Volquez is no Shields.

Outfield:  Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain (who sometimes strikes me as a bit of a punk) and Alex Rios will provide plenty of hits.  Jarrod Dyson gets Sunday duty.

Infield:  Eric Hosmer offered a whiff of his long referenced potential in 2014.  Mike Moustakas is awful with the glove, but good enough with his bat.  Alcides Escobar is the best shortstop in the A.L.  Omar Infante is a long favored dirt dog.

Catching:  Salvador Perez is far and away the best catcher in the Central.  I suspect Erik Kratz will not get a lot of playing time.

DH:  Kendrys Morales in the field is not good for the nerves of the Royals faithful.  With a bat in hand, Kendrys is much more appealing.

Starting Pitching:  Yordano Ventura, Jason Vargas, Edwin Volquez (which version shows in 2015?  The guy that can pitch or the one that can’t make the end of the third inning?), Danny Duffy and Jeremy Guthrie are as good a set of starters as any team in the Central.

Relief:  Greg Holland was awesome.  Expect more awesomeness in 2015.  Wade Davis is one of the best eighth inning guys in baseball.  Kelvin Herrera and Jason Frasor and then, not much in the bullpen.

AAA/AA Help:  Whit Merrifield (of and the best prospect in the Royals system), Christian Winford (starter) and Andy Ferguson (starter).

Prediction:  The Royals slip to third place.

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Minnesota (because the White Sox are worse than the Twins)

Ramble:  Torii Hunter returns.  A fine ball player.  That’s all I have.

Outfield:  The aforementioned Mr. Hunter with the intriguing duo of youth, Aaron Hicks in center and Oswaldo Arcia in left.  Flip a coin from the spring training roster, and you too, can choose the fourth outfielder.

Infield:  Joe Maurer (offering a 2012 or 2013 result would shut up the critics), Brian Dozier, Trevor Plouffe (why do I think French pastry chef?) and Danny Santana (who played a lot more outfield than shortstop last year, but he can hit) make a serviceable infield.  Return to a coin flip for the utility guy.

Catching:  The forever young Kurt Suzuki backed by Chris Herrmann (who eventually succeeds Mr. Suzuki).

DH:  Kennys Vargas receiving 500 abs will prove to the Twins if he can hit MLB pitching.  Give Mr. Vargas the at-bats.

Starting Pitching:  Phil “I Never Cared For New York City” Hughes continues to surge as a starter.  When he pitched for the E.E., never did I think he would win double-digit games in consecutive years.  Ervin Santana moves to this year’s highest bidder.  Tom Milone receiving 30 starts rids the mystery of “Can he pitch?”.  A combination of Kyle Gibson, Ricky Nolasco and Mike Pelfrey will form the rest of the starters.

Relief:  Could be ugly and difficult getting to Glen Perkins to close the game.  If Ryan Pressly and Casey Fien repeat last year’s success, good.  If not, than a great many relievers from AAA and AA are getting a shot.

AAA/AA Help:  Levi Michael (2b), Jorge Polanco (ss), Daniel Ortiz (of), Tyler Duffey (starter) and Jose Berrios (starter).

Prediction:  People of the Twin Cities, Be Happy for Baseball is Played on Snowless Fields.  Fourth place, I hope.

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Chicago

Ramble:  Daniel Robertson improves the bullpen by leaps and bounds.  Adam LaRoche arrives as a long waiting designated hitter.

Outfield:  Melky “No More Chemicals” Cabrera gets a chance in left.  Adam Eaton had a fine year in 2014.  Avisail Garcia probably starts in right, though J.B. Shuck plays hard.  Will Michael Taylor receive an extended look?

Infield:  Jose Abreu, the offensive surprise of 2014, Micah Johnson (2b), Conor Gillaspie (3b.  Nice numbers in ’14) and Alexei “Skinny” Ramirez (ss) form the infield.  Glen Beckham bounces around as the number one sub, though the team would be better served with Carlos Sanchez getting at bats.

Catching:  Tyler Flowers and Geovany Soto do the bulk of the catching.  Whomever calls the better game gets the majority of the starts.

DH:  Adam LaRoche and Andy Wilkins (who desperately needs to see big league pitching to offer an alternative after LaRoche’s contract expires).

Starting Pitching: Chris Sale followed by hope and prayer.  Jeff Samardzija, Jose Quintana and Hector Noesi offer the best hope and prayer.  If these three can win 35 games between them, well done.  The White Sox do a horrible job of developing starting pitching, thus, less one guy, no system help awaits.

Relief:  Zach Putnam, Zach Duke, Daniel Webb, Javy Guerra and Jake Petricka (a young man with promise) will see far too much action this year.  Daniel Robertson, through no fault of his own, will be lucky to register 30+ saves this year.  By the way, if you were wondering about developing closing/relief help, don’t.  The White Sox absolutely face plant in relief development.

AAA/AA Help:  Keyan Smith (c), Rangel Ravelo (1b) and Mike Recchia (starter, but do reference the above comment regarding starting pitching in system).

Prediction:  The Chisox fight the Twins for dead last in the Central.

Baltimore

Ramble:  Losing Nick Markakis was a surprise, but not devastating.  Other than Nick, the winter was  a yawn.

Outfield:  Weaker without Nick.  Adam Jones remains awesome.  Alejandro De Aza and Travis Snider in the corners are average.  If Delmon Young is a reserve outfielder, mmm, not good.

Infield:  Chris Davis is back after his 2104 suspension.  Jonathan Schoop and J.J. Hardy might set a record for lowest combined obp between a starting second baseman and shortstop.  Manny Machado must have a colossal offensive year for the Birds to fly any significant height in 2015.

DH:  A combination of Steve Pearce, Delmon Young and Ryan Lavarnway should be above average.

Catching:  If Matt Weiters plays 130 games, the starting pitchers do well.  Ryan Lavarnway may actually get a chance to catch in the bigs on a semi-regular basis.

Starting Pitching:  Chris Tillman, Bud Norris, Wei-Yin Chen and Miguel Gonzalez make a solid rotation.  If Ubaldo Jimenez could win a dozen games, the O’s could make a wild card spot.  By the way, Dave Wallace is a superior pitching coach.

Relief:  Can Zach Britton repeat 2014?  We shall see.  Darren O’Day will follow personal tradition and not have an era above zero until sometime in late May.  Tommy Hunter, Brad Brach, T.J. McFarland and Brian Matusz complete a rock solid bullpen.

AAA/AA Help:  Christian Walker (1b, especially if Chris Davis struggles early), Glynn Davis (of), Daniel Alvarez (of), Tyler Wilson (starter), Zach Davies (starter), Brock Huntzinger (relief).  Note:  The O’s tied for 10th in my A.L. development ratings. Thin soup.

Prediction:  Second and a wild card, but only because Tampa, Toronto and NYY are weak.

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New York

Ramble:  I despise the Evil Empire, but I will attempt to be fair (and brief).  Less the A-Rod winter circus (thank you, Lord), not much.  Free agents avoided the EE., less Andrew Miller.  Oh, boy.

Outfield:  Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran form a decent outfield.  Gardner and Ellsbury cover a lot of ground.  Beltran will attempt to stay healthy until the end of June.  Garrett Jones takes the place of an injured Beltran.  Chris Young is next in line.

Infield:  Mark Teixeira, fresh from the dead Stephen Drew, somebody not named Jeter at short and Chase Headley (remove his 2012 season, and discover a marginal offensive player) at third may cause a nervous string of games for Joe Girardi (who I fully admit is a fine manager and the only reason the ’14 NYY did not completely crumble).

DH:  A-Rod gets a few at-bats in a pathetic attempt to shut him up.  Eventually, Brian Cashman receives permission to release Star Quarterback Man.  Garrett Jones, if offered enough at bats, could be a productive dh.

Catching:  Brian McCann and J.R. Murphy form a solid duo, but if one falls to injury causing Andrew Romine and/or Gary Sanchez to enter the fray, oy vey.

Starting Pitching:  Losing Hiroki Kuroda and his 199 innings pitched to his home country of Japan was sweet.  Masahiro Tanaka must deliver 200 plus innings or the hurt is on.  C.C. Sabathia is offensive line massive.  Can he maintain a velocity near 90 after the fifth inning?  Doubtful.  Michael Pineda is determined to become C.C., Jr.  Nathan Eovaldi has a truck load of undeveloped talent.  Chris Capuano is a #5 starter, but anything else is folly.

Relief:  Losing David Robertson (39 saves) blew a hole in the bullpen.  Gaining Andrew Miller (but at far too much money, even for the Yankees) makes for a solid eighth inning guy.  If Andrew Bailey can find his former self, a quality closer is rediscovered.  David Carpenter must deliver his 2013 and 2014 Atlanta results.  The EE is dangerously shallow in the bullpen.  No quality help awaits in their system.

AAA/AA Help:  Francisco Arcia (c), Joe Pierla (2b), Rob Refsnyder (2b), Tyler Dugas (of), Jaron Long (starter, and the best home-grown pitcher in a long time) and Luis Severino (starter).

Prediction:  Third in the A.L. East because Girardi can out-manage Kevin Cash and John Gibbons (the worst manager in baseball) with no sleep and blinding headache following an A-Rod press conference.

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Tampa Bay (because Toronto is Nut Job City)

Ramble:  New faces to replace far too many departures include John Jaso, Kevin Jepsen and Drew Smyly.  Plainly speaking, the Rays are in a new land in 2015.

Outfield:  David DeJesus, Desmon Jennings and the largely untested Kevin Kiermaier backed by a cast of unknowns is an injury away from extreme challenge, though Steven Souza, Jr might be the surprise of the season.

Infield:  James Loney (1b), Logan Forsythe (2b), Evan Longoria (3b) and Asdrubal Cabrera (ss) are sure handed and have enough collective offensive talent to suit Kevin Cash (good luck, Kevin).  Nick Franklin will get plenty of time as Mr. Utility.

DH:  John Jaso when the knees are aching from too much catching.  Vince Belnome to determine if he can hit MLB pitching.  The same goes for Steven Souza.

Catching:  John Jaso and Curt Casali are competent.  They do no damage.

Starting Pitching:  Deep.  Chris Archer, Alex Cobb, Drew Smyly, Jake Odorizzi (time to pitch well, Jake) and Alex Colome are as good as any starting five in the division.

Relief:  Grant Balfour in the ninth is pause for relief (no pun intended).  Ronald Belisario, Brad Boxberger, Ernesto Frieri and Kevin Jepsen should hold most of the leads presented.

AAA/AA Help:  Ryan Brett (2b), Mike Mahtook (of), Adam Liberatore (relief) and Cory Burns (relief).

Prediction:  If all goes well, they fight the EE for third.

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Toronto

Ramble:  Josh Donaldson was a positive addition (as opposed to negative subtraction).  Same with Russell Martin.  Not much else.

Outfield:  Michael Saunders, Dalton Pompey and Jose Bautista make for an above average outfield.  Dayan Viciedo and Kevin Pillar (the better of the two) will likely share left field until the return of Saunders.  Pompey has ability galore.  He advanced from A ball to Toronto in 2014.  A rare journey.  We will see what he brings in 2015.

Infield:  The ever dependable Edwin Encarnacion and Maicer Izturis handle the right side.  While Josh Donaldson’s bat will bring better pitches to Bautista and Encarnacion, his glove is a liability, though his attitude is pure dirt dog.  Jose Reyes logs another year at shortstop.  Justin Smoak and Ryan Goins will be the utility men.

DH:  Most likely a rotation depending upon who has the day off.  Smoak primarily, then Bautista and Encarnacion on the weekend.  However, if Kevin Pillar proves the superior of Viciedo, he will be in the dh mix as well.

Catching:  Russell Martin’s arrival prompts Dioner Navarro to ask for a trade.  No loss.  Josh Thole catches R.A. Dickey better than any other past or present catcher in R.A.’s professional life.

Starting Pitching:  The aforementioned Mr. Dickey, the underrated Mark Buehrle, followed in no particular order by Marcus Stroman, Drew Hutchison and Marco Estrada.  Frankly, after Dickey and Buehrle throw, the bullpen better be ready for an early appearance especially if Stroman and Hutchison digress.

Relief:  Brett Cecil closes.  A cast of characters await opportunity and consistency.  Choose from Aaron Loup, Aaron Sanchez, Kyle Drabek (how and why this guy pitches in the bigs is testament to Toronto’s need for arms attached to breathing bodies), Todd Redmond, Rob Rasmussen, Steve Delabar and Chad Jenkins.

AAA/AA Help:  Derrick Chung (c), Daniel Norris (starter.  Though, he was rushed at the ripe old age of 21 from A+ ball to the bigs), Kendall Graveman (starter.  He began 2014 in A ball, then took the Norris express at the age of 23) and Randy Boone (relief).

Prediction:  72 wins if luck prevails.  Fire John Gibbons, now.

 

 

 

First the Padres.

Ramble:  Quality off-season.  Completely unexpected.  The Padres spending money is as rare as bad beer in San Diego.  Look for club records in home runs and rbi this year.  Padres fans actually have legitimate hope entering the 2015 season.  Buy tickets!

Outfield:  Justin Upton, Will Myers and Matt Kemp make for an average defense, but offense is the attraction.  A substantial challenge for opposing pitching.  Carlos Quentin should be traded to an A.L. team (Carlos in the outfield is similar to a guy on crutches attempting to run.  Well intentioned, but without reason).  Will Venable returns to the bench . . . where he belongs.

Infield:  Yonder Alonso and Tommy Medica share the bag at first.  Both these two will benefit mightily from the presence of Kemp, Upton and Myers in the lineup.  Is Cory Spangenberg ready for the Bigs?  He skipped AAA ball when called up to the Padres last year.  Not a good move.  Jed Gyorko is developing nicely.  If Jed could become a leadoff hitter with a better than .375 obp, that would be swell.  Will Middlebrooks is looking at last chance saloon this year.  He either hits major league pitching or he bounces around AAA from one organization to another.  Yangervis Solarte is a better  choice at the moment.  Is Alexi Amarista a long term solution to the shortstop position?  No.  But, Diego Goris will arrive in 2016/17.

Catching:  Rock solid with Derek Norris and Tim Federowicz.

Starting Pitching.  Signing James Shields was as exciting for Padres fans as the Kemp moment.  Shields will do for starting pitching what Kemp will do for the offense.  Tyson Ross, Andrew Cashner and Ian Kennedy have a heavy load lifted from their shoulders via Shields, but deliver they must.

Bullpen:  Always a San Diego strength.  Dale Thayer, Nick Vincent, Kevin Quackenbush (though his ip/bb ratio is a concern), Alex Torres, Frank Garces and Joaquin Benoit will give Bud Black few worries in 2015.

AAA/AA Help:  Cory Spangenberg (2b), Casey McElroy (2b.  Watch out, Cory), Alex Dickerson (of), Rymer Lirano (of), Jake Goebbert (of), Matt Wisler (starting), Joe Ross (starting) and Jerry Sullivan (relief).

Prediction:  The N.L. West will be a dogfight from Opening Day until the last day of the season.  The Padres finish second, make the playoffs as a Wild Card, win the first round, lose the second.

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The Angels

Ramble:  The Josh Hamilton development is the last place to start a new season.  Good luck to him.  By and large, while acknowledging his personal challenge, Josh was not money well spent.  Alas, baseball owners, even Arte Moreno, rarely learn.  Speaking of rarely learning, on behalf of Angel fans, may C.J. Wilson win more than he loses.  Not a given by any stretch.  Howie Kendrick is gone.  Or simply a freeway or two to the north.  Drive by and say “Hi.”

Outfield:  Acquiring Matt Joyce was smart (though, my inner conspiracist says DiPoto knew that Josh had, in one sense or another, fallen from the wagon of sobriety).  And, honestly, when you have the best player in not only the game today, but one of the greatest ever, in Mike Trout, how much do you worry about the other two spots?  Yes, that was a rhetorical question.   Kole Calhoun and Collin Cowgill will, just as last year, serve well.  Those two are dirt dogs.  They play hard and want to play more.  Amen.

Infield:  Pujols (backed by a very capable Efren Navarro looking for at bats.  An interesting July 31 acquisition, if you ask me), the mystery man at second (I’m guessing Grant Green sticks), David Freese and Erick Aybar form a serviceable infield. Somewhere between “wow” and “meh”.

Catching:  While a fan of Mike Scioscia’s managing, I feel the pain of any and all system catchers finally making the big club.  Scioscia is demanding and maddening as far as rookie catchers are concerned.  Log two or three years with him, then the biting lessens, but remains sadly plentiful and painful.  Thus, look for Hank Conger to prosper in Houston.  As for Chris Ianetta, he has the experience to keep managerial critique to a minimum.  After Ianetta, the spot is thin, thus weak, especially in the Dog Days.

DH:  C.J. Cron needs to offer the team a big year if the post-season awaits.  If Pujols falls to injury again, he is the dh while first base becomes Navarro’s.

Starting Pitching:  Jared Weaver has become the Pedro Martinez of his generation.  Jared is a pleasure to watch.  He thinks as much as pitches to his benefit.  C.J. Wilson was plain old bad in 2014.  A repeat makes the playoffs very difficult for the Angels.   However, if Matt Shoemaker and Tyler Skaggs (this kid could be awesome) win at least forty-five games as a duo, coupled with the healthy return of Garrett Richards, then C.J. can have a lousy year.  As for the much ballyhooed Andrew Heaney, we shall see.

Bullpen:  Houston Street is a stud, yet the Angels hem and haw about a contract.  Dumb.  Joe Smith is a top 5 eighth inning guy.  Mike Morin was as much a surprise to the ‘pen as Shoemaker was to the starters.  Fernando Salas, Nick Tropeano, Cory Rasmus, Cam Bedrosian and Cesar Ramos are the most likely to experience Opening Day in a big league park.

AAA/AA Help:  As a side note, the Angels’ development system is awful (tied for 10th in the A.L. per me).  Jeff Bandy (c), Brian Hernandez (1b, especially if Navarro is traded 7/31), Vance Albitz (2b), Ryan Wheeler (3b), Shawn O’Malley (ss), Jairo Diaz (relief).

Prediction:  Third in the A.L. West.

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The Dodgers

Ramble:  The lack of a television broadcast deal is pathetic.  Really bad.  Shame on both TWC and the Dodgers.  However, you make Arte Moreno a happy man.  Trading Kemp was, um, I will be impolite, ballsy.  He will beat the living snot out the Dodgers’ pitching staff this year.  I thought Ethier was the most likely to be traded.  Alas, given the current cast, he may be.

Outfield:  Amazingly, post-Kemp, not enough room.  The Joc Pedersen assumptions are unwise.  Hit major league pitching, then talk about starting.  Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier and Yasiel Puig are the likely starting three.  I continue to await Puig severely injuring Ethier in pursuit of a gap fly ball.  Scott Van Slyke, while nothing like the old man, at least determined he could hit in the bigs last year.  Frankly, Scott in the A.L. as a dh is the true Scott.

Infield:  Jimmy Rollins at short and Howie Kendrick at second firm the middle as compared to last year.  Dodger pitchers should be quite pleased.  Adrian Gonzalez is a nice guy who plays an exceptional first base.  Oh yeah, he can hit as well.  Juan Uribe is a tribute to bad diet and lack of exercise (Pablo Sandoval is a disciple).  How he continues to play effectively is beyond me.  Justin Turner and Alex Guerrero provide quality depth.  Darwin Barney is bound for elsewhere.

Catching:  A.J. Ellis is the ultimate lunch-bucket-hard-hat-working-man catcher in MLB.   Yasmani Grandal will hopefully learn a lot.

Starting Pitching:  Clayton Kershaw is to starting pitching as Mike Trout is to the offensive side of the ball.  Mark Greinke is weird, but a quality #2 starter (#1 on most teams).  Hyun-Jin Ryu eats innings.  His value shines in August and September.  As for the last two spots, I’m guessing Joe Wieland (healthy, at last) and Zach Lee.  Just a guess.

Bullpen:  Kenley Jansen must be healthy or this is a weak point on exponents (sorry for the math reference).  Joel Peralta, Brandon League (most likely closer in waiting), J.P. Howell and Brett Anderson form a shallow bullpen waiting for a call from the dugout.

AAA/AA Help:  Chris O’Brien (c), O’Koyea Dickson (1b), Ryan Adams (2b), Miguel Rojas (ss), Erisbel Arruebarrena (ss) and Corey Seager (ss, and given Miguel and Erisbel, his ascension is anything but guaranteed).  What?  No pitching!  Indeed.  If you want to scout, draft, sign and not develop either starting or relief pitching, the Dodgers are your squad.

Prediction:  First in the N.L. West.  A stunning playoff loss to a team not from St. Louis.  Mattingly is fired.